15th > February > 2001 Archive

OpenSSH: the five-year trademark itch

Tatu Ylönen, chairman and CTO of SSH Communications Security, sent a letter to the OpenSSH developers list today (Feb 14) demanding OpenSSH stop using the SSH part of its name. "I developed SSH (Secure Shell)," he wrote, "started using the name for it, established a company using the name, all of our products are marketed using the SSH brand, and we have created a fairly widely known global brand using the name. Unauthorised use of the SSH mark by the OpenSSH group is threatening to destroy everything I have built on it during the last several years." But Theo de Raadt, co-creator of OpenSSH, hopes the community, not the courts, will decide the trademark skirmish. He points to a licensing agreement that allowed independent versions of SSH before Ylönen received a trademark in 1996, and he wonders why Ylönen has taken five years to decide to enforce the trademark. "I don't think we have to get lawyers involved," de Raadt says. "We're just going to try to do this very, very behind the scenes, and basically let the community decide what they're going to do about it." He adds: "There are two main clinchers going on here. One is the fact that this licence file predates the trademark, and it grants rights that cannot be removed. And the other is the history of non-enforcement... against anybody else in the entire field using this name, then suddenly enforcing us because we're getting big enough." Ylönen sent us background information today, but didn't immediately respond to questions about why he wants to enforce the trademark now. He did email a letter he sent to ScanSSH, also requesting the protocol scanner stop using the SSH name. (The letter is at the bottom of this story. NewsForge will publish a followup article as soon as Ylönen responds.) From the terms of Ylönen's 1995 copyright notice for ssh 1.2.12, on which OpenSSH is based: "As far as I am concerned, the code I have written for this software can be used freely for any purpose. Any derived versions of this software must be clearly marked as such, and if the derived work is incompatible with the protocol description in the RFC file, it must be called by a name other than 'ssh' or 'Secure Shell'." OpenSSH was compatible with the protocol, and de Raadt argues that SSH, a secure Unix-based protocol often used by network administrators that allows access to a remote computer, has already become community property like http or ftp. "If we give up on this entire thing, if we play his game, then his trademark, which he hasn't enforced since 1996, suddenly has a name attached to it," de Raadt said. "We want to push SSH as a generic term and leave it there, so that later on, he can't play games with people who make SSH (programs)." A University of Alberta study found 17.4 per cent of all SSH users on the Internet to be using OpenSSH, with 80.3 per cent using SSH Communications Security products. Ylönen, in his letter to OpenSSH developers, argues that OpenSSH is based on an old, insecure version of his SSH, which is hurting users. "The confusion is made even worse by the fact that OpenSSH is also a derivative of my original SSH Secure Shell product, and it still looks very much like my product (without my approval for any of it, by the way)," he wrote. "The old SSH1 protocol and implementation are known to have fundamental security problems, some of which have been described in recent CERT vulnerability notices and various conference papers. OpenSSH is doing a disservice to the whole Internet security community by lengthening the life cycle of the fundamentally broken SSH1 protocols." But de Raadt says that versions of SSH1 are still the standard with about 90 percent of users, and there are compatibility problems between SSH1 and 2. "A release coming soon will prefer to do SSH- protocol over SSH1. Until then, we live in a realistic world, where not having SSH2 interoperability will lead to people using telnet. Better let them have SSH. And while we are firmly headed in the direction of making SSH2 the de facto protocol, we will continue to try to improve SSH1 since it will be a long time till it dies." A name change would confuse users of both OpenSSH and SSH Communications Security's product, de Raadt said, and it would undo compatibility fixes pushed by OpenSSH co-creator Markus Friedl and approved by the IETF Secure Shell working group that is attempting to produce an open standard starting from the original SSH work done by Ylönen. Ylönen's letter to ScanSSH (ScanSSH's Niels Provos says he hasn't seen it) From: Tatu Ylönen To: bugtraq@securityfocus.com Subject: ScanSSH and infringement of SSH trademarks (open letter to Niels Provos) Dear Mr. Provos, As you and other OpenSSH core members well know and been expressly notified earlier, SSH is a registered trademark of SSH Communications Security Corp. We do not permit unauthorized use of the trademark in third party product names. As you know, I have been using the trademark SSH as the brand name of my SSH (Secure Shell) secure remote login product ever since I released the first version in July 1995, and have consistently claimed it as trademark since at least early 1996. In December 1995, I started SSH Communications Security Corp to support and further develop the SSH (Secure Shell) secure remote login products and to develop other network security solutions (especially in the IPSEC and PKI areas). SSH Communications Security Corp is now publicly listed in the Helsinki Exchange, employs 180 people working in various areas of cryptographic network security, and our products are distributed directly and indirectly by hundreds of licensed distributors and OEMs worldwide using the SSH brand name. There are several million users of products that we have licensed under the SSH brand. We are also distributing non-commercial versions of our SSH Secure Shell product under the SSH brand name, free of charge, for any use on Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD universities, as well as for use by universities, charity organizations and for personal recreational/hobby use by individuals. The SSH mark is a significant asset of SSH Communications Security and the company strives to protect its valuable rights in the SSH(r) mark. SSH Communications Security has made a substantial investment in time and money in its SSH mark, such that end users have come to recognize that the mark represents SSH Communications Security as the source of the high quality products and technology offered under the mark. This resulting goodwill is of vital importance to SSH Communications Security Corp. Your use of the SSH trademark in the name ScanSSH is unauthorized, as is the use of our SSH mark in the product name OpenSSH (about which you have been notified earlier). I therefore ask you to immediately cease this unlawful infringement of our trademark rights. I have previously asked you and other OpenSSH core people to change the name OpenSSH to something else that doesn't infringe our rights and cause confusion with our trademarks and brand name. I now ask you to also change the name ScanSSH to something else. Since you have already been notified of the trademark and have been asked to cease the infringement of the SSH trademark, I can see no other possible reason for your choice of this name than to willfully damage our trademarks and brand name. Yours sincerely, Tatu Ylönen Chairman and CTO, SSH Communications Security Corp. Copyright © 2001 Newsforge.com. All rights reserved.
Grant Gross, 15 Feb 2001

AMD's Sanders to stand down next April

AMD's silver-haired leader Jerry Sanders is to finally stand down next spring. Flamboyant chip chief WJ Sanders III will continue as CEO until the annual shareholders' meeting in April 2002, AMD said today. This is ever so slightly earlier than the last time the date for his retirement was announced - in September last year, the company said Sanders would step down in the second half of 2002. Hector de J Ruiz, Sander's anointed successor, will ascend the AMD throne then - unless Sanders changes his mind between times of course. Sanders, who founded AMD in 1968, and once famously compared his company to a monkey and rival Intel to a gorilla, will continue as chairman of the board until the end of 2003. On Ruiz, Sanders comments: "We have a great working relationship across the waterfront of strategic and planning issues..." no enough of that, real people don't talk like this (AMD press release writers take note). Ruiz, in his mid-50s, is said to be "quiet and thoughtful". Last year Motorola decided to sue him for allegedly poaching staff to take to AMD. ® Related Stories Hector Ruiz is the new Jerry Sanders Motorola sues AMD CEO-in-waiting AMD board stands firm behind Jerry Sanders AMD's Sanders drops another clanger
Linda Harrison, 15 Feb 2001

Nvidia fires on all cylinders

Nvidia topped expectations for the fourth quarter, attributing growth to markets beyond the PC. The graphics chip firm today reported net income of $31.1 million, or $0.38 per share, for the quarter ended January 28 2001. Analysts were expecting $215 million, and this figure compared to $14.6 million, or $0.19 per share, for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000. Sales for the period were up 70 per cent to $218.2 million - despite the quarter forcing many companies in the IT industry to cut or miss sales forecasts. The US accounted for 12 per cent of revenue, Asia 79 per cent, and Europe nine per cent. The California-based manufacturer said it was comfortable with sales forecasts for fiscal 2001 - revenue is expected to grow 50 per cent. In December the company said it would shell out $112 million to buy rival 3dfx. It is also obviously still grinning from ear to ear over its agreement with Microsoft to provide chips for its Xbox games console - execs said several times they expected this to contribute a "substantial share of revenues" to the company this year. "We will leverage the Xbox architecture to build a family of products for value PCs and Internet appliances," said Jen-Huen Huang, Nvidia president and CEO. Microsoft is expected to start shipping its console in Autumn. Nvidia was reluctant to play down its desktop PC business - but seems to be pinning its hopes on further growth in sectors outside this sector, especially in mobile computing, Apple products, and workstations. It also repeated its intention to use the Voodoo brand to increase its retail presence in the next year. ® Related Stories Nvidia agrees to buy ailing 3dfx for $112 million Nvidia nabbing 3dfx staff already Nvidia in Sharky infested water TSMC starts fabbing Nvidia Xbox chips
Linda Harrison, 15 Feb 2001

Readers Letters My Google Usenet – wrong or right?

Google - what's there not to like? Until about lunchtime on Monday, very little. While general relief was expressed at the start-up's acquisition of Deja's Usenet archive, our readers were amazed to discover that they couldn't use the familiar Deja interface. Google had hurriedly knocked up a front-end, CEO Larry Page explained this week, but for many of you that meant a valuable service had been scuppered. Not all of you are critical of Google - the company evidently has much good will from the community, but many of you are angry. Really angry. Here's a representative sample:- Simon Birkby summed the sentiment up best with this letter:- I've lost count of the number of times I've found inspiration, education or the answer to some challenge, in the Deja.com (nee DejaNews) archive. I'd say it's worth as a resource is probably incalculable. The ability to employ technology to deliver a usable way to 'shoot the breeze' with the rest of planet is, for me, how the Internet pays for itself in human terms. Websites are just a useful adjunct. You hit the nail on the head - it truly felt like being blinded in some way when it went. I hope we all get it back soon And specifically, Deja's clunky but very precise search tools, could get a specific job done, as MH explains:- Please count me among the countless people that realize the real power and priceless asset Deja.com's search engine has provided. Sure, you could find everything from torrid, smutty stories to age-old posts amid it's archive, but the REAL treasure lies in the exchange of TECHNICAL solutions to problem that crop up. Where else can you go to type and file name (ie..winsock.dll) and combine it with a symptom (page fault) and find a msg. from some nameless IT guy in Mozambique? That same msg often has replies from people that have encountered the same issue, and have a fix/work around for it. It's simply amazing! I train a number of techies, and I ALWAYS have introduced them to Deja.com as such a tool -- an answerbook written by the very souls who encounter the same hair-extracting frustration at dealing with software incompatibilites, glitches and plain poor programming... Many, many thanks for bringing this news to light...and encouraging a subtle backlash on those (dare I say Google..?) that fail to recognize what they hold in their proverbial hands. Is a user rebellion likely? Nigel Hunter thinks so: I have to confess that I'm gutted about the loss of this previously awesome newsgroup search engine. People should campaign to have the original u/i restored or we should vote with our feet. Similarly, Steve writes: You would not believe how utterly fucking pissed-off I am right now about this whole cock-up of a mess. Anyone interested in starting a class-action lawsuit against Google? Woah, there. Google is private company Steve, and we don't think there's a law that criminalizes badly designed web UIs. (Jakob's probably got a draft ready, but we digress) Not all of you were convinced by Google boss Larry Page's summary on Wednesday, two days into the new beta Google service. Andy Turner writes:- I can't believe that Larry Page said "Most are happy," he said, as traffic had remained constant from Deja levels, or even increased slightly. What? Of course traffic has increased - because no-one can fecking find anything anymore, they have to hit it three times as much just to find what they wanted!!!! Sheesh. Which makes us hope that when Google revises its beta, it won't make the same speed/content calculations that made its web search engine so successful. Mark Whitaker points out he'd rather it took a little longer, provided it gave useful returns:- "It now takes 10 searches where 1 would do previously to find the same information! But then, "Speed was the primary thing" of course. (I'm using an ageing 56K modem and Deja was always fast enough for me.) Give me 1 slow page rather than 10 fast ones any day." Dissenters there were, too:- I must admit - for a targeted search, I've just played with the new interface, and find it a lot easier than the old deja setup. writes Anthony Youngman. And a number of you think that all web UIs onto Usenet will be second best to a decent Newsreader client:- Your objection seems to be that this interface isn't good for browsing. Well, it *should* not be. NNTP is a very efficient method of distributing the load of Usenet across the network ... people who are browsing should be browsing from their local news server. Google have made exactly the right choices, and have returned us after many years to a Usenet search engine which actually works well. Congratulations (once again), Google. writes Simon Brooke. Local news servers? Weren't they phased out with the end of rationing? A good point, but judging from all of your feedback, most of you don't have ISPs that provide a news feed, so it's Deja or the highway... On balance, it was running at about 5:1 in favour of restoring the old Deja interface, and that ratio has probably doubled as the week's gone on. Many of you express hope that you'll get a Deja-like interface again, only with added Google speed. That would mean Google junked its web ranking metrics, but as the co-creator Usenet Steve Bellovin pointed out, they require different approaches. Human conversations tend to be interesting because they stray, and Google's web search is successful because it filters out this digression and irrelevance. Finally no US letter section is complete without the token Comedy Libertarian. This time Shawn Maheney objected to the idea we floated that Usenet should be maintained as a distributed system among the Universities, with some seed money from the Government:- Next time you have a forced blackout due to a power shortage, think again about how much you want the gubment deciding how things get done. he writes. Too right, Shawn: give those crazy University researchers some gubment money, and who knows what they might come up with ... like The Internet. Or Usenet. Or even this ®
Andrew Orlowski, 15 Feb 2001

Congress to examine ICANN constitutional breaches

Two of ICANN's most formidable shin kickers got their chance to testify before Congress yesterday, and further hearings into the constitutional legality of the Internet quango may result from the hearing. Although ICANN CEO Mike Roberts for the most part triangulated his way out of trouble yesterday, the critics left their mark: further hearings into potential due process issues were suggested by Senate committee members in their summing up. Karl Auerbach, who was elected to the ICANN board and Michael Froomkin, the University of Miami Law Professor who devised a cookbook of legal challenges to ICANN, both finally got their chance to testify. Congress heard Froomkin's argument that ICANN violated constitution powers, and Auerbach testified that even as a formal director of the organisation, he was denied access to meetings and information. The pair had a tough job: Senators vary wildly in their understanding of the arcana of Internet governance, and towards the very end of the two hour hearing (which you can listen to here, one Senator asked "what do you mean by 'root'"?, after the term had been used for (we guess) the fifteenth time. That's not an illustration of stupidity, but of the language canyon that ICANN's critics need to bridge in tailoring their arguments to the general public. Inside, looking out Auerbach made the most of the opportunity, giving Senators a whirlwind tour of ICANN shenanigans. He described the recent disappearance of the Members at Large (MAL) list of voters who'd participated in the last election. He described ICANN as a regulator that's free from scrutiny and vulnerable to capture by powerful interest groups. And he testified that his recently-acquired status as an elected director hadn't helped him find out more about what ICANN was up to. "Even as a director I have difficulty discovering what ICANN is doing. There are parts of ICANN to which I am denied access," he said. "I learnt more from the people in my community [who scrutinise ICANN] than I do internally." Nevertheless, he said as an ICANN director he carried the same burden and liabilities as any director. Referring to the Domain Name Support Organisation subgroup, Auerbach said: "I am responsible for its assets, debts and actions as a director - but its assets and liabilities were not on the annual statement" "We take our openness and transparency responsibility very literally," responded ICANN CEO Mike Roberts, in the truest - literally, of course - statement of the day. The pair had a stroke of luck with a perplexed Senator Boxer, who explained that someone had put a rogue website up in her name, and she'd discovered she couldn't do anything about it. Auerbach stepped in to point out that ICANN's resolution process, the UDRP, precisely left the individual powerless, while swinging the balance of power to trademark holders - "you can't even use the UDRP unless you've got a trademark" - and more broadly, the existing registrars. Auerbach surely scored with his description of last year's At Large election process, beginning with the ballot stuffing which gave hand-picked ICANN reps the balance of power, through to the control over the communication media - "ICANN controlled every channel between the electors and the candidates... imagine if you could not get the names of the people on the voter roles in your state" - through to the well-documented failures of ICANN's registration and vote counting machines. "158,000 people signed up... a transaction rate of 3 or 4 every minute. I don't know of any computers that slow today." The Empire Strikes Back Froomkin zeroed in on the unconstitutional aspect of ICANN, summarising it as a "good government" issue. He pointed out that ICANN was a regulator with global influence, but without constitutional oversight. The .iii doman had been rejected on the hoof last year, he pointed out, "simply because someone on the board decided it was too hard to pronounce.| "The global concern here is not just in this process ... a way in which agencies can bypass procedures to create a regulator in all but name, that uses control over a federally dominated resource to make people sign contracts with it, pay it money, and do what it says. And then not be subject to due process, not be subject to an ordinary court challenge, and not be subject to oversight. That's cutting Congress - cutting the American people - out of the regulatory process." This wasn't the day for deeply contrarian rhetoric. Neither Auerbach nor Froomkin pointed out that the root, as such, doesn't need an ICANN at all. The world could switch to liberated root servers, and very well not notice the difference. Auerbach said he thought an ICANN was necessary, although we all know he knows that this isn't really true, and we all know he's right, too. As he pointed out, someone needs to administer the numbers, but DNS is an extra service. Froomkin proposed farming out the decision making among different countries and interest groups on a round robin basis, leaving ICANN as a shell administrator. Which touches on the international legitimacy of ICANN. Here Froomkin thought that for now, it was best safeguarded by Americans:- "I have to confess, and it's not politically correct to say this and my Euro friends won't like it, but with due process, first amendment rights and constitutional protection I'm more comfortable with the US government overseeing ICANN. My experience of international organisations is that they're democratic or representative." "Ultimately in the short term [US control] it gives us the fair play guarantees we need." Well, assuming there are enough lawyers here who share Froomkin's forensic analysis of the abuses of power and citizens rights, and enough good folk in Europe prepared to trust him. He's painfully right of course - the international institutions don't exist that allow the transparency of decision making, and judicial appeal that the US constitution provides. (Provides, note, not guarantees) As a fluent French speaker, Froomkin also knows how well any pitch to maintain oversight over ICANN will play in say, Paris. But Europeans keen to view ICANN as another wing of the American Empire will only be encouraged by this splendid aside from Senator Boxer when the international dimension was raised:- "We think of the United States as cutting edge. If we don't take ball and run with it I don't know what would happen!" she said. Goodness, Senator, you're quite right - without this American know-how, the rest of the world would be plunged into a medieval darkness! ICANN really is the Great Library of Alexandria. When we heard this we began to wish that Auerbach and Froomkin had raised the alternate root card, but yesterday that remained a dog that didn't bark. ® Related Stories J'accuse: ICANN's 'Government sponsored extortion' unconstitutional ICANN: one in, four out, more TLD controversy Country code chiefs, registrars mull ICANN breakaway ICANN legal pay-off avoids scrutiny
Andrew Orlowski, 15 Feb 2001

Steve Jobs' Tokyo keynote beamed to… Croydon

UK computer superstore chain PC World will be opening later to stream Apple CEO Steve Jobs' MacWorld Expo Tokyo keynote onto the big screen in its store in... er... Croydon. Why this southern suburb of London - incidentally, the former home of London's international airport - should be chosen, we're not entirely sure, but PC Worlders will be handing out sushi, demonstrating Macs before finally hinting that maybe a Windows machine might be better. That, at least, has been our experience of the Dixons Group owned megastore on the various occasions we've visited them. Not the Croydon store, it has to be said, where we assume they're all splendidly loyal to the Mac. And no doubt the Croydon store is one of the better sellers of Mac kit in the chain. Whatever, it's a good sign that Apple is engaging with the wider PC sales channel in the UK, having recently instigated another training programme to ensure that staffers in the various Dixons Group stores, including PC World, Dixons and Currys, are up to speed on the latest Macs. We reckons Jobs' Japanese keynote is due to start around one-ish our time - that's 1AM, not PM. On the day, PC World Croydon will be opening at 11:30PM Wednesday 21 February and shutting at three the following morning. Will local Apple users be persuaded to stay up late to catch Steve's speech? That remains to be seen, but the event does give a certain credibility to the hints that he'll announce new iMacs equipped with CD-RW drives. Given the way Apple has been running down its iMac inventory over the last few months, the new machines might even go on sale in the wee hours of the 22nd. If you go, let us know. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Feb 2001

Winged watchdog Oftel blesses Net users

Oftel has canonised the principle of wholesale unmetered Net access in Britain with the introduction of a new product called ST FRIACO. This saintly service will be available from February 26 and enables operators to offer consumers unmetered Net access by connecting with BT's network at its main regional exchanges for a flat rate annual fee. The current FRIACO (Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination) product conveys Internet calls to BT's local exchanges. ST FRIACO (Single Tandem Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination) conveys them across BT's network to the operator's own telephone network. The winged watchdog believes this additional product will increase choice and ultimately bring down the cost of Net access for consumers. In a statement, the venerable David "Harry Potter" Edmonds, Head Boy of Oftel: "A year ago there was no unmetered access to the Internet in the UK. "Oftel has taken a series of actions to enable other operators to compete effectively with BT to supply unmetered Internet access to consumers. "Today's decision should ensure that UK consumers continue to have some of the widest choice and lowest prices for Internet access in Europe. It should encourage more UK consumers to take advantage of the Internet without the worry of running up high telephone bills," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 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 WinXP to include pirate music ‘terminator’

You're not going to believe this: Microsoft wants to stop music piracy by "eliminating" the file. According to the Wired News article, this feature is currently implemented in Windows Me, and will be "bundled" (shurely "integrated"? - Ed) in Windows XP. "The Secure Audio Path (SAP) adds "static" interference to media files that require video and audio cards to authenticate themselves with Windows software before they can be played. The company would be able to verify that a media player isn't playing an "unsecured" file, which according to Microsoft would eliminate much of the threat of piracy." There goes Windows XP sales. Thanks Andy Rae!
Luis Escalante, 15 Feb 2001

Dad and son nicked on PlayStation 2 auction fraud charge

US police yesterday arrested a father and his son, and charged the pair with selling PlayStation 2 consoles online - consoles that later turned out not to exist. Elias Garay, 54, and Alejandro Garay, 18, his son, were officially charged with wire fraud. It is alleged that they set up online auctions on Yahoo!, Amazon.com and eBay offering PlayStation 2s they did not possess or had no intention of buying. The Garays may not have wanted the console, but others did. In the run-up to Christmas last year, demand for PlayStation 2s was so high and supply so poor that many buyers turned to online auctions to make massive profits on consoles they had pre-ordered but had not yet received or had been lucky enough to find in stores. Most would-be PlayStation 2 owners got the consoles they bid for. But numerous winners of auctions allegedly run by the Garays sent in their cheques or Internet-routed money transfers and received nothing in return. Complaints led to an FBI investigation. According to a Reuters report, the Westchester County, New York District Attorney - who proffered the charges against the Garays - alleges the pair made between $400 and $700 for each non-existent PlayStation 2 they auctioned off, netting them nearly $114,000. If convicted, the Garays face a maximum gaol sentence of five years. In addition they may have to pay a significant fine. ® The FBI has launched an investigation into online auctions of Rolex watches after a British couple won an auction on eBay, paid nearly £5000 to the auction holder and received by return a photograph of the watch. The couple told the Guardian they believed they were getting a bargain: the diamond-encrusted 18-carat gold watch they bid for costs around £25,000 when bought new. The auction holder, an 18-year-old student in Seattle, claims he was only offering his picture of the watch, which is why he ran the auction in eBay's art section.
Tony Smith, 15 Feb 2001

‘Internet Villain’ loser gets flower consolation

Staff at search engine WebTop are all heart. Disappointed to hear that their new boss - former Alta Vista UK MD Andy Mitchell - had failed to win the "Internet Villain" award at Britain's Net "Oscars" last week, they clubbed together to buy him a bouquet of flowers. The spray was delivered on Tuesday and the message read: "Sorry you didn't win the Internet Villain award - we still love you." It was signed "The WebTop Geeks" El Reg understands that Mitchell wasn't in the office when the flowers were delivered - but he knows they're there. And he's taken it all in good spirit. Which is nice. We just hope he doesn't suffer from hay fever. Oh, the "Internet Villain" of the year award went to Sir Peter Bonfield - head of BT - incase you didn't know. ® Related Story BT is Britain's 'Internet Villain'
Tim Richardson, 15 Feb 2001

SMS in action: road killer and life saver

Paul Browning was sentenced to five years imprisonment yesterday after a judge ruled that he had been using his mobile to send a text message while driving a truck at over 50mph. Browning veered into a lay by, hitting and killing Paul Hammond. Hammond was there to collect his glasses from his mother. The judge took the unusual step of ordering a hearing despite a guilty plea to the charge of causing death by dangerous driving, because he wanted to determine whether Browning had been using his phone at the time of the accident. Investigators obtained a copy of the message from Browning to his then girlfriend, from the network operator, Orange. It read: "Oh yes! A real scorcher! Well, just leaving Benfleet for WThurrock. Job 7 of 11. Oh shit!I'll call u back" Browning claimed that he composed the message earlier and sent it by mistake after the crash. However, the addition of the last part of the message certainly looks bad. The police also performed an analysis of Browning's SIM card. They found that the message was sent four minutes after the crash. After reviewing the evidence, the judge ruled that Browning had been texting at the time of the accident. The defence claimed that papers flying about in the truck distracted him. In his judgement, Judge Daniel Worsley told Browning: "In many ways it is hard to imagine a more blatant act of cold blooded disregard for safety on the roads." He accepted that Browning was a decent man and was very remorseful, but said he felt a strong sentence would act as a deterrent. It is not all bad news for lovers of SMS, however. Occasionally text messages do come in handy. Take the case of Rebecca Fyfe for example. When the boat she was on off the coast of Bali had engine problems she and the other passengers were stranded without any GPS or emergency radio on board. She set off an international search-and-rescue mission with a text message to her boyfriend back in England. He called the Thames Coastguard, who called the Falmouth office. They called their counterparts in Australia, who contacted the Indonesian authorities via the embassy in Canberra. Eventually an Indonesian Navy gunboat was dispatched from Lombok to look for the stricken tourists. However, heavy seas made a rescue attempt difficult for several hours. The latest news from the Falmouth Coastguard's office was that although nothing had been confirmed in writing, all indications were that everyone was back on dry land. ® Related Story Fatal lorry crash text message trial
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Feb 2001

Govt scraps £80m computer system

The government has scrapped a £77 million computer system for its immigration service, embarrassing ministers and adding to the catalogue of IT disasters in recent years. The decision had to be deciphered from a written Parliamentary answer given by Home Secretary Jack Straw. He said the programme would not become fully operational. But the company behind the system, Siemens, will be paid up to the end of its contract (October 2003). It will be asked to improve the current, weak, system but not expand it to the original dream. The Conservatives said the scheme was "a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money". The system - a document management system to speed up asylum claims - was awarded to Siemens Business Systems in April 1996 and had troubles from almost day one. It should have delivered the system in 1997 but failed. It then failed to meet the next deadline of summer 1998. When it eventually appeared - 18 months late - the backlog of asylum seekers had grown enormous, sparking a hundred headlines and making it a main issue. In the current run up to a general election, asylum seekers have already become a big topic. Of course, Siemens' system, when implemented, couldn't deal with the demand, creating a farcical situation as bad as that of the other high-profile government IT failure, the Passport office's new IT system which melted in June 1999. As luck would have it, that failure was also under the control of the Home Office and was run by - you've guessed it - Siemens Business Systems. Of course the Home Office kept saying everything was hunky-dory. Which was nonsense. Oh, and the Immigration Office moved office and sacked a load of staff in expectation of the computer system - none of which helped either. Back in September 1999, one-man government IT watchdog Tony Collins from Computer Weekly foresaw the system's collapse. The system, which scanned post and official documents so they could be fired off to the relevant people, worked fantastically on one computer. But when you wanted to add other computers to the system, it all went horribly wrong. Siemens also underestimated the amount of processing power it would need to scan and move so many documents while retaining high security. The Home Office will now have to go with a part-manual, part-computer system. Of 11 IT projects currently being carried out by the Home Office, eight of them are either severely delayed or severely over budget, said a Liberal Democrat spokesman. And of course, the whole saga sits alongside other government IT disasters such as the Passport Agency (Siemens), tax self-assessment (EDS), the Post Office (ICL), National Insurance (Andersen) and the Prison Service. Doesn't bode well for the e-government dream. Oh, we called up Siemens to try to get the technical low-down on the system but a snotty PR woman informed us that we won't be given any details for the "forseeable future". The company is knocking out a press release with the government which we can picked up off the wires. Apparently, after that "you may decide you don't want to write the story". We beg to differ. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Feb 2001

Technical hitch hits World Cup web sales

Technical problems have delayed the launch of tickets sales over the Internet for the 2002 World Cup to fans in the host countries Japan and Korea. Football fans in Korea and Japan are unable to buy tickets online after Fifa closed down the Web site, FifaWorldCup.com, while technicians work to fix unspecified technical problems. In a statement Fifa said: "Fifa took the decision to delay the start of the sale in Korea and Japan on the internet on the grounds that the system must be foolproof and the interests of the consumer must always be taken into account. "Technicians are working around the clock to fix the system but unfortunately, no timeline can be given at this point in time." This morning the Web site was brought back online but did not include the facility for fans in Japan and Korea, who are able to apply for tickets on more privileged terms, to apply for tickets over the Internet. Instead fans of the host nation who want to buy online will have to compete for tickets with everyone else and apply for through the "International ticketing" scheme - which is available online. Taken together these factors suggest the delay in getting the online ticketing system up and running is down to delay in getting ecommerce software or digital certificate technology in place, rather than the more traditional reason of underestimating demand on setting up a Web site with inadequate servers or insufficient bandwidth available. Tickets for the World Cup went on sale today. Around three million tickets will be sold for the tournament, with almost half of tickets allocated for sale in the two host nations and the other 1.5 million available international by telephone, postal application or (eventually) over the Internet. We tried the official premium-rate telephone line and found it a right pain, it didn't recognise our fax number. If you need an application form for the World Cup your best bet is probably to email sales@fifa-tickets.com. Good luck! Despite the problems the Japanese seem to be doing a better job or organising tickets sales than the organisers of the last World Cup in France. International fans had to apply for tickets for France 98 over the phone to a hopelessly understaffed call centre. On the day the "service" opened chaos predictably ensued as international phones lines were jammed, and the Dutch phone system fell over completely. ®
John Leyden, 15 Feb 2001

US Congress needs to be reminded it doesn't own the Web

While ICANN is being hauled over the coals for, er, being flawed, secretive, power-crazed and corrupt, one of our readers would like to remind everyone again that neither ICANN nor the US Congress own the Web. In fact, our esteemed reader is one Dr Raymond Rodgers, who wrote a manuscript back in 1971 predicting the Web and its effect on culture, economics, politics etc etc and then sent it to loads of research institutes. Of course, it was widely ripped off, but you can still see it here. Raymond is Canadian. Also, correct us if we're wrong, but wasn't it British scientist Tim Berners-Lee that basically set up the World Wide Web? And we believe there were others who you could call instrumental in forming the Internet that actually weren't American. If you read histories on the Internet on the Net though, there is a bit of 1984 going on. Anyway, no big argument, but America, you don't own the Internet. Please remember that. Oh, and can we scrap ICANN now? ® Related Stories Congress to examine ICANN constitutional breaches J'accuse: ICANN's 'Government sponsored extortion' unconstitutional ICANN explains 'thinking' behind top domain decisions
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Feb 2001

NTL: Relocated to Mercury?

While flicking through New Scientist today, we found a little gem in their opinion page. In its User Policy section of the terms of use of the cable modem service, NTL has issued a fairly stern warning about abuse of the service. We recommend that if you need a little bit of light hearted relief, you click on this link and read point 13. We've printed it below, but though we should include the link anyway, because we couldn't quite believe it ourselves. 13. ABUSE OF THE SERVICES You must not disclose your password or user ID to anyone else. Your account can only be used for a single internet session at any one time and for no more than 24 hours in any one day. You may only use the internet Services from the telephone number and home address which you have advised us of when provisioning your account. The best explanation we can come up with is that NTL has moved the base of operations to another planet with a different rotational period. What colour is the sky on your planet, NTL? ®
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Feb 2001

Sega takes UK Dreamcast to under £100

Sega has cut the price of Dreamcast consoles in the UK. This morning, it knocked 50 quid off the current price, bringing the RRP down to £99.99. The cut follows moves by Sega to slash prices in the US and Japan as the company attempts to sell-off all its unsold consoles while it runs down production. The company will stop making any new Dreamcasts next month. The cut should grow Sega's installed base, still important despite the decision to get out of the hardware business since it's new software-only strategy is predicated on continuing sales to Dreamcast owners to help fund the company's coding efforts on other platforms. Certainly, it believes that, at £99.99, the console is priced as an impulse buy. Sega describes the cut as a sign of "the company's commitment to the Dreamcast platform for the forthcoming year". We're not sure that it does. Rolling out lots of new software, yes; introducing 'giveaway' pricing, no. The new price cut will be promoted with a major ad campaign targeting the trade, gamers and consumers. It is expected be followed with the launch of a budget games line, again a sign of Sega's desire to target the more casual gamer. ® Related Stories RIP Dreamcast: March 2001 Sega president goes mad
Tony Smith, 15 Feb 2001

eUniverse kills off affiliate site scheme

The latest casualty in the gaming network meltdown is eUniverse, whose affiliate program includes a number of gaming fan sites such as Loose Cannon Zone, DungeonSiege.org, 3DGPU and The Croft Times. In an e-mail to affiliate sites, the company said that "it is with deep regret that I inform you that eUniverse.com will end its affiliation program on March 15, 2001", adding that "we feel it important to note that this decision should not imply any sort of dissatisfaction on our part with the excellent work and long hours many of you have put into your sites". Instead the decision was put down to the total collapse of the internet advertising market over the last couple of years. "The simple fact is that in spite of repeated and intensive efforts by the eUniverse sales staff to fill your collective inventories with profitable advertising campaigns, the wildly fluctuating internet market is no longer able to support banners or popups. It's not that eUniverse is faltering, it's just that banner advertising is no longer a viable option for anyone in this economy. Times have indeed changed. I'm sure you have seen (some of you firsthand) a few of our competitors come to a similar conclusion - given the current economy, it is no longer possible to maintain a profitable affiliate program." eUniverse also owns the wildly popular online gaming site Case's Ladders, as well as the Gamer's Alliance Network, which includes sites such as GA-RPG, GA-Strategy and GA-Source. It's not clear at this point how these sites will be effected by the cut-backs, but given that eUniverse spent a small fortune on buying Case's Ladders just a couple of years ago it seems fairly unlikely that they will shut it down. One thing is sure though - eUniverse won't be the last of the gaming networks to hit the rocks, and we can expect far more doom and gloom over the coming months. ® Copyright © 2001, EuroGamer.net, all rights reserved. Check out The Register's other games industry news here
Eurogamer.net, 15 Feb 2001

Planet picks up Nintendo

Nintendo's UK distribution operation is to be taken over by Planet, after Menzies subsidiary THE Games dropped the contract recently. The distribution deal will ensure that Nintendo's distribution to retail will remain constant and that the Eastleigh premises formerly occupied by THE Games will be retained. A number of the THE operational staff will join Planet as well. "With the logistics infrastructure of THE Games and the financial backing of Big Ben Interactive in France, we can now offer any retailer a complete all formats solution on a pan-European basis," a spokesman said. Whether this means the online media in the UK will finally gain access to review materials is rather uncertain. When we last checked, the Internet was still a grey area for THE/Nintendo UK. Hopefully things are to change. ® Copyright © 2001, EuroGamer.net, all rights reserved. Check out The Register's other games industry news here
Eurogamer.net, 15 Feb 2001

Recruitment freeze at networking giant Cisco

Cisco has implemented a recruitment freeze to cope with a weakening in demand for its products slowing down the networking giant's pace of growth. John Chambers, Cisco's chief executive, told the BBC that a temporary recruitment freeze has been in place since the beginning of this year, after the networking giant realised that orders were falling well below expectations. He called for a cut in interest rates to stimulate growth in the economy which would encourage firms to invest in IT. The admission of a recruitment freeze is surprising because Cisco has almost tripled its workforce in the past two years, increasing its head count by 30,000 workers. It is still planning to build a new annex to its San Jose Campus that would allow it to add a further 20,000 more. A recruitment freeze at Cisco would likely have a knock on effect on other firms in Silicon Valley - in terms of both salaries and the job outlook at technology firms, particular those who supply technology or services to Cisco. Later on in the interview, and in statement seemingly at odds with an ongoing recruitment freeze, Chambers said that Cisco still planned to spend $10 billion this year on acquisitions - but it would be cautious about acquiring firms that employ a large number of people. According to the Sunday Times' 50 Best Companies to Work For in 2001 survey, Cisco is the best place in the UK to work in. News of a recruitment freeze means nobody will be starting work at Stockley Park (Cisco's modern UK HQ in a grim industrial park near Heathrow) for a while, and existing staffers will have to forgo extra income from the £1 500 recruitment fee Cisco used to dish out. Bad news all round then. Earlier this month, Cisco announced that it had failed to meet revenue and profit forecasts for its second quarter. A slowdown in the 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, and caused it to predict that revenue for the next two quarters will also be flat. Excluding costs for acquisitions and other charges, Cisco's second quarter profit 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. ® External links BBC story: Cisco freezes hiring Related Stories Cisco's Borg-like acquisition spree may be curtailed Why you should quit your job and work for Microsoft (or Cisco) Business which offered £50k recruitment bounty lays off staff
John Leyden, 15 Feb 2001

Govt, trade union, telecoms firm aim to solve skills shortage

The DTi, AEEU* and EXi Telecoms (that's the government, a trade union and a telecoms company) have set up a joint plan to tackle the skills shortage in the telecommunications industry and reckons it will create up to 4,000 jobs in the next two years. How will it do it? By retraining employees in manufacturing industries that are about to be made redundant and then piling them into telecoms instead. Sounds like a good idea to us. The AEEU is the UK's biggest manufacturing union and it seems to like and trust EXi Telecoms. The DTi is only too happy to avoid trouble from one industry while simultaneously dealing with a shortage in another, so it's happy. EXi Telecoms will provide the training, AEEU the troops and the DTi will be a handy ally. The DTi is also keen to jump on the deal because it can use it to escape political pressure. The clearest example at the moment is the workers made redundant at steel company Corus. Corus has now agreed some kind of pilot scheme with the AEEU and EXi. Training will take two to three months and staff will be paid full salary while they're on it. The plan will be rolled out all over the UK and, as the press release points out, should keep our telecoms industry stocked and able to keep up with other countries like Japan when 3G eventually eventually starts moving. It will also help if there are more engineers that can sort out the local loop unbundling when BT starts playing fair. ® * DTi = Department of Trade and Industry AEEU = Amalgamated Engineering & Electrical Union Related Story Business which offered £50k recruitment bounty lays off staff
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Feb 2001

Blue Men back again for Intel

Previously on The Reg, we have said rude things about Intel's Blue Man Group campaign, in particular suggesting that the person responsible for the idea may have consumed a quantity of banned substances. However, the top brass at Chipzilla HQ clearly love the BMG, because they are back in a new series of TV ads. Starting on 19 February the performance artists will be doing things with the number four, to their own musical composition. It will hit the UK on March 1. According to the Intel PR blurb, this will "raise awareness and excitement" about the new processor, but it sounds a bit like an idea for a Sesame Street show to us. The funny thing about the Blue Man adverts was that until someone here at Vulture Central pointed them out to me, I hadn't noticed that they were for Intel processors. They just got filed away in the strange advert folder in the back of my brain. In general, I've got no bone to pick with people who want to cover themselves in paint and hurl themselves at walls. Do whatever you gotta do to be happy, however daft you look doing it. ® Related Stories Intel steps up P4 ad campaign New Intel ads 'complete crap'
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Feb 2001

Thinkpad space drama hots up

Readers will no doubt be relieved to learn that the International Space Station Thinkpad boot problem will shortly be solved. Space aficionado Jeff Ligon has just forwarded us this revealing report: Thursday, February 15, 2001 - 6:00 a.m. CST MISSION CONTROL CENTER STATUS REPORT #16 On the last full day of docked operations between the crews of Atlantis and the International Space Station (ISS), the eight space travelers will continue transferring supplies and equipment in preparation for Friday morning's undocking. Atlantis' astronauts were awakened shortly after 4 a.m. Central time today to begin their ninth day in space. Among the final items to be transferred to the Station today are a replacement hard drive for a portable computer, the spacesuit worn by Tom Jones during his three space walks for future use, and additional tools and supplies for Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, including a screwdriver, bolts, tape and printer paper. Jones' space suit will remain on the Station for use by visiting shuttle crews and for Station-based space walks once the U.S. airlock is installed later this year. So there you have it - no great surprise really. What is amazing, however, is the news that Welsh sex god tenor Tom Jones has done three space walks. Is there no end to the man's talents? ® Bootnote To keep abreast of the Thinkpad drama, readers might like to check this out: NASA Johnson Space Center Mission Status Reports and other information are available automatically by sending an Internet electronic mail message to majordomo@listserver.jsc.nasa.gov. In the body of the message (not the subject line) users should type "subscribe hsfnews" (no quotes). This will add the email address that sent the subscibe message to the news release distribution list. The system will reply with a confirmation via E-mail of each subscription. Once you have subscribed you will receive future news releases via e-mail. Related Story In space no-one can hear you boot
Lester Haines, 15 Feb 2001

Hardware and chip links

Tom's Hardware Guide The doc gets under Intel's skin Anand's Technical Page Reviews of latest hardware platforms here Sysopt Get your screwdrivers out... Sharky Extreme Chip stuff with a games twist Ars Technica More good information, benchmarks, and reviews Ace's Hardware Hardcore HardOCPTruly an overclocker's paradise AMD Zone Not just AMD though... 3D Now Major rallying point for the AMD community Dr. Dobbs Microprocessor Resources This is what happened to Intel Secrets TweaktownTweaking down right down under fnar, fnar Dansdata.com Reviews and the occasional inspired lunacy Tweak3D Produces solid hardware guides Fullon3D Reviews of new stuff here and interviews FastGraphics Lots of solid information here CPU Central Solid info about X86 platform, graphics boards etc. Sandpile Good for all things x.86 The CPU Site MicroDesign Resources Heavyweight chip analysts Any dud or dead links? Email us here
Drew Cullen, 15 Feb 2001

Software links

Linux Today Probably the most thoughtful Linux news site around SoftWindows 98 Central News, views, reviews and downloads WinDrivers The "No.1 Resource for Windows/Drivers". Who are we to disagree? ActiveWindows Well informed, broadly pro-Microsoft but very independent site IT-analysis.com Analysts who know what they're talking about Any dud or dead links? Email us here
Team Register, 15 Feb 2001

News and discussion links

Geek Boys Select your personal preferences from more than 60 IT sites Ugeek The Great Satan of Geeks Shannon knows Compaq This fortnightly title, is available for a one-year, minimum-24-issue and costs $450 outside of the United States. Multiple-copy discounts, electronic distribution, and site licenses are available. Excellent for Alpha info. Any dud or dead links? Email us here
Team Register, 15 Feb 2001

AMD plans plant in Brazil

UpdatedUpdated AMD will build its next chip fab in Brazil, where the nuts come from. That, at least, is what local paper Valor Economico has claimed. Its report, relayed by Bloomberg, says that AMD executives have held negotiations with the Brazilian government to discuss what kind of tax breaks and other incentives the company will get for setting up shop in the country. Valor Economico said the venture will be backed by an "unnamed" Brazilian group, but it noted that representatives from banking conglomerate Itau Group accompanied AMD staffers - including its heir apparent, CEO-in-waiting Hector Ruiz - when they met with the Brazilian development minister recently. The paper also claimed the fab is likely to be sited in southern Brazil, one of its chief industrial zones, and the site of Dell's Brazilian factory. Update AMD quickly denied the story's claim. While Ruiz and co. have been talking to the Brazilian government, they were discussing the possible construction of a testing facility, not a fab. "Right now, our current focus in the Latin American region is how we can address the testing and distribution of our products," said Ruiz in a statement. "At this stage of the discussions we are studying and have not committed to anything yet." ® Related Stories AMD's Sanders to stand down next April AMD relaunches LDT as HyperTransport
Tony Smith, 15 Feb 2001

3G crypto a go-go

We came across an interesting web page today, full of details on the new 3G encryption algorithms. A researcher at AT&T Labs thought it would be a good idea if information about the new encryption algorithms or development processes was available to anyone who wanted it. So, he collated as much as he could find, and posted it here. The new security protocols are based on the bits that worked well in GSM, with new stuff drafted in to fill the gaps. "In the last few years," Janos Csirik writes, "GSM took a lot of flak for their approach to crypto algorithm design, which relied on keeping the algorithms secret. In fact, their various algorithms have been broken." Although he acknowledges that this is a point of contention, by no means resolved. The folks at 3G, on the other hand, are disseminating material as widely as possible - for peer review and proper implementation, counting on the algorithm to withstand the inevitable pounding it will get from interested observers. And this open approach is winning approval from the crypto community. Interesting stuff, with loads of links. It has the lowdown on the 3GPP - the 3G Partnership Project - and its organisational structure, as well as links to all the techie stuff we know you like so much. It would get a big "Register Recommends" sticker stuck on it, except that we don't have any. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Feb 2001

ISP fears RIP breach in quashing Anna bug

One of the UK's largest independent ISPs has said that it may well have ran foul of the RIP Act in protecting its customers from the Anna Kournikova virus. Claranet introduced a mail filter to ensure that the virus did not reach its 450,000 users, but by doing so, it believes it may have breached the controversial "charter for Government snooping" that is the RIP Act. Steve Rawlinson, chief technical officer at Claranet, said: "Our own servers were immune to the attack, and we acted quickly to put in place measures on our servers to protect our customers from becoming infected with the extremely prolific Anna Kournikova virus." The ISP has developed in-house software that would examine an email and reject it from the server if it contained the Anna Kournikova virus, thereby protecting Claranet's customers from the harmful virus. The mail filter was designed to examine the email header for the specific virus filename attachment, and if detected return a message to the sender with a note informing them of the infection. "After obtaining legal advice, we are concerned that our action has meant that we have breached the RIP Act," said Rawlinson, who said he would raise the subject at the next meeting of ISP trade body, LINX. Part of the Act states that it is an offence to "intentionally and without lawful authority" intercept any communication in the course of its transmission, something that Claranet is concerned it may have breached. "We need clarification as to whether the measures that we introduced are considered to be interception," said Rawlinson. "There are provisions under the RIP Act that allow interception in order to ensure system integrity or to prevent crime, our actions could be covered by either of these conditions, but it is unclear. This needs to be cleared up in a code of practice or secondary legislation." Dai Davis, an IT lawyer with the firm Nabarro Nathanson, agreed that the RIP Act was "badly drafted and ambiguous" but said that in his opinion Claranet's actions were likely to have been lawful. "My reading is that it is lawful to intercept viruses, because it can be argued that nobody wants that communication, which is in any case illegal, but it's not lawful to intercept spam," said Davis, who said that ISPs would be well advised to put a clause in contracts allowing them to deal with virus-infected or spam email. Last month, UUNet examined the headers of email messages to delete those associated with a spam attack it was dealing with at the time, which left many of the ISP's customers with severely affected services for almost a week. In clearing up after the attack, which involved deleting two million pieces of spam, UUNet may have breached the RIP Act, although the ISP has said its engineers did nothing illegal because their actions were done in connection with providing a telecommunications service. Davis disputes this reading of the Act but said that whether an ISP was blocking viruses or spam it was very unlikely to be prosecuted. ® Related Stories Police request right to spy on every UK phone call and email Email snooping row kicks off again Dutch police arrest Anna Kornikova virus suspect Anna Kournikova bug drops harmlessly onto the Net Anna Kournikova virus spreading like wildfire Spammer wrecks UUNet email service UUNet still pole-axed
John Leyden, 15 Feb 2001

Dr Tom tests Transmeta Sony Vaio

HWRoundupHWRoundup What do you get if you put an Alpha PEP66 with the KT7 mod, the GlobalWin FOP38, the OCZ Monster 2 and the OCZ Qua cooler in the same room? If you are at the HQ of Overclockers Online, you get a socket A cooler roundup, and you stick on the web. Just like they did here. The ever-adamant I-am-not-a-geek crew has posted a peek at the Thermaltake Volcano II. They reckon it might be one of the first, and it is stuffed full of pictures, so have a look if you fancy the idea of a non-orb product from Thermaltake. Read it here. Having spent some time earlier this week telling us how to save money, today Dr Tom looks at how to spend a load of it on a very small piece of kit. Is the Sony Vaio (featuring the Transmeta Crusoe processor) worth its weight in gold? Or is it an over priced diddy computer? Those of you who can't quite guess should have a look here. TechGods get down and dirty with the Soyo SY-7ISA+ mobo. Minus any voltage tweaking facilities, this board is never going to win any overclocking contests, but they reckon it is nice and stable, and a good solid board if all you want is a PC that doesn't fall over every half hour. Click here for the rest of the story. BXBoards branches out a bit today, and has widened its "interesting" file to include and MP3 player from DLink. Click here for the intro and links to the reviews. More to come though, and as Eric says: "I was VERY thorough with these reviews- more so than your 'average' MP3 player review." so if you want to get the goods, check it out. We were sent a link to a lovely picture of a fried mouse today, entitled "Pets and Computers." Presumably the sub heading would have been "And why they should never be mixed." It is still on the front page of Overclockers down in the land of Oz, but you'll have to scroll down. All I can say is if you need more power, at least give the mouse a wheel to run in. ® More hardware related bits and pieces are in the archives. But you can only get there by clicking on the differently coloured word. Hmmm, a tricky one today, if you have a black and white monitor.
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Feb 2001

Dell ditches 1700 staff

UpdatedUpdated Dell is making 1700 employees at its Texas HQ redundant in a bid to cut costs. The cuts mark the first terminations the company has made in its long history. The announcement of the move comes just hours ahead of the company's Q4 2001 results, which suggests the job cuts are as much about boosting investor confidence as anything else. Certainly, the results are not expected to be good: last month Dell issued a profit warning, claiming that it now expects earnings of 18-19 cents a share for the quarter. That's well down on the 26 cents a share it had previously predicted. Dell lowered sales targets for the period to $8.5-8.6 billion - up 25-27 per cent from a year ago, but down from its earlier forecast of $8.7 billion. Dell itself describes the redundancies as merely part of an "ongoing refinement" of its business. We're sure the company could use some refinements, but we doubt the 1700 admin, marketing and support staff about to get pink slips will be too happy about it. The 1700 job losses amount to just under eight per cent of Dell's Texas workforce and just over four per cent of its worldwide headcount. Dell currently employs 40,200 around the globe, some 22,000 of them in Texas. The cuts are at least lower than recent forecasts had predicted. Client Server News last week said that 2000-3000 staff would be given the boot locally, with 4000 more being dismissed from Dell's international sites. Dell said "company operations in Middle Tennessee and international locations are not affected by today's action", which suggests - but doesn't make certain - that the company's remaining staff are safe. Unless, we'd say, Dell's sales and earnings continue to fall. A Dell employee who's just been laid off has written to us. Here's what they said: "This is actually the second wave of layoffs this week. Last evening, all of Dell's temporary workers in Round Rock had their contracts ended, and were escorted off campus by manager and security escorts. I saw no incidents, and the victims I spoke to were upset, but not surprised. The permanent employees have been handled differently. Victims have been approached individually and privately. I was offered a quite generous severance package, covering my salary and medical insurance for sixty days. I have also been put in touch with a placement firm that Dell has retained. For the past several weeks, all of us in Round Rock had been hearing the rumours, and expected to be fired "with cause" for minor infractions or poor performance. While I am relieved that that has not been the case, I am very saddened to have been chosen after four years of solid, occasionally brilliant, performance. Dell has also announced by now that their operations in Tennessee and abroad will not be affected; only their oldest and most experienced, here where the company started. I feel that this is an error in judgement. I am not angry. I am sad in the way that one might feel when kicked out of their home at seventeen. I have been put up in a hotel and rented a car, so to speak, but where will I go now? I worry for the teammates and friends left behind and for the company in general. Dell has been the best employer I have had in seven years in the IT field, and I do not know if I will find another who will feel like family, like home." ® Related Stories Dell plans big layoffs Dell issues Q4 profit warning
Tony Smith, 15 Feb 2001

Deja geeks leave amusing sub-domains for new Google master

Thanks to reader Chris James for forwarding the results of a DNS query on Deja.com. Deja and all its archives, if you remember, have just been bought by Google. This has caused some consternation, especially since searching the archives effectively is now nigh on impossible. It would seem that the Deja techies were not too impressed either. How else then would you explain the following domains inside Deja: The-King-Of-France-Has-Left-The-Building.deja.com. And-All-I-Got-Was-This-Lousy-T-Shirt.deja.com. Goodbye-To-All-The-Cracksmokers.deja.com. Goodbye-Krewel-Worrold-Bang-Bang-Bang.deja.com. Deja-Is-Frickin-Dead-As-Disco.deja.com. Well it made us chuckle. Check em out here before Google gets to em. ® Related Stories My Google Usenet - wrong or right? Deja UI too costly to save, Google boss tells Reg Netizens blinded by 'half-assed' Google stunt Google saves Deja.com Usenet service
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Feb 2001

Welcome to .NET – how MS plans to dominate digital music sales

Once upon a time Microsoft discovered the Internet, and the browser wars ensued. More recently it's become apparent that the company sees music sales as the Next Big Thing, but so far, the extent, intricacy and all-encompassing nature of its plans for Digital Rights Management and secure content distribution haven't been widely grasped. When they are, the browser wars may look like a sideshow. Essentially, there are three major components to the plan. First, the ubiquitous platform - Windows Media Player is reprising Internet Explorer as an integrated part of the OS, so it will become the client of choice manque, and the associated technologies will become the standard technologies. Second, there's the music business. Presented with a near-universal (one might muse that Apple can expect another visit on the subject of MS Office shortly) platform and associated protection mechanisms, the record companies can surely be induced to adopt it. Especially if they still can't figure out an alternative mechanism for stopping their revenues escaping via the Net. Finally, there's the matter of securing the data itself. Get all of these steps right, ubquitous platform, near-universal adoption by the people who actually produce the data, and bullet-proof security, and Microsoft has a goldmine on its hands. And the mechanisms themselves can and will be applied to .NET, where - as Microsoft was saying just the other day - "the protection of digital content must accompany the facilitation of Internet services." It's surely no coincidence that the guy who's been closest to content, consumer group head Rick Belluzo, has just been kicked upstairs to COO. It's content, and controlling it, right? Given that Microsoft has the ubiquitous platform already and the content providers will follow if it all works, security is the part of the picture to focus on. As Microsoft explains it: Content owners can use digital rights management (DRM) technology to protect Windows Media files by packaging them. A packaged file is encrypted with a key, and contains information about the content, such as the title, author, and copyright. To play a packaged file, a user must first obtain a license. This license contains the key to unlock the packaged file and specifies the rights that are allowed, such as unlimited play on a computer." Your personal licensing made easy There's quite a bit of cute stuff associated with this. Microsoft's Secure Audio Path technology is designed at an operating system level, allegedly) to keep the content encrypted right up until the machine's sound card is actually playing it. This means that if an application tries to intercept the data stream it needs to break the encryption as well and: "Decrypting an isolated Windows Media file would require breaking industrial-strength cryptographic algorithms." Extending the security to the audio playing device, incidentally, requires Microsoft approved signed drivers for that device, so the system also integrates with the signed driver regime the company is introducing. But there's a lot more to it than that. The operating system will provide users with a central repository for digital certificates, passwords and licences, and will support "silent" licence aquisition. Your PC will just go ahead and check you're licensed to play what ever music (or use whatever data) you acquire, and will only need to bother you whenever it needs a credit card number. Another cute bit is that the licences you acquire each come with a revocation list which "contains all the application certificates of those player applications known to be broken or corrupted." So if, or more likely when, previously trusted certificates become compromised they are automatically rendered invalid by the very act of you licensing more content. What happens if you want to play the music on another PC, or you give it to a friend, or your hard disk gets trashed and you lose all your licences and certificates? Give it to a friend and it's cool, the friend just needs to get the right certificate. You can back up your certificates and restore to another PC, so that's cool too. But apparently you can only do this a number of times, the number itself not being something Microsoft seems yet to have specified. So if somehow your stuff accidentally gets backed up and then restored to a couple of thousand PCs, it's all going to go on the revocation list, and stop working. We have your PC's fingerprints... One of the reasons it's able to do this is "individualization." Windows Rights Manager "individualizes the critical components of each run-time client. Individualization binds the run-time client to the machine on which the client was initially installed. Every consumer is given a different executable file and different certified license keys. This significantly reduces the danger of global breaks. If a specific Rights Manager client becomes compromised, it can be disabled from acquiring licenses for new media files." You can spot a likeness here - is the Product Activation technology used in Windows XP somehow related? Product Activation sets out to individualise the PC, and although you can see how useful Rights Manager's individualisation of the player client is in the narrow but potentially lucrative field of digital music, you can see how even handier it would be to broaden it. Wouldn't it be great (not from your point of view, obviously, you're just a user) if you knew absolutely about absolutely everything each and every individual PC was allowed or not allowed to run? Or do. A CD ROM burning capability will likely ship with XP, and by some strange coincidence: "Rights Manager has the ability to set the appropriate license right to 'burn-to-CD.' To burn a protected Windows Media file onto a CD-ROM, the consumer must have a license that includes the right to do so. CD-ROM-burning applications are required to honor the rights set by the content owner and distributor." Or what? But the idea of getting a lid on burning will certainly appeal to the music business. Inevitably one's thoughts turn to the matter of how, or even whether, the plans can be circumvented or stopped. As far as competing with it is concerned, the signals are contradictory, but with Netscape's experience in mind sensible people aren't going to believe the nicer sounding stuff anyway. Microsoft says: "All of the Rights Manager application programming interfaces (APIs) are open and published, which allows third parties to customize and extend their digital rights management system. Microsoft only provides the core components." Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. As a Microsoftie told Wired earlier this week: "The Secure Audio Pathway is a component of Windows, but only works with Windows Media technology in order to keep the system truly secure. At this point, we don't know whether that will change. There are other forms of complexity and security risks if we start adding in other solutions to our system." So it's open and shut, right? And in the Dotnet bind them... If the content providers don't embrace it wholeheartedly, it clearly doesn't work. But if they do, refusenik users are likely to find life difficult. On an individual scale it will be hard (or if the lovable music business has its way, next to impossible) to get hold of content that doesn't conform to the Microsoft standards, and on a broader level swapping data will attract Napster-style flocks of lawyers. You could, as Linux and Mac users currently try to with Windows, treat the matter with what the late George Brown called a "complete ignoral," but this time around it would be rather harder, as Microsoft would have stuff you wanted access to. It won't, ultimately, be a problem for Microsoft if non-Microsoft clients have access to the DRM feast, because by then Microsoft will have something far bigger - it'll own the standards for controlling access to digital content, and so long as you pay, you can run a Mac or linux if you like. Welcome to .NET... ® Related story WinXP to include pirate music 'terminator' Microsoft's reading list Secure Audio Path FAQ on Windows Media Right Management How license acquisition works
John Lettice, 15 Feb 2001

Child crusaders triumph in AltaVista service cutback

A pious arm of the Better Business Bureau called the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) implies that it successfully bullied AltaVista into shutting down its 'community services' like free e-mail and chat rooms on concerns that children might be led astray by viewing porn or chatting with adults. The good Samaritans at CARU were shocked to find that AltaVista was querying children about their ages before allowing them to register on areas of the site meant for older kids and adults. This, CARU reckoned, was a violation of the brats' privacy under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which it dutifully brought to AltaVista's attention. Even worse, by asking children to state their ages, AltaVista was encouraging the innocent lambs to lie, CARU insists (something they never do of their own accord, we are sure). According to CARU, with all this in mind, AltaVista promptly responded by amending its registration procedures to preserve the natural virtue of America's tender sprouts. "The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus is pleased to announce that AltaVista Company has modified its Web site in order to protect the safety of children," a recent CARU press release gloats. Meanwhile, AltaVista dropped numerous on-line services, for which CARU is all too pleased to take credit. "Until a week ago, AltaVista was a full service Internet portal that, in addition to its search engine, offered such interactive features as chat rooms, photo albums, personal home pages and free Internet service including free e-mail," the press release states. "AltaVista has closed down all of its community services and offered no interactive features on its Web site. CARU is gratified that AltaVista has taken all the above-stated actions." It's that triumphalist word "gratified" which implies that AltaVista capitulated to CARU's righteous finger-wagging, and shut adults out of services to which they were accustomed because some brat somewhere might be harmed by the site's content. Publicity Stunt Sounds great, or horrible, depending on how you feel about the trend towards reducing Web content to infant babble; only AltaVista has slightly different version of events. First off, the free e-mail service cited in the CARU press release remains up and running, and there are no immediate plans to do away with it, the company told The Register. Second, discontinuing the chat rooms has "no relation whatever" to CARU's interference, AltaVista spokesman Dave Emanuel told us. "That decision was made back in September." The company made the decision because despite its best efforts to expand into a Yahoo-esque portal, their customers remain primarily interested in the search engine, the company says. "Ninety per cent of activity on our site begins with a search," Emanuel observed. As for why CARU worded its press release so as to imply that their watchful oversight brought AltaVista to heel, Emanuel has a simple explanation. "I think it's nothing more than a publicity stunt," he told us. CARU's motive, then, appears to be a spin campaign touting the real-world effectiveness of industry self-regulation in matters of on-line privacy and child protection, for which it holds itself up as a potent guardian at the expense of the facts -- an explanation which we find altogether too plausible. ®
Thomas C Greene, 15 Feb 2001

After Java and Jini, Bill Joy unveils the Third J

Bill Joy unveiled an open source Peer to Peer initiative that he described as the third part of the J trilogy. Project Juxtapose will unveil rudimentary tools and protocols for transferring information between nodes, for grouping nodes "so it's not all one flat space", for monitoring traffic, and for security. "Juxta is what we think are primitives for doing apps in P2P or distributed fashion," said Joy, who said it had been a research project at Sun for several months. The first of these areas would provide pipes between participating machines, stdin and stdout in C terms, but with the promise of "an unlimited process table". A "crufty" implementation would be released in April, he promised. Software and specifications will be released under the Apache license, similar to the BSD license Joy himself helped write in pre-Sun days. That's pretty much it for now - in fact we had to sit through 41 minutes of Bill's preamble and a panel discussion to get this information, which brought ironic applause from the audience at the O'Reilly P2P conference in San Francisco today. It will use Java and XML, and but that's all. Joy said getting a SOAP message wasn't in itself that useful. If the team can keep it simple, there's no reason why it can't form the basis for future killer apps. He described the Juxta as only needing to be complex enough to enable the next set of tools. He stopped short of calling it an API for P2P. Joy thought it would find its way into the Sun software platform. Getting security right was a priority he said: ActiveX simply didn't have a security design: "I got this tennis start email on my Mac this week and could it see it had the .vbs extension, and thought, uh-oh, here we go again..." Unlike Microsoft we're not trying do something infinitely complex like .NET. They have all that legacy. But a Linux node is more complicated than what we think the node will be," he said, suggesting that thin clients such as smartphones were as much the target device as today's PCs and workstations. ®: Related Story Is Groove the new Napster?
Andrew Orlowski, 15 Feb 2001

Whistleblowers take 3Com to court over unsafe kit claim

3Com is facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit from former employees claiming it knowingly sold unsafe products and conspired to file false police reports against them when they reported problems with its kit. "Whistleblowers" Robert Bellville and W Ronald Shilale have filed a lawsuit in a Massachusetts court that seeks $10 million in damages from the networking firm, on charges it fiercely contests. The lawsuit, which also involves the men's wives as plaintiffs, has been dragging on since 1997 but is now scheduled to go before a Judge in May for summary judgement, which will decide which parts of the civil case go before a jury later in the year. In court documents obtained by The Register, Bellville and Shilale claim that in the early 90s they informed 3Com that some of its products failed to meet safety standards, after which they were demoted and victimised by the networking firm. This culminated in dismissal and a charge of theft of 3Com property against the pair, for which they were subsequently acquitted. Meanwhile, according to the lawsuit, 3Com continued to sell unsafe products, misrepresenting the product as being approved as meeting the relevant Underwriters' Laboratory standards. The safety issue concerns cabling and assemblies used within 3Com products, which according to the plaintiff's lawyer Scott Sinrich, "could have caused fires". John Mirick, 3Com's defence attorney, and senior partner at Mitrick O'Connell, said there was no basis for the allegations made against 3Com, and that police complaints against Bellville and Shilale were well founded. He said the men were fired from 3Com for secretly founding a competing business to 3Com, cable assembly firm Lamprey, and that this was the real reason for the dismissal. Bellville and Shilale deny Lamprey was in competition with 3Com and argue that 3Com accusations against them are a "ruse" designed to delay the case, which, if and when, it goes to trial promises further revelations and counter-accusations on all sides. ®
John Leyden, 15 Feb 2001

DRAM prices in the Micron dumps – allegedly

For years, Micron Technology , America's last significant memory maker, harried its Asian rivals with accusations of dumping stock below cost. It found a willing listener in the US government, which was happy to slap punitive tariffs on miscreants, real or imagined. Lately, Micron has been quiet with the accusations. Maybe, Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese memory makers are all behaving themselves. Or could it be the arch villain on the dumping scene is now...Micron? "It's become almost an annual event," Asiabiztech wrote yesterday, "that the prices are dampened in late February, when Micron Technology Inc. of the United States dumps DRAMs in the market, facing the end of its fiscal term. "Additionally, some other makers have jumped ahead of Micron in slashing prices this year, accelerating the decline in prices," the publication says. No ifs, no buts, simply the bald statement that Micron "dumps DRAMs". Sounds like fighting talk to us. There is however, some evidence to support Asiabiztech's claim - from Micron itself. Speaking this week at the Robertson Stephens technology conference in San Francisco, Micron veep Kipp Beddard said the company was selling "than 10 per cent of its DRAM memory into the spot market for memory chips right now," Reuters reports. Also, Micron has around a quarter's inventory of unsold chips, according to a Merrill Lynch analyst interviewed by the newswire. But the company has "no plans to offer incentive or discount programs to boost sales," according to the Reuters piece. So what's the spot market for, then? Micron today said it had completed the deal to buy out Japanese JV partner, KMT Semiconductor, first aounnced in October last year. ® Related stories Micron buys out Japanese JV partner Taiwanese sue Micron - for dumping! Taiwanese levy swingeing duties on US memory firms DRAM tariff war called off Micron files anti-dumping charges against Taiwan
Drew Cullen, 15 Feb 2001