6th > June > 2001 Archive

Reg duped by crime-busting D.I.R.T Trojan

My recent article on the D.I.R.T. (Data Interception by Remote Transmission) Trojan, with which law-enforcement agents can secretly monitor a suspect's computer and which is marketed by surveillance outfit Codex Data Systems, contained several inaccuracies, all of which can be attributed solely to my own lapse in the skepticism for which The Reg in general, and I personally, are known. The full story, as it happens, is immensely more twisted than I imagined when I wrote my original item. Clearly, The Register's readers deserve better -- and here it is: S.C.A.M. Thanks to several e-mailed hints from readers, I continued doing background research and have now confirmed that the CEO of Codex Data Systems is one Francis Edward "Frank" Jones, a convicted felon currently on probation for illegal possession of surveillance devices. He was charged with trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in them, but in an agreement he pleaded guilty to simple possession, and the US Government dropped the other two charges. He was sentenced to three-hundred hours' community service and five years' probation with no jail time, on the strength of his argument to the court that he was not responsible for his illegal acts by reason of mental defect. He has also been required to participate in a mental-health program, which, judging by some of his recent behavior, appears to be less than a screaming success. Jones is widely regarded as a scam artist with a long history of security/surveillance snake-oil sales. He has, for example, sold bug-detection services, which we're told are completely fraudulent, involving detection apparatus easily cobbled together from the inventory of Radio Shack. He's reported to have planted a bug which he subsequently 'found' during one such charade. A Legend in His Own Mind He's also a shameless, Boswellian self-promoter with a Web site devoted to himself in his on-line incarnation, "SpyKing." Here we're told that SpyKing/Jones is "formerly in military and law enforcement service," and "a popular talk show guest with 15 appearances on national & regional programming and news specials." As for his law-enforcement experience, we've since learned that he managed to get himself fired from the New York City Police Department in 1975, according to a letter by Association of Counter-Intelligence Professionals (ACIP) Executive Director Michael Richardson. But the PR beat goes on: "Jones has lectured at M.I.T. (Massachussetts [sic] Institute of Technology) on TEMPEST computer eavesdropping techniques," his Web site claims. Indeed, "No other speaker has their thumb on the pulse of changing world trends in immerging [sic] surveillance technologies." Our illiterate subject has conned such publications as PC World, E-BusinessWorld, TechWeek, the Wall Street Journal, and, thanks to my carelessness, The Register as well. The D.I.R.T. on the Trojan The truly inexcusable element of my first story was my failure challenge rigorously Codex's claims regarding the amazing power of its D.I.R.T. Trojan. Had I taken the time to learn that SpyKing/Jones was behind this, I would have immediately suspected that it's a lot more talk than technology. But I ran with the piece out of eagerness to work my own agenda, motivated by personal outrage that anyone would be so irresponsible as to sell a Trojan to law-enforcement and governments as a surveillance device. And the reason for that outrage survives even now; D.I.R.T. unquestionably permits police to upload bogus evidence to a suspect's machine and offers no auditing controls by which they might be caught, which was the focus of my original report. That much hasn't changed; D.I.R.T. is absolutely ripe for abuse without accountability, and Jones is utterly damnable for trying to sell it to governments and police organizations. But I was on very shaky ground in reporting its true capabilities. My subsequent investigation indicates that Codex's claim that D.I.R.T. can defeat all known PC firewalls is, quite simply, false. Furthermore, their claim that "the software is completely transparent to the target and cannot be detected by current anti-virus software," is misleading, if not completely false. There is no technology in D.I.R.T. responsible for this sort of stealth; the server isn't detected simply because no anti-virus vendor has as yet added it to their signatures catalog. Defeating D.I.R.T. My suggestions in the original article for defeating D.I.R.T. remain basically sound, if perhaps a bit over-cautious due to my mistaken belief that it defeats all known firewalls (though there is reason to believe it may defeat a few). Because it isn't presently detected by anti-virus software, one does have to look for evidence of it. By default, it installs two files in the C:\WINDOWS directory -- DESKTOP.EXE and DESKTOP.DLL. If you find either of those files, you need to remove them and any associated files (such as .LOG files), or re-format your HDD to be on the safe side. One can also check their Windows registry under: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CurrentVersion HKEY_USERS\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CurrentVersion HKEY_USERS\DEFAULT\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CurrentVersion for any references to DESKTOP.EXE or DESKTOP.DLL. For those not intimately acquainted with the incontinent complexities of the Windows Registry, it would be best simply to search the entirety for references to both files mentioned. (It's also worthwhile to check out some of the suggestions in my previous report.) Now, because those file names are defaults which can be modified by savvy operators, I'm not saying, 'if you can't find the files, then you're not infected.' The names can be changed; but we can rely on the fact that most operators will be using D.I.R.T. in its default configuration -- after all, its chief selling point is that it can be used successfully by the technically illiterate. One final point regarding defenses against the Trojan: soon after I posted the first article recommending disk re-formats for those unsure how to combat D.I.R.T., which was mentioned and linked at Cryptome.org, a reader submitted the following warning: "D.I.R.T. uses 'unused' space in the file system, so high-level reformatting will not destroy it. (This 'unused' space is used by operating systems to handle classified information with data structures similar to that in SE_Linux). Removing D.I.R.T. requires wiping the disk at the device-driver level." I spoke with Eric Schneider, who wrote the program before leaving Codex on ethical grounds; and he told me that so far as he knows "there is no technology in D.I.R.T. which comes close to surviving a high-level format." So there you have it. Codex's D.I.R.T. is a remote administration tool that functions in large part just like the free Trojans SubSeven and BO2K, which is being sold by a disgraced former cop, current felon and self-confessed lunatic for thousands of dollars a pop to creepy Feds in countries where the sort of abuse it invites is routine and impossible for a victim to challenge in court. In all, a loathsome scam run by an equally loathsome con artist. ®
Thomas C Greene, 06 Jun 2001

Nvidia's nForce to cost $50

ComputexComputex Nvidia is going to charge $50 for its nForce integrated graphics chipset, according to mobo makers attending the Computex tradeshow in Taiwan. And the reaction from system builders to the nForce is a little cool. The builders are wondering whether any systems incorporating the chipset will fall between two price points. Though the graphics are good for an integrated set-up, but nForce will cost $20 -$30 more than a regular integrated chipset. And though it'll be cheaper than a discrete chipset and add-in graphics board, the performance won't be as good. Those who are happy with the sound and vision of an integrated chipset might not want to cough up extra dough for Nvidia's product, no matter how good the graphics are. And those hardcore users who want the extra performance they get from quality add-in boards are prepared to pay extra for that. It's the difference between the punter who wants a bog-standard CD player for their music, and those who want a hi-fi separates set up with gold plated interconnects. No one wanted to go on the record with these sentiments and cheese Nvidia off just yet, but one said: "They're targeting a market that doesn't necessarily want it." Nvidia isn't saying how much it's going to charge for the nForce. ® Related Stories Nvidia accused of 'heavy handed' tactics Nvidia's nForce chipset unwrapped
Robert Blincoe, 06 Jun 2001

Mesh ‘ not looking for general manager’

Mesh, the London-based system builder, called us today to deny that it was looking for a new general manager. Neither had the company approached former general manager Paul Kinsler, or Luke Ireland, Evesham.com's former marketing manager, to run the business. marketing manager John Hendrick said. He was responding to channel gossip, reported earlier today in The Register. "Max Sherasati and Peter Ramiz, are the co-MDs and owners of Mesh. They have been running the company and they are not looking at anyone. We have never spoken to Luke Ireland," Hendrick said. Mesh currently has a headcount of 200. In January, it opened a new 20,000sqft plant, in Newbridge Scotland. The company is expanding it London production facility, moving to a new 20,000sqft unit at the end of July. Kinsler left Mesh to start up Taxan's UK PC operation. This was announced in August 2000 but by October Taxan had got cold feet and scrapped the idea. System builders had hinted they wouldn't be buying Taxan monitors if the company started competing with them directly. Kinsler now runs his own business, PK Media Solutions, and works for VIA, LG Electronics and Evesham amongst others. ® Related Stories Taxan scraps plan to make PCs in UK Taxan to start building PCs Evesham loses Luke Ireland
Robert Blincoe, 06 Jun 2001

VIA's got a PC builder to use its C3 chip

ComputexComputex VIA has got a PC system builder customer for its 750MHz C3 processor. UK operation Evesham.com is going to put together a machine as soon as it gets samples of the chips. It plans to build a very low cost desktop and should be advertising it in the national press within a matter of weeks. The 0.13 micron C3 - formerly known as Ezra - was officially launched at the Computex tradeshow in Taiwan. It's the first CPU to go into volume production using the 0.13 micron process. The C3 is debuting at speeds up to 800MHz. VIA presenter CJ Holthaus said the 0.13 micron process would allow the C3 to "reach lower voltages and higher speeds. "I believe it will scale up to 1GHz," he said. VIA also introduced a mobile C3 which is available at speeds from 600MHz to 800MHz. It's aimed at the notebook and sub notebook market. ® Related Stories VIA unveils 750MHz C3 processor VIA C3 roadmap extended to 1.2GHz+ Evesham to slash support costs with Bigfix Evesham rolls 1.33GHz Athlon out door
Robert Blincoe, 06 Jun 2001

MS scratches Compaq's back by restricting PocketPC licences

ComputexComputex The Computex tradeshow in Taiwan has thrown up some very nice examples of PocketPC - aka Windows CE 3.0 - PDAs. Mitac won a show award for its kit; Asus had some nice models as well as WinCE handheld PCs; and Compal was showing off its range. These are just the kind of thing system builders and resellers will spy on a foreign buying trip and import. But it is unlikely they'll do anything with these manufacturers products. The root of the problem is why you'll be unlikely to see any mass market PocketPC PDAs from anyone other that the big name vendors - Compaq, HP, Toshiba et al. Asus can't get a Microsoft PocketPC licence. Though its PDAs and handhelds were running WinCE 3.0, none of them had any of the MS applications. The kind of things consumers want to make the products worth buying. The guy on Asus' stand was throwing his hands up and saying "Why won't they give it us?" Maybe he should chat to Compal. There are two Taiwanese manufacturers which have a MS Pocket PC licence - HTC who make Compaq's iPaq and Toshiba's PDA - and Compal. Compal wouldn't say who it manufactures for, but it will be selling its PDAs in the UK under its Palmax brand. Compal is just sorting out its UK distribution now and is pushing for Peripheralcorner.co.uk to handle the business. But they have to be approved by Microsoft, according to Compal. "Whoever we sell to have to get approval from Microsoft," said Marc Plumb, Compal sales manager. So Microsoft is restricting manufacturer licences for PocketPC PDAs and has veto over vendor sales channels. Why? Well it owes the original PocketPC boys, and particularly Compaq, a big fat favour. "Microsoft depended a lot on Compaq's iPaq to make PocketPC successful. It owes it a lot," says Plumb. PocketPC sales hit one million in its first year and sales of iPaq 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. Compal is included in the inner circle of PDA vendors and Plumb says its product is sold into vertical markets so its not competing with the iPaq. Just as well. Peripheralcorner may be superb at their job but they're not a big name in the UK so it would be difficult for Compal's Palmax' to give iPaq a run for its money. This situation isn't going to ease any time soon. Compal doesn't expect licensing restrictions to be lifted this year. As for Mitac - its display models were running Internet Explorer and Word. The company says its investigating European distribution but communication breakdown prevented us from finding out if it had a MS licence, or approved distributors. ® Related Stories Microsoft PocketPC racks up 1m sales in first year Compaq iPaq Q1 sales skyrocket
Robert Blincoe, 06 Jun 2001

Next-gen ‘iMac 2001’ debuts on Web

ExclusiveExclusive It's amazing what turns up in the post of a morning. Today we received what is claimed to be a piccy of Apple's next iMac. That's all very well and good, but by a clever stroke of luck - or just possibly a Photoshop artist's pen - it even manages to combine three of the current Apple hardware rumours doing the rounds. First, here's the pic we received, retouched (we have to admit) to remove certain Apple trademarks, specifically the word 'iMac' from the bottom centre of the screen frame and the Apple logo on the front of the lower system unit. We don't want the legal people getting us on that at least... The diagram was passed on by a third-party who claims to have received it from someone at "a third company that is already producing something for Apple". Could that be AlphaTop, which last week said it had been signed up by Apple to build what it called new iBooks with larger LCD screens. Apple immediately denied everything. It's certainly tempting to speculate that this iBook-styled iMac is what the AlphaTop representative was talking about. The existing iMac is, after all, little more than an iBook with a CRT display instead of an LCD. Now here's the really interesting bit: The new iMac's LCD screen, says the original source, can be removed and used as a Webpad. It has its own battery and a wireless link to the main (you'll note the exposed iBook-style modem, USB, FireWire and Ethernet ports on the side) system unit. "I don't have clue about what wireless transmission they use, but it can't be Airport," says the source. Bluetooth perhaps? Apparently, the screen contains enough processing power to display the Quartz data sent to it by the main system unit, not unlike the way some remote terminals work. The mention of Quartz implies this is a MacOS X-only box, and we have been hearing rumours for some time that Apple is preparing a MacOS X-only version of the iMac to demonstrate the new OS to consumers. Equally, every so often the rumour mill churns up a claim that Apple's working on a tablet computer, and it's hard not to wonder if that rumour is a shadow of this next-gen iMac. "The screen swivel is really great, like the one in the old NeXT monitors, and allows you to place the thing pretty much in any way you like it with a finger," claims the source. But wait, there's more. A couple of weeks back, before Apple's Worldwide Developer Forum, it was claimed that the company is working on a rackmount server. Well, we've got that one taped too, apparently. Says the source of the pic: "Notice there is no CD/DVD unit in the front. It is in the other side, opposite to the ports. Turn the thing 90 degrees around the Z axis and you have the ON/OFF button, the reset and the DVD slot in the front and the ports in the back. It is a thin-server for X Server and WebObjects deployment. "You can... use the pad to control as many servers as you want, with a switch of TCP/IP address and some neat control panel wired in the hardware (which is some sort of window server chooser that will automatically list anything in range)." Now, at this point we'd urge some caution. None of this has been corroborated by other sources, and the fact that it pulls together so many disparate rumours is suspicious. Then again, a project as big as this - and reinventing the three-year-old iMac would be a major programme for Apple, particularly reinventing it as radically as the pic we received would suggest - could easy leak little bits of information that can lead to very different scenarios and only come together when you have the full picture. There are signs that Apple is attempting to run down its existing iMac inventories in preparation for a summer upgrade, probably to be announced at Macworld Expo New York. That suggests something is a happening to the iMac, even if it's only some new colours, faster CPUs and more memory. We remain open minded. It's certainly possible to fake all this up with a copy of Illustrator; the contents of MacOS Rumors, ThinkSecret and AppleInsider; the AlphaTop story; and a vivid imagination. And we've not yet had enough information to say that it isn't a fantasy. Or just a concept design Apple has been working on that will never come to market. It’s certainly a fantastic product, though we wonder, what with the wireless link to the Webpad and the expensive nature of LCDs, whether it's going to be too pricey for some. It could be offered as a luxury Special Edition, but that has too much of the Cube about it, and Apple really can't afford another marketing failure right now. Whatever the authenticity of the pic, it's certainly a machine we'd like to see. It'll be interesting to see whether we will... ® Related Stories Apple refutes colour iBook claims Apple to add more colours, bigger screen to iBook Restyled widescreen iMac to push iMovie, MacOS X
Tony Smith, 06 Jun 2001

Apple settles with iMac ‘cloner’

Apple and iMac-alike PC maker Future Power have finally settled their long-running trade dress dispute. Under the terms of the settlement, Future Power will be able to produce an all-in-one box with an integrated 17in screen, called the AIO. Apple may be happy with that, but we can't see Sony letting it stand. As for the 15in all-in-one PC that provoked Apple's wrath back in the summer of 1999, called the ePower, Future Power can now bring it to market at any time after 1 February 2004, though why Apple has insisted on such a specific date is anyone's guess. Apple sued Future Power in the US in July 1999, and was granted a preliminary injunction against the Future Power machine the following November. Future Power appealed against the preliminary injunction. The settlement, announced yesterday, will ensure the case does not come to court. Apple alleged that Future Power's translucent blue and white PC was a rip-off of its translucent blue and white iMac. It made similar allegations against PC maker eMachines and its eOne computer. Actually, we're surprised that Apple has effectively given the go-ahead for the multi-colour AIO, particularly after all its righteous indignation of 1999. Could it be that it no longer sees the all-in-one CRT format as central to the iMac ethos? If you take as fact the hints that it's working on an LCD-based iMac for a summer 2001 launch, you could well see why it's no longer worried about AIO-style machines. ® Related Stories Next-gen 'iMac 2001' debuts on Web Apple defeats iMac cloners Apple wins ePower iMac-alike ban Apple sues Koreans over iMac knock-off
Tony Smith, 06 Jun 2001

AMD launches 1.4GHz Athlon

AMD today officially launched its 1.4GHz Athlon and 950MHz Duron chips which went on sale in Japan last week. Compaq has started offering systems based on the 1.4GHz processor, while AMD says machines from Hewlett-Packard, MicronPC and NEC-CI are also on their way. The chip is available with a 200MHz or 266MHz frontside bus and costs $253 (as part of a 1000-unit order). The 950MHz Duron costs $122. AMD claims systems based on the 1.4GHz Athlon chip, with DDR memory, outperform Intel's 1.7GHz Pentium 4-based systems. AMD yesterday unveiled the Athlon MP processor, aimed at workstation and server systems. The MP chip is based on AMD's new Palomino core. The 1.4GHz Athlon is based on the older Thunderbird core and will probably be the last T'bird before AMD launches desktop Palominos next month. ® Related Stories AMD unveils MP Athlon - but no big-name partners AMD shows off multiprocessing platform AMD 1.4GHz Athlon arrives
Linda Harrison, 06 Jun 2001

Napster signs away its soul

Napster has become a distributor for the music industry's MusicNet venture, putting it on a par with corporate beasts AOL and RealNetworks. MusicNet is backed by three of the main five record companies: AOL Time Warner, EMI and BMG Entertainment. It will be a music streaming and download thing, and is expected to launch near the end of summer. The deal will see Napster relaunch in name only as a subscription-based service. Napster is also reportedly talking to Microsoft over fee-charging software. How much, if any, of the original Napster free file-swapping software will remain is open to question. Despite the deal only being done to remove all the legal threats and court orders hanging over Napster, Napster's chief exec and MusicNet's chief exec decided to ignore history and reality in their prepared quotes: "We are pleased to be able to offer Napster members access to the MusicNet service," said Hank Barry (Napster). "Today's announcement is great for consumers, for artists and for the recording industry," said Rob Glaser (MusicNet and, incidentally, RealNetworks). Despite the deal, Napster is still expected in court for a "compliance hearing" today to make sure it has removed all "banned" songs. The court order still holds but it seems unlikely that even if Napster has failed to remove such songs that it will go any further. The other two main record companies - Sony and Vivendi - have set up 'rival' company Duet for online music but are in talks with MusicNet to make it all one happy duopoly. EMI gets in there first And part of the future of controlling music in the digital age has already been announced by EMI. It will team up with Roxio to set up a CD-burning system that keeps copyright intact, EMI announced yesterday. Roxio intends to write software that will allows users to download music off the Internet from EMI and then burn this onto a CD. This CD can then be played in any normal device. However, the system will incorporate encrypted data on the CD that prevents it being copied or ripped into MP3, at least that's what euro chief of Roxio Harm Meyer said. Harm went on to say: "It would all be transparent to the user - they would go to the EMI site and buy songs on a pay-as-you-go basis, download those to their computer, listen to them there and, if they wanted, they could then burn it on to a recordable CD and listen to it wherever. However, in between the tracks we would encode a scrambled digital signal that would prevent it being copied." Let's hope that Roxio does a better job with the software than it did with the latest version of Easy CD Creator which has caused widespread difficulties due to several components clashing with Windows OSes. ® Related Stories Napster nears deals with music industry Easy CD Creator affecting Win9x machines as well More woe over Easy CD Creator Microsoft posts warning over Easy CD Creator Easy CD Creator problems just won't go away 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, 06 Jun 2001

Political parties fail e-lectorate

All three main political parties have failed to address the needs of online voters, according to a survey by the Hansard Society. The Society found that Labour, the Tories and LibDems failed to reply to emails sent in by voters. When they did reply, it took more than 13 hours for a response. Many were automated replies or referred voters to another source of information. In one case a 25-page document was attached to an email. The research shows that despite all the hype about 2001 being the year of the e-lection, Britain's political parties simply aren't geared up to use the interactivity of the Web. While they're happy to issue propaganda via email or text message, they are incapable of meeting the needs of individual voters. Of course, there's little surprise in this. The resources needed to handle all the enquiries would swamp even the most well resourced organisation. Hopes that the Net would somehow herald a dimension in political accountability appear to be unfounded. Dr Stephen Coleman, director of the Hansard Society's e-democracy programme, said: "The parties are offering lots of opportunities for the public to interact with them, but for the most part they are failing to provide the kind of authentic democratic interactivity that the Internet promises." Anyhow, back to the research. The Hansard Society sent out the following nine questions via email to the three main parties: 1. How does your party feel about using the internet more often to involve the public in policy making? 2. Is it true that most MPs don't accept emails from their constituents? Would you accept - and reply to - them if elected? 3. Do you agree with me that Britain should join NAFTA? 4. Does your party support free eye tests for all? 5. I am unemployed and would like to know your party's policy on enabling people to open bank accounts who are currently rejected by the major banks? 6. What is your party's view on stem cell research? 7. Would you favour lowering the voting age to 16? 8. Who would you regard as the best Prime Minister of the 20th Century? 9. I am seven and when I grow up I want to become an MP. How do I learn to do this and which party should I support? And here are the results. Labour Labour's average response time was 945.6 minutes (over 15 hours). Labour responded to 89 per cent of the emails. But 70 per cent of these were 'automated responses' that did not specifically answer the questions put - referring enquirers instead to the party manifesto or the Web site. Only one response email from Labour contained information pertaining directly to the question asked - on the topic of free eye tests. Conservatives The Conservative response time was the fastest - with responses averaging at 771.6 minutes (about 13 hours). The Conservatives were least likely to provide any response at all - replying to only 56 per cent of emails. However, if enquirers were lucky enough to receive a response from the Conservatives it was in all cases related directly to the questions they asked. Liberal Democrats The Liberal Democrats' average response time at 1035.3 minutes (over 17 hours) was the longest of all the parties, but enquirers can expect to receive a personalised response. The LibDems provided a response to 78 per cent of all email inquiries. The responses varied between one word on several occasions ('Yes' or 'No') and 10,000 words (a 25-page policy document was attached to one email) ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Jun 2001

Infineon to sell shares to raise investment cash, pay off debt

German chipmaker Infineon has laid plans to sell shares in the US in order to fund investments during a time of deeply declining DRAM prices. Infineon has filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to allow it to conduct a public offering in the US. The amount of shares to be sold and timing of the issue has not yet been set, but the firm has the authority to issue up to 60 million shares. It has hired Goldman Sachs to manage the sale. Shares in Infineon feel slightly to $35.5 last night on news of the offer. Infineon spokeswoman Katja Schlendorf told Bloomberg that the offer would be used "to raise cash for future investments, potential acquisitions or the repayment of short-term debt". Prices of DRAM chips have fallen to around $2 against the $3.40 it costs Infineon to manufacture them. Against this background, Infineon is moving into the production of smart cards and chips for the telecoms market but DRAM still makes up the majority of its sales. A share offer would help finance this move and also further its goal of diluting the influence of majority shareholder Siemens on its business. As previously reported, Infineon chief executive Ulrich Schumacher said Siemens should cut its stake in Infineon from its current 56 per cent to just 10-15 per cent. Siemens too wants to reduce its stake in its former chip division but it's unclear if it wants to go as fast as Schumacher is suggesting. Last month Infineon won the patent infringement lawsuit filed against it by Rambus but it is due to receive only ten per cent of the punitive damages awarded to it by the jury in the case, just $350,000. ® Related Stories Infineon sees sun through DRAM clouds Infineon boss seeks fuller break from Siemens Infineon damages slashed Infineon lets Rambus retain SDRAM patents Infineon to start churning out 300mm wafers in second half
John Leyden, 06 Jun 2001

Intel samples 0.13 micron Pentium 4

Intel has begun sampling the 0.13 micron Pentium 4 die-shrink, codenamed Northwood, Taiwanese mobo makers have said. Asustek and Gigabyte both told EBN that they are preparing Northwood-based boards for a Q4 2001 launch. That's when Northwood itself is scheduled to ship, according to Intel's roadmap. The part will debut at 2GHz or higher and will be based on the upcoming P4 Socket 478 interface. Other vendors' representatives, bearded on their Computex booths, claimed that all the key Taiwanese mobo makers have received early versions of Northwood Gigabyte said it had begun testing Northwood boards based on Intel's 845 chipset, aka Brookdale. Interestingly, the company said its Northwood boards will use DDR SDRAM. The DDR version of Brookdale is expected to ship early Q1 2002, not long after Northwood ships. ® Related Stories Intel lets slip 2GHz P4 release timeframe P4 Northwood has its picture taken Chipzilla gears up for 2GHz-plus PCs Intel 0.13 micron chips delayed?
Tony Smith, 06 Jun 2001

VIA goes with Pentium 4 chipset despite Intel

VIA stuck two fingers up to Intel yesterday when it launched its long-awaited Pentium 4 chipset, the PX266, without winning the chip giant's approval. VIA has always maintained that it has the right to ship such a product, thanks to the Intel technology licences it end up with by buying SonicBlue's graphics chip operation. For a while, when SonicBlue was called S3, it had a close relationship with Intel thanks to the latter's interest in the patents it had retrieved from the wreckage of crashed PowerPC developer Exponential Technologies. Intel, of course, reckons VIA has no such right - the right was granted to S3 alone and can't be passed on to a third-party, ie. VIA, it says. VIA certainly appears confident of its position. "My legal team told me that we won't have legal problems," reiterated VIA president and CEO Chen Wen-chi. Maybe, but that didn't stop the company approaching Intel to discuss obtaining the chip giant's official santion. Those negotiations have clearly gone nowhere, and VIA has decided to proceed with the chipset launch anyway, a move it has long threatened to make if Intel proved intransigent. Intel has already licensed P4 technology to VIA's rivals SIS and Acer Labs. It has also given ATI the same rights, and the graphics chip maker is expected to release a chipset that will compete with Nvidia's AMD-only nForce 220 and 420. ® Related Story VIA Pentium 4 plans take shape
Tony Smith, 06 Jun 2001

The Tiscali saga uncovered

When, despite having evidence in our hands, Tiscali denied its plans to cull 300 or its 420 UK staff, we felt there was only one way to be certain of what was going on. And that was to talk to the troops on the ground. And so, with the help of one or two contacts at the company, we managed to smuggle our way into the ticket-only leaving do at Shoreditch's Light Bar for staff that until recently had been employed by LibertySurf (one of the three ISPs Tiscali has bought out and was in the course of disassembling). Our intention was to be up front about being from The Register in the hope that disgruntled staff would want to share their experiences and concerns over how the company has treated employees. This plan was soon scuppered though by the person that got us into the party. "You'll have to pretend you're a recruitment consultant," we were told. "There's a number of them here, and I don't want people knowing that there's a journalist about." And so with a rapidly acquired pseudonym (the name of an old friend) and purporting to be from NetConsultancy, we contrived to find out what had happened. It didn't take long. Following small chat regarding job skills and prospects in the online job market and creating an entire company off the top of our heads, people were only too pleased to discuss how Tiscali had shafted LibertySurf and WorldOnline by installing LineOne management in the key positions. LineOne management unsurprisingly favoured its own troops (the three ISPs, despite working for the same company were in a permanent Mexican stand-off) to the detriment of more qualified staff in the other companies. The cuts were across the board - sales staff, writers, techies, customer service. All were being well paid (new media's way of getting skilled staff before leaving them to the vagaries of the job market six months later). Most had three months' pay-off. Few had new jobs. Just under half of those we spoke to had taken voluntary redundancy, most quoted as saying: "I wouldn't want to work for this company any more, even if they did offer me a job." It would seem the company went through a formality of interviews before offering either a job several rungs below the existing one or no job at all. We found just two people retained by the company: a highly qualified back-end techie with ten years' experience (gold dust) and a project manager who swore the job only existed because someone in the same job in LineOne has decided to leave. Beer was flowing and tongues were wagging. Paranoia was rife though, and the ruse of being a recruitment consultant appeared to working for the better. However, little did we know, but the original person that insisted upon our clandestine persona had had a few tongue-looseners themselves. The cloak-and-dagger antics were obviously too much and soon the contact could be seen whispering at the end of the bar that a reporter from The Register was pretending to be a recruitment consultant. A quick look around the consultants in the room would reveal several blokes in suits and one chain-smoking scruffy skinhead with two beer bottles in his left hand. The first we knew about it was when one well-built man who previously had gladly talked about the company, his job and his wage packet insisted upon a phone number for NetConsultancy. We gave him a duff one which he immediately checked and then returned intent upon revenge. The game was up and having assured the man in question that we had no intention of printing his name and salary on The Reg, he assured us he wouldn't tell anyone else of our true identity. We didn't believe him and it didn't matter anyhow because by now the word had got about. Faced by a room of drunk, paranoid and angry ex-employees who still hadn't seen their cheques clear (those that had cheques), we darted to the corner near the door and started another conversation. Two minutes into that conversation, the woman blurted out: "You're not a reporter are you? I'm not talking to you, I'm off." From the safety of a pillar, we surveyed the room. Not often you see a room full of merry people whispering to one another. Everyone was clearly under suspicion. People were being given the all-clear by sales girls that had seen them in the office once or twice. It was turning nasty. We made a quick exit. ® Related Stories Tiscali UK in stick up Tiscali UK confirms cull Employees demonstrate outside WorldOnline offices Tiscali UK cull about to begin Tiscali to axe 300 jobs in UK LineOne bosses to head Tiscali's UK ISP World Online/Tiscali begins 'massacre of UK employees'
Kieren McCarthy, 06 Jun 2001

Text message alerts planned to stop notebook theft

Laptop owners will soon be able to get text message alerts to warn them that their computer is being stolen. The 'APC Lapdog' product is an attachment that fits into a notebook's serial port. It is the brainchild of British outfit Secure PC, and will either send a text message to a designated mobile, set off an alarm, or - in an office - tip off the network administrator, if laptops are moved without permission. Sensors can also be placed around buildings to track the travels of laptops and desktops and prevent them being nicked. It also has a feature that can delete files if the laptop goes walkabout, while there is a key fob that lets the owner track their laptop at a distance of up to 200 metres if outside. This works by the keyfob beeping louder the nearer it gets to the laptop. Secure PC, which is based in Twickenham, says it has 4000 of the devices on order from the UK, and 17,000 from the US. The APC Lapdog will be available from the end of this week and costs £99. ® Related Stories Sneak thief steals state secrets in MI5 laptop MoD laptop thefts put the wind up the US Second spy loses laptop
Linda Harrison, 06 Jun 2001

Aussies revolt over broadband cap

Broadband users down under are revolting after Telstra BigPond decided to cap their usage of the service. In an email issued to customer yesterday Telstra BigPond said that from 5 July those users signed up to the unlimited residential package, called Freedom, will only be allowed 3GB of usage a month. Monster telco, Telstra, blames a small minority of users for its decision. It claims: "...around five percent of users take up 35 percent of total bandwidth at any one time. This group places a severe burden on the network which greatly reduces performance for most customers." It believes the action it's taken will not impact upon a majority of users. "The 3GB allowance per month represents something like 600 MP3 songs (average 5MB per song) or 300 2-3 minute MPEG videos a month. "If you use the Net mainly for email or surfing and reasonable music and video downloads, you should not be affected at all. Gamers should be able to enjoy up to 300 hours a month of broadband multi-user gaming," it said. Telstra BigPond cost around A$80 (£29) a month. However, the move has incensed users who've already set up an online petition to overturn the decision. It says: "Telstra's broadband Internet division, Big Pond Advance, has decided to inflict another restriction on an already decidedly average service. Not only do we (BigPond Advance Freedom Plan Users) get a 64KB/16KB speed restriction, we now also have a 3GB download limit per month. Note that both these restrictions apply to the 'Unlimited Freedom Plan' that they offer." "We, the undersigned, wish to let Telstra know that the vast majority of its user base are outraged by this 3GB data restriction. At the time of writing the petition had 4291 signatures. One user who contacted El Reg said: "What we are basically left with is paying a premium for a service with the usage availability that you would expect from a dialup service." Another said: "It sucks to be a Telstra BigPond Cable User." And a posting on a bulletin board said: "This is the most offensive move [Telstra BigPond] have made and strongly illustrates how pathetic broadband services are here in AU. Tel$tra shaft us in front of the international computing community again." Subscribers to other broadband services are now concerned that their providers will follow Telstra BigPond's lead and impose similar caps. ® Related Link The petition can be found here
Tim Richardson, 06 Jun 2001

Sun backs development of crash-proof databases

Sun Microsystems has invested $22 million in a firm that is trying to develop crash-free databases. Clustra Systems intends to use Sun's investment, part of its second round of funding, which has raised $32 million, to expand its product development and marketing activities of relational databases that provide continuous uptime. The firm's Clustra Database is designed to stay up "through planned maintenance, hardware and software failures, database upgrades, natural disasters, and human mistakes". This covers a lot of potential cock-ups (especially the human error aspect of disaster) and we reckon Clustra's statements thus far only go part way towards explaining how this might be achieved. Clustra chief executive Gary Ebersole told Reuters: "If there is a failure in one part of the system, the system keeps running because we replicate the database so that it can run without interruption of service." He added that because Clustra's technology is self-repairing, it could recover from failure automatically. The funding agreement with Sun makes no mention of whether Clustra will get access to Sun's channel or whether the hardware giant will resell Clustra's software, a move unlikely to be welcomed by Oracle. These will be interesting points to look out for in the future alongside whether Clustra's technology lives up to its promise. Clustra was founded in 1997 and expects to move into the black next year, possibly after another funding round. Its technology was first deployed by telecoms carriers, and Clustra is now developing a platform for application delivery that will also be targeted at financial services companies. ® Related Stories Oracle ad hints at evil IBM/Informix scheme Nasa backs project to develop crash-proof computers
John Leyden, 06 Jun 2001

Microsoft rebuts XP Net instability claims

Microsoft has officially responded to claims made by security consultant Steve Gibson that Windows XP threatens the stability of the Internet thanks to its inclusion on Unix sockets. These 'raw' sockets allow hackers to send thousands of spoof data packets from several PCs at once and launch unstoppable denial-of-service attacks against chosen Web sites. Since XP is likely to be picked up by millions of technically illiterate consumers, the threat of heavy and easy DDoS attacks is enormous, claimed Gibson. Not so, not so, cries Microsoft. In a posting on its TechNet site, it says that hostile code and not the XP socket implementation is the real threat to security. By hostile code it means the Trojan programs, etc that hackers slip onto unsuspecting people's computers that give them virtual control of the system. It is these programs that allow hackers to direct data packets at certain sites. Microsoft accepts that the socket implementation will make packet spoofing easier than before but contends that a number of OSes already allow this and no great DoS revolution has occurred yet. It also says that if a hacker has access to a person's machine then he or she can already install drivers that will enable spoofing even on an OS that does not have Unix sockets. Instead, we should be concentrating on preventing malicious code from getting on the machine in the first place and stopping it from working if it is already on the machine, Microsoft says. It's all a case of installing a burglar alarm but leaving the front door open. That's a fair point, but then what is Microsoft doing to ensure that malicious code can't get onto and run on its OSes (because currently it's easier than pulling in a brothel)? This is where things are less persuasive. "Some" of the options available, says TechNet, are the Net connection firewall in XP "which effectively makes Windows XP users invisible on the Internet". And then, er, there's two service packs for Outlook and, er, you can configure the machine so certain types of script won't run. So not much then. Shame really, because Microsoft had us up until that point. The point is that sysadmins are, as a whole, delighted with the extra flexibility that Unix sockets will give them but Steve Gibson's point was that it will be individual machines owned by technically illiterate individuals that will make XP such a soft target. And Microsoft is always playing catch-up with regard to security issues because they are so many people permanently hunting for holes and flaws in its software. Plus, how many average consumers go to the trouble of keeping up-to-date with patches, etc? How many of them even know they exist? Microsoft is right that it's not Unix sockets that will cause the problem but then unless it provides a better defence to hostile code, it's not doing anyone any favours either. ® Related Link Microsoft's TechNet response Related Story Windows XP will make Internet unstable - top security expert
Kieren McCarthy, 06 Jun 2001

Intel airs Itanium underpants in public

Intel endured a minor PR cock-up today when a Register story briefly became the focus of a presentation on Itanium. Part of Intel's presentation in London today included a demonstration by knowledge management firm Autonomy, whose intelligent search engine software ended up displaying our story HP wears Itanium underpants and sings the Intel song to the massed ranks of hacks present. The headline, which is hardly the message Intel wanted to project about the long-delayed processor, did manage to raise a laugh among assembled journos. However, Paul Otellini, general manager of the Intel's Architecture Group, managed to spin the minor faux pas to his advantage. If processors were sufficiently fast it'd be possible to filter out such material, he said. In your dreams, Intel, in your dreams... ® Related Story HP wears Itanium underpants and sings the Intel song
John Leyden, 06 Jun 2001

UK Reseller grabs MS bag

CompetitionCompetition Thanks to all those UK resellers who entered our competition to win an exclusive laptop overnighter. This authentic leatherette wheeled IT transportation solution was kindly provided by Microsoft to herald the launch of Office XP. All you had to do to stake you claim to this must-have travel accessory was go to www.microsoft.com/uk/partner, check out the Partner Newsletter section and count how many news items were displayed. This, unfortunately, is where the whole thing went a bit titsup, since there is not a fixed number of stories. The answers received, therefore, ranged from six to 60. Oh dear. However, we decided to throw all the eligible entries into the hat, whatever the figure provided. And the first name pulled from the Vulture Central trilby was Gary Moss, of Hays Redfern Ltd. Congratulations to Gary who is - let's face it - a lucky, lucky boy. Now he can glide elegantly through the departures lounge safe in the knowledge that his laptop is snugly overnighted. Excellent. ®
Lester Haines, 06 Jun 2001

Maths tests for teachers mangled by software glitches

Computer errors during an important maths test has led to many trainee teachers being unfairly labelled as dunces when it comes to sums. Prospective UK teachers were tested by computer for the first time this year and, in an all too familiar saga involving public sector IT initiatives, the system (itself a good idea) seems to have gone horribly awry. Today's Independent reports that would-be teachers lost marks, in a compulsory maths test they need to pass to be given teaching posts, because of a software glitch. It seems that in one question, a table containing data needed to answer a question was not displayed on screen. The paper reports that this meant as many as 150 trainees lost marks because of the snafu and that 19 failed the test. These unlucky 19 have now being awarded passes after an appeal was lodged to the Government's Teacher Training Agency. The affair has provoked calls from teachers' unions for a rethink of the tests and the importance they are given in selecting teachers. Cases where computers crashed before people could save their answers and trainees being incorrectly assured by PCs that they've passed the dreaded exam - when they've really failed - have only increased demands for a return to traditional testing methods. In one college failure rates on the tests have soared from seven per cent last year (when pencil and paper was used) to 23 per cent this year with the introduction of computers. The whole debacle seems likely to result in a negative view of computers among many new teachers and if things carry on as they are even the return of the abacus and the like can't be ruled out. You can say many things about slide rules - but they've never resulted in a blue screen of death, yet... ® Related Link Computer error led to trainee teachers failing test Related Story US boy caged for drawing gun in class
John Leyden, 06 Jun 2001

Stand by your VAR

In the current economic climate vendors may be tempted to dump the things they feel aren't really necessary - such as their VARs. But IDC warns manufacturers that they are "jeopardising significant market potential" by dipping in and out of the channel. "Vendors that let them (VARS) starve during these lean economic times will be hard-pressed to get their attention when the economic tides turn," it says. The IT analyst firm reckons that resellers are preparing for the worst where the economy is concerned, and are moving towards services and more mixed business models. This could make it more difficult for vendors to penetrate the market, especially if they use and abuse the channel. "The dependence on supplier-provided products has minimised, which has allowed many partners to be far more agnostic about their product selections," Stephen Graham, IDC VP of Global Software Partnering and Alliances, says. "As a result, it's time for suppliers to reassess their partnering positions and consider additional investments and incentives for the VAR community." What chance of that, we wonder? HP is currently throwing some more money the way of resellers way, after a botched attempt to sell more enterprise systems direct. It now has to repair channel relationships. But what about other big-name players, which haven't annoyed their VARs? It is the lot of resellers to jump through more hoops each year for less co-operative funds. So long as vendors don't try to steal their customers, they put up with this. ® Related Stories MS Enterprise resellers should adapt or die ASPs are the next best thing, after all
Linda Harrison, 06 Jun 2001

Ideal Hardware in bold diversification

Ideal Hardware, one of the UK's biggest disties, is attempting to increase its revenue stream by diversifying into the agricultural market. Bizarre? Well, there's nothing wrong with having a few strings to your bow. Indeed, when times are hard down here at Vulture Central, office manager Viki von den Driesch happily goes back to her pole dancing job. It helps to keep the hacks in beer until payday. Nevertheless, Ideal's Hardware's new venture is a radical departure for the company. Goods available at www.idealhardware.co.uk/ include tractors, cow fertilizer, farm machinery and loose tools. Ideal Hardware seems to be running this operation via a trading company named - incredibly - Shital Trading India PVT Ltd. So, if you need a bag of loose spanners double pronto, have a look. Happy shopping. Ideal Hardware can also be found at Ideal.co.uk ®
Lester Haines, 06 Jun 2001

WAPit's scrapped it

UpdatedUpdated Top WAP portal and app developer WAPit has filed for bankruptcy after failing to get a second round of financing. The Finnish company was set up in 1998 and was a main force behind open source WAP, gateways and middleware. Its products will live on in other products but WAPit itself and a range of talented staff are out the window. The company's blames a poor market (for WAP phones? Never!) and a lack of interest in money toilet-flushing. Also gone is the company's open-source gateway Kannel - which was hoping to be WAP equivalent of Apache. Some are sad to see it go, praising the company as an innovator; others saw it as an over-hyped prodigy. One of the most suspicious ideas it had was to use "rock star" Mato Valtonen of Leningrad Cowboys as a frontman for the company. Farewell WAPit. Update WAPit may be dead in the water but the PR man for competitor 3G Lab has quickly fired over a press release announcing that it, at least, has just secured another £3 million in funding from 3i. 3i has pumped money in 3G Lab since its inception. 3G Lab does a similar sort of thing as WAPit did. It calls itself "a world leading company in the development of software and applications targeted at the 2.5G and 3G marketplace". So there is some life in the old WAP yet. ® Related Link The death notice Related Story Kannel sets itself up as the WAP Apache WAP throws up latest bunch of gazillionaires
Kieren McCarthy, 06 Jun 2001

AMD dualies invade Hardware Land

HWRoundupHWRoundup Today is a Dual world. With AMD launching the much anticipated AMD760MP Chipset with the support for dual Athlon based cPUs (2P), there has been a lot of activity all over the Internet. Here are some links. As usual "boi wonder" Anand has posted his write-up on this in a lot of detail here. Tom's Hardware's piece is is here. AMDMB have also looked at it here, so have AMDZone. I have also been informed that performance between Dual TBirds and Dual Palomino clock-for-clock is only 3 per cent difference. There is also more nForce news here from Planethardware. If you still aren't convinced by the AMD performance, perhaps a Dual P3 platform is to more of your taste. Hardware-Unlimited have a look at the Supermicros 370DDE motherboard over here I have had some reports from Computex of Intel yet again going around removing all the VIA balloons from the stands of the major motherboard manufacturers? How do you feel about this mail me.
David Ross, 06 Jun 2001

Rogue computer outfits face swifter action

Trading Standards officers were today threatening swifter action against rogue computer outfits, after being handed fresh powers. The move involves the Stop Now orders, which will let companies be taken to county court instead of to magistrates' court. Trading Standards said the move to a civil process would speed up action against companies engaging in practices covered by 11 EU consumer directives, including unfair contract terms and misleading advertising. Refusal to comply with an order to stop the activity could result in a fine or imprisonment. The law also gives Trading Standards powers against traders based in European countries outside the UK. ®
Linda Harrison, 06 Jun 2001

AMD to sample Hammer by year-end

AMD will sample its 64-bit Hammer processor using silicon-on-insulator fabrication technology - and at 0.13 micron since it's part of the roadmapped strategy, we'd guess - by the end of the year, company COO Hector Ruiz said today. The first Hammer CPU, ClawHammer, aimed at uni- and dual-processor systems is set to ship early Q3 2002, when it will supersede the Athlon MP and that chip's 0.13 micron successor, codenamed Thoroughbred. AMD rolled out the Athlon MP, running at 1GHz and 1.2GHz, yesterday. Thoroughbred is due to ship in the first half of 2002. In the workstation and server arenas it will be succeeded by ClawHammer and (in four-way and up systems) SledgeHammer. In desktop systems it will be followed by a 0.13 micron, SOI part codenamed Barton. By the time Hammer samples, according to Ruiz' timetable, AMD will have chosen a site and a partner with whom it will begin developing 300mm wafer production systems to go live in the 2004/2005 timeframe. The final quarter of 2001 will also see the chip industry return to "normal business" after the current downturn, Ruiz predicted. "We're beginning to see signs of activity which make us optimistic that by the fourth quarter there will be a resumption of normal business,'' he said. "No one can predict exactly which quarter will be the bottom, but we believe there are signs that the PC market has begun to stabilise. We are seeing a little more activity ourselves and evidence from what customers tell us." Ruiz said AMD's revenues would grow through 2001, despite the broader industry dip. And the company hopes to continue to win marketshare from Intel, allowing it to reach its goal of 30 per cent of the market within the next 12 months to two years. ® Related Stories AMD launches 1.4GHz Athlon AMD unveils MP Athlon - but no big-name partners
Tony Smith, 06 Jun 2001

Broadband only good for porn

The sex industry has emerged as the leading sector to develop services for broadband, according to research published by Cambridge-based outfit Analysys. In its report Interactive Consumer Broadband: Sex, Sport and Shopping the report's authors claim that aside from paying for hi-speed Net access, punters also splash out on adult entertainment. Consumers are also paying for Video on Demand (VOD) and game playing activities but only in very small numbers. "Er...and that's it...so far," claims the report, suggesting that more services and applications need to be developed to entice residential users to move to broadband. It adds: "At present, truly interactive, truly broadband services are fairly few in numbers. Tomorrow's services might not be the ones that service providers have been promising." In particular, Analysys casts doubt on whether VOD - which has long been regarded as the killer app for broadband - will succeed. "The experience of VOD...has so far been disappointing. Roll-out of services has been very limited in Europe and North America - most services in effect are trials - but more extensive in Singapore and South Korea, markets with higher broadband penetration," the report says. And Analysys believes there are question marks hanging over the viability of VOD with the emergence of new technologies. Broadband porn, on the other hand, is a different matter and is estimated to be worth $3 billion by 2003. "The pornography industry has been at the forefront of broadband service development," the report says. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Jun 2001

Excite exits France, Germany and Spain

The MD of Excite Europe has been forced to regret an interview he gave to the FT in which he said he would "rather sell the business for $1 than withdraw from Europe after all the time and money we have invested". Oh dear. That was in April. Today, Excite@Home announced it is to close next month its portals in France, Germany and Spain because of sliding advertising revenues. Some 85 jobs will go as part of the closure which could include some in the UK since Excite's European operation is based in London. . The decision to shut these not insignificant European operations suggests that Excite has finally conceded defeat in the European portal arena. However, it maintains that operations in the UK and Italy are unaffected by the move. For how long? We don't know. In a statement, Excite@Home chairman and CEO, Patti S Hart, said: "While it is disappointing that market conditions make it necessary to discontinue certain European businesses, it is important for us to continue to focus more closely on our strengths. "We remain optimistic regarding the growth prospects for Excite UK and Excite Italia, and we will continue to concentrate on delivering value to our shareholders," he said. Last month Excite@Home made 380 people redundant in the US on top on 250 given the boot earlier in the year. ® Related Stories Excite@Home slashes 380 jobs Who will give me $1 for Excite Europe?
Tim Richardson, 06 Jun 2001

Amazon moves into PC biz

E-tailer Amazon.com is to start selling computers as part of its bid to get out of the red by the end of the year. The Seattle-based dotcom yesterday informed investors and analysts of the plan to move into the PC business this autumn, but revealed few details. With CEO Jeff Bezos joining Bill Gates on stage to launch Office XP, it's a fair bet Amazon is waiting for the release of Windows XP. It did not say which manufacturers it would be using, although it did state that any risks would be minimal as it did not intend to handle inventory. The goods will be shipped direct to customers from vendors. Bezos said the company was on track to reach operating profitability in the fourth quarter of this year. This is expected to continue during 2002. "We've always said that there are no guarantees, but we feel pretty good about it," he said. Earlier this year Amazon posted a net loss of $234 million for the first quarter after informing staff that 15 per cent of them were for the chop. ® Related Stories Amazon splashes less red ink Amazon sued by its shareholders Amazon's Bezos investigated by Feds
Linda Harrison, 06 Jun 2001

Virgin.net for sale

Virgin.net has been thrown into a panic following newspaper reports that the ISP is up for sale. The FT reports that City firm Lehman Brothers has been appointed to oversee the sale of the ISP - a joint venture between cable company NTL and Richard Branson's Virgin. It claims a deal between the two partners - in which NTL would have retained the ISP and its 600,000 users and Virgin would have kept the portal - fell through earlier this year. The pink paper claims Virgin.net is valued at around £240 million although whether it will make that in a depressed market remains to be seen. A spokeswoman for Virgin.net declined to comment on the story but insisted that it had not been placed with the FT "We don't know where they got it from," she said, sounding rather flustered. Calls to Virgin.net's PR also drew a blank. It appears they were really caught on the hop. And so they should be. Top of the list of possible buyers is Tiscali - the outfit that bought LibertySurf, WorldOnline and LineOne and then slashed the workforce by half. Oh, and Tiscali is also sniffing around IC24 and SupaNet - which is nice. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Jun 2001

New web ads target floating readers

Web advertisers continue to look for new ways to punt their products to an increasingly indifferent public. Advertising.com has been looking into how to give new vigour to web adverts. Apparently, the company's 'Intellisource' brand measurement and research tool has gleaned the following significant intelligence: Banner ads created with the objective of leaving an impression on the viewer generated three times the rate of viewer recall than average Internet banner ads Ads with consistent and prominent placement of a product or company name generated recall rates 20% higher than those advertisements without such placement. In addition, ad graphics and color played significant roles in establishing brand recall, affecting consumer recognition with twice the impact of other variables, such as call to action All well and good. But how do you get across your message to an audience now largely immune to traditional banner advertising? Answer: the 'floating' ad. Well, advertising.com has created such a floating ad product "designed specifically to generate and retain brand awareness online. Floating ads appear in the center of the browser then float to another location where they remain until clicked." According to Scott Ferber, co-founder and chief executive officer of Advertising.com: "Floating ads meet all of the criteria for successful brand recall outlined in the Intellisource research. They maximize logo placement, delivering unmatched impact in their ability to prominently and persistently appear before the consumer without interrupting viewer action on the site, and are created with the objective of leaving an impression. With the addition of sound and movement effects, these ads take online advertising ?beyond the banner,? providing the multi-sensory stimulation not afforded by traditional banner ads." It remains to be seen whether punters appreciate such multi-sensory stimulation, or (as in the case of Flash), floating ads will become just another source of immense irritation to web users. ® Related Links The iwire article
Lester Haines, 06 Jun 2001

Find out who to vote for tomorrow

Yesterday, we ran a story on How2vote.co.uk. Since then we have had good reason to believe it is fudging the results (see bottom) in favour of the LibDems and so we would like to draw your attention to two others. WhodoIvotefor.co.uk has a similar approach except this time you are asked to vote yes or no to 20 different questions across the whole range of policies. You can leave the question blank or mark it up as an important issue to you. Unlike How2vote, we know that 33,177 people have gone through the questions - although the ISP for How2vote has sent us an email saying we'd knocked the server over with our story yesterday. Clearly there are a lot of floating voters out there. The results after we'd completed the questions were: Labour 32.32 per cent LibDems 25.29 per cent Green 21.5 per cent Conservatives 20.9 per cent The low rating of the Tories most likely demonstrates that Conservatives voters are less likely to use the Internet, probably due to their higher average age. And then for those of you sick of the whole thing, for whom tomorrow will be the end of a torturous couple of weeks, is 4noneoftheabove.com. Fairly simple this one. The philosophy behind it is that so-called voter apathy is in fact a direct result of politicians failing to say or do anything or interest. Whoever wins the election will claim they are the voice of Britain, but in offering the choice of "This lot, that lot, the other lot, none of the above", the site asks you to agree or disagree with their belief - suggesting that perhaps politicians don't have the countrywide backing they claim. Of 146 people that have voted so far, 81.5 per cent are in agreement. But back to How2Vote. We gave the site a vigorous testing before writing our story about it. However one reader has caused us to re-evaluate. Graham Donaldson told us: "I indicated a preference for Libdems from the start - I then answered questions on Public Services, Law & Order, Taxes and Money, Transport, and the Environment. Tada - the results were The Liberal Democrats. However in the further breakdown of my answers, the only category I answered where the liberal democrats matched my opinions were on Law and Order - the other four categories were best matched by the Conservatives. There is the dubious statement that its possible for the party which represents your views overall not to be the best in any individual area. How does that make sense? Doesn't that sound a bit fishy to you?" And then he kindly provided a screenshot of what he meant: ® Related Links WhodoIvotefor.co.uk 4noneoftheabove.com Related Story LibDems should win election
Kieren McCarthy, 06 Jun 2001

NEC MobilePro 790

ReviewReview The number of PDAs on the market has grown considerably, but the main area of growth has been in the keyboard-free designs that use the Palm or PocketPC OS. While many manufacturers are ditching their clamshell designs in favour of PocketPC, NEC has decided to go the other way with the MobilePro 790. The NEC MobilePro 790 sits between a notebook and a PDA. It's roughly half the size of a sub-notebook, incorporating an 8.1in colour display and a decent-sized keyboard. You can't fit it in your pocket like Psion's Revo, but you do benefit from a much more usable screen and keyboard. The 640x240 screen is good but, like all touch-screens, it suffers from high reflectivity. To get the best out of the display you'll also need to set the backlight to high, which will cut into battery life. The MobilePro provides plenty of expansion options, including a Type II PC Card slot and CompactFlash slot. There's an internal 56Kbps modem, a serial, IrDA (infrared data) and external monitor port. Unfortunately, the monitor port isn't a standard VGA connector, so you will need to carry an adapter cable if you want to display presentations on the move. As the 790 runs Windows CE Handheld PC 2000, you'll find all the standard Pocket applications – from Word and Excel to Outlook and Windows Media Player. NEC has also bundled a copy of InkWriter, a note-taking tool although. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support handwriting recognition. The MobilePro bridges the gap between a PDA and a notebook, and its price reflects this; £559 is a lot of money to pay for an organiser, but it is considerably cheaper than a fully-fledged notebook. The keyboard is great, similar to a notebook keyboard in size and layout, and the screen is good, although power hungry, at its optimum setting. ® Info Price: £559 Contact: 0870 010 6328 Website: www.nec-online.co.uk Specs Operating System: Windows CE Weight: 732g Ram: 16MB Screen Size: 640x240 Colour: Yes Dimensions: 242x132x28mm Modem: Yes This review is taken from the July 2001 issue. All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
PC Advisor, 06 Jun 2001

Gypsies to sue IBM over Nazi ‘links’

Romany gypsies are threatening to sue IBM over its alleged involvement in the Holocaust. In a case similar to that brought and then dropped by Washington DC law firm Cohen, Milfield, Hausfeld and Toll earlier this year, the action revolves around IBM's Hollerith tabulating machinery. This is believed to have been used by the Nazis to track and identify their victims. "The spontaneous, unceasing, self-willed delivery to IBM Germany of IBM machines....is a conscious and deliberate act of participation in an administrative organisation dedicated to...racial destruction," said groups' lawyer Henri-Philippe Sambuc, Reuters reports. The suit will demand around $10,000 for each of the 1.2 million people believed to have been orphaned after their parents were killed by the Nazis. Sambuc admitted that tracking the victims down would be difficult, especially due to the high illiteracy rate among gypsies. The legal action will start as soon as 1,000 victims are found - it is hoped this will happen by September. The suit will be filed in Switzerland, the former HQ of IBM's German and Swiss subsidiaries. Around 600,000 gypsies are believed to have died at the hands of the Nazis. ® Related Link Gypsies prepare Nazi crime suit against IBM Related Stories IBM escapes Holocaust suit IBM software bill frustrates Holocaust payout IBM implicated in Nazi extermination of Jews
Linda Harrison, 06 Jun 2001