5th > January > 2001 Archive

American men ditch sex for PCs

American males are happily ditching sex to play with their PC or mobile phone, a report claims. Eight per cent of men questioned by Youth Intelligence on behalf of Playboy magazine said they spent less time under the covers with their partner because they were too occupied with their hi-tech gadgets. The report failed to mention that men are simply catching up with women - who have, after all, opted for the delights of electronic toys for decades. The national survey, carried out on 750 men and 250 women, also revealed males were spending less time on other manly activities so they could be with their consumer electronics. Around 75 per cent said they watched TV and went to the cinema less, while 36 per cent spent less time outdoors. A third did less sports, while 80 per cent said they'd have to take at least one of their beloved gadgets with them on holiday. And the products distracting their affections? Top of the list is the PC, followed by mobile phones, PDAs and DVDs. On average, men own seven CE devices. The January issue of Playboy also revealed that New York is the best major city in the US in which to live if you are a single lad - the Big Apple has more than half a million more single women than men. ® Related Stories Europeans text sex obsessed Online hack exceeds call of duty in sex report Sex and the City: More suits sacked for Net porn Modern woman: From Web to bed Near-naked walking women action live on Net!
Linda Harrison, 05 Jan 2001

etoys cuts 60 per cent of staff

eToys today announced plans to cut 60 per cent of staff in a bid to stem losses. The US toy e-tailor said it would get slash around 700 staff - 380 left today, with the rest due out by 31 March. It no longer expects to be profitable in its fiscal year ending 31 March 2003, according to a statement. Nor does it expect to reduce its quarterly loss year-over-year starting in the quarter ended 31 December 2000. It also expects to shut warehouse operations in the City of Commerce, California, and Greensboro, NC, in the next 30 to 60 days. Those businesses will be consolidated into its existing distribution centres in Ontario, California, and Blair's, Val. Los Angeles-based eToys warned about the job cuts last month, when it said poor sales in its third quarter meant it would not meet revenue forecasts. At the time it said it would post losses of up to $85 million. Yesterday the company said it would shut its European operations in the first quarter of this year. ® Related Stories eToys to shut doors in Europe eToys warns on revenues eToys softens under grassroots pressure eToys throws UK out of affiliate pram
Linda Harrison, 05 Jan 2001

Xmas PC sales slump: the proof

PC sales in the consumer sector fell 24 per cent in December compared to the previous year. Retail and direct/mail companies shifted just over one million desktop PCs last month, with December representing the fifth consecutive month of figures lagging behind 1999. Full year sales dropped 0.8 per cent on 1999 to 10.1 million, according to research by analysts at PC Data, which said 2000 was the first annual decline they had ever reported. PC revenue for the Christmas month fell to $855 million, down nearly a third on the previous year. The price of desktops in the sector fell seven per cent to an average of $846. December prices were down three per cent on November and nearly ten per cent on October. "A spike occurred during the week before Christmas, but it fell short of the boost needed to lift overall sales during the holiday shopping season," said Stephen Baker, PC Data VP of technology products research and analysis. He blamed several factors, including the success of ISP rebate programs in 1999, a slowing economic outlook, slightly higher prices in 2000, and a lack of consumers wanting to upgrade. Around 2.5 million desktops were sold in the fourth quarter, 18 per cent down on the same period in 1999. Average selling prices fell to $872 from $878. "Despite these poor PC results, the overall computer products business still looks like a good place to be. We anticipate that computer retailers will see a ten to 12 per cent increase in revenues for the fourth quarter, driven by the digital upgrade cycle as consumers shift purchases away from PCs and into the new 'digital toys'," said Baker Handheld devices from vendors such as Palm sold like hotcakes - with sales more than doubling in November compared to 1999. Devices such as MP3 players, Web PC and digital cameras, and CD burners also showed healthy sales growth. Industry heavyweights such as Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Intel and Apple have all complained that slowing computer demand may damage Q4 figures. ® Related Stories Palm laughs in face of PC panic Xmas panic means PC fire sales Intel to miss Q4 targets Compaq joins profit warning parade PC vendor bender Dell chops US laptop prices
Linda Harrison, 05 Jan 2001

Human rights bid to scrap mobile phone mast

A British man is using the European Human Rights Act to sue his local council and mobile phone operator Orange over the erection of a mast close to his childrens' bedroom. David Lale, a company director from the Leeds area, has filled a High Court appeal objecting to a decision by planning authorities to allow the erection of a mast less than 15 feet away from his kid's bedroom and close to a local school. In the lawsuit, Lale argues that he was not given a fair and proper hearing by planning authorities nor the opportunity to raise health concerns over the masts. This, it is argued, breaks Article six of the Human Rights Act. Lale's children, aged six and eight, have also written to Hans Snook, the departing Orange chairman, asking him to intervene personally in order to get the mast, which is around the size of a lamppost placed elsewhere. They hoped Snook, who is leaving Orange to pursue a career in alternative health, might be moved by their appeal but so far they have received no reply. The childrens' mother, Alison Lale, told The Register that it was worth risking possible legal costs of £50,000 in order to defend the health of her family. She is appealing for funds to fight the case. "I'm concerned the health risks have not been thoroughly explored and I don't feel my family should be placed so close to such huge potential risks," she said. "If we lose our fight we'll have no alternative but to move house." A political pressure group called Mast Action UK, which is supported by MP Glenda Jackson, is also planning to use the Human Rights Act to object against particular mobile phone masts. In order to build 3G phone network mobile phone companies may need to build an additional 30 000 masts throughout Britain. A spokeswoman for the Mast Action said that it was not against the expansion of mobile phone networks but wanted masts located away from people wherever possible, which she admitted is easier to achieve in rural areas. She suggested operators were placing masts in the centre of villages because this is more cost-effective. "We want to see the sensible siting of masts," she said. "Current planning procedure does not adequately take into account health and environmental concerns local people might have. We'd also like to have more consultation." Although masts must comply with safety guidelines on thermal heating, Mast Action is concerned there is not enough evidence to decide whether or not masts might be linked to tumours, effects on the immune system or behavioural changes in children. Simon Davis at Orange said a planning inspector had given the mobile operator the right to use the mast close to the Lale's house but it was "putting the site on hold" and not putting it live. He admitted that there was concern about the health risks from mobile phone technology but said "on the balance of evidence we don't feel we're putting the health of the general public at risk". ® Related stories: We've got brain cancer and we want your money DTI and Which? at odds over phone safety My head hurts and I want $800 million Finally the truth! Mobiles only kill children WHO doctors clear mobile phones of cancer risk Q: Who will pay for 3G networks? External sites: Mast Action web site
John Leyden, 05 Jan 2001

Capellas eyeballs McNealy in cluster bluster

A team of executives at Compaq now takes the threat from Sun Microsystems to its own business so seriously that it spent the festive season not scoffing turkey and plum duff, but instead scoffing at Sun and calling its Cluster platform duff. The Register has seen a Compaq confidential document which it intends to show its corporate customers in a bid to persuade them not to spend any more dollars on Sun tin or software. According to Compaq suits, Sun's claim that it is providing the first clustered file service for standard platforms is untrue and the system is instead proprietary. Compaq's document says: "Sun claims they are 'still running the industry standard UFS, whereas Compaq has chosen to only support the Advanced File System (AdvFS)'. But Sun's UFS is actually far from standard. It has been modified to include 'Solaris UFS Logging' and probably other items. It's now as proprietary as AdvFS. Few customers interested in high availability have any desire to run UFS as their cluster file system. Compaq supports UFS for read access only so customers can port to the more feature rich AdvFS." Compaq also denies that Sun Cluster 3.0 is the first to be designed specifically for the Internet, and claims, rather unsurprisingly we guess, that TruCluster Server is "deeply entrenched" in the Internet market. Whether it's good for Tru64 to be in any kind of trench at all is not addressed. Capellas' company claims that its Alpha Server and Tru64 Unix links with practically all Oracle products, as well as business intelligence and customer relationship manager software. Nor is the Solaris operating environment kernel much cop, according to the Compaq document. The firm claims that Sun "conveniently omitted" application start up time in its figures for failover and recovery, and that the multiple system disks used in Sun environments causes inconsistencies in a cluster. Compaq describes Sun Cluster as "unproven" for large corporations, and that there are a number of features about this technology which restrict configuration of network devies, disk drives and other systems that can be clustered. There's a heap more of this stuff, but our selection from the document we saw gives a fair idea of what Compaq - sorry, the Inspiration Company - is telling its corporate customers. If Sun would care to give its response, we'd be happy to hear from the firm. ®
Mike Magee, 05 Jan 2001

Via intros retail Cyrix III box

Chipset and CPU contender Via has introduced a retail package for its Cyrix III processors aimed at PC resellers and distributors. At the same time, the firm announced that it had concluded its joint venture arrangement to use SonicBlue (formerly known as S3) technology in upcoming technology. The Cyrix III retail boxes include microprocessors at 600MHz, 650MHz and 666MHz (sorry, Via) initially. The boxes include fan, heatsink, installation manual and guarantees. Prices range between $50 and $65, depending on quantity. While AMD and Intel have slogged it out in the performance desktop market, Via has spent the last nine months or so setting up distribution channels in China, India and other countries for the "value" (read cheap) PC market. The Cyrix III chip, which uses the old Centaur core, is a Socket 370 device, and Via is expected to roll out a 1GHz version soon enough. The S3-Via joint venture, which initially faced investigation by the Taiwanese government, will result in more chipsets and integrated graphics for volume desktop and notebook PCs, said Wenchi Chen, Via's CEO. He claimed that Via would be able to bring out solutions that will "outperform" the rest of the industry for integrated solutions. Via is spelt all in caps, and also distributes DDR t-shirts with what can only be described as an astounding design, which, we understand, are shortly to see the light of day again. ®
Mike Magee, 05 Jan 2001

Hi-tech Titans meet privately with Dubya

US President-elect George Dubya Bush convened an economic summit in Austin, Texas this week, during which he joyously received the Big Swinging Dicks of American high technology behind closed doors. The guest list read like a who's who in IT: Michael Dell of Dell Computers; John Chambers of Cisco; Lou Gerstner of IBM; Scott McNealy of Sun; Gordon Moore, formerly of Intel; Craig Barrett, currently of Intel; Tom Engibous of Texas Instruments; Ray Lane, formerly of Oracle; Jim Barksdale of Netscape Communications; and scores of others. We'd love to tell you what went on, but the press was barred from all the winking, nodding, ass-kissing and related festivities. All we can do is make a few educated guesses based on the usual post-game spin sessions. Clearly Dubya wanted to reassure everyone present that his administration is going to be as kind to Corporate America as previously advertised. It's also clear that Dubya wanted to air a few items of business with his loyal minions that the man in the street would be better off not knowing. Meeting privately was a significant gesture. It was a way of setting a tone. It was a way of signalling his availability to be approached, in strict confidence, with the concerns of Big Business in general, and the tech sector in particular. In 1999 Bush created his Information Technology Advisory Committee, an in-club of influential tech-sector contributors, nearly all of whom were present at the summit. It was a way of signalling that their generous campaign contributions were not made in vain. Little was said after the meeting. Michael Dell's burbling about a two-pronged approach to the economic slowdown, one of which is Alan Greenspan's recent interest-rate cut, leads us to surmise that Dubya pitched his Big Tax Cut pretty hard, and that he wouldn't mind hearing a few public grunts of approval from his tech-savvy buddies. Dell, at least, hurried to accommodate him. Dubya's been talking recession lately, in a determined effort to convince us that if one comes, it's Clinton's fault, not his. The touching irony there of course is that recessions are in large part the product of losses in consumer and investor confidence, so by hammering away at the R-word he may very well scare everyone enough to create one. Unfortunately, to sell the Big Tax Cut he has to keep the recession fears alive, to justify it as a desperately-needed economic stimulus over the objections of those who'd prefer to use the surplus to get Uncle Sam out of debt for a change and to fund a few important social programmes like health care and Social Security. So Dubya proposes to piss away the federal surplus in tax cuts to Joe Sixpack, so that he, in turn, can enact his solemn patriotic duty to the US economy by pissing away even more money on meaningless consumer rubbish which he's destined to lose in his next divorce. The beauty here is that a significant heap of that meaningless consumer rubbish will be manufactured and marketed by the very IT Illuminati Dubya is indebted to; and furthermore, his proposed tax cuts will affect them even more profoundly, allowing them to bask for a while longer in the illusion that they earn real profits. So we gather from the meeting that Dubya hopes to recruit big-name CEOs to pitch his plan, and will strive to be good to Corporate America in the short term, stimulating economic activity by squandering a finite windfall earned under the economic husbandry of his predecessor. All indications suggest it will be a smashing success. We just wonder what's going to happen when the money's gone. ®
Thomas C Greene, 05 Jan 2001

AMD calls on Transmeta to help crack Sledgehammer

AMD appears to be ready to recruit Transmeta to give its 64-bit Sledgehammer CPU a clear lead over Intel's own server-oriented processor, Itanium. The deal centres on Transmeta's code-morphing technology - software that converts chunks of object code created for processor A into chip B's native machine language. AMD's plan appears to be to use Transmeta's scheme to map 32-bit x86 instructions onto Sledgehammer's own 64-bit code. The upshot: rather better backward compatibility and superior performance with legacy apps than Itanic can offer, or so AMD hopes. For its part, Transmeta gets access to the Sledgehammer instruction set, which it can, of course, emulate on top of its own Crusoe CPU line should it wish to do so. Hints about the licensing deal come from unnamed software developer sources cited by CNet. Such an arrangement is entirely feasible since the two have been talking for some time about bringing Transmeta's power management technology over to AMD's processors. That the two companies were chatting was confirmed by AMD president Hector Ruiz (see AMD talking to Transmeta - official) last August. The focus then was on developing low-power, appliance and Webpad-oriented chips, but if such talks probed fruitful, it's not difficult to imagine them being extended to other areas, such as Sledgehammer. All of this follows on from what we heard back in November (see Transmeta helping out AMD, MS with Sledgehammer coding?) that AMD was indeed looking beyond its original line of discussion with Transmeta in order to soup up its Sledgehammer simulator code at Microsoft's behest. The Beast of Redmond got involved in the AMD-Transmeta partnership after AMD's Athlon-based Sledgehammer simulator (the Linux version was launched last October) package proved something of a dud performance-wise. Cnet's "software developer" source is probably someone well-placed within M$. That said, Microsoft officially denied knowledge of any AMD-Transmeta team-up, and its stance on Sledgehammer remains firmly on the fence: it hasn't committed itself to porting apps over, but is keeping its options open. ® Related Stories Transmeta helping out AMD, MS with Sledgehammer coding? AMD ships Linux 64-bit Hammer x86-64 simulator AMD talking to Transmeta - official
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2001

AllAdvantage scales down European operation

AllAdvantage.com is making sweeping changes to its business that will lead to job losses and a major shift in the company's direction. The California-based outfit, which pays people to view adds online, is winding down its b2c operation in favour of exploiting its technology instead. Although no decision has been made yet about its future, it's possible that the whole b2c operation - which AllAdvantage claims is used by some five million people - could be shut down for good. In Europe, AllAdvantage is to close it German and French offices within the next six weeks with the loss of all 12 jobs. In London, five people face redundancy as part of an exercise to scale down its European operation. Most of the job losses involve advertising sales staff. In total, 17 jobs will disappear in Europe, leaving behind just five managers and office staff to run what's left of the business. According to insiders, the decision was taken by head office in California. The outfit is planning to become a b2b operation and exploiting desktop toolbar technology for CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Richard Mergler, AllAdvantage's director of Sales in the UK, confirmed the job losses and change of strategy. "[The b2c operation] is being scaled right back with a view to close it," he told The Register. "We're looking at a b2b technology future," he said. He added that there would be job cuts in the US although he was unable to give further details. No one from AllAdvantage in the US was available to discuss the issue despite repeated attempts to contact the company. AllAdvantage.com is a privately held company and was founded in February 1999. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, it recently completed a $100 million round of equity financing led by Softbank Capital Partners. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 2001

Redundancies hit beleagured Breathe

The joint administrators of not-so-bloody-trendy-now-are-you ISP Breathe.com has made a number of compulsory redundancies at the company's offices in London and Warrington. It's not known how many people lost their jobs immediately after returning from their Christmas break. An update is due later today but we won't hold our breath. The redundancies were effective as of 3 January. Joint administrator Mike Horrocks, of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) - who issued the termination letters - was not available for comment. The PR agency acting on behalf of PwC was aware of the job losses but did not know how many people were served with compulsory redundancy notices. However, The Register understands that only a handful of staff are still there to run what's left of the ISP. The job losses are designed to cut overheads so that the ISP can operate within its existing resources. An all-you-can-eat-for-£50 ISP, Breathe called in the administrators in December with reported debts of £50 million. It's still hoped the company can find a buyer. ® Related Stories Breathe losses rumoured to be £50 million Breathe calls in administrators breathe gasps for survival
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 2001

Xbox blueprint leak too

A young man, who will remain nameless, has sent us a hand-drawn blueprint that he stumbled upon on site Msxbox a few months ago. Apparently, it disappeared within minutes but he managed to find it in his cache. All the Xbox's details should be out tomorrow, but we figured you'd like to have a look. So here it is: ® Related Stories Xbox 'blueprint' leaked Xbox pics leak out
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Jan 2001

BT HQ hit by phone outage

The phones in BT's main offices in central London are on the blink leaving the monster telco cut-off from the outside world. It's not known exactly how long one of the world's largest telecommunications companies has been out of action - we can't get to speak to anyone there at the moment 'cos their phones are down. Nor do we know the scale of the problem, except, when we tapped in random number extensions it came up with the same reply: "This number is temporarily out of order. We are sorry for any convenience." A BT operator confirmed the line had a fault and another just managed to stop herself saying "there is a prob..." We've emailed our chums at BT Towers to make sure they're OK and we'll let you know if we get a reply. Speculation now turns to why BT's phones are down. Perhaps some one is installing ADSL since that always seems to muck up everybody else's line. Or maybe a contractor dug up the road outside rupturing key pipes. Maybe BT failed to pay its phone bill and cut itself off. Or it's decided to ditch its services altogether and sign up with another phone company. Who knows? And frankly, who cares? ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 2001

Royal & Sun Alliance sacks ten over obscene emails

Insurance company Royal & Sun Alliance has sacked ten members of staff for distributing "lewd" Bart Simpson cartoons. The decision follows the announcement in December that 41 staff had been suspended over the emails. Between then and now, this figure has increased to 77. The company is clearly taking this very seriously. It all seems a little over-the-top to us, especially as most companies have used the email situation (especially since the Claire Swire debacle) to simply make a point that staff have to be more careful in how they use email. We've seen a range of "pornographic" Simpsons animated gifs, which, while they may be distasteful to some are hardly strong enough to justify sacking someone over. Especially if they have simply forwarded an email. Porn, especially child porn, is one matter, but smutty cartoons? Come on. We were also interested to hear that the emails weren't constrained to Simpsons characters - apparently Kermit the Frog and Fozzy Bear have also made an adult appearance. We haven't seen these (but if employees at Royal &Su Alliance want to forward them :-) ) - but we can tell you that mutual masturbation between Bart and Lisa was one and Marje giving Ned Flanders a blow job was another. If you have seen them, you also can't help but admire the effort and attention to detail put into the pics. Anyway, what most puzzles us is what exactly the 10 who were fired did above and beyond all the others. Was there a maximum number of forwards you were allowed before you were sacked? Or was it the attitude of staff when reprimanded? ("We take this matter very seriously Mr Smith. This sort of cartoon depravity is what is bringing this country down." "Oh, come on, for chrissakes, it's just a cartoon." "You're fired.") ® Related Story More email victims at Royal & SunAlliance
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Jan 2001

Linux 2.4 kernel released

The long-awaited Linus 2.4 kernel has been released by Linus Torvalds. Considered to be a major milestone in the development of open source software, the latest version of the Linux kernel features enhanced support for symmetrical multiprocessing. This means Linux will work effectively with, say, 16 or 32 processors instead of only four making it far more suitable for enterprise applications. Support for Intel's forthcoming 64-bit Itanium processor and improvements in USB support are among the other key features. A much fuller list of features, debugs and improvements has been posted on Linux Today and available here In a short message to the kernel mailing list, Torvalds said: "Anxiously awaited for the last too many months, 2.4.0 brings to the table many improvements, none of which come to mind to the exhausted release manager right now." In a jokey aside to developers he added: "Anyway, have fun. And don't bother reporting any bugs for the next few days. I won't care anyway." The kernel has been released more than a year later than first expected. The main reason for this was the inclusion of high-end enterprise features and the desire to adhere to the open source philosophy of only releasing code when it was ready. Users may have difficulty getting through to kernel.org and there are a number of other sites where the kernel might be obtained. Those with the highest bandwidth connections include jhcloos.com, www.in-span.net, www.gnaps.com, www.stealth.net, limestone.uoregon.net, kernel.csh.rit.edu, kernel.stuph.org and sourceforge.net. You might also try ftp.gz.uk.kernel.org or ftp.us.kernel.org ® Related stories: Linus on robots, fame and getting to 'yes' with 2.4
John Leyden, 05 Jan 2001

Apple upgrades open source-style licence

Apple has finally decided to follow the spirit of the open source development model fully, and modified its own Apple Public Source Licence to eliminate many of the restrictions that so annoyed the open source community. The Mac maker yesterday updated APSL to version 1.2. The previous version, 1.1, was described by free software guru Richard Stallman as "unacceptable" to the open source community. Stallman had three concerns over APSL 1.1. Firstly, software developers had to publish their changes to software covered by the licence even if that code was created solely for the writer's own personal usage. Secondly, anyone using or creating modified code had to let "one specific organisation, which happens to be Apple" know about it. Finally, APSL 1.1 allowed Apple to terminate the licence at any time if software covered by it becomes the focus of patent infringement allegations. APSL 1.2 addresses the first two concerns by removing the restrictions put in place by the previous version. Anyone modifying code issued under APSL 1.2 now needs only include the relevant licence agreement with their changes and acknowledge Apple's copyrights - the source code need only be published if it's distributed externally. The termination issue appears to have been fixed too, since the licence will only be rescinded if anyone violates its terms, begins patent infringement action against Apple (and you can't blame it for that) or action against someone who's modified the code prevents them from complying with the other terms of the licence. Apple's line on APSL 1.2 is that the update will "make it easier for people to contribute to and use the software". That seems to be the case, and it should certainly go some way to appeasing Stallman. As he rightly points out here, APSL isn't a true free software licence, since it "allows linking with other files which may be entirely proprietary" and is "unfair, since it requires you to give Apple rights to your changes which Apple will not give you for its code". The first of these points remains the case, but from our (admittedly non-legal) reading of the licence, the second is no longer the case. Apple grants the code modifier or distributor "a world-wide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license" to its original code, which is pretty much what the modifier or distributor must, in turn, grant Apple for any modifications made. Still, we look forward to Stallman's own reading of APSL 1.2. ® Related Stories You can read Apple's new public source licence here
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2001

Floater, Orange, not flash in the pan

Orange is to float on 12 February, according to media reports. Following France Telecom's take-over of the mobile phone company and the acrimony building up to Hans Snook's departure, 15 per cent of the company will be floated for a hoped-for £9.5 billion. Following on from the dismal failure of News Corporation's online efforts in the UK, it has now shut down its US online arm with the loss of 200 jobs. Three main Fox Web sites will be returned to their networks and News Digital Media will be wound up. Mapeley, George Soros' property outsourcing specialists, is reported to be amongst the bidders for BT's property estate. Yesterday, BT said it wanted to raise £2 billion in a sale and lease back deal. Prestige sites such as BT Tower in the centre of London are not included in the arrangement. Games mag publisher Future Publishing has issued its second profit warning in two months. It said it might close more than six titles following poor sales over the Christmas period blaming the late launch of the PS2 gaming console. This latest warning pushes the company into loss. Job search and advice site Vault.com has said it will lay off about a third of its work force in a bid to cut costs and turn a profit. Thirty-three of its employees, soon to be ex-employees, may now have a use for the company's services. It offers "insider information" to anyone searching for a job. Internet conference group RMR has issued a profits warning which it said is likely to result in the loss of almost half of its workforce. The company made pre-tax losses of £967,000 last year on a turnover of £1.1 million. Up to 75 of RMR's 160 staff are likely to lose their jobs. ® There's more dotcom misery here. Sorry.
Team Register, 05 Jan 2001

XFree86 fixed to run alongside MacOS X's Aqua

MacOS X users keen to run X Window applications under the next-generation Apple OS' own GUI, Aqua, are now a major step closer to being able to do so. A version of the open source X Window server XFree86 was released for Apple's open source OS core, Darwin, just last month. Essentially, it gives Darwin a free GUI of its own. However, since Darwin forms the basis for MacOS X, XFree86 4.0.2 should install and run under this commercial OS. The new modifications, released earlier this week, allows XFree86 to interoperate with Aqua and run in parallel with the latter's own window server. Earlier versions required users log out of Aqua before running X. The modification includes an application called Xmaster, which allows MacOS X users to hot-swap between their Aqua and X Window desktops, in turn letting them run apps for either environment in parallel. That's still some way from allowing Aqua to host X applications transparently, but it's clearly a big move in the right direction, and should provide MacOS X users will access to plenty of GUI applications until native Aqua versions appear. ® Related Link here
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2001

Turn off the console, Fat Boy

The number of fat kids in the UK has officially doubled, and the finger of blame is pointing squarely at computer games. A study, released today by researchers at King's College London, looked at kids between four and eleven over a twenty year period, and found that the number of girls classed as overweight had gone up by 50 per cent, while the number of boys in the same category had doubled. Between 1984 and 1994 the researchers weighed more than 30,000 children. In 1984 just five per cent of boys and 9.3 per cent of girls were overweight, about the same as ten years earlier. By 1994 however, the numbers had risen to nine and 13.5 per cent respectively. A report in the Daily Mail said that kids were putting on weight because they were sitting in front of games consoles, snacking, rather than doing any physical activity. One of the study's authors, Sue Chinn, said that kids were getting fatter because they were not exercising enough. She is quoted in The Sun as saying: "A reduction in physical activity since the early 1980's would appear to be the main cause in the increase in overweight children." She went on to suggest that now children probably get even less exercise that when her study ended. "It is a bad situation," she told reporters. "And it is getting worse." ® Related Stories: Thousands of PS2s land in Essex Playstation 2 Web Store owner arrested for fraud Sega to create games for net appliance Pirates target PS2 buyers
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Jan 2001
server room

3G trigger pulled on mobile phone firms

Even though the World+Dog now has a mobile and millions are getting onto the Net, the average revenue per person from a mobile phone is set to fall and mobile companies will see operating profits slump. This will lead to forced consolidation of European companies and in seven years there will be only five companies in the market. And the spark is the cost of UMTS/3G technology. This then is the view of the European mobile market by our favourite analysts Forrester (well, telecoms man Lars Godell). We had a shufty at the figures and assumptions and reckon Lars had got a fair point here. He's also backed up by recent business history which has seen more consolidation than ever before (which is, frankly, unhealthy). Admittedly, it's not that exciting but it is good to see people producing realistic visions of the future instead of the typical Tomorrow's World nonsense ("we will stand on the scales in the morning and they will tell the fridge to order some low-fat goods" - this, honestly, is one that appeared this week. Bloody nonsense). The theory runs: voice and messaging costs will be forced down by competition (people will use voice as a way of attracting people to new Net products and will do so at a loss), and the mobile market will hit saturation (i.e. your gran will never, ever want a mobile). So the average income for a mobile user will go down and the market will not get any bigger. However the cost of the sexy 3G networks and the continued advertising in a competitive market will slash into profits. And so, only the biggest will survive. Smaller companies will be bought out or sell out and we'll be left with just five across the whole of Europe. Lars reckons four of the five winners will be: Vodafone, T-Mobil, France Telecom/Orange, and BT Cellnet. The magic fifth will be one of the following: KPN, Telefónica, Telecom Italia, or NTT DoCoMo. So there you have it. ® Related Link Forrester.com
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Jan 2001

Seattle's black monolith is swiped

Seattle's black monolith, which called to mind a similar structure from Stanley Kubrick's seminal film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, has been removed just as mysteriously as it first appeared. Only a hole remains where the 9 foot-tall steel construction used to sit, on a hill in Seattle's Magnuson Park. The Seattle Times reports that a broken-stemmed rose and hardened pieces of wax, indicating a candlelit departure, were left on the cement structure inside the hole that kept the structure steady during its brief stay. There is evidence the monolith was dragged down the grassy hill to a nearby parking lot, which would point to the work of terrestrial pranksters rather than extraterrestrial intelligence. The structure, an apparent homage to the dark, shrieking monolith featured in 2001 is believed to have been erected on New Year's Eve and mystery still surrounds who was behind the prank. Whether the monolith was the work of artists or a publicity stunt by locally-based Monolith Software is still anybody's guess An industrial artists' group called Fabricators of the Attachments, whose previous work includes attaching a 700-pound steel ball and shackles to the leg of a sculpture in Seattle Art Museum, denied any involvement. A spokesperson for the group admitted to jealousy that it had not come up with the monolith idea itself. Whilst the motives of whoever erected the monolith remain unclear, The Register has been sent a statement purporting to come from the people who pinched the monolith. The 'Monolith Thieves' said: "While you were resting smug in your homes after erecting your 'renegade art', we were busy plotting its untimely demise. "Seattle doesn't deserve to have its 'intelligence increased' by a mysterious sculpture. Better it were cut into pieces, melted down, and resold to passing tourists as miniature Space Needles. You should know by now that Seattle isn't driven by it's artists community, it's driven by dot com millionaires and idiot politicians." They added: "Rest assured that we are taking great pleasure in destroying this ineffective piece of scrap metal... Don't plan on a sequel in 2010." ® Update: The monolith was placed on an island in the middle of Seattle’s Green Lake, which is a bird sanctuary, for around a day before making its way back to Magnuson Park. A picture on the monolith on the Duck Island bird sanctuary can be seen here. The maker on the 500lb monolith has being named by local news station KOMO 4 News as Louie Raffloer, a local artist and (obviously) prankster. Related stories: Mysterious monolith appears in Seattle park Seattle Times' story featuring picture of the monolith
John Leyden, 05 Jan 2001

BT offices engulfed in tiny blaze

BT's flagship office complex opposite St Pauls Cathedral in central London was hit by fire this morning, wiping out power and phones. Staff - including chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield and board members - were evacuated from the property at ten o'clock this morning. The building is home to some 2,000 employees. By lunchtime, power had been restored and some of the phone lines appeared to be working as well although it could take most of the day before services get back to normal. Some staff were allowed to return to the building although most were told to work elsewhere or go home. Health and safety experts are currently inspecting the building to check that it's safe. It's understood that the tiny fire, thought to have started in electrical equipment, wiped out BT's phone system. Sir Peter Bonfield was evacuated to an office suite nearby set aside for emergencies but returned to the building to collect some papers. ® Related Story BT HQ hit by phone outage
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 2001

Transmeta finds new OEM partner

Transmeta has got itself a new OEM partner in the shape of Taiwan's ICP Electronics, one of the country's biggest industrial computer manufacturers. ICP is to sell the new board, Wafer, embedded with a 400MHz Crusoe TM3200. The board, runs 128MB of memory, is comparable in size to a 3.5-inch hard drive, the company said. It also features the VT82C68A from VIA as part of the chipset. ICP expects the boards will be widely used in mini-point-of-sale systems, Pocket PCs, mobile panel PCs and so on. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Jan 2001

Palm, Sprint dash for CDMA mobile Net access

US cellphone company Sprint PCS yesterday chose the Palm OS as its mobile Internet platform of choice for next-generation CDMA networks. It's a marriage made in heaven. Sprint has a high-speed digital network, and it wants to encourage subscribers to sign up for mobile Internet access. Palm has a portable Net access tool, but it needs wireless infrastructure to realise its full potential. Essentially, Sprint will market and sell PalmOS-based kit to customers keen to access the Net on the move. Initially, Sprint will sell a connectivity kit to allow a Palm PDA to be hooked up to a Sprint PCS-compatible cellphone, but the company intends to follow this up later in the year with a full PalmOS-based cellphone - perhaps Samsung's upcoming CDMA smartphone, due by the end of Q2 - and a CDMA modem for PDAs. And once Palm begins to offer more PDAs with built-in cellular access, you can expect those to be offered too. For its part, Palm will provide a Sprint PCS Wireless Web-branded version of its MyPalm portal, which will be offered to Sprint's customers as part of the package. A separate, corporate-oriented Sprint PCS Wireless Web for Business service will target big business keen to provide email access, sales tool apps and corporate directories to their workers out in the field. According to the Palm, CDMA "will ensure the fast, secure transfer of data and provide a richer wireless Internet browsing experience than currently available". In other words, it'll mean an end to all that Web clipping stuff. Availability for the service is set for "early 2001". ® Related Stories Palm to bring wireless Web to Japan Palm signs Samsung for smartphones, unveils OS 4.0
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2001

LibertySurf speculation ‘load of bollocks’

The MD of LibertySurf in the UK has slammed reports that the European ISP may close its operations outside of France. French business newspaper Les Echos did not cite sources but claimed LibertySurf was contemplating pulling out of Spain, Sweden and the UK in a bid to cut costs and make the business more attractive to potential purchases. LibertySurf has confirmed it is holding talks with a number of potential buyers and was linked to state-owned Belgian telco Belgacom. It has also been linked to Tiscali. Asked whether the closure of the UK operation was on the cards, Paul Shalet, MD of LibertySurf UK, told The Register: "It's a load of bollocks. Now have you got the balls to print that?" "LibertySurf has made a huge investment in the UK - it's not going to cut and run now," he said adding that such a move would damage share price. "LibertySurf is committed to a pan European strategy," he said. However, according to AFX, LibertySurf chairman Pierre Besnainou has now confirmed that the ISP is "studying the possibility" of closing non-French operations, a moved that is "linked to the future of our capital structure". ® Related Story LibertySurf on the pull
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 2001

Reader sends in secret Xbox specs

Well then, hats off to reader Alex Powell for making our laugh heartily here at Vulture Central. Following the feeding frenzy for Xbox info, we have put up scans of a mag that has pics and a hand-drawn pic of the box, not to the mention the line diagram of another 'blueprint' that we posted way back when. Alex was not to be outdone. As his email stated: "I found this on the MS site too before it was taken down." Here then is Alex's top secret specs. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Jan 2001

See the moon turn blood red

On 9 January there will be a full lunar eclipse, and a group of space nuts are planning to video the whole thing and stream it live over the Net. Their video of the event is likely to be quite spectacular - weather permitting - since they will be viewing it at dawn when the rays of the sun can make the moon appear red. There are usually two or three full lunar eclipses a year, making them rarer than solar eclipses. However, as my old astrophysics tutor used to tell us, the lunar eclipses can be seen across the globe, while a solar eclipse is a localised phenomenon, so it seems as though they happen less often. For those who are newer to the whole eclipse business, a lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes into the earth's shadow. How much the moon is dimmed depends on whether it passed through the penumbra or the darkest part of the shadow, the umbra. As well as providing a pretty spectacle for earth bound star-gazers, lunar eclipses have also caused problems for space scientists. Two years ago NASA was concerned that the earth's shadow could interrupt the power supply to the Lunar Prospector, which relied on solar panels to recharge its batteries. The eclipse will be photographed by zoom lenses attached to a telescope with a video camera - no mean feat as anyone who has ever tried to take photographs through a telescope can tell you. Viewing software such as RealPlayer 8, Windows Media Player 7, or QuickTime Player 4 are required to see the live eclipse The guys have put together a site about lunar eclipses and, although some parts are still under construction, it is looking good. There are some nice little animations and a couple of pages of very accessible information about the phenomenon. Check their site out at Live-Eclipse.org, and you can access more astronomical data about the eclipse here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Jan 2001

Teenage dotcom millionaire: Reg gets facts wrong

Right to ReplyRight to Reply Re. The teenage dotcom millionaire and his ever increasing page impressions and Fishy porn search engine launched by teenage dotcom millionaire. As ever the Register has got its facts wrong, Durlacher did not buy JewishNet, nor did any company relating to my father. JewishNet/SoJewish.com was sold to AIM-quoted Totally plc, who publish TotallyJewish.com and the London Jewish News. Durlacher advised me on the sale and invested no money in the company. For information relating to Totally plc, I suggest that you contact Steve Burns, the CEO. All documentation relating to the sale of soJewish.com is publicly available as it was sold to a public company. I admit that CyberBritain did, like many other companies at the time, play on the misunderstanding of impressions. It no longer does. CyberBritain at the time did receive 420 million advertising banner impressions in its entire three-year history in the period up to Feb 2000. Such a claim is not unreasonable. It was, however, inaccurately reported as 420 million users, a figure that is ludicrous considering the total Internet population of Europe falls below this. We now prefer to focus on registered users and will be introducing a registration system to each of our sites. This is to be followed by the appointment of an independent audit of all of our user figures in preparation for the sale of one of our subsidiaries. When these figures are available the Register is welcome to receive a copy. Hunt4Porn.com has now received 56,000 full registrations. Best wishes, Benjamin Cohen, Chief Executive Officer, CyberBritain Group
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Jan 2001

Cyrix III fails to impress at Anandtech

HWRoundupHWRoundup Anand has posted a peek at the "world's first" .15 micron x86 - the VIA Cyrix III. The review is fairly damning: "The additional 64KB of L2 cache and the shrink to the .15 micron process do not seem to be not enough to save the Cyrix III from going the way of the dodo." Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Read the whole sorry story here. If you are thinking about blowing some cash on anything i815e-esque, check out HWOC's review of the offering from AOpen, the AX3S Pro. "We browse through its features and put it up against some other well known boards," they say. And of course, let you know whether it is worth the cash. Read all about it here. While you're there it is worth knowing that, generous souls that they are, they are also giving away a Duron 600@900. Find that bit here. AthlonMB were a little disappointed with the Gigabyte 7DXC AMD 760 motherboard when they reviewed it. It seems that AMD don't have an adjustable FSB/memory bus like the KT133 chipset did. Nonetheless, a triumphant eight-stars-out-of-ten suggest that the rest of it worked OK. Find out where the good stuff is here. Bored on a Saturday afternoon? Nothing good to watch on TV? Well, never fear, you can always cut a bloody great section out of your computer case, just like the boys at 3DHardware did. Check out this guide for the ultimate in procrastination techniques. And finally, because it is Friday and we are feeling kind of relaxed and congenial over at Vulture Central, I'll include this link to HWLabs product site. Have a look and see what you think. ® More hardware nonsense, intermittently peppered with sense and reason, can be retrieved from the dusty files that are the Hardware Archives
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Jan 2001

L&H lays off 1200 staff

Lernout & Hauspie is to lay off 1200 staff, while one of its founders faces a probe over alleged money laundering. The speech recognition software maker today said it would bin 20 per cent of its workforce in a bid to cut costs. "Unfortunately, after an extensive and careful analysis of L&H's existing resources, we were unable to identify any alternatives to this measure," said John Duerden, L&H president, CEO and MD. "The intellectual assets of the company will, however, not be endangered by these layoffs." The company was also granted a "concordaat" by a Belgian court, which protects it from creditors until 30 June. This was the second time the Belgian company had applied for the concordaat, last month a court turned the request down, saying L&H had failed to submit full audited data. L&H has already gained bankruptcy protection in the US. It is currently undergoing a massive restructure after getting in a pickle over a $100 million shortfall at a Korean subsidiary. It is also revising two and a half years' worth of accounts due to accounting regularities, and faces an SEC probe. Meanwhile, company founder and former co-chairman Pol Hauspie is under investigation for alleged money laundering following the appearance of 30 million Belgian francs ($710,000) in his bank account. Hauspie quit L&H at the end of last year. L&H will put forward a plan to save remaining jobs at the company later this month. ® Related Stories L&H told where to stick its bankruptcy protection request L&H files for Chapter 11 L&H subpoenaed by SEC
Linda Harrison, 05 Jan 2001

Sony splashes out $3m on UK bluetooth chip firm

Cambridge Silicon Radio, the UK chip manufacturer, has managed to raise $45 million in its latest round of funding, with more than $3million from electronics giant, Sony. CSR, an unlisted company, has not disclosed the full details of the contribution. However, according to The Guardian, it said that it was part of a final wave of $8 million in its third round of funding. The company said it would use the cash raised to develop its single chip version of Bluetooth. It would not say whether it had any joint projects with Sony in the pipeline, but did hint that there might be some collaboration in the future. Other investors include ARM, Compaq, Phillips and Intel Capital. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Jan 2001

Bill Clinton creates counter-intelligence Czar

Lame duck US President Bill Clinton has spent his final days in office appointing as many federal bureaucrats as he can and drafting Presidential Decision Directives (PDDs) which, if he were facing a long political haul ahead, he would not risk doing. Friday it was revealed that the Gigolo-in-Chief has established a cabinet-level counterintelligence Czar by means of a new PDD, who will be charged with overseeing the disposition of sensitive information among the several branches of the federal bureaucracy, the military and private industry. This is a dream come true for FBI Director Louis Freeh, who has strained hard to move federal law-enforcement into the mainstream of the nation's professional (read 'military') spook cadres, and stick his nose deeper in the doings of such private-sector businesses as defence contracting and heavyweight high-tech. Freeh is said to be a big supporter of the scheme. The office is desperately needed, we are told, to address the breakdowns of inter-agency intelligence communication which botched the investigation into Los Alamos researcher Wen Ho Lee, and most recently prevented the captain of the USS Cole from receiving timely threat assessments as he chugged into Yemen, only to have his ship attacked by a suicide bomber and seventeen of his sailors needlessly killed. The Czar, who may well be named before Clinton leaves office, will have a board of advisors including the FBI director, the deputy secretary of defence, the deputy director of Central Intelligence, and a representative from the US Attorney General's office. The new Czar will report to the White House National Security Council (NSC), and his office will operate out of CIA headquarters. Sounds like a positively Nixonian blend.
Thomas C Greene, 05 Jan 2001

Cyber Virus Mutant Terrorists get Hip to the Trip

Cyber terrorist activity and fresh delivery techniques for the transmission of mutated viruses will menace corporate and government security this year, according to a study by network infrastructure consulting firm Predictive Systems. Among the trends forecast by Predictive, whose clients include Bear Stearns, Cisco Systems, and WorldCom, include security vulnerabilities in wireless devices, such as viruses on Palm Pilots. Virus writers might also turn to the wider use of MP3 files in order to spread malicious code. More controversially the firm predicts that ex-crackers will attain more senior levels of responsibility in business and government, and this will increase the overall seriousness of threats to security from inside organisations. Richard Stagg, senior security architect at Information Risk Management, agreed with Predictive's overall conclusions but said firms bringing in ex-hackers to help them with their security are not exposing themselves to risk. "Many firms are bringing in ex-hackers or ex-crackers and there is no link to increased security risks because of this. In fact firms will probably see a decreased security risk because they are employing people who know what they are talking about," said Stagg. Predictive also has plenty to say about cyberterrorism and hactivist activity, which it argues has so far had minimal impact due to lack of organisation of and technology available to would-be cyber-criminals. This, it predicts, will change in 2001 resulting in well resourced attacks that are likely to be directed against either major US corporations or financial institutions. "With the increasing influence of more technically sophisticated members, better organisation, more charismatic leadership, and the ability to launch an attack from a well-infrastructured location, a significantly destructive cyber-terrorist or hactivist event is nearly inevitable," according to Predictive. Terry Gudaitis, a cybercrime profiler for Predictive Systems, said: "Cyber-criminals will continue to take advantage of all the new technologies and methods available to them - the trick is to understand how, why, where, and when they will choose to launch an attack." ® Related stories: Virus writers and cracker love-in First Palm virus isolated Communists, Blofeld et al plan cyber Pearl Harbor for US Clinton Admin goes out in a blaze of cyber-terror Hacker meltdown fails to materialise
John Leyden, 05 Jan 2001

Zy.com up for sale

We were surprised to see an ad in the FT today announcing that Zy.com was up for sale. The site is part of a whole Zy conglomerate, run by young man Charles Moir, who co-founded it with Nova Fisher, having made a fortune out of Acorn a coupla years ago. We thought that Zy.com - a site that allows people to build good-quality Web sites online - was doing rather well. Nearly a year ago today it got £5 million in funding, and it currently gets about 14 million hits a month. Not bad. So following the ad we decided to find out why they were selling it. Are they selling part or all of the Zy company? Is it because they reckon they can get a good price for it now? Are there are other plans afoot? Or has the whole thing gone titsup.com? After the head of PR for the company was unavailable for several hours and her colleagues had failed to get any information back to us, we thought we'd call up the "Joint Adminstrators" in charge of the deal. Mike Hore and Simon Bower at RSM Robson Rhodes. They're not available either. But we can have a sales pack sent in the post. Sod this. So we track down Zy's office number (no easy task). We ask to speak to Charles Moir. Please call back in five minutes. We do. When Charles is informed of who we are, he becomes unavailable. Speak to the administrators. But we've tried. You'll have to speak to the administrators. Look, we just want to know what's behind the sale. Well, you'll have to speak... No one will talk to us. Do you realise that we will have to assume the worst? Can we have some information please? You'll have to speak to the... Adminstrators, yeah. Why? We want to talk to you about your business. Er, er. Hangs up. Both the PR woman and the administrators are again unreachable. Now. Zy.com is a good site, but what the hell are we supposed to make of this? It seems particularly short-sighted to put an ad in the FT for chrissakes and then be completely unprepared when people call up asking questions. Let's be honest, it don't look good. In case you wondered, administrative receivers are what companies (or more frequently, their banks) call in when they go titsup.com. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Jan 2001

HomeChoice in DDOS blitz

Broadband ISP and video-on-demand outfit HomeChoice has admitted it suffered a denial of service attack yesterday from hackers which disrupted its service to customers. Details of what happened are still somewhat sketchy but a spokesman for HomeChoice said: "We had a denial of service attack, and this slowed the system down. We found these requests were coming from two subnets. We blocked these subnet addresses to overcome the problem." "The problem is now resolved and we apologise for any inconvenience caused to customers, and we are contacting the systems administrators at the attack sources to inform them." Despite being pressed on the subject HomeChoice is not commenting on the scale of the problem. A Register reader who alerted us to the problem said he was told servers at all three of the firm's main sites, Staples Corner, Croyden and Grenwich, were "down due to a denial of service attack". He added that HomeChoice's service over the over the last month "has been sporadic due to numerous problems." The attacks follow the loss by HomeChoice of customer emails last month, a problem it blamed on spammers. ® Related stories: Serious security slip at BTOpenwoe ADSL killed the Video Store Hacker meltdown fails to materalise The Mother of all DDoS attacks looms DDoS degrades the Net
John Leyden, 05 Jan 2001

First PHP virus found

The first virus to use PHP scripting language to infect computers has been identified by anti-virus security firm Central Command. PHP.NewWorld is spread to a system when executing an infected script. However the virus is not able to spread out from an infected system, which means its effects are far less damaging than might otherwise be the case. "Although PHP.NewWorld is currently not a major threat, it marks a new step toward new virus generation," said Steven Sundermeier, product manager at Central Command, who nonetheless expects that copycat viruses will be created. The PHP programming language has become a standard in dynamic Website development because of its cross-platform compatibility and user-friendly features. A majority of Websites that incorporate user interaction and personalization rely on PHP, which is an alternative to Microsoft's Active Server Page (ASP) technology, making it an appealing target for virus writers. Central Command's antivirus product, AVX Professional, has been updated to detect and remove PHP.NewWorld and other security vendors can be expected to follow suit. ® Related stories: Virus writers and cracker love-in Virus infection rates soar Outbreak of viruses disguised as vaccines First Palm virus isolated
John Leyden, 05 Jan 2001