24th > January > 2001 Archive

Compaq hits reduced Q4 targets

Compaq hit its (reduced) Q4 targets but warns that a rocky road lies ahead for the industry in the first half of 2001. Michael Capellas, Compaq's CEO, says the company remains comfortable with "analyst estimates of earnings per share growth in the 20-25 per cent range." The world's biggest PC maker produced operating net income of $515 million on revenues of $11.5 billion for the quarter, but add in a one-off hit of $1.8 billion, mostly to cover the writedown of the company's holding in CMGI (acquired through the sale of AltaVista) and the company tumbles into a net loss of $672 million. And, presumably on the back of strong server and storage sales, Compaq managed to screw out an extra 1.5 gross margin points (compared with Q4 1999), taking it to 23.7 per cent, and it managed to shave one full point off operating expenses. Revenues in the quarter were up ten per cent on the same time this year - but that's after the multinational translates all its sales into dollars. The company points out that sale in 'constant currency' were up 19 per cent. Indeed it refers to 'constant currency' quite a lot in its press release announcing the Q4 results - as it makes growth look quite a lot better. For the full year, revenue was $42.4 billion and net income was $1.7 billion. ® Related LinksCompaq Q4 results press release Compaq Q4 results audio webcast
Drew Cullen, 24 Jan 2001

Le Freeswerve says ‘bonjour’ to flat-rate Net access

Le Freeswerve - the UK's leading soon-to-be-French ISP - has launched its much hyped 24/7 unmetered Net access bringing round-the-clock flat-fee Net access to the marketplace. Freeserve AnyTime costs £12.99 a month and includes all subscription charges and telephone connection costs to the Net. What's more, it's £2 a month cheaper than a similar offer from rival AOL UK. Those who registered their early interest in the new service will be able to use the service from today. The new product replaces Freeserve's Unlimited offering which provided 24/7 unmetered Net access for just £10 a month. However, this service has been plagued with problems and was being operated at a loss by Le Freeswerve. Those who are still Freeserve Unlimited are being coaxed onto the new service - if for no other reason that it will save Le Freeswerve Francs. However, a spokesmadame for Le Freeswerve insisted punters would not be forced to accept the new offer. AnyTime is based on the wholesale Net access product FRIACO (Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination) which caps the telco costs for ISPs providing unmetered access. Because ISP's costs are capped, they can provide a fixed cost for Net access for their customers. The alternative is that consumers are charged by the minute for their dial-up telephone calls to the Net - a move that means users pay more the longer they are online. In a statement, Monsieur John Pluthero, CEO of Le Freeswerve, said: "As the UK's favourite Internet service provider it's fitting that Freeserve should produce the most favourable flat rate package there is in the market today. "By offering Internet users the best deals around on Internet call charges supported by dedicated network and customer service, not for the first time Freeserve competitors have been knocked into a cocked hat*." BT could announce the launch of its competing FRIACO-based product as early as this Friday. ® * knocked into a cocked hat - the eloquent Monsieur Pluthero has chosen a 200-year idiom to blow a raspberry at the opposition. For a definition check out this link and then ask yourself if he really said it - or someone just made it up for a laugh. Related Stories Le Freeswerve, BTInternet go unmetered Le Freeserve keeps l'Unlimited Time product Freeserve offers new 24/7 unmetered package
Tim Richardson, 24 Jan 2001
microsoft nutella

Fun with Windows, PowerPoint insecure

If you're drinking coffee right now, I suggest you put it down. Mr. Hall sent me this link with the subject, "funny Windows stuff". It's more than funny. The page says it was created with The GIMP, which is basically Adobe Photoshop for Linux (although there is a Win32 version, which is less popular), so most likely means a Linux user created it. As I've always said, Linux users are more vigorous and dynamic than us Windows users. It's sad but true!
Luis Escalante, 24 Jan 2001

AOL Time Warner ditches 2000 jobs

AOL Time Warner is to ditch more than 2000 jobs in a bid to cut costs and eliminate duplication following the company's $106 billion monster merger. The job cuts are across the board affecting the giant's publishing, music and film divisions. According to Variety.com, some 700 will go at AOL's offices in Dulles, Virginia. Staff are being told of the cuts this week. However, a spokeswoman for AOL UK told The Register that no jobs would be lost in Britain as part of the rationalisation. "We're not affected," she said, adding that AOL UK was currently "experiencing tremendous growth". When the merger took place AOL Time Warner pledged to reduce overheads by $1 billion. ® Related Link Variety.com's story: AOL: You've got nailed
Tim Richardson, 24 Jan 2001

Microsoft confirms Web site blackout

UpdatedUpdated Microsoft has confirmed that its corporate Web sites have become unavailable due to an as yet unidentified technical problem. Since the early hours of this morning www.microsoft.com, msn.com, hotmail.com and msnbc.com have all been unavailable. A company spokeswoman said the company was working hard to resolve the issue and that, as yet, there was no time available when a fix will be in place. Over the weekend problem with DNS servers made Microsoft's site unavailable for some users, but the current 'outage' has not been linked to this by the software giant. Register readers have contacted us to suggest that the software giant's domain name servers are out of commission. Its four domain name servers are all running, but none are able to locate where www.microsoft.com is. Another reader pointed that, according to the whois database, both microsoft.com and msn.net rely on the name servers at xxx.msft.net He said that Microsoft has all it's nameservers in one subnet, and now that subnet is either down or unreachable. The webserver itself is NOT down, it's still accessible either here or here ® Related Story DNS trouble made Microsoft, Yahoo! unavailable
John Leyden, 24 Jan 2001

White House Ws go Walkabout

It has emerged that some politicians actually have a sense of humour. The final gesture of the outgoing Democrat administration was to remove and hide the W's from the keyboards of computers in the White House. Poor old George * Bush will have to resort to spelling out his middle initial like everyone else did suring the election campaign. Some of the missing keys have shown up in odd places - taped to door frames, for example. A White House spokesman told The Washington Post: "There are dozens, if not hundreds of missing keys. In some cases the W has simply been marked out but the most prevalent example is the key being removed." Al Gore's press spokesman suggested that the keys may have fallen off "through sheer atrophy", as "the White House did not have many reasons to use the letter W over the last couple of years". An amusing idea, no doubt, but here at Vulture Central we prefer the theory that the W's wore out during the Le*insky affair. A bit like the Oval office carpet which Dubya has had replaced. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Jan 2001

Porn roundup: disabled lesbian filth and Jonathan King

Is there no end to our society's obsession with sex? No, thank God, and so we have two more porn stories to add to the list. An appalled dad of a disabled 15-year-old girl called police when he found Mpegs of "lesbian romps" on her school laptop. Apparently, young Roberta thought it had been tampered with, so her dad Jeffrey checked it out. And there he found the "disgusting" movie clips. Let's hope the police find the evil scum that put movies of two naked women bringing each other to orgasm on a computer so it can be watched easily and repeatedly whenever you fancy. If indeed they were put there by some mysterious pornographer. Just imagine what would happen if everyone had access to pictures of people having sex. The very fabric of society would fall apart. Irritating pop guru Jonathan King has been re-arrested over allegations of child abuse. He was initially arrested at the end of November and his computer was seized. He was granted bail and denied three charges of sex offences against boys under the age of consent in the 1970s. ® Related Story Poptastic Jonathan King charged over child sex offences
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Jan 2001

Intel prices to fall 20-42 per cent Sunday

Intel will slash chip prices by up to 42 per cent next week, according to CNET sources, confirming what our own deep throats told us back in December. On Sunday, 28 January, Chipzilla will chomp 21 per cent off the price of the 1.5GHz Pentium 4, which will drop from $819 to $644 in palettes of 1000 chips. The 1.4GHz P4 will fall from $575 to $440, a cut of 23 per cent, as predicted here. And Monday will see the 1GHz PIII priced at $268, down 42 per cent from today's price, $465. That's actually lower that we expected - we'd been given a target price of $348, a 25 per cent reduction. The 933MHz PIII's price will fall 30 per cent to $241, from $348. Celeron prices will come down too, with the 766MHz falling 34 per cent to $112, from $170, and the 733MHz falling 21 per cent, from $112 to $88. And there's more. Mobile PIII prices will come down, paving the way for the introduction of a 900MHz part at $722. The 850, 800 and 750MHz versions will drop to $508, 432 and 268, respectively, representing cuts of between 30 and 33 per cent. The Mobile Celery line, which currently stands at 600, 650 and 700MHz, will fall to $75, $96 and $123, respectively. Again, that paves the way for the introduction of higher clock speed parts - 800-900MHz - though these aren't now expected until Q3. ® Related stories Intel to slash P4 prices 28 Jan Intel's notebook prices, strategy for 2001 Intel warns of tough times in Q1
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2001

Sun, MS settle – war resumes with .NET, C# vs Java

Open warfare over Java resumes between Sun and Microsoft today, after the two companies folded their legal tents and agreed to disagree. Microsoft pays $20 million and gets to ship existing and beta Java product for seven years, while Sun terminates Microsoft's Java licences with immediate effect. The Sun line is that the legal settlement protects Java's integrity (Microsoft doesn't get to call its products Java compatible) and that the period where Microsoft was shipping Java (albeit sometimes in the "polluted" variant) was enough to get Java in front of enough people to serve Sun's purpose. The Microsoft line is that the settlement leaves it clear to "focus all our resources" on .NET - which means Java is in Microsoft's terms a legacy product, and the company will be .NETing furiously to line up C# against Java. Which is kind of like the situation as it existed before Microsoft licensed Java in the first place, except that today Microsoft has a more plausible alternative. And, as it's betting the ranch on .NET already, it might as well go back to trying to use Windows' critical mass to overtake, isolate and overcome Java. So who won? The money involved is chump change for both parties, so the point is the Ts & Cs of the folding of the tents. Sun clearly thinks it now has enough mindshare for it to be impossible for Microsoft to get the genie back in the bottle, and it might just be right. Microsoft thinks it can make .NET the industry standard platform, in which case it would be likely to overcome Java as part of deal. But it might just be wrong. So we'll see. Aside from that, we have the name-calling. Sun VP Pat Suelz said Microsoft "has proven time and again" that you can't trust it, and that it is "unwilling to abide by the common rules of the Internet. Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan's take, on the other hand, is that if other companies grasped what Sun really meant by Java compatibility, they'd terminate their licences too. But if you're waiting for a mass defection, don't hold your breath. ®
John Lettice, 24 Jan 2001
AMD

AMD to ship 1.3GHz Athlon Monday?

AMD is believed to be preparing to launch a 1.3GHz Athlon on Monday. The chip is expected some time this quarter - CEO Jerry Sanders said as much at a Q4 financials conference call this week - but a Monday launch would nicely follow Intel's price cuts, which are expected to be implemented the day before. Certainly one Register reader, when last week attempting to order a 1.2GHz part from a UK supplier, was told he'd have to wait two weeks for it and "by then the 1.3 will be out". Sanders' roadmap pegs Q2 as the release timeframe for 1.4 and 1.5GHz Athlons, with a 1.7GHz part coming in the second half of the year. ® Related Story Intel prices to fall 20-42 per cent Sunday
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2001

MI6 spy secrets posted on Web

Ex-MI6 agent Richard Tomlinson has bypassed the UK's arcane Official Secrets Act by posting extracts of his controversial book on British secret services, The Big Breach, on the Internet. The book, which charts his career in MI6 from the UK to Bosnia to Russia before being unexpectedly fired, is already freely available in Russia and features as number 20 in Amazon.com's sales rank (in fact, we're going to buy one, and why not?). The UK government has been hounding Tomlinson and any publishers that he has turned to to publish the book, but he has managed to get it printed in Moscow. Last week, The Sunday Times went to court to get an order overturned which banned it from printing extracts. The judge admitted that the book's content would soon be freely available - quoting the Internet in particular - and as such the banning order was effectively useless and so should be lifted. Bizarrely, he then gave the government time to appeal, so the newspaper was unable to run the extracts last week. However, as foreseen, there is an official site for the book at www.thebigbreach.com (mirrored at Tomlinson's Russian address - www.tomlinson.ru), which provides some hefty extracts and a whole range of other information on the book and the controversy surrounding it. There is even an email address for Tomlinson, although it seems pretty unlikely that you'll ever get a reply. The book proves to be a more interesting read than the tediously dull Spycatcher book that caused a stink in 1987. The government and secret services don't appear to have learnt their lesson from that saga, but then are you surprised? We're not going to launch into some literary review at the moment, so visit the site to learn more. ® Related Link The Big Breach Web site
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Jan 2001

Mobile mast clampdown in Kent

Kent County Council has banned mobile phone masts from its property, adding to the pressure on the government to make all phone masts subject to the normal planning process. According to the FT, the council also asked mobile operators to voluntarily apply for planning permission for masts erected on other sites. The move has been called "premature" by the Federation of the Electronics Industry, the body representing the operators, and raises concerns that companies may not meet the coverage levels required under the terms of their third generation licences. A planning minister said last year that banning the mast on health grounds would be wholly unjustified. However, Kent County Council argues that it is acting in anticipation of new planning regulations. At the moment only masts over 15m in height fall under planning regulations, but in May last year the Stewart report recommended that the planning laws be changed to include all masts. There are already 22,000 phone masts dotted around the country and the phone companies expect that there will be another 28,000 by the end of 2003. ® Related stories Human rights bid to scrap mobile phone mast Railtrack's phone mast frenzy Mobile masts not mortally threatening
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Jan 2001

Despair.com trademarks :-(

Satirical Web site Despair.com claims it has trademarked the frowny emoticon - you know, :-( - and will sue any mutha that gets in its way. A press release on its site exclaims: "Despair filed suit yesterday in a US District Court in Dallas, alleging trademark infringement against over seven million individual Internet users. The company has requested separate injunctions granted against each. It is believed to be the largest single trademark dispute in history." The list was compiled thanks to the FBI's Carnivore tapping system, Despair explained. It also gives praise to Amazon boss Jeff Bezos for being a "true innovator". "He's really inspired a new movement in the dotcom universe - frivolous, destructive intellectual property lawsuits. I couldn't be happier to be a part of the revolution." There follows an amusing fudged picture of Despair COO Dr. E L Kersten with Jeff and his wife in a restaurant - where apparently Dr Kersten informed Jeff that he was one of the seven million under investigation. It's all pretty funny stuff, so if you fancy a laugh, check it out here. However, one thing in particular that caught our eye was the sentence: "Andrew Kirkus, co-editor of IP Magazine, offered a less dire assessment of the grant, 'Whether the issuance is a dangerous one remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that it appears that someone has finally bested patent 5443036 for most ridiculous intellectual property filing in history'." Patent 5,443,036 is real and titled "Method to exercise a cat". The abstract reads as follows: "A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct." The patent was filed in November 1993 and granted in 1995, and is frankly hilarious - and ludicrous. It's worth it for the picture itself. So, get rid of the mid-week blues and have a chuckle here. ® Related links Despair's trademark story Cat exercising patent Stunning pic of cat patent Related patent megalomania stories AltaVista to become only Net search engine Prodigy to fight BT's 'shameless' hyperlinks patent lawsuit DoubleClick settles patent cases with both Sabela and L90 Amazon sues Barnes & Noble over checkout system Amazon's Bezos calls for radical change in patent laws US patent mess will get worse before it gets better
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Jan 2001

AOL Flat Rate FRIACO-based Net access product

History In September 2000 AOL UK launched AOL UK Flat Rate, a 24/7 unmetered Net access product for Net users in the UK. The service costs £14.99 a month and includes all subscription and Net access costs. The Techie Bit The service is based on Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination (FRIACO) - a wholesale flat-rate pricing system that caps the cost of telecom access costs for ISPs. This is important, because if an ISP's costs are capped then consumer costs can also be capped. The alternative is that users pay more (for their phone bill) the longer they are online. Review Of AOL Flat Rate I've been using it for two months and it works. A few problems here and there but nothing worth getting upset about. Sorry I can't be more scathing than..."So far, so good." What Next Le Freeswerve today said its FRIACO-based (see above, this is important) unmetered Net access product is now available for consumers. BTInternet is expected to follow with its launch on Friday. Other ISPs are expected to follow suit within the next couple of months. That means competition - and competition is good. ® Related Stories Le Freeswerve says 'bonjour' to flat-rate Net access AOL UK extends unmetered service nationwide AOL UK offers 24/7 flat fee Net access
Tim Richardson, 24 Jan 2001

IBM settles ‘fab fumes crippled our kid’ case

IBM has settled a rather nasty lawsuit brought by two former employees of its East Fishkill, New York chip foundry. Michael Ruffing and Faye Calton claim their 15-year-old son's congenital blindness and facial deformities - the latter causing breathing difficulties - were the direct result of their exposure to toxins while working at Big Blue's plant. The couple sued IBM back in 1997. The terms of the settlement were not made public, but IBM's statement about the case notes that it does not accept liability but "the vast majority of civil cases in America terminate without a trial, and that is particularly true as regards cases involving novel and complex issues of law, science and fact". That suggests both parties feel that if the case did go to court, there would be much legal wrangling, success would not be certain for either plaintiff or defendant, and the only real winners would be the lawyers. Certainly, State Supreme Court Justice John DiBlasi has noted that, had it come to court, the case would be a precedent-setter. As such it would likely be long and expensive. It's not hard, then, to imagine both parties agreeing that a sum be paid by IBM to compensate Ruffing, Calton and son, in return for an cessation of legal hostilities. IBM obviously wants the case off its back. And well it might. With over 200 similar cases in the legal pipeline, from parents formerly employed not only at the East Fishkill plant but at sites in Vermont and California, according to Associated Press. Chip production involves some pretty noxious substances, such as the decidedly nasty hydrofluoric acid used to etch the silicon wafers. Many other chemicals used in the chip-making process are known carcinogens. That's one of the chief reasons why environmentalists and local people were up in arms last summer over Intel's plans to build a £15 billion extension to its Leixlip, County Kildare foundry. ® Related Stories Intel Irish fab expansion hits snag Your computer will kill you: part 1063
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2001

Sega set to license Dreamcast to set-top box builder

If Sega has indeed decided to end Dreamcast production, the console may yet live on as the basis for a new product being developed by UK set-top box maker Pace. Sega is believed to be preparing an announcement to that effect, with press and analyst briefings scheduled for Monday, 29 January. The official launch of the Pace box will be made two days later on 1 February, we hear. Essentially, Pace has been working with Imagination Technologies, the company that developed the PowerVR 2 chip that drives Dreamcast's graphics. Imagination was then known as VideoLogic. As a company more focused on the televisual side of set-top box technology, it's not hard to believe that Pace would seek outside help to extend its products' functionality to take in Internet access and gaming. Certainly, Sega has been keen on working with third-parties keen to bring Dreamcast technology on board. Last June, it emerged that various firms were in discussions with Sega to license Dreamcast. One of them was - you guessed it - Imagination Technologies. Pace's plan appears to centre on the creation of a consumer-oriented entertainment system and information appliance, which is pretty much where Sega thinks the market is going. "The future game box will be an all-in-one, set-top box," said Sega Vice Chairman Shoichiro Irimajiri last year. "In that case, Sega's role is one part of many functions, so we cannot do it alone. We need very good alliances or a joint venture." Such a scheme may very well be what Pace and Sega will announce next week. One missing piece in the puzzle is Sega's own plans. That it wants to focus on software is clear, but that doesn't rule out its involvement in the hardware business. If Sega were to ship Pace's box itself, as a remade Dreamcast aimed at new markets - a bit like Sony's reinvention of the PlayStation as the PS One - that plan would be consistent with suggestions that Sega is ending Dreamcast production (it's dropping Dreamcast Mk.1) and the company's claim that it will continue promoting the console for a long time (it's going to push Dreamcast Mk.2). Whatever, we should find out soon. ® Related Stories Sega to license Dreamcast, form chip JV Sega to cease Dreamcast production Sega shares surge ¥200 on PS2 code claim
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2001

105 cybercaffs in one street!

Jordan is bidding for a place in the Guinness Book of Records claiming it has the most Internet cafés in one street. Shafic Rsheidat Street is less than half a mile long yet boasts an amazing 105 cybercafés on both sides of the route, according to a reprt by AFP. In 1996, the street had just four Net cafés. Now, you can't move for them. A spokesman for the Guinness Book of World Records couldn't believe it when we phoned up to check if this was legit. He let out a long, tapering whistle, then said he'd have to go away and find out if anyone had applied. Ten minutes later he called back to say that no application had been received but that he was "very interested in a record like this". "We'd run it under the 'Highest Density of Internet Cafés in One Street' category," he said. Or something like that. If anyone from Shafic Rsheidat Street in North Jordan would like to get in touch we'd only be too happy to pass on your details. We'll keep you posted. ®
Tim Richardson, 24 Jan 2001

Wife exacts revenge over email

A wife who suspected her husband of foul deeds has humiliated him by sending a vitriolic email from his laptop to his entire contact database. Titled "Time to 'Fess up!", the email - purporting to come from PR company boss Paul Evans - was not exactly subtle. "I, Paul Owen Evans, am a snivelling, cheating, lying, arrogant little piece of shit. No, that's not right - I'm worse than that: I'm a despicable, deceitful, dodgy, DICKHEAD who doesn't reserve this attitude just for his wife. Oh yes, one more thing - I've got an extremely small penis that couldn't excite a woman's nostril let alone anything else. Thus endeth my confession. Regards. Paul Evans." We understand that Mrs Evans was not in a good mood (and Mr Evans is none-too-pleased either). Unfortunately, among Paul's contacts were his bosses at Seat, as well those at Volkswagen, industry top-nobs, rally drivers and, of course, contacts and friends. At the time of the mailing, Paul was attending a big car launch in Barcelona and the first he heard of it was when friends called him up. Mrs Evans was confronted at the family home and admitted she'd sent it to upset him but wouldn't go into any further details. Again, the power of email has been clearly demonstrated. It was only last month that Claire Swire and Bradley Chait became Net celebrities thanks to their frank discussion over the merits of Bradley's love juice. Now half the country has heard about Paul Evans and his wife's suspicions. Scary ain't it? Incidentally, we were very interested to note the different approaches to this story by the Mirror and the Daily Mail. The Mirror blacked out the words "cheating", "lying", "deceitful" and "dodgy". It also starred-out the word "shit" but had no problem with "dickhead" - even though it was in caps. The Mail, on the other hand, had no problem with the non-swear words, but "shit" and "dickhead" had to be replaced by Xs. Also, while the Mirror reports that Paul looked as if he "didn't have care in the world" when he returned to London yesterday, the Mail reckoned he "struck a forlorn, desperate figure". You could tell he was very upset, apparently. Amazing how a man could be both relaxed and desperate at the same time. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Jan 2001

George Dubya a dumb mofo: official

UpdatedUpdated So good ole Dubya has become the 33 1/3 president of the United States, spoken of compassion and then forced young girls to live with their sexual mistakes. But what do Americans really think of him? If you really want to know what's going on in the world, you tap your query into a search engine. And what better engine than Google? Our simply query is "dumb motherfucker". And what's this at number one? The George W. Bush for President On-Line Store for Campaign Materials, Wearables and Gift Items. We suspect that some people are having fun here - although it may be that Dubya really is as described. We thought we'd even more extensive research. AltaVista has some kind of IRA poem as its top choice, but then AltaVista has lost its way. Amazingly, Yahoo! agrees with Google and Bush boy is top dog. Excite has some racist newsgroup posting as number one. But Go.com has "The largest and funniest collection of laws on the Internet!" Looks like George just scraps in with 50.01 per cent of the vote. How peculiar. And if you want to know what the youth of America think of Dubya, check out this story from the Washington Post. One of their reporters entered a Britney Spears chat room to see what the kids think of the El Presidente. Update We have a link to the people that claim to have set up this piece of entertainment. Check it out here. Incidentally, yes we know Yahoo! is powered by Google. We will make the humour less subtle next time for you all. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Jan 2001

HP distributes virus infected drivers

Hewlett-Packard has distributed printer drivers corrupted by a computer virus. The infected drivers were inadvertently uploaded onto the hardware giant's Web site, according to a report by Japanese news service Nikkei. The plague drivers, which were distributed between 17 and 19 December 2000, contained the Funlove virus. The issue only came to light after complaints from HP users, and subsequent checks in Japan revealed that 51 program files for printer and BIOS drivers for servers had become infected. Funlove, the same virus which infected Dell's Irish manufacturing plant 14 months ago, affects Windows 95/98/NT Workstation 4.0 PCs, and increases file sizes of programs stored in the disc drives. Despite the fact the virus is not particularly destructive, the incident is a hugely embarrassing for HP - particularly when the lead story on the firm's Web site today trumpets its participation in the Information Technology Information Sharing and Analysis Center (IT-ISAC), the IT industry cyber-crime fighting club. Oh well, at least HP's experience of distributing viruses means it won't be short of something to discuss at this IT industry talking shop. Nikkei quotes a spokesman for HP in Japan who estimated that around 1500 downloads of infected software had occurred. "At this point, we have not received any reports of actual damage from users," he added. It is believed that the virus was somehow uploaded onto the Linux-based server of a HP affiliate in Australia which is responsible for developing driver packages suitable for countries like Japan. HP then transfers these its web servers for local download. Graham Cluley, of anti-virus vendor Sophos, said it was likely that the PC of a developer working on the driver software became infected, resulting in the infection on either executable files or ActiveX controls associated with the driver. These infected files were then uploaded onto HP's Web server. Cluley added: "Destroying files isn't considered 'disastrous' as they can easily be replaced by a clean backup. The damage here is to HP's reputation. This is an 'old' virus and HP's anti-virus software should have stopped it with ease." Hewlett-Packard has reportedly formed a special team led by Mike Rose, chief Information Officer of HP, to thoroughly re-investigate the company's security system. ® Related Link Nikkei story Related Stories Virus writers and cracker love-in Virus infection rates soar Outbreak of viruses disguised as vaccines
John Leyden, 24 Jan 2001

DRAM prices carry on falling

DRAM prices continue to fall, but the cuts are failing to bring back buyers back in sufficient quantities, according to Asiabiztech. Scarce customers means inventory overhang for many manufacturers, which in turn means financial problems, and that means consolidation, either by merger or by departure from the scene. Phew! AsiaBiztech has published one of its regular round-ups of chip contract prices, compiled by market research firm ICIS-LOR. The moving average contract prices of 128Mb DRAMs (PC133 16Mb x 8) for the 30 days ended 5 January was $8.65 in Europe, $7.63 in Asia, and $13.82 in North America, according to research firm ICIS-LOR. Compared with the 30 days ended Dec. 29, Europe saw prices drop 7.98 per cent and Asia 11.95 per cent, while prices in North America stayed the same. Spot prices for memory modules (PC133) were $50.58 in Europe, down 4.94 from the previous week, $44.61 in Asia, down 4.58 per cent, and $46.83 in North America, down 0.35 per cent. ® Related Stories Memory chips make Samsung $6.4 billion DRAM 64Mb slips under $3 Micron shares tumble DRAM makers sit on stocks DRAM slump: Now it's Europe's turn
Linda Harrison, 24 Jan 2001

Celebrititis hits IT world

TV co-presenter and erstwhile science expert Carol Vorderman has hit the papers today, "lambasting" the Internet industry for "porn apathy". By that she means that "those who make their money from the Internet" should take responsibility for its content. And that means no porn. Ever again. Tut, tut, tut. Of course, the first question asked at Vulture Central was: who gives a shit what Carol Vorderman thinks? But of course we were forgetting that she has a ghost-written weekly IT section in The Mirror which covers some of the most important and complex aspects of the Internet revolution: like diets and where to buy socks. More important than that, Carol is a CELEBRITY, goddamnit! She's been on the telly! Lots! Therefore she is uniquely placed to see the truth of the matter and explain to the industry where it has gone wrong. Just a shame that her grand vision is fundamentally flawed and unworkable. Still, it's nice to hear what she thinks. The Reg has also been infected with celebrititis (contagious disease: lazy journalists particularly prone) and so have made it a policy that any controversial stories we write are accompanied by a celebrity's deep musings on the subjects. Hence, you all can look forward to the forthcoming stories: Les Dennis furious at RIP implications. Carol Smillie rules on the Microsoft trial. Mel from Big Brother condemns hackers. Anthea Turner supports WIPO domain name transfer. Richard Madeley releases open source encryption software. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Jan 2001

Anand's Super7 upgrade orgy

HWRoundupHWRoundup Sharky has posted a roundup of the SDRAM memory on the market - a guide to performance that should help you navigate through the infamous memory bottleneck. Not meant to be overly technical, this guide is something like an "All you ever wanted to know about SDRAM but were afraid to ask." For those of you daydreaming about upgrading old Super7 machines, Anandtech gets its "how to" hat on with this guide to the K6-2+ and K6-3+ processors from AMD. Basically, what they are saying is that you don't have to replace your whole system to get a bit more whizz out of it. Hexus kicks off with a review of the Hercules GeForce 2MX card. Loads of pics, specs and testing, so check this one out here. Meanwhile, 3D Rage chills out with a collection of six socket A coolers. With the list of combatants including offerings from Coolermaster, Alpha, 3DFX Cool and OverclockWarehouse, it was always going to be interesting. No one cooler made it past the finishing line first, and the conclusion is fairly detailed, so check it out here. Finally, we read about a groovy little gadget the other day. It is a mouse designed for blind computer users. Scroll the mouse over text and the set of pins in the mouse button forms letters in Braille, among other nifty features. We haven't seen a review yet, but there is a news piece about it here. ® Still hungry for hardware? Check out our archives
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Jan 2001

Royal & SunAlliance sacks 10, reinstates 3

Royal & SunAlliance's internal investigation into staff fired because off distribution of smutty Bart Simpson cartoons finally drew to a close last night (four days later than expected) with three staff reinstated and ten dismissed. All of those sacked are members of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union (MSF) and MSF officials represented them at the inquiry. A spokesman for the MSF told us that the people involved had only been informed last night or this morning. The spokesman also said the MSF will represent any of those fired if they wish to go further with a claim of unfair dismissal. Whether any of the ten take MSF up on this offer will not be known for a few days. ® Related Stories Porn cartoon sackings fight to keep jobs Royal & Sun Alliance sacks ten over obscene emails More email victims at Royal & SunAlliance
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Jan 2001

Microsoft brings web sites back into play

Microsoft has confirmed that problems with its domain name servers were behind the outage of all its main Web sites today, and said that the problem had been fixed making the sites available. From the early hours of this morning until late afternoon www.microsoft.com, msn.com, expedia.co.uk and msnbc.com were all unavailable. The software giant's Hotmail service was also unavailable. A company spokeswoman said the sites were now available and confirmed the diagnosis supplied by Register readers, that domain name server problems were responsible for the blackout, was correct. "Temporary problems with domain name servers, which were not responding to requests, were responsible for this problem, not security issues. Microsoft has not been subject to a denial of service attack," she said. The root cause of the outage is yet to be properly explained but early analysis of the situation points to human stupidity rather than hostile hacker action as been behind the whole debacle. Microsoft initially dismissed speculation that weekend problem with DNS servers that made Microsoft's site unavailable for some are related to its problems today, but this is now considered a strong possibility. After we ran our initial story on the Great Satan of Software's Web Site blackout, Register readers quickly diagnosed that Microsoft's domain name servers were out of commission. Its four domain name servers were are all running, but none are able to locate where www.microsoft.com is. Another reader pointed that, according to the whois database, both microsoft.com and msn.net rely on the name servers at xxx.msft.net He said that Microsoft has all it's name servers in one subnet, and that this subnet was either down or unreachable. Cotse.com, a specialist Web site for computer technicians, said that use of only one subnet broke one of the 'golden rules' of network engineering and meant Microsoft was effectively putting "all its eggs in one basket". Throughout the whole debacle Microsoft's Web server itself was NOT down and is accessible here or here, and weirdly via microsoft.com. ® Related Story Microsoft confirms Web site blackout
John Leyden, 24 Jan 2001

Nine-year-old boy sees Net dreams go down plughole

UpdatedUpdated A story of Internet woe for you. Nine-year-old Joseph Allen had a grand Net idea while in the bath three years ago. He wanted to place a bet on the Grand National over the Internet - presumably because it would be illegal for him to do so in a betting office (even a false moustache couldn't hide the fact that he was 4ft tall). And so Betachance.com was born and he was due to make a small fortune. Only in September, the lad's company was supposed to raise some money on OFEX( Eight-year old floats his gambling dotcom)That was until it got into a legal wrangle with rival Bowmans, which was attempting to stop Betachance from operating out of Mauritius. Bowmans said Betachance was infringing the telephone-betting licence granted to Bowmans by the Ministry of Finance. So Betachance failed to raise the £250,000 it was after and titsup.com it became. It went under on Monday owing punters £30,000. MD Richard Ryan has pledged full payment within two weeks. Ryan told Sporting Life that putting young Joseph forward as the business brain behind the site, had been a flawed strategy. Ryan had a prior involvement with another failed bookmaker, Top Form Racing. Poor Joseph is upset about it all - he wanted to buy a motorbike with the money. Even though that would be illegal for him as well. Kids grow up fast these days. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Jan 2001

ZD story attacks CMGI – on CMGI's own portal

UpdatedUpdated Here's a good one. The latest UK tech news from ZDNet UK, featured on AltaVista, currently includes a story laying into CMGI. Unfortunately, AltaVista is owned by CMGI. The story roundly criticises CMGI and its sordid share price and asks why Compaq let its stake the company drag down its results. "Why didn't Compaq just sell shares a little bit at a time? With a writeoff approaching $2bn, it's pretty clear that Compaq should have reduced its 13 per cent stake in CMGI a little earlier," the article states. Even better, it states that AltaVista will never IPO. Well we have to applaud CMGI's strength of character, promoting criticism of itself on its own site. Bravo. We always thought it was a blinkered, power-crazed conglomerate. Then of course, there is always the chance that it just hasn't noticed yet. Check it out here. And please tell us as soon as it disappears, because we have a handy screenshot to post. Update Because of AltaVisa's method of IDing stories, the CMGI piece is no longer showing at the URL above. So, here is a screenshot for you. ® Related Story AltaVista to become only Net search engine AltaVista confirms job losses in Europe
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Jan 2001

Linux people petition Alcatel for USB ADSL drivers

UK Linux users are demanding Alcatel release drivers to allow its SpeedTouch USB ADSL modem to work with the open source operating system. That, they claim, shouldn't be too hard: Alcatel already has Linux drivers but is refusing to release either binaries or source code. Support for Alcatel's SpeedTouch USB is essential because it's the modem bundled by BT to subscribers of its home ADSL service, BT Openworld Home 500. That costs £39.99 a month plus £150 for installation; the alternative is an Ethernet-connected modem, which will work with Linux, but that costs £299.99 a month plus £260 for installation. And since other ADSL providers are simply reselling BT's products, wherever you go, you're stuck for Linux support. No wonder Linux users feel they're being priced out of the ADSL market. The issue for Alcatel appears to be concern over the open source nature of the OS - it presumably feels that if it releases Linux drivers they too must be open source. That's an understandable perception, even though it's incorrect. Alcatel can easily release Linux drivers without exposing its intellectual property. Linux fans would naturally prefer the code to be released under a GNU-style licence, but that's by no means necessary. As Linux advocate Chris Jones notes: "This is a problem that many companies have been able to resolve amicably by releasing the driver in two parts: a closed source part that contains all the code relating to the IP they are unable to release and an open source part that interfaces with Linux. While not ideal this is preferable to not having a driver at all!" To persuade the French company to change its mind, Jones has set up an online petition for users to make known their support for the driver release. While we were awaiting info from Alcatel on the status of their Linux development efforts, we came across this site, which suggests the French company has been active in garnering the help of Linux coders to develop a driver. The page's author, one Johan Verrept, was clearly expecting an official statement from the company when he set up his driver development page - and is still waiting for it to come. Why hasn't it arrived? Just before Christmas, he noted that permission to release key Alcatel data is awaiting "internal paperwork". Hopefully, the petition will help the company cross the Is and dot the Ts. ® Related Links Sign the Alcatel ADSL Linux petition here The Open Source Drivers for the Speed Touch USB ADSL Modem page
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2001

Dell and Unisys settle $2bn services love-in

Dell and Unisys have completed their super-duper services deal, revealing the agreement is worth $1 billion to both companies over a three-year-period. Under the terms of the global deal, which the two IT giants initially shook hands on last month, Dell will essentially swap its PowerEdge servers for Unisys' 16-and 32-chip Cellular Multiprocessor servers. Round Rock, Texas-based Dell will buy and sell the Unisys APA 7000 16-and 32-processor servers, while services monster Unisys gets to the right to resell Dell's midrange 2-, 4- and 8-way Intel-based PowerEdge servers. In both cases, Unisys gets the job of supporting both its own CMP servers as well as Dell's. The Blue Bell, Pa-based company also agreed to promote Dell's Latitude Notebook PCs, its Optiplex desktops and PowerEdge servers to some of its services customers - Dell will provide the hardware, while Unisys will get the services end of the business. The agreement extends the two outfits' existing services agreement, which started in 1998. Last month Dell said it was gearing up to give rival Compaq a run for its money in the services department. ® Related Stories Dell issues Q4 profit warning World PC market grew less than 15 per cent in 2000 Dell chops US laptop prices Dell announces next year's server offerings Boston man forgets $4m of EMC stock EMC rolls out very big boxes
Linda Harrison, 24 Jan 2001

Car makers Web sites defaced

The UK web sites of car makers Mitsubishi and Fiat are the latest to fall victim to a vandal who exploits vulnerabilities with Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS). Like Microsoft's New Zealand site, which fell victim to defacement yesterday, the car sites were defaced by Prime Suspectz with a message mocking the security of Microsoft's software. The identical defacements are mirrored on the Alldas.de security website. The Ford defacement can be seen here and the Mitsubishi vandalism here. Paul Rogers, a security consultant at MIS Corporate Defence, said it was not clear which of the "numerous" holes in the platform used, IIS on NT4, were exploited to perform the attack. He added that MIS is seeing more demand from users wishing to migrate from Windows-based Web server to Unix-based systems because of security concerns. "There is more work involved in installing a secure NT server than a Unix server. The interdependency of Windows software means you tend to have certain things running whether you want them to or not - Unix is much more modular and so you can stop applications running," said Rogers. "We can set up a hardened Linux Web server in half a day but with NT, by the time you apply fixes and security patches, it takes two days," he added. ® Related Story Microsoft Web site hacked in Kiwiland
John Leyden, 24 Jan 2001

EasyNet coughs up to Battersea first

EasyNet Group has become the first operator in mainland Britain to unbundle a local loop of copper wire from BT's monster telco network and provide its own broadband service over it. The Internet group did it yesterday from BT's telephone exchange in Battersea, London. BT confirmed as much but refused to name the operator responsible. However, El Reg's beak has been close tothe ground and EasyNet finally confirmed it was them late this afternoon. It seems EasyNet's been a tad shy about publicity although they promise to do something about that soon. Ahh, bless. Although the Mayor of London wasn't there to witness such a momentous event, EL Reg reckons these guys deserve a round of applause. After all, this is about a new level of access to BT's hitherto monopolistic network - the beginning of the revolution, comrades, and all that. El Reg chatted to the management team at EasyNet this afternoon and they were positively giddy with excitement. And quite right too. We'd all like to celebrate in EasyNet's success. A little bit of bunting, some cake and pop wouldn't go amiss either to help celebrate this event. Of course, BT's putting on a brave face pretending that this is terrific news. But deep down - deep, deep down - you know they're hurting. Ooooooohhhh, they're hurting bad. Oh, and you can bet Oftel is wetting itself with excitement that someone, at last, has finally done it. ® Related Story Battersea falls in local loop siege
Tim Richardson, 24 Jan 2001

More tales of PC market woe

Analysts have predicted a poor start to 2001 for the PC market suggesting that the sector maybe stuck in the doldrums until the second half of the year. In the US, ING Barings forecast full year growth of 10 per cent, a view that met with little dissent on this side of the pond. IDC analyst Andrew Brown commented: "At IDC we are in discussions about our forecast for 2001' growth at the moment, but we will be revising our prediction down. We still expect double digit growth, but nothing more than 15 per cent." The main driving force in the market would be the notebook sector, while sales of desktop machines would depend mostly on the corporate market's spending plans. "People are willing to spend a little extra money for the benefits of mobility," Brown added. "The move to mobility is really starting to happen now. Increased competition in the LCD flat panel manufacturing market will drive prices of notebooks way down during the year, proving something of a boost." Robert Cihra, an analyst at ING said that in the first quarter the market would "bottom" and that margin pressure would be a major concern for vendors. He estimated that ten per cent of Q4 shipments last year were at the expense of performance at the start of 2001. He kept a "buy" rating on both Compaq and Dell, although Gateway stayed at "hold". Brown said that the early indications were that January would be very bleak, but that February was looking brighter. ING predictions meanwhile would keep the champagne on ice until Q3, at least. ® Related Stories World PC market grew less than 15% in 2000 Dell issues Q4 profit warning
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Jan 2001

More on the $10 paper mobile phone

Telling the world you plan to be the next Bill Gates is bound to get someone's back up. Last week we reported that $10 mobile phones made of paper were scheduled to launch themselves onto the US market in the third quarter of 2001. New Jersey inventor Randice-Lisa Altschul revealed she had an armload of patents on the Super Thin Technology used in the device, and 100 million units on order. Cheap and light, they could be thrown away after the 60 minutes of airtime was used, or topped up using credit cards, she say The claims sparked a barrage of emails from readers, including One2One and the German and Swiss press, keen to know if and how the technology worked, or whether the article was an April Fool's joke (in January?). Cynics found her claims far-fetched, especially as her Website revealed little about the product or her company, Dieceland. But Altschul does have nine patents registered, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office, and claims to have at least another 11 pending. The patents include the wireless telephone with credited airtime, patent no. 6,144,847, disposable wireless telephone, 6,061,580, wireless telephone with credited airtime and method, 5,983,094, disposable portable electronic devices and method of making 5,965,848, disposable wireless telephone and method 5,875,393, and disposable wireless telephone and method 5,845,218. They also include ideas for a kids' cereal that comes in the form of a shaped biscuit and disintegrates when milk is poured onto it 5,863,583, and 5,804,235, and for a toy worn on the entire body like a puppet, 5,643,037. Altschul won't comment on how the Super Thin Technology works, but there's plenty of conjecture on the point. Netpilgrim has put its own opinion online here. Meanwhile, die-hard non-believers, labelling the phone "blatant vapourware", can be found venting their spleen on the subject on Plastic.com. Altschul, who puts the secret of her success down to "persistence and/or insanity, you decide" and wants to be the next Bill Gates "in monetary terms", is negotiating with phone carriers and claims to now receive a thousand emails and phone calls regarding the device per day. ® Related Stories $10 paper mobile phone to launch this year BT urges UK not to use mobile phones Mobile phone brings down Slovenian plane Mobile mast clamp down in Kent Orange hit by Millennium Bug
Linda Harrison, 24 Jan 2001