27th > June > 2001 Archive

MS to blow imaginary $1bn on hyping WinXP to stardom

Whenever Redmond marketing says "$1 billion" you just know it's not going to be true. And this week's bid by Microsoft president and COO (didn't he do well?) Rick Belluzzo to kick-start the WinXP feeding frenzy is no exception. Speaking at a Microsoft partner marketing day in Las Vegas yesterday Belluzzo shared (it says here) "Microsoft's plans for the marketing frenzy behind Microsoft Windows XP and [launched] an unprecedented campaign for the revolutionary new operating system." To be fair Microsoft only says that it and its partners are kicking off "a billion dollar marketing campaign" for XP, but the unwary will still fail to clock how little Microsoft itself will actually be spending. The list of involved partners of course extends to virtually everybody - Intel, the PC companies, resellers, distributors - and all of them, obviously, will be spending money on promoting their own wares in conjunction with XP. The economic situation being what it is, they are desperate people anyway. Intel in particular will be chucking megabucks at promoting the Pentium 4, and Microsoft does bashfully inform us that "a total of $500 million" will come from Microsoft and Intel alone "to promote Windows XP and Pentium 4 PCs." If we presume Intel's contribution to this is not unadjacent to the $300 million it's already committed to spending on P4 promotion, then Microsoft's own spend might just be read as being $200 million, with the hardware manufacturers and the channel shouldering the rest. That would, however, be an unsafe presumption. You see, dear reader, this sort of money is not real; you could maybe refer to it as fluffybucks. In exchange for promoting the right wares in the right way, channel partners receive all sorts of support in the form of discounts, subsidies, co-op marketing money and the like from the hardware suppliers. And the software suppliers. And Intel. Hardware suppliers promoting their wares get similar deals from their suppliers, sometimes resulting in them getting money for doing absolutely pointless things. Like, for example, the tag on some PC vendors' ads currently running in the UK that says they only ship with genuine Microsoft Windows, and here's the URL for the 'grass a friend' service. The first part of this at least is somewhat redundant, but the money involved gets accounted for as part of Microsoft's allegedly huge 'fighting piracy' spend,* so everybody's happy. Back at the marketing spend minefield, however, the only thing clear is that nothing's clear. And to confuse matters further marketing spend tends to be fuzzed into development costs, so huge amounts of fluffybucks can pop up in wild marketing claims covering several departments. But it's usually the same money, and it frequently barely exists anyway. Check the annual report to see how much marketing and R&D spend went up and you might get somewhere in the same hemisphere as the truth, but probably not much closer. What though is it that these fluffybucks are promoting? Belluzzo said: "With release candidate 1 of Windows XP coming in the next ten days, we are working together with our top software, hardware, channel and retailing partners to communicate the amazing set of experiences delivered with Windows XP." Note in passing that ten days from the 26th gets us to 5th-6th July, so it might be next Friday rather than the 'final cut-off' 4th July, but we'll see. At the client level XP is Win2k with bolt-ons, many of them naggy pop-ups. It's got built-in CD burning, from Roxio, but CD burning isn't hard (although sometimes Roxio does a fair job of making it look so). It's got built in Windows Media Player, the salient features of which appear to us to be that it's intended to push WMA format and Microsoft Digital Rights Management systems. Which is good for Microsoft, we accept. And then there's the revolutionary new UI, which isn't; it makes a few minor moves in the right direction, some more in the wrong one - it's a twiddle. But it's got pretty icons - great. The recently re-tagged Windows.NET Server brings a little more to the picture. It is appropriately called Windows.NET Server, we are told by some excessively grumpy and resentful churl sites, because it will ship with the .NET Common Language Runtime (CLR). The renaming is therefore not a marketing decision, as the gutter press at The Register claimed. But the CLR will ship as an add-on for Win2k server, which will allow businesses to implement .NET without having to "upgrade" to Windows.NET. As Gartner eloquently puts it, "The Windows.NET Server naming should be considered a branding change, not a fundamental technology change." It isn't a major architectural change from Win2k, "it remains a minor upgrade." Not a lot there, is there, to justify the billion dollars Microsoft will be inducing everybody else to spend on getting you lot to buy it? Just try to hold on to this as the frenzy builds to its October crescendo. ® * Money spent on boasting about anti-piracy successes probably also counts as money spent on fighting piracy. Boasting about the amount of money spent on anti-piracy could also count as money spent on fighting piracy. We'd best stop there before disappearing up our own fundament, but as Chairman Lou could have said, what goes around comes around, and frequently meets itself coming back.
John Lettice, 27 Jun 2001

Alldas defaced!

Alldas.de, the defacement archive, was... defaced yesterday. "Around 15:44 the database for the News section had a new topic, simply stating that "Alldas.de got cracked". After ~1 min. the database was cleaned and nothing else on the page was affected. How could this have happened?," The site said on its news page. Alldas figured out what the intruder had done by poring over the log files - its analysis was confirmed by the cracker, who emailed: "I had no intention to clear your database or to root your server. No attempt to do this has been made." Alldas says its log files show different. The cracker suckered Alldas' scripts to mirror another Web site. This site "was used to execute commands on the server (as an unprivileged user)". No higher access levels were reached - the cracker was unable to read mail or to download or install bindshells. "The actual penetration wasn't really big, though it is kinda embarrassing to get 'defaced' as a defacement mirror," Fredrik of Alldas said on the site. "We regret it that the attacker didn't inform us about the bug and choose to deface the site with all the consequences that go hand in hand with it." ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Jun 2001

Palm looks to profitability as Q4 losses, sales beat expectations

Palm reckons it will be back in the black by the end of the year but having just announced an operating loss of $153.6 million, it may have a tough time achieving its goal. For the three months to 1 June - Palm's fourth quarter - the company recognised revenues of $165.3 million, just above the $140-160 million range it forecast in May, but still well down on the $350 million it recorded this time last year. Back then it also said it expected losses in the range $170-190 million, so again, the final figure of $153.6 million proved better than expected, though such company-anticipated figures often err on the side of caution (and making the final figure look a little better). Driving the massive loss was a $268.9 million inventory write-down, a move Palm was always going to have to make to shift its older PDAs quickly so they don't interfere with the take-up of its new m50x family. Also contributing were a $60.9 million charge arising from layoffs and its decision to forego on a shiny new HQ. Further charges totalling $160.7 arose from the drop in the value of the land on which its HQ was to have been built and other expenses. Charges swelled Palm's headline loss to $392.1 million (69 cents a share). Looking ahead, Palm CFO Judy Bruner said the company will post on operating loss of $60-80 million next quarter, the first of fiscal 2002. on revenue up around 27 per cent to $200-220 million. Q1 will be all about inventory management, with Palm hoping to get its inventory down to 4-8 weeks, from its current size, 10 weeks. Q2 should see the company return to profit with a modest income of $5-20 million on revenues of $420-440 million, buoyed by pre-Christmas spending. The company has at least $158 million in costs - inventory, restructuring charges and land expenses, mostly - to spread over the next two quarters. It also plans to spend a shedload of cash to promote the new m505 'iPaq killer' PDA. Palm CEO Carl Yankowski yesterday used his TechX (aka PC Expo) keynote to stress the company's moves to attract corporate buyers. He also said that consumer demand rose in May to the level it had been in February. But with the US economy in the state it's in, consumer demand should probably be seen as fickle for the time being. ® Related Stories Palm knuckles up to Gartner, sucks up to Big Biz Palm to give $2.3m of unsold PDAs to education Palm halves Q4 revenue guidance, doubles loss
Tony Smith, 27 Jun 2001

Intel plans second 300mm development fab

Intel plans to expand its Hillsboro, Oregon facility with a new development fab, according a planning permission application the chip giant filed with local authorities late last week. The new operation, do be called D1D, is believed to be destined to host Intel's efforts to produced 0.10 micron process technology on 300mm wafers. The recently opened its $250 million D1C development facility at Hillsboro is ramping up Intel's 0.13 micron process on 300mm wafers. Hillsboro is also the site of the company's Fab 20 mainstream production plant. The planning application details a three-story building with 175,000sq ft of fabrication facilities, according to local newspaper The Oregonian. The paper reckons Intel will hear within four weeks whether Hillsboro's bigwigs will allow it to build the plant. If construction goes ahead, the plant will open some time in 2003, depending, of course, on Intel's desire to maintain its investment programme, which in turn depends on the economic climate. The company is committed to spending $7.5 billion this year alone on plant. ® Related Story Intel opens $250m 300mm wafer R&D plant Related Link The Oregonian: Intel plans chip plant
Tony Smith, 27 Jun 2001

Tiscali to launch European broadband service in Autumn

Tiscali is to offer hi-speed Internet services in Europe via satellite from the autumn in a move that could help ease the broadband bottleneck in parts of Europe. Trials are currently underway in Italy, Germany and the UK and a full service in all three countries and France is expected to be launched within a couple of months. The service - based on a two-way satellite broadband Internet service from Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd - will be rolled out to other European coverage by 2002. TsicaliSat is targeted at home and SOHO users throughout Europe and is believed to be the first pan-European deal of its kind. Gilat will serve as the wholesale provider of Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite communications equipment. It will also provide operations support for the service. The service could act as a lifeline for millions of people who live outside cable franchise areas and DSL-enabled regions. In the UK alone 40 per cent of households fall outside DSL-enabled areas. Unimpressed with the current state of broadband provision in Europe, Mario Mariani, Tiscali's senior VP of its International Business to Consumer Division, said: "Satellite access will give us independence from incumbent telecommunications operators in Europe and will enable us to develop products and services of higher value and competitive price." Tiscali has yet to set a price for its satellite service and would not be drawn on the matter. However, Gilat already operates as similar service in the US under the Starband brand - a joint venture with Microsoft and EchoStar communications. The equipment costs $499.99 (£350) and the monthly subscription is $69.99 (£49). Since the service's launch in November Starband has signed up 40,000 customers. Barry Spielman, director of corporate marketing at Gilat, told The Register that the satellite provider was looking for deals with other providers in Europe. Last month Gilat signed an interim agreement with an unnamed "entertainment, communications and information services division of a very large, multinational company" to provide a broadband satellite service in an European country. Details of the deal are still under wraps but it's thought the service could be available by Q3 this year. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jun 2001

BT man injured as Networks Telecom stand collapses

A BT staffer was hurt yesterday when a partition from the telecom giant's stand at the Networks Telecom show collapsed. Mark Heaton needed treatment for shock and minor concussion after a plastic fitting about six feet long dealt him a glancing blow to head. He was able to return to work after staff in the medical centre of Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre, where Britain's largest IT show is held every year, gave him the all clear. After the accident, a portion of the main BT stand at the show was roped off with plastic taping for several hours while health and safety experts nervously inspected its stand amid fears part of it might collapse. Accidents happen, but exhibitors at the show - who pay tens of thousands of pounds for the privilege of showing their wares there - habe been questioning how contractors made such a serious slip up. Conference organisers CMP were keen to downplay the significance of the accident. A representative of the firm at the show was more keen to dispel erroneous rumours that a fork lift truck had ploughed into a stand than answer our questions about who was to blame. It was, when all's said and done, a mercifully minor incident. ® External Links Networks Telecom
John Leyden, 27 Jun 2001

3Com loses $518m in Q4

3Com recorded a net loss of $518 million for its Q4; well up on the $147 million it lost in Q4 last year. Sales dropped to $468 million from $764 million a year earlier. On an operating basis the loss was $206 million. But chief exec Bruce Claflin restated he still expects 3Com to achieve positive cash flow from operations in Q2 fiscal 2002, and profit from operations by the fourth quarter. But in a conference call yesterday he said there was "a greater risk" of not making these targets than there was when they'd been set three months ago. This year the company has announced plans to shed 3,000 workers, scrap consumer DSL cable modems, and ditch its net appliance Audrey. ® Related Stories 3Com abandons consumer DSL, cable modems 3Com cans 3,000 workers 3Com jilts Audrey
Robert Blincoe, 27 Jun 2001

Scoot.com shares halve as it runs out of cash

Shares in Scoot.com - the UK online directory - have halved this morning following an announcement that the company is almost out of money (it won't last the next 12 months). As part of a "strategic review", Scoot will cut 285 jobs, stop any expansion, "change" the way it charges customers ie. charge more, and sacked its CEO Robert Bonnier. CFO Ronald Dorjee is also out the door when they find a replacement. Actually that's not true, Bonnier has "resigned" because of the "strategic shift" coming up and also, of course, for "personal reasons". Being shouted at is probably a good personal reason to leave. The share price - already at its all-time low of 7p at one point dropped two-thirds to 2.25p but has now stabilised at 3.5p - a 50 per cent reduction. It's a far cry from the days of the Net boom when Scoot hit 351.5p briefly before rocketing down again to around 160p. In the last few years, Scoot has seen its turnover rise but at the same time its losses keep pace and its debtors build. This year the company got a boost when major stakeholder Vivendi (22.4 per cent) said it was thinking of buying the company. It pulled out of the deal - presumably after it has a very, very close look at the company - and confidence in the online directory has plummeted since then. The company is to take another look at its business model which earns a commission on customer referrals to particular companies. It still reckons it will break even this year. Rather than a commission it is looking at an up-front annual lump sum and no free trial services. It will also get rid of on-the-road sales staff and go for a telesales operation, cutting costs. It is also looking at selling off part of its business, like Loot, in a bid to save itself. The announcement makes a mockery of Scoot's attempts to deny that Merrill Lynch had been brought in to review the company's approach when it announced disappointing results in March. Today's news is the end result of that review. ® Related Story Scoot.com posts losses
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Jun 2001

Easy now: Stelios calls to explain his company's behaviour

We obviously struck a nerve on Tuesday when we reported Easy Group has made an out-of-court settlement with the owner of Easycar.com and Easyprotest.com. We drew attention to the previous cases Easy Group has initiated involving domain names beginning with "easy" and suggested it was a Napoleonic crusade. Yesterday the group's director of corporate affairs James Rothnie called to explain its position and complain of our handling of the story. In the afternoon however, the billionaire head of Easy Group himself, Stelios Haji-Iannou, also called in an effort to persuade us that the recent cases are fully justifiable. "I can't see where you are coming from," he told us. "I am also very conscious of the fact that this may look like David and Goliath - which was just what we had to deal with when we started." Stelios started the Easy Group with EasyJet, the low-cost airline, which the monster players already in the market attempted to screw up in the same way they had Freddy Laker years before. Fine, we tell him, we are concerned that his company is pressuring people off legitimately owned domains simply because they begin with the word "easy". "Look, some, not all, but some of these people are breaking intellectual property rights," he says. "Now are you someone that agrees with these rights or do you think they are the evil tools of capitalism?" We reply that we agree with most aspects of intellectual property law. "Well, if someone starts up a company that uses the name 'easy' and they make money on the brand that we have developed, they are breaking the law. And not only that but it is the consumer that suffers. If they think it is us, they will expect a certain level of service and of trust." But what of the site www.easypeazy.com - which is a recognised phrase in English. What right does he have to try to take that? (WIPO ruled against Easy Group when it came up for ruling.) "Well, what does it sell?" We don't know, but we are talking about a URL, to which anyone is entitled to register. "The thing is, it's not a phrase, it's a URL that you can visit and which can con the consumer." What of the word "easy" itself? A very common word. "Yes, 'easy' is an adjective but it is also a brand. If we build a company from nothing, invest years of work, take out thousands of hours of TV advertising and make it successful and then someone says 'I like that, I'm going to start up Easy Publishing', then I will take exception to that [Easy Publishing was our example]. Easy Group covers a number of areas and it is easy for consumers to be tricked. Passing off is a matter of fact and it is an offence. By setting up a business in that name, they are committing a crime." What of www.easy-jet.com? [A WIPO ruled that the owner Tim Holt had legitimately registered it for the sale of ink jet cartridges.] "I don't understand how WIPO works - it is really unbelievable [we are all in agreement here]. Besides, after the case he sold the domain to us for a small sum of money - proving that he was passing off." However, Easy Group had threatened to take him to court for passing off. We suggest that even if Easy Group feels its property rights are going to be infringed, is it right that an innocent party is subjected to legal action from a multi-billion pound company? Even if that person had no intention of using it in that way, they would hand the domain over to save on court costs. We have always disapproved of this corporate bullying. "Passing off is a fact, and an offence. We let the judge decide," Stelios replied. This over litigious approach is not new and was embarrassingly highlighted almost two years ago to the day. Stelios had just unveiled EasyEverything Internet cafes and was livid that ISP EasyNet owned the domain Easyeverything.co.uk. [EasyNet itself doesn't fit into the basket of companies that Easy Group feel infringes its rights because it existed before any of Stelios' Easy companies.] There was angry talk of legal proceedings, before the MD of EasyNet Graham Davies revealed he had had a email regarding the matter but that was it. Somewhat bemused, Davies said: "If they want it, they only have to ask. I don't know why they didn't come to us beforehand." But back to the whole point of these conversations - Easyprotest.com. How does EasyProtest.com fit in with any of the above examples, especially when the owner made it completely clear that it was going against the Easy Group. "I don't know the specifics of the case, and it was settled out of court, so it will do no good to discuss the past now." The fact is that Stelios is an extremely successful businessman who has made his fortune through supporting the small man by undercutting greedy multi-nationals. An accusation that he is doing the same to small people now he has made it offends him. However, in a summing up before the conversation ended, Stelios makes it clear he has forgotten one thing - that the Internet is not set up purely for business and no matter how much money companies pump into it, there will always be a social and creative aspect to the Web. This then is Stelios' outlined approach to the Internet and Web sites. "There are different cases and different people. We have a problem from blatant passing off - and the problem with the Easy Group brand extension is that people know I will jump from industry to industry - then there is squatting which is a nuisance and a form of blackmailing. "There are those that say I just want it and won't doing anything with it. I don't know why they would want to but I may not concern myself with them. And then there are the people that started a company called Easy-something that was created before EasyJet, who I would never dream of touching because they run a legitimate business." "Intellectual property is a very significant asset and needs to be protected. The Internet is immature medium and intellectual rights need to be protected on it." ® Related Stories We're not stamping on Web dissenters, says Easy Group The Easy way to crush dissenting voices The Easy way to beat the URL bully Cybercafe domain war all a storm in a coffee cup
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Jun 2001

Reg sinks claws into OS X paperbacks

Learning to live with Mac OS XLearning to live with Mac OS X Browsing through my favourite bookstore t'other day, I noticed that the once empty Macintosh section was now filled with shiny new titles offering to help anyone and everyone make the most of Mac OS X. Now that IT companies have pretty much abandoned the good old-fashioned manual, the gap has been filled by IT publishers keen to take forty quid of any user who wants to learn a little more about their computer or the applications it runs. Some are very good, some merely OK, others an appalling rip-off. To help you find the former and avoid the latter, here's what we think of the latest additions to The Register's fine Ikea pine-style shelving. We'll be following it up with more reviews in the near future. Learning Cocoa I'm rather fond of O'Reilly's technology library. The design is simple, crisp and largely free of icons, cartoons, asides and all the other gimmicks IT publishers use to make their titles look busier and more interesting than they actually are. They're also bloody well written, be folk who not only know what they're writing about but can do so clearly and engagingly. O'Reilly's library has helped me get to grips with Perl programming, Palm programming, RealBasic programming, figuring how to write cgi scripts, working out what Linux is all about and getting the hang of running a Web site efficiently. Learning Cocoa, the latest addition to O'Reilly's small but growing Mac family, promises to do the same for OS X's NeXT-derived object-oriented application development framework. And it mostly succeeds. Written by Apple's own (anonymous) technical writers, it doesn't exactly fill you with enthusiasm for its subject matter (unlike other O'Reilly titles) and it's clearly been written with experienced programmers in mind. There's little attempt to simplify the concepts of object-oriented programming and the Objective C language, leaving me almost grasping what's going on, but not quite. You know what I mean: you can tell when your code is correct because it compiles and runs, but if it doesn't, you're pretty much in the dark. The book takes you through a series of tutorial apps, which we like because it provides plenty of real code you can examine and steal, but it's not too good at explaining what each line actually does, which is essential for those of us who learn by following the code line by line rather than blindly keying it in. It would have been nice to put in a more in-depth guide to Objective C. Learning Cocoa's offers an Objective C primer, but if you don't know C, you won't get much out of it since it ignores the common aspects of the two languages. No, it just assumes that, as a Mac programmer, you'll know all this stuff already. I do, but I can see a lot of newcomers, drawn to programming by the excitement of a new OS, will feel left out. If that sounds like you, may I suggest O'Reilly's RealBasic: The Definitive Guide Not only is it more fun to read, but RealBasic, which is also an object-oriented language that runs on OS X, is a darn sight easier to understand and program. Get to grips with this then come back to Cocoa later. Learning Cocoa also lacks an API reference section detailing the key NeXTSTEP commands. True, this is available online from Project Builder's Help menu, but for a beginner (and, I dare say, many older hands) having a reference you have next to you while you're writing is far more useful. Project Builder, by the way, is Apple's own development tool, provided free with OS X. Learning Cocoa, on the other hand, is a good introduction to Cocoa programming for Mac coders moving from OS 9 to OS X, but novices may prefer to wait for something a little more friendly. Info Author: Apple Publisher: O'Reilly Pages: 366 ISBN: 0-596-00160-6 Price: $34.95 (US), £24.95 (UK) Web: mac.oreilly.com/ Register Rating™ Mac OS X: The Complete Reference If Learning Cocoa is a thin, 366-page volume, Mac OS X: The Complete Reference is, at 763 pages, a veritable fatty. Unlike the other volume, this one's aimed at new users, with a particular emphasis it seems on folk about to deploy the OS X in educational establishments. Mac OS X: The Complete Reference is a pretty traditional manual replacement. Chapter by chapter, it guides you through almost every aspect of OS X, from its structure and technology underpinnings, through every facet of its new user interface, to setting it up. Author Jesse Feiler rounds it off with a look at all the bundled apps, plus AppleWorks, and guides to the various options users have for programming the OS (including a redundant section of programming Classic apps). In some respects, it's difficult to see who would find all this useful. It sounds good - and, as a hefty volume, it looks good - but by trying to cram absolutely everything in, to describe almost all menu commands, options and widgets, you end up with a good description of what OS X can do, along with a multitude of screenshots, but little insight into how to take it further. An explanation of how a gas pedal works and what happens when you press it won't teach you how to drive. Beginners may be daunted by the book's size and more experienced users may be disappointed by the lack of detail. It's a bit cursory - the book's size comes not from the depth of its coverage but its breadth. There's almost no troubleshooting help here, which is generally what new users need most. There's also the author's flat tone of voice, so the book reads like rather college coursework than an engaging introduction to a vibrant new OS for folk who are likely to be daunted by it. Feiler also follows the tedious tradition of explaining what he's going to tell you, telling it to you, then telling you again what he's just told you. Mac OS X: The Complete Reference isn't actually bad, and if you suddenly find yourself wanting to know what a specific menu or System Preferences panel does, it will help. Just don't expect to be reaching up to the shelf for it very often. ® Info Author: Jesse Feiler, "author, software developer and consultant" Reviewer: Tony Smith, "journalist, gentleman and scholar" Publisher: Osborne/McGraw-Hill Pages: 763 ISBN: 0-07-212663-9 Price: $39.99 (US), £29.99 (UK) Web: www.osborne.com Register Rating™ Previous Episodes 5. Why the heck can't I download drivers? 4. Mac OS X's Finder: Cocoa rewrite not the answer 3. Windows XP hits where Apple's Aqua misses? 2. Mac OS X crashes: Radeon not guilty 1. Mac OS X: Reg box stable - at last...
Tony Smith, 27 Jun 2001

Easynet in broadband marriage with Ipsaris

Easynet has increased its standing as a European broadband player following the agreed merger with Marconi's high capacity optical network business, Ipsaris. The new operation - which will focus on providing broadband services to business users - will trade under the Easynet brand valuing the enlarged UK plc at around £475 million. Easynet will acquire Ipsaris in exchange for 82.9 million Easynet shares. The move will give Easynet a much-needed cash injection to pursue its broadband agenda with the enlarged group having around £314 million of cash to support its growth strategy. A quarter of Easynet's 27,100 business customers use broadband services but this deal is expected to increase that figure once ipsaris' 3,500 km network of fibre cable is completed later this year. No job losses are expected to be announced as part of the deal. David Rowe, chairman and CEO of Easynet, said: "The merger of Easynet and Ipsaris has compelling strategic and financial logic. "The complementary strengths of Easynet and Ipsaris will enable the enlarged group to accelerate our strategy of delivering broadband services to business customers, " he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jun 2001

Oftel finally gets to grips with local loop

Oftel, in a face-saving exercise, has unveiled "four further measures" to promote local loop unbundling. It is a hearty but pathetic attempt to deflect criticism of the telecoms watchdog's role in opening the market up to competition. The failure to do so is a national embarrassment. Not only was Britain one of the last countries in the world to allow competing telecoms companies direct access to consumers, but when Oftel finally plucked up the courage to tell BT to do so, it cocked it up royally. Rather than simply insist that BT allows other companies to install their own equipment in exchanges for a set fee, Oftel buckled under BT's "arguments" again and has enabled the former monopoly to protect its territory for a further six months. These four measures run as follows: Following an operator's request, a requirement on BT to install operators' equipment in any operational part of a BT exchange. Operators consider that co-mingling, as it is known, could lead to significant savings on costs and time for installation of equipment. [So, basically, BT was refusing to let competitors install their gear in vital parts of the exchange.] A prohibition on BT from charging separately for site clearance when preparing co-location spaces in its exchanges. Costs will be recovered through the market rent BT charges operators for co-location space. [So, basically, BT has been making hidden charges to screw up competitors' business plans and make installation less economically viable.] Detailed guidelines on the co-location facilities including space that BT is obliged to provide and how BT should assess the availability of these facilities for other operators' use. [So, basically, BT was saying it didn't have room in its exchanges when it clearly did.] Prices for shared access to BT's local loop. Shared access enables operators to concentrate their business on the provision of high speed services to consumers without providing a voice calls service. Oftel is proposing an annual rental of £68 and connection charge of £127 per shared loop. [So, basically, BT was insisting that everyone install voice with their data equipment - something that is completely pointless for small companies aiming simply at providing Internet access.] The overwhelming question has to be: Why the hell didn't Oftel try to prevent this before the process kicked off? It is the telecoms watchdog for chrissakes and it knows BT's tactics better than anyone (or should do). This announcement is little more than a statement of gross professional misconduct on the part of Oftel. It is also an indication that Oftel's passive approach ("we will only investigate when we receive a complaint") is completely hopeless when it comes to an important competitive market. Ofcom can't come too soon. Headboy of Oftel and career civil servant David Edmonds gave his usual inspiring take on events: "In response to operators' requests Oftel proposes that, subject to certain safeguards, they should be able to install equipment in any operational area within BT exchanges. Oftel now intends to reduce BT's charges for shared access to the local loop for operators that only want to provide a DSL service without voice calls. We believe BT's proposed charges are too high and do not accurately reflect the costs incurred." And then the excuses: "Although Oftel, BT and the industry have worked hard to put in place the process for local loop unbundling, the number of sites where operators have installed equipment is less than originally anticipated. The main reason for this is less demand from operators than forecast. A key factor in this has been the adverse financial climate. Some operators also decided not to pursue unbundling as a way of providing high-speed services to their customers." And more excuses: "Local loop unbundling is one of the most complex pieces of regulation that Oftel has undertaken in recent years, as it has proved to be in all countries where unbundling has taken place. Oftel has put the process in place and will ensure that the rules are complied with. Operators must make their own commercial decisions over whether unbundling is the route they wish to use to provide high speed services to consumers. These latest measures announced today by Oftel demonstrate our commitment to provide an effective, cost-orientated unbundling process that meets the needs of operators." ®
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Jun 2001

LDAP flap as passwords put at risk

A flaw with the way Microsoft allows access to LDAP directories over the Internet could permit crackers to gain passwords and hack into database servers. The vulnerable function is only available if a server has been configured to support LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) over SSL sessions, which security experts said severely limits the scope of the bug, and for which Microsoft has issued a patch. According to a security notice issued by the software giant, the root cause of the problem is that a under certain conditions a function that permits users to change data attributes of directory principals doesn't check the rights of a requester. Microsoft admits the upshot of this is that "it could be possible for a user to change any other user's domain login password" though not passwords on local machines. "An attacker could change another user's password for either of two purposes: to cause a denial of service by preventing the other user from logging on, or in order to log into the user's account and gain any privileges the user had," the notice said. Any user who can establish a connection with a vulnerable server could exploit the vulnerability, which might allow an attacker to change an administrator's password and gain control of the account. Deri Jones, security testing director at NTA Monitor, said that LDAP directories storing corporate user directories are commonly for internal use only, and it's rare they would be exposed to other people over the Internet. This factor and the possibility of blocking the attack at firewall level reduce the scope for widespread chaos arising from the bug, from which Microsoft would do well to draw wider lessons. "Other vulnerabilities have exploited the fact that in trying to make its products easier to use, Microsoft has not properly thought through how to secure user credentials," said Jones, who said a Web extender bug in January arose from a similarly flawed software development process by Microsoft. ® External Links Function Exposed via LDAP over SSL Could Enable Passwords to be Changed Web Extender flaw Related Stories MS confronts another IIS system-level hole (ISAPI bug) MS patches Exchange 2000 email spy bug Microsoft UK 0wn3d MS hacked once, twice, three, FOUR times NSA secures Win-2K
John Leyden, 27 Jun 2001

Alcatel ditches its fabs

Alcatel has said it will sell 108 of its 120 manufacturing plants in order to save on costs. The chairman of the French telecoms manufacturer Serge Tchuruk told the Wall Street Journal he expects the company to ditch the remaining fabs in the near future. Earlier in the day, Tchruruk had espoused the virtues of outsourcing, saying that it was a great way to cut costs and make you more flexible. That's as maybe but Alcatel is not exactly fighting fit at the moment. Two weeks ago it decided to sell off its ADSL business to Thomson Multimedia. It said it wanted to concentrate on infrastructure products - which was precisely the stance that screwed up its merger with Lucent in May. Since that collapse, both companies have been in it up to their necks. Recently, Alcatel said it was getting rid of 900 jobs. Two years before that it fired 12,000. The fabs will be sold to other manufacturers, who will continue to make Alcatel goods but with others alongside. Tchuruk also suggested he may sell minor shares in other companies, including Vivendi and Societe Generale. ® Related Stories Alcatel gets rid of ADSL modem business Lucent jilts Alcatel at the Altar
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Jun 2001

Telewest clogs connections to promote benefits of broadband

Cable outfit Telewest has been sending a megabyte sized file puffing the merits of broadband to hacks with slow speed connections. Telewest regularly sends out releases that stress the bandwidth challenge, and El Reg has asked them in the past to stop the irksome practice of sending press releases including hi-res images of its logo and the like. Today's bandwidth grabbing monster, THE NEED FOR SPEED! - new blueyonder campaign has broadband appeal, takes the biscuit. Sent with images (one of which weighs in at 953KB) from an upcoming poster campaign, the press release chirps why are there underground pipes wide enough for Barry White to squeeze down in an instant. Hey, Telewest, good question - is it anything to do with the amount of unsolicited email been sent around these days? Did you realise that it takes only seconds to access the latest Jennifer Lopez video? Not if your connection is kept busy downloading spam, it doesn't. No speed restrictions apply. Really? You don't say. We tried to speak to Telewest on the phone about why it had taken to promoting broadband through choking up people's individual connections, surely as a telco it should know better than anyone the effects of its actions. Unfortunately by the time the damn thing had downloaded Telewest's consumer PR co-ordinator had gone to lunch. Telewest plans to spend £2.5 million this Summer promoting its blueyonder broadband internet service and we only hope it'll keep any online and email promotions low bandwidth. Earlier this month Telewest was cleared of producing misleading advertising after it claimed that its broadband service was ten times faster than its dial-up service. ® Update On Thursday, Telewest called and promised not to send us such bandwidth monsters in the future. A spokeswoman conceded it didn't have to send megabyte-sized images in order to get its messages across. External Links The need for speed! - new blueyonder campaign has broadband appeal Related Stories Telewest escapes ad slap Blueyonder cuts cost of broadband UK wants broadband, says survey Broadband only good for porn Porn spam flood swamps Usenet Congress lets spam out of the can
John Leyden, 27 Jun 2001

Agnostics and Phantoms blamed for ecommerce failure

More than $16 billion worth of online sales in Europe are generated by just 14 per cent of its population, according to a survey by Datamonitor. The third annual interactive survey, IMPACT 2001, reveals that it is businesses - not consumers - that have failed to understand the new economy. Consumers, it says, are "sophisticated, discriminating" and comfortable in their online world. It is up to etailers to "cross the chasm" (whatever that bloody well means) and come up with new ways to reach out to those consumers still hesitant about e-shopping. Amusingly, Datamonitor has categorised consumers into five distinct groups in a bid to understand their online behaviour. If you can get to bottom of the list without laughing (that includes smirking) then you did better than me. The "Resistors" - these are the 50 per cent of European respondents who say they do not access the Internet at all The "Agnostics" - 9 per cent who access the Net but do not browse for products online The "Phantoms"- at 27 per cent they make up the largest share of Net users. Although they browse for products online, they make the purchase off-line The "Moderates" - 8 per cent of Net users who make purchases online but don't spend that much The "Internet Globe Trotters (IGTs)" - the biggest online spenders..but they only make up 6 per cent of European Net users So, which one are you? Answers on postcard...but not to us. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jun 2001

Intel invests in plastic memory – again

Intel has renewed its investment in Norway-based Opticom ASA's programme to develop a possible successor to Flash memory made out of... er... plastic. Intel already owns a six per cent stake in Opticom's Thin Film Electronics operation. This week it increased that stake to 13 per cent in exchange for $7.85 million. Intel is essentially bank-rolling Opticom's development efforts. Its additional stake grants it rights to bring Opticom's polymer memory technology to market. If, of course, Opticom can make it work as a commercial product. If it can, the technology could deliver non-volatile memory that reads back data at ten times the speed Flash memory does. Opticom has been working on polymer memory for some time - Intel came into the picture in November 1999. The new round of funding will allow Opticom to build a prototype device, so don't expect polymer memory to start replacing Flash any time soon. Opticom portrays Polymer RAM as not only high speed, but low cost and - importantly - low power. It will also be smaller, the company claims: "For a 1Gb memory this means that while traditional silicon-based memories require 1.5-6.5 billion transistors, the polymer memory only needs 0.5 million transistors." And: "In the polymer case the transfer speed is a function of a multi-layered parallelism, allowing optimal segmentation and high speed parallel read-out. The data transfer speeds that can be attained are not limited by the technology itself, but rather by I/O restrictions. As a result of this, the word length can be extended from the existing 64 and 128-bit architectures to words of thousands and even millions of bits." Production should be simple: Opticom envisions punching out polymer RAM cores like tickertape, with polymer memory chips costing less than five per cent of what it costs to make Flash. It all sounds great. But it's easy for the company to make these claims - much harder to deliver. ® Related Link Thin Film Electronics' homepage
Tony Smith, 27 Jun 2001

Trading Standards stomp on pirates

Trading Standards have been stomping on software pirates across the UK. The guys have seized suspect hooky software which would have a value of £141,220 if it was legit. Here's a selection of recent collar feeling action: Eleven traders are under suspicion of being software pirates following a multi-agency investigation into the Bingley Sunday Market, Bradford on 10 June 2001. Officials from West Yorkshire Trading Standards and West Yorkshire Police were accompanied by investigators from ELSPA (European Leisure Software Publishers Association), F.A.C.T (Federation Against Copyright Theft) and M.C.P.S (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) checked out the market and seized 4,000 PlayStation and Dreamcast titles, 2,500 music compact discs and 400 videocassettes. The games software alone has an equivalent retail value of £120,000. All items are now being examined. If they're found to be rip-offs then eleven individuals, nine males and two females, aged between twenty and forty-one years, and resident of the Keighley, Bingley, Howarth and Bradford areas of West Yorkshire are going to be prosecuted. A twenty nine year old man from Ebbw Vale, South Wales, is under suspicion for the illegal supply of counterfeit computer games software after Officers from Blaenau Trading Standards, accompanied by Gwent Police, searched his gaff. The search uncovered two computer systems, both with scanners, and valued at more than £1,500. These are believed to have been used pirate games. Three hundred suspect counterfeit compact discs containing PlayStation, Dreamcast and PC games software, with a retail value of £9,600, were also discovered. All items were seized. The discs are currently undergoing examination by ELSPA to establish their legality. If they're dirty the man may face prosecution under trademark and copyright legislation. Monmouth County Council Trading Standards are looking to put a Bristol counterfeiter out of business. They visited Chepstow market on Sunday 17 June 2001, saw a 61-year-old bloke selling what they believed to be counterfeit computer games discs, and seized the lot - a total of 332 compact discs with an estimated retail value of £9,960.00. The booty is now being examined by officials from the ELSPA to check if its bent or not. If it is the stallholder may face criminal prosecution for trademark and copyright infringements. In addition, a quantity of sunglasses, also believed to be counterfeit, were seized for examination. So Monmouth Trading Standards officers might look a bit cooler on their next raids - only joking. A total of 54 compact discs which contained PlayStation titles, and had a retail value of £1,620, were seized from a car boot sale being held at Hayes Football Club, Middlesex. London Borough of Hillingdon Trading Standards Service took action on Wednesday 11 April and grabbed the suspect disks from a thirty-three-year-old male stallholder. The stallholder, from the Southall area of Middlesex, faces prosecution if he is discovered to have been selling dodgy disks. ELSPA has this advice on how to spot a fake game: Buy from a recognised outlet, never from street traders, 'door-to-door' salesmen or car boot sales. Look at the packaging; avoid poor quality or photocopied printed labels. Genuine PlayStation games discs are always black, never blue, silver or gold and are not released on recordable CD's. Genuine PlayStation 2 games are blue on the back - and DVD's are silver and are not released on recordable CD's. Bootnote Mike Heald has this addition to the ELSPA guide in case people are still unsure whether that £5 Playstation2 game is authentic or not... 5) Discs that have the game's title written on in black marker pen are not likely to be genuine.
Robert Blincoe, 27 Jun 2001

Captain Cyborg infects Ireland

Captain Cyborg, fresh from filling the Swiss' ears with garbage has popped over to the emerald isle, our spies tell us, in order to prop up his existence as a visionary and academic. The sad thing is that the Irish Times, rather than simply throw Kevin Warwick (for that is his real-world name) out of the building and put him on the next boat back to Blighty, has gone to the trouble of writing a story about the troubled man. Understandably confused with his title "Professor of Cybernetics", it headlined the nonsense "Academic plugs himself into age of cyborg". So what new lunacy did Kev come up with for his next media outlet? Sadly, very little. It's still the same old guff about cyborgs taking over the world and claiming that the reed switch he popped in his arm for a few days is some kind of evidence of it. He did of course come up with a ludicrous soundbite with reference to how cyborgs will treat humans in the future. "You have evolved further than a chimpanzee. So would you vote for a chimpanzee? As a cyborg, would you do what a human tells you?" He obviously wasn't on form. The most interesting aspect though was his dragging out of the second chip experiment - which, according to how he feels on the day, will enable him to record and playback brain impulses, cause telepathy, give his wife an orgasm, and so on. Now, Kev has been going on about this experiment for at least a year and it has paid dividends in terms of media coverage. But but but: when is he actually planning to do it? We scoured through our Captain Cyborg archive but he has never pinpointed a date. This is, of course, due to the fact that there is no way in the world that it is ever going to work. Even Captain Cyborg will have trouble fudging the results when he has made such a big thing of it. However, he has always said that he will do the experiment this year - that being 2001. According to the Irish Times "next November he plans to have a chip implanted in his arm, which will link his nervous system with a computer, to investigate how his movements - and, possibly, his emotions - can be remotely controlled by a computer". In the office we've argued about whether "next November" means November 2001 or November 2002. Opinion is divided. Is Kev attempting to put the experiment back by a year - by which point he will probably have written another book filled with sixth-form philosophical ramblings and unjustifiable assumptions? We wait to see. ® Related Link Irish Times talks tosh Related Stories Lunatic pulls gun on Captain Cyborg Captain Cyborg goes on a lecture tour Kevin Warwick wanders into Reg territory Captain Cyborg back on the BBC Captain Cyborg: I'm embarrassed to speak Captain Cyborg's media monkey business back No! No! No! Captain Cyborg is back
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Jun 2001

Caldera defends pay-to-play license

Caldera gave a robust defence of its decision to adopt per-system licensing for its new Workstation Linux distribution today, adding that it placed the company midway between Red Hat and Microsoft in the ideological debate about free software. "It was absolutely deliberate and on purpose," Eric Hughes, Caldera's director of product management told us. He rejected the accusation that Caldera was adopting Microsoft style pricing, and pointed out that developers could still download the workstation product for free. And unlike Microsoft, there was no membership fee for this privilege. Caldera lost $900,000 per week net last quarter, and Hughes justifies the licensing fee on the grounds that customers want to know the company will be in a shape to stick around. "We are in business to make money ... listening to our customers, they want a global and viable company," said Hughes. "Developers need to have a company that is there that is going to be there for the long-term. " "We're squarely in the middle," he said, referring to the public positions taken up by Microsoft and Red Hat recently. "It's not a Microsoft style server access license, but a simple per system license. And we don't have to necessarily put in our financial statements that our business model is yet to be proven unsuccessful." Caldera had received many requests that it continue free downloads, many of which had come from freeloaders. "That's when you find your customers aren't really your customers," said Hughes. As for the long-term viability of Caldera, Hughes said the company's use of a reseller channel for providing services didn't necessarily put it at a disadvantage. Caldera's acquisition of SCO's professional services team meant it could deal with the higher margin, bigger contracts by itself, he told us. ® Related Story Caldera drops license bombshell
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Jun 2001

We really do love Doubleclick because…

Competition resultCompetition result Our Doubleclick competition has now closed, and we are pleased to announce the lucky four readers who will soon be enjoying a dartboard courtesy of the lads and ladettes at Hotbot. But before we name our quartet of Eric Bristows, let's enjoy some of the other noteworthy entries. To recap, all you had to do was complete the following sentence in 20 words or less: 'I love Doubleclick because...' Pretty simple, eh? As we noted at the time, 'Keep 'em clean and make 'em funny.' The operative word being funny. So, Pat Silver will not stepping up to the oche: Well, I'd love to oblige, but there is a slight problem; I don't love doubleclick. Ads I accept as necessary (although personally I'd like to string up any Webmaster who permits big pop-up ad boxes), cookies which track my activities and analyse the results I do not. Deary, deary me. Jack Sinnott summed up this type of entry thus: ...they provide me, an American, with such prime opportunities to work myself into a complete pants-wetting lather over privacy issues. And Graham Parks added his two bits' worth: ...reactionary dullards with nothing better to do who live their lives in fear of Relevant Advertising absolutely abhore them. Thank you gentlemen. Now, on with the comedy. First up is the no-nonsense honesty approach favoured by Graeme Bell: ...I want a dartboard. Anyone who produces a different reason for loving doubleclick is probably lying. Yes, yes. What about keeping it short like Daniel Fulton (the entry, obviously - we have no idea how tall Daniel is): ...I'm mad. and Hans Olsson... ...I'm from Sweden. and Eric Sullivan... ...one is never enough. On the other hand, why not ramble on and get yourself disqualified. Like Neil R. Henry: ...of their singular ability to march forward with a certain blissful composure unmarred by: the heightened recognition of the intrusive nature of their targeting techniques, the dwindling value of their market capitalization or the absence of any semblance of a business model. Hmmm. John Pilge and David Lloyd decided to attack the problem anagramatically: ...it is an anagram of "COLD BUCK LIE." Which is a truly fitting motto for Doubleclick if they ever need one. ...I am a dyslexic feminist and I think you are talking about 'club all dick' Good effort. As ever, some of you were moved to poetry. Take it away Janette: Everywhere on the net It's a sure bet doubleclick will be there Like traffic wardens directing us wherever they care Astounding. Ari Williams gets hip to the beat with: For annoying popups, And stuff that drives me mad, Doubleclick takes 1st prize, Coz the others aren't as bad! Yep, I can almost hear that one to a hip-hop beat on the wheels of steel. Not. David Leach continues the theme: They inspire me To write beautiful haikus For The Register. Their mission is to Enhance my browsing session. Diet ads plague me. I get paid today. What shall I purchase online? Dad gets cheap flowers. Good call, but over your 20 words there David. Noah Brunn is our final Wordsworth: "You want to go where people know, People aren't all the same; You want to go where everybody knows... your name." Cheers, Noah. Surely, though, among all this madness, there must be a practical reason to give Doubleclick a big, sloppy kiss. Yes there is, according to Chris Lawrence: ...well, it worked for our parents. Yes it did, Chris. Yes it did. And of course, Doubleclick is helping Doug pay them thar bills: ...it provides a very nice work environment for my wife, as well as that wonderful second paycheck. Bless. The Head Lemur also has good reason to be grateful: ...it told my wife about maxies house of pain. There you go - another satisfied customer. Right, now for some prizes. So high was the standard of entries that we have decided to award four exclusive Reg lapel pins to the following runners up: Gregory Jackson: ...they don't charge for their cookies and the brownies do. Rodney Grim: ...if you cut them they will bleed. Almost like real people. Brendan O'Naughton: ...I have no doubt that after I win this competition they'll immediately begin targeting me with ads for dart supplies. Toby Butler also wins a pin, but if you think we're going to print that mate, you're off your rocker! And the winners are: Jason Riddell: ...they gave me a great prize of a dartboard that I used as a prop in my amateur porn movie - read this story to get the joke. Stuart Bishop: ...they send FREE COOKIES to STARVING CHILDREN in 3rd world INTERNET CAFES around the WORLD! David Filmer: doubleclick banners slick doublequick market shtick "private" (sic) Peter Trueman: ...well, they already know why! Excellent work. ®
Lester Haines, 27 Jun 2001

Intel confirms July for 1.8GHz Pentium 4 launch

Intel has confirmed the arrival of 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz Pentium 4 processors next month. Speaking at TechX in New York, Intel sales and marketing chief Mike Splinter said the company would introduce the parts in July. On 2 July, to be precise, sources claim. As expected, Intel has been demonstrating its 0.13 micron Mobile Pentium III-M processor, better known by its codename, Tualatin, at TechX, and Splinter said the chip will be launched sometime during the next three months. We hear, incidentally, that said launch has been brought forward from its original date of 30 July to 15 July, presumably so it's not overshadowed by the launch of desktop Tualatins on 8 August. ® Related Stories Pentium 4 to be upped to 1.8GHz on 2 July Intel to unveil 0.13 micron Mobile Pentium III next week
Tony Smith, 27 Jun 2001

ATI loss improves – but not enough

ATI posted a Q3 loss of $4.2 million (two cents a share) on sales of $255.9 million today and admitted there is "more work to be done" to bring the company back to profitability. This past quarter's sales were ten per cent up on the previous quarter, suggesting business is picking up. If it is, don't necessarily expect ATI to profit, as its new strategy of licensing its chips to third-party graphics card makers will, it reckons, result in a decline during Q4. Taking extra expenses to the tune of $75.3 million into account, ATI's net loss comes to $27 million, a bit better than the $38 million it posted last quarter. The operating loss of $4.2 million was lower than the company had forecast, thanks to improved sales and higher gross margins (27.2 per cent, to be precise). ATI expects margins to increase through Q4, which will go some way to counter the loss of revenue to third-parties. The company expects to break even during the quarter. The higher margins are likely to come from boards based on ATI's upcoming R200 chip which may or may not be called the Radeon 2, and which the company has already confirmed with ship later this summer. ® Related Stories ATI Radeon 2: more specs leak ATI confirms Radeon 2 to ship late summer ATI Radeon 2, 3 details leak ATI talks up Truform, next-gen rendering tech ATI to license chips to other board makers
Tony Smith, 27 Jun 2001