3rd > April > 2001 Archive

PC World goes the distance with P4 SMS compo

Intel is running a competition with PC World to give away 100 P4 PCs. You SMS them your post code, they send you a message back giving you a date and time to turn up at your local store to enter a prize draw. Now either PC World is introducing a cross-country challenge element to the competition, or they want to invite you to stores that are a little too far away for you to be bothered to turn up. If the latter is the case, then Hey Presto!, it gets your postcode, but doesn't have to give away any PCs. To be fair, PC World doesn't use the word local in the competition blurb. And quite rightly. I entered my NW6 London post code and got invited to the Colchester store 60 miles away - when there is the Staples Corner store 10 minutes up the road. Reader Nick Crossland had a similar experience. "Their postcode tracking software is rubbish - it keeps sending me details stores 50+ miles away, when my nearest PC World is actually 10 minutes away." And on 1 April he received an SMS apologising for changing the date and time of the contest at the Stockport branch. "The time and date for the draw at Phase IV The Peel Centre Stockport Cheshire is now on 1 April B4 12:00. Sorry for any Incontinence caused" Nick says: "I know it's a very exciting competition, but I'm afraid it still left my bladder control intact." Being sent on 1 April might be an indicator that someone somewhere is having a laugh, but PC World's corporate affairs department, which is looking into the matter, has already conceded the company doesn't do jokes. ®
Robert Blincoe, 03 Apr 2001

Chinese Feds demand computer virus samples

China's Ministry of Public Security has been requiring Western anti-virus vendors to supply samples of malicious code as a condition of doing business with Mainland consumers, the Wall Street Journal reports. The official Chinese explanation would have us believe that the secret police have lately gone into the consumer protection business by claiming that the samples are necessary to enable the Feds to test the effectiveness of the software being sold. Tantalized by the glittering promise of 1.2 billion (largely penniless) consumers, Network Associates, Symantec and Trend Micro have graciously complied, offering up approximately 300 virus samples to curry favor enough to sell their products in the PRC. What the Chinese Feds really intend with these samples is unclear, but we can be confident that the consumer-protection cover story is the last explanation likely to be true. It's long been known that China is developing a cyber-warfare capability, since it lacks the technological sophistication, manufacturing capacity and raw capital required to compete head-to-head with military juggernauts like the USA, EU, and, until recent years, Russia. Beijing clearly sees information warfare as an inexpensive battlefield equalizer. But according to the Journal report, only the most common malicious programs in circulation -- all of which are easily detected -- have been surrendered. Most of these are available on the Web to anyone capable of using a search engine with a modicum of ingenuity. It seems implausible, then, that the PLA and internal security apparatus would rely on submissions from vendors when a thorough Web search will yield much the same raw material. Nevertheless it's beyond question that the Chinese authorities intend to secure for themselves the capability of launching devastating cyber attacks. With that in mind, we might make sense of this trend if we consider that they might wish to see a broad sample of detectable viruses in hopes of modifying them to evade detection without diluting their effectiveness. We can also be confident that they're gleefully breaking every copyright law known to man, reversing the anti-virus software in search of other weaknesses they can exploit along those lines. Incredibly, Network Associates Research Director Vincent Gullotto is quoted by the Journal saying that he's "met with [the Ministry of Public Security], developed a certain level of trust, and believes they're doing what they're talking to us about." Isn't it remarkable how greed can instantly transform a jaded businessman into a gullible Pollyanna? ®
Thomas C Greene, 03 Apr 2001

Gateway flees Canada, scales back in Europe

Gateway is shutting down all 10 Canadian outlets with the loss of 220 employees after just nine months as a retailer in the country. And local retailers are crowing, judging from this report in The Globe and Mail. "For other Canadian companies . . . it shows that a US retailer coming into Canada is not a slam dunk," one said. Gateway will continue to sell PCs in Canada by phone, over the Web and through resellers. Question is, will it do with its retail stores in Europe? According to Microscope, the PC maker is already back scaling back in EMEA, withe loss of 200 jobs. The company is also said to be mulling its departure from countries where it has an insignificant presence (so that would mean the UK and Ireland are safe then). Gateway is also phasing out its US ISP, Gateway.net. This will cease operations in July, but the company recommends people switch over to AOL instead. AOL is the backbone provider for Gateway.net so there shouldn't really be too much pain for customers making the switch. ®
Team Register, 03 Apr 2001

Intel CPUs roll off 300mm, 0.13 micron line

Intel's Hillsboro, Oregon plant has begun punching out functional processors based on 0.13 micron technology and on 300mm wafers. It has to be both, since other companies have reached either 0.13 micron or started working with 300mm wafers already. "Intel expects chips produced on 300mm wafers to cost 30 per cent less than those made using the smaller wafers," said Tom Garrett, Intel's 300 mm programme manager. "By shrinking the circuit lines to 0.13 microns and increasing the wafer size to 300mm, we are able to quadruple the output of a standard factory operating today." Note the "expects" - that level of productivity is a long way off. Even Intel admits that, which is why the 300mm, 0.13 micron facility is a 'D' installation - 'D' for development. It will be some time before it's rated 'F', for fab. We don't expect 0.13 micron CPUs on 300mm to roll off the line in production quantities until Q1 2002. Intel's first release 0.13 micron CPU, the Pentium III family member codenamed Tualatin, ships early next quarter and is currently being run out on 200mm wafers. Indeed, the chip giant has already been ramping up Tualatin production since Q1, according to Intel 'Inquirers'. Anyway, for all you fab wonks out there, here's what Intel says about its 0.13 micron process: "This technology allows the company to manufacture chips with circuitry that is so small it would take almost 1000 of these 'wires' placed side-by-side to equal the width of a human hair. This advanced process technology will enable high performance microprocessors that can contain more than 100 million transistors and run at multi-gigahertz clock speeds. Intel's 0.13 micron process technology features the world's fastest transistor used in volume production. Intel transistors are the foundation of the industry's fastest microprocessors. "Intel uses the smallest transistor gate in production and the thinnest of thin films to make these ultra speedy transistors. Intel's transistor gate measures just 70nm (0.07 microns in length). Intel's advanced 0.13 micron process technology also features a 1.5nm gate oxide that is the thinnest in the industry for a manufacturing technology and provides industry-leading transistor performance at lower operating voltage. In addition to the ultra-small transistor gate and thin oxides, Intel's 0.13 micron logic technology has high performance interconnect technology featuring six-layers of copper metalisation." ®
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2001

ICANN approves VeriSign's .com monopoly

It appears that VeriSign is going to control the .com registry for all eternity following a decision by ICANN Monday which guarantees it ownership until November 2007, and sweetens the pot with an option to renew for four years thereafter. VeriSign will retain rights to the .org registry through 2002, and .net through 2005. The deal favors VeriSign -- many would say to an outrageous degree -- by allowing it to continue selling domain names while controlling the domain name registry. It was approved by a vote of 12-3, with one abstention. Vint Cerf, Ivan Moura Campos, Jonathan Cohen, Phil Davidson, Masanobu Katoh, Hans Kraaijenbrink, Sang-Hyon Kyong, Stuart Lynn, Jun Murai, Alejandro Pisanty, Nii Quaynor, and Linda Wilson voted in favor. Amadeu Abril i Abril, Karl Auerbach, and Andy Mueller-Maguhn voted against. Ken Fockler abstained. Helmut Schink had left the call by the time of the vote, according to meeting minutes which ICANN posted shortly after the deal went down. Final approval by the US Department of Commerce is required, but no one seriously expects that process to involve more than a wink and a rubber stamp. ® Related Stories ICANN's VeriSign registry deal done without consultation The ICANN meeting in a nutshell
Thomas C Greene, 03 Apr 2001

Be axes 25 per cent of staff

Following weekend reports that Be is about to run out of cash, the company yesterday announced it was trimming its already small headcount by cutting "approximately" 27 jobs - around one quarter of its worldwide workforce. The axe will fall primarily on the necks of sales, marketing and admin staffers, but Be admitted that some engineers are off too, all of them working on non-core products. The redundancies come just days after Be warned its ongoing viability as business has been called into question by its continued losses and accumulated deficit - which on 31 December 200 had reached $94.4 million. Cash reserves, which had dwindled to $14 million by the end of last year, and would "not be sufficient to meet operating and capital requirements at our currently anticipated level of operations beyond the end of the second quarter of 2001." To continue trading, the company said, it will need to scale back its operations, possibly through job cuts. Be's current burn rate with its 104 staff prior to yesterday's cuts was around $5m per quarter, of which 40 per cent was R&D. The job cuts ought to see Be continue intact through to the Fall. But the news, together with Be's registration of openbeos domains, will add strength to suggestions that Be will hand its desktop OS to world+dog under some kind of software libre license, perhaps to coincide with a farewell BeOS release that includes the long-awaited new networking stack BONE, and GL support. BeOS itself has been mothballed since Be's strategic shift to making internet appliances and multimedia systems, although Be has insisted it continued to play a key part as the 'development platform' for BeIA OEMs. The OS has fallen behind in support for ATA-100 and SCSI 160 disks, for example, and 3D drivers: gaps that could rapidly be filled using free software. Last week's SEC filing hinted that a more focused, dedicated software kit would be offered to OEMs as a development platform. Be was formed in 1990 from ex-Apple staffers to create a new, multi-processing computer platform. The hardware business soon proved unprofitable and - like NeXT before it - Be switched tactics to focus on its OS product. Unlike NeXT, Be was unable to persuade Apple to buy it up. Last year, Be decided to focus on the then much-hyped information appliance market. As yet, no product based on its software has shipped, though Sony's eVilla appliance is expected to ship in May. Whatever money Be has so far made out of the Sony deal, it's clearly not enough to ensure the company's survival. ® Related Stories Be signs Sony
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2001

Rambus vs. Infineon: final pre-trial meet set

The final pre-trial hearing in Rambus' legal action against Infineon has been set for 10 April in preparation for what a battle over patents that will have a major affect on the memory industry. That was the date the trial itself was expected to kick off, but that's been put back a week. In the trial, Rambus is hoping that the jury will side with it against Infineon, and declare that the German company has violated Rambus' SDRAM intellectual property. In the most recent pre-trial hearing, conducted on 29 March, Infineon tried to persuade Judge Robert E Payne to hear a motion asking for a summary judgement on the infringement claim. Infineon believes that, following the Judge's Markman Ruling - a key part of any patent infringement case, it essentially defines the range of allegations to be considered in the trial - there's enough of a case for a summary judgement dismissing Rambus' action. However, accepting Rambus' claim that it can pursue its case in good faith, it looks like Judge Payne will allow the jury trial to go ahead. "I'm not going to put [Rambus] to this task of defending summary judgement motions at the same time they are going through trying to pick up the aftermath of what should have been done before, without regard to whose fault it was," ruled Payne. Infineon won a small victory in that one Rambus expert witness, Dr Huber, will apparently not be allowed to testify, having changed his "characterisation of [Infineon] products" between his original report and a supplemental report issued after the Markman Ruling. Said the judge: "Flip-flops are all right, I suppose, for those who are running for elected office. They are not much good for experts or anybody else." Infineon's point is that Rambus' case that the trial should proceed with a jury is based on the validity of Huber's testimony. Having changed his mind, Huber's testimony is called into question, and thus so is Rambus' claim that it can proceed and, in good faith, prove infringement. The final pre-trial conference on 10 April will reveal whether Infineon's gambit pays off. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2001

Apple's Australia's top dealer goes pear-shaped

Apple Australia has lost patience with Buzzle, its biggest reseller, and placed the company into receivership, according to Computer Daily News. Buzzle collapsed owing AUS$30m, almost half of which was owed to Apple. The company, formed last year through the amalgamation of six dealerships, operates 24 of Australia's 68 Applecentres, accounting for 40 per cent of Apple Australia's turnover. Combined sales are around AUS$85m a year. Companies go bust and credit insurers get nervous. We all know this. After some high-profile collapses such as Datrontech, with £18m in trade debts, credit analysts are getting tougher and credit insurers are less inclined to lose any more money. Just two resellers -Time and Dabs - have admitted to credit squeeze, but it is reasonable to infer that this is a widespread problem. Microscope has a piece on the subject - it's very short on specifics. But in the circumstances, this is just as well. The quickest way to see a struggling company go down the tubes is to tell the world it's a struggling company. Computacenter has won sole IT product supply rights to the Post Office, in a deal worth a claimed £40m a year, Microscope reports. The company has managed the Post Office account in tandem with ICL Multivendor Computing since 1998. ICL disputes the value of the contract and says it withdrew because the value of the business was declining.
Drew Cullen, 03 Apr 2001

Gameplay up for sale

Gameplay, the troubled multiplatform games outfit is up for sale. Following informal chats with prospective buyers Gameplay's board has appointed Commerzbank Securities to assist the process. In a statement, Gameplay's board said it "remains committed to positioning Gameplay at the forefront of digital delivery of games but is equally committed to maximisation of shareholder value particularly in the light of stockmarket conditions and the Company's current share price." It sounds like sell, sell, sell. Gameplay's board "believes that the current market valuation does not reflect the true underlying performance or potential of Gameplay". On February 2, Gameplay announced it was axing 275 jobs as part of cuts saving £12.5 million a year. The Group was divided into two distinct operating divisions: the Technology Division and the Boxed Games Division. Gameplay's interim results are due on April 30. ® Related Stories Gameplay axes 275 jobs Gameplay still flooded Gameplay HQ flooded
Robert Blincoe, 03 Apr 2001

IBM laps up desktops

IBM is merging laptop and desktop divisions, creating a Personal Computing Devices group. This group will handle the NetVista desktop line, the ThinkPad notebook range, plus all design, development and logistics for 'personal computing' devices. Its basically an admission that customers don't think there's that much difference between buying notebooks and desktops. And IBM can cut costs by sharing development, especially if the market really moves towards LCD monitors for desktops. The move also creates a beefy PC operation, which looked a little thin after IBM moved its Intel server business out of its PC division, in February. Fran O'Sullivan, who ran the notebook business, will head the Personal Computing Devices group. Desktop boss Harry Nichols becomes VP of cost management, large enterprises. ® Related Stories IBM handwriting notebook gets an outing PC price war coming warn analysts
Robert Blincoe, 03 Apr 2001

Sega employees ‘imprisoned and ignored’

Console giant Sega has assigned 12 disgruntled employees at its Tokyo headquarters to sit in a windowless room from 9am to 5.45pm every day "waiting" for nothing to happen, in order to avoid a financial slap from the authorities. The 12 employees claim the videogame giant is bullying them into quitting, According to an intriguing article at Mainichi News. Sega is obliged to abide by the workers' request to be posted at the company's Tokyo headquarters under law, but says there is no work for them to do there. The company's labour union, of which all 12 are members, is furious. "Transferring a full employee can only take place with the consent of the worker, but this is simply a unilateral order issued by the company," a rep told Mainichi. "Anybody who refused to obey the order was shunted off into the separate room. It's outright bullying." Many employees had to be removed from their posts at Sega due to restructuring of the business, with the company struggling to balance its books. Sega has usually lent full employees to subsidiaries, but from yesterday morning, any employees sent to an affiliate company will go as full employees of that company and not of Sega Corp. The 12 holdouts are refusing to abide by the new policy, and the union is angry at their treatment. Their job description is now "waiting, because there are no foreseeable duties at the moment, with working hours continuing as they have been." ® Copyright © 2001 Eurogamer.net. All rights reserved.
Eurogamer.net, 03 Apr 2001

Advertising clampdown on monitor sizes

In the biggest clampdown on PC advertising trickery since the ex-VAT price scam was stamped on, monitors will now be sold clearly stating their visible screen size. The same goes for TVs. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will no longer accept standard industry practice of giving CRT (cathode ray tube) sizes in adverts, without explaining how much of that the user can actually see. All PC adverts placed after 1 May will have to comply with this decision. The move follows the ASA upholding a complaint made against three leading PC manufacturers - Evesham Micros, Time Computers and Tiny Computers - that the way they advertised their monitors was misleading. The Committee of Advertising Practice, the trade body which draws up the British codes of advertising, has sent a letter to the UK's computer retailers and manufacturers informing them of their new responsibility. The TV is going to get its letter shortly. A spokesman for the ASA said: "We don't think it's right to say a PC comes with a 19 inch CRT monitor - most consumers won't know what that means." And there's not get out by burying the explanations in microprint. "Explaining industry practice in small print and footnotes is not prominent enough. It has to say it prominently," said the spokesman. In the case of Evesham, Time and Tiny, the ASA made the same statement - The Authority told the advertisers to use the visible screen size in future or to explain prominently and next to the monitor size information if the quoted screen size was the CRT size. All three of them had made the same defence that they were just following standard industry practice. In Evesham's case the ASA pointed out that if the sizes Evesham gave for TFT screens matched the size of screen viewable by a user, then why couldn't the same apply to CRT displays. Evesham said it was happy to comply with the ruling. Spokeswoman Carolyn Worth said: "It's not going to make a whole hill of beans to our advertising, except use up a bit more copy space." She also pointed out that as different monitor manufacturers use different size facia; there was no standard viewable screen size for any standard CRT size. ® The Committee of Advertising Practice's letter to the computer industry ADVERTISING OF MONITOR SCREEN SIZES As you may be aware, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is the body that represents advertisers and promoters, their agencies, the media and the trade and professional organisations of the advertising and sales promotion business. It writes and enforces the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion (the Codes) and co-ordinates the activities of its members to achieve the highest degree of compliance with the Codes. The Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA) is the independent body that endorses and administers the Codes. The ASA recently adjudicated against three advertisements for personal computers in which the monitor sizes described were not the actual visible screen sizes. The advertisers had explained in the small print or linked footnotes, that it was industry standard practice to measure monitors using cathode ray tube (CRT) sizes and that actual viewing areas were up to 1" to 1.2" less. Although the Authority accepted that it was industry practice to describe computer monitors by reference to the size of the CRT, it considered that most readers would interpret the descriptions as corresponding to the visible screen size of the monitors. The advertisers were asked to either quote visible screen sizes in future advertising or explain prominently and alongside the monitor description if the quoted screen size was the CRT size. Many, but by no means all, companies already state in their advertisements the visible screen size of monitors/televisions. In order to create a level playing field in this area of advertising and to avoid misleading consumers, we are now contacting computer and television retailers and manufacturers who quote monitor/television sizes in their advertisements to advise them of the ASA ruling and ask them to amend their advertising if necessary. We advise that you either quote the visible screen size (or viewable size) or explain prominently and next to the measurement that the quoted size is the CRT size and not the visible screen size. For example, "19'' CRT monitor (18'' viewable)" would be acceptable, as would "19'' CRT monitor (not viewable size)". "19'' CRT monitor" or "19'' Cathode Ray Tube monitor" on their own are unlikely to be acceptable because consumers might not know either what the CRT (or Cathode Ray Tube) is or, if they do, that it is inevitably larger than the viewable screen size. Explaining industry practice in small print and linked footnotes is unlikely to be acceptably prominent qualification. This advice applies equally to any other measurements that is not the viewable size but might be interpreted as such. We are requesting that all advertisers ensure that if they place advertisements on or after the 1 May 2001, these have been amended in view of the above guidance and comply with the recent ASA ruling. Related Link The ASA's rulings against Time, Tiny and Evesham Related Stories Oi! Wanna a 1m flat screen for less than $3000?
Robert Blincoe, 03 Apr 2001

PC2100 DDR SDRAM out and about

Direct memory supplier Crucial.com has said it's got some PC2100 DDR SDRAM for you - and it's available now. Prices for the modules start at $60.29 for 128MB. Jeff Mailloux, director of marketing at Crucial's parent Micron, said: "Now that DDR SDRAM chipsets are becoming more widely available for a variety of processors, we expect DDR SDRAM usage to increase rapidly in both desktops and servers, with additional applications following shortly thereafter. Because DDR SDRAM is an evolutionary technology based on SDRAM, we also anticipate that DDR SDRAM will continue to move toward price parity with SDRAM." ®
Robert Blincoe, 03 Apr 2001

One in three UK firms hit by cyber-crime

One in two senior IT managers believe the future survival of their organisations "could be put at risk by a major network security breach". And a third of large organisations have fallen victim to cybercrime in some form, a survey reveals. The study, compiled from anonymous responses from 172 large organisation in the UK, was conducted by the Communications Management Association. It follows a warning last week by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that hackers pose a greater threat to Britain than a military attack. David Harrington, of the Communications Management Association (CMA), whose 2,000 individual members work in Britain's largest public and private sector firms, said that Cook was right on the button" with his warning. "If there is a glitch affecting the nation's computers or communication infrastructure it might have a major effect on consumers or cause a commercial disaster," said Harrington. The concern is that leading UK organisations are at present ill-equipped to deal with the problems crackers, s'kiddies and cyber-terrorists pose for the smooth running of business in the UK. These include issues such as financial crimes, information theft, money laundering, tax evasion, credit card frauds, invasion of privacy, theft of identity, virus attacks and hacking. In response, the CMA has created a division called the Institute for Communications Arbitration and Forensics (ICAF) which will encourage business to give security a higher priority. ICAF will forge links with Universities to promote training and make alliances with others in the security field and aims to pool best practice and help with the prevention and detection of cyber-crime. Greg Smith, technical director of ICAF, said it would also act as an honest broker in dispute resolution about computer security issues, such as the damage caused by Web site defacement. Companies are often reluctant to take security-related disputes through a civil court, due to fear of publicity and uncertainity about the outcome of cases, according to Smith, who suggested dispute resolution might offer a better approach. ® Related Stories: Hackers worse than terrorists - Robin Cook Win-NT/IIS admins made April Fools by hackers Gartner invents new type of cybercrime External links: Communications Management Association
John Leyden, 03 Apr 2001

Fear and loathing in small town America

Fear and loathing in small town America has been turned into a living docusoap on the Web. The squabble revolves around Fishing Creek Farm - a wealthy community near Washington,DC. The story begins in 1997, when residents Tim and Lori Gough received an anonymous letter accusing them of being bad parents for letting their son, who has Down's Syndrome, appear in public service announcement ads in People magazine. Lori Gough, convinced her neighbours, Keith and Julie Conrad, were behind the letter, announced her suspicions to the community. The Conrads, who were ostracised by the town following Gough's denunciation, sued the Goughs for $2 million for defamation. They lost. Protesting innocence, they created Web site to document the neighbourhood bickering and the court case - complete with depositions. Their neighbours tried and failed to block the publication of depositions on the site, which accuses the Goughs and their friends of changing their stories in court. It provides a tantalising glimpse of gossipy life in the burbs - from illegal drug use to extramarital affairs. The Conrads say all they want is to do is clear their name by finding out who sent the original hate-mail to the Goughs. Their site's message board contains a mixture of sympathy and criticism. "Good luck in your fight for the truth," says one visitor, with another labelling the incident a "tragedy". But many urge the couples to stop bickering for the sake of the children, while one posting simply states: "Mr and Mrs C, you need psychiatric help." Whatever your opinion, the site documents an entertaining ongoing whodunnit. While blasting out the Dallas theme tune. "I'd have to admit that if this turns out to be a 'made for TV movie of the week' I would no doubt grab some popcorn and catch the action," points out one fan. ® Related Link FishingCreekFarm
Linda Harrison, 03 Apr 2001

MS, HP agree to drop ‘deceptive’ PocketPC ads

Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard have spared themselves hefty fines by agreeing to Federal Trade Commission demands that they cease claiming that PocketPCs provide built-in wireless Net access. The FTC began investigating claims that the pair were making misleading statements in their advertising back in February. Of course, PocketPCs do support wireless Net access, through Windows CE's dial-up access and TCP/IP networking code. That's why HP and MS made the claim. However, the devices don't contain the hardware needed to allow this software to talk to the outside world. It's this lack of a built-in modem that made the pair's claim to offer "built-in wireless access to the Internet and e-mail at any time and from anywhere" deceptive, the FTC said. ® Related Story FTC investigates Microsoft Pocket PC ads
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2001

99% of Web users eat cookies. Yum

Cookie rejection on the Internet is less than one per cent, according to a survey out today. Researchers at California firm Websidestory took a sample of one billion page views from high-volume sites in February. They found that cookies - used by Web sites to store information about their visitors - were rejected just 0.68 per cent of the time. "Although some Websurfers may not know how to disable cookies in their browsers, such a minute percentage indicates that cookies are simply not a big concern among most Internet users," said Randy Broberg, WebSideStory general counsel and chief privacy officer. Alternatively, one might consider the possibility that people surrender to cookies on the grounds that lots of stuff wouldn't work if they didn't, or because they're just plain bored with assessing them individually, on a case-by-case basis. But he didn't say that. Many dotcoms are keen on cookies, but their use has raised consumer privacy concerns. Last week Internet advertising giant DoubleClick emerged victorious when a judge dismissed a privacy class-action lawsuit that accused the company of illegal cookie-frenzy. And last year Amazon admitted varying product prices on its site by using cookies on customers' PCs. First time visitors, or those who turned their cookies off, would generally get bigger discounts than regular users of the site. ® Related Stories DoubleClick beats back piracy suits MS adds cookie detector to IE, grooms Privacy R US stance DoubleClick sued over alleged cookie abuse Amazon makes regular customers pay more
Linda Harrison, 03 Apr 2001

World chip sales down 7% in February

Semiconductor sales around the world fell almost seven per cent in February, but sales remain higher this year than last. Some $15.5 billion worth of semiconductors were sold in February, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association's latest figures. That's a fall of 6.9 per cent on January's figure of $16.6 billion, itself a seven per cent decline on December 2000's sales. However, February 2001's sales were nevertheless 5.8 per cent up on the $14.6 billion worth of sales made in the same month last year. Interestingly, January's figure marks a $200 million downward revision over the SIA's previously reported figure of $16.8 billion. The discrepancy arose from the difference between actual sales and the estimates made by "some companies". $200 million is a significant miscalculation, and shows that the market was considerably weaker than the industry had anticipated. We can't help but wonder what such miscalculations will do to February's numbers. As they stand, the Americas saw the biggest dip, with sales to the region falling 7.3 per cent to $5.1 billion. Asia-Pacific was close behind with a 7.1 per cent decline to $3.6 billion. Sales to Japan fell 6.8 per cent to $3.8 billion, while European sales reached $3.3 billion, a drop of 6.3 per cent. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2001

Stratus re-enters telco biz

Stratus, the fault tolerant server company, has reached an agreement with beleaguered networking giant Lucent to lift contractual restrictions which prevented it selling its full range of servers to service providers. Because of this, Stratus Technologies may now directly sell its Continuum 600 and 1200 Series servers, XA/R legacy systems, system upgrades for VOS and FTX-supported applications, and service for these systems to telecommunications customers. These systems are used for operational support systems such as billing data collection. Restrictions on selling this kit, which arise from a complicated string of business deals, were due to last until the end of February next year. In 1998 Ascend Communications acquired Stratus Computer expressly for its telecom technology. The enterprise computing business of Stratus was taken private in a management buyout a year later and conditions on its ability to sell into the telco space were imposed at this time. These conditions were subsequently policed by Lucent when it acquired Ascend in 1999. David Chalmers, technology director EMEA for Stratus Technologies, said that Lucent has decided to move out of the market for telco-orientated servers, as part of a plan to focus its business and stem losses and is no longer seeking to limit Stratus Technologies' business in this area. A block on Stratus Technologies' ability to sell its family of fault-tolerant Windows 2000 servers, called ftServer, to the telecommunications marketplace were lifted in February this year according to the original timetable set at the time of the management buy-out. ® Related Stories Stratus in road to Damascus scenario Compaq, Intel buy into Stratus Ascend unveils telco-oriented data gateway... Lucent to restate sales and cut 10,000 jobs
John Leyden, 03 Apr 2001

Microsoft ambushes Bluetooth

Microsoft has knifed Bluetooth by refusing to support the technology in Windows XP. "The format still seems to have some bugs in it... It looks like Bluetooth is not ready for prime time" Carl Stork, general manager of the Windows division, told EE Times at WinHEC last week. Stork added, we presume with a straight face, that "we wouldn't want to ship something that doesn't work". Given Redmond's penchant to gear its annual OS revisions around the minor driver model or stack modifications, Windows Bluetooth support will be in likelihood be delayed well into 2002. It's not impossible that Microsoft could release the drivers as part of some XP driver pack - just highly unlikely. To be fair, Stork's reasoning has a certain justification. The Bluetooth specification is enormously complex, and debugging is taking place through early implementations as much as it is through the plugfests. But there's a difference between leading from the front, and being dragged from behind. Stork could have added that he thought Bluetooth would cut it eventually, but if he made such comments, they weren't reported. Redmond's take on Bluetooth will be familiar to anyone whose followed Microsoft's support - and we use the term loosely - of the Bluetooth predecessor, iRDA. After building some very basic support in the OS, Microsoft shot off and made an OBEX implementation of its own that was pretty much guaranteed not to work. OBEX (object exchange) is the useful part of the protocol: as it is, Windows notebooks can recognise infra-red capable devices, but not to the extent of doing anything useful with them. With Windows 2000, it gave up the charade completely. But such is the momentum behind Bluetooth, it may not matter too much. Last year's Bluetooth developer conference in San Jose saw some impressive PC demos from Bluetooth SIG founders Toshiba and IBM, among others, using stacks they'd written themselves. If Redmond stalls, the world won't wait for it to catch up. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Apr 2001

Microsoft bungles IE bug fix

Microsoft has come under fire from users who have discovered the company's patch to fix a potentially seriously security problem works only if they upgrade their browsers. As we reported last week, Microsoft issued a patch designed to fix flaws in the way IE renders binary attachments in HTML email. Problems in the way this was implemented in Internet Explorer left the door open for hackers to easily trick users into running malicious code on their machines. Since we ran the story several Register readers have written to tell us that users of older versions of Internet Explorer may be wrongly informed that they are already protected from the flaw when they download the patch. Users who attempt to download the security patch received the following unhelpful message during installation: "This update does not need to be installed on this system." Microsoft has now confirmed the message is an error and advises users of older browsers to download either Internet Explorer 5.01 or Internet Explorer 5.5, before applying the patch. Surfers using IE 5.01 Service Pack 2 do not need the fix. ®
John Leyden, 03 Apr 2001

Spooks cock snooks at RIP oversight

British spooks are continuing to defy public oversight of the draconian Regulatory of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act. An interim report from Parliament's security services 'watchdog', the Intelligence and Security Committee, made it on the Web today, here. It's worth reading for all the wrong reasons: as it beautifully illustrates how shallow and perfunctory scrutiny of the billion pound security services really is. The ISC flies through a year's business in 16 pages, or eight and a half pages if you discount the pre-amble. Nevertheless the committee is deeply unhappy with the public's own watchdog for the RIP Act, although it gives little more detail here. Alone amongst industrialised democracies, the UK subjects may be required to hand over their decryption keys, even if they're not suspected of a crime, or face a two year jail sentence. Recipients of a decryption order are not permitted to publicise the fact, and breaching that condition results in a five-year prison sentence. The RIP Tribunal - citizens defence against abuses of the Act - has been criticised for being poorly staffed, so underfunded that the ISC reported in December, that it was unable to open mail, let alone process complaints. The Tribunal has no right of cross-examination. But the ISC meekly notes only that progress needs to be monitored by the next committee. Without an effective RIP Tribunal, it is impossible for UK citizens to invoke the European Convention of Human Rights, the only legal recourse available. ® Related Story US company defeats Brit RIP Act
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Apr 2001

America fully brainwashed by cybercrime FUD

Child-protective hysterics who want to eavesdrop on the electronic comings and goings of ordinary citizens in the name of legions of exploited little lambs have successfully won the hearts and washed the brains of nearly all Americans. The US populace is "deeply worried" about Internet crime; and on-line kiddie porn looms as the greatest terror in the collective imagination. Fully ninety-two per cent of Americans -- far more than have ever so much as touched a personal computer -- claim to be outraged by Internet KP, and half characterize it as "the single most heinous crime that takes place on line," according to a new survey by the Pew Charitable Trust Internet Project. Women are slightly more susceptible to government and media manipulation, with eighty-six per cent reporting being "very concerned" about on-line KP compared with seventy-four per cent of men. Either way, the entire populace sounds like an incredible lot of frightened schoolgirls. Second on the menu of imagined horrors terrifying Americans is credit card theft. Eighty-seven per cent are "concerned" and sixty-nine per cent are "very concerned," in spite of the glaring fact that only a tiny handful have actually had their account numbers stolen and misused due to Internet shopping. "Only eight per cent of those who say their credit card was swiped reported that the thief might have gotten the information because the consumer had provided it on line," the survey notes. (emphasis original) As with the kiddie porn horror, women are slightly more frightened of on-line fraudsters than men by a margin of seventy-two to sixty-five per cent. Next comes the widespread anxiety of Internet terrorism, with eighty-two per cent of Americans claiming to be "concerned" about organized efforts to bring all of civilization to its knees with viruses and packet floods. As one might expect, those who have never used the Internet are considerably more eager to believe in it. Fear of contracting viruses and Trojans, and being victimized by malicious hackers, rounds out the list of persistent fears keeping America awake all night. Interestingly, a majority of Yanks (fifty-six per cent) think it's a great idea for the FBI to monitor e-mail and other IP traffic in order to fight all these crimes, which are in fact largely imaginary. Women and Republicans are the most enthusiastic supporters of the Big Brother approach, the survey finds. Even more interestingly, Blacks are the most concerned about Internet crime, and yet the least likely to approve of federal snooping, while Whites are the least concerned, and yet the most supportive of Big Bro intervening in their daily lives. Now that's a digital divide worth looking into. ®
Thomas C Greene, 03 Apr 2001

Intel pumps ups P2P cancer fight

The peer-to-peer project to find a cure for cancer will be the first of many hosted by Intel, according to company chief Craig Barrett. Barrett, whose son and grandson are currently fighting cancer, said at today's launch he hoped the Intel Philanthropic Peer-to-Peer Program would become a common site for similar schemes aimed at other diseases. The SETI-style endeavour aims to hook up six million computers worldwide and harness their unused power to study up to 250 million molecules. The University of Oxford, the National Foundation for Cancer Research and US company United Devices are also involved. If the program manages to find any cancer-fighting drugs - it is initially focused on leukaemia - the patent will belong to Oxford University. It in turn says it will pass the information on to other organisations. The program will deliver the opportunity to "turn your screensaver into a lifesaver," said Graham Richards, chairman of chemistry at the university. Within hours of the launch the software was being downloaded by two-to- three people per second, according to United Devices. ® Related Link Intel Philanthropic Peer-to-Peer Program site Related Stories Join the SETI-style quest for cancer drugs Reg boost for SETI project Reg SETI group sweeps all before it
Linda Harrison, 03 Apr 2001

IBM goes matt-black (wireless) PC stylee

IBM today launched a wireless keyboard and mouse and five extra models for its NetVista X40 line of desktop PCs. The PCs include the NetVista X40i model, which comes with the Rapid Access Wireless Keyboard and ScrollPoint wireless mouse as standard. The black machine comes with a up to a 1GHz Intel chip and a 15-inch flat panel monitor on a stand (or a 'radial arm X mount'), while the DVD or CD-RW drives are hidden under the screen. IBM reckons these latest NetVista models take up around 75 per cent less space than traditional desktop systems. The basic X40i system, with Celeron 633, 20GB hard drive, 64MB DRAM, and either Windows 2000 or ME, costs from $1,399. This includes the wireless keyboard and mouse, according to IBM's site. Prices for the other new models in the NetVista X40 range start at $1,899 - all are available from today. The keyboard and mouse cost $99 if sold separately to the PC, and the monitor stand is priced at $219. The keyboard and mouse use advanced radio frequency (RF) technology, and offer 12 separate RF channels to limit interference from other devices. They are available from today on IBM's Website and will start shipping later this month. More information can be found here. ® Related Stories IBM laps up desktops IBM touts skinny black desktop PC
Linda Harrison, 03 Apr 2001