9th > May > 2001 Archive

3DLabs extends channel embrace

3DLabs, the workstation graphics card designer, is opening its Wildcat Partner program to specialist system builders Previously available only to tier-one OEMs, the scheme is now open to "exclusively to system integrators and OEMs who build high-end systems for graphics-intensive fields such as computer aided design (CAD), digital content creation (DCC), geophysical, medical and visual simulation". Find out more here. Avnet yesterday launched its enterprise systems distribution business, Hall-Mark, into Europe. The business is based upon two units acquired in last year's purchase of VEBA Electronics, from VEBA, the German conglomerate. These are Transformation Software in the UK, and Raab Karcher Electronics (RKE) in Germany. Avnet Hallmark Europe will flog enterprise storage and networking systems to the channel. And the boss is Rick Terry, who joins the company from ADIC. Compaq UK's online marketplace has generated £5m-worth of RFPs(request for proposals) for resellers, since opening for business three months ago. The Compaq Marketplace is built and maintained by Acequote. Resellers can use Compaq marketing funds for their annual subscription. These stories appear also in Microsoft Partner, a site for UK resellers.
Team Register, 09 May 2001

Whitehat hacker made FBI patsy

American federal officials used threats and a false promise of leniency to lure computer security researcher and admitted cyber intruder Max Butler into becoming an undercover FBI informant, according to a defense motion filed in the case Tuesday. It was only when Butler balked at covertly recording a friend and colleague, and instead sought advice from an attorney, that the government threw the book at him, the motion charges. "The government as much as promised him he would receive consideration," says defense attorney Jennifer Granick. "At least until he hired an attorney." Butler, known as "Max Vision" to friends and associates, plead guilty last September to a single count of computer fraud, for penetrating a series of Defense Department computers in May of 1998. He's set for sentencing in San Jose, California on May 21st. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Butler faces 18 to 24 months in prison. The case was unusual from the start. Butler is not a typical "Black Hat" hacker. A consultant who specializes in performing penetration tests on corporate networks, the 28-year-old is well regarded in computer security circles, and several members of the community wrote letters of support for Butler's sentencing hearing. In particular, Butler is an expert on intrusion detection: the science of automatically analyzing Internet traffic for "signatures" indicative of an attack, and he created arachnids, a popular open source catalog of attack signatures that forms part of an overall public resource at WhiteHats.com. In Tuesday's motion, Butler's defense lawyer Jennifer argues that the financial losses alleged in the case are inflated. The government claims Butler caused $60,000 in damage, based on the hours spent recovering from the attacks. The 18 to 24 month sentence calculation is based in part on those losses, and if the sentencing judge agrees the figure is unreliable, Butler will likely receive a reduced sentence. Granick also argues that there are mitigating factors in the case that warrant a sentence below the guidelines, and for the first time offers some insight into Butler's motives in the 1998 cyber attacks. BIND hole In May, 1998, the Internet was reeling from a devastating vulnerability discovered in a ubiquitous piece of software called the BIND "named" domain server. Formally known as the iquery BIND Buffer Overflow vulnerability the hole been publicly announced by Carnegie Mellon's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) a month earlier, and a software patch to fix it was available for download. But according to an FBI affidavit, the hole was still in place on Air Force systems, nuclear laboratories, the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Transportation and the Interior, as well as the National Institute of Health. Near the end of May, the hacker group ADM raised the stakes by publishing a computer program capable of spreading through vulnerable systems automatically. It was concern over the damage the worm could wreak on an unprepared Internet that spurred Butler to his fateful course. "Mr. Butler modified the worm program to download and install the official software patch that repaired the BIND/named vulnerability from the software vendors' web site," Granick's motion reads. "Mr. Butler used his modified worm to automatically get root access on machines through the named vulnerability and fix the named hole." It could have been an unsullied act of mass guerilla patching -- a relatively harmless hack that would have left the Internet a little more secure, while dappling only a few spots of gray on Butler's white hat. But Butler's worm also installed back doors on every system it patched, and reported their location back to Butler, giving him a way into the machines even as he locked out other hackers. That feature simultaneously made the crime harder to defend, and easier to solve. "The Air Force was the first to realize what was going on; a lot of bases were being hit, a lot of flags were going up," says Eric Smith in an interview. Smith spearheaded the Butler investigation as an Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) computer crime sleuth. Now a computer security and investigations specialist at Denver-based e-fense, he recalls the electronic trail leading from McChord Air Force Base to Butler's Northern California home was relatively straightforward. But the reaction Smith received when he brought in the local FBI office was more puzzling. "As I was talking to them, I said the name [Butler] and they kind of hesitated. Then they said they'd call me back." Enter the "Equalizer" It turns out Butler was no stranger to the San Francisco FBI: The Bureau's cyber crime team had been tapping his expertise on a volunteer basis since 1996. "Max Butler is well known to the [agents] of the Computer Crime Squad," reads a 1998 affidavit by FBI agent Peter Trahon. "Butler has been a confidential source... for the FBI for approximately 2 years. He has provided useful and timely information on computer crimes in the past." "They were definitely surprised," recalls Smith. "It was kind of a sensitive situation." Court records don't reveal what kind of information Butler provided the FBI up to that point, but his lawyer characterizes it as "periodic intelligence reports" dealing with computer security vulnerabilities, software piracy techniques, and password cracking, all on a purely technical level. The nature of Butler's contribution was about to change. Armed with a search warrant, three FBI agents and OSI's Smith searched Butler's home on July 2nd, and found a penitent and contrite hacker, who immediately confessed to everything. "He wanted to help out," recalls Smith. "He wanted to do everything he could to try and make things right." The FBI saw an opportunity. "They told him that in order to set things right and to make amends, he had to work off his mistake by assisting them with other investigations," Granick writes. "Mr. Butler told the agents he wanted to continue to help and agreed that he would work for them. " "They were interested in doing more work with him," recalls Smith. "They thought he might have some more information on things that were going on." The agents gave Butler the nickname "Equalizer," and immediately put him to work. Phone hackers had infiltrated 3Com's PBX, and were using the company phone system for free teleconferencing. Butler's first mission was "to familiarize himself with new telephone system intrusion tools and techniques and to be able to pose as a 'phone phreak' (telephone hacker) in the investigation," the motion reads. "Mr. Butler, using his computer knowledge, and dropping the names of people the intruders knew from Internet Relay Chat (IRC), was able to lull the intruders into a sense of security. They then revealed, to Mr. Butler and through him to the FBI, the name of the hacking group that had committed the intrusion and the handle of the primary intruder," reads the motion. "During this monitored conversation, the suspects also discussed several instances of credit card fraud occurring over the network." Butler went on to hold IRC conversations with the hackers, and provide the FBI with transcripts. The agents were evidently pleased enough with Butler's work to give him another assignment, and near the end of July they summoned "Equalizer" to a meeting in the FBI offices high above San Francisco's Golden Gate Boulevard. Ratting on DEFCON attendees Butler's new mission: Attend the DEFCON hacker convention at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas -- the largest annual gathering of security experts, hackers and cybercops in the world. "There, he was to collect PGP encryption keys from conference attendees and try to match people's real names with their hacker identities and with the keys," reads the motion. The motion doesn't reveal how much information Butler gathered at DEFCON 6.0 on behalf of the FBI, and in an interview, Granick said Butler doesn't recall what he reported back to the Bureau. On Granick's advice, Butler refuses interviews about his case. After DEFCON, the FBI had another assignment for Butler. This time he was to wear a transmitting device - a 'wire' - and secretly record friend and colleague Matthew Harrigan, then CTO of San Francisco security services firm MCR, for which Butler had performed some consulting. It was no secret that Harrigan had a bit of hacking in his past. In 1996, he even discussed his past life as the hacker "Digital Jesus" in the pages of Forbes magazine. He assured readers that he'd long ago taken to the straight and narrow. But the FBI either wasn't convinced of Harrigan's reformed character, or believed that some of Digital Jesus' youthful adventures might fall within the five year statute of limitations. "The FBI was probably interested in me because I do associate with these people," says Harrigan. "Yes, I go to DEFCON. Yes, I hang out with them. Yes some of them are my friends. Did I participate in illicit activities? No. Absolutely not." Harrigan was never charged with a crime. He believes the Bureau was on a fishing expedition, trying to conscript more hackers into unwilling servitude. Instead, Butler's public service was drawing to a premature close. Apparently reluctant to become Linda Tripp, the hacker instead sought legal advice for the first time since his home was searched. He quietly made an appointment with defense attorney Granick, and, according to the defense motion, contacted the FBI agents to tell them "he would not be able to go along with the plan that day." The FBI didn't like that. "In the future, missed appointments without exceptional reasons will be considered uncooperative on your part," FBI agent Beeson wrote Butler in an email. "If you are not willing to cooperate then we HAVE to take the appropriate actions. [Agent] Pete [Trahon] is meeting with the prosecutor on YOUR case Monday. He wants to meet with you promptly in our office at 10:00am sharp, MONDAY 8/17/98." That was to be the last email from the San Francisco FBI to their "Equalizer." Skeptical of the FBI's intentions, Granick phoned one of the agents to ask for the details of their arrangement with Butler. She got a cool response. Eventually, she reached Assistant U.S. Attorney Ross Nadel, who was overseeing the case. He was, according to the motion, somewhat blunter. "At that time, defense counsel was told that the government was no longer interested in Mr. Butler's cooperation and that Mr. Butler could look forward to being indicted," Granick writes. "The only thing that had changed in the interim was that Mr. Butler had hired an attorney." No credit for cooperation "Presumably... they never had any intention of giving Mr. Butler any tangible benefit for his activities as a cooperating witness and believed that an attorney would advise Mr. Butler that under those circumstances, further cooperation was not in his best interest," the motion reads. Neither the San Francisco FBI office, nor prosecutor Nadel, returned phone calls regarding the case. Despite Butler's cooperation, in March 2000 the government threw the book at him. Butler was slammed with a fifteen count indictment charging him with interception of communications, computer intrusion and possession of stolen passwords. He was arrested, and, after a night in jail, released on signature bond. Butler's guilty plea last September won him a standard "acceptance of responsibility" sentencing adjustment, but in Tuesday's motion, Granick argues that a further reduction in his sentence is called for because his work for the Bureau. She accuses the FBI of using and betraying the hacker. "They tried to take advantage of his remorse and naïveté," says Granick in an interview. "They didn't cut him any slack... He didn't get any credit for his cooperation." Granick says the Butler case offers a lesson to other would-be 'Equalizers'. "If you're going to cooperate with the FBI, get an attorney to help you craft the terms of the deal," says Granick. "And get it in writing." © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved. Related Story FBI consultant pleads guilty to hacking
Kevin Poulsen, 09 May 2001
Cat 5 cable

MS ‘screw Linux’ Blade tech debuts in… Transmeta servers

Right on cue - and on a day of rolling black outs in California - Transmeta server startup RLX Technology took the wraps off its much talked-about baby. It's a superdense server fitting up to 336 Transmeta CPUs in a rack that can be populated by at most 42 CPUs using today's Intel boards. Transmeta CPUs are slower than their Chipzilla counterparts, but RLX reckons the density more than compensates for clock speed. And power consumption is dramatically down. Each 'blade' - and RLX wants you to think blades, mentioning the word no fewer than 24 times in its press release - uses 15W of power. It's practically fanless - RLX claims an 18:1 reduction in the number needed per rack - and we imagine, pretty quiet too as a consequence. All for under $5,000. Very nice. But blink and you'll miss it, it's the debut for Microsoft's me-too server appliance technology, which we wrote about here. Coincidentally, Microsoft launched its Server Appliance Kit on Monday As we noted then, Microsoft spends a lot of time as a software company reminding us that it doesn't do hardware. And it's been figuring out a way of stemming market share loss to Linux in various areas, with web hosting being one of the most prominent. That's prominent as opposed to lucrative - the commodity file and print services that Samba offers is a more subversive and far more damaging hit to Microsoft's revenue stream than the web hosting niche - it's just that it's more visible, as NetCraft's 'What is that site running?' question is just so easy to answer. RLX comes in two flavours, with Red Hat Linux or the Windows Powered Web Server. Redmond actually snuck this out of the door on Monday, and you can read all about it here.. Note that two of the compelling features that Microsoft boasts for the Server Appliance Kit are 'clarity of Intellectual Property Ownership' and 'Predictability of the Development Process'. This is the first time we've seen Microsoft give up its position of lofty distain towards Linux and software libre in its product marketing materials, and after Craig Mundie's assault on open source (and GPL) last week, we can conclude that there'll be plenty more where this came from. Related Link RLX Related Stories WinXP Blade: MS' plan to kill off Linux Web servers MS to tout 'shared source philosophy', compare GNU to bubble economy Show us the source, then Mr Mundie - developers Mundie retrofits Net visionary tag to Chairman Gates Intel's blades slice Transmeta's server party Transmeta chief talks Crusoe megaservers with The Reg
Andrew Orlowski, 09 May 2001

Electorate says ‘no’ to Net voting

As the UK readies itself for a month of mind-numbing electioneering it's been revealed that one in five UK voters would be happy use the Internet to exercise their democratic right, according to a poll from Forrester Research. According to our advanced calculus, that means 80 per cent of voters would not be happy to use the Net to vote. End of story. So, Forrester, there you have it. The majority has spoken. People are happy to stick with a battered old tin ballot box, a slip of paper and a crayon when they come to vote. It might be old fashioned and low tech, but at least it works. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 May 2001

France backs Jabber IM for 3G parlez-vous

The Instant Messaging wars could be over sooner than you think, thanks to an inspired investment by the French. The open source instant messenger project Jabber has been blessed with a major investment from a leading telco, namely France Telecom, which has agreed to fund development to the tune of $7m. France Telecom will take a 23 per cent stake in the commercial Jabber company, Webb Interactive Services, which employs many (but not all ) of the far-flung Jabber developers. Jabber.com shouldn't be confused with Jabber.org, which is where the community hangs out. Jabber is an XML-based alternative to ICQ, AIM and fellow travellers, but without much of the dogmatic potential for disaster that seems to beset XML initiatives. That's not to besmirch XML, rather than to point out that it uses XML sensibly and sparingly, rather than the write-a-C-compiler-in-COBOL implementations we're starting to see elsewhere. But all that's beside the point. Jabber clients - which can be found on Windows, Mac, Linux and many other platforms - may be lacking in many of the features we expect from today's bloated instant messaging clients (voice calls, file transfer, etc) but it has a feature the others don't really have. Jabber's built around the idea of presence: finding friends or like-minded people who may be in your virtual vicinity. Conventional PCs don't connect quite like this - if you're geeky enough you can reverse-directory their IP addresses - but of course mobile phones do. They can link the virtual to the physical, as each client device knows exactly where it is. So France Telecom has stumbled upon a backbone for handheld peer-to-peer communications that makes SMS look positively Neanderthal. As wise men have argued, punters are far more willing to spend money on point-to-point communications than on buying crappy, pre-packaged, warmed-over 'content', so France Telecom may have stolen a march on the rest of the slumbering cellular networks, and done so with typical Gallic flare. ® Related Stories Talking Back To Happiness - how voice calls can save 3G
Andrew Orlowski, 09 May 2001

Nat Semi to eliminate 10% of staff

National Semiconductor has said it will rid itself of 1100 workers in a bid to cut costs after it emerged the chip company's Q4 2001 sales will miss the target by up to 18 per cent. The job cuts amount to ten per cent of Nat Semi's worldwide workforce. Some 800 staffers will go, through redundancies and retirements, along with around 128 contractors. The jobs will be eliminated this quarter. Since it ends on 27 May, affected workers will be receiving their pink slips any day now. The costs of reducing its headcount, along with other expenses arising from the cost-cutting programme, is expected to be $25-30 million, but the result will be a $70-80 million saving over the coming fiscal year. Nat Semi now expects to report sales of $390-400 million for the current year's final quarter, rather less than the $427 million Wall Street had been expecting. The cost of the redundancies plus $10-12 million worth of stock writedowns should knock the company into the red, break-even at best. ®
Tony Smith, 09 May 2001

WinXP – burn baby, burn…

WinXP DiariesWinXP Diaries Microsoft's decision to make Windows Media Player 8 a WinXP-only product was made, the company explains, because, er, only WinXP supports cool features like CD burning. Betanews amusingly suggested that the subsequent warezing of a Win98 version of WMP8 might have been a cunning Microsoft plan to generate interest in an otherwise uncompelling product, but The Register's experiences with the XP-only bit strongly suggest it's equally uncompelling. The big sales point, frankly, is as unlovely as the thing it's supposed to be selling, and I've been churning out dud CDs in such volumes that I'm beginning to wonder how many shares in Maxell and Memorex Bill might have. Attempts to cut audio CDs progressed pretty (and with hinsight, suspiciously) quickly. Then they didn't seem to have anything on them. Hardware problem? It certainly doesn't play with Winamp or Musicmatch either, although both identify an audio CD, and Winamp bizarrely suggests track one is the Allman Brothers, then flunks the rest. Neil Young Unplugged, actually. Hmm... A proper CD player just buzzes when I put the disc in. Hardware problem? Musicmatch records a second attempt on the same hardware successfully, which is how I managed to criminalise Register factotum Lester Haines. Obviously I don't need two copies of The Clash on Broadway, but as his is unlicensed, maybe he'd better eat it. Mind you, if I record the CD (which I bought, and therefore have a licence for) to my hard disk, WMP8 will happily report that I don't have a licence either. I nevertheless think it entirely unreasonable (but entirely in the spirit of the greedhead music business) that I should eat mine too. Enough of that - the gist is that WMP8 repeatedly takes a run at cutting a music CD then screws up, leaving me with a useless CD that WinXP at least seems incapable of doing anything about, while a more established piece of software does a perfectly good and reliable job, using the same hardware. Orlowski tells me RealJukebox does a better job than Musicmatch, quality-wise, but thanks to WMP8 I've got to go buy some more blanks to verify this. Experience says that WinXP's burning capabilities are wobbly for data as well. I suspect the proportion of failed writes is rather higher than I'd get on the same hardware, using DirectCD and EasyCD under Win98, but I'm not sure I can afford the media to do the full statistical analysis. Yesterday's exercise, however, will give you an idea of its many failings. I'm running one test system of XP at home, and one in the office. Email is pivotal to what I do, but rationally you can only have one single copy of your fully current email database at any one time, and if you don't have a large 'access from anywhere' server you leave it on, you've got a problem if you're even only working from two location. So, something of an axe-murderer solution occurred to me. Use Outlook on both machines, centralise the lot in one of them, then simply truck backups burned onto CD between the two. Before you point it out, yes, I know that it's going to be difficult to get the database out of Outlook 2002 (which is of course the relevant component of Office XP), but a few months down the line any rival product I want to relocate to (or through - I've done this before) will have the necessary routine. Here. however, is how the cunning plan operated, and how come some of you who mailed me on Monday didn't get a reply on Tuesday after all. Tuesday morning, the home machine having the complete database, I exported to a .pst file, which I then copied onto a CD. 91 megabytes - what a big one I've got, and that doesn't include all of the attachments that didn't import from Eudora. Note that you can't just write direct from Outlook to CD - it reports incorrect filename, which is a typically Microsoft spurious error message covering the matter of Outlook not knowing you can now write to CDs in the first place. Word 2002 doesn't know about them either, so it's slightly explicable in that Office XP is for Win98 as well, and that doesn't support CD burning. Notepad in XP, however, does know, so there's something. I could do a rant about building proper object technology into operating systems now, but I won't. Later, maybe. On arriving in the office yesterday, copying the file to the hard disk and fiddling with the archive and read only settings (MS settings dialogues also don't know you should be able to do this on a writable CD), I find the file fails to import. On closer scrutiny, it's 0 megabytes. Funny that. So we'll skip answering emails today. Later, time to go home, so more experimentation with what's come in, in order to sync with the now incomplete database at home. Try writing to the earlier CD, which has space, but again I get an empty file. Try a blank disk (the only one left, dammit), and again, an empty file. That shoots down theory one, which was that XP craps out writing to disks with data already on them - although it still seems worse at doing this than at writing to blanks. Try again, and this time, when it prompts me for Finish? after ejecting the disk, I put the disk back in and then click finish. Then the CD drive kicks into a long period of activity, I check to see I've got a file with data in it on Lester's machine (can't trust mine, could be doing some nightmare cacheing job), then come home. J'accuse? Not quite. Trying to repeat this later, clicking finish without reinserting the CD, I get a decent copy anyway. This morning's drop, now 94 megs, cut properly first time, although I played safge by shutting the door at the suspicious moment. But overall, I think WinXP's trying to be a lot cleverer about CD burning than it's currently capable of. Time to figure out how to get DirectCD on without breaking everything again, or maybe to switch over to Nero. Related stories: WinXP: product activation, updates and control freakery WinXP: why it's the Big One that could make MS bigger yet WinXP delayed? How it could slip beyond October
John Lettice, 09 May 2001

eMachines looks for buyer

eMachines, the bottom-scraping budget PC maker, is looking to put itself up for sale. The company puts things a little more cautiously. It says it has asked Credit Suisse First Boston to assist it in "evaluating strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company" but nothing may come of this. In March, eMachines announced it was laying off 16 per cent of its staff, to get expenses into line with falling sales. It also canned its Net idea to flog ads that customers would see when they logged on, and closed down its Internet business with the loss of 21 jobs. eMachines, Korean-owned but based in America, sells PCs as cheap as they come, and it built huge market share in 1999 through deals with MSN among others which saw customers receive PCs as part of bundled ISP contracts. Since the end of those deals sales have fallen by half. The company started in Novemebr 1998, it sold one million machines in its first year, and has sold a further 2.7 million PCs since. In October 2000, the company announced plans to cut PC manufacture by 20 per cent, in advance of the Christmas season. In retrospect, that was probably the wisest call on the market of any US PC maker - even though the move was prompted more by financial exigencies than by an ability to read a crystal ball. It sold 311,000 units in Q4 2000, down 49 percent from the fourth quarter of 1999. eMachines last year awarded exclusive European representation rights to Dixons Stores Group, and solus retail rights in countries where the electronics retail giant operated. ® Related Stories eMachines junks eKeys eMachines to miss sales targets PC World slow to advertise actual screen sizes
Robert Blincoe, 09 May 2001

Infineon demands $105m damages

Rambus vs InfineonRambus vs Infineon Infineon wants $105 million from Rambus for all the trouble the memory technology developer has caused it, the company asked a jury yesterday. That's in addition to the $560,000 it wants to cover its legal expenses. The demand for damages followed the presentation of Infineon's case, presented to the jury sitting in Rambus' patent infringement action against the chip maker. Infineon alleges Rambus acted fraudulently while dealing with JEDEC when the semiconductor standards body was working on a standard specification for SDRAM. The fraud charge and a related case of racketeering are all Infineon has left to accuse Rambus after the trial judge, Thomas E Payne, threw out its anti-trust allegations on Monday. Last Friday, he threw out the final three patent violation allegations made by Rambus against Infineon, having dismissed 54 alleged infringements earlier in the week. Infineon's figure of $105 million represents how much it would have had to pay to Rambus had the latter's claims been proven in the court. Infineon claimed Rambus "corrupted [JEDEC's] core principles... by purposely ignoring the rules and by secretly working with their patent lawyer to put what they learned" into its own patent applications. That, the chip maker said, was "a cold and calculated plan to get the industry entrenched and then ask for $100 million a year". ® Related Stories Jury to judge Rambus fraud charge Rambus loses patent fight
Tony Smith, 09 May 2001

Sage weathers storm with 10 per cent profit increase

Accounting software group Sage has announced a 10 per cent pre-tax profit increase in its interim results. New licences have fallen thanks to a general slowdown but it has managed to tap existing customers to increase turnover by 13 per cent. The City was not too impressed however as the results came at the bottom of expectations and the company's share price has dropped more than five per cent this morning to rest at 258.25p. The company also suffered slightly from recent investment in the US market, which has since slowed down thanks to the state of the economy (it spent £183 million acquiring Interact in March). Sage remains optimistic though, with Chairman, Michael Jackson saying he thinks the company will knock out some good full-year results. The interim results were: (last year's) Turnover up 13 per cent to £229.6 million (£202.5 million) Pre-tax profit up 10 per cent to £59.2 million (£54.0 million) Earnings per share up 8 per cent to 3.214p (2.987p) Dividend for the half year up 10 per cent to 0.143p per share (0.130p) Operating cash flow £66.6 million (£66.7 million) Mr Jackson had this to say: "Our businesses have made sound progress during the period. Whilst broadening our product portfolio and attracting more customers, we continue to improve underlying profitability. Our second quarter showed an encouraging improvement in revenue growth which continued into April. Whilst not immune to the US slowdown, we believe we will deliver satisfactory results for the full year." ®
Kieren McCarthy, 09 May 2001

StormLive.com axes DJs

StormLive.com - the Internet music station backed by former BBC Radio 1 DJ, Bruno Brookes - might be pressing the mute button after admitting that it's been hit by the downturn in the new economy. On Friday last week StormLive.com made its DJ's and 'On Air' support staff redundant. StormLive.com declined to say how many staff were laid off. The Internet radio station is still broadcasting but the service has become completely automated - even though it appears that a DJ is still spinning the discs. StormLive.com is currently engaged in a review of the operation to determine the future of the music station. Said marketing director, James MacDonald: "The commercial decision to suspend the live elements of Stormlive.com has been taken as a result of continued poor returns in the commercial market. "We have become an automated station which brings is into line with the vast majority of serious operations in this sector. "A review of the product is currently under way which will eventually decide the future direction of StormLive.com, which is a wholly owned channel of Storm Radio Ltd," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 May 2001

Cisco loses $2.69 billion on declining sales

Cisco Systems has posted a loss of $2.69 billion on its first ever quarterly decline in sales. The networking equipment giant's sales were down 4.2 per cent in its third quarter at $4.93 billion compared to $4.73 billion in the same quarter last year. Cisco's pro forma net income for the quarter was $230 million but restructuring charges associated with its recent layoffs of $1.17 billion and an excess inventory charge of $2.2 billion took it well into the red. "The first four months of 2001 were extremely challenging as we went from year over-year bookings in excess of 70 per cent in November, to 30 per cent negative growth within a span of several months. This may be the fastest deceleration any company of our size has ever experienced," said John Chambers, Cisco's chief executive. In a conference call, Chambers repeated earlier projection that its fourth quarter sales would be flat or down 10 per cent on those it recorded this quarter. Weak demand for networking kit as the US economy has slowed and reorganisation among US service providers, a key market for Cisco's high-end routers, has hit its revenues far more than it ever expected. Bankruptcies among startup phone and Internet companies mean that the percentage of Cisco's sales in the US for the quarter is down from 49 per cent to 41 per cent. Demand in the key markets of the UK, Germany and Japan has also been weak. Other major players in the networking market, such as Nortel and Lucent, have also been forced to make lay offs recently as their sales have declined for similar reasons. Industry watchers predict that Cisco is better positioned for recovery and that we might its recent disappointing financial performance might have bottomed out. External Links Cisco Q3 conference call in streaming media - no text version yet Related Stories Cisco boss slashes salary to $1 Cisco calls halt on Borg-like acquisition spree Cisco boss apologises for slashing jobs Where have all the Cisco customers gone?
John Leyden, 09 May 2001

Roxio replies over Easy CD Creator problems

Below is a verbatim response from Roxio regarding our questions on version 5 of Easy CD Creator. We reported how the software was crashing significant numbers of Windows 2000 machines. Two days after our first article, Roxio posted a fix on its Web site as well as a US helpline. If you have any queries, Roxio asks that you either email support@roxio.de or call 0049 2405 45089501 (Germany) or 001 408 934 7283 (US). If you feel Roxio has missed any vital information, email us and we'll ask another set of questions. ® What is the problem exactly? One issue brought to Roxio's attention is a low level interaction between TakeTwo and some removable devices, including Zip drives. The result of this interaction may result in a Windows system issue, resulting in a blue screen. Once we were notified of this problem, we posted a patch (back in March), http://www.roxio.com/en/support/ecdc/ecdcupdates.html. The second compatibility problem is a slow boot issue and we believe it is a small percent of users that have experienced this. It is an interaction between Windows 2000 Professional, TakeTwo, and system software for Zip drives. At boot time, TakeTwo tries to determine the type of devices that are present on the user's system. In doing so, if it finds a Zip drive, it will try to query the information that is on the media in the drive. It is looking for the number of partitions on the media. If media is not present, garbage gets passed back to TakeTwo from the operating system portion that handles the Zip device. If in that garbage there is information about partitions which is misleading, Take Two will try to mount the device. Since there is no media in the Zip drive, this may lead Take Two to continue to try to mount the device over & over again. This results in the "slow boot" scenario. Will Roxio be compensating customers? Yes, we will refund the money they paid for the product. Again, we ask that customers contact us immediately so that we can assist them. Will Roxio be recalling the product? No, based on the small number of customers that have contacted Roxio with these compatibility problems, we do not feel this is necessary. We believe we have a solution and we can fix their compatibility problems. How did this bug get through the testing process unnoticed? Roxio conducts extensive testing of all products before releasing to market. Successful CD burning is extremely system-dependent, and there are millions of possible combinations of OS, hardware, other software, etc. that can cause compatibility problems. We cannot realistically test all combinations and circumstances that our millions of customers have. As soon as any problem is brought to our attention, we aggressively work to develop a fix. We posted a patch last night, http://www.roxio.com/ecdc501s.html that we believe solves the "slow boot" problem. Did Roxio have issues with version 4? Version 4 was shipped months before Windows 2000 shipped. Shortly after Windows 2000 shipped, we released a patch (4.02) to support it. Version 4 did not claim to support Windows 2000, system support is clearly located on each box. I hope this information clarifies the situation for you. We would appreciate a follow up article stating the facts and what Roxio is aggressively doing to alleviate any problems that arise with our software. We are committed to providing quality products to our customers. Regards, Kathryn Kelly Manager, Corporate Communications Related Stories Easy CD Creator saga continues Stop! Don't install Easy CD Creator 5 til you read this story
Kieren McCarthy, 09 May 2001

Infineon win may axe Samsung's Rambus royalty

Rambus vs InfineonRambus vs Infineon Samsung, for one, may be eagerly looking forward to Infineon's success in its battle with Rambus. As a Rambus licensee, you'd expect Samsung to be rallying for its technology partner. However, as EBN has spotted, Samsung stands to have its royalty payments slashed if Rambus loses its patent infringement case against Infineon. A clause in Samsung's license states: "If a court determines that the [Rambus] patents have not been infringed in any geographic area, Samsung royalties will not apply in that geographic area." Samsung currently pays a 3.5 per cent royalty on all DDR SDRAM parts it ships and 0.75 per cent on single-rate SDRAM - both figures made public through the Rambus vs Infineon trial. The DDR figure has since been described as "very high" by analysts, most of whom had put the previously unknown royalty at 2-2.5 per cent. Interestingly, a part of Rambus' argument against Infineon centred on how the latter's refusal to pay up was giving it an unfair competitive advantage over companies, including Samsung, who had signed up. Samsung presumably can't simply stop paying up, since Rambus has said it will appeal against the US District Court's ruling that it has been unable to prove infringement on any of the 57 counts its submitted. However, the Korean giant will almost certainly be watching the outcome of the appeal very carefully. As, we reckon, will other licensees. They may not have similar clauses in their licences, but we expect they will demand one now the Samsung clause is out in the open - especially if Rambus loses its appeal. Rambus has a strong case to take the Appeal Court. It's foundation is that the trail judge restricted too tightly the parameters by which Rambus' claims would be measured in his Markman ruling. An interesting statistic is that around half of all Markman rulings are overturned at appeal. ® Related Stories Infineon demands $105m damages Jury to judge Rambus fraud charge Rambus loses patent fight Rambus' 'very high' DDR royalty revealed
Tony Smith, 09 May 2001

E-minister bottles election debate

The Minister for Textiles and part-time E-minister, Patricia Hewitt, has refused to take part in an online debate about e-commerce in the run-up to the general election. Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC), Chris Shaw, challenged the Minister because he believes New Labour's record on e-issues is simply not up to scratch. Shaw is contesting the same seat as Ms Hewitt in the general election and wants to go head-to-head with Ms Hewitt as part of his fight for the Leicester West constituency. "In 1997 New Labour suggested that it was the modern party and the natural party of the Internet generation" said Shaw "Nearly four years on, the E-minister's policies have done more harm that good". Shaw reckons that under the New Labour Government the growth in Internet access has been slow making the UK uncompetitive. He also believes that the Government has been slow to break the BT monopoly and open up competition to provide cheaper Internet access. A spokeswoman for Ms Hewitt's constituency office in Leicester told The Register: "Patricia will not be taking part in the online debate because she feels she will be too busy continuing to talk to people in Leicester West." Shaw first challenged the Minister for Textiles and E-minister to a debate last year although Ms Hewitt's constituency office claims that Shaw never formally issued the challenge. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 May 2001

America persists in militarizing space

Uncle Sam needs to consolidate and fine-tune its military forays into outer space for the good of all mankind, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters during a Washington press conference Tuesday. The US Department of Defense is "merging disparate space activities and adjusting chains of command....re-aligning Air Force headquarters and field commands to more effectively organize, train and equip for space operations," Rumsfeld explained. When asked whether the USA would actually put weapons into orbit, Rumsfeld, who has spent the past several years slickly pimping for Big Pharma, shifted into his finest non-answer answer mode. "These proposals have nothing to do" with offensive capabilities, Rumsfeld said bluntly. And then he told everyone what they wanted to hear. "Consistent with treaty obligations, the United States will develop, operate and maintain space control capabilities to ensure freedom of action in space, and if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries," he read from a prepared script. Which is another way of saying 'absolutely not, but of course.' Reading from his script again, Rumsfeld added that "the United States is committed to the exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all humanity. Peaceful purposes allow defense and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national security and other goals." Which means that if the USA approves of your government, you can hang as many freaky satellites in orbit as you please. If not, well, forget it. The danger, obviously, is that if Uncle Sam pioneers space as some new battlefield -- because it can -- then everyone and his brother will want to stake it out for their own defense, and a preposterous flotilla of deadly orbiting space-junk will eventually envelop the planet. The Knucklehead-in-Chief has already made it a personal mission to revive Reagan's old "Star Wars" missile defense system, which if successful would only serve to give the USA first-strike capability in a nuclear exchange. Once deployed, it would, of course, have to be matched by the Russians, and possibly the Chinese if they can steal enough top secret data to make it work. The last thing Little Bush needs is a couple of dangerous morons like Rumsfeld and Veep Cheney telling him what a stud he'll be if he succeeds. Meanwhile, US Senator Thomas Daschle (Democrat, South Dakota) characterized Rumsfeld's announcement as "the dumbest thing I've heard so far in this administration." Nice to see someone in Washington using his head for a change. ®
Thomas C Greene, 09 May 2001

Next-gen Matrox chip to launch June

Matrox is set to unveil its next-generation 3D graphics acceleration chip next week in preparation for the part's official launch early June. The company, of course, isn't saying which chip it will be unveiling, but the G550 - the follow-up to the current G450 - has to be most likely candidate. Matrox's next major part was to have been the G800, which was said to offer twin rendering pipelines, support 128-bit DDR SDRAM video memory and feature a built-in transform and lighting engine as per Nvidia and ATI. However, according to a Matrox representative, cited by The Tech Report last month, the G800 is "completely dead". The trouble appears to have been that G800 was a dual-chip solution and, like 3dfx's problematic multi-chip VSA-100, Matrox may have run into difficulty making the chip pay. Two chips per board hits costs hard, especially when the silicon yields are low, as they always are in the early days of a new chip. Instead, Matrox is thought to be working on a single-chip version, the G550. It is said to offer the same 128-bit DDR support and dual rendering pipeline with three texture units per pipeline, but cuts back the T&L engine to provide just one or two commonly used features. There's matrix skinning and displacement mapping. The G550 is expected to have a 200-250MHz clock and a 360MHz RAMDAC. The part will be fabbed at 0.18 micron and support AGP 1x, 2x and 4x. The Millennium G550 board will contain 32MB of DDR SDRAM. According to the Matrox guy, the G550 will ship by the end of May, "at the latest". The chip will almost certainly appear under Matrox's Millennium brand and boards are expected to cost between $150 and $200. ® Related Link The Tech Report: Matrox G550 news
Tony Smith, 09 May 2001

EasyJet pushes 90% of ticket sales onto Web

EasyJet, the budget airline, boosted online booking to 89.2 per cent of its total sales last month. A year earlier it was managing to get 64.3 per cent of ticket sales booked on the Web. Customers have been pushed to carry out online business with EasyJet by: £2.50 discounts per flight; being unable to book a month in advance unless its via EasyJet.com; and by not advertising its call centre phone number. EasyJet seems to be handling ebusiness development better than some other players in the travel market. The FT reports British Airways sells between three and four per cent of its tickets via the Web. And yesterday online bucket shop Lastminute.com announced it would be profitable within 12 months. For the quarter ended 31 March 2001, the company recorded a pre-tax loss of £14.3 million compared to £11.0 million during the same period last year. Turnover increased sharply from £834,000 in Q2 last year to £4.1million, and it reckons that with £60 million still in the bank from its float last year that it will have enough cash see it through the year. EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou is valued at £873 million in the Sundat Times Rich List. ® Related Stories Lastminute.com profitable within year
Robert Blincoe, 09 May 2001

BT bashed about by City – again, again

BT has seen its shares drop another six per cent on the leaked news that it will cut or even scrap its dividend in its annual results. According to numerous sources, the troubled telecoms monster is hoping to save over £1 billion by simply refusing to pay a dividend. This may please the new board hoping to cut BT's debt by £10 billion to £20 billion, but it is unlikely to please millions of shareholders who have not only seen their investment plummet in value but will now receive no lump sum to reward their year-long loyalty. Rumour is also rife that BT will bring forward its planned final results announcement from next week to tomorrow. It may also use tomorrow to announce its planned £4 billion or £5 billion rights issue. Another cause for investors to be less than happy. Of course, BT has maintained its usual arrogant stance on such "rumour and speculation". It won't comment on any of it - "the next scheduled announced is on 17 May" said BT's spokesparrot. This attitude was more bearable when BT was a feared telco as opposed to the derided, sick animal that has seen two of its three main directors ousted in recent months. It is also daft when the company currently has more leaks than a sieve. That aside, while BT may be suffering the hangover from hell, Sir Christopher Bland has brought some much-needed Alka Seltzer to the party. Scrapping the dividend - traditionally the sure sign that you are a monster of commerce like ICI - will hopefully be BT's lowest point. And to slip into another metaphor, if, when the BT balloon is so close to the ground, Bland and Hampton take the opportunity to hurl out Bonfield and pull in a new CEO with a lighter head, they will find the balloon shoots up much faster. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 09 May 2001

WinXP to be best, fastest selling OS in history – by order

Microsoft platforms group VP Jim Allchin is set to announce the release day for Windows XP at 8.30am PDT today, and it'll be Thursday October 25th, rather than the Friday, as we said yesterday. Still, close... Jim's alarm probably only just gone off, but already Der Tag is up on the MS WinXP site, and the droids have been emailing us press releases expressing the usual widespread industry support and rallying around. This makes it crystal-clear that XP is intended to be available at retail and on new PCs by that date, and furthermore that it's going to be perfect. "Mark your calendars now: The release of Windows XP on October 25th is going to be a historic day for our customers and for the industry," said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer at Microsoft. "Windows XP will be the highest-quality Microsoft operating system ever, and Microsoft and our associates are committed to delivering a set of amazing new computing experiences that will set a new paradigm for PC users around the world." All this and hitting the RC and RTM milestones too! This is going to be a tricky one, and the next couple of months are going to be seriously stressful for Redmond coders. And here goes with some more hostages to fortune: "Windows XP will be the biggest Windows marketing event in Microsoft history-- doubling the investment of the Windows 95 launch in the first four months of product availability alone. This incredible marketing push by Microsoft and industry partners is expected to unleash tremendous demand for the experiences that Windows XP enables. 'IDC expects that Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional will see more new license shipments by the end of 2002 than any other new Microsoft operating system has had in its first full year of availability,' said Al Gillen, analyst at IDC. 'This will make it the fastest-adopted version of Windows to date.'" Vastly more marketing spend than Win95, and uptake targets so ambitious that they surely must require a very fast switchover by the hardware manufacturers from Win98/ME and Win2k to WinXP in order to be achieved.* Note that Mr Gillen in rentaquote mode is likely just repeating what Microsoft told him, and that the machine is going into overdrive to achieve the big bang, 100 per cent successful launch. Inescapably, this means that any plans to kick the launch back into 2002 are now definitely off. And if something bad enough to screw up the rollout happens, then assuredly somebody will pay. ® * Actually, if you think about the numbers and the size of the hill to be climbed, IDC's prediction is a lot less bullish than it sounds initially. Up until the end of 2002 from the end of October 2001 is 14 months, so IDC is apparently giving WinXP extra time to outperform the previous best-seller sales in its first year. This surely can't be what they meant to say, could it? Related stories: WinXP to launch on October 26: coders go on war footing
John Lettice, 09 May 2001

DoCoMo defies telecoms slump

NTT DoCoMo, the Japanese telecoms company, has defied the tired telecoms market by announcing a 26 per cent jump in revenues to Y4,686 billion (£27.1 billion) this year compared to last. Net profit leaped 45 per cent to Y366 billion (£2.1 billion). The focus obviously falls on the company's extremely successful i-Mode mobile service which has wiped the floor with the West's WAP effort to tie the Internet in with phones. i-Mode contributed just over seven per cent of the company's total revenue and this is set to grow in future years. However, its president Keiji Tachikawa made a point of saying he expected the i-Mode service to reach saturation soon - he puts this at 80 per cent penetration (it's currently at around 60 per cent). In terms of people, we're talking is 30 million subscribers. So while i-Mode and NTT DoCoMo have managed to ride over this year's telecoms slump thanks to having a good product that works, it is really 3G networks that the company needs to keep on earning. Although a huge question mark hangs over the next-generation technology, there are many folk going out of their way to get it working. DoCoMo was hoping to be the first with a 3G network this month but has put it back to later in the year. BT tried and failed with Manx Telecom on the Isle of Man. Vodafone is still at the basic testing stage. Plus other competitors have decided to ignore WAP protocols and provide a Westernised version of i-Mode. The company has taken stakes in various 3G licence holders in Europe and Asia as well as in AT&T Wireless in the States. If DoCoMo can work faster and better than the market, particularly in Europe, this may just be the first of many years where it outshines its rivals. If it falls behind, it will not only miss a chance of 3G leadership but will also see its current customer base drift away. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 09 May 2001

Sun thieves get six years apiece

Two computer blaggers have been sentenced to six years each for a series of high profile thefts of boards from Sun servers last autumn. Tony Manigan, 29, and John Sheehan, 21, admitted they'd been part of a crew which stole the Sun kit to order and had scored more than £3 million worth of kit. At Southwark Crown Court last month they help up their hands to two separate jobs on Deutsche Bank, as well as raids on Chase Manhattan Bank and Islington based ISP Net Benefit. The pair had secured swipe cards from insiders to get into the banks, but were later identified from CCTV footage. Solicitor Helen Leadbetter, of Saunders & Co, who represented Manigan told vnunet.com that she felt the sentences had been quite severe. She felt this was because of the high value of the goods stolen. Police are still chasing the rest of the high-tech crime crew. They have teamed up with forensic scientists to discover ways of grabbing DNA samples from the IT hardware scenes of crime. ® Related Link vnunet.com story - and check out their shiny new redesign. Related Stories Police grab DNA from server thieves Three people charged with Sun server burglaries
Robert Blincoe, 09 May 2001

Profanity, nein danke says Psion decency bot to Reg

Are these strange symbols above the Psion logo the lord's prayer backwards in runic? Apparently not. Psion, we find, is a highly sensitive, decency-obsessed outfit. Read on. A couple of days back we noted a Psion release about a netBook in schools project, thought that the project's existence suggested that Psion just might finally have got some decent ethernet drivers together for the netBook, and emailed PR factotum Anthony Garvey with a mild enquiry. So far so good. Anthony replied in the affirmative, copying Psion's Mr netBook in on the message. That's when it all started to go wrong. We replied exuberantly: "Vipul? Ah yes, I remember Vipul. I'm replying on a Netbook, BTW, so I'm obviously still interested. Yup, gimme gimme. While I'm about it, could you nuke the control freaks who're responsible for the tollgate on your software updates? Why the **** is it necessary, for example, to be registered in order to get Wavefinder updates? I mean if you want them you've obviously got a Wavefinder, and the s*****g things don't fit in CD burners, do they? (-: Congrats on the share revival, BTW. I was just musing about buying some yesterday. B******. John" The asterisks, we regret to say, were not in the original message. For reasons you may have guessed already, publication of the message here will be Anthony's first opportunity to read it. Back came the response from mailsweeper@psion.com. "An attempt to send this message has been blocked as it may breach the corporate policy." But we hear from Anthony. "To new heights: your message has been banned. So I am unable to reply with my normal level of accuracy (steady...)" So we tried again, this time with asterisks, and outlining the likely problems with the previous effort: "Oh, the usual, f***, b*****, b*****. I'll debark it and send again some time. Anyway, the bowdlerised version is that yes please, I'd like the Ethernet code, and possibly an up to date network adaptor, if you could see your way. The gold card issued with the netbook isn't an Ethernet combo. I'm stunned that you get any email at all though, if you've got a decency bot enabled. Your mates are a f**** rough crowd, after all, aren't they? John" There were, we blush to admit, again substantially less asterisks in the original, although no risky word was used in full. Well, hello again mailsweep@psion.com, which apparently does asterisks. And hello Vipul Palan, who turns out to have got the first one, bad language and all. Psion only uses the language minder for the PR guy, not for the execs? Funny that. We replied to Vipul, deliberately not cutting the copy of the original offending message off the bottom, and cced in Anthony so he could get another puzzling bouncer alert. And we've decided to send him a word or phrase of the day, every day. Today's word was "smeg". This seems to have passed. Yesterday's was "bunch of radishes". This passed too. Onwards and upwards. ®
John Lettice, 09 May 2001

Music biz backs anti-Napster MP3 sniffer-outer

UpdatedUpdated The music industry today gave its backing to software that allows punters to do its dirty work for it. The software, called Songbird, allows users to search for songs on the Napster network (you have to be a registered Napster user to perform the search). It is aimed at copyright owners who want to see which of their songs are being shared. That said, we're not entirely sure what use it will be. Songbird's developer, Media Enforcer, says the code "allows its users to search all of the Napster servers for specific artist and track combinations. "In addition, the 'Search variations' option allows users to find popular spelling variations (eg. Pig Latin) of Artist and/or Song Title information. Songbird displays and, when selected, records the User Name, Date/Time and File information of files that meet the user's search criteria." At the end of the day it's basically a filename-based search system and as comprehensive as it is, it will always be one or two steps behind the latest conventions file-sharers are using to disguise the names of the songs they're distributing. Songbird is free, but we note that Media Enforcer is very quick to try and sell you a $50 upgraded version that will also search Gnutella and adds movies and other digital media to the list of searcheable files. The upgrade also provides users with sharers' IP addresses plus "all available information from the network" - a thorny privacy issue the music industry was keen to avoid with Songbird, we understand. Meanwhile, says the Songbird FAQ: "Songbird searches tracks one at a time, which means that it would take a very long time to do multiple searches of different tracks." That makes the software less useful to Napster users trying to track down specific files themselves, but we can't help wonder if they're the ones who will use the most. As for copyright owners who do find their music distributed without permission, Songbird will provide them with the evidence they need. But they'll still need to contact Napster and persuade it to filter out their music. It's a start, we guess... But then, as the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which is also backing Songbird, says, it's as much about educating musicians, music publishers and other copyright owners about what's going on on Napster. ® Related Link Songbird can be downloaded here It's a Windows app, but Linux and MacOS versions are on there way and should be released in two weeks' time.
Tony Smith, 09 May 2001

Novell makes eDirectory freeware

Novell is to offer its NDS eDirectory for free to developers and software vendors in the hope it can spread the software throughout the market and steal pole position from Microsoft. Software vendors have always been offered the directory for free so they could develop apps for it. However once those apps had been developed, customers would have to buy an eDirectory licence from Novell to run them. That is no longer the case. The intention is, of course, to get the directory used as far and wide as possible. The directory forms the centre of Novell's OneNet strategy for the future, so by making it as ubiquitous, it can live off services that run on top of it - like ZenWorks and GroupWise. There is also the advantage that for every company running its systems on top of eDirectory, there will be one less that buys Microsoft's all-in-one approach .Net vision. Again the old Microsoft/Novell battle is kicking off. Novell's OneNet vision will work for the ironic reason that Microsoft has decided to copy it. Novell's technology, as ever, is superior. It also doesn't require everything in the system to have a Novell-approved stamp on it. But this doesn't mean it won't be swept aside. The decision to make eDirectory free is the most intelligent one Novell has made in six months - but it hasn't been taken easily. By making it freeware, it has lost a useful foothold in an evolving market as well as a chunk of revenue. However, it's the right decision to make (and should have been made earlier). If Novell stands any chance of surviving through its OneNet vision, it is through a widespread dissemination of eDirectory. We asked Peter Joseph, Novell's director of corporate strategy in the UK, about the decision to make eDirectory free. "This is a recognition of the need to grow the market," he told us. "Directories are becoming more popular as they enable companies to build strong relationships with other companies. This isn't just about the use of a directory but about solutions built on top of that directory." Asked whether the decision to make it free was down to poor sales of eDirectory and the looming presence of Microsoft, he said: "We absolutely are successful and are focussing on the solutions market - and we want to make that even bigger. Novell's strength is that it is open and heterogeneous. To use Microsoft you have to live in a Microsoft world." Novell may just have thrown itself a lifeline. ® Related Stories Novell reinvents itself for the Internet Novell still a sick puppy
Kieren McCarthy, 09 May 2001

UK kids take to gambling and porn…

Britain's youngsters are taking a lead from their elders by visiting Web sites devoted to gambling and pornography. The latest batch of research from NetValue reports that more than a quarter of the 1.5 million UK youngsters currently estimated to be online visited gambling sites during March. One in five of under 17s visited pornographic Web sites loitering for an average of 28 minutes. The figures kinda echo similar research by NetValue publish last year which showed that a third of all Net users in Britain visited a gambling site, with 40 per cent of users clocking a mucky site. ® Related Story Brits big on net porn and gambling
Tim Richardson, 09 May 2001

Who is the sexiest geek alive?

The competition to find the sexiest geek alive is on again. We wrote about the competition last year - just catching the end of it - but this time it's bigger and better than ever. Following last year's success - where Tony Northrup won, was crowned and then did the chat-show circuit - the show will now be running heats at various IT conferences all over the States, with the final taking place on 21 June in San Jose. The contest does what Miss World promised it would and bases choice of finalists not only on looks but also brains. Thus, to get through the first round you will need geek knowledge. Contestants will be asked 40 questions - apparently located on the competition's site www.sexiestgeekalive.com. If you score well, you will then face an interview. And for those lucky few remaining onto the semi-finals and then the final. Win and you shall be a God among men. Nearly win and you might get some cash or a prize or something. If you want to know more, visit the site here. Oh, and check out the Hall of Fame. ® Related Link Sexiest Geek Alive site Related Story Click here for genuinely sexy geeks
Kieren McCarthy, 09 May 2001

Panrix in administration

Leeds based PC assembler Panrix has gone into administration. The company is not taking orders for immediate deliveries, and the sales staff answering the phone say they don't know if they'll be able to deliver in the future. The company has suffered very badly from the PC market downturn, and sales have been described as "through the floor" by an industry watcher. "They've been down to making hardly any machines at all," he said. Leeds based accountancy firm Wilson Pitts is handling the administration. The company will be making a statement tomorrow. Panrix was formed in 1990. ®
Robert Blincoe, 09 May 2001

Tom Waits dogs MP3.com for $40m

Tom Waits, Randy Newman and the Wilson sisters from Heart are suing online music site MP3.com over its file swapping system. They want $40.5 million. How come? The old copyright breaking by allowing people to exchange songs thang. The artists want $150,000 for each song that is illegally available and that comes to a grand total of $40.5 million. What makes this interesting is that MP3.com has come up with a method to restrict pirates, and also achieved an agreement with the music industry that managed to turn Napster into a worrying granny (basically, it pays them money). So why is ole Rain Dog Waits wading in? Because although the music industry has decided that MP3.com's method of asking for someone to slip the relevant CD into your computer before the song is made available is just fine with them, songwriters that have managed to retain the copyright to their own songs are not so impressed. They haven't come to an agreement and they don't see any cash. And by definition, these are the people who can't really afford to see their songs copied everywhere for free. Seeing as the whole world now seems to think the idea of the Internet as an antidote to capitalist obsession is just plain silly, we suppose we ought to come out in favour of the talented musicians. After all, we should be encouraging people that can actually write lyrics and play music (there are still a few). The artists' lawyer seems to think the same thing. Bruce Van Dalsem said: "More successful songwriters of this calibre need to stand up against copyright infringement in order to protect their own rights, and discourage the theft of music written by lesser-known artists who cannot afford to protect their smaller catalogues of work." ®
Kieren McCarthy, 09 May 2001

Homepage spreading faster than Kournikova worm

The spread of the Homepage Internet worm has exposed the deficiencies of the way many firms set up their virus protection, and raised questions about the effectiveness of antivirus software. Homepage is an Internet worm written using the Visual Basic Script Worm Generator virus writing kit, which also spawned the Anna Kournikova worm, and if anything it is spreading even more rapidly. A number of firms have been forced to take down their Exchange servers in order to contain its outbreak. After it was unleashed onto the Internet, probably late last night, the virus infected a number of organisations in Australia and Asia - including the Australian Parliament - before vendors of many antivirus firms had a chance to update their packages in the early hours of this morning. Alex Shipp, an antivirus technologist at managed services firm MessageLabs, which scans its customers email for viruses, said "most AV software has failed to detect the virus heuristically [automatically]" and this was one reason why the outbreak has been so severe. MessageLabs uses antivirus packages from Network Associates, F-Secure and Cybersoft. It also monitors the performance of antivirus software from other vendors and found that packages from Symantec and Trend Micro, which claim to provide heuristic protection, didn't automatically picked up the Homepage worm. According to MessageLabs' Shipp only Network Associates software picked up the virus automatically. A source at IT firm Agilent said that Trend Micro's automatic update service didn't update its virus protection, and it had to update files downloaded manually via FTP. "Our email monitoring tools showed that over 400,000 messages were sent internally as a result of infection," our source at Agilent told us. Homepage arrives in an email that appears to be harmless home page recommendation but in reality directs victims who open an infected attachment to one of four porn web sites. It emails a copy of itself to everyone in a victims Outlook address book. Since midnight Messagelabs has intercepted more than 21,000 copies of the virus and it estimates that one in 50 emails contain the virus. This suggests the virus is affecting the performance of the Internet even for those users who have escaped infection. ® Related Story Homepage Net worm spreading like wildfire
John Leyden, 09 May 2001

Compaq iPaq Q1 sales skyrocket

Let no one say Compaq's iPaq isn't popular in Europe. Sales of the PDA rocketed 1017.9 per cent during the first three months of 2001 compared to the same period last year, according to figures from UK-based market watcher Canalys. By contrast, Palm's shipments grew just over 60 per cent and saw its leadership of the market fall to just 41.3 per cent. That still puts Palm way ahead of Compaq - which scored a marketshare of 11.9 per cent to make it number two in the market - but it shows Palm can no longer take its dominance of the PDA business for granted. Much will depend on how well it can manage the transition from the high-end Palm Vx to the m500 and m505. Assuming it can get product out to buyers, sales of the latter seem assured, but they will leave Palm with plenty of unsold Vxs on its hands. All the other major PDA players showed big gains year-on-year. Casio's unit shipments grew 172.3 per cent, while fellow Windows CE supporter Hewlett-Packard saw its sales grow 107.2 per cent. PalmOS licensees IBM saw its shipments rise 97.8 per cent. Handspring grew from nothing to become the fifth largest PDA seller in the market. Only PDA pioneer Psion proved a loser - its sales fell a fraction over five per cent. In Q1 it came fourth in the PDA market, but it's hard not to see it being overtaken by Handspring during the current quarter, so close are their sales and so high is Handspring's growth. Psion's marketshare fell from just under 20 per cent to just under nine per cent. Psion was also knocked into third place in terms of platform marketshare. The Palm OS took 50.7 per cent of the market, followed by PocketPC with 19.6 per cent. Psion's EPOC-32/Symbian OS accounted for 13.5 per cent of the market. Canalys' figures also include sales of smartphones like Nokia's Communicator. The strong presence of Nokia and Ericsson show the potential of these devices to steal marketshare from true PDAs like Palm and PocketPC machines. However, it's worth bearing in mind that Ericsson's figures also include sales of its Symbian-based PDA, and that Nokia was discounting the price of its Communicator 9110 during the quarter to clear stocks and pave the way for a more advanced model, the 9210. Whatever, we look forward to seeing Q2's figures, in particular to measure the growth of Handspring, Psion's shrinking marketshare, the success of Palm's m500/505 launch and - most of all - whether Compaq can sustain iPaq sales. It has been working to increase production to meet demand, but reports of poor quality control could yet hit demand hard as owners related their experiences with the machine to potential buyers. ® Western Europe's mobile device market   Q1 2001 share Q1 2001 units Q1 2000 units Q1 2000 share Palm 41.3% 347,262 215,153 52.1% Compaq 11.9% 100,362 8,978 2.2% Casio 9.5% 79,870 29,330 7.1% Nokia 9.3% 78,280 49,510 12% Psion 8.9% 74,820 78,720 19.1% Handspring 7.2% 60,262 - - Ericsson 4.6% 38,735 - - HP 4.1% 34,210 16,515 4% IBM 2.2% 18,265 9,235 2.2% Others 1% 8,437 5,170 1.3% Source: Canalys
Tony Smith, 09 May 2001

The Times closes Interface tech section

The Times newspaper has decided to close its IT supplement, Interface. A little peculiar, you may think, seeing as IT news has never been such a big issue in the media, but apparently this is precisely the reason behind it - the paper wants the stories for the main sections of the paper. That and the fact that hardly anyone was advertising in the supplement, we hear. The journalists on the supplement are to be offered other jobs at the paper. The future for its freelancers is not so secure. So there you have it. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 09 May 2001

Homepage Net worm spreading like wildfire

A virus that uses the same tricks as the Anna Kournikova worm is spreading like wildfire. Homepage-mm, an Internet worm written using Microsoft Visual Basic scripting language, and possibly based on the same toolkit as the Anna worm, is assaulting to email servers of European firms this afternoon. Alex Shipp, an antivirus technologist at managed services firm MessageLabs, which scans its customers email for viruses, said that at least two firms have decided to shut off their email servers in order to contain the spread of the worm. He said the Homepage worm, which appears to have been produced using the same toolkit as the Anna worm, was unleashed into the wild in Asia overnight and having gained a foothold there is spreading at rates slightly higher than the Anna bug. So far MessageLabs has intercepted 9,000 copies of the Homepage worm, a run-rate slightly higher the Anna outbreak. The worm arrives at a user's machine via email with the subject line "Homepage" and a text message that states "Hi! You've got to see this page! It's really cool ;O)". If a user click on the attachment to the message "homepage.HTML.vbs" their machine becomes infected. Homepage then emails a copy of itself to everyone in a user's Outlook address book and set the home page of a user's Web page to one of four randomly selected porn sites. MessageLabs' Shipp said we are lucky the virus does not contain a malicious payload. He said users might be tempted to open the attachment because it would come from someone they know and because it was "so simple it's believable". Bruce Walton, UK managing director of antivirus vendor Command Software, said that AV vendors had updated their virus definitions overnight and urged users to update their software to protect themselves from the virus. ® External links: Homepage worm write-up from Command Software MessageLab stats on the virus outbreak Related stories: Reports of death of email viruses greatly exaggerated? No more I Love You viruses Rise in viruses within emails outpacing growth of email Anna Kournikova bug drops harmlessly onto the Net Users haven't learned any lessons from the Love Bug Microsoft security fixes infected with FunLove virus Virus plague causes charity to consider Linux
John Leyden, 09 May 2001