13th > June > 2001 Archive

BT completes £2.3bn property sale

BT has secured the £2.3 billion sale of its property portfolio in a move that could see its debt mountain fall to just £13 billion. The deal with Telereal Holdings Limited - a 50:50 joint venture owned by Land Securities Trillium and The William Pears Group - is subject to Telereal raising the cash on the bond markets. BT's property estate consists of six million square metres of floorspace in offices, depots and telephone exchanges. The telco will lease back the property it needs. Sir Christopher Bland, Chairman of BT, said: "This represents a further step forward in BT's drive for cash and the reduction of its headline debt, while at the same time outsourcing a non-core competency." Today's announcement means that that BT's debt - on paper at least - has fallen to around £13 billion. It raised £2.14 billion with the sale of its Yellow Pages business. Its interests in Japan and Spain raised £4.4 billion; Malaysia contributed a further £0.35 billion. If the rights issue succeeds that will generate £5.9 billion and today's announcement will chalk-up £2.3 billion - a total of £15.09 billion wiped off its £27.9 billion debt mountain. Of course, not all the cash has been banked yet and there's still a long way to go - but hey, it's a start. At least it should keep the bailiffs away for another week or so. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Jun 2001

Apple may issue profit warning – analyst

Expect Apple to issue a profit warning for its current, third fiscal quarter. So says analyst Elyssa Jaffe at little-known (to us, at any rate) IDEAadvisor. Jaffe's prognosis certainly is very gloomy. She's right to point out that the PC market has yet to recover from the current downturn, and that this could certainly hit Apple's sales, just as it has everyone else's. On this point we agree with her: Apple may run into unexpected problems because the market has dipped further than it, or any of its competitors, anticipated. However, she goes on to over-egg the pudding with some statements that are just plain silly and call her conclusions into question. First, there's Apple's lack of a "portable Web access device". This, she seems to think, is a very bad sign. Given the problems Palm and Handspring are having selling PDAs right now, we'd argue that now is not the time to be launching into the handheld market. Compaq may be having some success here - though it remains to be seen whether it can be sustained - but that's really no sign that the PDA business is a panacea for troubled PC makers. It gets better. Jaffe bemoans the fact that Apple has yet to offer much guidance regarding the performance of its two retail stores. Consequently, says Jaffe, "investors are left wondering if the stores that have launched so far have not panned out as expected" (her emphasis - her story is full of tags). This, too, is addlepated. Apple's stores have been open only a month Just about) so it's far to early to say exactly what impact they will have on Apple's Q3 figures. Whatever you think about Apple, CFO Fred Anderson is smart enough to have taken that into account in his previous guidance. Jaffe suggests that sales of the iMac line have been weak of late (she presents no figures to back this up) and that Power Mac G4 sales haven't shined either. The reason? No "bells and whistles" upgrades. Curiously, she ignores the recently launched iBook and the Titanium PowerBook G4. She also fails to mention that world+dog is expecting Apple to announce new iMacs and possibly upgraded G4s early next quarter at Macworld Expo New York. Not that they will help Apple's Q3 sales, however. Q3 was never going to be an easy one for Apple, and it may yet prove to be more harsh than the company expects. However, there's nothing inherently wrong with Apple's product or retail strategy to suggest - at this early stage, at least - that it's going to be so far off target it needs to cushion the blow with a profit warning. If it does, it won't be for the 'reasons' Jaffe outlines. ® Related Link IDEAadvisor: Don’t be Surprised by an Apple Warning
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2001

BT wireless appoints first chairman

BT has appointed unemployed executive David Varney as chairman of BT wireless. He will lead the mobile phone business through its demerger from the BT Group, which is planned for later this year. Varney, 55, will become chairman-designate later this month and will work with BT management and BT wireless CEO, Peter Erskine, in the run-up to the split. Varney left BG plc (the old British Gas monopoly) in October 2000 after spending four years as CEO. Since then he's basically been kicking his heels occupying his time with the string of positions execs of this status seem to collect. For instance he is Vice-President of the Combined Heat and Power Association - a position worth its weight in oil should BT wireless' heating ever go on the blink. He's also VP of the Council of Surrey University and a member of the Public Service Productivity Panel. His interests include motorsport, rugby, sailing and opera. Perhaps his most valuable asset to BT is that he helped to demerge BG Group, something his old BG pal, Phillip Hampton (now FD of BT), knows all about. Said Varney said: "The stakes are high in the mobile market. Establishing the new BT wireless company and building on its business success are challenges that I relish. "The demerged BT wireless needs to be a flexible, nimble organisation alert to the opportunities in its marketplace," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Jun 2001

Rambus plots fivefold expansion in RDRAM bandwidth

Rambus unwrapped its latest roadmap in Japan yesterday at the company's Developer Forum. At the forefront of Rambus' plans: to provide new devices that will boost memory bandwidth by 400 per cent with only "minimal changes" to existing RDRAM-based mobos. Rambus' roadmap projects memory clock speeds increasing to 1066MHz and 1200MHz, coming into production in 2002 and 2005, respectively. Upping the clock speed this way will bring a 50 per cent performance hike over today's 800MHz RDRAM, the company claimed. Alongside that development, Rambus will widen its RIMM width to 32 bits and 64 bits, doubling and quadrupling RIMM bandwidth. The upshot will be that, come 2005, RDRAM will provide memory throughput of 9.6GBps. That, Rambus boasts, will be beyond the "anticipated performance requirements of PC main memory". Anticipated by whom? Step forward, Intel, with a handy rent-a-quote for the occasion: "Intel supports the steps that Rambus and the RDRAM industry are taking to address the anticipated memory demand,'' said Louis Burns, VP of Intel's Desktop Products Group. And three of the world's biggest Dramurai - Samsung, Toshiba and Elpida - were on hand to commit to the production of these faster RDRAM devices. Samsung said it will ship over 130 million 128Mb RDRAM chips this year. That compares with the 200 million 128Mb DDR SDRAM parts the world's memory makers - Samsung among them - will also punch out. Rambus' announcement comes a week after a - dare we say it? - triumphalist Infineon claimed DDR will really take off next year and dominate the mainstream memory business in 2003 with over 50 per cent of the market. ® Related Stories Rambus damns fraud trial as a 'miscarriage of justice' DDR won't dominate until 2003 - Infineon
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2001

90% Windows, 5% Mac, 5% Linux? Not true!

I took an inventory of the computers and operating systems in my household, and found that my wife and I have a total of nine copies of Windows, one copy of Mac OS 9.1 and one purchased Linux distribution. But this doesn't tell the truth about our computer use patterns any more than the recent Gartner Group survey - the one that shows Linux servers with only 8.6 per cent of the market - tells us how many servers really run Linux. My household currently owns a total of ten computers, but six of them are obsolete units sitting out in our storage shed. All of the old boxes came with Windows pre-installed. We have a total of four computers actually hooked up and operating: three laptops and one desktop. One of the laptops - my wife's - is an iBook running Mac OS 9.1. The one desktop came with Windows but now runs nothing but Linux. One of the two Intel laptops was purchased with no operating system, and has never run anything but Linux. The newest laptop - the HP Pavilion 5340 I am using to write this article - came with Windows ME installed. I immediately installed Linux on it but have not yet deleted the Windows partition. I have a retail copy of Windows 98 (SE) I purchased back in 1999 while researching a story, and it is on my shelf, not currently installed on any computer. And I own only one purchased copy of Linux, Mandrake 8.0. Go ahead. Do the math. We own a total of ten computers - and nine copies of Windows. But we have three copies of Linux installed and working, despite have purchased only one (a trick that would violate Federal law if we tried it with a proprietary operating system) as opposed to only one installed copy of Windows - that I have only booted up a few times, ever. Suddenly the numbers look different. Now, counting only installed operating systems, we show 60 per cent Linux, 20 per cent Mac and 20 per cent Windows. We could even take things a step further and count only "operating systems in daily use," which would show our house running 75 per cent Linux, 25 per cent Mac and zero per cent Windows. Here's the key phrase in the Gartner Group survey: "The study results indicated that in the traditional server market in the United States during the third quarter of 2000, 8.6 per cent of server shipments were Linux-based systems." As my colleague Jamie McCarthy points out, you could use Gartner Group's logic to say: "100 per cent of babies born in this country had unpierced ears, therefore, pierced ears are a rarity." I suspect that an awful lot of servers - and home computers - get counted as Windows machines because that is how they were sold, even if they now run Linux; or *BSD; or BeOS; or (yes, it's still around) OS/2. Then comes the question, 'why would anyone buy a Windows-loaded computer instead of one with Linux on it?' Answer: the HP Pavilion has a case and keyboard I find exceptionally comfortable to use, a bright screen and a 20GB hard drive, and was an excellent value (on sale) for $1745. The fact that it came with Windows instead of Linux (and has some features that apparently are designed to work only with Windows) is annoying, but it was still the best unit I could find, per dollar, for my particular needs. I'm sure many commercial buyers buy Windows-loaded servers because they get the best price by purchasing low-end, stamped-out units preloaded with (whatever) than they would if they held out for servers built to their specs - including their preferred operating system. It is not hard to install Linux. And it's not hard to install RAM, either; if I can buy additional RAM for half the price the original machine manufacturer wants for it, I'll get it and put it in myself, thank you. Most of the high-end commercial computer users I know (including people who run ISPs and hosting services) are willing to install RAM and operating systems themselves if this will save them $200 or $300 per unit. I understand why Microsoft is scared of Linux. Windows workalikes for the Linux software I use daily, all of which came with Mandrake 8.0 in the "Powerpack" box that cost $65 (minus a $20 mail-in rebate), would run well over $1,000. And I understand why Microsoft would help sponsor a Gartner Group survey that shows Linux server usage much lower than other server operating system surveys have shown it to be, really I do. But I also understand how statistics can be manipulated to give false impressions. And because I am perfectly happy with Linux, I don't think I'll switch to Windows anytime soon, no matter how many times I hear that Linux is a "hobby" operating system; or that not as many people use it as we think; or that the Linux desktop (which seems perfectly lively to me) is dead. Or whatever bad thing about Linux the people in Redmond are saying today - or say next week or next month. ® Copyright © 2001 newsforge.com. All rights reserved Related Link Gartner Survey: Linux Server Market Share: Where Will It Be in 2001 and How Will It Grow? Related Story No one's using Linux, claims Microsoft
Robin Miller, 13 Jun 2001

SonicBlue Rio 800

ReviewReview The Rio 800 is the latest player from Diamond/S3/SonicBlue or whatever it's calling itself now. Similar in size and appearance to the 600, the 800 is the top-of-the-range model with added bells and whistles. It comes with 64MB of RAM (roughly two hours' worth of music), uses the same backpack system as the 600 and upgrades are as easy as changing the battery on a mobile phone. In this case the backpack incorporates a rechargeable battery, so you no longer have to splash out on AA batteries. A built-in recording facility allows you to make voice notes on the move. The quality isn't spectacular, and you do have to speak fairly close to the microphone for sound to be picked up, but for voice memos it's fine. Recordings can be uploaded to a PC. The Rio 800's remote control is a nice touch. Although this device is basic in operation, providing play/pause, stop, forward, back and volume, it does the job. An LCD display would have been nice, if not strictly necessary. The main thing that lets the Rio down is the bundled software used to transfer tracks onto the device. Before you can move your tunes you must add them to a database, rather than point to where they are on the hard drive. After you've added a few songs it becomes hard to manage, especially if you load up an entire album. The Rio has come a long way from its origin as a geek's plaything slowly entering the consumer space. The hardware is pretty much there, offering the functionality and ease of use provided by most portable music devices. The software side still needs work, but it's usable nonetheless. ® Info Price: £255 Contact: 0118 944 4477 Website: www.riohome.com Specs Weight: 112g Dimensions: 62x95x24mm Internal memory: 64MB Other extras: MP3 and WMA support; future codec support via software upgrade; upgrades via backpacks; rechargable battery; AC adaptor; USB; Rioport software. This review is taken from the July 2001 issue. All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
PC Advisor, 13 Jun 2001

No one's using Linux, claims Microsoft

Gartner Dataquest has pegged the proportion of Linux servers shipped in the United States at 8.6 per cent. Gartner analyst Jeffery Hewitt claims that this figure - which includes 'white box' shipments, but excludes server appliances such as Sun's Cobalt range - is dramatically lower than the 20 per cent plus cited by arch rivals IDC. Of that 8.6 per cent, eight per cent is attributed to Red Hat and 0.6 per cent to other distros. The survey is dated May 30, but was made public yesterday. We don't usually hear about analyst surveys from vendors in advance of publication. But yesterday a note dropped in from Microsoft's PR company, Waggener Edstrom. "8.6 per cent is... certainly in line with what we are hearing from our customers and partners," wrote a friendly Wagg-Ed flak. Now there's some dispute over what a 'shipment' actually involves, as NewsForge's Rob 'roblimo' Miller points out in this analysis. And he has a very good point: for example, Gartner pegs Linux shipments in the supercomputer space as 'zero' this year. In fact Linux is well established on commodity parallel clusters at many scientific sites. Many of these were assembled in-house, so a shipment clearly doesn't correlate to a working installation. However, Microsoft's pre-emptive strike may be tactical. Hewitt actually predicts that volume shipments of Linux - even using Gartner's contested definition of 'shipment' and 'server' - will mushroom in the next four years. Total worldwide Linux deployment will quadruple from 2.4 million to 9.1 million, predicts Gartner, with explosive growth in the supercomputer area: up from that dubious 'zero' this year to over 5000 by 2005. In the $25,000 to $100,000 range - the low-end company workhorse - Linux shipments will increase ninefold. In the sub-$5000 space, Linux will grow over six fold. So this may be a case of the Beast getting its retaliation in first. ® Related Link Gartner Survey: Linux Server Market Share: Where Will It Be in 2001 and How Will It Grow? Related Story 90% Windows, 5% Mac, 5% Linux? Not true!
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Jun 2001

Telewest escapes ad slap

UpdatedUpdated Telewest has been cleared of producing misleading advertising after it claimed that its broadband service was ten times faster than its dial-up service. Four people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) questioning the accuracy of an ad which boasted its broadband service was "Nearly 10 times faster than your current dial-up service". Telewest dismissed the concerns saying that most of its punters were happy with the service. It supplied data which it said showed that between January 2001 and March 2001its service was "on average 11.1 times faster than the average throughput speed available with dial-up ISPs." The broadband cable provider argued that if some people weren't getting the performance they expected, the fault lay with the customer and not with its service. Telewest even offered to send round an engineer to examine each of the complainants' equipment. The ASA notes that none of the complainants accepted the offer. Dismissing the complaint against Telewest, the ASA said: "The advertisers explained that, because high-speed, always-on, Internet services were usually targeted at experienced and frequent users of the Internet, those users were often highly critical of IT services and applications." However, whinging to the ASA does at least prompt some companies to take performance problems seriously - seriously enough, it seems, to dispatch an engineer. Who knows, it might even prompt those hacked off with BTopenwoe to take similar action. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Jun 2001

Music CD piracy grew 25% in 2000

The number of pirated CDs sold worldwide soared by 25 per cent in 2000, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). And the rise is blamed on low-budget CD-R copying operations. The IFPI's report says "pirate CD-R sales worldwide nearly tripled last year to 165 million units and now account for more than a quarter of all disc piracy". The IFPI estimates one in every three recordings sold worldwide is an illegal copy, and a total of 1.8 billion pirate recordings (CDs and cassettes) were estimated to be sold in the year. The report states that pirate sales of CDs and CD-R music discs rose from 510 million units in 1999 to an estimated 640 million units in 2000. Globally the music pirate business, much of it backed by organised crime, was worth an estimated $4.2 billion in 2000 - up by $100 million on the previous year. It also calls the Internet a "100 per cent pirate medium". Jay Berman, IFPI Chairman and CEO said: "Piracy is rising alarmingly in our established markets, and the two main reasons for that are the proliferation of new, cheap technologies for illegal commercial copying, and inadequate enforcement by governments." The top five domestic piracy nations are China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil and Italy. Countries in South East Asia and Eastern Europe, particularly the Ukraine, top the list of manufacturers and exporters of pirate product. And in the fight against the evil Net, actions by IFPI and its 46 national affiliates led to 15,000 Web sites, containing 300,000 files, being taken down in 2000. ® Related Link IFPI report Related Stories EU to investigate anti-trust Internet music companies Verbatim's got CD-Rs certified for 24x recording Easy CD Creator affecting Win9x machines as well Sony, MusicMatch form CD burning alliance
Robert Blincoe, 13 Jun 2001

German domain registry warns against .de billing scam

German domain registry DENIC eG has issued a warning about "an attempt to extract money from customers for a senseless and dubious service." This, the second such scam to come to DENIC's notice this year, takes the form of a letter apparently designed to convince people they have to cough up DM270 in order to keep their .de domain for another year. The letter comes from "Zentrale zur Registrierung Deutscher Web-Domains," ZRW, which sounds pretty official, but isn't. ZRW says that if your web address isn't registered, then you can register it for a year for DM269, but as DENIC points out, this doesn't actually have anything to do with the registration of the domain. "If you do not pay your DE-domain is neither in danger, nor will anything change with respect to its connectivity," says DENIC. DENIC doesn't wax quite as lyrical this time around as last. Back in April it denounced the "so-called Deutsche Domain Verwaltung (German Domain Registry)" for demanding DM369 for "switching your web address online." This, it said, was "an attempt to extract money from customers for a useless and dubious service with a large amount of criminal energy." So there. ® Related Link DENIC alerts
John Lettice, 13 Jun 2001

Transmeta to launch 1GHz Crusoe on 26 June

Transmeta will officially launch its two newest Crusoes - the TM5500 and the TM5800 - at the end of the month at PC Expo. So says the company's CTO, Dave Ditzel, in an interview with Asia BizTech. Both parts will be fabbed at 0.13 micron - as anticipated - cutting the die size from 88sq mm to 55sq mm. Transmeta is reducing the core voltage range, too, from 1.1-1.6V to 0.9-1.3V. The 5500 contains 256KB of on-die L2 cache. The 5800's cache is 512KB. Ditzel said the parts will operate at between 600MHz and 1GHz. Transmeta was telling OEMs almost a year ago that the 5800 would ship at 1GHz. It also pointed toward 1GHz in its IPO prospectus. The 5800 was originally to have shipped late 2000. At least, that's what the company was indicating to said OEMs. Come Spring 2001, and the ship date had slipped to the second half of 2001. At CeBit, Ditzel said the part's clock speed would be over 700MHz, but in various benchmark comparisons this time he referred to 5800s running at 800MHz and 1GHz. So either it will ship at various clock speeds, or Transmeta still hasn't made up its mind yet. At CeBit Ditzel also told The Register that both chips would sport version 4.2.0 of the company's code morphing software, and he reiterated that in the Asia BizTech piece. Current Crusoes are running version 4.1.7 Version 4.2.0 should boost performance by around 28 per cent, including an 11 per cent increase in clock speed, Ditzel claimed citing CPUmark99 benchmarks comparing a 600MHz TM5600 running 4.1.7 and a 667MHz 5600 running 4.2.0. The new code morphing software can cut core power consumption by 2-42 per cent. Ditzel said the 5800 consumes 5.5W at 800MHz, rising to 7W at 1GHz. By comparison, a 667MHz 5600 consumes 6.4W. Finally, Ditzel said Transmeta will offer a 256-bit core Crusoe next year - twice the size of today's 128-bit cores. A wee while back, we heard that said 256-bit part, codenamed Astro, will run at 1.4GHz while consuming only 0.5W. It is thought to contain 128KB of L1 cache and 2MB of on-die L2. Meanwhile, the existing 128-bit core will be extended to include more Northbridge functionality on the die. ® Related Stories Transmeta preps pumped up Crusoe Transmeta strikes .13 micron notebook stroke Transmeta licenses AMD Hammer technology Transmeta wins thumbs up from US environmental agency
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2001

ARM chips get maths and Java

ARM wrapped up recent announcements with news of a revamped co-processor for its ARM 9E-S family. The ARM VFP9-S floating point unit adds a third more transistors to the chip, but requires only a square millimetre and a half of extra die space. ARM says the maths benchmarks run ten times faster than using software emulation using the ARM9-series co-processor, or twenty times faster on the ARM 10 co-processor. The chip is aimed at embedded control systems in manufacturing. And that's where we hope it stays, quite selfishly. Beat-the-computer maths puzzles, such as the Channel 4 Countdown game, are hard enough to play already on ARM PDAs without FP units. ARM also gave more details of its synthesizable Jazelle cores optimised for Java, beginning with the ARM926-EJ-S., at the Embedded Microprocessor Conference in San Jose, Ca. Jazelle adds Java byte code as a third instruction set alongside ARM set and the compressed, 16 bit Thumb instructions. It effectively drops a JVM into the hardware, with fifteen ARM registers reserved when in the chip's in a JVM state. ARM said the cores will be optimised for mobile devices running "the Symbian Platform, Linux, and Windows CE". Sanyo has already signed up as a licensee. Java phones were in evidence at the recent JavaOne expo in San Francisco, and we have a pixelvision identity parade here. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Jun 2001

SonicBlue axes third of workforce

SonicBlue, the company launched on the back the emergence of the Internet appliance business that has... er... yet to emerge, has rid itself of 30 per cent of its workforce. The company currently employs 813 people around the world. That will be reduced by around 244 workers, a move that will cost SonicBlue $120 million. That figure also includes inventory write-offs. We'd hazard a guess that much of it will be unsold Diamond Mako PDAs. SonicBlue launched Mako last autumn following a deal with UK PDA maker Psion. Since then the device has entirely failed to set the market alight. Meanwhile, its information appliance biz has been forced to shift its focus away from the consumer space and target "vertical markets". Only its Rio division is proving truly popular, and we wonder why the company doesn't focus on it exclusively. Its ReplayTV acquisition may help, but if ReplayTV couldn't make it on its own against TiVo, we can't see how it will fare any better as part of SonicBlue. SonicBlue's plan is to get into the black and a positive cash flow early next year. In addition to the redundancies, it wants to sell off half of its stake in Taiwanese chip foundry UMC. If successful, that will net it around $500 million. SonicBlue was formed last year when graphics chip maker S3, having bought peripherals company Diamond Multimedia, then sold off its chip business, effectively leaving Diamond with a new name and new management team. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2001

GSM Association launches new standard for next-gen mobiles

The GSM association has launched a new mobile phone standard today, called M-Services, for next-generation phones that will enable graphics and games etc. to be downloaded. The standard, supported by just about every major manufacturer and operator, will (it hopes) make up for the WAP debacle, boost take-up and sales of next-generation mobiles and prevent i-Mode from taking over in Europe. Phones with the standard should be available in time for Christmas. The London press conference saw the great and good in the mobile industry gathered in one room and was a fairly lively event for a change. Fortunately, those up on stage resisted the urge to rewrite history and accepted that WAP has been a disaster.* The current thinking is that WAP didn't take off because there were/are so many different standards/infrastructures/handsets. This meant developers never took it to their breast, which meant no consumers wanted to use it. By extension, i-Mode's enormous success is down to the fact that it worked to one standard. This is all changed now though with the fantastic M-Services. The chairman and the CEO of GSMA (American jargon-masters), the MD of Telecom Italia (an ebullient Italian) and the CEO of Openwave (media hungry) were all extremely keen to point out M-Services is not, repeat not, proprietary. It's a standard freely available and no one is under any obligation to sign up to it. Check out the GSMA's Web site for more info. It represents simply a clean-up of the standard for data-compliant phones and will mean the widespread adoption of new services so companies can compete on services rather than standards or infrastructures. Don't buy a GPRS phone! A huge number of mobile companies have signed up to the standard including BT, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, Siemens, Alcatel, Telefonica etc etc so it looks as though this is the real deal. However that means if you have just bought a GPRS phone, you've wasted your money. If all goes according to plan, phones with the M-Services standard will take off at Christmas and the numbers and commonality of them will cause developers to start making the phones worthwhile by creating new services to ride on top. One element that has been overlooked though (and was repeatedly not answered during questions) was developer freedom. A lot of i-Mode's success was built on developers being able to produce, market and ship a product off their own bat. So far, it looks as though M-Services developers will need to talk to individual operators to get their product up and running. A suggestion that the GSMA has effectively set up a cartel with software manufacturer Openwave was given short shrift. "I find it offensive and inexcusable to use that word," said Rob Conway, GSMA's CEO. "Nothing we have said or done with the standard has anything that looks like a cartel." Asked whether this was really news - wasn't it inevitable that the GSMA would create a new standard for next-generation phones, especially considering the success of GSM itself? - we were informed No. There are 165 different kinds of WAP. This will allow for just one. "This has started to resume the movement that made GSM a standard in the first place," said Telecom Italia MD Mauro Scutinelli. The GSMA chairman also said he saw this new standard as just one in a series of future standards that will enable mobile companies to work on a common platform - to the benefit of both companies and consumers. We feel that such a move was indeed inevitable. But all the same, it's good to see that it's actually been done. Perhaps we will soon, finally get these amazing phones that everyone's been telling us about for a couple of years. ® * Of course though, when we were told M-Services will build on the success of SMS (by three to eight times, apparently), there was no recognition that the mobile industry had dismissed SMS as nothing interesting before it took off and made them all a rack of money. Related Link GSM Assocation
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Jun 2001

McVeigh lives on!

A conversation we had in the office yesterday: "Now, if someone's got any sense they'll put out a virus called McVeigh today, say it's a picture or video or something". "Yeah, and millions of people would be stupid enough to open the attachment." Eh voila! A McVeigh "bootleg video clip" of the Oklahoma bomber dying. Follow the link and download, er, the SubSeven Trojan that will give those naughty hacker people control of your PC. It's depressingly predictable ain't it? It would seem, despite all the hype, that no one managed to hack into the video link-up sent from Terre Haute to blood-hungry relatives in Oklahoma City, but then are we at all surprised? Nope. Of course, we haven't actually heard from people that have been sent the link to the McVeigh "video" - we've just read it in all the papers - so this may well be a case of the media creating the news. Either way, it doesn't really matter. The man that killed 168 people died. He would have done it anyway. And people are stupid enough to open attachments from people they don't know (learning from experience is supposed to be instinctive). Nothing to see here people. Move along. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Jun 2001

CMGI loses $1bn in Q3

Internet holding group - CMGI - continues to throw good money after bad following its announcement that it lost $1 billion in its third quarter. News of the hefty loss is fuelling the doom merchants who believe CMGI is burning out and heading for disaster. However, in a conference call yesterday, CMGI chairman and CEO, David Wetherell, said the company had enough cash to last another three years and that it was taking steps to reduce its cash burn. At one point CMGI had more than $2 billion in cash stashed away. At the end of July that figure is set to fall to $785 million. CMGI reported net revenue of $301 million for the third quarter ended April 30, 2001, a 29 per cent increase compared with Q3 2000. It also recorded an operating loss of $996 million for Q3. Net revenue for the company's "search and portals segment" - that AltaVista to you and me - decreased 41 per cent compared with Q3 2000, and decreased 33 per cent compared with Q2 2001. Said Wetherell in a statement: "Substantial progress has been made on refining our business model, but there is still more work to be done. "We were extremely pleased that we exceeded our consolidated financial expectations for the third quarter and significantly reduced our operating cash usage. "We expect that these trends will continue into fiscal 2002," he said.
Tim Richardson, 13 Jun 2001

Have you been smart tagged? WinXP IE6 has a little list

Recent builds of the Internet Explorer 6 beta have included the IE implementation of Microsoft's smart tag technology, prompting choruses of disapproval from the media. Which is of course understandable - smart tag technology parses its way through a web page, underlines the words it's been pre-programmed to react to, and inserts its own hyperlinks. These take you to wherever the smart tag developer wants to take you, entirely without the knowledge or permission of the web site proprietor - in essence, IE6 is taking your HTML and re-editing it locally. The system could be used to convert news stories into vehicles for advertising, without the perpetrator actually having to bother paying the owner of the stories, it could be used to blacken the reputation of, say, Dave Winer of Userland (Connie Guglielmo of ZD Interactive Week has a most entertaining exposition of this very thing here), or it could be used as a cheesy gag to get hits for MSN. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and characteristically Microsoft has therefore gone solely for the cheesy gag in its first IE6 implementation. Smart tags may indeed be switched off as the default when the final product ships, but the default is ON in the build The Register is currently looking at, XP version 2475. Keywords hit on have the tag attached, and if you place the mouse pointer over the word, you can pop up a list of smart tag options/hyperlinks. So every time Microsoft is mentioned, for example, you get six options; company news, company report, price chart and stock quote (all of these from MSN Moneycentral), official site (microsoft.com, natch) and search the web for Microsoft (MSN search, of course). This seems par for the course for all of the tags currently recognised - six basic options, five of which steal hits for MSN from any site that hasn't yet got around to metatagging smart tags out of the picture. That's what Microsoft says you can do to block them if you don't like them, but we kind of like the Electronic Frontier Foundation's suggestion that you could sue Redmond for breach of copyright, as smart tags create unauthorised derivative works. Microsoft has ambitions for smart tags beyond feeble hit-swiping stunts, and has already gone some way further with the Office XP implementation. Predictably, this turns out to be only as good as the coding; you can read about Paul Thurrott's experiences in having French holiday destinations and Oakland A's centerfielders thrust at him whenever he typed 'nice' or 'long' here. Over at XP build 2475 there are some tantalising clues to the IE smart tag ambitions lying around. If you look in Program Files/MSN/smarttag you find a file called msntags.dic, plus what is presumably an associated DLL. It's not entirely clear to us what application is supposed to be used to edit msntags.dic, but you can open it with Wordpad, and the content is just about readable. It's a very long list of companies, organisations and potential actions. For example, we can't help noticing the words "buy team merchandise" in there. The list seems to go through from 3Com to Zions Bancorporation, with many, many improbable companies in between. It's most likely a prospect list rather than what's happening already - Estee Lauder is in there, for example, but try as we might we couldn't get it to kick up as a smartag on a Web site. What's Microsoft going to do with it? You can speculate on a sliding scale of paranoia. Say every company in the world gets themselves tagged up to MSN Moneycentral, whether they like it or not; that gives MSN a lot of hits, and maybe puts it in the position of being the primary supplier of information about everybody. And everything. Or maybe Microsoft and/or its partners could sell the links and associated tagging routines. Your company name appears on a web site, so you get to control - for a price - what the reader can do in association with that appearance. If Microsoft sells the service, then it gets all the money, but if a partner sells it, Microsoft still likely gets a percentage for routing it through .NET. There are a few more smart tag-related files in XP, in the folder Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\smart tag there's an apparent data file, mstag.dlb, but we haven't figured out what is in it, if anything. There's also a 3x1 pixel bitmap, mstag.bmp - spooky or what? Both of these seem to come with IE6, but there's also a bunch of dlls that come with Office XP, if it's installed, then in a lists subfolder there's stocks.dat (gobbledegook again), and stocks.xml. That one's readable and editable, but would-be dabblers should be aware that deleting references to Moneycentral from stocks.xml is most unlikely to also delete the real moneycentral.msn.com at the same time. Microsoft has however published some instructions and fiddling tools here, if you'd care to try. ® Related stories: Smart Tags due in Win-XP browser Smart tagging in Office XP - what Melissa did next?
John Lettice, 13 Jun 2001

49 uses for an illuminated keyboard

Well, the results of our illuminated keyboard competition are in - proof, were it needed, of our readers' fertile minds. So great was the response, that we can't possibly list all of the inventive uses you thought up. We have, nevertheless, distilled the best into the following list. For your reading convienience, we've also grouped suggestions under broad headings. Enjoy. The professional world It's clear that the following people would benefit from an illuminated keyboard: Anyone working in California (UPS required) Various readers Firefly catchers Rod Gordon Those doing Powerpoint demonstrations Jonathan Schwartz Nightclub DJs James Woodcock Theatre lighting and special effects technicians Bosah Vandenburg Video editors John Campbell Mushroom farmers Andy Miller Astronomers James T morgan Cavers and potholers Sam C Astronauts (on the dark side of the moon) Sam C Special forces (to chat on irc without destroying their night vision) Mark Ralph Dobie FBI/CIA/MI5/MI6 while in surveillance van Tim Pilkington Darkroom technicians (red safelight version) Journalists covering solar eclipses David Carabott Now, what about the illuminated keyboard as a practical device to solve those everyday problems?: Nuts and bolts The keyboard would be ideal for those people who wish to lock themselves away in a cupboard until after an election Lee Meadows You can use it as a night light if you're afraid of the dark after playing creepy games Cindy Buchoon To illuminate the fridge next to my PC desk so I can grab a beer rather than something healthy Carl Scheffler To see what you're typing while looking cool in sunglasses in the office Colin Dickens For those who have glasses containing screens on them, and need to see the keyboard past the display Justin Masters If the keyboard also emits UV light it could be handy to maintain that all-over tan in winter Scott Watson It's good for the college student who doesn't want to upset his/her psycho (gun magazine collecting) roomate when up late writing a term paper the night before it's due Ryan Gwaltney To find toe nail clippings, screws, etc., etc. under the desk Various To appreciate the luminescent glow produced from all the bacteria living on the remains of pepperoni pizza and hamburgers lying around the PC Peter Reeves-Hall It's a good indicator of the rate at which your hair is falling out as it gets caught in the crevices of your keyboard John Bell It would be good for beginners: 'Where's the damn 'c' key?' [BLINK BLINK] '...oh, there it is.' With appropriate software Magnus Eriksson As a full-time geek and nerd I am never away from a computer. recently, using my portable in the shower has had its drawbacks as the keys get steamed up too quickly. I solved the problem of the screen becoming fogged by keeping it under the shower head but it was hard redirecting the water stream onto the keyboard as well. An illuminated keyboard would solve this problem admirably Adrian Edmonds So I can tell my wife there's a buffer leak and she'd better not touch the computer while I'm away Charles Farlee I want one that flashes along with the klaxons that go off when someone looks at porn on the house computer Simon Fuller Line up a set of them to guide you to the bathroom Mike Lupiani The illuminated keyboard will be necessary to locate and execute the correct key combination which switches off the illumination feature Joel Cutrara Very good. So, what about the contribution the illuminated keyboard can make to a user's success with his or her peers?: Life and love I suppose it's too obvious to suggest that one might want such a keyboard if one were to partake in a little - ahem - 'left-handed browsing,' if you see what I mean, with the lights out to avoid detection Scott Earle For those with webcams, the keyboard would make a good source of light from below, removing any unpleasant shadows, and thus making the person even more attractive to the mid-50s Daily Mail journalist masquerading as a schoolgirl Philip Smith Open the window, hold the cord, and let the keyboard make a short free-fall drop outside. Maybe you'll finally manage to get the attention you wanted so badly from the lady/guy in the building opposite Nikos Moumouris Stick it onto the back of your car instead of those tacky neon numberplate holders to show that you are a true techno-nerd Chris O'Shea I want one because the guy next to me at the LAN party won't have one and it'll make him jealous. Isn't that the reason we do all that case modding in the first place? Scott Borlick Yes, probably. Let's not forget the real difference that this device could make to... The arts To portray the console of an alien spacecraft in some crappy low budget sci-fi film. So much easier to enter viruses that will cripple the alien mothership David Bolton If you are making a terrible 'cyberpunk neo-futurist' film. Or Breathe ad. Diggory Laycock As a sound-to-light system for your WinAmp music Max Smolev A fairground attraction for fleas - each key is a little illuminated trampoline... Sploo I can imagine that typing in darkness, only illuminated by the bluish glow of the keyboard, grants a certain fertile atmosphere which will serve to increase creativity and a poetic apprehension in the face of rather overwhelming technicality a computer usually represents: Oh keyboard mine In darkness shine By your blue light Type through night Till daylight come And yellow sun Replaces blue Your light so true. Bjorn Loesing We think that you've just presented the strongest case against the illuminated keyboard there, Bjorn. Don't call us - we'll call you. Our final category represents perhaps the most critical potential uses for an illuminated keyboard - in which the technology might save your life. Or fix your car. Whatever. Clear and present danger You might be shipwrecked on an island with your laptop and your sensitive TFT display is broken, so all you have to signal an airplane is your lit keyboard Kannan If you are worried about snipers, and don't want to leave the lights on 'cos they'll be able to see you, and might take pot-shots at you, it's great. You can leave the lights off and not worry about being spotted through the window. Doesn't work if the assassin has night sights Adam Wynne I found out by accident that a keyboard is almost exactly the right shape to hold a Mini engine forward of the exhaust manifold while trying to extract it using a block and tackle. If it was illuminated then I could see down the back of the engine to disconnect the speedo cable Ro For those suffering from taphephobia (fear of being buried alive) auch a keyboard nailed to the inside of the coffin lid would be a godsend, allowing them to accurately type a 'get me out of here' email to their loved ones Tad Piesakowski Enough, we say, enough. Now on to our winners. We originally said that we'd award three exclusive Reg lapel pins. In the event, we couldn't decide between these five. Pins to the lot of 'em: I'd use an illuminated keyboard so I didn't have to switch my lights on, thereby avoiding indicating to the FBI that I was in. I would of course not actually have any mains electricity there anyway, as this would naturally be used by the Feds to snoop on me, picking up sound, vision and even thoughts from everyone within six feet of a power outlet. So I'd be running my system off my own hydro-electric turbine out back, up in the hills, proudly protected from outside interference by myself and my 20-stron highly-armed militia (Ched, Zeb, Chuck et al - brothers in arms in more ways than one). The cool blue glow of the keyboard isn't ideal - I'd prefer red, as I want to keep my night vision intact, ready for the inevitable federal assault, but this would clearly be un-American, Communist and possibly even Republican. So I guess I'll stick with the patriotic blue, being as it is the background to the glorious representation od all our states on our proud Star-Spangled Banner. And finally, when the stormtroopers DO come crashing through the windows, I could throw it at them, blinding them temporarily, giving me precious seconds to make it to the root-cellar and light eh blue touch paper, striking a blow for all free, proud Americans by blowing the compound, myself, and half the FBI to high heaven Skip Bruce Ever seen a hamster in a remote controlled aeroplane landing at night? No, but that's only because they've never had landing lights before. Remove all the keys and put them in a row and viola, instant lit landing strip David McMinn If it's waterproof too, it would be invaluable to divers in search of phosphorescent nematodes who would be drawn by the unnatural glow in the dark. This would render the tagging of aforementioned worms significantly easier. If you've ever tried tagging a nematode, you'll truly understand what a boon this would be. If it's not waterproof, it would be single use only Nick Condie We have an employee who generally has his head up his ass. Maybe he could take the keyboard with him and get some work done for a change Jerry L. Rogers Everyone should have one, so I can see where all your gear is Bob the Burglar Marvellous stuff indeed. Thanks to all those who entered, and congratulations to our winners. ® Related Stories 101 uses for an illuminated keyboard Light up my keyboard
Lester Haines, 13 Jun 2001

GSM goes Jerry Springer on us

The GSM Association and assorted mobile industry top bods congregated in the Four Seasons hotel in London this morning to tell us about its new standard for next-generation mobile phones, M-Services. It was only after a surprisingly entertaining hour-an-a-half though, walking back through Mayfair, that we realised quite what we had witnessed. Yes this was GSM meets Jerry Springer. "I'm sick of your crap WAP" it was entitled, and it followed the traditional Jerry formula. The MC introduced the various protagonists who bigged themselves up saying they were the best. The chairman and the CEO of the GSMA had the talking about nothing in long clever-sounding words thang off pat. Then there was the straight-talking, arm-waving Italian - the mobile industry equivalent of the mouthy sister who's all that. Then the head of Openwave who filled in the cocky just-so-I-can-get-on-the-tele character. This being Britain though there was no whopping or booing, just some polite applause from the non-journalists in the room. The stage was set for the denouement and thrashing of teeth. Nerves were tested with some critical questions and a bit of snapping. But it came to an over-zealous reporter who insisted the GSMA was setting up a cartel with Openwave for it to kick off. "I find that offensive and inexcusable," said the GSMA CEO. The reporter pushed him further. The Openwave CEO chipped in: "I don't want to get into a fight with the gentleman [said snidely] but…" "Outside!" cried one man getting into the swings of things. "We can discuss this outside later," he said, rising to the bait. Things were hotting up. The Association was late in coming up with this, it is trying to control a market, can it quantify any of its assumptions, billing systems are still ripping people off. The MC tried to deflect some of the strife with a lame gag to one of the journos he knew by name. Sadly, it came to the end and no punches had been thrown. Those on stage were half-exhilarated, half-scared and wondering why they ever agreed to get up there in the first place though - just like the real thing! And to top it all off the GSMA chairman gave us a Final Thought. "We know that WAP hasn't been a success and we appreciate we let you down and some of you must be hurting. But this standard will change all that. We have worked together and stood tall as a market - and you can always achieve more as a group than you can on your own. You will see the results in the next few months. We thank you for your healthy scepticism. Thank you for coming." Sadly there wasn't a camera outside for recording the guests' various pearls of wisdom. We were ready for it: "Hi GSM! We've come all the way from Maddox Street to be here. You're the best! [Break into poor rap] Go GSM, go GSM, you the men, you the men, you know what time it is, yeah, yeah, one time, two time, 3G." ® Related Story GSM Association launches new standard for next-gen mobiles
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Jun 2001

Server sales slump in Q1

Sales of servers dropped in Q1 with worldwide revenues slipping four per cent to $13.3 billion. IBM is still top dog in the sector and didn't suffer from the general market downturn. Its sales grew 13 per cent in the period to $3.3 billion. The market figures come from IDC, which is releasing its research into the server sector later today. It's given CNet a sneak preview, which is where we've got the stats from. HP, Sun, and Compaq, ranked two, three, and four respectively in the server top five, all saw sales drop in the period. However Dell, at number five, saw it server sales leap 21 per cent to $884 million. HP's sales slipped five per cent to $2.12 billion; Sun's dropped three per cent to $2.05 billion, and Compaq's stumbled two per cent $1.96 billion. The Windows server market grew seven per cent in Q1 to $3.2 billion, and the Unix market slipped two per cent to $6.5 billion. Sun's got 32 per cent of the Unix market with sales of $2 billion; HP's got 25 per cent with sales of $1.6 billion and IBM's in third place with a 21 per cent share and sales of $1.4 billion. In the US server sales plummeted 16 per cent to $4.4 billion and the Japanese market dropped 12 per cent to $2.1 billion. The areas of growth were Western Europe and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region which enjoyed sales of $3.8 billion (up 16 per cent) and $1.2 billion (up 12 per cent) respectively. ® Related Link CNet story Related Stories 90% Windows, 5% Mac, 5% Linux? Not true! No one's using Linux, claims Microsoft HP sharpens low-power server Blades HP slashes Intel server prices
Robert Blincoe, 13 Jun 2001

Gamble or get orgasm tips on your mobile

Mobile messaging company Quartez has come up with a way of making a bit of money from text messaging - competitions and orgasm tips. We know, it sounds horrendous but then it's gonna work because people are horrendous. Who the hell would want to pay anything up to a £1 to text Quartez with the word "gamble" in the hopeless attempt to win a holiday to Las Vegas? Readers of Esquire that's who. The mag, run by National Magazines, will be offering precisely that next week. Orgasm tips? Why, Cosmo readers of course (also owned by Nat Mags). [What the hell are orgasm tips anyway? And shouldn't Cosmo readers have worked that sort of thing out already?] Anyway, Quartez basically acts as a middleman for this, provides numbers and word-trigger technology for competitions and the like, takes a cut on the traffic and away you go. Bloody good business model if you think about it. The VC company Media Ventures obviously liked it because it's just pumped a seven-figure sum (between £1 million and £10 million) into the company. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Jun 2001

Would you pay £25k for NEC's 61-inch plasma display?

How much would you pay for a 61-inch plasma display? The NEC beast going on sale in Japan from 23 July will arrive in the UK next month and probably cost between £22,000 and £25,000. The company says it hasn't set pricing so its probably hanging on until the last minute to see how exchange rates are working out. The above figures come secondhand from an NEC sales manager, but calling NEC's sales line it was suggested we might be able to get it for £19,000 - £20,000. But if that sounds a bit steep, try and haggle. All plasma prices are up for negotiation in the UK according to source close to NEC. We're told of one customer who bought more than 500 displays and got them at 80 per cent below the retail price. That comes down to £2,000 for a 40-inch job. The NEC 61-inch display weighs more than 68Kg so don't try and hang it on your plasterboard partition wall with a couple of one inch wood screws. Elsewhere on the monster plasma display front, LG Electronics is coming up with a 60-inch model soon. We've been told October but it could be earlier than that. Pricing is likely to be similar to the NEC model. ® Related Story NEC's selling 61-inch plasma displays
Robert Blincoe, 13 Jun 2001

Local loop laggards face EU legal action

Europe is to take legal action against Euro zone countries that have failed to make any headway towards unbundling local telephone loops. European telecoms commissioner, Erkki Liikanen, said that while he was in a position to start legal proceedings now, he has decided to wait until a report on the matter is published in October. He said pursuing any legal action would be a distraction. He added that national teleoms regulators, such as the UK's Oftel, were " working hard to ensure implementation and resolve disputes". Newswire AFX reports that Liikanen said: "...we do not underestimate the ability of the incumbent operators to drag their feet as much as possible in order to postpone competition." So far, Liikanen has received one complaint about the slow implementation of local loop unbundling (LLU) but refuses to say who has been fingered. It's understood that 500,000 telephone lines have been unbundled in Europe so far. BT declined to say how many local loops had been unbundled so far in the UK. However, a spokeswoman for BT was confident the UK would not be subject to any legal challenge. "We have met all the deadlines - even bettered them," she said. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Jun 2001

ICANN CEO gets all headmasterish on Mueller-Maguhn and Auberach

ICANN new CEO M. Stuart Lynn has hit back at claims by at-large board members Andy Mueller-Maguhn and Karl Auerbach that life at the Internet organisation was like "old East Germany". M. Lynn responded to Wired after an article in the mag a few days earlier. He was particularly upset about the accusation that the ICANN board simply rubber-stamped what ICANN staff presented. "The board is not a rubber stamp, it's very active, and to draw any analogies with East Germany is just polemics, not substance," he said. "I think that's nonsense. That's insulting to the board. It's a very thorough, thoughtful, careful board that makes sure to do its homework." Sadly, what Andy Mueller-Maguhn was referring to was his refusal to vote to approve the minutes of the last ICANN meeting on the grounds that he hadn't seen any minutes. Nit-picking you may think. Until, at least, it emerged that there weren't any minutes from the previous meeting. This sparked him to comment: "That is the mentality on the ICANN board: Always to say yes. It's a lot like in the old East Germany." "The point here really is the views that Karl and Andy expressed are rather obviously minority views, but they have been unable to persuade their peers on the board that their views are correct," Lynn continued. This has nothing to do with the fact that very few people on the board have actually been voted onto it by anyone but themselves (self-serving elite, anyone?). And then there's the thing about board members changing their own by-laws so they can remain on the board for longer. In fact the lovely lovely man that helped produce these elastic by-laws, lawyer Joe Sims, was also terribly disappointed in Karl and Andy. It's them that's out of touch, he said, not the ICANN board. He's right, because he'd just changed the rules again (well, it was a Tuesday) and emailed everyone but the two naughty schoolboys. Anyway, Karl and Andy have no real place on the board because so few people voted for them. That's what Stuart Little reckons anyway. "The amount of people who actually voted was minuscule, compared to the number of users on the Internet. There is a concern that they represent a very narrow segment of viewpoints." It seems likely that out of all the organisations in the world, only ICANN could produce this stunning piece of double-think. It is also likely to prove the core argument when ICANN attempts to get rid of all democratically elected board members, so it can continue its love-in. Stu's best line though was this: "It's not a surprise that ICANN sometimes sounds like a Tower of Babel. We're not some closed corporation trying to steer a very carefully crafted point of view. We're an open organisation that allows many voices to come to the table. We sound argumentative because we are designed to be argumentative." Which would beg the questions: why then hold your meetings in secret? Why consistently avoid the topics that most Internet observers are concerned about? Why get other groups to investigate things and then completely ignore their advice? Why purposefully release information only when your own timetable dictates that there isn't time to debate it? Why change your own laws to fit in with self-satisfying aims? Why only have five out of 19 people on the board that are selected by the people you profess to represent? It goes on and on and on. Neither Joe Sims nor Stuart Lynn made reference to the other comments made to Wired by Karl and Andy. These included: "ICANN's founding premise, as defined by the attorneys who put it together, was that the only people who should have a voice in ICANN were stakeholders, which is essentially a code word that means someone who makes money from the Internet." "ICANN has serious structural problems. Hacking ICANN might be the next logical step. The question is how can this unsatisfactory situation be solved." "Here in the United States, corporations do not vote for President or Congress, but they have no trouble making their voices heard. I'm not worried about them not making their voices heard with ICANN. Right now they have virtually 100 percent control." "I believe ICANN staff is completely out of control. The board largely just rubber stamps what the staff does. It's not just ICANN's internal staff. Joe Sims works for a firm we hire. He went out on his own and initiated a complete rewrite of the VeriSign contract that made VeriSign billions of dollars wealthier. The board never asked our opinions. It was presented on a plate to us in Melbourne with a take it or leave it attitude. It's shocking. It's absolutely inappropriate behavior. ICANN's staff pretends it's the emperor and ICANN is a policy organization, but the staff has no accountability, no transparency. The board is the policy-making organ, and yet it has abrogated its responsibility to staff." "If a significant number of Internet users were to simply point their machines to another root server, where would ICANN be? The only reason it has authority is because of inertia." Related Links Check out the Wired articles here and here. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Jun 2001

SonicBlue at loggerheads with Psion over PDA stockpile

SonicBlue does indeed appear to have a problem shifting its Diamond Mako PDA (see SonicBlue axes third of workforce). And we hear that its partner, UK PDA pioneer Psion, is unwilling to help it out. SonicBlue signed up to rebadge Psion's Revo Plus handheld under the Mako name last October. Since then SonicBlue appears to have sold even fewer of the machines than Psion has. Not surprising, that, since the Mako retails for twice the price of the comparably specced Palm m100 and the Handspring Visor. Result: SonicBlue is sitting on a heap of unwanted Makos said to be many thousands of units strong, quite possibly enough to reach the moon if laid end to end. With its finances looking increasingly precarious, SonicBlue wants rid of them. It even told its erstwhile partner that it would dump them on the European market if Psion proved unhelpful. Psion, however, is sticking to its guns - it won't have them back, is demanding its partner pay up and has threatened all sorts of dire consequences if it doesn't. And who can blame it? When it comes to selling PDAs, Psion has problems all of its own. Sounds like a Mexican Stand-off to us. Which company will go for its legal guns first, we wonder? In the meantime, someone, somewhere must want a warehouse full of Makos. We wouldn't say no to a handful. Whatever, suggestions to SonicBlue, please, not us... ® Related Stories SonicBlue axes third of workforce S3 unveils badged Psion PDA
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2001

EU's safer Internet site hacked and down

The European Union's attempt to promote a safer Internet and "tackle the controversial issue of illegal and harmful content on the Internet" has been hacked and is still down a day later. The unknown hackers left this message on SaferInternet.org: "This is our world! We are god and we make the rulezzzzz Happy finding us! The Netherlands is tha place! www.hal2001.nl". Unobjective egotism aside, the irony is delightful. The URL directs to the Hackers At Large meeting at the University of Twente in the Netherlands in August, although there's no evidence that the hackers are actually Dutch. A mirror of the hacked site is here. Perhaps even more embarrassing than being hacked though (you'd think the EU would be a bit more up to speed with security, wouldn't you?), is the number of holes and dodgy security on the site. Paul Rogers from MAS Corporate Defence Solutions had this to tell us: "The server is not as secure as it should have been; it would seem some patches hadn't been installed. The VNC, ColdFusion system ports, FTTP access and MS single server port were all open. It was only going to be a matter of time before it was hacked." Rather embarrassing for a site promoting greater security. "It's clear best practice rules have not been followed," Paul commented. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Jun 2001

IE6 will not monster our cookies, says Doubleclick

Doubleclick cookies may be entirely blocked by the current beta versions of IE6, as detailed in our story yesterday, but the king of the adservers insists that this won't be the case by the time the finished version of IE6 ships, this August. According to Jules Polonetsky, Doubleclick chief privacy officer and special counsel, the company has a machine readable P3P policy in preparation, and this will allow Doubleclick cookies to be accepted by IE6 at the default privacy settings. In addition to his day job Jules tells us he's a member of the P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences) Working Group and an IE6 beta tester, so he speaks with some authority, besides conveying the impression he's some kind of nightmare geek/attorney combo. The position, he says, is that IE6 at default tests whether a cookie collects personal information, whether it profiles with personal information, and whether it allows an opt out. "Doubleclick does not collect personal information with its cookies, does not profile using personal information, and created an opt-out cookie in 1997. Thus the Doubleclick cookie will be accepted by the 6.0 default settings." That of course is not the situation now, and we think Doubleclick may possibly be underestimating the impact of the current IE6 beta code. Doubleclick being a market leader, the sight of its cookies keeling over in the face of IE6 beta code must be furrowing brows all over the world. Doubleclick customers who are also testing IE6 - quite a lot of them, we'd presume - are likely to be putting two and two together and getting five, and we can't help noticing how helpful for Microsoft that is. Even if they are wrong, and the answer doesn't turn out to be five after all. P3P has been developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, and is intended as an industry standard. The Register thinks it's worthless, but we've told you that before so we won't detain you right now. Its implementation, however, is not currently what we'd term independent. The first browser to implement P3P will be IE6, and here's a section from Doubleclick's P3P briefing that we think has some significance in that context: "If a cookie's CP [Compact Policy] is acceptable or unacceptable according to Microsoft's internally set standards" (our emphasis)... That's just a snapshot of the way Redmond is currently embracing independent Internet standards. By keeping ahead of the curve, putting them in place first, Microsoft can call the shots as regards how they're put in place. Thus, in the specific case of IE6, the browser is P3P conformant, but the setting of the particular hurdles is entirely of Microsoft's devising. There are five different security level settings, Microsoft has decided the default will be medium, and if you want flexibility outside of those five different settings you're going to have to hand tool the sites you're concerned/not concerned about. It's also worth noting that it's going to be IE that drives P3P through the Internet. Microsoft is the police force of independent Internet privacy standards. So you just go roll that one around inside your head then smoke it. Actually, IE6 uses a meat-axe approach that is at least arguably worse than the old version whereby IE could be induced to ask you if you wanted (for your added comfort and security, or some such tripe) whether you wanted to accept a cookie. And of course good old Opera will ask you and tell you what they are, so you can deal with them from a position of knowledge on a case by case basis, if you can be bothered.* But that's not the way the callers of shots are going to do it, and unless any last minute breakware is inserted (presumably Jules is watching out for this sort of stuff), Doubleclick is going to be inside the tent they construct rather than outside. For how long? Given what Microsoft proposes to do with .NET, Doubleclick is just one of many companies in many different sectors whose business model is threatened by the voracious and ever expanding Redmond. Just toeing the line has not generally been enough in the past, and there's no reason to believe it will be enough now. ® * We got an impressive number of 'Die, Doubleclick, die' emails after yesterday's piece. Come on people, get real - they made a mistake, they paid their debt to society, they're now totaly paranoid about accusations of privacy infringement and they seem to have an astonishing number of privacy officers. Even if they'd still secretly like to rule the world they know they can't do this, and this is progress. So it really doesn't make sense to hate them more than certain companies who haven't figured this out yet. Anyway, if you really hate Doubleclick that much just go and get the blocking cookie from Doubleclick, or install Opera and give yourself the added satisfaction of clicking no every time one comes by. Otherwise, there's no sense in whining about it.
John Lettice, 13 Jun 2001