23rd > February > 2001 Archive

Microsoft ducks DOJ by ditching Corel stake?

Microsoft has given itself the option of ditching its 24 per cent stake in Corel, eight days after it confirmed the deal was part of a new investigation by the Antitrust Department of the US Department of Justice. If it converts the new shares, Corel keeps the cash that Microsoft paid for the shares in October, but Microsoft couldn't be construed as having an influence on Corel. That's significant, reckons Brian Proffitt, who unearthed the story from SEC filings Microsoft made on Tuesday, for LinuxToday. However, as the Microsoft shares were non-voting class A stock, Redmond didn't have an explicit say in Corel's business. Now, perhaps, it wants everyone to know that. The DoJ subpoenaed documents relating to the Microsoft from Corel a month ago. A Corel spokesman told Proffitt that the MS sale would not affect the company's determination to spin-off its Linux division. Having made the write-downs and budgeted for inventory in the previous quarter, it could well be more costly for Corel to return to a Linux path. The remaining portions of the Corel-MS deal are still in place, we can assume. These include a commitment by Corel to produced a .NET-ified version of each Corel product within six months of an upgrade to .NET, and to use Windows Media and Microsoft's HTML formats. And that "Covenant Not to Sue", of course. The deal also gave explicit staffing numbers for the option of Corel undertaking a Linux port of .NET, an option that's unlikely to be exercised if Microsoft walks away from Corel. ® Related Stories Corel Linux sale 'best thing' for OS, claims exec Corel sees bigger than expected Q4 losses Corel to spin off Linux desktop OS biz Corel plan for MS .NET Linux revealed in SEC filing MS bucks save Linux vendor Corel - but save it for what?
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Feb 2001

America sneezes, Sun catches cold

Sun Microsystems is slashing Q3 sales forecasts - and it's all the US economy's fault. The company projects sales growth at 10-13 per cent, compared with previous forecasts of 30 per cent, and profits of 7-9 cents a share, against the previous analyst consensus of 15 cents for the quarter. In a conference call, COO Ed Zander blamed a "broad-based downturn in capital spending" for the profits warning. "We are disappointed with one and only one thing, and that is the US economy," he said. Last week, Sun introduced a recruitment freeze, but what is to do with all that kit it built in expectation of sales that never came through. Sun may have inventory issues to work through for some time yet. ® Related story Sun freezes jobs, steps up cost cuts
Drew Cullen, 23 Feb 2001

Itanic locked Inattic for IDF

Next week's a big week for Intel: it's when we finally reveal the winners of our Gelsinger Coefficient challenge. Meanwhile, down in San Jose, Chipzilla will be hosting its biannual Intel Developer Forum. We were surprised to read reports yesterday that IDF would be a kind of coming-out party for IA-64. A month ago Intel told us there was nothing special planned for Itanium at this coming IDF, and a glance at the schedule reveals as much. Although the agenda looks like a Whistler gala, with over a dozen technical sessions devoted to WinXP, there's a drought of talks on IA-64 itself. The only one we could find directly relevant, was this one, by HP staff talking about porting PA-RISC apps to Itanic. When we inquired if there was some hidden agenda here, the good folk denied it, and we believe them. Intel has plenty of interesting server stuff brewing, not least the SMT-enabled Foster we'll hear about later this year, and it would rather not blow it, thank you, by people poring over the progress of IA-64. So for the second successive Developer Forum, Intel will keep baby Itanic locked out of sight in the attic. That baby Itanic is slow, overweight and prone to high temperatures is not to be unexpected in an infant. But so "hideously ugly" is Itanic, according to recent benchmarks, that visiting press will have to make do with hearing screams and crying from upstairs. Recent figures posted by CERN labs' Fons Rademakers, a Linux cluster guru, show a two-way 733Mhz IA-64 running a technical data analysis benchmark at a quarter of the speed of an equivalently-clocked two-way Xeon. Figures confirmed by testers we've spoken to confirm this. Performance sucks. "The good thing is that the programs runs correctly," concludes Rademarkers. "However, as it stands now it looks like Merced will be a major dud." As clock-speeds indicate, IA-64 Merced is running 18 months late. In fact it's exactly 18 months since we were given samples of the first Merced chips to play with at the Fall 99 IDF. Linley Gwenapp fuelled speculation that McKinley might be late after Intel withdrew a document describing the chip from the recent ISSCC conference in San Francisco. So Intel's challenge is to persuade the Fourth Estate that the Itanium adventure is still worthwhile, and that McKinley will eventually deliver the goods. Not everyone shares that point of view: inspite of process improvements IA-64 is bandwidth challenged, and that leaves enough of a performance premium for IBM, Compaq and Sun to continue investing in their respective chip architectures. Pointing out McKinley's bandwidth handicap, Paul deMone noted "an [Alpha] EV7 "in a MP system can exchange 6.4 GB/s of data with each of its four neighbouring MPUs." However, even at the low-end, SMT Foster ought to dominate the server business for price/performance. Unobtanium is more likely to cannibalised by Intel's own multithreaded P4 chips than by RISC rivals running loss-leaders. Perhaps, taking a leaf from the British royal family, Chipzilla can confine its handicapped offspring upstairs for good - and pretend it never was born? ® In this story, we invited readers to determine the formula of the elusive Gelsinger coefficient. A high standard of entries has already been set, but it's not too late to enter. A prize of a Register baseball cap goes to the most creative entry.
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Feb 2001

Will Phoenix keep your disks and OS CPRM-free?

The Phoenix Technologies proposal before the T.13 committee, which may pave the way to copy restrictions for users, shouldn't be seen as the son of CPRM, argues Linux ATA/IDE guy Andre Hedrick. Although the proposal - which has not yet been published outside the open meeting - does not specifically prevent any command sets such as CPRM from applying to fixed hard drives at a later date, Hedrick says the important point is that the owner of the drive could disable the features. And furthermore, it gives users of operating systems that let such features through block them. However, he plans to reserve his final judgement until review of the published document. Hedrick's primary concern, he says, is that the user has the ability to turn whatever copy restrictions may yet be in the pipeline, off, both at the system level and the OS level: "It's like those big dogs, you put a muzzle on it. The question is to muzzle or not too muzzle," he told us. "Control over a technology is more important than it existing. If you know it's there, you're empowered." Ironically says Hedrick, the modified, third revision of the CPRM specification gave users more flexibility in this respect than the Phoenix BIOS proposal. "For me it didn't matter what it was; or if it was actual CPRM - the fact that it could have a switch to turn it off made me happy." Hedrick was precluded from the vote, standard practice when a member changes jobs between meetings. Hedrick was invited to modify the CPRM proposal to give programmers a way of ensuring CPRM media could be rejected from fixed hard drives. However, he says, the revision addresses a critical issue - who "owns" the drive. The latest "generic" feature mode proposal to CPRM specifically addressed concerns about the usage of new features before being presented. It's now impossible for these to slip through the back door without the user or the OS device driver writer knowing about them. In other words, in the future shadowy command sets will be flushed out into the open. "OS's will be forced to strictly test for support of new, unknown commands and reject all that could not be handled safely. The effect will be to reject all commands that are not published or public, or have known data-phase responses," he says. And that's preferable option than fighting each command set battle, and infinitely more preferable than having these go "underground" in undocumented, vendor unique command sets. Intel today said Curtis Stevens' proposal met its requirements: "The Phoenix proposal would serve the same purpose of a generic command that we wanted to do for copy protection," said an Intel spokeman today. "It only activates when you are copying to removable devices and marries that content to that piece of blank media you have." Phoenix had not returned our request for comment at press time. ® Bootnote This one comes direct from the Ministry of Irony. Like so many Register stories, CPRM bypassed the trade press almost entirely en-route to the national and international media, where it made the front page of the San Jose Mercury, and was covered by many national inkies including The Times and The Independent. But look in vain for coverage on Wired, or the CMP networks, and apart from one tragic effort - which failed to mention the boycott - it went ignored by the CNet/ZDNet conglomerate too. That explains the title of our FAQ on the topic. Well, believe it or not, ZDNet still refuses to tell you anything about CPRM. Today ZDNet reporter Rob Lemos (hi, Rob) turned in a sterling story on the subject, but it was published only on CNet's site, and not by ZDNet News. Keeping the news away from your readers is quite a challenge for news editors, and must merit some lovely glass Anti-Journalism gong all of its own. Ye gads, how long can they keep it up? Related Stories All our CPRM on ATA Stories
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Feb 2001

Chip industry faces almost zero growth in 2001

The global chip industry's rapid expansion isn't merely slowing down - it will practically grind to a halt this year, a US market research company has predicted. Industry players and watchers have been anticipating a slowdown this year, but even the most pessimistic predictions have thus far assumed double-digit growth. The Semiconductor Industry Association broadly revised its outlook for 2001 to take growth down to around 17 per cent, down from the 22 per cent it previously said it was expecting and recently admitted was "unlikely" to be met. Motorola, meanwhile, said it foresees the industry's overall sales growing by between ten and 15 per cent. During 2000, semiconductor sales grew by around 36 per cent. However, for VLSI Research the prognosis is far worse. It now reckons growth will amount to no more than 1.2 per cent, down from the five per cent year-on-year increase it previously said it was expecting. VLSI bases its prediction on its belief that the world's economic conditions will be much tougher than is widely thought. "It's going to be tough year," said VLSI's president, Dan Hutcheson, cited by EBN. "The number one reason is that the economy is much sicker than people are predicting. I think the evidence is starting to look like we're in a recession." Equally, the upturn in the second half of the year that some observers are hoping for isn't going to happen, according to VLSI. "Everyone is saying that things will turn around in the second half, but a lot of that is wishful thinking. If we get into a really hard macroeconomic climate it could be tough to pull out of it," said Hutcheson. Oh dear. ® Related Stories SIA admits 2001 chip growth forecast won't be met Chip sales to grow by ten per cent in 2001 - Motorola
Tony Smith, 23 Feb 2001

Flash ad clampdown slur

Reg in flash ad clampdown Jeffrey J Holt wholeheartedly approves of our stand against irritating ads: Glad to hear you resisted temptation! I HATE animated ads! I have animations turned off in my browser, but that only protects me from animated gifs. I don't go to CNET as much any more, those ads really annoy me to the point that when I do, I have another window ready that I grab and drag over on top of the ad. I can usually cover the ad before anything starts being displayed in it! I don't know how these sites expect people to concentrate on reading something with piles of flashing and/or moving crap all over the screen. I think the web may be going to hell in a handbasket - a few times lately I've noticed by machine cranking up to 100% CPU utilization continuously with some web pages up - probably some out of control applet in a loop or something. Greg Clarke, on the other hand, reckons he knows what we're up to: You know this story sort of smacks of the bitching between the Mail and the Express [UK daily national newspapers] at the moment, does this mean the Reg is going to start offering cash to ISPs to block CNET?? ;-) You cheeky monkey. Have a poke at the opposition? Us? Heaven forbid...
Lester Haines, 23 Feb 2001

Smoot – can you handle the truth?

Flame of the week MOOT wtf is a MOOT? Q: Wtf is a moot? We're obliged to all those readers who sent in clarifications on the word 'smoot'. Guy Harris explains: The official length of the Harvard Bridge is 364.4 Smoots plus one ear, as measured by the MIT fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha using pledge Oliver Smoot, class of 1962. So that's what MIT get up to when they're not designing flying cars. You can read the whole saga of undergraduate high jinks here. But hold on... Just when we thought we'd dealt with the smoot issue, there's this from John Hobson: Regarding the meaning of "smoot", there was a U.S. Senator from Utah named Reed Owen Smoot (1862-1941), who is best known for a strongly protectionist tariff, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930; and for a fight against pornography, which led to the classic headline in many newspapers, "Smoot Smites Smut". The late Ogden Nash wrote a poem about this: Invocation (SMOOT PLANS TARIFF BAN ON IMPROPER BOOKS - News Item) Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.) Is planning a ban on smut. Oh rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut. And his reverend occiput. Smite, Smoot, smite for Ut., Grit your molars and do your dut., Gird up your l__ns, Smite h_p and th_gh, We'll all be Kansas By and by. Smite, Smoot, for the Watch and Ward, For Hiram Johnson and Henry Ford, For Bishop Cannon and John D., Junior, For ex-Gov. Pinchot of Pennsylvunia, For John S. Sumner and Elder Hays And possibly Edward L. Bernays, For Orville Poland and Ella Boole, For Mother Machree and the Shelton pool. When smut's to be smitten Smoot will smite For G-d, for country, And Fahrenheit. Senator Smoot is an institute Not to be bribed with pelf; He guards our homes from erotic tomes By reading them all himself. Smite, Smoot, smite for Ut., They're smuggling smut from Balt. to Butte! Strongest and sternest Of your s_x Scatter the scoundrels From Can. to Mex! Smite, Smoot, for Smedley Butler, For any good man by the name of Cutler, Smite for the W.C.T.U, For Rockne's team and for Leader's crew, For Florence Coolidge and Admiral Byrd, For Billy Sunday and John D., Third, For Grantland Rice and for Albie Booth, For the Woman's Auxiliary of Duluth, Smite, Smoot, Be rugged and rough, Smut if smitten Is front-page stuff. Lovely. Readers may be interested to learn that the bloke who wrote that classic headline now works at Vulture Central. We know a proper journo when we see one.
Lester Haines, 23 Feb 2001

McCarthy sees the light

We all have those kind of days where we are worried by profound questions. You know the sort of thing - 'where do I come from', 'what does it all mean?', 'where's my flying car?' So it is for our very own Kieren McCarthy, a troubled youth prone to periods of self doubt and despair. Only last week the lad was gripped by the 'black dog' when, spookily, this arrived from one Erica Taylor: Dear Friend, It is a blessing that I am able to reach you. I have some important information for you,it's about your future and your love life. I have the answer, to what is blocking you from having happiness and love in your life. You have been praying for an answer, wanting to know what is wrong and if it can or will change. As a psychic I have the ability to give you these answer. When you prayed concerning these matters, I was placed on a spiritual path to find you. You have been searching for answers and feeling blocked and confused about a personal relationship or lack of one. I didn't know if this was an actual e-mail address revealed in my vision or not. However, I have been in my field long enough to know I must follow my vision whereever it may lead me,at this time I feel it is leading me to you. If you contact me,I will then know you are the one my vision is leading me to. I must serve to provide you with information regarding your matter. For Kieren, it was as if the sun had come out. The rest of us just proceeded straight to the disclaimer: p.s. If this letter does not apply to your situation please except my apology and excuse this letter. We accept your apology, love, now push off back to your crystal ball.
Lester Haines, 23 Feb 2001

Apple fobs off non-US iMac buyers with lesser CPU

European and Japanese buyers of the new 500MHz iMac should beware - they're going to get and older, less powerful version of the PowerPC chip than their US counterparts. When we originally wrote up the specs of the new iMacs, unveiled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Wednesday during his MacWorld Expo Tokyo keynote, we noted that the 500MHz and 600MHz models sported new IBM G3 class processors - the PowerPC 750cx, to be precise - which ship with 256KB of L2 cache on the chip itself. The 400MHz iMac ships with a lesser G3, Motorola's old PowerPC 750, with no on-board L2, but 512KB of cache memory in backside configuration. The difference? The on-die cache runs at the same clock speed as the processor core, while the external L2 runs at a fraction of that rate - 160MHz in the case of the 400MHz iMac. Then we got an email from Apple UK pointing out that the previously published spec. was wrong - the 500MHz machine doesn't ship with 256KB of L2 running at 500MHz, but 512KB running at 200MHz. That's a tacit admission that the 500MHz contains an old PPC 750 with the L2 in backside configuration. In other words, only the top-of-the-range iMac Special Edition has the newer, faster IBM processor. Pics from the UK (left) and US AppleStore. An easy mistake to make we thought, until eagle-eyed Register readers pointed out the US AppleStore is offering a 500MHz iMac with the 256KB of on-die L2, ie. it's based on the 750cx not the 750. And it's not just the CPU that's different. The US 500MHz iMac contains ATI's Rage 128 Ultra with 16MB of video memory - the UK version only offers the Rage 128 Pro with 8MB of RAM. Worse, customers in the UK appear to be paying the same amount for the new 500MHz as they would have had it contained the better chip and more graphics RAM. How much performance is lost through the lower spec. isn't yet known - the benchmarks have yet to be taken. Adding the L2 cache to the chip die is all about increasing performance and... er... that's it. We're also puzzled as to why Apple should have made such a move anyway. There's no particular shortage of 750xc chips so far as we're aware. We're waiting to hear Apple's reasoning behind the change. Frankly, it's hard not to see the move - as many of our readers certain have - as a sign that Europe is somehow less important to Apple than its home territory. We're sure that's not the case, but Apple's different iMac specifications certainly won't help persuade the doubters. ® Related Stories Apple intros CD-RW, 'technicolor yawn' iMacs Apple gets Nvidia GeForce 3 first Mac desktop sales slide 62 per cent
Tony Smith, 23 Feb 2001

Kyocera punts £60 dealer cash back deal

Kyocera Mita is giving its Ecosys printers a hard push by offering its dealers £60 cash-back on its FS-1800 and FS-3800 models. Any reseller buying one of the printers will automatically receive the money, as their distributor contact will confirm the order with Kyocera. The FS-1800 16ppm large workgroup printer has an RRP of £749. The 24ppm FS-3800 has an RRP of £989. Interestingly, Kyocera decided to publicise the offer by sending out a press release titled 'Deadly Virus Warning'. It didn't go down well. The email release was swiftly followed by an apology: "You may remember that I sent out a press release yesterday entitled, Deadly Virus Warning. I now realise this subject text, when received by e-mail, may have caused unnecessary alarm. As a hard copy press release, I thought that the title worked; I simply hadn't spotted the implications of sending it by e-mail. I'm sorry for any offence I may have caused." Sadly, a story about a printer virus would have been more interesting. If you've come across such a thing, let us know. ®
Robert Blincoe, 23 Feb 2001

Phone-call dentist guilty of manslaughter

The dental surgeon whose patient died while he chatted on his mobile phone has been given a suspended sentence. Richard Kaul, a 36-year old anaesthetist, was found guilty of manslaughter and given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for a year. He was talking on his cell phone instead of monitoring his patient, 56 year-old Isatu Bangura, who had insisted on being anaesthetised before a minor dental procedure. Kaul told his nurse to switch off the blood oxygen monitor because it was annoying, the jury heard. Bangura later had a heart attack and died in hospital, six days later. In his ruling, Judge Neil Denison said: "This is not a case for an immediate sentence of imprisonment. Your professional life is in ruins and that in itself is a severe punishment." He told Kaul that his conduct represented a "serious lapse" from his usual standards. Five of Bangura's six children were in court for the verdict. They said they were satisfied that justice had been done. More phone mayhem A Stagecoach bus driver is facing disciplinary action after he spent an entire bus journey sending and receiving text messages on his cell phone. Passengers said that the bus was lurching along its route, and passed several stops even though people had rung the bell to get off. One woman told The Mirror: "He was texting all the way. The bus was packed and it was very frightening." She said she was frightened she would be put off the bus if she complained to the driver. The news comes less than ten days after Paul Browning was given five years in prison for running down and killing Paul Hammond, while writing text messages and driving. Yet another example of the amplifying effect technology has on human stupidity. ® Related Stories Fatal text message lorry trial SMS in action: road killer and life saver Doctor gasses while gassing patient
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Feb 2001

Microsoft offers support services for RTFM

Microsoft Product Support Services. HOWTO: Read the Fucking Manual. The information in this article applies to: General Lamers Prerequisites: The ability to Read Basic Brain Function It's a spoofed URL of course, purportedly heading to www.microsoft.com but ending up at www.hwnd.net - see the little "@" sign? However, that doesn't detract from the fact that it's funny and that we've been bombarded with emails asking us to put it up for wider enjoyment. And so, here it is. References at the bottom include: HOWTO: Apply for employment with McDonalds, HOWTO: Add a #, + or .Net to your old software to keep it cutting edge and HOWTO: Read. There are also other gems on the Hwnd site (we like the OS poll on the opening page). It's Friday so we suggest you check it out and have a chuckle. ® Related Link www.hwnd.net Microsoft's RTFM instructions
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Feb 2001

Red Hat partners on Linux GUI for PDAs

Red Hat's Japanese subsidiary has signed a deal to market and sell a new Linux GUI aimed at PDAs and other mobile devices. The GUI, dubbed Sikigami, was developed by Japanese software developer AXE as a broader version of the Linux code it used to port the open source OS over to Sharp's Zaurus PDA. Developer 10art-ni is also working on the Sikigami project. According to a Nikkei AsiaBizTech report, Sikigami isn't simply a scaled down version of Gnome or KDE - a cut-down desktop interface, in other words - but was specifically designed for PDAs. For example, it boasts a Palm-style character recognition called Nunome which, AXE claims, has a 98 per cent accuracy for pen-input Japanese characters. That's not much below Graffiti's hit rate, and Japanese characters are rather more complex and varied than the Palm input system's glyphs. That's as much as we know. The Sikigami Web site is in Japanese, which we don't - alas - read. Those who do should go here. Poor old Babelfish wasn't much help. Incidentally, we recalled our earlier story about Sharp's plan to release a version of its Zaurus PDA that runs Linux. Given AXE's Zaurus development work, we wonder if Red Hat and AXE might be working with - or at least pitching for the job - Sharp on its Linux Zaurus project. It's one mighty coincidence otherwise... ® Related Stories Sharp tools up with Linux to fight Palm HP mulls dropping WinCE for Palm or Linux
Tony Smith, 23 Feb 2001

Lookout for major Outlook bug

Microsoft has warned of a potentially devastating security vulnerability involving its popular Outlook and Outlook Express email clients. It could allow attackers to trick users into running malicious code so giving them control of a victim's machine. The security bug concerns the vCard, or virtual business cards, component of Outlook, which has been found by @Stake, a firm of security researchers and consultants, to contain a buffer overflow vulnerability. By creating a vCard doctored with malicious code an attacker could either cause a mail client to crash, or far more seriously, could cause the mail client to run arbitrary hostile code on a victim's machine. In a security notice on the problem, Microsoft admitted: "Such code could take any desired action, limited only by the permissions of the recipient on the machine. "It could take any action the user himself could take, including adding, changing or deleting data, communicating with web sites, reformatting the disk drive, and other actions." vCards arrive at a users machine as email attachments and Microsoft has said the vulnerability is mitigated by the fact a user would have to open an affected attachment or drag it into his contacts book to be affected. However the problem is still serious enough for Microsoft to recommend that all Outlook users should consider updating their browser with a patch. The affected component is part of Outlook Express, which ships as part of Internet Explorer, so a browser upgrade, not just a patch for the mail client, is needed in order to plug the security hole. Because Outlook uses the same affected component it is also affected by the problem. ® External links Microsft's security advisory Related Stories MS protects Mac but not Windows users with web bug mail firewall Warning: Outlook Express can damage your postcards JavaScript makes e-mail bugging easy
John Leyden, 23 Feb 2001

Kiwi cops pay to access encrypted phone calls

Police in New Zealand will pay Vodafone NZ$1.1 million to be allowed access to encrypted cell phone calls. According to Stuff.co.nz, the Crimes Act in New Zealand already allows the police to intercept phone calls, but they can't decipher the encrypted calls made on the Vodafone network. Paul Swain, the communications minister, said that the money had been allocated for the deal, which was expected to be completed in a few weeks. Meanwhile, the New Zealand police forces are outraged that they have to foot the bill. The president of the Police Association, Greg O'Connor, complained that in the US and Australia the responsibility lies with the service provider to give the police access to calls. "In New Zealand it doesn't happen. In New Zealand the telecommunications companies are creaming it off police," he said. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Feb 2001

Your moonrock's in the post…

Apollo 11 crew quizzed by US Customs So, what exactly were the US customs looking for when the lads splashed down in the Pacific? Steven, who is clearly not a man to waste words, has offered the following: I believe some of the crew secreted US postage stamps which they franked and sold when they returned to earth. Short and sweet, just the way we like 'em. Of course, all of this is assuming that they actually went to the moon at all. I mean, if you look at the lighting on that photo, it's clearly been shot in a Hollywood back lot [insert conspiracy theories as required]
Lester Haines, 23 Feb 2001

MSWorld® – An Orwellian vision of the future

Open Source 'stifles' innovation We reckon that Malcolm Moore was having one of those days when he read Lucy's recent piece. It seems unlikely that Jim Allchin is on his Xmas card list: I enjoyed your article on Jim Allchin's view on the 'American Way'. Perhaps you should take the theme further and try to imagine a MSWorld® where giving things away is illegal. Prostitution would be the only legal form of sex. Guys hanging around in the street with sandwich boards proclaiming 'The end of the world is nigh' would have to charge. "We're all going to die. That'll be £5.50 please mate !" Can you imagine the bill your children will run up over 18 years. Christmas would be a whole new ball game. Instead of keeping the receipts in case the wonderful 'I love MS' sweatshirt doesn't fit, you'll have to recharge your loved one. "Happy Christmas darling. Oh, by the way, my invoice is in with the Christmas card." I don't see what all the fuss is about. Every week I bill my son for his keep. Naturally, the total is always exactly equal to his pocket money. He still owes me 20 quid from last month though.
Lester Haines, 23 Feb 2001

Fish fancier rescues liquid PC

The liquid PC If you ever need clarification on anything aqueous, better ask a fish fancier. Like Stuart Capewell for instance: It may be a sad and nerdy piece of information, but the article in question mentions using an Eheim pump to force the water through the cooling block, but says the guys trying this can't locate the correct tubing to allow them to connect everything together. Instead of trying B&Q, they should try their local aquarium supplies store - Eheim are one of the largest manufacturers of water circulation & filtration pumps for use in fishtanks... That's solved the problem then. Are you a tropical or cold water man?
Lester Haines, 23 Feb 2001

Readers' letters Proud Canadian slams Reg

MS Canada on slippery slope Be funny and win a toboggan Oh dear, we've upset the Canadians again. Ric Bresee, who declares himself to be 'a proud Canadian' has got himself all discombobulated over our bit of toboggan fun: While I understand your notable envy with the recent promotion offered to Canadians by Microsoft, I find your character assassination insulting and your obvious belief in stereotypes a certain sign of ignorance. Unlike your own tiny island, Canada is a vast expanse covering almost every known climatic type. From the heights of the Rockies to the flatland Prairies, temperate rain forest to desert, Canada has it all. Not many Canadians live within 1000 kms of a "slippery slope". And to suggest that a typical Canadian office worker would go after work with a baseball bat in hand, presumably seeking violence, is a statement of such bigotry that I must assume it is born of jealously. Yes most Canadians trace their roots back to someone smart enough to leave the U.K., but even our hooligan ancestry doesn't show itself in modern Canadian society. We have, in fact, improved upon our origins. We may be a small island, but we do have something going for us - a sense of humour. Oh yeah, and we don't speak French. Not anywhere. Best of the rest MSWorld® - An Orwellian vision of the future Smoot - can you handle the truth? Flash ad clampdown slur McCarthy sees the light Your moonrock's in the post... Fish fancier rescues liquid PC
Lester Haines, 23 Feb 2001

Dealers still selling Office 97 better make sure it's legit

Microsoft is touting the success of its anti-piracy hotline as a way of stamping out counterfeit software, which it said accounts for 26 per cent of the market in the UK. The freephone hotline, which is receiving more than 500 calls a month, is designed to allow people to blow the whistle on companies or resellers whom they suspect of using or selling illegal software. Most of the reports to the hotline have been against dealers suspected of selling or providing illegal product and licenses, rather than end-users flouting the law. Julia Phillpot, Microsoft's anti-piracy manager, warned resellers to stop selling counterfeit goods. "They should be very careful. We're really clamping down," she said. She singled out dealers still selling Office 97. "We don't make it anymore. It's vey unlikely there's much legitmate stock left in the channel." A quick flick through the big monthly computer mags reveals a few ads from dealers still pushing the software. Phillpot added that "virtually all UK businesses used unlicensed or counterfeit software." Recent cases suggest that the courts are getting tougher on those supplying counterfeit software. For example, counterfeit mice imported from Taiwan have cost a company £6,300 in fines following raids at MST Associates in Windsor and at one of their customers offices, MorexPlus Technologies. HM Customs at Heathrow also seized 1,000 counterfeit copies of Windows 95 OEM, destined for MST. Microsoft is now seeking compensation from MST. MorexPlus pleaded guilty to offences relating to these and other counterfeit goods and agreed to pay Microsoft substantial damages. ® External links Microsoft's advice on how to report piracy to it Related Stories Dealers charged with pirate supply to 23 police forces Major MS pirate pleads guilty Swap your fakes for genuwine software
John Leyden, 23 Feb 2001

BTinternet boasts 1 million users

BTinternet, the narrowband ISP from BTopenworld, is crowing today because an independent survey reckons it's notched up one million customers. Quoting from the latest NOP Bi-Annual Internet User Profile, BTinternet claims it enjoys the "second highest usage rates in the country". BTinternet won't say who's out in front (no prizes for guessing that accolade belongs to Britain's biggest French ISP, Freeserve) but it's happy to say it's ahead of AOL UK. The ISP of Britain's monster telco reckons it's doubled its user base in the last six months. And it's attracting some 29,000 new customers a week. Which is great. Isn't it nice to report on some good news from BT for a change don't you think? ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Feb 2001

breathe expected out of rehab soon

Slip on your baggy trousers and hooded sweatshirt, pop on your wrap-round shades and oil the bearings on your microscooter - modern urbanists are back. The word among the metropolitan elite busily SMSing one another is that trendy ISP, breathe.com, is back six weeks after being bought by Great Universal Stores (GUS) for £1.4 million. In December, breathe called in the administrators after amassing a shed-load of debt rumoured to be as high as £50 million. Some 60 people were made redundant before the outfit was bought by GUS in January. GUS also operates the successful online and offline Argos brand, and Jungle.com. Of course, those who stayed at breathe will say they've never been away. Although the ISP ditched its unmetered Net access service it has still been offering a pay-as-you-go service to its punters. And by all accounts, its user base has been growing despite all the upheaval of the last couple of months. However, since breathe acquired a new parent company it's been effectively grounded. El Reg understands it's about to come out and play again. We'll keep ya posted. ® Related Links GUS buys Breathe for £1.4m Breathe calls in administrators
Tim Richardson, 23 Feb 2001

Power converter makes for extra flash screens

National Semiconductor has developed a series of current-regulated power converters, optimised for white LED backlighting of mobile phone screens, PDAs and digital cameras. Nat Semi says the drivers eliminate the need for inductors or resistors by regulating the power output through each LED, so that they are matched to within one percent. Drivers include the LM2791-H/L, which has PWM ands a 5:1 ration analog brightness control, the LM2792-H/L with zero to full current control over brightness. The company says these will be used to create new effects on the displays, to add what they call "coolness" to the product. Robert Fischer, product marketing manager at Nat Semi's portable power systems in Europe, commented: "Colour displays using white LEDs already dominate the mobile phone landscape in Japan and it is inevitable that the rest of the world will follow." Later this year, the LM2794/95 drivers will be released as well. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Feb 2001

Taiwanese engineer pleads self defence in hacking case

A Taiwanese computer engineer has pleading self defence after he allegedly hacked the server of a magic teaching Web site. According to a report in Taipei Times, the engineer attacked the unnamed magic Web site in the belief that its administrators were attacking his servers. However the Criminal Investigation Bureau in Taiwan believe that the magic Web site was a completely innocent party which was infected with the NetBus Trojan horse. Through this piece of malicious code, a user from outside Taiwan was attacking the engineer's servers, according to the CIB. The engineer, whose name is only given as Fan, allegedly decided to take revenge and 'counter-attacked' the magic Web site, in an attempt to warn attackers off. Taiwanese investigators are not impressed by this explanation and are treating Fan as a suspect in a case of criminal damage. In related news, earlier this week Chinese hackers have defaced more than 30 Web sites in the country, including several belonging to Internet service provider Beijing Telecom, in an apparent protest about disrupted Internet service. Internet connectivity from China has been severely constrained since a fibre optic cable under the Pacific Ocean was severed earlier this month. According to The South China Morning Post, the sites were defaced with a message with said: "This is just a warning to the telecom departments for your slow restoration of the cable." Heaven forbid if British hackers thought the same way and attacked UK telcos for the slow-roll out of high-speed Internet services... ® Related Stories Shark blamed for China's Net problems External links Taipei Times story
John Leyden, 23 Feb 2001

Dell ships Precision boxes with 3DLabs card

Dell has struck a deal with 3DLabs to make its Wildcat II 5110 graphics accelerator available for order with Dell Precision workstations. Dell claims it is the first company to ship the Wildcat II 5110 on Intel P4 workstations. Pricing for a Dell Precision 330 workstation with the Wildcat II 5110 begins at £2,260. The graphics card is available to Dell customers in the US, Europe, Middle East and Africa. ® Related Story Dell expects 8% sales decline in Q1 Dell ditches 1700 staff
Robert Blincoe, 23 Feb 2001

Online baby muncher is an artist

You've got foetus on your breath Why kill time when you can kill yourself You've got some foetus on your breath, baby    --Scraping Foetus off the Wheel The man pictured apparently eating a small roast baby in our previous story turns out to be an 'artist' named Zhu Yu, who performed a conceptual piece called "Eating People" at a Shanghai arts festival last year. Additional pics like this one are available on the Chinese-Art Web site, along with an artsy-fartsy explanation of how transcendently brilliant it all is. This raises the possibility that the child pictured is an actual dead baby. Conceptualists typically go for maximum authenticity in their work, being a lot of anything-for-a-buck illiterate knuckleheads oblivious to the glaring contradiction between 'authenticity' and 'art' evident to those of us who can, like, read books and sit exams and such. Whether because he, like most artists, can't afford actual groceries, or whether in an effort to make some profound statement, the likelihood exists that 'Foetus Breath Zhu' is actually committing the crime of eating long pig with -- it's almost too horrible to write -- orange juice. The piece may be a ham-handed reference to China's countless famines, a continual menace for millennia. The most recent, well within the memory of today's Chinese, occurred in 1962 and claimed 30 million souls. Or it could be a reference to Chinese cannibalism as recounted in the book Scarlet Memorial: Tales of Cannibalism in Modern China by I Cheng, who believes the insanity of the Cultural Revolution manifest itself in widespread communal munch-outs. Still, there's no reason to imagine that a crime other than incredibly bad beverage judgment has been committed, as there is a common and often fatal infantile disease rampant in China known as 'being a baby girl'. Zhu may simply have obtained a victim of this dreadful illness, and immortalized her in art. ® Related Story Dead-baby muncher pic spawns police inquiry
Thomas C Greene, 23 Feb 2001

Shufty at first Asus socket A DDR board

HWRoundupHWRoundup Overclockers Online take a look at the inner workings, so to speak, of the Asus A7M266 mobo, based on AMD's 760 chipset here. This is Asus' first socket A DDR board, so it should be interesting to see how it goes. Sharky's posted the "Ask AMD" stuff here. The second in their "readers ask the questions" series of interviews with industry company executives. Find out if they got a good grilling. Lost Circuits posted this piece about Transcend's TS-ALR4 motherboard. A classic case, they tell us, of a BIOS gone bad, so check it out. I-am-not-a-geek.com has posted its review of the OCZ Implosion FT-1000. Fancy name, case with a few gizmos, we thought. But blimey, this monster really is quite impressive. For goodness sakes, hold onto your propellered hats for this one. And Kyle, we salute your lunacy. Well done that man. For those of you who have missed it, check out Kyle's postings yesterday (22 February). All your base do indeed belong to us, and its updated too. ® For anyone who has any base left, and wants some more hardware stuff, check out ourarchives.
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Feb 2001

Sun trophy site ManUtd.com uses MS technology

The firm handling the web site for Manchester United has insisted on using Microsoft technology to run the web servers for ManUtd.com - despite Sun's high-profile technology partnership of the club. A number of readers have drawn our attention to the fact that Manutd.com, which is hosted by TWI, uses Microsoft's IIS 4 on NT4 - a favourite of web site defacers, who have mounted large numbers of successful attacks on the platform in recent weeks. Sun is an official technology partner and platinum sponsor of Manchester United. However its claim on the ManUtd.com site that Sun computers "are used to power the Internet (including ManUtd.com)", is somewhat misleading. Christopher Saul, a systems engineer at Sun and technical account manager for ManUtd.com, admitted that Wintel boxes were acting as Web servers for the site, with Solaris servers only used to run back-end database and ecommerce applications. "The hosting firm, TWI, had designed the front pages using Microsoft's ASP [Active Server Page] technology and it wouldn't change that - despite our attempts to persuade it. The back end systems are on Sun," said Saul. Saul said the use of Wintel web servers and three Sun E420R servers for the "serious stuff" was "a reasonable compromise" and one that Sun was able to live with even in one of its reference sites. As a Manchester United fan, I have to say that I'm far less sanguine about the matter and only hope that the administrators have patched the Web servers for the Unicode bug, and other favourite s'kiddie IIS exploits. The consequences of a defacement don't bear thinking about. I don't want to see "ManUtd.com is owned by Manchester City" when I browse one of my favourite sites on the Internet. The possibility of Posh Spice jokes or video clips from the recent FA Cup loss with West Ham appearing on the site fill me with personal dread. ® Related stories: New York Times Web site sm0ked Hacker defaces Intel's Web site Microsoft hacked again Microsoft hacker fired Gateway web server flaws exposed Mass hack takes out govt sites Intel hacker talks to The Reg External links: Manutd.com Red Issue: alternative fans' site for MUFC supporters
John Leyden, 23 Feb 2001

Motorola issues profit warning

Motorola isn't going to garner as many sales this quarter - the first of the current fiscal year - as it had hoped, the company admitted today. Citing "weakness in first-quarter order input across its business segments", Motorola said its previous sales target of $8.8 billion and earnings expectations of 12 cents a share just aren't going to happen. The Great Satan of Car Radios blamed the US economic downturn for the greater-than-expected dip in Q1 orders. It also noted that the "inventory corrections taking place broadly in technology markets worldwide" hadn't helped either. Essentially, with fewer PCs and related goods sold in the Christmas period, manufacturers have carried unsold kit over into January and February, resulting in fewer parts orders from the likes of Motorola. That's one of the reasons why Motorola doesn't expect the world chip business to grow by more than 15 per cent this year - it will probably be closer to ten per cent, according to the company's most recent predictions. The Q1 profit warning many force Motorola to change its prediction, reducing growth to single figures. Certainly, that's the outlook US semiconductor market research company VLSI has. It reckons growth will be down to around 1.2 per cent - way, way lower than all other industry forecasts. ® Related Stories Chip industry faces almost zero growth in 2001 SIA admits 2001 chip growth forecast won't be met Chip sales to grow by ten per cent in 2001 - Motorola
Tony Smith, 23 Feb 2001

WIPO disgraces itself over CelineDion.com

WIPO has ruled on the case of CelineDion.com and, would you believe it, has decided that Celine's record company should be given the domain. The difference here is that the so-called cybersquatter isn't having any of it and decided instead to expose the gross complacency of an arrogant organisation that is building a monopoly of domain name disputes. [Don't be afraid to say what you think - Ed.] Jeff Burgar is a thorn in WIPO's side because he is willing to fight and fight by the rules. Earlier this month, he exposed WIPO to heavy criticism with a dispute over BruceSpringsteen.com. He successfully argued his case and the WIPO panel not only agreed with him but also made some damning statements about current resolution policy. He has done much the same with Hewlett Packard, Mariah Carey and a host of others. What we need to say right here is that we don't actually support Jeff Burgar. He has registered a slew of dotcoms under famous people's names and done very little with them. This isn't a completely bona fide case where a fan has been stomped by an ugly, rich corporation. But this case - and a sister case regarding Julie Brown (some MTV airhead) - do, however, expose WIPO's flawed system and make clear that the organisation has become a law unto itself. Before we even get into the facts of the case, the situation stinks to high heaven. The Celine Dion case and Julie Brown case both concerned Jeff and were both presided over, solely, by a WIPO panellist, Professor William Cornish. Now, according to WIPO rules, there are two types of arbitration: normal and expedited. Normal arbitration is presided over by a panel of one or three; expedited by just one. You have to pay more for a three-person panel, so Jeff opted for the one-person panel. However, in both cases the same person was chosen to arbitrate. Jeff wrote to WIPO questioning his selection. His concern was well-founded: Professor Cornish treated the two cases as one and put no effort or individual thought into the Celine Dion case. How can we make such a sweeping statement? Because the official Dion judgement is a cut-and-paste of the earlier Brown case. Such little effort was put in, in fact, that a number of errors made it into an official document. Example. Brown case: "notified to the Respondent on December 27, 2000". Dion case: "notified to the Respondent on January 10December 27, 20010". Others: "issuance of a decision is: February 11, 2001; issuance of a decision is: February 211, 2001"; "dated January 26, 2001; dated 26 January 26, 2001". "So far as these cases are matters of the [sic] case being a matter of public record, i [sic] public record, I accept that it is proper for aeither [sic] party". Don't take our word for it, look at WIPO's official site here and here. Here's another concern: timeframe. The decision in the Dion case was due 21 February. On 14 February, Burgar sent a letter to the case manager Sherry Smith asking her to explain Prof Cornish's appointment as arbitrator, and asking for a deadline extension as a form of injunction on the decision. If Cornish was to stay as the arbitrator, it asked that he could file a supplementary response, expressing concerns over Cornish's previous decisions. Receipt of the letter was given on 15 February. The decision against Burgar was relayed to him the very next day. The official judgement actually shows a date of 13 February (whether this was just another hangover from the Brown case we can't be sure). Without even getting into the legal arguments of the case - debatable, even with the flawed UDRP - there is more damning evidence of the subjectivity of WIPO's ruling. Reading the judgement, Prof Cornish arrogantly disregards perfectly reasonable arguments with no justification and also builds his case on facts that aren't even true. Would you like examples? Prof Cornish recognises that the Complainant (Burgar) asked to be able to file a supplementary reply to his response. The Prof decided this was not necessary for him to reach a decision. He recognises that Burgar drew his attention to the Springsteen case (which raised some very important points when dealing with famous people) as well as other cases that Burgar had won. The Prof dismisses them out of hand. Burgar points to the almost identical Julie Brown case which Cornish ruled against. He points out that he is entitled to take that decision to court in a bid to overturn it. Cornish recognises this right, but fails to see why this should affect his decision on this case - something that stands in contradiction to just about every Western law system. In the official judgement, Cornish starts his outline of Burgar's case with the derogatory comment "in a lengthy submission, much of which appears rhetorical". This is insane. Any resemblance to objectivity goes out the window as soon as those words appeared. Burgar's "lengthy" arguments are then reduced to a line a point, whereas Sony's points (Dion's record company) were given several lines each. What else? Cornish recognises that a trademark is supported under the UDRP and therefore Burgar's claims are ancillary. He then goes on to note that no-one - not Celine nor Sony - has actually trademarked her name. But then if they were to file for a trademark, they would probably get it and so therefore Burgar has no claim. In almost the same breath as this rhetorical nonsense, Cornish then goes on to dismiss claims that the site is a legitimate fan site. He says that at one point it had a link to Burgar's Celebrity 2000 site that makes money from advertising. Therefore he's using Celinedion.com to make money - hence, bad faith. Of course, the site actually sports "Unauthorized Celine Dion site" at the moment. Cornish doesn't know when this happened but because Burgar hasn't told him, he must be guilty. Cornish also made several and varied references to Burgar as a kinda serial cybersquatter and believes this should count against him significantly. Again, in UK law at least, you are not allowed to mention or consider previous cases/convictions in the interests of a fair trial. The most sickening aspect though is the expansion by Cornish of a damning piece of proof. The judgement says: "that when first approached in October 1997 about his domain name registration, Mr Burgar stated to the Complainants' legal representative that he would relinquish the registration, but not without 'negotiating'. A later letter, of June 12 2000, seeking transfer of the domain name in return for payment of Mr. Burgar's out-of-pocket expenses, went unanswered." This has been a sordid trick in the past by big companies to justify a "bad faith" takeover of a domain. Say you own www.bigcompany.com. Big Company calls you up and says "we really want your URL, will you sell it to us". "Er, dunno." "Well, how much would you want, we're a big company and we're willing to pay." "Well, I don't know. £10,000?" "And then he asked us for £10,000 to hand over the URL, your honour." But in this case, Sony made no formal complaint about Burgar trying to sell the URL. In fact, Burgar denies profusely that he ever offered to sell it. This is rendered in the judgement as "that he did not indicate to the Complainant that he was willing to transfer the domain name after negotiations". Now, we have been an open critic of WIPO for the last year, we have said from day one that it is flawed, biased and a law to itself. We have complained that it decides over important matters - the ownership of a domain name - but behaves more like a kangaroo court than a law court. But this case must be the most flagrant disregard for what is supposed to be a fair and equitable system we have seen. WIPO, even you have outdone yourself this time. ® Related Links WIPO Dion ruling WIPO Brown ruling Related Story Bruce Springsteen loses cybersquatting dispute WIPO loads dice in domain dispute conference WIPO domain dispute coup continues WIPO reinvents itself as part of UN WIPO still kissing famous people's arses
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Feb 2001

DoJ sticks its nose in 2600.com DeCSS appeal

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has been granted permission by the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene in the case of Eric Corely aka Emmanuel Goldstein, publisher of hacker zine 2600 which got into hot water for posting, then linking to, copies of the banned DeCSS utility which defeats the hopelessly-trivial CSS (Content Scrambling System) used in DVD encryption. The crypto scheme is so weak that it was circumvented in late 1999 by then sixteen-year-old Norwegian programmer Jon Johanssen who said he created DeCSS because he wished to view DVDs on a Linux box and there was no industry-authorized player available. The only alternative was to defeat CSS. The mighty Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) lobbying outfit promptly went ballistic, and rather than develop a robust form of encryption, successfully sued in district court to have Johanssen's embarrassing utility banned from the Web, citing various prohibitions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which forbid circumventing or cracking even the most trivial electronic copy controls. The DoJ states its pro-industry concerns up front in its petition to intervene in the case. "The Internet and its supporting technologies have wrought a paradigm shift in the means of conducting trade. With its valuable potential for global product distribution at far lower transaction costs, electronic commerce has also created new business challenges, particularly for vendors of intellectual property," the Department laments. It's the DMCA that government lawyers will most likely point to in justifying the ban when they argue in court. But the DMCA provides several exceptions, and the DoJ actually points to one in its court filing: "The statute permits an individual to circumvent an access control on a copyrighted work, or, in limited circumstances, to share circumvention technology....to achieve interoperability of computer programs," which is precisely the claim made to justify the development of DeCSS. But the Department doesn't think the appeals court should buy into that one. "This lawsuit is really about computer hackers and the tools of digital piracy," it argues. Which is another way of saying that, while the interoperability exception applies, there is such potential for DeCSS to be misused that it needs to be suppressed because of what else might and probably will be done with it. It's a sad argument, tantamount to claiming that the general populace is criminal at heart, and needs the corrective pressure of the government jackboot on its neck, lest its natural larcenous tendencies swell to grotesque proportions and give rise to anarchy, or at least an inconvenience for the entertainment industry. Heaven forbid. ®
Thomas C Greene, 23 Feb 2001

McHackers use DNS exploit to poke fun

Computer hackers with a grudge against McDonalds have used a subtle hacking technique to embarrass the burger chain online. Activists redirected surfers visiting McDonalds.co.uk to an insecure box in a US university on which they placed a message mocking McDonalds. The hacker, who called himself Fluffy Bunny, put up a Web site containing a parody of the burger chain's home page on the false site. A copy of the message can be seen on defacement mirror site Alldas.de here. The prank was performed not by hacking into the server hosting the McDonalds site, but by exploiting its domain name servers. According to Fredrik of Alldas.de: "What Fluffy Bunny did was own the nameserver of mcdonalds.co.uk with the new BIND bug, and then redirect the domain for one day or something to an insecure computer where they had their message." He added: "This is just a big scam from Fluffy bunny. The real computer was never touched; the hacked computer was the nameserver for McDonalds UK." Ironically in the light of recent hack attacks targeting IIS, the unwitting host to the diatribe against Big Macs was using Linux, whereas the real McDonalds site runs Microsoft IIS 4. Which goes to show you're only as secure as your weakest link. ®
John Leyden, 23 Feb 2001