7th > February > 2001 Archive

Chip designers vow to cool overheating Gelsinger

If current Gelsinger models are obeyed by 2010, Intel's vice president of architecture may be producing enough thermals to bring microprocessor conferences to a grinding halt. And by 2015, the heat dissipation from future Gelsingers will require portable, industrial scale para-coolants to chill the hyperbolic Veep. That promises a crisis for the industry: "No one wants to take a Gelsinger on a plane with them," said a concerned engineer at the ISSCC solid state circuits conference in San Francisco yesterday. Well. It certainly was brave of Chipzilla's Pat Gelsinger to decide, on behalf of the rest of the microprocessor industry, that power and thermal problems create an incipient crisis for chip designers. He even trailed the "revelation" in a press conference last week. The Register wasn't invited to this, but since we're told that we ruined his Christmas we're not surprised and we ought to shut up and take this slight like men. Or maybe even be uniquely flattered. But at the ISSCC conference - which brings three thousand of the top world's top silicon techies together to network and to brag about their cool design work - you could float a boat with the crocodile tears shed by non-x86 engineers. Engineers have been factoring in Smaller and Cooler into their designs for a long, long time. The heat and power crisis talked up by Gelsinger, these other folk were eager to remind us, is one largely of Intel's making. And one that Intel uniquely has to deal with. For by making clock frequency a marketing determinant, and by cranking up those deep pipelines, x86 has engineered a chip architecture without a future (as it was in the early 1990s)... into one without a future. Apple fundamentalists (stay your pens) will point out that that today's G4 PPCs run at skin temperature, without need of a fan, and do their work in a 4-stage pipeline. The P4's triumphant 19-stage pipeline - designed with even higher frequencies in mind - has been benchmarked all the way up to PIII performance. Clearly, something's gone awry in x86land. Yesterday we caught a couple of presentations which put the boot in ever so slightly, Neither had news value - if you've got this far, you're probably au fait with Sun and IBM chip research - but in any case, but both made merry with Gelsinger's dystopian hyperbole. It's a kind of MAJC Sun Microsystems gave a talk about the MAJC chip - that's the odd, VLIW multiple core processor it's designed. We didn't really learn anything new -it's multiple execution units, it nabs 18W of power at 500Mhz, that I think we already knew - but much of the presentation was geared around how the design work had focussed on minimizing power use. Right down to the insulators. Clearly, MAJC could be a mobile-friendly core in the not-too-distant future although Sun sees it as an embedded infrastructure ploy. And then, in what we thought the most stylish presentation over the two days, a representative of IBM's S/390 processor came to deliver a technical explanation of the designer work. And oh so casually. Now rechristened the ZzzzzServer 390, the processor is designed to run at around 10W, at 770MHz, although the presenter admitted that "really it's a refrigeration unit". It's built on a 0.18 micron process, effectively bundles 18 CPUs onto the die, and has built-in failover. Oh yes, the Zzzzz/390 has built in redundancy: everything's duplicated so that if a processor unit dies, the chip shunts the workload off onto another unit without the app missing a beat. The speaker put the optimal pipeline depth at 7 or 8 stages, with the proviso that your mileage may vary. Branch prediction the speaker patiently explained, is next to impossible for commercial applications, so there's not point building this hot, heavy infrastructure that quite literally misses the point. Like many other presentations, it focussed on the 'how we got there' - but how we got there involved lots of heat-minimising design decisions. Just like MAJC. All of which dear readers, suggests that chip designers from Compaq, Sun and IBM are rather relishing the Geltsinger meltdown. All the cards are stacked in their favour. ® Register Challange The Register is well read by the best engineers in the industry. But as far as we know, no one has yet determined the Gelsinger co-efficient. At what point does the G melt-down? Perhaps when sufficient SDMI/CPRM constants are introduced? A Vulture baseball cap goes to the smartest equation that solves this industry conundrum. Mail us, and once we've run this through our deeply-pipelined supercomputer, the first answer not to melt will be deemed the winner. Related Stories Intel touts Alpha, IBM designs to beat 'hotter than reactor' chips
Andrew Orlowski, 07 Feb 2001

eToys death sentence confirmed

eToys has given up the ghost and admitted it will end its tortured existence on April 6. The e-tailer said it would lay off its remaining 293 staff in California and Virginia, adding there was no guarantee its existing cash would last until March 31, as previously forecast. This is, of course, unless its knight in shining armour comes along - which even eToys said is not expected hto appen. The company is also on the verge of being de-listed by NASDAQ - the exchange sent it a warning because its shares had failed to reach the minimum $1 price over a period of 30 consecutive trading days. It threatened to remove the dotcom by May 2 unless it was able to improve its performance. A bit irrelevant, now. Last year, execs at the online toy merchant warned it would run out of cash at the end of March. From there its demise was pretty speedy, and at the start of this month it shut its doors in Europe, then cut around 60 per cent of staff. In dotcom related news, letsbuyit.com today announced it had managed to net the $49.6 million it needed to stay afloat from a consortium of backers. ® Related Stories Letsbuyit gets $49.6 million backing eToys sees losses rise in Q3 eToys to shut doors in Europe eToys cuts 60 per cent of staff
Linda Harrison, 07 Feb 2001

CNET shuts Gamecenter

CNET will call time on Gamecenter at the end of this week, blaming the closure after four and a half years on a drop in advertising revenue. The move is part of a streamlining plan announced today that will see around 190 people, 10 per cent of CNET's workforce, lose their jobs. Other CNET ventures which are unprofitable or have failed to grow will also be culled, CEO Shelby Bonnie said. The company intends to eliminate duplication of coverage across its network, and this would appear to be why the axe has fallen on Gamecenter. Since acquiring ZDNet in July last year, CNET had owned two gaming sites - Gamecenter and ZDNet's GameSpot. One of them had to go. Gamecenter has sites in the US and Asia, but GameSpot is a worldwide brand, established in 15 countries and published in their native languages. So the winner comes as little surprise. Interesting timing, though. Last month, CNET plugged one cash leak by withdrawing its Gamecenter Alliance, an affiliate scheme which supplied advertising to third-party sites on a commission basis. At the time, spokesman Josh McCloskey said: "CNET has decided to re-dedicate resources from the Alliance right back into Gamecenter and Gamespot. We want to concentrate on making Gamecenter and Gamespot the strongest gaming sites on the Internet." But the closure of Gamecenter just a month later is sure to raise suspicions that CNET bosses planned this week's redundancies as long ago as late last year. CNET lost just shy of $400 million last quarter, and forcasts revenue for this year as low as $450 million, a cut of one fifth over earlier estimates. The company's stock is currently worth around 30 per cent of its value one year ago. ® Related Stories Cold wind blows through Games Web sites Barrysworld goes titsup.com Register games industry channel
Andrew Smith, 07 Feb 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 Brace yourself for the new Windows XP UI

When the Woundup first begun, I asked the readers what they thought of the Windows UI. Some say it needs major changing, other say people like us make Windows "buggy". Although, after much speculation, it's highly probable we will see Microsoft's new UI, codenamed Luna, in Windows XP "Luna will come with Beta 2, but I can't say more than that," said a source to Paul Thurrott. But this isn't exactly classified - a couple of months back Microsoft execs were telling The Register to expect the real new UI in Beta 2, so really we're talking no change of plans here. Yet.
Luis Escalante, 07 Feb 2001

Transmeta says TSMC is second ‘primary supplier’

UpdatedUpdated Transmeta has signed the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company as its 'second source' chip maker. The deal ends IBM's role as exclusive Crusoe churner. Dave Ditzel, Transmeta's CEO, let slip news of the deal at the Banc of America Securities' Technology Week sessions, held in San Francisco this week. Now we were a little puzzled by this, since we'd heard TSMC had become a Transmeta partner some time ago. Indeed, the foundry claimed it was sampling Crusoe CPUs last May. Of course, that may simply have been TSMC showing off how it had been courting the chip designer. More likely, it's now being brought up alongside IBM as one of Transmeta's key suppliers. The reason? According to Ditzel, it's just because customers demand it. "Customers like second sources. It's just safety," he told reporters. Certainly, the company seems happy with IBM. Said Ditzel: "We've got a great relationship with IBM. They've done a spectacular job for us and they've actually got a team of people in Vermont dedicated to supporting Transmeta. We're getting all the capacity we need on among their most advanced technology." Then again, IBM did drop Crusoe for Intel's Ultra-low Voltage Pentium III when it was designing its latest slimline ThinkPad for the Japanese market. That must have galled Ditzel and co., since the 500MHz Chipzilla part is arguably neither as fast nor efficient as their own chip. Of course, IBM's notebook division is not connected with its foundry - they'd all be running on PowerPC, otherwise - so it seems unlikely that Transmeta signed TSMC out of spite. Ditzel said he expects TSMC to begin delivering wafers during the first half of 2001, which is a pretty wide window in anyone's diary. IBM will continue to punch out Crusoes, and Transmeta will "adjust the mix depending on availability and pricing". Transmeta is expected to take the Crusoe 5x00 family up to 1GHz this year, keeping power consumption low through 0.15-0.23 micron wiring, a silicon-on-insulator process and the second generation of the company's LongRun power-management technology. The company clearly reckons demand will rocket, and while IBM has been able to meet demand so far, Transmeta wants some extra capacity, particularly while shifting down to .13 micron. It's not hard to imagine IBM continuing to churn out the current, highest volume parts, while TSMC comes in to supply the limited volume high-end chips. Coincidentally - or maybe not - TSMC this week announced its Black Diamond .13 micro low-k dielectric copper processing technology, co-developed with Applied Materials. TSMC said it had already proved the process with pilot contracts from ten chip companies, some of whom "specialise in microprocessors". Any guesses who that might be? Pilot production will begin in late Q2 this year, which nicely fits in Ditzel's timeframe. ® Related Stories Transmeta strikes .13 micron notebook stroke TSMC samples Crusoe at .15 micron
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2001

Vivendi buys Uproar games site

Vivendi Universal has bought Uproar, the New York-based Net games firm for $140m. It is to merge the operation into its Flipside unit and says the deal will make it world's biggest Internet games operation, with 14 million American users. Vivendi is paying $3 a share, a 50 per cent premium on Uproar's share price before the deal was announced (but a fraction of Uproar's IPO price, struck last March). This values Uproar at $60m - Vivendi is shovelling $80m of cash into the firm. In a Reuters interview, Agnes Touraine, VP of Vivendi Universal Publishing, said the online games operation would move into profit before the end of the year. Estimates of combined turnover for Flipside and Uproar of $70m were conservative, she said. ® Register games industry channel
Drew Cullen, 07 Feb 2001

Taiwan Semicon: Q1 2001 to be a bit of a downer

The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has become the latest chip outfit to offer a gloomy outlook for the coming year. Yesterday, it admitted it is anticipating below-par earnings for the current quarter, the first of fiscal 2001. The warning follows a record Q4. For the three months to 31 December 2000, TSMC recorded profits of NT$21.47 billion ($662 million), up 159 per cent year-on-year. Gross margin increased five per cent to 46 per cent. TSMC's utilisation rate hit 100 per cent during the quarter. Sales for the period was up 127 per cent on year-ago quarter. Sales totalled NT$53.82 billion ($1.66 billion). For the year as a whole, sales hit NT$166.2 billion ($5.12 billion), up 127 per cent on 1999. Net income was up 165.1 per cent to NT$65.1 billion ($2 billion) year on year. But despite the growth TSMC saw during 2000, the company's outlook for 2001 is pessimistic. It expects margins to plummet nearly half to 24 per cent and utilisation to fall to 70 per cent of its total capacity. The good news is that the company expects a recovery around March/April. It won't be enough to lift its Q1 figures, but should improve Q2's numbers. ® Related Stories VIA's January sales up 92 per cent AMD claims chip sales growth to beat industry average SIA admits 2001 chip growth forecast won't be met
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2001

Cisco's Borg-like acquisition spree may be curtailed

Cisco has missed its second quarter profit and revenue forecasts. The networking giant also trimmed expectations for its next quarter and predicted sales then be down five per cent on its revenues this quarter, which would mark the first time its revenues have declined between quarters in its 11 years as a publicly traded company. A slowdown in US economy and reorganisation amongst US service providers, a key market for Cisco's high-end routers, have hit its revenues far more than it first predicted. Similar reasons forced rivals 3Com, Lucent Technologies and Foundry Networks to issue profit warnings in December, and Cisco's results show it isn't as insulated from a general networking market slowdown as was first supposed. Excluding costs for acquisitions and other charges, Cisco's profit for the quarter was $1.33 billion on sales of $6.75 billion, far short of earlier estimates of $7.13 billion. Cisco's actual net income for the second quarter of fiscal 2001 was $874 million. Cisco's chief financial officer told analysts in a conference call that the networking giant's revenue for its next quarter will be "flat to down 5 per cent". Sales in the fourth quarter are also expected to be pegged at around the same level. Overall 2001 revenues for Cisco are now forecast to grow by about 40 percent instead of 55 per cent, equating to revenues of about $26.5 billion for Cisco's fiscal year which ends in July. Cisco is known for consistently surpassing expectations and the disappointing figures have sent shock waves through the technology sector and caused its shares to fall from $35.75 to $33 in after hours trading. It should be noted in all the gloom that Cisco's sales of $6.75 billion were up 55 per cent on the same quarter last year, and that it is, for all its detractors, a well run business with a strong product portfolio and enviable customer base. However Cisco faces challenges on financial front that might affect it even more than prevailing market conditions. Cisco's acquisitions are made mostly by pooling, using its shares to buy target companies (normally start-ups). The imminent ending of pooling of interests as accounting practice in the US could severely curtail Cisco's Borg-like tendencies to acquire firms with promising technologies. ® Related stories: IT giants who don't pay tax part 1: how Cisco does it href="http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/7/16637.html">Why you should quit your job and work for Microsoft Cisco woe as HP's Fiorina joins board Lucent to restate sales and cut 10,000 jobs Cisco looks rosy, 3Com peaky Foundry issues second profit warning
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

Linux not behind investment bank open source shindig

About a week ago, we wrote about plans by Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, the German investment bank, to release its Openadaptor software to the open source community. It seems that we, along with a lot of other publications, got the wrong end of the stick. In the first report we said it was based on Linux, Apache and a bunch of other stuff that wasn't quite right. My only excuse is that my editor made me do it, and a pretty poor excuse it is too. The software, which the bank developed and has been using in house for the last two and a half years, allows distinct systems and devices to connect to each other on the Net. It allows any system to talk to any other system, often without any extra code, the banks says. This means that a whole supply chain can be linked, along with internal systems, while still allowing access to the Web. It will be hosted on SourceCast, a system designed by CollabNet to allow programmers from different companies to work on projects together over the Internet. Because it is open-source software, individual companies will be free to tweak it for their own systems. Anyone interested in adding their two-pennies worth to the mix should check out OpenAdaptor.org.® Original Story Banking software goes Open Source
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Feb 2001

BT bottles unmetered debate

UpdatedUpdated BT pulled out of a debate about unmetered Net access prompting critics to sneer at BT's apparent cowardice. Angus Porter, MD consumer Division of BTOpenworld, cried off, leaving Matt Peacock of AOL UK and Erol Ziya of the Campaign for Unmetered Telecoms (CUT) to rip into BT unopposed. It doesn't take a genius to work out that Porter was on a hiding to nothing if he showed up. However, since BT has already conceded that unmetered Net access is a viable solution, it makes his non-appearance all the more confusing. What promised to be a lively debate at Internet industry conference, ISPCON2001 in London turned into a one-sided assassination of the monster telco and the way it has obstructed the development of Net access in Britain. BT has called up the Reg to point out that ISPCON2001 had approached the company in November to ask if Ben Andradi, president and coo of BTopenworld, could take part in the debate. Andradi couldn't fit it in, so Porter was suggested as best alternative. But then he had to pull out, and notified the conference before Christmas. A BT spokesman said ISPCON2001 hadn't come back to the telco asking for another debater. But couldn't BT have used its initiative and found someone else to take part, or does it only have two people clued up on the subject of unmetered access? "Yes we could have found someone else - but didn't," said BT. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Feb 2001

Mobiles don't cause cancer! This time

The biggest survey into a possible link between mobile phones and cancer has concluded that there isn't an increased risk of cancer from using mobiles. Media reports seem to be claiming that this has been the conclusion all along. The survey by the Danish Cancer Society and published yesterday in the US Journal of the National Cancer Institute took a different and wider approach to most reports that have gone before. Rather than going for the suspect approach of sticking a mobile next to a sensor modelling a human head, the Danish crew used records of mobile phone subscriptions and tallied them with results from the national cancer register - a databank of Danish cancer sufferers of the past 50 years. They found there was no causal link between the two and so have concluded that mobiles don't cause cancer. This is a widely accepted scientific approach and it is certainly far harder to fudge than single experiments, but is still rather flawed in giving us a true image of what mobiles may or may not be doing to our brains. The fact is that if we assume mobiles can cause tumours, the process is not a fast one. It will take years and years for a tumour to develop in most cases. And since mobiles have only been widely used in the last two, three years, it is hardly surprisingly that the survey hasn't seen a disproportionate increase of cancer in mobile phone users. The report is happy to point this out. Also, since the Institute was dealing with raw facts, it has very little knowledge of all the factors that may affect conclusions ie. how much the phone is used by an individual, whether they have a high incidence of cancer in their family, environmental factors etc etc. The value of this report is not in its first publication. The great value of it will be if the same methodology is applied in subsequent years and then the results compared with previous reports. Then it should be possible to build a fairly strong case either way. Here's the abstract from the report, by the way. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has really gone overboard on the phone issue in this fortnightly issue - it has written an editorial and three news pieces on the matter as well as the main report. The journal is on the Net, but unfortunately you need a subscription to get access to the full text. Its Web site is here. ® Abstract Cellular Telephones and Cancer: a Nationwide Cohort Study in Denmark Background Use of cellular telephones is increasing exponentially and has become part of everyday life. Concerns about possible carcinogenic effects of radiofrequency signals have been raised, although they are based on limited scientific evidence. Methods A retrospective cohort study of cancer incidence was conducted in Denmark of all users of cellular telephones during the period from 1982 through 1995. Subscriber lists from the two Danish operating companies identified 420,095 cellular telephone users. Cancer incidence was determined by linkage with the Danish Cancer Registry. All statistical tests are two-sided. Results Overall, 3391 cancers were observed with 3825 expected, yielding a significantly decreased standardized incidence ratio (SIR) of 0.89 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.86 to 0.92). A substantial proportion of this decreased risk was attributed to deficits of lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers. No excesses were observed for cancers of the brain or nervous system (SIR = 0.95; 95% CI = 0.81 to 1.12) or of the salivary gland (SIR = 0.72; 95% CI = 0.29 to 1.49) or for leukaemia (SIR = 0.97; 95% CI = 0.78 to 1.21), cancers of a priori interest. Risk for these cancers also did not vary by duration of cellular telephone use, time since first subscription, age at first subscription, or type of cellular telephone (analogue or digital). Analysis of brain and nervous system tumours showed no statistically significant SIRs for any subtype or anatomic location. Conclusions The results of this investigation, the first nation-wide cancer incidence study of cellular phone users, do not support the hypothesis of an association between use of these telephones and tumours of the brain or salivary gland, leukaemia, or other cancers. Related Link US Journal of the National Cancer Institute Related Stories Mobile phones: now it's eye cancer We've got brain cancer and we want your money US says cell phones won't kill you Finally the truth! Mobiles only kill children
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Feb 2001

Welcome to Security

Congratulations! You've found a Register story that doesn't exist. By exposing this paradox, you have threatened the stability of the space-time continuum. Happy now?
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2001

Love Bug author says bug created in cyber gang war

The suspected author of the Love Bug computer virus has re-emerged as a security pundit. Onel de Guzman, who faced charges relating to spreading the Love Bug in the Philippines before they were dropped for insufficient evidence, has taken time out to talk to a reporter at the Chicago Tribune "over a cup of coffee at the Old Manila Cafe" about the nature of virus writing. The Love Bug spread like wildfire last May causing an estimated $10 billion damage, largely in lost productivity, as it brought down email servers worldwide. De Guzman - the prime suspect in the case - was detained under a law relating to gaining passwords to defraud banks and credit cards, largely because of lack of a specific Philippines law covering computer crime. He was later released without charge. During the interview de Guzman, who has been lying low since his release, admitted he did write, or as he put it "cook", the Love Bug virus, but he still continues to deny releasing the virus. Much of the rest of the Tribune piece documents a mixture of braggadocio and posturing from de Guzman, or "The Terminator", as he tells the Tribune he's nicknamed. He suggests the Love Bug was released during a war between local cyber gangs that went wrong, something security experts insist is "cobblers", and possibly an attempt by de Guzman to duck any blame for the spread of the virus, if the authorities, in the Philippines or elsewhere, file further charges. He also states that you don't need to be a genius to write a virus, about the only thing we're in complete agreement with de Guzman about. However the piece contains a star-quote from Nataniel Cuasay, a graduate student at AMA Computer College, where de Guzman himself studied. Cuasay or the "Wizard" told the Chicago Tribune: "Hackers create viruses to knock out the opposition. It's a war game. It's fun. It's better than sex." No lads, it's not - and you really, really need to get out more. ® Related Link Chicago Tribune article: Love Bug' virus: the one that got away, hackers say Related stories Love Bug suspect released MS Love Bug patch catches flak Bill Clinton associates Love Bug with terrorism The Register guide to beating the Love Bug. Not Love Bug mutates faster than Pokemon
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

Users haven't learned any lessons from the Love Bug

Computer users haven't learned any lessons from the spread of the Love Bug virus last year. According to research published by IDC this week, more than a third (37 per cent) of business email users would still open the attachment of an email titled 'ILOVEYOU' - the same message used in emails infected with the Love Bug. Arriving as an innocuous email from a recognised sender, the Love Bug spread like wildfire last May causing an estimated $10 billion damage, largely in lost productivity, as it brought down email servers worldwide. Alex Shipp, senior anti-virus technologist at MessageLabs, which scans customers email for malicious code, said it still intercepted 20 copies of the Love Bug virus a day, indicating that many have not updated their anti-virus protection The IDC survey, which questioned 150 people in job titles from secretary to managing director, found of those respondents who were personally responsible for updating anti-virus software nearly half of them left it longer than a month to do so. Shipp added that fewer still have applied the Outlook patch Microsoft had issued to prevent other malicious code using the same tricks used by the Love Bug authors. Mark Sunner, chief technology officer at MessageLabs, said of the survey findings: "On a day such as St Valentines' Day email users are vulnerable to unusual email, which creates an opportunity for virus writers. "As Human beings we are naturally inquisitive and that makes us susceptible to a whole host of socially engineered viruses." The report found that on any day of the year users would open an email appearing to be from someone they know if the following appeared in the subject line: Great Joke (54 per cent), Look at this (50 per cent), Message (46 per cent), No title (40 per cent) or special offer (39 per cent). ® Related stories Love Bug author says bug created in cyber gang war MS Love Bug patch catches flak The Register guide to beating the Love Bug. Not Love Bug mutates faster than Pokemon
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

Plan to charge for BIND security info

Following revelations about a serious security weakness, the group involved in administering the BIND domain name server software is considering charging for access to security-related information about the important Internet program. The Internet Software Consortium (ISC) plans to create a forum that will only be open to itself, vendors that include BIND in products, root and top-level domain name server operators, and other "qualified parties" who ISC decides to admit. Members, who will pay a membership fee and be obliged to sign non-disclosure agreements, will receive privileged early warnings of problems with BIND. The idea runs counter to the spirit of open disclosure of security problems that has long existed amongst security professionals, and has attracted strong criticism on mailing lists, such as BugTraq, that it will make the impact of any vulnerabilities worse, and play into the hands of crackers. BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) is an open-source software program that has become the de-facto standard for Domain Name System (DNS) servers on the Internet. Around 80 per cent of DNS servers run BIND. Last week, a notice outlining a series of severe security problems with BIND was posted by 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 In a interesting discussion on the issue of creating a fee-paying forum, available here, Paul Vixie of ISC, said that the organisation would still issue security through CERT, but felt that using the security clearing house as a way to discuss issues between vendors was awkward, hence the creation of a fee-paying forum. ® Related story BIND holes mean big trouble on the Net
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

Network Associates weathers DoS attack

Security firm Network Associates was subject to a denial of service attack last night after crackers posted a Trojan horse on security mailing list, BugTraq. An anonymous posting to the full-disclosure security mailing list, which has 85 000 readers, that appeared to be an exploit of recently discovered vulnerability in BIND name server program, was in fact cleverly disguised malicious code that attacked Network Associates' web site, Nai.com. Anyone who compiled and ran the code, which security experts estimate might have been as many as 20 000 of BugTraq's readers, became unwitting participants in an attack against Nai.com. Douglas Hurd, European business development manager for security products at Network Associates, said the attack affected the availability of Nai.com for 90 minutes. "This was a denial of service type attack - with no penetration of our corporate network. Basically we got blasted with a lot of traffic - which was all noise," said Hurd, who said the effect would have been much worse if the firm did not already have both perimeter defences and intrusion detection software in place. Unsurprisingly Hurd takes an extremely negative view of the posting of the Trojan, but he is not particularly harsh in his criticism of BugTraq. "I accept there has to be openness in Internet communities like BugTraq but they have to be made more secure, so that they can't be used against firms. This isn't easy to do because you can't take a totalitarian approach to security." Chris McNab, a network security analysts at MIS Corporate Defence, said that since BugTraq is a moderated security list the malicious posting, which he said contained fairly sophisticated code, should nonetheless have been detected earlier. Network Associates issued a security advisory about the BIND vulnerability earlier this week, and McNab said the mode of attack used by the Trojan, sending packets to Network Associates DNS servers, suggests a possible revenge motive for the attack. "Network Associates web site was intermittently up and down last night," said McNab, "NAI's Covert Labs discovered the BIND problem and this could be an attempt to kick NAI in the shins. This was quiet sophisticated coding and not the work of script kiddies, we're dealing with elite crackers here." The posting of the malicious code to BugTraq was made from made from nobody@replay.com, an email address of an anonymous posting service. A hunt is on to discover who was responsible for the attack, by Network Associate's Hurd did not express any particular confidence that the attacker would be brought to book. ® External links Vulnerabilities in BIND 4 and 8 Related Stories BIND holes mean big trouble on the Net Microsoft crippled by S'Kiddies Microsoft confirms Web site blackout DNS trouble made Microsoft, Yahoo! unavailable
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001
Cat 5 cable

Flaws leave Cisco content switches vulnerable

Cisco has issued a security notice which admits to two security vulnerabilities affecting its range of high-end content switches, one of which remains unfixed. The firm said that its Cisco Content Services (CSS) switch product, also known as Arrowpoint, has several security flaws once access to the command line interface is granted. The first problem means a temporary denial of service can be launched against the switch by an unprivileged user, who can input commands that can cause the device to continuously reboot. A separate bug means that a user without administrator privileges can view filenames and file contents. Among the products affected by the vulnerabilities are Cisco CSS 11050, CSS 11150, and CSS 11800 boxes, which run Cisco WebNS software. No other Cisco products are affected. These devices are used by very large firms and service providers to manage Internet traffic flowing into web server farms, providing better reliability and resilience by distributing workloads across many servers, which can be a complex process. Deri Jones, of security testers NTA Monitor, said the issue is potential serious because only companies with deep pockets, and whose Internet presence is vital, would shell out for the Arrowpoint kit, and so "denials of service would almost certainly mean a big loss if they occur. "The flaw itself, of having users with some level of privilege but not full privilege - but who are found to be able to do more than was intended, is a recurring theme in security problems," he said. Users can protect themselves against a possible denial of service attack by upgrading to either 4.01(12s), and revision 3.10 (71s) of Cisco WebNS software. Cisco is working on a fix for the authorised access problem, and in the meantime is advising users to apply access control lists or restrict access through the firewall to the device's management interface. The flaws came to light during a security audit of one of Cisco's customers, but the networking giant has stated that so far it is not aware of any malicious exploitation of the vulnerabilities. ® External link Cisco's security notice
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

Anti-virus becoming less important than content control

By 2007 firms will spend more on content filtering and encryption technology than they do on anti-virus software according to a report by industry analysts Frost & Sullivan released this week. According to the analysts, malicious code monitoring will experience high growth over the forecast period, but will become subsumed into other technologies. This is an admittedly tricky process because of the difficulty of integrating anti-virus and encryption technologies. Frost & Sullivan forecasts that total sales in the European Internet content security market are expected to grow from $524.6 million in 2000 to $3.13 billion in 2007, but the portion of this represented by anti-virus products will diminish from 80 per cent to 38.5 per cent in the future. The growth of content filtering will be driven by companies increased desire to control their employees' use of email and the Internet. Tom Fawcett, a security analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said that firms are prepared to spend more on content filtering to avoid becoming exposed to legal risks, from legislation like the Data Protection Act and the RIP Act, and to control worker productivity. Growth in sales of content encryption products will also see a huge upswing due to the introduction of data protection legislation, pushing sales from $38 million to $1.36 billion by 2007. Historically sales of anti-virus software has been stimulated by the outbreak of viruses, such as Melissa and the Love Bug. Fawcett said, at least within corporates, the effect of such security scares will become less important on overall spending in future, because anti-virus protection is a done deal. We're far from sure about this one because we regularly hear have firms that have fallen victim to malicious code because of lack of adequate antivirus protection. If it isn't Hewlett-Packard distributing virus-infected drivers, then it's employment agency Manpower's email system been swamped by Melissa. Also if most people were adequately protected we wouldn't see the continuous spread of old infections, like Kakworm. Some estimates, such as a study by securityportal.com available here, suggest that users can take two years or more to update their antivirus programs and apply patches to fix program vulnerabilities. Graham Cluley, of Sophos, agreed that home users are more "lackadaisical" than corporates and often have anti-virus software that is out of date, so that people need to take personal responsibility over the issue. He conceded that vendors need to do more on the issue both by designing software that makes it more obvious to users if protection is not up to date and releasing tools that make it easier to update remote workstation and laptops, which may be only infrequently connected to corporate networks. Michael Kalinichenko, technical director of Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky Labs, said the problem is "users don't think about the necessity of upgrading their antivirus software until the moment of infection." ® Related Story Encryption vs anti-virus
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

AOL users warning over ‘rapidly spreading’ Trojan

A security firm has warned AOL users of the rapid spread of a Trojan horse program which can steal their passwords. Rates of infection among AOL from variants of a piece malicious code, called APStrojan.qa, have doubled in the last month, according to antivirus firm McAfee.com, the consumer arm of Network Associates. It rates the problem as "medium risk". The Trojan is almost a year old but has recently been developed in order to target AOL communities. However AOL itself has denied that its users are been significantly affected by the Trojan, which it describes as a "non-issue". APStrojan.qa is a password stealer and Internet worm written in Visual Basic 5; it has been modified by crackers to target AOL users. The Trojan commonly comes as an attachment, called mine.zip, accompanying an e-mail entitled 'Hey You'. If opened, the malicious code attempts to steal victims' AOL account names and passwords. It will also attempt to send itself to a users' 'buddylist' if they are logged onto AOL. Victims are likely to be alerted to the virus only when they have difficulty shutting down their computers. Andrew Weinstein, a spokesman for AOL, dismissed concerns over the security of its Internet service, which has 27 million users. "We track these issues, and we've not seen any significant reports of this Trojan," said Weinstein. He wasn't willing to explain how the Internet provider tracked virus infection, and said that AOL itself doesn't, and wouldn't, scan its users' email for viruses because it "didn't want to open users' email", a not altogether satisfying explanation. Weinstein said AOL provides a forum for members to download antivirus software and also took steps to educate its users, for instance by advising them not to open suspicious email attachments. McAfee is one of the providers of this service and surely it wouldn't issue an alarmist alert in order to draw attention to its software amongst AOL's huge user base? Perish the thought. ® External links: Network Associates facts and figures
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

Captain Crunch sets up security firm

Legendary hacking figure Captain Crunch is returning from years of relative obscurity to set himself up as a security consultant. Perhaps the most well known figure in the digital underground besides Kevin Mitnick, John Draper made his name in 1971 when he discovered that the toy whistle in the Cap'n Crunch cereal box could trick the telephone network into giving him free calls. Draper's activities as a phreaker, who was able to illegally control the US telephone network, are documented in a seminal article in the October 1971 issue of Esquire, called "Secrets of the Little Blue Box", a reference to an electronic gizmo used to generate the tones necessary for sending commands down the phone network. Apple founders Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, who was then a student at the University of California at Berkeley, were so impressed by the article that they sought out Draper. After getting in touch with Draper, legend has it he turned up at Wozniak's dormitory sporting an outlandish moustache and horn rim glasses who announced, "It is I!" A typically flamboyant entrance for Draper, who is well known for his manic intensity and insistent curiosity. According to the International Herald Tribune, Draper schooled Wozniak and Jobs in the art of making their own 'blue boxes', electronic devices that allow users to gain free and illegal access to the phone network. Legend has it that the two novice entrepreneurs sold the blue boxes door-to-door on the Berkeley campus, several years before they founded Apple Computer. However the Esquire article also brought Draper to the attention of the FBI. He was subsequently arrested and sent to prison on a number of occasions for telephone 'phreaking', or obtaining free phone calls. However, Draper did not waste his time inside and while in prison designed EasyWriter, a word processing program developed for Apple machines that came with the first IBM PC in 1981, beating Bill Gates to the punch in doing so. Latterly Draper has been travelling the world, picking up work that used some of his skills, like living in Goa and designing Web sites for an Indian entrepreneur. Now Draper has stepped into the spotlight again by joining with a number of partners to set up an security software and consulting firm called, ShopIP. Draper, now 57, describes himself as a "white hat" hacker and sees the creation of ShopIP as a way he can repay society for his past indiscretions, as he explains in an interview with the International Herald Tribune, where he acknowledges the problems he has in living down his colourful past. "I'm not a bad guy," he said. "But I'm being treated like a fox trying to guard the hen house." ® Related Link ShopIP International Herald Tribune article on Captain Crunch
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

‘Cyber Sweeney’ host hi-tech crime meet

The National Crime Squad is holding its first ever conference on hi-tech crime and electronic extortion via the Internet. The conference, to be held between February 14 and 15 at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham, will include delegates from over 20 European countries and will feature speakers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Crime Squad. A key aim of the conference will be to obtain international co-operation on how computer crime can be investigated and forge stronger working relationships between police forces and commercial bodies. British IT industry representatives will be join colleagues in law enforcement to look at the threat of electronic extortion and the ways in which the problem can be either reduced or alleviated. The conference precedes the establishment of a National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, due to be operational in April this year, which has received £25m in Home Office funding to set up a "Cyber Sweeney" squad, which is expected to employ around 40 officers. The Unit will work with Government, local and national law enforcement agencies and forces as well as industry in order to help make the UK a "safe environment in which to conduct ebusiness". During the conference case studies and simulated exercises in order to enable delegates to explore the nature of fraud on the Internet, and discuss methods on how they would approach such a problem, including evidence gathering and ultimately the detection of the crime. After the conference the National Crime Squad will then publish a policy document and best practice guidelines for the benefit of all delegates in developing responses to serious and organised crime on the Internet. The full scope of hi-tech crime in the UK has yet to be realised but for companies who can unwittingly fall prey to this anonymous or faceless crime it can result in severe economic loss. Meanwhile, a damning report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that Internet banks could become a haven for organised criminals who wish to launder money. It warned that organised criminals can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to clean-up the proceeds of serious crime, and is calling for tighter controls. Few cases of money laundering over the Internet have so far been reported, but this does not stop the OECD's Financial Action Task Force of warning of the potential risks from Internet banking or online gambling of criminal misuse. ® Related Story Police request right to spy on every UK phone call and email
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

Encryption vs anti-virus

The proper integration of encryption and anti-virus software is the only way to stop the two security tools continuing to work at crossed purposes, according to virus hunters at Kaspersky Labs. Traditionally anti-virus and encryption, although opposite sides of the same coin, have not been particularly complementary. Michael Kalinichenko, the technical director at Kaspersky, said that properly integrating the two was a big logical challenge, and that it had to be approached sensibly. "If a company has its antivirus software outside the LAN, but the encryption software at the desktop, then a virus that arrives in an encrypted message can get into the LAN and will be able to move unchecked around the network," he said. On the other hand, if the encryption program runs outside the LAN, then "you would need a group key which kind of defeats the object of the exercise," according to Bob Middleton, marketing director at Kaspersky reseller Oxford Solutions. Another problem, according to Denis Zenkin, head of corporate communications at Kaspersky, is that people using both anti-virus and data encryption are often lulled into a false sense of security. He explained that because the anti virus software's priority is to be the first program to handle any incoming data, in may beat the decryption algorithm to the file. "It is a question of configuration," he said, "But if a file containing malicious code is scanned while still encrypted, it would be given the all clear." Although no concrete solution to the problem has been put forward, the fact that an anti-virus company is thinking in terms of encryption is an important shift in attitude. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Feb 2001

World Economic Forum hacked

Intruders, possibly hacktivists, compromised a computer network of the World Economic Forum and obtained credit card details from a number of its attendees during its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Reuters reports. The Swiss paper SonntagsZeitung was contacted by computer enthusiasts who sent it the data, which might have been stored on computers at the Forum's reception centre in Davos. The Forum draws politicians, civil servants and business tycoons from throughout the world. This year's participants included such global luminaries as Bill Gates, Yasser Arafat and Yoshiro Mori, the wire service notes. Aggressive security measures had blocked protestors from disturbing the serenity of the Forum's high-minded rituals, though the electronic attack may have been a virtual end-run around the authorities giving the protestors the last laugh. ®
Thomas C Greene, 07 Feb 2001

Crypto regs still tricky

Over a year after the US government first announced the liberalization of encryption export rules, a tangle of vestigial regulations might still trip up unwary developers, experts say. "Never work under the belief that encryption is not controlled," said Susan Kotila, project manager with Apple's export license department. "I've run into a lot of developers where I've had to tell them, I've got the name of a good lawyer, but you're in violation right now." The last eighteen months of the Clinton administration heralded a series of significant reforms in the export restrictions that had kept strong security and privacy technology out of commercial products for years. But some regulation remains, and developers who include unbreakable encryption in a product that's sold overseas or online still need to jump through bureaucratic hoops to avoid running afoul of the law, said Kotila. "Developers, be aware that you do need to go through one-time government review on your crypto before you export it," said Kotila, who delivered an impromptu lecture on the topic Tuesday at the 2001 Mac Crypto Conference held at Apple's Cupertino, California campus. Apple's John Hurley blamed the regulations for keeping support for plug-in Cryptographic Service Providers (CSPs) out of Mac OSX, a feature that would have permitted independent developers to create their own replacements for the operating system's built-in encryption. "We do want people to be able to write CSPs," said Hurley. "But we're stuck by export laws." Strong crypto is generally exportable, but in many cases companies are still required to submit a copy of new software to the US government for a thirty day review. Open source code has fewer restrictions, except when part of a commercial product. Cindy Cohn, legal direct of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), agrees that reports of the death of crypto regulations are greatly exaggerated. "The government came out and said they were giving up, but when you read the fine print, they didn't give up entirely," says Cohn, who represented mathematician Daniel Bernstein in his successful First Amendment challenge to the old crypto regulations. "They took something complex and made it even more complex. They've got caveats for every little thing." Details on the rules and various exemptions may be found on the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Export Administration Web site. © 2001 SecurityFocus.com. All rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 07 Feb 2001

JavaScript makes e-mail bugging easy

A simple bit of invisible JavaScript code can enable the sender of an e-mail memo to intercept all recipients' comments when the memo is forwarded, the Privacy Foundation has announced in an advisory. The exploit enables monitoring the forwarded path of an e-mail message and written comments attached. "In a business negotiation conducted via email, one side can learn inside information from the other side as the proposal is discussed through the recipient company's internal email system," the advisory notes. It's also a handy way for spammers to harvest thousands of fresh, live addresses. Victims of the bugging technique will have HTML and JavaScript enabled in their e-mail clients. It's a good hack, as it doesn't exploit a flaw, but rather a standard feature of current, 'state of the art' e-mail bloatware. "Affected e-mail readers include Outlook, Outlook Express, and Netscape 6 Mail. Earlier versions of Netscape are not affected because they do not support all the features of the JavaScript Document Object Model (DOM). Also Eudora and the AOL 6.0 email readers are not affected because JavaScript is turned off by default. Hotmail and other Web-based email systems automatically remove JavaScript programs from incoming email messages and therefore are not vulnerable," the advisory says. We can't think of a single good reason to enable JavaScript in an e-mail client, or any penalty for disabling it. However, if a sensible person with JavaScript disabled forwards a bugged message to someone who has it enabled, the second recipient's forwarded messages can be tracked. Instructions for disabling JavaScript in each of the affected clients are included in the Privacy Foundation advisory. We recommend that readers waste no time in following them. ®
Thomas C Greene, 07 Feb 2001

Militants plan terror in chat rooms shocker

Islamic terrorists are using the Internet bulletin boards to exchange information and plan act of terror and revenge, according to a report in today's edition of USA Today. After speaking to US law enforcement agencies and security experts the paper has come up with the conclusion that Osama bin Laden and his cohorts are hiding maps and photographs within encrypted messages to sports chat rooms or pornographic bulletin boards. Terrorist activities are also posted on unnamed Web sites. Of course the obvious question here is what are these sites and bulletin boards (there certainly isn't a newsgroup called alt.sex.death.to.america). Does Osama bin Laden have a secret interest in curling chat rooms and is he more likely to frequent the rough-and-tumble Ice Hockey chat rooms? But we digress. Balancing our natural scepticism about the report is the idea that using newsgroups as modern-day dead-letter drops does seem to make a modicum of sense. The main evidence USA Today has for its report is testimony in a closed-door hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and made public later, which doesn't say much more than "terrorists use the Internet (and encryption)". "To a greater and greater degree, terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and bin Laden's al Qaida group, are using computerised files, email and encryption to support their operations," CIA Director George Tenet wrote last March to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This is supported by the assertion that bin Laden began using encryption five-years ago, and has recently stepped up his use of the technology after it was revealed his satellite telephone calls were being taped. The paper also quotes Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, who said: "We will use whatever tools we can - emails, the Internet - to facilitate Jihad against the (Israeli) occupiers and their supporters." Then we get to the real point of the story, based on talking to unnamed officials the paper concludes that terrorists' messages are "scrambled using free encryption programs set up by groups that advocate privacy on the Internet". Observers who have followed the progress of the UK's RIP Act or similar US attempts to seek more wide-ranging powers to monitor Internet Web sites and email will recognise this as a familiar argument from the law enforcement community. The article extends the argument that in the fight against terrorism the right to privacy on the Internet is secondary to the needs of law enforcement, and whatever your political opinions on the issue, the article should be read in that light. ® External links USA Today story: "Terror groups hide behind Web encryption"
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

‘CrackWhore’ a boon to password-request sites

A brute-force password cracking program called CrackWhore written by our Dutch friend SubReality turns out to be clever for more than its name. The author has rigged it with a phone-home feature (which users can disable) that sends the password combos and URLs of cracked sites to the SubReality.net Website in the form: http://bozo:bozo1@www.lamewebsite.com/members/index.html. Why is this clever, you ask? Because SR has also put together a little Perl script which automatically posts each new crack as a hyperlink on a page at his site, so that all CrackWhore users can share successful cracks among themselves simply by clicking on the relevant link. The original inspiration arose from sheer laziness, SR told us. "I wanted a password section on my site but I was too lazy to crack/verify new passwords every day. Since CrackWhore had a couple of thousand users a day already by then, I thought I might as well use their capacity," he explained to The Register. In addition to the usual features, CrackWhore includes a simple HTML template which Webmasters can use to upload cracks to their own sites, though not with the convenience SR enjoys. "There may be additions to this though," he told us, "since the source code [to CrackWhore] will soon be available to the general public, and more versions will appear, or so I hope, with new creative features." Thus customized versions of CrackWhore can be produced which will enable each member of a particular crew to work together efficiently, adding fresh passes to their own site automatically as they're discovered. An earlier version of the Web site scheme had difficulty keeping the passes fresh, as it tested each one whenever a visitor clicked on it, thereby doubling the number of entry attempts with each combo and hastening their deaths. The current setup shows "only the five most recently cracked passwords. That's easier -- no extra hits on the cracked sites." The source-code swap and sharing of other bits of information for CrackWhore development will be carried out in a members section planned for the SR site. "The members section will be free, but users will have to submit x number of passwords to the board or something similar. I don't want to ask for money for any services on the site," SR told us. ®
Thomas C Greene, 07 Feb 2001

Gameplay cuts Net access at HQ

Gameplay has cut the Internet connection to its London office to prevent employees leaking news about today's massive number of redundancies, according to sources close to the company. It's a desperate move by Gameplay management and one that is likely to backfire on those who reckon it's a worthwhile ploy to "keep the staff quiet". Yesterday, El Reg reported that Gameplay was set to announce jobs cuts today. Despite repeated attempts to speak to Gameplay the best we got was some bunny slamming the phone down on us. A mass meeting of employees has been called today for 10.00am (GMT) where they will be told what is happening to the company. We'll let you know if we hear anything else. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Feb 2001

One billion online by 2005

The online population will rise to one billion people - more than double the current level - by 2005, and the majority of users will use wireless devices to get online. There are just over 400 million people globally who can get online at the moment, but according to a report from market researchers eTForecasts, in four and a half years time there will be more like 1.17 billion net heads around the world. Most of the population growth will be in Asia, Latin America and parts of Europe, the report said. And wireless access will also be more popular in these regions. In the US and the UK two thirds of people will still be wire bound by 2005, but overall, 62 per cent of the billion people online will have made the shift to wire-free surfing. The report's author, Egil Juliussen, said that wireless access had flopped in Europe and the US because it had been "oversold". "People were expecting PC Internet on their small screens," he said. However, he told Newsbytes that he didn't expect high end devices like PDAs to account for more than ten per cent of devices connected to the web. Rather, Juliussen said, this explosion of wireless users would be driven by "dormant" WAP phones and similar device, starting to be used for their intended purposes as the services offered improve. ® Related Link eTForecasts site
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Feb 2001

Sun wastes bullets on .NET in shooting spree

Sun spent so much of yesterday protesting that Sun ONE was not a me-too announcement cobbled together in response to Microsoft's .NET marketecture, that we started to get annoyed that they were annoyed. It's a new name, but with no new products behind it, no new business areas to tackle, simply support for a few new buzzwords keenly used by the other side, Sun simply engaged in some minor rebranding. Sun said its Forte development tools would get SOAP support later this year encapsulating EJB back ends. The iPlanet app server gets beefed up a little, and the months-late Star Portal gets renamed Sun ONE WebTop 1.0. And er, that's it. Not that we're disappointed. Ever since IBM's anti-Unix rebranding ploy, SAA, fell apart no one other than Microsoft has regularly reached for the over-reaching, uber-strategic ploy marketecture. Microsoft alone can afford to do it every few weeks. Simply saying you've been converted into an 'Internet company' is enough for most vendors. Nonetheless some, and none more so than Sun, need to go through the motions of these vanity exercises every few months. For this one, we had several weeks of spin and counter-spin, accompanied by weird and as it transpired, bogus stories like the one about Sun executive Marco Boerries bolting for the exit. That particular rumour had uncanny similarities to Microsoft's psy-ops against Symbian, only this time, it wasn't even remotely true. Microsoft even mailed a 15-question crib sheet to journalists over the weekend, so we think Microsoft comprehensively swallowed Sun's bait, and lost it. Stop distracting them Sun, they've got an appeals case to fight, somewhere. And much of the time was taken up so with head on jibes: some of which hit the mark, and some of which didn't. There was plenty of righteousness about Redmond's embrace and extend. "Sun doesn't have to own [a technology] to participate in standards", said Pat Sueltz. Unless of course... it's Java, where Sun owns the technology and the standards process. And although Sun, unlike Microsoft, can usually be cudgeled into doing The Right Thing in the end, its early entries into the standards sharkpond can be pretty clumsy. For example when Sun announced, belatedly, that it was introducing its own APIs for XML, rather than backing the community's SAX (or other xml-dev alternatives), Elliotte Rusty Harold (of Cafe au Lait/con Leche website and author of XML ina Nutshell) ... described the move as ... "yet another example of Sun using its control of Java to put its grubby, proprietary hands all over any technology it wants to own". Coming from your own community, and most experienced users, that should be a vote and work reasonably transparently. But some barbs were far more effective. When McNealy calls .NET a hairball for the Internet, he's doing more than leveraging an old Windows gag. He's quite right, Microsoft does want all roads to lead to "Rome dnd" [anag.] - in that very vertically integrated way MS execs seem to think is so smart. And it is IBM in 1984 up there. So he ridiculed the .NET scheme that wants to point the portal users back to Microsoft's own MSN portal, the integration between Commerce Server and Exchange, between Exchange and Active Directory, between and Active Directory and SQL Server. Yes, and there's the Kerberos funnies, leading to the single sign on funnies, and the DAV funnies (which no one seems to care about), and so on. Why shooting at .NET is a waste of bullets Well here in San Francisco fifteen months ago, Microsoft sketched out the technology for .NET. (The marketing day, and the name came last year, but the technical details were laid out in San Francisco in September the previous year.) It was a kind of 'This is how we get COM users out of the sinking boast into Web Services' theme, and used examples replicated almost exactly by Sun yesterday. Then, Microsoft announced its services infrastructure (SOAP, Visual Studio all serving the BizTalk server) arguing that BizTalk was just that: a spec, and Microsoft would win because it would do the best implementation on Windows. Sun may not win on tools, but it won't be the only game intown. When an MS initiative isn't playing well in the market, it tends to scupper the ship. And the lack of alternative tools vendors on Windows means that nearby ships get pulleddown with it. Sun is probably right to take it seriously, but not too much. No one takes .NET that seriously. If you buy the argument that FUD has been a useful Microsoft marketing tool- far more useful than its products or real market share gains, in gaining ongoing mindshare (think Exchange/Notes) - then this is the most ambitious FUD exercise of them all. Instead of persuading a narrow application market to hover (such as suggesting to Notes users that they delay their upgrades before they've seen MS groupware; it eventually rolled out many moons as a mail server, without the collaborative tools, replication etc...) Money buys column inches, you just have to make a loud enough noise, and now Microsoft wants to delay the enterprise market from committing to platform upgrades. It it spends enough, it can buy the attention. .NET is vague, and deliberately so: if Microsoft can recite it with the necessary conviction, it might just sow the suggestion amongst those Davos big spenders that they know something the rest of us don't. Of course the Microsoft guys don't have any more clue than anyone else, almost certainly less, and their proposition is at best highly optimistic. The big iron guys don't want the Microsoft run-time to run well natively on their servers, so it will forever be relegated to edge tasks. So for Microsoft, it has to persuade business that the edge tasks are as important as the database/centralized high volume transaction processing work, and can be done just as reliably. We can't think of a real world model where that happens. And you can say Napster as much as you like: the wealthy want to aggregate all their data, like all their money, in one safe place. And that's where IT money will follow. ® Related Stories Sun, MS settle - war resumeswith.NET, C# vs Java MS sends in lawyers to stop 'open' SOAP info gettting out XML: Does MS really have nothing up its sleeve? Gates & Co describe long, hard code to .NET MS opens NexGen Windows Megaservices kimono
Andrew Orlowski, 07 Feb 2001

Intel ate my iCat

Intel has shut down its iCat e-commerce solutions and service arm. A terse message on the company's Web site simply says: "iCat, a division of Intel Online Services, has discontinued its iCat Commerce Online service for all direct customers." That software - aimed at small to medium-sized firms keen to embrace the Web and online commerce - is still being provided through ASPs, Chipzilla's other target market. Intel bought iCat - the business and the online catalogue and storefront software it produced - back in late 1998, part of its plan to become not just a company but an Internet company. That strategy followed former CEO Andy Grove's maxim that firms that didn't embrace the Net would soon cease to be. Unfortunately, many of those that did have died anyway, victims of the last year's dotcom gloom. For so many companies, B2C e-commerce failed to pay its way, and Intel's iCat operation seems to have suffered accordingly. iCat was originally mooted as a component for Pandesic the e-commerce solutions and services company Intel set up as a joint venture with SAP back in 1997. Last summer Pandesic announced its decision to close "due to slower than anticipated market acceptance of business-to-consumer e-commerce solutions". ®
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2001

Feds use biometrics against Super Bowl fans

Super Bowl 2001 fans were secretly treated to a mass, biometric scan in which video cameras tied to a temporary law-enforcement command centre digitised their faces and compared them against photographic lists of known malefactors. Everyone entering Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida last Sunday was subjected to the surveillance system cameras, set up at the entrance turnstiles. No notice or disclosure was ever given, and no one, therefore, had an opportunity to decline to enter the stadium if they should have objected to this unprecedented treatment. The faceFINDER equipment and software used are the products of Viisage Technology, which supplies it to the US Department of Justice Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS); numerous state corrections authorities and driving license administrations; gambling casinos which use it to compare patrons' faces against pictures of known cheats; and several governments. "Viisage Technology has pilot programs with Western European governments to provide face recognition surveillance systems that leverage our existing faceFINDER technology. The systems will identify criminals and terrorists in high security areas. The customer will have the ability to capture a constant stream of live video and compare each face image against their face "list" of bad guys. The project could lead to the integration of several faceFINDER systems and databases across all of Western Europe," the company cheerfully notes. The Viisage software translates the characteristics of a face into set of numbers, called an eigenface, which is used for comparisons in real-time against a database of stored images. "The Company's face-recognition technology is unique because of its capabilities of both rapid and accurate real-time acquisition as well as its scalability to databases containing millions of faces. Therefore, the software can instantly calculate an individual's eigenface from either live video or a still digital image, and then search a database of millions in only a few seconds in order to find similar or matching images." 'Similar or matching.' This clearly acknowledges the possibility that innocent civilians going about their peaceable business may be stopped, hassled, even arrested, merely for resembling someone naughty. This raises sticky issues regarding the presumption of innocence many of us were encouraged to believe in during our grammar-school civics lessons. Is there a violation of this principle when a person is required to produce evidence that they are not, in fact, the evil bastard whom they unfortunately resemble? Of course technology is neither good nor bad in itself; the scary questions arise when one considers the ways it's to be used, or abused. While we can see numerous benefits in legitimate identification from technology like Viisage's, we've also not seen a technology so ripe for positively Orwellian abuse. ®
Thomas C Greene, 07 Feb 2001

Antfactory director murdered

It used to be just money that you lost by investing in the Internet, now it's lives. The Latin American director of online investment management company Antfactory has been found dead in Argentina. He and his wife had been shot in the neck at close range and a note, written in English, said they had been killed for not paying bribes. Incredible as it may seem, it is not altogether surprising in Argentina. There is still a pervasive bribery culture to the extent that many Argentinean businessmen would probably think Isidoro Mariano Losanovscky Perel foolish rather than the victim of an appalling atrocity. The Latin American branch - started in July last year with $100 million funding - produced an official response saying its thoughts were with the Perel family and vowing to help the authorities find out what had happened. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Feb 2001

The451.com wields job axe

The451.com, the absurdly self-regarding paid-for IT news site, is reducing headcount by just over 20 per cent, taking staff down from 50 to 39, The Industry Standard reports. The Durlacher-backed business is also wielding the axe on satellite offices in Hong Kong, Germany and Australia. But it's staying in the US, where it has offices in New York and San Francisco, and where it gets 60 per cent of its sales. The451.com is seeking fresh finance, but Durlacher is not exactly in the best of positions to stump up cash -- the boutique investment bank is seeking to merge itself, according to press reports at the weekend. The Industry Standard Europe cites press reports that one potential backer was put off by The451.com's supposed cash burn, an astonishing £200,000 a month. We thought it was always an unlikely trick to pull off - getting enough companies to buy general IT news (as opposed to niche, drill-deep newsletters). The online IT publishing sector is, after all, an area drowning in good, free information. Besides, there is also a long-established incumbent in the paid-for sphere: Computerwire (from whence the founders of The451.com came). And how much money has that company ever made? ® Related stories Industry Standard article Durlacher falls on Net Imperative collapse
Drew Cullen, 07 Feb 2001

Reg Site News Shutters lift on new Security Channel

Until today, Register articles on IT security issues have been scattered among our Internet, Software, Business and (more rarely) Hardware channels. We think it's time the topic got a section to itself, so, from here on in, The Register's Security Channel is where you will find our coverage on hacking/cracking; software and hardware bugs; viruses/Trojans; biometrics; encryption; piracy; and IP warfare. This is also where you will find the very fine articles sourced from specialist site Security Focus, with which we have a content-sharing arrangement. We think this makes sense: we hope you do, too. Bootnote One last thing, please don't email me about the distinction between hacking and cracking. I'm perfectly aware of the difference. Unfortunately, for hacker purists, common usage is against you. Pick a fight with Language and you will always lose. ®
Drew Cullen, 07 Feb 2001

Jackson goes in frame as MS appeal court orders ‘bias’ session

Microsoft has been given an unexpected present by the Court of Appeals, in the shape of an unasked for 30 minute session on Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's conduct of the trial, and his alleged mouthiness outside of the court. This of course was something Microsoft was motoring on until quite recently. Jackson's determination to get through the proceedings before everybody died was tagged by Fort Redmond as unfair, because it meant the company was unable to make its case properly. And Jackson just had to say the M-word outside of the trial for Microsoft to start raving on about prejudicial extrajudicial comment. That was then, and possibly also now. But it wasn't last week, when a joint 'sweetness and light' filing from Microsoft and the DoJ and friends indicated that they were going to have the big argument on the facts, rather than on the Good Judge himself. Right up front the filing says the two sides "are prepared to rest on written submissions as to (1) the conduct of the trial, other than the procedures employed as to relief, and (2) the extrajudicial statements of the district judge." The Appeals judges have effectively nixed that by ordering a 30 minute oral session on "conduct of trial and extrajudicial statements." Which is perfectly clear, isn't it? Why they want to do it might not be so clear. It could be that they've a mind to view Microsoft's apparent climb-down (which was what it was spun into) on beating up Jackson as overly sporting, and want to pursue the matter. Alternatively, they might just have noted that they're going to get piles of written stuff on the matter anyway, because that's actually what the joint filing says, so their lives will be easier if they just get the opposing suits to stand up and deliver a precis. Note also that the joint filing specifically exempts "the procedures employed as to relief" from Microsoft's kind undertaking not to beat up Jackson orally. Those very procedures have been one of Redmond's major gripes, so he was probably going to catch it big-time anyway. Thomas Penfield Jackson is the Devil: Microsoft attacks Jackson in reversal plea MS appeal: judge 'whopped us upside the head' MS lost the verdict, but it's winning the trial 'They could kick me off the case,' says MS trial judge
John Lettice, 07 Feb 2001

MoD laptop thefts put the wind up the US

Pentagon officials got something of a fright when a Ministry of Defence laptops was stolen last May. The Guardian has obtained a ministerial letter in which the British government responded to a complaint from the US about security procedures in Britain. In it, the government gave assurances that security in the UK would be tightened up. The paper quotes sections of the letter, from Baroness Symons, minister for defence procurement, to her opposite number in the Pentagon. In it, she promises that she had "made sure that your concerns on the joint strike fighter laptop incident are acted upon." The notebook computer was stolen from a luggage rack on a train in Paddington Station, and contained details of a collaborative project to develop a swanky new fighter jet between governments of the US and the UK. It was taken by an opportunistic thief, the government said at the time, and surfaced when the fence it had been sold to tried to sell the contents of the hard drive to the tabloid press. In response to the complaint from the US, government employees were told to carry laptops less conspicuously when travelling on public transport. The theft in May was one of a string of incidents of government employees losing laptops containing sensitive information last spring. The most memorable was the case of the secret services employee who left his notebook in a cab, after going out on the piss. ® Related Story Man arrested after military laptop theft pitch More silly secret agents Third secret packed notebook nicked Second spy loses laptop Sneak thief steal state secrets in MI5 laptop
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Feb 2001

Orange now worth even less

France Telecom is still insistent on pushing through Orange's float but, amid fears that the whole thing could be a failure, are now thinking of hacking a sixth off the float price to make it successful. It's all perception, see. If people are jittery and the price deemed too high, it will slip when launched and this will cause more people to sell. Then Orange is left with the shame of a poor float. So, by discussing cutting the float price to 9.5 euros from 11.5 euros (£6 from £7.33), France Telecom is essentially buying a pair of armbands to keep the company above the water when it's chucked into the stock market swimming pool. Of course, now that everyone has heard that Orange's price might be cut, it will be difficult not to make the cut. Funny business this floating. The odd thing is that Orange was getting some strong backing from big investors following its most recent reduction and offer of discounts. It was starting to look like it might pull it off. With this however, Orange has managed to make itself look more vulnerable than many thought it was. It will also remove than intangible but incredibly useful aspect of trust and respect that everyone had for Orange before France Telecom took it over and Hans Snook upped sticks. Orange used to say what it would do and then do it. People like this in a company as much as they do in a person. But Orange is now starting to look like those doddery people who can never decide what they want in a restaurant. Shame. ® Related Stories Orange gets cheaper by the day Snook is off
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Feb 2001

Fugitive stays silent after eating mobile SIM card

A man at the centre of a French corruption scandal ate the chip from his mobile phone in an attempt to keep its secrets, according to a report in today's edition of the Times. Alfred Sirven, the businessman in the middle of the French Elf Aquitaine corruption scandal, ate his mobile phone's SIM card when he was arrested on the Philippines on Friday. He'd been on the run for four years - and whether the phone chip will give him the runs remains open to question. Its even less clear whether he swallowed the silicon chip to any useful purpose, as most billing and call record information is held by telcos themselves, and not on a phone's SIM card. The Times quotes James Tosoc, of the National Bureau of Investigation in the Philippines, who witnessed the act, and said: "He munched up the chip of his mobile like chewing gum. He broke it with his teeth." Sirven, the former number two in state-owned oil company Elf Aquitaine, was taken to Germany, where he narrowly escaped been held on questions relating to alleged payments to Germany's Christian Democrat Party. German investigators wanted Sirven to answer questions on a commission of £20 million paid when Elf bought an oil refinery in East Germany in 1992. The 72-year old, described as "the man who knows too much", is now being held in an air base outside Paris. Sirven is due to line up with other accused at the trail of Roland Dumas, a former foreign minister who served in the Mitterrand regime, and five other people accused over the alleged abuse of Elf funds. ®
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

No one wanted bust Datrontech's Summit business

Datrontech's receivers have failed to sell the company's Summit Peripherals division. Deloitte & Touche managed to sell the bust broadline distributors Portable Add-Ons and Data Connectivity businesses last year. Computer Reseller News quotes a representative of the accountancy firm saying: "Only the Summit brand name was available and no one was interested in that." All the remains of Datrontech have now been dispersed. Intel shut down its Shiva remote access business rather than sell it to rival Perle according to a report in Computer Reseller News. The paper quotes Peter Graham, Perle's VP of sales and marketing EMEA, saying: "Our chief executive, Joe Perle, actually approached Intel looking to buy the Shiva unit, but the company wasn't interested in selling it and shut it down." Intel declined to comment. The chip giant has said it will support Shiva products for another two years, but Shiva resellers are unhappy with the amount of notice they got about the shut down. The Link Trading Company has bought components distie VLSI and has said it will keep all staff on. Hayes-based VLSI went into receivership in January following cash flow trouble. It will continue to trade as VLSI International. ®
Robert Blincoe, 07 Feb 2001

Police urge business to report hi-tech crimes

Businesses are being urged to report hacking attempts and incidents of Internet-based extortion to the police, rather than keep quiet for fear of damage to their reputations. This change in attitude could become crucial to the success of the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. The unit, due to be operational in April this year, will receive £25 million in Home Office funding over three years to set up a "Cyber Sweeney"* squad, which is expected to employ around 30 officers and additional support staff. It will also have to find at least £250,000 to set up a suitable computer forensics lab. Around £10 million of this money will be distributed to those forces which need to develop their own capacity to deal with computer crime, and in fact the "vast majority" of enquiries will continue to be dealt with by local forces. The role of the Unit will be one of advice (including the development of best practices) and co-ordination. The unit will also conduct operations at a national and international level and investigate offences including fraud, hacking, industrial espionage, spreading viruses, money laundering, organised property theft and denial of service attacks. The list goes on. Apparently, the worst problems are (as always) malicious code and internal hacking, but electronic extortion is becoming a growing problem and one which law enforcement can better tackle than industry. Set against the money spent on combating car crime, the funding looks meagre and, privately, those involved in helping create the Unit describe it as a "useful start" only. There's also the question of how the police will work with private sector organisations, which - generally - stay quiet about crimes perpetrated against them over the Internet, largely because they are fearful of unfavourable publicity which might harm the reputations of their businesses. Usually, firms which fall victim to crackers do not turn to the police who gather evidence and prosecute. Instead they call up security consultants, who will advise them how to shore up their defences. Neil Barrett, technical director of Information Risk Management, and a long-time advisor to the police on security, said better co-operation is needed, and that if more firms report problems then more funding will be available to tackle the problem. Punishment (or lack of) for electronic crimes, Barrett admitted, remains a problem but he argued that wasn't an argument for keeping police out of problems. "Companies, whose systems might be breached in the course of a wider attack, need to do something rather than sweeping things under the carpet. If they don't they could be liable for attacks on other people," said Barrett. Barrett insists that complicated crimes on the Internet can be investigated but more needs to done to forge stronger working relationships and sharpen up best practice, key aims (as previously reported) of next week's conference on hi-tech crime. Steve Bailey, head of security at Complete Data Services, said that firms have been reluctant to be open about security since the Citibank admission that it was hacked backfired on the company. In 1994, Citibank said it was the victim of a Russian hacker who transferred $11 million out of Citibank's New York mainframe computers, an admission which unsettled some customers who took their business elsewhere. Bailey, an ex-Royal Air Force policeman, is giving up his own time in order to train officers in using computers, covering subjects such as evidence handling and the Internet. There are only six computer crime units amongst UK police forces and the idea is that by appointing officers naturally interested in technology, who are suitably trained to avoid daft questions to service providers that have gone along with enforcing the RIP Act. Police in the unit will have a difficult tightrope to walk: on the one hand trying to get organisations to come forward with security problems and on the other enforcing the RIP Act on an unwilling industry, all with modest funds. It's going to be a tough act to pull off. ® * The Sweeney is the nickname given to the London Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad (Cockney rhyming slang - Flying Squad = Sweeney Todd, the legendary 19th century barber who killed his customers and used their flesh for meat pies). Thanks to a top 70s TV crime series of the same name, The Sweeney are forever asssociated with nicking armed blaggers, driving brown Ford Granadas through warehouses full of empty cardboard boxes, and shagging birds. Related Stories 'Cyber Sweeney' host hi-tech crime meet RIP not a problem thanks to police stupidity
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

Mobile phone companies ripping us off

UpdatedUpdated Mobile phones companies are "making profits greater than would be expected in a fully competitive market", says winged watchdog Oftel in a new report on the mobile market. Which means that they are basically ripping us off by charging more than they need to. Of course Oftel also goes on about how prices have fallen by 24 per cent in the last two years and how 90 per cent of people are deliriously happy with the service. But then seeing as Oftel's very job is to make sure these companies are kept under close scrutiny, this doesn't come as a surprise. After an intensive review of the market from a unique and privileged position, Oftel manages to tell us several things we already knew. For example, did you know that international roaming charges aren't that cheap? You would if you've ever used your mobile abroad. What about the fact that calling other mobile networks isn't exactly bon marche? Oh, you knew that too? Anyway, Oftel reckons the UK's mobile prices "compare favourably with other European countries" - which is a wonderfully ambiguous sentence. We'd like Oftel to make a spreadsheet of UK prices and prices in the other two main mobile markets in Europe - Germany and France. Then "favourably" may take on a whole new meaning. Once that's done, we could pull in what the Americans are actually paying - and remember the US has a far weaker mobile market than Europe. Of course, if Oftel were to do such a comparison, we'd have to write an analysis of that because - as it points out as well to a disbelieving public - "research shows that many consumers find information on mobile telephony products confusing". Research? You only need to go into Carphone Warehouse to realise that mobile tariffs have become more complicated than tax forms. We'll tell Oftel something else for free - perhaps it can write it in its next report - all tariffs equate to almost exactly the same pricing if used efficiently. Meaning that if you somehow manage to chose the exactly right tariff for your usage, the cost per minute will come out almost exactly the same across the board. The only reason therefore for so many tariffs is to create consumer confusion because this is what brings in the profits - people paying more than they need to. And, of course, mobile companies can submit honest prices to Oftel which show they are giving us all a great deal. Why doesn't Oftel know this? And why doesn't it use its noddle and insist on fewer and simpler pricing mechanisms rather than behave like the gullible teenager all the time? Anyway, Oftel is going to have a think about the market and decide whether it's done a good enough job to stop the nasty safeguards it has put on the market. Bland top dog at Oftel David Edmonds has been quoted reiterating the main conclusions and finishes within the inspiring line: "Oftel's strategy is one of regulation appropriate to the level of competition in the market. If we find that the mobile sector is effectively competitive, Oftel will remove much of the existing regulation. But we will only do this if competition is effective." So there you have it. ® Update Virgin Mobile has just pumped out a press release agreeing with the nastier side of Oftel's report today. MD Tom Alexander is quoted as saying: "We are pleased the regulator wishes to ensure a fair deal for consumers and that in future they are not sold to in a confusing way. This is something Virgin Mobile has been championing since we launched a little over a year ago. The consumer is often misled and sold an inappropriate contract with a tariff that can penalise them if they use their phone the wrong way. This rip-off has to stop." Blimey, well done Virgin. Of course, it is in a slightly unique position in that it is the only UK mobile company that exists solely by buying airtime off the others and has everything to gain and nothing to lose if costs are brought down. It would also be in dire trouble if Oftel relaxed constraints on the mobile market about supplying airtime to competitors. That said, we applaud it for criticising the industry. Tom goes on: "We believe that our one, cheap tariff - that gets even cheaper the more customers use their phone, with no line rental or hidden charges, has helped to increase competition and bring down prices. Its simplicity also helps avoid confusion." And finally: "We agree with Oftel that greater price transparency and more consumer awareness is still needed." Related Stories Orange now worth even less Mobiles don't cause cancer! This time One2One launches 'unmetered' mobile service
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Feb 2001

Autonomy ships call centre brain saver

Autonomy has shipped its iVoice technology to its first customers. The software means that computers can treat voice in the same way as text, or any other form of data. It was developed alongside speech recognition technology acquired from SoftSound last year. The software is able to analyse text or voice, and identify and rank concepts within it. According to Autonomy, this means it can take over many dull, routine tasks that would usually be done manually. For example, a spokeswoman for Autonomy told El Reg, if a call centre has an enquiry that has several strands to it; recorded messages, letters, video, etceteras, then the iVoice will enable the call centre's staff to collate all these strands as though they were all text. Mike Lynch, the company founder, said in a statement that there should be no distinction made between speech and text. "They are both forms of unstructured information whose content must be managed," he said. The company has designed the software to run on any application dependent upon unstructured information. Examples given include online publishing, ecommerce and knowledge management. Initially, Autonomy has said it is shipping to German investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort, and General Motors. ® Related Stories Cash Register Search for the perfect search engine E-Millionaires
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Feb 2001

AMD, Olivetti and the Italian connection

Historically, AMD is weak in the Italian corporate and public sector, so it may be forgiven for issuing a press release about not one but two wins with0 the Italian government. Italy's Ministry of Justice and Consip, a department of the Ministry of Treasury, are to buy an unspecified number of Athlon-powered Olivetti desktop MK800s. And we thought Olivetti PCs had gone bust. However the name lives on through brand licencee ICS, an Italian PC maker. The deal with the two Italian government agencies will "re-launch the Olivetti historic - into the public-administration segment." Once upon a time, Olivetti was a major PC player all over Europe - it was very strong in the UK public sector, for instance. But this time around, we do not see the name travelling beyond its Italian heartland. ® Related link AMD press release
Drew Cullen, 07 Feb 2001

AMD appoints memory presidente

AMD has promoted Walid Maghribi to the newly created position of president of the company's Memory Group. He was plain old group VP of the Memory Group before. Hector de J. Ruiz, president and chief operating officer of AMD, said: "In 2000, the Memory Group grew sales by more than 100 per cent to more than $1.5 billion. In his new role, we expect Walid will be in a position to make even greater contributions to the continued growth of AMD." Maghribi, 48, joined AMD as a product line manager in 1986 and held several positions before being promoted to group vice president in April 1997. ®
Robert Blincoe, 07 Feb 2001

Warwick University welcomes student e-debt

Warwick University has come up with a revolutionary new way of pulling it into the Internet era - making ownership of a laptop compulsory for its students. Even better than that, it won't cost the University a thing because students will have to buy their own. It could even save money because it won't have to invest the money it's paid by students into computing facilities. And just think of how much more it could charge Endsleigh et al to have insurance offices on campus thanks to the huge increase in laptop thefts. Then it could charge students for "essential" software for their course. Just think of the money. That could build a new research centre and new offices for the management. The cost has been put at £1,250 spread over three years, although it has said it will offer a hardship fund that will bring the price down to £850 (although few students will find they are eligible). Unsurprisingly, students have condemned the move as "top-up fees by the backdoor", which, of course, it is. But quite a clever way of doing it. The question also has to be: why will French, Drama, Philosophy, Medicine etc students need a laptop? Don't get us wrong, we're all for increased use of computers - it will be an essential skill for most people when they reach the job market, but there's a difference between encouragement and requirement. And it is discriminatory to poorer students - who, believe it or not, tend to be just as intelligent as rich students. Poorer students will simply go to another university. And Warwick won't miss them. Then again, you may agree with one Warwick University official, quoted in the FT: "It's just like requiring a student to have a pencil to do an exam." We'd like to see a £1,250 pencil. Not even NASA has made them. Of course, this could be all wrong and media hype and Warwick University's "e-strategy" could actually be a determined effort to help students and the university get the most out of the Internet revolution by making information easier and cheaper to share and lecturers more accessible and turning it into a prime example of the wired UK. But we're not holding our breath. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Feb 2001

Stephen King reveals The Plant profit

Horror maestro Stephen King has revealed he made nearly half a million dollars from his e-book experiment The Plant. The US author received a total of $721,448 from readers, who voluntarily paid their dollar for the first three instalments, and $2 for the last three. After expenses, such as advertising and site maintenance, King said he made a grand profit of $463,832. While the publishers made nothing. He suspended the project in December after six chapters. Despite sales wilting for later sections of the book (120,000 eager surfers paid to download the first instalment, but only 40,000 downloaded the fifth, with many not paying), King vows to return to the book. "The Plant is not finished online. It is only on hiatus. I am no more done than the producers of Survivor are done. I am simply in the process of fulfilling my other commitments." King said the e-book, which netted the same profit as his first online experiment Riding The Bullet ($2.50 a pop), had been "quite successful". But King, who added that many people came up to him and said the couldn't wait to get their noses buried in The Plant "when it's in book form", cautioned against reading too much into the profit figures. "Neither the sums generated nor the future of publishing is the point. The point is trying some new things; pushing some new buttons and seeing what happens," his Website states. Back in July King threatened the project could become "Big Publishing's worst nightmare". ® Related Stories Stephen King set to net $1m from online experiment King lets fans pay after reading horror online Stephen King e-book runs out of steam Stephen King e-book cracked and distributed free
Linda Harrison, 07 Feb 2001

BT favourite for ‘Internet Villain’ award

BT's hot favourite to pick up an industry award tonight at the event dubbed the "Internet Oscars". Unfortunately for the monster telco, the accolade is something the execs might not want to put on their mantelpiece. For tonight, the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) announces who has won the "Internet Villain" award - and all the clever money says BT will romp home. El Reg understands that someone from BT will be there to pick up the award if it wins. And the scribes at BT have also written an acceptance speech just in case. Of course, BT was nearly out of the running for the award because, as the original sponsor, it could not also be nominated. However, due to pressure from ISPA members BT withdrew its sponsorship and was, therefore, allowed to be nominated. David "Harry Potter" Edmonds, headboy of the winged watchdog and Home Secretary, Jack Straw, are also up for the "Internet Villain" award. ® Related Stories ?BT scraps Internet Villain sponsorship The Internet Villain Awards
Tim Richardson, 07 Feb 2001

120 jobs lost as Logical exits PC business

Logical, the networking reseller arm of Datatec group, is withdrawing from the supply and maintenance of PCs and servers in the UK, with the loss of 120 jobs out of a total workforce of 400. Jon Davies, Logical worldwide marcoms director, said the corporate PC supply business was "a scale game in which we are no longer able to compete". The redundancies were an unfortunate consequence of this, he said. Logical had begun exiting from PC and server supply a year ago, and the closure of the operation was 'no kneejerk response' to market conditions, according to Davies. The company today also said that it was closing an eCRM consultancy unit. Northamber, the UK's biggest indigenous IT products distie, has published an encouraging trading statement, with the second half kicking off with improved year-on-year sales. In a statement, chairman David Phillips said: "Although we can never be totally immune to adverse movements within the UK economy, we are currently not experiencing any impact on the growth of our target market." For its interims, the distie produced PBT of £3.05m on sales of £150.5m (1999: £133.4m) The Link Trading Company has bought components distie VLSI and said it will keep all staff on. Hayes based VLSI went into receivership in January following cash flow trouble. It will continue to trade as VLSI International. ®
Drew Cullen, 07 Feb 2001

Anand digs bigtime bandwidth

HWRoundupHWRoundup Anand and friends take another step along the road towards the holy grail of decent bandwidth with a look at ServerWorks. An unlikely juxtaposition of words, true, but Anand seems impressed. DDR bandwidth without DDR? Check it out here, just don't mention the price. HardOCP sits back and chills out with a ThermoEngine. Good name, but how cool is it really? Well, Kyle seemed quite happy and even had a few kind words for the TIM, which he says, is unusual in the extreme. So the only proviso is the price. Read the whole caboodle here Abit's KT7A RAID is taken round the block for a little reviewing action by VR Zone. This lot were so happy they could barely contain themselves: "I have managed to overclock my Duron 600 to 1156Mhz by setting VCore to 1.85V and also push the FSB to 160Mhz with Vio at 3.90V," they exclaimed. Well, that all sounds good to us, so check the whole thing out here. Overclockers online have taken a look at the KT7A RAID from Abit too. Find out what they thought here and do a bit of a contrast and compare exercise on yourselves. Meanwhile, AMDZone's Chris Tom has posted a review of the Leadtek Winfast GeForce2 GTS. Both Athlon and Duron systems were marked on the old bench and they stacked it up against an ATI MAXX, just for fun. Tech Review has come over sentimental and is running a contest to thank its readers for all their support. Well, we like it when people give stuff away and though you'd all like it too. Win yourself a Soyo SY-7ISA i815E Socket 370 Motherboard here. The random link for today, i.e. not especially hardware related, comes from DansData. It is a demonstration that although hell hath no fury a like a woman scorned, an overclocker certainly does. Take it away Dan and tell us all what you think about Dot Com madness. Don't hold back now. ® As ever, if you have clicked your way through all this and still want more, The archives are the place to look.
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Feb 2001

Spice Girls death threat hoax dupes poncy music site

A ludicrous satirical story regarding the Spice Girls and a fictitious stalker who sent the band sinister messages, including a tape foreseeing their bizarre deaths, soiled underwear and notes written in faeces has been picked up and printed as fact by poncy new Web site Ammocity.com. Why do you care? One, because it's always funny when people have a sense of humour failure, secondly because the writer of the daft story has gone to the trouble of producing the song supposedly written by the stalker and put streaming links to its on the Tsluts.com Web site. And thirdly, because Ammocity is a horrible site but strangely nostalgic because it harks back to those days when people hired design firms to produce Web sites and ended up with an expensive, unworkable mess. Anyway, the story, entitled "popbollocks2: I want to die like ginger spice" and finishing with the disclaimer "Everything listed in PopBollocks is absolutely and definitely true", will give you a truer picture, so have a look at it here. You'll also find the lyrics, and an opportunity to listen to the song, which sounds awful despite singer/writer Rob Manuel assuring us that his mum thinks he sings like an angel. In terms of spice girl death: Ginger Spice dies in a bowl of rice, the Sporty one staring at a gun, Scary force-fed dairy produce, Baby frozen to death in the Arctic and Posh dies crack-addled in a penthouse flat. We can't give you a link to the poncy Ammocity Web site because it has wisely chosen to run the entire site through Flash 5. If you really want to see, click here, download the plug-in, click Enter, wait and wait, go over to that little menu bit in the top left, no, over there. Okay, get on the down button and find and click Search. Then tap in "spice". You should be fine from there. ® Related Links Tsluts Spice Girls piece Poncy site
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Feb 2001

Sick of crap DSL? Start your own service!

Sick of not being able to get decent DSL service? The answer may be to take matters into your own hands and bypass the telco altogether. That's according to the residents of Laramie, a city of 26,000 people in deepest, darkest Wyoming. They run their own non-profit community wireless Internet service called Lariat (Laramie Internet Access and Telecommunications), which includes high-speed Net access service for a fraction of the price of most services in the US. "It's not rocket science," Lariat chairman Brett Glass told The Register. Residents started the networking business in 1995 in an effort to bring everyone in the area online after various squabbles with the area's telephone company (now Qwest). The initial cost was around $3,000, with many residents donating their own PCs, according to Glass. Relevant equipment was stuck on private land, and copper wire was bought from Qwest for areas that couldn't get wireless. Individuals get a normal dial-up service for $5 a month, or $20-$30 a month for high speed (10MB/second). Businesses can now get T1 wireless or SDSL (symmetric DSL - which provides the same bandwidth up and downstream) for a monthly fee of $125. "Anyone can do this - people are just afraid to, or don't know it's possible to do it as a community effort rather than going to a private company," said Glass. Information on how to set up a similar enterprise can be found on the lariat site. ® Related Stories Verizon tells New York to quit DSL whingeing Verizon hit with another DSL lawsuit Bazillion shafts DSL users Broadband blinking expensive in UK
Linda Harrison, 07 Feb 2001

IBM beefs up ThinkPad and NetVista lines

IBM has beefed up its ThinkPad and NetVista lines. An addition to the ThinkPad A Series is the ThinkPad A21e which comes with a choice of 12.1in, 14.1in or 15in TFT displays and CD-ROM drive. An optional Ultrabay 2000 or USB diskette drive is also available. The starting price is at $1,499. The ThinkPad i Series now offers a 802.11b wireless LAN notebook, starting at $1,449. IBM has shoved Celerons in its latest NetVista A20 desktop systems running at up to 766MHz. They've also got Pentium III models up to 1GHz. Prices start at $765. The new NetVista A20i systems include Celerons running at up to 700MHz and Pentium III processors up to 933 MHz. NetVista A20i prices start at $688. IBM has also come up with a couple of new displays. The E51 CRT has a 13.8in viewable screen and is available in 'stealth black and pearl white' for $159. Its big brother is the E74 CRT is 15.9in and costs $249. ® Related Stories Toshiba slashes proft forecast by 30% IBM and Dell kick Toshiba into notebook 3rd place
Robert Blincoe, 07 Feb 2001

Server sales grew 21 per cent in Q4

Server shipments grew 14 per cent in 2000 thanks to strong sales in Q4. Worldwide sales totalled 3.9 million for the year. In Q4 shipments reached 1.1 million, up 21 per cent on 1999's fourth quarter. Shahin Naftchi, senior analyst for servers and workstations at Dataquest's Computing Platform Worldwide group, put the healthy growth down to "adequate component supplies and robust Intel architecture server market growth." Sun and Dell were the year's winners, with growth of 61 per cent (287,000 shipments) and 42 per cent (573,000 units) respectively. Compaq managed to hang onto the top server spot, flogging more than a million units in the year for the first time, and showing 11 per cent growth - but it's market share slipped around one percent on the year before to 27 per cent. IBM kept its number two spot, with 17 per cent of the market and 658,000 shipments, followed by Dell, 15 per cent market share, and HP, 11 per cent with 440,000 units. Sun nabbed seven per cent. In Q4 the US market grew 32 per cent, largely fuelled by e-business. "Because of the length of typical server purchase cycles, the next two quarters will be critical in assessing the impact of current economic situation on the server market," said Jeffrey Hewitt, Dataquest principal server analyst. Gartner also released statistics on workstation sales, which grew 11 per cent to top 1.6 million units in 2000. And analysts predicted the industry may see an upturn this year thanks to the Pentium 4-based uniprocessor workstation. "They represent a significant change in product positioning since dual processor scalability is a key component of current IA workstation definition. Because the product was introduced in the fourth quarter, the shipments were only in the hundreds," said Pia Rieppo, principal analyst covering workstations for Gartner's Computing Platform Worldwide group. "We expect the Pentium 4 ramp up in the first and second quarters of 2001, although many end users may bypass these workstations and wait until the dual-processor chipsets and the Pentium 4 Xeon CPU arrives this spring." Dell stole the workstation crown from Sun, with 60 per cent growth, 382,000 shipments, giving it 23 per cent of the market. Sun sold 359,000 workstations, with 11 per cent growth and 22 per cent market share. HP saw sales drop seven per cent to 290,000 units, while Compaq grew 11 per cent with 230,000, and IBM lost 19 per cent with 176,000 workstations shifted. Sales grew 11.3 per cent in Q4, but analysts warned of a slackening demand in the US during the period. This market, which accounts for around half of all workstation shipments, is expected to continue to be weak in early 2001. ® Related Stories Ideal bags Fujitsu Siemens server exclusive MS claws back Web server share from Apache Server shipments up in Q3 Intel: We have server leaks too
Linda Harrison, 07 Feb 2001

Armed blaggers escape with 800MHz PIII chips worth £700K

Armed robbers are still at large after stealing an estimated £700,000 in Pentium chips from a freight forwarding firm in Berkshire last week. The raid, which netted robbers 12 boxes of 800MHz PIIIs, took place in broad daylight on January 22 at the Windsor warehouse of Kay Express, and follows a number of similar attacks in the M4 corridor recently. Two men armed with a black handgun and a driver in the gang's BMW getaway car are being sought in connection with the blag. Police are appealing for help from the IT industry - and warning dealers to be careful of buying the 'knocked off' goods. Detective Inspector Greg Elphick of Thames Valley Police said: "This was a robbery of very high value goods carried out at gun point. "We want people in the industry to contact us if they are offered any micro-chips for sale within the next few days. This property is likely to be offered for sale within a very short time." Three weeks ago raiders made off with £150,000 worth of memory chips from Newbury-based distributor Rombyte. In December thieves tried to break into Hungerford chip manufacturer Hypertec. According to police estimates, in the last 18 months £18 million worth of computer chips have been stolen in the south of England alone. ® Related Stories Mesh hit by dim computer thieves Blaggers grab £150k worth of memory from Newbury distie Armed DRAM robbers caught after police chase Memory blaggers stoop to kidnap Could theft explain expensive Intel chips?
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2001

Net games outfits told to ditch free services

Online games companies have to look past the PC if they want to survive, according to IDC. To grab a chunk of the 40 million households IDC expects to be playing games on the Web by 2004, outfits will need to aim their games at PDAs, next generation video game consoles, mobile phones and interactive TV platforms. "Game design, partnerships, development of an infrastructure for supporting online operations, and a coherent business plan will be important," said Schelley Olhava, senior analyst for IDC consumer devices program. Outfits touting games via the Web will also need to change their revenue model away from banner ads, and make money by either charging punters for their services, signing sponsorship deals, or getting into targeted ads, IDC says. Licensing technology and co-branding games could also bring in cash. ® Related Stories Sega to create games for Net appliances Cold wind blows through games Web sites The Register Games Industry Channel is here
Linda Harrison, 07 Feb 2001

Penis too big? Click here

Just when you thought every subject had been covered on the Web, behold, a site for men whose penises are too big. Yes, it is possible to be too well hung, and the Large Penis Support Group at lpsg.org goes all out to prove the difficulties involved for these poor afflicted souls. Did you know that around 1.5 per cent of all accidents in the home are caused by large penis-related incidents? "Although only a small number have been known to be fatal", the site states. Sports are also a problem, as this often involves "slapping, twisting, bending, or wrapping of the penis around the groin and thigh area". Meanwhile, there's the small matter of underwear - how does one find a pair of underpants to fit? There's also a forum for surfers to swap member-related horror stories, and an intriguing list of which celebs apparently qualify for this exclusive club. But it's not all bad, as the site points out. "Large penises tend to attract members of the opposite gender, as well as provide a grand source of entertainment." "A large penis is a friend as well as a foe. Treat it as such." ® Related Stories Mobile phones are penis extensions Wife exacts revenge over email
Linda Harrison, 07 Feb 2001