29th > January > 2001 Archive

The Benchmark's Bunk – BAPCo a ‘Front’ for Intel

The two most widely used industry CPU benchmarks are effectively bunk, as they are under Intel's thumb, a rival maker claims. Speaking at last week's Platform Conference held in San Jose, Randall Kennedy, the Director of Research for Competitive Systems Analysis, stated that BAPCo, the organization responsible for the most popular application level benchmark, SysMark 2000, was simply a "front" for the Satan Clara chip maker. "It's my understanding that all of the other companies listed on BAPCo’s website have effectively just fallen by the wayside" in guiding the benchmark effort, he said. Competitive Systems Analysis, Inc., also called "CSA Research," has developed a competitive benchmark suite marketed under the name Benchmark Studio. According to Kennedy, Benchmark Studio was ironically borne from work he conducted under contract with Intel to demonstrate the superiority of the Pentium 4. A demo application that preceded Benchmark Studio was used in a public presentation by Intel’s Pat Gelsinger last February, he said. Unfortunately these efforts eventually showed that dual-processing Pentium III systems, even when running at much slower clock speeds, easily outperformed even the fastest P4. These results eventually led to a nasty falling out with the chip giant, according to Kennedy. The current iteration of Benchmark Studio, version 1.0, shows a 733 MHz dual PIII system performing about twice as fast as a 1.5 GHz Pentium 4. Additionally, the benchmark also indicates that a 1.2 GHz AMD Athlon DDR system clobbered the same 1.5 GHz P4 system by about 15 per cent. The slowest system Kennedy discussed was one based on the 1 GHz Pentium III which was about 30 per cent slower than the P4. Besides BAPCo's SysMark 2000, the second benchmark Kennedy singled out for being a Chipzilla chew toy was Ziff-Davis' Winstone suite. "Basically the benchmarks out there today say what Intel wants said" about computing performance, Kennedy claimed. He explained that Benchmark Studio differs from other mainstream benchmarks by executing common tasks in the background. Built around out-of-process ActiveX COM objects which stress multitasking performance, Benchmark Studio gives a more realistic idea of system throughput, Kennedy claims. Although Intel wants customers to believe that computing performance is like a stripped-down drag racer going from point A to point B, in real life computing is more like an SUV "running down the road with a load of gear in the back, a canoe on top and two screaming kids in the back shouting 'are we there yet?'" Kennedy stated. You can take Benchmark Studio out for a spin by visiting CSA's website. Currently it's a free download. And you can check out EETimes' take on the subject here. ® Every benchmark tells a different story Benchmarks - Itanic 32bit emulation is 'unusable' P4 - Tom's Hardware has another rethink P4: first Sandra 2001 benchmarks Transmeta talks benchmarks...and 10 hour charges Transmeta speed debate - damned lies and benchmarks?
Our correspondent, 29 Jan 2001
One Microsoft Way by https://www.flickr.com/photos/36182550@N08/ CC 2.0 attribution https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ cropped to 648-432

Woundup Whistler 2419, MS product names

So far I've had two errors since I began writing the Woundup, but I'll confirm one right now. Thanks to the people for e-mailing me the obvious: how can Build 2240 of Whistler succeed build 2416?! Anyway, on Saturday, Microsoft released Build 2419 of Whistler with the following additions (reported by ActiveWin): new splash screen; faster booting; again, more new icons; improved, new installation; new look Control Panel, with new icons; new Personal Bar button added to IE 6.
Luis Escalante, 29 Jan 2001

Colour Palm V spec. leaks

It's looking increasingly likely that last week's picture of the upcoming colour Palm V - officially known as the m505 - is genuine, as we predicted (see Colour Palm V debuts on Web). Further leaks claim the new PDA will be accompanied by a monochrome version, the m500 - the m505 has a 16-bit colour screen. Both will contain 8MB of RAM and 4MB ROM, and will be driven by a 33MHz Dragonball VZ CPU. The m500 and m505 will both sport a Secure Digital Memory Card expansion slot. These parts of the two machines' specifications aren't too surprising, given pronouncements made by Palm in the past. However, we note that sources have also claimed the devices will contain new, lithium polymer rechargeable batteries, that have allowed Palm to reduce the weight of both machines by up to 18 per cent. The mono m500 weighs in at 3.25oz, apparently; the current Palm Vx weighs 4oz. The m505 will be heavier, thanks to the colour display and related components, but will only be 1mm thicker than the current model. As we noted before, the new machines are due to be unveiled officially in March at the CeBIT show in Hanover. ® Related Story Colour Palm V debuts on Web
Tony Smith, 29 Jan 2001

BT to shut London call centre

BTOpenworld - the Internet division of BT - is to outsource its helpdesk and customer services operation to a US company with the loss of more than 110 staff, The Register can reveal. The new contract with customer relationship outfit, ClientLogic, comes into force in June. The details of the deal are not yet known but it is possible even more staff - mostly agency or contract workers - could face the chop as a result of the cost-cutting measures. Some 110 agency staff from BTOpenworld's helpdesk facility in Colindale, north London, have already been told they will lose their jobs when the centre closes at the end of April. It's not known what will happen to staff at call centres in Manchester and Coventry although it's understood the facilities will remain open. Some 250 staff at Thurso, Scotland, have been told their jobs are safe. A spokesman for BTOpenworld confirmed the job losses and said the monster telco would try to find jobs for those affected. A spokesman for ClientLogic - which has its European HQ in Holland - said the deal with BTOpenworld was at its "final stages", although no formal contract had been signed yet. ®
Tim Richardson, 29 Jan 2001

BT cuts off payphones

BT phone boxes are losing out to mobile phones to such an extent that the monster telco has announced it will not be installing any new boxes this year. Revenue from the 141,000 boxes had fallen 37 per cent over the last two years, BT said, a situation it has tried to remedy by upping the minimum charge from 10p to 20p. A BT spokesman said that the increase in use of pre paid mobile phones in particular had contributed to the slump in use of pay phones. He added that many pay phones did not meet their maintenance and cleaning costs because of high levels of vandalism and theft. He told The Telegraph: "We don't expect to increase the number of payphones at present. That is not to say we have installed our last telephone box." He said that BT had a universal service obligation to "provide public service payphones in remote and rural areas." To compete with the rise of the cell phone, BT will try to reinvent the payphone. It said it was upgrading some phone boxes, installing interactive phones that provide net access, email and text messaging. About 2,700 will be converted over the next six months. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jan 2001

ICANN: one in, four out, more TLD controversy

A rolling stone gathers no moss and ICANN, the governing body for domain names, is trying hard to get rolling again. On Tuesday, it announced a new president and CEO in the form of "British-born" Dr M. Stuart Lynn (what's the "M" stand for? We don't know). Stu has a hefty computing background and will start on March 13. He has been selected from a hot list of 300, so the official press release says. The real reason he's been chosen is because he's a fence-sitter. He doesn't come out on the side of the old skool (secretive, suspected of underhand dealings) or the new kids (open, after a freer Internet). His selection is a sign that ICANN's directors want to preserve the status quo, but also that the continued criticism of the organisation has opened their eyes a little. In the same way that there were crocodile tears for Esther Dyson when she left ICANN's chair in November, not many will be upset to see the current CEO Mike Roberts go. And, in a positive sign for the future of ICANN, Dyson's successor Vint Cerf was as clear as he could be over the situation behind the appointment. "Dr. Lynn will bring the energy, experience and skills needed to forge consensus from the diversity of Internet constituencies that have interest in ICANN and its work," he said. The company is also bigging up Stu's geek credentials as techies have been among the most fervent critics of ICANN's policies. Unfortunately, this positive action comes just before the official announcement of a "comprehensive study" into the At Large membership of ICANN. "At large" doesn't sound very exciting, doesn't it? In fact, it's the sort of thing that could easily be cut down without any problems, dontcha think? However, we prefer to call the (current) nine directors the "democratically elected representatives of the Internet community". Call us crazy. If you remember, these were the people voted onto ICANN's panel by people that actually use the Internet. And would you believe it but people voted for the ones that had Internet users' best interests at heart and vowed to remove corruption and dodgy dealing where they found it. Of course, the only thing the self-satisfying existing directors could do was to bar them from meetings and make important decisions without them being present. Until now. The "study" is essentially a way of justifying removing the number of "at-large" members from nine to five, flipping the balance of power in ICANN to industry-selected directors instead of the previous equilibrium with a casting CEO vote. The At Large Membership Study Committee will be chaired by former prime minister of Sweden and UN envoy Carl Bildt. He will head a nine-member committee to "make recommendations" as to the future make-up of ICANN. We haven't had time to check out everyone of the committee and see where their opinions lie, but we'll have a look soon. We reckon it will ask for a reduction of nine to five members. And would you believe it but the report is due to come out at the last ICANN meeting - when Mike Roberts is still CEO. All these shenanigans are only buying time though. People have grown sick and tired of ICANN's two-faced attitude and self-aggrandisement and the formal complaints have started. In November, a group of public interest groups, calling itself the Domain Name Rights Coalition, sent a strongly worded letter to ICANN and press groups complaining over the At Large study. This month, the American Civil Liberties Union has written to the US Department of Commerce questioning ICANN extremely dodgy selection of global top-level domains. And the people behind the .biz domain (told they weren't good enough) and .web domain (told the .web wasn't happening) are not too pleased either. Just this morning, the people behind .tv domains - who are currently trying to make a name for themselves on the Internet - also put out a press release claiming some credit from the intended US Congress reviews into ICANN's gTLD selection procedure. It may be that ole Mikey Roberts got out just in time. And he's so forgetful, he might forget to pack his poisoned chalice with him when he leaves. ® Related Stories Vint Cerf takes ICANN hot seat ICANN legal pay-off avoids scrutiny Country code chiefs, registrars mull ICANN breakaway
Kieren McCarthy, 29 Jan 2001

Microsoft outsources some DNS servers to Linux

Microsoft has partially outsourced the management of its Domain Name System (DNS) servers to a firm that is using Linux for the job. Last week Microsoft's Web server became unavailable to many users first through router misconfiguration and later through a denial of service attack. Networking experts blamed Microsoft's problems on a network domain which they said featured all four of its domain name server on the same network segment - creating a single point of failure. Following the debacle Microsoft has partially offloaded its DNS servers to Akamai Technologies - which tests suggest is running these servers on Linux. A number of Register readers have written to us pointing out that using nslookup, or other similar tools, it's possible to see a number of servers in the akadns.com domain are listed as authoritative DNS servers for Microsoft's domains. Full details of which can be seen below. One enterprising reader used a program called Queso, which identifies an operating system by the way it constructs IP packets. Queso suggests the z*msft.akadns.com domain servers are running Linux, and identifies use of the 2.1 kernel. Matt Power, of security firm BindView Corporation, said a traceroute on the z*msft.akadns.com reveals that they are geographically dispersed. However he is less sure than other readers that the Akamai servers are running Linux. He said the Akamai server are running an operating system with an IP networking implementation similar to that of Linux, which may or may not be Linux - but is certainly not Microsoft Windows. ® Authoritative DNS servers for Microsoft.com are now listed as follows: z6.msft.akadns.COM internet address = 207.229.152.20 z2.msft.akadns.COM internet address = 32.96.80.17 z1.msft.akadns.COM internet address = 216.32.118.104 DNS6.CP.MSFT.NET internet address = 207.46.138.20 DNS7.CP.MSFT.NET internet address = 207.46.138.21 DNS5.CP.MSFT.NET internet address = 207.46.138.12 DNS4.CP.MSFT.NET internet address = 207.46.138.11 z7.msft.akadns.COM internet address = 213.161.66.158 Related Stories Microsoft crippled by S'Kiddies MS blames lowly techie for Web blackout Microsoft brings web sites back into play Microsoft confirms Web site blackout DNS trouble made Microsoft, Yahoo! unavailable MS DNS mess matched by 25% of Fortune 1000
John Leyden, 29 Jan 2001

US wireless auction ends

Well, it's all over, after 101 rounds and a load of breathless reporting. The grand total for the 422 licences was $16.86 billion (£11.6 billion). During the auction, the most fashionable stat to give was the cost per megahertz of the licences. This then could be compared to the same stat for the European 3G licence auction. And so here it is: $4.07 per megahurtz was paid on average in the US. An average of $4.08 was paid in the UK and Germany. Which says to us is that the US hasn't learnt from our stupidity and has grossly overpaid for the licences, but there you go. Mind you, the advantage is that the americans can start using the bandwidth now, whereas 3G is still years away on this side of the Atlantic. Unlike here, the US companies share prices have held up. So! The results. Verizon came out top-dog with 113 licences dotted over the US for $8.78 billion. Cingular (BellSouth, SBC) nabbed 80 for $2.35 billion and Alaska Native Wireless (AT&T) took 44 for $2.89 billion. Together, these three accounted for over three-quarters of the overall total paid. Nextel, VoiceStream and Sprint picked up the remainder. Back to 3G over here. A recent study with people in the mobile industry has said that the companies that paid a fortune for 3G licences don't expect to see a return for more than five years. We reckon they're right - it will take more than five years. Maybe eight. ® Related Story US wireless auction: what a palaver
Kieren McCarthy, 29 Jan 2001

AOL begins work on AIM for Psion

AOL is to port its Instant Messenger app over to the Epoc 32 operating system used primarily by UK PDA pioneer Psion's family of handhelds. That said, the deal was actually cut by SonicBlue, the company formerly known as S3, which persuaded AOL to bring AIM to its Diamond Mako PDA. However, since the Mako is simply a rebadged Psion Revo Plus, users of the Psion machine and other of its ilk should be able to use the new code too. SonicBlue will bundle 'AIM for Epoc' and an AOL email client on future Makos, though the company didn't say exactly when it will be made available. Presumably existing users - and all those Psion owners, of course - will be able to download the software. For its part, AOL will promote the Mako to its subscribers, which sounds like a pretty good coup for SonicBlue, but in fact it will simply appear alongside Palm and PocketPC/Windows CE. Both platforms are already part of the AOL Anywhere strategy. Still, SonicBlue and AOL have agreed to explore joint marketing opportunities, which isn't the same thing as doing joint promotional work, but is a move in the right direction. ®
Tony Smith, 29 Jan 2001

Rambus to demo abtruse memory tech

Rambus staffers will show off some new technology tomorrow at the DesignCon 2001 show. Much of what the memory company will be demonstrating turns out to be highly technical stuff, of more interest to the electronics engineer than the PC user. However, Rambus will give demos of its quad-speed signalling technology, QRSL, which "combines the patented double data rate (DDR) technology along with multi-level signalling to transfer four bits per clock cycle in order to achieve... signalling rates of 1.6Gbps, yielding 12.8GBps from a 64-bit bus", as the company puts it. QRSL operates with a clock speed of 400MHz. You'll note the not-so-subtle reference to Rambus' DDR intellectual property - the basis for much of the company's legal action over the last year - tucked in the middled there... 1.6Gbps is twice the capability of Rambus' current signalling system, at least for its single-channel chips, aimed at consumer and communications applications. Rambus will be describing the technology in detail at the upcoming International Solid-State Circuits Conference. The company will also show off its Quad SerDes Cell for the first time. QSDC offers a 25 per cent performance improvement over rival SerDes parts, Rambus reckons. Which is great news if you're a maker of network cards or routers, but not to too many others. ® Related Story Rambus unfazed by Intel DDR plan
Tony Smith, 29 Jan 2001

Ignite BT? – We'd love to

BT Ignite is the telecom giant's international broadband IP tentacle. Very useful, undoubtedly, but hardly the sort of thing to set the Reg's news pages alight. Until, that is, you look at its new logo. Lads, you want to watch your word order there. Ignite BT? We'd love to. Everyone else form an orderly queue. ®
Lester Haines, 29 Jan 2001

Evesham cuts staff and freephone support

PC assembler and retailer Evesham.com has made 20 people redundant from their jobs, and has also dropped its freephone customer support line. The 20 staff have been culled from the production, technical and warehouse sides of the business, but Evesham has five jobs going its sales and customer care departments which are earmarked for a lucky five out of the 20. In a statement, Evesham said the redundancies would affect less than four per cent of its workforce, and attributed the move to the two tough previous quarters. The company canned its freephone tech support line at the end of December 2000. For PCs bought from January onwards, the support calls will be charged at a local rate. Evesham will honour its free phone number deal for machines bought before then. The redundancies were announced last Wednesday, 24 January. But because word got out that the jobs cuts were coming, Evesham said it had been forced to make a formal announcement to staff about the job losses before it could tell all the people directly affected personally. Carolyn Worth, PA to Evesham's MD, said: "Someone blabbed. So we were forced to tell all the staff, because we couldn't do both [tell individuals and staff] at the same time." The next day, the remaining staff were told their jobs were safe. In the words of one staff member who's still got their job: "It was too late, the damage had been done. The way it was announced was terrible. The atmosphere in the company's HQ was terrible for the rest of the week with people unable to believe how the whole affair had been handled." Something else to sap morale at Evesham was that staff didn't get their PRP (profit related pay) bonus in December 2000. This was the first time the bonus hadn't been paid since the scheme was introduced. An internal Evesham memo said: "As many of you will appreciate the last few months have been particularly quiet in terms of sales. This has been a problem across retail based sales in general and more specifically the computer industry. A combination of this and the higher levels of overheads that we are carrying to ensure that we can cope when things get busier means that we have not made any profit in the first half of the current financial year and thus I regret to say that there will not be an interim payment of PRP in December." The staff get two bonus payments, one based on half year performance, and a second when the full year accounts have been filed and signed off. The Evesham staff received a bonus in November, because the company had had its best year ever up to 31 May 2000. By December, though, it knew sales would be less than expected. ®
Robert Blincoe, 29 Jan 2001

Online ad spend set to rocket in Europe

The amount of cash spent on Internet advertising in Europe is set to rise a massive 70 per cent this year, according to Forrester Research. It reckons online ad spending is set to touch E1.2 billion (£757 million) this year - up from E690 million (£435 million) last year. Forrester predicts that the first half of 2001 will be relatively quiet but that it should pick up during the second half of the year. Forrester's Marc Cohen said in a statement: "Although dotcoms are tightening their belts, traditional advertisers are expected to step further into the market. "In general, there is this virtuous circle going on. More people are going online, more people are getting comfortable with spending money online and more companies are getting money via online channels, so they can spend more on online marketing," he said. Today's research was released on the same day the FT reported that Walt Disney could be about to ditch its portal, Go.com, because of plummeting ad revenue. The FT reports Michael Eisner, group chairman and CE of Disney, as saying: "The advertising community has abandoned the internet." In December, online ad spend across all of Europe's major markets hit E38.8 million (£24.5 million). Spending on online advertising in the UK fell slightly to E17.3 million (£11 million) in December, while in Germany spending fell a smidge to E12.6 million (£8 million). In France, Net advertising spending rose slightly to E8.6 million (£5.4 million). In Britain, Virgin Group spent the most in December forking out some E349,000 (£222,000) in online advertising. ®
Tim Richardson, 29 Jan 2001

Tales of the strange from hardware headcases

HWRoundupHWRoundup Because it is Monday, I didn't want to launch into a massively serious roundup, so here are a few light bites for you delectation: Roland (Rolotech) gives some thought to the best videocard for an overclocked PC. He's looked at 25 cards and ran them at different AGP settings to get loadsa data together. He also has a look at how the bus frequency works, so have a read of it here. Obviously overcome by a flush of community spirit, Hardware OC has posted a rookie guide to buying a computer. How to find the best deal, what you want to put in your machine and how to tell if you are about to be fleeced. All useful stuff. Equally useful is their rather funny case mod. It may be bad for your health, but who cares when you can add another gizmo to your computer? I'm talking about a USB cigarette lighter. Madness, sheer madness. Want a webcam to sit on your machine and make you feel space age? Oh go on, you know you do. Check out this review over at Hexus. They took an appreciative look at the Creative blah blah webcam. It doubles as a camera you know. If, like me, you have never felt the urge to surf the Net while getting the milk, the idea of an internet fridge might seem, shall we say, a little odd? However, just because something is odd doesn't mean we shouldn't look and laugh. So check out the 68th edition on ZZZ Online where as well as the Net Fridge and more strange keyboards, there is the "curiouser and curioser" factor associated with a tractor driven by GPS. You'll find it here. On a slightly more serious note, Tweakers Asylum has written a review of the ABIT KT7A RAID (KT133A) Socket A motherboard, find it here. And last of all, Iamnotageek took a look at the Asus V7700 Ultra. Eleven pages, no less. Check that one out here. ® Still hungry for hardware? Check out our archives.
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jan 2001

BT confirms pondering Yell demerger

BT today confirmed that it was reviewing its options for Yell, its international directories and e-commerce subsidiary. Weekend press reports speculated that the monster telco was considering demerging the whole business - instead of the 25 per cent that was originally up for grabs. A BT spokesman said its proposed listing of up to 25 per cent of Yell has been affected by the continuing review of the business by the Office of Fair Trading. He added: "We are therefore continuing to review all the options in relation to Yell. One option would be a full demerger of the business, although such an option would be subject to the resolution of certain technical issues such as taxation." BT said that a full announcement would be made as soon as practicable. ®
Tim Richardson, 29 Jan 2001

DRAM saga shafts Danish memory maker

The DRAM price meltdown has claimed a fresh victim in the shape of Danish memory maker Memory Card Technology. The company said today it had applied for bankruptcy court protection after weekend talks with investors failed to secure a refinancing plan. The application, in Aarhus, Denmark, came a week after the outfit warned losses for the fiscal year would be wider than expected due to DRAM chip prices continuing to fall. At the time the company did not give financial details, but warned the board had "undertaken a substantial lowering of expectations" for the year ending June 30. This was the second time in three months Memory Card had cut its sales forecast - in November it said it expected to record losses of 195 million kroner ($24.1 million) for the year. The company, which sells memory to vendors such as Fujitsu, IBM, Samsung, Toshiba, Siemens and Acer, said it aimed to keep trading during the payment suspension. It has more than 300 staff, with factories in Europe, the US and Australia. Like most of its rivals, Memory Card last year said it expected DRAM demand to start outstripping supply, which would then push prices up. When this didn't happen it had to resort to flogging its products on the spot market. Earlier this month the price of 64Mb SDRAM chips slipped to under $3. Analysts and chipmakers do not expect the DRAM market to rebound until the second half of 2001. ® Related Stories 64Mb DRAM slips under $3 Micron shares tumble DRAM chips make Samsung $6.4 million DRAM prices carry on falling P4 volumes to ramp up in Q3 2001 - Intel
Linda Harrison, 29 Jan 2001

IBM and Dell kick Toshiba into notebook 3rd place

Toshiba has lost its lead in the notebook market to IBM, if new figures from Dataquest are to be believed. The research company released figures today which put Toshiba firmly in the back seat, taking third place behind IBM and Dell. According to reports online, IBM has a 13.5 per cent market share, Dell has 13 per cent while Toshiba is chasing hard with 12.5 per cent. Notebook sales are strong too, suggesting Toshiba may have a more serious problem than as tired market. The sector grew 21 per cent on the previous year - rather more than the 1.6 per cent growth in sales of desktops. A spokeswoman for Toshiba expressed surprise: "No, I haven't seen that yet," she said. "Those figures don't normally come out until the 31st." Meanwhile, Toshiba is planning the launch of a PDA this summer, but the details are as yet undecided, according to a company spokesman. Reports have tipped M$ PocketPC to be the operating system. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jan 2001

World Economic Forum to decide Net's future

As you will probably know, the World Economic Forum is currently taking place in Davos, Switzerland (bottom right-hand corner) where 3,200 heads of state and top CEOs will get together and discuss what they think they ought to do to make the world better/safer/richer. Among them will be Bill Gates and the founder and chairman of eBay, Pierre Omidyar. They, along with others, will be continuing the conversation that started at the G8 meeting in Japan. There they decided that what the Third World needed was to buy lots of computers and routers from the West. We didn't quite agree. Of course, they'll be discussing plenty of other things, but apart from the main topics, most of what you'll read in the press will concern the inevitable riots from anti-globalisation protestors that last year turned the city into a war zone. While one group of less powerful folk (called the World Social Forum) protest at the trampling of civil rights, the exploitation of peoples and cultures and the gradual transformation of ethics into profits, another group will be heavily protected and discuss global matters that they hope to benefit from. Bill Gates has already kicked off the Forum (in his new guise as world health saviour) by pledging $100 million to AIDS research and challenging others to stump up the remaining $450 million required for new vaccines to the world killer. Tonight at 7.15pm (GMT), he will be one of several speakers at the Seizing the Global Digital Opportunity chit-chat. This will be webcast on the Net and can be found here (although you will need Real Player 7, so download the extras beforehand). The main topics, apparently, will be how the Net can be policed, who has the right to tax Net-based purchases and how mobiles will change the world. It should prove interesting viewing. There's a little bit of ivory-tower philosophy going on here and those at the conference risk getting policies on the Internet as wrong as they have with other aspects of globalisation. Fortunately, UN top dog Kofi Annan has his head screwed on and has suggested that businesses pay a little more attention to people's cultures before piling in with global goods. That said, one group has come up with an interesting way of making a non-violent point. Web site www.HelloMrPresident.com is offering everyone the chance to have a message (up to 160 characters) projected onto the mountains by the conference centre. The site has installed a huge laser, pointing at the mountains, and broadcasts messages on the mountain in letters 50 foot high between 6pm and 11pm (GMT). Of course, it gets to censor any messages. We look forward to seeing what the conflagration of so many great minds will produce (the world leaders, we mean). Incidentally, has anyone else felt the need to call the venue Davros, after the leader of the Daleks in Doctor Who? It seems to fit a little too well. Davros sole aim in life, as far as we can remember, was world domination. ® Related Links World Economic Forum Hello Mr President.com Webcast Related Story G8 leaders make us sick
Kieren McCarthy, 29 Jan 2001

Siemens recalls ISDN products

Siemens is recalling some of its ISDN networking products after discovering a manufacturing fault in a batch of its kit which affects the electrical safety of the devices. The fault could affect between one and two per cent of a batch of devices, which were manufactured in its Swiss production line, and distributed throughout the world from October 2000. A Siemens spokesman suggested most of the affected products ended up in Ireland but didn't have a figure on how many faulty products in total were produced nor a list of where faulty kit was distributed. Although nobody has been hurt by the problem, the fault has safety implications because users might receive an electrical shock from faulty equipment. If the ISDN box is faulty, when the power lead is removed, there is a small possibility that a pin from the ISDN box may come loose but remain attached to the power lead. In these circumstances, the user could be exposed to electrical shock if the other end of the power lead is still connected to the mains electrical supply. Among Siemens' suppliers affected is eircom, Ireland's main communications company, which estimates between 50 to 100 boxes, which are marketed by eircom under the name "ISDN BRA" and "ISDN hi-speed Plug and Play", affected by the problem have been distributed in Ireland. The manufacture is unable to identify precisely which products are affected, so eircom is contacting all 6,800 customers supplied with Siemens-based ISDN BRA or ISDN hi-speed stock between late October until last week. To highlight the issue, Siemens and eircom have also placed ads in Ireland's national newspapers. Siemens has promised to replace or modify potentially faulty equipment, and it will begin delivering fault-free equipment into Ireland from today. In the meantime, Siemens and eircom are instructing customers not to remove the cable lead from the ISDN box. Siemens has apologised to all eircom customers for any inconvenience or concern caused by this issue. ® Related Stories Siemens calls on new family of IP telephony products
John Leyden, 29 Jan 2001

Palm to buy Psion?

Palm is trying to buy UK PDA pioneer Psion in order to take control of Symbian, according to claims doing the rounds among London's stock brokers, at any rate. Earlier today, Psion's share price rose to 290 on the rumour, but later fell to 213 after it admitted its wireless device development deal with Motorola was over. Psion is Symbian's majority shareholder. Symbian was formed to take Psion's Epoc 32 operating system and build a platform for next-generation mobile communications and computing. Since then, it has attracted the support of the likes of Nokia, Matsushita, Sony, Ericsson and Motorola, all of who have invested in the company. Palm won't discuss the matter. Psion's official line on the claim is a 'no comment', but one insider, cited by the APX newswire, was sceptical. He said any move by Palm to take over Symbian via a Psion acquisition would be rejected by Psion's fellow Symbian stakeholders. We're not so sure about that. After all, Sony, Nokia and Motorola have close ties with Palm, either as a PalmOS licensee, software partner or hardware supplier, so they might be very happy to get Palm in on the deal. The end of Psion's joint development programme with Motorola, a Palm pal, suggests Motorola may even have given its blessing to a Palm acquisition. We're dealing with Palm and we're dealing with Symbian, so why not bring the two together and simplify matters, you can just see the likes of Nokia and Motorola thinking. Bear in mind, though, that misheard whispers of the end of the Motorola-Psion team-up could equally be the source of the Palm takeover rumours. Symbian would certainly be the target of any Psion takeover were Palm to make such a move. Palm could well do with a new, more advanced OS to provide a more powerful framework for its increasingly Internet-oriented applications and to take advantage of faster, more capable processors. Symbian's Epoc 32 is an ideal contender, and indeed Nokia and Palm are already modifying the Palm UI to run on top of an Epoc core. Like we say, there are some very close ties between Palm and various Symbian members. Palm has a market cap of around $15 billion, so it has plenty of resources to make a pass at Psion's shareholders. "Palm would have to buy in paper; trouble is, its paper is based on the company being valued as a software company," said the Psion source. "If Palm were to licence Symbian it would say to the market that it is not a software company, because it doesn't have a next-generation operating system which is competitive." Except, of course, that by buying Psion, Palm would get a next-generation OS for itself, so that's possibly less of an issue than APX's (senior, we suspect) Psion deep throat believes. Psion said that the loss of Motorola's development money would cost it around £12 million in 2001 profits. ®
Tony Smith, 29 Jan 2001

What is the problem with eGroups?

What is going on with eGroups? The US email conferencing system switched over from eGroups to Yahoo over the weekend, and it doesn't seem to have gone smoothly. Yahoo says it is trying to assess user reaction to the switch. Allow us to help: There are a lot of annoyed eGroupers out there. A loyal Register reader let us know that the switch was made with no consultation, no warning and no choice. In order to access an eGroup, our source tells us, a member of the group must now register for a Yahoo user ID, and sign up to Yahoo's terms and conditions. "We have a situation where people are unable to access their own groups without registering with Yahoo," she told us. "We can't even move out groups without giving Yahoo our details, something I am not keen to do." Our source is concerned that Yahoo will own copyright on the content of the discussion. The privacy policy is also causing some concern. "The terms and conditions are unacceptable," our source told us. "I run a group where people post code. Why would anyone want to give away the copyright on their own code?" We called Yahoo in the UK but it is apparently only a US switch, so far. The UK people are talking to the US people later today. A spokeswoman told El Reg "I will put this on the agenda for discussion." Yahoo, we wait with bated breath. ® Related Links The old eGroups site
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jan 2001

Napster pay-to-share service coming in June

Napster CEO Hank Barry yesterday reiterated the company's Bertelsmann-sponsored move to charge users a subscription fee. At the same time, Bertelsmann bosses said the fee-based service is set to launch this summer. Hovering around the World Economic Forum in Davros, Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Middelhoff said: "I'm convinced we can introduce in June or July of this year a subscription model - with a real working digital rights management system." He'll need to if he's to convince Bertelsmann Music Group's fellow 'big five' global recording companies that Napster's music sharing system can be turned from a threat to an opportunity. Not only does that mean preventing copyright infringement - hence Middelhoff's reference to a digital rights management system - but proving that users will by and large be happy paying for something they're used to getting for free. Middelhoff reckons they are. "We did market research and asked 20,000 Napster users, and the willingness to pay is there," he said, according to Reuters. Barry, meanwhile, repeated his earlier promise, made around the time the agreement with Bertelsmann was struck, to launch a fee-based music sharing service. As before, he couldn't or wouldn't say when this will happen, though presumably he hadn't heard that his chum, Middelhoff, had already let the cat out of the bag. Barry didn't say how much Napster will charge, either. "Napster will continue to be an easy site to use and Napster will pay royalties," he said. ®
Tony Smith, 29 Jan 2001

Posh club calls wannabe an asshole

The manager of a posh member's club has been caught out by Claire Swire syndrome - that is the inability to be discreet in an email. Jason Gissing was thinking about joining the club, but wanted to spend an evening there before signing up. He approached Patricia Cusack, manager at Monte's Private club in Sloane Street asking her to arrange an evening at the club for him. [A sensible move, given the £250 joining fee and the £500 per year membership costs - Ed.] Cusack then emailed her secretary the following: Amanda, can you arrange a time for this asshole to come in. Weekends at 8pm are no good for anyone --he obviously wants to make a night of it. There is nothing really wrong with that. Maybe he'd annoyed her; maybe she was just having a bad day. No, the stupid part was that she also emailed it to the "asshole" in question. He forwarded it to a friend who sent it on to forty more, and now the email has been around the world and back - making appearances in Australia, Germany and the US. We contacted Monte's to ask about the message, but have not heard anything from them today. A spokeswoman for the club told London freebie rag Metro, that Cusack would not face disciplinary proceedings. "She made a small error of judgement," she said. Cusack is apparently "devastated." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jan 2001

Lucent unveils IP strategy targeted at telcos

Lucent Technologies has revamped its range of carrier-grade networking kit in an attempt to make it easier for service providers to provide value-added Internet services for businesses. Last week, Lucent announced plans to cut 16,000 jobs worldwide in an effort to save $2 billion and turnaround its business through a seven-point restructuring plan, which may include pruning its product portfolio. Announcement of the job cuts came when it announced a first quarter net loss of $395 million on sales of $5.84 billion. Despite a slowdown in demand in the telecommunications market of late, largely caused by reorganisation among US telcos, Lucent has high hopes for growth in this area. Today it introduced the Spring Tide 7000, an extension of its 5000 switch, which can handle 192,000 concurrent users sessions instead of 64,000. According to Lucent, the main differentiator for the product compared to Nortel, Cisco and Juniper who are also active in this market, is the ability to support Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) over MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching). In other words it allows a telco's customer to easily set up encrypted sessions over networks which are optimised for high-speed delivery of traffic. This is not much of an edge, particularly when you consider Cisco's had MPLS technology for at least two years and with Juniper Networks, and Nortel Networks, has already staked out its territory in the telco space - leaving slim pickings for an old-world product manufacturer like Lucent. Lucent's revamped IP strategy, which draws heavily on technology acquired from last years $1.3 billion purchase of start-up Spring Tide Networks and its $20 billion buy-up of Ascend Communications in 1999, doesn't appear to move it from reliance on older technologies fast enough. ® Related Stories Lucent to restate sales and cut 10,000 jobs
John Leyden, 29 Jan 2001

AMD to buy back ‘undervalued shares’

AMD is to buy back up to $300 million worth of shares to "assist in offsetting dilution from stock issuances under our employee equity incentive". The company reckons that its shares are undervalued (it certainly trades at a massive discount to the multiples afforded Intel) and says the buyback "represents a sound investment at its recent trading prices". But is this really an efficient way of allocating capital? Buying $300m worth of stock to pay staff certainly won't do that much to support the share price, and if the share price falls, it won't do too much for the shareholders either. While we're on the AMD corporate finance front, it may be worth mentioning Slashdot's careless post today concerning "speculation on AMD buying Transmeta". "According to a report on CNBC, it appears AMD is interested in purchasing Transmeta," or so says Slashdot. The CNBC article is actually an attempt to nail down as false rumours that AMD wants to buy Transmeta, and explains the lack of need that AMD has for the code-morphing, cash-crunching, wonder-stock. AMD buying Transmeta? Now that would be stock dilutive. ® Related link AMD Board authorizes $300 million stock repurchase program
Drew Cullen, 29 Jan 2001

BIND holes mean big trouble on the Net

Serious new security holes have been found in the ubiquitous BIND name server (DNS) program, the worst of which jeopardize hundreds of thousands of computers and make key elements of the Internet's infrastructure vulnerable to hack attacks, according to a Monday morning advisory from the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). The advisory documents four vulnerabilities in BIND, including two buffer overflows that could allow attackers to remotely gain unrestricted access to machines running the program, which comes installed in a dozen different vendor flavours of Unix and Linux. "Because the majority of name servers in operation today run BIND, these vulnerabilities present a serious threat to the Internet infrastructure," the advisory reads. California security company Network Associates Inc. (NAI) discovered the buffer overflows in December, and notified the Internet Software Consortium (ISC), which maintains BIND. Upgrades that eliminate the holes are now available from some vendors, and directly from the ISC, which spent the weekend quietly urging network operators to upgrade in advance of Monday's announcement. Name servers perform the critical task of translating Internet domain names to the address numbers needed to connect online. Last week, a technical problem left Microsoft's name servers inaccessible for two days, effectively cutting off the company's web properties, including MSN and Hotmail. The Microsoft glitch was apparently unrelated to the BIND vulnerabilities -- the company has its own name server software -- but experts say the snafu provided a small scale preview of the havoc the BIND holes could bring. "These vulnerabilities have the potential to take out big chunks of the Internet," says NAI's Jim Magdych. "The things we've come to rely upon in the new economy could be rendered inaccessible." Exploits certain to follow The most serious of the vulnerabilities is a buffer overflow in the portion of BIND 8 that processes transaction signatures. Another buffer overflow in version 4 was found in the section of code that formulates error messages. With either hole, a sophisticated programmer could write code that would kill the name server remotely, or give them 'root' access to the operating system on which it runs. Buffer overflow vulnerabilities are formed where a program accepts more data from an outside source than it can store in the memory allotted for it. The extra data overflows into a portion of memory where instructions are stored, and end up being executed as though part of the original program. Because of the nature of the BIND bugs, to exploit either of them a hacker will need to craft code with the handicap of a limited instruction set, a task akin to constructing a sentence without using the letters 't' and 's'. "In a normal buffer overflow, you tend to have complete control of the values," says NAI engineer John McDonald, one of the researchers who discovered the bugs. "These will require more clever exploits. The values that you're overrunning the buffer with are limited." But regardless of the effort involved, network administrators likely have little time to perform an upgrade before easy-to-use programs exploiting the vulnerabilities become widely available and a wave of attacks ensues. "It's a very subtle bug, and I would hope that people won't turn around and have an exploit out in eight hours," says NAI's Magdych. "But it would probably be very optimistic to think that it'll be more than a day or two." CERT recommends that users of BIND 4.9.x or 8.2.x upgrade to the newly-released BIND 4.9.8 or BIND 8.2.3. But if history is a guide, then many network administers will not hear, or not act on, that advice, and thousands of vulnerable systems will remain open. In April, 1998, discovery of a buffer overflow in an earlier version of BIND led to a cyber-crime wave, with CERT logging intrusion reports into November of that year, despite a similar advisory and available patches. According to court records, victims included the U.S. Defence Department, which suffered intrusions into unpatched systems around the country. © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 29 Jan 2001

Xerox to chop 4000 staff after Q4 loss

Xerox is to lay off 4000 staff after reporting losses of almost $200 million for Q4. The printer company said today the jobs, which represent around 4.5 per cent of worldwide staff, would go during the first quarter, with more to follow later in the year. It recorded a $198 million loss, or a loss of 31 cents per share, compared to a profit of $294 million, or 41 cents, a year earlier. This was its second consecutive quarterly loss. Revenue at the Connecticut-based company slipped 13 per cent to $4.83 billion. "We are executing every element of our turnaround plan to yield the fundamental changes in our business that will deliver long-term benefits," said Xerox chairman and CEO Paul Allaire. Allaire said he expected the company to get back into the black in the second half of the year. Meanwhile, PC giant Hewlett-Packard is to lay off around 1700 staff, or two per cent of its total workforce. The move will affect its sales and marketing division, and is the result of a restructure which has led to job replication, the Californian company said. HP staff will learn of their fate next month, and will get to apply for other jobs at the company. ® Related Stories Xerox mortgages leases for $435 million Xerox denies bankruptcy story Xerox patent action over Palm Pilot casts cloud on IPO World PC market grew less than 15 per cent in 2000 HP slashes Q1 forecasts
Linda Harrison, 29 Jan 2001

Microsoft attacks Jackson in reversal plea

Microsoft said it had acted lawfully and competitively in final papers filed today in its antitrust appeal. The software giant also used the 75-page document to attack Judge Jackson's order to split the company in two. Microsoft said Jackson's decision should be reversed, and also asked for him to be thrown off the case for comments he made in public about the company - which it said showed he was biased. "The district judge's public comments about the merits of the case and his...attacks on Microsoft are indefensible," Microsoft said in the filing. It added that they demonstrated "an animus towards Microsoft so strong that it inevitably infected his rulings." The brief, a reply to a government filing made on January 12, used examples from a new book, which claims Jackson compared Gates to Napoleon - but said he trusted Justice Department lawyers. Oral arguments are due to be heard on the antitrust appeal at the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on February 26 to 27. In unrelated news, Gates pledged $100 million this weekend to help develop an African AIDS vaccine. ® Related Stories Microsoft outsources some DNS servers to Linux MS' antitrust backup plan: Net monopoly US files MS antitrust brief Microsoft dragged kicking and screaming MS to demand government data in bid to derail sentence DOJ: Why Microsoft must be split
Linda Harrison, 29 Jan 2001

Disney confirms Go.com death

The Walt Disney Co has confirmed it is to kill off its Go.com Net portal. The move will result in around 400 layoffs, mostly in Sunnyvale, California, and the company will take a Q2 charge of around $800 million. It is also looking to sell the Go.com name and InfoSeek search engine. The announcement comes just weeks after Rupert Murdoch's News Corp said it was shutting its online division, while the New York Times also said it would cut back on its Web operations. The Disney Internet Group will continue under its current management but is destined to become a business unit of Disney, while all outstanding shares of Disney Internet Group will be converted into regular Disney stock. "The Internet continues to be a central focus of our company's business strategy," said Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO. "We believe this action should help us gain greater competitive advantage as we leverage Disney's creative content, brands and other assets." ® Related Stories Disney forced to remove Go Network logo Infoseek porn exec gets porridge for Xmas Online ad spend set to rocket in Europe Disney buys out rest of Soccernet Disney's Eisner solves Net piracy problem
Linda Harrison, 29 Jan 2001