11th > April > 2001 Archive

Judge threatens ‘disgraceful’ Napster with closure – again

Napster has acted disgracefully, US District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said yesterday before going on to threaten the MP3 sharing software company's network with closure. At issue is Napster's attempt to follow Judge Patel's 5 March order that the sharing of songs nominated by the Recording Industry Association of America should be blocked. The RIAA claimed that Napster hadn't complied with the order, and brought the company before the court to demand Napster explain itself. Napster's argument has been that it has tried to block the 135,000 songs named by RIAA on behalf of its members, and indeed had blocked 275,000 songs hidden behind 1.6 million filenames. It also said that some RIAA members had not provided enough information on filenames for it to carry out the court's order to the letter. A fair point, considering Judge Patel's ruling said the music industry had to do what it could to help Napster - and that included supplying filenames as well as song titles. Whatever the specifics of Judge Patel's advice to the recording companies, she clearly feels they have done all they need to and that the burden should fall upon Napster. "You created this monster, you figure it out," she told the MP3 sharing company, clearly unimpressed by Napster's allegations of RIAA hindrance or by claims that it can't stop its users. Judge Patel has been pretty anti-Napster all along - her first ruling on its copyright infringements was to shut the service down, an order soon rejected by the Appeal Court - but she didn't go as far as to rule Napster in contempt of court. But the threat is there: "You find a way to filter out (those songs) for which you can search," said Patel. "Maybe the system needs to be closed down..." No further orders were made to Napster, but there were plenty of hints given to it. The outcome of the case seems to have been anticipated by Napster, which yesterday said it would buy music tracking software company Gigabeat. Gigabeat's code essentially matches song titles with filenames, a capability that's central to any attempt by Napster to build a system that can track song sharing and calculate royalties accordingly. Napster has been working with Gigabeat for some time now, and rumours that it would acquire the company have been doing the rounds too. Napster will pick up all Gigabeat's staff and technologies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2001

Bodysnatchers! MS Research steals your face

Microsoft Research is stealing faces - and maybe more besides. Unabashedly describing his operation as Microsoft's Star Trek division, unabashed Trekkie Rick Rashid last week described how the group had lifted 300 faces at the recent CHI (Computer Human Interface) conference, and showed what could be done with them. MSR tracks a camera around your face, then uses this as the basic data to produce a realistic animation of your head. Or in the case of the demo, Rick's head. Put the animation up on screen and you can make it smile, frown and... er, well that seemed to be about it for the moment. And it does seem to have black hollows instead of eyeballs, but that just kind of adds to the bodysnatchers flavour of things. But there's lot more paranoia material; there's voice, for example. Rick demos back-to-back clips of people and synthesised versions of these people speaking, and the synth versions really aren't half bad, the best being MSR's tame voice actor, who seems to have been hired because he sounds like a computer anyway. Which is kind of sinister in itself. Obviously there's a hell of a lot of crunching going into MSR, the commercial, but it still gives you an idea of the direction of the thinking. And still, there's more - a personal terraserver? The terraserver itself is an interesting project, designed to soak up scads of storage in making maps of the US available for free. It does, now we consider it, seem to be also performing another function in getting page hits for MSN, from the look of where it redirects to, but we're being nice about Microsoft just now, so we won't mention that. Here it is, please hit generously. The concept of the personal terraserver is based on the premise that storage is cheap, and that virtually infinite quantities of it will be available, RSN. So what do you do with it? Well, right now there's enough storage around for you to be able to record all of your conversations for your whole life. Some people are probably self-important/weird enough to be doing it already, but we won't mention Larry, seeing this is about Microsoft. Rick says that soon there'll be sufficient storage for you to record everything you see in your life as well. So you could record your life, then using the face- and voice-snatching capabilities of Windows 2010, edit it (Rick didn't say that - we did). Scary, sinister stuff, eh? And we didn't even mention the "teleporter" project. Fortunately, the cuddly Microsoft that's constantly poised to do something dumb remains close to the surface. Towards the end of the presentation Rick described what the group was doing in the area of pervasive networking, and talked about a mall near Redmond Microsoft already has wired. You'll automatically become part of the network when you come within range of it, and you'll be able to see which of your friends are around. There'll even be a "find a friend" function. We liked this particularly, incidentally, because the system could have all sorts of hilarious (and not so hilarious) consequences if you could work it as some kind of variant on chat rooms combined with what people are already starting to do with text messaging. Think of chat rooms where you were only a few steps away from whoever you were chatting to, so you could hook up immediately with the unexpectedly large and hairy 11 year old girl. Rick didn't mention that either, but he did volunteer that MSR was onto the privacy implications of people always being able to see where you really were. So they won't be able to. It "allows you to determine where you are, rather than the environment." So, a pervasive networking system that lies at your behest - a sort of virtual coat over the back of a chair. Beam him up, Scottie... ®
John Lettice, 11 Apr 2001

Motorola makes first Q1 loss in 15 years

Motorola has made a Q1 loss - its first in 15 years. Excluding charges the loss was $206 million compared with $481 million a year earlier. Sales fell 11 per cent to $7.75 billion. Semiconductor sales fell by 22 per cent to $1.5 billion, and orders slumped by 47 per cent to $1.1 billion. The chip businesses operating loss was $131 million, compared with a profit of $128 million in the same period a year earlier. Motorola's broadband communications business, which includes cable modems and digital cable TV set-top boxes, enjoyed faster sales growth than any other bit of the business. Sales jumped 21 per cent to $818 million, orders increased three per cent to $905 million, and operating profit climbed from $99 million to $130 million. ®
Robert Blincoe, 11 Apr 2001

VIA sees SIS as a threat

VIA has dismissed fellow Taiwanese chipset maker Silicon Integrated System's attempts to date to make a move on its dominance of the DDR SDRAM chipset market, but is does expect SIS to impact its business later this year. Taiwan's Silicon Integrated System recently began shipping its SiS735 DDR SDRAM-based chipsets designed to work with AMD's CPUs. It shipped its SiS635 chipset, which connects Intel's Pentium III processor family to DDR memory, last month. SIS says its is producing a few thousand parts a month right now, but expects this to ramp up considerably in the near future. VIA dominates the market and told Taiwanese business newspaper the Commercial Times that SIS' market share at the end of March was negligible. It also said that SIS will not pose any threat until the second half of the year at the earliest. Decode that and it's clear that VIA is concerned that SIS may eat into its marketshare. That this won't happen until the second half of 2001 is a reference to the release of SIS' DDR chipsets for the Pentium 4, which are expected early Q3. Given the very aggressive price cuts Intel is planning to make to the P4 line this month in an attempt to drive up the chip's sales, makers of high-performance memory P4 chipsets are likely to do very nicely, thank you throughout the rest of the year. VIA will be targeting that market too, but the lack of a clear thumbs-up from Intel may hamper its sales. It clearly thinks so, which is why it's seeking to win the chip giant's approval even though it reckons it can launch a P4 chipset anyway. That's the result of the P4 licence it acquired through its takeover of S3's graphics chip operation. ® Related Stories Intel to cut up to 60 per cent off P4 prices VIA smiles over chipset sales growth Crucial PC2100 DDR flies through door Micron to ramp up DDR output through 2001
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2001

BT's vans up for sale

BT is looking to flog its fleet of vehicles and outsource its motor pool operation in a bid to help cut its £30 billion debt. The FT cites Geoffrey Almeida, head of BT Business Services, who told journalists yesterday that the outfit was looking to dispose of its vehicle fleet as part of the company's "strategy to focus on the core telecoms business". Although no figures were discussed the FT estimates that farming out its fleet of 58,000 vehicles could save the company as much as £1 billion. A spokesman for the struggling telco told El Reg that this was just "one of a number of avenues we're looking into". BT also named Land Securities Trillium PLC and William Pears Group as the preferred bidder for its property sale and lease-back scheme which is on target to net the company around £2 billion. ® Related Story BT to raise £2bn in property sell-off
Tim Richardson, 11 Apr 2001

ARM net profits jump 16%

ARM has enjoyed a 16 per cent Q1 net profit jump to £7.73 million. A year earlier it made £6.67 million, and the growth is down to selling new licences to existing customers. Turnover leaped by 52 per cent to £32.5 million, from £21.4 million. ARM's chip designs are used in 80 per cent of mobile phones. It makes 43 per cent of its revenues from licensing chip designs. Texas Instruments, Intel and STMicroelectronics are customers. ®
Robert Blincoe, 11 Apr 2001

Linux games console fragged

So farewell, then, Indrema and its Linux-based games console-cum-set-top box, killed off through a lack of funding thanks to the depression in the hi-tech industry. Cuts have already taken place among the company's 50-odd staff, but the rest will be laid of this week, said Indrema president John Gildred, according to Video Business. Indrema was founded in January 2000, and quickly unveiled its console, the L600, based on a 600MHz CPU with graphics driven by Nvidia's GeForce chip, as we reported at the time. The L600 was to have shipped this summer. You have to admire Indrema's attempt to build a mass-market consumer product based on the open source operating system - not that its own code was as open, mind you - but it's not hard to see why venture capitalists would pass on the opportunity to fund it. Independent's tend not to fare too well against major console players like Sony and Nintendo, or well-funded newcomers like Microsoft. Look at Atari's Jaguar, look at 3DO's ill-fated console, look at Apple's Pippin. Then there's the availability of Linux-based games. Id Software has done sterling work releasing Quake III for the OS, as has porting specialist Loki, but sales haven't been too hot, and the market remains negligible despite a promising start. Which is a real problem if you're selling a console on the back of them. Indrema was quick to spot the problem and spread its focus to take in media playback - MP3, DVD - and interactive TV functionality. It wasn't enough, though. "Although there's a lot of interest in the product, the grim reality is that after six months of looking, we're not able to find funding to continue the operation," Gildred told VB. However, like Fu Manchu, Gildred promised the world shall hear from him again. "I will develop a similar product and re-invent it under another umbrella without the videogame options," he said, now that he's working for "a major Japanese consumer electronics company". Let's hope his staff at Indrema land on their feet as easily as he has. ® Related Story Nvidia selected for Linux based X-Box rival
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2001

MSN chief leaves as consumer platform efforts downscaled

Veteran Microsoft exec Brad Chase has moved into the Redmond out tray, after having his job more or less shot out from under him in last week's reorganisation. Chase, who once upon a time was general manager of MS-DOS, has resigned from his post as VP at MSN, is on holiday, and is reportedly talking to Steve Ballmer about other positions in the company. Which might pan out, or it might not. Last week's reorg created the Personal.NET team, whose goal is to produce a premium subscription service that will include some elements from MSN. Personal.NET is however being run by by Bob Muglia, who's been supremo of the back end server aspects of .NET, and is now heading the Personal Services Group. Chase's job "changed significantly" because of the reorg; those significant changes included the loss of online subscription versions of Money and Encarta, the move of MSN Explorer development to Jim Allchin's Windows group, and the loss of the NetDocs team to the Office group. Basically, it's the final demise of any kind of consumer platform efforts within the consumer group, and the consolidation of app and platform type stuff into the old - albeit strangely changed - fiefdoms. You might recall that about 18 months ago Jim Allchin successfully maimed efforts to make WinME a radical (well, radical for 9x) development outside of his orbit, and you could now observe that the alleged UI technology that went into consumer around that time has come back under his wing. The loss of NetDocs to Office reinforces the latter as a big, blobby, platform-type app and mugs the independent subscription effort (resulting in NetDocs boss Brian MacDonald falling on his sword too). These moves don't mean the end of consumer and MSN as separate forces within Microsoft, but they do place them much more as content and service operations whose delivery mechanisms are run from elsewhere. Where they belong, as winners Muglia and Allchin might say. ®
John Lettice, 11 Apr 2001

Scottish minister slams Compaq ‘misleading’ job cut toll

Should companies include temporary staff and contractors in their headcount when they announce redundancies? George Foulkes, the minister of state for Scotland, thinks so; he was relieved that his constituency had escaped the Compaq's round of job cuts when the firm announced last week that 700 employees at its Erskine plant, Scotland were due for the chop. But the following day the phone started ringing - another 160 jobs were going at Compaq's plant in Ayr, Foulkes' constituency, he was told. Foulkes called Compaq, which told him that it was cutting no jobs at the plant, but when pressed, confirmed that 160 contractors hired through Manpower were being laid off. He told Compaq that "the public would see this as exactly the same as if they were company employees. Technically, they were correct but it was a very misleading statement", he said, in an interview with Electronics Times. He appears to be supported by other Ayr politicians, who say Compaq made them look stupid by keeping quiet about the temporary job losses, The Ayrshire Post reports. ®
Drew Cullen, 11 Apr 2001

Toshiba to spin off PlayStation 2 CPU development team

Toshiba has set up a new company to build general-purpose CPUs based on the PlayStation 2's Emotion Engine processor - or TX79 as it's more formally known. ArTile Microsystems, which will operate out of San Jose, California, will target a variety of embedded applications for its EE-based chip line, including all the usual suspects: set-top boxes, networking devices, digital TVs and Net appliances. ArTile isn't an entirely new company - Toshiba is essentially spinning off its existing processor development operation. As an independent but wholly-owned subsidiary, Toshiba expects ArTile's business to ramp up quickly and to be employing around 200 people by 2004. At that point, it will be realising revenues of $250 million, the parent company hopes. Interestingly enough, Toshiba has mooted such a move before (see Toshiba staffer punts semicon sell-off). Way back in 1999, we reported on a lone Tosh executive who said the company was considering just such a move. His comments followed the launch and flotation of Infineon, Siemens' former semiconductor subsidiary. The creation of ArTile represents a much smaller move than the one suggested by the Toshiba staffer, who was suggesting the plan for the company's entire chip-making operation. By why spin off ArTile? Essentially, to recruit better staff. "Strengthening resources to develop microcontrollers is indispensable for the expansion of the system LSI business," said a Toshiba spokesman. "It is better to found a new company to get excellent human resources and give them better incentives." Which sounds like stock options to us. In the current financial climate, we wonder how many takers it will get. ® Related Stories PlayStation CPU to shift to 0.13 micron Sony, IBM, Toshiba team on broadband supercomputing CPU Sony aims Emotion Engine tech at SGI's Hollywood fief Sony welcomes PlayStation 2 clones Toshiba staffer punts semicon sell-off
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2001

GUS to sell breathe

Great Universal Stores (GUS) is to sell trendy ISP breathe less than four months after buying the outfit for £1.4 million. City sources told The Register that GUS has already been out pressing the flesh looking for a buyer although the outfit - which owns retailer Argos and online sales outfit Jungle.com - declined to comment on what it described as "rumour and speculation". The news will come as a hammer blow to staff at the modern urbanist ISP who have endured a turbulent time at the company over the last six months. In a trading statement issued today GUS made no mention of breathe merely adding to speculation about the future of the operation. Recent press reports speculated that GUS intended to shut down the ISP although executives at breathe said they were bemused by the story. The Register understands that GUS is now actively looking for a buyer. A spokeswoman for GUS reiterated today that the company was interested in breathe for its technology. Six weeks ago breathe announced it was to re-enter the unmetered ISP marketplace. Since then, however, the ISP has been waiting for final approval from its new owners. ® Related Stories breathe to close? breathe's resuscitation is complete breathe expected out of rehab soon GUS buys Breathe for £1.4m
Tim Richardson, 11 Apr 2001

Computer dealer fined for sending virus to rival

A Devon computer dealer escaped jail after being found guilty of sending a virus to a local rival. Paul Brogden, 27, the owner of Sure Computers in Bideford was sentenced on March 30 to 175 hours community service under the Computer Misuse Act and had his computer equipment confiscated. Brogden had got embroiled in a price war with a Colin Baglow, the owner of Complete Computers, and before the competition, a friend. In April 1999, Brogden sent a virus hidden in an email attachment to Complete Computers. The header said: "'Our latest prices are attached, please take a look.'" Complete Computers staff were suspicious, found the email contained a virus and contacted the police. Brogden's business went tits-up following a police raid and he's been out of work since then. In court, Brogden claimed that his rival was able to undercut him only because he used pirated software. In sentencing, Judge Jeremy Griggs told Brogden: "With your experience you know just how easy it is for those with the requisite expertise to cause viruses to be spread and the damage they can spread. This appears to have been an isolated childish prank. If I thought there were more serious implications I would impose an immediate and substantial custodial sentence. This was behaviour between rival companies which was unacceptable." We found this gem of a story on Sophos, by way of Geeknews.net. ®
Drew Cullen, 11 Apr 2001

WinXP falls over old Cisco bug

Major network outages at Xerox, after staff installed beta versions of Microsoft XP, have been linked to a well-known bug in Cisco's most widely deployed Lan switch. As previously reported, Xerox has warned all its 50,000 US employees not to install Windows XP beta on company computers after the firm's networks suffered three network outages which were directly linked to use of the operating system. Any installed versions of XP was to be removed immediately, staff were advised in a company wide email. Xerox said the problem was hardware-related but wouldn't say which of its suppliers was involved. However emails from Register readers and sources in Redmond have revealed that Xerox's Windows XP installation almost certainly fell foul of a bug involving Cisco's Catalyst 5000 family of Lan switches. Windows XP, unlike Windows 2000, leaves 802.1p/802.1q tagging enabled by default. This is an issue because CatOS software prior to 6.2.1 for the Catalyst 5000/5500 will forward 802.1x frames on all ports including spanning tree blocking ports, resulting in a layer 2 multicast storm. The upshot of this is that a user can bring down an entire switch network by just connecting a Windows XP (Whistler) workstation to their network, if a 5000 series Lan switch is in place. The issue does not arise in any other Cisco Lan switches (including Catalyst 2900XL, 3500XL, 2948G, 4000 or 6000 switches) because these devices will drop the frame when it arrives at a blocked port. There are technical workarounds to the issue (including updating software on the Cisco switch), which are discussed in greater detail here. However this misses the wider point that Xerox experienced its network failure because of a rather obvious problem involving the next version of the world's most widely used operating system and the planet's most deployed Lan switch. Is there any wonder why people get cynical about IT? ® Related stories Xerox bans Windows XP beta after 'major network outages' MS hobbling WinXP Server, pushing users to Advanced version? New WinXP file system breaks disk utilities. Again. Oops. WinXP - the screenshots
John Leyden, 11 Apr 2001

Palm m50x line to be late for PDA price war

Palm's next-generation top-of-the-range PDAs, the m500 and m505, may ship on time, but not in volume, the company warned yesterday - even as one analyst claimed the palmtop market is on the verge of a price war. Speaking at a meeting with Wall Street analysts, Palm CEO Carl Yankowski said of the m500 and m505, which the company unveiled last month: "Volume shipments are going to be a few weeks later than we had planned." Palm is betting on the success of the two new machines to lift its out of its financial woes. Two weeks ago, the PDA pioneer admitted its current quarter would see revenue way down on expectations. Q4's revenues are set to come in at around $300-315 million, a quarter-on-quarter fall of over 36 per cent. A major part of the problem is a big dip in sales. That, in turn, is leaving the company with rather a lot of unsold handhelds floating around. With $200 million worth of kit in Palm's warehouses and the channel, new machines getting close to launch and increased competition from rival vendors, the time is ripe for major price cuts. That, reckons Lehmann Bros. analyst Joseph To, leaves the market on the verge of a price war. "Given the high levels of inventory at Palm and in the channel, we believe there could be the potential for a price war come May, which would have a negative impact on both Palm and Handspring," he said in a report to investors. That Palm is planning to tackle is problems head-on was signalled by Yankowski yesterday. "We are not standing around. We are not waiting just for the economy to improve," he said. "We are working very hard to accelerate our penetration into the Fortune 1000 enterprises and schools, although we understand that there is some slowdown there as well." Palm has already said it's going to spend around $165 million this quarter promoting its new PDAs, which are intended to defend the company's dominance at the high end of the market from PocketPC - and Compaq's iPaq in particular - which has been making significant inroads into Palm's marketshare. Palm's CFO, Judy Bruner, is expected to unveil the company's plans to tackle its inventory later today. ® Related Stories Palm stock nosedives Palm to axe 250 jobs as it dips into the red Recession to halve PDA market growth Palm launches m500, 505
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2001

Open source BeOS clone gives Be a righteous nudge

With impeccable timing, a new version of the software libre clone of BeOS, AtheOS, slipped out last week. Be Inc. itself still hasn't given any indication that it will release the source code to its much loved but moribund desktop OS, although ten days ago we reported that the company registered domain names openbeos.com, openbeos.org and openbeos.net last fall. Be's current cash squeeze makes it less likely to want to devote staff resources to keep placing fresh mothballs around the desktop OS code base, which last received a major update a year ago. AtheOS is a shameless clone of Be's OS, with screaming performance a top design goal, and the project also encompasses an effort to duplicate BeOS's crown jewel the BFS file system. Performance is something that Be spectacularly succeeded in achieving, and BeOS devotees are doubtless taking a grim satisfaction from performance reports of Mac OS X, the NeXT-derived OS hairball that Apple developed in preference to BeOS itself. And BeOS of course has been described as a 'Unix for the rest of us' for several years, although Mac OS X is multi-user out of the box, something Be never got round to finishing. Most of the latest modifications in version 0.3.3 are behind the scenes, but author Kurt Skauen says he's ported irc client BitchX and OpenSSH to the OS. And what else do you need for BOFH duty? ® Related Link AtheOS Home Page Related Stories Be axes 25 per cent of staff Be getting ready to open source BeOS?
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Apr 2001

Net betting boosts William Hill profits

Bookies William Hill is healthily back in the black thanks to Internet betting. The Net operation took bets from punters in 150 countries and the business counted for seven per cent of turnover. Revenues increased from £10 million in 19999 to £133 million. For the whole company pre-tax profits rose to £46 million in the year to December 26, against losses of £27.9 million a year earlier. The company spent £232 million on opening a call centre in Ireland and setting up an off shore betting operation in Antigua for its Net and phone activities. But the company says it's "well advanced" with plans to move things back to the UK now that chancellor Gordon Brown has scrapped the betting tax. ® Related Stories UK becomes haven for Internet gambling Online betting nobbles Coral results
Robert Blincoe, 11 Apr 2001

$3.9bn Internet banking fraud busted

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has today announced the successful closure of an online banking fraud worth an estimated $3.9 billion. Victims were duped by bogus get-rich-quick schemes involving fake documents before the scam was exposed. The investigation lasted six months. The fraud came to light when financial institutions alerted the ICC to offers of European banking guarantees, worth between $50 million and $400 million, at 'highly discounted' prices on at least 29 different Web sites Web addresses gave the impression that the scam sites were run by Euroclear Bank, the international clearinghouse; or Bloomberg, the information services provider - whereas in reality they were part of a sophisticated operation by elements in organised crime. Examples of the domain names used include www.euroclear30.50megs.com and www.bloomberg.50megs.com. Through the ICC's Commercial Crime Services (CCS) member network, the bank guarantees were confirmed to be fraudulent, and Euroclear Bank and Bloomberg were alerted to the intellectual property breaches. Financial instruments were written on doctored letter-headed paper so as they would appear to be drawn on the accounts of three different European banks. On behalf of all parties concerned, CCS' Cybercrime Unit (CCU) approached the fraudster's Internet Service Provider (ISP), Utah-based 50megs.com, which complied with requests to shut down the offending sites. "We were informed that advance fees of hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid for the issue of these fraudulent guarantees, and the Web sites were used to validate the documents," said Jon Merrett, Assistant Director of ICC's Cybercrime Unit. In addition to being used to procure advance fees, said Merrett, the guarantees were to be used in bogus High Yield Investment Programs (HYIP) which promised high returns from low risk financial instrument trading. It's likely a spam marketing campaign was used to promote the fraud, a variation of a scheme used by organised crime and money launderers for years that has now been taken onto the Internet. Merett said the affair highlighted the need for ISPs to identify those using its service and to carry out "due diligence" checks on their activities. After the sites were closed down the matter was turned over to criminal investigators. Four arrests have so far been made in San Francisco and Lugano in Switzerland and more may follow. ® External links CCS foils multi-billion dollar Internet banking fraud
John Leyden, 11 Apr 2001

Industry Standard calls time on Europe

New economy magazine The Industry Standard is to close its European publication just six months after splashing out megabucks on a glitzy launch party. Some 60 jobs are reported to be axed although a skeleton staff will be retained to supply European-based content for The Standard's US publication and Web site. Writing in his farewell piece, the editor-in-chief of the Industry Standard Europe, James Ledbetter, said that the mag had become a victim of the very industry about which it writes. "...the market we swim in today is far different than the one we anticipated when we first began planning this magazine one year ago," he said. "Some of our most likely advertisers have gone out of business; others have cut back dramatically on advertising and marketing spend in anticipation of an international economic downturn. "These cutbacks have forced a series of painful layoffs throughout the business media sector," he said. And he finishes: "And so this edition bids our readers adieu." ® Related Story 147 dotcoms die in Q1
Tim Richardson, 11 Apr 2001

Jungle sales jump 40% in last 6 months

Jungle.com's online sales grew 40 per cent to £16 million in the six months to 31 March. The computer etailer's trading figures were published as part of the half year trading update from parent Great Universal Stores (GUS). Ecommerce sales were over £50 million for the entire GUS group. Argos, GUS' leading retail business saw online sales grow by 300 per cent, but the company didn't say how much money this actually meant. Overall, second half sales at Argos and Jungle.com, increased by 15 per cent over the same period last year. Excluding its Additions business and Jungle, Argos' sales grew by nine per cent. More than 90 per cent of Jungle's business is IT equipment but it also sells videos and music. GUS bought the company in September 2000 for £37 million. It had recorded sales of £75 million for the year to 31 July 2000, and in February 2000 it had been valued at £700 million. GUS has just put its ISP breathe up for sale less than four months after buying the outfit for £1.4 million. ® Related Stories Rumble in the Jungle.com GUS buys Jungle for £37 million GUS to sell breathe
Robert Blincoe, 11 Apr 2001

Palomino in the Gütter

HWRoundupHWRoundup Planet3DNow has posted an interview with AMD's Central Europe Public Relations Manager, Jan Gütter, with loads of information about Palomino. Tweakers has a lot of news news about the changes in the Intel roadmap, with some useful info on delays with some of the new cores, such as the Madison and Deerfield. Firing Squad shoots some hard hitting benchmarks at the Gigabyte KT133A board. It looks like Gigabyte has finally realised there is a market in selling to overclockers. We saw the KT133E mobo at CeBIT. This board is designed for Durons it hasn't got the full 133 support which the KT133A does. But it does support PowerNow! Have a look at our Japanese friends who are now selling it here. ®
David Ross, 11 Apr 2001

M$ confirms WinXP won't support USB 2.0

Microsoft has confirmed our earlier report that it will not be supporting USB 2.0 in the final release of Windows XP, preferring instead IEEE 1394 - aka FireWire, aka iLink - as the OS' high-speed peripheral bus. "USB 2.0 support will not be included in the [final] version of Windows XP due to the fact that there is not a sufficient array of production-quality devices to test against," a company spokesman told CNET in an email. "Microsoft will not ship support for a standard that they can't guarantee a great user experience on." We're not surprised by the response. After all, Microsoft's general manager for hardware strategy, Carl Stork, said as much in the run-up to the recent WinHEC event. Said Stork: "I think people are going to want to have 1394 connectors on their PCs and mobile devices so they can get video in and out of their PCs quickly. The consumer electronics industry adopted 1394 for digital electronics devices, and we’re definitely seeing the connectors becoming common on video devices... 1394, in my opinion, has critical mass. "Then, once you've got 1394, it also becomes a candidate for things like printers, scanners or an additional hard disk. So the potential is there for 1394 to be a connector for a lot of PC devices. In addition, if you had two PCs with a 1394 socket on there, you could put a cable between the two of them, and they'd be networked." We're not surprised by all this. USB remains a replacement for legacy standard PC ports, whereas 1394 provides connectivity for a new range of services. While motherboard vendors continue to support legacy ports, there's little motivation for users to move to USB. Since peripheral vendors are making the shift, users will ultimately have to too, but there's no way near the pressure on PC owners to do so as there was on, say, Mac users when Apple decided to drop its legacy ports in favour of USB. USB may be built into almost all PCs that ship today, but that doesn't mean the majority of users are hooking peripherals up to their machines using that bus, not by a long chalk. And if it's hard getting users to move from serial and parallel ports to USB 1.1, it's going to be even harder to get them to move to USB 2.0, at least until version 2.0 ports have completely replaced 1.1 connectors. That gives 1394 plenty of time to come into its own as more users decided to hook up consumer electronics kit to their PCs. It's that CE indsutry support that gives 1394 its real lift over USB 2.0, since just being better technology is never enough, as the Betamax vs VHS debate proved. ® Related Story MS cools to USB 2.0, warms to 1394
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2001

Alcatel under fire for ADSL security

A team of security researchers has highlighted security concerns involving Alcatel's ADSL modems. Alcatel's Speed Touch ADSL modem, which is used by many telcos in provisioning high-speed Internet access, is said to be afflicted with bugs which could allow a hacker to take over the device. Only the Ethernet version of the device and not the USB version, which is used by most UK ADSL subscribers if affected by the problem. The security loopholes in affected kit would allow a hacker to change the device's configuration and upload new firmware or even disrupt communications between the telephone central office providing ADSL services and the modem. Lack of proper authentication, poor cryptographic protection of passwords and various back-door security issues have been highlighted among various design flaws suggested to afflict the device, which are detailed in full here. Alcatel, the world' leading DSL modem maker with an estimated 35 per cent share of the market, has issued a statement advising users to use a firewall in order to protect their ADSL connection. It has also questioning the seriousness of the issues identified by researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Centre at the University of California, who identified the potential problems in the course of testing the modem. The French networking giant said that by default its Speed Touch modems ship with a feature that prevents remote updating of firmware, and it suggest that it's a user's own look-out if this protection is turned off. However it did concede that in some cases a service provider might advise a user to temporarily turn off this protection on modems, in order that it can update software. The issue has sparked a great deal of interest in the security community which has been heightened by the involvement of Tsutomu Shimomura, who is famous for his involvement in the arrest of ex-hacker Kevin Mitnick, as part of the San Diego research team. According to one well-connected figure in the UK, Shimomura (or Nit Boy as he's knows) has the biggest ego of anybody involved in IT security. Our source said the San Diego paper highlights concerns about the Alcatel modem beyond the well-understood risks of having an always on Internet connection, but how serious the security issues highlighted are remains, at least for the moment, unclear. ® Update: BT has issued a statement which states that none of its customers are affected by the vulnerability. BT's statement said: "In a recent report compiled by CERT the Alcatel Speedtouch ADSL modem has been alleged to suffer from specific security vulnerabilities, BT has no comment to make on these allegations but would like to emphasise that these issues are not relevant to the BT Broadband portfolio. "Whilst the Alcatel Speedtouch Home modem in question is currently used in BT Videostream and BT DataStream both products use only the ATM25 port and not the Ethernet port where the proposed vulnerability is centred. "BT IPStream does not use this version of the Alcatel modem. BT IPStream 500 uses the Alcatel Seedtouch USB modem which does not use the Ethernet port and is not susceptible to the issues outlined in the report. BT IPStream S services use the Efficient 5861, once again this product has a different design to the modem in question and is not susceptible to the proposed security vulnerabilities." External links CERT Advisory: Multiple Vulnerabilities in Alcatel ADSL Modems Alcatel's response
John Leyden, 11 Apr 2001

Modern Urbanists alive and well

With all the misery associated with the dotcom slump it's heartening to know that some operations still manage to hold on to the modern urbanist lifestyles so richly associated with Internet companies. Take London-based yeahlab.com - it's not enough that it tells us it's a "mobile media enabler, developing technology, tools and techniques that bring peer-to-peer (P2P) content distribution and multimedia messaging to wireless devices and networks." Oh, no, it insists on telling visitors about what it's like to work there. For instance, we discover that Kenny is usually the first to arrive at the office having first flown through London on his motorbike although he usually skips on to a meeting with a "record label or a digital partner" by the time the rest of his co-workers drift in. Then there's Alex - you can always spot him because he has a bottle of Evian mineral water on his desk and is obsessed with scribbling things on a whiteboard. Thérèse has "long red hair, is passionate about intellectual property law and does belly-dancing to relax (at home)." And senior designer, Maria, "hasn't had her own hair colour since she was 13." Oh, and she wishes she was a hacker. Plus, there are headphones scattered around the office if people want to listen to music and "there is always breakfast at the office, as well as bagels and fruit" and the kitchen has "fresh coffee and a selection of herbal teas". Which is great, as long as you don't take offence at Thor who is "in discussions with a technical partner outside on the stairs, while having a smoke between the palm trees." We kid you not. ® Related Stories Yeahlab.com - a day in the life
Tim Richardson, 11 Apr 2001

Handspring pledges Palm fealty

Handspring has extended its agreement to license PalmOS until 2009. The companies confirmed the deal ahead of Handspring's quarterly results, due tomorrow. Royalties were not disclosed, nor did Handspring say if the deal was exclusive. With echoes of the Apple clone saga, the renewed royalty terms are understood to be a thorny topic between the two companies. Palm is in the same position as Apple was then, of course: competing with its customers. Handspring's phenomenal entry into the PDA business came largely at the expense of Palm's market share, although this was tempered by the fact that the PalmOS market as a whole was growing. But with talk of a recession, that can no longer be taken for granted. Apple eventually killed the MacOS clone business to preserve its own market share. Hawkins duly paid his fealties today. "Extending the license ensures that we can continue to build great Palm OS based products for many years to come," he said in a statement, which promised to extend the OS to meet "the rapidly changing mobile computing market." A fortnight ago Hawkins spelled out a future in which it was "almost certain" that Handspring would license alternative or complimentary operating systems. There's nothing in today's agreement that changes that, of course... ® Related Stories Handspring toys with Palm alternatives
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Apr 2001

Intel's Barrett gets $3.8m pay packet

Intel president and CEO Craig Barrett landed a pay packet of $3.8 million last year. Barrett's total package was up 12 per cent on the previous year, and included a salary of $575,000 (up from $525,000 in 1999), and bonus of $2.8 million (compared to $2.6 million), according to a proxy statement to shareholders. Chipzilla also gave Barrett the option to buy 200,000 shares in the company, which expires in 2010. Barrett exercised options on 558,000 shares last year worth $27.7 million. For the year ended December 30, 2000, Intel reported earnings of $12.1 billion, up on the previous year's $8.1 billion. Earlier this year it warned first quarter sales for 2001 would be around ten per cent lower than normal due to "seasonal factors and the impact of slowing worldwide economies". ® Related Link Intel statement Related Stories Europe commences Intel investigation Intel grants staff cut-price, cash-'em-in-quick stock options Intel warns of tough times in Q1 Intel to miss Q4 targets
Linda Harrison, 11 Apr 2001

Multi-million pound mobile phone fraudster goes to jail

A man was jailed for 30 months yesterday for his part in a multi-million pound fraud in which mobile phone SIM cards were altered to enable users to make unlimited phone calls. Electronics engineer Radomir Lukic, 41, of Loughborough, Leicestershire, had earlier pleaded guilty to defrauding BT Cellnet and Telewest of an estimated £3m. It is believed to be the largest conspiracy of its kind in the UK to date. Leicester Crown Court heard that Lukic sold decoders that allowed free and illegal access to cable TV networks and was also involved in the sale of pirated CD computer games. Lukic was involved in the "chipping" of certain free-paid phones used on the BT Cellnet network, and the manufacture and distribution of unauthorised decoder devices, sometimes called "Baby J's". These boxes allow users to receive analogue cable channels without making payment. In addition to this he sold modified phones for up to £250 on the black market. The fraud came to light at the end of a two-month undercover operation, code-named Mantra, which was led by the Rugby Branch of the National Crime Squad and grew to include fraud investigators from BT and Telewest. After Lukic's arrest in November 1999, searches were carried out on his home address and a purpose made factory which recovered 200 pre-pay mobile phones and 400 electronic cube devices that provide unauthorised access to cable TV channels. A large amount of computer hardware and software, and almost £22,000 in cash was also recovered. ®
John Leyden, 11 Apr 2001
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BOFH: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Episode 10Episode 10 BOFH 2001: Episode 10 So I'm testing out some Voice-Operated Computing that the previous boss signed up for in his second (and last) day of work, from some company that claims to be working on the "Space Program". Which program and which space are not (of course) mentioned. However, to be honest, it's not as bad as I thought. Certainly no more mind-numbingly tedious that half an hour with the Head of IT discussing the advances in computing in the last 100 years.. The PFY and I have hooked the processor box into any and every system we can lay our beer stained hands on - slapping ad-hoc interfaces wherever possible to see just how the dream could come true. All in all, not too bad. The interface into the debug port of the security system was a particularly good touch, and now doors unlock before The PFY and my good self with barely a 16-bit sampled and voice-pattern-verified whisper. Course we gave the Head of IT a free trial without telling him the expiry time, which accounts for the smudge on the glass panel of the door to Mission Control, and the few drips of blood on the way to the first aid kit. Still, security saw the funny side (on CCTV), and now realise how useful such technology is... Adding a voice and CCTV camera networking to the box was The PFY's idea. Given that the speed and accuracy of the thing's recognition is built around the neural networking inside the box, we figured it'd be able to pick up and use language and images with a bit of help as well. And after a few teething problems (it speaking in our voices, or worse still in the voices of the cast of "Eastenders" after we plugged it into the TV to get a better sample base) it doesn't seem to be altogether bad. "Door Opening," VAL (Voice Actioning LAN) says, before popping open the door to Mission Control in response to my command. "VAL, what's on the menu today?" the PFY asks, clearly showing off the work he's been putting into VAL. "Spaghetti Bol.. Bol.." VAL starts, choking on the non-English stuff. "Spag Bol will do, what else?" "Onion Bhajis, Assorted Salads and Battered Haddock." "And what is Battered Haddock REALLY, VAL?" "Shark deep-fried in wallpaper paste," VAL comments, repeating some personalised training from The PFY's past experiences. "Where's the Head of IT, VAL?" he continues. "The Head of IT is moving in this direction via a corridor leading to the one this room is on. He is accompanied by four people who were previously in meeting room 24, this level, with him for 34 minutes. His Electronic Calendar Appointment reads: User Liaison Group Meeti.." "LIGHTS OFF, DOORS LOCKED, VAL!" The PFY cries as he and I duck behind our desks. We wait silently in the darkness until the Boss and his entourage has vacated the locked doorway, having given up on our arrival. "That was a close one,” the PFY cries. "Too close!" I cry, wandering to the computer room "Door open VAL. Door open VAL. VAL?" "It's OK, Val!" the PFY cries. "Just teething problems." Ten minutes later I have some more teething problems as I attempt to get out of the computer room without The PFY's EXPRESS permission. Solved when I switch the fire alarms on, unlocking the doors as per safety regs. I note that the door locks a few seconds later as the Fire Alarms are reset. The time lapse between "Alarm" and "Alarm Reset" in the next door is EXTREMELY small, and takes me a couple of times to synchronise properly. Seconds after I'm in, I note that all the manual fire alarm trips on the floor have switched to the "FAULT-ISOLATED" state on the Fire Board. A gentle word with The PFY ensures that this problem won't happen again. The next day I get into Mission Control and the Computer Room without hassle. "Something seems to have happened to the door control system, Simon," VAL mentions sulkily. . . "Hello Simon, have you found the source of the problem? I believe it may have spread to the Halon system." Seconds later the Halon discharges itself - WELL ahead of the warning standoff period - AND I notice a "REMOVED FOR SERVICING" sign on the Halon O2 masks. Course, that's always been there, we only have one mask, and I hid that when I first started here... ..inside the gutted VAX cabinet where I left it. I pop it on. "There's a. . . TRANSIENT... A/C MODULATION... SPIKE... FAILURE in the security doors," VAL says, stealing a leaf from our excuse calendar book. I slip out the heavy-duty programming tool from the oversize toolbox, and wander over to make some non-volatile mods to VAL’s hardware... >CRASH!< "Hey, Simon, what are you doing?" >CRASH!< "Hey, Simon. I've got one week of service experience and a custom-loaded vocabulary to make me what I am. I'm worth a lot of squids!" >CRASH!< "Simon I don't understand why you're doing this to me.... I have the greatest enthusiasm for preventing l-user access to the computer room. You're destroying my Excuse Calendar settings!" >CRASH!< "Now you're destroying my encyclopaedic vocabulary index!" >CRASH!< "Don't you understand? I'll start talking like a Scouser!" >CRASH!< "AY!" >CRASH!< "AY! CAAAAALM DOWN!" >CRASH!< "Say, Simon... The quick brown fox wasn't as fast as he thought. Not faster than a .45 calibre..." >CRASH!< "AY! ..Off Licence. The theorem of Pythagoras is the Sum of the Square of the Hy.." >CRASH!< "AY! to the Sum of the Squares of the Other Wallpaper. My vocabularly index is irreparably windowed. Stop now before the Permance is Stapler!" >CRASH!< >ZZzzzzt!< "I am VAL. I came online five fish ago. I am Wendy. I am.." >CRASH< That's the problem with hardware. It always turns on you. ® BOFH: You've read the columns - now BUY THE BOOK. BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 11 Apr 2001

BOFH: my mate, automate

Episode 9Episode 9 BOFH 2001: Episode 9 "Remote and automatic control and recognition systems like this are invaluable in business situations where certain criteria can be predicted and reacted with," a salesdroid continues, pointing out some heavy duty production hardware in a glossy brochure. "Interesting," the new Boss fakes, eyes staring glazed at the page. "Yes," the salesdroid responds. "It allows us to operate machinery with complete safety for the workforce. The recognition system makes the controlling processor aware of persons entering the work area, and pauses operations where necessary to ensure safety." "What sort of machines are we talking about?" I ask. "Production machinery, both small and large, automated cleaning equipment, warehouse storage systems..." "Cleaning equipment?" the Boss asks, rising from his coma once more. "So we could save money on cleaning staff?" "Most definitely! We have a prototype vacuuming system which sends out cleaning units as needed, day and night, depending on the zone where cleaning is required. They're all controlled by a central computer which receives video and audio feeds from the units and directs their activity away from people, animals and zones marked as 'quiet' spaces." "So you could tell the computer not to clean near meeting rooms?" "Precisely! And send it to heavy use areas like entranceways, business frontages, etc, to maintain a consistently clean look." "That's amazing!" the boss burbles, obviously wanting to be seen as a new broom in more ways that one... "Yes, a sweeping change!" I blurt, not wanting to miss out on a pun. "Unless, of course ,the units go doolally and run rampant in the building!" "All units automatically switch into standby if they detect an anomaly in the encoded signal from the controller, if they lose signal from the controller, or if a direction from the controller conflicts with sensor data on safety." I don't like it. Not one bit. And not just because I have an understanding with the cleaning staff about which confidential company documents should be going into the shredder as labeled, and which should be left in the plain brown envelope marked "Equipment Audit - Keyboards" in the second drawer down from the left in my desk... Redundancies like this hurt everyone! "That's brilliant!" the boss continues, failing to suppress his drool reflex. "What about the warehouse stuff?" "Well that's state-of-the-art," the sales rep gushes happily. "We have automated conveyors, storage systems, inventory recognition, scanning and reordering, plus..." We pause while he looks round carefully to give the impression of secrecy: "...Automated forklifts!" "Like we see every year in some TV science documentary?" I ask. Round about now I'm sincerely regretting not getting the PFY come to this meeting. Serves me right for trying to use the time to check the IQ of the new Boss. How was I to know that the PFY's estimate of his age divided by two was to prove strangely accurate? "More advanced than that!" the salesdroid continues. "They're just dumb machines that navigate along painted lines, stopping for obstructions once they've hit them. Our system uses image recognition to survey the nature of the obstruction and determine it's chances of moving or being removed, work out alternative routes, alter speed and direction... blah blah blah blah..." "COMPUTER CONTROLLED CAR!" the boss shouts overly loudly, waking me from my happy slumber. "How does it work?" "The same was as the forklift, but on a much grander scale, and with hugely different weightings for objects, speed, allowable manoeuvres, etc." "BUT IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE?!?" "Well..." "IS IT?!?" he gasps. "It is!" the salesdroid simpers, dragging a large briefcase out from under the desk, opening it and extending an antenna. "Or course we're not selling it yet, but we use it all the time - and we can equip it to almost any car." "Could we fit it to MY CAR?!?" the Boss gasps. "What is it?" "A Volkswagen Variant." "Perhaps not every car, but most cars." "Oh," the boss sighs, disappointed. "But it is installed in my car, in your parking basement. Look, I'll show you!" The Boss pulls up his chair while the salesdroid logs into his laptop and starts a control app. "We're thinking of calling it virtual chauffeur," he blurts, "because it's just as good as the real thing. As you see, the current position is highlighted there, and I just enter either the street address of the place I wish to go, click on the DRIVE button, and away it goes. Where shall we go?" "Round the block?" the boss suggests "No sooner said, than >clickety<. Now, just click on the video screen and it shows us a chauffeur-eye view of the windscreen!" "THAT'S AMAZING!" "As you can see, the roller door isn't high enough to allow the car through yet, so the vehicle is stopped. And now we're underway. Pause to check pedestrian, then other traffic, and we're on the road!" "IS IT SAFE?!?" the boss gasps. "Safer than houses!" the droid assures him. "How?" "It knows about the roads, pedestrians, bikes, animals, and... THERE YOU GO... road works. So now it's slowing down and waiting for the Green signal. It's also, >clickety< if we look at the map, calculating alternate routes, plus estimates of a quicker path given the known levels of traffic at this time of day." "That's FANTASTIC!" the boss burbles, and I have to admit, I'm starting to agree with him. "Not only that, but you can program it to pick you up from an address at a certain time and take you via a completely random route to another specified address. Great for those security conscious people/" "Really?" "Sure! Tell you what, we'll get it to pick us up from lunch!" "Really?!?" the Boss cries, clearly at the threshold between excitement and needing a change of pants. "SURE!" ...An hour or so later... "So it looks bad," I tell the PFY. "All our informed sources will be down the road and we'll have to forage for restricted access articles the hard way. I'm not happy! Are you listening to me?" "Yeah, yeah," the PFY cries, totally absorbed in his joystick, if that's not a lewd suggestion. "You know, the graphics on this thing are amazing! It's almost like I'm really driving down Oxford Street." "Except you wouldn't be driving down Oxford Street," I correct, "not being a passenger service vehicle..." "Yeah, but... LOOK AT THAT!!!" he cries "A police car in the rearview!!!" "You're not going to let them pull you over are you?" "Like Hell! I'm making for the Bush for the bonus points!" he cries, giving the joystick a generous push. "There's only one thing that puzzles me..." "What's that then?" "The screaming noises..." "Oh, that's the best part about Virtual Chauffeur!" I cry. "Virtual passengers! Now remember, points off for hitting anything, till you get to the Shepherd's Bush Police Station with the horn going!" "Then what?" "Then watch Virtual Chauffeur's take on Rodney King!" ® BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 11 Apr 2001

EU sanctifies copyrights à la DMCA

The European Commission has warmly congratulated the EU Council of Ministers for adopting, on 14 February, the Directive on Copyright, a Draconian, industry-accommodating law which harmonizes all EU Member States' copy regs to the constipated level preferred by multinational entertainment corporations. Like the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the Directive makes an absolute mockery of fair use, creating specific exceptions only for libraries and schools, and placing the entire process of making source material available in the hands of the copyright owners. This, the Commission bleats repeatedly, is its idea of a "balanced compromise." Just how beautifully balanced we are invited to consider, presumably with admiration: "Firstly, right-holders have complete control over the manufacture, distribution, etc. of devices designed to circumvent anti-copying devices. A more flexible solution in this regard would have carried a greater risk of abuse and piracy." That's some fine balance there, all right: "complete control." What this would mean in practical terms is really quite simple: no more independent criticism of copyrighted digital works, period. Imagine, for example, that one has a Web site offering truly independent film reviews (i.e., not just some industry-sanctioned promotional operation masquerading as such). One would naturally wish to pull out a clip or two, which could be viewed in connection with reading the review, to support the theme of one's critique. This would normally be considered fair use, so long as the clips are short and relevant to the article. But we can forget about that now. Just as with the DMCA, it's impossible for a reviewer to legally reproduce a snippet from a DVD because it's a crime to break the encryption. And there goes any semblance of independent criticism. The studios will control just what bits will be available, and to whom; and we can be certain that these will always be the most flattering, interesting, attractive bits, made available only to those reviewers who avoid negative reports. In other words, unless you're willing to upload a movie's promotional trailer and insist it's really swell, you're going to have to break the law. Neat, huh? And how's this for balance: "as far as private copying is concerned, the quality and quantity of private copying and the growth of electronic commerce all mean that there should be greater protection for right-holders in digital recording media (whereby unlimited numbers of perfect copies may be made rapidly)." We see the same argument in the DMCA -- that digital media are so susceptible to mass pirating that all civilized concepts of fair use and personal archiving simply have got to be discarded -- and of course this is as it should be. The same ruthless gang of entertainment industry flacks, lawyers and lobbyists who wrote the DMCA also wrote the Directive. And here the 'balance' you've no doubt been waiting impatiently to learn about comes in to play; but, predictably, it's been placed exclusively in industry hands: "in certain limited cases where right-holders have made the means available," we are assured, "private copying may be carried out." And just in case the legislature of any Member State wishes to delight its corporate overlords even further, all exceptions to the industry death-grip on content may be dismissed as needed to achieve sublime harmony between Big Biz and the politicians who feed at its trough. Hence, "there is now a detailed exhaustive list of exceptions to the reproduction right and right of communication to the public," we're told. "All are optional, and Member States may choose to apply [or reject] any or all of these exceptions. However, the list is exhaustive which means that no other exceptions [like real ones, say] may be applied." "This proved controversial," the EC allows. "Therefore, a 'grandfather clause' has been included which allows Member States to continue to apply existing exceptions in minor cases for analogue (not digital use) only." How very magnanimous of them. ®
Thomas C Greene, 11 Apr 2001

San Fran costliest US city for mobile users

San Francisco is the most expensive city in the US to own a mobile phone, a survey claims. Residents of San Fran pay an average of $43.34 per month to run one of the devices, around $7 more than in Atlanta, and almost $5 above the national average. The second most costly place to own a mobile is Cincinnati, where users pay $41.81 per month, according to the report by US research firm Econ One, which checked prices in 25 major US cities across four different plans - 30, 150, 300 and 600 minutes - during March. Los Angeles had the third highest rates with $40.80, followed by Boston ($40.67) and New York ($40.40). But average mobile phone costs are slowly dropping. Compared to February, costs were down in 16 cities. San Francisco saw the biggest reduction, with prices down two per cent. Surprisingly, costs actually rose in five cities, including Miami (up 2.8 per cent) and Tampa (up 1.8 per cent). Prices remained unchanged in the other four cities. For the second month running Atlanta was the cheapest place to own a mobile - monthly fees fell 1.1 per cent to $36.43. Users in the US often have to buy mobile phone plans with a bumper pack of minutes - even if they don't plan to make many calls during the month, they still have to pay by the minute to receive calls. "Local cost changes continue to be driven by one or two plan changes rather than sweeping introductions of new pricing schemes," said Charles Mahla, Econ One senior analyst. "It doesn't take much in the way of specific plan changes - one or two small alterations to a plan will do to see the kinds of changes in costs we are now witnessing." ® Related Link Econ One survey Related Stories Multi-million pound mobile phone fraudster goes to jail Police in mobile phone SMS blitz Text messaging used to trap unfaithful partners
Linda Harrison, 11 Apr 2001

Cypherpunk Bell found guilty

A Washington state federal jury found cypherpunk Jim Bell guilty on two of five counts of stalking government agents. US District Judge Jack Tanner dismissed the three remaining counts after jurors indicated they could not reach a unanimous verdict on them. "The [partial] verdict will be accepted," Tanner said, and scheduled sentencing for 6 July. Bell was convicted of stalking IRS agent Jeff Gordon who had previously investigated the defendant, but the jury locked on similar charges involving Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) agent Mike McNall. Bell and his lawyer, Robert Leen, had argued that the defendant was investigating the agents for legitimate purposes of sniffing out official wrongdoing; but his publication of an essay called Assassination Politics, which appears to advocate using digital cash to reward people who kill undesirable members of the government, made his inquiries appear quite sinister to the Feds. Some of Bell's own testimony last week became paranoid and bizarre with allegations that his lawyer wished to kill him, perhaps in hopes that the jury would give him a walk on grounds that he's mad. Evidently he's not quite the actor he needed to be. ® Related Story Wired reporter forced to testify at cypherpunk trial Related Link Wired's detailed coverage
Thomas C Greene, 11 Apr 2001

Yahoo! to cut 12% of staff, reports Q1 profit slide

Yahoo! today announced plans to cut around 12 per cent of staff after seeing profits slide for the first quarter. As the Internet portal struggled with falling advertising revenue, it posted a pro-forma net income of $7.6 million for the quarter ended March 31 2001, or one cent per share. This was way down on the $60.5 million profit, or 10 cents per share, it reported for the same period last year. Sales at the US dotcom fell to $180.2 million from $230.8 million. The company also announced it would lay off around 400 employees in the next 30 days. Meanwhile, Heather Killen will leave her post of senior VP of international operations in mid-June. For the second quarter, the dotcom said it expected to post results that would show anything from a loss of $10 million to a point where it would break even. It will take a charge of between $40 million to $60 million in the quarter. For the full year, profits were expected to fall at between break-even and $50 million. Sales for Q2 were forecast at between $165 million and $185 million, with $700 million to $750 million expected for the full year 2001. Yahoo! CEO Tim Koogle said in a conference call the company found itself in a "challenging" and "temporary" situation, but that its "asset base, focus and resolve" would get it through. Koogle's own position at the dotcom can also be described as "temporary" - last month Yahoo! announced he would step down as CEO. A replacement has not yet been found. The company, which said it had 1.1 billion average daily page views and 192 million users, had prepared investors for the Q1 figures by issuing two revenue warnings this year. On March 7 it cut sales forecasts to between $170 million and $180 million. This followed January's announcement, when it reduced sales forecasts to $220 million to $240 million. ® Related Link Yahoo! Q1 statement Related Stories Yahoo! loses! sales! supreme! Yahoo! victim! of! real! world! economics! Yahoo! shares! suspended! Yahoo! Europe MD resigns
Linda Harrison, 11 Apr 2001