14th > June > 2001 Archive

Security flaw in MS Exchange patch

Users of MS Exchange 5.5 or Exchange 2K with OWA (Outlook Web Access) implemented -- including those 2K users who patched their systems last week -- need to install an updated patch as soon as possible because the one issued earlier for Exchange 2K contains outdated files, and the vulnerability in 5.5 went unnoticed at first. The Exchange vulnerability in question executes scripts in HTML e-mail attachments handled by OWA, and could enable an attacker to access a user’s mailbox with the user's level of permission. MS says that, "under certain circumstances," these actions could include "manipulation of messages or folders." By the handy euphemism "manipulation of messages" Microsoft means the attacker can take over and then spam the known universe in your name, threaten the lives of heads of state in your name, confess multiple, cross-gender and inter-generational infidelities to your spouse in your name....you get the picture. "We recommend that all customers who have downloaded the Exchange 2000 patch prior to June 12, 2001 install the updated version," MS says in its most recent Exchange security bulletin. Additionally, the original Exchange 2K patch and associated security bulletin were issued before MS discovered that the vulnerability also affects 5.5 (and probably older, unsupported versions which they didn't bother to check). Thus if you're running 5.5, you might have been led to believe last week that your system isn't affected and promptly lost interest in this little stuff-up -- but not to worry, there's a patch for you too; and MS has every confidence that it won't have to be re-issued next week. ® Related Links The new 5.5 patch The new and improved 2K patch Related Story MS patches Exchange 2000 email spy bug
Thomas C Greene, 14 Jun 2001

Intel backdoor to White House questioned

Senior Bush advisor Karl Rove appears to have been in the loop to some extent regarding Bush Administration approval of the merger of Dutch semiconductor lithography outfit ASML and US outfit Silicon Valley Group (SVG), which Intel strongly recommended, whilst in possession of over $100,000 worth of Intel shares, the Associated Press reports. The merger, which has since been approved (svg.com is already re-directing to ASML), will create the world's largest supplier of semiconductor lithography equipment, chiefly for its principal consumer, Intel. Rove met with Intel lobbyist Jim Jarrett and its CEO Craig Barrett some time ago so that the men could pitch the proposed deal; but according to the official line, he referred them to other, presumably disinterested, members of the Administration, and left it at that. Intel says it was shocked, shocked, to learn that Rove was a shareholder at the time. The White House says Rove "does not recall" ever having brought the matter to the attention of the Knucklehead-in-Chief. Intel lobbyists also had dealings with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who were instrumental in approving the deal. Unfortunately, Rove was CC'ed in correspondence from Intel regarding its pet merger right up to the time it was approved, the AP claims. While Rove might well have behaved himself and remained mute on the topic, the correspondence creates an unfortunate appearance for a President straining to distance himself from the spectacular appearance problems of his immediate predecessor. Interestingly, Rove's Intel shares fell by about twenty per cent during his early tenure in the White House, but had mostly recovered before he finally sold them last Thursday. If something like this had involved a senior Clinton advisor, the Republicans would already be bellowing in the halls of Congress that a special prosecutor needs to be nominated to look into it at great public expense. Thank heaven they've got their boy in the White House now, and have since cancelled that particular circus. ®
Thomas C Greene, 14 Jun 2001

Compel in mini share buy-back

Compel, the UK reseller, conducted a mini buyback of shares yesterday. The company bought 260,000 shares at 95 pence per share. It will cancel these. This is one way to improve earnings per share, perhaps veven to shore up the share price (although it would be more impressive if individual directors bought the stock). It also gives management ever so slightly more control than before the transaction. But surely the company has better things to spend its money. Once the UK's third biggest reseller, Compel is now a mini-Morse, concentrating on the midrange and corporate rental market, following the sale of its desktop division earlier this year to SCC. ®
Drew Cullen, 14 Jun 2001

Ingram Micro suffers sales drop

Ingram Micro has said its sales have slowed down throughout the world, and as a result it has revised what it expects its Q2 revenues to be. After the market closed yesterday it said sales are expected to range from $5.8 billion to $6.0 billion for the three months ending 30 June. Cnet reports that the figures represent a year on year decline of 18 per cent to 20 per cent. Ingram had expected Q2 sales to just fall eight per cent to 14 per cent. Ingram held a conference call after posting its financial statement yesterday. Executives said Ingram would break even at best, but it is possible the company could lose $10 million. Ingram President Michael Grainger said sales around the world were weaker than expected in May and early June. He added that the European downturn started in the UK, crossed over to Scandinavia, and is now afflicting Germany. Ingram pink slipped 1,000 workers earlier this month. ® Related Link Ingram Micro statement Cnet story Related Story Ingram Micro jettisons 1,000 staff Ingram Micro toughs out downturn
Robert Blincoe, 14 Jun 2001

IDT to axe 900 staffers

IDT blamed the downturn in the global chip market for the 900 job cuts it announced yesterday. The US-based company will rid itself of around 18 per cent of its 4900-strong worldwide workforce, primarily by laying off staff at its overseas manufacturing plants in the Philippines and Malaysia. It will also implement a hiring freeze, force some staff to take vacation time, halt all "non-essential" capital spending and instigate a number of other cost-cutting measures. "The industry-wide inventory correction and slowdown in customer demand necessitate that IDT adjust its operating costs and production capability to levels currently required by the markets we serve," said Jerry Taylor, IDT's president and CEO. The company also said its Q2 revenues will be almost half the figure it reported for its first quarter. Then, it recorded sales of $213 million - Q2 is expected to yield only $120 million, a quarter-on-quarter decline of 44 per cent. IDT hopes its cost-cutting programme will save it around $11 million a year, but first it will have to take a $2.5 million hit this quarter to pay for the layoffs. IDT focuses on chips aimed at communications applications, probably the worst-hit sector of the semiconductor industry. IDT is probably best known for its former subsidiary, Centaur, sold in 1999 to VIA, which now sells IDT's WinChip x86-compatible CPUs under the C3 brand, despite calling it Cyrix after its acquisition of that chip maker last year. ®
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2001

Computex goes out with a bang

An earthquake hit Taiwan in the early hours of this morning (GMT, that is - it was 11am in Taiwan), knocking down Web sites and disrupting Internet traffic to the country. The quake - 6.2 on the Richter scale - struck Taipei just a few days after the world's third biggest IT show Computex had ended. Aside from the collapse of Web sites and disruption in Internet connections to Asia, we don't currently have any more details of damage or injury to people. The Web sites are now back up and it would seem that no main cables have been broken. The last big Taiwan earthquake we can think of was this time last year when Mike Magee was there to witness it. Two people died in the 6.7 quake. Taiwan has a massive history of earthquakes and most of them tend to be pretty big. There were other large ones in May last year and three between September and November in 1999. ® Related Stories Taiwan quake kills two, rocks Reg Man killed as quake hits Taiwan When it rains it pours: Taiwan hit again Gates: the earth moved for me
Kieren McCarthy, 14 Jun 2001

Lexmark J110TN

ReviewReview Inkjet printers struggle to compete with lasers in a business environment, because they tend to be more expensive to run and provide slower print speeds. Lexmark aims to change this with the J110TN. This network printer combines the colour printing facilities of an inkjet and the speed of a laser, offering offices the best of both worlds. The J110TN is less costly and a lot smaller than most lasers, so there will be no problem finding space for it. There's a choice of USB or parallel connection, and this version comes with an external MarkNet print server. Setup is easy and the software is simple to use. Lexmark claims it can churn 16ppm (pages per minute) mono and 14ppm colour which, while slower than most lasers, is still pretty fast for an inkjet. However, in our tests it couldn't come up with the goods and, even at its fastest setting, only managed 9ppm for mono and 6ppm colour. This is significantly faster than most inkjet printers, but still nowhere near the speed of a laser printer. In its defence, the price doesn't come close to that of a colour network laser printer either. So it may not be the fastest way to bring colour printing to your office, but it is one of the cheapest. Quality is good, and certainly better than anything on offer from a laser. The maximum resolution is 2400x1200dpi (dots per inch), though 600x600dpi is a more realistic option. Text looks fine even when set to the fast, low resolution, ink-saving setting, but it's no good for graphics or images. Smaller workgroups are likely to run on a tight budget, so the J110TN has a lot to offer. It's much cheaper than a laser printer and, though it's not yet fast enough to match them for speed, it is a step in the right direction. ® Info Price: £693 Contact: 0870 440 0044 Web site: www.lexmark.co.uk Spec Resolution: 2400x1200dpi Interface: USB or parallel Average cost per page: 1.44p mono, 2.18p colour Paper trays: two 250-page Dimensions: 378x510x515mm Weight: 19.7kg This review is taken from the July 2001 issue. All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001 IDG. All rights reserved
PC Advisor, 14 Jun 2001

Iomart tainted by ‘sweatshop’ allegations

Scotland-based broadband provider, Iomart, has been rocked by allegations that it is anti-union and operates its business like a "sweatshop". It is also facing a number of tribunals following employee grievances. A report in the West Highland Free Press cites an unnamed employee who gives an insight into working conditions at the operation. The source claims that employees are only allowed 15 minutes a day for "comfort breaks". Anyone who exceeds this is monitored closely. And if workers are seen to be inactive, supervisors come over and "give you grief". Commenting on the 50 redundancies announced earlier this month, the employee said that the workforce had been given just 10 days to decide whether to apply for voluntary redundancy. They were also not told of the details of the redundancy package. A spokesman for Iomart refuted claims that it operated its business like a "sweatshop". "We absolutely deny this," he told The Register. "We strive to be a progressive company." The WHFP also reports that Iomart received a £700,000 grant from the Western Isles Enterprise on the understanding that it would create 120 jobs in the region by this year. There is some doubt whether this pledge can now be met. No one from Western Isle Enterprise was available for comment by press time. In a hard-hitting editorial the WHFP says: "All of that is currently looking pretty sick and sour. We have no wish to act as premature obituarists, but the pace and direction of events are not encouraging. Instead of 120 jobs in Stornoway, there may soon be 30. And instead of a high-tech showpiece of island enterprise, there is grim talk of "sweatshop" conditions." It continued: "Iomart was established with the assistance of very substantial sums of public money. It enjoyed from the outset great publicity and immense goodwill. All of this is now in free-fall. Surely it is time for the directors of Iomart to look at themselves in the mirror and ask if they can justify their own conduct." ® Related Story Net malaise blamed for iomart lay-offs Related Link Iomart to shed jobs amid "sweatshop" accusations - WHFP
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2001

Palm begins great PDA giveaway in Orange County

Speaking to finanical analysts last month Palm boss Carl Yankowski admitted that much of his surplus inventory could be destined for landfill. Palm didn't anticipate the slump in the PDA business, and exacerbated the problem by announcing its most significant upgrade for five years before it was able to stock the channel with the new kit. But fortunately, Palm is finding more ecologically friendly ways of disposing of the surplus. SAP developers attending the SAPPHIRE 2001 developer conference in Orange County, Florida* this week get a free wireless-enabled Palm VIIx, plus a free month's subscription to Palm.net. That's a sweeter deal than the one Palm announced on Monday for European developers, who receive 40 per cent off the retail price of Palm PDAs until the end of August. Details of the SAP offer are available here. Of course it doesn't make much sense going specially for the freebie - day rates for today and tomorrow are $1,200 each. But it does sweeten some of the pain of being a SAP developer, and of being sent to Orange County*. A fate we wouldn't wish on anyone. ® * Reg doh: And not Orange County, California as we said yesterday. Apologies. We couldn't see for the fog, here... Related Stories Palm brings cheaper PDAs to European developers SonicBlue at loggerheads with Psion over PDA stockpile
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Jun 2001

You can't rely on Tiny to give ‘ultimate in service and support’

Tiny Computers has got a rap on the knuckles from the Advertising Standards Authority for making the outrageous claim that "you can rely on Tiny to give you the ultimate in service and support". One punter from the Isle of White doesn't think you can and the ASA agrees. It has asked Tiny to remove the claim from its advertising. The customer had bought a Tiny PC - presumably the 'BEST 900MHz PC FOR THE PRICE' from the national newspaper advert he was complaining about - and experienced a number of technical difficulties. Tiny said that without knowing the specific customer details, it was difficult to assess the complainant's objection to the claim. It also said that the company aimed to provide high levels of service and carried out regular assessments to ensure those standards were met, and argued that, because of the "technical nature of the goods, queries usually referred to user error instead of a fault with their product". Tiny produced statistical evidence to back up its claim that "you can rely on Tiny to give you the ultimate in service and support." It had a recent survey that showed 90% of customers surveyed would recommend Tiny to other people; over 60% of customers surveyed did not need to call the Technical Support line; and 38% of those that needed technical support had to call once only for the problem to be resolved. The ASA agreed the survey showed that only a small number of customers called the technical support line more than once, and an even smaller number of customers called the after-sales support line more than once about the same problem. BUT the ASA said it "understood that there had been press coverage concerning complaints about the advertisers' service and that another organisation had received a significant number of complaints about the advertisers' customer services." That'll be BBC's Watchdog. In conclusion the ASA said: "In view of the number of complaints, the Authority considered that the advertisers had not substantiated their claim. It asked the advertisers to remove the claim and amend their advertisements with the help of the Committee of Advertising Practice Copy Advice team." ® Related Link ASA adjudication Related Stories Tiny to undercut Dixons through in-store online sales BBC Watchdog wards off PC helpline gagging bid
Robert Blincoe, 14 Jun 2001

We know BT's future strategy

We always suspected that BT top bods Sir Peter Bonfield and Sir Iain Vallance wouldn't know a decent business strategy if it ran up and bit them on the arse. That's why we were slightly confused and mildly impressed when its latest restructure plan to split the monster into two - BT Wireless and Future BT - was announced. It, well, it appeared to make good sense. Maybe the pressure of being forced out by furious shareholders and City analysts got the two of them thinking clearly for once. But no. We can exclusively reveal that what they actually did was panic. And amid the panic they reached out and grabbed anything they could find. In this case it was a business blueprint from its pal over the water AT&T. We haven't followed AT&T's progress all that closely (mostly because of that transatlantic thing) but imagine our surprise when we hear AT&T will spin off its wireless business as a separate company on 9 July. That is the first part of its plan to making the telecoms behemoth more flexible and efficient. If you have an AT&T share, you'll get a third of a share in the new company called - get this - AT&T Wireless. Doesn't that sound familiar? Why, yes, it's exactly what BT has said it's going to do. Now observing AT&T may not in itself be a bad idea. In many ways, its situation is the same as BT's - big former monopolist finding that the market is overpowering it. However, if you're going to pay directors millions of pounds a year, ought they not to come up with original ideas? Not only that but it's looks as though BT's abject failure to actually do something when it was clear it was getting in hot water may be tied in with the fact that AT&T didn't do anything. But then AT&T didn't have to at the time. This AT&T tracking theory may also explain why BT has manifestly failed to do anything with its joint venture with AT&T called Concert. Concert has been a disaster and is costing millions and millions of pounds every year, but with no tangible success in the market. We remember a year ago BT not answering any questions about Concert. Perhaps we should have dug deeper because it's quite apparent now that the whole topic was off limits. When AT&T said jump Bonfield and Vallance said how high. Things thankfully have changed. Vallance has been pulled out of the boardroom (although he couldn't be fired of course, that wouldn't be right), Bonfield is still there as CEO but is vastly diminished in influence, Brace was kicked out too. The man to watch now is new chairman Sir Christopher Bland. We're beginning to like him more and more. We still don't think that he'll be any good after BT is back on his feet but he's been brought in to sort the telecoms giant out and by god he's doing it. BT staff are feeling nauseous - they've never moved so fast in their lives. It's off the gravy train and onto the rollercoaster. Bland has sold off huge tracts, reducing debt. He's pushed the Yell sale - which has been in limbo for years. He's getting the company ready for split-up. He's sold off the real estate at an incredibly efficient speed. And he's made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the Concert situation will not stand as it is for much longer. The man's a star. It's a shame that we just sussed the AT&T trailing situation when a man with a brain got behind BT's controls. Nevertheless, we'll be keeping a much keener eye on the US company in future. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 14 Jun 2001

CIBER buys Aris Corporation

US reseller CIBER is buying Aris Corporation for $31.4m in cash and stock. Aris is a $50m Microsoft-centric systems integrator with operations in the US and the UK. Colarado-based CIBER is a $600m t/o business with "27 years of solid experience in the US, Canada and Netherlands". The company said in a statement: "The IT services industry is over capitalized and calls out for consolidation. The fleeting Internet service providers will all disappear soon, but there are solid `operators' with good employees and strong customer relationships. Aris is such a company". Aris has a strong balance sheet but is not making an operating profit. CIBER think it can take into the black through "significant synergies, such as corporate offices and branches". ®
Drew Cullen, 14 Jun 2001

Q: How do you pass off a cancer-reducing mobile add-on?

The controversy continues over reports that mobile phone manufacturers have patented cancer-reducing add-ons, when they claim there is no risk to humans from the phones. Two days after The Times revealed the gadgets' existence, the phone companies have come up with their explanation. The "radiation-reducing devices" are not for reducing or redirecting waves that could cancer - why would that be the case when there's no risk? - no, they are for improving the phone's efficiency. This is a really good thing because it means batteries will last longer. The "innovations" are for reducing the amount of radio waves that the phones emit, spokespeople from Ericsson and Motorola have said (haven't heard from Nokia yet), but the momentum behind their development is not to do with "health issues", it's for performance and efficiency. This may seem like a particularly poor explanation, especially when they've had two days to think up an answer, but what other possibilities are there? If any readers have any better excuses email them to us and we'll forward them to the manufacturers. This would be our explanation: that the shields are being developed to keep emissions from the next-generation of phones (which will have far greater power requirements) below the safe limits imposed by law. Limits that current mobile phones are well below. Maybe we should go into PR. The cancer issue - quite rightly - won't go away. For every study concluding that phones pose no risk, there is another saying they can cause brain tumours. It's a similar sort of situation as the argument over power lines and cancer/congential defects and nuclear power sites and leukaemia . The government's official line at the moment is that young children should be wary with their usage. ® Related Link The Times article: Mobile firms patent cancer shields Related Stories Mobiles don't cause cancer! This time Top US lawyer seeks mobile-phone cancer cash We've got brain cancer and we want your money US says cell phones won't kill you My head hurts and I want $800 million It's official: mobile phones give you diarrhoea
Kieren McCarthy, 14 Jun 2001

Apple to shine through PC market gloom – analyst

Apple will defy the PC industry downturn, market analysis firm Goldman Sachs has claimed. The company reckons that Apple's new product line-up - a reference to the rumoured upcoming next-generation iMac, we wonder - will boost the value of AAPL shares by 25-30 per cent through the second half of the year. Apple's shareprice has been hit by Wall Street's latest downer on hi-tech stock, driven by the downturn in the PC market. That unease led analyst IDEAadvisor to claim that the outlook for Apple isn't so hot and that the Mac maker may be forced to issue a profits warning before it completes its current, third fiscal quarter, which ends this month. By contrast, Wall Street reckons Apple will post a profit of 16 cents a share for the three months to 30 June. Last quarter, Apple posted earnings of 12 cents a share, amounting to $43 million. Q3 2000 saw earnings of 120 cents a share. ® Related Story Apple may issue profit warning - analyst
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2001

Doubleclick fails in California privacy challenge

Doubleclick has failed to get four California Internet privacy class actions dismissed. This means that it will have to fight the cases in court. The class action plaintiffs say that Doubleclick should obtain permission first before "tracking, storing, and analyzing what families click on and read on the Internet". Plaintiffs allege that "DoubleClick has secretly and in an unauthorized manner used "cookies", "Web bugs" and other means to secretly intercept and access computer users' personal data and Web browsing habits for its own commercial benefit". By doing this, the company is infringing rights to privacy enshrined in the California constitution. It gets even more grubby: Doubleclick violated provisions of California's Penal Code concerning illegal eavesdropping on communications; and unjustly enriched DoubleClick at Internet users' expense. The complaint also alleges that DoubleClick's practices are unlawful, fraudulent and unfair under California's state consumer protection act". "What's worse," Seth R. Lesser, of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP, a co-lead counsel, claims in a statement "is that DoubleClick has been promoting itself as concerned about consumer privacy when, in fact, the very nature of its business is to secretly monitor and profile Internet users' habits by tagging the with a unique identifier as they surf the Internet. Most Internet users have no idea this is occurring since DoubleClick's presence on thousands of websites is rarely disclosed". Watching the Detectives In January, Doubleclick received a clean bill of privacy health from the FTC. In March the company won a federal case in New York (which is subject to appeal). But it looks like it could be facing a blizzard of class actions across various states. It goes to show that whereas in Europe we have regulation, the US has litigation. Europe has tougher data protection and privacy laws than the US. And Doubleclick obeys these data protection and privacy laws. This means that any attempt to construct a class action against the company in, say, the UK, would fail. This does not make the American way better - or worse. Only that the courts have a much bigger say in determining public policy than here. It will be interesting to see how Doubleclick fares - it is certainly facing an uphill struggle in the Court of Public Opinion. The depth of feeling (i.e. hatred) that Doubleclick arouses astonishes us. Why doesn't Engage or Ad Juggler or other cookie-inserting ad servers arouse the same amount of fury? The answer to this lies partly in sheer size: people don't like underdogs and Doubleclick is by far the biggest ad-serving company. Also it is, through acquisition, the world's biggest email marketing company. But the catalyst for much of this controversy lies in Doubleclick's clumsy plan last year to aggregate information from multiple online and offline sources. The technology and the data is there for Doubleclick to associate cookie information garnered from anonymous surfers with personally identifiable information gathered from offline sources, such as credit information. The company backed down in March 2000 before a storm of protest (Story: DoubleClick throws in the towel on profiling). Doubleclick doesn't do profiling. But so many people still hate it. We don't. To cap it all As many of you know already - you're IT-savvy readers after all - we use Doubleclick DART ad serving technology, and have done so for more than two years. It's no secret: our main customers are the London media agencies and they want third party ad servers. In practice they want DART or Engage - they're comfortable with the integrity of the reports and they understand the format. We plumped for DART as its pay as you go pricing model suits a small company such as ours (although we're approaching the kind of size where buying Engage begins to look attractive). Our advertisers want us to do the following things: frequency cap - limit the number of times an ad is seen geotarget - 95 per cent of our ads are served only to UK Reporting - a trusted mechanism to confirm the numbers of ads served. In addition, we gain an accurate idea of how many readers we have for our various sections, and what countries they come from. We do not know who you are - and DART cannot tell us who you are. Advertisers would like us to do some other things - such as serve ads only to computer dealers. DART cannot do this. We do not know who you are. Perhaps we should. Clearly there is a commercial imperative for publishing companies to know more about their readers. The more they know, and the more they can prove they know, the easier it is to make money from advertisers. (Why do you think the online IT pub world has gone free email newsletter-crazy? This is soft-soap opt-in permission-based demographic-generating marketing.) If Doubleclick is found to infringe privacy rights in the States by failing to get permission to insert cookies on PCs, many more sites will insist upon registration as the price of entry. If you want to avoid signing in each time, or want some degree of personalisation, you will have to accept a cookie on your PC. Is that really so difficult? ® Here's our privacy statement. Related stories IE6 will not monster our cookies, says Doubleclick WinXP IE6 spells death for Doubleclick - and a boost for MSN?
Drew Cullen, 14 Jun 2001

Xerox abandons SOHO sector

Xerox, the blue chip-to-pauper imaging biz, is leaving the retail sector. The debt-driven company says this is consistent with stated aim of focusing on "core growth opportunities". The move will also "generate significant cash savings and improved earnings". In Q1, this year the company's SOHO (small office/home office) sales were $139m (three per cent of group revenues) and a whopping pre-tax loss of $82m. The company forecasts a similar loss in Q2. Xerox will wind down its personal inkjet and copier products, sold mostly through retail, over the next six months. This will help its inventory position - but the length of withdrawal will do nothing for average selling prices - or keenness for retailers and disties to pay up in a hurry. It is also very nice news for HP and Canon. ®
Drew Cullen, 14 Jun 2001

BT's broadband roll-out fails UK

Four out of ten British households will be unable to access broadband services once BT has completed, in September, its planned roll-out of ADSL in the UK. After that, any future upgrading of telephone exchanges to accommodate DSL technology will have to be proven to be demand led and "commercially viable". However, in the current climate it appears BT will be in no rush to invest further in its broadband network. According to BT's own figures, once its planned roll-out of DSL is complete in September 48 per cent of schools with be unable to hook up to DSL technology and 29 per cent of colleges will also be able to experience hi-speed Net access. A third of Britain's existing Net users will also be unable to use DSL, as will half of all libraries. This is a far cry from the rhetoric of a couple of two years ago when BT "pledged to go full steam ahead with its planned investment programme that will lead to the creation of Broadband Britain". Rebecca Webster, head of broadband marketing for BT told The Register: "We have announced our [roll-out] plans up to the end of September. We will continue to rollout if the demand is there and there is a firm business case. We have not announced forward plans because we do not want to raise expectations unduly. She continued: "We prioritised the exchanges according to where Internet usage is highest and therefore where the demand for bandwidth was greatest. "Provisioning the exchanges requires a huge up-front investment. It would be a high-risk strategy to continue to rollout out to the lower demand areas, given the demand in recent months. We need to take stock and see what happens to the market now that the allocations scheme has been removed," she said. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2001

STMicro cuts Q2 sales forecasts

STMicroelectronics has slashed Q2 revenue forecasts. It expects to have sales of $1.55 billion to $1.6 billion, down on the $1.65 billion to $1.8 billion it forecast earlier. The company says it has been hit by order postponements and lower than expected utilisation rates of its 6-inch wafer fabs. It also said sales of memory products would decline from Q1 levels because of pricing pressure and slowing demand. ® Related Story STMicro cuts 2001 budget
Robert Blincoe, 14 Jun 2001

Oftel tries to steal unmetered limelight

Oftel is once again blowing its own trumpet and claiming responsibility for introducing affordable unmetered Net access in the UK. The winged watchdog published benchmark figures today which show that when it comes to Net access, the UK is cheaper than California and Germany. According to its latest international benchmarking report (the figures are three months old, by the way) 24/7 unmetered Net access in the UK costs from £18 per month - as compared to £19 per month in California, and £39 per month in Germany. An Oftel press release claims that "David Edmonds said that Oftel's work had delivered lower prices for consumers." Oftel's work has delivered lower prices for consumers? Is this some kind of sick joke? If David "Harry Potter" Edmonds, headboy of Oftel is so bloody keen to claim responsibility for introducing unmetered net access, perhaps he'd also like to take responsibility for the botch job done on broadband in British. Nah, I didn't think he would either. ® Related Story CUT calls time on unmetered campaign
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2001

Sun board bandit pleads guilty to £1.7m raids

A 20-year-old member of a slick computer robbery squad pleaded guilty yesterday to being part of a team which boosted £1.7 million in Sun boards from UK City banks. Harry Harris appeared at Southwark Crown Court. He will remain in custody until sentencing in August. Harris' trial is part of a long running series stemming from 21 arrests police made in November 2000 related to hi-tech robberies in the City. In April Tony Manigan, 29, and John Sheehan, 21, were sentenced to six years apiece. They'd admitted to being part of a crew which stole the Sun kit to order and had scored more than £3 million worth of kit. Harris said he was one of a gang of four which used forged security cards to get into the banks. Manigan and Sheehan had secured swipe cards from insiders to get into the banks, but were later identified from CCTV footage. ® Related Stories Sun thieves get six years apiece Police grab DNA from server thieves
Robert Blincoe, 14 Jun 2001

‘Son of MP3’ to launch today

The brains behind the controversial MP3 digital audio format will unveil a higher quality, more compact version later today. Called MP3 Pro, the format emerged earlier this year and was to have made its first public appearance late March or early April. MP3 Pro's creators, France's Thomson Multimedia and Germany's Fraunhofer Institute, claim the new format requires half the disk space needed to encode the previous generation of MP3 files. Alternatively, it will double the sound quality at the same file size - essentially a 128Kbps MP3 Pro file will take up as much storage space as a 64Kbps MP3 track. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the new format isn't entirely backward compatible. An MP3 Pro player will have no trouble pumping out older MP3 files. Existing MP3 players will reproduce MP3 Pro files poorly, since the new version splits audio data into two streams, unlike MP3's single stream. MP3 players will play one of MP3 Pro's two streams, resulting in a significant loss of fidelity. Like MP3, the new technology will be provided free to writers of non-commercial audio decoders, but producers of encoding software and commercial decoders will have to license the codec. MP3 Pro royalties are around 50 per cent higher than their MP3 equivalents. As yet, MP3 Pro has had no official backing from any of the major digital music companies. Only Thomson has said it will use the technology in digital music hardware it is planning to release later this year. ® Related Story MP3 creators ready 'son of MP3'
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2001

ICANN launches Whois review

Everyone's favourite Internet Napoleon ICANN has launched a public review of the Whois system. The Whois system, if you don't know, is basically the Internet's phone directory. Tap in a domain name and it will tell you if the domain is already registered and if so by who. From here the level of information varies depending on what the domain is. Coms, nets and orgs give a wide range of information including contact details, with telephone number, both personal and technical and dates that the domain was registered/renewed etc. Country codes vary in the amount of information they offer: for example co.uks - run by Nominet - give you very little information so finding offline contact details can be like getting blood from a stone. And so ICANN has produced a fairly lengthy survey form which anyone can fill in to express their feelings about the current Whois system with a view to improving the system for the majority of users. This is good news. It's precisely the service that ICANN ought to be providing - improving the Internet infrastructure by taking a referendum of the people that use it. However, this is also ICANN we're talking about, and past experience dictates that there's an ulterior motive. The form itself is impartial and surprisingly open-minded for ICANN (it even includes the option that ICANN actually pay for the upkeep of the Whois database - blimey!). However, just because the information gathering exercise is non-biased does not mean that the resulting stats won't be twisted to fit whatever cause ICANN wishes to embark upon. The most likely negative use ICANN can put the survey to is reeling in country code top-level domains to its policy. As the people around the world that run country TLDs have grown more militant at ICANN's emperor-like stance - including threatening to pull out of ICANN's control completely - the secretive organisation has been looking at ways to quieten the peasants. One indication of this was its transparent attempt to force ccTLDs into signing up to the flawed uniform dispute resolution policy (UDRP) in February. If ICANN starts exerting influence on one aspect of ccTLDs, you can be sure it will push it for all it's worth with the threat of withdrawal from whatever agreements have already been made. If this is the route ICANN is attempting to follow, the survey will give it plenty of ammunition. For example, there are frequent references to Whois information being "inaccurate" i.e. people (bad people) give limited or false information and then do all manner of nasty things. These people should be held accountable! The simple fact is though that it is surprisingly easy to shut down a site if they are up to dodgy or illegal things - just go to the ISP or domain registrar. This logic is unlikely to be followed by ICANN in its mission to gain control of the entire Internet however. The other aspect about even having a review of the Whois database and including domains in which ICANN doesn't have any control over is that it is demonstrating its belief that it ought to be in control. We remember telling our concerns about ICANN's Napoleonic crusade over a beer to a leading light in the UK's Net infrastructure. He expressed a very clear view that ICANN was simply the gatekeeper for the Internet and any attempt to become Lord of the manor would be vigorously resisted. That's fine for the UK - a confidently strong member of the Internet community - but what of the other countries that see having ICANN's favour as a lifebuoy? While we would love to see ICANN doing its job as gatekeeper and general housekeeper of the Internet system, we've never seen any evidence that it is happy in this lowly role. We will be watching the survey results very carefully. ® Related Stories WIPO loads dice in domain dispute conference ICANN CEO gets all headmasterish on Mueller-Maguhn and Auberach Country code chiefs go nuclear on ICANN The ICANN meeting in a nutshell Country code chiefs, registrars mull Smoking pistol unravels VeriSign domain name stitch-up
Kieren McCarthy, 14 Jun 2001

Oracle slams IBM with 9i release

Ken Jacobs, on a whistle-stop run through the UK, came to the IT-Analysis offices to explain his take on Oracle - and to give us a sneak preview of the 9i release later today. Price cuts, clustering and complaints about 'IBM's misinformation' was the message. I've been having a look at your homepage recently and it seems full of more spin than the Labour Party, are you getting desperate for revenues? No one's ever accused Oracle of being shy that's for certain. And yes we are undoubtedly focussed on increasing revenues but who isn't? The point though is that we support our claims with facts. Recently there has been a lot of misinformation from IBM and Microsoft about database pricing but we are very competitively priced. If you look at the competition, once you've actually bought all of the components you need, Oracle is actually a lot cheaper. Further to that, today's 9i announcement will come with some low-cost pricing options. We are being very competitive. We want Oracle to be the low-cost option that is easy to install and maintain. Okay so tell me about 9i. This is obviously a big release for us. The 9i product comes with more than 400 new features and much of the focus for this release is on lowering costs, providing scalability and availability and making it easier to manage. So what have you done to tackle those issues? Well, we have included a new management interface, Oracle Data Guard, which provides protection against human errors and natural disasters. It has self-tuning facilities and technologies that take a lot of the drudge work out of administration. Things like rollback, memory management, managing logs and such like has all been automated and we have found that this should reduce the DBA burden by as much as 40%. There is also a raft of Business Intelligence enhancements in there too. The traditional cost of business intelligence was very high so 9i has OLAP ETL tools and other facilities built in. The whole thing can now be done with a single pass, using a single repository and that's a big boon. And what else can we expect from 9i, I understand that clustering is a big push this year? The big news is clustering, the Oracle Real Application Clusters, that will take scalability and availability in to new areas. It's going to be a lot more cost effective for the organisations that use our products too. This can be used to deliver new levels of scalability to applications.- and no one can compete with that. But haven't IBM and Microsoft already tackled that? To be honest I'm pleased that these two have been talking about their clustering technologies because, with one look at ours, people will see that our developments are far more significant, we are offering transparent scalability. We are reducing the cost of ownership considerably by enabling organisations to cluster just about anything, Intel boxes, Linux boxes, a multitude of configurations, and that saves the customer the expense of running mainframes. That sounds like an assault on IBM's home-turf? IBM is in a desperate situation right now. DB2 is not gathering ISV support, its Unix business isn't as robust as ours and mainframe sales are in jeopardy. IBM has support for DB2 from HP, Sun and such like, but it can't make substantial gains in this (Unix) space for account management reasons. If a Sun salesperson sells DB2 it opens the doors to IBM account managers who will come in and try and sell IBM hardware - that's not appealing. As such, IBM might make a few percentage gains in the AIX space, which is fine, but the rest will be a major struggle. Explain how you see the mainframe business exactly? You've just got to look at the market applications are not being deployed on mainframes. SAP and Computer Associates are shifting people away from mainframes onto Unix because mainframes are just too expensive. And that leaves the ground open for us to move in with our new clustering technology. It's a simple market forces thing, mainframe sales are slipping and IBM can't do anything to stop that. They will try and fight us in the Unix space but we'll be taking the honours, we've been growing revenues very fast in this space. IBM's technology is years behind us. Just look at the 7.2 DB2 release, its got features we had in 1998. So it sounds like you are fighting back against the IBM assault quite aggressively? This isn't our fight. Janet Perna (IBM's General Manager for Data Management Solutions) announced that IBM were gunning for Oracle. And they came out with a whole host of false pricing comparisons and we are fighting back against that misinformation. We've had enough raps from them, they've really ramped up their marketing and PR efforts and they're spouting FUD, we are just putting the facts on the table. How noble. What about the Informix acquisition, doesn't that get you a bit nervous? To be honest, the Informix purchase reeks of desperation to me. IBM might see some of the Informix customer base switch over to DB2, but we'll be taking the rest. All IBM has done is confuse and dilute its development teams by fragmenting the environment. But surely Microsoft is ramping up the pressure in the NT space? Recent figures showed they had a lead over you - admittedly it was only 0.7%? Those figures showed a very marginal lead as you note and we can take that back. We are finding that users of SQL Server are very quickly hitting a scalability ceiling that they simply can't pass and, for us, that's low-hanging fruit that we are quite happy to pick. Added to that, our new clustering technology enables people to scale applications across Intel boxes way-beyond the competition giving customer access to massively scalable, low cost technology that they can run on low cost hardware that they are familiar with. So you've got your results coming out next week, the analyst community seems to expect a rough ride - you've been downgraded by quite a number of them - is it fair to say that your applications and lack of management focus has left Oracle damaged? Absolutely not. Obviously I can't comment on next weeks results but it's worth bearing in mind that Oracle is a very strong company. Some commentators are saying that Oracle is actually a good buy right now, so you've got to balance that view from the financial community. If you look at the previous quarter Oracle announced a shortfall of 5% but still made improvements on margins. The problem we suffered though is that we are typically the first to announce our results and we suffer for that. The last quarter we were the first company to show the effects of the economic slow down. If analysts had looked back however, after everyone else had done their results, they would have said, 'wow, Oracle only lost 5%.' What about the state of the applications business, my feeling is that it hasn't been growing anywhere near substantially enough to fend off competition from SAP, PeopleSoft etc. I think the growth of the applications business is pretty good actually. We've been through stages where we have been turning in growth whilst the competition has been growing negatively. We are making substantial inroads into CRM and companies like Ariba, who you compared us with unfavorably in the past, are in a desperate situation as a whole. Some people are even questioning its viability as a company. What about Siebel, you are still a long way off them now? Siebel is bigger than us in that space right now but we are investing a lot of money in our CRM applications and this side of the business is growing. But there has been criticism over the day to day running of operations and such like. Are you missing Ray Lane and Gary Bloom? No, simply. I don't understand why people are still talking about this, Ray left over a year ago and the company has not gone out of business, we are still executing well and will continue to do so. The management team that is in place right now is one of the strongest Oracle has ever had. © IT-Analysis.com. All rights reserved.
IT-Analysis, 14 Jun 2001

Country domain chiefs prefer jaw-jaw to war-war

Breakway county code chief Willie Black, chief of the UK registrar Nominent, sounded a conciliatory note towards ICANN today. Having read the riot act to ICANN in Los Angeles, and with the ccTLDs unanimously voting to withdraw from the key DNSO support organisation, Black thinks ICANN is much more prepared to do business now. However he staked his claim for formal representation on the main ICANN board for the country code registrars, and representation as a fully fledged support-organisation status. "The discontent is less than it used to be," he told us today. "There's a good positive approach from Lynn," he says, which is in marked contrast to the "military" manner of his predecessor as ICANN CEO, Maximum Leader (and now presumably Maximum CFO) Mike Roberts. "Stuart knows he isn't going to browbeat two hundred and fifty countries into the ground," said Black. "Because we pay a third of the piper, it's fair that we should have some say in the tune," he told us. "Less and less ccTLD representatives have stopped going to DNSO meetings - I didn't go to the last few," he said. "ICANN is appearing to be much more reasonable to the ccTLDs now." "I don't know if standing up and shouting had an effect - but I'd like to think we pushed them in the right direction!", he chuckled. He didn't characterize the breakaway as going nuclear, and dismissed the idea that the move had been made with ICANN's blessing, as an email reported at ICANNWatch suggests. The ccTLDs will not be leaving ICANN, he stressed. But the price of good relations seems to be fully fledged support-organisation status for the country code registrars, and at least one seat on the board. As the ccTLDs provide a third of ICANN's operating income, it's easy to see grounds for the ccTLDs discontent in the labyrinthine ICANN process. Black said the country code chiefs haven't discussed what they'd need to be mollified: "we haven't looked that far ahead," he says. More important than the number of board seats is the issue of support organisation status, which would give the registrars the "ability to be able to be seen." So how many board seats would he like to see, exactly? "More than zero," he told us. "At least one board member - three is a moot point," Black had a harsh words for the private Idealab sponsored domain alternative new.net, comparing them to script kiddies. "Anyone who tries to intefere with the world root is tantamount to writing a virus," he says. And unsurprisingly is scornful of suggestions that other alternative roots could provide a working alternative. "There'd be chaos," he said. "You'd simply be transferring the problem from one domain to the root." ® Related Stories Country code chiefs go nuclear on ICANN Country code chiefs, registrars mull ICANN breakaway
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Jun 2001