12th > June > 2001 Archive

Security geek developing WinXP raw socket exploit

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!    -- Matthew 3:2 Security specialist Steve Gibson has created quite a fracas with his increasingly vocal opposition to the raw-socket connectivity planned for Windows-XP, and upon which he bases predictions of impending chaos for the entire Internet, so he's decided to exploit the very threat he claims will make the Internet permanently unstable. The raw sockets which have Gibson so steamed enable a machine to send or capture data independent of the operating system -- quite handy if you're a software developer or an advanced hobbyist. And while it's true that this also enhances the packet-flooding capabilities of a Windows machine by making it easy to spoof packets, it's also true that this function is already included in most other operating systems, and can be added to an existing Win-9x, 'ME, or '2K machine quite easily with a library called WinPcap. All right, we'll allow that there'll be a few s'kiddies who might prefer to use their Win-XP boxes for such purposes. But they can already do so simply by installing Linux and doing a bit of reading. There will also be more Windows clients available for malicious misuse as 'XP grows in popularity; but one can already do heaps of packeting from Windows machines with SubSeven, and even launch the attack in bulk from IRC. True, the boxes will eventually be found because their IPs are traceable, and admins will contact the owners and let them know they're infected -- but only long after the damage is done. Raw sockets in 'XP only marginally improve the situation for a malicious party. We really don't see an immense growth in packeting on the horizon. Gibson, on the other hand, tells it like a loner in the desert, living, we would imagine, on locusts and wild honey for a bit too long a time. After being packeted into submission last month by a thirteen-year-old computer enthusiast called "Wicked", he's become obsessed with the mission of dissuading Microsoft from outfitting 'XP with the same capabilities as most of its competitors. He's written thousands of words on his Web site, denouncing Microsoft for putting something like real power into a consumer operating system. He's written memos to the company; he's warned all his site's visitors; but he's still not satisfied. The "XP Christmas of Death" is coming, he warns, immediately after which all the little s'kiddies will gleefully baptize us with fire. According to Gibson's paranoid delusions, everyone with a computer is a potential criminal, and the only reason the entire Net population hasn't yet exploded in some mass orgy of evil is because Microsoft has thus far refrained from unleashing the uncontrollable power of the raw socket. He'll show the bastards Unfortunately, not enough of the right people are listening to him with the proper degree of attentiveness. So he's decided to show the bastards: Gibson is developing a free tool which he calls 'Spoofarino'. "We need a tool to hold ISPs accountable and publicly demonstrate individual ISP irresponsibility," Gibson says. "Given the universal reluctance they have demonstrated so far, I believe that only active public scrutiny will bring about the changes required to insure [sic] a reliable and secure future for the Internet." From that we infer that Spoofarino will enable Netizens to test whether or not their ISP allows them to send spoofed packets to Gibson's site. We imagine that any ISP which fails to filter outbound spoofed packets will be identified for a solid public shaming. It sounds like a tool with which one could generate raw packets, though probably in a controlled manner. But if that's the case, it would lay much of the ground work for an EZ malicious version leveraging the very threat Gibson is decrying. "The threat represented by Microsoft's forthcoming Windows-XP operating system, with its confirmed ability to easily generate malicious Internet traffic -- for NO good reason -- can not be overstated," he warns. "The proper executives within Microsoft MUST be reached with this message so that those plans can be reviewed in light of the potential for their system's massive abuse of the inherently trusting Internet." And so Steve Gibson is going to show us all. ® Related Stories Windows XP will make Internet unstable - top security expert Microsoft rebuts XP Net instability claims
Thomas C Greene, 12 Jun 2001

PC downturn hits Northamber

Northamber, the pan-UK distie, says that sales will be £20m less than previously expected. The company is now forecasting full year sales of £300m approx. It blames a "marked downturn in demand" for PCs for the shortfall. Northamber is, historically, IBM and HP's biggest wholesaler in the UK. It reports that the first three months were significantly improved - but growth declined in April and May was "disappointing". It does not think it can make up the difference in June. The sales shortfall is partly down to a "marked decrease in prices for current models". This will have a knock-on effect on profits, Northamber warns - even though it reports that "core margins" are up on last year. The group continues to generate cash and a new warehouse will result in significant cost savings. However a "significant contribution to our pre-tax profits is derived from additional rebates on pre-agreed sales performance. A number of major manufacturers plan product changes over the summer and against this background we may not therefore achieve all the rebates we would normally expect", chairman David Phillips says. ® You won't find much in the way of rebates in Channel Flannel either - but plenty of stories.
Team Register, 12 Jun 2001

Rage triumphs with Money Machine

Rage Software, the British games software house, has obtained a £20m credit line -enough funds it says to "fully pursue its strategy of self-publishing". At the same time, it has announced plans to close studios in Huddersfield and Leeds. The credit package consists of £15m equity credit from GEM Global Yield Fund and a £5m overdraft facility (of which £32m is subject to hitting certain targets) from the Bank of Scotland. The more money Rage draws down from GEM, the more shares GEM gains. The money should enable Rage to "fully exploit the range of high profile licenses it has recently secured; these include David Beckham Soccer, the Rocky movie anthology and Aggressive In line Skating, featuring world champion inline skaters Cesar Mora and Fabiola da Silva".
Team Register, 12 Jun 2001

Psion goes Swiss with wireless LAN venture

Psion has created a new services division to widen the appeal of its industrial and enterprise Teklogix division. Belonging to the 'looks really familiar' school of names, Signa Services (yes, that's really an 'n') is being pitched by Psion as "the only hardware-neutral professional services organisation." Teklogix, already a mature business when Psion acquired it last year, makes much of being wireless protocol-neutral. Teklogix also brought a clutch of large customers using rival handhelds, which Psion seems happy enough to continue supporting. The actual devices are probably the least important factor in deciding to deploy a corporate WLAN, so a declaration of independence - Signa has its own branding and web site - is a necessary step. But what can we extrapolate for Psion's core consumer PDA business? Well, Psion already has an OS neutral device - the much loved, but neglected netBook - which is capable of booting several operating systems from a CF disk (although it's only ever been marketed with Epoc). In fact a multi-boot netBook is one project that never got past the awkward adolescent stage inside Psion. The company could probably beef up the device with 802.x capabilities and bundle it with Linux on a CF purely as a vertical-markets, industrial play, without too much collateral damage to its software investment in Symbian. Only then, we'd all want one. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jun 2001

VIA CEO wants USB 2.0 killed off

VIA president and CEO Wenchi Chen is calling on companies to bury the USB 2.0 connectivity technology. "Our message to partners is if together we can make this [USB 2.0] disappear, the better it will be for us," he said as part of his speech to launch VIA's C3 processor at the Computex tradeshow in Taiwan. "It is confusing for customers and end users," he continued but admitted VIA was putting a bit of effort into supporting USB 2.0, just in case. Chen thought there was still a chance to make IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire, aka iLink) the connectivity standard, and he doesn't think much of Bluetooth either. "We don't think that is the right solution - it needs to be simplified," he said. ® Related Stories VIA goes with Pentium 4 chipset despite Intel VIA's got a PC builder to use its C3 chip WinXP to get USB 2.0 support after all
Robert Blincoe, 12 Jun 2001

Apple preps Mac OS 9.2 successor

Mac Rumour RoundupMac Rumour Roundup As Mac OS 9.2, codenamed Moonlight, nears its final release, Apple is working on its successor, Starlight, according to sources cited by Think Secret. Said sources could, however, provide no details on what the release will contain, beyond the now standard 'Classic improvements'. Think Secret points to the ongoing streamlining of Mac OS X's backwards compatibiliy module. We'd also expect to see continued development and, given the state of the 1.3 release, bug-fixing of CarbonLib, the code that allows Mac OS 9 to run Mac OS X-friendly apps. ® Related Link Think Secret: Apple planning successor to Mac OS 9.2, codenamed Starlight Related Stories Windows XP hits where Apple's Aqua misses? Next-gen 'iMac 2001' debuts on Web Mac OS 9.2 ready real soon now
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2001

Seagate leapfrogs data density rivals

Seagate is claiming a world areal density record with the latest U Series hard drive. This hold ups to 80GB on two platters - equating to an areal density of 32.6GB per square inch. You should start seeing plenty of these drives around fairly soon - the new U Series is already in the distribution channel. The U Series HDD is designed for volume PC and consumer electronics markets, and it is the most popular HDD line in these sectors, according to Seagate. PC boot-up time is improved as the new U Series drive spins 35 per cent faster than the previous generation (Seagate says the new HDD is the sixth generation U Series). Other stats for the 5,400RPM drice include: "internal transfer rates of up to 54.5 Mbytes per second, an 8.9-msec seek time, the largest cache in its class at 2 Mbytes, and the Ultra ATA/100 interface". It's very quiet too - apparently silence is a must for consumer electronics firms. The new U-Series generation comes in 20GB, 40GB, 60GB, and 80GB flavours. The company has not announced 20GB or 40GB prices yet, but is trailing $159 as the street price for the 60GB and $234 for 80GB beast. ® Related stories Maxtor gets 20GB 541DX off to OEMs IBM skips through HDD Land with pixie dust Data Density Duel at Dawn
Team Register, 12 Jun 2001

Time Computers maverick staff site is here

UpdatedUpdated If you want to check out the highly entertaining website, which airs the views of current and ex Time Computers' employees, click here. The site used to operate under the URL tahirmohsan.co.uk, but Time Computers has grabbed back that domain. This is no surprise because Tahir Mohsan is the name of Time's founder. [Update At the time of writing tahirmohsan.co.uk is pointing to the Samaritans homepage.] Anyway the tahirmohsan.co.uk community pages never really went away, but they've been difficult to track down because of losing the main domain. The postings on the community pages are immensely informative. There's useful technical information about Time systems; there's scaremongering; suspicious postings from Time's rivals; heated verbal punch-ups between loyal and disloyal staff; and entertaining discussions about the management of Time. This is what a Mr Mohsan - we suspect this is not the real Tahir Mohsan - says the site is about. "This site is here for a reason - it is not here to make threats, post immature remarks regarding staff or discuss racial issues, it is here as a tool or knowledge base to allow staff to be that one step ahead of the management, to make staff aware of information that has been withheld or mistold. It serves a purpose also to inform the world of the practices within the Time group so they can make their own informed choices in their future computer purchases." It's no surprise that Time wanted it shut down. ® Related Link tahirmohasan.co.uk community page www.tahirmohsan.co.uk/ - currently pointing to the Samaritans, but when its directed correctly you have to press refresh to see the Time Group home page Related Stories Time Computers squashes maverick staff site
Robert Blincoe, 12 Jun 2001

Douglas Alexander is the new e-minister

The new e-minister has been named and it's the MP for the safe seat of Paisley South, Scotland, Douglas Alexander. Who the hell is he you ask? More importantly, what does he know about the Internet? Well, he is a very bright 34-year-old ex-lawyer who is New Labour through and through, a protégé of Gordon Brown and the man who more or less filled the post of Millbank political organiser after Peter Mandelson's downfall. You won't have heard of him though because he only entered the Commons in December 1997 after winning a by-election, brought about by the untimely death of Gordon McMaster. He has been nothing but a local MP (albeit a very good one) and backstage organiser, so his jump into the e-minister post is probably the greatest single leap that has been announced in the post-election government reshuffle. For those that haven't worked it out yet, this is purely a political move. Gordon Brown is grooming him for high office and the e-minister post is just one step below Secretary of State for Trade and Industry - as was proved by Patricia Hewitt just yesterday. Douglas, it would appear, is never off message and his weekly column in his local newspaper reads like a press release for Labour HQ. He joined the Labour party aged just 15. That said, he has fought with a fair bit of passion for his constituency, forcing topics important to his area including unemployment and old age pensions. But enough of this, what does he know about the Internet? It would appear not very much. We've searched the entire House of Commons archives and can only find one reference to the Internet, and that is a throw-away comment about new businesses moving to Paisley. He hasn't been involved in IT or the Internet in any form, either in his professional life before Parliament or while at Parliament. He does have a Web site, but it says more about his determination than it does his Web knowledge. Not so, not so, says the DTi, desperately trying to find a way to big-up its new e-minister. When the government announced that a third of all its services were online in August, Mr Alexander warned that there was a lot more to be done. This is bunkem. Apart from the fact that the figures were a complete fudge (see links below), what Mr Alexander actually did was pump out a press release following exactly the official Labour line. It's on his personal Web site here. But then you can't blame the DTi for trying. So basically, what we have is an excellent career politician. Whether Mr Alexander will see this vast elevation in political status as an opportunity to prove himself and apply his not inconsiderable talents or whether he will view it as simply a stop-off to the Trade Secretary's job is the main question. Whichever path he chooses will be extremely important in the next few years for the Internet industry in Britain. ® Related Links Douglas Alexander's personal Web site (it may not be up yet due to the election rules about MPs not having sites with MP in the title before the election was finished) The "evidence" that the new e-minister knows something about the Internet Related Stories We know how the Govt meets its cybertargets How the hell does the Govt meet all its cybertargets?
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jun 2001

AMD preps slimline Athlons for slimline PCs

AMD is set to release a series of Athlon and Duron processors aimed at power-limited applications called Slim Form Factor (SFF) parts. The chips, based on both the new Palomino and older Thunderbird cores, will draw a maximum of 35W, with the core voltage modified to ensure consistent power draw characteristics at any clock speed. So says Japanese Web site PC Watch, at any rate. It cites Taiwanese mobo manufacturer sources - as far as we can tell from Babelfish's slightly wonky translation. SFF versions of the 1.1GHz Athlon (T'bird) plus 800MHz and 900MHz Durons will apparently ship this quarter (what's left of it - we'll be in Q3 in a couple of weeks' time), followed next quarter by a 1.1GHz Palomino Athlon and a 1GHz Duron (Morgan). Q4 will see 1.2GHz and 1.3GHz SFF Athlons and a 1GHz Duron (Morgan). The 1.1GHz T'bird has a core voltage of 1.4V, while the 1.2GHz Palomino runs at 1.5V, both set to maintain the 35W power consumption figure. Now, we're not entirely sure what these parts are for. PC Watch notes that by offering a consistent power consumption and - we presume - the same heat output characteristics across multiple clock speeds, PC makers can swap in faster CPUs without having to worry about devising new thermal dissipation mechanisms. We're not sure that they'd have to do much with a 1GHz to 1.3GHz leap (the range set down by AMD's SFF roadmap), but then we're not CPU heat output experts. Perhaps someone who is would care to put us right. Actually, another possibility here is the production of fan-less PCs, along the lines of Apple's Power Mac G4 Cube, as a number of Register readers have pointed out. Central to AMD's SFF plan seems to be a desire to target the market for small form-factor PCs. Having seen their predictions for the Internet appliances market prove spectacularly wrong, the world's IT analysts now seem to have settled on the small form-factor PC as the "next big thing", a view backed by buyers' current disdain for top-end, highly expandable PC systems. Many industry observers believe that when the recovery comes, buyers will favour powerful but cheap systems. The SFF also seem to be aimed at the Japanese market, which is increasingly choosing compact machines over bulky ones. By far the majority of the world's sub-notebooks ship in Japan, for example, having been shunned by Western buyers who generally don't like trading functionality for portability. ® Related Link PC Watch: Athlon SFF story (in Japanese)
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2001

Motorola unveils 200MHz ARM-based Palm processor

Motorola has officially announced the ARM-based addition to its Palm-powering Dragonball processor family. The Dragonball MX1 is based on the ARM209T core and will be capable of running at up to 200MHz, considerably faster than existing Dragonballs based on Motorola's old 680x0 CPU family, which currently maxes out at 33MHz. The MX1 also integrates Bluetooth wireless connectivity onto the core, which should facilitate wireless HotSyncing and an end to fumbling about with PDA cradles. Motorola licensed the Bluetooth core from Digianswer AS. As announced previously, the MX1 will also integrate support for Sony's Memory Stick 'solid-state floppy disk' technology on the core. Dragonball already has on-core support for USB; the Multimedia Card format and its successor, the Secure Digital card; and colour LCD screens. Motorola announced its decision to license ARM's processor technology last December. The first CPU based on that alliance, despite today's announcement, won't sample until "early Q4". However, Motorola hopes to ramp up to volume production "quickly". Ditto the Super VZ, the latest 680x0-based Dragonball, which Motorola also announced today. The Super VZ runs at 66MHz, twice the clock speed of the current top-end model, the regular VZ. The Dragonball MX1 is priced at $19 in batches of 10,000 processors. The Super VZ will cost $14 in the same quantities. ® Related Stories Motorola ARM-based Palm chip to go 0.13 micron in 2002 Palm processor to incorporate Sony Memory Stick Motorola allies with ARM
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2001

Verbatim's got CD-Rs certified for 24x recording

UpdatedUpdated Verbatim is claiming its got the industry's first CD-R discs certified for full-speed 24x recording. Its press statement says that "in addition to providing highly reliable audio, video and data recordings at speeds of up to 3.5 MBps with the new 24x drives and 3.0MBps with the new 20x drives, the media can be used with existing CD drives at speeds ranging from 1x to 16x." "With our new 24x CD-R discs, you can burn an entire CD in about three minutes, or about 40 per cent faster than with 16x media," said Ron Hanafin, Verbatim CD marketing manager. Verbatim says its 24x CD-R discs have been qualified by CD-R drive manufacturers such as Sanyo, Yamaha, Ricoh and Plextor for high-speed recording. Volume shipments of the discs are available immediately. ® Update Ricoh says it has had 1-24x CD-R's available since the beginning of May, included in its MP7200A-DP 20x 10x 32 CD-RW drive kit. Related Link Verbatim press release
Robert Blincoe, 12 Jun 2001

HP slashes Intel server prices

HP is shaving prices on Intel-based NetServer prices from 3 per cent to 22 per cent in the US, CRN reports. And it's torching its components price list. New prices vary from 5 per cent to 51 per cent cheaper than before. The cuts take effect immediately. HP says it will maintain margins as it is passing on component price cuts to customers. But how come it is returning to the price war when only last week CEO Carly Fiorina was telling analysts that the company was withdrawing from this front? Answer: "We don't live in a vacuum," Marc Jourlait, director of HP's NetServer Business in North America, told CRN. Exactly. HP is not going to lose market share to its competitors willingly, whatever the management tells the financial world. The same goes for Compaq. Last week we queried the artfully leaked message from CEO Michael Capellas to Merrill Lynch analysts that the company was quitting the price war. We thought this was a dumb move. We now understand that Compaq has no intention of giving Dell a clear run, after all. An email composed by a Compaq sales rep circulating a major multinational reseller reassures employees there that "it is business as usual" so far as the vendor is concerned on pricing. So what do we have here: two major hardware vendors saying one thing to the financial community and behaving quite differently on the battlefield. Battered by lower profits and in many cases, the companies will do what Wall Street want. Up to a point. The inference we draw is that the Fiorina and Capellas statements were smokescreens: Wall Street wants to see the tech companies focusing on value, as opposed to growth, strategies. It wants to see job cuts, and it wants to see companies look to profits first, market share second. However, in the PC market, size and profits are intimately linked. Compaq and, less so, HP have huge services businesses erected on the back of hardware sales. Walk away from a deal and you risk losing an account in the long-run to a more aggressive rival. ®
Team Register, 12 Jun 2001

AMD ‘on track’ for 30% marketshare, claims exec

AMD reckons it really will achieve its goal of a 30 per cent share of the worldwide microprocessor market by the end of the year. "We are on track to meet our corporate objective of market share of 30 per cent by the end of this year," said Wee Yep Yin, an AMD Far East marketing manager. "We are seeing a good sign that we are pretty much in that range across the world," he added. AMD is essentially pinning its hopes on the "modest" revenue growth it expects to see through the rest of 2001 - growth based on sales of its latest Mobile Athlon 4 processor and its upcoming desktop equivalent. The company also has high hopes for its workstation and server-oriented Athlon MP parts, with which it hopes to win at least ten per cent of the worldwide server market. Of course, with no big-name (ie. big selling) server vendors on its side, that may prove difficult. However, AMD's successes over the past six months or so at eating into Intel's massive marketshare should certainly give the company reason for optimism, as will analysts' expectations for the PC market's recovery. They reckon buyers will favour powerful but cheap systems, a trend they believe should favour AMD, at least as much as low-cost Pentium 4-based systems. Last year AMD took around 17 per cent of the processor market. By the end of Q1 2001, that figure had risen to 21 per cent. Q2's figures, when compiled, will make interesting reading. Alongside AMD's aggressive CPU roll-outs, Intel slashed P4 prices, but both may have suffered badly from the sharp downturn in the global semiconductor biz. For its part, Intel's goal is to maintain a worldwide marketshare of 80 per cent, or so said company VP Paul Otellini last week. ® Related Stories AMD guns for 10% of low-end server market AMD unveils MP Athlon - but no big-name partners AMD touts 'modest revenue growth'
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2001

Hynix boosts DDR SDRAM production

Hynix is increasing its DDR SDRAM production with its eye on a 50 per cent share of the market by the end of the year, the company said yesterday. Two of the chip maker's single data rate SDRAM production lines at Inchon, South Korea will be converted to churn out DDR chips, starting at some point in the second half of 2001. The company -which is meanwhile moving to separate itself from its parent, Hyundai - said it will product 64Mb, 128Mb and, eventually, 512Mb DDR chips. Hynix reckons the world's memory makers will churn out 200 million 128Mb DDR chips this year, rising 1.1 billion parts in 2002. That's an increase of 450 per cent, and it suggests that, like Infineon, Hynix doesn't reckon DDR will become mainstream this year, despite achieving price parity with PC133 SDRAM. Infineon reckons DDR will become the choice for PC RAM in 2003, when it will account for more than half of the memory market. Next year will see Intel's first Pentium 4 DDR chipset, a version of the 845, aka Brookdale, and volume production of rival chipset vendors' P4/DDR parts. ® Related Stories DDR won't dominate until 2003 - Infineon AMD, Micron to bundle DDR to boost Athlon
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2001

EU to investigate anti-trust Internet music companies

The European Union is investigating whether the big five record companies' online music ventures are involved in anti-competitive activity. Since the capitulation of Napster last week, the future of Internet music delivery has basically been put into the hands of just two companies: MusicNet, run by AOL Time Warner, EMI and Bertelsmann; and Duet, run by Sony and Vivendi. The two companies have also admitted they are in talks to one another. For some crazy reason, the EU competition commissioner Mario Monti feels that by crushing other Internet companies with lawsuits and gaining control of not only the music but also its distribution over the Internet, the record companies may have been engaging in anti-competitive practices. Whatever gave him that idea? It's not actually the fact that the companies have seized control of distribution that's the problem. It's that by working together to create an effective duopoly, they may be going against their own anti-competitive agreements. Internet music is unlikely to become cheap anytime soon - despite the fact that the cost of providing it for download is so low as to be negligible. "These are important cases for the development of music services offered online to consumers and there are potentially a number of issues which merit close examination," Monti said. "Yes, online music services should develop rapidly, but with a diversity of service providers." Monti gets our entire backing but, like the announcement yesterday that he will also be looking at DVD price-fixing, we aren't over-confident that anything will become of it. ® Related Stories Napster signs away its soul Napster nears deals with music industry EC investigates Euro DVD high pricing Verbatim's got CD-Rs certified for 24x recording
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jun 2001

Rambus damns fraud trial as a ‘miscarriage of justice’

Rambus vs InfineonRambus vs Infineon Rambus has asked the US court to re-try its action against Infineon on the grounds that the jury's support of the chip maker's fraud allegations against it was perverse. Rambus' motion a request for "judgement as a matter of law". Essentially, its argument is that "no reasonable jury" would have sided with Infineon's claim that Rambus committed fraud because the chip maker "did not establish the requisite elements of fraud", Rambus' request claims. If its request is granted, Rambus can demand a retrial. Rambus was ruled to have committed fraud by failing to disclose to industry standards body JEDEC that it had applied for patents covering DDR SDRAM technology. Rambus says that "the first showing of a proposal for standardisation of DDR SDRAM was one year after Rambus attended its last JEDEC meeting. Accordingly, Rambus had no duty of disclosure". Rambus also claims that, under Virginia statutes - the trial was held in Richmond - Infineon had no right to raise the fraud allegation. According to Virginia state law, a fraud claim must be "filed within two years from actual or inquiry notice". Rambus notes that Infineon's allegations result from knowledge of its patents that the chip maker gained by "1997 at the latest". In other words, the two-year statute of limitations period had long since passed when Infineon raised the fraud claim at the trial. Finally, Rambus points to what it calls "prejudicial instructional error" - in other words, dodgy comments from trial judge Robert Payne misled the jury. Rambus cites precedent that "a patent applicant may properly amend or add claims to cover a competitor's products about which the applicant has learned during the prosecution of the patent application". That appears to be a reference to Infineon's contention that Rambus retroactively added certain technologies to its DDR SDRAM patent application when it learned that those technologies were to be included in JEDEC's SDRAM spec. Had Judge Payne made that precedent clear to the jury - in a so-called Kingsdown Instruction, after the case that set the precedent - Rambus reckons, the jury would not have decided that the memory developer had committed fraud. Only a retrial will bring these new issues out into the open, Rambus believes. The original trial was "against the clear weight of the evidence and constitutes as miscarriage of justice", the company claims. ® Related Stories Infineon lets Rambus retain SDRAM patents Italian court denies Rambus demand to shut Micron plant Infineon damages slashed Rambus, Micron SDRAM patent trial delayed
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2001

Blair's hired the wrong e-minister by mistake!

Tony Blair has made a terrible error in hiring Douglas Alexander as e-minister - he actually meant to hire Douglas' sister Wendy. That at least can be the only explanation as to why Douglas was given the high-ranking job when he knows next to nothing about the Internet, while his sister Wendy, four years his senior, holds the post of e-minister in the Scottish Parliament. How embarrassing. Ms Alexander is the member for Paisley North and has been fighting the cause of e-commerce in Scotland for years. Officially, she is responsible for "the economy, business and industry, including Scottish enterprise, Highlands and Islands enterprise, tourism, trade and inward investment, further and higher education, the science base and e-commerce, Digital Scotland, lifelong learning, training and the delivery of the New Deal." Wendy Alexander has been extremely successful in promoting Scotland as an ideal place for IT and Internet companies to build offices. The Digital Scotland initiative (which she heads) is an ideal model for what England needs to do to attract more hi-tech business. She has also helped make Scotland one of the most clued-up areas of the UK in terms of getting businesses on the Internet. Her own estimate is that Scottish businesses made around £200m by trading on the Web last year. Clearly Tony Blair has been impressed with her work and wanted to bring her down to Whitehall to work her magic but some terrible clerical error would seem to have happened. Instead, Douglas - who knows only about election campaigns and toeing the party line and who just happens to be a good friend of the chancellor Gordon Brown - has been put in instead. Imagine what will happen when Tony finds out. We wonder if someone switched the names. If would also seem that Douglas Alexander is not exactly Mr Golden Boy in Paisley either. During the election campaign, he failed to turn up to press conferences and shared debates, angering all the other political parties. In fact, the SNP candidate went so far as to accuse him of being unable to handle a proper debate because he was nothing but "the Chancellor's boy". The LibDem candidate, Eileen McCartin, called him a "party lackey". Oh dear. So when Dougie does finally sit down at his new desk with his own staff and a big brass sign saying "Douglas Alexander - big, important e-minister", you can bet the first thing he'll do is pick up the phone. "Sis, tell me about this Internet thing again." ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jun 2001

NEC Versa UltraLite

ReviewReview April's PC Advisor saw Transmeta's Crusoe mobile processor enter the market with more of a whimper than a bang. After tempting the PC market with its claims of high performance twinned with hugely increased battery life, it was undermined by the limitations of current benchmarking methods. There is no accurate method of providing figures for battery life, so we were unable to check the claims that a Transmeta-powered PC could last up to six hours, as opposed to the two-hour life of an AMD or Intel-based notebook. Equally, NEC's performance in our WorldBench tests leaves much to be desired. Again, though, this could be due to the testing method, as the sophisticated technology may be too intelligent for existing benchmarking software. This is because Crusoe's ability to gather speed with repetition works better in an everyday environment, where most PC activities run the same pieces of code time after time, than in a benchmarking program that runs through a range of tasks over a short period of time. While the Versa's WorldBench score of 86 seems disappointing, in use it felt faster. More significantly, this score is 17 points higher than April's Sony Vaio, despite both notebooks sharing the 600MHz Crusoe chip. The UltraLite is a true lightweight at 1.5kg. The small 10.4in screen helps to cut down the pounds, although we didn't find its colour palette to be the best in bright conditions. No DVD-ROM facilities are provided as standard, and the 10GB hard drive and 128MB of RAM are far from astounding. Until we can find a way of assessing the full capabilities of the Transmeta chip, it's unlikely to make much of an impression on our charts. Even so, the NEC is a pleasing notebook with a £1399 price tag that may be just low enough to tempt you. ® Info Price: £1399 Contact: 0870 010 6326 Website: www.nec.co.uk Specs Processor type: 600MHz Transmeta Crusoe TM5600 RAM: 128MB HDD: 10GB Dimensions: 264x211x29mm Weight: 1.5kg Screen size: 10.4in Graphics card memory: 4MB Modem: 56Kbps Network interface: 10/100 This review is taken from the July 2001 issue. All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
PC Advisor, 12 Jun 2001

What, exactly, is the point of TechWeb?

TechWeb has gone live with its rethink on the IT portal. The design is uncluttered and the content is very corporate ComputerWorld territory. But the inability to track news by day (it's organised by content category) is frustrating. And there is no original content. TechWeb's role in life is now to be a "content packager" for material generated by MIS tech pubs in CMP's print mag stable. There's no secret in this: CMP announced its intention to pink slip or redeploy TechWeb's 33 journalists in March (see TechWeb = TechLoser). TechWeb Take 2 is efficient enough. But what exactly is its point: acting as a shell for CMP's MIS pubs is not exactly the most obvious way to develop a site personality, is it? It would make far more sense to go the whole hog. Shut down the portal and decentralise site responsibility fully to individual and successful offline brands - Internetweek, Information Week etc... just like IDG does. And just as VNU should do with the tragically unread VNUNet. ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Jun 2001

MemoWatch Lucent in fiscal clampdown

The Vulture Central MemoWatch team recently published an internal email from Lucent's Henry Schacht illustrating the company's money woes. Hot on its heels comes this explicit offering. Financial troubles? Us?: -----Original Message----- Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 11:53 AM Subject: WNG NewsFlash: Letter from Brewington - June 6, 2001 ======================================================== Wireless Networks NewsFLASH For the people of Lucent Technologies' Wireless Networks Group (WNG) June 6, 2001 ======================================================== In This Issue * Letter from Jim Brewington All, Last week you heard from Henry Schacht about the need to accelerate our turnaround. We've all been working aggressively to meet and exceed customer expectations and ensure that Lucent remains in the game. But there are other actions we can take in the short term that will go far in improving our cash flow and restoring our profitability. Each of you can significantly contribute to our success by carefully evaluating all spending and finding ways to cut. Individual decisions add up quickly in a business of our size. Each dollar you save goes directly to our bottom line and makes Lucent more successful. To help guide you, Lucent has established the following company-wide savings initiatives that take effect immediately. Your support for these measures is critical to their success. ** Travel only for customer meetings. - All travel must use preferred travel suppliers and be booked through Lucent Travel On-Line or the Lucent Travel Center. - Any travel booked outside these resources will not be reimbursed. Lucent's travel policy is available at http://www.travel.lucent.com/. - American Express accounts must be used for all travel expenses. ** No off-site meetings except for necessary customer events. ** Eliminate company-provided food, beverages and snacks at internal meetings. ** Suspend all purchases of new PCs, laptops, servers and printers. - All requests in the United States for replacement IT equipment must be made through the Computer Provisioning Center at http://ciocentral.lucent.com/services/cio_cpc. The center will use existing inventory to replace equipment. - Any equipment purchased individually by employees through other resources will not be reimbursed. - Employees outside the United States who need IT equipment replacement should go to Lucent's Supply Chain Networks Web site for more information, http://sns.web.lucent.com/about/ap_emea_cala.htm. ** Reduce or eliminate wherever possible the use of pagers, cell phones, home phone and computer lines. ** Stop all moves, rearrangements and furniture purchases. ** Stop orders of Lucent gift items except for customers. ** All capital expenditures must be approved by an Operating Committee member. Capital expenditures can range from office refurbishments and furniture to laboratory and factory equipment. ** Use of consulting services must be approved by an Operating Committee member. - If approved, all consulting and professional services must be contracted through Lucent's Professional Services management program. - Policies and guidelines for engaging consultants can be found at http://esupply.web.lucent.com/professional_services/. ** All non-employee workers must be contracted through Lucent's Managed Services Program. - Requests for non-employee workers can be made through the Managed Services Program Website. I can't emphasize enough how critical it is for every one of us to stop non-essential spending. If we all do our part in supporting the steps outlined above, the results will immediately improve our bottom line. But more than that, I know you will use your creativity and initiative to go beyond these measures to find other ways for us to conserve our resources while effectively serving customers. To date, we've made significant strides toward fixing the business and I thank you sincerely for your efforts and dedication. Now as we move into the next phase of our restructuring, we will accelerate the work we are doing and reduce expenses wherever possible to ensure the success of our turnaround. Together, we have the opportunity to control our own destiny. It's up to us to make it happen. Sincerely, Jim Brewington Reg office manager Vicki has kindly knocked up a big cauldron of soup. Any Lucent employees who haven't eaten for a week or more are invited to Vulture Central on any Friday afternoon for a free bowl. We have also just received a container of winter clothing donated by Romanian orphans. The kids thought that it was only right that these items should go to those in greater need. ® More MemoWatch goodies Get touchy-feely with EMC and Lucent
Lester Haines, 12 Jun 2001

World Online/Tiscali sued for £10m

Online personal finance outfit Globalnet Financial is suing Tiscali subsidiary WorldOnline for £10 million. A writ issued in the high court claims that WorldOnline inflated subscriber figures and the number of page impressions it received when both companies signed a deal in September 1999. Globalnet also claims that WorldOnline failed to promote its site and services as part of the agreement. Under the agreement Globalnet was to provide financial news and content to a network of portals and ISPs in 13 countries throughout Europe. The first four money and finance channels were launched in Holland, Germany, France, and Denmark and modelled on Globalnet's UK-iNvest.com Web site. According to the FT, Globalnet invested some £10 million on the basis of the European deal with WorldOnline. It's now looking for its money back. A spokesman declined to be interviewed but said: "I can confirm ...that an action has been filed and served and that Globalnet has not yet had response from WorldOnline." A spokeswoman for Tiscali UK declined to comment on the story...so, no change there then. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Jun 2001

Martians invade Canada

The Xybernaut Corporation, of Fairfax, Virginia, has announced that it will be providing mobile wearable computing systems for a future conquest of Mars. The company's kit will be field tested as part of the 2001 Haughton-Mars Project (HMP). The NASA and SETI funded project is intended to test men and machines in conditions which closely match those of the red planet. Scientists have chosen a location for the trials largely devoid of atmosphere or intelligent life - Canada. Devon Island - the world's largest uninhabited island - will host an invasion of boffins and starship troopers later this month. The expedition will focus on the island's Haughton impact crater. According to NASA: "The rocky polar desert setting, geologic features and biological attributes of the site offer unique insights into the evolution of Mars, the effects of [meteor] impacts on Earth, and the possibilities of life in extreme environments." Xybernaut equipment "will help the proto-Mars explorers of the HMP learn to use hands-free computing environments in exploration field work, and will be used as processing nodes for the delivery of video and high resolution imaging from the field site to remote operations centers. Xybernaut's video capability will also be used for two-way conferencing and audio conferencing between remote field parties. Researchers will also test ways to integrate the 'Mobile Assistant' into several prototype `Mars suits' built by Hamilton-Sundstrand, the makers of spacesuits for NASA." Dr. Pascall Lee, HMP project scientist states: "Xybernaut equipment will help pioneer human exploration of Mars. We need relatively high processor speed and memory, which the Xybernaut devices have. Wearable computers may be the future not only for Mars expeditions, but for many future space missions." Related Links www.xybernaut.com The Haughton Mars Project
Lester Haines, 12 Jun 2001

429 million people use the Net

Some 429 million people have Net access in the world according to the latest Nielsen/NetRatings stats. The figures showed that the US and Canada make up 41 per cent of the world's Net users although this North American domination is being eroded. Europe, the Middle East and Africa accounts for 27 per cent, followed by Asia Pacific (20 per cent) and Latin America (4 per cent). Germany and the UK continue to dominate the European scene with Germany, the UK, Italy and France accounting for two-thirds of European households with home Net access. Richard Goosey, an analysts with AC Nielsen said: "In terms of penetration levels, just over a quarter of European households have Internet access via a home PC, compared to one third of the households in Asia Pacific and nearly half of American households. "Don't expect this American domination to last long, though," he said. "Compared to a year ago, significantly more households in Europe and Asia Pacific now have a PC in the home and a greater proportion of homes are making use of that PC to connect to the Internet. "Over the next 12 months, another nine per cent of European households and 12 per cent of Asia Pacific households plan on acquiring Internet access," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Jun 2001

Colombia makes bid for domain domination

Colombia is planning to become the new sexy alternative to the top-ranking .com domain. Its owns the .co ccTLD and is looking to make the most of it. The South American country has finally recognised the value of its .co TLD. Well, more precisely La Universidad de Los Andes has realised its value. The university currently manages the ccTLD - a clear demonstration of how little Colombia has embraced the Web. However, it is now inviting companies to tender bids to expand the domain into to a major competitor to the .com domain. The obvious attraction is that it is only two letters and that it can clearly stand for "company" as much, if not more, than .com (which is actually supposed to stand for "commercial"). It also makes the new TLDs - still not available after months and months of gabbing by ICANN - look incredibly long and unwieldy. With .coms completely full up (and with WIPO's flawed dispute resolution policy), .orgs looking shaky after the new VeriSign deal and .nets strangely having never really taken off, .cos look like a good bet, especially when everyone is already frustrated with ICANN. Just look at Tuvalu - which has the .tv ccTLD - to see the potential behind a decent URL. Colombia won't be selling the rights to its domains as Tuvalu has, however - it will simply licence the right to sell them to the company it thinks gives it the best pitch. That company will be chosen in August and the university hopes to put the money towards scientific research. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jun 2001

NEC's selling 61-inch plasma displays

NEC is starting selling monster sized 61-inch plasma display monitors in Japan from 23 July. The company says Europe and the US will get the displays 'soon' and it expects to sell 8,000 units of the PlasmaSync 61 MP1 by March 2002. The products feature a 1.05 million pixel monitor (1,365 by 768 pixels) with pixel pitch of 0.99mm and a screen area of approx 10, 267 sq cm. The company hasn't released pricing yet. ® Related Link NEC press release
Robert Blincoe, 12 Jun 2001

Net users are saddos

People prefer to stay at home rather than go out and enjoy themselves, claims a new report by Telewest. Don't ask us how, but they say people go out on the beer 100 times a year instead of the 160 times a year they used to two years ago - a drop in being sociable of some 40 per cent. And what's this got to do with Telewest which is, after all, a cable TV and Internet outfit and not a chain of pubs or restaurants? Well, it seems the reason people are staying more is because they want to watch TV or use their PC. "Over half now say a big night in might mean using their PC or TV to enjoy a hobby, like cooking, gardening or games, and then watching the latest top film with friends," says a Telewest press release. Is this really the best they could do? ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Jun 2001

Nokia shares tumble 20 per cent on profit warning

Nokia's shares have dropped over 20 per cent today following an unexpected profit warning from the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer. The company said sales growth for Q2 was going to be "somewhat below" 10 per cent. It had originally predicted 20 per cent growth. Its chief exec Jorma Ollila said: "We believe this slowdown is a result of a general market deterioration - driven by economic uncertainty, the ongoing technology transition and less aggressive marketing by the operators." Earnings per share will drop from 0.20 euros to 0.15 to 0.17. Nokia also warned it was looking at revising its estimates for the second half of the year. It will announce any changes with its Q2 results on 19 July. Analysts have greeted the news as an indication that the US economic slowdown is starting to have an effect on the rest of the world. The effect of the Nokia announcement also brought down the entire telecoms sector - with the ironic exception of BT. Ericsson saw its shares fall 9 per cent, Motorola slipped 6.5 per cent, Vodafone is down 4.3 per cent and still going, France Telecom down 3.1 per cent, Orange down 3.6 per cent. It goes on. However, BT's announcement that it was going to go to the 3G toilet with Deutsche Telekom as a companion kept the troubled telco up - in fact share price actually went up for the first time in living memory. Funny though that yesterday's news that mobile phone manufacturers had been secretly patenting cancer shields for their phones had no effect on the share price. Not that mobile phones actually cause cancer of course, it's just that people (oh, and a load of independent scientists) seem to think they do. Mobile manufacturers are therefore looking after their customers by researching and patenting these things that are completely unnecessary. What does the industry's attitude remind us of? Oh yeah, the tobacco companies thirty years ago. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jun 2001

BT and Deutsche Telekom announce 3G sharing scheme

BT and Deutsche Telekom announced this morning they will share their 3G infrastructures in both Germany and the UK, saving them each between £1.2 billion and £2 billion. More savings will come with lower operating costs and the deal will also enable faster roll-out of the next generation phones (once, that is, they get the technology working). The deal involves BT Cellnet and One2One in the UK and Viag Interkom and T-Mobil in Germany. The deal comes close on the heels of an announcement yesterday by the German telecoms watchdog RegTP that operators could share infrastructures, thereby off-setting at least some of the huge amounts the companies paid for 3G licences last year. That decision and today's announcement has got other operators talking to one another and it's beginning to look as though we will end up with several alliances competing in Europe. Telefónica - that little tart - has made clear it's happy to talk to anyone regarding infrastructure sharing. And, according to Silicon.com, France Telecom in the guise of Orange are knocking out a deal with the fifth UK 3G holder Hutchison 3G for sharing too. The legal situation with regard to infrastructure sharing is unclear in the UK. Oftel is being its usual useless self, with its trusty shield of "as long as it doesn't affect competition" beginning to look a bit battered. Companies can certainly share the bog-standard components but 3G will require some fancy technology and no one is sure whether this can be legally shared under the current agreement. To make matters worse, Vodafone - which has outright refused to share networks with anyone else - is starting to get a little worried and has started making noises about legal action if its competitors break existing agreements (read: find a competitive advantage). We think network sharing is a good idea. Otherwise we will have phone masts all over the place and more expensive end products because the companies will have to make their money somewhere. If Oftel was any sort of regulator it would knock out some kind of agreement where not only could all operators share infrastructure but where it would be simple and advantageous to do so. But then that would require some original thought from the winged watchdog. ® Related Story German 3G ruling to increase corporate welfare clamour
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jun 2001

Dell is ditching 275 UK and Irish staff

Dell is canning 275 workers in the UK and Ireland. This follows the company announcing it was kicking out 4,000 employees' worldwide back in May. In a statement the company said: "This decision supports Dell's global focus on aggressive management of operating expenses." Half the jobs will go from Dell's European HQ near London, and the rest will go from sites around Dublin. The company says the cuts are being made in administrative and support areas. ® Related Stories Dell to pink slip 4,000 (or more) Dell warns of lower Q2 sales
Robert Blincoe, 12 Jun 2001

Palm to split – official

Palm CEO Carl Yankowski took a step towards resolving the company's Apple-like dilemma today by saying that Palm would rid itself of either its hardware or software business. He just wouldn't say which. Speaking at the 12th Annual Bear Stearns Technology Conference, Yankowski said one of these two options would be definitely enacted. That's more specific than he's been before. At the last financial update in May, Yankowski admitted Palm was looking at "dramatically changing" its business model. Back then, he specifically denied Palm was quitting the OS business, although that looks the least painful option now. Palm derives most of its revenue from hardware, and could spin the OS licensing business off into a new, jointly owned company in which it retains an equal, but slightly-more-equal-than-the-others stake. That's exactly how Psion solved the same dilemma three years ago, when it spun its software division off to create Symbian, with roughly-equal shares taken by Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson. Psion had been shopping its Epoc operating system round to phone manufacturers for some time, with only limited success: it now boasts a clutch of new licensees, and Matsushita is a fourth shareholder. And while Psion itself hasn't exactly flourished since then, it has no one to blame but itself, and certainly not its OS licensees. Existing PalmOS licensees Sony, Handspring and TRG would be sure bets to take a stake in Palm NewCo, if that's the direction it took. Neither of these could have the same grounds to complain that Palm was reserving OS features for itself, or using the OS to leverage unfairly against them on price. In a similar dilemma four years ago, Apple simply decided to kill the cloners and withdraw from licensing MacOS, buying out its biggest licensee in the process. Register Bootlace: Analyst Bear Stearns might ring a few bells with Palmwatchers. Six months ago the company predicted Palm sales would exceed expectations, while Goldman Sachs rated the company a "compelling buy". Since then, Palm stock has fallen from over $65 to trade at around the $5 mark. Financial analysts - doncha love 'em? ®. Related Stories Sell your granny to buy Palm stock - analyst Palm to axe 250 jobs as it dips into the red Ailing Palm faces the Crusher, denies quitting OS business Handspring toys with Palm alternatives
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jun 2001

HP sharpens low-power server Blades

HP will roll out kit based on the server buzzword du jour, "blade" technology, later this year. We'll have to wait for Q4 for speeds, feeds and density forecasts, but it doesn't look likely that HP will be adopting Transmeta's Crusoe processors. Brian Cox, HP's product line manager for high density servers told us today:- "What people want is peak performance. The processors you see in high density servers from some of these new start ups are clocked down, and not as robust as the fastest RISC or Pentium processors out there," he said. Who could he mean? RLX Technologies for one, which has announced a 336-way Crusoe server that offers eight times the density of existing 1U racks, and signed IBM as a reseller. And just around the corner from Transmeta in Los Gatos, Ca. Fibercycle has said it too will build superdense Crusoe servers. Cox said HP had been approached by high-density start-ups - although he wouldn't name names. Given his skeptical take on low power chips, was he looking at Crusoe? "Maybe," he said. That didn't sound too definite, to us, we asked. "That's definitely maybe," he said. Stepping razor Blades are really a variation of the rack phenomenon, only the boards - which are fully fledged PCs in their own right - share power supplies. So they can be stacked upright in a chassis, and there's fewer cables to worry about. "Once you get narrower than 1.75" [the width of a 1U rack], there's nothing to hang it on," said Cox. Cox said that HP's superdense servers would be based around Compact PCI interconnects, unlike the proprietary chassis used by RLX. "IBM's going to have a hard sell with these to its conservative customer base," he predicted. ® Related Stories Intel's blades slice Transmeta's server party MS 'screw Linux' Blade tech debuts in... Transmeta servers WinXP Blade: MS' plan to kill off Linux Web servers
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jun 2001

WinXP IE6 spells death for Doubleclick – and a boost for MSN?

Internet Explorer 6 will spell doom for Doubleclick, and by some strange coincidence will provide a massive boost for Microsoft's own MSN/.NET activities, according to a source at a major international financial organisation. The organisation in question, says our source, has read the runes, noted that the Doubleclick tracking cookies it currently uses (copiously) across its sites bounce off IE6, and is poised to switch to the alternative offered by those nice people at Microsoft. The Register has not as yet been able to verify these claims entirely, so although we know the organisation in question, we're not going to name it right now. It is crystal-clear that IE6 (WinXP builds 2475 and 2481) with the privacy settings on default blocks every single Doubleclick cookie from this particular operation's network of sites. Try it yourself, Doubleclick is a major player and will be for a few more months at least, but the cookies it gets its revenues from are all automatically culled by IE6. The bit of the story we can't verify is our source's claim that MSN cookies are not blocked by IE6, whereas Doubleclick ones are. Although he claims that he absolutely cannot block the MSN cookies, the ones we think are MSN ones are blocked along with the Doubleclick ones. Nor are Microsoft's own tracking mechanisms in general entirely XP-ready - right now IE6 blocks MSN-derived cookies (some of them Doubleclick ones, of course) in pretty large volumes. But you could rough up a plausible theory here. Indisputably, Doubleclick cookies are toast when IE6 hits, and they're toast because of the way the default privacy settings are implemented, they're third party cookies. But need cookies derived from the Beast of Redmond be deemed third party? WinXP is riddled with MSN and .NET markers, blink for a second and you'll have accidentally agreed to trust all cookies/certificates/dubious new operating systems from Microsoft and... It's scarcely surprising if major site proprietors are already noting which way the wind's blowing. At the very least Microsoft is 'accidentally' crippling one of the major competitors, plus the lesser ones in the same category, while at the same time girding itself to pitch into their market, but on a far more comprehensive and, er, integrated scale. Declaration of interest time. The Register uses Doubleclick for ad tracking. This does not mean we like them, matter of fact, we'd rather not pay them the huge quantities of money we contribute to their outrageously flash new London offices just up the road from us. Nor do we propose to defend their dubious record on privacy, we'd just like to point out that seeing they've already been caught, they're more likely to be on their best behaviour. And if they die, we'll probably conclude they deserved it. But if they die because their cookies don't work any more, and if all of the other third party cookie tracking operations die for the same reason, leaving just the one big player with - oh woops - another monopoly, where does that get us? And you? In what sense is it different, if instead of being cookied by the Doubleclicks of this world, you're being cookied by Redmond? They've got a hell of a lot more they can sell you, of course - so is that a good thing? ® Related stories: MSN UK fails IE6 privacy standards - apparently
John Lettice, 12 Jun 2001

US Supremes: Hi-tech surveillance is out

The US Supreme Court ruled that nosy cops and Feds must obtain a warrant to carry out remote surveillance of a suspect's house by means of radiation detection apparatus, according to a five/four decision issued Tuesday. The key issue for the majority was the overriding sanctity of the private residence, which is both self-evident and backed up by centuries of common law. "In the home....all details are intimate details, because the entire area is held safe from prying government eyes," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority. Thus, "obtaining, by sense-enhancing technology, any information regarding the interior of the home that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical 'intrusion into a constitutionally protected area,' constitutes a search," for which a warrant must first be sought. The minority choked on the sweeping nature of the majority's opinion. With this "all-encompassing rule for the future," the majority "unfortunately failed to heed the tried and true counsel of judicial restraint," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote. "It would be far wiser to give legislators an unimpeded opportunity to grapple with these emerging issues rather than to shackle them with prematurely devised constitutional constraints." But this nipping in the bud is precisely what Scalia and company had in mind. Failing to address the issue broadly "would leave the homeowner at the mercy of advancing technology -- including imaging technology that could discern all human activity in the home," Scalia wrote. In other words, the majority wanted to block preemptively the initial uses of similar, and possibly worse, police technologies during that interim period between when the cops first get their eager little hands on the gizmos, and when the use of such Fascist devices ends up challenged before the bench. The case was Kyllo v. United States, which began in 1992 when federal agents trained a toy called Agema ThermoVision on a house in Florence, Oregon to find thermal evidence indicating marijuana cultivation. Strange Bedfellows The vote-split in this case was interesting. The minority consisted of left-winger Justice Stevens, as well as right-winger William Rehnquist and moderate righties Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy. The majority consisted of right-wing Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas, along with lefties Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer and centrist David Souter. Interestingly, Justice Scalia dissented in Bond v. United States, which ruled 7/2 that cops have no right to walk down the aisle of a bus and palpate passengers' luggage to look for drugs and guns. Justice Rehnquist, in that case, was on the side of the angels; and even Justice Thomas took the highly unusual step of voting against Justice Scalia. Justice Rhenquist's inconsistency in Kyllo is most perplexing. He said in Bond that the government has no business feeling and making inferences about the contents of luggage in a public place, but in Kyllo he says that they have every right to make inferences about what citizens are up to in their residences with electronic gizmos. Scalia is more logical, saying in Bond that when one ventures into the public realm one can't expect to carry with him all of the privacy protections guaranteed in the home, but in Kyllo that the private residence is a nearly inviolable sanctuary in which the merest surveillance almost always constitutes a search. Frankly, we're pleased with both decisions. ®
Thomas C Greene, 12 Jun 2001