US chip outfits Conexant Systems and PMC-Sierra have both announced job cuts amid gloomy financial forecasts. PMC said it would slash 230 jobs, or 13 per cent of its workforce, blaming sluggish chip demand and cancelled orders for communications chips. The job cuts will result in a first-quarter charge of at least $18 million. The California-based outfit expects profit for the quarter to drop to two to three cents per share before charges - analysts had previously expected 25 cents. It cut its sales forecast to between $118 million and $120 million - compared to the expected $162.3 million. Fellow California chip merchant Conexant said it would chop around 20 per cent of its workforce, made up of 1,500 full-time and 125 contract jobs, due to falling demand for its communications chips. It expects sales to be 35 to 40 per cent below Q1's $410.4 million, and forecast a loss of between 35 cents and 40 cents, excluding charges. Analysts had forecast a loss of 24 cents. The company is also considering selling its digital imaging business. ® Related Stories Motorola shaves 4,000 chip jobs Toshiba cuts forecasts for 2002
Microsoft has crawled into bed with top vendors such as Compaq and Transmeta to give the world Tablet PCs based on its Windows XP OS. The tablet-based device is meant to offer the power and functions of a Windows-based PC in a machine the size of a standard piece of paper. It will have wireless Internet access, and users will be able to write on the screen or retrieve information by using a stylus. Pricing and spec were not revealed, but Compaq said its tablet PC machine would weigh less than current notebook designs, and would be aimed at business users or those in healthcare, sales or education. As revealed last month, Transmeta will proffer its Crusoe chips for the project. The Tablet PCs will start shipping next year. Other OEMs and components companies named today include Acer, Sony, Intel and Toshiba. A full list of these lucky partners can be found here. ® Related Stories WinXP to include support for Transmeta Crusoe chips Transmeta x86 notebook to hit CeBit show Wireless wandering Web access from Intel
US and Russian officials have arrested nine people in connection with a Website suspected of selling hundreds of child porn videos worldwide. US customs worked with Moscow City Police for Operation Blue Orchid (named after the site), which resulted in five arrests in Russian and four in the US, US Customs said. The Russian site, which has been shut down, was used to sell and promote videos priced between $200 and $300. The majority were shipped to the US. Buyers would wire cash and then email delivery instructions for the videos. They were then sent out via private courier or by the normal postal service. "The United States Customs Service is working aggressively with law enforcement officials both here and abroad in making a worldwide assault on the producers, distributors and purchasers of child pornography sold over the Internet," said acting US Customs Commissioner Charles Winwood in a statement. The joint operation began last May, and an undercover purchase of a tape from the site led police to Vsevolod Solntsev-Elbe, one of the alleged site operators. Elbe was arrested in December after 400 videos, video copying equipment and sales and shipping records were found in his apartment. The trail eventually let officials to those involved in making the videos sold on the site. Arrests included one 'actor', Aleksei Tormazov, who was arrested last week, and cameraman Yui Arkhipov, who committed suicide after being arrested on February 27, AP reported. The investigation also helped police track down alleged buyers of the videos. Derek Lochiatto, of Massachusetts, appeared in federal court today on charges of attempting to receive child porn from the site and of possession of similar material obtained via the Net. ® Related Link US Customs statement Related Stories Russian police in Net child porn swoop Cyberstalker pedo jailed for seven years Pedo porn ring gets slap on wrist
An American teen was arrested yesterday after an Instant Message comment scared New York schools into closing for the day. Benjamin Ballard made the threat to a student of Edgemont High School in Greenburgh, NY, via AOL Instant Messenger on Thursday. He told the student not to go to school the next day, mentioning "a lot of bodies", AP reports. The student informed police, and the FBI traced the message to Ballard's address. When cornered, Ballard told the FBI the comment was a joke. School officials, no doubt fearing a repeat of the Columbine massacre, decided to cancel classes for the Greenburgh school district on Friday, affecting almost 1,700 students. Ballard was charged with transmitting a threat via interstate commerce. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail. ® Related Stories New York students threatened in online 'hit list' George dubya blames Net for Columbine massacre
The civil servant behind the controversial IR35 tax legislation has spoken at length with contractor group Shout99. In the interview Sarah Walker is unrepentant regarding the legislation and is sure that it will be upheld as legal. Sarah was the architect of IR35. She is soon to move to the Inland Revenue's Pensions Department. An interview with Shout99 was initially refused but Ms Walker then agreed to one between the end of the recent judicial review into the legislation and the judge's decision, which will be announced on Monday 2 April. In the interview, Ms Walker explains the thinking behind IR35, aims to justify its introduction and talks through the possible consequences of the judicial review. In contrast to the PCG's claims, Ms Walker says that while some contractors have left the country to work elsewhere, it is not in "substantial numbers". She admits that the Revenue does not have any figures on how many people have left but claims that people would have left anyway and it was not a result of simply IR35 legislation. The UK tax system is in fact favourable to other countries, she said. "We don't have figures ourselves on leavers. I don't think it would be possible for anybody to identify numbers of people who had either left the country or come to this country or not come to this country purely because of IR35. People in IT move from one country to another very frequently anyway- there will have been thousands of people over the last year who would, whether IR35 had been in place or not, have decided for very good career or commercial reasons that they wanted to go and spend some time abroad." Regarding possible changes in IR35, she is unswayed. "Ministers have said that they are not prepared to amend the legislation... they have defended it very strongly in the judicial review and elsewhere and they don't see any need for any amendment." However, she says that the government is prepared to talk to the PCG, and even suggests that the PCG is happy with the consultation exercise that it carried out. What if the judge rules against IR35? "If we lose the case, it will depend on the terms of the judgment. If the effect of the judgment is that the scope of European Law is so much wider than we were expecting it to be - that it prevents the Government from taking this kind of action, then I think we would expect to appeal - but clearly it depends on the terms of the judgment." And its confidence that it will win the case? "We're just as confident as we were before the case, we and ministers are confident that this is fair and proportionate and consistent with all of our European obligations." So that's the government's stance. We shall what happens next Monday. ® Related Link Shout99's interview Related Stories IR35 judicial review over IR35 protesters enter High Court IR35 High Court date set
Azlan, the pan-European networking equipment distie, has issued a bullish trading update and says it is confident of the outcome of the financial year (ending March 31). The company continues to "enjoy the strong growth experienced in the first half across all of its 15 European territories". Progress "has also been made in the Training Business," with a growing franchise for Nortel optical switching, and a "number of supply contracts with major organisations including AT&T and Granada". Logitek is the latest casualty of broadline distribution, Microscope reports. The company is making an orderly withdrawal from commodity lines such as Toshiba, and will regroup around its networking and security lines. The move will see job losses in the "single digits". PPortable Add-ons, the mobile peripherals distie that escaped from the ashes of bust distie Datrontech, officially relaunched yesterday, with new offices and an "enhanced" management team.
NEC's DRAM fab in Hiroshima was shut down yesterday after the site was hit by an earthquake. The company said the site was closed to allow chip-making equipment to be checked for damage, and that - assuming no significant problems were encountered - the plant would be up and running at full production next week. Not that NEC is exactly pressed for time. The plant produces 128Mb SDRAM for NEC/Hitachi joint venture Elpida, but with more DRAM out there than there is demand for it, no one is likely to be too worried about the loss of production. Flat out, the plant can produce 30,000 8in/20cm wafers each month, which is a lot of unwanted SDRAM. ®
breathe is bemused by weekend press reports that it's new owner, Great Universal Stores (GUS), is to shut down the ISP three months after buying it. According to the Sunday Telegraph, GUS only wanted the modern urbanist ISP for its technology and has no interest in it as a service provider. Indeed, when GUS bought breathe earlier this year for £1.4 million it said it wanted to get its hands on breathe's technology. However, only last month it was reported that breathe intended to start offering flat-fee unmetered Net access breathe. A spokeswoman for breathe said: "We know nothing about this or where the story has come from. As far as we're concerned it's business as usual." ® Related Stories breathe's resuscitation is complete GUS buys Breathe for £1.4m
The move to packet switching that will come with the introduction of GPRS services will make serious business applications, picture messaging and mobile gaming a reality. Mark Edwards, Symbian's VP of marketing, said the move to packet data will be as important the increase in data speeds from 9.6Kbps to 28Kbps that will come with GPRS (General Packet Radio Services), which is a far more straightforward upgrade than moving to 3G. "There's a lot of talk of 3G, but operators have a great opportunity to introduce services based on GPRS - which only involves changing software and an upgrade at base stations," said Edwards. As previously reported, last week Symbian announced the latest revision of its OS (which is called the 'packet data' release) that adds GPRS and Bluetooth support, and support for WAP 1.2. The Symbian platform v6.1 runs the Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME), which makes it a suitable environment for the development of business applications. Older GSM technology uses circuit switching techniques which is one of the reasons early WAP services have disappointed, according to Edwards, who packet data and an always-on GPRS connection offers access to content in a much more "elegant" way. With applications like picture messaging replacing text messaging, he predicted GPRS would be a hit in the consumer space and generate revenues for operators for at least the next three years. All of which raises the question, which is also being discussed by operators, of why should users move to 3G if GPRS provides almost all the services they are looking for? With the development of streaming media for GPRS, functions such as video connectivity are looking less and less like a killer ap for 3G. We predict many anxious meeting at Orange, Vodafone and the like as its developers figure out what to bundle with 3G. After all they to come up with something pretty compelling to deliver the kind of revenues the exorbitant license fees telcos shelled out will demand. Good luck fellas, I wouldn't fancy your job for the world... ® Related stories Symbian unveils new OS rev, Pearl Orange goes high-speed wireless Cellnet GPRS broadband offering sounds strangely narrow GPRS broadband wireless not so fast after all, says Nokia Mobile companies may have to hold hands over 3G costs Q: Who will pay for 3G networks? 3G's rubbish
Inventor Paul Moller's recently unveiled Skycar - the 21st century solution to commuting woes - has come under heavy ground fire from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology aeroboffin. According to aircraft design expert John Hansman, quoted in a piece in the National Post, the Skycar is "a piece of junk". He further states: "Everybody has always wanted to have an airplane that would launch from their driveway and fly to wherever they wanted to go, and it exists and it's called a helicopter". The article further claims that some NASA insiders have also cast aspersions on the design's feasability. For his part, Paul Moller is having none of it: "It's not something you can defend easily and I don't try. I'd just as soon they think I'm a crackpot for the next couple of years because when they do realize the credibility of the technology I will have that additional advantage of being further ahead," he stated. This whole debate smacks of the "they called me mad, but who's laughing now?" mad scientist type thing. However, the Skycar has yet to take to the air. Mr Moller, it's time to walk it like you talk it. We at Vulture Central welcome, nay demand, our flying car. In short - Where's our flying car? ® Related Story So, where is my flying car?
The European Commission is looking to create a new talking shop to thrash out the issues affecting cybercrime. The Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner, António Vitorino, is expected to announce proposals for a European Union Cybercrime Forum next month during a keynote speech at the European ISP Association Conference in Brussels. The commissioner will tell those attending the conference that the forum would assist the EC in formulating cybercrime legislation. It would also be responsible for developing a range of non-legislative initiatives. Hans Leemans, president of EuroISPA, said: "EuroISPA strongly supports the initiative of the European Commission to set up the forum. "Effective and proportionate legislation is needed in order to boost confidence in Internet use and a transparent consultative process is the most effective way of achieving this," he said. ® Related Story EC to launch Net crime forum in May
Packaging changes introduced by Microsoft in Beta 2 of Windows XP look set to limit use of XP Server to small networks, and force larger customers to spend more money on XP Advanced Server. The changes are not yet final - according to Microsoft they "represent out current thinking about how we can better position our product offerings." But you can see the direction of that thinking. Beta 2 sees the first introduction of a Server version of the XP code. Up until now Advanced Server, which is essentially a superset of Server, has, er, served. Server Beta 2 adds Sharepoint Team Services, "a new feature designed to enable workgroups and teams to share information," but the spec is dropped to two CPUs from four, and to four gigs of RAM from eight. It has Active Directory support on up to two domain controllers per forest, and Terminal Services for remote administration only. Translation: the hardware changes are probably not wildly important, but if you want to have Active Directory on more than two servers on your network, you're shafted. If you want to use application mode Terminal Services, you're shafted too - go away and buy Advanced Server. The changes, we repeat, are not yet final, and Microsoft is soliciting feedback from testers on them. A little feedback from cost-conscious enterprise customers might not go amiss, either. Menwhile at WinHEC yesterday senior VP Brian Valentine said that the company was considering shipping WinXP server in up to four versions. In addition to Datacenter, Advanced Server and Server, he said it might include something he referred to as a Web Blade, an edition of server aimed at small servers serving up HTML pages. 'Aha!' We thought. Microsoft has actually been considering this pretty hard, for quite a few months. We recall a mention of "web blades" in a presentation by Jim Ewel last November, although we didn't grasp what he was going on about at the time. We also got a tip off about the presence of something called "Blade" in the DDK for build 2446. In the suite types section there, Blade is listed as a configuration along with the other stuff you've all actually heard of. Although actually, the full list is itself enlightening. It consists of Server, Workstation, Small Business, Enterprise, Back Office, Communications, Terminal, Small Business Restricted, Embedded, Datacenter, Single User, Personal and Blade. Quite a bit of scope for positioning shenanigans in that little lot, isn't there? ®
Departing Novell chief executive Eric Schmidt has become chairman of search engine firm Google. Schmidt, who is handing over the leadership of Novell to Cambridge Tech President and chief executive Jack Messman, will retain his position of chairman of the Internet software and service firm, and its subsidiary Volera. He will continue to serve as chief strategist at Novell. The change of leadership at Novell comes after it acquired Cambridge Technology Partners in a $266 million deal designed to beef up its services business, a key strategy for Novell which has been hit by the decline of its core NetWare business. As well as facing the difficult job of repositioning Novell as an internet services firm, Schmidt also faces challenges due to the decline of online advertising revenue and negative sentiment about Internet stocks in his role at Google. Google said that Schmidt has made a significant, but undisclosed, financial investment in the company, but suggested it was Schmidt's brains and not his money that they were really after. Welcoming Schmidt to the company, Larry Page, Google's co-founder and chief executive praised him as a "brilliant technologist and savvy business leader." Sergey Brin, a 27 year-old who is being replaced as chairman by 45 year-old Schmidt, said he had a "proven record in understanding and developing the promise of great technologies". As well as his three chairmanships, Schmidt also serves on the boards of CRM firm Siebel Systems, Integrated Archive Systems, and Tilion. Prior to his 1997 appointment at Novell, Schmidt was chief technology officer and corporate executive officer at Sun Microsystems. He was also a member of the research staff at the Computer Science Lab at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and held positions at Bell Laboratories and Zilog. ® Related stories Novell CEO steps down as it acquires consulting firm Novell reinvents itself for the Internet Open access challenge to Google Google in lead as search wars hot up External links Goggle welcomes Schmidt
Nokia is to axe 300 to 400 jobs to slim down its high-speed Internet broadband systems division. The company is also splitting the division into two units - broadband access and narrowband access - to take effect in Q2. The job cuts will mainly affect R&D staff. Rival Ericsson has announced plans to cut 3,300 jobs in Sweden and Britain. It intends to cut costs by at least 20 billion crowns ($1.96 billion) from 2002. Ericsson is finding the mobile handset market tough and it is going to stop production at two mobile phone plants, which it aims to sell. The plants are at Carlton in Nottinghamshire and Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire. Production at these plants is due to end by late September with the loss of 1,200 jobs. Union leaders say they will fight to make sure UK job losses were not compulsory. ® Related Stories Motorola, Ericsson, Siemens team on cellphone gaming Why do we need 3G phones anyway?
Acer is split into two businesses - one to make and sell its own brand machines, the other to supply IBM, Dell and other customers on a made-to-order basis. The split is to avoid conflict between the two parts of the company. Acer Co-President Simon Lin will run the business selling products to other computer makers. Wang Cheng-tang, the company's second co-president, will manage Acer's own brand business. The split will happen over the next two years. ®
Trinity Mirror has denied reports that it has sold its ISP, ic24, to Tiscali for £25 million. Bloomberg cited a report by German news outfit, MF which said the Italian telco had agreed to buy ic24 and the Internet division of German wireless operation, Viag Interkom. A spokesman for ic24 said that as far as he was concerned, ic24 was still negotiating a sale with so far un-named operators. He declined to name those currently in the frame. A fortnight ago Trinity Mirror announced its intention to sell ic24 since it "no longer regarded [it] as essential to the group's digital media activities". It also closed its portal sites icShowbiz and icSport and ceased work on a new consumer affairs site, icChoice which resulted in the loss of up to 70 jobs. Anyhow, the whisper is that Cable and Wireless - which provided the network infrastructure for ic24 - is currently favourite for the acquisition...but keep it under your hat, OK? ® Related Stories For sale: ic24 icShowbiz and icSport axed
Home Secretary Jack Straw is having a summit today and tomorrow concerning the problems the Internet is throwing up. Today at 3pm, he's meeting representatives from the mobile phone industry to discuss ways in which mobile theft can be tackled. Tomorrow at midday he is meeting with the Internet Watch Foundation to discuss how to make surfing the Net safer for children. Regarding mobile phone theft, the police have recently launched an advertising campaign to make people aware of the existence of your phone's unique IMEI (International mobile equipment identity) number. By writing down and reporting this number if your phone is stolen, the police can return it to its rightful owner when/if it is recovered. Not only this but mobile phone companies can disable phones reported as stolen since the IMEI number is sent to the mobile network every time it is used. Some mobile companies currently block use of phones reported as stolen but others haven't deemed it necessary (stolen phones make calls too). Jack Straw is likely to push for closer communication between the police and mobile companies in this area and back an awareness campaign. One flaw in this process though was brought to our attention by a Register reader. He claimed that the IMEI was stored on a piece of flash memory on the phone. As such, it can be wiped and a new number put in its place. We have been onto mobile companies about this but none have yet replied. Even if it were true though, it would require some specialised equipment - beyond the means of most phone thieves. Tomorrow's meeting will see Jack Straw discuss the recent report on child safety on the Internet by the Internet Watch Foundation. The report was released last week at the Home Office. It made nine recommendations, which are expected to be pushed at the meeting. Among these were that a kitemark system should be put in place so parents know which sites are safe for their children to browse, and that an extensive education programme is launched to make parents and teachers aware of the issue (the first part of this was revealed last week). Fortunately, this time, Jack Straw is unlikely to seek the introduction of new laws to tackle these problems. ® Related Stories How to get back your nicked mobile Govt offers Net advice to schools
A series of raids was mounted this morning on the homes of suspected Internet paedophiles. Operation Appal, which was led by Greater Manchester Police's (GMP) obscene publications unit, focused on individuals suspected of using the Internet to exchange and store obscene pictures of children. It is the culmination of a four month investigation led by GMP. A spokeswoman for GMP said the operation was the largest ever operation of its kind in the UK and involved raids on 43 address by 25 police forces and the seizure of computer equipment. So far 22 people have been arrested and are being questioned about offences related to the Protection of Children Act. More arrests are likely to follow. In a statement, Inspector Terry Jones of GMP's Obscene Publications Unit said: "Work by the Obscene Publications Unit identifies those people abusing one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, and we will continue to track down those individuals who believe the Internet gives them the anonymity to continue to trade in obscene pictures." SurfControl, whose Internet filtering software recently blocked access to The Register for many of our readers, was responsible for providing GMP with customised software to help officers locate and track Internet users involved in possessing and distributing indecent images of children. According to SurfControl, where previously 60 man-hours of Internet checking were needed to develop leads on 16 suspects using its software meant the same task could be performed in 16 man-hours. This allowed police resources to be directed more efficiently. A spokeswoman for GMP assured us that officers "manually checked" all the content flagged as obscene by the SurfControl software. This provides welcome reassurance for us at Vulture Central, we thought SoHo's dirty squad might be coming round to kick our door in. SurfControl's Cyber Patrol blocked The Register in order to " prevent [customer's] children or pupils from being able to surf Web sites containing sexually explicit, racist or inflammatory material". This ban, followed our publication of a story (carried by other news services - who weren't blacklisted) about a site that provided information on how to disable filtering software, called Peacefire.org. SurfControl subsequently lifted its censorship of The Register after a large number of our adult readers objected to its actions. ® Related stories Pedo porn ring gets slap on wrist Paedophile says why he loves the Net
Burnley based Time Computers is facing legal action from three employees and one sacked ex-staffer for breaching health and safety regulations. The four claim to have been poisoned by a toxic paint being used to smarten up some damaged PC cases. The three employees are currently on paid suspension - Time won't say why - but are expected to return to work shortly. The former employee was sacked for stealing from Time. The paint is based on a toxic substance called isocyanates which gives off hazardous fumes. Time says one of the four bought the paint from a local supplier without checking with Time's health and safety officer. It was used for "a few days" according to Time's spokeswoman until management was alerted to the situation. Time says customers who bought the retouched PCs are in no danger. The legal dispute has not gone beyond an exchange of solicitors' letters yet. ® Related Stories Time follows Tiny with home entertainment box Time shuts 22 shops
The retention and reporting of IMEI numbers is no solution to mobile phone theft, a number of Reg readers have informed us. Police are currently pushing for greater awareness of IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers, which can be found from your phone by typing "* # 0 6 #". This 15-digit number is unique to a particular phone and is recorded by mobile companies every time the phone is used. The police have launched an advertising campaign to get people to write down their IMEI number and report it to them if the phone is stolen. The aim is to cut back on mobile theft which is increasing rapidly, especially in cities. However, the IMEI number is stored on rewriteable flash memory and so can be overridden. We questioned how easy it was to wipe and replace IMEI numbers and a number of knowledgeable readers have been in touch to tell just how simple it is. According to one reader, a "geezer" in Leicester that runs a mobile phone stall will recode the IMEI number for £25. He does an afternoon-return service if you get it to him before midday apparently. And he uses little more than a laptop. Several readers have backed this up, assuring us that changing the IMEI needs no more a piece of software downloadable off the Net and a connection between your PC and the phone in question. It goes further than this though. A man who works for a telecom fraud company no less has told us that fraudsters are far in advance of changing the IMEI number once. According to him, in a system called "tumbling", people change the IMEI and IMSI (Sim card equivalent) every time a call is made. And following a link to a particular Web site, we found not only the software needed to change the numbers but also a phone-by-phone breakdown of everything you could possibly want to do with each. In short, if someone is going to go to the trouble of stealing phones, they will be more than likely be aware of how to bypass the weak security that exists on them. It would seem then that Jack Straw will have to push for a whole new level of hard-wired security in phones if he wants to achieve his aim of bringing phone theft down. ® Related Story Jack Straw shoots back in the Net
Instead of appearing in court, defendants are to be given the opportunity to submit pleas by email to charges they face. But the scheme isn't available to people charged with serious crimes. According to a Press Association report, Courtroom 8 at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court is to receive a hi-tech makeover in order to streamline court proceedings and save time and money. The court is equipped with digital recording equipment, screen outside courtrooms to display the status of cases, microphones and computers for storing evidence and accepting emails. This will allow defendants, their lawyers or prosecutors to submit either pleas or written evidence by email instead of by writing where attendance at court is not mandatory. If the trials at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court are successful, similar technology will be rolled out to all 78 crown courts in England and Wales by 2005. Dai Davis, an IT lawyer with solicitors Nabarro Nathanson, said there was no legal reason why pleas needed to be submitted by writing rather than email for summary, or less serious offences, such as traffic offences or non-payment of bills. "There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to submit a letter of mitigation by electronic means," said Davis. "But this would only apply to the lowest tranche of cases. People will still have to appear for Crown Court cases or where decisions on bail for more serious offences are made." ®
A small British ISP is considering legal action against BT after the monster telco allegedly disconnected the Surrey-based service provider's SurfTime customers yesterday. This action was the culmination of problems that Sniffout alleges date back to summer 2000 when BT failed to deliver the unmetered Net access product, SurfTime, on time. The small ISP said that BT was supposed to deliver SurfTime in August 2000. However, the service was not made available to Sniffout punters until October 2000. Sniffout wants compensation from BT for alleged breach of contract and damages for lost earnings. According to a statement from Sniffout: "The company has been in dispute with British Telecom as a result of the latter's failure to meet the contracted delivery date for SurfTime last summer. "Unfortunately, BT has consistently refused to acknowledge any liability arising from its written commitment. It has also been insisting that rent is due from the time the service was finally supplied in late October. "Sniffout's shareholders were, in effect, being asked to pay for BT's own mistakes and failures - something that they have quite rightly refused to sanction." Richard Skeels, MD of Sniffout, told The Register that the matter was already in the hands of lawyers. No one from BT was available for comment. ®
Napster is calling on its users to march on Washington, DC and protest about the way the company feels it has been treated. Tempting users with a free concert and the opportunity to hear Napster founder Shawn Fanning talk about programming, Napster hopes enough punters will show in the US capital on 3 April that legislators will back file sharing as a legitimate means of distributing music. "It's important for the Napster Community to make an impression on the lawmakers gathering to learn about Napster, file sharing and the future of music on the Internet," Napster's Web site implores users. Having lost the support of the US Appeals Court, Napster has little choice but to fall back on its core audience and spin its predicament into civil rights issue. Various media organisations have already compared the 3 April demo to black and gay rights marches, and anti-Vietnam War rallies, playing right into Napster spin doctors' hands. We sympathise with Napster - it did infringe copyrights, but the music industry's actions against it run deeper than that - but there's a big difference between fighting for basic human rights and the opportunity to milk a new market. The timing of the demo is set to coincide with a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to debate online copyright issues. The demo is set to convene at 9am on the morning of the 3rd. ®
Microsoft's support for USB appears to be not quite as warm as it once was, if comments made by Carl Stork, the Beast of Redmond's general manager for Windows Hardware Strategy, are anything to go by. 'Interviewed' by his own company's PressPass 'journalists', Stork says he - and, by extension, Microsoft - reckons that the future of Windows XP connectivity is IEEE 1394, and not the second generation of old chum Intel's Universal Serial Bus as you might well expect. 1394 is certainly a new feature for the PC, finally ushered in with Windows XP, the theme of Stork's talk, although offered as an option long ago in the PC 2000 spec. Microsoft promised 1394 support way back in 1996, with Sony's help. Since then, Chipzilla has acknowledged - just about - the advantages of 1394, but has always preferred to push USB as the de facto standard for PC connectivity. And with USB 2.0 pushing the bus' bandwidth to beyond the 1394's current specification, Intel's spin has very much been that USB is for the PC world, 1394 for consumer electronics, with the two meeting only in high-end PCs for video editing and the - sniff - Apple arena. Stork's line suggests that Microsoft no longer sees digital video as a high-end application. Like Apple, it now thinks it's going to be a key consumer application too - Stork even refers to 1394 by Apple's own codeword for the transport, FireWire. He also waxes lyrical about the 802.11 wireless networking standard that forms the basis of Apple's AirPort system. Clearly, Redmond reckons Steve Jobs is onto something here and is out to embrace and extend his strategy. Heck, just look at the XP's MacOS X-esque styling... What was that about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery? But, no matter, we digress. Here's what Stork goes on to say about 1394: "I think people are going to want to have 1394 connectors on their PCs and mobile devices so they can get video in and out of their PCs quickly. The consumer electronics industry adopted 1394 for digital electronics devices, and we’re definitely seeing the connectors becoming common on video devices... 1394, in my opinion, has critical mass. "It makes sense to work toward getting 1394 connectors onto all PCs, and especially onto all PCs used in any graphical way in a business. To do video, USB just isn’t enough. USB today goes up to 12 megabits per second, and 1394 is around 200-400Mbps. You need that extra speed." Now, Stork is well aware - or he should be - that USB 2.0 runs at 480Mbps, certainly sufficient for digital video if 1394's 400Mbps is. Yet, tellingly, he doesn't mention USB 2.0 at all. And that's not the half of it. Touting 1394 as the best option for digital video isn't a revolutionary notion, because USB 2.0 isn't a mature technology yet and the camcorder makers are all rapidly building 1394 interfaces into their kit. But Stork's goes on: "Then, once you've got 1394, it also becomes a candidate for things like printers, scanners or an additional hard disk. So the potential is there for 1394 to be a connector for a lot of PC devices. In addition, if you had two PCs with a 1394 socket on there, you could put a cable between the two of them, and they'd be networked." In other words, Stork believes that 1394 will handle all the extra, fast bus stuff that USB 2.0 is designed to replace it at. With USB 2.0 silicon shipping now, peripherals capable of working with the bus are expected to debut late Q2/early Q3, in the Windows XP launch timeframe. Indeed: "I also think that home networking is going to continue to be a big demand boost to the PC industry, and Windows XP will provide a seamless base for that. Where Ethernet will be the network of choice for the home, this standard will be automatically supported over various media types, such as... 1394 ports." Peripherals and networking? And this is the message Microsoft will be making at WinHEC to all those PC and peripheral hardware engineers? But here's a thought. Microsoft is working on making its media-manipulation code as movie and music industry-friendly as possible. And it's working Secure PC concept - a machine that makes it impossible to pirate digital media. That's predicated upon protecting material coming in through the PC's ports, as well as the Net. And that means using a secure transport. Last week, the 1394 Trade Association put its weight behind building just such a protection mechanism into the spec. The missing link is 1394 support in Windows. And, from Stork's comments, the OS is going to get it, in spades. ® Related Link M$' PressPass interview with Carl Stork Related Stories MS plans 'Secure PC' that won't copy pirated audio files 1394 chiefs back 5C's copy control
Voice over IP connections has been a much talked about (but infrequently used) networking technology for a number of years but kit to allow voice and data over DSL links has just being introduced to Europe. VoDSL (voice over DSL) technology, which was displayed by a number of firms at the CeBIT show in Hangover, Germany, is being targeted at small businesses who are likely to be interested in the savings in call charges the technology can bring. By contrast VoIP has been heavily promoted by firms like Cisco as a means for larger firms to integrate their voice and data networks. Eric Warren, of VoDSL equipment manufacturer Jetstream, said that the technology allows telecoms resellers and alternative carriers to offer bundled services including voice, fax and data that cost customers up to 20 per cent less than paying for them individually. For alternative carriers, the technology offers a way to improve customer loyalty by tying them into value-added services and encourages individual users to spend more. Jetstream's access devices use quality of service features in the transport protocol used by almost all DSL connections (which is called ATM or Asynchronous Transfer Mode), which means users would get a good quality voice connection. Because Jetstream kit uses protocols native to DSL instead of first wrapping IP packet in ATM cells, services are delivered with a lower overhead, according to the firm. Only the symmetrical part of an DSL connection can be used for voice traffic which means, in practice, only two to four voice lines can be delivered per ADSL link. More voice ports are available on higher-speed links. Warren said Jetstream is talking to around 15 alternative carriers throughout Europe about the technology, some of whom are in advanced stages of testing its xDSL modems, which feature voice capabilities. ® Related stories Europe gets first big cable VoIP rollout Voice, data and ne'er the twain shall meet MS, HP, Intel and Nortel to forge telecoms alliance Broadcom tweaks cable modem chip for Europe VoIP finds captive market in US prisons
AMD may be late to the high-performance mobile processor table, but it's trying hard to make up for its tardiness in 2001. In its most recent mobile processor roadmap, issued at CeBIT, the company says that notebook systems using mobile AMD Athlon processors, based on Palomino, are "planned" to be in the channel in Q2 this year. Of course, this will depend on the widespread availability of VIA or ALi chipsets, currently thought to be in short supply, for the Palomino mobile version. The company says it will have a 1GHz mobile out this year (Intel announced its one gig last week) AMD's mobile Athlon is built using 0.18 micron copper manufacturing technology and is housed in a 462-pin low profile flip-chjip PGA package. The chip incorporates AMD's PowerNow!, the company's well-regarded battery-saving technology and a 200MHz bus. Next up on the high performance front is the Thoroughbred Mobile, which samples in Q4, 2001 and is due for production for Q1 2002. AMD will use a 0.13 micron die shrink in the manufacturing process, making Thoroughbred "faster, smaller, cooler". That's it, so far as details go. AMD's offering in the value notebook segment (which it defines as sub-$1,799) today are the 600MHz and 700MHz mobile Durons, costing $75 and for $123 in OEM quantities of 1,000. The company is prepping production in Q2 for the mobile Morgan, while the Appaloosa, built using 0.13 micron technology, samples in Q1 2002 and goes into production in Q2 2002. AMD is a laggard when it comes to mobile CPUs. Over the years it's had a number of cracks at this market but the results (to date) have been little more than the occasional cheap infill line for mobile PC OEMs. 2001 is the year that this is supposed to change, with the company taking Intel head-on at the top-end of the market. It's got the product. Trouble is, it's got another potentially formidable competitor in Transmeta, now snapping at its heels. (It was Transmeta and Intel that walked away with OEM contracts this week for Microsoft's Tablet PC.) ®
Internet advertising firm DoubleClick has denied reports that the security of its Web servers has been compromised by vulnerabilities which lay unnoticed for the last two years. French security site Kitetoa.com claims that a flaw with the doubleclick.net Web server, which runs Microsoft's IIS, means hackers had backdoor access to confidential data. DoubleClick denies this but admits it is undergoing a security audit after what it said were unsuccessful attacks by hackers last week. According to Kitetoa, missconfigured Web servers at DoubleClick allowed the installation of a Trojan horse program on the firm's systems. A screenshot published by Kitetoa appears to show the Web servers have been tampered with and that a file called eEyehack.exe uploaded onto its servers on April 29 1999. It points to an exploit first described by security consultants eEye Digital Security as the mechanism of the attack. Network security consultant Paul Rogers, of MIS Corporate Defence, said there is no firm evidence eEye's exploit, which allows Trojans to be uploaded onto servers, was used against DoubleClick. The date of the file was before the publication of the eEye advisory and the size of the file, which might be a Trojan, does not correspond to any well known backdoor program. Rogers said far firmer evidence that DoubleClick's servers are insecure is provided by another screenshot Kitetoe.com has obtained. This apparently shows username and passwords protecting DoubleClick's Abacus server, its market research division. "If I was able to obtain this whilst doing an penetration test for one of my clients I'd advise them to pull the plugs on their boxes," said Rogers. "DoubleClick should consider running their services from a different platform whilst damaged host servers are repaired. It might also consider restricting access to services." A spokeswoman for DoubleClick denied that its servers had been compromised for the last two years but admitted that it was in the process of conducting a full security audit after an attack by hackers last week. She stated that these attacks were unsuccessful. In a statement on the attacks sent to The Register, DoubleClick said: "Over the last week there have been unsuccessful attempts made to hack into DoubleClick's servers. DoubleClick is now undergoing a comprehensive security audit, including the expertise of external security professionals and engineers, to fully ensure the continued integrity of our servers." ® External links: Kitetoa.com
Microsoft's holier-than-thou standards pitch for .Net could be undermined by its insistence on using its own, non-standard version of Kerberos. And that, reckons Bloor Research in an overview of HailStorm published today here,could prove controversial. "Unlike all the other open standards displayed throughout the .Net initiative, when it comes to authentication it looks like HailStorm is going to get proprietary on the industry," writes Bloor analyst Mat Hanrahan, aka Gryphon. "This is significant. Authentication identifies the components and authorises collaboration, without authentication the services cannot work securely." Potentially, concludes Bloor Research, that could be "one of the biggest lock-ins the industry has seen. Effectively Microsoft will be able to exploit and leverage their client server base straight through the data-center right the way up to the cloud." Microsoft's implementation of Kerberos gained additional notoriety last year, when the company's legal heavies demanded that Slashdot remove postings which detailed Microsoft's own proprietary extensions to the open protocol. Slashdot stood firm, and the threat petered out. Redmond has indeed pointed out that Kerberos, which does authentication but not authorisation, is crucial to HailStorm: "HailStorm's integral security model is based on Kerberos-based authentication," notes the white paper. "The user controls which entities can access their data, and for what purpose. Users can revoke access to data. Users can use a service or agent to manage data access on their behalf, and these services are simple enough to actually be usable." Microsoft's Kerberos extensions hamper non-Microsoft servers' interoperability, but whether this matters much may be moot. As the history of the Microsoft file and print protocol SMB demonstrates, even if Microsoft documents something poorly or not at all, it's not necessarily the end of the world. Samba is proof that reverse engineering is sustainable: it's tracked this cunningly moving target for many years, and with enough confidence for it to be built into commodity thin servers from the likes of HP these days. Well now Redmond's PAC extensions are now out in the wild, providing an attractive challenge for um, reverse engineers. But what would be gained from this is debatable. Microsoft says it will host the HailStorm cloud, and sees it as a profit centre. Efforts to reverse engineer the Kerberos implementation at the heart of .NET would hasten the proliferation of HailStorm on non-Microsoft clients. Something Microsoft would probably be quietly pleased to see. ® Related Stories Pay-to-Play: Microsoft erects .NET tollgate MS sends in lawyers to stop 'open' SOAP info getting out Sun, AOL take MS HailStorm to the Feds Microsoft picks fight with Slashdot MS Kerberos assault - Slashdot's defence avenues Slashdot gives Microsoft lawyers the bum's rush Vendors, users team to create secure XML
There is indeed more than meets the eye to Blade, the WinXP server edition Microsoft introduced as a 'possibility' at WinHEC yesterday. The Register's spies (who seem to be on something of a roll at the moment, and we thank them for that), report that Blade servers are viewed internally as 'cool,' and killer products. It's what they're designed to kill that's most interesting though - it's Linux. And maybe they're supposed to screw Intel over as well, but we'll get back to that. Blade servers are intended to be cheap, slam-in-and-go boxes that Web hosting operations can just peel off the roll (almost) and shove in whenever they need more server capacity. Now, think about where Linux is really strong, and at the same time think (fairly, mind) about how good Microsoft is at observing, defining and analysing the competition. Linux is nowhere on the desktop, and not very far at all as a commercial server. But it is pretty compelling as a host for a Web server. It's cheap, robust, flexible, and you can even get nice cheap rackmount units you can just slam in whenever you need one. From the likes of Cobalt, at least until we all got deeply suspicious about them being bought by the other bunch of control freaks at Sun. Microsoft may frequently be despicable and massively irritating, but it's not dumb. It has obviously (and sometimes publicly) been observing Linux, and has noted its strengths as regards Web servers. Its planners will be keeping an eye on desktop and commercial too, but as we said they're not immediate dangers. The success of Linux on the Web, on the other hand, and Microsoft's failure there, is clearly a big, immediate problem to address. This is actually where we at The Register live. We run our site on Linux because it's flexible, robust and cheap, and we think we might have to switch to the shifty bunch of control freaks at Sun if we ever grow up. We'd rather stick hot needles in our eyes than go the Microsoft route, and this goes even if Redmond were to give us the code for free, or if we improbably found ourselves in charge of an infinite pile of money. We've gone into this, trust us, this is an entirely commercial decision and has absolutely nothing to do with whether the competing vendors are nice people or not. But they're not. None of them. Anyway we think our viewpoint goes for a pretty large slice of the market Microsoft will be trying to sell Blade to, in which case it's going to be a tough one to crack, and the level of detail Microsoft's planners have gone into will be important. Cheap is good, but not everything. It's perfectly feasible, given current hardware price levels, for a plug in and go box to be knocked out for not much money at all. But the 'extras' you can't avoid getting into if you go the Microsoft route have to be factored in. Currently Microsoft products suck you into more Microsoft products, and if you're doing Web stuff and you take your brain out of gear for a couple of seconds you'll likely find yourself running SQL Server, Exchange and goodness knows what else. Blade is simply not going to work if that remains the case - if the Redmond planners are really smart and radical, there'll be decoupling in there too. If buyers can't shove it in without getting lured into a rip and replace of the whole infrastructure, they're not going to be interested. But that is too radical for the Microsoft we know and... well... It's just difficult to conceive of it happening under the current regime, OK? But it might. And actually, as WinXP is a pretty solid, robust base (there, we said something nice about Microsoft), it could produce a series of highly effective and flexible products if Microsoft could just get over all of the self-imposed, marketing-driven negatives. WinXP really is pretty much plug in and go, provided you're plugging it into the kind of hardware you thought you couldn't possibly need a year ago, but that's dirt cheap now/soon. So this is a plan that could work, if the planners have thought it right the way through. You could also factor in some of the other hardware-related stuff Microsoft has been doing lately, and come up with possible cunning packaging reasons for Microsoft doing Blade. For example, there was that Xbox stuff last year when Microsoft improbably claimed that the hardware companies had wanted nothing to do with it, so it had decided to sort out the manufacturing itself. Even though Microsoft doesn't do hardware.* Then just this week we have the Tablet announcement, where the PC companies do get to be involved, but where Microsoft's new friends at Flextronics are listed under "design and manufacturing." So run that past us again - what is it that Compaq's doing? There's more circumstantial smut. The Tablet release says it'll use "x86-compatible chip architecture," which would make it sound like we're talking about Transmeta here, except that Intel is also listed as a semi technology contributor. You could read that as a clue that Intel might have shouldered its way into the Tablet scheme late in the day, and they didn't update all of the details. Just like they didn't when Intel blew AMD out of the Xbox deal. But we digress. There is, in WinXP, support for Transmeta Crusoe and for AMD 64 (a lengthy portion in the DDK, in the latter case). Microsoft is clearly playing footsie with Intel's mortal foes, and we wouldn't be in the slightest bit surprised if Transmeta's server offering and/or AMD's were adopted for a Blade reference design. Nor, on the other hand, would be surprised if Intel managed to gazump both of these at the last minute. That's obviously one of the points of footsie, and if it worked it will obviously have cost Intel. But we would be surprised if Blade didn't turn out to be another instance of the company that doesn't build hardware defining the hardware and software platform, serving it up to the OEMs and kicking its friends at Flextronics loose on it as well. Go look at the message accompanying the joint Microsoft-Intel PC2001 spec, where it says this is the end of the series, and we'll be doing our own things from now on. This, too, is significant. ® * Microsoft keeps saying these days that it doesn't do hardware. When the PR people insert such things they're unconsciously telling you they are worried about you worrying about the things they say they're not doing. In 1984 (no significance in date) The Register owned a piece of hardware you put in an IBM PC. It was a memory expansion board. A Microsoft memory expansion board.
It had to happen - an American schoolgirl has released a song about Instant Messaging. Twelve-year-old Brittney Cleary was 'discovered' while singing karaoke in New York. Her family swiftly up and moved to Nashville to further her career, resulting the release of 'I.M. Me', a pop ditty about Brittney's favourite pastime - chatting with friends online. The lyrics feature typical IM-lingo, such as BBFN (bye-bye for now) and BRB (be right back). IM boffins will also be pleased to learn that the chorus is packed with even more of these acronyms - running along the lines of: Hey, LOL, G2G I gotta go, but watch for me 'cause I'll be right back, BRB So sign on, and IM me The youngster, who fits in radio appearances, song recordings and weekly performances in Nashville around a hectic school and dance schedule, has a CD coming out next month. "She's just a regular kid down in Nashville," her publicist claimed today, adding: "She's deciding now if she's going to have a career in country music or pop." More information on starlet can be found on her Website. Die-hard Imers, or those who want to LOL, should click here for the full lyrics of the song. ® Related Stories 1,700 students get day off school after IM threat In-stadium instant messaging for sports fans
The DRAM market may have bottomed out - temporarily -, with prices tipped to rise over the next couple of months. DRAM prices coming into the US from Taiwan on the spot market today stood at between $2.40 and $2.65 for 64MB chips (PC133), while 128MB chips were priced at $3.95 to $5.20. This means prices are almost back to their mid-January levels (when they started their current downward trend) - on January 22 64MB DRAM chips cost $2.80. Prices reached a low of $2.25 on March 5. But prices have been slowly rising since the first week of March, according to IDC, and are tipped to continue on their upward trend. Jim Cantore, IDC programme manager for memory worldwide, attributes the move to two factors. "I'm hearing that the PC OEMs are starting to re-order DRAM memory," he said, suggesting that the OEM inventory problems that have plagued the industry since last year are easing. According to Cantore, the DRAM industry anticipates that Q3 will see the end of excess inventory. ElectronicNews this week reported that Samsung expected its PC OEMs to work through their inventories by April. DRAM price rises can also be attributed to current seasonal changes, Cantore points out. Japan and Korea end their fiscal years around now, and with the scramble over to shift stock before year-end, prices are expected to continue to rise slightly in April and continue their gradual climb in May. ® Related Link ElectronicNews article Related Stories Micron cuts kit spend on 'slight' profit DRAMarama (Act IV) Cisco to reduce headcount
IBM has built "the world's quietest" range of mobile hard drives. They use IBM's Drive Noise Suppression System (DNSS), which "replaces the traditional ball bearing design with the fluid dynamic bearing spindle motor technology and voice coil motor dampening enhancement". Big Blue is also sprucing up its Travelstar line, capacity-wise. Top of the tree a 48GB HDD, touted as "the industry's highest capacity notebook drive". Other IBM drives announced today are the 30GN (available in either 20GB and 30GB) and 15GN (in 6GB, 10GB and 15GB). These drives are designed storing fat files, such as music, video, music, digital photos and streaming media. The Travelstar 48GH can store up to 48,000 high-resolution photos, 74 music CDs, 48,000 novels or 12 DVD films. This is around five times more data than the average notebook hard drive, according to IBM. And 50 per cent more than IBM's previous biggest drive could cope with - the Travelstar 32GH, which the vendor says is the current king drive in the area. The 48GH monster weighs 155 grams and spins at 5,400 rpm, compared to the usual 4,200 rpm. IBM aims to start shipping the new Travelstars in Q2. No pricing yet. ® Related Stories Western Digital intros 80GB hard drive World's fastest ever CD-RW drives! Disk drive failure is biggest bugbear for IT pros
Surfers were a touch confused today after master magician Jim Callahan revealed his 'Dying Cam'. The prankster last week promised to show "a person dying live on your computer". But the inquisitive and sadistic elements of cyberspace were this afternoon disappointed to find the following statement on the site by Callahan in the place of the promised 'Edge Exhibit': "We are all dying. I am, you are (even as you read this)- all of us are. A clock keeps track of what is lost ( you were viewing me, a person dying of natural causes). "I believe those who view life in such a way are less likely to waste time. Life is a terminal illness. Time wears us all away...From the moment of birth or before, depending on your own views, we begin the process. Most never realize they are slowly progressing to the edge, but we are. I believe in making the most of a day and enjoying it to the best of your ability at the time." Fair enough - Callahan never promised to show someone die online, only 'dying'. The stunt provoked mixed responses from visitors to his site. "Its a hoax, but im happy, nobody died!" one observer posted on the site's forum. "He IS VERY GOOOOOD.... Guys and girls just Read evry thing [sic] its perfect Jim youre [sic] right ....." is another message. But others are not conviced. "WHAT THE F*** IS ALL THIS ABOUT??" asks one confused Dane. ® Related Link A full explanation of the stunt can her found on the Dying Cam site Related Story Watch someone die online!