9th > January > 2001 Archive

Gemstar fends off monopoly probe

The Office of Fair Trading has refused to investigate VideoPlus-creator Gemstar for alleged anti-competitive practices, despite two anti-trust cases in the US and complaints of monopolistic behaviour in the UK, Andrew Smith writes. Gemstar created and controls the rights to the VideoPlus system which allows easy recording of TV shows using unique identity codes. The system has become a standard feature on VCRs and Gemstar licenses the code numbers to listings magazines. The complaint against Gemstar to the Office of Fair Trading has been made by Devon-based GipsyMedia and follows Gemstar's refusal to license VideoPlus codes for use in the company's TV listings software, < DigiGuide. GipsyMedia claims that without VideoPlus codes, some customers will not pay to register DigiGuide: "We have thousands of (message board) postings from consumers who feel our product is incomplete because we can not carry the video plus codes." Gemstar defended its decision not to license the codes to GipsyMedia, telling the Office of Fair Trading that it doesn't provide licenses to any Internet-based services, with the exception of the Radio Times web site. However, the codes are in fact licensed to several other online services, including home-shopping network QVC and Telewest's content division, FlexTech. Gemstar's own listings software, TV Host, also include VideoPlus codes. Although TV Host currently provides only US listings, GipsyMedia believes this "reinforces the dominant position Gemstar have within our market place". The Office of Fair trading rejected the complaint, saying: "We agree that it is likely that Gemstar are dominant. However, there is no evidence to suggest that at the present time it is abusing that position." According to GipsyMedia spokesman Russ Freeman, VideoPlus numbers are licensed to print magazines for 1p per thousand copies, whereas manufacturers of electronic guides such as those used by set-top boxes must pay $15 per unit. This has proved to be a stumbling block when negotiating deals to supply customised versions of DigiGuide to third-parties, says Freeman: "The first thing they ask is, can you get around the cost of the Gemstar license?" GipsyMedia was at one point negotiating with a Dutch listings service to supply a branded version of DigiGuide, but VideoPlus codes were required. "I think it's fair to say that without Video Plus numbers, doors are closed," Freeman commented, although he pointed out that this was not the only reason why the deal didn't go through. Gemstar is currently the subject of two anti-trust suits in the US, filed by Pioneer and EchoStar. The cases accuse Gemstar of abusing its position by making egregious patent infringement claims against competitors, including Pioneer and EchoStar. By preventing use of its intellectual property in certain products, or charging very high per-unit fees, it is claimed that Gemstar has behaved illegally. Last month, an Office of Fair Trading spokesman told GipsyMedia: "Gemstar Europe has informed us that it is not refusing to licence the use of the video codes, but is developing its strategy for so doing. It appears that Gemstar Europe has a number of issues it needs to address before offering licences to electronic programme guides." "We have no reason to suspect that Gemstar, when it has resolved these outstanding issues, will not make licences available to other electronic programme guides." Gemstar has been "reviewing its global strategy" on licensing for over eleven months. GipsyMedia is now seeking an investigation from the Federation of Small Businesses. In the meantime, one DigiGuide user has taken matters into his own hands, creating a plug-in file that will allow the program to display VideoPlus numbers. It is based on an open-source encoder/decoder. Gemstar is a major interest of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which has a 43 per cent stake. It controls several patents required for supplying interactive TV guides on a set-top box and is a big player in the world of hand-held e-book readers. ®
Our correspondent, 09 Jan 2001

Vendors to turn to channel for Net sales

ASPs, ISPs and eMarketplaces will account for 30 per cent of online channel business by 2004, according to IDC. It predicts that shows that online IT sales to Western Europe end-users will "rise sharply" from $4.8 billion this year (1.7 per cent of the IT spend) to $67.4 billion (15.9 per cent) in 2004. IDC says the growth of online sales in IT products and services will see the "predominance of vendor direct sales and PC hardware waning while new forms of software distribution and use boom". IDC also forecasts that online sales by indirect channel partners will "overtake those of IT vendors selling directly via the Internet". It reckons that direct vendor share of online IT sales will fall from 77 per cent this year to 43 per cent in 2004, with indirect partners overtaking them some time in 2003. "Web-enabled sales will explode as businesses and consumers seek the convenience of placing orders via Web stores, extranets, and emarkets," said Brian Pearce, IDC research manager. "Until now, online sales have been strongly associated with vendor direct sales and PC hardware. The near future will see online sales breaking with the past as IT resellers push more of their business online and as software editors, application VARs, and ASPs shift to electronic software distribution and application rental," Pearce said. At the same time emarket and "services-focused Internet companies" will play a growing role in IT distribution through reselling, solutions hosting, and referral, IDC reckons. It estimates that ISPs, ASPs, and emarkets could, as distribution channels, potentially account for almost 2.6 per cent of total IT spending in 2004. This proportion may seem modest, but, IDC points out it represents almost 30 per cent of the online sales forecast for indirect channel partners overall. IDC selects ISPs as the most important new e- distribution channel. And it says that vendors are rushing to incorporate new players into their channel structures, in an attempt to get to grip with the SME market. ® This article has also appeared in Microsoft Partner, a Web site for UK resellers.
Drew Cullen, 09 Jan 2001

Broadcom grabs Intel by ServerWorks balls

AnalysisAnalysis As we reported yesterday, Broadcom paid over $1 billion for ServerWorks, a company which provides essential chipsets for much of the server and workstation range Intel now supports. But the deal has ramifications for the entire industry, given the bitter competition between Broadcom and Intel, and because the deal will also give the former company access to some of the latter's technology and licences. Although Intel and Broadcom settled their differences over patent issues last year, both firms are attempting to hog the same, potentially lucrative, territory. Broadcom's speciality is selling broadband integrated silicon for data, voice and video, an area in which Intel has a strong interest and which is also highly profitable compared to, for example, Celerons chips. ServerWorks chipsets, on the other hand, were and are being used by Intel in much of its server and workstation lineup through to 2002, until the Santa Clara company can successfully release and support its up-and-coming 860 and 870 chipsets. The firm, also called Reliance, has close relationships with other major vendors including HP,Big Blue, and Compaq, and so Broadcom's acquisition is also likely to give these leaders in the lucrative x86-based server market, pause for thought. Further, Intel has committed itself to a long strategic relationship with ServerWorks and the Broadcom acquisition leaves it in a potentially embarrassing situation. Because of the takeover, Intel folk will have to sit down and chin-wag with Broadcom folk, something that they would not wish to have happened. Sometime ago we speculated whether ServerWorks was an acquisition target for Intel itself, a firm which in recent years has had a reputation for rapaciously acquiring firms it considers important to its "building block" approach. However, Intel buying ServerWorks would have prompted protests from other industry players, eager to nail the chip giant on the anti-trust hook again. That's one thing that senior lawyers at Intel will do everything in their power to avoid now or in the future. Further, although it has a relatively low profile in these times of the Megahurts Wars, server technology is a lucrative cash cow for Intel and anything that threatens that corporate stuff is something Intel will take very seriously. Although Broadcom, based in a nicer part of California, has a relatively low profile compared to Chipzilla, it is something of a darling for Wall Street and seems hell-bent on continuing an acquisition trail of its own. ® Related Stories ServerWorks pivotal in Intel-Rambus tail Leak! Intel's server board strategy to 2002 Intel forced into deal with Reliance Intel's cunning server plans Intel's Itanic, McKinley chips go misty-eyed Intel's roadmap leaks again Broadcom buys ServerWorks
Mike Magee, 09 Jan 2001

Egghead doubts hackers got the goods

Hacked computer e-tailer Egghead.com said it has "evidence which suggests" that its team of security sleuths interrupted the recent cyber break-in while it was going on, a mysterious event which may or may not have resulted in millions of credit card details being compromised. Reports from the credit card issuers "suggest that fewer than 7500 accounts that appear in our system have shown suspected fraudulent activity", the company said. That sounds like quite a lot to us, but Egghead dismisses it as within spec for 'normal' - or 'background' - fraud. "It is difficult to determine whether any fraudulent activity on this relatively small number of credit cards can be traced back to the attack on our system, or whether it may be the result of credit card theft elsewhere. At this point, the evidence we have gathered to date suggests that these credit card numbers were not obtained from our site." OK, so we know what, "to date" it all "suggests". No surprise there; but one thing we hadn't anticipated is the amount of heroic courage and selfless concern motivating the company, until they informed us of it. "I realise that taking this precautionary measure of informing you and the credit card companies of the breach resulted in the cancellation of credit cards, and even embarrassment, for some of you, and we sincerely apologize for any trouble this may have caused," Egghead CEO Jeff Sheahan told customers in an e-mail memo Monday. "However, that was the risk we ran by going public, and it is important to understand that the actions taken by the credit card issuers were also out of their eagerness to protect your best interests." Very touching. But federal law limits a credit card holder's liability to a measly $50 for fraudulent use, and we suspect most would gladly give up the dough to escape the bureaucratic hassle of having their accounts deactivated and resurrected. It's pretty clear whose "best interests" are being protected here. Not that they don't deserve to be protected. But one does tire of the corporate Pollyanna hogwash which strives to rationalise every stuff-up and inconvenience as some 'feature' for which we ought to be grateful. ® Related Story Egghead.com hacked
Thomas C Greene, 09 Jan 2001

Be plucks HARP to target hi-fi world

Be unveiled its latest reference platform yesterday, this one designed to provide a way of connection audio equipment to the Net. Called the Home Audio Reference Platform (HARP), it's a canny way of promoting Be's appliance-oriented OS, BeIA, to a whole new bunch of hardware vendors. In most people's minds, the Net appliance market is all about set-top boxes. You know the kind of thing: a unit that plugs into the TV and pretty much does what a PC does, but more cheaply. That's fine as it goes, but it ignores the vast array of consumer electronics kit that will one day need to be connected to the Net one way or another. HARP shows that Be, for one, is thinking beyond that very tight concept of what a Net appliance is. The code, essentially a sub-set of BeIA, will allow hi-fi vendors to build components and all-in-one systems that can access the Internet, pull down audio or video content, play it back to the listener and maybe even archive it for future use. This view of the Net appliance as nothing more than a standard piece of home electronics with enough hardware and smarts to talk to the Internet isn't entirely new. Sun has been hammering on about this for ages, but as far as we're aware it's the first time a company has put all the components - OS, browser, media players, storage database - together into a single solution hi-fi makers can use. Be actually demo'd such a system, codenamed Aura, at Comdex last autumn. It's no surprise that HARP was unveiled just a few days after Sony launched its entertainment-oriented Net access terminal, eVilla, which is not coincidentally based on BeIA. Of course, getting BeIA and HARP into hi-fi kit is another matter, but Sony's example carries a lot of weight with other consumer electronics companies. Sony's box is almost certainly going to be the first BeIA-based device to ship to the public - a major step forward for the OS maker. HARP is a remarkably compelling platform. As various Register hacks were musing in the boozer last night, the trouble with all this digital media stuff is the wealth of formats. How the heck do you decide which to use, when and where? And how do you ensure that your LP, MC, CD, MD and MP3 collections are all interoperable? HARP could be the solution. It can pull audio content from all these sources, help organise it all, play it back or feed it to portable playback devices or CD burners. Kit vendors are going to like it is as much as users will. HARP hooks into Be's BeIA Management and Administration Platform (MAP), which allows them to remotely manage users' equipment, transparently updating codecs and OS components, adding support for new data formats, and so on. Content providers will be tickled too - MAP provides an infrastructure for both subscription and pay-per-listen download e-commerce models. In the not-too-distant future, when music and movies become services not commodities - just as radio, TV and cinema are already - systems like MAP will be central to the business of online entertainment. Be is in a good position to capitalise upon this emerging market. ® Related Stories Be takes new slant on Net appliance biz Be appliances go wireless walkabout
Tony Smith, 09 Jan 2001

Fidelity increases Compel stake

Fidelity, the investment fund manager, has bought 255,000 shares in Compel, taking its holding in UK's third biggest reseller up to 2,526,858 - 8.14 per cent of the company. It notified Compel of the purchase in a letter dated 5 January. We guess that Fidelity reckons that somewhere there is a buyer waiting for Compel. Comdisco, the US multinational computer services firm, has sold its secondhand resale operations in the UK for an undisclosed sum to COS Computer Systems AG of Germany, AFX reports. The business, to be renamed COS Auctionline UK, will sell secondhand computer hardware in Europe. Today's FT carries an ad for VLSI, touting for sale the 'historically profitable' component distie's business and assets. The ad reveals that VLSI's turnover for the 18 months to September end, 2000 was c.£172 million. The distie continues to trade "as normal", Simon Thomas, joint receiver at Howarth Clarke Whitehill, told MicroScope. The channel rag has pored over the accounts of VLSI and IMC, the first distie failures of 2001. For the year ended March 1999, VLSI turned over nearly £88 million and (made) pre-tax profits of £918,000. However, the components distie "owed a factoring company, believed to be Capital Bank Finance, more than £4 million at a company level". Doesn't look like there'll be too much of IMC to sell - the bust scanner distie owes up to £4 million to unsecured creditors, most of the 17 staff have already been laid off, and there's only a small amount of stock to sell, according to Andrew Stoneman of Kroll Buchler Phillips, who is handling IMC's receivership, as reported by MicroScope. ®
Drew Cullen, 09 Jan 2001

Intel offers quick Rambus rebate

Dealers and distributors who are part of Intel's accredited route to market have been notified that there will be price moves on a range of parts probably around 26 January. But, at the same time, it has warned "there may be price moves on products in Q1 that are not included in this list in order to respond to market dynamics" - a clear sign the firm is prepared to trim its rig depending on how the Megahurts Wars move. At the same time, Intel has told its channel that there will be a further rebate on Pentium 4s of $28, and attributes this to "falling RDRAM prices". Dealers will only have this offer open to them until 27 January, so it's sort of a price cut before the main price cut, if you see what we mean. The memo sent to its channel partners says: "This email brings you exclusive late breaking news that affects you as an Intel Channel Program Member." [A weary Mike Magee notes that many channel readers of The Register will have seen our roadmap stories over the Furtive, err Festive Season, and so have the details that Intel won't tell them about yet... See Intel roadmap shredder in OverDrive mode, which has links to most of our roadmap and pricing information.] "Intel Processor Pricing "Intel would like to inform you of the two prices moves planned in the first quarter of 2001. In order to better facilitate your business and planning we have provided the pricing roadmap below. There will be two price moves and we've indicated which products will be affected. Specific percentage decline and updated ICRs will continue to be published closer to the price move itself. In addition, there may be price moves on products in Q1 that are not included in this list in order to respond to market dynamics such as changes in RDRAM memory costs included in the boxed Pentium 4 kits. "Intel plans to continue updating the price of the Boxed Pentium 4 Kit to reflect RDRAM memory costs in order to provide our channel customers a competitively priced solution and ensure a successful Pentium 4 ramp. "Products affected by the price move on January 28, 2001 will be: "Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor Desktop "1.5 GHz Pentium® 4 Kit** "1.4 GHz Pentium® 4 Kit** "1.3 GHz Pentium® 4 Kit** "** Pentium 4 Processor kit includes processor, fan heatsink, and 2 64M 800 MHz non-ECC RDRAM modules Intel® Pentium® III Processor Desktop "1 GHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "933 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "866 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "850 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "800MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "750 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "733 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "700 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "667 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) Intel® Celeron(tm) Processor Desktop "800 MHz (FC-PGA) "766 MHz (FC-PGA) "733 MHz (FC-PGA) "700 MHz (FC-PGA) "667 MHz (FC-PGA) "633 MHz (FC-PGA) Intel® Pentium® III Xeon(tm) Processor "1 GHz (SECC-Slot 2) 256K Cache Intel® Mobile Pentium® Processor "850 MHz (uPGA2) "800 MHz (uPGA2) "750 MHz (uPGA2) "700 MHz (uPGA2) "650 MHz (uPGA2) Intel® Mobile Celeron(tm) Processor "700 MHz (uPGA2) "650 MHz (uPGA2) "600 MHz (uPGA2) "550 MHz (uPGA2) "Products affected by the price move on March 4, 2001 will be: Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor Desktop "1.5 GHz Pentium® 4 Kit** "1.4 GHz Pentium® 4 Kit** "1.3 GHz Pentium® 4 Kit** "** Pentium 4 Processor kit includes processor, fan heatsink, and 2 64M 800 MHz non-ECC RDRAM modules Intel® Pentium® III Processor Desktop "1 GHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "933 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "866 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "850 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "800MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "750 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) "733 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) Intel® Celeron(tm) Processor Desktop "800 MHz (FC-PGA) "766 MHz (FC-PGA) "733 MHz (FC-PGA) "700 MHz (FC-PGA) "667 MHz (FC-PGA) "Note: Prices Subject to Change Without Notice" ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jan 2001

MP3.com seeks Copyright Office approval

MP3.com yesterday called upon the US Copyright Office to take into account services like its own My.MP3.com in a proposed investigation into the digital music market. The Copyright Office was recently asked by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to explore the implications of the Internet and e-commerce on existing copyright law. Clearly, the RIAA's agenda is to obtain very specific advice on how the US legislature should act to ensure existing copyright models are maintained and protected in the online era. For its part, MP3.com wants to ensure that the right of a music buyer to listen to songs they have bought, whether on a physical medium or by download, through other media is extended to incorporate new technology. So while the Home Recordings Act of 1982 permits a CD buyer to, say, tape that disc for use in the car, MP3.com essentially wants the law changed specifically to include virtual CD collection services like My.MP3.com as a permitted fair use. MP3.com also wants the Copyright Office to create a royalty payments arbitration panel to "to determine the appropriate level of royalty fees, if any, payable by Internet music services when they deliver on-line performances of recorded music". Again, that would provide the company with an opportunity to limit what it has to pay record companies for the right to allow listeners to hear tracks they have already paid for. As MP3.com's VP for government affairs, Billy Pitts, put it, the law should "recognise the distinction [between customers who have already bought the music on CD] and say that no royalty payment was involved". Essentially, then, MP3.com hopes that the Copyright Office will put in place a legal framework that will to all intents and purposes overturn Judge Jed S Rakoff's April 2000 ruling that MP3.com's service violated the copyrights of RIAA members. That judgement paved the way for significant out-of-court settlement payments and court-specified damages which MP3.com has since been forced to pay to the world's five major recording companies. Not that MP3.com is too optimistic. "Frankly, it is likely that neither the Copyright Office nor the courts will be able to fully and satisfactorily resolve these complex and far reaching issues given the way current laws are structured," said MP3.com's president and COO, Robin Richards. "Congress should be encouraged to address the realities of the Internet sooner, rather than later." The Copyright Office is expected to publish its findings by the end of the year. ® Related Stories My.MP3.com back up and running MP3.com preps MyMP3.com mk. 2 MP3.com squares Universal with $53.4m payout Court finds MP3.com guilty of copyright violation
Tony Smith, 09 Jan 2001

Bumlickycrawlie PC mag fawns over PC World

Some funny behaviour has been going on at PC Format. Its December issue had a one-page feature entitled "PCF investigates PC World", where it claimed the monster computer store was ripping off customers, getting inexperienced salesman to push overpriced RAM and charging up to 33 per cent more for other goods like CD writers and hard discs. But then its January issue has a one-page feature entitled "PCF re-investigates PC World". This time round, PC World comes out as a consumer hero, offering innovative and useful services and well-priced IT goods. The store goes from being a "retailing goliath" which has "a lucrative opportunity to sell overpriced products to the PC illiterate" to one that "offers a number of other services that we failed to point out in our original article". One of these "unique" services is PC Healthcheck. So unique it is that most of the article is dedicated to the "MOT for your PC" (customer response has been fantastic). To us, this looks like the epitome of an overpriced product to the PC illiterate, but then PC Format knew all about them last month, so it must be right. Doormat So why the change of heart? Because PC Doormat received "so many letters and emails" that it thought "it only right to run a follow-up piece re-investigating the UK biggest PC store". It seems readers couldn't see what the fuss was about. Who cares about overcharging when there are such unique services as PC Healthcheck? Oh, and there was the small matter of PC World calling up the mag's publisher. PC Format is owned by Future Publishing. It seems that when the mag's reporter went to the Bath store "most of the list prices were lower than we reported". Future does all the contract publishing for PC World. Adding up So when PC Format said PC World charged £259.99 for an Onstream Echo 30GB hard drive whereas Dabs.com charges just £199.75, it really meant that PC World charged £219. When it said a Psion 5mx would cost you £399 at PC World and £360 at Dabs.com, it obviously misread the label - it really cost just £369 (well, sixes do look like nines). Bizarrely, it managed to get the price of every item featured wrong, mistaking sevens for fours and fours for threes. Incredible. PC World stores carry magazines only from Future Publishing. PC Doormat must have been crazy to think PC World overcharged. Why, unless the store was terrific value, would its parent company Dixons have spent millions on TV ads promoting PC World as "stamping down on prices"? Just doesn't make sense. We asked the mag's editor how the reporter - Ian Harris - could have walked around the store and written down the wrong prices every time. Editor Dan Hutchison explained that the story was right but there were "some inaccuracies that we tried to rectify". These inaccuracies obviously included the prices of goods in the store. Funny that he would believe PC World over his own reporter, though. But then PC World does produce a national database of prices, so Mr Harris must have been mistaken. Apples and Oranges But hang on, there's more. "Plus, some of the goods weren't like for like." Really? "Yes, the hard drive was of a different model [the Maxtor DiamondMax 60GB IDE as opposed to the Maxtor DiamondMax 60GB IDE] and ran at a different speed, and the Sony CD-writer came with a CD-bundled package at PC World that you didn't get at Dabs." There you go then. It's a good job PC World called up to sort things out. Ironically, though, another one of Dixons other computer stores, Currys, has just been fined for just the sort of behaviour that PC Format wrongly alleged in its original article. The stores had misled buyers into believing that there were reductions on various items but they had in fact never been more expensive than their current price. Funny that... ®
Kieren McCarthy, 09 Jan 2001

Intel Ireland full of crack, booze

Focus on FabsFocus on Fabs OK, we don't mean to suggest there's a drug problem at Intel Ireland, for craic, pronounced 'crack', is Irish for fun, and there's stacks of fun loving Bunny Suiters at Intel's fab in Leixlip, just a little way away from Dublin, in County Kildare. We visited the Leixlip fab a few years back, and you can find the prehistoric version of The Register story here. At one time, Intel used to build its infamous white unbranded boxes at Leixlip, sold through the channel, but those days are now long gone. We think. Although Intel does still seem to make generic servers, we don't know if the lads and lasses at Leixlip have anything to do with that any more. Leixlip was built on an old stud farm and uses the same water from the River Liffey that later on its course produces that fine drink Guinness. We were a little worried about this when we first heard about it, but were re-assured to learn that after Intel has produced a heap of microprocessors using Liffey water, it was so pure that they had to put impurities in before sending it on its way to the booze factory. (See Intel makes a pint of Guinness taste nicer). There's a history of Intel's involvement with Leixlip at this page which gives some bare bones about life there. Although Intel seems to have put Leixlip Fab 24 - one of its advanced fab schemes - on the back burner for the time being, there's little doubt that's only for the short term. Latest figures suggest around 4,000 people work at Intel Leixlip. Intel's press release about that expansion, now temporarily halted, is here, while our stories about problems with the expansion are here and here. As you have no doubt guessed, Intel's old irritant Face Intel has some info on its site about Leixlip as well as a pretty map of the Emerald Isle. (Island Magee - actually a peninsula - is in the six counties north of Eire's border). The Irish are a fun loving lot, particularly when they get Arthur Guinness down them, and drinking with them is fun. But, and this is a big but, there must be some brain implant that works even when Intel staff are trashed. However much alcohol is swilling round in their system, they never tell you any secrets. This must be because they have learnt that a favoured trick by seasoned UK hacks is to get pickled with people and then remember absolutely everything about the conversation the next time they are that pickled. Unfortunately, this can make for somewhat garbled stories if they attempt to use a computer in such a state... One oddity about Intel Ireland is that you will notice no dropped "e" when you drive up to Leixlip's gates. This anomaly has something to do, we believe, with some tax breaks that Intel gets from the Irish government. Or maybe not. The mystery is a hard nut to craic. ® Focus on Fab Series NSA runs best fab in the world Ts&Cs are tough though Intel's 12-incher starts to throb Chandler, home to two woolly mammoths...
Mike Magee, 09 Jan 2001

Express Web sites liquidated

Four former Express Newspaper Web sites - which were sold for £1 by its new owners last month - have been placed into liquidation. Express.co.uk, Allaboutparents.co.uk, sportlive.co.uk and companyleader.com were said to be costing the business between £7 million and £8 million a year. Fifty people have lost their jobs. Amazon.com's Q4 results, although up 42 per cent on the same period last year, failed to meet analysts' expectations. The company reported income of $960 million for the three months to December, and is expecting gross profit of $210 million. Analysts expected figures of $1 billion and $230 million respectively. The company said it still expected an operating loss of around seven per cent on sales. Ajay Chowdhury - the former CEO of LineOne - has been appointed non-executive director at the Internet hosting and domain outfit Virtual Internet. His appointment was made public as Virtual Internet reported that turnover for the year to 31 October 2000 increased by 232 per cent to £ 6.26 million from £1.89 million for the 13-month period ended 31 October 1999. Gross profit tripped in at £4.4 million compared with £1.2 million over the corresponding period. The loss before taxation, goodwill amortisation and the employee share incentive charge staggered in at £4.34 million compared with £1.26 million. The group says its has £19 million cash tucked away in the bank following its movement in April from AIM to the Official List of the London Stock Exchange. First Tuesday, the organisation that provides a forum for Internet entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to meet, could be sold by its owners, Yazam. The Independent reports that Yazam is planning to offload First Tuesday, which it only bought in July for an estimated £50 million, as part of a plan to wind down its Internet-related business. Geo Interactive Media Group Ltd - a provider of streaming video solutions - is seeking shareholder approval to change its name to Emblaze Systems Ltd. ® It's gets worse. Check out Cash Reg to find out why
Team Register, 09 Jan 2001

You Got Fired

A Times journalist was more than a little annoyed when she was informed of her sacking after 13 years as chief cookery writer by an email asking her where and when she wanted her leaving do. But Frances Bissell's anger wasn't sufficient for her to win unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal. After all, the letter from the editor informing her that her services were no longer required did arrive a few days later. Bissell was not too pleased either that the email arrived soon after she heard that a close relative had died. Despite the fact that Frances had won several awards for the paper and was memorably described as an undercover Delia Smith by enfant terrible of the cookery world, chef Gordon Ramsay, the firing was held to be legal as she was a freelance, earning £650 a week. The email, from a section editor, read: "Dear Frances, By now I imagine you will have received the editor's letter suggesting that it's time to bring your long and distinguished association with The Times to a close. I should like to have a talk with you to discuss the manner of your going and, not least, your farewell dinner which I hope very much you will allow us to give you." Frances was fired because her style was no longer in tune with readers, said the editor. And so another peril of email (no porn or smutty cartoons this time though). Remember: it's faster than snail mail. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 09 Jan 2001

Sun blocks Compaq's cluster raise

Sun has taken us up on our invitation for it to respond to a document prepared by Compaq which apparently rubbishes its Sun Cluster technology (see this story). Jonathan Mills, software product manufacturing manager at Sun UK, denied Compaq's claims that it was taking a proprietary stance on clustering and file systems, and quoted recent IDC figures suggesting Sun was continuing to maintain a grip on the worldwide Unix server market. Said Mills: "It's interesting they [Q] are after us from that point of view. Sun Cluster, in its existing form, has done very well and we have some larger corporate accounts using it. "The way we've written Cluster is for it not to care about the file systems it runs on." He said that Compaq's claim that its own clustering technology is deeply wedded to software firm Oracle ignored the fundamental fact that that company will work closely "with any significant market player" - whether it be Sun, HP, IBM or Compaq. He said that Sun's corporate customers cared more about scaleability, availability and manageability, and that data transition - to them - was only a short term concern. The IDC figures, released recently, showed that in the Unix server space, Sun had 39 per cent market share, IBM 16 per cent and HP 23 per cent. Sun had gained 45 per cent market share year on year. Nor were competitors' claims that UltraSparc III systems meant throwing the baby out with the babywater true, said Mills. While there were motherboard changes, customers' applications needed no re-writing and the transition was not nearly as significant as competitors were alleging. It was all part of the rough and tumble of competition, a little like Her Majesty's Opposition having a duty to attack the government. PS. Intel does not like Sun Microsystems. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jan 2001

AMD looks for love while Intel gets hot and sweaty

AMD has reiterated plans for a new fab, to be built by 2004. The company has clearly put its top creative brains on the team charged with dreaming up the name for this forthcoming facility. So far, it is expected to be called Fab 35. It has launched a search for its perfect partner for its long-anticipated new 300mm-wafer fab, which it says is in the advanced stages of planning. The Fab is expected to cost around $4 billion to get up and running - and is expected to be complete by 2004. AMD chief operating officer (and heir apparent to Jerry Sanders) Hector Ruiz said the project was likely to be a joint venture in order to spread the risk, and cost. At the time of writing AMD could not be reached for comment about its probable location. Intel meanwhile, is absolutely certain that it will not be building more fabs in California. Chipzilla CEO, Craig Barrett, says that the botched deregulation of the power industry has left the state with expensive and unreliable power. He said that Intel would be expanding in other areas of America and Ireland instead. As even the smallest variation in power can ruin wafers, the power situation in California is a serious issue for the manufacture of chips. Intel says that it has trimmed its own power consumption by ten per cent, keeping lights off when possible and turning air conditioning down. Presumably this also provides Intel staffers with an informal sauna environment to work in. According to the Boston Globe, Barrett commented: "Nuclear power is the only answer, but it is not politically correct." In the meantime, he makes his own small contribution to resolving the problem by leaving his office lights off during the day, relying instead on that big old ball of gas called the sun. How considerate. ® Related Stories AMD exploring Dresden fab extension Hector Ruiz is the new Jerry Sanders
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jan 2001

London gets e-business adviser

London's mayor is to get an e-business adviser to promote e-commerce and hi-tech businesses in the capital. Colin Jenkins is on secondment from Energis and will work alongside Mayor Ken Livinstone for the next six months. He will try and help develop policies to boost e-business activity within London - no easy task seeing that the streets of the capital are not paved in gold, but increasingly covered with the corpses of failed dotcoms. He also plans to help tackle the IT skills shortage. In a prepared statement, Jenkins said: "London is already a highly successful global hub for financial services and creative industries. By embracing and exploiting the latest business and communications technology, and fostering the development of a technically skilled workforce, London can remain a leading business centre. "As a secondee to the Mayor's office I look forward to helping London enhance its reputation at the cutting edge of the new global economy," he said. Let's hope Jenkins' is more successful than the British Government's own e-envoy, appointed to promote Britain's digital interests. Alex Allan left the job in October 2000 after less than a year for "personal reasons". A Government spokeswoman said a replacement for him would be announced "imminently". ® Related Stories British E-Envoy quits E-envoy can't surf E-envoy's home page has skeleton in closet
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2001

Reg reader skydives into history

We greatly value the emails and contributions we receive from you, our readers, but every now and again someone excels themselves. This is why we feel it our duty to flag up one Craig Poxon, based in London. "After being inspired by Alex Cooksey's pictures of him wearing some of your merchandise at 14,000 feet please find attached some pictures of me wearing one of your lovely Register T-shirts several thousand feet above the Spanish countryside." There follows a number a pictures of Craig sporting our white Reg T-shirt, while leaping out of a plane and sky-diving, as he says, over Spain. Upon viewing the pics, Vulture Central broke into a spontaneous round of applause amid cries of "we salute you". Craig, consider yourself a friend of The Register. We have put one of the pics below (two in Readers' Gallery), but if you wish to see more and/or an Mpeg movie of the skydive, pay a visit to his Web site here. ® Readers' Gallery
Kieren McCarthy, 09 Jan 2001

Napster and co. violate copyright, users admit

Napster's argument that its music sharing service doesn't violate copyright laws is fooling no one, least of all its users. That at least is the conclusion drawn from a survey of Internet users by market researcher Gartner Group. Gartner asked US surfers whether they agreed with claims that Internet-based file sharing services and software - not only Napster but the likes of Scour, Aimster and Gnutella too - break copyright law. Only 28 per cent of respondents who use these services said Napster and co. were legitimate - another 28 per cent admitted right out that they involve copyright violation. The remaining 44 per cent were 'don't knows', who Gartner chooses - rightly we suspect - of playing it cautious, given the as yet uncertain legal position. Respondents who don't use such services are broadly as confused as their Napster-user counterparts. Some 43 per cent of them admitted they didn't know one way or the other, though only 14 per cent said that file sharing was legitimate - 42 per cent, on the other hand, said downloading files was illegal. That's probably why they do use the software. Ultimately, though, what does such research show? Mainly that neither Napster nor the music business have come up with convincing arguments. It's clear that most people are utterly confused by the matter, and the sooner a judgement is made one way or the other the better. Of course, that's unlikely to change usage patterns. Music fans still tape each others' CDs even though the illegality of that action is well established, and that pattern of behaviour will be replicated in the online world, through the likes of true peer-to-peer clients like Gnutella if not Napster. All of which shows that what's really needed is not a clear statement on the illegality or otherwise of file sharing software and services, but a new copyright and commerce model that renders the question unnecessary. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Jan 2001

VA Linux IPO – something fishy?

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating how certain investment firms managed to obtain a disproportionately large share of VA Linux's IPO. According to the Wall Street Journal's interactive edition, regulators are looking into the VA Linux offering as part of a wider probe into whether some investors paid unusually large trading commissions in exchange for preferential allocations of stock during IPOs. Other offerings that may be brought into the inquiry include Foundry Networks VA Linux shares went public at $30 and closed after their first day of trading, 9 December 1999, at $239.25 - an almost eight-fold increase in value. This was the biggest-ever first day jump for an IPO. The investigation will look at whether hedge funds paid over the odds on commissions for other trades with firms that controlled the allocation of IPO shares, in order to boost the number of shares they receive. These outsized commissions may have been as much as $1 per share - or twenty times the going rate. Securities dealers have wide discretion to allocate IPO stock and large commissions may have been legal in the context of an overall business relationship but the possibility that these payments are "kickbacks" is being taken seriously. The Wall Street Journal quotes unnamed sources who said two smaller investment firms GLG Partners and Chelsey Capital received 35,000 shares and 15,000 shares in VA Linux - which gained in value by 7.3 million and $3.1 million respectively on the first day of trading. The allocations approached those given to those of far bigger and better known Wall Street firms, raising concerns about possible impropriety. The VA Linux offering is believed to be an early focus of a wider probe, being jointly conducted by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the SEC's enforcement division, neither of whom is talking publicly about the investigation. However the lead underwriter of the VA Linux deal, Credit Suisse First Boston unit has confirmed that an inquiry is underway. The WSJ quotes people close to the inquiry who say regulators are attempting to determine patterns of big allocations followed by large trades in other stocks It isn't certain whether GLG or Chelsey paid large commissions or are a particular focus of the SEC probe. A senior executive from London-based GLG said he was aware of the investigation but said that the firm "was neither the focus not target" of the inquiry. Regulators are understood to have already sought information from hedge funds and most major Wall Street securities firms as part of the enquiry. According to the WSJ subpoenas issued to the Wall Street firms sought lists of investors which got 1,000 shares or more during hot IPOs, as well as records of trades of 10,000 shares or more that incurred commissions of more than twice the prevailing rate of five cents per share. ® Related Stories IPO makes VA Linux instant $10bn company Could Linux IPOs be a better bet than Web ones? VA Linux revenues up 547 per cent VA Linux Systems disputes IDC server market findings VA's Augustin talks Itanic, Sledgehammer
John Leyden, 09 Jan 2001

Turkish police nick cybercafe kids

Turkish police have arrested 130 kids for the heinous crime of visiting cybercafes. The children were detained briefly in the central Anatolian town of Kirikkale for fear that they could be corrupted by spending time in such establishments, Reuters reported. "Checks were made into complaints that Internet cafes were full of cigarette smoke and that children could look at pornographic materials in addition to playing backgammon," said police chief Hayrettin Gok. "This is your education: stay home and do your homework," he told the youngsters. He threatened to round the children up again if they went back to Internet cafes or games arcades. "We want you to become people who do some good for the state; we want to see you in nice places, not bad ones," he added. ® Related Stories Stelios launches US cybercafe empire in New York Malaysia closes down game arcades Iraq's first Internet café opens up the world Chinese cybercafes dubbed 'electronic heroin' Council shuts nude cybercafe under decency laws
Linda Harrison, 09 Jan 2001

Geeks garbling Greek, heirs to Aristotle complain

The Greek language is threatened with corruption thanks to the use of the Internet and computers, according to a gaggle of Greek intellectuals, who have written to their government urging it to stem the erosion of their mother tongue. The Times reports that 40 Greek intellectuals, including philosophers, archaeologists and politicians, have circulated a manifesto which argues that use of computers is responsible for bastardising the language of Aristotle. The result is Greeklish, which sounds to us like a garnish, but is actually an unpalatable mix of Greek and English-based computer terms. The blame for creation of this modern-day Trojan Horse, which threatens to corrupt the national tongue, is laid squarely at the door of the IT industry, which the intellectuals argue is involved in an "unholy plot" to foist Greeklish on the Greek public. Worse still, many are collaborating with this alien invasion. Many Greeks write emails in Latin characters even though computers are sold with Greek language software. Greek has a polysyllabic vocabulary and it is often easier to communicate using something approximating to English - something that drives defenders of the Greek language wild with indignation. According to The Times, the manfisto claims "it is unthinkable that we Greeks should accept the alienation of our script by abolishing some elements and replacing them with foreign characters". Some 14 letters of the 24 letter Greek alphabet are shared with Latin. The whole affair is reminiscent of French concerns about the corruption of their language. However, looking at the examples of Greeklish, we have to say the results are even worse. A laptop computer becomes kompiuteraki (which sounds like a wine past its best) in Greeklish, likewise to surf the Net becomes serfaro and, our personal favourite, a rock musician becomes rockatzis. So now you know how to write an email to your Greek friend about Demis Roussos... ®
John Leyden, 09 Jan 2001

Silicon.com grounded by burglars

IT news site Silicon.com should be up and running again by teatime today after vital equipment was stolen at the weekend. Explaining the unscheduled downtime, a notice on Silicon's site read: "We apologise that silicon.com, silicon.fr and atscojobs.com are not available currently. This is due to essential engineering work. These services will resume shortly." However, a statement issued by the dotcom today claims the site was knocked over after burglars nicked a stack of computers. In a statement, Silicon said: "The offices of silicon.com were broken into over the weekend. A few items of hardware were stolen from the company. The police have been informed and are investigating the matter. We expect the Web site to be fully operational by the end of today (Tuesday 9th January)." We wish them luck. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2001

Xerox poo-poos bankruptcy claims

Troubled Xerox today denied it is planning to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, despite hiring a New York investment firm specialising in bankruptcies. The New York Post today claimed that was precisely why loss-making and debt-laden Xerox had sought the help of the Blackstone Group. Not so, replied Xerox. "Xerox has no plans to file for bankruptcy," said a company spokeswoman, cited by Reuters. Xerox has $1.4 billion in cash, sufficient, the spokeswoman said, to "meet our current and anticipated needs". She didn't mention, however, that the company has around $18 billion in debt, a fact Xerox was forced to admit last October. It is currently developing a turnaround plan which will see $1 billion cut from the company's operating costs and the sale of $2-4 billion worth of assets. Even Xerox's famous hot-house R&D facility, the Palo Alto Research Center, is said to be considered a candidate for a sell-off. Xerox recently said it was "actively engaged in discussions to sell the company's China operations, a portion of the Xerox ownership in Fuji-Xerox, Xerox Engineering Systems, and its interest in spin-off companies, such as ContentGuard and Inxight". As for the Blackstone relationship, Xerox admitted that it has indeed engaged the firm, but would not say what its role is. It simply described the investment firm as "general financial advisors". The company has lately been embarrassed by tanking share values, losing nearly 80 per cent from its 52-week high of $27, and last month's credit-rating downgraded by Moody's Investor Services. The company has been aggressively selling off assets in an attempt to maintain liquidity, and insists that this strategy is working beautifully. Xerox owes Citigroup and Bank One $375 million each, and FleetBoston, $350 million. JP Morgan Chase is their biggest creditor at $750 million, the Post reports. No doubt all will be relieved to hear that the company's finances are on track despite appearances. ® Related Story Debt-ridden Xerox promises 'aggressive turnaround' Thomas C Greene contributed to this report.
Tony Smith, 09 Jan 2001

Porn case heralds UK cyber court

The first case of the Internet being used in a court case will start tomorrow. Kingston Crown Court will wire up jurors, witnesses, barristers and the judge to give an indication as to how porn is moved over the Internet. The equipment - which cost £5000 - will show how the seven defendants in a child porn case managed to distribute and share indecent photos of kids between themselves using the Internet. Every two jurors will share a computer and see how the porn is downloaded. The case is important in the sense that it may set a legal precedent over Web distribution of porn. The equipment has already been tested with court staff standing in as replacements. The great advantage of the equipment is that jurors will be saved from tedious and lengthy explanations of how the Internet works and will simply see it from the user's point of view. It's a good thing, but we are simply waiting for some "visionary" to extrapolate the case into some sort of "by 2005, all cases will be run over the Internet with jurors logging on from their home PCs and the judge will be in Borneo" nonsense, ie. use it as an excuse to gain some publicity. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 09 Jan 2001

IC24 terminates ‘free’ Net access offer

IC24 has yet to confirm whether it is to extend its offer of limited unmetered Net access beyond the end of January. A notice on the ISP's site warns that the "offer closes January 31st 2001 - outside promotional hours calls will be charged at local rate". This was confirmed by one of the 50p-a-minute help line representatives who said the offer was scheduled to end at the end of the month. However, a spokeswoman for the ISP said the "offer" had been extended three times in the past. And although no decision had been made yet, there's no reason to suggest that IC24 won't extend the offer for a fourth time. However, she did not know when the companyt would make the decision whether to continue with the offer. Or not, as the case may be. Still, anyone contemplating signing up with the ISP should talk among themselves while Trinity Mirror - the owner of IC24 - makes up its mind. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2001

The PC is not dead

Despite the recent slow down in the PC market, AMD and Intel both remain optimistic its prospects, with AMD claiming the market is healthy and growing at a good rate. Hector Ruiz, anointed successor to Jerry Sanders, predicted that sales would recover in the second half of 2001, rising to $41 billion in 2002. Sales in 2000 totalled $30 billion. Meanwhile, the top man at Chipzilla, Craig Barrett, was speaking at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) singing the praises of the personal computer. He said that other devices would proliferate, but they would all connect to a PC in some way or other. He is quoted on Infoworld as saying: "The PC is really at the centre of the Internet, the main client. And what we're seeing today is that more and more devices are being attached around the PC, extending the PC's influence." Recent research from Forrester would seem to support both chip makers' view about the state of the market, but for different reasons. The researchers said that the death of the PC is overstated. Growth may not be so impressive as through the 1990s, but families are expected to start buying additional PCs, thus boosting the market. Over the next five years, the number of two-PC homes is expected to grow by 19 per cent per year, the company said. Despite this, by 2005 the PC will still not be all pervading. Around half the consumers in the Mediterranean region will still not have a PC. Ruiz predicted that as well as a H2 upturn in sales, demand for Flash memory products will increase in the near future. He said that Flash memory producers have been unable to keep up with demand, an imbalance he thinks will continue for "several years". He said that AMD would invest in capacity addition, based on the forecast doubling of the market by 2002. Barrett was more cautious. He said that there was little profit to be had, for Intel, outside it's core business of selling computer processors. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jan 2001

Hard times to come for the hardware reviewers

It has become increasingly apparent that there are more Web sites than there are advertisers. This state of affairs has only one logical conclusion: there will be a shakeout, and only the strong will survive. At least one hardware site is eagerly awaiting the culling of lesser sites. BXBoards has run an editorial deploring those sites without original content, and suggests that some only entered the market in the first place to make a quick buck: "For those who entered this game with $$$ signs flashing, then I predict that up to 50% of the commercial sites you see now will fail. I for one think this is a GOOD thing," writes Andy, the site's editor. We reported the beginning of the end for the gaming sector last week, noting UGO Network's new advertising rates. Since so many of the review sites are connected to the UGO network, the decision to cut payments to affiliates to $1 per 1000 impressions will clearly have a knock-on effect. So what will happen to the hardware reviewers? Kyle Bennet, of [H]ardOCP commented: "I think what we are seeing now is the end of a great act of Darwinism that we have witnessed in the dotcom industry and it has finally filtered down even to the 'small guys'. Hopefully, what does not kill us will make us stronger." He applauded UGO for digging in and not giving up like a lot of the networks. He said: "We are standing behind the 100 per cent." We can't argue with his final sentiment: "Overall I think solid tech sites will be fine. If you think we did not see this coming six months ago and have not been saving up... Well, you would be wrong." The feeling at BXBoards is similar: the best will keep going, and getting paid for it, and the stragglers will have to do it out of love, or fold. ® Related Links [H]ardOCP BXBoards Register Hardware Archives Register's favourite hardware links - there are others too. Related Story Cold wind blows through games sites
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jan 2001

Hawaiian Airlines hacked my Web site – pilot

An American airline will have to answer charges that it illegally gained access to one of its own pilot's Web sites which criticised its management, a Federal appeals court has ruled. Bloomberg reports a decision by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse an earlier decision to dismiss a pilot's lawsuit, which claimed that Hawaiian Airlines had broken federal wiretap and employment laws in accessing his secure site under false pretences. The court heard that a company VP logged onto the site 20 times using another pilot's name. The decision sets a precedent that means unauthorised access to private Web site may be in violation of both federal Wiretap or Stored Communication Acts. "The contents of secure Web sites are 'electronic communications' in intermediate storage that are protected from unauthorised interception under the Wiretap Act," the court stated in its ruling. The case has being returned to a federal judge pending further proceedings. ® Related Stories Police gag 'corruption' Web site French Echelon report says Europe should lock out US snoops Cybercrime laws are super weak White House recommends more on-line snooping
John Leyden, 09 Jan 2001

Windows is most-hacked Web server

Microsoft has consolidated its lead as the Web server platform most vulnerable to hackers. Hacker site attrition.org today published its latest stats for defacements. Combined Windows NT and Windows 2000 defacements for the most recent full month of December hit more than two thirds of the total. Combined Linux servers account for 21.4 per cent of confirmed defacements. NT's defacement share had dipped alarmingly below 40 per cent last autumn, but made a strong recovery in time for Christmas. Since August 1999, Windows has accounted for 58 per cent of defacements, a figure far in excess of Windows market share, which is around 30 per cent of all Web servers. It's difficult to gauge, particularly where Netcraft can record a site as running a Windows httpd, but where Unix servers do the real donkey work. Netcraft's platform survey gives Microsoft-specific platforms 20 per cent of the market, although this doesn't include sites running Apache on Windows, for example. Attrition said it calculated its results using the Netcraft survey and the nmap auditing tool. Full details, in glorious technicolour, can be viewed here, and Netcraft's latest stats are here. ® Related Story How you hack into Microsoft: a step by step guide
Andrew Orlowski, 09 Jan 2001

Pentagon hacker ‘Analyzer’ pleads guilty

Ehud Tenebaum, the Israeli hacker famous as "The Analyzer," has pleaded guilty in Israel to the 1998 attacks on unclassified US Defence Department systems that once touched off alarms at the highest levels of government. In an appearance late last month before the Magistrate's Court in Kfar Sava, a suburb east of Tel Aviv, the 21-year-old hacker admitted to cracking US and Israeli computers, and plead guilty to conspiracy, wrongful infiltration of computerized material, disruption of computer use and destroying evidence. Sentencing is set for 13 March, when prosecutors hope to lock up the hacker for at least six months -- the minimum sentence that would make him ineligible for house arrest. "We don't want him to get that privilege, we think that his offences are too serious for that," said Assistant Central District Attorney Or Mamon in a telephone interview. Tenebaum, now chief technology officer at computer security consultancy 2XS, declined to comment on the plea, except to say that he's hoping to receive probation. The Tenebaum case began in February, 1998, when dozens of Pentagon systems were suffering what then-US Deputy Defence Secretary John Hamre called "the most organized and systematic attack to date" on US military systems. Though the attacks exploited a well-known vulnerability in the Solaris operating system for which a patch had been available for months, they came at a time of heightened tension in the Persian Gulf. Hamre and other top officials became convinced that they were witnessing a sophisticated, state-sponsored Iraqi effort to disrupt troop deployment in the Middle East. A joint task force was hastily assembled among agents of the FBI, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, NASA, the US Department of Justice, the Defence Information Systems Agency, the NSA, and the CIA. The investigation, code-named "Solar Sunrise," eventually snared two California teenagers and Tenebaum. "This arrest should send a message to would-be computer hackers all over the world that the United States will treat computer intrusions as serious crimes," said attorney general Janet Reno at the time. "We will work around the world and in the depths of cyberspace to investigate and prosecute those who attack computer networks." Today, defence officials still point to Solar Sunrise as illustrative of the difficulty of separating recreational hack attacks from the state-sponsored cyber assaults they're still certain loom on the horizon. Law enforcement, meanwhile, holds the investigation up as a textbook example of interagency cyber-crime cooperation; the FBI produced an 18-minute training video about the case titled "Solar Sunrise: Dawn of a New Threat," available for $12.28. The California teens received probation, and, after a brief stint in the military, Tenebaum was indicted under Israeli computer crime laws in February 1999. The case dragged on in the courts until last month's plea agreement. "He already admitted everything to the police," said Mamon. "So the plea bargain didn't get him much." © 2000 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 09 Jan 2001

Site offers soccer coats for pets

An Internet site has being set up which offers to kit out dogs in the colours of an owners' favourite football team. The Soccer Dog-Coat Company offers four different coat sizes, to suit any dog from a ShihTsue to a German Shepherd, in the team colours of most English Premiership teams as well as Scottish clubs like Rangers and Celtic. Prices for the nylon coats, which include a fleece lining, range from £13.99 to £22.99, with £4 extra to have a dog's name printed on the coat. The site's owner, Peter Birney, said that he thought of the idea around two years ago after dreaming of his dog, Bobby (who is named after the Newcastle manager), kited out in Toon colours. After developing suitable designs and materials, Birney sold coats at local markets prior to taking his business online. So far around 250 dogs coats and a small number of coats for cats have been sold and the idea seems to be going down well. However, so far only one buyer has taken up the option of fitting out the coat with a 'poop pocket', which would save owners from carrying their dog's turds to the nearest litter bin. ® Related Stories Football websites offer sweet FA Mr wembleystadium .net loses domain case Beckham only English footballer good enough for France
John Leyden, 09 Jan 2001

US Supremes decline Net academic-freedom appeal

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by six university professors objecting to a Virginia law which prevents public employees from using state-owned computers to access sexually explicit content on the Internet, the Associated Press reports. The professors argued successfully in 1999 before a federal judge that the 1996 law violated their First Amendment rights, but a US appellate court overturned the finding, ruling that the state has every right to decide what its equipment may and may not be used for. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers argued to the Supremes that state-employed scholars have a right to academic freedom for job-related research, but the Court let the ruling stand without comment. The professors said that the law had already interfered with their work, the wire service notes. One said he had been unable to assign students online research assignments about indecency laws; another said he was prevented from researching sexually explicit themes in the work of certain poets; and another said the law bans research on sexually explicit subjects in psychological literature. According to the AP, Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley defended the law, saying that state employees do not have a First-Amendment right to decide for themselves whether sexually explicit material was required for their professional research and writing. The state, apparently, is to decide what material is appropriate for academic inquiry. Sounds positively third-world to us. ®
Thomas C Greene, 09 Jan 2001

MacOS X to ship 24 March

UpdatedUpdated Apple's next-generation operating system, MacOS X, will ship on 24 March, one month later than expected. However, the Mac maker won't begin bundling the OS until July, when it will be shipped by default on its hardware. Interestingly, that timeframe ties in very nicely with Apple's New York MacWorld Expo hardware release schedule and Motorola's volume shipment schedule for its PowerPC G4 Plus chip. We'd be very surprised if Apple doesn't bring back dual-processor configurations to the top of the Power Mac G4 line - ie. machines capable of harnessing MacOS X's multi-processing facilities - around that time. It will also mark the arrival of most X-oriented applications, be they new ones or ports of existing Mac apps. Apple expects some to appear sooner, but it was clear from CEO Steve Jobs' MacWorld Expo keynote that the company isn't expecting too many of the 1200-odd programs written to take advantage of X's advanced OS features to appear before the summer. As for the OS itself, the final release will move further toward the well-established MacOS way of doing things, with the return of the Apple menu, missing from the MacOS X Public Beta and previous developer releases. That said, it doesn't appear as rich as MacOS 9's Apple menu, being limited to some common system commands - Shutdown and Sleep, for example - and lists of recently opened documents and applications. Apple still sees the Dock as the focus of X's user interface. It has added pop-up, hierarchical content menus, a key feature of the MacOS 9 Apple menu, to Docked folders. Apple is clearly trying to ease users into the Dock by forcing them to move their Apple menu aliases and apps down to the bottom of the screen. The Dock also has pop-ups for application settings, allowing it to operate like MacOS 9's Control Strip - the monitor settings pop-up lists available screen resolutions and screen bit depth, for example. Again, Apple is addressing X's lack of key MacOS interface components and drawing users to the Dock into the bargain. Apple has also simplified the Finder app to make it operate more like the current Finder, though some of the 'new' features added, such as a multi-Window mode, are present in the Public Beta, albeit not as easily accessible as they will be in the 1.0 release. The font selection panel has been simplified too. MacOS X will ship for $129, said Jobs. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Jan 2001

Moto G4 Plus makes it to latest Power Mac line-up

UpdatedUpdated Apple has decided two brains are no longer better than one and ditched its dual-processor desktop Mac configurations in favour of single-CPU machines - but trade off is that of these computers (well, some of 'em) are based on Motorola's eagerly awaited G4 Plus chip. As anticipated, the new Power Mac G4 line-up, which was launched today at MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, is based on the Apple's UMA 2 motherboard architecture. That means a 133MHz system bus, five add-in slots (four PCI and one AGP 4x), plus the usual FireWire and USB ports (two of each) and gigabit Ethernet. There's also a new audio sub-system comprising a built-in 10W amplifier. The G4 range also marks Nvidia's entry into the Mac market, with the top-of-the-range models sporting GeForce 2 MX-based AGP graphics cards. The first of the four machines retains the ATI Rage 128 Pro chip used in the previous generation of Power Mac. The four base models contain 466, 533, 667 and 733MHz processors. The 533MHz version will be offered in multi-processor configurations through Apple's online build-to-order system, so the dual-processor approach hasn't been entirely dropped, but it's certainly been de-emphasised. Of course, the reason for the move is clear: Motorola can't get enough chips to Apple to make it practical to offer multi-processor configurations. That's why we reckon the 466 and 533MHz machines are regular PowerPC 7400s, with only the top two machines based on the G4 Plus. How can you tell? Only those two are provided with backside L3 cache - which only the G4 Plus supports. CEO Steve Jobs admitted the 667 and 733MHz versions won't ship until February, and even then in limited volumes, which matches our expectations of true G4 Plus availability - ie. full volume in Q2 2001. Depending on how many chips Motorola can punch out, the 733MHz model isn't going to be easy to get hold of, at least for the immediate future. In addition to the G4 Plus, the 733MHz Power Mac also sports Pioneer's combo CD-R, DVD-R drive - Apple calls it the SuperDrive - which reads and writes all CD formats and DVD-ROM formats, and writes consumer DVD-compatible discs. Apple is also bundling its newly announced iDVD authoring tool. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Jan 2001

Novell stings pirate for $600,000

Novell has won more than $600,000 from a Californian software pirate who auctioned fake goods online. Novell alleged that Chris Bonner used several alias accounts on eBay's auction site to shift unlicensed copies of its Net Services software. The company filed the suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California, and reckoned that Bonner conducted more than 40 auctions of fake Novell goods over a six-month period. The vendor said it did try to let Bonner off the hook. Before filing the suit back in September 1999 its anti-piracy investigators met Bonner and asked him to quit the auctions. He agreed, and handed over what he claimed was the rest of the illegal stash. The crafty conman then continued to flog pirated software via 20 more auctions. "This type of business practice is not only damaging to our sales channel, which is trying to compete fairly, but it also confuses and harms the honest customers who are seeking to acquire legitimate, licensed software," said Novell senior VP and general counsel Josie Parry. The win will add to Novell's existing anti-piracy stash. In October it was awarded $2.4 million in damages from a South Korean OEM found guilty of counterfeiting software. Suspected Novell software piracy can be reported on 1-800-747-2837. ® Related Stories Novell wins $2m piracy damages from Korean OEM Schools hit by pirated Novell software Novell still a sick puppy Europe drags down Novell Novell does cut workforce: 16 per cent to go
Linda Harrison, 09 Jan 2001

DRAM 64Mb slips under $3

DRAM memory prices continued to freefall in the first week of 2001, slipping under $3 per chip. Prices of 64Mb PC-100 SDRAMs and 64Mb PC-133 type SDRAMs have fallen as low as $2.90 and $3.07 per chip, down by 2.68 per cent and 3.97 per cent respectively against figures at the end of 2000, AsiaBizTech reported, quoting Korea's Maeil Business Newspaper. The value of 128 SDRAMs has also dropped in recent days - PC-100 and PC-133 chips fell by around 5.4 per cent to an average of $6.10 and $6.47. Meanwhile, recovery in the sector will hinge on the continuing saga of falling US PC demand. Analysts and chipmakers do not expect the DRAM market to rebound until the second half of this year. It is hoped the Federal Reserve's interest rate cut will boost PC sales, and therefore DRAM spot prices, in six to nine months' time. An upturn will also depend on demand for Microsoft's latest memory guzzling operating systems and Intel's speedier chips. "Growth is going to depend on both software and hardware upgrades," said Liu Chitung, head of regional technology research at UBS Warburg in Taipei, Dow Jones Newswires reports. "If the upgrades to the Pentium 4 and Windows Millennium Edition are weaker than expected, then it'll have a negative impact on DRAM prices." Chipmakers are expected to slightly offset falling prices against cheaper production costs as they hasten towards the adoption of 0.15 micron technology. ® Related Stories Intel offers quick Christmas rebate Micron shares tumble DRAM makers sit on stocks Chip sales hit $18.66 billion in October SDRAM prices pull out of nosedive DRAM slump: Now it's Europe's turn
Linda Harrison, 09 Jan 2001

Computer Associates shows its true colours

We ran a story last week covering Computer Associates' (sorry, CA's) new corporate branding. Yes, one of the world's most unfriendly companies had transformed itself into a "friendly, open, trusted" organisation simply by using lower-case letters and some pastel colours. We knew it couldn't be long before the old culture reasserted itself after the brief spate of madness. And, sure enough, here it comes: the company's instructions on how the logo shouldn't be used. You shall not use ze logo with another colour! Putting ze logo at a funny angle is not acceptable! Do not use ze logo with any other logo or you vill be shot! And so on. But our favourite has to be: "Do not use the Computer Associates logos as part of a word or slogan." The unfortunate example it has chosen to give is that of the logo with the word "quality" above. You said it, CA, not us. Ze rules can be seen on CA's Web site here. ® Related Story CA is 'friendly, open, trusted'
Kieren McCarthy, 09 Jan 2001

Xerox denies bankruptcy story

Xerox is contradicting a report in Tuesday's New York Post claiming that it retained New York investment firm Blackstone Group to help it manage an impending bankruptcy. While denying the bankruptcy charge, Xerox declined to explain its business with Blackstone, and would not confirm whether or not Newman is involved. The company has lately been embarrassed by tanking share values, losing nearly 80 per cent from its 52-week high of $27, and last month's credit-rating downgraded by Moody's Investor Services. The company has been aggressively selling off assets in an attempt to maintain liquidity, and insists that this strategy is working beautifully. Xerox owes Citigroup and Bank One $375 million each, and FleetBoston, $350 million. JP Morgan Chase is their biggest creditor at $750 million, the Post reports. No doubt all will be relieved to hear that the company's finances are on track despite appearances. ®
Thomas C Greene, 09 Jan 2001

Security guard hacks nuke plant

A security patrolman is believed to have hacked his way into computer networks at the Bradwell nuclear reactor in Essex near London and to have altered and deleted information, the Guardian Unlimited reported Tuesday. According to documents leaked to the press, the incident, which was never voluntarily disclosed to the public by state-owned operator BNFL, occurred in 1999 and resulted in a lockdown of the entire plant to accommodate a security audit, the paper says. Security at the plant was extremely lax according to the report. An un-named union official told the online paper that "lunatics, industrial spies or terrorists could have walked through the gates with a badge that almost anyone could get". Thankfully, the incident has raised awareness throughout the industry, and a new programme of vetting security personnel is expected to be applied with some rigour in the very near future. What a relief. ®
Thomas C Greene, 09 Jan 2001

Microsoft launches couch-potato geek chic

Microsoft has teamed up with La-Z-Boy to come up with the ultimate gift for the couch potato geek. The 'Explorer' is a plush reclining armchair with built-in gadgets for surfing the Net in pampered style. It comes with a Sony WebTV Plus Internet Receiver, wireless keyboard, electrical plug for a laptop, fold-out airline-style tray, drinks holder, storage space for TV controls, and jacks for regular dial-up or DSL connections. The seat, dubbed the world's first 'e-cliner' by the companies, also comes with two free months of Microsoft WebTV service - which allows punters to use e-mail and the Internet and to play along with interactive programs on their regular TV. It is available to grace living rooms across the nation from today, and will set punters back $1049 for the fabric version, and $1299 in leather/vinyl. A picture of the chair can be found here. ® Related Stories And so Xbox is 'launched' Essex girls to get free WebTV AOL to sell set-top boxes Can AOL beat MS and the cable pack to Web TV? 'Free' Internet set-top box company faces scam claims
Linda Harrison, 09 Jan 2001