26th > July > 2001 Archive

Gibson/Greene debate ‘good parts’ t'script

RegReg Reader Thomas Johnsen reports that he "downloaded the 3MB sound clip [of the Gibson/Greene debate] and listened to it all. For the benefit of all your readers I have made a transcript which you may put on your fine Web site. This way people with slow connections don't need to download the big file." [begin transcript] Host: Hello Special Effect: HAAALLELUJAAA Host: Today we are going to talk about raw sockets. Hello Steve Gibson from GRC who has made all this neato cool stuff which we all love. Steve: Raw sockets are evil. I don't like Thomas. Host: And we have this Thomas fellow. He has been on MTV. Thomas: Hahaha... I used to be a hacker.. hahaha Host: Steve, the super-duper expert, thinks raw sockets are evil. Steve? Steve: Raw sockets are evil! Thomas: Hahaha.. I'm a mallrat! Hahaha.. Special Effect: HAAAALEELUJAAA Thomas: Hahahaha.. Halleluja!! Hahahaha! Host: I am so cooool. I have my own show on radio! Thomas: Hahahaha.. Steve: Raw sockets are useless. I have made this cool Socket-O program! Host: Which we all love! Special Effect: HAAAAALEEELUJAAA Thomas: It's fun to say "Script Kiddies". Hahaha... Host: So, Thomas, what about those raw sockets? Thomas: Yes, well.. Can I say the f-word? Hahaha... Host: No you can't! Steve: Windows XP is evil because it has raw sockets! Host: Thomas? Thomas: Raw sockets are... Host: Time for commercials Host: Thank you for coming. I love your neato tools for stopping evil hackers, Steve. Goodbye Thomas; please kiss Steve's ass while he bends over. Steve: I don't like them raw sockets. Thomas: Hahaha... Script Kiddies are evil, but it's fun to say script kiddies. Hahaha... U d4 m4n! [end of transcript] Conclusion: You wont get much smarter from listening to this. But it's clear that Thomas won the discussion just by laughing all the time. No one who laughs that much can ever be wrong on anything! Related Story The Steve Gibson / Reg hack radio debate
Thomas C Greene, 26 Jul 2001

Compaq gets clobbered

Compaq has reported a Q2 profit fall of 81 per cent - $67 million down from $362 million a year earlier. Sales slumped by 17 per cent in the period to $8.45 billion. Compaq's PC division suffered which is unsurprising. Sales fell to $3.82 billion from $4.91 billion, but as analysts Dataquest revealed last week, Compaq's unit shipments declined by 14 per cent to 3.4 million in the period. This is all at a time when worldwide PC shipments declined for the first time in 15 years. They dropped 1.9 per cent in Q2 - around 30.4 million units were shipped - and Dell was the only top tier PC vendor to see growth worldwide and in the US during the three-month period. It shipped four million units worldwide, a growth of 20 per cent over Q2 2000. Compaq is getting roundly spanked in a fierce price war during a market slowdown. The company has now said it will miss its Q3 sales targets. It's now forecasting revenues of $8 billion to $8.4 billion. In last year's third quarter, the company had net income of $550 million, or 31 cents a share, on sales of $11.2 billion Earlier in the month Compaq said it was to axe another 4,000 staff. The worldwide layoffs will take effect by the end of this year, and bring Compaq's proposed job cut total for the year to 8,500, or around 12 per cent of its workforce. In a conference call Chief Exec Michael Capellas said: "It's an understatement to say that we're in the midst of an extremely challenging global market.'' The server and storage business also too a pasting. Sales fell 21 per cent to $2.7 billion. ® Related Stories World PC shipments drop for first time in 15 years Compaq warns of 4,000 more layoffs Compaq to sack two notebook makers? Compaq derides tin, praises services
Robert Blincoe, 26 Jul 2001

Self-proclaimed hero of the people takes on Dixons

Self-proclaimed hero of the people Abu Abdullaah has vowed to continue his battle against Dixons' customer service, despite losing his protest Web site. Dixons-online.co.uk was set up to let Dixons customers vent their spleen over the retailer. In addition to readers' letters, the site advised shoppers on their rights, including detailed instructions on what to do in a retail dispute. It also offered general links to sites such as the Office of Fair Trading and Watchdog. Nothing wrong with that, you may think. Dixons is big enough and ugly enough to take it on the chin. Not so, says Abu, who uses the unlikely email address prefix of "Iamahero". Dixons took the site to Nominet (the body for domain name disputes in the UK). It suspended the URL in May. Drunk on victory, Dixons has decided to go after another two of Abdullaah's domains - dixons-online.org and dixons-online.net. Meanwhile, all traffic is being directed towards yet another site, dixonscustomers.com - so far unwanted by Dixons. Most people who have visited the sites (jointly responsible for around 70,000 hits) know they are not associated with Dixons, Abdullaah told us. This can partly be attributed to the disclaimer plastered on the front page. The project is also non-profit making - started as a hobby after visits to Dixons made Abdullaah's blood boil. "I was fed up with going into Dixons and getting very poor information," he said. The sites aim to get Dixons to make its warranty policies more transparent, and to get changes such as the abolition of commission for salespeople selling warranties. "I'm not a cybersquatter," Abdullaah said. "I'm not here to slag off Dixons." "They should be large enough to welcome criticism." A Dixons representative said the company was "all for freedom of expression," but that it "needed to protect the brand and the best interests of shareholders and staff". ® Related Stories Protest sites galore! Power to the people! Related Link Dixonscustomers.com
Linda Harrison, 26 Jul 2001

Infineon ponders makes 5000 job cuts

UpdatedUpdated Infineon has confirmed earlier reports that it plans to cut up to 15 per cent of the company's workforce - 5000 staff in total. The scheme was discussed at a supervisory board meeting yesterday. Infineon's goal is to save one billion euro ($882 million) over the next 18 months. The move follows the company's Q3 figures, announced this week, which showed a loss of 598 million euros ($526 million), well down on the E366 million profit it made in the same period, last year. Q3 2001 sales were down 30 per cent, squashed by the slump in demand for semiconductors. That leaves Infineon with little choice but to scale back production and try to weather out the depression. According to the FT's sources, any job cuts that are made will be drawn from across the company rather than from specific plants, though some facilities are expected to be shut down completely. Curiously, Infineon's DRAM production is not expected to be cut. That suggests Hynix may yet prove to be the only major memory maker willing to trim output. So does Infineon's decision indicate that the company is optimistic about a recovery in the memory market? We reckon not. It's as much about maintaining work on the company's next-gen. DRAM plant in Dresden, which is expected to yield significant costs savings through a more efficient production process. Infineon also has an extra $1.3 billion to play with, gained through the sale of 60 million new shares last week. ® Related Stories Infineon posts Q3 loss Infineon raises $1.3 billion
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2001

GUS online sales grow threefold

Catalogue retailer Great Universal Stores, the parent company of Jungle.com and Argos, has said its ecommerce sales have jumped threefold. GUS's online revenues were £21 million for the three months to 30 June, more than three times the figure for the period a year earlier. But interestingly these figures don't include Jungle.com sales. The ebiz sales were mainly down to online and digital TV business from the Argos and GUS home shopping catalogues. But sales at the Argos Group, including Jungle.com, climbed 24 per cent over the same period last year. Excluding Argos Additions and Jungle, Argos' sales grew by 15 per cent, or by 12 per cent on a like-for-like basis. ® Related Stories GUS boss bags £1.61m bonus Jungle sales jump 40% in last 6 months
Robert Blincoe, 26 Jul 2001

PS2 Linux Kit heading for the US?

The official PS2 Linux Kit website for Sony Computer Entertainment America consists of the following lines of text: "PS2 Linux Kit is only available in Japan" "The Linux Kit is designed exclusively for the Japanese model of "PS2", SCPH-10000, SCPH-15000 and SCPH-18000. Since these models are for domestic use in Japan, the Linux Kit is only available in Japan." "At this point, there is no plan to release the Linux Kit for non-Japanese model of ‘PS2’" "Delivery outside of Japan is not available." Not a terribly warm welcome for prospective clients. Given the tone of the pitch in fact, one would assume that the company has zero plans to migrate the Linux Kit to the USA or anywhere else for that matter. However, lurking toward the bottom of that page is an eerie blue link that reads, "Please click here to register your interest in a US release of Linux for PlayStation 2". If you click the link, you are presented with a form, which demands your email address, your interest in the system and any brief additional comments you may have. It all looks like a bit of an amateur effort, not a patch on our beloved SCEE’s wonderful PS2 registration form, which asks for your first born in the small print. We don’t know how much credence Sony will give the results of this form, but a little link on Slashdot or some other Linux e-vangelists’ and it could take them by storm. The kit sold out in seconds in Japan. If you find yourself interested in the PS2 Linux Kit, the official (Japanese) website is here. They’re not keen on Western visitors so there’s no translation, but you can see some images of the thing. The basic kit is outlined herelooks like this. If any of our American readers would like to register their interest in the PS2 Linux Kit, they can do so here. © Eurogamer. All rights reserved
Eurogamer.net, 26 Jul 2001

BT profits slump 71 per cent

BT has released profits of £186 million, down 71 per cent year-on-year. Revenues actually went up 15 per cent to £5.4 billion but thanks to a doubling of debt interest repayment, losses at its European mobile companies and Concert's ongoing money burning, the profits are lower than we've ever seen. Shares fell initially by 4 per cent to 444p but since then the market has seen good sense and pushed it back up to 454p (as of 11.30am), a drop of 0.8 per cent. Why good sense? Because these results were entirely inevitable and should mark the low point after two shaky years. Debt interest doubled this quarter (year-on-year) from £235m to £474m, taking a huge chunk of profit with it. But let's not forget that the company's ridiculous £30 billion of a few months ago has led to the resignation of the FD, removal of the chairman and downgrading of the CEO. New chairman Sir Christopher Bland has dedicated himself to removing the debt burden since he took over and has done a sterling job of it. Most of the reduction was the sell off of assets in Japan and stakes in Europe. The result of this is to make figures including goodwill or exceptional items beyond interpretation. We'll have to wait until the next quarter and the one after that to get a feel for how well BT is actually doing. Other important figure are the losses by the two European mobile companies Telfort (Netherlands) and Viag Interkom (Germany). These amount to £154 million and took BT Wireless into the red, from £45 million last year to £95 million loss this year (a difference of £140 million). Again, this doesn't unduly worry us since every mobile company in Europe is picking up heavy debts with the hope of hitting the 3G jackpot in the next few years. Perhaps BT needs to look closer at them, but restricting them now would be damaging for the future. And then of course there is the AT&T joint venture Concert which continues to lose money hand over fist (£81 million this quarter). Sir Christopher Bland has already made it clear that Concert will be the next to go but first there are some very tricky negotiations with AT&T. On the plus side, BT Retail has increased its revenue and profit. But digging deeper, this has come from sales to other BT companies and external sales have actually dropped. BT's greatest fear - the reduction in income from its network - is coming true but was completely inevitable. It complains that the introduction of the fixed-fee Internet access programmes have cut away its profits but welcome to the real world BT, you're no longer a monopoly. The company needs to boost external sales because network call income will keep falling. The faster it strikes this balance, the faster both BT and UK consumers will benefit. BT Wholesale is much the same as it was a year ago. However, BT Ignite, its Internet services arm, is doing good business. BT Openworld is also getting better but far too slowly. This will leap soon, but if BT is to get the most out of it, it needs to keep a close eye on the Internet access arm. And that's about it. Bland summed it up basically by saying the company's performance was "satisfactory". It was, and nothing else. But then the one man that seems to get something done (Bland) has been concentrating almost entirely on cutting the debt. Once Concert has been sorted out, we will hopefully see CEO Bonfield kicked out and replaced by a man with vision and then Bland can turn his attention to shaping up the rest of the company and rebuilding morale. BT Wireless will soon starting functioning as a properly separate company and it will be interesting to see what approach it comes out with. Which leaves Bland to prove himself as more than a simple troubleshooter by making BT's networks a simple and friendly choice for other companies and by building the Internet business - surely the shining white knight for BT's future (at Future BT). All these results tell us is what we already know. It's the next two sets that will tell us where BT is going and if it's moving fast enough. ® Related Link The BT rundown on results
Kieren McCarthy, 26 Jul 2001

Merde! Alcatel posts massive loss

Alcatel reported second quarter losses that saw it dropping into the red for the first time since 1995, continuing the run of bad results from major telecommunications equipment manufacturers. The French firm recorded a loss of 3.1 billion euros ($2.73 billion) compared with second quarter net income of 344 million ($303 million) in the second quarter of 2000. Sales were up only slightly this quarter at 6.77 billion ($5.96 billion), compared to 6.46 billion ($5.68 billion) over the same period last year. Alcatel said its was hit by weak ebusiness and handset sales but benefited from increased spending by telcos in mobile and broadband technology. A failed attempt by Alcatel to merge with Lucent (and a swollen inventory) didn't help matters much either. To restructure its business, Alcatel plans to lay off 14,000 Alcatel employees and 4,000 contract workers this year. An additional 2,000 workers will change employers through outsourcing programs. The firm said that at the end of June it was 60 per cent through implementing this jobs cull, which it hopes will save it 1 billion euros ($880 million) this year. As part of its restructuring, Alcatel plans to half the number of factories it operates in the UK and outsource much of its manufacturing. Alcatel's chief executive Serge Tchuruk said he did not expect technology spending in the US to recover this year, and he said that the downturn in the tech economy may spread to Europe, and has already hit the UK. Along with the earnings announcement cam news that Krish Prabhu, Alcatel's chief operating officer, said he was leaving the company in order to spend "more time with his family" in Dallas. He will continue to sit on Alcatel's board. Separately, Foundry Networks reported results which show that at least the smaller players in the networking market are keeping their head above water, even if larger players are making losses and shedding staff. Foundry, which makes intelligent networking switches, reported second quarter net income of $8.3 million, down 67 per cent on the $ 23.9 million it recorded in the same period last year. Foundry's sales fell back from $88.8 million in the second quarter of 2000, to $88.6 million this quarter. ® External Links 2001 Second Quarter Results Krish Prabhu resigns as Alcatel's chief operations officer Foundry's results Related Stories Alcatel slashes 300 UK jobs Alcatel to pink slip 2,500 US workers Alcatel gets rid of ADSL modem business Lucent jilts Alcatel at the Altar Lucent to cut another 15,000 to 20,000 jobs
John Leyden, 26 Jul 2001

Sony chops yearly profit forecast

Sony has cut its profit forecast for the year after reporting lean times in the electronics business in Q1. The Japanese giant recorded a net loss of 30.1 billion yen ($244m million) for the three months ended June 30. This compared to a loss of 92 billion yen for the same period the previous year. Sales grew 4.4 per cent to 1.6 trillion yen. Sony was affected by lower than expected sales in its electronics division, along with a mobile phone handset recall during the quarter. Its electronics business recorded an operating loss of 807 million yen, compared to an operating profit of 53.6 billion yen a year ago. Its games division saw operating losses drop to 3.26 billion yen from 18 billion yen. Meanwhile, worldwide shipments of PlayStation 2 rose to 4.3 million from 1.1 million units. The company also warned of tougher times ahead in the electronics business due to oversupply, slumping demand and falling prices. It sharply chopped it profit forecasts for the full financial year - it now expects net profit of 90 billion yen, compared with its earlier forecast of 150 billion yen. Sales for the year ending March 2002 are expected to hit 7.7 trillion yen. ® Related Link Sony statement Related Stories Sony pulls PlayStation 2 production from Taiwan Sony cuts PlayStation 2 price in Japan Sony, Fujitsu, NEC pledge support for AMD
Linda Harrison, 26 Jul 2001

Hitachi to ditch CRT monitors

UpdatedUpdated Hitachi is stopping making CRT monitors, and will just concentrate on flat panel displays. It will stop production by the end of 2001. The company said "the sluggishness of the desktop PC market has reduced demand for CRTs for PC monitors, leading to a sharp fall in prices. Moreover, with future demand expected to shift to LCD monitors, there are no prospects for growth of the monitor CRT market." With 14.1-inch TFT displays now selling for under £300 in the UK, it's probably right. For the financial year ending 31 March, Hitachi's CRT sales revenues were 59 billion yen ($476.58 million). It had made five million of them in factories in Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan. Hitachi's had been trying to breathe some life into CRTs by making higher value products such as short-length CRTs, flat-face CRTs and large-screen CRTs for PC monitors. But they haven't really worked. ® Update Pete Gamby, editor of trade news letter Display Monitor, has written in to say: "Hitachi gave up manufacturing CRT monitors a long time ago and sub contracted it to Compal (amongst others). The latest announcement is more significant in so far as the company is now to stop making the tubes. This leaves Sony, Toshiba and Mitsubishi as Japanese suppliers of CRT technology. Related Link Hitachi statement Display Monitor Related Story High street TFT displays hit £299 Flat panel price hunt uncovers £235 display World PC shipments drop for first time in 15 years
Robert Blincoe, 26 Jul 2001

TSMC profits plunge 98%

TSMC is betting on a major recovery in the semiconductor market over the next six months to save it from plummeting profits and spiralling costs. The world's largest chip foundry today posted net income of NT$312 million ($8.97 million), down 98 per cent on the NT$13.35 billion it posted this time last year. Earnings fell from NT$1.13 per share to NT$0.01. Sales fell 17 per cent from Q2 2000's NT$31.8 billion to this quarter's NT$26.3 billion. Sales were down 34 per cent on the first quarter. TSMC's costs went the other way. Q2 2001's operating expenses grew to NT$4.7 billion, up 109 per cent on Q2 2000's figure of NT$2.26 billion. The company's costs have risen dramatically thanks to its investment in 300mm wafer fabs. Infineon was this week hit by the same factor - it intends to maintain development, however, because of the 30 per cent boost to yield the new technology is expected to offer. The recovery isn't going to happen any time soon. Certainly TSMC expects its capacity utilisation - a key measure of how much money a foundry is making - to fall to 40 per cent during Q3 from Q2's 44 per cent (which is bad enough). TSMC said it "hit bottom" in May and June and it expects sales to improve through the rest of 2001. Investment in new technology isn't likely to change much, either. Clearly TSMC wants to be ready to run with the latest fabs when the slump ends. The company didn't announce any cost-cutting measures, and given chairman Morris Chang's statement made earlier this week that he would sooner cut investment spending than lay off staff. ®
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2001

France Telecom posts rum revenues

On the same day that BT has posted a 71 per cent drop in profits but a 15 per cent increase in revenues, France Telecom has jumped in with a 33 per cent increase in revenues for its first six months and picked up a 3.2 per cent increase in share price. It hasn't released full figures though so we don't know what its profits look like. Not that this has stopped the City pushing up its value. Most of the revenue jump comes courtesy of Orange, which records a 122.4 per cent leap in revenue to 6.94 billion euros (£4.28 billion), accounting for 34 per cent of the telco's total revenue of £12.6 billion (it made up 20.4 per cent last year). Its Internet arm, Wanadoo, also saw its revenue jump 49 per cent to £396 million. A more modest increase in international phone and data services of 17.6 per cent and French phone and data calls of 6.9 per cent also helped. The company said it was on track to announce a 25 per cent growth in sales for the whole year. How's it done it? Leveraging of course (isn't it always?). "The European market for telecommunications services remained very dynamic during the first half of 2001," said chairman Michael Bon. "France Telecom continues to advance at a brisk pace in this market, leveraging our strong positions in wireless, internet and corporate networks. These three expanding activities now account for nearly 60 percent of our revenues." An expansion outside of France has seen international sales make up a third of its total revenues, as opposed to 26 per cent a year ago. France Telecom now puts claim to 86 million subscribers. Orange in total has 35.5 million users and Wanadoo, 5 million users. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 26 Jul 2001

Hewlett-Packard to can an extra 6000 jobs

Hewlett-Packard is going to can an extra 6,000 workers and says it expects sales to fall 14-16 per cent year on year in its Q3, ending 31 July. Carly Fiorina, HP chairman and chief exec, has said revenues from the consumer business will be down 24 per cent. Her good news is that the outsourcing and consulting businesses are expected to grow 20 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively. She said the majority of the job cuts would come during the fourth quarter. "This will result in a savings of about $500 million annually. These reductions are incremental to the actions we've already taken in the areas of marketing restructuring and management span of control," she said. The company believes its strategy of forcing people to take unpaid leave is a winner. More than 80,000 HP employees signed up and savings of approximately $130 million are expected for the remainder of the fiscal year. As a result of this and other expense control measures, HP expects expenses to be down 2% to 4% sequentially. ® Related Story Compaq gets clobbered HP prompts staff to take unpaid summer holidays HP PC biz to 'lose $100m' in 2001
Robert Blincoe, 26 Jul 2001

NTL raises profit predictions for next 2 years

NTL has upped its earnings estimates for the next two years after reporting a rise in Q2 sales. The British cable TV outfit saw sales grow to £634 million for the three months ended June 2001, compared to £614 million for the same period the previous year. Last week the company announced its profit for the second quarter early to quell investment fears - earnings rose to £115 million from £86 million. It added that profits for 2001 were expected to be £100 million higher than previously forecast. In line with this, NTL today upped its profit estimate for 2001 to £845 million, and raised its 2002 estimate by £125 million to £950 million. Meanwhile, NTL's crystal ball predicted a profit of £1.57 billion for 2003. The company said its broadband customers grew 74 per cent to 45,750 in Q2, while its digital TV users grew 26 per cent to 951,300. ® Related Stories NTL reports £115m profit for Q2
Linda Harrison, 26 Jul 2001

Cisco cajoles small biz into using the Internet

One in four smaller businesses in UK regard the Internet as a key element in their business strategy, according to research commissioned by Cisco Systems, which brands less enthusiastic firms as 'laggards'. According to a survey carried out by IDC, 'Fastrackers', or firms that make more use of the Internet, are experiencing increases in revenues of nearly 75 per cent on average, and reduced costs by 50 per cent as a direct result of their use of Net technologies. "The findings of the survey revealed that 'Fastracker' businesses look set to maintain their competitive advantage as their commitment to Internet technologies continues and their spend on Internet technologies increases year on year," Cisco chirps in its press release. Roughly translated Cisco is saying that unless small firms make more use of the Internet, involving the purchase of shed loads of its routers and switches, they're liable to go out of business in today's tough economic climate. The survey side steps the awkward fact that numerous dot com firms, which after all were THE biggest enthusiasts for Internet technology, have gone titsup.com. So what of these laggards? Cisco, which let's not forget is trying to make inroads into the small business market, historically controlled by 3Com, is keen to rope them into the ecommerce stable as well. The IDC/Cisco survey suggests only concerns about Internet security and the availability of broadband Internet access are holding small back from seriously committing to ecommerce. Despite the dot com slump, one in six of last years 'laggards' have earmarked a large chunk of their IT spend on ebusiness projects. Only at this point in Cisco's survey is the very important point that technology spending should be aligned with business goals brought up, and this is something we reckon should been given far greater emphasis. In previous articles we've criticised Cisco's lack of interest in communicating with anyone, most especially the press, but there are some signs in its release that its improving in this department. As an example of a 'Fastracker' firm Cisco manages to cite Ben Evans, an electrical retailer with 30 employees based in West Wales, an area which has been hit hard by the UK's Foot and Mouth outbreak. Since Ben Evans set up their web presence, the company has experienced an increase in turnover of between 60 and 70 per cent compared with last year - despite the Foot and Mouth crisis severely impacting their offline business. The firm is also less dependent on holiday trade. An interesting story but to put things in perspective the Cisco/IDC survey found that even among smaller businesses committed to ecommerce (these 'Fastrackers' again), sales online are only expected to make up 6.5 per cent of their revenues this year. These figures are expected to increase massively over the next five years but are worth bearing in mind so that people set realistic business goals for their ecommerce projects. The survey's findings were drawn from the response of 3,720 European firms with 20 and 499 employees drawn from IDC's wider analysis of Internet adoption throughout Europe. ® Related Stories Small biz cool to broadband Oracle cosies up to Little Biz Ltd BT DSL - a miracle cure for business One month on, what has the UK eminister done for the Internet?
John Leyden, 26 Jul 2001

US boffin enables high speed, non-volatile CPUs

A US researcher has discovered how to furnish the circuits in a microprocessor with super-efficient insulators. The discovery will not only make even higher clock speeds possible but may allow chip companies to build processors that can pick up work exactly where they left off when the power was pulled. Chip giant Motorola has already made a play to license the discovery. The secret, uncovered by Rodney McKee, a scientist with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, is a type of material called a perovskite oxide, the journal Science reports. Unlike the insulator used by today's chips - silicon dioxide - perovskite oxide are far more efficient at blocking current. The upshot is that chip designers need far less perovskite oxide to separate circuits, allowing the electrical paths to be crammed closer together, than silicon dioxide. So not only can they cram more circuits onto a given size of chip, but there's less risk of signals interfering with each other and causing data corruption or other malfunctions. The idea of using such super-insulators - compounds with a high dielectric constant - isn't new. McKee's usage of perovskite oxides, however, has allowed him to apply a super-insulator to a chip without the imperfections inherent in the high-dielectric-constant compounds chip makers are investigating today, McKee's choice of material is fortuitous for another reason: perovskite oxides can retain internal electric fields for 15 years whenever the power is cut. That could allow a processor based on the material to retain its exact state whenever the power fails. Put the power back on, and the chip picks up where it left off. ®
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2001

Pioneer DVR-A03

ReviewReview DVD is currently hyped as the storage medium of the future. Perhaps so, but it has remained prohibitively expensive until recently. Pioneer's DVR-A03 is the first DVD-RW drive to arrive in the our Test Centre, so we were keen to assess the merits of this emerging technology. A quick glance at the specifications reveals the Pioneer to be an incredibly versatile unit. In addition to DVD-R and DVD-RW, it can write CD-R and CD-RW discs, providing backwards compatibility. DVD-RAM, unfortunately, is not supported. On the software front you'll find VOB's Instant CD/DVD, plus a copy of My DVD for creating interactive title screens for your DVD disc. The packages worked fine when loaded separately, but created stability issues when installed together (although this could have been due to prerelease software). Writing 336MB of mixed files to a DVD-R took eight minutes 42 seconds, with a DVD-RW disc coming in at 14 minutes 18 seconds. Although slower than a CD-RW drive, it's not too bad considering that it's first-generation technology. There's the option of performing a simulated write before transferring data to disc, testing the viability of the job, but this does add time to the recording process. It's a wise move, however, since the lack of buffer underrun technology makes wasted media a possibility. Costing approximately half as much again as a DVD-R drive, the Pioneer DVR-A03 is a unique product. Media is surprisingly affordable, with Pioneer DVD-Rs expected to retail at around £13 and DVD-RW discs at £19. At £613, the DVR-A03 is expensive. But if you need the ability to write DVD-R and DVD-RW media, it's money well-spent. Couple this with a storage capacity of 4.7GB and you have a format that looks set to fulfil its promise and become the natural successor to the ubiquitous CD-RW drive. ® Info Price: £613 Contact: 01753 789 500 Website: www.pioneerdvdrw.co.uk Specs Speeds: 2x DVD-R/1x DVD-RW/8x CD-R/4x CD-RW Access time: 200ms DVD-ROM/180ms CD-ROM Bus: EIDE Data buffer: 2MB Size: 148x208x42mm Weight: 1.1kg All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
PC Advisor, 26 Jul 2001

Apple cuts old Power Mac G4 prices

Apple UK has cut the price of the Power Mac G4. Not the sleek new Quicksilver model, unveiled at Macworld Expo New York, you understand, but the older, Graphite version. It seems that it has rather a lot of them left unsold. To get rid of them, it's knocking up to £450 of the price of certain models and hoping the Mac dealers can persuade customers to choose older machines over the ones. Fat chance, we reckon. A low-end 733MHz Quicksilver G4 costs around £1199 (exc. VAT). Even with the price cuts, an old 733MHz Graphite G4 costs £1299 (exc. VAT), according to Macworld UK, which broke news of the cuts this morning. Dealers don't seem entirely convinced either. "We were all waiting for these price cuts, and they aren't good enough at all. We can't drum up extra business with these," one told Macworld. "[The cuts] are insufficient to attract people away from the new models," said another. The now-discontinued 466MHz and 533MHz Graphite G4s now cost around £1050 and £1100, respectively - hardly appealing when you can get a 733MHz with more memory and disk capacity for less than one hundred pounds more. Related Link Macworld UK: Apple cuts G4 prices - official
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2001

VIA to take C3 into Tualatin territory

VIA has hit on an interesting scheme to leverage Intel's plan to phase out the Pentium III processor sooner rather than later: offer a version of its own x86-compatible C3 chip that's pin-compatible with the 0.13 micron Intel Tualatin CPU. VIA's next C3 revision, codenamed Ezra, is due to ship this quarter. Ezra is fabbed at 0.13 micron and contains 128KB of L1 cache and 64KB of L2. The chip is expected to debut at 850MHz, with 950MHz and 1GHz parts due later in the year. So far, so well known. However, Web site Xbit Labs adds an interesting addition to the Ezra line: a version that supports the FC-PGA 2 processor connection socket. The upshot: Ezra will be pin-compatible with Intel's Tualatin. So, as Tualatin disappears from suppliers' catalogues, VIA can offer a compatible alternative. It also allows it to remain a viable alternative to next year's Celerons, which will also ship with FC-PGA 2 pin-outs. ® Related Stories VIA C4 to hit 2GHz during 2H 2002 VIA C3 roadmap extended to 1.2GHz+ VIA's got a PC builder to use its C3 chip Related Link Xbit Labs: What to expect from VIA
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2001

Novatel punts out wireless CDPD Palm modem

Europeans may take great glee at the fragmented US mobile phone coverage, but the marvelous always-on CDPD packet data service is an exception. Even though it's based on analog technology that Europe turned off ages ago, CDPD has been a measured success, thanks to shrewd all-you-can eat pricing. And CDPD's 19.6kbps speed works out comparable to the first 2.5G GPRS services in practice Best known for its GPS gear, Novatel pitched in today with a $369 wireless CDPD modem for the new Palm m500 series. Business partner Omnisky is currently discounting its Palm modem heavily: you can pick one up for $69 provided you sign up to the $39.95 service for a year. It's going to get very interesting once AT&T Wireless starts to roll out GPRS network in earnest: it launched into Seattle a couple of weeks ago. However, AT&TW is pursuing the same suicidal pricing model that the European networks have adopted, and CDPD is going to stick around for some time yet. ® Related Story Stateside GPRS launched, all dressed up, anywhere to go?
Andrew Orlowski, 26 Jul 2001

Topless tart gets fiesty over Net download record

The battle over the most downloaded woman on the Internet has got hotter with American slapper Danni Ashe declaring her claim to the throne and dissing other international wannabes. Danni takes this very seriously as you can see from her Web site which lists how many times more downloaded she is over every other woman in the world. Cindy Margolis? Pah! Our Danni is 15 times more "bigger" than her, according to danni.com (we've seen the pictures and reckon 1.6 tops). Britney Spears? Better, but no cookie. Danni is 2.9 times more a woman than she is. Bizarrely Oprah Winfrey is closer with 2.7 times. But the nearest is Carol Cox at just 1.5 times smaller (who the hell is Carol Cox? A "famous Internet amateur/swinger who has been online since 1995"). So what sparked this controversy and caused even BusinessWire to write a piece about her? The upshot Australians with their Sarah Jane and us in Blighty with the far superior Nora Batty (aka actress Kathy Staff). The Aussies has been making a hullabaloo about how Sarah Jane will break the Guinness Book of Records on 1 August by being the most downloaded woman in a day (70,000 downloads they're after, and they promise some saucy snaps to entice you). Danni don't like this, so she's gone to the press saying: "There's been a great deal of misinformation and confusion I'd like to clear up for everyone's benefit [whose benefit exactly?]. Guinness World Records is currently refusing to award new 'download' titles due to their self-confessed inability to measure Web site statistics. I've put them in touch with three highly respected independent third parties, but they don't seem ready to move forward in this area." Apart form being a bit of a loon, Danni has a certain kind of dirty appeal that can always guarantee a wide audience. She's certainly not shy. Sarah Jane on the other hand goes for the more refined sauce element of society. And as for Nora Batty, well, she stands miles apart from the competition through her realistic and unconquerable womanhood. Danni has every right to be worried. Especially if Nora runs into her. If you want to see Danni's obsessive protectionism go here. ® Related Story Fellow Brits unite! As one behind Nora Batty
Kieren McCarthy, 26 Jul 2001

7200RPM are the platters that matter for Western Digital

Hard drive boys Western Digital have reported Q4 revenues of $456 million, down on last years $473.9 million. It managed with a net loss of $9 million for the period, but a one off charge of $52.2 million means the total net loss for the quarter was $61.2 million. The company sold 5.3 million hard drives in the period. The 7200 RPM segment accounted for 58 per cent of revenues. Matt Massengill, president and CEO, said the company had built fewer drives in the quarter because it didn't want to get stuck with inventory problems due to the PC market slowdown. This quarter Western Digital will begin volume production deliveries of WD hard drives to Microsoft for the Xbox. For the full fiscal year 2001, the company reported revenues of $1.95 billion, down on fiscal 2000s $1.96 billion, and a net loss before nonrecurring items of $67.4 million. Including nonrecurring charges and extraordinary gains from bond redemptions, the total net loss for fiscal 2001 was $98.9 million. ® Related Link Western Digital statement Related Stories Hard drive bloodbath (who's left standing?) Western Digital intros 80GB hard drive
Robert Blincoe, 26 Jul 2001

More great search engines you should check out

Following on from our piece on new search engine Teoma - which we said may make a good rival to Google - we have been emailed a range of other search engines we should check out. We did of course, and three in particular impressed us. These are them: Vivisimo.com www.vivisimo.com This is really good. Search results are listed conventional fashion but also split into topics and sub-topics on the left-hand side. We tried out a wide range of searches and were amazed each time at its accuracy to clump abstract areas of the subject together. One problem though is that it is too good at finding material so the annoying situation where you know the information is on the site somewhere but god knows where, crops up more frequently than other engines. Wisenut www.wisenut.com The only reason we chose this is because it throws up some peculiar (but worthwhile) sites. It is somewhat limited and we wouldn't recommend it as a first-stop search engine but if you're working around a subject, Wisenut will almost certainly throw up something you hadn't discovered before. Ilor www.ilor.com This sells itself as "Powered by google but a whole lot more". By a whole lot more think upgrade to a Windows operating system. More features that do useful stuff but do you really need them? Well, like a new Windows OS, once you get used to them you wonder how you survived without the new features before. Not that you use them very often but the fact that they're there becomes oddly comforting. It describes itself as a "research engine". Main pluses: no need for back button pressing, selection of results that interest you. All three above have obviously been inspired by Google's huge leap in search engine technology and have done very interesting things with it. Are we swayed? No. But we will use them frequently, see if we like them. And no, we don't want hundreds more suggestions for other search engines. ® Related Story Is this the rival to Google?
Kieren McCarthy, 26 Jul 2001

Italian Appeal Court rejects Rambus' request for Micron plant shutdown

The Italian Court of Appeal has thrown out Rambus' motion to have production of SDRAM suspended at Micron's memory plant in Avezano, Italy. The two companies' next meeting in the Italian court is unlikely to take place before next year, by which time the two will have faced each other in the US court. Rambus had asked the Italian court to grant it an injunction against Micron, preventing it from producing SDRAM until its allegations of patent infringement made against Micron have been judged. When the court rejected its request, Rambus took its case to the appeals court. The Court of Appeal's ruling represents a minor victory for Micron. The action brought against it by Rambus will continue, as will its own countersuit against Rambus. True, it can continue to produce SDRAM at the plant, but given the current market conditions, that's perhaps not the blessing it might at first seem. ®
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2001

Reg cancer busters and alien trackers going strong

The Register's very own Vulture Central II has stormed the charts for teams involved in the SETI-style quest to find a cure for cancer. Since its kick-off in April, the peer-to-peer (P2P) computing scheme has attracted more than 700,000 members worldwide. For its part, the Vulture Central II team now has 1,805 members, with 208,544 results received in 258 years and 169 days' of CPU time. This ranks the team fifth in the groups taking part in the project in regard to the number of members and results, and fourth in terms of CPU time. And now to SETI@Home, the P2P project set up to find alien intelligence, the Reg Vulture Central team now has 1,207 members. Between them, they have generated a total of 469709 results received in 808.853 years of CPU time. Vulture Central is 34th on the list of teams taking part. Which means it's being beaten by the likes of Intel (9th) and IBM (13th) - so get your finger out and join up. ® Related Links Join Vulture Central SETI@Homehere. Download the cancer-busting software here, then join Vulture Central IIhere. Related Stories Join The Reg cancer-busting team Join the SETI-style quest for cancer drugs Intel pumps up P2P cancer fight Reg SETI group sweeps all before it
Linda Harrison, 26 Jul 2001

Blowjob-assisted hack defies logic

Our story about a scene in Swordfish where a hacker, played by X-Men star Hugh Jackman, has to hack a system while having a gun pressed against his temple and getting a blow job has produced some interesting feedback. Vulture eyed Reg readers spotted that in the film Jackman hacked RSA's 128-bit RC5 algorithm in a little over a minute, despite the fact that such a feat would normally take a network of computers years of computational time. So let's get this straight. What the film is suggesting is that using just his nimble hands, and with the tender administrations of a lovely lady, a hacker can achieve a mathematical feat in seconds, and on Dell laptop, that would take a supercomputer network months. Unless we're dealing in time-lapse photography - and Jackman's character held off blowing his load for four months (using tantric sex, perhaps) - we're asked to believe this ridiculous nonsense. You can only take willing suspension of disbelief so far... What's surprising here is that RSA Security has its logo prominently displayed on the movie's official site and has a click through to its own home page where it proudly announced that it had advised the film's makers about encryption "so they would know how a computer system's security could be protected as well as compromised or 'hacked'." Sorry guy's but I don't think the message got through, and we're not quiet sure how this fits in with RSA Security being the most "trusted name in esecurity" either. As Reg reader Nick Garcia observes: "I'm not sure how comforting it would be to know that a hacker who hasn't touched a computer in years (and uses Microsoft's Visual Virus Studio) and motivated by a blowjob at gunpoint can crack it [RSA] in 45 seconds." Quite. RSA Security isn't the only technology firm that features in Swordfish, and the Jackman character's prestigious hack is performed on a Dell laptop, which makes a change from the Apple PowerBook that was used crashing AlienOS with a worm in Independence Day. The movie still falls into the familiar trap that filmmakers always seem to fall into. In order to make computers seem more interesting directors ignore the advice of technical advisors on how they actually work. Oh well, that's Hollywood! Swordfish goes on general release in the UK tomorrow (Friday, July 27). ® External Links Official site for the movie Swordfish RSA factoring challenge Related Stories Can you hack while getting a blow job? RSA poses $200,000 crypto challenge
John Leyden, 26 Jul 2001

nForce to generate 10% of Nvidia's 2002 sales

Nvidia is banking on sales of its nForce AMD Athlon-oriented chipset to provide a significant boost to its bottom line - the company reckons nForce sales will account of ten per cent of its revenues next year. Indeed, Nvidia doesn't appear to believe nForce will really take off until 2002, if comments made by the company's VP of investor relations, Michael Hara, interviewed by EBN, are anything to go by. Certainly Hara notes that full-scale nForce production won't happen until early 2002 - deliveries of the chipset are only just beginning and aren't expected to begin ramping up until mid-August. Such a shallow ramp explains Nvidia's focus on the Athlon. Hara notes that there's no point rushing out Pentium 4 support since "AMD systems will take our full nForce production for the next year". That said, Nvidia is still talking to Intel about licensing the intellectual property it needs to hook up nForce to the P4. The AMD comment is worth a closer look. Either Nvidia is expecting a massive take up of Athlon 4 systems over the next nine months or so - or it's playing it cautious with nForce production. Given the current depressed state of the PC market, the latter makes some sense. It allows Nvidia to gauge the market without over-exposing itself. Suggestions that nForce pricing will be significantly higher than other chipsets with integrated graphics imply Nvidia is simply dipping its toe in the water for now. And don't forget broadly the same parts are going into the Xbox, and that is expected to drive up shipments in the run up to Christmas. Indeed, it will be interesting to learn just how nForce shipments split between Xbox and Athlon-based systems. ® Related Link EBN: Nvidia expects graphic chipset to be 10% of its sales
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2001

The Reg guide to hackers in film

Our recent stories about the movie Swordfish, which goes on general release in the UK tomorrow have encouraged us to take a look at the whole hacker-film sub-genre. Hollywood's various attempts to create a convincing portrayal of hacking on celluloid (cracking exists for Tinseltown only in the Marx Brother's Animal Crackers) created a lot of interest in the office. We've come up with our own list of 20 films featuring hackers or hacking, good and bad (in no particular order), for your perusal... Superman III - Richard Prior uses the command "transfer all monies to my account". Dontcha just wish every OS included this useful feature? Italian Job - Benny Hill crashes Turin's traffic system (motivated by a love of 'large ladies') in this classic British heist caper Bellman and True (starring Bernard Hill) - a bank robbery using computers in a downbeat movie that came out years before Tarantino explored similar themes The Conversation - not strictly about hacking but Gene Hackman's painstaking recreation of a partly-recorded bugged conversation paint him as a character which much the same obsessive traits as today's hackers. Probably the best film (in terms of quality) Enemy of the State - Gene Hackman again, as a paranoid informant (certain knowledgeable about intelligence and hacking) that Will Smith comes to for help when he unwittingly becomes involved in a murderous conspiracy Die Hard - Bruce Willis in a vest versus 'extraordinary criminal' Alan Rickman and hacker cohorts. Terrorism as a cover for hacking Independence Day - Jeff Goldblum finds viruses can defeat alien invasion (and we're not talking the common cold here) Tron - floated ideas about virtual reality that were only realised with The Matrix. Jeff Bridges plays a games developer who tries to regain copyright of his work by hacking into the firm that pinched it off him The Matrix - Keanu Reeves finds hacking can seriously alter your view of reality WarGames - Matthew Broderick hacks into the US Army's nuclear defence mainframe and plays "Global Thermonuclear Warfare". The film that really established the genre and created the public's perception of hackers as dysfunctional teenager kids breaking into government systems from their bedrooms Sneakers - Robert Redford leads a rag-tag gang of hackers who are duped into retrieving a black box which can crack encryption codes. Came out around the time of the Clipper Chip controversy and convincingly portrayed a world of hackers living in the shadows Goldeneye - James Bond fights Russian (state-sponsored) black-hat hacker and Femke Janssen for control of a satellite weapon. A return to form for Bond, and the first outing for Pierce Brosnan Billion Dollar Brain - plot to overthrow Communism using IBM supercomputer comes a cropper when Karl Malden feeds the machine a pack of lies. Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) looks on bemused by the whole shindig Hackers - Angelina 'Acid Burn' Jolie and future ex-husband Jonny Lee Miller star as teenage hackers fighting both sides of the law in an attempt to stop a dangerous virus spreading. Despite featuring the gorgeous Jolie, the film is let down by poor plot and weak dialogue - does this sound like another film you might have seen recently? The Net - Another beautiful woman fighting computer viruses. This time it's Sandra Bullock, who has to deal with malicious code - and a very nasty case of identity theft... AntiTrust - hacker gets involved in, and then resists, plans of sinister multi-billionaire software tycooon, a thinly-disguised Bill Gates (as played by Tim Robbins), to destroy his competitors Swordfish - Hugh Jackman co-opted into the plans of dark super-spy John Travolta. It's amazing what you can do with a gun to your head and a pretty girl in your lap... Takedown - much ridiculed straight-to-video film based on the arrest of Kevin Mitnick. Risible Ferris Beuller's Day Off - slacker hacks into school computer using primitive form of social engineering in order to take day off. Does this make Matthew Broderick the greatest teen hacker ever? Johnny Mnemonic - Keanu Reeves challenges Broderick for the hacker-prince crown. Hacking goes cyberpunk in a tale of a man who puts a computer chip in his brain, and no the film has (thankfully) nothing to do with Kevin Warwick OK so that's our list and doubtless they'll be countless omissions, errors or things you plain disagree with here. If it sparks a discussion down the pub then this story will have done its job... ® External Links Internet Movie Data Base - excellent site for everything to do with films CNN: How Hollywood portrays hackers Related Stories Can you hack while getting a blow job? Blowjob assisted hack defies belief
John Leyden, 26 Jul 2001

Oftel to become independent and impartial!

Oftel has announced firm plans to set up a Telecoms Ombudsman in April next year to rule in disputes between consumers and telcos and save them going to court. Actually, it announced it in September last year, saying he/she would be active by the middle of this year. Which is, er, past already. But, Oftel did re-announce the position in March this year, and now at the end of July it is telling us that it will really go ahead this time - in April 2002. So while the idea of a person who can settle disputes quickly would appear to be anathema to the watchdog that likes to roll over and have telcos tickle its belly, the process by which we will actually get it is reassuringly slow. Not wishing to upset the apple cart, Oftel won't make telcos sign up to the ombudsman. No, they will sign up voluntarily. Oftel seems to think the others will be so ashamed if they don't that the system is foolproof. We suggest that Oftel will have to be putting a pretty big marketing budget behind the post so consumers are aware of it and telecoms companies shamed into signing up. Well there will be some publicity but we hit a brick wall when we ask for what, where and how much. Have any telcos said that they will definitely sign up to it? "There has been a positive response and broad support for the intiative," a spokeswoman told us. Yes, but have any companies said they will definitely sign up? "We can't comment on that at the moment, it's sensitive." Which, in case you don't know quango-speak, means no. What will this theoretical ombudsman be able to do? Decide for or against a telco up to the value of £5,000. As long as that company has signed up to him/her. It is a step in the right direction however because currently Oftel's "powers" are seriously curtailed by them being more Yorkshire Terrier than Alsatian. Perhaps if the Ombudsman happens, Oftel could then look at giving itself some power. (Of course by then it will probably be swallowed by super-regulator Ofcom.) Is this the lamest idea Oftel has ever come up with? No. There are plenty more examples of Oftel being wetter than a salmon's swimming costume. ® Related Story Situation Vacant: Telecoms Ombudsman
Kieren McCarthy, 26 Jul 2001