12th > January > 2001 Archive

HP slashes Q1 forecasts

Hewlett-Packard issued a profit warning for its first fiscal quarter today. The US computer firm said worsening economic conditions and slowing demand from consumers and corporates, especially in the US, meant sales and profits for the quarter ending 31 January would miss forecasts. It cut its earnings per share forecast to 35-40 cents per share, compared to the 42 cents previously expected. Sales are expected rise by a percentage in the low to mid-single digits, while the company "isn't counting on improvement" during the first half of its fiscal year ending 30 April. Carly Fiorina, HP chairperson, president and CEO, said: "It's clear there's been a significant change in market conditions in recent weeks. Consumer spending in the US has been below even our own conservative estimates and our enterprise customers - responding to the growing economic uncertainty - have become increasingly cautious about IT spending." Gross margins are expected to stay at the low end of the 27.5 per cent to 28.5 per cent previously forecast, though the California company said it would hold off on updating its full year outlook due to "rapidly changing market conditions and increasing economic uncertainty". HP was one of the few major IT players that escaped issuing a sales or profit warning in Q4 last year. At the end of November it said US PC sales were worse than expected, but that this would not hit financial targets for the year, adding that it was comfortable with Wall Street estimates at that time of 44 cents per share for the first quarter. It joins an ever-increasing list of vendors that have warned sales will miss estimates this quarter, including Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Apple, Microsoft, Intel and AMD. ® Related Stories Cisco woe as HP's Fiorina joins board HP says US PC sales worse than expected HP parades Spring 2001 line-up PC vendor bender Sun and HP launch cost-cutting programs HP confident of double-digit growth in 2001
Linda Harrison, 12 Jan 2001

Borland Interbase backdoor exposed

A back door password has been hidden in Borland/Inprise's popular Interbase database software for at least seven years, potentially exposing tens of thousands of private databases at corporations and government agencies to unauthorized access and manipulation over the Internet, experts say. Analysts report that the account name 'politically' with the password 'correct' unlocks access to Interbase versions 4.0, 5.0 and 6.0 over the Net, and on any platform. Moreover, because Interbase has the ability to execute user-defined functions, the back door can be used to inject malicious code into a system, which could give an attacker administrative access to the computer itself, according to a Wednesday advisory from Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). "The back door account password cannot be changed using normal operational commands, nor can the account be deleted from existing vulnerable server," the CERT warning states. Jim Starkey, architect of the original, 1985 version of Interbase -- which did not contain a back door -- says hackers have already begun scanning the Internet for services on TCP port 3050, the default port for Interbase servers. California-based Borland did not return phone calls, but the company Web site acknowledges "a potential security loophole within the Interbase product." According to company press material, Interbase users include Nokia, MCI, Northern Telecom, Bear Stearns, the Money Store, the US Army, NASA, and Boeing. No malice Rather than reflecting the work of a disgruntled insider or saboteur, the secret password is a programmer's ill-advised solution to a software design problem, says Starkey, who has analysed the back door code. Until 1994, Interbase did not have its own access control mechanism -- the software was protected by the password scheme built into the underlying operating system. But with version 4.0, engineers set out to change that. "What they decided to do was to set up a special database on every system that contained all the account names and the encrypted passwords," says Starkey. That model created something of a chicken-and-egg problem: to authenticate a user, the system had to have access to the password database; but to access any database -- including the password database -- the user first had to be authenticated. The unknown programmer's solution was to hardcode a special password into the software itself -- a secret shared by the client and server. The back door solved the problem, but was a devastatingly bad move from a security standpoint, says Bruce Schneier, CTO of Counterpane and author of Secrets & Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World. "As long as nobody knows about this back door, it works. It's still secure," says Schneier. "But as soon as somebody finds out about it, everybody is immediately and irrevocably insecure." Open Source led to exposure Discovery became inevitable when Borland made Interbase open source last year, giving outsiders the chance to peer into its inner workings for the first time. German software developer Frank Schlottmann-Goedde spotted the hardcoded password in late December while working on the Firebird Project, a community open source project built on the Borland Interbase release. "We reacted with horror," says Starkey. "Everyone had a real good idea of how easy it was to exploit." Competing fixes are now available from Borland and the Firebird Project. "The thing that everybody was worried about is that the word would get out that there was a problem before we had a solution," says Starkey. "The words 'politically correct' show up about eighteen places throughout the code." The last back door to be reported in a major software release was in April, when the password 'wemilo' was found hardcoded into the small-business Internet shopping cart program Cart32, where it had gone undetected for five years. © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 12 Jan 2001

No hardware problem Nvidia says

Sources at Nvidia and a number of gaming sites are saying that there is no hardware problem with GeForce 2 cards, and that there is a fix for the glitch we wrote about yesterday, although not from Nvidia itself. Web site NV News, took time out to talk to The Whole Experience's Patrick Moynihan, who helped program the DMZG (Dagoth More Zoological Gardens) test on the Nvidia GeForce 2. He told NV News the problem is not with GeForce 2's texture compression, but is down to Radeon not providing support for foggy and hazy views in its graphics implementation. You can find our original story here. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Jan 2001

Vizzavi upgrade still not fixed

Vizzavi is still being plagued with technical problems three weeks after it embarked on a platform upgrade. Users have complained that they have been unable to sign in to the Euro portal causing some to consider quitting the service altogether. One comment in the uk.telecom.mobile newsgroup summed up users' experience: "Seems like some marketing geezer has conned Vodafone to ditch their perfectly running system for one that a bunch of wh**ker* [sic] have thrown together for a primary school project! It's up and down like a yo-yo, unreliable and shite content." A spokeswoman for Vizzavi admitted that the service had suffered technical problems and that such function - such as a mobile phone email alert system - had been deactivated until it worked properly. "We always knew there would be technical problems," she said. Vizzavi - the multi-platform, multi-access portal from Vivendi and Vodafone - was unable to say exactly when its service would be running properly. ® Related Stories Vizzavi bungles upgrade Vizzavi frogmarches Brit users to toe Euro line
Tim Richardson, 12 Jan 2001

Nvidia GeForce 2 DXTC bug exposed

In the last few months I have run many test and benchmarks on PC video cards. Although Voodoo 5 is now, unfortunately, passing into history, my attention was grabbed by two cards in particular: the GeForce 2 and ATI's Radeon, writes Fuad Abazovic. While many hardware sites and magazines have looked at these cards in some detail, Anandtech and a few other sites reported a problem with images of the sky in Quake III which posed some questions about DXTC (Direct X Texture Compression) on GeForce 2 cards. Nvidia is normally fast and effective in fixing bugs and the results of my own tests suggest that there is some hardware problem here which can't be solved merely by driver updates. [Sources within Nvidia and other hardware sites differ with this opinion here.] One test, in particular, looks completely different on the GeForce 2 and Radeon platforms, and again it is to do sky textures. The test, which is called the Dagoth More Zoological Gardens, was the first Transformation and Lightning test specifically designed for Nvidia. ATI's Radeon, which is as we all know is a T&L compatible card, produces a better image quality then the GeForce 2 on Nvidia's own test suite. A few days ago I managed to capture some screens, which demonstrate the problems. And the shots are pretty decent proof that the GeForce 2 cards dohave a problem with DirectX Texture compression. ®
Our correspondent, 12 Jan 2001

We know what Ginger is

It'll changed the world. It is stunning. Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos think it's revolutionary. Abook about it has been given $250,000. VCs are throwing money at it. But just what is Ginger? No one seems to know, and the press - IT ones in particular - have been going mental over it. What could this contraption from 49-year-old scientist Dean Kamen be? Dean is a top name for inventions and the like - he has over 100 patents and has invented a wide range of (mostly medical) innovations. He's a smart fella. What can it be? What can it be? Is it a hoax?, cry the cynics. Will it stop my hair falling out? Will it make my sad, pathetic existence better for a few minutes? Well, folks, we can tell you what Ginger is. It's a manifestation of the sick modern world where style is more important that substance, where perception is king, where people screw their neighbour to buy an overpriced bit of clothing with a particular name on and where the press report a story because other parts of the press have reported it and so it must be a story. It could also, possibly, be an interesting bit of technology. But we're not holding our breath and we don't care until we see it. And you shouldn't either. Call up your wife and tell her you love her. That's real. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jan 2001

Intel's involvement in the Xbox

Micron is cock-a-hoop about the contract it has blagged from Microsoft to stick its double data rate memory into the Xbox, but Intel is even happier because it is designing and will help build the beast. (Flextronics, a Singapore firm, is doing much of the actual bodywork, if you see what we mean.) You can see just how happy Micron is by clicking on this press release here, but it doesn't mention the dreaded Rambus word anywhere. The processor inside the XBox will, as we know, be a Pentium III, and that has little problem supporting synchronous types of memory, and is not long for this world anyway. The more Xboxes that Microsoft sells, the happier Intel will be, seeing as the PIII is entering dodo-land in the mainstream arena. There's Nvidia technology in there too, and some readers have asked whether Rambus will be pursuing claims on the evermore successful graphics firm. We can tell you, from a source deep within Nvidia in the US, that the answer to that question is: "Let them just try." Nvidia doesn't think Rambus technology is any great shakes, nor does it see why it should pay them any money for anything. Intel is committed, by a covenant, to supporting Rambus any which way it can, by promoting its technology to the gentlemen and gentlewomen of the press, and in other ways too. But it has had a singular difficulty in the past making Ramboid technology work with its chipsets. Its dead-duck system-on-a-chip Timna processor was originally slated to use Rambus memory, but Intel ran into big problems with that, and has also had singular difficulties with other chipsets implementing an RDRAM solution. It is, however, committed to using DDR memory itself with the Pentium 4 - although roadmaps we've seen suggest we'll see little sign of those until the end of this year. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Jan 2001

ATI exceeds expectations

ATI did a little better than its own predictions and analysts' expectations would have led us to believe when it released its Q1 2001 fiscals yesterday. The graphics chip company made a profit of $11.8 million or five cents a share, above the three cents a share Canadian analysts had anticipated and Wall Street's four cents a share. The quarter, which ended 30 November 2000, saw revenues reach $350.5 million. Both figures are well down on the year-ago quarter, which recorded revenues of $413.5 million and earnings of $54.5 million (25 cents a share). That's based on net income - factoring in one-off items, ATI lost $45 million (seven cents a share) in its most recently completed quarter, compared to profits of $53.6 million in Q1 2000. Q1 2001's biggest one-off item related to the company's purchase of ArtX. It blamed the fall in revenue on tougher competition - step forward, Nvidia - and a shift on the part of European OEMs to integrated graphics products rather than discrete add-in cards. Looking ahead, ATI warned that the current quarter, due to be completed at the end of February, will generate small revenues still, down to $300 million and, despite the $5 million the company shaved off its costs during Q1 and the three per more it expects to cut in Q2, it will only break even, after adjustments. ATI expects sales of $1.2-1.3 billion for 2001 as a whole, a little less than 2000's $1.4 billion and well under previous analyst predictions of $1.6 billion. How ATI performs over the next few quarters will depend on the state of the PC market and thus manufacturer's demand for its graphics parts. And with PC margins falling, vendors will be looking to spend less on components such as graphics chips. ATI is expected to rev-up its Radeon line during the year, and spring should see the launch of fresh, Radeon-based integrated graphics and North Bridge chip-sets plus system-on-a-chip parts, which should allow it to tackle the low-end PC market more effectively. ® Related Story Intel, ATI settle lawsuit with patent exchange
Tony Smith, 12 Jan 2001

Computacenter promises it will hit 2000 targets

Computacenter has calmed investors by giving analysts a soothing briefing yesterday and saying it would definitely hit 2000 pre-tax profit targets of £54 million. The firm's shares hit a four-week high on this. The stock is 75 per cent below its February peak. Chief exec Mike Norris said the company had not lost credibility with the City but it had lost confidence according to The Times. He added the business had enjoyed a solid December as IT spending perked up after Y2K. ®
Robert Blincoe, 12 Jan 2001

Gateway slashes workforce after poor results

PC manufacturer Gateway will lay off ten per cent of its workforce globally - some 3000 people - and announced fourth quarter results well below previous estimates. In a statement, Gateway blamed a slow down of demand for PCs and increased pricing pressures for its disappointing results Gateway reported a loss of $94.3 million, for the quarter ending 31 December. This included a previously announced $187 million pre-tax charge to earnings related primarily to a write-down on the company's technology investments, without which Gateway would have reported net income of $37.6 million. The firm recorded revenue of $2.37 billion for the quarter against the $2.64 billion expected by analysts. Gateway reported full-year 2000 profits of $315.9 million on revenues of $9.7 billion, a 28 per cent decrease from 1999. It will take a charge of $50 million in its first quarter to make the job cuts. Gateway's announcement followed a profit warning from Hewlett-Packard, which is also being affected by weak demand for PCs. "Softer sales have caused inventories of our competitors to swell, and have touched off an aggressive pricing environment that will have negative consequences for the PC sector for the next six months," said Jeff Weitzen, Gateway's president and chief executive. ® Related Stories PC vendor bender IT budgets not growing so fast, shock horror Gateway hit with shareholder lawsuit Gateway turns showrooms into PC supermarkets Half Gateway's profits come from software and services Gateway in PC price war gloom HP says US PC sales worse than expected
John Leyden, 12 Jan 2001

Head of titsup ISP hounded by angry customers

Power to the people!* Meet the modern-day Wolfie Smith: Mike Ashworth. Mike was a little incensed to find his ISP, IG Click, had gone titsup.com. Not only that but he is owed money and would like it back - as would hundreds of other customers. He was even more incensed when the company stopped taking phone calls and didn't reply to emails. So our enterprising Mr Ashworth found out who the sole director of the company was - one Mr Horgan - then he found out his home address (has to be given by law if you start up a company) and used an online telephone directory to find his home telephone number. Mike then posted this information to a news group concerning IG Click's collapse, so other concerned customers could find out first-hand what was going on. This useful service however soon degenerated into out-of-pocket customers making their views known to Mr Horgan while he was at home. Shocking. Mr Horgan was not impressed and would dearly like his former customers to stop reminding him of the ISP's collapse. To this end his solicitors have sent Mr Ashworth a threatening letter, explaining that he breaching the Human Rights Act - a piece of legislation intended to protect the little man. The letter advises that Mr Horgan will pursue for damages and an injunction against Mr Ashworth publishing details of his home address unless he takes them down pronto. This Mike has done, although it would be surprisingly easy for anyone else to find out the details and post them elsewhere. Let's hope this doesn't happen and poor Mr Horgan is left alone to deal with disappointment in his own way. The window cleaner just pointed out the irony of the Internet being used to hound Mr Horgan. Live by the Net, die by the Net. The letter was as follows: Dear Sir, I G Systems Limited We act on behalf of the Mr. and Mrs. Horgan. Mr. Horgan is a director of the above named company as you are undoubtedly aware. Our client has forwarded to us copies of various communications and e-mails of which, amongst others, you are the author. As a direct result of the activities and publications being made by you, particularly inciting others to make contact with our client at his private residence, you are causing both he and his family to be subjected to an enormous amount of abuse and that is causing them tremendous stress. In our view you are inciting others to submit these abusive letters and to inundate our client and his family with personal telephone calls and abusive material. Furthermore, as a result of your actions we are of the opinion that you are breaching a number of Articles brought into force by the Human Rights Act 1998. We must ask you to refrain from your activities immediately. Our Clients instructions are that he will not hesitate to take proceedings against you for damages and to seen an injunction to restrain you from further publication and we would hope that this would not prove necessary. Yours Faithfully, Austin, Ryder and Co * This phrase was famously uttered by Robert Lindsay as Wolfie Smith in top BBC comedy Citizen Smith, while standing outside Tooting Broadway tube station, south London (or was it Tooting Bec?). He was a fantasy revolutionary. ® Related Story Gordon Brown raises VAT on ADSL by 3.71%
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jan 2001

Govt to let minor crime be reported on the Net

Home Office Minister Charles Clarke has commissioned a Web site which will allow people to report minor crimes online. The statement was made in a written Commons answer yesterday. It's all part of a vision to deliver police services electronically, he said. "I believe that the public should be able to interact with their local force through a standard interface providing a wide range of services," he wrote. ® Related Stories Top cop wants crackdown on mobile phone mugging UK cop shops to be checked for pirated software Police fence stolen goods online
Robert Blincoe, 12 Jan 2001

Porn cartoon sackings fight to keep jobs

The ten employees fired at insurance company Royal & SunAlliance for forwarding "lewd" Simpsons cartoons are willing to take their case to court if an internal appeal doesn't reinstate them. The company stunned many when they decided that emailing the cartoons was a sackable offence. Firms have been making examples of various staff in the last few months by suspending those who had "abused" company IT systems (Royal & SunAlliance has also suspended another 77), but firing people for what is just a dirty cartoon is over the top. That's certainly what the sacked staff and their trade union - the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union (MSF) - believe. MSF representatives are currently involved in an internal appeal that is expected to end in the middle of next week, but if the company refuses to reinstate them at the end of it, a court battle is expected. More next week. ® Related Stories Royal & Sun Alliance sacks ten over obscene emails More email victims at Royal & SunAlliance
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jan 2001

Sony admits some PlayStation 2s ‘not up to standard’

Sony's desperate pre-Christmas attempt to meet demand for its PlayStation 2 console appears to have angered as many punters as it satisfied. In its rush to get consoles to buyers, Sony didn't pay sufficient attention to quality control. And, according to today's Sun and a report on the BBC's Weekend Watchdog programme tonight, rather a lot of buyers have ended up with duff machines. Before Christmas, we heard of problems with the PlayStation 2's video connections and numerous tales of faulty fans. Since then a number of console owners have complained that the machine scratches DVDs and game discs if they're left inside when the Off button is pressed. To that, says the Sun, add issues with disc tray failures, power problems, discs not being read correctly and dodgy game controllers. Sony received almost 2000 complaints on Christmas Day, the paper claims. The number of calls has since grown to 5000 as more PlayStation 2 buyers have come across faults with their systems. That said, plenty of them will be people who just didn't bothered to 'read the f**king manual', as BOFH might put it. Technical support lines are almost always snowed under over Christmas as PC-illiterate consumers struggle to get their new machines to print out thank-you letters to Aunt Agnes. That's certainly Sony's official line. "The small number of problems we have had indicate difficulties in setting up the machine," poacher-turned-gamekeeper Sony UK PR boss David Wilson (he used to be the journo in charge of tough-talking games magazine GameZone) told the paper. "We deny we have any major problems." How then to explain an internal Sony memo, leaked to the Sun? "We know a lot of our units are not up to consumer standards," the memo admits. To be fair, most new machines suffer more than their share of faults, but Sony does seem to have been the victim of its own hype, creating a demand it has had a very tough time satisfying. Better luck with the PlayStation 3, we say... ®
Tony Smith, 12 Jan 2001

Sony boss – Microsoft has lost it

Sony boss Nobuyki Idei believes that Microsoft doesn't know what its future business model should be, and will be overwhelmed by smaller and more nimble competitors. The depth of antipathy between the companies, and Idei's disdain for Gates, emerges in pre-publication excerpts from a new book on Microsoft. In candid remarks made to author Ken Auletta, and published in Auletta's book World War 3.0: Microsoft and its Enemies (Profile Books) president and co-CEO of Sony, Idei is quoted at saying: "Microsoft is very uncertain about its future business model... their future business model is totally in danger." He characterises Microsoft as an "OS dinosaur", unable to adapt to new thinking. "[Gates] mind set is very old. He would no longer be able to license Windows as he once had." Idei, who has known Gates twenty years, is damning about Gates lack of ideas: "He wrote a book about the road ahead, but it really is the road back." Small internet devices, piracy and free software projects are compared to "ants" who will threaten the software giant, says Idei. The Sony chief made the remarks to Auletta at a Sun Valley retreat for business chiefs and politicians last year, co-sponsored by News Corporation and investment banker Herb Allen. Gates and Idei meet each year, but their meeting last year was marked by Gates fears of the PlayStation 2 taking a pivotal role in households as an information appliance. Sony was offered, and rejected, Microsoft software in the PS2 says Idei. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jan 2001

Readers give us a kick in the Balkans

Microsoft hacked in the Balkans Mobile phone brings down Slovenian Plane Hello Slovenia - London Calling Well, is it or isn't it? Is Slovenia in the Balkans or is it in fact somewhere else entirely? Readers like Keith Meldrum were quick to point out our geographic and journalistic inadequacies: On Thursday your half arsed excuse for a so-called news site published an apology to the 1896 valuable readers you have in Slovenia for the huge slur of saying it is in the Balkans, then on Friday Drew Cullen (or you, whaddasitmattayourallthebloodysametome) put 'brown trousers in the balkans' above a story about a mobile phone on a plane in Slovenia! You people are a disgrace! You are all obviously in the pay of the alien reptiles David Icke has exclusively revealed are ruling the planet, heck you probably even do their laundry! You have the journalistic integrity of a syphilitic cockroach! I am disgusted! Thanks Keith - but it hardly helped solve the big question. Dr Ilias Prassas provided a bit more meat: I was surprised by the response of your Slovenian readers to your article. I was also surprised by your answer to it, namely your list of countries that belong to the Balkans. Certainly Romania was in the Balkans 20 years ago when I was tought Geography in Greece. Slovenia was a Balkan country at the time, as part of Yugoslavia. I gather that poor Slovenians decided that they had enough of us primitive Balkans and decided to return to their western European roots (as if this means something other than a geographical description!). One can spend a lot of time arguing about this. I just tried the online Encyclopaedia Britannica and it came up with the following (excerpt): Balkans: also called BALKAN PENINSULA, the easternmost of Europe's three great southern peninsulas and, collectively, the countries located there. For the purposes of this article, it comprises the states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Moldova. These states, containing more than 60 million people, occupy an area of 257,400 square miles (666,700 square kilometres). The region is bordered by Italy on the northwest, Austria and Hungary on the north, Ukraine on the north and northeast, and Greece and Turkey on the south. It is washed by the Adriatic Sea in the west, the Ionian Sea in the southwest, and the Black Sea in the east. In the north, clear geographic delimitation of the Balkans becomes difficult, because the Pannonian Basin of the Great Alfold (Great Hungarian Plain) extends from central Europe into parts of Croatia, Serbia, and Romania. To the south, Greece is primarily a Mediterranean country and therefore is not discussed in this article - although its northern regions of Epirus and Macedonia can be considered parts of the Balkans. PS Despite what the article claims I am sure that Greece is officially a Balkan country! That's the end of that then. Slovenia - you're going to get slapped in the Balkans whether you like it or not.
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

Reg in bed with reds?

Flame of the week - Linda Harrison is a commie Our Linda got well and truly roasted for her recent piece asking why Michael Dell had got share options. Our flamer found an ally in Spokey: While I deplore the tone of this week's flame, I must concur in general with the sentiments. I see a remarkable (and depressing) amount of anti-big-business sentiment expressed in the media. The current idiotic anti-globalisation sentiment seems to imply that without the "greed is good" mentality, life would naturally revert to some sort of bucolic idyll, where there would be a generous supply of soft drugs and easy living. Things would just happen naturally or become unnecessary. Work would become a thing of the past. The fact that we would have to eke out a miserable existence as rural farmers has not occurred to them. Personally, I cannot imagine a more depressing existence than not having the mental stimulation of my work, but maybe that's just me. As your flamer points out, there would be little progress were it not for corporates having a reason (profit) to make this progress. Some of this progress is "bad", some of it is "good". If the progress is "bad", there are mechanisms to oppose this (not buying it, voting against it, etc.) I also don't really see what, apart from his tone, makes him a bunker resident in Montana. Perhaps I'm one too, I just didn't realise it. Regarding the logic of the argument: if you attack "big, evil, greedy corporations", are you not implying that capitalism is evil and greedy, since these corporations tend to be a natural consequence of capitalism? Doesn't that make you a socialist/communist? Or did I miss something again? Spokey may not see what makes our flamer a bunker resident in Montana, but Dr David G Lovering thought he'd spotted it: Ah, yes! Mr Pederson's eloquence speaks volumes for his intellect and the educational/political system under who's wing he was hatched! Americans tend to be incapable of distinguishing communists from socialists and liberals; as for reading Plato... Enough, these kids aren't worth an email. Linda, it's time for you to get your cards on the table. Are you a gun-toting soldier of the dollar, or some pinko commie-loving liberal? Out with it woman!
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

Beware Greeks bearing Greeklish

Poor old John 'Lips' Leyden. No sooner has he recovered from being called a moron, than he's got the Greeks on to him. His piece Geeks garbling Greek, heirs to Aristotle complain provoked a flurry of Hellenic linguistic clarification. Dr Savas Parastatidis wasted no time in setting us straight on the whole issue: I just read your piece. I am not going to comment on the article's tone but rather I would like to clarify a couple of things. Greeklish is a term that has been used for more than a decade amongst computer people in Greece. In the non-Windows days, greek character support was not considered essential and, therefore, not provided. Character-based UNIX terminals would only support the US ASCII set. Users exchanging electronic messages had to devise a way of 'writing' in Greek with the characters that they had available. Hence, Greeklish was born. Greeklish is nothing more than an association of Greek characters to Latin-similar-looking-characters. Since I am sure you're unable to view Greek characters, I am similarly unable to demonstrate this to you. Greeklish is not another language. The word 'computer' does not become 'kompiuteraki'. Greeklish means that the Greek word for computer, which I can't write in this email, will be written as 'upologistns' using the Latin character set. The examples in your article are poor to say the least. I don't know what your sources are but, please, let me assure you that the examples are very wrong. If you got them from the document sent to the Greek government that your article talks about, then I would appreciate it if you could send me a link or a contact person. Indeed, there is a problem with the Greek language. For example, we have a very nice word for 'computer' but the younger generation seems to prefer the english word instead. I guess this is what the Greek intellectuals are worried about. Greeklish was a necessity during the last decade and continues to be in some cases even today. Not everyone has access to the Greek character set. For example, it is not possible to send an SMS text message from a web-based interface using Greek characters to a mobile phone. If you want more examples or there is something in the above that it is not clear, please do not hesitate to contact me. As it turned out, we didn't have to. A couple of days later, Doc Savas sent us more stuff, Greek characters included: Here are some examples. First, let me demonstrate what Greeklish is all about: The word 'computer' in Greek translates to 'υπολογιστής'. In Greeklish, this would be written 'upologistns' (according to one style) or 'ipologistis' according to another style. There are different mappings of Greek to Latin characters. It's a personal matter. In any case, it is just a way to write Greek words using Latin characters. Here's how it works. Some people prefer the phonetic approach while some others the visual approach (the last one is my choice). The phonetic approach attempts to simulate the sounds produced by putting the Latin characters together based on the way they are pronounced when read by a Greek rather than based on the spelling of the word being written. The visual approach attempts to maintain spelling so the Greeklish words are visually as close to their Greek equivalents as possible. Examples: - computer -> υπολογιστής -> ipologistis | upologistns - portable computer -> φορητός υπολογιστής -> foritos upologistis | forntos upologistns - message -> μήνυμα -> minima | mnvuma - printer -> εκτυπωτής -> ektipotis | ektupwtns - music -> μουσική -> mousiki | mousikn - singer -> τραγουδιστής -> tragoudistis | tragoudistns Now, your article does identify a problem with the Greek language, as I briefly mentioned in my last message. That is, some English words are being used in our day-to-day spoken language instead of their Greek equivalents. This is the problem the French had and this is what many in Greece are worried about. Instead of using the word 'υπολογιστής', many are using the word 'computer' or 'κομπιούτερ' as it is written in Greek. These words do not exist but rather they are generated. Other examples include: although 'σαρρωτής' means 'scanner' the word 'σκάνερ' is used although 'εκτυπώνω' means 'I print' the very bad verb 'πριντάρω' is used. The examples in your article: If we were to translate the word 'κομπιουτεράκι' (kompiouteraki) to English it would mean 'small computer'. However, the word 'κομπιουτεράκι' is used to describe a 'calculator' and not a 'laptop'. - 'Σερφάρω' indeed is the Greek slang verb for 'serf' but not just the web. - 'Φρικάρω' is again the Greek slang for 'to freak out'. These examples illustrate, to a rather small extent, the intrusion of the English language into the Greek slang and probably the Greek language. I hope the above clarifies things. Thanks for that. We are all suitably enlightened.
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

Oi, McCarthy – No!

Liz Hurley tries to sue domain name company Some people have suggested that Liz Hurley's a talentless strike-breaking clotheshorse. Fergus Gray isn't one of them: Your item on Liz Hurley is total shit. Can you explain to me why it is that people have the right to make money out of someone else's name but the person who did the work that gave the name it's value has no right to control it's use? Are you so empty headed as to believe that people with high public profiles should allow no nothing wankers to capitalize on their work? Your opinion would be radically different were it your name being put on work you never did so that some other blood sucking leech could trade on all that you had tried to achieve. Your opinions on people such as Liz Hurley should have nothing to do with the venal exploitation that is made of their image, what value would you have as a reporter without credibility to back up your work? As much as I enjoy the sniping that goes on at the Register this shitty piece has no place there. You're absolutely right Fergus. When we get our hands on the people behind kierenmcarthy.com - a second-rate piece of cybersquatting full of poor jokes about the b-list celebrities - well, we'll probably offer them a job. ®
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

Borland exposé ‘irresponsible’

Borland Interbase backdoor exposed Irresponsible, us? Absolutely, according to a letter Drew Cullen recently received from Ian Whitcombe: I have been an avid reader of your site for a while now and have always found it informative and professional. However, I was extremely shocked when reading your article on the Borland Interbase backdoor to see how irresponsible you have been by publishing, not only the back door itself, but also the port to scan on the Internet to take advantage of it. Whereas I accept that users of Interbase should be aware of this problem, could you not have written this article with slightly less technical detail? Clearly, this information could be gleaned from hacker sites or whatever, but do you have to make it so easy? Add this to the sensationalist and wholly irresponsible How to Hack Microsoft article recently and it appears that you are keen to stir up as much activity of this sort as possible. Is this deliberate so that you have more juicy hacking stories to report? So come on Mr Cullen, can we have the same stories with a little less damaging detail? Ian, I'd like to make the following points: The Borland piece comes from SecurityFocus.com, a US site with which we have a content-swapping agreement. SecurityFocus is an anti-hacking/pro-security site, which publishes lists of bugs (such as NTBugTraq). By all means consider How to hack Microsoft sensationalist.. the purpose of this article was to show our general readership how easily hackers can, through social engineering and other relatively simple means, get past the systems of large/sophisticated guides. It certainly wasn't a hacker's manual - although there are plenty of those around on the Net. Finally, your suggestion that we are engineering hacker activity to write stories is taking a conspiracy theory a little too far, don't you think? Drew
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

How to write a Flame of the Week

We occasionally see new trends in flames sent to Vulture Central. For the first-half of 2001, we've seen people trying to become Flame of the Week - often telling us about in the same email. Rarely do these "flames" make it past even the most cursory glance, although some creative efforts will find their way into Readers' Letters. This doesn't stop 'em coming though.
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jan 2001

Reader boycotts Sun Alliance

Royal & Sun Alliance sacks ten over obscene emails It looks like Royal & Sun Alliance has gone too far in sacking ten of its employees for circulating smutty Simpsons cartoon. Not only has the company lost some staff, it's also lost a potential customer in Paul Barclay: I can't believe these poor people have lost their jobs over such a trivial matter. I for one will never use Sun Alliance as they have demonstrated they are a company with small minded individuals in high places. I hope others will see it this way and boycott companies who victimise their employees in this way. To the barricades comrades!
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

‘Xmas’ is offensive, Christian claims

Did you know that 'Xmas' was offensive to some Christians? Granted it does look a little ugly, but it comes in handy for headlines, where space is at a premium. Our anonymous correspondent says we should look to the coveted AP style guide, which we have no intention of doing, as we covet neither this guide nor our neighbour's ass. With regard to your article titled "Dabs.com claims record Xmas": As a Christian it disturbs me that you and/or The Register finds it OK to replace "Christ" in Christmas with an ' X'. Granted your publication may wish to save space in its ads but this would be a poor excuse for this 'inexcusable' blunder. In addition, The Register should know better as even the coveted AP style guide would tell you "Never abbreviate Christmas to Xmas". I hope you, and your organization take this as a friendly reminder that your publications are read by many, several of whom I'm sure are Christians who would not appreciate this blatant disregard and disrespect (whether unintentional or otherwise) for their beliefs and/or feelings on the meaning/purpose of Christmas. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this matter. What's more, we got on the blower to the Church of England press office. A very nice man there told us that Xmas is not considered blasphemous or offensive, although the CofE doesn't have an official line on it. It is, he noted, a matter of personal opinion.
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

Flames: Example from a veteran

If you're thinking of submitting a flame, and have been reading Kieren McCarthy's essential guide, you might like to see a recent example from Michelle Mulqueen, a right regular little ranter. She doesn't like what we have to say about titsup, sorry, breathe.com: hahahahahahaha so yet again you are proven to be a complete tit in your assumption of breathe it hasn't failed otherwise it wouldn't of been bought and yet you still try you best to put them down which means in your assumption as usual you are wrong so from now on i am going to enjoy reading you web sight now knowing that you are only play press and wouldn't now how to right a press report if we paid ya get a life get a job and maybe you will one day if you are lucky become a modern urbanist you seem to strive to take the piss offbut as usual your remarks like your press reports are shit thank you very much for your very interesting report i will be very happy to read your next hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha finally now i know what my tax went for to pay for tits like yourself to learn rubbish in school Yeah right, nice one Michelle. That really told us. Yawn.
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

Fun ways to void your warranty

Icrontic want to show you how to separate the BIOS chip from a KT7. Why would you want to do this you may ask? Well, as with all such things, because you can would feature heavily in the list of reasons, and all in the name of cooling, warranties be damned. Go here for the rest. Nike and the hardware roundup. Not the most obvious of bedfellows, but then in a break from making shoes Nike has put together an MP3 player, and GamersDepot has reviewed it. [H]ardOCP gets out its reviewer's hat and takes a look under the bonnet of the KT133A. All your questions answered, in true Kyle Style. Hands up who else thinks Dan (of Dansdata) is totally mad? (In a good way, of course.) Sane or otherwise, he's reviewed the very pretty Lian Li PC-31aluminium PC case. OK so it's aesthetically pleasing but is it worth the wedge of cash it costs? Go read the review to find out. And finally... it has been said that a healthy society is one able to laugh at itself. Are you all a bunch of crazed loonies, or can you take a poke in the ribs without boo hoo-ing? Here is a test of the health of the overclocking fans, the ultimate overclocker's processor. Well, it made us laugh. ® Still hungry for hardware? Check out our archives
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jan 2001

California cuppa crisis

California power crisis send Intel Bunnypeople east "As California Goes Dark, boiling a kettle takes even longer for our US readers..." Naturally, they weren't going to let it go at that. If you ever wanted to know about watts, amps and kettles, the Reg can deliver. John starts thre ball rolling with: When it comes to boiling your kettle, power is power in other words watts are the same here as there. Lets say your kettle takes 1000 watts to boil, at your voltage of 240 volts you would require 4.17 amps of current to boil. If you were in the U.S. at 120 volts, then it would be 8.33 amps to boil, so as you can see we have the same power as you just more amps. This does cause us to have to use bigger wires than you, but you know everything is bigger over here anyway. John, hasn't anyone ever told you that size doesn't matter? David Levi concedes defeat on the kettle selection: You lost me here. First, stove burners (eyes) in the USA run at 240 volts. How is that worse than European 220 volts? Secondly, the rate of heat is a result of amperage, not voltage, so what does that have to do with the voltage? As for the kettle selection, yeah, you're screwed here. And Bert Douglas reckons that variety is the spice of life: Large commercial electric customers, like Intel, can and do get any voltage that they want. All other things being equal, it should take about 4 times as long to boil a typical household electric kettle. Power is proportional to the square of the voltage. Electric kettles are not very popular here. There are other solutions. If things were the same everywhere in the world then life would be less interesting. Actually, Bert, if things were the same then we'd be able to get a decent cup of tea anywhere in the world. I reckon it's your 'other solutions' which leads to the lukewarm travesty we get served Stateside.
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

Fat pipe straddles pond

Cable & Wireless and Alcatel are joining forces to build a transatlantic IP cable, nicknamed Apollo, to meet the rising demand for bandwidth. The cable will stretch 13,000km under the big pond. It will run in two paths, according to C&W. Each leg will contain four fibre pairs capable of a minimum of 3.2Tbps. On this side the cable will terminate in Cornwall and Brittany, stretching to Long Island and New Jersey in the US. It is expected to be in service by the summer, 2002. A quarter of the capacity has already been booked: C&W says it has already received a letter of intent from an unnamed US company. Cable & Wireless is putting up £300 million worth of financing, with the rest coming from Alcatel. The companies said that analysts predict demand for bandwidth will grow at around 100 per cent a year as the online world continues to grow. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jan 2001

Readers' letters Reg style wins plaudits

We can't write for toffee. It hurts, it really does. You spend years in expensive private schools, reading great works of literature, honing your linguistic skills, and then some nutter takes a hatchet to your painstakingly developed style. Some of our readers, however, show that they are people of linguistic sophistication. Guy Brush can pop in for a sherry anytime: Being an avid Australian reader, I couldn't help but notice the reader articles you've published with the topic of the Reg's somewhat more casual text styles. Being Australian, I'm in the position that I can fluently read and understand both American and British. I feel that the letters you are recieving are perhaps a trifle ignorant and unrewarding for the hard work and excellent quality of the news services y'all provide. In my experience the American people are better off staying on their own geocentric little country, if they are offended so easily by any suggestion that "American" is not pure English. I would also suggest that any American reading The Reg would probably just be some kind of fluke and I would make moves to perhaps arrange for his ISP to siteblock the UK. Just to be on the safe side. God bless the Queen. Meanwhile, Brian E. Hammett from across the pond weighs in with: IMO, the people who wrote in complaining are a bunch of idiots, who want everyone to lead them around by their bootstrings their whole life. These idiots want everything spelled-out so their small-un-educated brains have a chance to comprehend a sliver of the meaning that is there. I say keep The Register just like it is now. Keep up the good work. Thanks for keeping me up-to-date. Love the UK flavor, for a refreshing change from boring sites. And with that, we're off to the old rub-a-dub for a couple of celebratory Don Revies. The best of the rest Readers give us a kick in the Balkans The geographical controversy rages Reg in bed with Reds? What are Linda Harrison's true colours? Beware Greeks bearing Greeklish John Leyden gets all tongue-tied Oy, McCarthy - No! Reader gets surly over Hurley burly Borland expose 'irresponsible' And as for hacking Microsoft... Reader boycotts Sun Alliance Obscene email sackings provoke wrath 'Xmas' is offensive, Christian claims But the Church of England says not Flames: Example from a veteran Mad Michelle a beacon of reason California cuppa crisis A right pot boiler CPRM kicked into touch? Up yours Hollywood!
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2001

Class action lawsuit filed against VA Linux

A class action lawsuit has been launched against VA Linux on behalf of shareholders who feel they were deceived by the company during its initial public offering (IPO) last year. The lawsuit, which also names the lead underwriter of the flotation Credit Suisse First Boston and VA Linux executives including Larry Augustin and Todd Schull, contends that VA Linux failed to reveal in its prospectus that shares were promised during the offering to investors who agreed to buy more shares later at predetermined prices in after hours trading. The legal action follows news that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is in the process of investigating whether investors in initial public offerings, including VA Linux's, paid inflated commissions on other trades to underwriters in return for preferential share allocations during 'hot' IPOs. As previously reported, regulators are understood to have already sought information from hedge funds and most major Wall Street securities firms as part of the enquiry, which is believed to go far wider than just VA Linux. Investigators, who are not commenting on the inquiry, are trying to establish a pattern of big allocations in much-anticipated offerings followed by large trades in other stocks. 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 class action lawsuit, filed by New York law firm of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, argues this rise was due to undisclosed tie-ins, "which locked in demand for Linux shares in the after-market at levels well above the offering price." A copy of the complaint can be viewed on Milberg Weiss' website here. One interesting piece of information to come out of the lawsuit is that the SEC is also looking at the IPOs of Ariba and United Parcel Service in connection with its probe. We await developments with interest. ® 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
John Leyden, 12 Jan 2001

Superman soldier suits by 2010

The US military is developing a powered exoskeleton that will enable its soldiers to walk further and lift heavier weapons than an un-suited human could. The project is part of a $50 million research program into ways to improve speed strength and stamina of the soldiers, according to the BBC. Project co-ordinater, Dr Ephrahim Garcia, said that the demands of the project were formidable. He said that much of the initial work to prove concepts rather than to develop products. "The controls, the power requirements, the human interface to the machine are all things that we do not know if we can do yet," he said, describing it as a "huge challenge" The suits are expected to be ready for testing within the decade. The news will, no doubt, be heartening for Kevin "Captain Cyborg" Warwick. Surely this is yet another step closer to the Terminator style apocalypse he seems convinced we face. ® Related Links The whole story on the BBC.
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jan 2001

Spammer wrecks UUNet email service

UUNet customers have been left stranded without access to their email for the last 36 hours after the outfit took a "very big hit" from spammers earlier this week. Users of MSN, Pipex, and Gateway's ISP plus some corporate customers, among others, have been hit by the incident. According to Richard Woods of UUNet in Cambridge, it could be Monday before the whole system is back to normal. The massive influx of spam occurred on Wednesday night and into Thursday. Engineers at UUNet have identified the source of the unsolicited commercial email and can confirm that the spamming has now stopped. Woods reassured The Register that the material was not "obscene or objectionable". In a statement issued tonight UUNet explained: "The Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (UCE) mail has impacted upon mail queuing systems and is only allowing small amounts to reach customers' mail boxes. "Meanwhile the incoming new mail is stored awaiting delivery and cannot be sorted until our engineers have individually removed the UCE mail thus freeing space for new mail and the sorting process to be completed. "UUNet regrets the inconvenience and advises customers who are aware of urgent incoming mail that has not arrived to contact the sender and make alternative arrangements." ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Jan 2001

Microsoft up to its old tricks

Microsoft is a loveable, caring company and would never try to sabotage its competitors (ignore that Judge Jackson - he's just bitter). Unless of course the company owns the market-leading product in a market MS has just entered. What are we talking about? PlayStation 2. The Sun ran a story on its front page this morning about loads of PlayStation 2s going wrong. It's also going to be on that god-awful, researched-while-on-the-toilet TV programme Watchdog tonight. We covered it too. It's not actually that big a problem - 5,000 complaints comes out to about three per cent of consoles sold. But it's still a story. Microsoft obviously thought so. Even though the bleedin' heavy Xbox won't be out in Europe until the start of next year, any negative publicity against PlayStation would be useful. Perhaps that's why it has been calling journalists all day, making sure they saw the story. Just maybe. ® Related Story Sony admits some PlayStation 2s 'not up to standard' And so Xbox is 'launched'
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jan 2001

The solution to RIP, email sackings and Big Brother

The last six months have been a terrible time for Internet users in the UK. The RIP Act is obviously the worst of it - the government has given itself almost unbelievable powers of access to people's communication and then gone out of its way to make it as non-answerable to the public as possible. Guidelines for using RIP still haven't appeared - the laws are there of course - and this has sparked another serious problem. The battle between employers and employees over what each is entitled to look at or withhold. Bosses reckon they should access to everything their staff do in company hours, unsurprisingly. Unsurprisingly, staff see this as Big Brother in the workplace. Besides aren't people entitled to privacy at work or did they sell their soul with their salary? Then of course there's the Human Rights Act, which guarantees privacy to every individual. How does this fit in with the other new laws? And then there's the recent mess with corporate email and porn. The Claire Swire case justified the fears of the paranoid and caused a large number of companies to suspend staff for "abusing" email systems to bring home to people that they must be careful. It came to a head when Royal & SunAlliance actually fired staff for a smutty cartoon. So far, no one has ventured a solution to all this. And if we're not mistaken, shouting and moaning rarely resolve complex problems. And so The Register would like to offer its own pub-inspired solution to all this. It's not going to be perfect, but it's a damn sight better than taking everything to the courts and firing staff. The fundamental aspect of this solution is very simple: you give staff two email accounts. Not that complicated with modern technology and the cost of it is not that great and will be easily made up by not firing/hiring staff, goodwill to staff etc etc. Two email servers. Two accounts. One corporate, one private. All corporate matters have to go through the corporate account. All private matters through the private account. The corporate account is monitored in its entirety - every word can be read if so wished. Any abuse of it is punishable. The private account can be monitored only for traffic. Staff are warned if their use of it is excessive. The two accounts are clear from the address. Something like kieren.mccarthy@personal.theregister.co.uk. In this way it should be legally safe and people will grasp that the email simply comes from a person that happens to work at that company. Bosses get control over their business, staff get their privacy. The government is pressured by business to adopt an approach with RIP that is compatible with the two-account system. Big downloads? Covered under traffic monitoring. Smutty cartoons? None of the company's bloody business to be honest. Why should it be? Well, whaddaya reckon? Let me know. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jan 2001

Prostitutes used to tempt IT staff into jobs

What would sway you to take a job? Pay? Benefits? The challenge? A good hard shag from a prostitute? If the latter tops your list of criteria for accepting a new job you could be luck. We've had a reader write in suggesting hookers are being used by recruitment agencies to secure they get the right man for the job. (I know it could be tried on a woman, but lets face it, the tactic is more likely to work on blokes.) The Reg reader quit his job as NT BOFH with a City firm just before Christmas. He sent out a few CVs to UK based recruitment agencies saying he wasn't going back to the square mile under any circumstances. One of them, though, was determined to tempt him back. So on Tuesday 9 January at 10.45pm a woman rang his doorbell. In his own words "the young lady left me in no doubt as to where she was from, what she was offering and why. I had to ring my wife to persuade the coquette to leave my hallway." The agency denied sending over the Honky Tonk Angel (as Cliff Richard didn’t sing), but pointed out our man had 'apparently' enjoyed a lap dancing night out they'd taken him on. The story reminds me of a man who used to head up sales for a UK computer reseller in the 80s and early 90s. He kept a prostitute on the payroll, not to swing deals with clients, but as a performance bonus for his sales team. He proudly boasted he had never lost a salesman he wanted to keep. He's now looking after customer relationships for another big UK IT business, and is probably very good at it. Let us know if you've experienced any unorthodox recruitment incentives. But please don't send us anything that looks like a substandard readers letter from a porn mag. ®
Robert Blincoe, 12 Jan 2001

MS: ‘you need to buy Whistler because Win-9x sucks’

When MS moved from DOS to Windows, they did indeed roll out a new operating system (admittedly dependent on DOS, but different enough). Now they're trying it again; but as we've pointed out many times, the only thing 'new' about Win-9x's replacement, Whistler, is that it might be a Windows consumer OS which actually works as advertised. Nevertheless, the company is betting on big success in the consumer market. How can MS feed its insatiable appetite for revenue flow with the rollout of an improved older system which it ought to have made to work properly in the first place? Or, simply put, how can MS mass-market a Windows-patch for revenue-soothing megabucks? As our John Lettice wisely points out, the company begins by insisting against all common sense that Whistler, despite appearances, is actually a whole new OS. Say it often enough, and people might start to believe it. But the mere fact of being 'new' really isn't good enough to sell it in vast quantities. Sure, the OEMs will put it on new boxes, but the company still has to convince existing 9x users to buy into it as well. The next logical step is to boost consumer desire with a complimentary spin campaign, subtly hinting at the previous product's inferiority and hence setting up a 'need' for its replacement. Logical, yes, but tricky. Thus we were much amused when MS Consumer Division Veep Rick Belluzzo went on the record last week with in-house flacks, attempting to walk a very fine line between establishing need for Whistler and slagging Win-9x. "2001 will be a big year for consumers with the launch of a new version of the Windows operating system, code-named 'Whistler,'" Belluzzo says. So now we know; the beast has decided to declare it neither an upgrade nor a new OS. It's a 'new version,' occupying a twilight zone between the two points, and thus offering maximum marketing spin-potential without actually lying. "Whistler will be significant because it will bring consumers the rock-solid reliability of today's Windows 2000 operating system that businesses are using, and it will provide a number of new advancements. All of these changes will converge this year to deliver incredible new experiences for consumers." So there we have the second bit; 'rock-solid reliability,' which 9x users clearly haven't been enjoying, is going to form the basis of MS' 'you-need-Whistler' pitch. The question is whether MS is treading the line with skill, or officially admitting in public that 9x sucks, as many current users believe it does enthusiastically. If the latter, then we have to wonder if consumers will be willing to lay out good money to see something they've already bought fixed properly. Some of the more cynical among us might go so far as to imagine that they deserve a free Whistler upgrade as compensation for having put up with 9x and it's officially-confessed lack of 'rock-solid stability' for several years, and perhaps even an apology for taking so long to get it right. ®
Thomas C Greene, 12 Jan 2001

MS swats 38 antitrust suits

Microsoft today escaped forking out wads of cash when a US judge dismissed damage claims against it in 38 class-action antitrust suits. US District Judge J Frederick Motz said Microsoft could not be sued by consumers who did not buy Windows operating systems directly from the software giant. He rejected arguments that punters who had bought Windows installed on computers or through retailers were direct purchasers because the licenses came from Microsoft. The decision ditches the biggest block of consumer lawsuits against the software giant. "Although the (licensing agreement) may establish a direct relationship between Microsoft and the consumer, that relationship is not sufficient to make the consumer a 'direct purchaser'," Motz ruled, Bloomberg reports. Today's move harks back to a 1977 Supreme Court ruling regarding a case called the Illinois Brick. It was decided at the time that buyers could not claim damages for overcharges by antitrust violators unless they bought the product directly from the manufacturer. Since then, the law has changed in 15 States to let buyers claim against indirect purchases. Motz's ruling does not affect 25 other class action lawsuits filed against Microsoft in states that allow claims by indirect buyers. Meanwhile, the DOJ and 19 states which brought the anti-trust case against Microsoft today urged an appeals court to uphold the earlier decision that the company should be split in two. Two days of oral argument on the appeal are scheduled for February 26 and 27. ® Related Stories Microsoft up to its old tricks Sony boss: Microsoft has lost it MS slates Q3 for MacOS X Office MS anti-trust appeal looms How Dubya can spring MS from DOJ rap Microsoft race discrimination suit attracts more plaintiffs
Linda Harrison, 12 Jan 2001

Tech pioneer William Hewlett dead at 87

One of the earliest pioneers of what today is called the New Economy, Hewlett-Packard co-founder William Hewlett, died in his sleep of natural causes Friday at the age of 87.
Thomas C Greene, 12 Jan 2001

Kenneth Starr joins anti-Microsoft forces

Famously tight-lipped former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr has joined an anti-Redmond lobby group on the the day that the US Department of Justice defended Judge Jackson's indiscreet post-trial comments about Microsoft. The legal briefing (PDF format) filed by the combined DoJ plus States prosecution team spends much of its 188 pages rebutting Microsoft's own rebuttal. It's familiar stuff: claiming that Microsoft's defence quotes selectively from trial exhibits, although Boies has admitted that prosecution exhibits are also selective (albeit representative of the company's behaviour), he says. The filing also wants to cast out non-trial evidence Microsoft has dragged into recent filings. The filing addresses public comments Jackson has made since the final ruling which - Microsoft says - show bias on the judge's part. But contrary to conventional legal punditry, Microsoft may have a hard time proving that the exasperated judge's remarks constitute grounds for recusal. It cites the Supreme Court judgement that "opinions formed by the judge on the basis of facts introduced or events in the course of current proceedings... do not constitute a basis for a bias or partiality motion unless they display a deep-seated favoratism or antagonism that would make fair judgement impossible." The DoJ produces Jackson's comments that he was "full of admiration" for Microsoft, and found it "innovative and admirable" in many ways. In response to Microsoft's argument that the post-trial comments breach the Judges Code, the DoJ responds that the code shouldn't apply when a case is over, and at the appellate phase. According to Reuters, anti-Microsoft lobby ProComp has enlisted Kenneth Starr to help write a brief in support of the DoJ prosecution. Originally the Whitewater prosecutor, Starr expanded his job remit to include the Monica Lewinsky scandal. If credibility with the incoming Bush administration is what ProComp need, Starr might be the man. Dubya's choice for Attorney General John Ashcroft - the man likely to assume responsibility for the Government prosecution - leant support and office space to the Starr team. But if rectitude and discretion are required. Ken's an odd choice. According to the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, Starr originally intended his notorious, explicit eponymous report on the Lewinsky scandal for private distribution to key members of Congress. But it was then distributed on the Internet, and was being read within a couple of hours by Chelsea Clinton at the White House, and is credited with turning public support behind the old scoundrel. Recent trial stories With friends like these... MS amici file their briefs MS denies everything in Trial II bid MS appeal: judge 'whopped us upside the head' Me and my big mouth... 'They could kick me off the case,' says MS trial judge Breakup remedy was Microsoft's own fault, says trial judge MS slams judge in Supreme Court filing
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jan 2001

US files MS antitrust brief

The US government has filed its rebuttal to Microsoft's November brief seeking an appeal of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's intolerable antitrust ruling. In it the government, predictably, contradicts most of Redmond's equally predictable complaints. For one, the government flatly denies one of Microsoft's most crucial assertions, specifically that Judge Jackson "whopped them upside the head" at trial, and that he has shown equally unconscionable bias against the company in subsequent public comments. The US maintains that it isn't really necessary for a judge to be a doll-eyed Microsoft evangelist in order to run a trial fairly. His colourful comments, therefore, "provide no grounds for inferring bias or partiality," the DoJ says. The 188-page brief reaffirms in detail the government's contentions that MS has monopolies in both the browser and OS markets; that its dealings with Netscape were despicable; and that Judge Jackson's findings of law are indeed valid and unassailable in spite of much company legal and PR screed to the contrary. Many are wondering if the appeal will get fair treatment in court once the DoJ reins are handed over to Prez-elect Dubya's controversial pick for US Attorney General, John Ashcroft. Undoubtedly Ashcroft, who will ultimately be responsible for pressing the government's case at trial, is going to be grilled on it during his confirmation hearing with the US Senate, scheduled for Tuesday. ®
Thomas C Greene, 12 Jan 2001