10th > July > 2001 Archive

Baltimore CEO quits

Fran Rooney has resigned as CEO and deputy chairman of Irish security outfit, Baltimore Technologies, to pursue other business interests. CFO Paul Sanders will take-over the running of the company until a replacement can be found. In an interview with the AFX newswire service Sanders denied that Rooney's decision was based on shareholder pressure for him to quit. Instead, it was part of group-wide restructuring at the company, he said. In a statement issued this morning, Rooney said: "After five years with Baltimore, I have decided to pursue other interests which include board positions that have been offered to me." He is expected to become chairman of an e-learning company. Baltimore's share price was up 4 pence (21 per cent) at 23 pence by mid morning - a far cry from the heady heights of almost £15 some 18 months ago. ®
Tim Richardson, 10 Jul 2001

Dixons announces Kalms' replacement

Dixons today said Sir John Collins would be its next chairman, replacing Sir Stanley Kalms next year. Collins, currently CEO of Vestey Group, will be appointed Dixons deputy chairman on 4 September. He is expected to become group chairman immediately after the retailer's AGM in September 2002. Prior to his seven-year stint at Vestey, Collins was chairman and CEO of Shell UK - a company he joined in 1964. He is also a director of N M Rothschild & Sons and of the Peninsular & Oriental Navigation Company. "We are delighted that Sir John has accepted our invitation to join the Board," said Kalms. "He has had a highly successful career in industry and the city. We look forward to the contribution he will make." Earlier this year Kalms told The Independent he intended to spend his retirement "defending the pound and helping the Conservatives get back into government". ® Related Link Dixons statement Independent article Related Stories Dixons posts 5% rise in profits Sir Stanley Kalms' Desert Island Discs Dixons confirms Kalms retirement
Linda Harrison, 10 Jul 2001

So what's the best country in the world for IT?

A new report by the UN has ranked the top 20 countries in the world for both technology and comfort of living. At there are some shock entries. Canadians will know all about the UN Human Development Report because every time we have a slight dig, they inform us that Canada is officially the best place in the world to live. It has been for the last six years. Well, not no more. But to IT first. It may be impossible for our Yankee cousins to imagine, but you are not the world's leading country when it comes to technology. Okay, you're second, but top spot actually goes to Finland, which is pumping out more cutting-edge and hi-tech goods than they know what to do with. It may have something to do with the high price of beer. Third comes Scandinavian cousin Sweden - which has also used phone technology to shoot out in front. Then fourth Japan, of course. Followed by Korea - which is booming on the back of semiconductors and cheap labour. The Netherlands made a surprising sixth and the good ole UK comes seventh. For the rest see down the bottom. So where is the best place in the world to live? Believe it or not, Norway. Canada doesn't even come second, Australia does. Nope, it makes a disappointing third. Mind you, the UK comes in at a pathetic 14 - but then we live here, so we could have told you that. The US slips three places to number six, making Sweden fourth and Belgium fifth. So seeing as we are IT journalists and like to have a nice time, The Register has decided to up sticks and relocate to Sweden. We can't understand a word of Swedish but who cares [insert gag here about blonde masseuses in a sauna]. ® The full lists are as follows: Best place for technology Finland United States Sweden Japan Korea (Rep) Netherlands UK Canada Australia Singapore Germany Norway Ireland Belgium New Zealand Austria France Israel Best place to live in the world Norway Australia Canada Sweden Belgium United States Iceland Netherlands Japan Finland Switzerland Luxembourg France UK Denmark Austria Germany Ireland New Zealand Italy
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Jul 2001
DVD it in many colours

Alcatel to pink slip 2,500 US workers

Telecommunications equipment manufacturer Alcatel has announced plans to cut 2,500 jobs in the US and consolidate facilities in order to cope with the continuing slowdown in spending by service providers. In a terse statement on the subject, Alcatel said the redundancies were part of its cost management initiatives. Workers who lose their jobs will receive a severance package and outplacement services, the firm added. The collapse of competitive carriers in the States, which had centres full of part-paid Cisco and Lucent kit plumbed in, has had a monstrous effect of those former darlings of Wall Street, while a slowdown in IT spending in general has piled on the misery. Alcatel too has been forced to shed staff and trim sales and earning forecasts because of the slowdown in sales of networking kit to service providers, many of whom have put back plans to upgrade their equipment. This is particularly bad news for Alcatel, which has just sold its ADSL business to Thomson Multimedia, making it more reliant on sales of infrastructure products. The collapse of Alcatel's plans to merge with Lucent in May have hardly helped maters for either firm and with little sign of a rebound in spending by service providers the outlook looks grim. ® External Links Alcatel's minimalist statement Related Stories Alcatel ditches its fabs Alcatel gets rid of ADSL modem business Lucent jilts Alcatel at the Altar
John Leyden, 10 Jul 2001

SurfControl buoyed by increased revenues

Internet filtering company - SurfControl - has issued an upbeat trading statement amid rising revenues for Q4 and the year ended 30 June. The company has reported strong demand for its Internet filtering software exceeding their own growth predictions. Steve Purdham, CEO, said: "We are pleased to announce that revenues for our fourth quarter and year ended June 2001, based on unaudited management information, are expected to be ahead of market expectations. "Going forward, due to the nature of our business model, our visibility and repeatability continues to improve, our cash position remains strong and, as stated in our third quarter results announcement, we remain on course to achieve positive cash flow from our operations in the fourth quarter of the financial year ended 30 June 2002," he said. Shares in the company rose 25 pence (9 per cent) to 310 pence by lunchtime on the strength of today's news. Yesterday, the Privacy Foundation warned that 27 million workers around the world were being snooped on by their bosses. ®
Tim Richardson, 10 Jul 2001

Euro i-mode launch delayed

NTT DoCoMo is going to delay the launch of i-mode products in Europe, and can't say when they'll appear. i-mode products were due to arrive as the fruits of a joint venture between NTT DoCoMo and KPN Mobile, a division of the Dutch business Royal KPN. According to a report on the AFX news service, spokesman Norio Hasegawa told the Jiji news agency that if all went well the service would be up and running this year. The Jiji agency said the problems were due to KPN's financial troubles. ®
Robert Blincoe, 10 Jul 2001

NEC 'can't rule out' Scottish DRAM job cuts

NEC today said it may cut jobs at its Scottish plant as part of an overall cost blitz at the company. The Japanese chipmaker is looking into how to restructure its business in the UK, China and other areas after cutting staff in the US. When asked if this would include layoffs at its plant in Scotland, a representative told Reuters: "We can't rule it out." The comment followed a report in today's Nikkan Kogyo newspaper that NEC planned to chop almost half its staff at the Scottish plant. The factory, which churns out DRAM memory, employs around 1,500 staff. NEC said earlier this year it would stop DRAM production at the factory in 2003, and switch to more profitable products. According to the Nikkan Kogyo, this date has now been brought forward by one year. The company is expected to make a formal announcement on restructuring plans in the UK later this month. ® Related Links Nikkan Kogyo site NEC mulls job cuts at semiconductor plant
Linda Harrison, 10 Jul 2001

Webvan drives into dotcom Death Valley

US online grocer Webvan has quit trading and plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The California-based outfit, which managed to outlive rivals such as Kozmo and Urbanfetch, said today it would conduct an "orderly wind down" of its business. Deliveries of existing orders will stop and the company will take no fresh orders in any market. The assets of the company, which operated in seven US cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, have also been put up for sale. Around 2,000 jobs have been lost. Webvan CEO Robert Swan blamed a sales slowdown in the second quarter ended June 30, which meant the company needed increasing amounts of cash. "Webvan has weathered numerous challenges, and in a different climate I believe that our business model would prove successful," said Swan. "At the end of the day, however, the clock has run out on us." Webvan had around 750,000 customers. Related Link Webvan statement Related Stories Kozmo.com makes its last delivery Webvan ditches expansion plans
Linda Harrison, 10 Jul 2001

Bosses are snooping on 27 million workers worldwide

Fourteen million office workers in the US have their online activities under constant surveillance, according to the Denver-based Privacy Foundation. Worldwide, it reckons the number of employees under such surveillance totals around 27 million people. According to the foundation's Workplace Surveillance Project the low cost of snooping technology is the main reason why employers used such big brother-style tactics in the workplace. That's despite many companies insisting that they monitored their workers' activities as a means to maintain productivity or prevent online shenanigans such as online harassment. But the report warns employees to be on their guard, since many might not be fully aware that they're being snooped on. "Notice alone might not go far enough," said Andrew Schulman, chief researcher for the Privacy Foundation's Workplace Surveillance Project and author of the new study. "Companies and government agencies are basing firing and suspension decisions on the employee-monitoring reports. "Yet, employees are generally not told beforehand what information will be gathered and how it will be judged. "Companies can use employee-monitoring logs as a kind of 'wishing well' to justify actions against employees, including dismissals and layoffs," he said. Online snooping is estimated to be worth $140 million a year, the report said. ® Related Link The Extent of Systematic Monitoring of Employee E-mail and Internet Use - The Privacy Foundation
Tim Richardson, 10 Jul 2001

WinXP Product Activation decoded and analysed

German techies Fully Licensed GmbH claim - convincingly - to have unravelled the Windows Product Activation (WPA) system used in the latest versions of Microsoft software, including Office XP and Windows XP. The bottom line, according to the company, is that WPA is not particularly intrusive, does not invade anybody's privacy, and is a lot more forgiving of hardware changes than has been speculated. That speculation is, as Fully Licensed points out, entirely Microsoft's fault, as the company has been intentionally vague about the precise nature of the sending and checking carried out. As Fully Licensed says: "The current public discussion of Windows Product Activation (WPA) is characterized by uncertainty and speculation. In this paper we supply the technical details of WPA - as implemented in Windows XP - that Microsoft should have published long ago." Fully Licensed, incidentally, supports WPA. Says managing director and CTO Thomas Lopatic: "Software piracy is still a major problem for all software companies. And we think that [Microsoft's] interest in raising the bar for software pirates is absolutely justified." The company analysed WPA as shipped in WinXP RC1, and found that ten hardware components are used to generate the "individual" hardware ID for the machine XP is installed on. "However, due to the method employed to generate the hardware ID, it is very likely that many hardware configurations result in the same ID. Consequently, determining the actual hardware configuration corresponding to a given hardware ID is an infeasible task. In addition to the hardware ID only information derived from the product key - a kind of serial number accompanying each distributed copy of Windows XP - is transmitted." So Microsoft does not have any mechanism for finding out what hardware you're running. From the WPA process, anyway. The hardware checked is as follows: Serial number of system volume; NIC MAC address; CDROM; graphics adapter; CPU; hard drive; SCSI adapter; IDE controller; processor model; RAM size. There's also a check to see if the hardware is dockable or not. The company reckons that there's likely to be duplication in the components (i.e. different products might produce the same ID), and that the system is pretty forgiving. You're only likely to have to repeat the activation process and get a new unlock key if you change more than three of these components, and if you're using a portable in conjunction with a docking station, it's effectively a lot more flexible than that. The information transmitted, the company says, is "completely innocuous", consisting solely of the hardware ID (which can't be used to identify specific hardware) and the product key that comes with XP. Of itself the system is therefore no threat. WPA does however take us closer to Microsoft's goal of chaining a particular piece of software to a particular piece of hardware, making it easier for the company to claim the Microsoft tax every time you buy a new machine. Fully Licensed doesn't cover that part of the deal, but obviously if you install, say, Office XP on one machine then you want to use it on an entirely new machine when you upgrade, you're going to have to call up Microsoft and get permission. The Register reckons it's therefore still objectionable from that point of view. Nor does Fully Licensed cover other aspects of 'generation XP' that have the effect of garnering information about you and your hardware. There is, for example, a deal of checking of the local configuration already present in Windows Update, and the automated bug-reporting in XP potentially gives Microsoft far more information than you'd conceive of being sent via WPA. This latter system kicks in when your machine has a problem, but only sometimes, frequently not when you had a big problem you're personally well aware of, rather more frequently when you didn't even notice a problem at all. The intention of this system is positive - Microsoft reckons that if people can send fully detailed bug reports just by clicking OK, it'll be able analyse them in volume, to zero in on major problems with its software a lot faster than in the past, and be far more effective in prioritising fixes. But although you get the option of not sending this and of inspecting what's going to be sent, it's practically impossible to understand what's being sent - quite a bit of information about local configuration, however, will certainly be in it, so it's likely a lot of people will click on no. But Fully Licensed set out solely to analyse the WPA process, and it seems to have done a fairly thorough job of this. In addition to the analysis of the hardware identifier, it's also done a deconstruct of the product key itself, explaining how the important part is buried inside the printed product key, and which components are likely to be checks (to allow for the call centre operative typing it in wrong, for example). It's not clear whether or not this information will be of any help to people who might have a need to generate product keys (no, we don't know why they'd want to do that either). But Fully Licensed probably would not have published the info if this was the case. In addition to the results of its analysis, the company has also made XPDec, a command line utility that can be used to verify the information, available for download along with the source code for XPDec. It notes that "we have removed an important cryptographic key from the XPDec source [so] recompiling the source code will fail to produce a working executable." Related links: Fully Licensed's Inside Windows Product Activation paper The company's press release Download area for XPDec utility and source
John Lettice, 10 Jul 2001

WinXP pricing data gets ‘disappeared’ by Amazon

Amazon clearly must have jumped the gun when it published pricing for Windows XP yesterday; reports from Register readers that came in last night during our beauty sleep tell us first, that Amazon did get a price together for an upgrade to WinXP Professional, and second, that the prices got pulled shortly afterwards. As of 3pm GMT today, a search for Windows XP on amazon.com was reporting four hits in the software category, but wasn't showing the specific entries. So, gone, but not yet quite forgotten by the search system. From these antics we can conclude that Microsoft has set prices for Windows XP, has communicated these to at least a couple of its extra special vendor friends, and that it intends to roll with a pricing, preordering and hyping announcement any time now. Amazon wouldn't have had the info prepared and poised to roll unless this was going to happen fairly soon, and in order to avoid leaks, Microsoft likewise wouldn't have told them. But strangely, Microsoft may well have been fairly sure about the prices it intended to charge for quite some time. When beta 2 of WinXP shipped one of our sources in Redmond told us that a pricing announcement at that time had been a possibility. And actually he seemed surprised that it hadn't happened then. Barring last minute changes of plan, the prices for XP will be as follows: XP Professional, $299.99; XP Professional Upgrade version (the one we were missing yesterday) $199.99; XP Home Edition $199.99; XP Home Edition Upgrade $99.99. Look out for the MS release telling you why this is cheap RSN. Meanwhile, if anybody has any info on how the trigger got pulled by mistake at Amazon, we'd love to hear from them... ®
John Lettice, 10 Jul 2001

Ericsson R520

ReviewReview Ericsson's new R520 is a feature-packed phone. Not only does it include built-in Bluetooth, WAP 1.2 and HSCSD (high speed circuit-switched data), it also supports GPRS (general packet radio service). GPRS promises faster downloads and always-on connections for mobile users, with billing based on the amount transferred rather than the time connected. However, to benefit you need a service provider that supports it. Although Vodafone and BT Cellnet will have consumer offerings soon, we decided to take a look at the other aspects the phone has to offer now, and plan to provide an update later when GPRS is more widely available. Thanks to the built-in Bluetooth support, you can easily set up a wireless data connection to a similarly equipped notebook, but it also ties in nicely with the R520's synchronisation functionality. Using the supplied software you can synchronise your phone book, tasks and calendar with Outlook on your PC via Bluetooth, infrared or cable. The obvious benefit of using Bluetooth is that there are no wires to carry around and the phone can be in your pocket or briefcase, as it doesn't require line of sight. The R520 supports 1,900MHz plus the usual 900/1,800MHz bands, making it suitable for use while travelling in the US. Predictive text from T9 is available, as well as an expanded phone book that allows you to store multiple numbers and contact details for each entry. Despite all the R520s functionality, the phone isn't too bulky and remains reasonably light at 105g. Ericsson has packed almost every mobile technology (existing and emerging) into the unit without making it the size and weight of a brick. The R520 should provide you with everything you need until 3G takes off. At £212 without contract, it is good value for money. Info Price: £212 Contact: 08705 237 237 Website www.ericssondirect.co.uk Specs Dimensions: 50x130x16mm Weight: 105g Features: 900/1,800/1,900MHz triband GSM WAP 1.2 browser GPRS HSCSD Bluetooth PC synchronisation 11hr talktime 300hr standby 510-name phone book This review is taken from the August 2001 issue. All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
PC Advisor, 10 Jul 2001

FireWall-1 users feel the heat from security bug

Security clearing house CERT has issued a security notice warning that the protection offered by a market leading firewall could be side stepped by determined crackers. According to an advisory issued by CERT yesterday, a vulnerability in Check Point FireWall-1 (version 4.1) and VPN-1 may allow an intruder to pass traffic through the firewall on port 259/UDP by faking packet headers. The bug permits a catalogue of exploits ranging from mounting denial of service attacks to permitting a cracker to communicate with a Trojan horse program planted on supposedly protected hosts to tunnelling arbitrary traffic across a firewall boundary. On the face of it this sounds very unpleasant, but Deri Jones of security testing specialist NTA Monitor said that in practice the worst aspect of the bug is that it allows hackers to communicate with Trojan horse programs. "Port 259/UDP is a pretty wacky port and hackers would be lucky to find machines listening on that port so the risk from denial of service attacks is low," said Jones. The flaw, which was discovered by German security consultancy Inside Security, arises from default management rules employed by Check Point which allow arbitrary RDP (Reliable Data Protocol) connections to traverse the firewall. RDP (UDP/259) is a proprietary protocol used by Check Point for internal communication between software components and is enabled by default to simplify encryption set-up. It is not the same as IP protocol 27. Researchers at Inside Security have discovered a lack of controls applied to the protocol which means "by adding a faked RDP header to normal UDP traffic any content can be passed to port 259 on any remote host on either side of the firewall". Inside Security has produced proof of concept code to prove that the exploit is possible, which it said it would release in a few days. Check Point has produced a patch to address the issue, which it recommends all affected sites should apply as soon as possible. CERT advises users to block access to port 259/UDP until the patch is applied. NTA Monitor's Jones said even though FireWall-1 is a "pretty stable" and well respected product security issues with the software arise from time to time, and need to be treated seriously given the product is central to the security infrastructure of many firms. ® External Links Check Point FireWall-1 RDP Bypass Vulnerability (Inside Security's alert) CERT advisory ... and Check Point's advice Related Stories Checkpoint Software misses sales expectations Microsoft struts into Net security market
John Leyden, 10 Jul 2001

Power tools and PCs: Swedish expert shows how

We hadn't previously heard of Docktor Nårton, so we're deeply grateful to Register regular Eric the Troll for drawing this skilled hardware technician to our attention. As yet the Doctor's site doesn't have a great deal of information on it, but it goes into commendable detail in describing its projects so far, and if anything, we feel it all being in Swedish adds to the overall clarity. In one project the Doctor tackles hard disk defragmentation with the aid of a screwdriver, a toothbrush and some household cleaning fluid, while his use of an angle grinder and insulating tape to upgrade a graphics card is a neat tip. No more fiddling with tricky little screws round the back of the case. We're not quite sure how the next project, apparently still in progress,* will develop. The Doctor appears to be upgrading a Compaq server and, tantalisingly, has got as far as measuring up the case with a menacing-looking saw blade. Register hardware site of the week, without question. ® * Our astonishingly large number of Swedish-speaking readers corrects us on this one. To quote the one who actually used Swedish in his email, Nick Thomson, "If you click on the 'Vi sparar utrymmen!' links at the top of that page you will see the various stages of this 'project'." Sorted. Please stop telling us this now, people, OK? We've got 30 already...
John Lettice, 10 Jul 2001

Demon successfully challenges Bulger injunction

A British ISP has successfully challenged an injunction aimed at shielding the identities of the killers of James Bulger. Thus, which runs the ISP Demon Internet, applied to the High Court to clarify the position of ISPs regarding the ruling. It wanted the order changed so it would not be held liable for material on its Web pages. Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the Family Division - the body responsible for hiding the whereabouts and identities of killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables - agreed the injunction was "inappropriate" in relation to ISPs. Butler-Sloss approved alterations to the injunction, which, according to a statement by Thus, now applies to ISPs "if they have actual knowledge and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent publication." Thus said it took the matter to the High Court because it was worried it could have broken the injunction through no fault of its own. "What we are seeking to do today is to establish the breadth and scope of this injunction and its implications to Internet Service Providers (ISPs)," it said in a statement before today's decision. "We fully appreciate the seriousness of the issues dealt with in the injunction and fully support the law in this matter. "We have applied to the High Court to provide clarity that will enable ISPs to interpret the injunction." It added: "We are concerned that we could be in the position where technically we are in contempt of Court because of material published of which we have no knowledge." Two years ago Demon agreed to pay $15,000 damages to scientist Laurence Godfrey after failing to remove defamatory postings on newsgroups it hosted. According to the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), the current situation for UK ISPs and material posted on their Web pages is pretty murky. The industry is waiting for legislation via the E-Commerce Directive, due later this year, which is expected to state that if ISPs are informed of such content, they must remove it from their Web sites. ® Related Stories Demon coughs up damages in Godfrey libel case Demon libel loss could cripple Internet free speech
Linda Harrison, 10 Jul 2001

KDE browser plugs-in Windows

Quite a few minor tremors have been felt on the Linux browserscape recently, and although none of them adds up to a seismic earthshaker the cumulative effect is that the scene looks very different - and much less bleak - than it did six months ago. The Great Leap Forward was the 0.9 release of Mozilla in the spring, the first unencumbered by tons of debugging code. That's up to 0.9.2 now. Galeon and Konquerer (the KDE file manager) have also bounded along, the former borrowing the Gecko rendering engine from the Mozilla Project, which Konquerer can use too via KMozilla, although the preferred rendering engine is KHTML. (Thanks for the update). Both Galeon and Konquerer add lots of usability improvements. Now the KDE project added a new twist. Konquerer, the KDE file manager/browser has gained the ability to play ActiveX controls. Not all of them and not perfectly, but in time it could prove enough to provide an alternative to the widely loathed Netscape plug-in model. And that in turn, probably will make as much difference to Linux's prospects as a desktop as anything else. "WINE could already play Flash and Shockwave," developer Niko Zimmermann told us today. "we just made a wrapper so you can specify which control to load." The Windows Media Player isn't one of them, although Zimmermann says that WMP did work under WINE in a standalone mode, and the team is looking into fixing it. Macromedia offers a Netscape Flash plug-in for x86 flavours of Linux, but using the new Reaktivate technology in Konqueror is smoother and less buggy, reckons Niko. With co-author Malte Starostik, he's looking at running the ActiveX control to provide QuickTime playback. Now this isn't the same as a true native player, and with due respect to the WINE team, whose work is nothing short of astonishing, isn't really a long term solution. That'll be better served by native media players, as WINE is limited to x86 Linuxes. Best of all we suggest, web designers could stop designing sites using the abominable Flash format, or adopt an open animation format. [Update:] Many thanks to those of you who wrote in pointing out that between them, SVG and SMIL perform just this job. SVG is the Scalable Vector Graphics file format, backed by Adobe and recently approved as a W3C standard. SMIL is Synchronized Multimedia Interface Language, and defines the animation and linking semantics. It builds on SVG and much else, SMIL is pronounced "smile", so if they ever propose the Synchronized Multimedia Interface Language Extensions, they'll be er, smiley?. ® External Link Konqueror
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Jul 2001

Europe holds key vote on spam tomorrow

The future of unsolicited commercial email in Europe could be decided in Brussels tomorrow as a key committee sits down to debate the issue. Under existing European law the treatment of junk email - or spam - depends on the position already adopted by individual countries. Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Italy have all signed up to an "opt-in" approach to spam, which should ensure that people only receive junk email if they request it first. The other ten member states - including France and the UK - believe spam is a legitimate business activity. Their only concession is that users should be able to "opt-out" if they do not want to receive junk email. Tomorrow's committee meeting will discuss whether Europe should adopt European Commission-backed proposals to introduce an "opt-in" policy to spam acorss all member states, or leave things as they are. And because of the status of the Citizens' Rights and Freedoms, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, whatever it decides tomorrow is likely to be rubber-stamped by the full Parliament when it meets in the autumn. Critics warn that leaving the current muddle of legislation as it is will hamper the development of online services and merely play into the hands of spammers. They also warn that spam will not just be restricted to email but also to the increasingly popular mobile message services. Joe McNamee of the European Internet Service Providers Association (EuroISPA) said: "The proliferation of SMS spam is going to be a severe disadvantage to mobile ecommerce. "Without an outright ban spammers can hide behind the confused legal situation in Europe," he said. Those in favour of the status quo question whether any regulation - even at pan-European level - can curtail the spread of spam. Labour MEP and former Eastenders soap star, Michael Cashman, who sits on the Citizens' Rights and Freedoms committee, believes a ban would have little effect merely driving the practise offshore. "It would disadvantage EU-based businesses and advantage those businesses trading outside the EU," he said. "Instead, we must give people the chance to unsubscribe, if they so wish, and to block spam. "If we don't have the nous to develop software to block spam then the Internet will die under its weight," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 10 Jul 2001

Microsoft signs up VeriSign to secure .NET

VeriSign is to provide authentication and security technologies within future .NET offerings. And in return VeriSign will use Microsoft's HailStorm suite of fee-based services throughout its business. The deal means that HailStorm, which has been criticised by privacy and security experts, will find its way into VeriSign's Network Solutions domain registration operation, which will be moved onto Windows 2000 servers along with the rest of VeriSign's business. HailStorm, which is currently in development, is designed to enable users to access their personal information from any location and any device through the use single sign-on and authentication system based on Microsoft's Passport. The companies will work together to integrate VeriSign's Personal Trust Agent technology, which provides users with a tool to manage their digital credentials and preferences, as part of Microsoft's Passport authentication, single sign-in and secure messaging capabilities. Microsoft's agreement with VeriSign is designed to give confidence to users that Web-based services on online transactions can be made secure, however doubts over Redmond's patchy security record mean Microsoft will need to do a great deal to convince the market on this. Let's not forget that in March Microsoft had to admit that VeriSign issued two certificates in its name to a scam artist posing as a Microsoft employee. The certificates were of the sort used to digitally sign programs and the group who obtained the certificates might use them to trick users into running malicious code, signing Trojan horses and viruses with Microsoft's name. That, and Microsoft's failure to keep the digital certificate on one of its own ecommerce sites up to date hardly inspires confidence. And that's before we even get to consider the fear that the deal may be a key part in a plan by Microsoft to extend its dominance of the desktop into the Internet market. On the positive side the deal does imply that Microsoft is beginning to recognise that security is a factor that might affect the uptake of its technology, and not something that should be easily traded off against making products easier to use. If improving security becomes linked in the minds of senior execs in Redmond to increased sales we might actually end up with more secure products. ® External Links Microsoft and VeriSign Announce .NET Alliance Related Stories Microsoft fails to renew its digital certificate Microsoft vexed by falsified certs UK govt new encryption system only works with MS kit Investors mis-interpret McAfee/MS .NET deal MS proprietary tech undermines HailStorm - analyst Pay-to-Play: Microsoft erects .NET tollgate
John Leyden, 10 Jul 2001
DVD it in many colours

Hutchison picks Moto for 3G phones

Hutchison has opted for Motorola as its supplier of 3G phones in several countries including the UK and Australia. The $700 [corrected] million deal should provide the network with handsets starting in Q3 next year. The devices will combine both GSM and GPRS functionality in the same unit, we gather. 2002 always was the target launch date for UMTS (as we used to call 3G), but Hutchison is the only network to offer a hostage to fortune by promising 3G roll out across all its regions next year - a very aggressive schedule indeed. Hutchison will begin trials in December 2001 or January next year. Finding an optimal launch date for 3G is a problem for all the networks. There's plenty of GPRS investment to milk first, but the longer 3G is delayed the less time the networks have to recoup their 3G licenses. Hutchison won its UK 3G license with help from Canadian-listed network TIW, and has backing from NTT Slowcomo and KPN too. It's already plumped for Nokia to provide its back end 3G infrastructure in the UK. ® Related Stories Hutchison starts hyping its 3G vision
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Jul 2001

Le Freeswerve takes swipe at Oftel report

Britain's biggest French ISP, Freeserve, has hit back at the results of an Oftel survey that showed its market share of UK home Net users had slumped to 18 per cent - just one point ahead of AOL UK. In a statement Le Freeswerve rubbished Oftel's findings preferring instead to rely on Forrester Research, which showed the ISP's market share was 35 per cent. Indeed, the findings of both surveys are so far apart it's almost impossible to believe which is correct - or even nearly correct. Said Le Freeswerve: "The most recent survey from Forrester Research confirms Freeserve's UK ISP market share as 35 per cent. "There are numerous studies into UK ISP market share and arguably none is satisfactory. The results of the various studies give different results due to differing survey questions, sample sizes, sampling and weighting techniques. "What is consistent is that surveys for the last 3 months, consistently show Freeserve as the UK's number one ISP. "In addition, Freeserve is the only UK ISP that publicly discloses our number of active registered accounts. It is interesting that none of our competitors choose to do this." Le Freeswerve has a point. Indeed, this whole matter could be ended in a jiffy if only ISPs would publish their usage figures. A spokeswoman for Le Freeswerve said it had 2.1 million active subscribers. A spokeswoman for AOL UK said: "We don't publish our user figures." Ho hum. ® Related Story AOL UK stuffs Freeserve in popularity battle
Tim Richardson, 10 Jul 2001
cable

HP offers ‘pay as you go’ pricing for servers

Hewlett-Packard yesterday launched a 'utility pricing model' for its servers which it said would help customers match IT spending with their needs, as their revenues fluctuate. With HP Pay per Use pricing, customers will be billed based on the actual computing power used during any given month, allowing application service providers (ASPs) to bill their end-users in what HP describes as a utility-like manner. HP also sees the program as attractive for enterprise customers, such as retailers, whose systems are more heavily used at particular times of the year. The pricing model is available today for customers acquiring Unix HP Superdome servers and HP's Intel IA-32-based L-series servers. Its unclear whether the utility pricing model will be extended over time to HP's full range of servers and software products, such as its OpenView management suite. Chris Franklin, HP's Unix server marketing manager, said it had the flexability to introduce the pricing model across the board but was initially concentrating on customers of its Intel-based and top of the range Superdome servers. Some HP customers have been offered utility pricing on a case by case basis and HP now feels the time is right to introduce the facility, which was promised at the launch of Superdome, to all its customers of particular products. Franklin acknowledged that firms might be reluctant to invest in expensive server technology during the current economic slowdown. He said the pricing model, which HP is the first in the market to introduce, "will take the risk out of buying servers". HP's utility infrastructure includes remote management and metering technology, so HP Pay per Use customers receive monthly statements that reflect the average of peaks and down-cycles in usage over a given month. The invoice reflects a base payment and a variable, usage-based payment, which HP described as similar to the payment structure of a typical cellular phone service. The pricing model is described by HP as complementing its Instant Capacity on Demand (iCOD) - which unlike Pay Per Use only allows users to pay for more capacity - and HP Pay per Forecast pricing programs, which doesn't take account of real use. ® External Links HP Launches Flexible Pricing Program for Servers Related Stories HP warns of more cost cuts in wake of weak May sales HP PC biz to 'lose $100m' in 2001 HP's Superdome is slow seller Superdome service is mandatory, admits HP HP racks up 9000 L-Class HP wears Itanium underpants and sings the Intel song
John Leyden, 10 Jul 2001

Apple beefs up pro DVD know-how

Apple confirmed that it wants to acquire DVD specialist Spruce Technology, which the Creative Mac news site scooped yesterday. Spruce sells high-end DVD software to studios and big corporates - although it recently added a low-end "personal" consumer version - and markets a couple of PCI encoder boards too. What makes the proposed acquisition interesting is that Spruce only makes products for the Windows platform, and if a trawl through the website is giving us up to date information, the only mention of Apple is in the obligatory copyright and trademark sections. Before you can say 'Yellow Box', someone somewhere will be drawing the conclusion that Apple is leaving its options open to pursue non-Mac platforms. After all, most of the WebObjects developer seats and deployments we know about are on Windows or Solaris. (Solaris is a server option but not a developer option). More likely is Apple's desire to target the low-hanging fruit of SGI's business with its own hardware. That's where the tasty margins are to be found. With Mac OS X, Apple finally has an OS capable of SMP, and the high profile Jobs has given to SGI subsidiary Alias|Wavefront's port of Maya to OS X isn't accidental.® External Link Spruce Technologies
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Jul 2001