17th > May > 2001 Archive

Xbox games to involve Sega, Capcom, Spielberg and Bruce Lee

Microsoft fired off a copious salvo of press releases Wednesday making spectacular claims in support of its half-billion-dollar effort to market the Xbox games console. First up, heavyweight games developer Capcom is busy preparing three offerings for Xbox, including an 'optimized' version of the popular PS2 game "Onimusha", to be produced by Keiji Inafune and tentatively named "Genma Onimusha"; an MS-exclusive sequel to the PS2 game "Dino Crisis", to be produced by Shinji Mikami and tentatively named "Dino Crisis 3"; and an original game by producer Shinji Mikami, tentatively named "Brain-Box". The arrangement is highly desirable because "the influence of Xbox in global markets will be overwhelming," Capcom Managing Director Yoshiki Okamoto trilled. Next we have failed Dreamcast maker Sega, which announced development of Xbox editions of its Sports 2K2 line, "Crazy Taxi Next", and "House of the Dead 3". Next year, Sega promises to offer broadband-connectable versions the 2K3 lineup including "NFL 2K3" and "NBA 2K3", "Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3," "Unreal Championship" and "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon". On 30 March the two announced that Sega would develop Xbox editions of "Jet Grind Radio Future", "Sega GT", "Gunvalkyrie" and "Panzer Dragoon". But wait, there's more. Microsoft also announced an exclusive licensing deal with Warner Bros to produce a series of Xbox games based on the Steven Spielberg movie "A.I.", which will be released in late June. Two of the games derived from it will ship with the first lot of Xboxes, Microsoft says. The company also struck a deal with Universal to develop an Xbox game "featuring the highly-coveted Bruce Lee license." Ronin Entertainment will develop the product, "Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon". Opinions vary over whether the Xbox will succeed with its splashy but rather late entry into the console market; but one thing is certain, if it flops, it won't be for Microsoft's reluctance to throw Gargantuan heaps of money at it. ®
Thomas C Greene, 17 May 2001

Intel to announce mobile system-on-a-chip

Intel will take the wraps off its comms-oriented system-on-a-chip product that merges CPU, memory and data-processing DSP technology onto a single slab of silicon. Based on Intel's XScale processor - derived from ARM's StrongARM technology - the chip will include Flash RAM and will be aimed at wireless comms products, such as smartphones and PDAs. The chip has been announced before, as a concept, last autumn. It is perhaps better known by its codename, Banias. It's being designed in Israel by the team behind the company's ill-fated Timna SoC part. The new chip runs at up to 1GHz, and the integration gives it a performance boost too. The connections between each of the chip's key components can operate at the same high speed. Simply connecting the memory directly to the CPU ensures the latter can be kept fed with data and program code. The DSP element handles the network traffic. It can also process streamed multimedia data that will make users' PDA experience much richer, Intel believes. Integrating components also means that devices using the chip will consume less power than kit that uses discrete parts. The chip isn't likely to materialise as a commercial product any time soon, though Intel has begun producing early samples. The chip maker expects volume production to take place during the first half of next year. That said, previous reports from company insiders suggest that 2003 may be a more realistic date. ® Related Stories Intel bananas over Banias Intel preps slimline chip for slimline notebooks
Tony Smith, 17 May 2001

Win2k SP2 finally out, but problems with security hotfixes?

Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 finally went official yesterday, after several weird days where it wasn't official, but you could get it through the various links being assembled on the Microsoft site and elsewhere. The appearance of SP1 in the "new downloads" section of microsoft.com yesterday seems to have been a placeholder for the forthcoming SP2 link, and the official front door for all things SP2 is now here. So far, whether you have a good experience with the fix seems to depend on where you're sitting. The Register has heard from quite a few happy campers, and a couple of BSOD victims so far. It's too early to be able to establish much in the way of patterns for breakages, but there seem to be at least two areas where SP2 generates identifiable problems - some portables, and as regards recent hotfixes. On some portables SP2 seems to be messing up hibernation. You can hibernate a session once, but an attempt to do so a second time results in the system freezing at the "preparing to hibernate" message. This has affected some readers, and is also covered in a current Betanews discussion thread. The hotfix problem could be more worrying though. Also in the Betanews thread, a contributor notes that running the Hotfix Checker after applying SP2 returns errors for four security hotfixes for IIS 5. Presumably these have to be reapplied, quite a few people won't do this unless somebody tells them to, and it sounds kind of similar to what we were saying here earlier this week. ®
John Lettice, 17 May 2001

HP profits plummet 66 per cent

Hewlett-Packard has cut sales targets for the current quarter, while reporting a 66 per cent profit drop in Q2. The US vendor yesterday recorded net income of $319 million for the quarter ended April 30, compared to $935 million for the same period the previous year. Revenue dropped four per cent to $11.6 billion. HP blamed sluggish demand in the US and Europe, along with internal structural changes. The company said home PC sales fell 15 per cent "due primarily to weak demand and associated pricing pressures in North America". Unix server revenues dropped 13 per cent, while PC server revenues were down four per cent. Sales from its IT services business grew nine per cent, while printer sales dropped three per cent. HP also chopped its outlook for Q3. "Looking forward to the third quarter, we believe current consensus EPS estimates are reasonable," said HP CEO Carly Fiorina. "However, given continuing deterioration in key economic indicators and increasing global uncertainty, we think broadening the revenue range slightly from flat to flat to down five per cent is prudent," she added. HP had already issued two profit warnings this year - just last month Fiorina said the US downturn was spreading to Europe, and warned Q2 sales would be between two and four per cent less than the previous year. At the same time it also announced plans to chop 3,000 jobs in a bid to reduce costs. ® Related Stories Consumer slowdown forces HP to axe 3,000 jobs HP slashes Q1 forecasts
Linda Harrison, 17 May 2001

PC makers make Intel squirm over Rambus, chip shortages

System Builders Summit, Monte CarloSystem Builders Summit, Monte Carlo System builders seem keen to make Intel squirm over Rambus'defeat in court. Delegates at the IFE/System Builder Summit in Monte Carlo this week had the opportunity to stick it to Intel during a Q&A post-sales pitch, and then gave AMD and VIA the chance to look smug after their own presentation. But Mark Beckford, Intel's reseller group marketing director, was first attacked over chip shortages. He apologised for the situation and then flannelled on about ramping up production, being victims of their own success, and how they could manage the problem. It was then pointed out to him that Intel`s representative at the event last year had also apologised for shortages as well. Ah, but that was a specific market problem in May last year. Everyone had supply problems then, said Mark. But what about Rambus? Should system builders be getting behind RDRAM they wanted to know. "We can`t force a technolgy," said Mark. "RDRAM, like Betamax, was the best technology at the time, but either way we'll have the architecture." DDR it is then. AMD, when given the chance to put the boot in, was a little reluctant to give a good kicking. Marketing man Dave Everitt said AMD will "follow where our customers and marketplace leads us". Which is where? "We get substantial performance out of DDR. I see no reason to engage in another memory technology." VIA VP of marketing Paul Ayscough thought that DDR hadn't achieved the market-share it should have. He felt this was partly because of SDRAM prices falling through the floor, and also because system builders "aren't going out on a limb" with newer technologies. But VIA is sticking with it. "I don't see Rambus memory on any roadmaps next year," he said. ®
Robert Blincoe, 17 May 2001

Cheap German notebooks use desktop components

System Builders Summit, Monte CarloSystem Builders Summit, Monte Carlo What is a good way to slash notebook prices and grab market share? Well, one way is to build them using desktop components like German outfit Gericom. (How weird is that name - sneering xenophobic Billy Britons couldn`t have come up with a better one for a discount German PC manufacturer.) The next step is to punt them out through discount supermarkets like Aldi. Apparently they sell well, but Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal, think they're not going to be the next big thing. Unsurprisingly, the big names in laptops aren't going down this route; but maybe that's why more than 50 per cent of the German mobile computing market is held by no brand and second-tier system builders. "The major vendors don't think it's a big move in the market," Atwal said. "And besides, what kind of mobile is it?" According to Atwal, the trend across Europe is for the top five manufacturers to lose market share. At the start of 1998 they controlled 75 per cent of the notebook market. In 2001 this has dropped below 60 per cent. Atwal was addressing a herd of European PC makers, at the System Builder Summit in Monte Carlo, so he had the right crowd-pleasing song for his audience. However, he cautioned them to prepare for a slowdown in the notebook market. "The mobile market will grow, but not at the levels we've seen," he said. "Desktops will continue to be the major market." But he does think that the growth of the PDA market has not affected notebook sales; PDAs are complementing desktop sales, he reckons. This is rooted in his idea of why people want mobile computers and how mobile did they want to be. "The PDA gives a desktop user a bit of mobility," he said. In Q1 2001 612,000 PDAs were sold in Europe, compared with 1.9 million mobile PCs. ®
Robert Blincoe, 17 May 2001

Evesham to slash support costs with Bigfix

UK system builder Evesham.com is preloading software on its PCs which is designed to slash its support costs by 25 per cent. The software, from US company Bigfix, is intended to alert users to any hardware bugs, security issues, new software patches, BIOS updates etc. appropriate for their machine. It then directs the user to the fix. On a basic level it's there to stop users buggering up their system settings and then discussing this at length with Evesham's support team. Or "image security," as Bigfix sales director Bob Pinciak calls it. Evesham is responsible for authoring all the fix messages - usually info about the problem and together with hyperlinks to any relevant downloads - for its customers. It`s possible there could be some support calls about Bigfix itself. But the software should reduce calls and costs, so long as customers are happy for Evesham to know exactly what they're installing on their machine and how they`re upgrading it. "What Evesham is saying," said Pinciak, "is: 'You need to get more computer literate but we`re going to help you'." Or we're going to make you stop coming running to us over every problem, when it's not our fault or responsibility. Which is fair enough, really, and its the system builder holy grail. ®
Robert Blincoe, 17 May 2001

Tiscali to axe 300 jobs in UK

Tiscali is to axe 300 British jobs within the next fortnight as part of its bid fuse three ISPs into one UK operation. The Register understands that the scale of the job cuts in the UK is down to an ultimatum delivered by the Italian telco in which it said it would close down any part of the company that wasn't profitable by Q4 2001. The threat of closure applies to all of Tiscali's country businesses throughout Europe. According to documents seen by The Register, becoming EBITDA positive by the end of the year is a top priority for the operation in the UK. Since the beginning of the year WorldOnline UK and LibertySurf UK have secured the resignations of around 90 staff. But Tiscali still needs to shed a further 200 jobs if it is to meet its goal of becoming EBITDA positive by the end of the year. At the end of April, WorldOnline UK, LibertySurf UK and LineOne - all ISPs acquired by the Italian operation - had around 470 employees. According to insiders, it is looking to trim down its unified operation to just 170 people. The job cuts are due to finalised by June 1. Insiders also claim that WorldOnline UK CEO, Simon Preston has effectively already left the company although a spokeswoman for the operation maintains he's still on the payroll. Earlier this week The Register reported that the boss of LineOne, Mary Turner, and her board had been appointed to run Tiscali UK's ISP. However, Derrick Martin, Business Change director for Tiscali in the UK, denies that the job cuts will be as large as reported although admitted that redundancies were likely. He also denied that Tiscali SpA had issued any ultimatum concerning Q4 profitability goals. He also confirmed that LineOne's Turner would head Tiscali's consumer ISP in the UK. The former boss of LibertySurf, Stephan Huet, is to run Tiscali's UK business division. No one has yet been appointed to run the combined operation in the UK, he said, but an announcement was due shortly. He said Simon Preston had taken a more internationally-focused job at Tiscali. Tiscali's UK Strategy and Goal According to documents seen by The Register, the primary objective for Tiscali's UK business in 2001 is to "successfully integrate a series of acquisitions...[and to] gain synergies and efficiencies." It is also seeking "to get to break-even whilst ensuring maximum customer retention" and to develop a "sustainable narrowband business model". As a means to becoming EBITDA positive by Q4 is also intends to "reduce [its] UK cost base". It also intends to build its own IP Network to the local loop. Tiscali's European Goals No surprises here, but having bought up a string of European ISPs over the last couple of years it wants to merge them into one single operation. It also wants to become a "highly profitable business" and to be one of the top three ISPs and portals in Europe. It also intends to be a "leader in business services". The Mood Among Employees According to insiders, morale is in the basement with many employees simply hanging on in the hope that they will receive the generous redundancy package on offer from Tiscali. The Italian telco might be able to talk of a single, unified company in its flip-chart presentations, but the truth remains that behind the unified brand lies division. In the UK at least, employees from the separate companies don't mix. Said one insider: "It sounds silly but for a communications company no one actually talks with each other. Within the company the mood is that every company is still completely separate. There's no real mixing between any of the old companies." Another said: "No one will make any decisions. None of the directors wants to stick their neck out and spend any money. As a result nothing is getting done and most people seem to be getting more and more fed up with the situation," said another. ® Related Stories LineOne bosses to head Tiscali's UK ISP World Online/Tiscali begins 'massacre of UK employees'
Tim Richardson, 17 May 2001

Oops! Tayside cops refer kids to Russian porn site

Scottish police have been forced to rethink an anti-drugs campaign after discovering they were sending kids to a porn Web site. Tayside Police had handed out thousands of leaflets to children in primary and secondary schools in the area, recommending they log onto the site to learn about the dangers of drugs. The campaign went on for a year, targeting every school in Tayside. However, the private company that owned the site ceased trading, and the domain name was bought by a Russian porn peddler and converted into a sex site. Inspector Gordon Nicoll, force media officer at Tayside Police, said officers became aware of the change in the content within hours of the graphic images going up on the site. They promptly broke any links to the Drugsaware site and destroyed "a substantial number of leaflets", Nicoll said today. "Young people use the Internet - it's a good way for them to get information," he said. "It's not actually that uncommon for URLs to expire and get snapped up by porn sites." Nicoll added that he had no idea if any children had visited the site. ®
Linda Harrison, 17 May 2001

Easy CD Creator problems just won't go away

Since our last article on the compatibility problems that Roxio's Easy CD Creator software is having with Win2k machines, we've received nearly a hundred emails disputing the company's official explanation. Roxio told us that the problem with the software was due solely to compatibility problems between the TakeTwo element of Easy CD Creator and Zip drives running on Windows 2000 Professional. But readers' experiences would appear to blow this theory out of the water. Large numbers have emailed us explaining that they don't have a Zip drive and the software still managed to destroy their PC. Others have said that they installed the software without TakeTwo and still got the blue screen of death. There would appear to be a whole range of compatibility issues with small programs that a minority of users have on their computer. We have as yet been unable to find a common link, but Easy CD does seem to be clashing with something. Most of these programs are to do with hard disc manipulation, although two readers have reported problems with graphics viewers. CD Creator 5 also interferes with Win2k's new hardware detection, with several people reporting trouble-free use until they installed a new drive, at which point the system fell over. McAfee has gone to the trouble of advising all users to remove Easy CD Creator. "Please perform all of the following, making a special point to uncheck any instance of Easy CD creator, Direct CD or other Adaptec software in addition to other unnecessary software loading at the boot of your computer", an advice from the company says. It is clear that the software has greater problems that just the two Roxio has informed us of. However, we should note that we have yet to receive any complaints about the software after Roxio's patch has been downloaded. But if you do wish to install the software, we would strongly advise you to ghost your drive first so if anything goes wrong, you can revert to the old configuration. One reader also wished to take up Roxio's claim that version 4 of the software was not intended to support Windows 2000. "I bought Version 4 of East CD Creator Deluxe and it certainly says Windows 2000 support on the box," he said. We should also point out that an alternative piece of software that we recommended, Nero, appears to have some issues with Win2k as well. An experienced tester told us that the best he had found on the market was NTI CDMaker 2000. ® Related Stories Roxio replies over Easy CD Creator problems Easy CD Creator saga continues Stop! Don't install Easy CD Creator 5 til you read this story
Kieren McCarthy, 17 May 2001

Click here for the Prescott punch

UpdatedUpdated Well, the election was threatening to be one of the most tedious ever held - until yesterday. Tony Blair was barracked by a furious Sharron Storer and looked decidedly uneasy, Jack Straw was slow-clapped by the police federation and Little Willy Hague had to find refuge in his car. The politicians came to mix it with the ordinary voters, and they got a kicking. But, of course, the most hilarious event - possibly of the year - was the sight of 62-year-old, well-bellied deputy prime minister John Prescott punching a voter on the chin and then getting involved in a right royal ruck. Superb. The man on the end of the fist we know only as Craig at the moment. He had thrown an egg at Prescott which broke over his jacket. Prescott then suddenly spun round and landed a punch square on his jaw. Craig then pushed John's face and the two rolled around with police trying to break them up. It has been announced this morning that Prescott may be investigated for assault but we say fair play to him. Our respect for Prescott has gone up enormously. We've finally found something he's good at - brawling. He's bugger all use sorting out the transport in this country. We also applaud what we hope will become a frequent occurrence in politics. Politicians never say anything remotely useful, so they might as well resort to violence. It would certainly end political apathy. The dream ticket would have to be John Prescott and Ann Widdecombe. Anyway, here's a link to the brawl. It's the BBC's and sadly it's not the best footage there was of the incident but it's the only one we've been able to find so far. Update It has been pointed out to us that Craig bears an uncanny resemblance to Scott McNealy, the Sun God. It's the mullet that does it. If you squint your eyes, a wonderful scene unravels before your eyes. All the more reason to support John "Bruiser" Prescott. ® Two Jags goes mental. ® Related Link The fight from ITN's eyes
Kieren McCarthy, 17 May 2001

Intel, BT partner on next-gen mobile devices, services

British Telecom is joining Intel - now there's a marriage made in heaven - to create mobile devices based on the chip maker's upcoming comms-oriented system-on-a-chip. The chip - codenamed Banias - will form a key part of Intel's Personal Client Architecture, which BT is backing. BT's input will be to develop infrastructure systems, such as workgroup collaboration code and, interestingly, peer-to-peer file sharing, into which PCA-based mobile devices will connect and co-operate. "We'll develop systems which allow things on mobile phones that are not currently possible,'' a BT spokesman said, according to Reuters. "It will make it possible to give a computer presentation to be displayed on people's handheld computers which may be in different countries." The systems will be designed to operate across wireless LANs as well as wider GPRS cellular networks. ® Related Story Intel to announce mobile system-on-a-chip
Tony Smith, 17 May 2001

BT's ADSL goes tits up North

Users of BT's broadband ADSL service Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of England have been unable to use the service for last 24 hours because of major technical problems. Reports suggest that more than 30 exchanges in the north of the British Isles have been hit by the problem. One reader wrote in and said: "For the last 30 hours most of Scotland has had no ADSL connections." A recorded message on BTopenwoe's help desk said: "We are currently investigating a technical problem with a number of telephone exchanges which may be affecting your ability to connect to the BTopenworld broadband service." It appears the major outage may have been caused yesterday when contractors cut through a cable near a BT ADSL-enabled exchange in Manchester. According to a BT spokeswoman, the Manchester exchange is used to route traffic to and from the north. Since it was hit, it effectively cut-off Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of England. She said that the service should be back up and running by now although El Reg has received no confirmation of this at present. News of BT's ADSL network collapse comes on the same day the FT reported that BTopenwoe was contemplating increasing the cost of its broadband service. Of course, debt-laden BT is always looking for a new way to make more money so no surprises there. But if BTopenworld were to increase the cost of its ADSL service that would be an issue of major concern for the those who believe in a wired future. Unlike Le Freeswerve, which announced an ADSL price rise yesterday under the pretence that it is an broadband player when clearly it's not, a price rise from BTopenwoe would send two fingers to the UK Net users and the Government. ® Related Story Le Freeswerve hikes DSL prices, whinges at BT
Tim Richardson, 17 May 2001

Sony, Toshiba team on 0.1, 0.07 micron fab tech

Sony and Toshiba are to co-develop 0.10 and 0.07 micron chip fabrication processes, the two companies said today. Oddly enough, they said it back in March too, when the pair of them, along with IBM, announced their joint programme to develop a new broadband-oriented microprocessor, codenamed Cell. Cell is set to be fabbed at 0.10 micron, and sounds like the kind of thing the pair have in mind. The release talks about low-power, mobile-capable and network-oriented chips for consumer applications. Cell has a broader base than the consumer market, but that's certainly Sony and Toshiba's chief area of interest. Cell will be fairly large as chips go, according to comments made by the head of Toshiba's semiconductor operation, Yasuo Morimoto, in March, so fabrication at 0.1 micron or less will be essential to keeping the part's size and heat-generation characteristics low. Today's release hints at the presence of embedded memory, and that plus all the circuitry required for Cell's massively-parallel multi-processing support mean that the chip's transistor count is likely to be rather on the high side. Development work will kick off this month at Toshiba's Advanced Microelectronics Centre. The programme will run through to March 2003 - the end of fiscal 2003 - and will have around ¥15 billion spent on it. This isn't the first time the pair have co-operated on chip development. The Emotion Engine CPU, the basis for the PlayStation 2, was created by both companies and fabbed by Toshiba. ® Related Stories Toshiba chief sells 'Cell' CPU Sony, IBM, Toshiba team on broadband supercomputing CPU
Tony Smith, 17 May 2001

Cracked or not? WinXP protection war hots up

Following our piece on Windows XP copy protection yesterday (MS tips its hand on WinXP protection system) we've received some interesting emails, and there may also have been developments, one of these being that a new build of XP, 2475, may have leaked. We'll get back to that one, but the question of whether or not the security surrounding Microsoft's Product Activation technology has been breached is for the moment the most interesting matter. We've been contacted by a Mr Jack Flack, who specifically asked for a name-check (hello there, Jack), said he was a courier, and claimed cracking credit for the #crackXP team on DALnet. We're not in a position to verify the crack, but the files he sent are interesting in that they don't involve the replacement of winlogon.exe with an older version (which is how people got around protection in previous builds). Instead, the key seems to be the replacement of oobeutil.js (out of box experience utility - so Microsoft is still sticking the signposts on the code). This route, by the way, is getting to be pretty common currency in the relevant IRC channels, so we're not telling them or Microsoft anything they didn't know already. The #crackXP routine may work, and there may already be other cracks using a similar approach. One snag on the verification issue is this, from the instruction file: "You CANNOT forward your clock to see if this works, it is a bug in XP 2469 that means forwarding the clock fucks everything up, it will say it isnt activated yet it is. Take our word on this!" So that kind of leaves things open for the next two weeks, which is when it'll stop working if the the crack didn't work after all. Unless the bug got fixed in 2475, of course. Another interesting mail, this time from somebody who really didn't sound like he wanted a name check, sounds extremely plausible, and casts considerable doubt on the possibility of a swift, easy crack for the new system. "The new build of Windows XP includes digital signatures on all vital login code, including Winlogon.exe. If you pick apart this file with de-assembly tools you can clearly see the exported keys." He also mentions that Microsoft has digitally signed all its theme files, and muses about why this would be. Maybe worth us musing further another time. He goes on: "Creating a crack will be far harder than anyone thought for the above listed reasons and for a new reason, all the files that are used to activate are being cross checked. In order to create a working a crack, one would need to break the digital signature on at least 2 files (winlogon.exe & msgina.dll) and possibly several others, including the setup program. (which appears to check the digital signature on file copy) On top of all this, the crack will need to pick apart an activation process that is done via SSL." So the interesting thing about the possible cracks now doing the rounds is that they at least superficially seem to take a route other than attacking winlogon.exe, while the interesting thing about what this guy has to say is that Microsoft appears to be using cross-checking of digitally signed files as part of the protection. Widen the number of files involved and the crack can easily be made a much trickier proposition. So long, of course, as the signing itself cannot be compromised on the local machine. Once you're running XP you can certainly make your own choices about signed files, but that needn't necessarily be the case in the OOBE phase. Our sceptic (who was writing yesterday, before alleged cracks started appearing), ends: "There's a budding murmur of agreement that Microsoft just might have won this time amongst crackers out there." This is reinforced by a posting on neowin.net which says: "People on IRC are screaming blue murder, crying out for Microsoft's blood and the well known forces of the 'Crack elite' are shrugging their shoulders in wake of this re-newed onslought from Microsoft. It seems that the cry for Warez 1 - Microsoft 0 was a little premature." Maybe, maybe not. But Microsoft is clearly getting serious about this, and the spy v spy war looks like its going to get seriously interesting before WinXP ships in October. ®
John Lettice, 17 May 2001

ICANN releases .biz and .info details

ICANN has finally given details of the new top-level domains that have been an age in coming. Well, not all the details, just the details for .biz and .info. The other five are in the pipeline. The sudden announcement came as a shock to Internet watchers who had nodded off while waiting for ICANN to do something other than line its pockets. Chairman Vint Cerf captured the excitement of the occasion: "This is a momentous step forward in the continuing evolution of the Internet's domain name system," he said. "However, it is just one step among many in a long process of providing consumers with the benefits of competition through a variety of domain name options and services." "This first round of new TLDs is considered a 'proof of concept' to test and examine different types of top-level domains, registry business models, and procedures for ensuring the technical stability of the Internet as new TLDs are added," says ICANN's press release. ICANN has been advised to be cautious in adding new domains, it claims. The secretive organisation has just managed to get out of bed and is making its way towards the shower. The .info TLD will be unrestricted and run by conglomerate Afilias. Afilias is giving trademark holders a 30-day free period where they can apply for their namesake domain. WIPO in its wisdom will then decide on any disputes. Then the people without loads of money like me and you will allowed a stab at registering. Afilias will "implement a multi-round batch processing system" for applications. Which is good even though we don't know what the hell it means. We also can't find any mention of what Afilias is thinking of charging for its services. The .biz TLD will be restricted to commercial or business purposes, so no homepages, alright? It'll be run by NeuLevel. NeuLevel is going to charge you to submit any trademark claims between now and July. This will also tell you if a domain you're trying to register has a trademark conflict and snitch on you to the company holding it if you still try to register the name. From July to September, it will then allow businesses to apply. You can apply for an unlimited number but there is a $2 fee for each application. Then in October, all domains will become operational. NeuLevel will use a Restriction Dispute Resolution Process (RDRP) for arguments - which is "similar" to ICANN's UDRP. Again, no indication of the fees, although "it is expected that retail pricing for both .biz and .info names should be comparable to existing TLDs .com, .org and .net". So there you have it. Moving so fast it takes your breath away. ® Related Links Afilias NeuLevel Related Stories ICANN speaks: lucky seven TLDs include .pro and .biz ICANN releases TLD shortlist
Kieren McCarthy, 17 May 2001

Motorola ARM-based Palm chip to go 0.13 micron in 2002

Motorola will shrink its upcoming ARM-based additions to the Dragonball processor family to 0.13 micron next year. Dragonball CPUs power most of the world's PDAs, in particular those based on the Palm OS. Motorola unveiled its partnership with ARM late last year. The first fruit of the alliance will be a 32-bit ARM-based chip fabbed at 0.18 micron and due in the second half of this year. In 2002, Motorola will follow it up with two CPUs, tentatively called the Dragonball-ARM+ and the Dragonball-ARM 2, DigiTimes reports. Both will be fabbed at 0.13 micron to support faster clock speeds at the same or lower power consumption levels. How soon the parts will appear in Palm-based devices depends, of course, on Palm's ability to get a 32-bit OS out of the door. If it doesn't, Motorola will be on hand to offer its 32-bit PPSM-GT operating system. PPSM (Personal Portable System Manager) is aimed at wireless comms devices. ® Related Stories Motorola offers Palm an ARMball lifeline Motorola allies with ARM Related Stories DigiTimes: Motorola attacks high-end PDA market with DragonBall-ARM and PPSM-GT
Tony Smith, 17 May 2001

IT consultant denies £25m Web site blackmail

IT consultant Graham Browne is to be tried at the Old Bailey in September for attempting to blackmail an unidentified financial institution for £25 million over weak security, Private Eye reports. Browne denies an alleged threat to compromise the security of Barclays' Barclaycard operation. The blackmail demands were made between March and September last year. Barclays' online banking service - the largest in Britain - was cracked in July last year and collapsed again in February this year. Customers account details were accessible through the site before the plug was pulled. The bank claimed that no one was able to carry out any fraudulent transactions. But then it would say that. The security threat was thought to be so serious that eight million credit cards would have to be recalled. Mr Browne, 57, pleaded not guilty to a hearing at the Old Bailey at the start of this month. ® Related Stories Barclays goes down on customers Barclays beats Egg for top online bank crown Barclays online cockup Barclays cock-up the tip of an ugly, secret iceberg
Kieren McCarthy, 17 May 2001

Hoax Love Rat site dupes the Press

A Web site which claimed to expose two-timing love cheats has turned out to be hoax. The sting was run by British Internet magazine .net to show just how easy it is to get publicity for Web sites. With just a press release and no marketing budget, the hacks behind CheatingScum.com managed to get press coverage in The Mirror, Revolution, The Net and a piece on London's Capital Radio. The site claimed to expose love rats and carried photographs of offenders and a short text explaining why these people deserved to be outed. But in fact, it was set up by .net to see how gullible journalists can be when faced with what appears on the surface to be a cracking story. Critics will argue that such a deliberate attempt to dupe the press - especially by fellow journalists - is simply not cricket. Others will say: "stuff it - who cares?". Anyhow - make up your own mind by checking out CheatingScum.com here. ®
Tim Richardson, 17 May 2001

EU inches toward PC recycling levy

Europe this week moved one step closer to forcing computer manufacturers to pay to recycle products. The Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive aims to tackle the amount of waste dumped into the environment by consumers. On Tuesday the directive passed its first reading in the European Parliament. Amendments to the directive include: penalties for households that do not separated electric waste from general household rubbish, and the disposal of products in existence before the directive to be paid for by all producers in proportion to their share of the market. In addition, the European Parliament wants a collection system of WEEE to be in place within 30 months of the directive coming into force. The European Commission had previously set the deadline at five years. One measure in the directive requires manufacturers of electric and electronic goods to pay to recycle products. This covers everything from hairdryers to computers. The directive now has to continue through the bureaucratic process of Europe. This includes going to the Council of Ministers and back to Parliament again. In all, it could be about another 18 months before the directive becomes law. Around six million tons of electronic waste was generated in 1998. And a large chunk of this came from computers - it is estimated that between 2000 and 2005 a third of a billion computers will become obsolete. Only around six per cent of obsolete computers were recycled in 1998. But there is still a lot of opposition to the directive in the industry. Manufacturers don't want to pay to recycle their own or others' products, and it is still not clear where distributors or resellers stand. Meanwhile, companies from outside the EU are upset at having to follow the legislation if they import into Europe. The finer points of the directive are still hazy, such as what percentage of electrical waste will have to be recycled, and how much responsibility will fall on manufacturers, according to Jon Godfrey, business development manager at Technical Asset Management, the Welwyn Garden City-based IT recycling company. But Godfrey warns that manufacturers need to start preparing for the legislation as soon as possible. "The changes that producers will have to go through will be so fundamental. If they are not looking into it now they're going to have big problems," he warned. ® Related Link European Parliament report Related Stories E-Minister slams IT recycling plans PC makers - or garbage collectors? EU recycling law to cost Dixons £17m a year
Linda Harrison, 17 May 2001

Why wouldn't a system builder want to cut supports costs?

System Builders Summit, Monte CarloSystem Builders Summit, Monte Carlo Software vendor Bigfix is searching for an alternative way to sell its technology, an application which searches for and identifies PC problems, to UK system builders. Its usual sales pitch is that the software can cut support costs. The software checks a users PC for problems and also communicates with the user when viruses are about, or new software patches have been released. A system builder, using Bigfix, would author messages giving information and links to downloads and fixes, which would be picked up by the customers PC. Evesham.com has started installing the software on their PCs and hope to slash support costs by 25 per cent. But other UK PC manufacturers aren't interested in this approach. Nanci Herring, VP of business development, was told by one vendor that it wanted to keep its premium rate support line because it made money. She wouldn't say who, but there's a lot of possible candidates. The customer support call is also a great selling opportunity for upgrades and consumables. Why, for example, would PC World want this kind of software pre-installed on its Advent boxes, when it can charge for a good old PC Health Check come sales seminar. But some software vendors, which might need to issue alerts and patches about compatibility problems their product is suffering, have been in touch with Bigfix. At the IFE/System Builder Summit in Monte Carlo, Roxio, the company having a nightmare with its Easy CD Creator software and Win2k machines, paid a visit to the Bigfix stand. ® Related Stories Easy CD Creator problems just won't go away Evesham to slash support costs with Bigfix
Robert Blincoe, 17 May 2001

Brits spend 25 minutes per day surfing at home

Only one in five Brits who use the Net at home spend more than ten hours surfing per month, according to a survey out today. These 'heavy users' of the Internet account for more than 70 per cent of all time spent online in the UK, the Jupiter MMXI report states. Most of these keen surfers are men (68 per cent), and their preferred sites are Guardianunlimited.co.uk, Ebookers.com, Theglobe.com and Virgin.com. Women's top sites are QXL, Barclaycard.co.uk, Streetsonline.com, MP3.com, Shopsmart.com and Thomascook.co.uk. There were 14 million Brits using the Net at home in April - on average they spent just over seven hours online during the month (or around 25 minutes per day). This was up from four hours in October 1999, when Jupiter researchers first conducted the survey. Average use compares to six hours in France, 12 hours in Germany, and 15 hours in Canada. The overall top sites in the UK for April were MSN.com, Yahoo.com, Microsoft.com, Freeserve.com and Passport.com. ® Related Stories Europeans take to broadband like... UK attracts 1m new Net users since October
Linda Harrison, 17 May 2001

Splat the MP game: it's a corker

Some creative folk have been inspired by Bruiser Prescott's antics yesterday and knocked up a Splat the MP game, which you can play here. The most important thing though is that not only has PanLogic put its funny cap on but it has also made a game worth playing. Well, for one day anyway. The scene is the House of Commons and you need to chuck eggs at leading MPs as they pop up - but don't hit Britney Spears of Robbie Williams or you'll lose points. All the party leaders feature, plus frequent appearances from our man in the red corner, John Prescott - who will throw punches at you. Not only that, but occasionally a naked Ann Widdecombe (a scary sight indeed) will swing Tarzan-like across the floor and a floating Maggie Thatcher head (complete with halo) will soar about. Don't waste all your eggs on trying to get Maggie though, or you'll get a sarky reply when your pathetic score is displayed. Enjoy. ® Related Link Splat the MP Bootnote Andy, a reader, writes: More creative people have been making Egg Prescott games...it seems to be a bit of a craze at the moment. The gameplay of this one is different - are you fast enough? Spinon Related Story Click here for the Prescott punch
Kieren McCarthy, 17 May 2001

Gameplay division sold for £1

Gameplay plc has sold its retail sales games operation in the UK and the Nordics for less than the cost of half a pint of beer. The Nordic Boxed Games business was sold for Swedish Krona 1 (7 pence). The UK Boxed Games business was sold for £1. The move, announced today, is one of a raft of measures that signals Gameplay plc's exit from the retail games market. In Germany, Gameplay Gmbh is going to the insolvency court for protection and to appoint an administrator. And in Spain, negotiations are still underway to find a buyer for the Boxed Games business. Gameplay plc has said that talks with an interested party about the possible sale of Gameplay plc have ended. This leaves Gameplay plc with just its Technology Division, which includes its online gaming service, Wireplay, its interests in interactive TV (iTV) and its digital distribution business. The company said that it intended to publish the full results of its strategic review and its interim results for the six months to January 2001 by the end of May. In a statement the company said: "At that time, the board will outline measures it proposes to take in order to bring the remaining business through to profitability, since lower than expected proceeds from the sale of these assets mean that the company may not now have sufficient cash to reach profitability. "In the meantime Gameplay continues to trade although cash remains tight and is being closely managed," it said. Yesterday The Register reported that almost 50 staff at Gameplay plc's head offices in London were effectively told they'd lost their jobs. It remains to be seen what will happen with the rest of Gameplay plc. With money tight, and hopes of a takeover dwindling, it seems as though the options for its future remain limited. Shares in Gameplay plc fell more than 50 per cent by lunchtime touching 7.5 pence. ® Related Stories 44 Gameplay staff face the axe Gameplay still mum about future Buyers sniffing round Gameplay Gameplay up for sale Gameplay still flooded Gameplay HQ flooded Gameplay axes 275 jobs
Tim Richardson, 17 May 2001

Dell confirms AMD Athlon 4 notebook release?

Dell may have inadvertently confirmed that it is indeed to offer an notebook PC based on AMD's Mobile Athlon 4 processor. Earlier this week, analyst Eric Ross of Thomas Wiesel Partners advised investors of Dell's move, citing sources reliable enough to calm his initial scepticism. Dell remains the last major PC supplier to maintain an Intel-only policy. Signing AMD would mark a significant win - financial and psychological for Intel's arch-rival. No wonder then that numerous sceptics poured scorn on Ross' claim. However, today we received an e-mail from Dell. The message was sent to a Register reader and member of the "Dell faithful" after he contacted the PC maker to seek clarification of the claims in our coverage of Ross' report. "I wrote them this morning, explaining that I read a rumor they might use the Athlon 4. In an encouraging letter I mentioned that if this was true, they would win my business," says our reader. "I really want an Athlon-based laptop." Here is Dell's response: "Thank you for contacting Dell Customer Care. I am not sure when we will have these available, but it may be in July. I am glad we can retain you as a customer with our products. Have a great day." Now, we can't confirm Dell's response - or, it has to be said, that it actually is a response from Dell. It's certainly not an official comment. However, if it is a Dell missive, it certainly supports Ross' claims. Assuming, of course, they're not just stringing the guy along to maintain his support... ® Related Story AMD to announce Dell design win for Athlon 4
Tony Smith, 17 May 2001

‘Friendly’ Cheese worm reveals many compromised boxes

The so-called 'cheese worm' has attracted a great deal of attention in the past 24 hours for its benign payload, which seeks to mend Linux boxes infected with at least one version of the li0n worm (which exploits a BIND vulnerability). However, it also demonstrates that there's a large number of already-compromised machines connected to the Net; and furthermore, a tiny modification to its code could render it immensely destructive. The worm scans for machines with a secure root shell listening on TCP port 10008, as set up by a variant of the li0n worm. If the shell exists, cheese will install in the directory /tmp/.cheese and execute a script thus: /tmp/.cheese/go: #!/bin/sh nohup ./cheese $1 1>/dev/null 2>&1 & Cheese reads the file inetd.conf and rewrites it, deleting any line that contains the string /bin/sh. It then restarts inetd, with all /bin/sh processes killed indiscriminately. "Until the 'cheese' process is somehow killed, it repeats a cycle of scanning semi-random /16 (e.g., class B) network blocks for hosts listening on TCP port 10008 using the 'psm' program," a detailed incident report by the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (CERT/CC) at Carnegie Mellon University explains. The first octet of the address may be from 193 to 218; and the second may be from 1 to 254, Cert/CC says. What's most interesting here is that cheese may be the first worm which automates the exploitation not of an existing vulnerability, as most do, but of an existing compromise. "This is perhaps the first successful example of this type of exploit," CERT/CC artifact analysis team leader Kevin Houle told The Register. Houle believes that the example here, while relatively harmless in itself, is alarming. "We've seen an increase in reconnaissance (scanning) related to port 10008," he observes -- an increase which strongly implies activity by the cheese worm. That, in turn, implies that there is quite a large number of machines already compromised, whose owners remain blithely ignorant of the fact. Call it proof-of-concept that the Net is teeming with already-rooted boxes. He also emphasizes that it would be child's play to modify cheese for extremely destructive activity. Developing destructive exploits for existing compromises is not a trend Houle would like to see carried forward -- and we'll just second that ourselves. ®
Thomas C Greene, 17 May 2001

Computacenter loses GCAT monopoly

Computacenter loses Govt. GCAT monopoly published on: The government has removed Computacenter's monopoly for supplying products through its GCAT ecommerce procurement system, CW360.com reports. Computacenter will instead be just one of 26 resellers with supply rights. Colin Brown, Computacenter's government sector director, criticised the move. It would increase pressure on the customers by providing 26 points of entry rather than one. And the change failed to address the government's stated aim to open up the system to SME resellers, he says. "The 25 new suppliers have only won a ticket to the match, they are not guaranteed any success or any business," Brown told CW360.com. "It will take time for this new framework to bed in and, quite frankly, many of the companies will just be making up the numbers. We are not afraid. Customers will stick with us." ® Blast from the Past Computacenter seized control of the GCAT business from Technology, the ICL-owned reseller in 1997. Here's two stories we wrote at the time. EDS junks Tplc for Computacenter Computacenter in tin man shock horror
Drew Cullen, 17 May 2001

HWRoundup Top heavy on AMD today

This is our first namecheck for GotApex.com. Hello and welcome. First up, check its interesting Asus A7M266 AMD 760 DDR motherboard review. And then to the site's look at the Leadtek WinFast Geforce 3 . The future of Silicon? Ace's Hardware links to this article concerning a new possible semiconductor which uses nitrogen. Still on the Ace trail they have a write-up about checking the FPU of your P4 . Yes, we were there at the UK Launch of the new AMD mobile CPUs. Look here for Hexus's report. More news on the AMD product line with the White Paper here
David Ross, 17 May 2001