28th > March > 2001 Archive

Highly destructive Linux worm mutating

The recently discovered Lion worm, which attacks Linux BIND (DNS) servers, is turning out to be one nasty little package which leaves infected victims with no choice but to re-format their entire systems and rebuild from scratch. We recently received a copy of a version which was released late last week, thanks to a Register reader who prefers to remain anonymous. On examining the package, we were immediately struck by how sophisticated and functional it is, and yet how kiddie-friendly it is as well. It obviously took considerable ingenuity and forethought to create, yet requires almost none to deploy (a bit like SubSeven in that regard). It's also exceptionally destructive, as we confirmed from examining the logs of one victim who ran the Lionfind detection utility on his infected system after having cleaned up manually as well as he could. The number of files and directories Lion infects is nothing short of staggering. And it's mutating, so to speak. We had a word with Matt Fearnow at the SANS Institute, who broke the news about Lion in an advisory posted late last week. On Tuesday of this week, an upgraded version was released, Fearnow told The Register. This one includes a feature similar to one in the Ramen worm, which altered the Web pages of hacked HTTP servers with the message "Hackers looooooooooooove noodles," signed by the "RameN Crew." The new Lion worm sets up an HTTP server on port 27374 and erects a page bearing greetz from the Lion crew, Fearnow told us. All versions (there are three now) are virtually idiot proof, fire-and-forget tools. Each package contains a scanner which generates random class B addresses searching for an opening on port 53. It then queries the version, and if it finds it's vulnerable, runs a well-known BIND 8 transaction signature (TSIG) handling code exploit, and installs the t0rn rootkit. It records all successful installations in an IP log file, which it sends to the attacker via e-mail once every twelve hours. At present the Lionfind utility, by William Stearns, will detect, but not clean, the Lion worm. Stearns is working on a cleaner as well, but considering the large amount of destruction Lion causes we're not holding our breath. SANS's Fearnow says he hopes victims have a good backup. "My best advice right now is just to re-format and re-install," he confirmed. Shoutz to the NIPC We were hasty this week in our initial coverage, where we took a swipe at the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) over a Lion advisory bulletin of theirs which we deemed alarmist. "The NIPC has received reports of an Internet worm named 'Lion' that is infecting computers and installing distributed denial of service (DDoS) tools on various computer systems," the bulletin warns. That sounded like bollocks to us because the SANS advisory made no mention of it, and because we could find no evidence of a DDoS tool in the version of Lion which we evaluated; but actually, they're half right. According to SANS, the first version of Lion did come bundled with a DDoS tool called Tribal Flood Network (tfn2k); though it does not, as the NIPC strongly implies, install it automatically. So the NIPC bulletin is a bit gaseous, but not as grossly flatulent as we'd thought. Chalk it up to experience. We lost respect for the NIPC when last December they ran an alarmist bulletin with shades of terrorist designs on US power utilities, but which actually involved nothing more than a bunch of kids making use of an open FTP server to play an interactive game, as we reported here. We were ready to imagine them crying wolf again when in reality they were only whispering wolf this time. Sorry guys, our mistake. ®
Thomas C Greene, 28 Mar 2001

UK has most expensive DSL access in the world

The UK is the most expensive place in the world for fast Internet access, according to a comprehensive new report from Point Topic. The company's DSL Worldwide Directory lists and profiles DSL companies throughout the world and compares prices and the number of people on the service. Unfortunately, the report has told us exactly what we always feared - that the UK is lagging significantly behind the rest of the world when it comes to fast, always-on Internet access. Not only that but it is also the most expensive in the world. DSL is universally seen as the foundation for the Internet's future, so the news could increase pressure on monster telco BT as well as embarrass the government. There are 5.6 million people in the world with DSL (all figures up to the end of 2000), of which a pitiful 38,000 live in the UK. That's just 0.7 per cent. The US, Canada and Americas have the largest uptake with 2.9 million, Asia Pacific comes a close second with 2.3 million and Europe comes a poor third with 544,000. What about comparing the UK with the rest of Europe? We fall behind all the main European countries: Germany (189,000), France (64,000), Italy (72,000) - even Sweden (40,000) and Denmark (50,000). And this despite all the self-aggrandising talk of the UK becoming the e-capital of the world. How much does it cost average Joe to run DSL? The amortised cost in dollars per month is an eye-opener. Cheapest in the world is Chunghwa in Taiwan for $17.22. Not bad for a 512Kbps line, you have to admit. Bell Canada comes in second at $27.76 - also a bargain. Run down the list and you'll find Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore Telecom offering goods deals. Deutsche Telekom comes in at $47.58. Even further down you'll find France Telecom at $69.49. But right at the very bottom you will find the two UK suppliers. BT, of course, costs $77.19 and Madasafish $80.87. The DSL report gives the UK its own section in which it essentially pulls together all the facts and controversy surrounding DSL roll-out in the UK. This, unsurprisingly, consists entirely of a rundown on how BT has delayed, blocked, scuppered and over-charged for DSL offerings. This is not news but it is possibly the first time that the effect of BT's foot-dragging has been made clear in an international context. It is now undeniable that the UK is several leagues behind in fast Internet access. We should thank Point Topic for releasing this report to us a week early. It will be available to everyone in March and will cost you $395 or £265. Go here for more details. If you are in this industry, we would recommend it as a resource. If people would be interested in summaries of their area of the world, email us and we'll consider a series. ® Related Link Point Topic
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Mar 2001

Handspring toys with Palm alternatives

Handspring has made its strongest declaration of independence yet, vowing to use non-Palm software in future products. Handspring founder Jeff Hawkins, creator of the original Palm, has been asked outright about his OS plans, and although his answers are couched in the language of the diplomacy, it's clear that he's leaving his options open. Asked outright by Business 2.0 if Handspring might use another operating system, Hawkins replied: "I have to give you a very standard answer on this because it's a very sensitive question. The standard answer [our emphasis] is that we're very happy with Palm - and I mean that." "All the products we want to build today, we can build with Palm OS," he adds. But Hawkins points out that planning for always-on, integrated voice/data products involves a two year planning phase: "The products I'm thinking about now, daily, are not going to show up until a year from now, maybe two years." Now Handspring's licence for PalmOS expires in 2003, so we can assume that decisions for Handspring's 2003 product line are being made right now. "If Handspring grows as large as I think it will," predicts Hawkins, "then it's almost certain that we will have products that won't run Palm OS." Clearly, if Palm can't produce the goods and deliver the modern, multitasking OS that's required for always-on integrated devices - it's embarked on a major ground-up rewrite of PalmOS for version 5.0 - then Handspring would need to look elsewhere. We suspect Hawkins hopes Palm can pull it off, as it makes the task of migrating his users much easier. But he knows his responsibility is to Handspring's shareholder, not Palm's, and he clearly wants Handspring to be around for a very long time. So sentiment doesn't really come into it. But it can also be seen as jockeying for the renewal of the PalmOS license. As you'll recall from the Apple's cloning adventure in the mid-1990s. Apple belatedly decided to license MacOS to cloners, only to see these cloners build faster, cheaper and more fully featured machines, devouring Apple's market share. That's what's happened with Palm to some extent: Handspring has a faster Prism model than Palm, supports USB, and even the global GSM cellular standard these days too, via a Springboard module. So long as the Palm market as a whole is growing, Palm doesn't mind too much. But it's sure to want to maximise its own return by demanding a higher royalty than one Handspring pays now: which was negotiated when there was no Palm clone market. Expect those Symbian rumours really begin to hum. ® Related Link Business 2.0 Jeff Hawkins Interview Related Stories Maggs departure revives Palm-Symbian prospects Palm creator 'calls' Symbian boss in OS' defence
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Mar 2001

Sage buys ACT!

Sage, the UK accountancy software giant, is to buy Interact Commerce, the owners of SalesLogix, and ACT!,the mass-market contact manager, for $260m in cash. According to Interact, Sage's huge reseller channel, was a major factor in the decision to succumb to Sage's courtship. Sage estimates that less than 10 per cent of its customers use CRM software. Memory Plus has bought the trading business of chip upgrade specialist Evergreen Technologies UK. Memory Plus management bought the firm this month from Torridon for £800k. xbidit, the UK channel-only auction site, is now offering credit to the trade. The company says it has already pre-approved 250 existing xbidit customers for 30-day credit, by way of Barclays Bank. Time, the high street computer retailer, has been quietly shutting down its last 50 Office World in-store franchises over the last year,Microscope reports. The company says the outlets did not perform as well as standalone stores. Lynx Commercial Systems has qualified for MS Gold Partner status, the first UK reseller to do so. ®
Drew Cullen, 28 Mar 2001

Palm to axe 250 jobs as it dips into the red

Palm posted its latest financials last night, and while its revenues continue to grow - up 73 per cent year on year - they haven't kept its profits up - quite the reverse - or convinced the company that the outlook for the rest of the year is as rosy as it has been. Indeed, the PDA pioneer is sufficiently worried about growth though 2001 that it's going to cut 250 full-time jobs and contract workers in a bid to cut costs. So, for the three months to 2 March - Palm's third quarter of fiscal 2001 - the company reported revenues of $470.8 million, up from Q3 2000's $272.3 million. Operationally, the company made profits of $9.3 million (two cents a share), but factor in exceptional items and the figure drops to a $1.9 million (break-even on an earnings-per-share basis). This time last year, Palm recognised earnings of $15.8 million (three cents a share) before one-offs and $11.0 million once they were taken into account. Hitting the latest-completed quarter's earnings were the cost of rebating buyers of Palm's PDAs. Palm refused to recognise this cost last quarter - provoking not a little criticism of its accounting practices because it presented an arguably inaccurate picture of that quarter's earnings. Instead, Palm chose to take the hit this quarter, a traditionally poor-performing one. Palm also took a hit from its acquisition of WeSync, part of its plan to take its HotSync technology to the Web, to free the PDA from the need to be regularly connected to a host PC. Palm's enterprise drive also saw the proposed acquisition of Extended Systems, but that's not due to be completed until June, so won't impact Palm's earnings until Q1 2002. That said, Q4 isn't looking too healthy, either. Palm is predicting zero year-on-year growth for the period, with revenues set to come in at around $300-315 million, a quarter-on-quarter fall of over 36 per cent. That's a significant dip, and marks a major shift from Palm's bullish messages last quarter. That's expected to lead to a loss of eight cents a quarter, driven by a $160-165 million marketing spend to drive sales of its recently released but not yet shipping (ie. not revenue earning) high-end m500 and m505 PDAs. These are key to Palm's attempt to win back sales at the high margin end of the business, which has been hit by low-cost PDAs from Handspring and Palm's own consumer-oriented m100. The success of Compaq's iPaq PDA hasn't helped matters either. Sales of this devices have grown significantly over the last three months, so expect Palm to promote the m505 vigorously. With its colour screen and shiny silver shell, seems designed to take the iPaq on head-to-head. To help pay for all this, Palm will axe 250 full-time jobs and contract workers. Again, that's going to hit the company's Q4 bottom line, but it should contribute to the 10-15 per cent cut in costs it's hoping to realise in Q1 2002. Palm is also exploring flogging off real estate assets. ® Related Stories Sharp to beat Palm with Linux, Java - official Recession to halve PDA market growth Handspring toys with Palm alternatives
Tony Smith, 28 Mar 2001

Net via radio for schools group overstates its case

The consortium that's pitching digital radio to schools as a bypass around the UK's broadband traffic jam may be getting just a little ahead of itself. According to The Sunday Times, the Department of Education and Employment "is negotiating" with the MXR Consortium to bring Net access to schools using Psion's WaveFinder DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) device, which connects to a PC. Digital Radio has been described as broadband's best kept secret and offers data downloads of up to 1.5Mbits/s. It requires an uplink to complete the path, but for Intranets, or walled gardens, that doesn't matter: making it ideal for education. As the Sunday Times put it, "The device could be used to download up to 2,000 pages overnight... schools can specify exactly what information pupils receive, overcoming many of the security issues thrown up by the web." But when we called the Department to check how negotiations were going, they told us that there weren't any. It wasn't their job to negotiate with suppliers, they said, and referred us to Becta (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency), the body that advises schools and further education on technology. And that drew a blank too:- "We have not been asked to negotiate by the MXR, nor have they contacted us, as far as we can tell," said a spokeswoman for Becta. A Psion spokesman qualified the Sunday Times report by stressing that only schools within MXR's broadcasting area could benefit from Net-via-DAB. Psion is a member of the consortium, which was founded by record company Chrysalis, Capital Radio and Jazz FM, the Guardian Media Group and content provider UBC Media, which is preparing educational content for the service. Becta tells us that it's down to individual LEAs to buy in their own choice of providers, although it was monitoring the situation. Actually London remains the prize for MXR - it's the largest region in which it doesn't have a license, and it's currently bidding. The economics of DAB for Schools remain pretty compelling however. A WaveFinder device costs under £300, which buys less than a year's worth of residential cable or DSL access, and costs are sure to fall if demand takes off. But it isn't anything like national UK policy yet, so we'll charitably write this down to over enthusiasm.® Related Stories Broadband for free: radio kills the digital stars Psion mounts £299 digital radio land grab
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Mar 2001

Microsoft's UK e-govt service unveiled

Microsoft's e-government service for the UK was unveiled with great relish last night. For some ungodly reason, the official ceremony took place in Seattle - showing that Microsoft is now more important than the UK government. Civil servant E-bloke Andrew Pinder attended. The "government gateway" is the future, although precious little information about it is available save that it is a service built on MS software that lets people pay taxes and farmers apply for subsidies online*. You also won't find any mention of the fact that the project is late. And we have it on good authority that Microsoft's people have been bricking themselves trying to get it up and running in a decent timespan. That aside, this is wonderful news. Pinder tried hard to be optimistic about e-government but ended up saying "It's my job to make the UK the No. 1 place to do e-business. We have a large number of things to do as a nation to get that right" before reiterating the fantasy that all "government-related transactions" will be online by 2005. It is good news for Microsoft though. Taking on work for a government will inevitably cause people to view its software as secure and reliable. This fact alone was enough to push its share price up four per cent yesterday. Not only has the Beast of Redmond already taken £15 million of UK tax payers' money but Pinder admitted that the two were looking to sell the software together to other countries' governments. In the last e-gov announcement in January, the claim was that 40 per cent of government services were already online. We rooted about a bit and found out that the "target" had been met with some handy reclassification of Whitehall equipment - such as telephones being rebranded as "online media". We expect even more creative statistics throughout the year. ® * You may have missed the clever news angle the government put on it there. We wonder whether farmers applying for subsidies would have been so important before the outbreak of foot and mouth and the destruction of their livelihoods. Related Stories How the hell does the Govt meet all its cybertargets? We know how the Govt meets its cybertargets UK's e-Govt plans are a joke
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Mar 2001

Napster blocks 275,000 tracks

Napster has claimed it has prevented 275,000 songs, hidden behind over 1.6 million filenames - ie. nearly six filenames for each song - from being downloaded since it introduced its court-imposed filtering software earlier this month. The music-sharing software company made the claim in the latest round of its tit-for-tat battle with its music industry persecutors. So every time the Recording Industry Association of America claims Napster's not moving quickly enough to follow the court order to block songs owned by RIAA members from being downloads, Napster counters with the allegation that the RIAA isn't providing enough information to allow it to do so. It's all a bit silly, really. They'll be talking swipes at each others' mothers and favourite football teams next. The upshot of all this file-blocking activity, said Napster CEO Hank Barry, in a drop of 57 per cent in the number of files available for download at any one time on the Napster network, a slightly larger figure than the one estimated by Internet market researcher Webnoize last week. Barry said the average number of files shared by users has dropped from 198 to just 74. All this has been done despite the music industry's inability to provide alternative filenames to the songs it wants blocked, said Barry. The RIAA was obliged to do so by the court. There's certainly something unpleasantly triumphalist about the RIAA's harrying of Napster and the sharing software company's attempt to comply with the court order. To return to the playground metaphor, there is something of the bully in the RIAA's recent behaviour. And Barry makes a fair point when he notes that the RIAA's most recent filing with the court claims the organisation knows of many tracks that haven't been blocked by Napster. Why, he asks, didn't it pass that information to him to be used to stop the tracks being downloaded, rather than just use it as the basis of a complaint? Of course, with so many techniques available to sharers to hide song titles with obscure filenames, it's going to be hard for Napster to block everything. Then again, a number of commentators have reported that recognisable filenames representing songs from major artists continue to be shared via Napster's software, so you have to question how effective Napster's blocks are - there has to be more than six ways of spelling a track name to bypass the blocking code - no matter how honest is its intention to comply with the court order. Ditto, the RIAA's demands. It may beat up Napster, but the tracks are still out there on Gnutella, etc. ® Related Stories Napster demands fans march on Washington Napster filter cuts downloads by half Napster gets a break
Tony Smith, 28 Mar 2001

Nortel in the poo

The worst fears about the health of the networking market were realised last night when Nortel Networks further downgraded its first quarter sales forecasts and announced the loss of a further 5,000 jobs. The Canadian telecommunications equipment manufacturer now expects revenues in the range of $6.1 billion to $6.2 billion against the $6.3 billion previously predicted. This means Nortel's losses will be up to three times as much as estimated when Nortel issued a profits warning in mid-February. John Roth, president and chief executive of Nortel Networks, blamed the disappointing results on a downturn in the US economy, which he suggested was spreading globally, and increased pricing pressure. In the face of these market conditions, Nortel is further expanding its job curing programme and it now expects overall job losses for 2001 to number 15,000 by the middle of the year. Nortel has abandoned attempts to provide full year predictions of its results saying that uncertainty about how long the US economic downturn will last prevents it providing meaningful figures. ® External links Nortel's profit warning Related Stories Nortel slashes 700 UK jobs Nortel slashes more jobs £850m BT contract awarded to Marconi Nortel shows off fancy new fibre technology
John Leyden, 28 Mar 2001

Risks from hybrid Linux / Windows virus low

Security experts have downplayed the risk of what is reported to be the first virus that can infect both Windows- and Linux-based PCs. W32.Winux, which was discovered by anti-virus firm Central Command, is neither spreading nor particularly destructive. Its main points of interest are the techniques it uses. According to Central Command, W32.Winux is a non-memory resident virus which can replicate under Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000 (Win32) and Linux systems and infects PE files (Windows executable) and ELF files (Linux executable) files. The infection method used by the virus is basic. It searches for PE or ELF executable files and then calls an infection routine, which attempts to overwrite parts of the executable files it targets. Quite how it might spread isn't clearly explained and Central Command says it has received only one report of the virus, which would tie in with the bug being emailed to them by the virus author himself. Andre Post, a senior antivirus researcher at Symantec, said W32.Winux could only be spread by sharing files and described the risks from the bug as low. None of Symantec's customers have been affected by W32.Winux. "The point of interest with W32.Winux is that it might give other virus writers ideas - and more malicious payloads might be developed," said Post. According to David Millard, technical manager of Command Software (an anti-virus firm entirely unrelated to Central Command), there are fewer than 10 viruses that infect Linux systems; he said the bug should be treated as a "proof of concept" rather than anything more serious. Alex Shipp, of MessageLabs, which scans its customers email for viruses, said W32.Winux is really two viruses rolled into one and it was hard to imagine it posing a particular risk, even to users who have a Windows PC with a Linux partition. "W32.Winux has curiosity value but whether it makes it into the wild and infects anyone is doubtful," said Shipp, adding that the virus is also very easy to detect. ® Related Link Description of W32.Winux by Central Command
John Leyden, 28 Mar 2001

VIA talks to Intel about P4 licence…

VIA is going to produce a Pentium 4 chipset based on DDR SDRAM, whatever Intel thinks about it, the Taiwanese company admitted at CeBit last week. Interestingly, VIA is talking to Intel about its plans, according to Shane Dennison, one of its marketing managers, cited by eWeek. "Of course, we'd like to go the proper route," he said. "We're currently in negotiations with Intel, but we feel we're in a strong position to go forward with this." Dennison's comments sound bullish, but they're nevertheless a step back from VIA's previous stance that it already has rights to P4 thanks to the IP assets it acquired by buying S3's graphics chip business. Chipzilla rumbles and roars that the Taiwanese chipset maker is wrong, very wrong. Still, VIA's DDR-supporting PX266 is due later this year, alongside similar parts from SiS and Acer Labs, both of which have already licensed the right to support P4 from Intel. Interestingly, VIA recently said it will bundle DDR memory produced by one of its sister companies, Nanya, with its chipsets. And Ken Hurley, the head of Nanya's US and European operations, told us yesterday that with 128MB PC-2100 DDR DIMMs down to $79 a pop, the memory technology will rapidly become the dominant format in the P4 PC market. Chipzilla itself won't support DDR until Q1 2002, when it introduces a DDR version of Brookdale, the non-Rambus P4 chipset it will roll-out early Q3. Brookdale will initially support PC-133 SDRAM and is designed to accelerate P4 sales. Which may now prove harder than Intel reckons given the state of the PC market right now, ahem. ® Related Story Intel deems SiS worthy of P4 chipset licence
Tony Smith, 28 Mar 2001

1.7GHz P4 coming ‘very shortly’ – Gelsinger

Chipzilla's 1.7GHz Pentium 4 will be released "very shortly", the chip colossus' CTO, Pat 'Harry Potter' Gelsinger, told WinHEC attendees yesterday. Pat's comment tends to confirm our own expectation, derived from our internal Intel roadmaps, that the part will debut on or soon after 15 April, handsomely priced at $776 in units of 1000 before falling to $669 on 27 May. And 2GHz P4s are scheduled to show up early Q3, just in time for the PC-133 SDRAM supporting Brookdale chipset designed to get the CPU into primetime. ® Related Stories Chipzilla gears up for 2GHz-plus PCs British, American scientists discover Gelsinger co-efficient
Tony Smith, 28 Mar 2001

This man must be the biggest luddite in history

The man you see pictured above may be the greatest luddite the world has ever seen, which is particularly ironic because he happens the be the minister for Communications, Information Technology and The Arts for the Australian government. Meet Senator Richard Kenneth Robert Alston. Rich is behind a number of proposals in Australia that would seem to point to an overwhelming miscomprehension of the Internet. He also appears to view himself as a moral crusader in which he will cleanse Australia while the rest of the world descends into hell. Most recently, Rich plans to introduce a law that outlaws any online gambling whatsoever for Australian citizens. Companies can still sell betting services to people outside the country though. This comes close behind a plan to make email forwarding illegal. Oh, and not forgetting the law which holds people legally responsible for anything they post on the Internet which is not suitable for children to view (that decision being made by the police). While Senator Alston seems dedicated to nannying an entire nation and subsequently destroying Australia's Internet industry, we feel we should point out that he was awarded the Award for Outstanding Contribution to the IT Industry by the Asian-Oceanian Computing Industry at the end of 1999. Even more irony for you. He wasn't always bad - see this article that shows how he set up a system to get telecoms access to all parts of Australia. And here he's backing efforts to get libraries online. It would seem that Rich doesn't have a problem with the Internet itself, but only the way people use it for the wrong reasons (according to his mind). Unfortunately, accounting for other people's preferences and giving the freedom to do so without fear of prosecution is a key element of democracy - the process by which he has become Deputy Leader of the government - and, of course, the Internet. But then there is also a whole range of entertaining and conspiracy-based ideas. Is he being blackmailed by Rupert Murdoch, who sees the Internet as a threat? Has he found the Lord? Is he really a robot? Hopefully we will find out before the plug on Australia is pulled and the military cordon around the island prevents anyone from leaving or arriving. Wanna know more about Rich? His government homepage is here. Senate site is here. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Mar 2001

Webcasting: The Two-Headed Beast

Should webcasting primarily be an extension of a publisher's editorial operations, or an extension of its marketing operations designed to please advertisers with targeted B-to-B messages? In ITworld.com's case it's both, which is why CEO Bill Reinstein and his team have embraced the biggest challenge of their careers: how to launch a medium - with a myriad of information services within it - all while making a profit. "The barriers to entry are 100 feet tall," Reinstein says. "They're a little bit higher than just putting up a web site. Those that get in early will have their scars and success stories. We're not making $20 million a year on this, but the gross margins are good!" To save money in the short run, ITworld.com has decided not to build its own webcast facilities. Instead it relies on a subcontractor, VideoLink, of Watertown, Mass. VideoLink is primarily a television production facility with connections - literally - to CNBC, MSNBC and other national broadcasting outlets with a need for facilities in the Boston area. VideoLink has equipment and talent comparable to what you'd find anywhere in New York or L.A. With a pay-as-you-go arrangement, Reinstein and his team can keep capitalization costs low and production values high while they wait for revenues to build. Reinstein believes that the broadband content market can grow quickest when there are many third-party service providers to choose from. Reinstein says he was discouraged that Intel last month shuttered its Internet Media Services broadcast center after only nine months, abandoning its commitment to spend up to $200 million in developing webcasting services for businesses. ITworld.com licenses its webcast platform from Akamai, which also serves, among others, CNN.com and MSNBC.com. The platform has a distinct advantage over other platforms in that it can integrate a video screen and a dynamic HTML display area within a single player. With the ITworld.com player, a slide can reinforce points being made by the talking head inside the video window. This aids comprehension and retention - and by extension, viewer and advertiser satisfaction. In the near term, satisfied advertisers represent ITworld.com's most compelling webcast sales tool. In a testimonial, Dell Computer senior marketing manager Richard Katusak said "hundreds of qualified prospects" viewed a webcast on image management, "many of whom became new Dell customers within only three weeks of the event." Charlotte Perkins, an advertising manager at EDS, told SWMS that the e-solutions custom webcast produced by ITworld.com generated "good internal feedback," adding that the company was able to get many of its prospective clients online to absorb the EDS message. That's one of the big reasons why IDG is sticking it out, despite having an untenable advertising story in terms of cost-per-thousand. Advertisers seeking targeted prospects have good reasons to be excited about a webcast audience, even though it is tiny. By the act of registering, the viewer is self-selected as highly interested in the topic. If the viewer watches the entire webcast, (a behavior that is easily tracked), one may assume they are vitally interested in the topic. According to ITworld.com, a healthy percentage of registrants also indicate a willingness to receive e-mail from the sponsoring vendor after the webcast is over. All this adds up to a level of sales opportunity that even controlled circulation publications cannot deliver. At least that's how the story goes. So many obstacles remain. The biggest one might be the tyranny of time: who can afford to sit there for an hour in the middle of the weekday maelstrom? A growing number of people will do it - but the value has to be there, be it editorial or advertorial. That's the challenge - and the opportunity - for ITworld.com. This article is the second of a two-part series. Part 1 is here Copyright © 2001, Sam Whitmore's Media Survey. All rights reserved
Sam Whitmore, 28 Mar 2001

Australia to make online gambling illegal

Not satisfied with nannying laws over Internet content, the luddites in the Australian federal government have set their sights on online gambling. There was widespread confusion earlier this month over proposed legislation that made it an offence for Australians to post anything unsuitable for kids on the Internet. Now an official notice on the government's Web site says: "The Federal Government will shortly introduce legislation to prohibit Australian gambling service providers from providing online and interactive gambling and wagering services to people located in Australia, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston announced today." It goes on: "The prohibition will apply to all gaming and wagering services, including poker machines, casino games, sports betting and lotteries, that are offered on a commercial basis over the Internet or through online delivery systems such as interactive television and advanced mobile phone technologies,' Senator Alston said." The law will not apply to Australian gambling companies that only serve people outside Australia however. The onus is apparently not on ISPs (this time) but gambling companies. They will have to "determine whether users are physically located in Australia and, if they are, to prevent them from accessing the gambling site". What is going on down there? The government appears to have gone stark raving mad. Not only is the legislation over the top it is also completely impractical. We had the same thing in France with the Yahoo auction case. Then, the government ruled that Yahoo! would have to block any French citizens from accessing its US auction site because it sold Nazi memorabilia. A panel of experts decided this was possible, although one subsequently announced that it was impossible to block users because of the way the Internet is set up. It's not only impossible - because people only have to sign up to a non-Australian provider - it is also foolhardy because it will cost the industry a fortune to attempt to run (while more people move away from it). Since it can be so easily bypassed, this really is an Internet Maginot line. A telling piece of the official announcement says: "While it is a matter for other countries to decide how they will approach online gambling, Australia's status as one of the world's leading problem gambling nations demands that we take decisive action to protect the most vulnerable in our community." Most vulnerable? They've been watching too many Neighbours re-runs. And all this comes on the back of the law that makes Australians liable for any (yes, any) information on the Internet that the police (yes, the police) decide is unsuitable for children. The Prime Minister, John Howard, is right behind the legislation. He "acknowledges it [the banning of all forms of Internet gambling for every Australian] will be difficult to achieve, but believes it is worth trying." He said: "When indulged into excess, it has hugely damaging social and family consequences." Should a prime minister, charged with running the country, use his position to enforce his moral beliefs as well? Isn't that what religious leaders, philosophers, game show hosts et al are for? There has been some heavy criticism but less than you might expect. Political enemies have "serious doubts" about the legislation but are not prepared to put their career on the line. Also, most of the criticism seems to be more about the impracticality of it, rather than the fact that the government is damaging a very important industry as well as trying to bluntly and blatantly control its citizens. ® Related Link Official release Related Stories This man must be the biggest luddite in history Australia goes stark raving mad over Net censorship Australia outlaws e-mail forwarding Yahoo! Nazi tech expert backtracks Yahoo! legally obliged to ban the French?
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Mar 2001

Gates plans invisible, automatic updates for WinXP users

Most of the reporting of Bill Gates' WinHEC keynote on Monday has focussed on the Tablet PC announcement, but you'd also do well to take a look at what he had to say about Windows Update. In WinXP it's back, it's bigger than ever, and this time, maybe, resistance is futile. Bill says: "One of the key elements for us is Windows Update. We've decided that we're going to have all defined drivers on the Windows Update site. And we're making Windows Update something that's invisibly easy for the user to go up and get the latest improvements." Here he's talking about a signed driver regime where Microsoft tests and approves vendor-produced drivers, and aside from them going out with the hardware, they get posted in the giant driver pile that Microsoft intends to morph Windows Update into. Aside from drivers, Gates sees this Revenge of Windows Update as hosting all "the latest improvements... patches, new drivers, whatever it is, that's part of the PC experience." And of itself that's cool, if you think of it as a giant store where it's easy for you to get any kind of tool, wrench or widget you're going to need, and where all of this stuff has been thoroughly checked, and is of the highest quality. But personally, I'd be a lot happier about this if the storekeeper didn't have those funny eyes. Microsoft's first take on Windows Update sent quite a few corporate IT people ballistic, and also dragged forced registration in as well. People who wanted to install service packs on multiple machines weren't best-pleased about having to do it online to Update, one machine at a time, and there was a period where Microsoft seemed to be deliberately choking off availability of downloadable or CD delivered service packs. Which is how my doppelganger, William H Spam III, came to be a registered user of Office 97, but that's another story. Microsoft eased up considerably on that particular approach in Windows Update 1, but Bill's description of Windows Update 2 sounds awfully like more of the same. And the Windows XP beta code has visit Windows Update nagware in it that seems to pop up at every reboot, without giving you any obvious mechanism for telling it to go away, and not to come back. So in Microsoft's ideal world the storekeeper with the funny eyes (obviously Microsoft doesn't think of itself in quite those terms) gets practically all XP users to sign up at the Update site. The storekeeper and his little elves then get to decide what drivers and updates are good for you, and they set them up so they install invisibly, without your even being bothered by them (although this presumably will have a lot to do with where the defaults are set in the shipping code). This still won't play in the business world, where IT managers still won't be wanting their users installing (or having installed on them, without them knowing) stuff they haven't approved and decided to roll out themselves. So there'll still have to be some kind of escape hatch for them. From the home user's perspective too there's a certain amount of sense in making sure the updates aren't too invisible and too automagical, but Microsoft likely won't agree. Microsoft has been known to roll out service packs that break the software worse rather than fixing it. You might also want to maintain some control over which of the things you thought were apps decide to turn themselves into a part of the operating system. Basically, you have to ask yourself if you think the storekeeper is a fit and proper person to be making these decisions for you. He has a long history of thinking he knows best what's good for you, and he has all sorts of other motivations that you might not agree with. He did say quite recently that he'd be using a signed driver system with a regularly updated revocation list to stop you copying digital music you didn't own, and by making himself custodian and approver of the hardware drivers, he might somehow also find himself relating this to the hardware mods he's planning in the future Secure PC. All of these things and more, registrations, passports, product activation might end up in separate boxes that don't exchange data with one another, but the storekeeper is a serial control-freak, so how sure can you be about that? ® More reasons to worry MS plans 'Secure PC' that won't copy pirated audio files Welcome to .NET - how MS plans to dominate digital music sales Whistler to include 'block all unsigned apps' security mode
John Lettice, 28 Mar 2001

ATI sees red, buys FireGL

Graphics chip maker ATI, which last week agreed to buy SonicBlue's last remaining graphics operation, found itself back in the red after only a single profitable quarter since its last loss-making period. ATI's revenues for the three months 28 February - the company's second quarter of the current fiscal year - fell 39 per cent from last year's $380.1 million to $232.4 million. That resulted in an operational loss of $26.1 million (11 cents a share), well down on the $51 million (24 cents a share) it made in Q2 2000. Fortunately, ATI was able to flog off its stake in Broadcom, which made the company $65.1 million before tax. Factor that and other one-off items into the equation, and the chip maker left the quarter with net income of just $607,000 (zero cents a share). Not surprisingly, the problem appears to have been the downturn in the PC market. ATI's OEM customers, having sold fewer computers, have ordered fewer graphics chips and add-in boards. In an attempt to increase OEM demand, ATI cut its prices which led to an 18 per cent fall in margins. Today's news follows last week's move to acquire SonicBlue's FireGL graphics division for $10 million, depending on the business' performance over coming quarters. FGL was Diamond Multimedia's high-end workstation graphics unit, which remained a separate operation when the company merged with 3D chip maker S3, now called SonicBlue. S3's decision to get out of the graphics chip market saw the mainstream business sold off to VIA, but FGL still part of the company. FireGL's remit was to create pro-oriented OpenGL-based boards, which it sells to workstation vendors. Clearly, ATI doesn't reckon it can make that move itself - it needs the brand and expertise the SonicBlue division can bring. In short, it's a business deal, not a technology one. FireGL's parts are based on an IBM 256-bit graphics accelerator. It's not known whether ATI will maintain that connection, but since it will want to drive its own Radeon technology - and given that the release describing the acquisition mentions only staff and brand name rights, not technology - such a move has to be odds on. Expect high-end Radeon-based boards to be branded FireGL, bundled with ATI's OpenGL drivers and sold to existing FGL customers. ATI will pay $2.7 million up front for the division, followed by a further $7.3 million if performance targets are met. ®
Tony Smith, 28 Mar 2001

Tiny outsources sales call centre to Glasgow firm

Tiny Computers is outsourcing its direct sales call centre business to Glasgow based Coltas Contact Centres. Coltas takes over on 1 May, and is taking on 20 staff to handle Tiny's business. The 18 staff currently handling direct sales at Tiny's head office in Redhill face redeployment to 'local showroom and customer service positions.' In a statement Tiny says the Coltas deal means 'customers buying direct from Tiny will now benefit from a one-stop-shop with the ability to order brochures and products as well as having their finance confirmed almost immediately.' You'd think it would already be offering that - it seems a basic level of service. Martin Breffit, Tiny's sales director, said: "The market is changing and so must Tiny. We are determined to offer not only world class products but also world class service." Rival Time Computers has told CRN that it intends to build a direct business arm with a dedicated salesforce to compete with PC World - within the next two years. ® Related Stories Tiny cuts 60 jobs Tiny outgrows PC rivals Time staff claim they've been paint poisoned
Robert Blincoe, 28 Mar 2001

Apple at PowerPC makers' mercy – ex-exec

Apple remains at the mercy of its key component suppliers - in particular its processor providers Motorola and IBM - the former head of the Mac maker's European operation has admitted. Of course, it's easy to say that once you're out of the organisation. Diego Piacentini, who now runs Amazon.com's non-US subsidiaries having bailed out of Apple a year ago, would never have said as much while still a staffer. Users know it, commentators and analysts know it, and Apple staffers know it, but it's rare that the latter - even at a year's distance from the company - will come out and say in public what's only said in private. Piacentini's point, as detailed in an interviewed with Italian Apple-watching Web site Macity, is that while Apple is, simply, "under the thumb" of Motorola and IBM, primarily because the PowerPC isn't a desktop processor standard. With only one significant customer, Piacentini reckons, it's hard to devote the development resources to keep the platform at the cutting edge. Which is exactly what Apple is dependent upon if it's to compete with the Wintel world. "Relying on two suppliers means being always, always, always at the mercy of their deficiencies," he says. "Efficiency is achieved by economies of scale." Worse, Apple has to keep in with both players in case one of them fails to deliver what it needs. "Motorola is a company in crisis, and IBM is only a little better off, but at the moment it's unthinkable for Apple to rely on [only] one of these," says Piacentini. "I'm sure this is a terrible situation, which keeps Steve Jobs awake at night." It probably did, back in late 1999 when it Jobs felt sufficiently irritated with PowerPC partner Motorola to blame unexpected poor financial results on the chip maker's inability to ramp up volumes and clock speeds of the then recently released PowerPC 7400, aka the G4. Apple had to persuade IBM to start making the chips so that it would - eventually - have enough to meet demand. Jobs' pronouncement followed well-publicised problems Motorola was having getting the 7400 to run at over 500MHz at a time when the x86 world was in spitting distance of 1GHz. Says Piacentini to Webcity: "The 'Megahertz Myth' was a much discussed topic when I worked for Apple, especially regarding relations with the German marketing team, which insistently asked us to bring the nominal megahertz value to the competitors' one." Not that he reckons the solution is to abandon the PowerPC platform. "We all know it's bad publicity to have a 500MHz processor when others have one of 1000MHz, but I don't think it's so important as to change the fortunes of a firm," he says. "As they say here, it's 'nice to have', but since IBM, and especially Motorola can't have... let's not worry too much about it. The customer who wants to get a good buy, will find out for himself the difference between a Risc and a non-Risc processor." Certainly, Apple seems to have survived despite opting for a non-standard desktop processor, though it's questionable whether it can build a bigger business on the back of other aspects of its systems, such as design or even MacOS X. What it should do, reckons Piacentini, is to broaden its range of core markets. "My opinion is that by selling only to few markets in the computer sector, ie. mostly the consumer market - which is not what Compaq or Dell did - Apple received very severe blows." ® Related Link Macity's interview with Diego Piacentini (English version)
Tony Smith, 28 Mar 2001

MS nixes MSDN WinXP Beta 2 downloads

Microsoft seems to have made a total pig's ear of WinXP beta access for MSDN subscribers, and has compounded this by inflicting another one of those online foul-ups it's so good at on would-be Preview Program buyers. Due credit to Paul Thurrott of WinInfo for digging this one out - Register Preview Program subscriber William H Spam III has just been sitting there like a dummy waiting for the alert email from MS, so missed all the action. Microsoft was going to make XP Beta 2 available for download by MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscribers, who all pay a substantial amount of money for early access to Microsoft products, and are therefore not likely to be best pleased by the company's failure to deliver. We know for a fact that download access for MSDN was still being considered at the weekend, but clearly Microsoft must have decided against it at the last moment. The reason offered by Microsoft is the dreaded Product Activation system, which requires that the downloaders have product activation keys to enter. Beta testers have these, but MSDN subscribers don't, and although Microsoft intends to have a system for distributing keys electronically by the time XP ships, it hasn't got one right now. Yes, we know, there are universal keys they could use posted all over the Web, but somehow we don't think Microsoft would be very happy about that. CDs of Beta 2 are being sent out, but Paul's got conflicting information on when. It might be yesterday, today, or it might be the first week in May. MSDN subscribers might consider that quite a few people who aren't on the beta test, haven't gone for the Preview Program and haven't stumped up for MSDN are already downloading illicit Beta 2 code. Go figure territory, surely... The Preview Program mess probably also relates to the product keys, but included magically changing terms and conditions as well. According to Paul, the first 20,000 people to access the site were offered a download of Beta 2 for $9.95, but then found they couldn't download it after all once they'd paid up. Now the site offers CDs of RC1 and RC2 for $19.95, and downloads of RC1 and RC2 for $9.95. But as they're not out yet, you can't download them. It does however suggest that Microsoft expects to have electronic key distribution in place by RC1. Fingers crossed, people. ® Related Link: Paul's story, in which he sounds remarkably like a hacked-off MSDN subscriber
John Lettice, 28 Mar 2001

Oftel tells BT to stop whingeing

BT may be in serious trouble at the moment but don't think its attitude to controlling UK telecoms has changed. Oftel decided in February that the company was still making an unnecessary profit from household phone lines and so it would extend its price capping system. Up until today, BT has simply argued that this isn't the case and the controls should be removed - its usual approach to shifting the end-point of any argument. Oftel is gradually getting wise to this and has refused. Although why it writes this up in a press release today as "BT has accepted the proposed new retail and network price controls", we don't know. And so the controls that will see BT change household charges by inflation less 4.5 per cent (i.e. if inflation is 4.5 per cent, prices stay at the same level) will stand. As well as this there is a 7.5 per cent on FRIACO - which at some point may make it viable. The controls will stand until 31 July 2002. There will also be another evaluation then to decide whether to extend them still further to July 2003. In the February report, Oftel concluded that "BT's returns on calls, assessed on the basis of BT's cost allocation, remained substantially above a reasonable level. These returns were significantly offset by the failure to recover fully through line rental the costs allocated to access under BT's cost allocation. Nevertheless, the overall level of profitability exceeded what BT requires to cover its full costs and make a reasonable return." Meanwhile Sir Bonfield (we're still behind you, Pete) and Sir Vallance are still refusing to poke their heads out the ivory tower's windows and listen to the cries for their heads. That's the spirit. ® Related Link Oftel's report in full Related Story Handcuffs remain on BT
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Mar 2001

BOFH: A book is born

Site newsSite news The legendary Bastard Operator from Hell, as featured in your runaway Reg has been immortalised in print by publishers Plan Nine. Weighing in at a mighty 160 pages, this compendium of computing capers is guaranteed fun for all the family. The must-have tome is illustrated by Sluggy Freelance's Pete Abrams. The book is released on 1 April. And if that doesn't satisfy your lust for BOFH, you can buy our exclusive t-shirt and cap here. ®
Lester Haines, 28 Mar 2001

Cisco and MS team on wireless security

Cisco has announced what it says is the first implementation of a draft security standard for wireless networking. The networking giant collaborated with Microsoft to develop, deliver and deploy the first enterprise authentication and security architecture based on the draft IEEE 802.1x and Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) standard. EAP is designed to allow wireless client adapter manufacturers and RADIUS server vendors to independently develop interoperable client side and server side security software. The idea for the IEEE 802.1x standard, which deals with port-based network access control, is to allow enterprises to scale the deployment of wireless networks while still having centralised security management. It provides functions such as centralised user identification, authentication, dynamic key management and accounting. IEEE 802.1x is positioned as providing simplified administration compared to systems which use static Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) key management. Microsoft is Cisco's largest wireless LAN enterprise customer and the networking firm sees it collaboration with them as a proving ground for securing enterprise wireless networks. It's well known that wireless security is pretty flaky and concerns about WEP were highlighted in research by University of California at Berkeley and security vendor Zero Knowledge Systems, which showed ways in which wireless LAN traffic could be intercepted. Work on beefing up the security of wireless is welcome but we'd be more confident if a large bank, which would have an instinctive understanding of security, was used as a proving ground for wireless security rather than Microsoft, notwithstanding its up close and personal experience of hacking last year. Support for the standard will now be included in Cisco's Aironet 350 Series of Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b) compliant wireless local area networking (WLAN) products, which are currently shipping. ® External links Security of the WEP algorithm Cisco and Microsoft team on wireless security (press release)
John Leyden, 28 Mar 2001

Online auction leaves Lennon's car in the lock-up

Mick Fleetwood's online auction site had a bit of a set-back yesterday at the Hard Rock Café in London when the 1970 Mercedes owned by John Lennon failed to reach the reserve price of £200,000. A John Lennon piano also came up short of the £1 million expected - fetching "just" £750,000. The auction was run live on Mick's - you know, the tall bloke out of Fleetwood Mac - online auction site that he's set up with auction expert Ted Owen. It's called FleetwoodOwen.com. Whether it was the recession, dotcom bubbles or simply a drop in John Lennon mania, we don't know, but it is a step down from the success of the self-same event (same venue) in October, when another Lennon piano went for £1.45 million when it was expected to reach just £1 million. Mick wasn't that disheartened though - over 80 per cent of the lots (over 100) reached or exceeded their "expected prices" - whether this means the reserve or not, we can't be sure. Plus we like Mick cause he's a Reg reader - if he wants to invite us to the next one, we may even do a piece on it. As well as the custom-built Pullman 600 Mercedes, other goods up for auction included photos of the Beatles in Hamburg, some Stones pics, two signed Jim Morrison poems, an Elton John upright piano and a Marc Bolan contract. ® Related Link FleetwoodOwen.com Related Story Mick Fleetwood digs The Reg
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Mar 2001

Fatal Attraction revenge on the Net

What do you do when your ex-love turns into a bunny boiler? How about posting their rantings on the Net? That's what one Dallas man decided to do after he dumped his girlfriend of eight months. He claims that the woman called him incessantly (50 voicemail calls on his mobile phone, with 25 in just one night), so he registered the URL psychoexgirlfriend.com, and stuck her messages on the site. The stunt has obviously hit a nerve - in the last week more than 150,000 people have logged to listen the woman's messages, which are alternately painful and scary. The site received 200,000 hits in its first two days. [The site is also a pop-up nightmare, so be warned - Ed.] "Above all else, let this be a lesson to you - run, don't walk, from a psychotic woman," the site states. The woman, who gets more and more hysterical as the messages progress, also seems to have captured the imagination of America's youth. Students at Boston University have already devised a drinking game that entails logging onto the site and knocking back a shot every time they hear the unfortunate ex use the F-word, spinthebottle.com reports. Browser beware/i> Psychoexgirlfriend.com features a JavaScript code which works on a timer and opens a number of pop-up windows containing banner ads and the like, each of these pop-up windows spawn other pop-ups at random intervals. This is a technique well-used on pirated software and pornographic Web Sites. On of these pop-ups features an option to change a user's default Web page. Another, which spawns itself off an Window containing a picture of Jennifer Love Hewitt, attempt to download a plug-in for the GoHip! Search engine, and has caused concern from some Register readers. Mark Read, a professional services consultant at MIS Corporate Defence, said he was concerned that the application was signed only two days ago, which he felt was somewhat "worrying". "You should never download this kind of content," he added. If you do want to visit the site Read advises setting security settings to high. ® Related Links Psychoexgirlfriend.com - WARNING: this site is pop-up hell Spinthebottle.com Related Story Wife exacts revenge over email
Linda Harrison, 28 Mar 2001

Police in mobile phone theft SMS blitz

Amsterdam police have launched a scheme to bombard mobile phone thieves with text messages. As soon as a phone is reported stolen an SMS message stating: "This device is pinched. Purchase or sale is an offence - the police", will pop up on its screen. This same message will be sent every three minutes. "The idea is to drive the thieves mad," a police official involved in the operation, which started yesterday, told Reuters. Police say the harassment techniques are an attempt to tackle muggings, which have been on the increase since October. Three quarters of muggings involve a mobile phone being nicked. Around 500 mobile phones are stolen in Britain every day. ® Related Stories UK beats on mobile phone muggings Top cop wants crackdown on mobile phone mugging Mobile industry turns back on pre-pay market
Linda Harrison, 28 Mar 2001

Give us all your money – or we shoot 100k DSL customers

Around 100,000 US DSL users face losing their service next week after the collapse of talks between NorthPoint and its former DSL ISPs. Telco monster AT&T last week struck a deal to buy most of the assets, including the equipment and network, of bankrupt DSL carrier NorthPoint. It decided not to buy the customer base. Since then the ISPs affected by the move have been frantically trying to get customers fixed up with DSL through other carriers, while warning that time is running out. Around 20 ISPs used NorthPoint's network to provide DSL to US customers. At the time of the AT&T announcement, around a dozen of them bandied together to try to save the service for at least a month and gain time to switch customers to other networks. Between them, they offered $2.4 million to NorthPoint to keep the DSL service going for the extra month. But last night negotiations broke down. NorthPoint and its bankers decided to "significantly escalate" the amount needed to keep the service running, according to Telocity, one of the ISPs involved. "It seems that NorthPoint's bankers want the ISPs to pay an unreasonable amount of money for the network staying up prospectively, as well as retroactively," said Ned Hayes, Telocity CFO. "Further, NorthPoint and its bankers have backed away from any guarantees of network performance over the next 30 days, even if the funds are provided," he added. Telocity is now considering asking the California Public Utilities Commission to get involved on behalf of customers affected by NorthPoint's bankruptcy. AT&T has not explained why it decided not to take on NorthPoint's subscribers, but the fact that the company has its own ISP, and also offers its own telephone/Internet access package, may have something to do with it. Whatever the reason, it has put the ISPs in an awkward position. Offering to compensate customers is all very well, but those users have probably had a long wait for the service in the first place. And when they get fixed up with a different carrier they may then have to fork out for a new DSL modem (their NorthPoint one may not be compatible with another carrier's service). Hayes today described the mood of NorthPoint's former ISPs as "very frustrated". "While much of the focus has been on NorthPoint, we don't necessarily hold AT&T blameless in the outcome of this situation," he said. There were an estimated 2.5 million DSL lines in the US at the end of last year. ® Related Stories UK has most expensive DSL access in the world 1.5 m North Americans grab broadband in Q4 US DSL indie market 'near total collapse'
Linda Harrison, 28 Mar 2001

They call me Anti-Spam Bill

A US Congressional Committee unanimously approved a bill today aimed at banning spam. The bill, approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would allow surfers or ISPs to block unwanted emails, while forcing spammers to include a return e-mail and physical address in their messages. Users would also be able to demand their names be taken off spammers' email lists. ISPs would be able to sue the email senders in federal court for $500 for each violation, and up to a maximum of $50,000 for any one spammer. Surfers would also be allowed to sue, but the HR718 bill would not allow class-action lawsuits. Next stop for the bill is the Judiciary Committee. ® Related Stories Official: Spam costs E10 billion Europe warms to spam ban Cisco spams its resellers
Linda Harrison, 28 Mar 2001

Zelerate goes titsup.com

San Mateo-based open source pioneer Zelerate - formerly OpenSales - is closing its door today according to a number of reliable but unconfirmed sources. The company shed half of its staff on Friday, leaving a skeleton two dozen or so manning the pumps this week. Zelerate (formerly OpenSales) sells consultancy and services around a software libre content management system that goes head-to-head with Broadvision, IIS and their ilk. The company was co-founded by former eToys CTO and ex-NASA alumni Rob Ferber. The company shed 34 staff in January. Its mailing list started bouncing today, and we received no reply from the PR operation. Hardly surprising, as it was axed on Friday we now learn. "Closing the deals was their problem," a source close to the company told us. That we guess, and the panic flight of VC funding out of Silicon Valley tech ventures. However Zelerate found itself unable to leverage the potential of the GPL license with the real free software community, say insiders. "The company couldn't accept any code from the community, even if we wanted to. [Zelerate] turned down a complete set of patches porting AllCommerce to Oracle because the lawyers hadn't drafted that agreement yet..." said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Management had no idea how to leverage open source development into an asset for the company, and instead behaved like a normal software development company that gave away its product for free." Not a business model to keep VCs on board, we guess, particularly when they're fleeing Silicon Valley tech start-ups. ® Related Story Open source pioneer cuts staff
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Mar 2001