13th > February > 2001 Archive

Netizens blinded by ‘half-assed’ Google stunt

If the folk at Google were feeling pleased with themselves for rescuing Deja's Usenet archive from the dormant dot.gone, it can't have lasted long. Without early warning, the company began to host the Deja archive yesterday, but refused to migrate Deja's web based front end with it, which renders the archive all-but useless. How? It's rather like waking up one day to find that all the libraries you know have decided to stop using Dewey classification, have moved their books, roped them off, and will only throw the first ten at you. And last night Register readers were telling us exactly how grateful they were for Google's act of philanthropy. "I rely on Deja for finding out what our customers are saying about us," a software CEO told us yesterday. "It's my window onto world, and without it I'm blind." On Slashdot a typical comment added: "Couldn't they keep the existing Deja functionality until they had something decent to offer? I can't believe how completely un-sympathetic to the needs of existing Deja users this sudden, and obviously not-at-all-thought-out, gutting of Deja is on the part of Google." Indeed, and we wonder how many other people woke up, like us, to find their bookmark files gutted too. Each carefully saved Deja shortcut now points to the Google beta Usenet search engine. And that's where the trouble starts. You can't follow threads (not implemented), you can't search by hierarchies (broken), can't delineate dates. In other words you can't filter the noise from Usenet, or most important of all follow conversations. Oh, and it's currently updating every 24 hours... somewhat less than the near-real-time even the dormant Deja maintained. We also got miffed reports that the screenscraper applets (and there are a few) that rely on the Deja format were also been broken. Message to Google: Usenet is a few useful conversations, hidden by lots of noise. Duh. In recent years Deja had tried to orientate the archive to being the centrepiece of a shopping channel, with a number of tacky manoeuvres such as inserting adverts into postings. But they'd never (almost, but not quite) managed to break the main Usenet archive overnight, which is effectively what Google has done. You'd almost think Google wants to be thought of as a bunch of come-lately, VC-flushed hooligans with no inkling of the history or the culture of the Internet. Something as simple as maintaining the Deja interface - Google acquired the software as part of the deal - while signalling a change of front-end and soliciting user input, could have avoided this PR disaster for Google. But perhaps something as valuable as Usenet - the words of ordinary Internet users - is never going to be safe in private hands. Why not return it to its roots? The Library of Congress could administer the archive, and ensure it was a properly distributed system farmed out to the best Universities, who could produce ever more cunning hackish search tools? That's not as much fun as shooting lasers at rockets, of course, but a lot cheaper. Google hadn't returned our calls at publication time. ® Related story Google saves Deja.com Usenet service
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Feb 2001

Total Web anonymity for you, and the CIA

A software package which can keep the CIA's legions of snoops safe from detection as they trawl the Net in search of international evildoers ought to be good enough for your daily dogtrot through cyberspace. That's the pitch for SafeWeb's soon-to-be-released product Triangle Boy, which it is claimed will make it possible for one to surf the Web without leaving a trace. SafeWeb already offers a free browsing gateway which uses 128-bit SSL, disables cookies and scripts and hides the surfer's IP, for pretty good on-line anonymity. But according to an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal, the Agency is eager to involve itself in the more fully-featured Triangle Boy through its business development and capital investment arm In-Q-Tel. Its motives, reportedly, are simply to carry out normal Internet surveillance tasks anonymously, but some suggest that the real reason is to figure out how to crack the program so it can spy on people using it. Of course if that were their true aim, it's unlikely that the Agency would bother to license the product. They could just as easily, and a good deal more cheaply, download a few copies and set quietly to work on them, but there is little point talking common sense to conspiracy freaks. They just know the Trilateral Commission is up to their elbows in this. A more plausible criticism is that the CIA wants the ability to penetrate and/or attack the networks of foreign adversaries with a good deal less chance of getting caught. The CIA denies any interest in applying Triangle Boy to concealing offensive information operations, though its fitness for such use is difficult to overlook. ® Related Link The WSJ article (via MSNBC)
Thomas C Greene, 13 Feb 2001

QXL grows Q3 losses

Online auction house QXL Ricardo.de has grown its Q3 losses to £41.1 million, up from £25.6 million for the same period a year earlier. The London-based business blamed the situation on its acquisition strategy and the need to integrate the IT systems of its purchases. Sales for the three months to 31 December hit £4.1 million, more than double the £1.6 million it managed the year before. Buying German auction business Ricardo.de helped boost the value of goods sold on QXL's sites. This figure jumped 24 per cent from Q2 to £24.9 million. At the end of Q3 the company had £37 million left to spend. As well as auctioning goods from individuals and businesses, QXL is also a retailer and sells computer kit, amongst other things on its site. But that all ends this month. The company is going to stop selling stuff itself, and will just let its former suppliers auction products themselves. ® Related Story QXL shares going going gone
Robert Blincoe, 13 Feb 2001

Alcatel says ‘yes’ to Linux USB ADSL support

Alcatel has at long last Linux support for its SpeedTouch USB ADSL modem. The French comms company will release a driver for the open source operating system, along with the source code, next month. That's good news for UK-based Linux users. British Telecom's domestic ADSL service bundles the SpeedTouch, forcing Linux home users to opt for a more expensive Ethernet-connected service. Last month, British Linux buffs began an online petition to demand Alcatel get its derriere in gear and ship Linux drivers, something the company promised some time back, but has thus far failed to deliver. The petition drew over 800 signatures. The driver will be ready next month, Alcatel said, along with full source code and the modem's firmware as a binary. The release will allow Linux to join MacOS 8.6 and 9.0, and Windows 9x, NT and 2000 as OS' capable of making ADSL connections via the SpeedTouch, the company added. That said, none of the others are available from Alcatel's Web site, so far as we could see. So while BT continues to offer only Windows versions of the SpeedTouch, Mac users are still left out. Hopefully, the Mac driver will be made available next month too. If not, at least Mac coders will get access to the firmware and driver source to create their own. ® Related Link The SpeedTouch driver will be available here Related Stories Linux people petition Alcatel for USB ADSL drivers UK Linux users find alternatives to BT ADSL modem
Tony Smith, 13 Feb 2001

Intel's consumer P4 push kicks off

Intel is starting its big P4 consumer push this week. PC World's got some co-op marketing money and is advertising the 'UK's lowest price Intel Pentium 4, available to take home today.' The price is £1,199 (£1,020.43 ex VAT) which amazingly enough is the cheapest P4 machine available off the high street/out of town shopping complex. But you can do better online and Dell, just for example, has a £1,114 (£899 ex VAT) system, including delivery. Back to the P4 push, though. Later this week we should see the arrival of some sub £999 (ex VAT) boxes from other vendors, heavily promoted with Intel money, and the start of the Pentium 4 TV ad campaign. Well, if its doesn't start this week, it'll be on next week. The UK Intel boys are returning from Santa Clara this week having been pumped up and made ready to sell - the message they're supposed to get out is that Intel make faster processors than AMD. Hence all the unsubtle talk about a 2GHz P4 by Q3. PC World's £1,199 Advent brand machine, made by Centerprise, contains a 1.3GHz P4, 128Mb RDRAM, 20Gb hard drive, and 17inch monitor. The Dell model mentioned above has just a 10Gb hard drive. Tiny is getting its first P4 machines in its shops next week, but its going for a higher spec and pricing starts at £1,299 ex VAT. ® Related Stories Pentium 4 price blitz to push out PIII
Robert Blincoe, 13 Feb 2001

Apple open source lead leaves

Apple's open source engineering project lead, Wilfredo 'Fred' Sanchez, has quit the company to join Menlo Park-based start-up KnowNow. Sanchez joined Apple in 1997. His main area of responsibility was managing the team which developed and maintains MacOS X's open source BSD Unix core, better known as Darwin. In essence, that involved building the links that allow MacOS X's APIs, graphics sub-systems and Aqua GUI to operate on top of the Unix world of the BSD core without either side of the divide having to know too much about what the other was about. The upshot is that MacOS X users don't need to known anything about Unix, and the OS' Darwin underpinnings can be updated and upgraded without hindering the Mac-friendly stuff running on top of it. Part of that process also involved bridging Apple's proprietary mindset with the rather more liberal approach of the open source community. That culminated in the release last April of the Darwin source code and the launch of Apple's Public Source version of the open source licence, which finally approached something comparable to the GNU licence early this year. Of course, with almost all the attention on MacOS X focusing on the user interface, it's easy to forget how important Darwin is to the operating system. The core provides most of the OS' key functionality - certainly the parts of it that do all those things Apple has been saying a modern OS should do: true multi-tasking, multi-processing and memory protection. That's not to belittle the work done on Aqua, integrating OpenGL and Adobe's PDF technology for 2D graphics, and building the Cocoa and Carbon APIs, but they're by no means the whole story. Sanchez said he will continue to work on Darwin - which he can do thanks to its open source nature - and maintain the MacOS X versions of the Perl programming language and the Apache Web server. The company he's going to, KnowNow, seems rather secretive, simply stating that it's developing technology for "powering the two-way Web", its term for what the Internet will become when clients are servers too. Essentially, that means providing Web-based services such as credit approvals, system availability information and shipping options to Web site managers on a kind of ASP-style basis. ® Related Links What Wilfredo did next You can read about what KnowNow is up to here Apple's Darwin page Related Story Apple upgrades open source-style licence
Tony Smith, 13 Feb 2001

Gateway web server flaws exposed

Web servers at Gateway have been defaced in an attack that calls into question the security practices of the direct sales PC vendor. Pages on Gateway's site, which normally carry pages on job advertisements and career opportunities, were replaced by a profane message from The-Rev of cracker group the "sm0ked crew". The defacement is mirrored on Attrition and can be seen here. In common with many sites successfully attacked by crackers in recent months Gateway's site, www.gateway.com, runs Microsoft's IIS4 Web server on a NT4 platform Paul Rogers, a network security analyst at MIS Corporate Defence, said responses from Gateway's web servers showed predictable TCP sequence numbers, indicating that administrators have not followed best practice and applied the latest Microsoft service packs. "It's highly unlikely that the predictable TCP sequence number was used to gain access to these servers - there are much easier ways," said Rogers. "What it does show, however, is that Gateway's servers are not secured or patched up to the highest level." ® Related stories Flashy cracker defaces Memorex site Car makers Web sites defaced Linux worm nobbles Nasa Web site Microsoft Web site hacked in Kiwiland Mass hack takes out govt sites
John Leyden, 13 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 Windows XP hype-fest commences

Brace yourself for the hype; today, Microsoft will try to position Windows XP as the operating system to have. You'll find article after article talking about Microsoft's big day today at EMP, where it is expected too divulge more information about Windows XP, and what will be included in Beta 2. So far, Windows XP clearly needs top notch hardware to run effectively. Do not expect to run (nor see) Windows XP on an old Pentium, but rather a Pentium III with at least 128MB of RAM. But Microsoft does promise that this Windows version will contain crash-proof reliability while providing enhanced Web and wireless technologies. Obviously this costs - certainly if you do it the way Microsoft does it. OK, one more XP item and I'm through with it - trust me. An IT enthusiast Web site has posted a brief product review of Office XP. Here's a quote: "Two new additions that could be of immediate benefit to users are the introduction of the Task pane [which] provides contextual help and on-screen instruction that would previously have been obtained from the menu system. It starts with offering advice for document creating (does this mean the death of the rather annoying office assistant) and then changes to offer advice about the task in-hand." Also, Microsoft recently released the Office XP Product Evaluation Guide. This lengthy guide talks about all the new and updated parts in the forthcoming product. It also outlines what Microsoft is planning to do with this version, and following versions of Office, including the "software as a service" idea (.NET). Thanks to ActiveWin.com for the tip. Is Linux a threat to Microsoft? According to this characteristic harangue, Microsoft has put Linux high up on the "attack" not the "compete," list. "Knowing what we know about the company's usual approach, it's easy to imagine Ballmer's two-way train of thought. A buyout is impossible because nobody owns Linux, so we're left with the company's only other alternative - kill," says Peter Revill. But what about the recent LinuxWorld conference, where everyone was using Windows machines in the pressroom to check e-mail! Which implies that at least right now Microsoft won't have to worry about Linux as a desktop, but rather Linux as a server. "The source code is free, but any Linux platform that provides value to a corporate user is not and never will be. Distributions and services are what are guiding Linux into the enterprise," writes Scot Petersen. ® Any tips, queries? Send them to Luis at The Register. ® This week's Windows Roundups Zapping the ads in MS Messenger
Luis Escalante, 13 Feb 2001

Maxtor in disk mounting spindle shake-up

Maxtor has abandoned the pursuit of ever-larger areal density and gone for a simpler design and increased reliability with its latest family of drives. And so it the company has added load/unload technology to the 531DX family of drives that began shipping yesterday. The line is the first from Maxtor to incorporate the technology, which it says will limit returns in the channel and increase reliability. An inner diameter load/unload ramp locks the recording head in a "protective" carrier whenever the drive is not in use, the company said. The drive runs at 5,400rpm and is available at both 10GB and 15GB capacities. The drive family has 70 per cent fewer parts than other offerings from Maxtor. This is down to a new way of mounting the disk on the spindle, among other design changes. For example: the recording head is now on the under side of the disk, to avoid problems from dust on the disk surface. Maxtor says that the changes have also allowed it to reduce the form factor - the height is now 17-mm making the whole drive a third smaller. Mike Cannon, CEO of Maxtor, said that the drive was aimed at consumer and entry PC markets, and marked a move into new segments of the market for the company. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Feb 2001

Fatal lorry crash text message trial

A man was killed as a truck wobbled off the road because the driver was too busy composing a text message to pay attention to his driving, a court was told yesterday. Paul Browning, 36, from Kenley in South London, has admitted causing death by dangerous driving, but denies that he was texting at the time of the accident. Despite Browning having entered a guilty plea, Judge Daniel Worsley said that he had to hear from witnesses anyway. He said that if Browning had been composing a text message at the time of the accident it would have been "wickedly dangerous." Browning's defence maintains that he was distracted by paperwork flying around in the cab of the truck. The judge said that if this were true, his actions would have been merely "dangerous." This is the first hearing of its kind to involve text messages. The victim, Paul Hammond, was talking to his mother in a lay by at the time of the accident. He had met her there to pick up his glasses that he needed for work Barry Gilbert, prosecuting, said that while moving at over 50mph, Browning's truck veered into the lay by and struck Mr Hammond. He died of his injuries at the scene. ® Related Stories SMS can get you on trouble with the law Man fined for rude SMS Mobile phone immobilises policeman - permanently
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Feb 2001

Doom, Marathon back from the gaming grave

Doom, Id Software's classic first-person shooter, is back on the Mac. To be fair, it's never really gone away, but the new release, MacDoomLegacy 1.0, brings it bang up to date with support for 3D graphics cards. The release follows Id's decision to open up the game's PC-oriented source code back in 1997. Since then, the code has been ported over to the Mac by Calum Robinson, who's been working on it for nearly a year. And a good job the boy's done, too. MacDoomLegacy 1.0 supports all Id's versions of the game, plus various mission add-on packs, all rendered in gorgeous OpenGL'o'Vision™ at resolutions up to 1024x768. Add to that a Quake-style command console (which makes switching options and loading in maps much easier than before), a true 'mouselook' option, a Lara Croft-style third-person mode and a split-screen display for console-style two-player games, and MacDoomLegacy becomes far more than the original without losing any of the playability or visceral intensity of Id's classic. And while we're off in gaming nostalgia territory, we've been playing around with our old favourite, Marathon, also lovingly brought back to life with smarter, modern features, courtesy of the Aleph One development team. Bungie - now owned by Microsoft - released the Marathon 2 source code a couple of years back. After a quick patch to make the code easily compilable, the Aleph One developers have been souping the whole thing up to support modern gaming systems. That includes OpenGL graphics support, so the game now works with 3D accelerators, plus the addition of the game environment controlling, XML-style Marathon Markup Language and Pfhortran, a scripting system to add a new level of interactivity to game levels. That's music to the ears of an old map maker like yours truly, who once - if I say so myself - had something of a following for his Origin of Species series... ah... them were the days... Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, all those sumptuous textures - Marathon 2's remain our firm favourites, way superior to their Marathon Infinity replacements - are being adapted for the 32-bit colour world of 2001 from 1994's 8-bit originals. Developed for the Mac, Marathon's first sequel was ported over to Windows, but was pretty much left to die. Fortunately, PC support has been picked up by the Aleph One guys, porting it to Windows and to Linux (x86 and PowerPC). There's even a BeOS port for both platforms. ® Related Links MacDoomLegay's home page is here and code can be grabbed from the site's download page. The PC version (Windows and Linux) is available here. Aleph One - in all its versions - can be found here
Tony Smith, 13 Feb 2001

Orange finally valued

Orange has finally announced its float price for today's IPO: 10 euros a share, which values the company at £30.8 billion. The 10 euro price is just above the mooted 9.5 euro figure last week when the mobile phone company surprised many by saying it may knock a further sixth of its value (it had already reduced the price by 15 per cent). The £31 billion price tag is somewhat lower than what France Telecom reckoned the company was worth when it bought it off Vodafone. Then, it claimed Orange was worth between £64 billion and £96 billion. We think that France Telecom may be doing itself an injustice by floating now but it seems determined - indeed, it obviously feels that showing such determination will make it out to be a strong company. Unfortunately, a lot of people see it the other way - perhaps even desperation. The share options have been popular however: two-and-a-half times oversubscribed. But then they will be paying 9.5 euros a share and with Orange probably undervalued, they look like a good bet. Three-quarters of the shares (which will account for around 15 per cent of Orange in total) will go to the institutional investors and plain ole Joes will get the rest. The float will kick off at 1pm Greenwich time on Tuesday in both Paris and London. We'll keep an eye on it. ® Related Stories Orange now worth even less Orange gets cheaper by the day
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Feb 2001

AOL tells MPs ‘broadband held back by BT’

AOL UK told a group of MPs today that BT was responsible for Britain falling behind in the race to roll-out broadband. Speaking at the Culture, Media and Sport select committee concerning the Communications White Paper, AOL UK said that in the current climate, no ISP could deliver a marketable ADSL proposal because BT can't say when ADSL will be available, where it will be available and how much it will cost. AOL UK MD, Karen Thomson, told the select committee: "The industry has been held back by BT. We are stuck. The only player in broadband is BT. As it is, the product is unmarketable." Although AOL UK voiced its concerns about BT's dominance in the broadband marketplace, it added little that has already been said and simply showed that the spat between AOL UK and BT/Oftel is still rumbling on. Some observers insisted that AOL UK had missed a golden opportunity to bash BT in front of MPs, especially in light of the ruck in which it's currently embroiled with the monster telco. However, it seems more likely that AOL UK is merely keeping its powder dry and intent on using any additional information it has about BT and the roll-out of broadband for any future legal action. Indeed, AOL UK's half-hour slot in front of the select committee seemed to focus more on issues of content rather than the development of a competitive broadband network in Britain. At one point there was a genuine fear that MPs might not even touch the subject of broadband. It did - eventually - but only just. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Feb 2001

Guess who Saddam's favourite server manufacturer is

Saddam Hussein is apparently to blame for over £1 million of stolen computer equipment in Edinburgh (Scotland, for our foreign readers). The Iraqi dictator has obviously tired of PlayStation 2s and wants the real stuff. Presumably he needs it for some evil purposes in a bid to take over the world - or is that just state-induced blinkered hatred coming through? Over the last nine months, there have been frequent raids on two universities in Edinburgh as well the Royal Observatory. In the latest robberies, over £110,000 worth of computer equipment - workstations, servers, routers etc, etc were nicked. And here's the rub - Saddam's preferred manufacturer is Sun. In each case it was Sun-branded goods that went astray. Now that's a claim that Sun should run with the slogan: "Sun - the international dictator's only choice." This bizarre story comes courtesy of Edinburghnews.com, which spoke to the officers in charge of investigating the thefts and were told that the coppers are convinced it's all down to a gang hired by clients in the Middle East. The equipment, they believe, is being shipped to Iraq to be used in hi-tech weapons programmes (there's the evil plans bit). Why doesn't Saddam just pop down the local PC World? No, it's nothing to do with customer service, it's the sanctions see. We (UK, US etc) won't let him. Not legitimately anyway. Cause then he'd build a big evil robot like in Superman 3. And we can't give him much medicine either because he'll only use to keep people alive. But then he is a baddy. Anyway, the raids are apparently being carried out by a London gang that steal to order. The equipment is then sent via a Third World country to Iraq. Amazing stuff. ® Related Link Edinburgh News story Related Story Iraq buys 4000 PlayStation 2s in world conquest bid
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Feb 2001

PC World's bargain P4 beast

PC World is proudly shouting it's got the cheapest Pentium 4 machine that you can buy - that is if you want to take it home with you there and then. For £1,199 (inc VAT) you get the 1.3GHz P4, 128Mb RDRAM, 20Gb hard drive, and the 32Mb TNT2 graphics card. But you get what you pay for. This system contains the PC600 RDRAM - the slowest Rambus memory you can get, so the machine will probably run slower than a 1GHz PIII box. The PC World system just gives you bragging rights down the pub that you own a P4 machine. In the PC World advert it states that "RDRAM - offers 3 times the performance of SDRAM". That may be but PC600 RDRAM doesn't. Reg reader Euan Robertson says the PC World P4 system is "kinda like getting a lovely big Cosworth V8 engine, but installing it in a lead Mini with a ten litre fuel tank and a pallet of bricks in the back." And as for the TNT2-64M - opinion is divided. El Reg tech heads like the card as long as you keep updating your drivers, but it has been around a long while. However reader Nick Palmer isn't excited at all about the P4/TNT-64M combo. "So, we take this chip, whose only real benefits so far (and these are disputed) are in graphics handling...and we'll couple it to the lowest budget graphics decelerator we can find - I mean, the M64 has been around a couple of years already, and that was the cut-down, slowed-down version of the TNT2 anyway." Tom's Hardware has published an article on how you can equip an Athlon box that hammers any P4 system, and for a lower price. But if you want a P4 machine to take home today you know where to go. ® Related Story Intel's consumer P4 push kicks off Related Link Tom's Hardware article
Robert Blincoe, 13 Feb 2001

BTinternet users banned by IRC network

BTinternet users have been banned from using a popular IRC network whilst the hunt for a vandal spreading a Trojan continues. The ban means BT users are prevented from using chat networks run by DALnet, one of the world's biggest IRC service providers, whose network handles over 2 million daily connections and supports a user base of more than 500,000. According to DALnet the ban on BTinternet users was made in self-defence after a problem with a malicious user threatened to get out of control. In an email, DALnet's technical staff told The Register: "The domain ban was placed after BTinternet's abuse department failed to respond to DALnet's emails regarding an abusive user spreading Trojans. "When this happens we often have no choice but to ban the entire domain until the ISP in question wakes up and responds (this has happened with for example AOL in the past)." A spokesman for BTinternet said the ISP has a good record on security and takes incidents of abuse very seriously, however she said that it was "difficult to stop rogue people" abusing any ISP's service. DALnet said that BTinternet has been in contact now, and agreed the ban should remain until they can deal with the abuse at their end. Postings on the BT Internet newsgroup suggest the ban has been in place since last Wednesday, February 7. At present it's unknown how long the ban will remain in force, but until the "kline" (kill line) on BTinternet users is lifted they will receive the following terse message when they try to log onto DALnet's network. "Closing Link: ([exp/bt] Due to continued abuse from BTinternet, your domain is no longer welcome on DALnet. Please contact abuse@btinternet.com for further assistance. [AKILL ID:981516547K-a] (2001/02/06 23.34))." IRC is a non-profit, non-commercial, text-oriented chat environment, which is run by volunteers and is kept alive with donated hardware and bandwidth. ® Related Stories DDoS attacks threaten Net's last commercial-free zone Related Links alt.internet.providers.uk.btinternet newsgroup thread on the subject DALnet
John Leyden, 13 Feb 2001

Hardware site Anandtech defaced

Leading hardware site Anandtech has been defaced, apparently by the same group that also sprayed tasteless graffiti on Gateway's site in an earlier attack. Instead of hardware reviews, visitors to Anandtech have been treated to the lyrics of a song about hacking, which was put up on the site by The-Rev and Splurge of the group the "sm0ked Crew". At the time of writing the defacement was still visible on the site, and will doubtless be mirrored on sites like Attrition after the page is repaired. In part the song, which would take longer than Bohemian Rhapsody to perform judging by its length, reads: " I don't do black music, I don't do white music. I make fight music, for high school kids. I put jobs at risk when I hack like this {*tires screech*}. I put narks at risk when I flow like this (AHHH!!). Shit, you probably think I'm hacking your website now. I'm in aol's system with your info right now, with you phone # which I'm giving out." The defacement also includes the obligatory greetings to other crackers and profanities that typically accompany such attacks. According to Netcraft, Anandtech runs Microsoft IIS/5.0 web server on a Windows 2000 platform. ® Related Stories Gateway web server flaws exposed
John Leyden, 13 Feb 2001

BT comes clean on Mac ADSL support

UpdatedUpdated Why can't BT get its act together and properly support ADSL Internet access from a variety of platforms? Earlier today, we reported on Alcatel's upcoming release of Linux drivers for its SpeedTouch USB ADSL modem. In the UK, BT bundles the SpeedTouch with its domestic ADSL package, an offering that other ADSL providers essentially sell on to end users. BT offers Windows 9x/NT/2000 support, but not Linux or Mac. According to the company's Web site - or, rather, that of its ADSL subsidiary BTOpenworld, nicknamed BTOpenwoe by frustrated users - the company plans "to support Apple Macintosh... in the future". That's odd inasmuch as Alcatel offers Mac drivers for the SpeedTouch USB, but these - we thought - were fairly recent additions. Certainly, Alcatel's own Web site notes that Mac support is due sometime in "Q4 2000", so maybe BT hasn't been kept up to date. Neither has Alcatel's Web site - yesterday it announced the upcoming arrival of the Linux drivers, but its own site has yet to reflect the fact. The Mac drive release date on the Alcatel site comes from the SpeedTouch USB support FAQ - the main part of the site suggests that the modem now supports "MacOS 8.6 and 9.0". And, indeed, BTOpenworld's own site offers Mac drivers for download. They're on its drivers download page, though users will need to obtain a password from the company before they can download them. The reason for that is that they're described as a "trial" product, by which we assume they're a beta, though that seems odd, given they're already at version 1.3.3. It also seems odd in that the "trial" Windows ME driver (version 1.3.1) is available for download, and you don't even have to be an ADSL user to get it. That said, you'll have a job tracking it down. BTOpenworld's download page isn't accessible from the outfit's main site - so our thanks got out to Register readers for letting us know about it and the drivers it contains. Now if the Mac drivers are still on trial, we can understand why BT might not want to shout about Mac support on the main site. However, it is telling some Mac users that it soon will be. One Register reader told us: "BT told me last week that the ADSL drivers for residential Macs would be finished during February. They advised me to call back the following week to see how things were going. So I called them yesterday and they casually told me its been delayed to 'late summer'. Late summer - can you believe it! This will translate to physical installation in November, if we're lucky." This despite the fact that Alcatel maintains the drivers are done, and BT has a trial version available. It certainly sounds like BTOpenworld is winging it a bit here. So what the heck is going on? Are the drivers done or not? Is BT still testing them? And if it can give callers a date, why can't it tell visitors to its Web site - or provide a consistent timeframe? So we asked BT. Yes, we were told, the drivers are done, but BT is still providing them on a trial basis until it's sure they're ready for mass distribution. Trialists were chosen on a first come, first served basis, which is why more recent callers have been told to come back later. The company expects to make the drivers widely available "later this month", though that assumes the drivers work as well as BT wants them to, although Alcatel is clearly satisfied with them. We shall see. ® Update Since we posted this story, Alcatel has posted its Mac drivers on its Web site. The drivers are only available for users living in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands or the UK, and the 7.54MB download isn't exactly small. But it is there. Or, rather, here. Related Link BTOpenworld's download site (for what it's worth) can be found here Related Stories Alcatel says 'yes' to Linux USB ADSL support Linux people petition Alcatel for USB ADSL drivers UK Linux users find alternatives to BT ADSL modem
Tony Smith, 13 Feb 2001

Be funny and win a toboggan

CompetitionCompetition Microsoft PR agency August One was tickled by our recent pieceMS Canada on slippery slope. The article outlines MS Canada's incentive scheme whereby buying a copy of MS Office secures the punter a free toboggan. August One fully agreed with our indignation that this class giveaway was not being made available elsewhere. So much so in fact, that they have kindly offered Reg readers the chance to win a toboggan of their very own. Microsoft itself then chipped in, adding a copy of Office XP to the prize booty (as soon as it's available, natch.) All you have to do to enter this exciting compo is tell us what preposterous freebie you think Microsoft should bundle with Office XP. Email your entries to us here. Mark the subject 'toboggan'. Rules The entry deadline is 5.00pm GMT on Friday 23rd February. There is no cash alternative, so any winner from the Congo or Amazon will have to think of an cunning alternative use for a toboggan. The answer must be 'funny' in that it must contain humour of some sort and not a load of moaning about software or the weather. Idealogues are welcome to their say - somewhere else. The winner will be announced on Monday 26th February.
Lester Haines, 13 Feb 2001

MP miffed by AOL

Gerald Kaufman MP - who chaired the Culture, Media and Sport select committee meeting discussing the Communications White Paper - had to have a pop at AOL UK earlier today. Just as he said his goodbyes to AOL UK MD, Karen Thomson, and her team he mentioned an incident about how he and a friend, having loaded the AOL client onto a machine, had real difficulties getting rid of the software. Mr Kaufman is not alone. It's a perennial problem that has even been the subject of legal action in the US. The acoustics in the committee room were such that we didn’t quite hear what Ms Thomson had to say but she mumbled something about phoning tech support. Shame. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Feb 2001

New York students threatened in online ‘hit list’

New York parents are demanding a teen to be thrown out of school after he threatened to pick off fellow students via an online "hit list". The 13-year-old boy named 36 students on his site that he planned to "attack when it gets warmer", Newsday.com reported. One reason given on the site for hating his classmates was if they were a "goody-goody". After initially getting a two-day suspension for the action, has was later ordered to stay away from the John F Kennedy Middle School until a police investigation and disciplinary hearing were completed. But it is unlikely that the teen will face criminal charges. Because he did not send the threats personally (such as via email), but posted them in public, he is covered under the First Amendment's freedom of speech rights. Parents, called to a meeting at the school yesterday, are demanding that the boy to be expelled. Police said the boy, an honours student, and his family had been "extremely cooperative" with detectives. They said they didn't think he had access to any weapons and decided not to confiscate his computer. "It seems like he is an honour student, a very good student who seems to have made a big mistake," said Nassau Det Capt Carolyn Laibach, the commanding officer of the Juvenile Aid Bureau. The police are recommending counselling for the boy. Parents of the kids involved said they were upset by the site, which has since been removed, but said the school was doing everything it could. "I'm feeling much more comfortable now that I know it's out in the open, and maybe this kid will get the help he needs," said one. It was a different story on local TV last night - parents told reporters for the WB11 station they were worried about their children's safety, with students outside the school saying were scared of a repeat of the Columbine shootings. ® Related Link Police Probe 'Hit List' Related Stories Net blamed for new Columbine High School threats George Dubya blames Net for Columbine massacre US senate moves to ban bomb info on Web Looney in botched fake massacre threat
Linda Harrison, 13 Feb 2001

Pedo porn ring gets slap on wrist

Seven British members of a notorious Internet child porn ring escaped the full force of the law in Kingston Crown Court today. The guilty men were given lenient sentences for their parts in distributing enormous quantities of material throughout the w0nderland child pornography club. The jail terms ranged from one year to a maximum of 30 months. The National Crime Squad press office said there had been no response to the sentences from the squad that had brought the paedophiles to book. The paedophiles had pleaded guilty to conspiring to circulate indecent images of children, described by Detective Chief Inspector Alex Wood as "really quite horrific." In sentencing, Judge Kenneth Macrae told the men that despite "pandering to the basest interests of man," the fact that they pleaded guilty to the charges was being taken into account. At the time of their arrest, the maximum sentence for collecting and distributing child pornography was three years. Since then, the tariff has been increased to up to ten years. The w0nderland club had 200 members, scattered all over the world. They had assembled more 750,000 unique images of pre-teen children being physically and sexually abused. During the investigation officers were given counselling to help them cope with the material, according to Wood. In total the collection showed the criminal abuse of 1,236 children, some as young as three months old, he said. Detective Superintendent Peter Spindler said that the challenge for the squad now was to identify the victims of abuse. He said that the police had 'cleaned up' 900 images into viewable head and shoulder shots which were to be distributed throughout the police force. So far, he said, 17 children had been identified. He would not comment more specifically: "What we need to remember is that these are real people with real lives we are dealing with here." ® Related Story Paedophile says why he loves the Net
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Feb 2001

PlusNet woes continue. More to be kicked off?

PlusNet has mass-emailed 500 more customers, threatening them with disconnection unless they use the Internet service "responsibly". At the same, the company has posted "Fair and reasonable usage guide for Surftime accounts" which state (among other things) that connecting to the Net for more than an hour-and-a-half in the evening or at weekends is "out of order" (1 hour 50 minutes and above is "taking the Michael"). Customers are understandably angry and the company's discussion forums have been swamped with furious messages and competitor recommendations. Earlier this month, PlusNet broke all previous records by cutting off 1,100 customers that it claimed were abusing the service. And on Thursday, PlusNet managing director Lee Strafford posted a message blaming BT for its problems. Ex-customers are also claiming that PlusNet has failed to cancel subscription charges and a monthly fee is still being taken out their account. We had a word with Mr Strafford. "No customers have been cut off," he told us. "We have emailed around 500 customers, informing them that their usage profile is unacceptable and have asked them to change or move onto a different service." One Reg reader would disagree: "I've just been kicked off. They did it overnight, so no warning whatsoever. I had to *guess* that I might be able to log in to their 0845 number and pick up the email telling me I could no longer pick up any email..." A number of other customers have also expressed despair that the company has rewritten its terms & conditions several times and then implemented them retrospectively. Others talk of suing PlusNet for failing to provide a service they charge for. It seems unlikely that anyone will go to the trouble to find out whether there is a case. Another reader has a good point, however: "What really annoys me is that when you sign up for Surftime, it's for three months minimum, and I've only been on for two months, so I'll be paying BT £19.99 for a service I can't use." Mr Strafford also refutes claims made by three Reg readers (and reiterated by others on PlusNet's forums) that they are still being charged £5.99, despite having been kicked off the service for "abuse". "That is not the case," he told us. "Due to the billing system, there have been some problems but everything is working now." He assures us that no one is being charged that shouldn't be and everyone will be refunded if they have been overcharged. Whatever the truth of the situation, PlusNet is getting a bad name for itself. One customer informed us that he was moving to another ISP even though PlusNet hasn't sent him any warning emails. "How do I know I won't be cut off next month when they change the rules again?" he queried. If you're interested in what PlusNet now feels is acceptable use, here's a brief summary of its new rules: Biz+ accounts Mon-Fri 08:00 - 18:00hrs Design - 3 hours 40 minutes Fair - 4 hours 20 minutes Pushing it - 5 hours Unfair - 5 hours 40 minute Out of order - 6 hours 20 minutes Taking the Michael - 7 hours and above All other times Design - 1 hour Fair - 1 hour 10 minutes Pushing it - 1 hour 20 minutes Unfair - 1 hour 30 minutes Out of order - 1 hour 40 minutes Taking the Michael - 1 hour 50 minutes and above 24/7 accounts (Should that be 24.7 minutes?! - Ed) Design - 1 hours 35 minutes Fair - 2 hours Pushing it - 2 hours 25 minutes Unfair - 2 hours 50 minutes Out of order - 3 hours 15 minutes Taking the Michael - 3 hours 40 minutes and above OffPeak accounts (Unmetered element only) Design - 45 minutes Fair - 1 hour 20 minutes Pushing it - 1 hour 40 minutes Unfair - 2 hours Out of order - 2 hours 20 minutes Taking the Michael - 2 hours 40 minutes and above Related Stories PlusNet blames BT for poor Net service PlusNet boots 1100 users from its service
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Feb 2001

Reuters profit hit by Net transformation

Reuters Group saw operating profit drop 25 per cent last year due to costs related to transforming itself into an online news machine. Profit fell to £411 million for the year ended December 31 2000, from £549 million the previous year, with operating profit as a percentage of sales down to 11.4 per cent from 17.6 per cent. The company has so far spent £139 million of the £500 million it last year announced it would use for the Internet switch, a plan which has so far "made good progress," according to Reuters. Cash saved from switching to the Web will start adding to profit next year. Net income rose 25 per cent to £532 million, or 37.9 pence a share, from £425 million, or 30.2 pence, a year earlier. Sales for the year rose 15 per cent to £3.6 million. Reuters CEO Peter Job said: "The Internet and its technologies remain a powerful driver for us, permitting us to improve the way we work and help our customers to enhance their performance. "The collapse of the valuation bubble around Internet stocks has not affected our strategy, which goes forward as we stated last year. We are confident this technology revolution will continue to open up many new opportunities for the group." The company also said today it would use the Inktomi Search/Enterprise Internet infrastructure software to run its global intranet, which supplies information to more than 17,000 staff. ® Related Stories Inktomi buys into live broadcasting
Linda Harrison, 13 Feb 2001

Dr Tom's advice on living cheaply

HWRoundupHWRoundup El Doctor has a few money saving suggestions over at Tom's Hardware today. If the idea of adding a bit of fizz to an old machine for less than a lot of money is as appealing to you as it should be, then check this out. Tom takes a look at a 1995 socket 5 system and brings it, if not into the 21st century, then at least up to 1999. It had to start somewhere. D128 has sat down and given some thought to the XBox. What will this mean for your PC, they wonder. Well, we thought we'd share their thoughts with you, click here to find out whether it can take the dog for a walk when you are on holiday. That last part was a lie. Game PC followed up its interest in Asus' A7M266 motherboard, based on the 760 chipset from AMD. They put it up against a few other systems; including other 760 offerings, some based on the KT133A, and of course some built around the P4. Sound like your kind of comparison? Click here if you want more. It is time to do something funky with your case again. Tweaktown is crying out for readers to send it more sparkly photos of modified computer shells. They've put up a couple of fine examples here, including one that demonstrates that a PC can look like a Mac if it tries hard enough. Or is it a Mac, I'm confused now. Last up is an EarthWeb review of the ASUS P4T i850 Pentium 4 Mainboard. This sounds good, but does it live up to what you would expect from such an impressive features list? Check it out here if the i850 chipset, a 400MHz FSB, four RIMM slots, ATA/100, five PCI slots and AGP Pro 4x, gets your attention. ® For those as yet unfulfilled, there is a ton more hardware stuff in the Register Archives.
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Feb 2001

E-minister has another stab at selling wireless licences

Ole Patricia Hewitt, E-minister, has "announced proposals" today to get rid of the unsold licences in the farce that was November's fixed wireless auction. When the (much-delayed) auction was kicked off on 10 November, the government was expecting to net around £1 billion from the sale of 42 licences throughout the UK. The 28GHz licences would allow for fixed-point but wireless Internet access. It ended up with a measly £36.5 million, 26 licences without even a bid and egg all over its face. Government egg-minister Patricia didn't do a bad job once the shambles was complete but neither would she talk to the press. But that's all in the past - it's the new year! And Patricia has got some proposals for us. What she proposes is that companies buy the licences. Brilliant! She may have overlooked the fact that the high reserve price put on the licences stopped people from bidding last time when she proposed that companies pay the reserve price for the licences. And if more than one person wants the licence, then they'll have an auction to decide who wins it. Genius! It's good to see that Pat and the DTi weren't idle over the Christmas holidays. We have no idea where the inspiration for this remodelled system came from - probably something cuddly like a civil servant's young, fair-haired daughter saying: "Well Daddy, maybe last time they were too busy with other things. I'm sure they'll buy them if you offer them again." Ironically, little Lucy may actually be right. We spoke to a number of companies last time and asked them why they hadn't bid for licences. Some had heard about it far too late in the day. Some were put off by the auction approach. Others didn't like the way the DTi had been so unhelpful (doing the old salesman trick of intriguing people by being offhand). Oh, and the niggling thing about the price. These licences are actually pretty good but the government should learn a bit of humility and point that out to people rather than pretending it doesn't care. ® Related Stories E-minister puts brave face on auction farce Fixed wireless auction a complete shambles Fixed wireless auction is go! go! go! Roll-up! Roll-up! Second money-burning Internet auction on way
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Feb 2001

Anna Kournikova bug drops harmlessly onto the Net

Much like the tennis star herself, the Anna Kournikova worm created a lot of interest and attention when it hit the Net - but lacks anything like a powerful smash. As we previously reported, an Internet-based email worm that masquerades as a picture of tennis star Anna Kournikova is spreading fast after been unleashed on the Internet yesterday. MessageLabs, which scans its users' email for malicious code has intercepted 20,000 copies of the worm since yesterday. However VBS/SST or the Anna Kournikova worm, as it has been called, has failed to create anything like the trail of destruction caused by the similar Love Bug virus. Security experts said part of the reason for this is that network administrators have closed the security loopholes that allowed Visual Basic scripting worms, like the Love Bug and VBS/SST, to overwhelm email servers, though many think security is as lax as ever. Far more important in limiting the damage caused by VBS/SST is that it carries a relatively weak payload. The worm comes in an email with the subject line "Here you have, ;o)" and an attachment called AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs. The virus is activated by the user clicking on the attachment, after which it emails itself to everyone in a user's Microsoft Outlook address books. McAfee, a division of security firm Network Associates, reports that the virus has been found in 50 enterprise size companies including Fortune 500 firms, however we could only confirm that relatively small firms like travelfusion, religious organisation New Directions and gambling site flutter.com had been affected by the bug. Moshe Rafiah, travelfusion's chief executive, told The Register that he was the only person at the online travel etailer to be caught out by the worm, and that he was able to disinfect his machine by downloading the latest virus definitions from Symantec. Paul Rogers, a network security analyst at MIS Corporate Defence, said a lot of users learnt lessons from the Love Bug and put restrictions on Visual Basic scripting that prevented the spread of such viruses. "This will only catch out companies that haven't got it right," said Rogers. Andre Post, a senior researcher at Symantec, said that the main effects of the virus have been seen in the US, where "a few companies have shut down their web servers as a precautionary measure". The spreading routine of VBS/SST is different from that used by the Love Bug, said Post, who added the bug was created using a worm creation tool, called "[K]Alamar's Vbs Worms Creator", from a virus exchange site. Post added the toolkit is easy to use and requires no particular skill, and the fact that the virus attempts to direct a victim's web browser to a Dutch Web site, called dynabyte.nl, on January 26 - mimics earlier self-replicating viruses produced using the kit. ® Infection Removal In order to remove the worm from a system, Russian anti-virus experts Kaspersky Labs has issued the following instructions: 1. Delete the "AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs" file from the Windows system folder; 2. Delete the following Windows system registry keys: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\OnTheFly HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\OnTheFly\mailed Outlook Express users can stop viruses like Love Bug and the Anna Kournikova worm dead in their tracks with a few simple steps: 1. Go to "Tools", then "Options". 2. Click the "Security" tab. 3. Select "Restricted Zone" and click OK. Related Story Anna Kournikova virus spreading like wildfire
John Leyden, 13 Feb 2001

Early death for 98 as MS pushes WinXP – public beta confirmed

Windows XP, the next generation of Windows, got its first public preview today at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, where Bill Gates rang the changes (not) by describing it as "the most advanced Windows ever." Those itching for a simultaneous unleashing of Beta 2 were however disappointed - the announcement itself says it will ship to a few people "in the next month," while in one of those tedious faux interviews with itself Microsoft has taken to posting in its site press section, general manager John Frederiksen will commit only to "before the end of the first quarter." Beta 2 will feature the new user interface, Luna, which also featured in today's presentation. As yet The Register is unenlightened on the precise features of this beast, first because the link to the newly-unveiled Windows XP section of the Microsoft site didn't seem to work earlier, and second because now it's working the preview shots don't seem to be there yet. Microsoft however describes it as a "fresh new look [which] extends the personal computing experience by uniting PCs, devices and services like never before." More specifically, it uses a task-based approach, and drilling down to a bit of detail Frederiksen says the new start menu has been designed "as the true launching point for users to get started and do everything they want on their PC." Actually building a truly task-based UI and sticking to it is however a serious challenge, not helped by the inevitability that a lot of users would hate it, and would need to be evangelised. Plus if the interface was really task-based the ISVs would have to be talked into abandoning the applications-based approach. But maybe it's not exactly task-based at all, rather like the way many terms used by Microsoft turn out not quite to mean what you previously thought they did. Frederiksen maybe gives the game away when he says: "We built intelligence into the design so the applications that are used most frequently will 'bubble up' and be quickly and easily accessible." If it's task-based then the tasks bubble up, not the apps, John - at best, this sounds like Microsoft is designing some kind of halfway house. But it's worth bearing in mind that as Microsoft apparently doesn't intend to ship the new UI until Beta 2, what is available as screenshot (microsoft.com morlocks permitting) and what is said about the UI now is certainly not the complete story. The decision to restrict Beta 2 initial circulation to "a select group of Microsoft customers, partners and beta testers" is also a signal that Microsoft is unsure how far it should go in this rev. The spin put on that was that Microsoft would restrict the beta in order to avoid repeating the experience of earlier builds, which leaked onto the Web within days of release. The more probable reason, however, is that the company wants to test the waters with a few people to see how far it makes sense to go, and work on getting the message across, rather than being beaten up by tens of thousands of irate users in a widespread, public beta. A public beta release some time after Beta 2 was mooted last month by CRN, which has more recently been making the running with alleged release schedules. But although CRN's poop is probably genuine Microsoft poop, it's likely what Microsoft would like to happen, not necessarily what will actually happen. For what it's worth, the projected date for Beta 2 is February 28th, nicely inside the within the next month/before the end of Q1 window. This will be followed by Release Candidate 1 in late March, and RC 2 on the weirdly precise April 24th, with Release to Manufacturing on May 30th. So ship in second half, on target. You'd probably not be wrong if you saw the thumbprint of Jim Allchin, back in the saddle at today's announcement and a man who likes to drive schedules hard, in that route map. You should also note that it makes it clear that Microsoft intends it to be largely done and dusted by the release of Beta 2 - there just isn't space in the schedule for major engineering work. Nor indeed, for a genuine widespread public beta. The new XP section of the site does however invite you to register for the Preview Program, and stresses that by signing up you'll be under to obligation to purchase anything. Which kind of suggests, as with Win2k, it'll cost. Also as with Windows 2000 the schedule is too tight for it to be anything other than a simple publicity stunt designed to get the hype going among tech wannabes early. One last point worth chewing at today - industry leaders, who always "rally" in support of new Microsoft operating systems, seem to be rallying early this year. Mike Capellas, CEO of notorious Redmond stoogecorp Compaq, rallied tediously (he's going to ship it when it's out - wow) but Circuit City CEO Alan McCollough was more interesting. When XP ships all Windows PCs Circuit City sells will run it, and "beginning today" (you didn't know about this before, Alan?) "we're going to ensure that all Windows-based PCs we sell are configured to allow for an easy transition to Windows XP." Two things are worth noting about this. First of all, we can presume that Microsoft is being really persuasive behind the scenes to engineer as fast and total a switch to XP as it can. The speedy extermination of Windows 98/Me and Windows 2000 at least at retail, and fairly swiftly following in OEM and corporate sales, is the logical goal and consequence. Windows NT? Get real... The second point is that prior to the release PCs are going to be made 'XP-ready.' There's an element of making the hardware work with the software here, rather than vice versa. XP will have pretty specific hardware requirements, and rather than was the case with 95, where the aim was to get it to run properly on existing hardware, this time around Microsoft seems keen on aiming for new hardware. A couple of months back a Microserf even blurted to The Register that the company saw it as a new PC product, not an upgrade one. But he went to ground when we asked for elaboration, so he probably said too much. ®
John Lettice, 13 Feb 2001

The unbearable lightness of DRAM

Once upon a time the 64Mb DRAM chip - add eight and you get the DIMM module you buy in a shop - supplied the definitive price benchmark for the memory industry. Now, it's the turn of its big brother, the 128Mb, to perform the same duty. And what do the benchmarks tell us today? Well, if you're a memory maker, your problems ain't going away in a hurry, and if you're a system builder or memory buyer of any description - hurrah! For 128Mb SDRAM chips have dipped below the $5 mark for the first time, Korea's Maeil Business Newspaper (by way of Asiabiztech) reports. PC-133 type 128Mb SDRAMs dropped 0.99 per cent to between $5 and $5.30 each, with PC-100 SDRAMs slipping 2 per cent to between $4.90 and $5.90 per chip, according to the Maeil - although it does not say when the prices dropped. Apparently, the $5 level for 128Mb SDRAM had been deemed as the psychological barrier for investors, the Maeil says. We can only guess what this means in practice. The old benchmark, 64Mb DRAMs, took their worst hammering so far this year, dropping to $2.55 to $2.70 per chip for PC-133 DRAMs, and $2.45 to $2.60 for PC-100 chips. Just a month ago 64Mb DRAMs slipped under $3 - in the first week of 2001 the PC-100 SDRAM chips fell as much as 2.68 per cent to $2.90. Analysts and chipmakers do not expect the DRAM market to rebound until the second half of this year. ® Related Stories Maeil: Value of 128Mb DRAMs Falls Below US$5 Micron launches low-power SDRAM AMD claims chip sales growth to beat industry average DRAM prices carry on falling DRAM 64Mb slips under $3
Linda Harrison, 13 Feb 2001

US DSL indie market ‘near total collapse’

Around 700,000 Americans managed to get DSL access in the fourth quarter of last year. This brought the total number of DSL lines in the US to 2,429,189 at the end of 2000. But between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of the country's households still have a long wait ahead of them to get this form of high-speed Net access. Traditional local phone companies, or ILECs (Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers) like Verizon and BellSouth, dominated US DSL in the quarter with 78 per cent of lines (increasing their installed base by 46 per cent). Independent providers, or CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) like Covad, accounted for 22 per cent (up 25 per cent). Altogether, the US market grew 41 per cent for the quarter, according to US research company TeleChoice, which says it interviewed every DSL facilities-based service provider in North America. Canada got more than 150,000 subscribers in the last three months of 2000, giving it 431,856 DSL lines in service by the end of 2000. "The big story this last quarter was the near total collapse of the CLEC market," said Adam Guglielmo, a TeleChoice DSL analyst. "Yet the continued strong growth of the overall market shows an undeniable demand for DSL. We do not expect this to slow down." In total, North America saw DSL users jump to nearly three million, compared to 570,000 at the end of 1999. "These next two quarters will really be about who is left standing," said TeleChoice DSL analyst Pat Hurley. "There is still room for competition, but some of it may be coming from a different quarter than we originally thought. Value-added services like voice over DSL should finally start becoming a real factor by the end of this year." TeleChoice predicts the number of DSL users in the US will more than double this year, reaching 5.7 million users the December, and 17.4 million by the end of 2004. But Hurley estimated that around 20 per cent of US homes would not be able to get DSL for at least three to four years due to being too far away from their main DSL office (18,000 feet is the maximum line distance). "It's not really a high priority for phone companies," he told The Register. "They can continue to make money and keep going without addressing this problem." And another 20 per cent to 40 per cent of homes are behind the digital loop carrier - when phone companies run a fibre optic cable to one point in a neighbourhood, then connect individual copper lines from this to each house. DSL equipment has to be fitted in each of these 'boxes' before the service will work. Although the installations are being addressed by the telcos, this process will also take "several years", according to Hurley. ® Related Stories AOL tells MPs 'broadband held back by BT' Americans flock to fast Net access Sick of crap DSL? Start your own service! Verizon tells New York to quit DSL whingeing Verizon hit by another DSL lawsuit
Linda Harrison, 13 Feb 2001

Anna-bug author OnTheFly 'fesses up

Someone claiming to be the author of the much publicised and rather underwhelming, hence aptly-named, Anna Kournikova e-mail worm has set up a confessional Web site explaining his methods and motives. "In this letter I'd like you to know that I didn't do it for fun," he says. Rather, it all happened "just because I am a big fan of her. She deserves some attention, doesn't she?" As for the methods, they were all too familiar. "I have made this virus with a Visual Basic Worm Generator, written by [K]Alamar. K. is NOT involved with this worm! I have been using this program because I don't know any programming languages," OnTheFly explains. A target of the worm, the DynaByte computer shop Web site, which was to be flooded with visits by infected surfers on 29 January, was chosen entirely through random happenstance, OnTheFly says. "A couple of days ago I bought something in that Dutch Ccomputershop and at the moment of writing that virus I had the receipt in front of me, on my desk. I never meant to harm the site (tell me if I did). That's why I put the 29th of januari as the date of downloading the site. I'm sure that the VBS/OnTheFly.a-virus is already stopped by then..." But the most important reason for writing the virus was to evaluate a claim by tech research and consulting outfit IDC, holding that a large number of computer users would still open unknown e-mail attachments like the Love Bug, which we covered here. "Last week I read an artikle about some research (www.idc.com) about the impact of the LoveLetter virus. The title of that artikle says enough: IDC: (Surfing people haven't learned anything from the I-Love-You virus)," OnTheFly says. "I think IDC is right. I also think that you agree with me, according to the rate of spreading. Maybe this is also Anna's blame, she is so pretty..." Actually, the disappointing rate of the Anna bug's spread tends to contradict IDC's contention that computer users have learned nothing about data hygiene from the Love Bug. Not that a consulting shop would have any possible motive for exaggerating a threat for which they can offer expensive advice, mind you. ® Related Stories Anna Kournikova bug drops harmlessly onto the Net Anna Kournikova virus spreading like wildfire
Thomas C Greene, 13 Feb 2001

Mitnick movie on DVD

The controversial movie version of the electronic manhunt that snared hacker legend Kevin Mitnick is now available on DVD through Amazon.fr and other French retail sites. Now, for 241,52 Francs, or about $27 US, those capable of cracking the disk's region encoding can confirm for themselves that Hollywood did the right thing by exiling Takedown from the English-speaking world. The ninety-minute film tells the story of how computer researcher Tsutomu Shimomura tracked Mitnick to his Raleigh, North Carolina hideout in February, 1995. It's based on the book Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw -- By The Man Who Did It, penned by Shimomura and New York Times reporter John Markoff, and giddily optioned by Disney's Miramax amid the storm of publicity following the fugitive hacker's arrest. It stars Skeet Ulrich as Mitnick and Russell Wong as Shimomura, and features appearances by Tom Berringer and rapper Master P. The DVD offers letterbox format, Dolby stereo and a lengthy interview with the real Mitnick. Sadly, it does not come with a "Making Of" documentary, which might have been the best part. The real Takedown story began in 1998. While the real-life Mitnick sat in jail awaiting trial, his supporters obtained an advance copy of the Takedown screenplay, and were disheartened to find Mitnick portrayed as violent and potentially homicidal. Protesters, led by Eric Corley, editor of 2600 The Hacker Quarterly, converged on Miramax's New York City offices, then went on a cross-country journey from New York to California, with a stopover at the Takedown location shoot in Raleigh. They passed out "Free Kevin" bumper stickers and "Stop Miramax" flyers along the way. While on the road, Corley shot a movie of his own -- a documentary in the style of Michael Moore's Roger and Me called "Freedom Downtime," which debuted at last year's H2K hacker convention in New York. Whether in response to the protests, or the threat of legal action by Mitnick, later versions of the Takedown screenplay portrayed the hacker as far less evil. But even that didn't lift the project's curse. After shooting wrapped in December, 1998, poor test screenings were rumored to have sent cast and crew back to North Carolina for a partial re-shoot. In the end, at least four writers had their hands on the script, and the finished product was still deemed too dreadful to justify the cost of a US release. It found its way to French theatres last March as Cybertraque. The newly-released Cybertraque DVD features two soundtracks: one dubbed in French, and one in English with French subtitles. North American movie fans beware: the DVD is coded for region two, which means it won't work in players sold outside of Japan, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East. If you're an American determined to see the film, check your DVD player's manual: some players allow you to switch regions a limited number of times -- typically five. Additionally, hackers have been able to circumvent region encoding on some DVD computer drives. Strict Anglophones can order the movie from Amazon.fr with a little translation help from Babelfish. Bring out the Doomsday Code Takedown opens in a Los Angeles strip club, where Mitnick and his comic sidekick Alex (the movie's version of real-life Mitnick pal Lew DePayne) have been summoned to a clandestine meeting with a hacker called "Icebreaker," a frenetic rocker who acts like he's on crystal meth and says things like "I am the shit." Surrounded by swirling cigarette smoke and framed by topless dancers, Icebreaker tries vainly to convince the pair that he's a world class hacker who would be a benefit to any cyber gang. Icebreaker, it turns out, is actually a bumbling FBI informant gunning for Mitnick. But instead of getting dirt on the hacker, he inadvertently sets Mitnick on the trail of the local telephone company's computer-controlled wiretapping system. The scenes that follow show Mitnick, well played by Scream star Ulrich, conning phone company workers over his cell phone while cruising around Los Angeles in a convertible. Mitnick uses the hacked system to turn the tables on Icebreaker, then, fearing FBI reprisal, goes into hiding and violates his probation. This fifteen-minute set-up is fast paced, mildly entertaining and more-or-less faithful to reality. It's worth noting that the sequence is nowhere to be found in Shimomura and Markoff's book, but is present in a competing book, The Fugitive Game - Online With Kevin Mitnick, by writer Jonathan Littman. Littman filed suit against Miramax last March for alleged copyright infringement over the sequence, and the case is now pending in the courts. With Mitnick on the run, we meet Tsutomu Shimomura, the World's Greatest Computer Security Expert and a researcher at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. Russell Wong's Shimomura is meant to be a more well-rounded computer geek, but he comes off as a bit weird: he speaks aloud, softly and lovingly, to his computer, but is a bit rude to the humans in his life. Naturally he takes it hard when Mitnick, searching for secret cell phone eavesdropping codes, roots his Unix box and steals all his files. The hack (performed in real life by an unindicted Mitnick co-conspirator) sends Shimomura into a tizzy, and the plot into fantasy land. Hollywood's Shimomura, it turns out, has created a terrifying computer program that could wreak havoc around the world, and now Mitnick's got it. As Shimomura painfully confesses to his girlfriend, "Literally, with a matter of a few keystrokes you could bring a city, maybe even a country, to its knees. You could overload phone lines and e-mail systems, disrupt air traffic control, black out a city, scramble software used by hospitals and banks..." Dogs and cats sleeping together, mass hysteria. Shimomura's quest to capture Mitnick and recover the cyber MacGuffin is supposed to be colored by existential self-loathing over having created the killer app in the first place. But Wong doesn't have the chops for such "I am become death, destroyer of worlds" stuff. His performance is flat and unconvincing. With the stakes, such as they are, established, the manhunt is underway and the clock is ticking. Mitnick doesn't know what he's got, but he has a diabolical plan to decrypt the stolen files and find out. If you think that a diabolical plan to decrypt something doesn't make for jaw-dropping big screen thrills, you're right. But we're saved from boredom by interlaced shots of Shimomura working out problems on a dry erase board. Don't fear the Hacker The challenge in any hacker movie is telling a story that largely takes place on line. The few successfully entrants into the genre, including the 1983 classic WarGames, won by populating the film with strong, richly developed characters and a bulletproof plot. Takedown takes the opposite approach, choosing to revel in its lack of humanity. Most of its characters are subdued and humorless, and the dialog is as cold and sterile as the whitewashed data centers that Shimomura grimly stalks on his ho-hum mission. (Despite the obvious homage meant by Icebreaker's handle, and the name of an FBI Agent Gibson, the film is too clean to be cyberpunk.) Had Takedown brought integrity to this sense of isolation, the result might have been interesting, in the way of the independent film Pi. Instead, it desperately grasps at commerciality, insulting its audience with lazy deus-ex-machina plot twists and cheap stagecraft more worthy of a Friday night television drama than a major motion picture. A typical (and entirely fictitious) scene finds Shimomura chasing Mitnick through the streets of Seattle. The hacker makes his escape by turning on his pursuer and shouting "You stole my wallet!," prompting passers-by to immediately jump Shimomura and beat him up. Did it take all four screenwriters to come up with that one? The Seattle chase scene provides an example of the less libelous Mitnick character that emerged from the controversy surrounding the early Takedown script. This Mitnick is prone to random outbursts of rage, a creepy penchant for electronic eavesdropping and a lurking hatred of women, but unlike his dramaturgic forebear, he doesn't smash Shimomura in the head with a garbage can lid and leave him for dead in an alley. In fact, Ulrich's Mitnick is downright sympathetic at times -- an intelligent, misunderstood guy who just happens to be cursed with an obsessive thirst for knowledge. One consequence of this kinder, gentler Mitnick is that the audience is given little reason to care whether he's captured or not. After squandering their dramatic license on the conceit of Shimomura's apocalyptic software, the filmmakers leave us skeptical that their Mitnick would actually use the cyberweapon. So by the time the movie's less-than-dramatic climax lists to shore like a derelict barge, we're really not very interested. The film has redeeming qualities: Ulrich's performance is solid, the movie's stylized cinematography makes it interesting to look at, and you never see the boom mike. Computer geeks may find Takedown unintentionally funny, and careful observers can spot the real life Shimomura in a cameo role. But having seen Takedown, and the film Mitnick's friends shot while protesting it, one prefers the later. Corley has vowed to release it on DVD, and one suspects that it will not come region encoded. © 2001 SecurityFocus.com. All rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 13 Feb 2001