23rd > January > 2001 Archive

DEA agent charged with selling citizens' data

A twelve-year veteran of the of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court in Los Angeles to charges of illegally selling sensitive information about private citizens pulled from federal and state law enforcement computers. DEA Special Agent Emilio Calatayud is charged in an eleven count indictment with wire fraud, bribery, and violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for allegedly selling "criminal history and law enforcement information" to private investigations firm Triple Check Investigative Services in Los Angeles. His trial is scheduled for 13 March. According to prosecutors, the 34-year-old Calatayud peddled data for six years beginning in 1993, supplementing his government paycheck by anywhere from $1,080 to $8,500 in cash each year. The indictment charges that, in all, Calatayud earned at least $22,580 with his computer access, at a rate of between $60 and $80 per target. By those figures, Calatayud would have run queries on approximately 300 - 400 people who were being investigated by Triple Check -- though presumably not all of those people had records to be found. The purloined data allegedly came from three law enforcement computers to which Calatayud had otherwise lawful access: the FBI's National Crime Information Centre (NCIC), which maintains nationwide records on arrest histories, convictions and warrants; the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS), a state network that gives agents access to California motor vehicle records, rap sheets and fingerprints; and a DEA database called the Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Information System (NADDIS). The NADDIS computer, located in Rockville, Maryland, is described by a Justice Department Web page as a repository of information on "subjects of interest" to the DEA, "consisting of over 3,500,000 individuals, businesses, vessels and selected airfields." Calatayud has been suspended with pay since August 1999, when he fell under the joint DEA, FBI and Justice Department investigation that ultimately lead to his arrest earlier this month. He is now free on $100,000 bail, and his DEA salary has been suspended. Triple Check's owner could not be reached for comment. The company was not charged in the indictment. Calatayud's attorney, Douglas E. McCann, did not immediately return a phone call Monday. "The sale of confidential information by a member of a law enforcement agency jeopardizes the viability of criminal investigations, threatens the safety of members of the public and undermines the integrity of our entire law enforcement community," said United States Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement. "The proper response to such an abuse of the public trust is an aggressive prosecution." If the indictment proves accurate, the case highlights the risks posed by the increasingly large number of government databases that house information on individuals, and are widely accessible with minimal security, says ACLU associate director Barry Steinhardt. "There's corruption at all levels of government," says Steinhardt. "The more aggregate and searchable a database is, the greater the likelihood that it'll be used, both in authorized ways, and in unauthorized ways that may be criminal." © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 23 Jan 2001

Texas Instruments misses Q4 targets

Chipmaker Texas Instruments today recorded profit up 22 per cent for the fourth quarter, but missed Wall Street targets. The Dallas-based company, which makes chips for mobile phones, saw net income of $549 million, compared to $448 million for the same period the previous year. But earnings dipped seven per cent from the third quarter of 2000. Earnings were 31 cents per share - up on last year's 25 cents, but below the forecasted 33 cents. It also said it expected sales to drop in the first quarter. Revenue for Q4 was $3.03 billion, up 15 per cent on the previous year, but three per cent down sequentially. Semiconductor sales accounted for $2.6 billion, up 18 per cent on the previous year's Q4. "TI expects its revenue to decline about 10 percent sequentially in the first quarter as semiconductor customers continue to work through excess inventory during this seasonally slower period," the company said in a statement. It added that "the weakening world economy" prevented it from forecasting market conditions for the rest of the year. ® Related Stories Hi-tech titans meet with Dubya Tosh to mass produce video chips for mobiles Chip sales to grow by ten per cent in 2001 - Motorola Via gulps down sales and asks for more
Linda Harrison, 23 Jan 2001

RedHotAnt claims police raid ‘rash’

RedHotAnt has criticised the raid on its premises by police and trading standards officials last Friday as "rash". The ISP made the claim in a statement published on its Web site. It reckons it has done nothing wrong and that any investigation into its business affairs will draw a blank. "We feel confident that the authorities will find that we have acted and will continue to act in a moral fashion towards our subscribers in either un-suspending the un-metered service or providing a refund package," read the statement from MD Kevin Wall. The ISP blames BT for the delayed roll-out of the wholesale unmetered Net access product, FRIACO, and claims this dawdling prompted the company's financial backers to withdraw support. But senior RHA staff are currently in the US trying to "reinstate the un-metered service and/or to provide refunds for as many users as possible". And in a bid to win the sympathy vote, RedHotAnt says it won't be "beaten by the establishment trying to crush a small player in the market trying to take on the 'Big Boys'". Furthermore, the ISP said it has "already started to accept refund applications for subscribers who joined in December 2000 and we are working to increase this time frame even further back into last year". It makes no mention of actually paying anything out. In the statement, Wall said: "On Friday 19th January 2001 Kent County Council Trading Standards Officers came to our offices and removed various paperwork and computer systems. This was an attempt to ascertain if RedHotAnt had committed any offences since March 2000 in providing our recently suspended un-metered access products. "Unfortunately, due to the authorities "rash" handling and lack of communication with us we have had to keep them informed every step of the way." The Register tried to "communicate" with RHA but no one returned our emails or phone calls. ® Related Stories Police raid RedHotAnt offices RedHotAnt refuses to talk to Trading Standards
Tim Richardson, 23 Jan 2001

AltaVista confirms job losses in Europe

AltaVista has confirmed it has made job cuts in Europe although nowhere near the scale of the redundancies announced last week in the US. The dotcom would not say how many jobs would be lost outside AltaVista's HQ in Palo Alto. AltaVista Inc spokesman David Emanuel told The Registe: "The reduction was across the board in terms of positions and geography. "While the majority was in Palo Alto, there will be a minimal effect in Europe and other US cities [Europe is a US city? - Ed.] in which we have offices. We are not providing any further breakout." According to Emanuel, Europe is still considered a growth region. Furthermore, expansion in Europe has not grown at the same rate as the US. The conclusion from this is that there is little manoeuvrability for job cuts. But until AltaVista comes clean and says exactly how many people go the chop, we just won't know. Last week, AltaVista announced it was to shed a quarter of its workforce - some 200 jobs - in a move which would "primarily" affect employees at AltaVista's headquarters in Palo Alto, California. No one who works for AltaVista UK is expected to lose their jobs as part of the restructuring. ® Related Stories UK spared AltaVista blood bath AltaVista slashes 200 jobs
Tim Richardson, 23 Jan 2001

VIA debuts 700MHz ‘Samuel’ Cyrix III

VIA quietly rolled out a 700MHz Cyrix III processor late last week - the last chip to use the company's Samuel design before the introduction of Samuel II. Like previous Cyrix III parts, the 700MHz chip has 128KB of built-in L1 cache and supports frontside bus speeds of 66, 100 and 133MHz. It also runs Intel MMX and AMD 3D Now! instructions, and uses a Socket 370-compatible connection. The 700MHz part costs around $62 in units of 100. Samuel II is set to debut in March, kicking off at 750MHz. It also contains an on-die L2 cache - 64KB in the first production chip, which is expected to be fabbed at .15 micron. Samuel II's C5B core will soon be joined by its ultimate successor, C5C, which will take the chip to 800MHz and then on to 1GHz and beyond. Samuel two-and-a-bit is due sometime in Q3, and is expected to move quickly to .13 micron. And it looks like the company is eyeing the mobile market. While nothing has been announced, Samuel II's .15 micron process should cut the chip's power consumption and heat output. Indeed, Dan Havey, VIA's head of marketing in the US, cited by ZDNET US, recently suggested that the company was investigating the new packaging methods needed to ship the chip as a mobile part. That's by no means conclusive, but the evolution of Samuel II does suggest that VIA has the opportunity to join Intel, AMD and Transmeta if it reckons there's room for it in the mobile x86 market. ® Related Stories Via intros retail Cyrix III box VIA centres sights on .13 micron Samuel II VIA unpacks 650, 667MHz Cyrix III CPUs
Tony Smith, 23 Jan 2001

Stepstone sacks 40

StepStone UK, the online career portal, is to shed 40 staff as part of cost-cutting exercise. Sixteen people will get the boot as the production department is outsourced to India. Twenty-four sales staff will be looking for work now that Stepstone has closed its temporary offices in Birmingham and Milton Keynes. Now, it's clear there are some obvious gags here about a recruitment outfit sacking staff and how they can now make use of Stepstone's services, but El Reg would rather not go down that route. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Jan 2001

SlowCoMo launches Java phones

The first mass market Java phones will finally launch on Saturday in Japan. NTT DoCoMo's i503 iMode handsets will cost between ¥20,000 ($170.40) and ¥30,000 ($255.60). It's a landmark of sorts, representing as it does a new, open-ish mobile Internet platform, and it will be particularly closely watched outside Japan now that DoCoMo has taken steps into the US market with AT&T. But as we noted last fall, it's Java but probably not Java as most of us know it. The variant is KJava, which is modest indeed, and specifically limited to use only one thread per applet, 10KB of memory and 5KB of scratch. That, we've since heard, is a limitation imposed by SlowCoMo itself to avoid network congestion. DoCoMo will launch accompanying services beginning with what it calls "i appli" - a service that will allow cache applets on the handset. Doubtless a service for classics students - i claudius - is in the pipeline. Being a vertical giant, DoCoMo can get away with things like a separate subscription service for access to your own device. (Now what were writing about pay-per-write hard disks only recently?) But far more intriguing commercial and leisure services are in the works. Sony has been working on a mechanism to display the handset information on a TV via a PlayStation console: a dry run for the more involved role for the PlayStation 3 as a "digital hub". We'd be amazed if the Microsoft Xbox team, which has designed a pure play, no compromise games box, hasn't already received one of those pissy emails from billg... ® Related Stories Why Java on DoCoMo could be very SlowCoMo PlayStation 3 to be Sony's convergence box, not PS2 'Pissy emails from billg' - MS exec sinks teeth into Gates
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Jan 2001

AMD okays Samsung PC1600, PC2100 DDR

Samsung may be having a tough time meeting Intel's high demand for RDRAM chips, but it's happy to churn out DDR parts for Chipzilla's arch-rival, AMD. Yesterday, the Korean conglomerate proudly announced that Chimpzilla has given the thumbs-up to ten of its DDR memory modules, ranging from 64MB to 256MB, in PC1600 and PC2100. AMD, Samsung said, has validated the modules for use with its 760 chipset, itself designed to support AMD's Athlon CPU. Hurrah! And Samsung was quick to point out that while AMD has approved ten of its modules, the processor maker has only endorsed two of its rivals' DDR offerings. Hurrah! Hurrah! The DDR modules also go rather nicely with VIA's Apollo Pro 266 and KT266 chipsets (which also supports Chipzilla's CPUs). All of these memory parts are available now, and, said Samsung US' senior VP of sales and marketing, Dieter Mackowiak, cited by EBN, that should ease demand for the high-speed memory chips. ® Related Story Samsung struggles with soaring Rambus demand
Tony Smith, 23 Jan 2001

Monsoon finds e-commerce a washout

High street fashion chain Monsoon is closing its e-commerce arm, saying that it could not justify the £400,000 annual running costs after failing to reach online sales targets. The company said that it needed to sell £800,000 worth of clobber per year to keep the site viable. At a press briefing the company acknowledged it was making barely a quarter of that amount. Monsoon will retain its online presence as a marketing tool, and said there will not be any financial write off related to the closure. Financial director Andrew May commented: "It is disappointing but we have learned quite a lot of lessons." He said Monsoon had not ruled out a return to online business in the future. ® More 'old economy' companies going offline Fyffes investment was bannanas Old economy firms feel dotcom sting
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Jan 2001

FreeDrive pulls plug on shared hard disk service

UpdatedUpdated Online storage provider FreeDrive.com has closed its public file sharing service. FreeDrive.com, which offers individuals with 50MB of free online storage in return for exposure to advertising, yesterday emailed customers to inform them that the service - or at least the part that lets users share their virtual hard drives with others - had been suspended. The reason? Software piracy. "We at FreeDrive have determined that significant abuses of our Public Share utility are occurring by individuals who are selling illegally obtained software to others," wrote David Falter, FreeDrive's president and COO. "In an effort to co-operate with software publishers and the United States Department of Justice, we have elected to halt, for the foreseeable future, ALL use of the Public Share utility," he continued. Indeed, a quick search found instances of sneaky warez distributors posting access details for their FreeDrives apparently stuffed full of swiped code. Falter expressed his regret at the "inconvenience" FreeDrive's move may have caused his customers. But what of FreeDrive itself? It's Web site, which had vanished this morning, is now back up, and presumably all the links from affiliates we tried earlier are now active again. However, so is the public share feature. Ahem... ®
Tony Smith, 23 Jan 2001

Europe gets first big cable VoIP rollout

Dutch telecoms outfit United Pan-Europe Communications has announced a deal with Cisco to build Europe's first cable-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) network. UPC hopes the network, which will be ready in around three years and available to around 500,000 homes in five cities, will allow it to extend services and allow it to provide lower cost telephony by using the Internet rather than traditional phone networks. According to UPC, the benefit of VoIP is that subscribers can access a wide range of voice services, in addition to the delivery of data services, such as high-speed Internet access, using a single, unified communications structure. The benefits of using a single network have been touted by manufacturers for some years but it is only recently that technical issues, particularly involving delivering acceptable quality voice transmission reliable over the Internet, have been resolved. The system, which will provide substantial savings for the operator, will involve the development of UPC's existing cable network infrastructure. Rollout of the network, which will begin in Rotterdam, will allow UPC to attract new subscribers and save on the cost of hardware, such as set-top boxes, now needed to provide combined Internet and video services, by as much as 50 per cent. ® Related Stories Broadcom tweaks cable modem chip for Europe Cable steals a march on 'Windows-only' DSL Cisco IPv6 kit to ship next February
John Leyden, 23 Jan 2001

Sega shares surge ¥200 on PS2 code claim

Sega is developing software for both the PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox, a Japanese newswire, Jiji Press, has claimed. The report sent Sega's shares up 19 per cent to ¥1270. That represents the stock's biggest one-day gain in more than seven months, according to Bloomberg. No sources were cited in the report, but its claims aren't surprising. Sega has been looking at shifting toward the software market and away from the hardware business for over a year, prompted by the poor sales performance of its Dreamcast console. Indeed, last November, Sega Strategic Counsel Tetsu Kayama confirmed Sega's plan and its main goal: to boost Sega's console software marketshare to 25 per cent. Currently its code accounts for just 4.2 per cent of the market. That target would put it ahead of market leader Nintendo, which has around 20 per cent of the console software business - which may explain why Nintendo appeared interested in buying Sega late last year. On its own, Sega simply can't achieve that level of growth without shipping software that runs on rival manufacturers' consoles. Some kind of strategy along these lines is essential to Sega's future fortunes. It's currently expecting its current financial year, which will be completed at the end of March, will see the company's three-year loss-making streak continue, with a ¥22.1 billion deficit, despite earlier predictions that Sega would get back into the black. The loss is almost exclusively down to massive price cuts the company made in an attempt to shift unsold Dreamcasts. Meanwhile, it has been pursuing the online services market with SegaNet, a multiplayer games-oriented ISP. SegaNet supports not only Dreamcast but PC users too, a sign that the company is looking well beyond its own console hardware. ® Related Stories Sega out to steal lead in console software biz Nintendo laughs off talk of swallowing Sega Sega to turn ¥1.5bn profit to ¥22.1bn loss Sega unwraps SegaNet
Tony Smith, 23 Jan 2001

Travelocity drops customers' pants in public

Online travel company Travelocity has been criticised by security experts after making personal details of site users visible on its site. In a grovelling apology issued to the press, Travelocity said that names and addresses of people who had entered some of its competitions had been "inadvertently made accessible" through a link on the site. "Upon being made aware of this situation," the company said, "we immediately removed the data from our site. At no time were any member profiles, credit card information or customer data exposed." Security experts have criticised the company for bad security practice. Paul Rogers, a network security analyst at MIS, said that it was a very basic error, but one that happens quite frequently. "Information from forms should be stored outside the web root," he said. "For a company that has implemented a security structure it is a surprising mistake to make, but power is nothing without control and security is nothing without common sense." Neil Barrett, technical director at Information Risk Management, echoes his sentiments. He commented: "They could have ten times the firewall protection they have and still cock up the arrangement of content on the site." Travelocity said that the mistake had served as a wake up call about the protection of its members' privacy: "We regret this incident occurred. We take the privacy of those who participate on our site, whether they are members, contest participants or visitors, very seriously." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Jan 2001

Windows Woundup Where it's at with Whistler

Welcome to the new-look Windows Woundup, which will wend its way awound the Windows sites on a daily basis. So if you have anything you would like to see covered or hear about, pass it on! To begin this week, I'll give you a brief roundup of what happened last week at Microsoft's headquarters. What happened to Windows Whistler? Things have been quiet for a while, but it seems Microsoft should be releasing Beta 2 of its upcoming consumer/business operating system next month. According to CRN, however, only a restricted number of technical testers will get this code in February. The rest of us will have to wait for a further 60-90 days. As always, Microsoft doesn't want to spit out the Whistler/Blackcomb timetable, but we do know that it's cramming as much .NET functionality into Whistler as possible so that Visual Studio.NET users can create .NET-targeted applications that will run on Whistler. Also included in this update is DirectX 8, Windows Media Player 8 and Internet Explorer 6. An earlier report at WinInfo stated that the first release candidate (RC1) of Office 10 will be released "in the next few weeks". Due to ship by mid-year, Office 10 is the first major update to Office since Office 2000 and the last expected non-.NET release of Office. Microsoft recently released updated hardware compatibility lists for Windows Me, Windows 2000, Whistler x86 Beta and Whistler Itanium 64 Beta. So if you're upgrading, be sure to check these out and make sure your hardware works. Thanks to Brady Moore for this bit. Trying to rule the roost in e-business, as it has done with software, Microsoft has released plans on the successor to Commerce Server 2000 - Thorium and Casbah (yeah, each year the codenames get worse). Commerce Server 2000 Enterprise Edition, code-named Thorium, is a high-end version of the platform designed for the hosting environment and ASPs. Thorium, which reportedly can support hundreds or thousands of multicompany storefronts, or e-business sites, on one server cluster, is being prepped for release in the first half of 2001. The next major version of Commerce Server on deck, code-named Casbah, is slated to be fully .NET-enabled and released during the second half of 2002. ®
Luis Escalante, 23 Jan 2001

Windows Roundup Wide public beta for Whistler?

It's been over a hundred days since Windows ME was released, and PCWorld has a write-up of what it's been like for Microsoft and Windows ME itself. This article makes it clear that even though Microsoft considers it a complete upgrade over Windows 98, it's either the best Windows version ever or the worst. Microsoft kept the launch of Windows ME low key, and one of its big problems was incompatibility with drivers and applications that were fully compatible in Windows 98. What has Microsoft done to resolve this? Nothing! ME may be great for gaming, but it's well below average for daily use. In any case, Microsoft wants to win over the users who stayed with Windows 98 and did not upgrade. Which is why it's introducing Windows Whistler (or Windows 2001/2, as it may be known). In the same article, PCWorld tackles the topic of how Microsoft doesn't want you to upgrade to Whistler if you're currently running Windows 95. Why? Your hardware doesn't come up to its hefty standards. Yes, it will probably be Microsoft's most acclaimed product for both consumer and business use, but didn't they say that about every other Windows product? If Bill Clinton became president, why can't Bill Gates? In a recent editorial at ZDNet, Lee Schlesinger propses that even though Americans are ready to elect any leader who claims, "I did not have sexual relationship with..." why can't Bill Gates become president? He'll have the support of all the computer geeks, which make up, oh... a whole two per cent of the US' population. But he's proven he can lead a company into a monopoly in 25 years! Which means he knows all of the hard facts about the government, along with already having lots of connections inside of the gruesome democracy. OK, so he won't become president anytime soon, but it's a good read! Window Planet reports that Microsoft may begin releasing some of the Whistler betas to the public, in a matter similar to that used with the Windows 98 - aka Memphis - beta project. Early reports show that you'll have to pay for the privilege of testing the software, although this has yet to be confirmed. Going by estimates, Microsoft should begin releasing public betas in around two months, given that a restricted beta 2 is only going to be released next month. ® More Windows Woundups can be viewed here
Luis Escalante, 23 Jan 2001

Readers' letters 95%? You're having a laugh

UK mobile networks connect 95% of the time 95% - you call that a service? Well, the networks do. But not Andy D: 95% is shit. Imagine you picked up your phone at home and one time in 20 you didn't get a line? Or 1 time in 20 it just didn't connect you when you dialled. Hardly what you'd call sterling service, is it? Good point. It's a bit like stating that something is 84% fat-free thus suggesting that a mere 16% fat is a good thing. Whatever. Some people, John included, are having none of the figures at all: So apparently in the south east there is a 95% connection success rate. I think what happened there was a typo. It should read "UK mobile networks connect 9.5% of the time". I think that is a more realistic figure. Then again, Francois reckons the real figures are readily available: I just read your story today and I have to wonder why the operators had to conduct test drives when all the statistics (and more) are available directly from the networks' operation centres in the form of very detailed measurements including such things as succesful call attempts unsuccesful ones (with cause for failure) handover success rates and such? Surely those numbers would have been more reliable than driving through selected areas making calls in a car, especially since most of the measurements can be broken down by cell (how else would they know when specific parts of the network go down, so they can fix them). And remember, even if you a connection every time, there's probably some poor bloke herding sheep on the side of a windswept mountain trying in vain to get through to the Leek Marketing Board. Most likely Huw Pritchard: This thing about 86.4% of mobile calls in Wales being connected, I think for some reason I'm actually making up the entire 13.6% that aren't! Sodding Orange... Tim Auton had a good theory on improving connection statistics: I can see why the results are grossly inaccurate when compared to anyone who's ever used a mobile phone's experience, to quote from the research "data was compiled from vehicles - using roof mounted aerials". Well that's a fucking lot of good considering the majority of calls are made from hand portables within buildings. Perhaps more of my calls would connect if I had my phone connected to a two foot vertical aerial in the street. Here's an idea, we could have stations (boxes?) in the street where for a small fee (say, 20p?) we could plug into a nice big aerial and then we too could have 95% of our calls connect. The best of the rest Australia v USA - The gloves are off International e-punchup kicks off. The true story of Xmas Learned readers put us straight. McCarthy email solution 'brilliant' According to his mum at least. Lukewarm tea - the litigous truth US military sets us straight. UK vultures endangered species US carrion feeders kick chicks from nest.
Lester Haines, 23 Jan 2001

Flame of the week Magee is suck boy

Re. Intel denies Rambus legal action - at last. You are a fucking jackass! I will never read one of your pieces again as I now know your stories [are] pure bullshit. I wrote to Frances Hong yesterday and he/she wrote me back about the error in the article: "this is being corrected... thanks for writing in." You are the biggest loser in the world. Nice try you fucking jackass! Nice job you have there. Go lie some more you fucking pee on! This story just blew up in you ugly face suck boy! JS Lumiere
Lester Haines, 23 Jan 2001

Flame of the week Stop whining, you faggot

Re. A personal message to all Orange mobile phone users Never backwards in coming forwards with an opinion, Tim Richardson has apparently pushed Chris Booth too far regarding Orange: bastard serves you right for using orange anyway i used orange and they screwed me. my bills were always wrong and i never got a signal do the decent thing now and put your phone into the toilet and flush it. after this i suggest you invest in a new phone several varietys exist, the ones you can buy down the pub from the dodgy looking old man who claims he is a falkands vet are good value you can pick up a good payasyoutalk phone for under 20 quid and it usually has more than 20quids worth of talktime on it. however be prepared to put up with angry calls from the little kid whos had it stolen from them for at least a week, send them back an abusive text message incinuating you are gonna come round their house and piss through their letter box this usually achieves the desired affect. anyway back to original point i have no sympathy for you and all things told i don;t give a flying fuck if you can't retireve your voicemail its probably only from some sweety german helga anyway. get back to your job and write some proper fucking news you lacky. p.s. btw i am thoroughly impressed with your stand on CPRM keep up the good work and stop whining you faggot A pretty good flame, but Chris, Chris - you blew it in the last paragraph. Please read Kieren's essential flame guide and get back to us
Lester Haines, 23 Jan 2001

Bull workers want French govt to use muscle against bosses

Workers at Bull are calling on the French government to take action against the French company's restructure plans. The Bull workers reckon Bull management's scheme to split the company in two and sell off assets amounts to just breaking up the business. FT.com quotes Robert Bossier, a CGT union official representing the Bull employees, saying: "We think the management has no real and worthwhile projects to offer." The government owns 16.3 per cent of Bull and that's why the unions want it to intervene. The company's workforce has been cut from 46,000 to 18,000 over the last 12 years. Over the Christmas holiday's staff were told that 10 per cent of them would lose their jobs by 2002. The company has warned that the groups 2000 loss would be more than E100 million ($94 million). An earlier forecast said it would move into profit. ®
Robert Blincoe, 23 Jan 2001

AOL UK COOs over Lori

AOL UK has appointed Lori Friedman to the newly created role of Chief Operating Officer, the company said today. Friedman will report to AOL UK's MD, Karen Thomson, and will be responsible for a "broad range of business operations" across the company. She joins AOL UK from New York-based e-business outfit Donovan Data Systems (DDS). AOL UK also made a number of other senior appointments. However, as a result of the "senior management team expansion", the previous function of AOL UK Group Marketing Director no longer exists. It appears Keith Hawkins will now be leaving the company to "pursue other opportunities". In a statement, Thomson said: "We are experiencing the fastest growth in our history, fuelled by our consumers' tremendous enthusiasm for our unique AOL Flat Rate unmetered price plan, and the road ahead demands even greater depth in our senior management team." So AOL UK needs "even greater depth in [its] senior management team". That's nice. Except if your name is Keith Hawkins. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Jan 2001

Govt clarifies ISP demands for adoption sites

The government has been forced to clarify its prosecution threats against ISPs regarding illegal adoption Web sites after its initial noises were roundly condemned. Health minister John Hutton yesterday reacted to the twin babies adoption mess by saying that ISPs would be held responsible if they allowed people access to adoption sites that are illegal under UK law. The knee-jerk reaction was quickly dismissed by the ISP association, which asked for "clarification on the removal of illegal Internet content". But once the Whitehall press machine had been cranked into action, it would seem that we had all misunderstood what Mr Hutton said. Mr Hutton had quoted the 1976 Adoption Act, saying that "publishing an advertisement" offering adoption services by a company not approved by a local authority was an offence and would be dealt with in the criminal courts. The ISP Association pointed out that they don't have the right to decide what content is illegal and what is not. As such, they would need a court order to remove anything. Some (ourselves included) feared Mr Hutton was also intending that ISPs prevent UK residents from accessing such sites - along the lines of the France's decision to block any access to Yahoo! US auction site. Mr Hutton now says he did not mean that ISPs actually had to check their servers for such content. No, that would be "completely unreasonable". Instead, if the Health Department found an illegal Web site, it would ask the ISP to shut it down. Quite why we should need "reforms" when this is exactly the system that is currently in operation is anyone's guess. So what we have here is a government minister forced into giving a reaction on Internet adoption Web sites because the twin girls story had made it a big issue. He may or may not been misinterpreted by ISPs, who asked for clarification - and who can blame them considering recent government legislation? Then Mr Hutton has to save face and changes his story from "forging ahead with reforms" to simply "reminding ISPs of their obligations". And all this in just under a day. Proof, if you needed it, that the Internet has become one of the most important issue of the day. ® Related Stories ISPs face prosecution over babies for sale sites Internet baby-buy saga goes on
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Jan 2001

Wonderful Webmaster wesults

Without further ado, it gives us great pleasure to announce the results of our Tivola Webmaster competition. And the winners are: Peter Bowyer David Boyce Stuart Caie Chelle Hine Sarfaraz Manji Christopher P Liddle Richard Tietjens Brad Town Stuart Vo Todd Williamson The answer to the question 'Who was the wizard who was head of the White Council' was, of course, Saruman. We'll be in touch with these lucky readers soon. The usual congrats from Vulture Central and thanks to Tivola. ®
Lester Haines, 23 Jan 2001

Harry Potter URL backlash begins

Following Warner Bros unjustifiable persecution of children who happen to register Harry Potter domain names because they are fans of the books, a few souls have taken it upon themselves to make their feelings known. As we mentioned previously, Alastair Alexander has set up www.potterwar.org.uk to highlight the conglomerate's bullying. Some have taken it a little further, however. Fuckoffwarnerbrothers.thisisnotaharrypottersite.org, for example. This is run by a collective of students that calls itself mimezine and exists to "fullfill [sic] a group of people's desires to learn, share and communicate". Unfortunately, it doesn't actually go into any detail about Warner Bros or Harry Potter, so presumably we are to pick the subtlety of the URL :-). And then there's www.harrypotter-warnercansuemyarse.co.uk, which redirects to http://indifference.homeip.net. This is the site of an obviously angry man. Again, his fury doesn't take in Warner or Harry Potter but is instead aimed at Windows 2000, RealJukebox and NTL. We welcome any additions to the list. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Jan 2001

Microsoft Web site hacked in Kiwiland

Microsoft's Web site in New Zealand was defaced overnight by hackers who sprayed the site with taunts about the software giants lack of security. The site was still defaced at lunchtime UK time; instead of information about the software giants' products it was changed to contain a rather different message from the attacker, Prime Suspectz. He wrote: "Another Micro$oft was hacked? !!Yes!! 'The vulnerability is completely teorical'!! I don't think so!! Security wuz broke'n!" A copy of the message posted can be seen in full here. The incident is the latest in a string of embarrassing security gaffes to affect the software giant. Last year, hackers broke into the corporate giant's network and it is believed they were able to see code under development. Further, though less serious attacks against its corporate system followed. Microsoft's international Web sites, which are often hosted by local firms, also come under attack and the latest incident followed the same pattern as a successful attack in Slovenian last December. Paul Rogers, a security consultant at MIS Corporate Defence, said: "Hackers defaced the New Zealand site by breaking into an NT using one of a number of holes in IIS. In this case it looks they used the Unicode exploit, which has been behind a flurry of break-ins to sites running IIS web servers that we have seen recently." Other attacks by Prime Suspectz in the last 24 hours included an attack on www.chryslerjeep.co.uk, which defaced that site with the same message sprayed on Microsoft's New Zealand Web site. "Chrysler are updating its Web site via SQL Server using remote management tools," said Rogers, who added that this was an insecure method which meant "they could be broken into again". In a separate attack, Chanel's Web site was defaced by an attacker calling himself 'TheRegister', which we are somewhat concerned may bring our name into repute. After the defacement, a protest about the fur trade which can be seen here, the site was moved from an NT server to a Solaris box running Netscape Enterprise Server. Whether this remains a temporary move or not is unclear and is obviously not an option for Microsoft New Zealand, which will have to devise other ways to shore up the site's leaky security. ® Related Stories MS hacked! Russian mafia swipes WinME source? Microsoft Hack: Warned of weakness three months earlier Microsoft hacked in the Balkans Mass hack takes out govt sites Hackers, Windows NT and the FBI How you hack into Microsoft: a step by step guide
John Leyden, 23 Jan 2001
Cat 5 cable

BT employee hits lottery jackpot

The Register was delighted to read in the nation's favourite newspaper today that an employee of BT won £2.4 million in the National Lottery. Jane Clark, a business analyst with BT, is delighted with the win and intends to blow the cash on a sports car and pressies for family and friends. Asked whether BT could be counted among her "friends and family", a BT spokesman was completely unaware of Jane's good fortune. However, BT won't be going off cap in hand to try and tease some cash from Jane's winnings. With its massive debt problems, Jane's winnings is nothing more than small change. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Jan 2001

Orange hit by Millennium Bug

UpdatedUpdated Orange overcharged customers on New Year's Day due to the Millennium Bug, we have heard. It may seem a little late in the day, but mobile phone users have only just started looking at their phone bills and several noticed that they were charged twice for the same call. As we pointed out nearer the new year, no one seems to have thought that since 2000 was a leap year, as the year ended computers would think it was already 2001. We don't know how widespread the problem was, but one person we spoke to said he had to call up Orange to get a discount. A spokeswoman for the company said she hadn't heard anything about it but would get back to us. Update Orange has got back to us and explained that the confusion was over people being charged for peak calls but seeing as New Year's Day was a bank holiday, they should have been charged at off-peak rate. It has assured all errors will be refunded on the next bill. ® Related Stories Millennium bug stalls Norwegian trains Millennium Bug claims more victims
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Jan 2001

Napster on lots of PCs, claims stealth-research firm

Here's an interesting item that came our way today. PC Pitstop - a kind of cross between Symantec and the Gartner Group - reckons that Napster is now installed on 20 per cent of work PCs and 40 per cent of home machines. How does PC Pitstop know this? Because in exchange for a free ActiveX-based computer tune-up and diagnostic service, the company grabs and stores full details about your hardware and software. To be fair, PC Pitstop does admit this on its Web site, in its Privacy Statement. PC Pitstop has been collating configuration data since March, during which time it has seen the number of Napster installations grow by a factor of three. Between October and December, for instance, the proportion of surveyed PCs that had the MP3 sharing software installed upon them rose from 17 per cent to 20 per cent. Over the same period, the percentage of home machines that had a copy of Napster grew from 35 per cent to 40 per cent. So what does this tell us? Well, not much actually. The grow rates for both domestic and office machines is hardly spectacular, and PC Pitstop's sample is hardly huge. It surveyed around 155,000 home and office PCs during the three months in question, 140,000 of them at home, the rest in the office. PC Pitstop also notes that machines with Napster installed are more likely to have faster processors, bigger hard drives, CD-RW units and high-speed Net connections than other users. Again: surprise, surprise. Slow connections are less likely to encourage downloads than fast ones. And while the kind of people who use Napster frequently are the sort of folk who tend to like owning top-spec. PCs, it doesn't follow that they bought that kit because of Napster, ie. that Napster usage is influencing the PC business as PC Pitstop suggests. It may be, but you can't really say so on the basis of the company's numbers. Then there's that word, 'usage'. Finding software installed on a sampled PC's hard drive gives no indication of how often that software is used, even if it's running at the time the PC was tested. Again, that's not to say that PC Pitstop's deductions are wrong, simply that they're not conclusions that can easily be drawn from the stats. Another example. PC Pitstop says: "The availability of broadband or higher bandwidth connections in the office [is] the likely reason behind the increased Napster usage in the workplace." Maybe, but why then is Napster usage growing more in the home than in the office (five per cent, compared to three per cent). By that logic, you'd expect there to be far more office-based Napster users than home ones. In short, PC Pitstop is jumping on the bandwagon a bit here, and its stats do little more than provide an opportunity for hacks to mention the site a lot. Which we've done. Cheque in the post, guys? ®
Tony Smith, 23 Jan 2001

Intel, 4C still ‘lying’ about CPRM – Gilmore

Special to The Register, RegisterTV, the Register Shopping Channel, AllRegDevices.com, VultureDesk, DirectReg!, Reg Downloads, MyRegister, and all other subsidiaries of Situation Publishing International. Our pages have now been re-designed for maximum confirmity. All similarities are entirely intentional. The 4C Entity is still misleading people about CPRM, says EFF co-founder John Gilmore. He's put the latest developments about Content Protection for Recordable Media - currently under consideration by the committee that looks after the ATA specification used by hard drives - into context in an essay posted to the C2 mailing list. Gilmore points out that far from being mechanisms that ensure honest punters pay honest artists, the newest technologies drive roughshod over existing social practices and legal entitlements. "What is wrong is when people who would like products that simply record bits, or audio, or video, without any copy protection, can't find any, because they have been driven off the market," he asks. "My recording of my brother's wedding is uncopyable, because my MiniDisc decks act as if I and my brother don't own the copyright on it." Citing estimates that DVD-recordable devices will soon exceed shipments of VCR and DVD-writer devices, Gilmore suggests: "By 2010... few consumers will have access to a recorder that will let them save a copy of a TV program, or time-shift one, or let the kids watch it in the back of the car. Is anyone commenting on that social paradigm shift? Do we think it's good or bad? Do we get any say about it at all?" He notes that Apple's "happy-happy" promotion of its recently announced DVD-RW SuperDrive neglects to mention that it blocks copying, recording or time-shift playback of copyrighted media. So much for Thinking Differently... However Intel gets the special treatment, as you'd expect, for its all-guns-firing defence of the big-money media owners. Intel wraps these initiatives under the banner Trusted Client for Computing Platform (TCCP), and these include HDCP (High Definition Content Protection) for scrambling the signal to a digital TV or monitor, thereby making recording impossible; SDMI and, of course, CPRM. "If you try to record a song off the FM radio onto a CPRM audio recorder, it will refuse to record or play it, because it's watermarked but not encrypted. Even when recording your own brand-new original audio, the default settings for analog recordings are that they can never be copied, nor ever copied in higher fidelity than CD's, and that only one copy can be made even if copying is ever authorized (if the other restrictions are somehow bypassed)," writes Gilmore. He chastises Intel and IBM for neglecting to mention this: "Lying to your customers to mislead them into buying your products is wrong." Since we broke the CPRM on ATA story, Intel has done its best to persuade you that gosh, no, it doesn't want to prevent fair use copying, because that's one of the reasons people buy PCs. But taken in context, it's clearly made that Chipzilla has made quite the opposite decision for coldly strategic reasons. It reckons people will tolerate draconian copy control mechanisms in the future, and still keep on buying PCs. After all, the majority of punters will continue to check out content from Blockbuster, won't they? Your letters to the NCTIS T.13 committee, which have been instrumental in prompting a rethink on ATA, seem to suggest otherwise. And as Gilmore points out, even academic discussion about the copy control mechanisms is inhibited by the powerful Hollywood lobby. If it gets its way, Jobs and Gelsinger - forever banging on today about how liberating their technologies are - will be remembered in fifty years only for engineering the biggest step backward in the distribution of information since the invention of the Gutenberg press. Less liberation guff please, chaps. ® Related link What's Wrong With Content Protection - John Gilmore Our Full CPRM Coverage You're hilarious, Intel tells CPRM campaigners More Letters:CPRM kicked into touch? CPRM for HDs may be kicked into touch - Latest Reg readers on the CPRM fiasco 4C retreats in Copy Protection storm Everything you ever wanted to know about CPRM, but ZDNet wouldn't tell you... CNet suckered by CPRM spin EFF's Gilmore calls for CPRM hardware boycott CPRM on hard drives - IBM takes a spin Copy protection hard drive plan nixes free software - RMS Stealth plan puts copy protection into every hard drive
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Jan 2001

Double inspection for SOYO's KT 133A mobo

HWRoundupHWRoundup OCWorkbench investigates the new KT133A board from SOYO, the SOYO SY-K7VTA Pro. The board turns out to be unexceptional, missing AGP Pro support and RAID. However, if you are looking for a platform to run a newer TBird, you could do worse. Read the review to find out what else the OCers had to say. Same board, different site and pretty much the same conclusions if not using the same words. These guys were pleased with its performance but disappointed with the missing features. We never said it would be easy. Click here to get AthlonOC's take on the offering from SOYO. If you haven't got your mitts on a Duron 850 yet, you are probably wondering what they're like. Before you are overcome with the urge to spend your cash on the processor, have a look at this review at Game PC, who seemed quite impressed. More benchmarks than you can shake a stick at, depending on the stick, we assume. BXBoards have notched up another review, this time of the Epox 8KTA3 Socket A mainboard. Kitted out with the new VIA KT133a chipset, there have been a couple of reviews of this board in recent days, but one more won't hurt. Have a look here. The self-confessed computer addicts at Trainwrecker want to tell you about the CUSL2C from Asus, and they want to tell you that they like it. Not one to collect dust with, is the message. Read more here. ® After all this you are probably inspired to go grab your soldering iron and your little screwdrivers and make a mess of your mainboard in a spree of overclocking joy. When you come back from the shed, all clocked out, there is more to inspire you in the hardware archives. Enjoy.
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Jan 2001

Captain Cyborg's media monkey business back

And so dear old Kevin Warwick (professor of cybernetics at Reading University dontcha know), fresh from sapping the life-force out the poor young souls that watched the Royal Institutions' Christmas lectures, has found a new angle to get himself in the media spotlight. What is really disappointing about his latest exploits, though, is that those responsible for letting the fool yabber on really should know better. So hold up your hands ZDNet UK and the BBC News online, and hang your heads in shame. ZDNet has evidently gone crazy and decided that instead of breaking IT news, it would get every reporter to write short essays on artificial intelligence. Presumably these will be compiled in a small book entitled What ZDNot thinks about robots and stuff. There are currently nine (nine!) essays on AI in today's list of stories - most coming in exciting two-parters, and covering topics like "Can a human love a robot?" Anyway, Kev has popped up in two of these and inspired a further three. "For cybernetic enthusiasts such as Professor Kevin Warwick, the worries about privacy take second place to the benefits to human understanding." Aha. Kev "certainly practises what he preaches" - well, in the sense that his robot experiments are as entrenched in reality as his predictions for the end of mankind. Kev is also currently taking part in an experiment attempting to download human emotions onto a PC, we are informed. Which is an extension on his previous cock-and-bull tale about him communicating with his wife. Mr Warwick also appears in the loving your robot section. "Humans have human emotions and robots have robot emotions. As soon as you allow robots to learn, you are opening up the possibility that they could develop their own emotions," he tells the reporter in his own unique sixth-form debating society approach. Ever one for the soundbite, Kev also says that in 20 years' time, it could be robots debating whether to let humans into their house!!! Oh Christ. But ZDNet isn't the only one to blame. The BBC is at it again. The news online team had promised us they wouldn't use Kev anymore as a walking-talking quote machine, but then some of the best people on the team have since left and the old contacts book has been pulled out again. Here Kev is explaining his expertise on Robocops. Some nutter in Thailand reckons he has built an armed guard robot. Roboguard "can shoot at will or wait for the order to fire from its human masters via the Internet", we are reliably informed. Even though it consists of nothing more than a gun and a small video camera on a moveable platform. Incredible. The idea horrified British robotics experts, we are told. And sure enough, Kev is the British robotics experts. "Things can always go wrong. We need to think about introducing laws like Asimov's, but even then robots will find ways to get round them," he warned. Asimov was a scientific sci-fi writer and the Roboguard inspired by the movie Robocop. Kev, on the other hand, is a sci-fi professor of cybernetics who lives in a film. ® Related Links ZDNet's love a robot today More ZD Kev nonsense BBC robocop story Related Stories No! No! No! Captain Cyborg is back
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Jan 2001

Sun sub $1,000 servers are double the price in UK

Sun's first sub $1,000 Solaris server is going to cost UK customers almost twice as much as it would buying it online in the US. But forget the end users. Sun's UK channel partners have reacted angrily to the hardware giant's explanation of why UK users get to pay almost double - because it makes them look bad. The sub $1,000 deal, for a server in Sun's Netra range, is available only to US customers through the hardware giant's store as a special offer and UK users will have to pay £1,200 ($1,800) for the same box. Sun explained the price difference at the launch by saying that its channel partners "added value", which has proved to be something of a PR gaff. Channelnet, the online arm of UK reseller mag Microscope, reports that UK resellers have reacted angrily to the suggestion the channel was adding almost $800 to the cost of the product. It quotes one reseller who said: "I feel betrayed. This is not good for the profile of the channel." Before been too outraged with Sun over high prices its worth noting here that most goods in the IT industry cost more in the UK than the US, and this goes for IBM boxes, Cisco routers or PCs as much as it applies to Sun kit. Chris Sarfas, Sun's sales manager for channel providers, said the $1,000 deal on the Netras was a promotional price, available only through Sun's online store, and as such was not directly comparable. "Most of our equipment is sold through channel partners - around 70 per cent," said Sarfas. "We're not selling through the web in the UK. In any case our web business is less than we thought it would be - it's less than one per cent." This seems an extraordinary admission for a senior exec from the firm which "put the com in .com" to make, but Sarfas explained that Sun fulfilled half its sales electronically but that this was mainly done through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). "You're not going to buy a Sun server for $50,000 on your credit card," he added. ® Related Link Channelnet story Related Story Sun low-end aim to displace Wintel from data centre
John Leyden, 23 Jan 2001

Engrish – the terrifying truth

John Leyden's recent piece Geeks garbling Greek, heirs to Aristotle complain got us thinking about other hybrid linguistic monsters. The Greeks are alarmed at the invasion of their language by English computer terminology. Trust me, you've got nothing to worry about. Just wait until you see what the Japanese have done to our beloved tongue - they have let slip the hideous beast that is Engrish. The name gives it away - plenty of comedy lingo potential here. Just proceed directly to engrish.com and enjoy. I don't want to reveal too much, but here's a taster: Shining Elegance A high qualified feeling which appeals to our mind. An admirable elegance that makes us wide-eyed. Authentic elegance has an incredible power which changes the surrounding atmosphere. THIS IS SUPER! Believe it or not, this is the blurb from a Japanese frying pan. What would Shakespeare say? Actually, he wouldn't say anything - he'd have a bloody fit. Ok - it's pretty easy to mock the deficiencies of people writing in a non-native language. But what happens when a group of people who can speak English perfectly well decide to knock it about a bit? The answer is Singlish, as spoken by the good burghers of Singapore. Take a good solid Anglo-Saxon base, throw in a bit of Chinese and Malay, and this is what you get: Ah Kwa: 'But Beng, you don't like that lah!....Aiyahh, why cannot one?' Ah Beng: 'Aiyah, if I marry you huh, wait sekali they find out you actually like...like that type one, how man?' Ah Kwa: 'But Beng, you don't tell them can lor!' Ah Beng: 'Wah lau, wait my mother find out, I die man! She know, sure my father know one, he know,I habase man!' Ah Kwa: 'Eee yah, won't one lah, your ah chek won't know one lah!' Ah Beng: 'Aiyah, cannot means cannot lah, can or not? Why you so like that one? You go marry that ang moh lah!' Marvellous stuff. This gem is from a Singlish guide which you can peruse here. There are plenty of other sites on the subject. This one has a short glossary of terms which may or may not be useful when you're heading for Singapore. Looking at the above, you might think that the poor old English language is taking a right beating around the globe. You'd be right, but we can still fight back. Spanish purists are lamenting the rise of Spanglish. The fundamental issue is not the invasion of the language by English vocabulary. Unlike your French, the majority of Spanish speakers don't give two hoots about that. No, what they're worried about is the anglicisation of the grammar itself. Roberto González Echevarría outlines the facts in his article Is "Spanglish" a Language? His example is that people might now say 'Cómo puedo ayudarlo?' (a literal transposition of the English 'How can I help you?"), rather than the proper 'Qué desea?' ('What would you like') Dangerous, dangerous stuff. I'd advise vigilance across the Hispanic world. If you, like me, are feeling a little rattled by all this lexicographical malarkey, might I suggest you relax with a Japanese Postonic water, which: 'Moistens your body rapidly and softens your soul gently. Postonic is life us all.' Yes, It all makes perfect sense to me now.... ®
Lester Haines, 23 Jan 2001

FTC clears DoubleClick of privacy invasion

The Federal Trade Commission has ended its inquiry into DoubleClick's practices and concluded that the company has not used or disclosed any personal data. The inquiry started in February last year and caused the company's share price to plummet. DoubleClick, it was said, had been using personal details to build customer profiles and this went against its purported privacy policies. DoubleClick swiftly fired out a number of privacy enhancing strategies, but this wasn't enough to satisfy the public or prevent the FTC's investigation. DoubleClick then won a Big Brother award for Greatest Corporate Invader in April. However, the FTC has cleared the company of any misdeeds. In a letter to the FTC said DoubleClick had "never used or disclosed consumers' PII (personally identifiable information) for purposes other than those disclosed in its privacy policy." It also said the company "has not used sensitive data for any online preference marketing product." Among the company's efforts to remove the stigma off trampling on privacy issues were: hiring a chief privacy officer, getting privacy audits from PwC, running a campaign to educate Net users about its approach to privacy and setting up a Web site (www.privacychoices.com) that allowed people to opt out of targeted ads. ® Related Stories Wall Street clobbers DoubleClick on news of FTC interest DoubleClick wins 'Greatest Corporate Invader' award DoubleClick stands tall for on-line privacy rights
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Jan 2001

Porn site chief in $38m credit card scam

An American porn site chief faces up to thirty years in jail after a $38 million online credit card scam. Malibu resident Kenneth Taves defrauded around 800,000 credit card holders in a scheme that spanned several years, according to the US Attorney's Office. The idea was simple enough - Taves ran a Website that charged punters $19.95 per month to access pornography. When the business failed to drum up enough business, he managed to buy a printout of a list of credit card details belonging to around 4,000 people for $5,000. He then started pumping the numbers into his own site, with instructions to charge the credit card owners the $19.95 monthly fee, KCBS Channel2000 reported. The cheeky fraudster banked on the fact that very few people regularly check their credit card statements. He managed to charge at least 800,000 credit cards, and sometimes even charged them more than once a month - prosecutors in the case claim many of the victims had never even been online. The authorities reckon he owes around $38 million in unauthorised credit card charges. Eventually, punters angry at the mysterious charges appearing on their credit card statements tipped off the Federal Trade Commission. The FBI got involved, and in November the government seized $8 million of Taves' ill-gotten gains. And they reckon this is just the tip of the iceberg. "Eventually we expect to recover as much as $25 or $30 million," Assistant US Attorney Brent Whittlesey told Channel 2000. The 49-year-old used the stash to buy a $4 million house in Malibu, and also laundered some in assets in the Cayman Islands and Vanuatu, an island in the South Pacific. Whittlesey said this was probably the heftiest case of fraud ever committed by an individual. Travis pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday, and is due to be sentenced in April. ® Related Stories Porn probe at Ford plant Wannabe porn stars get jobs site Smut to drive m-commerce The Top Ten Net con tricks
Linda Harrison, 23 Jan 2001

Top WWII code cracker dies

Leo Marks, WWII codemaker and codebreaker, and later playwright, has died aged 80. He was chief cryptographer of Special Operations Executive during WWII, having trained as a cryptographer in Bedford when called up for National Service. During his training, The Telegraph reports, he cracked a code that was supposed to be a week-long group project, in an evening. This earned him the label "misfit" and got him sent to the Special Operations Executive, rather than Bletchley Park. One of his achievements during the war was to refine the "one-time-pad." He printed ciphers on silk squares so agents could carry the information more easily across borders. He also stopped the use of well known poems as code keys, replacing them with original works he wrote himself, massively tightening security. Later in the war he was in charge of devising encryption systems for the SAS and the Free French, among others. He was born in London on September 24, 1920. He was an only child and spent much of his time with his father in the family bookshop at 84 Charring Cross Road. There, he became interested in both encryption and horror writing when he was eight, after reading Edgar Allen Poe's "The Gold Bug." The interest sparked in horror culminated in him writing the film "Peeping Tom," a film so disturbing that it ruined the career of its director. His obituary appears in full in The Telegraph. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Jan 2001

Benchmarks – Itanic 32bit emulation is ‘unusable’

The Itanium may prove to be more than just one awful chip. It could be two awful chips, in one integrated flip-chip package. That's if benchmarks run by Tweakers.net are to be believed. Tweakers has run code on the 32bit portion of Itanic, and finds performance to be a little more than disappointing. So bad, in fact, that even software emulation would be faster. Using the distributed.net client, MPEG and STREAM, and Tom Kerrigan's Simple Chess Program, Tweakers finds that the 32bit hardware portion of a 667Mhz Itanic wheezes along at the speed of a 75Mhz Pentium. Although in some benchmarks, it races up to match a 100Mhz Pentium. Tweakers used a beta of Whistler Advanced Server, and 512Mb of memory. Or, in the poetic words of a translation we received:- "A few seconds later our kaken lay on the ground, when the Itanium didn't hold even 96 kkeys/sec, a score that could be improved on even by a 486!" Quite. As Terje Mathisen points out over on comp.arch, "Running effectively at Pentium 100 speeds means that it averages 4-10 cycles per x86 instruction executed, which as you noted is slow even for a sw emulation." And Mathisen points out - in an irony our friends at Transmeta will surely savour - that Crusoe's software emulation of Intel's 32bit instruction set is faster than Intel's hardware emulation... while using less than 5% of the electrical power. :-)" ® Related Link Tweakers' benchmarks (in Dutch) Related Stories Intel's Itanic epic to run and run Intel roadmap shredder in OverDrive™ mode Pentium 4 Foster may sink the Itanic Intel's Itanic, McKinley go misty-eyed Itanium set for March launch Intel patents IA-64 instruction set Intel's McKinley tapes out: Itanium is Itanic Intel late again on Merced-Itanium Dell to demo Linux on Itanium The Lateness of Intel's Mercedium Linux beating Win64 to Itanium punch First Merced-Itanium systems get cobbled together Hollywood outfit to use Merced A good one this, seeing as it's the firm which created special effects for the Titanic... Intel to create halfway-house Merced HP bids for Merced server lead Muted response to Intel Merced delay June 1998. Production volumes put back to mid-2000... Pfeiffer positions Alpha against Merced 1997. Sluttish river delayed until dawn of year 2000 Intel embarks on epic 1996. Fishing is good in California
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Jan 2001

Games-World.net scoffs over Barrysworld demise

Games-World.net has pumped out a press release lording itself for still being in business, in response to Barrysworld sad demise yesterday. The release starts: "The management and staff of Games-World Net would like to express their sadness at the demise of Barrysworld." Before telling the world how it had started with the same business model as Barrysworld but was clever enough to change and adapt. It will "be around for a while", it scoffs. While we're here, Games-World would like to point out some errors in Barrysworld's own press release on the matter of its liquidation. "Games ISPs are not all in their death throes as BW are implying. GWN is profitable and will be in business for the foreseeable future. GWN is able to make money on dial and server rental and we have more services in the pipeline to further the company." And so on and so forth. In fact, so excited and sustainable is Games-World that it has launched some kind of huge giveaway on its site. We're touched by Games-World's sympathy. ® Related Stories Barrysworld goes titsup.com
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Jan 2001
cable

Battersea falls in local loop siege

BT has today handed over the first unbundled local loops at a trial exchange in Battersea, London. What should be a momentous occasion worthy of a civic ceremony complete with ribbon cutting and warm white wine, has passed without fuss. However, the monster telco won't say who can claim to be first telco in London to gain competitive access to BT's oh-so-precious network. It's a secret, apparently, and its lips are sealed. And it's up to the telco concerned to admit to its place in telco history. So far, all's quiet. Guess our bashful telco wants to make sure the thing works before crowing about its milestone. Oh, and word has it Edinburgh could be next. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Jan 2001

Corel to spin off Linux desktop OS biz

Corel said today it is pinning its hopes of a return to profitability in Q3 on its graphics software business. Speaking from Ottawa, execs said the company would pump up its graphics product line over the next couple of years, possibly through acquisitions in areas such as the Web graphics market. Corel did not, as expected, reveal the sale of its Linux arm - instead it said it was "currently pursuing opportunities" to spin off the desktop operating system business of the Linux division. It still plans to keep an interest in the operation and will continue to have Linux versions of its software. It also plans to upgrade current users of its WordPerfect software - rather than spend resources trying to convert rival software customers. This is all forecast to bring Corel back into the black by the third quarter of this year, with revenues increasing 20 per cent every year for the next three years. Freshly appointed Corel CEO Derek Burney said it had taken "a lot of work to get our house in order", but that "we want to turn this company around and we plan to do just that". Most of the sales growth is expected to come from its graphics software, while Corel also wants to plough deeper into the Macintosh market and looking at wireless imaging. Burney denied the Canadian company was looking to sell off its WordPerfect division. Last year Corel slashed 21 per cent of its workforce as part of a plan designed to save it around $40 million annually. This morning its share price dropped almost 19 per cent to C$4.80 ($3.90). ® Related Stories Corel responds to Linux sales speculation Where next for Corel? Corel Linux sell-off nearly a done deal Corel stems sales shrinkage Corel sheds 320 jobs Corel warns of cash-flow crisis if Inprise merger fails
Linda Harrison, 23 Jan 2001

DNS trouble made Microsoft, Yahoo! unavailable

A technical glitch caused the Web sites of both Microsoft and Yahoo! to become blocked for some users over the weekend. For around twelve hours on Saturday many visitors looking for these popular sites and others, including msn.com were instead sent to the web page of domain registration and management outfit MyDomains.com. The problem arose because MyDomains.com release of a DNS (Domain Name System) table laden with errors. The faulty lookup table, which was published due to human error, resulted in misdirection of surfers whose ISP used the corrupted data, until the problem was fixed late on Saturday. Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn told news service AFXpress: "We started getting calls from users over the weekend, we tracked down the trouble and we notified MyDomains." It's not the first time possible weaknesses with the DNS system, which matches Web addresses to IP addresses, have come to light. There are only around a dozen 'root nameservers' on the Internet and its common practice for ISPs to use other servers, which may contain less reliable data. Corrupting locally accessed DNS servers could be used by attackers to hijack users traffic and direct them to false sites. ®
John Leyden, 23 Jan 2001

Sell your unwanted Windows licences here

A German PC maker has defied Microsoft and started selling systems with second-hand Windows licenses. Ettling-based Waibel pays up to 65 Marks ($31) for Windows 98, and 85 Marks ($41) for NT or 2000, through its site. The operating systems are then resold (for 95 Marks and 135 Marks respectively) as part of a Waibel computer system. According to Waibel: "In Germany there are approximately ten million usable operating systems which will become worthless in the next few years, while the licensees buy their next PC again with an operating system or quite simply just dispose of their old PC along with the operating system," c't Magazine reports. "Ten million operating systems, however, represents an economic value of at least two billion DeutschMarks, which shouldn't be wasted". It argues that this money should stay in Germany, and not go to fund an American company. Sadly, Microsoft spin doctors were not able to cobble together a comment on the situation, despite having two days to work on it, but it seems the software giant can do little about the second hand licences as the practice has the blessing of the BGH (Germany's top court). Meanwhile, Waibel faces a legal wrangle with Microsoft for selling a copy of Windows 98 to a c't test buyer without a certificate of authenticity. Waibel refused to respond to Microsoft's inquiries, resulting in a lawsuit - currently sub judice under a court in Mannheim. ® Related Links An English translation of the c't article can be found here The original c't article is here. Related Stories Windows Roundup: Wide public beta for Whistler? MS charges students who don't use its software Swap your fakes for genuwine software MS meets reduced Q2 targets MS swats 38 anti-trust suits
Linda Harrison, 23 Jan 2001

Sega to cease Dreamcast production

Sega has brought its Dreamcast project to an end, according to a report in Japan's Nikkei newspaper. The article claims production will cease come 31 March, not coincidentally the last day of Sega's current fiscal year. Or will it. Sega US, for one, is saying the story isn't true. The story appears to follow on from earlier reports that Sega has commenced a plan, outlined last November, to develop software for Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox. That claim yesterday resulted in Sega's share price rocketing up 19 per cent. The cost of promoting Dreamcast to an ever-decreasingly interested market has already cost Sega the chance of reporting a profit this financial year. The company will now report a loss of ¥22.1 bilion for it's fouth loss-making year in a row. According to Nikkei, Sega is preparing five PlayStation 2 titles and two more for Nintendo's GameBoy Advance, which is due to ship in the March/April timeframe. According to Sega US' senior spin doctor, Charles Belfield, however, "Sega remains committed to the Dreamcast format going forward". Belfield's comments don't inherently contradict Nikkei's claim. The paper reckons that Sega will continue to market Dreamcast through 2001 - it simply won't be making any more come March. That's not so far off comments from Sega's president back in 1999 that Dreamcast might well be the company's last console. Certainly by the end of 2001, when Microsoft launches Xbox, Dreamcast will have reached the end of its expected lifespan. It first shipped in November 1998. In the circumstances, it seems unlikely that Sega will want to spend millions of Yen developing a successor. ® Related Stories Sega shares surge ¥200 on PS2 code claim Sega moots console hardware exit
Tony Smith, 23 Jan 2001

Excite@Home cuts 250 staff

ISP Excite@Home has laid off 250 people, or eight per cent of its workforce. Most of the job cuts were in the online content area of the California dotcom, or were corporate staff. Its @Home at @Work units, which provide high speed Internet access over cable lines, are not affected by the cuts. "While content services remain a compelling element of our opportunity, it is critical that the cost structure of our media business correlate with the changing online media world," said Excite@HOme chairman and CEO George Bell. "As we mature as a business and drive towards profitability, we continue to refine our core business." "We remain focused on rolling out our broadband services as aggressively as possible. In achieving our aggressive subscriber growth target for the fourth quarter, we are intent on turning this momentum into a trend toward profitability," he added in a statement issued late this afternoon. The company is due to report its fourth quarter results after the market shuts on Thursday. ® Related Stories Excite cans Chello deal Excite turns in to Chello NASA blocks all Excite@Home traffic to thwart hackers Porn up for grabs as Excite turns off Green Light ExciteHome escapes UseNet Death Penalty
Linda Harrison, 23 Jan 2001