15th > December > 2000 Archive

Consumer Profile Exchange could protect privacy

The IBM-backed, XML-based standard enabling companies to exchange consumer data conveniently over the Web called Customer Profile Exchange (CPE) may not be quite the threat imagined by worried US consumers and privacy advocates. The scheme itself actually includes provisions for the responsible sharing of information, such as enabling one company to make data available only to others that agree to similar use restrictions, and enabling consumers to access and even control their data profiles while confronting a single, consistent format. These could be good things, or not, depending on how the technology is used. The true danger here is the lack of any regulatory structure requiring companies to use it in a way that benefits, or at least doesn't threaten, consumers. Simply put, technical standards don't threaten people's privacy -- people threaten people's privacy. "If you have a technology making it easier to exchange information between different databases, the question is whether companies will respect consumers," Centre for Technology and Democracy (CDT) Senior Policy Analyst Ari Schwartz told The Register. "Even a decent policy of industry self-regulation would be helpful here." Unfortunately, there is little in place, either among industry groups in terms of self regulation, or nationally in terms of government regulation, to prevent something potentially useful like CPE from being abused. Certainly individual companies can enter into contractual agreements governing the use of information they supply. "If a company were to go beyond what it has agreed to do with the data, that would be a contract violation which would land them in court," Schwartz pointed out. The companies are protected from data misuse, but of course consumers have no rights whatever under such agreements. They're not even in a position to influence the sort of standards the better class of company might aspire to. There is virtually nothing under the law that one can use to control what is essentially an extremely valuable commodity belonging to oneself. In terms of leverage, "you don't have anything," Schwartz observed. So if the technology is hostile to consumers, it's only because the US regulatory environment is so palpably incommodious. If that were to improve significantly, CPE could become one of the best ways yet devised for consumers to stay on top of their profile information and control what can be shared, and with whom. It would eliminate (among its subscribers, anyway) the need to deal with myriad privacy policies couched in paragraph after paragraph of misleading legalese, unique to every on-line company one deals with. One could set one's own standards once, and be done with it. If only, that is, the US Congress would see fit to grant something like rights to consumers. This is not exactly a gimme, as the 107th will convene under a veritable avalanche of privacy proposals, the vast majority of which are pure rubbish. In the highly rhetorical legal marketplace known as Capitol Hill, it's not hard to imagine a comprehensive and realistic opt-out proposal getting so badly stigmatised by privacy fundamentalists that a pathetically weak opt-in proposal would succeed in its place. It would sound good, but accomplish nothing -- exactly the sort of legislation our venerable representatives support most enthusiastically. The best of all possible worlds would be a solid, comprehensive opt-in proposal, but we've been around the Hill long enough to know that the advertising and data-mining lobbies will ensure that no such monstrous thing happens. The next best (and most realistic) thing would be an opt-out bill with real teeth, and there CPE could be a definite boon. In the right regulatory environment, it would make it easy to opt out, and convenient for a consumer to examine what his profile contains and just how it's being used. Combine that with granting him something like rights over a commodity which common sense tells us he owns outright, and we'd have a real winner coming out of conference committee for a change. ®
Thomas C Greene, 15 Dec 2000

Homechoice loses email

Broadband ISP and video-on-demand outfit Homechoice has been experiencing a major routing problem that has left Net users with a pitiful service for at least a week. It has also admitted it has also lost emails - despite blaming the problem on spammers - although Homechoice won't admit to the scale of the problem. The company's failure was compounded because in both cases it failed to tell its customers about the problems. It even blamed them on other ISPs and Web sites - when the problem was clearly its own. The routing problem - which meant users were unable to access vast swathes of the Web - was confirmed by Homechoice's support staff. According to punter Erol Ziya: "I have not had a usable connection since 8 December, when finally I was able to get through on the support line yesterday, I was informed that there was a known routing problem. "However, there was no indication of this on the network.status newsgroup. "Also at the same time it was apparent that other users experiencing similar problems where being told that the problem was not with Homechoice but with the sites that where unreachable. "This behaviour is simply unacceptable," he said. No one from Homechoice would discuss the issue with The Register. However, in a statement from Homechoice, the company blamed spammers for the missing emails. "Re. missing emails, we have been subject to a number of spamming incidents which have caused loss of emails over a period. We apologise for this inconvenience. Our purpose is to be a good Internet provider and prevent spamming impacting everyone on the Net. "For this reason, there are times where we have to shut our e-mail systems down to recover from these incidents. We are currently enhancing our technology so we can cope with the more sophisticated spamming that is now being experienced world-wide." This pitiful excuse has only enraged Ziya. He said: "The 'pass the buck', 'head in the sand' and denial approaches of Homechoice to the recent ongoing problems it users are experiencing is no way to run a company." ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 2000

Express sells four Web sites for £1

Express Newspapers sold four of its Web sites for a £1 yesterday in a bid to stem the haemorrhage of cash from the business. Richard Desmond, the new owner of Express Newspapers, is reported to have been "shocked" at the cash burn rate. The sites are said to be costing the company around £8 million a year to run. The lucky buyer of allaboutparents.co.uk, companyleader.com, express.co.uk and sportlive.co.uk is stockbroker Seymour Pierce - which also represents Desmond. In effect, Seymour Pierce is an intermediary. It is mothballing Web operations while it looks for a buyer of these four me-too titles. An announcement on sportlive reads: "LATEST NEWS: Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are unable to update SportLive from Thursday, December 14 until further notice. We hope to see you all soon." The other sites still appear to be functioning. According to the Guardian, the sites are to be mothballed until a buyer can be found. Of course, this uncertainty does nothing for those still "employed" on the titles. The Register has learnt that around 40 Web design staff have been advised not to say or do anything because their (as yet unconfirmed) redundancy packages "hang in the balance". Which means they're not allowed to comment or look for work elsewhere. This latest news from the new owner of Express Newspapers will only serve to make matters worse. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 2000

Corel Linux sell-off nearly a done deal

Troubled software developer Corel looks set to sell off its Linux operation - an option mooted just three weeks ago by company CEO Derek Burney. Interviewed at Comdex, Burney said he was ruling nothing out and nothing in in his attempts to find a solution to Corel's financial woes. Burney specifically said that one option under consideration was the sale of one or more Corel divisions, including the Linux operation. Burney took over the CEO's job last autumn, and reshuffled the business into four divisions: WordPerfect, graphics, Linux and the more nebulous R&D. At the time of the interview, Burney said a major announcement on the company's future direction would take place in around three weeks' time. Deadline's up, Derek, and suddenly industry sources, cited by ZDNet US, reckon venture capital company Linux Global Partners is going to buy Corel's Linux division for $5 million in cash and a 20 per cent share in a new company LGP will build out of the division. Corel hasn't commented on the claims - presumably it's preparing Burney's big announcement - but LGP said that it "looks at lots of deals and to discuss any one in particular would be premature", according to the ZDNet US report, which sounds to us like a tacit 'yes, we're talking'. Talking, however, isn't the same thing as doing a deal, and the negotiations may not be over. A deal like this, you'd expect to be announced very quickly after completion. The fact it hasn't been suggests it's still close to the wire. Ridding itself of the Linux operation makes some sense for Corel. It's money in the bank, and it doesn't preclude the company selling its applications - Corel's real strength - into the Linux market; it doesn't need its own distro to do that. Corel's acquisitions over the last year - picking up, for instance, MetaCreations' graphics tools - suggests a strategy of focusing on applications in areas that its main competitors don't themselves target. If that is the plan. Corel's Linux distro sits rather uncomfortably within it, and a sale is always preferable to just killing the software. Of course, there's one other option here. Corel might be buying a company off LGP. A long shot, it's true, but as Burney said in his interview: "To be successful in the Linux market, you need a wider product offering. There's got to be some kind of acquisition". LGP owns stakes in a number of Linux companies - including, incidentally, CodeWeavers, the company behind the WINE Windows-on-Linux emulator that drives all of Corel's Linux apps - and it's entirely possible that the rumours of a deal are correct, just the wrong way round. ® Related Stories Where next for Corel? Corel moots Linux sell-off
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2000

Taiwan snaps at heels of Jap LCD market

Top Japanese LCD makers are losing out to aggressive Taiwanese competition. Hitachi and Toshiba, second and third biggest flat panel display makers, are losing market share to Taiwanese suppliers who have nearly doubled production this year, say analysts. Acer Display Technology and Chunghwa Picture Tubes, are tipped to become the world's fourth and fifth largest suppliers by Q2 2002, says market research company DisplaySearch. The report claims that half of the world's top ten producers will soon be Taiwan-based. As the threat from Korean display companies has grown, many Japanese companies have relocated production to lower-cost operations in Taiwan in order to compete on price, but the move appears to be backfiring as native Taiwanese companies are now posing a threat of their own. And by the third quarter of 2002, Japan's market share will have dropped from 49 per cent to under 40 per cent, while Taiwan's share of total production should have climbed to 28 per cent. The top three suppliers are likely to be Samsung and LG Philips from Korea and Japan's Sharp Corporation, says the report. ®
Andrew Thomas, 15 Dec 2000

Red Hat shaves loss to $900k

Red Hat, the Linux company that isn't a Linux company - it's an "open source Internet infrastructure solutions" provider, apparently - yesterday said its latest quarter saw revenues rocket a clear 112 per cent. And its loss improved somewhat too. For the three months to 30 November - Red Hat's third quarter of fiscal 2001 - revenues reached $22.4 million, up from $10.5 million for the same period last year. That's good news, as is Red Hat's headline earnings figure, a $900,000 loss (one cent a share), a very big improvement on the $5.3 million loss is posted for Q3 2000 and ahead of Wall Street's consensus expectation of two cents a share. Hurrah! Of course, when you factor in one-off expenses, such as acquisition charges, Red Hat lost $21.4 million (13 cents a share), which is significantly worse than the $6.3 million it lost this time last year. But that's the point: they're one-offs, and not a sign of trouble with the company's business plan. That strategy continues to be a focus on revenue growth. "We are committed to increasing revenue by a minimum of 85 per cent or $157 million in fiscal 2002... and achieving profitability by the end of calendar 2001,'' said Red Hat's CFO, Kevin Thompson. "These results put us in an extremely strong position going into the fourth quarter,'' he added. "We are committed to our stated goals of growing revenues by 100 per cent during fiscal 2001." Actually, the 2002 revenue goal is $155 million, according to Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik, but hey, we can forgive Kev making a small error when he's clearly so over the moon. As well he might, his company having seen improving results when is seems like almost every other IT company is warning investors and analysts to expect revenue and profit falls. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2000

Net users are Lunatics

People use the Net and chat on the phone more in the run-up to a full moon than at any other time of the month, according to the boffins at BT. They claim there are cyclical troughs and peaks in people's calling behaviour, which builds up to a peak in the week before a full moon. And they've discovered that these 29-day cycles closely match the phases of the moon. Stewart Davies, MD of Btexact - the telco's R&D outfit - said: "There is definitely a 29-day cycle in the number of households making calls. "What we haven't yet discovered is whether the link is pure coincidence or if the moon really does affect the number of households making calls. "We are working on this to check whether other factors are at work but at the moment it does look as though certain phases of the moon encourage people to pick up the phone for a chat or use the Internet while other phases make us more taciturn," he said. Roy Gillett, president of the Astrological Association of Great Britain said: "This is very exciting news because it supports what astrologers have been saying for many years: during the time leading to a full moon there is a build up of creative and emotional energy. "This may well manifest itself in humans as a need to communicate more frequently and for longer periods," he said. Elsewhere, scientists in Nepal have discovered a correlation between the number of grains of rice that pass through people undigested and teenage pregnancies in London. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 2000

United halves newmeejah spend

United News & Media is to halve its investment in newmeejah for 2001 and rename its online umbrella organisation as part of series of changes at the company. The monster media group blew £120 million propping up its online sector during 2000. Next year, it can only afford £60 million. It has also signalled its intention to jettison all its b-2-c online activities in favour of b-2-b stuff. Whatever's left will come under the banner of United Business Media International. Out goes it new media division, Xilerate. Two of the biggest names in investment banking issued profit warnings that are linked to the collapse in Internet stocks and market volatility, the Times reports this morning. The shock announcements from JP Morgan and Chase Manhattan, which merged in a $31 billion deal in September, wiped billions of dollars from bank stock. The warning came after securities house Goldman Sachs issued a pessimistic report that suggested European banks might also suffer an earnings slump. Cable & Wireless has bought e-commerce agency, Hyperlink Interactive Ltd, for an undisclosed sum. With 98 employees, Hyperlink provides Web development, design, consultancy, value-added hosting and support services to a range of blue chip and dotcom outfits. It boasts a Net asset value £1.16 million. The German monster company Bertelsmann - which has recently gone on a Net-crazy acquisition spree - has said that talks concerning a "merger" with music company EMI will stretch on until at least the end of January. Unsurprisingly, the intended move has drawn the attentions of various market regulators. The talks were first officially announced in November. ® Visit Cash Reg - if you're hard enough.
Team Register, 15 Dec 2000

The Incredible Shrinking Merisel

Once upon a time, Merisel was the world's second biggest IT products distributor. Years of cutbacks has seen the company retrench, first to North America, and now to Canada only. It is firing 200 staff, winding down distribution activities in US over the next 90 days and will in future restrict itself to flogging software licences to resellers. This is intended to restore the company to profitability. Merisel will retain its 'dominant' hardware distribution business in Canada - but for how long? The company became too puny to compete in US hardware distribution. All it needs would be for the big distie guns to train their sights on Canada and, pretty quickly, Merisel will look too puny to compete there. Xbidit, the UK channel auction site set up by Alistair Handyside, has opened its doors for business with 14 lots worth £350k up for grabs. The company has validated 600 reseller accounts, from 1,000 applications, Handyside told Microscope. Northamber has begun a share buyback with the purchase of 45,000 of its own ordinary shares today at 105p each. This represents 0.14 per cent of the share capital. Small potatoes perhaps, but the company has authority, obtained from shareholders on November 10, to buy up to 10 per cent of the issued share capital. Azlan has promoted Freddie Jones, currently in charge of the company's training business, to UK MD. He replaces Richard Pryor-Jones who takes charge of Azlan's European operations. Ingram Micro has won channel assembly rights for Compaq Presario retail lines. The distie will build the kit from its Dutch factory, Microscope reports. Lason Group, a US document processing house is putting its UK subsidiary, formerly called M-R Group, up for sale. The company intends to use the proceeds to 'deleverage its balance sheet'. ®
Drew Cullen, 15 Dec 2000

HP worker ‘missing’ after plane door opens mid-flight

A search is on for a Hewlett-Packard employee who is missing after a door was opened during the flight of one of the firm's shuttle craft. HP said one of its purchasing staff is missing after the incident which happened during a company-operated shuttle flight for staff between Roseville and San Jose, California. Bruce Nelson, an operations officer with the Federal Aviation Administration in Los Angeles, confirmed the incident to Reuters. "About five miles southeast of Sacramento, at 2000 feet, a female reportedly jumped or fell from the aircraft," Nelson told the agency. In a brief statement HP said: "We are deeply concerned and are helping authorities to determine what happened. Out of respect for the individuals involved, we are not providing additional information at this time." The plane, which was carrying five passengers and two pilots, was a Canadian-built DeHavilland DHC-6-300, a twin turboprop plane used for the regular shuttle flights. During the flight, pilots noticed a warning light for an open plane door and landed in Sacremento airport. However it was only shortly after taking off again that the woman's absence was noted. ®
John Leyden, 15 Dec 2000

BTinternet offers 24/7 unmetered Net access

BT's ISP, BTinternet, is to launch a 24/7 unmetered Net access product to rival those offered by AOL UK and Le Freeswerve. From January, BTinternet will roll-out 'BTinternet Anytime' offering customers all day, everyday Internet access for £14.99 per month with no additional call charges. Ironically, the service is based on the wholesale unmetered Net access product FRIACO - the product that BT didn't want its competitors to have; the product that was extracted painfully from BT following a complaint by Worldcom. BT's own 24/7 unmetered Net access product - based on its lacklustre SurfTime brand - costs £19.99 a month and is still being offered to other ISPs. Interestingly, BTinternet never subscribed to this insisting that it wanted to concentrate on the customers who do their surfing at evenings and weekends. No one from AOL UK - which is already successfully offering a 24/7 unmetered Net access for £14.99 a month - was available for comment. A spokesman for Le Freeswerve - which is to roll out a similar product early next year for £12.99 a month, said: "We're pounds cheaper than the competition - consumers know where to come." BTinternet also said today it was the UK's unmetered access leader, with 500,000 customers using its off-peak service, SurfTime. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 2000

Warner Bros backs down on Harry Potter Web site

Well, that didn't take long. One week after we got a little indignant about Warner Brothers sending 15-year-old Claire Field a legal letter demanding she hand over her www.harrypotterguide.co.uk domain, the giant conglomerate has backed down and waxed lyrical about how wonderful her site is, what a great fan she is etc etc, you know the drill. There's little doubt that this decision was due to media pressure - The Mirror in particular helped The Reg in its crusade - but interest from other national media including the BBC and Independent obviously helped WB see things a little clearer. Actually, that's not true, it was a "clerical error" and there had been a "terrible misunderstanding". That what WB's head of publicity had to say anyway. In fact, so impressed is WB by Claire's site (which, frankly, is better that all the bells-and-whistles official sites) that it might give Claire a free licence to become an official Potter site. Wow! Lucky girl. Of course what you need to understand is how Warner Brothers deals with issues such as this without getting a permanent bad press. The company has a solid history of firing legal letters at people it feels are infringing its trademarks. It more or less wiped out Bablyon 5 unofficial fan sites and since it got its hands on the Harry Potter film has been stamping on domains that simply include the name. It's not stupid, however. While legal notice has been served on the owner of harrypotterfan.co.uk, the owner of harrypotterfan.com says that WB hasn't even contacted him. It's not hard to see why - a dotcom battle is a story and bad publicity, a co.uk isn't. This is probably why it thought it was on safe ground with the harrypotterguide.co.uk URL. The shame is that WB withdrawing from this case is unlikely to have any effect at all on its future behaviour. The official stance is that WB will tolerate any fan site that doesn't seek to pass itself off as official or try to sell anything on the back of its trademark. The reality is somewhat different. As for the free licence thing - well, that's a clever bit of spin. Warner Brothers runs an affiliate system where people can have their fan sites as long as they sign up with WB and hand over some cash. This system gives it easy money but its greatest use is to provide a corporate, defendable policy. How can Warner Brothers be bad when it has all these fan sites it doesn't run? And even lets them join a WB community and benefit from the up-to-date info it can provide etc etc etc. Granting Claire Field a free licence brings her into the fold, strengthens the status quo and lets the company look magnanimous. Great, innit? ® Related Stories Reg to fight for Harry Potter 'cybersquatter' Warner Brothers bullies girl over Harry Potter site
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2000

Korean duo do each other in after suicide site meet

A 21-year-old student and a 28-year-old man were found dead in a motel room, in what appears to have been a suicide pact. The two men, both from South Korea, met on a suicide Web site. The older man was identified as Mr Kim. The student found with him was named as Mr Cha. Cha's father committed suicide in 1984 and Cha himself had tried to use carbon monoxide to kill himself before. According to reports on the JoongAngIlbo Web site he had also been treated for schizophrenia and his mother had died only six months ago. A troubled soul indeed. Mr Kim was said to be a university graduate who was depressed by his mounting credit card debts. Both men died after drinking a solution of potassium cyanide. A third man who is, as yet, unidentified called the Kangnung police to the scene. There is a large number of suicide web sites in the Asia Pacific Region. The sites offer help, of a different nature than we would expect in the west, to people considering suicide. Many offer poison kits for sale or advice on how to mix up lethal brews. A recent film in Japan involved a suicide site. It was a massive box office hit, according to The BBC. ® Related Story Japanese couple kill themselves after suicide website meet
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Dec 2000

EO cans news team

UpdatedUpdated EO, the online share distribution platform owned by NewMedia SPARK, is making its EOnews news team redundant. EO chief exec Mark Stacpoole said the decision was part of the fallout from EO acquiring the Swedish online retail IPO outfit, EPO.com, which also has news on its site. There was staff overlap he said. The EOEPO.combine will be the biggest online purveyor of IPOs in Europe Stacpoole said EO would continue to provide a news service but wanted it to be more "factual" and it would be more IPO focused, and have details "about deals that had been done that week." Well God knows what EOnews has been writing about all this time. Stacpoole said EPO's news service wasn't covering all of these things either. He wasn't very clear about EO's future editorial strategy, and he hasn't given EOnews' editor Gary Flood much time to sort out any editorial direction. Flood, ex-second in command at Dutch publisher VNU's corporate IT newspaper Computing, arrived at EO only last week. EOnews had a team of eight. Stacpoole wouldn't say if all of them were losing their jobs. Meanwhile vnunet.com, VNU's website, made four people redundant yesterday including one journalist. But it also plans to recruit 10 new people. A nice touch by vnunet.com was letting those people losing their jobs know the morning of the Xmas party and awards. Perhaps it spoils the festive mood of managers if they have to socialise with people they know they're just about to downsize. Perhaps they learned this from Christmas 1996 where VNU's corporate paper Computing canned a couple of people the day after the staff Xmas lunch. So, it was good work by Andy Bunyan, one of the vnunet.com four to lose their job, for attending the party and going out in style. Apparently it's good psychology to make people redundant just before Christmas. Colleagues feel bad, but then go on Christmas piss ups and have a holiday, and the bad feeling and their former workmates are just a distant memory come the New Year. ® Related Story EOEPOEUROIPO
Robert Blincoe, 15 Dec 2000

Group pitches CD-R, DVD compatibility

The Optical Storage Technology Association, a trade body for makers of rewriteable CD drives and media, has approved a specification to allow consumer CD and DVD units to play CD-R and CD-RW discs created by PCs. Dubbed MultiPlay, the specification was created by removable storage specialist Oak Technology, and was ratified by the OSTA earlier this month. The OSTA is confident that consumer electronics manufacturers will support MultiPlay, but we're less sure about it. MultiPlay builds on another specification, MultiRead, which allows computer-based CD-ROM and DVD drives to read CD-R and CD-RW discs. MultiRead has been pretty successful in its adoption rate, it seems, but there's a world of difference between enabling different computer peripherals to read each others' data and allowing consumer electronics kit to do so. MultiPlay makes perfect sense, and it's a wonder the functionality isn't already built into the DVD spec. and others. But it's not hard to see why it isn't. The last thing the music and movie industries want is to make it easy to produce pirate discs playable in consumer machines. As the OSTA itself puts it: "Consumers will benefit greatly from the improved compatibility because more and more consumers have access or ability to record CDs. Thus, the consumer will be enabled to play not only commercially available content but also personal content such as personal compilation audio discs made from their own library of commercial audio discs." You'll note that the OSTA statement stays carefully within the 'personal taping' permission given to music buyers by the US Home Recordings Act. However, "commercially available content" are unlikely to see it that way. The incompatibility between different optical drives may be inconvenient - like all that region nonsense - but it suits the industry too well, alas. An interesting (preliminary) component of MultiPlay is what the OSTA calls its CDA (Compressed Digital Audio) format for discs holding compressed audio files, such as MP3. Again, it's a neat idea. With CDA, any CD player with a built-in MP3 decode capability can read native MP3s straight off any disc placed within it and begin playing them almost immediately. CDA will be unveiled officially at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, next January. Finalisation of the CDA disc spec. is set for March 2001, when it will be available for licensing and inclusion in the MultiPlay logo program - which, incidentally, is to be offered on a royalty-free basis. Again, it's questionable how much the music industry will be willing to put up with this and might well lean on the consumer electronics vendors not to support it. Of course, there are plenty of Far Easter kit makers who pay only lip service to the finer requirements of their CD audio and DVD licenses, so MultiPlay and CDA may make it into the mainstream through the back door. Technology like this - let alone the Net - is rendering current content-as-product business models obsolete, and it's high time the music and movie industries adapted accordingly. Just don't expect them to do it anytime soon. ® Related Link For more information on MultiPlay and CDA, visit the OSTA MultiPlay site
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2000

Microsoft hacked in the Balkans

A Microsoft Web site has been defaced in the latest of a string of attacks that have called into question the ability of IT companies to keep their systems secure. The software giant's Slovenian site, www.microsoft.si, was sprayed with pro-Linux graffiti by a hacker who gained control of the site, which is hosted in the former Yugoslavian country. In a reference to Mark Renton's famous speech at the beginning of the film Trainspotting, the site was changed to feature a tirade that equated choosing Microsoft software to being a moron. The defacement by Furia.BR, which has now being changed but is still mirrored on Attrition.org, said in part: "Choose Windows. Choose the Millennium. Choose IIS. Choose SQL Server. Choose not to choose. Let Micro$oft do it for you. Choose Windows. Choose 95. Choose IIS. Choose a big NT workstation. Choose VB, IE, ActiveX players and electrical tin openers... Choose a future. Choose Micro$oft. "But why would I want to do a thing like that? I choose not to be chosen: I choose something else. The reasons? There are too many reasons. And who needs reasons when you've got Linux?" Matt Tomlinson, business development director at security consultancy MIS, said the graffiti attack was unlikely to have threatened Microsoft's core systems, as an attack earlier this year did, but demonstrated a weak security policy was still in place in Redmond. "Customer information or any research and development was unlikely to be threatened by this attack. However it is a demonstration of naivety by Microsoft, which has trusted a cut-cost local hosting firm with its security," said Tomlinson, who added the attack likely exploited a badly-configured Microsoft IIS webserver, which was not properly protected behind a firewall. Tomlinson added there was a growing trend for hackers and graffiti artists to target the remote offices of global companies for attack. Security firm Network Associates' Brazilian site was also recently subject to a similar attack on two of its Brazilian sites, www.nai.com.br and www.mcafee.com.br. These attacks have in common that they attack servers at local hosting companies, which Tomlinson described as the "weakest links" in the corporate security chain. ® Related Stories Hackers, Windows NT and the FBI How you hack into Microsoft: a step by step guide MS hacked! Russian mafia swipes WinME source? Microsoft Hack: Warned of weakness three months earlier
John Leyden, 15 Dec 2000

Corel responds to Linux sale speculation

Corel issued a major press announcement this afternoon to announce there's... er... nothing to announce. Yet. Maybe. The troubled software company's statement followed reports from industry sources that it's selling its Linux division to Linux Global Partners for $5 million in cash and a 20 per cent stake in a new company to be formed out of the spun-off operation. The statement admits that such a move is being considered the review of Corel's corporate strategy initiated by new CEO Derek Burney. It also admits that the company has been talking to other firms about a "variety of issues". But since it's policy not to comment on such discussions, it's not going to say anything - so you'll just have to wait until it has something to say. In other words, Corel is commenting about not commenting on something it has no intention of commenting upon - at least, that is, it has something to comment on. Er... thanks, folks - that's really cleared it up. However, we do now know that Burney's State of the Nation speech will take place early next year and not any day now as originally planned. ® Related Stories Corel Linux sell-off nearly a done deal Corel moots Linux sell-off
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2000

Infineon buys into Ramtron

German chipmonger Infineon has taken a $30 million, 20 per cent stake in Ramtron, comprising $10 million in cash and $20 million in shares. The two companies have also signed a cross-licensing agreement to give Infineon access to Ramtron's ferroelectric RAM (FRAM) memory technology, while granting Ramtron use of Infineon FRAM manufacturing. In January this year, Infineon acquired 20 per cent of Ramtron's DRAM product subsidiary, Enhanced Memory Systems. FRAM is a non-volatile memory (it retains data without power) which is used in products such as power meters, smart cards, test instrumentation, factory automation, laser printers and security systems. "FRAM memory technology has matured significantly over the last 12 months, and we feel it holds particular promise in the future of the semiconductor market," said Harald Eggers, senior vice president and general manager of Infineon's Memory Products Division. ® Related stories Rambus - Infineon legal spat delayed Infineon to announce record revenues
Andrew Thomas, 15 Dec 2000

Toshiba latest victim of US PC slump

Japanese notebook manufacturer Toshiba has admitted that its US sales have not escaped the current slump. Toshiba said computer sales in the US - which accounts for 40 per cent of the company's total PC revenue - have dropped at the same rate as rivals. "We are no exception," Toshiba executive VP Tetsuya Mizoguchi told Bloomberg. "PC sales in the US are also worse for us than what we originally expected." But Toshiba will likely weather the storm due to revenue from its other products, such as semiconductors, TVs and elevators. Analysts reckon the US PC depression will not cause the giant to issue a profit or revenue warning - a fate which has hit industry heavyweights from Microsoft and Intel to Compaq and Apple. The vendor expects US PC sales to hit $2.88 billion for the year ending March 2001 - accounting for less than six per cent of forecasted $50.7 billion group sales. But Tosh execs are still worried that the situation could worsen - and that PC makers may react by slashing prices to relieve stockpiles. Yesterday major players such as Compaq and Sony were touting cut-price deals and freebies to American shoppers in an effort to cash in on the last two-weeks of Christmas sales. Toshiba has the second biggest inventory of PCs in the US market. Compaq has 10.5 weeks inventory with retailers, while Toshiba is reported to have 6.6 weeks. ® Related Stories Toshiba squares California with $30m 'fine' Japan reacts to Taiwan chip threat Mighty Microsoft to miss sales targets Intel to miss Q4 targets
Linda Harrison, 15 Dec 2000

Claire Swire: wanna know who she is?

Well, this has been an interesting week for all fellatio lovers out there. To be honest, we've been sitting on Claire Swire's true identity for a day because first we'd heard she might have lost her job and then there were the rather nasty legal implications. However, Claire still has her job at MagicButton.net - an affiliate service provider based in Chelsea Harbour. In fact, we've heard that she'll be on the TV later today (Channel 5, we think) and has sold her story to the Mail on Sunday. Do we sense the hand of Max Clifford? Anyway, Claire, it would seem, is a bit of a character - or "a bit mental" as one ex-colleague described her - and we have heard some cracking stories about her, mostly regarding blokes. She's an archetypal PR bunny - very rich parents, lives in a cracking flat in Fulham, has had a range of jobs (BBC Online, iCollector, among others). And she's known to millions as "the girl who thinks cum is yum". The thing is, in this modern existence, there's probably a world of opportunity here for her - TV appearances, a ghost-written book, a tasteless late-night game show, a single (Jive-Bunny cover? :-) ). It's a different way to use sex to forward your career, but hey, just as effective. ® Related Link This is worth checking out Related Stories Yummy Claire gets in touch with The Reg Is this the greatest ever email hoax?
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2000

DRAM makers sit on stocks

Spot market DRAM prices rose for the week of November 20, but mainly because manufacturers are sitting on stocks, market research firm ICIS-LOR reports. The DRAM makers don't like today's current price slump - and they expect prices to swing back upwards in line with anticipated increased demand next spring (ICIS-LOR analysts say). This means holding onto stocks for three to four months. But can all the makers last out this long? We doubt it very much. ICIS-LOR's 30 rolling average of 128Mb DRAM (PC133, 16Mx8) prices for large volume buyers in the week to November 24, 2000 was US$13.82 in North America, US$9.92 in Europe, and US$13.56 in Asia. Prices were stable in North America, down 7.07 per cent in Europe and 6.76 per cent down in Asia, from the previous week. AsiaBiztech reports. The spot market for memory modules saw 128MB DIMMs (PC133) down 7.14 percent from the previous week to US$62.58 in North America, 6.88 per cent down to US$60.89 in Europe, and 4.86 per cent down to US$56.32 in Asia. ® Related link Asiabiztech: Spot prices show some sign of recovery
Drew Cullen, 15 Dec 2000

Thus virus variant is not very scary

New variants on an old macro virus showed up this week. First spotted in September last year, the Thus virus tries to erase all the data on an infected hard drive. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said: "We didn't get any calls. This really isn't an issue if you are running anti virus software - just about everything should catch it." He said that Sophos had been hearing panic from the city for a couple of weeks, but that although it is a commonly encountered virus it "isn't a big deal" if anti virus software is running. However he acknowledged that it could be a problem for home users who would be less likely to have back ups of their data. It is called the Thursday virus because one file in the payload was called Thus. Cluley said that this had caused some confusion because it arrived on a Wednesday. Data recovery specialists Ontrack issued an alert after several customers were infected. The company said that it could restore lost data very easily. "As experts in the data recovery field, we feel obliged to inform PC users of potential data loss events," a company spokesman said. ® Related Stories Outbreak of viruses disguised as vaccines Pro Linux virus rears its head Virus prevents you asking for help Viruses prey on porn lovers
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Dec 2000

Don't use such foul language on the site, you wa*kers

Rudest words in Britain Subject: bollocks My dear - I'm an American - can you please tell me what bollocks are and if you've ever seen one? Ditto wanker, paki, and shag. Are you familiar with these, m' lady? Bruce Rogowski While I really like reading The Register, I think you are going over the line of good taste and good journalism when you start using obscenities. I encourage you to back off a little before The Register's reputation for witty technical reporting begins to suffer. Dave Feustel
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2000

Flame of the Week: we're a bunch of tits

[Normally, we're tidy up readers' spelling and grammar, but we felt that doing that in this case would remove some of its crazed beauty] Breathe gasps for survival Subsequently: Breathe calls in administrators due to your crap information provided on you web sight designed to scare people and put them of legitimet companeys who try to provide a service which is good and who get nocked back by tits like yourself bent on making money on the missery of the comman people i would like to state i am a customer of breathe and have bin since thay started i have used the breathefreely and for the time it lasted i have saved over £ 800 pounds which can be confiremed by a bt bill which i would happely send you i would also like to state that 1 i have 2 kids and i am a single mother not a modern urbanist you seem to keep going on about which seems to me you are just jelouse of the fact you are not one plus this 50000 thousand winging customers well my self i would give em the money back then charge them for the calls i mean whats the problem if thay dident use and abuse breathe would still be able to provide this survices. i hope i will recive a reply to this email if i dont i will assume everything i say is true. michelle mulqueen
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2000

Major MS pirate pleads guilty

A US man has coughed to being the main man in a $2 million worldwide network that counterfeited Microsoft Office. Mario Stacchini, 31, has pleaded guilty in state court to attempted trademark counterfeiting, reports AP. He faces a maximum seven years in chokey for the offence. Stacchini's pals in Ohio, California, Pennsylvania and Illinois shipped him the goods which he then distributed to Britain and other countries said prosecutors. Sentencing is on 31 January. ® Related Stories Amazon in BSA anti-piracy love in Real IRA gets into computer piracy BSA deploys imaginary pirate software detector vans Hampshire cops caught using counterfeit MS software
Robert Blincoe, 15 Dec 2000

Reg staffer cut off by 24-7 Freecall

Troubled UK unmetered ISP 24-7 yesterday dumped another 1000 users from its service for alleged 'abuse' yesterday, including yours truly. It's difficult to tell precisely how I abused them, as I wasn't given the courtesy of an email telling me what was going on. The service worked yesterday and this morning it didn't. A call to Freecall's support line revealed that I was one of the lucky recipients of the company's new zero minutes a month package, for which Freecall had debited my bank account by £19.99 just two days earlier. Asked if there was someone I could speak to to discuss what was going on, the support operative said there was no phone number I could call and I would have to take up any complaint with backbone supplier Telia as 'it was their decision to terminate the accounts that had been using the service too heavily'. This came as news to an exasperated Telia UK representative, who had yesterday managed to get Freecall to retract this very statement. In a 'clarification' issued to The Register yesterday, the ISP said: "24-7Freecall would like to clarify that there are no issues with capacity or any other service from Telia UK, the backbone provider, and that this is purely an internal 24-7Freecall matter regarding the heavy users and the effect that has on the ability to provide a sustainable level of service to users." This message has obviously not yet filtered through to the Freecall support staff, but then the company is notoriously difficult to contact. No phone number other than the tech support line appears on its website, and directory enquiries only has a number which appears to be permanently connected to a fax machine. The email sent out to some, but not all, affected users yesterday read: "We have reached the maximum number of subscribers that we can currently safely cater for without it adversely affecting the service for all users. "We will therefore not be accepting any new subscribers until we can increase the capacity to cope with new users. "Sadly as a subscriber to 24-7Freecall your patterns of usage are inconsistent with the levels that we can support at this time. Your usage is causing congestion on the network that is leading to problems for thousands of other users. "Regretfully your 24-7Freecall account has been terminated on 13th December 2000. "No refunds will be given." Pattern of usage The only clear pattern of my usage of Freecall is that I've been disconnected on average every 20 minutes for the last six months that I've been a user (almost from day one of the service's introduction). There has always been a problem connecting via ISDN and earlier calls to tech support revealed that Freecall has only a handful of ISDN users. The problem was entirely Telia's, I was told - again news to the Swedish telco. This random disconnection wouldn't have been too much of a problem had not the ISP used a strange and eldritch log on procedure involving the entry of username and password twice. This prevented on-demand dialling from working correctly on the machine I use as an Internet router. Naturally, this was Telia's fault too, said tech support. Around two months ago, after numerous complaints, Freecall sent me a beta copy of a login script that sometimes, but very definitely not always, automatically reconnected after an interruption. I'd explained to Freecall that I didn't want a 24 hour connection and was quite happy to have the connection broken, provided it could automatically reconnect to check for new emails (about every 10 minutes), as my previous ISP, MSN, allowed me to do. If that's heavy usage, God help the remaining Freecall users. Refund The good news is that Freecall boss Sal Abdin has now had a change of heart over refunding the subscriptions of the terminated users - he emailed me this afternoon (after Telia had contacted him to relate my complaint) to offer me a refund of this month's subscription within 14 days). We assume this refund applies to all disconnected users - not just bolshy IT hacks. ® Related stories ISP Freecall kicks off 1000 'abusers' 400 Freecall users out on their ear 24-7 Freecall does a Freeswerve
Andrew Thomas, 15 Dec 2000

Website combines spam with encryption

At last! A positive use for spam. A website has been set up, called Spam Mimic, where users can embed encrypted messages in spam in order to disguise the fact confidential data is been exchanged. Steganography, or the technique of burying encrypted text in other files, such as pictures, in order to disguise the fact confidential messages are been exchanged, is almost as old as cryptography itself. However using spam to achieve this gives the idea an interesting spin. Spam Mimic gives access to a short program that will encrypt a short message into spam and back again - the sentence outputs vary depending on the message being encoded. The site explains why spam is a better method to hiding messages than pictures or movie clips. "There is tons of spam flying around the Internet. Most people can't delete it fast enough. It's virtually invisible." The site adds "real spam is so stupidly written it's sometimes hard to tell the machine written spam from the genuine article", an argument we find it very hard to disagree with. Here's how it works: go to the site and choose 'encode' from the menu, and type in a short message into the text box and press enter. This generates a secret message buried in spam, which you can then be cut and pasted into an email client. The person receiving the message can use the site's decode option to recover the original message. The site also has a higher purpose - forcing government surveillance systems, such as Echelon, to scan through Terabytes of spam on the off chance that some of them may contain encrypted messages of interest to the authorities. These are the kind of ideas behind the 1999 Jam Echelon Day, explained in more detail here. We're not sure how strong the encryption engine behind the site is. Also to use the service you would have to agree with someone in advance about either the email a spam encrypted message would come from or its subject line. All in all, we think it's an interesting idea rather than useful to, say, civil right activists, who might want to disguise their use of encryption from security agencies. That said, the idea that activists might instead be arrested for sending unsolicited commercial email is unlikely...®
John Leyden, 15 Dec 2000

Shoot 'em up shoot outs and Soltek exclusives

OC Workbench has an exclusive peek at the latest offering from Soltek. The Soltek SL-75KVA-X mainboard certainly impressed these guys despite falling short of some of its competition in the overclockability stakes. Click here to get the rest of the story. Sharky has the lowdown on the year's best First Person Shooter games. Which one came out best this year and which one was left bleeding in a gutter? In the last two years the game that came top here also won the Game of the Year award, so check it out. Hexus has reviewed the Abit VP6 motherboard. I'll let them speak: "We talk about the mobo, install, benchies, and results, we also talk about VIA Drivers..." So get over there and have a look. Its loads better than the Millennium Dome... And GA-Hardware have shrugged off any Scrooge-like feelings they may have suffered from and have a bag of goodies to give away. Fancy getting your hands on some free kit? They have A GeForce2Go Razor Scooter, a VisionTek GeForce2 Ultra Graphics card, an Nvidia Laptop Bag and three GeForce2Go T-Shirts. Chjeck out the rules here. ® Still hungry for hardware? Check out our archives.
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Dec 2000

Southpark meets Wallace and Gromit

Shockwave.com and Atomfilms.com have jumped into bed together for a broadband e-entertainment orgy. The new company will combine offerings such as Atomfilms' short films and animations with Shockwave's interactive games, shows and music. The venture will boast work from Aardman Productions - creators of Chicken Run, and Wallace and Gromit - David Lynch, and Southpark creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, with 30 million registered users. The merged company, to be based in San Francisco, will also have access to 150 million punters through existing deals with Websites, airlines and TV. Shockwave will buy Atomfilms via a stock deal - Atomfilms shareholders will own 30 per cent of the new broadband entertainment monster. The agreement is expected to close in the first quarter of next year. Shockwave chairman Rob Burgess will be chairman of the venture while Mika Salmi, CEO and founder of Atomfilms, will be CEO. "AtomFilms and shockwave.com were both created to pioneer new forms of consumer entertainment and to develop new business models for content creators," said Burgess. "By joining the energies and talents of these two highly creative companies, we have the potential to change the way people are entertained around the world." ® Related Stories Bill Gates shot in mock documentary Warner Brothers bullies girl over Harry Potter site ADSL killed the video store
Linda Harrison, 15 Dec 2000

Is the end looming for the Microsoft monopoly?

AnalysisAnalysis Firing off the current industry standard profit warning yesterday Microsoft CFO John Connors blamed the usual suspects. To an extent this is justifiable, because Microsoft remains dependent on PC sales, and if PC sales are sluggish then Microsoft software revenues ought to slow to match. But there are a few factors special to Microsoft that could mean it's worse than that, and that maybe the Redmond money machine is finally starting to come apart. Microsoft's business at the moment consists of three basic product areas: desktop operating systems, desktop applications, and server software. Microsoft's ambitions lie in the area of services and applications. The profit warning however essentially covered all of these, so on the one hand we've got poor PC sales and a slowdown in corporate IT spend hitting traditional revenue areas, while on the other "consumer online services and advertising," the precursor of the services model Microsoft hopes will be its future when the PC business goes away, is currently failing to cut it as a replacement. All of these woes might go away just as soon there's an upturn and the PC companies can start happily counting their winnings again, but it's by no means automatic. PC prices have fallen dramatically over the years, and the fire-sale factor isn't going to change that in the short run. But Microsoft has historically set its face against cutting the cost of Windows licences to OEMs, which means - as OEM chief Joachim Kempin's subpoenaed documentation confirmed during the trial - that Microsoft's share of the revenue generated by a PC climbed as the prices fell. Pressures on Windows pricing This obviously doesn't work in the long run, if prices keep falling, but it's worked so far - the profit warning may be the first sign of it stopping working. Note too that if Microsoft keeps its prices up and PC sales continue to climb while prices continue to fall, there will be times when Microsoft continues to do well while the PC companies take a hammering. Microsoft has therefore tended to be cushioned against the woes of the hardware companies, both by price maintenance and by the rigours of its OEM contracts. Again though, it's worse than that. Aside from the determination to keep Windows prices up, Microsoft has in numerous areas been striving to increase its per-PC revenue. No less a person than Steve Ballmer has been heard musing hopefully on the subject of getting people to think of Office as part of the standard set of software that should ship with a PC (which means another nice slug of licensing revenue if that's achieved). Then there's the fact that the Win2k price was set at NT rather than Win9x levels, while the positioning and packaging of WinME plus the progressive extermination of Win98 from the sales channels will tend to wipe out Win9x in the business market, and force businesses to pay the Win2k level for their client machines. And alongside this we have the steady squeak of licence Ts & Cs being tightened, and the increasingly strident activities of the Microsoft anti-piracy squads. So the big picture: as hardware prices go through the floor, Microsoft has been continuing and accelerating its programme to squeeze vastly more revenue out of every single PC that is sold. But it hasn't altogether been working, and it may now be hitting the wall entirely. Getting Office everywhere is an obvious loser. It can't cut the price to match SmartSuite or StarOffice, because it's dependent on the high revenues it's achieved by making Office the standard in the business market. But having achieved this, it's faced with sceptical businesses implementing an 'Office 2000, just say no' policy. If the stuff you've got already works, and the stuff you're being offered by Redmond every year is expensive, why switch? The rental approach Microsoft plans to experiment with may turn out to be a fix for this, but currently it looks a bit of a punt. IT management has been caught out in the past by Microsoft 'easy terms' deals that offer lower prices upfront in exchange for subsequent years of expensive 'per seat' thralldom, and surely some of them have started to notice by now. Consumers might go for a rental deal on Office if the software looks attractive enough, and they also might go for the services Microsoft wants to sell them if these look attractive enough. But you wouldn't put money on it yourself, would you? The appliance threat Meanwhile back at the core OS revenue front it doesn't look particularly promising either. There's clearly a point beyond which Microsoft can't squeeze the OEMs, and while it's a substantial leap of faith from that to say they'll start retaliating by shipping PCs with alternative operating systems, the pressure could induce them to concentrate more heavily on platforms that aren't exactly PCs. Linux appliances could become more attractive to them than the lowest price PCs, and they just might start to get more interested in Palm and Symbian as well, given that stuff you shove in your pocket and stuff that works with wireless is hot. The difficulty with devices in these categories here is that they'll be cheaper still, and even a Microsoft defensive strategy that used CE as the sacrificial victim to avoid cutting Windows prices wouldn't add up to the right numbers. A decline in the PC platform could be triggered or accelerated by the hardware manufacturers increasingly viewing PCs as high spec, higher cost devices they could actually make a profit on, and cutting the low-cost non-PC platforms in at the bottom end, thus at last knocking back Microsoft's percentage take from the hardware business. That wouldn't be the case, even if Microsoft was charging Symbian's $5-$10 rate in the device/mobile phone market, so long as Microsoft took a big slice of the market. But you've no doubt noticed that the three biggest handset companies are (largely) in the opposing camp, and that Microsoft partner Sagem (rather small, rather French) recently issued its own profits warning. Still, there's always Samsung... No services, no future? The woes from the online side of the Microsoft portfolio are also quite possibly bigger than just an industry downturn. Remember that in Q4 of this year Microsoft has been mounting a determined push for MSN, backed by subsidised hardware and sweethearts deals with retailers. Is the Great Uncomputed resolutely declining to get computed? We await confirmation of this through an AOL profits warning. The trouble for Microsoft here is that MSN these days is supposed to be transforming itself into a huge all-encompassing portfolio of compelling services that consumers of all shapes and sizes (including the Great Uncomputed) will stampede towards, happily paying the rentals, tithes and tolls. This is something of a punt as well, but it's kind of key to .NET - if you build the service-based company and they don't come, then Microsoft's next generation won't be able to take over from the flagging sales of the last generation after all. Of course it remains possible that what we have here is just a blip, that the software side will pick up with the PC business, and that online and services business has just faltered slightly on its road to victory. So we could say don't hold your breath, but think about it - if it really is starting to fall apart, with nobody around to cut off your air supply, maybe you could use the practice. Related story: Mighty Microsoft to miss sales targets
John Lettice, 15 Dec 2000

So, ole Dubya finally finally wins

US Supremes hand White House to Dubya US Supremes stop Florida re-counts I've been impressed by your stuff even if you seem to prefer Al to GW, but as somebody else has pointed out that The Reg is not unbiased, that's why many of us read it. Keep up the good work. Alan You can do better in your writing by not referring to Mr. Gore as "Bore" [How about 'whore' -Ed]. You are attempting, obviously, to convey your personal feelings about Mr. Gore to us all, but in a way which is childish and pointless. It detracts from whatever merit your writing otherwise might display. I'd like to suggest that your writing needs all the help you can give it, and that you can't afford to do anything in your writing which makes it any more mediocre than it already is. Gene Mosher In case you don't already know or you have some belief that you are impartial, this article interprets the Supreme Court results from a pro-Gore perspective. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (tm) since The Register isn't supposed to be impartial compared to a CNN type site, but I found it interesting. Jim T. You got the US Supremes decision wrong in your article. The most important item was "US Constitution Supersedes Fla. election Laws/Statutes". This is were the win was regardless of the outcome of the election. Fla. Statutes do allow for "Divining" of the voter intent Which clearly violates the 14th amendment "Due Process" and "Equal Protection" clauses. So... with a 7-2 vote the US Justices found constitutional problems. Now the item of interest you seem to conveniently omit is that the Justices were divided down Ideological lines with Justice Stevens and Justice Ginsberg on the far left somewhere near your intentional bias! It's not the way you write... it's your lock step read it from the AP.. and throw up words like adolescents throws up on there first good drunk... that bothers me. That and I suppose your left leaning bottle brush hubris that just sticks out to far. I am surprised that The Register even allows you to write for them. Regards, Ron Davis Disclaimer: My opinions are my own and not my employers blah blah, blah, blah...
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2000

Prodigy to fight BT's ‘shameless’ hyperlinks patent lawsuit

Prodigy Communications Corp has reacted angrily to BT's hypertext links lawsuit branding it "blatant and shameless". One of the US' biggest ISPs, Prodigy has broken its silence and claims BT's patent of hypertext links is "groundless". It intends to fight its case and expects other companies to band together to take on BT. If they don't, warns Prodigy, the consequence for everyone involved with the Net could be dire. In a statement issued by the company, Dan Iannotti, legal counsel for Prodigy, said: "This week's lawsuit filed by British Telecommunications against Prodigy Communications threatens how consumers connect to and maneuver on the Internet. "This lawsuit is a blatant and shameless attempt by BT to capitalize on the initiative and success of Prodigy and other pioneers of the Internet. "BT's groundless claims have the dangerous potential of stifling those who are truly innovative in this field. "Given that Prodigy was the first commercial Internet service provider in the United States, it is no surprise that British Telecommunications would single us out for this lawsuit. "Prodigy intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit and protect the Internet experience that consumers enjoy today. "We expect our fellow Internet service providers and other companies using the Internet to join us in this challenge." BT claims its owns the patent to hypertext links - the gizmos that knit the Web together - and wants its cut of the royalties. On Wednesday it filed a lawsuit against Prodigy as part of a test case. It could take years before this matter is resolved. ® Related Links BT's Patent number 4,873,662 Related Stories BT launches US hyperlinks legal action BT still chasing cash for hyperlink patent Film evidence challenges BT's claim to hypertext patent BT could face legal action over hyperlink claim BT invented hyperlinks shock
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 2000

Best of the Rest: Harry Potter, Kevin Warwick, Lara Croft

Bigger tits for Lara Croft Not having played Tomb raider, either 1 through the 4 I know of, I can safely say I am unbaised. However the article you just wrote suggested because I'm a male, and an Internet user that I should really give a load of horse shit about the size of Lara's breast. Many a geeks conversation centre around how they edit their own pictures using Adobe products. However, after reading the first 3 paragraphs I found your article completely unstructured, and after completely reading it, I was shocked. Maybe this is a feature article, and attracts attention, but (no-offence) I suppose having a female write on a sexist male issue, was a complete coincidence. Aside from the content of the article, (which probably draws readers) I found very little information concerning the game itself. With that out of the way, I leave you with a final thought: if these types of articles attract attention amongst the male games, and Internet junkies, with a extremely high percentage of them being male, then you have just offended, and subjected a minority of female Internet browsers, which translates to lesser readers. Here's the links I saw fit to include because they supported my argument: Victoria's Secret bra measuring service, Click here for smaller tits, 'Magnificent breasts' gets pulled by content security firm, Computer bra boob shuts M&S, Armageddon off with the blood sports bra, Is it a bra or an anti-mugging device Thank you for your time Bravo5 [Ed says: ah shut your whingeing. As part of our new punishment programme, you are forbidden to read any stories on The Reg that mention female anatomy for two weeks.] Warner Brothers bullies girl over Harry Potter site Appreciate the article. It is rather amazing how some companies are ready and willing to alienate their fan base by taking broad interpretations of their rights regarding anything even vaguely associated with their trademarks. My favourite was Kellogg's Corp's claim against musical group called the Toucans. Kellogg claimed it infringed on their character, 'Toucan Sam.' How petty-minded, selfish, and shameless. But then, I suppose I'm preaching to the choir. (sigh) Sing on. Be well Karl E. Ziellenbach ShittyGift.com points to online crap merchants Uhm, All your talk about ShittyGifts seems to have sparked the sick imagination of a slightly off-balanced (and probably very pissed) Norwegian. Apparently this guy sent off a package of shit to the Norwegian Parliament building where it exploded and made the day kind of crappy for the people working at the post office. More info can be found on: http://aftenposten.no/english/local/d179448.htm As usual, The Reg is to blame. One would think that you should have learned this by now -- there do exist people who just read the headlines (and as it seems, there also exists people who just read selected parts of those headlines). eSk Captain Cyborg spouts rubbish on CNN I checked out the CNN story on our Kev. He looks familiar. Wasn't he one of the winners of the Monty Python "Upper Class English Twit of the Year Contest"? I haven't heard him speak, so I don't know if he's upper, middle or working class, but he seems to have the Twit part nailed. Dan Moyer Paxman vs Warwick: Radio 4 special Hiya Jeremy, I liked the interview recently with publicity crazed "cyber warrior" Prof Kevin Warwick... I thought you might want a bit more information about him...especially since he's now hosting the Royal Institutes Christmas Lectures this year. Have a look at this gallery of his achievements: http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/archive/9250.html http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/28/15372.html And for the latest info look at http://www.kevinwarwickwatch.org.uk a site dedicated to following the media monster. Later, Matt From: Jeremy Paxman Sent: 12 December 2000 To: 'Matt Haswell' Subject: RE: Regarding Prof Kevin Warwick. Thanks. Frightening, isn't it? Iridium threatened rain of terror Dear sir, While your recent article on the chances of getting hit by a satellite was interesting, I believe you are misrepresenting the statistics to make the article more sensational. While it is true that there was a 1 in 250 chance for someone to get hit, you did not clarify that this was not a personal statistic. The odds that any one individual to be hit is 250 multiplied by 6 billion (the population of the planet). Therefore the odds of any one particular person being struck are 1.5 trillion to one - hardly a rain of terror of proportions seen in Armageddon. Also, in reference to the Lara Croft article, I can't believe that the editors at The Register got through high school without knowing how bra sizes work. Geez. Thanks for your time, Perry Newhook
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2000

Readers' Letters filth, filth, filth

[A busy busy week for stories this week - isn't everyone supposed to be taking it easier this time of year? A PR bunny told us on Wednesday that her company figured they'd get a last story in the papers before Christmas and while everyone else was going to company parties. It seems everyone else had had the same idea. BUT despite all this, all the effort we've put in when we should have been trying to lure unsuspecting ladies until the mistletoe, your input has been shocking. Not many letters this week. Mind you, we've got a cracking Flame of the Week. Enjoy] So, ole Dubbya finally finally wins And you're still not happy Don't use such foul language on the site, you w*nker Tut tut tut Best of the Rest: Harry Potter, Kevin Warwick, Lara Croft Now that would be an interesting three-some Flame of the Week: we're a bunch of tits Well, at least she spelt "tits" right
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2000

Int'l cybercrime treaty remains horrid

CommentaryCommentary This week, the Council of Europe (CoE) Experts Group on Crime in Cyberspace is meeting in Strasbourg, France to finalize the international Cybercrime Convention. The experts should be proud of themselves. They have managed during the past eight months to resist the pernicious influence of hundreds if not thousands of individual computer users, security experts, civil liberties groups, ISPs, computer companies and others outside of their select circle of law enforcement representatives who wrote, faxed and e-mailed their concerns about the treaty. Last month, the CoE released a new draft of their long-standing effort, which includes a few minor changes and some lip service to human rights, but remains substantially unchanged from previous drafts. The main gap is a lack of limits on cyber crimes, surveillance powers, and assistance that are created in the convention. The sections on searches still force individuals to disclose encryption keys and other data at the direction of law enforcement officials, in violation of protections against self-incrimination guaranteed by US, Canadian and European laws; wiretap powers remain broadly defined and cover all computer devices down to the smallest local area network (and perhaps even smaller); provisions on real-time data collection remain Carnivore-friendly; and local authorities will still be required to assist law enforcement agencies from other countries, even when investigating actions that are not crimes under local law. There are a few improvements. The section on illegal devices, which in previous drafts threatened to outright criminalize common security tools, now includes a new paragraph stating that it should not impose criminal liability when the program in question was not created or transferred "for the purpose of committing an offence, such as for testing or the protection of a computer system." Does that solve all the problems with regulating hacking tools? I don't know, because it all depends on how the law will be implemented by each country. Human rights gets mentioned once or twice and national governments can resist some requests for assistance when they think the case is political (not to say that could ever happen, but Germany announced this week that anyone anywhere in the world who promotes Holocaust denial is liable under German law, and the Malaysian government announced that anyone who insults Islam online will be punished). In contrast to these modest changes, the opposition to the entire treaty has been overwhelming. Every cyber-rights group in the world with a pulse has come out against it. On the industry side, it's being opposed by the US Chamber of Commerce, the International Chamber of Commerce, all the ISP associations and a ton of other companies, security groups and so on. About the only one left who isn't calling the draft convention the sign of the devil is the Pope, and he probably would if consulted. We've not seen this kind of united public interest and industry opposition to a dumb government proposal since the good old days of the Clipper chip. And not coincidentally, the meetings on the subject are filled with the same people. This is not so say that the CoE committee has not heard or read these complaints. Last week, Henrik Kaspersen, a Dutch government representative who chairs the committee, and Peter Csonka, the head of Economic Crimes division for the CoE, visited Washington -- reportedly to meet with US Attorney General Janet Reno. At a public meeting on Thursday, Kaspersen acknowledged receiving a flood of complaints on the draft conventions, but dismissed them as coming either from American lawyers who did not understand European law, or, worse, "from the Internet," which his tone suggested could only mean the clueless and uninformed. None of the kinds of outrageous cases like the French holding Yahoo liable or the Germans arresting a high CompuServe official, could even be conceived by Kaspersen, much less ever happen as a result of the treaty he travelled to America to peddle. When asked publicly why the treaty did not include any procedural safeguards for limiting surveillance powers, Kaspersen said that determining privacy standards was too hard and controversial for the committee, and had to be left to the national governments of the CoE and signatory countries. I'm sure that those highly democratic countries in the CoE like Russia, Ukraine, and Romania will do a fine job of implementing those rights. There is a small chance that the committee will finally make real changes to the treaty before the new draft comes out sometime next week. But don't count on it. After three years, it seems they made up their minds a long time ago -- and free speech, privacy, real security on the Net, and all of us be dammed. The next hope is lobbying the national governments to refuse to sign the treaty, or to make changes before it is approved. Perhaps they will not think your comments are just "from the Internet." © 2000 SecurityFocus.com. All rights reserved. David Banisar is an attorney and writer in the Washington, DC area. He is co-author of "The Electronic Privacy Papers" (Wiley, 1997) and several other books on privacy, and is deputy director of Privacy International.
David Banisar, 15 Dec 2000

BugTraq, @Stake differ on vulnerability reports

Two respected names in Internet security, SecurityFocus and @Stake, have encountered what we hope will be a brief impasse on the issue of how to share vulnerability reports, into which a great deal of unremunerated work is put. Recently, @Stake, which also runs the Hacker News Network Web site, submitted an abbreviated notice to the BugTraq mailing list concerning a security hole in AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM) explaining how a malicious URL can be used to take control of someone else's AIM client and run arbitrary code on their machine. SecurityFocus' Elias Levy, who moderates the BugTraq list, rejected the submission on grounds that it included too little descriptive detail to be appropriate for his subscribers. @Stake's Weld Pond countered that the submission, while brief, contained a link to the full text on the @Stake Web site so that BugTraq subscribers might easily examine all the gruesome technical details if they pleased. "We want to draw readers to our Web site to present them with additional helpful information that cannot be accomplished in the mailing list format," Weld Pond told The Register. And that, of course, is perfectly reasonable. Levy argues that while "some people....may prefer to receive a short notice instead of the full advisory, that is not the case with BugTraq." It is, rather, "a mailing list for the dissemination and discussion of security vulnerabilities," rather than announcements, he told us. And that, too, is perfectly reasonable. What we have here is a difference of opinion in which both parties are making sound, rational arguments. @Stake certainly has every right to influence the way in which their original content is presented by third parties. "We do not wish to have our research work presented as the content of another site that has another company's banner ads or branding around it. If you look at the advisory presentation on our site, there are no ads or marketing messages. It is a strictly academic presentation," Weld Pond told us. And yet again, Levy made a good point when he noted to us that posting less than the full advisory to the BugTraq list "breaks down the flow of discussion. Now people need to visit the Web site, read the advisory, and if they want to comment copy and paste into a new message." "For very long we have tolerated the marketing copy on vendor advisories because while annoying they were accompanied by useful information. But in this change there is no value added to list subscribers. It's for this reason that we are not accepting such advisories," Levy added. This development comes on the heels of a dispute with Microsoft which told BugTraq that MS security advisories may not be reproduced in whole on the list, citing copyright issues, as we reported here. "I must admit I don't understand the change @Stake made. Microsoft I can understand; @Stake I can't," Levy said. "I've asked the list subscribers for their opinions. I've received over five-hundred messages to far. While a handful of people liked the notices, the large majority of them, probably around 95 per cent, found the change to be a negative one and want me to hold firm to the policy of not approving them." Meanwhile, Weld Pond notes that @Stake's work remains freely available on their site. "People can always reference our work and make fair use of it. We do not wish to stop anyone from learning from it or using it to better secure their computing resources or build better security products. This is of course the primary reason we publish our research and make it freely available for all to read. The fundamental values of full disclosure remains unchanged," he told us. But referencing the work is not the same as reproducing it. So we might conclude that BugTraq's perfectly legitimate posting requirements are simply incompatible with @Stake's perfectly legitimate desire to draw Web surfers to their own site to view the material in the format they prefer. A recent story by ZD-Net may have added fuel to a fire that doesn't quite exist. "The fight pits the open atmosphere of an Internet mailing list with the proprietary tactics of two corporations that are well-known in the security field, said Elias Levy," ZD-Net wrote. We were immediately startled by the word "fight" attributed to Levy, who is as peaceable a fellow as one might ever meet. "I would not call it a feud. There haven't been any unpleasant exchanges. I can't speak for @Stake but I get the impression they may think I am being inflexible. After all, they did modify their notice format once. Maybe I am being inflexible," Levy told us. Hardly the words of a man girding himself for battle. We would hope that these two organisations, whose work we admire greatly, will be able to strike a compromise acceptable to both. "The one compromise that seems obvious and was suggested by several list members -- that of publishing the whole advisory but with a large notice at top pointing people to the @Stake Web site for the most up-to-date information -- seems not to be to @Stake's liking. I don't know that there is a middle ground," Levy said. Perhaps a copyright notice or 'reproduced by permission' notice would be helpful here; we don't know. But we do know that it would be most unfortunate if anything like the "fight" rumoured to be underway should actually result from what we perceive as a mere difference of opinion. But we rather think it won't. At a minimum we reckon the two would simply agree to disagree. Not the best of all possible outcomes surely, but certainly not the worst. ®
Thomas C Greene, 15 Dec 2000

Nvidia agrees to buy ailing 3dfx for $112m

The PC sales slowdown today claimed fresh blood: 3dfx has decided to shut its doors and flog most of its assets to Nvidia for $112 million. Today Nvidia agreed to pay $70 million cash and one million in shares for the rival graphics card chipmaker, whilst loaning 3dfx $15 million that will be credited to the cash part of the price when the deal is completed. 3dfx, which has been locked in a patent infringement battle with Nvidia, today said it would cut "substantially all" of its workforce by early next year, plus reduce office space and other expenses. Once the assets are sold off the company will dissolve. In a conference call tonight execs said they had considered "a wide range of other options", including mergers or bankruptcy, before selling out. But Alex Leupp, 3dfx CEO, commented: "We strongly believe that to reduce expenses, sell our assets and dissolve the company provides the highest return to our creditors, shareholders, and employees." The deal ends the patent infringement litigation between the two companies. After markets closed, 3dfx also recorded a net loss of $178.6 million for the third quarter. Sales dropped 63 per cent to $39.2 million in the period ended 31 October. "Our financial results illustrate the dramatic shift we've seen in the retail market over the past quarter," said Leupp, who added that high inventory expenses, falling margins and slowing demand had done "irreparable harm" to the company. "We have experienced a significant slowdown in demand for our products, especially the Voodoo 3 and Voodoo 5 boards. This slowdown is consistent with the overall softness experienced by the PC market, especially in Western Europe. "In addition, we've experienced pricing pressures in the channel. Finally, our inability to secure a bank line of credit has impacted our ability to build inventory to meet even the existing demand." In October the graphics card maker warned that Q3 sales and earnings would be "substantially" lower than expected. At the time it blamed "overall softness in the European retail and system integrator channels." ® Related Stories Voodoo 4 or 3 cash dilemma 3dfx clarifies graphics card strategy 3dfx pulls plug on graphics card production Blame Europe: Now it's 3dfx's turn Nvidia to buy 3dfx? 3dfx on course to win Nvidia patent clash
Linda Harrison, 15 Dec 2000

Ellison richer than Gates?

Bill Gates watched helplessly as investors wiped $35 billion off the value of his beloved company today. Microsoft's share price fell $6.13, or 11 per cent, to $49.38 this afternoon, knocking off a hefty portion of Gates' own personal fortune. The Microsoft chief owns 731,749,668 shares in the software giant, (as of September 2000, Microsoft's most recent annual statement on shareholders), meaning he lost around $4.5 billion on his own stock in just one day. The company was worth $260 billion this afternoon. The investor share-dumping extravaganza followed the company's announcement late yesterday that it would miss sales forecasts for the current quarter and the full fiscal year. But what does this mean to Gates foe and Oracle chief Larry Ellison? Back in September Gates was just £1 billion richer than Ellison - Gates was worth an estimated £43 billion ($63 billion) at the time. Oracle's share price gained $1.38 today, rising to $28.88 on the back of better than expected earnings. Could the ageing Oracle philanderer be richer than the Great Gates? ® Related Stories Bill Gates shot in mock documentary Ellison not dead and not leaving Oracle Ellison: The ego has landed Ellison laughing all the way to the bank
Linda Harrison, 15 Dec 2000

Korean sex-swap op pulls in the hits

South Korean doctors claim to have discovered the secret of pulling in Internet punters - by showing sex change surgery on line. A private clinic and medical information company involved in the stunt say the site has received 19,000 hits from e-voyeurs hoping to catch a glimpse of the ten-minute clip. The episode has been criticised as sensationalist, but the two companies said they hoped the broadcast would help people gain a better idea of what to expect from transgender surgery in a country where issues such as homosexuality and sex swaps are frowned upon, AP reported. "Those people who visit the Web site, most are considering having the operation, most are already on hormonal treatment. I don't think it will attract other people," said Chang Song Sun, the urologist who carried out the original seven-hour operation. The patient, a 27-year-old pianist who went under the pseudonym of Hae Young, was happy with her new body but unhappy with her country's views on the surgery, and is reported to have left South Korea after the $15,800 surgery. ® Related Stories Korean duo do each other in after suicide site meet Click here for smaller tits Sex-change Webcast postponed at last minute
Linda Harrison, 15 Dec 2000