19th > December > 2000 Archive

Intel discombobulates its customers

RoadmapRoadmap Like 'em or loathe 'em, you got to admire the way Intel manages not only to cheese off PC manufacturers but its distributors and dealers too, and all at the same time. That, at least, is the message we must draw from two different slides, one for the channel and one for its original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) we saw over a pint of cider last week. Putting the two together, it seems that Chipzilla is pulling the irons out of the fire in a bid to ensure that the year 2001 will not be its third annus horribilis in a row. First off, chipset pricing. That, at least, seems to be common to both dealers, distributors and Dell, in that order. (Dell is used here as a generic term for PC manufacturers.) On the 29 October, the Intel 860 was priced at $85, the 850 at $75, the 840-DP at $53, the 820E at $34, the 815 at $37.50, the 815EP at nothing cos it won't be launched until the 31 December, and the 810E2 at $34. On the 31st December, the 860 will cost $84, the 850 $56.50, the 840-DP $51, the 820E $44, the 815 $31.50, the 815E $36.50, the 815EP (hello new friend) at $34.50, and the 810E2 $33. On 31 March next year, if Intel's plans go right, the 860 will cost $82, the 850 $53, the 840-DP $50, the 820E $31, the 815 $31.50 (farewell old friend), the 815E $34.50, the 815EP $32.50 and the 810E2 $31. The prices, we presume, depend upon whether you're a big buyer of Intel chipsets or not. According to the roadmap wot we saw, the price moves on the 850 in the first and second quarters of next year will help to move the Pentium 4 into the mainstream. The 815EP is a channel chipset which will be "enabled" for Tualatin in Q2 next year and is intended to help distributors cope with the tricky biz of integrating graphics cards etc. So, dear readers, we can hear you asking us, what about Brookdale, the famous chipset which is set to catapult Intel into the 21st century and the New Millennium? Brookdale appears on both channel and OEM roadmaps in Q3 of next year, and will gradually edge out the 850 chipset until in Q4 next year, it hogs the two mainstream sectors below the 850. The 850 hogs the top spot in the lucrative performance sector from Q1 until the end of the year. Brookdale double data rate (DDR) memory won't arrive until Q1 of 2002 and Intel is advising both its channel and Dell to stock up on Rambus right now, in anticipation of future demand. That must be good news for Kingston Technology, we think. Later today, what's happening with Tualatin and mobile notebook technology. ®
Mike Magee, 19 Dec 2000

Debian sets course for summer

White smoke from the most cherished of all Linux distros Debian today. Project maintainer Anthony Towns has posted a progress update with a roadmap into next year. Renowned for its silly names and the glacial pace of its development, Debian is nonetheless highly regarded for its flexibility and openness. If you can't do it with Debian, you can't do it with Linux. Or GNU/Linux. And being the sole major distro not at the mercy of capital - private or public - Debian continues to support more platforms than any of its rivals. ARM, Motorola 68000, SPARC and PowerPC ports are maintained, alongside x86 of course. The first two names really ought to clock amber as clues to this distro's strategic import: Debian is the most attractive platform to embedded hardware partners who don't need a real-time OS. And that's a lot of potential adopters, with Transmeta among them. "Woody's been in existance for eleven months, and that we probably want to think about freezing and releasing it in a few more months," announces Towns. Don't you wish all press releases had this give-a-fuck insouciance? OK, maybe it's just us. So following on from the 'Potato' release at LinuxWorld last year, 'Woody' is targeted for a freeze around June next year. KDE 2.0 and Gnome are in the main list, and the chief goal is to have glibc 2.2 ship shape on all platforms. Look, we didn't promise this was cutting edge stuff, but that's not the point... ® Related Link Read the full update at LinuxToday here, or at the Debian Web site
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Dec 2000

British bank blows £15m on failed e-venture

The Alliance & Leicester has become the latest casualty of the dotcom banking craze. Having spent £15 million on an online financial service for the "mass affluent", it's decided to ditch the scheme. The FT quotes A&L group MD, Peter McNamara, as saying that "we've learnt the lessons of others". Bloody expensive lesson, no? Energis is to buy 75 per cent of Ision, a German Web hosting and application solutions company for £496 million in cash and shares. Ision boasts some 800 complex hosted sites and a rack of blue chip clients. Mike Grabiner, CE of Energis, said: "This acquisition significantly strengthens our existing operations in Germany and takes a major further step in our strategy to become the leading data and internet solutions provider in Europe. The Body Shop has ended its partnership with Softbank Technology Ventures and moved in-house the development of its e-shop. The Body Shop said it would give Softbank up to $6 million, either in cash or shares, for the work carried out to date. The lotions and potions outfit said it now hoped to open a US e-store in the second half of 2001. ® For more punishment, check out Cash Register.
Team Register, 19 Dec 2000

No more Net red tape, pleads gov't taskforce

Confusion about regulations in the online world is holding e-commerce back, according to a report from the government's "Better Regulation" taskforce. The authors suggested that government not involve itself too heavily in the online world. Lord Christopher Haskins, the chairman of the taskforce, warns that further legislation would only add to the bewilderment among the small and medium sized businesses trying to work online. What is needed, he says, is clarity. The report states that businesses tend to be unsure about how to apply traditional business practises to the net, and don't know if there are any regulations specifically for ecommerce that they must also adhere to. However, Lord Haskins says that more legislation would not make this any easier. "We do not want any more regulation," he said in an interview, before going on to say that people had to realise that if they buy something like a fridge from Columbia, then they "are on their own as regards these dodgy transaction". The authors conclude that e-commerce is about more than high profile dotcoms, rather it is about a fundamentally new way to businesses to operate and interact with one another. However, this is not reflected in the way the industry is being managed: "We have found that the open structure of the Internet Marketplace is not mirrored by a sufficiently transparent regulatory framework." The researchers recommended that the government set up a single portal to allow fast and simple access to the information about regulations. They also suggested that the DTI ensure that the interests of the whole cross-section of e-businesses were represented in industry groups consulted by the government. ® Related Link The report can be found here
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Dec 2000

Vizzavi bungles upgrade

Vizzavi has botched its attempt to upgrade its platform leaving thousands of users without access to their email. The upgrade was expected to be started and completed yesterday. But it's clear Vizzavi's attempt at Euro-unification has failed. Miserably. Thousands of users have been left without access to their email - and it could take until Thursday before the problems are resolved. No one at Vizzavi's HQ in Berkshire was available for comment - yet another example of dotcoms going into hiding at the first whiff of trouble. Thankfully, customer support sang like a karoake canary on acid. "We've been experiencing a few problems - our systems keep crashing," said tech support. "Our call centres are struggling too. "We've had to transfer 20,000 people across to the new platform and we're doing it in chunks," he said. It's not known whether the upgrade has just affected users in the UK or throughout Europe. Last week Vizzavi - a joint venture between the Vivendi and Vodafone - said the move was designed to "bring us in line with the rest of Europe". ® Related Stories Vizzavi frogmarches Brit users to toe Euro line Vodafone celebrating portal launch by terminating free alerts? Vodafone + Vivendi =VIZZAVI
Tim Richardson, 19 Dec 2000

24/7 Freecall refund pledge falls on deaf ears

There are serious doubts today about 24/7 Freecall's ability to settle refund disputes via email. The ISP kicked off 1000 Net users last week claiming they had abused the service. However, many readers have contacted The Register to say that 24/7 Freecall had taken money from their accounts - either just before or after they were kicked off. 24/7 Freecall's boss - Sal Abdin - pledged that those people who were entitled would get a refund. All they have to do was email the company and he would sort it out. However, The Register was concerned to hear from Tony Sutton. 24/7 Freecall debited money from his account on 8 December, but kicked him off a week later. We'll let Tony take up the story from here. "I have e-mailed them to complain but haven't had any reply. I would like to call them but I can't because I am deaf. This is really unfair for me as there is no way for me to get in touch with them. I also can't find their fax number. "Plus, it's as if they are 'blocking' my needs of communication. Without it, I can't communicate with people as I am deaf. As you can see, it made my life 'very' difficult," said Tony. ® Related Stories 24/7 Freecall pledges refunds Reg staffer cut off by 24-7 Freecall ISP Freecall kicks off 1000 'abusers' 400 Freecall users out on their ear 24-7 Freecall does a Freeswerve
Tim Richardson, 19 Dec 2000

Hark! The Herald PR agency spins

Another heart-warming story from The Register Christmas Cracker files. We received an interesting phone call recently from a positively fluffy PR person asking for an update on the AltaVista/Free Internet Group (FIG) court case. "And why would that be?" we asked. "Well," said bunnykins, "we want to do a presentation on crisis management." The little fluffy wuffy bunny wabbit explained that she wanted to use the AltaVista incident (you know the one, they say they're going to operate unmetered Net access in the UK, don't, but pretend they have until they finally get rumbled) to show how not to run a PR campaign. Seems fair. After all, some good's got to come out of the AltaVista scam. And the information about the ongoing court case was just ensure all the loose ends were tied, she said. Anyhow, the conversation came to an abrupt end when the little fluffy wuffy bunny wabbit said where she was calling from. "You want us to tell you about how AltaVista's court case is going with FIG?" we asked. "Yes, that's right," said the wabbit. "Why don't you go ask your client?" we said. "Surely, if anyone knows, they should." Silence. And we thought it was only The Register that bites the hand that feeds it. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 Dec 2000

Another ISP pulls the plug

Unmetered ISP 24-7 SpinolaVista has thrown off all its remaining users, claiming they had been abusing the service's terms and conditions. Launched in August, the service broke new ground in value for money Web access by offering £2 million cashback with every £60 annual subscription. The company has now disconnected both users who passed the stringent criteria required for the service. "To be honest, we thought our legal department had covered all the bases in our T&Cs," said CEO Sonny Pastrami. "But somehow these people slipped through the net and were accepted as customers. "We were unprepared for actually having to provide a service at all. Any decent person would have accepted the £2 million and shut up about connection problems. Now our $100 million venture capital has run out, and we have no option but to disconnect our remaining users who are clearly in breach of our terms in expecting to be connected to the Internet at all. No refunds will be offered." Asked on what the $100 million had been spent, Pastrami, speaking from a private jet en route to SpinolaVista's new corporate HQ and holiday complex in the Cayman Islands, said that details would have to await an audit currently being carried out by a leading merchant bank, Spinola Brothers plc. ® Related stories ISP Freecall kicks off 1000 users Freeserve to cut off hundreds more customers Register launches unmetered SpinolaVista 25/7 Internet access
Andrew Thomas, 19 Dec 2000

Le Freeserve and Wanadoo shares suffer

Both le Freeserve and Wanadoo suffered at the stock exchange (London and Paris, respectively) yesterday. Freeswerve put a brave face on its results - highlighting that operating loss was lower than last quarter but glossing over the fact that pre-tax losses had rocketed - but shares still fell 3.6 per cent. Its parent Wanadoo suffered worse - seeing 6.7 per cent wiped off its share value. Freeserve's results are put out of kilter by a big one-off write-off of Net investment losses and a bit of a reshape - both included as a result of Wanadoo's recent acquisition of it for £1.65 billion. That, combined with the new influence of Wanadoo, well, France Telecom - a notoriously hands-off company :-) - makes Freeserve's situation difficult to ascertain. Hopefully, the next set will enable us to see through the fog. Wanadoo has also just purchased Spain's Indice Multimedia, and is offering new shares with a bit of cash to cover the £220 million deal. It's not a bad deal, but people are getting nervous. The City is still trying to work out patterns of instability in Internet companies. None (well, none that work) have emerged as yet, but a Net company buying out other Net companies can get hands shaking. ® Related Stories Le Freeswerve - c'est magnifique Wanadoo in Euro buying spree
Kieren McCarthy, 19 Dec 2000

Nvidia nabbing 3dfx staff already

Nvidia yesterday said it wants to give a hundred of 3dfx's top engineers jobs - part of the company's programme to pick the flesh from the technological bones of the moribund graphics chip maker. Speaking at an analyst conference yesterday, Nvidia CEO CEO Jen-Hsun Huang didn't go into detail about how his company will leverage intellectual property acquired from 3dfx. Too much, of course, depends on whether 3dfx shareholders will permit the sale of the company's technological and trademark assets to Nvidia for $70 million plus one million shares. Hence, Nvidia's move to get key 3dfx staffers to join it as quickly as possible. It knows they'll bring a lot to the company, even if it is prevented from acquiring the technology they've been working on. The key IP is Gigapixel's tile-based rendering system, which 3dfx paid $186 million for earlier this year. If Nvidia's acquisition goes ahead, it's hard not to see Nvidia utilising this technology, of all 3dfx's portfolio. As for the others, such as T-buffer, the company wants time to figure out how it can make the most of them. "We're quite excited about the new products in the pipeline, and hopefully we'll be able to quickly assess how much of the technologies to incorporate into our follow-on products," said Huang. Nvidia's own hardware roadmap is quite advanced, so it may well be some time before 3dfx technology begins to appear in Nvidia processors. It's Voodoo brand, on the other hand, may fare better. Nvidia remains committed to staying a silicon-only company - that's why it didn't pick up 3dfx's Juarez, Mexico add-in card plant, which 3dfx is still trying to sell. However, Nvidia is buying the rights to the brandname, which remains a strong one, despite 3dfx's plummeting sales. Huang said Nvidia hopes to grow the brand's retail market penetration from its current share of around 40 per cent to 60 per cent or more. How it will do that remains to be seen: "We haven't firmed up our plans there but we plan to," said Huang. The options for Nvidia boil down to selling the Voodoo name to a board maker, to license the name, or use it itself for its next or next-but-one generation of graphics chip. The latter seems unlikely, since GeForce is now well established. Licensing may work, but will multiple board vendors all want to offer competing Voodoo cards? We reckon Nvidia will sell it to the highest bidder. We shall see. ® Related Story Nvidia agrees to buy ailing 3dfx for $112m
Tony Smith, 19 Dec 2000

Porn-filter disabler unleashed

An anti-censorship group Peacefire has released a program which disables porn-filtering programs. This software, which only works on personal computers, is being released in response to the passage of a bill by the US Congress that requires the use of blocking software in schools and libraries that receive federal funds. Peacefire.exe, which is available as a free download, can disable popular Windows censorware programs, such as SurfWatch, Cyber Patrol, Net Nanny, CYBERsitter, X-Stop, PureSight and Cyber Snoop. However it is ineffective against "server-level" blocking programs, including AOL Parental Controls and many applications used in schools. The program is only known to work on Windows 98 machines. In essence, the program automates instructions for disabling filter that Peacefire has had on its site for months. But with the program users do not have to input lines of code - making it far more user friendly. Peacefire explains its motives on its site: "This Web site was created because we don't accept the excuses for treating minors with fewer rights than convicted felons. "Smut on the Internet - you're going to be harmed more by eating a hamburger than by seeing a picture of two people having sex," it adds. The group argues that it is acting on principle, and that many sites such as those affiliated to human rights organisation, Amnesty International, are blocked by filtering software. It makes the case that many sites are blocked in error or for questionable motives. ®
John Leyden, 19 Dec 2000

Intel staff trial Wireless LAN

Chipzilla is putting its Wireless LAN technology to the test, to find out if it really does bring the "productivity gains" it has been trumpeting. It is planning a pilot scheme at its Swindon HQ involving three access points and one hundred LAN PC cards for staff. A cross-section of Chipzilla employees will be piloting the technology. The trial was due to start this week, but technology roll outs almost by definition do not go to plan, and it is nearly Christmas, so its been rescheduled to "work-week-one" of next year. That's the first week of January 2001 to you and me. Intel reckons this is going to save them wads of money and we think they might have a point. According to Ben Perks, product marketing manager for wireless LAN at Intel, it costs about £20,000 to wire up a meeting room with CAT5 cable with 8 Ethernet ports in a table. He reckons that one $999 access point in a corridor would cover four meeting rooms. He says that the plan is to have the system go company wide at the end of Q1, once any glitches and security issues have been sorted out. ® Extra Security Info The security aspect of wireless networking is particularly important to Chipzilla. Obviously it doesn't want people like The Reg standing outside the building with a radio receiver listening in on its meetings. We say: spoilsports. To avoid this, all the data transmitted across the network is encrypted with the Wired Equivalent Privacy algorithm - WEP- using the RC4 pseudo random number generator. This has as standard, a 40 bit key,* but there is a Pro/Wireless standard with a 128 bit key. Intel goes one stage further and keeps the whole thing inside a VPN tunnel. *As per the IEEE 802.11 specification.
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Dec 2000

NEC exec disses Linux

NEC senior VP Kazuhiko Kobayashi didn't win himself any friends in the open source community when he recently claimed that, to all intents and purposes, Linux hasn't a hope of catching up with Windows in key corporate-oriented applications. "Linux servers have become the focus of attention in the market, but they can't enter the arena of applications servers, database servers and others, where the Windows OS is playing a key role," he said, according to a Nikkei newswire report. NEC is, of course, a major proponent of Linux in the Japanese market. In fact, Kobayashi's comments perhaps aren't as negative as they might at first seem. They're actually a call for a greater level of standardisation in the Linux arena - not so very far from the concerns expressed by those observers who fear the Unix-like fragmentation of Linux. "It's convenient to use the term Linux, but such distributions are abundantly available from different sources," he said. "This means that makers of Linux-version software must perform validation testing on each distribution of Linux, including Red Hat Linux, TurboLinux and Miracle Linux, which is expensive. In contrast, a software product corresponding to Windows needs such testing only once." Is there a role, then, for the open source OS? "Linux can show its true colors when used as a front end of an information system, such as an Internet server," said Kobayashi. "But, in this case, it has another rival, the real-time OS implemented in telecommunications equipment provided by Cisco Systems Inc. "Anyway, Linux may have many chances to show its true merits with published source codes and ease of customisation." ®
Tony Smith, 19 Dec 2000

EMusic sues MP3.com

MP3.com has received yet another lawsuit - this time it's the turn of EMusic, which has decided to sue the online music service over copyright infringement. EMusic has also dragged six of its independent record labels into the legal fracas, and said in a statement today that it expected more to jump on board later. The complaint, filed against MP3.com and its My.MP3.com streaming service in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, claims MP3.com has infringed on an undetermined number of its exclusive digital rights. EMusic has rights to around 13,000 albums from more than 600 record labels. "Although MP3.com has entered into settlement agreements with the five major record labels, they have chosen to ignore their infringing actions with respect to independent record labels," said EMusic president and CEO Gene Hoffman. So far, Fearless Records, Fuel 2000 Records, Gig Records, Invisible Records, SpinART Records and Victory Records have joined Emusic in the complaint. ® Related Stories Emusic to track Napster music swaps Napster challenges EMusic monitoring plan Record labels to sue MP3.com - again MP3.com squares Universal with $53.4m payout MP3.com hit with another lawsuit
Linda Harrison, 19 Dec 2000

Iraq buys 4000 PlayStation 2s in world conquest bid

Forget Jim Carrey - Saddam Hussein is the real Grinch who stole Christmas - at least according to one Web site. It claims the Iraqi dictator is buying up the world's supply - such as it is - of PlayStation 2 consoles to build military supercomputers. According to a WorldNetDaily report, US customs, the FBI and military intelligence - a contradiction in terms if we ever heard one - are investigating shipments of Sony's next-generation games machine to Baghdad. Some 4000 consoles have made their way to Iraq, those agencies reckon. And that, says the report, is depriving American kiddies of their requested Christmas prezzies, poor dears. It's hard to know what's worse: children engaging in (virtual) acts of mindless violence or the Republican Guard sharpening its skills on Tekken Tournament. Or even - and this is the angle a "secret" document leaked to WND takes on the matter - a stack of the machines being wired together into some vast, supercomputer configuration to be used to take over the world. Sounds a bit Billion Dollar Brain to us - ie. bollocks - but we don't suppose there's a good reason why Iraqi computer scientists can't get Linux running in Beowolf configuration on 4000 PlayStation 2s for the purposes of subverting Western democracy. Though we note that Florida seems to have done a pretty good job of that already... "Most Americans don't realise that each PlayStation unit contains a 32-bit CPU - every bit as powerful as the processor found in most desktop and laptop computers," one unnamed military intelligence source told WND. "Beyond that, the graphics capabilities of a PlayStation [2] are staggering - five times more powerful than that of a typical graphics workstation, and roughly 15 times more powerful than the graphics cards found in most PCs." Unnamed military source? 'Sony marketing mouth' would be a better description. "Applications for this system are potentially frightening," said another intelligence source. "One expert I spoke with estimated that an integrated bundle of 12-15 PlayStations could provide enough computer power to control an Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV -- a pilotless aircraft." Thanks for clarifying the meaning of the words 'unmanned' and 'aerial vehicle' - we'd have never figured out they were the same as 'pilotless' and 'aircraft'. Strewth. This sounds almost as bad as the scare stories from the early 1980s of Sinclair ZX-81s being nabbed by the Soviet military so for their Z-80a CPUs - handy for controlling ICBMs, we were told. That story proved to be nothing but Cold War paranoia and survivalist jack-off material, and that's pretty much what the WDN report appears to be. "Bundled [sic] PlayStation computers could also be used to calculate ballistic data for long-range missiles, or in the design of nuclear weapons... Iraq has long had difficulty calculating the potential yield of nuclear devices - a critical requirement in designing such weapons," says the WND story. WDN describes itself as "a fiercely independent news service created to capitalise on new media technology and opportunities, to reinterpret the role of the free press as a guardian of liberty, an exponent of truth and an uncompromising disseminator of news". Or, as we say over here, 'conspiracy theorists'. Put it this way, if Saddam isn't buying all those PS Twos, you can bet Elvis or JFK certainly is... ®
Tony Smith, 19 Dec 2000

PR Week has got our number

Vulture Central has been rumbled. It all began when we mistakenly had a go at go-ahead PR bunny Robert Metcalfe. Bob had changed his domain name to rob@PRPersonWhoBelievesInTheProduct.com as a nod to his clients Dotcoms for Christmas. Our light-hearted piece poked fun at this piece of corporate malarkey. We were shocked then, when on 24th November , PR Week launched a vicious attack on Reg hacks, as shown above. Worst of all, it's all horribly, horribly true. Reg journos spent several miserable hours wandering the pastures of Vulture Central trying to reconcile themselves to their bitterness and cynicism. Then they went to the pub and forgot all about it. ®
Lester Haines, 19 Dec 2000

Virus writers and cracker love-in

Crackers are using viruses to get their malicious code into corporate Intranets, according to Marc Blanchard, technical director at Trend Micro. This means antivirus companies will have to start working on ways to combat this code, as well as the viruses they are used to tackling. This is part of a general trend of convergence between the virus writers and crackers that would have seemed impossible a few years ago. "Over the last year, we have seen self replicating worms and viruses, stealth viruses and macro viruses," he said. "We have seen all these things start to merge, for example we have seen Trojans with virus technology, and active mail worms with office macros. This is a trend that will continue in the next six months." Examples of this convergence include the KAK virus, which has been named by Sophos as the most prevalent virus of 2000, and is second on TrendMicro's virus list. Instead of arriving as an attachment, KAK is in the signature on a mail according to Blanchard. He started working in anti-virus research in 1986 and said that the kind of convergence we are seeing now would have been laughed at back then. "Virus writers and hackers were very different groups," he said. "In fact they hated each other. But now we are seeing much more of a cross over." Virus writers will also target the new computing platforms, Blanchard said, such as WAP and the Palm OS. However, on previous occasions Graham Cluley, technical director at Sophos, has expressed scepticism about the risk of Palm OS style viruses taking off. He said at a recent conference in London that the difficulty in transmitting the viruses would mean that they would pose only a small threat to users. ® Related Stories Thus virus variant is not very scary Outbreak of viruses disguised as vaccines Pro Linux virus rears its head
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Dec 2000

Dell hit by Christmas shipment delays

While computer makers fight to flog their stock this Christmas, Dell has been hit with shipment delays. The direct PC selling giant yesterday admitted there were delays concerning two of its top consumer systems, the Dimension 8100 PC and Inspiron 8000 notebook. Five per cent of orders for the Dimension 8100 have been affected by the problem - caused by a cock-up on Dell's Website which apparently let customers order a mouse and keyboard that were incompatible. Dell is now sending out an upgraded version of the mouse. The Inspiron shortages stemmed from supply problems with 8x CD-RW drives and 32MB graphics cards. The situation has been sorted out, according to Dell, which did not reveal how many shoppers were affected. "This is obviously mis-execution by Dell, and frankly it's quite dangerous," Gartner analyst Kevin Knox told AP. "People went to Dell all the way back in November, and if they can't deliver product before Christmas, this is going to leave a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths." On Friday rival US PC maker Gateway started to temporarily stock PCs in its stores in a bid to shift pre-Christmas inventory. It usually uses the outlets as showrooms for its products, which are then shipped to customers. It also promised Christmas delivery on build-to-order PCs bought by midday on 23 December. ® Related Stories Xmas panic means PC fire sales Dell announces next server offerings Dell hits revised estimates Decent Dell honours PC offer after online cock-up Gateway turns showrooms into PC supermarkets Global PC sales to grow 20 per cent in Q4
Linda Harrison, 19 Dec 2000

Tesco grabs 2500 PlayStation 2s in daring commando raid

British grocer Tesco claimed today it has 2500 PlayStation 2s in store and ready to sell tomorrow - unlike almost every other retailer. The UK's main retailers are still believed to be fighting over what's left of the 165,000 units Sony shipped into the country on the console's launch late last month. Tesco, on the other hand, claims to have scored a stack of consoles - a "major coup" - from a "secret location" in Northern Europe - which, we reckon, is a covert reference to... er... Sony's warehouse in Aylesbury. Heck, the way Tesco tells it, you'd think the company had sent an elite force of commando shelf-stackers - 'Hello, my name's Kevin. The baked beans are now in row 26, sir. Watch out for that Uzi fire, Trace...' - in a daring raid to bring back consoles straight out of The Guns of Navarone or Operation Crossbow. Wherever the machines have come from, we doubt very much that they've been spirited into the country under Sony's nose, as Tesco would have us believe. More likely Tesco have been hanging on to them until demand reached its peak. The machines will go on sale tomorrow at stores in Watford, Peterborough, Cardiff, Newcastle and Inverness. ® Related Story Iraq buys 4000 PlayStation 2s in world conquest bid
Tony Smith, 19 Dec 2000

Top copper cooler fun

OC Workbench has shivered its way through a review of two copper coolers from Attech - the CM21 and the CM25. The CM25 gets the nod for being a decent piece of kit for not very much money. We take a glimpse into the financial world over at TechReview, who've posted their CPU price lists. Things are cheaper than last week, but not quite so dramatic as the week before! On a similar note, Sharky's weekly memory prices are also out today. This is included purely on the basis of its truly silly name. Escape from Monkey Island. You know it? Well there is a review of the game over at Sharky's today, so check it out. If money is not an issue - and it isn't if you are dreaming, then you may enjoy this look at overclocking on the P4, over at GamePC. It is a frenzy of benchmarking and tweaking, so get over there. The ABIT Siluro GF256 GTS card is put through its paces over at XBitlabs. This lot conclude the card is one of the "most overclockable graphics cards based on NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS" which can't be bad. Click here to read the rest of it. ® If you want more hardware stuff, then check out the Register archives.
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Dec 2000

Warner Brothers shoots at more innocents

Warner Brothers' intimidation of the owners of Harry Potter-named Web sites continues. Not only is the harrypotterguide.co.uk situation still going on but several other owners have been in touch to relay their anger over how they've been treated. We've been talking to Claire Field's dad, Les (she owns the www.harrypotterguide.co.uk domain), and he tells us he's sick with worry over Warner Brothers legal bullying of his daughter's Web site. As Les says, he doesn't have the money to work through the legal system. But then he's equally furious at the treatment dished out by the multinational conglomerate. We decided to do a bit of research into Harry Potter domain names as a whole and were appalled at what we saw. It would appear that since Warner Brothers gained the rights to the Harry Potter movie, it has embarked on a policy of intimidation against anyone that has the effrontery to register a domain name including the words Harry Potter. Worse than that, Warner Brothers hasn't had the commonsense to register Harry Potter-related sites - which would cost far less than one lawyer's letter each. For example, the owner of www.harrypotterisawizard.co.uk has been forced to hand over his URL but EVERY OTHER domain, including .com, .net, .org etc etc etc is still available. What about www.harrypotterwizard? All available - every TLD. We can't decide whether it's maliciousness or just plain stupidity that have stopped the multi-billion pound company from picking up these domains. Either way, we're not impressed. If WB wants to escape a charge of bullying then perhaps it shouldn't blatantly bully people. ® Related Stories Another child's Christmas ruined by Warner Brothers Warner Bros/ Harry Potter dispute kicks off again Warner Bros backs down on Harry Potter Web site Reg to fight for Harry Potter 'cybersquatter' Warner Brothers bullies girl over Harry Potter site
Kieren McCarthy, 19 Dec 2000

Another child's Christmas ruined by Warner Brothers

We've covered Claire Field's legal troubles with the domain www.harrypotterguide.co.uk but were equally appalled by the self-same situation involving a ten-year-old girl. Scotsman Steve McDonald registered www.harry-potter-magic.co.uk for his daughter, but was shocked to find legal letters and bolshy lawyers breathing down his neck soon after. As Steve explains it: "I got the domain because I thought I'd try to get my daughter interested in PC things. She loves Harry Potter, so I thought using that I could get her working on computers - which will be useful later on in life." Sadly not. He was originally sent an email asking him what he intended to do with the site and explained. He also offered that if the relevant people were upset about his use of the domain name, he'd hand it over if they could tell him which domain name they wouldn't be offended by and would send his daughter some Harry Potter goods. Steve then entered into communication with Neil Blair - who is running all the Harry Potter domain disputes in this country - who, to his credit, recognised Steve's position and pointed out that he was behind him but it was difficult to pick out who were actual cybersquatters and who weren't. So far, so good. However, while Steve felt the situation had been resolved, he soon after received a legal letter insisting the domain be handed over to Warner Brothers. The same old story. Can you see anything wrong with this situation? We are, yet again, unimpressed. ® Related Stories Warner Bros/ Harry Potter dispute kicks off again Warner Bros backs down on Harry Potter Web site Reg to fight for Harry Potter 'cybersquatter' Warner Brothers bullies girl over Harry Potter site
Kieren McCarthy, 19 Dec 2000

How Carnivore works

The FBI's notorious Internet traffic sniffer Carnivore includes a handy, idiot-proof GUI interface enabling nosey Feds to capture and examine a broad range of what passes through, from headers alone to full-bore content retrieval, which is pictured in the Justice Department's final assessment from the IIT Research Institute and the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law (IITRI). The 'IP addresses' field conveniently accepts settings for particular IPs or IP ranges; and the 'protocols' field accepts settings enabling Feds to choose among TCP (transmission control protocol), UDP (user datagram protocol) and ICMP (Internet control message protocol) retrieval, each one separately configurable for 'full retrieval', 'pen mode' (headers only) and 'off'. Another option enables Fed-defined text-string inputs to be searched (e.g., say an e-mail contains the string, "blow up the President's motorcade". It is not clear whether there is a lockout to prevent text-string scanning when the device is running in pen mode. Particular ports for SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol), POP (post office protocol), HTTP (hyper-text transfer protocol) and FTP (file transfer protocol), can also be chosen freely with the interface, as can port ranges. The machine accommodates both DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol) and RADIUS (remote authentication dial-in user service) connections, though one assumes from the layout that the Feds need to know which they're dealing with ahead of time. The actual Carnivore box as installed at an ISP lacks a monitor and a keyboard, which one hopes might discourage bored administrators from mucking about with it. The data it captures, and its configuration, are dealt with off-site by an FBI geek operating a control machine linked to the bare-bones box via a (hopefully secure) telephone link. Privacy questions remain As for the chief privacy concern, that Carnivore can easily be misused by overzealous Feds examining more data than their court orders permit, the IITRI report offers little in the way of reassurance. Basically, we have to trust the Feds not to abuse it. With that sticky issue in mind, the report goes to pains to emphasize the way responsibility is divided among 'case agents' who try to get the thing installed, and the geeks who actually operate it. "Case agents establish the need and justification for the surveillance. A separate team of technically trained agents installs the equipment and configures it to restrict collection to that allowed by the court order," the report notes. "In the case of Carnivore, all installations have been performed by the same small team. Case agents are motivated to solve or prevent crimes, but technically trained agents are motivated by FBI policy and procedures to ensure that collection adheres strictly to court orders and will be admissible in court as evidence." In other words, the Bureau's geeks are going to provide the primary fail-safe against abuse, motivated by their natural civic piety and concerns that the collection of excess information would jeopardise a prosecution. "Potential criminal prosecution of agents involved in over-collection provide further....controls protecting against misusing Carnivore," the report states, but notes that "the statutory suppression remedy available for illegal interception of other communications in Title III is not expended to electronic communications." So if the Feds were to over-collect using Carnivore, and use what they learned in the course of a prosecution, the data gathered would not automatically be thrown out as tainted evidence. Another serious deficiency in Carnivore's privacy protection is the lack of any auditing mechanism for supervisors to check up on the actions of field agents. "Carnivore operators are anonymous to the system," the report says. "All users are logged in as 'administrator' and no audit trail of actions is maintained." So this gives the Feds total deniability in cases where over-collection might be proven. Not only is the over-collected data useful as evidence against the victim, there is no way to determine who in the FBI is guilty of violating his rights. Where no one can be identified as the culprit, the so-called remedies of civil or criminal action are pure window-dressing and entirely moot. Very slick, and not at all nice. A true Janet Reno production in all aspects. ® Related Stories Congress peers deeper into Carnivore FBI's Carnivore review is mixed Researchers question Carnivore review
Thomas C Greene, 19 Dec 2000

American teenage cellphone rampage

Half of American teenagers and young adults will own a mobile phone by 2004. Just 11 million Americans aged 10 to 24 currently have one of the gadgets, but this number is expected to rise to 43 million in the next four years, according to Arizona-based research company Cahners In-Stat Group. The growth will likely be in pre-paid mobile services -it is notoriously hard for this group to gain a phone with a contract due to strict credit history rules in the US. The report also reckons that three out of four kids will use a mobile by 2004 - often borrowed from parents keen to keep track of their offspring. The mobile phone craze in general has also taken off later in the US than in Europe due to cross-state charges and the fact that users have to pay to receive calls. Also, WAP is a foreign word to many Americans. According to the report, the youth sector is the fastest growing area of the US mobile phone market, and most buyers will be non-college attending 18-24-year-olds. ® Related Stories Queen in mobe clampdown Mobile phones getting cheaper Official: Hands-free kit will fry your brain US finally gets two-way mobile phone text messaging Brits buy 3.6 million mobile phones during summer Schools inspector slams mobiles & the Net
Linda Harrison, 19 Dec 2000