You'd think it was an election year. US Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) called a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday so reporters might learn just how outraged he is by Win XP's inclusion of Microsoft photography, instant messaging and multimedia apps, which, he believes, will devastate the hardworking little-guy competitors on whose behalf he apparently battles tirelessly. "It appears that Microsoft intends to maximize its monopolistic power, using XP as a platform to enter new lines of business while encumbering competitors," Schumer said, rooting deep into the 'I just sussed out Redmond's business strategy; let's arrange a press conference' archive. "I hope [the launch] will be delayed by Microsoft's own doing - and if not, by law," he declared. "I am sending a letter to the head of the [US Department of Justice] Antitrust Division, asking that he not settle with Microsoft unless they agree to a global settlement providing open access for competitors to offer their... products on an equal basis," he said defiantly. Schumer says he's already asked state attorneys general to oppose the launch, as if they otherwise wouldn't. "Last night I spoke with New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer; and I am calling on him, along with the other state attorneys general, to bring a suit enjoining the release of Windows-XP unless Microsoft agrees to make significant changes, either as part of a global settlement or on their own initiative," he warned. Schumer got up Steve Ballmer's ass too. "It seems the very design of Windows XP is hardwired to preference Microsoft's applications," he wrote the Redmond Bear in a letter which he distributed at the conference. "If PC manufacturers and consumers can choose their browser in Windows XP, surely they should be able to choose their media player, messenger service and other applications," he maintained. Ballmer apparently wrote back, offering to address each of Schumer's concerns. But the Senator had better things to do than listen to the opposition's lies. Citing an enormously convenient schedule conflict, he managed to dodge an XP demonstration MS was hoping to deliver exclusively for his benefit. "We had prepared a full factual briefing and software demonstration that could have easily addressed the rhetoric from AOL Time Warner that is the basis for their lobbying campaign to stop Windows XP," MS legal beagle Jack Krumholtz wrote Schumer. But then he went entirely round the bend: "The timely launch of Windows XP is critical to re-ignite the PC industry in the United States," he added. Right: MS is going to redeem that sad joke otherwise known as the New Economy single-handedly, as mindless consumers trample each other to buy high-powered boxes just to run their latest bloatware. Right. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Schumer serves, will conduct hearings in September to determine whether or not MS needs a real Washington-style wrist-slapping. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont) announced the news Tuesday, while Schumer bristled before the cameras. And we missed the afternoon showing of Final Fantasy for this.... ®
In its broadest hint yet, Stepstone says it can "see a need for further capital before the company reaches profitability". Looking at its cash burn (after a restructure), one can see why: the company only has EUR46.9m left in the bank - enough to cover maybe four months of losses at the current rate. Stepstone's operating expenses in Q2 were E47.8m, against revenues of E17.1m. In Q1, the company announced plans to trim E20m a quarter by Q3 from operating expenses, which were then 48m a quarter. Accordingly headcount - mostly from back office rather than the sales floor - has been trimmed back from 1,258 in Q1 to 1,078 in Q2. Stepstone says it will cut back even further, reducing staff numbers to 850 (does this make it an anti-recruitment company?). It will need to do rather more than this, if it is to avoid extending the begging bowl to its shareholders. With the slowdown in recruitment across Europe, Stepstone will not find it easy to trade its way out of losses - it will simply not win enough market share quickly enough. And with operations in 15 countries its cost base is far greater than that of most rivals. The online recruitment firm cites current recruitment market conditions for its need for a fresh capital injection. But equity market conditions will mean that any rights or new share issue will get away only at a deep discount. Stepstone expresses confidence in the future - it says it has the full backing of its three biggest shareholders and that it remains on course to turn cash positive in 2002. The company turned cash positive in Germany in Q2, 2001 and reports that its Danish operations have been profitable - before interest - for the third quarter in a row. ®
Elpida's DDR sales will have caught up with RDRAM shipments by the end of the year and will overtake them during the first three months of 2002, the memory maker said yesterday. Elpida reckons that by the end of 2001, DDR and RDRAM will each account for 15 per cent of the company's memory sales, based on preliminary orders for the second half of the year. So said the Dramurai's US chief, Mike Despotes, in an interview with EBN. He also said that DDR may even exceed single-rate SDRAM sales in the second half of 2002. That's broadly in line with forecasts made by other DRAM suppliers, but ahead of Infineon's prediction - the German company expects DDR to dominate the memory market in 2003. RDRAM sales have been rising of late, boosted by Intel's Pentium 4 price cuts and the chip giant's policy of bundling RIMMs with boxed P4s, a practice the company has now ended, however. Despotes reckons the DRAM market will amount to $14-18 billion this year, well down on last year's $29 billion. ® Related Stories RDRAM sales to grow over 400% this month Samsung is sampling 300MHz DDR SDRAM Hynix boosts DDR SDRAM production Preliminary DDR II spec set Related Link EBN: Mike Despotes interviewed
Intel has confessed that, yes, it is indeed going to stop bundling RDRAM with its Pentium 4 processors. It's a fair cop, guv. The chip giant's motive is simple: its P4 price cuts means in doesn't have to resort to giving memory away to encourage PC builders to buy the processor. The company also points to the fall in RDRAM prices, though we note that the drop has come largely as a result of rising P4 demand. Of course, the real reason is that the third-tier PC companies Intel was targeting with the RDRAM bundle will soon be switching from the Rambus-based i850 chipset to the SDRAM-based i845 (aka Brookdale) or one from VIA, SiS or Acer Labs, and so dangling free RDRAM on front of them isn't going to work any more. Intel also plans to drop a P4-touting half-year rebate programme. ®
HP is beefing up its storage business through the purchase of StorageApps. Headquartered in New Jersey, StorageApps describes itself as a "leading provider of storage virtualization solutions". No we don't know what it means either, but it must be very impressive if HP is willing to splash out $350m worth of stock to get its mittens on the business. Want to know more about storage virtualization? Here is a definition, helpfully supplied by StorageApps in a press release. "StorageApps virtualization technology is intended to allow customers to easily implement and manage storage networks. This technology also enables customers to pool storage devices from different vendors, easily add capacity and readily move data among the devices independent of server operating systems or network infrastructure. As a result, customers can choose the best storage technology for their needs and more flexibly scale their networks to meet the unpredictable storage demands of their businesses." So there you have it. StorageApps virtualization technology will become a component in HP's Federated Storage Area Management (FSAM) strategy. An explanation of this can wait another day. ®
CNET Networks is to reduce its headcount by a further 15 per cent, on the back of a deteriorating sales outlook for the rest of the year.The layoffs will take place by mid-September. The layoffs are CNET's second round of job cuts this year. In February it chopped 190 staff. But as the world's biggest tech portal, CNET has rather more staff to cut than most. Last year it bought rival ZDNET, emerging with 2000 employees. CNET's cost-cutting drive includes the integration of "duplicative" businesses and shutting down certain non-profit or non-growth parts of the outfit. The company also reduced sales expectations for the year to between $290 million and $300 million, down from the previous estimate of $310 million to $328 million. The announcements came from the San Francisco-based company as it recorded its Q2 results. Excluding expenses, it posted a loss of $23.4 million for the three months ended June 30, compared to $5 million for the same period the previous year. This was on sales of $71.1 million (excluding expenses) - down 32 per cent on Q2 2000. Daily page views during the quarter grew 26 per cent to an average of 38.4 million. CNET CEO Shelby Bonnie said Q2 results were in line with expectations despite "a deep and prolonged slowdown in the economy, especially in the technology sector." He said the company could not predict when things would start to look up. ® Related Link CNET statement Related Stories Lucent to cut another 15,000 to 20,000 jobs Tech salaries tumble 6%
Intel is set to launch faster Pentium 4s in Q4 - so much is known from the company's roadmap - but, according to motherboard maker Gigabyte, we can expect further price cuts too. The next round of P4 price reductions is expected to take place on 26 August, when the 2GHz P4 will be introduced. Further cuts will come on 28 October, just before Intel debuts the 2.2GHz P4, this one based on 0.13 micron technology. So, Gigabyte has effectively confirmed the 28 October price cuts. The mobo company, like others of its ilk, is looking to rising P4 sales to drive up not only motherboard sales but average motherboard prices. Gigabyte said its expects its average selling price to rise from $70-80 in the first half of the year to $85-120 in the second half. Demand, meanwhile, will drive up sales of P4 mobos, based on either the Rambus-based i850 or the new SDRAM-based i845 (aka Brookdale) and the new 478-pin P4 variant. Gigabyte estimates P4-based board sales will accelerate through Q4 - when third-party P4 chipsets are expected to appear. By then, the company reckons, half of its mobos will be destined for P4 systems (up from just ten per cent in Q3), a quarter for AMD-based machines and the remaining quarter split between the PIII and Celeron. Rival mobo vendor Asustek broadly as optimistic, but reckons P4-based boards will account for 20 per cent of sales in Q4, rising to 50 per cent in 2002. Microstar believes the 50 per cent sales mix will be hit by P4 mobos in Q1 2002. Gigabyte, meanwhile, reckons RDRAM-based boards will account for 20 per cent of its P4 mobo shipments. The remaining 80 per cent will use SDRAM memory. ® Related Stories Intel to phase out Rambus bundles Intel's Desktop Roadmap Intel gets ready to cut Pentium 4 prices by up to 55% Intel: desktop Pentium III to die before year-end
Vodafone has released its latest user figures and dropped from number one to number three on the UK. It now has 10.54 million users, compared to Orange's 11.9 million and BT Cellnet's 10.89 million. One2One has 7.6 million and Virgin 1.0 million. How come? It has followed the rest of the industry's lead and posted figures only for "active users". In most cases that means people that have made a call in the last 90 days. Vodafone's take on this is that user figures are irrelevant and only the revenue made from each subscriber is important. It's a fair point. It may have 1.3 million fewer users than Orange but if it makes £1 a month more from each one, it stands to be £10 million ahead. Unfortunately for Vodafone however, it's average revenue per user has dropped recently (according to the FT from £14.80 in March to £14.15 in June). Despite this, Vodafone is still making more per user than its competitors. Oftel's most recent report on the market (May 2001) put Vodafone top in terms of annual revenue per subscriber with £60.30. Orange comes second with the far lower £47.90, BT Cellnet third with £41.70 and One2One last with £39.70. Also, average revenue has consistently dropped each quarter since 1999, mostly thanks to the large number of new users that don't use the phone as much. There is a slight caveat in that Oftel has been producing more accurate information each quarter but nevertheless several very clear trends can be seen. More people now have mobiles. Average revenue per user is going down. Vodafone is making a damn sight more per user than its competitors. ®
UpdateUpdate Our recent story on the MSN Communities bug, which lets outside surfers browse random image files belonging to Community members, contained a link which ceased to work shortly after we posted it. Naturally, we quickly received a series of alternate links from concerned readers, but those also died after a few hours' use. Clearly, MSN is on top of the situation; but we remain confident that our beloved readers are as well. As soon as we learn of any new, working ones, we'll post them in this story. The glitch that had been enjoyed here results in a Russian roulette style of surfing voyeurism, as there is a vast variety if material on the Communities site, ranging from the most innocent children's birthday parties to geriatric lesbian action. Several Register readers informed us that by modifying the URL slightly, it began to work again (we knew we could depend on you guys). Unfortunately, these are now sadly dysfunctional: http://communities.msn.com/_secure.msnw?ticket=lol http://communities.msn.com/_secure.msnw?ticket=lo http://communities.msn.com/_secure.msnw?ticket=l http://communities.msn.com/_secure.msnw?ticket=a http://communities.msn.com/_secure.msnw?ticket=b http://communities.msn.com/_secure.msnw?ticket=ass Undoubtedly, we'll hear of better ones soon. Caveat emptor: some of the images are quite irredeemably ugly and you may wish you hadn't seen them. For a more detailed explanation of the glitch, and how it got such a dead cool name, consult our original item below. ® Related Story MSN bug serves up porn
ReviewReview Palm set the benchmark for keyboard-free PDAs with the introduction of the PalmPilot. Since then, competition from innovative developers such as Handspring has left the original design looking tired. With its latest devices, however, Palm proves that it's still got what it takes to trounce the competition and keep its customers happy. The m500 series consists of two new models: the m500 and m505. The difference between the two is simply that the m505 offers a colour screen, while the m500 has a monochrome display. Both add all the features users have been asking for, plus a few extras to keep them ahead of the game. The basic hardware is much the same as the competition. Both use the 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ processor, twinned with 8MB of RAM - the same spec as Handspring's VisorEdge. The first change you'll notice from the previous top-end Palm, the Vx, is the new 'arctic mist' silver-blue livery, and the curvier design. But as Palm products have never been behind the curve in the looks stakes, where users really wanted to see improvements was with the technology. Handspring has long offered fast USB synchronisation and Springboard expansion, while Palm users were stuck with slow serial synchronisation and no expansion method. It's in these two areas that the m500 series makes some huge leaps forward. First of all, Palm has finally ditched serial in favour of USB. Both the m500 and the m505 come with a USB HotSync cradle, which also serves to recharge the lithium-ion polymer battery. Existing Palm users will notice a real improvement in synchronisation times as USB is capable of transferring data at 12Mbps while serial can only manage 0.1Mbps. Palm has taken another leaf out of Handspring's book by offering an expansion slot. This time, however, instead of copying the competition it has gone one better. The closest competitor - the VisorEdge from Handspring - uses an unwieldy expansion method, which requires you to remove the cover from the screen and add an adapter before you can plug in a Springboard module. Palm, on the other hand, has equipped the m500 series with an expansion slot that takes SD (secure digital) or MMC (multimedia card) media, meaning it can be neatly hidden in the Palm, keeping both models under 1.5cm thick. The m500 series has another lead over its competitors as it comes preloaded with Palm OS 4.0. This adds native USB support, 16-bit colour support for the m505, the ability to dial direct from the address book via a mobile phone, an alert manager and time zone support. It also comes with the Mobile Internet Kit preinstalled, plus Documents to Go 3.0 and MGI PhotoSuite Mobile Edition. With all this software to play with a good screen is essential. The m505 sports a 16-bit colour screen, which is vibrant and sharp – ideal for displaying images and graphics. Palm hasn't stinted on quality when it comes to the m500 either, as it uses a crystal-clear high-contrast monochrome 160x160 screen. With these new additions you'd expect the devices to pack in some extra weight. But, at 99g, the m500 is 15g lighter than the Palm Vx and 37g less than the VisorEdge. The m505 is heavier at 128g, but still 30 per cent lighter than Palm's other colour palmtop, the IIIc. Palm has done it again, coming up with PDAs to beat all comers. With the m505 winning our Best Buy award and its mono sibling stealing the number three slot, Palm looks ready to dominate the charts again. ® Info Price: £340 (m505) Contact: 020 7365 9820 Website: www.palm.com/europe Specs Processor: 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ RAM: 8MB Flash ROM: 4MB Screen: 16-bit colour (m505), monochrome (m500) Battery: lithium-ion polymer Dimensions: 114x79x12.7mm Weight: 128g (m505), 99g (m500) All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
Microsoft has admitted that Xbox's Japanese debut will follow the US launch and not take place on the same day as the company had originally suggested. The official line is that the Japanese launch will be "not too far behind" Xbox's appearance in US stores, which is currently scheduled for 8 November. However, the Microsoft Japan spokesman quizzed by Reuters on the matter was rather vague about it - to the extent that the company can't even say whether the console will ship in Japan this year. Last March, it emerged that the console's Japanese debut might well be delayed some months into 2002. The reason? To give Microsoft time to develop titles more relevant to the Japanese market than the ones the console will ship alongside in the US, and to better acquaint Japanese software developers with Microsoft's strategy and plans. That claim was rejected by Bill Gates himself when he spoke at the Tokyo Games Show later in the month. "People didn't know how committed we were for the Japanese market," he said. "We've got the Japanese market full-speed ahead on the Xbox." He also said that the console would ship in Japan in the autumn - right on schedule. Of course, it's entirely plausible that the console's Japanese debut is on schedule, but having yet to firm up a specific date, Microsoft's Japanese spokesman was simply squirming to avoid saying anything that might pin down any date the company has in mind. "As we have said in May, we still aim to launch Xbox in Japan around the same time of, or not too far behind, the US launch," said the spokesman. When asked about an end-of-year ship date, he said: "We can't say that clearly. All we can say is not too far behind the US debut." See what we mean? If it has significantly delayed the console's debut - and there's little in the spokesman's comments to suggest it actually has - then the Microsoft won't want to put it back too far or risk missing the Christmas sales season. Then again, Microsoft may be resigned to not being a major player in Japan and, to focus its efforts on the US and Europe, is past caring when Xbox ships in the Land of the Rising Sun. No, we don't think so either. ® Related Stories Microsoft buys Xbox name off true owner Microsoft Xbox has lost the console war already - Sony exec Xbox launch and price confirmed Sega to code for Xbox - Gates Microsoft to delay Japanese Xbox launch?
Last month, LogoWatch turned its attention to The Unix versus NT organisation. According to the blurb which accompanies its exciting new logo: The dark green color was chosen because it represents life, nature, growth, and ecology. This corresponds to the re-growth, rejuvenation, and general UNIX renaissance we now find ourselves in. This provoked us to comment: "We're sorry? Nature? Ecology? Have you gone completely bonkers? A Reg pin to anyone who can demonstrate the link between UNIX and the environment. Do us a favour." Well, that was all it took. Cue stampede of sysadmins eco-warriors falling over themselves to prove that Unix will indeed save mother Earth from environmental apocalypse. How, you're wondering, will it achieve this miracle? Well, so numerous are the apparent ecological benefits of Unix that we have collated the data as follows: Recycle, protect and survive About to throw that 486 in the dumpster? Hold on a minute, says Josef Mollers: With M$ products, you need a new system every year, using enormous amounts of energy to produce the new, adding heaps of dangerous waste when getting rid of the old system. With Unix and its descendents, these "obsolete" boxes can be put to new uses! Ruven Gottlieb agrees: [This is] particularly relevant in the case of Linux and the free BSDs, as old machines that have served their purpose are often redeployed as web or file and print servers, or routers. And should you want technical details, look no further than Nik Borton: Well, I run Slackware 7.1 on an AMD 5x86 with 32mb of RAM and a PIO mode 4 (ie, not even DMA, never mind UDMA) hard drive as a firewall, a router, DNS, HTTP, FTP and Samba servers, and run MySQL on it as well. It does on-demand dialling to BTInternet. It performs beautifully, unless I get cocky and recursively grep across the entire file system (which only puts IP masquerading off). Put Win9x on it, and it displays a deathly fear of doing anything at all. Right, time to dig out that Sinclair ZX81. We always knew that it would be useful for something... Power crazed So, what about the power consumption issue? Simple, says Tim Barnard: A Windows-based server usually needs a faster processor and more memory than a Unix based system doing exactly the same job. All things being equal, a faster processor consumes more power than an identical CPU at a lower speed. Less power means that less fuel needs to be burnt to produce the electricity. Less pollutants such as carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide are released into the atmosphere and Unix is envionmentally friendly! Another way to look at the problem would be consider the energy used to heat the coffee for the sysadmins who have to apply patches to keep Microsoft web servers (theoretically) secure. And then there are further peripheral energy benefits, according to Mike Schrimshaw: In my work environment, we generally replace 4 NT/Oracle systems with one Sun mid-range server; this saves electricity, and petrol for those poor NT admins that would otherwise have to drive in to the city at 3am to reboot or massage something. Talking of rebooting, what about Mike Edwards' theorum?: More power is used by a system when it first boots than while it's simply running. Since Windows is known to be unstable, requiring far more reboots than should be necessary for a server (or client) OS, it stands to reason that systems running Windows have higher power requirements than those running a stable OS - hence, environmentally unfriendly. We conclude this heading with a snippet from regular correspondent Jonnyhonk who has, as ever, an important contribution to make to the debate: Windows has more letters than UNIX and thus takes more power to type. Thanks for that. It's amazing how many people failed to spot this blindingly obvious factoid. Go hug a tree Amazonian Indians can rest easy in their hammocks, safe in the knowledge that Unix will not be making too many demands on their forest environment. So says Alan Drew: Unix has always supported the 'n' up printing format that uses (usually) half as much paper, by printing two portrait pages half the size on a landscape A4 Sheet. I still haven't figured out how to do that under windows NT, therefore use Unix, use less paper, result less destruction of rainforests. Simple as that. Jared Jennings expands this argument: Less packaging in landfills (to the extent that Unix means you download it over the internet instead of buying it in a box...) ... and third-world countries can use the money that they didn't spend on MS products on education for farmers so slash-and-burn doesn't happen as much. Presto, rainforests saved by Lin.., er, Unix. Indeed. Jens Benecke continues and summarises: The free Linux/BSD systems .... don't (necessarily) come in plastic wrapping with 1200 pages of glossy dead tree documentation, and with several additional CDs (most of which you'll never need). Also, the Unices don't need to be distributed as physical cardboard packages by stinking 18-ton trucks. Instead, most of these OSs come through the network, at light speed. So, they save the environment: - less chopping up forests - less expensive and poisonous chemical process for making glossy paper - no physical distributing -> no burning fossil oil - no physical storage space per distributed copy needed, therefore less storage buildings, i.e. less environment disruption by spreading concrete everywhere. Through the network at light speed? Not at Vulture Central they don't, mate. Justin Murdock notes how Unix will save the countryside from one extravagant building project at least... ...by not earning Bill lots of money, the Free OSs help save trees from being turned into not-very-greenbacks; these won't be used to carve up the landscape building a horrid house with LCD panels instead of windows... Nice one. But have we forgotten the ozone layer? Have we forgotten the rivers? James Newsom has not: When's the last time you saw a true Unix guru bother take a shower (water conservation) or use hair spray (save the ozone) to control the vasts amount of hair or use other scented products (no pollution or litter!). Unix will also help to stave off global warming, says a cool-headed Graceland: Unix causes less frustration, so your head stays cooler and therefore the impact on global warming is less than if you use Windoze. Convincing stuff, is it not? Let's move quickly on to... The human factor There is, naturally, a human and social benefit to Unix. Jens Benecke explains: Because Unix systems are so much much more difficult to administer ;-) you will need more highly skilled administrators, even with less, more stable, more reliable machines. Therefore, you will lower the unemployment rate among BOFHs in your area. So, fewer people will have to live off their unemployment allowance and this money can be invested e.g. into an extinction-endangered species project instead. Aha, it all makes perfect sense. Then again, maybe there are just too many people around. More Unix is the solution, expounds Kit Halstead: The single largest problem facing the environment is human overpopulation. The more UNIX we have, the less the population will grow. Quite simple when you think about it, really. Very droll. Unix the Eco-Warrior Not only is Unix out there saving the planet, it's also helping us to understand just what a good job it's doing. Tom Hodgson is the man looking at the barometer: Unix Systems are used for metereology, siesmology and many other environment science activities ;) Furthermore, John-Mark Gurney has hands-on experience: Every heard of GIS (Geological Information Science)? Ever been to www.usgs.gov and looked at all that is offered there? There are plenty of people that use Unix in their research of watersheds and distribution of plant life from information provided by the USGS and other sources. This help plan where damns should go, and the impact of industry on the local ecology. The programs that are used in these endeavours are usually Unix-based programs. I happen to know this because I maintained the Unix server used by the GIS department at the University of Oregon. Alright, alright, we believe you. So, why use Unix for this essential, life-saving work? Derek Miller tells us why: Since the models that are used to predict global warming are extremely complex (you know, equations with more than 2 variables), you wouldn't dare run them on any of the yucky OS's that MS makes. Thus, the models (at least some of them) must be run on UNIX. Thanks for that, it's a great weight off our minds. I'm sorry, I've lost my marbles Well, it always happens that you end up with the contributions which defy normal classification. Harald Albecht seems to have missed the point of the challenge: As it is with almost all command scripts under Windows, you simply do not have enough environment to hold all the environmental variables created using the "set" command. You have to create your own environment with enough space using the /E option. With Unix, there is no need to do so, as you always have an automatically growing environment... Er, right. Worse still, it appears that someone has spiked Dennis Price's coffee: Since the UNIX OS is used to enable the internet to function AND Unix is straight-up command-line coding that enables only good(it works) and pure (no bloat) computer actions which is DIRECTLY RELATED to genetic code(because it's CODE) that ALSO enables all good and pure life in the universe to exist in peace and harmony. Still, he can always get together for a chat with Steve Huyssoon: First, I shall say that we are indeed in a time of rejuvenation of life and the environment of Earth which supports life. This is what they were getting at with their logo explanation. UNIX, you see, is at the core of all this, for UNIX is emerging as the operating system for free thinkers (you were on to this already) and serves as the foundation for all other software entities that are allowing for the transcendence of emerging thought across the divisions we even still find ourselves in as we go through our day. You see, thought is the beginning and end of our little story here. UNIX is *apparently* the operating system that is supporting our joyeous reunion of thought in our emerging New Earth wherein our developing ecology of physicality and thought are best served by a lack of boundaries. In this context, then, you see that there is no real separation between what is typically considered Earth Ecology and our Thought Energy Ecology that will lead us into the New Earth which shall include all that could not be included before. Enough, we say. Enough of this madness. Thanks to all those readers who attempted to tackle our eco-challenge. In keeping with our noted generosity, we'd like to give Reg pins to all those who wrote in. But we can't. In fact, we can't give pins to anyone who wrote in, and here's why: The prosecution rests. ®
Microsoft makes security mistakes even when the software giant tries to emulate the approach to delivering services that Unix vendors take. That's the admittedly cynical conclusion we can infer from news that a denial of service vulnerability has cropped up in Microsoft's Service for Unix (SFU) 2.0. The software giant has issued a patch to fix the flaw in Services for Unix, which is essentially a resource kit designed to make Unix admins comfortable with using NT, by making Unix-like commands and interfaces available from Windows servers. In a security notice, Microsoft explained that among the components provided by SFU 2.0 are services that implement the NFS (Network File System) and Telnet protocols. "Both services contain memory leaks that could be triggered by a user request," Microsoft admitted. "An attacker who repeatedly sent such a request could deplete the kernel memory on the server to the point where performance slowed and the system could potentially fail." The Telnet services provided within Windows 2000 and NT are not affected by the issue. Boxes running the affected software are only subject to denial of service attacks, and the vulnerability does not hackers to take control of machines or steal data. Security experts at MIS Corporate Defence Solutions said Services For Unix was sometimes used by hosting companies, where it provided a means for Unix-skilled admins to manage NT servers. However Software For Unix is "not especially common" which tends to mitigate against any great harm been caused by the bug. ® Related Stories SSH hits the fan for Unix admins Internet survives Code Red Win2K becomes a spam relay MS Word, IIS/FrontPage, NetMeeting security warnings issued Security flaw in MS Exchange patch DoS bug bites Microsoft's first security product Microsoft racing to patch Outlook flaw Security patch approach is failing Related Link Microsoft's security notice
Malaysian police have seized a batch of mobile phone covers that display flashing pics of nude Hollywood stars. The 12 customised casings were grabbed during raids in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's The Star reports. The naughty phone covers show photos of famous actors and actresses, with nothing more than a few lights to cover their modesty. When the user makes or receives a call the stars' private parts light up. State Deputy CID chief superintendent Abdul Razak Ghani told the newspaper that the lighting on the casing was so prominent it could be spotted from a distance. Mobile casings normally sell for between RM25 ($6.58) and RM50 in Malaysia, but the flashing nude versions cost more. The police raids were part of a general crackdown on pornography in the country. ® Related Link Nude pictures of stars to 'light up' handphones Related Stories Philanderer-catching mobile phone launched
The police said yesterday they were trying to track down a con artist that was compelling people to dial a number but receiving nothing in return - except that is a £1.50 premium-rate charge. We would suggest to the boys in blue that they start their inquiries with Victoria Beckham, wife of footballer David Beckham and formerly talentless pouter in pop group the Spice Girls. According to media reports, people were being sent a text message saying "Call urgently". When they called the number, they heard nothing but an engaged tone, but unknowingly had been charged £1.50 on a premium rate number. This isn't quite what's happening at Mrs Beckham's new Web site www.victoriabeckham.mu, but we would argue it comes into the same category. If you want to see the full horror of what can happen to people if they live within the delusionary world of stardom, we suggest you pay the site a visit. Offering little more than a lesson in clashing colour schemes, it is a flagrant attempt to garner publicity for our Victoria's musical attempts. Failing that it attempts to extort as much money from young kids as possible. Moving around the celebrity couple's gaudy home, the site threatens to offer you an insight into the Beckham's family life. The thrones which Posh and Becks famously sat on during their wedding ceremony feature in the entrance hall with a little one for their baby. Click on it and you get some very basic facts about them. There is also a slot for listening to her new single and a place to hear her musings on the great questions of the day like: how do you get your hair like that? And do you like sport? From there you can go to the baby's room, where nothing happens, or see pictures of Victoria. And from there - well, from there you get to join the VIP club which will give you access to the rest of the cartoon house. Joining is simple - just call this number and you'll be given a "unique password". The password is free, the phone call is not. £1.50 for each call. Then the password can be used fifteen times, but only within 15 days. So basically, Ms Beckham and her marketing team hope that hundreds of young kids will call a premium line, note down a number and enter the site. And then do it every 15 days. They will of course, but is it very ethical? Some would say it was a cynical effort to extract as much money as possible from kids who don't have credit cards. We couldn't possibly comment. What's beyond, in the VIP area? We don't know. In the name of journalism we wasted £1.50 in getting a 10-digit entry password, handed over our name and email address and were informed that we will be entered for competitions in the future. We suspect the VIP area entry system may have crashed. Also, why the .mu domain? The PR bumpf says it's because of Manchester United but the truth is that all the other victoriabeckham domains had already gone. We look forward to seeing if Her Highness Beckham takes the owners to WIPO. ®
News has surfaced once again that VIA's controversial P4X266 Pentium 4, DDR-based chipset will undercut Intel's own P4, SDRAM-based i845 chipset by 25-30 per cent. According to a short item over at Overclockers Workbench, VIA has begun shipping the P4X266 to mobo makers. Some 30,000 chipsets have gone out in the initial batch. We await with interest Intel's reaction. The chip giant says VIA's chipset uses Pentium 4 technology the Taiwanese chip company doesn't have the right to use. Bollocks, counters VIA - we obtained the right when we bought S3 Graphics (which did have a P4 licence) off SonicBlue. As for the price, that emerged last month. VIA sources said the part would be priced at around $35 - less than the $43 Intel charges for the i850 and the $40 it demands for the i845. ® However, it is interesting that the part, which was introduced at the Computex trade show early June and is expected to be officially launched in August, has begun to ship to motherboard makers. With its DDR support, it should outperform the Intel board, which limits memory bandwidth by using PC133 SDRAM. The DDR version of the i845 isn't due to ship until early next year. ® Related Stories VIA Pentium 4 chipset will undercut Intel's VIA preps August launch for Pentium 4 DDR chipset Intel poo-poos VIA Pentium 4 chipset Related Link OC Workbench: VIA pushes P4 DDR chipset P4X266 at 25%-35% below Intel's offering
Production of 24x CD-R drives is ramping up and Plextor has kicked in with a CD-RW which offers: 24x CD-R; 10x CD-RW, and 40x CD-read. It's an internal drive with E-IDE interface. Plextor isn't the first with this, and Ricoh says it has had 1-24x CD-R's available since the beginning of May, included in its MP7200A-DP 20x 10x 32 CD-RW drive kit. The PlexWriter drive, snappily known as the 24/10/40A, comes with 'PoweRec-II technology' and features 'BURN-Proof technology' with 'Zone-CLV servo positioning' - all of which is meant to ensure you're don't have a CD coaster production factory on your hands. You can read more about the claims for these technologies on the Plextor press release, linked to below. But they reckon you can CD-R an entire 74-minute compact disc in just under four minutes (233 seconds). The drive has got a suggested $289 retail price so you should be able to pick it up cheaper than that. Related Link Plextor press release Related Link Verbatim's got CD-Rs certified for 24x recording
Guess what, outsourcing production to contract manufacturers causes more problems than it solves. Vendors today are unable to effectively adjust the supply of products from contract manufacturers to dramatic changes in demand, management consultancy Booz Allen claims. The result is "product shortfalls in times of high demand and more recently, bloated inventories as demand tapered off". It gets worse: "The effects of significant revenue shortfalls have been compounded as high-tech companies such as Cisco were locked into commitments to buy large quantities of new products from their suppliers". Booz Allen notes a basic conflict of interests between vendors such as Compaq and Cisco and contract manufacturers. The vendors want flexibility, while the manufacturers are looking for predictability. Operating on cut-throat margins, the contract manufacturers require certainty in their production schedules. Like good management consultants, Booz Allen says there's nothing wrong with outsourcing production in theory - it's the practice that falls down. We guess that it can - at great expense - tell companies how to improve their outsourcing models. A cheaper summary is contained in Booz Allen's article on supply chain problems, to be published in the August issue of its quarterly magazine strategy+business. Entitled: "Why Cisco Fell: Outsourcing and Its Perils," the article covers the outsourcing pains experienced by Cisco, Sony, Palm, Compaq, Apple, and Philips. ®
Details of SiS' official Pentium 4 chipset - as opposed to VIA's unofficial one, see VIA Pentium 4 chipset ships to mobo makers - have emerged on the Web over at Overclockers Workbench. SiS' chipset, the SiS 645, comprises a Northbridge part of the same name and a Southbridge called the SiS 961. Connecting the two is a 533MBps bus. The Northbridge supports PC333 and PC266 DDR memory and PC133 SDRAM - up to 3GB of it. It connects to the P4 over a 400MHz frontside bus. Oh, and it supports an AGP 4x bus too. The Suthbridge supports pretty much what you'd expect: ACR and CNR slots, AC97 compatible audio, Dolby 5.1 audio output, ACPI 1.1, APM 1.2, two USB controllers supporting up to six USB connectors, ATA100/66/33 dual-IDE channels and supports for up to six PCI slots. It also supprts 100Mbps Ethernet and HomePNA. That leaves it less interesting than Acer Labs' official P4 chipset, which is said to have Sony Memory Stick and USB 2.0 support too. It also supports AGP 8x. ® Related Stories Acer Labs P4 chipset gets USB 2, Memory Stick support VIA Pentium 4 chipset ships to mobo makers Related Link OC Workbench: SiS P4 DDR chipset details
RSA Security is running a factoring challenge that offers would-be code breakers a prize of up to $200,000 for finding the two numbers of the kind used to create ultra-secure 2048-bit encryption key. The idea of the RSA Factoring Challenge, which has been set before with lower-strength ciphers, is to encourage research into computational number theory and the practical difficulty of factoring large integers. Based on the challenge, RSA and others in the encryption community can chose the kinds of key lengths needed for secure cryptographic systems. There is a trade off between speed and security in choosing key lengths so this kind of research is useful. Previous RSA Factoring Challenges have revealed that the US-government backed Data Encryption Standard (DES) was vulnerable to a brute force attack that yielded the result of a 56-bit key in a little over 22 hours. This was accomplished by a network of distributed computers, organised by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and served to take forward distributed computing techniques and provide evidence that DES, although fundamentally safe, was in need of an update. In the latest challenge, RSA Laboratories will award a cash prize to the first person to factor each challenge number. Prizes range from $10,000 for the 576-bit challenge to $200,000 for 2048 bits. High rewards indeed, but the challenge is particularly tough and calls for some serious number crunching, unlike out own Codebreaker challenges, the key to which has been more to do with problem solving and lateral thinking. In any case, the challenge will attract the same sort of people and we wish anyone who takes up the RSA challenge the best of luck. ® External Links RSA factoring challenge Related Stories Codebreaker II The torture ends Codebreaker II Our winner reveals all Codebreakers concours crypto climax RSA encryption could have been British
BT is planning to allow you, Mr Consumer, to install DSL Internet access from next year. Beats waiting for the monster telco to bother. There is currently one trial going on that is "wires only", meaning that you are responsible for the modem and a BT engineer will install a service plate. What's a service plate? "It's a front plate that goes on your phone socket," a spokesman explained. Why do we need an engineer to put a plate on the socket? Well, that's trial number two - soon to start - that will see a "microfilter" delivered to your home, which you put into the socket and enables phone and data traffic to be split. The word "trial", especially coming from BT's mouth, may send a bolt a fear down your spine (ADSL was "trialled" for four years before the current sub-standard effort to make it available was started) but it reckons that they will be finished by the end of this year and you might get a DIY DSL pack in your Christmas stocking. It's not as simple as that though. The DIY service will not work until there is a fully functioning DSL box at the other end of the line i.e. the exchange. BT's continual and intentional blocking of other operators who want to install their kit in its exchanges is a major reason why the rollout of high-speed Net access in the UK has been so slow. So while the introduction of do-it-yourself DSL kits is to be applauded, it won't let you get it any faster. It will, however, make installation cheaper. BT won't give any figures yet but it has accepted that since its engineers won't be needed, consumers will pay less. It currently costs £150 for installation. [This DIY approach is nothing new by the way. It's been available in the States for months.] The one area in which BT may regain its former reputation will come about six months after the first DIY kits should be on the streets. It hopes to be able to offer a fully online service, so in the same way that you can download an ISP's software and be up and running on its service within minutes, BT plans to let you do the same for DSL. When that happens we will finally see the full vision of Broadband Britain. Which will be terrific. Just a shame that it'll four years late. ® Btw, there's a little more information about this on ADSLguide.org.uk here. Related Stories Sick of crap DSL? Start your own service! BT's broadband roll-out fails UK
It's official - Metallica supports music sharing and always has. What other conclusion can be drawn from once anti-Napster band's latest missive to its fans? Says the posting, on the Metallica Web site, "we look forward to continuing to share music with you in the future". A reference, perhaps, to Metallica's recent rapprochement with the controversial MP3 sharing service? Possibly, but why then does the band say it's continuing to share music? Have Hetfield, Ulrich and Hammet been secretly downloading the latest Hear'Say singles, we wonder? "Abba f**kin' rocks, man," Hetfield was heard to mutter - according to a friend of a friend of a friend - but since he's just "entered a rehabilitation facility to undergo treatment for alcoholism and other addictions" - as the band's site puts it - maybe some other cause lies behind his words. Whatever, Hetfield's treatment will prevent the band from continuing to lay down tracks on their forthcoming album, believed to be titled 'Smell the Glove'. Alas, there's no pro-Napster sentiment here. The fact is that Metallica has redefined the word 'share' to mean 'you pay us money, we give you something in return'. Over here in the UK, the birthplace of the English language, we have a better word for it - it's called 'selling'. ® Related Stories Napster bends over and takes it from Metallica Metallica to shame - but not name - Napster 'pirates' Metallica sues Napster Related Link Metallica: James Hetfield is 'unwell'
The anti-virus protection offered by Microsoft's Hotmail service hasn't been updated to protect users against the prolific SirCam worm. Register readers have written in to inform us that the McAfee virus scanning engine used by Hotmail does not stop users either sending or receiving the bug which has become a major nuisance for Internet users this week. Alex Shipp, a senior anti-virus technologist at MessageLabs, a managed services firm which scans its users email for malicious code, has confirmed the problem and said the lack of protection will give users a false sense of security. The McAfee virus scanner (Security Services for MSN) used by the revamped Hotmail blocks earlier bugs, such as the Anna Kournikova worm, but not SirCam. We understand it is MSN who is most at fault here, for not updating virus definition files to detect a bug, which lest we forget, is now nine days old. Informed sources tell us Hotmail's protection is updated on Thursday night, so hopefully things will be put right soon. In fairness Hotmail is one of the few Web-based email services to have any virus protection, but it is so widely used that if the service blocks the spread of SirCam it would make a great contribution to curtailing its outbreak. MessageLabs has intercepted 25,622 copies of the virus so far, 3,557 of which were caught today, and it predicts that today marks the peak of the outbreak, after which the virus will slowly fade away. MessageLabs' Shipp said that because the virus (like Magistr) arrives with different filenames it will hang around longer than the Love Bug. As previously reported, SirCam spreads itself as an attachment to email messages (or possibly network shares), and may in certain cases delete files from a victim's hard disk. SirCam snaffles up files from a user's hard disk and wraps them in viral code before propagating itself to email addresses filched from a victim's address book or temporary Internet cache files. This is a particular feature of the bug that means it poses a grave threat to privacy. It also means a large number of whopper files are being generated, which could affect Internet performance even for people not infected by the bug. The subject of an infected email will be the name of the attached file, and users can spot infected attachments because they feature a double extension, such as (.doc.pif). The text of emails may start "Hi! How are you?" and end "See you later. Thanks", or the Spanish equivalents, but variations on this are possible. At the risk of stating the obvious its worth repeating, yet again, that users are advised to delete any suspicious emails without opening them and to update their antiviral protection. ® External Links Write up on SirCam by Symantec MessageLabs stats on SirCam Related Stories SirCam virus hogs connections with spam Privacy threatening worm on the loose Hotmail upgrade will make your life better New-look Hotmail: the verdict Magistr continues three month reign as top virus Hardware-trashing virus spreads by email Users haven't learned any lessons from the Love Bug Reports of death of email viruses greatly exaggerated? Rise in viruses within emails outpacing growth of email
About a fortnight ago, we got an email from Canadian reader David Powell asking us if we knew any good computer science courses in the UK because he was thinking of popping over here to do one. We hadn't a clue, so we asked you. Fortunately, we only left the story on the front page for a short while because we've received just under 300 emails on the topic. The delay between the story and the results is down to this huge correspondence and not because we forgot about it, okay, is that alright? As ever, the emails came from a huge range of people - current, past and future computer science students, lecturers, recruitment specialists, industry folk and busy-bodies. And, as ever, it consisted of informed, useful but also frivolous and daft information. Many didn't play by the rules of course. Dave had said no to Durham (thought it dull) and no to London universities. Didn't stop people going on about both, or readers that didn't live in the UK, recommending foreign courses. Such emails were read but discarded. Thus, we simply added up all the recommendations for all universities. If someone didn't like a course, this counted as a minus one. In total there were 54 recommended UK courses. We've cut these down to a top ten. And they are (net votes in brackets): 1 Edinburgh (20) 2 Warwick (19) 3 York (15) 4= Cambridge (13) 4= Manchester (13) 6 Leeds (11) 7= Aberystwth (9) 7= Glasgow (9) 7= UMIST (9) 10 Oxford (8) Below we've pasted a montage of what people have said about the various courses. Some of the comments may appear contradictory but this'll be because they come from different people. Many people wrote saying the same thing, so we've cut this down to one comment. Huge numbers of people saying how great the city, bars, nightlife is. We've tried to cut as many of these as possible (everyone has a great time at university). Also, we've cut out hopefully all comments about places being well-respected. Of which there were plenty. Aberystwyth inspired the most number of comments and the most in-depth as well. Perhaps this is as good an indicator as any. We cut them down quite harshly in the end. Here they are: Edinburgh Great city; leading edge departments and research; modern well-structured courses. Very good modular degree options, with a great deal of expertise within the university, very fertile academic community. More esoteric than plain vanilla computer science. But courses are only any good if you want to become a lecturer or do real low level stuff. Warwick Excellent student facilities and community. Quality teaching. A good mix of practical and theory. Loads of flexibility from day one; brand new facilities at faculty; into Linux. Offer a variety of CS related disciplines from straight CS to those with an Engineering or Business. Course is challenging but well-balanced, with a fair proportion of theoretical material in addition to software and hardware engineering courses, plenty of hands-on coding. Undergraduate course a bit theoretical. If you only have an average interest in every form of mathematics you'll probably hate it. Highlight included writing a pong game in 6502 assembly driving an oscilloscope as the screen. Course was over subscribed which meant that coursework submitted in the first term wasn't marked till a week before then end of the year. Lecturing was poor, and in some cases the lecturer had to cut the lecture short due to him getting mixed up about issues with interrupt handling. York Strong research department with bleeding edge Computer Science development; strong links to industry for safety-critical and real-time systems; nice campus; lovely town, great pubs and decent beer. Great course with a solid scientific grounding + excellent options in the latter stages, excellent campus, beautiful city. Courses are diverse, interesting and very reputable. Cambridge Very theoretical; only learn old traditional languages like Modula-2, Pro Log, Pascal. Java only an option in the last year. But major advantage: a lot of IT work being done at Cambridge, associated with new Microsoft research lab. [We've had a number of readers write in to say the course details are out of date and Cambridge has upgraded its course. Old-style languages have been put on the back burner and Java is now taught from the first year onwards.] Very theoretical course, based heavily in maths and formal methods but University has recently been adding 'real world' stuff like Programming in Java and there's even a token effort e-commerce course in the 3rd year. Manchester Biggest CS department in UK; well-known as having among of the best courses. Invented computers on Manchester Uni, and are currently very into databases/data warehouses, visual stuff to do with AI and neural nets and the designer of the original ARM processor is one of the professors. Lots of industrial links, too. Teaching is fairly shitty, but that makes for better research Leeds Broad in content and therefore interesting. Superb courses and a choice of anything from hard sums (Theoretical Computation courses) through to exciting stuff (a whole tranche of graphical techniques courses, through to AI, whatever). Department heavily into AI. Large number of Computer Science/IT related courses, with flexible modular system. Staff are very good (both in terms of teaching and research) and the admin department is unusually well organised. Aberystwyth Starts out based on one of three threads: hardware, comms and telematics, then robotics and AI. Fails to offer full range after third year. Heavy emphasis on practical experience and 'proper' coding methods, lifecycle models, requirements, specifications etc. But almost no emphasis on the 'building blocks' of IT. For example, no mention of various OS's strengths and weaknesses, little coverage of business cases for choosing technology and only a brief glance at legal/ethical responsibilities. Very heavily biased towards programming, with Java being the current language of choice. Close links to a number of large companies (Compaq, Sun, BAe, Logica). Good equiptment - loads of sparcs and Windoze boxes. If AI is what you're interested in, then Aberystwyth is a good place to go. Glasgow Covers everything from programming, databases, networks, optical communications, artificial intelligence; very good facilities UMIST Most respected course in industry; rounded good-quality course giving the foundations of modern computing. Don't tend to get into fads but up to date on the stuff you should know. Might spend first two years writing in Pascal but end up doing courses on some of the newer technologies. Top rated among employers for the Computing/IT Sector. One of the best ratings in the country for research and teaching; all sorts of cool stuff in e-commerce and databases. Friendly bunch and not everyone is a complete nerd. Oxford It's theoretical enough that your knowledge won't date, but has enough practical stuff to be fun. Shockingly bad facilities; course didn't relate to the real world at all. Lack of exams quite appealing but deep thinking about theoretical problems rather than real world applications. So there you have it. But hang on a sec: what do the "official" rankings say are the best computer science and IT courses. Well, we checked out two top ten lists from the Times and the Guardian. Combining the two with 10pts for first place, nine for second etc, we got (from top to bottom): Cambridge, Oxford, York, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Warwick tied, Manchester and the rest unseeded. There is bound to be some bias in their systems (the Reg guide is the only true guide). See for example how Oxford and Cambridge are the top two and low-status universities Aberyswth and UMIST don't even get a look in. ® Related Links Times top ten Guardian top ten UKEAS - organisation for foreign students coming to UK Related Story What's the best Computer Science course in the UK?
Alternative operating system developer Be appears to be pulling away from the brink of oblivion, if its second quarter results, posted this evening, are anything to go by. But it had better find some more paying customers, PDQ. Revenues for the three months to 30 June totalled $715,000, up from the $142,000 it posted for the same period last year and the the $100,000 it posted after Q1 this year. As Be puts it: "Revenues were primarily attributable to integration services performed for customers." For "customers" read 'customer' - Sony to be precise. Be doesn't break sales down by customer, but we reckon that's the sum the company made getting its BeIA OS to work with Sony's eVilla Internet appliance. Be's loss shrank during the quarter, from last quarter's 14 cents a share to ten cents a share. This time last year, its loss amounted to 13 cents a share. This quarter Be took a $143,000 restructuring charge hit. During Q1 it had an extra expense of $307,000 for the same reason. The restructuring programme saw 27 staff - primarily in sales and admin - laid off. Indeed, Be's marketing spend fell from nearly $1.9 million during Q1 to just $557,000, reflecting its shift from the consumer-oriented BeOS to the vendor-targetted BeIA. And vendor targetting is what Be has to do rather a lot of now. Unless it manages to get itself sold to Sony, its eVilla revenue stream isn't going to last, and unless the company finds a replacement, its revenues will fall right back to Q1 levels. Worse, probably, since the bulk of Q1 sales came from BeOS shipments, and they must surely have all but dried up now. A sale to Sony isn't as daft as it might sound - certainly a merger or takeover is something Be has been forced to consider as it struggles to maintain "shareholder value". Ideally, it can find someone - Sony again? - to invest in the company and keep it going, but from the company's tone, a sale seems the most likely option. Alas, since the much-touted Internet appliance market has singularly failed to materialise - pace eVilla - and with PC sales shrinking under the effects of economic recession, Be's chances don't look good. A shame, that, since the it does have some impressive technology in its labs. But it's looking increasingly unlikely to ever be seen outside of them. ®