10th > August > 2001 Archive

Palm ate my Dell PC

Palm has been hit with a lawsuit alleging that its HotSync synchronisation system fries certain PC motherboards. The suit itself claims the HotSync process "damages or destroys the motherboards on certain PC brands", a statement the legal firm behind the action, the San Francisco-based Pinnacle Law Group, refined to include Dell. Pinnacle filed the suit on behalf of two people, Melissa Connelly and Laurence Stanton, which suggests to us that their Dell PC has been fritzed somehow and they're blaming Palm. Pinnacle is seeking Class Action status for the case, so the company is obviously hoping others will come forward and potentially validate what looks to us like a pretty ropy claim. After all, might the fault not lie with their Dell PC? It's not hard to imagine the background to the case. A PC fries and tech-support claims its not the manufacturer's fault but the Palm that's recently been connected to the system. It's hard to see how serial or USB Palm devices could toast a mobo. Mind you, it's hard to see how Dell - or anyone else for that matter - could ship a mobo so easily zapped by the voltages on a serial or USB line. Pinnacle claims the problem exists in a number of Palm devices and "it's more than an isolated problem". It's certainly not something we've come across before. Similar motherboard trouble has usually been traced to the board or the chipset its based on. Palm has yet to respond to the case, and we await the company's comment with interest. ®
Tony Smith, 10 Aug 2001

Palm readies m125 pro-'sumer PDA

Palm is preparing the release of its next consumer PDA, the m125, Web site PalmInfocenter has claimed, citing "two independent sources". Essentially, the m125 brings the m10x family into line with the standards Palm has adopted through the m50x series. So, the m125 will be the first of its kind to ship with a Secure Digital Multimedia Card slot and sport Palm's Universal Connector for syncing and adding peripherals. Like the m50x PDAs, the m125 will ship with a USB cradle. It will also be based on PalmOS 4. Little else is known about the device other than claims that it will feature a redesigned stylus and "more classy" faceplate. If Palm is indeed readying such a PDA - its promise to bring USB, the Universal Connector and SD/MMC slots to all its organisers suggest that it is indeed doing so - let's hope it can balance retiring the current m100 and m105 with launching the m125 rather better than it did with the Vx and the m500 and m505. Meantime, we're still awaiting further news of the mid-range m300 PDA, which turned up on the rumour mill some time ago, but has since faded away. But for the hints that the m300 would be a wireless comms device, it sounds suspiciously like the m125 - essentially a PDA positioned between the m105 and the m500. If anyone from Palm - or elsewhere - has further information, we'd love to hear it... ® Related Story Palm preps 'm300' PDA Related Link PalmInfocenter: Palm Preparing m125 with SD Slot
Tony Smith, 10 Aug 2001

Intel steps up pressure on VIA

Intel has stressed that it will consider using legal action against anyone who produces a Pentium 4 chipset without its approval. Chen Chun-shen, president of Intel's Asia-Pacific operation, reiterated that only three Taiwanese firms have the company's permission to produce P4 chipsets and that those who haven't will face legal action, according to a Taiwan Economic News report. Intel will not hesitate to sue companies that make and market such chipsets without its authorisation, he said. The comment was clearly directed against VIA, which has been showing its P4X266 DDR-based chipste this week at CeBit Asia. So too have authorised producer SiS. Acer Labs and ADI also have Intel's say-so to offer a P4 chipset. For its part, VIA said it has begun volume production and that it's still in talks with Intel to gain the chip giant's approval. VIA argues that it already has the right to produce a P4 chipset, thanks to licences obtained when it bought S3 Graphics. Not so, counters Intel. The two companies have been seeking a compromise for months, but with little sign of success. Taiwanese sources claim VIA will charge between $25 and $30 for the P4X266, rather less than the $38 Intel is expected to charge for its single data-rate SDRAM-based i845 chipset, due to be launched on 26 August. ®
Tony Smith, 10 Aug 2001

Vandals and phreakers plague MSN Internet park bench

Bill Gates this week become the victim of pranksters at MSN's latest UK project, the cyber-park bench. On Tuesday Neil Woodman and Dan Sanderson from Bury St Edmunds took a phone handset down to the town's public gardens, where the bench is located. When the 17-year-olds plugged it into one of the phone sockets in the bench's arm, they discovered that - hey presto - they got free international calls, courtesy of MSN. After a couple of local calls, the two scallywags decided to use the phone to call Microsoft boss Bill Gates and have a chat about the bench project. Unfortunately, Gates' battalion of secretaries proved impenetrable, and the two opted instead to be good citizens and call up St Edmundsbury Council to tip them off about the long-distance line blunder. "We thought: who's in charge of Microsoft? We might as well try to see how far we can get," Sanderson told The Register. "Then we called the council because we don't like to see people getting ripped off," added Sanderson, who runs computer shop Originate Computing Direct in the town with Woodman. MSN, which is footing the phone bill for the first three months of the bench's life, promptly got onto BT and the bench now has a local calls only system. But this is not the only excitement the bench, designed as somewhere for surfers to plug their laptops into, has seen since its launch on Monday. It has also attracted the interest of vandals - earlier this week they blocked one of the bench's modem sockets when the parky's back was turned. According to St Edmundsbury Council, engineers were called in and quickly fixed the problem. "Hopefully people will come down and use the bench for what it's designed for," said one Council representative today. "It's a very well used and very public area - we have park patrols, and are asking members of the public who are near the bench to keep an eye on it." ® Related Stories Log on with the pigeons You've had the cyberlav, now here's the cyber parkbench
Linda Harrison, 10 Aug 2001

ATI to launch R200 next week

ATI will launch its R200, likely to be called the Radeon 2, at next week's SIGGRAPH show, one of the graphics chip specialist's partners has let slip. Face-modelling software developer LifeFX has just put out a press release noting that ATI will bundle a custom version of its code with the R200. LifeFX says it will demo the software at the "highly anticipated product launch of R200 at this year's SIGGRAPH". SIGGRAPH opens its doors next Tuesday, 14 August. ATI can't complain about this inadvertent leak, having last year pre-announced Apple's dual-CPU Power Mac G4 and Power Mac G4 Cube in a pre-Macworld Expo press release. Having faced the wrath of Steve Jobs for its blunder, by rights ATI should approach similar violators of its own secrets with some humility. ATI's decision to bundle LifeFX's software has a little more to it than the launch leak, however. The move nicely sets the R200 up against Matrox's latest chip, the G550, which also bundles face-modelling software. That's an attempt on Matrox's part to find new customers for 3D technology through new applications. Clearly, ATI has the same idea, and probably wants to prevent Matrox winning too much of its business in the process. ® Related Stories ATI confirms Radeon 2 to ship late summer ATI R200, R300 roadmap spied ATI Radeon 200 debuts on Web ATI Radeon 2, 3 details leak Matrox unveils Millennium G550
Tony Smith, 10 Aug 2001

Japan arrests woman for email snooping

A Japanese woman has been arrested for allegedly snooping around a colleague's email account. Kumiyo Kishi is the first person in the country to be arrested for breaking the electronic communications projects law, the Mainichi Daily News reports. The 30-year-old from Tokyo is accused of using a computer at work to read emails in the account of her co-worker. When the co-worker changed the password on her account, Kishi allegedly contacted the ISP and pretended to be the woman. The ISP, which was not identified, told her the password after she claimed to have forgotten it. She then accessed the co-worker's account and read incoming and outgoing emails between May 9 and June 1. ® Related Link Sneaky peeks earn woman dubious honour Related Stories Net 'misuse' costs corporate America $2,000 per second Manager sacked for 'grrrreat shag' email
Linda Harrison, 10 Aug 2001

‘If AOL UK paid full VAT it could fund heart transplants’

Freeserve has gone for AOL UK's jugular claiming that in the last ten days the US-based ISP has avoided paying £82,000 worth of VAT - enough cash to fund four heart or lung transplant operations. Britain's biggest French ISP has jumped on the news that the British Government is to bail out a privately-owned loss-making heart hospital in London. While the Government and unions have clashed over using £27.5 million of taxpayers' money to rescue the London Heart Hospital, Le Freeswerve has stepped in to further its own commercial battle with rival AOL. In a statement issued yesterday it suggests that the "loophole in the Customs and Excise guidelines that currently allows AOL to avoid paying £30 million in VAT to the UK treasury every year, roughly the amount it cost to save the London Heart Hospital," should be closed. "Freeserve has contacted Gordon Brown and HM Customs and Excise to highlight this tax discrepancy. "It is urging British consumers to choose ISPs that pay VAT as the money could then be used by the Treasury to fund essential services such as the troubled hospital," it said It finishes: "Freeserve estimates that AOL has earned around £82,000 in unpaid VAT - enough money to fund four heart or lung transplants alone." While many will view Le Freeswerve's "public relations" actions today with some dismay, it does, at least confirm that Le Freeserve will not be moving its operation outside the EU if the issue remains unresolved. Now that Le Freeswerve has taken the moral high ground on what is such a sensitive subject, surely it is not low enough to then up-sticks, move its operation to Algeria and then refuse to pay tax. Non? Related Stories Freeserve still threatens to move to Algeria Freeserve takes swipe at AOL's tax free status Freeserve threatens to move operation to Algeria
Tim Richardson, 10 Aug 2001

Intel to launch DDR i845 chipset this month?

Hynix has been blowing its own trumpet, claiming the 1.7 million 128Mb DDR SDRAM chips it sold in July give it 45 per cent of the market. That figure, the company boasts, leaves it "the undisputed leader in DDR SDRAM shipments worldwide". Hynix expects its 128Mb shipments to increase considerably during August - to over three million units. Now here's an interesting thing. The company includes Intel among the companies propelling DDR sales this month. The chip giant is, of course, expected to ship its i845 Pentium 4 chipset - codenamed Brookdale - on 26 August, but only with single data rate support. Yet Hynix claims that "this strategic shift in Intel's position will propel DDR SDRAM into mainstream system memory applications". The said "strategic shift" refers to Intel's move away from Rambus RDRAM, but Hynix's statement could be read to imply that the DDR version of the i845 will ship this month, much earlier than the Q1 2002 timeframe everyone is expecting. There have certainly been rumours that the DDR version of Brookdale would ship sooner rather than later, but Intel is a slow-moving beast, and we remain sceptical that it would bring the chipset's release so far ahead. Then again, it knows how much PC133 usage will handicap the P4, and given its keenness to drive P4 sales, it might just consider a sudden shift to DDR would give the P4 a big push, particularly against AMD's Athlon. More likely, we reckon, it will ship the SDR i845 on 26 August but announce that it will ship the DDR version in four to five months' time (ie. Q1 2002). ®
Tony Smith, 10 Aug 2001

Stinger: The Sneak Preview

Microsoft has a reputation of crushing all the companies who stand in its way - it's often seen as the Seattle giant that uses its software might to take on plucky start-ups and win. The company which crushed Netscape. The problem with being big and successful is what to do next. Microsoft has expanded into two directions. X-box is the new games machine designed to take on the Playstation and Game Cube, while Stinger is the new software for mobile phones. There is a big difference between Stinger and X-box though. While Microsoft will be making the X-box hardware, much as it makes Microsoft Joysticks, keyboards and mice, Microsoft will not be making Stinger phones. That will be left to dedicated manufacturers which will buy the Stinger software from Microsoft. Originally Microsoft quoted a price of $5 a time, but the price is now secret after the market has gone red-hot. It would be like Microsoft to prioritise propagation of its own software over cost issues. During a meeting with Microsoft in June, the marketing minder was conveniently distracted for half an hour, giving me the chance to explore a Stinger phone far more fully than any specialist journalist has done to date. I was looking at a reference device, that is, a product which is not intended to ship but to give third party developers an idea what the phones from Samsung, HTC and Sendo will look and feel like when they appear. More a smarter phone than a cut-down PDA, it looks like a mobile with a big screen and a real keypad. The first impressions are good. It's a device you really can use one-handed. The 176 x 220 pixel monochrome screen was good and clear. It's also an indication of Microsoft coming to terms with the phone world. That resolution isn't a sensible factor of the VGA proportions, but it is a standard in the Japanese phones used by DoCoMo for i-mode and as a result is a size hardware manufacturers will find easy to buy. Not that Stinger is tied to any screen size. One of the reasons it's easy to read is that the Stinger people spent a lot of time working with the Microsoft Truetype people to design a font that was especially easy to read on a small screen. You will be able to add different fonts, but Microsoft rather hopes you won't want to. The main control is a four-way joypad which also presses in to provide a 'select' option. There is a 'home' and a 'backspace' key but no 'cancel', the cancel function being tackled by the backspace key when appropriate. Two soft keys have prompts at the bottom of the screen. The right one often reads 'menu', and 'cancel' is often an option within this. As with Pocket PC there is no 'close program' option. It's a very American device, more Motorola than Nokia in mindset. In the original build of the software I saw in December, there was no option to set background graphics, but this is incorporated into later builds, giving either the handset manufacturer, the mobile phone network or the end user the option to change the screen. It will be the network which acts as gatekeeper for this. The network might decide that it is more important for the screen to show their logo than a picture of your children. It is envisaged that rather than leaving the phone with the program you want running - say a WAP browser - you will run plug-ins to show crucial information such as share prices, cricket scores, or whatever pushed your button, on the welcome screen. Microsoft recognises that the standards in the mobile phone world are Nokia and, like Alcatel, Sagem and Mitsubishi, it uses Nokia-standard downloadable ring tones. Again, this wasn't in the December build I looked at, but is now part of the OS. While the prototype had a vibrate function it didn't have a ring tone composer. Microsoft expects that this will be added by third party developers as a point of differentiation. Expect lots of ring-orientated features. Most upmarket phones offer downloadable ring tones, a composer and some the ability to play a .wav file - all of which can be allocated to individual people in the phonebook. Costs a packet Microsoft seems to be getting its corporate head around the differences between a pocket device and a connected pocket device. One important aspect of this is the ability to count GPRS packets. When you buy a GPRS phone you are billed by the kilobyte or megabyte. Currently the only GPRS phone which is shipping is the Motorola T260, and for anything other than a handful of corporate customers the service is WAP only. This means one megabyte of data is more than you are likely to use. This will change, however, particularly if you start downloading pictures, email and games. As the price per megabyte becomes significant you will want to know how much you've spent. BT Cellnet's view is 'you know because we'll send you a bill'. Otherwise known as 'trust us'. Billing software is not simple and any heavy user is going to want a means to know if the network has got its sums right. While the prototype Stinger I saw didn't count GPRS packets, this feature is promised. You should be able to see what your bill is on the screen of the phone, all the time. Another phone rather than PDA thing is obeying the standards. CHPS is an addition to the standard phone standards which allows for things like Line 2 on Orange and holding down the 1 key to get voicemail. Some networks insist on CHPS (Orange is one), and again this is supported by Stinger. Dates are expressed in American mm/dd/yy format but that might just be a national setting, the prototype not yet having the code to spot the nationality from the SIM - but this will come. The forthcoming Trium Eclipse and the new Vtech A600 both go one better and have the operator logos in ROM so that they can display the logo of the network you are on. In theory the network can send its logo over the air - as with a Nokia phone - in practice they won't. Microsoft has been through something of a learning curve with CLI, and while the prototype couldn't cope with the way different network infrastructures presented numbers differently, this has now been debugged. One of the things I found most disturbing is the contents of the 'about' box. The credit said 'Windows CE 3.0 (build 1039)'. Windows is not an operating system for a mobile phone. Mobile phone users don't expect their devices to need to be re-booted. Third party apps shouldn't need libraries. The development environment for Stinger is Visual C++ or assembler. The prototype had 8Mb RAM, with 2.96Mb free. This is with debug software but before any data or third party software had been loaded. In practice it means there will only be room for one third party application. There was no removable storage, but again this is a reference platform and shipping phones are expected to use the same MMC multi media cards as the Siemens SL45 uses for storing MP3 files. There was nothing on the prototype to tax the device speedwise but with an envisaged clockspeed of 80MHz to 140MHz there should be plenty of performance out of an ARM processor. Clock speed and screen technology have a huge impact on battery life. Microsoft is hoping the devices will have a 100 to 120 hours standby time. To do this they will need screens which don't need power to stay on and central processors which sleep. This is well understood technology. What is still a bit of an unknown is how GPRS will affect battery life. There might be good mathematical ways of working out power consumption but nothing beats real life. How well the predictions stand up remains to be seen. Yet another factor is how well third party applications manage power and tax the processor. Programmers for this kind of device should be thinking 'Sinclair Spectrum or BBC Micro', thinking about code sizes and optimization. There is even the prospect of attribute clash returning. The new Organic Electro Luminescent technology which will provide low power colour suffers from problems with adjacent colours. Games programmers from the 1980s are the people to cope with this technology. The whole user interface works very well one-handed, but the best example is the games. There is a version of solitaire and blackjack. The number keys are used to denote where cards should be moved to. The blackjack gives hints on playing the game (stick on 14 if the dealer has a 3 showing), and even includes an option to card count. Microsoft has its priorities right. If there is an incoming call while you are playing, the game is suspended and then as soon as the call ends you are straight back into the game. Games which are technically more taxing for the programmers will exploit standard graphics libraries. There is a Win32 driver and for action games a direct to screen driver. Stinger uses Tegic T9, the excellent predictive text system now owned by AOL. A few quick messages revealed that the dictionary didn't know the word 'Stinger'. I suspect that it does however know the word 'Nokia' as the Ericsson R520 Bluetooth phone knows Nokia but not 'Bluetooth'. Fair enough, Stinger is only a code name, and once again you can expect the dictionary to be refined. While they are at it they will probably add the word 'Sendo'. Microsoft claims good adherence to SMS standards with some of the less mainstream features catered for, like a setting which allows an incoming SMS to delete and replace one already in your inbox. The feature is particularly good for information such as weather reports where you only want the latest status. Americans spend a lot of time on aircraft, so the ability to switch the phone off while using the PDA is essential and Stinger complies. Microsoft vs. Symbian There is a lot of politics behind Stinger. Microsoft wants to be big and important in the mobile world. Unfortunately for them, the big important incumbents - Nokia, Sony-Ericsson, Motorola and Siemens - use the rival Symbian operating system. Those four top dogs account for 80 per cent of the phones sold. The major Microsoft licensee is Sendo, which aspires to 0.5 per cent of the mobile phone market. Microsoft's solution to this is to put emphasis on the software where it is already dominant - within businesses. Outlook is one of the most-used programs in the world. Millions of people organise their lives using Outlook and Outlook Express. Microsoft has a system called MMIS (Microsoft Mobile Information System) which lets you view your email in a corporate network using a mobile phone. MMIS uses Web and WAP viewers. Microsoft hopes that people who use this service will find it so great they will want something better than WAP, therefore Stinger provides good links with MMIS (called under its codename Airsync on the prototype). The long term plan is to sell corporates on MMIS and then use this as a way to sell them phones. Microsoft claims that Stinger will be in the shops by Christmas. This seems very optimistic. Sendo isn't giving dates but my contention that March 2002 seemed sensible was met with an approving nod. In general Americans are isolated from GSM. Microsoft has done a fairly good job of overcoming this, partly by buying the Scandinavian company Send-IT and partly by poaching lots of good Symbian people. Symbian is still ahead - with the mindset of the developers, the tightness of the code and, perhaps most significantly, with a system that has been shipping for years and has a track record against Microsoft's system. The gap, however, is smaller than ever. © What Mobile. All Rights Reserved.
Simon Rockman, 10 Aug 2001

MS internal network whacked by Code Red

It's not just MSN - Code Red has just ripped through Microsoft's internal network too, according to our spies in Redmond. The unleashed worm is claimed to have whacked numerous servers on the corporate network; something of an embarrassment for Microsoft this, as it can only mean we hadn't quite got our act together on the patch front before the storm broke. How did it happen? One of Microsoft's biggest internal security problems is smart-arse techies who decide to make their lives easier by ignoring and/or shorting out all the rules, thus leaving the company vulnerable to, say, employees' infected home machines. But not this time - somebody simply brought an infected, hibernated laptop in, connected it to the corporate network and bang, Code Red was inside the perimeter chomping away. But the infection's probably a blessing in disguise, because it'll have helped Redmond's fire-fighters identify all of the machines still vulnerable, and so long as the press doesn't hear about it, High Command will be spared massive embarrassment. So shush people, OK? ® Related story: Code Red worms into Hotmail servers
John Lettice, 10 Aug 2001

Sklyarov case shows business outweighs First Amendment

Noted cryptographer Bruce Schneier has produced a damning critique of the way the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was used to jail Russian software researcher Dmitry Sklyarov. Schneier, chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security, and inventor of the Blowfish algorithm, will argue in the next issue of his Crypro-Gram email newsletter that the Sklyarov case shows the DMCA is being used to restrict basic freedoms of speech. A copy of his essay, which will be published on August 15, was sent by Schneier to the Register in order to raise awareness about the ramification for security research raised by the case. Although Sklyarov was released earlier this week on bail of $50,000, the prosecution against him continues and Schneier's comments are interesting because they highlight some of the wider issues the case raises. One of the main points Schneier makes is that provisions in the DMCA that allow for security research "which I and others fought hard to have included" are being ignored in the Sklyarov case and others, such as the DeCSS case against 2600 Magazine. "What the DMCA has done is create a new controlled technology," Schneier argues. "In the United States there are several technologies that normal citizens are prohibited from owning: lock picks, fighter aircraft, pharmaceuticals, explosives. "In each of these cases, only people with the proper credentials can legally buy and sell these technologies. The DMCA goes one step further, though. Not only are circumvention tools controlled, but information about them are." Sklyarov was engaged in legitimate security research, Schneier said, but for highlighting the poor security of eBook readers, and working for a firm that develops software that "circumvents these ineffectual security systems" he ended up in jail. Schneier recalls cases in the seventies when the government failed to get a restraining article preventing The Progressive publishing an article containing technical information on H-Bomb design. He compares this to Sklyarov's plight which he said illustrates that publishing critical research on digital rights management technology used to protect electronic books is viewed as "more serious than publishing nuclear weapon design information". This seems to go a bit far but makes the point that freedom of speech is going out the window in this case, or as Schneier puts it: "Welcome to 21st Century America, where the profits of the major record labels, movie houses, and publishing companies are more important than First Amendment rights." Schneier compares the actions of the entertainment industry with the ill-fated attempt of the NSA to restrict access to encryption technology in the 1990s. Both the actions of the NSA of the use of the DMCA by the entertainment industry are prepared to resort to unconstitutional methods, Schneier argues. "The entertainment industry is fighting a holding action, and fear, uncertainty, and doubt are their weapons," Schneier writes, "The DMCA is unconstitutional, but they don't care. Until it's ruled unconstitutional, they've won. The charges against Sklyarov won't stick, but the chilling effect it will have on other researchers will." ® External Links Electronic Frontier Foundation (which is leading the campaign to get charges against Sklyarov dropped Related Stories Sklyarov freed on Bail Adobe DMCA protests spread to UK Adobe Folds! Boycott Adobe campaign launches eBook security debunker arrested by Feds DoJ sticks its nose in 2600.com DeCSS appeal DeCSS arguments invoke free speech There's no going back after CPRM, warns Schneier
John Leyden, 10 Aug 2001
server room

Sonera pulls out of Norway 3G

Finnish mobile company Sonera has pulled out of the Norwegian 3G market following the decision by equal partner Enitel to concentrate on its fixed-line business market and scrap its UMTS holdings. Enitel and Sonera, under the name Broadband Mobile, paid £15.6 million for one of the four next-generation mobile licences in Norway. However, Enitel decided in June to refocus its business and publicly announced it was pulling out of the mobile business. Since then, its CEO Svein Berntsen told us, it has been looking for a buyer. The last one pulled out yesterday and since Sonera said it wasn't interested in buying the other half, the company has gone into liquidation. The big question is why. Mr Berntsen would not be drawn on why his company has pulled out of the mobile market although he did draw reference to the huge multi-national corporations that had spread their wings over Europe. Pushed, he said that in his opinion four licences were too many for the Norwegian market. A spokesman for Sonera told us that the Norwegian licence formed part of a pan-Scandinavian mobile plan. But since the company failed to get a licence in Sweden's beauty contest, the Norwegian market on its own did not justify the full expense of building a 3G network. Sonera is keen to point out though that it remains committed to 3G in its home country of Finland, plus its licences through joint ventures in Europe. These are: Germany (with Telefonica), Italy (also with Telefonica) and Spain (with Vivendi). Under the terms of the contract, Sonera will have to return the licence to the Norwegian government (no resale opportunity), effectively writing off £8 million. There was a two-year lock-up period on the contract, but it is believed the government could hand it to someone else as soon as it sees fit. While the pull-out is not as significant as some observers have made it, it is another demonstration that 3G is going to be a lot tougher than anyone previously suspected. There may be pull-outs to follow as companies reassess the costs. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Aug 2001

Mesh phone system sabotaged by burglars

UK PC builder Mesh Computers has fallen victim to burglars for the second time this year. But the intruders, who forced their way into the outfit's London offices on Wednesday night, seem to have been more intent on vandalism than theft. Wires in the company's telephone system were cut, which resulted in the phone lines being completely disabled yesterday. BT engineers are today still trying to fix the problem. Nothing was stolen during the break-in. "There appears to be a bit of a pattern here," said Mesh marketing manager John Hendrick. In January Mesh was targetted in a similar break-in. "In both cases, clues left by the intruders indicate that theft was not top of their wish list," he added. "But these challenges make us stronger." Mesh's offices in Leeds and Edinburgh were unaffected by the break-in, and will be taking calls until the London phone system is fixed. ® Related Stories Mesh redundancies follow night-shift proposal Mesh 'not looking for general manager Mesh hit by dim computer thieves
Linda Harrison, 10 Aug 2001

Napster ist nicht tot

New Napster CEO Konrad Hilbers has given a short interview to German mag Stern assuring them (himself?) that Napster isn't dead and giving details of the site's future charging system. Asked bluntly if Napster was kaput, he replied: "Napster ist nicht tot [Napster is not dead]. The name is very valuable and we are working very hard to make it a successful business." So how will the new-style Napster look? "In principle, the same as before." Except you will be asked to pay $5 a month. This is at the bottom of previous suggestions by Napster - it was varying between $5 and $10. So what do you get for this? You can exchange music and enter chat rooms. You get music searches, clean downloads and, of course, the music. The music comes in two forms, although Hilbers doesn't dwell too long on it. The 200 independent labels Napster has signed with will work through its proprietary .nap file format. Hilbers makes mention of copyright-free music being available but we shall see how much effort the company puts into this. The other form is through music-industry led MusicNet, which will use RealNetworks proprietary format. MusicNet is a conglomeration of BMG, EMI and Warner and is currently being investigated by the European Commission for possible anti-trust behaviour. Napster has a licensing agreement with MusicNet and this will supply your big pop stars. Copyright will be protected in both cases. Hilbers says he is confident the system will be a success, even if it doesn't attract many original Napster users back into the fold. Interestingly he quotes Shawn Fanning, saying that even with a few hundred users, Napster can still function as a business. If you speak German, you can read the interview here. Meanwhile the wranglings with the RIAA continue. The RIAA says it has enough evidence that Napster knew its customers were acting illegally that a trial isn't even necessary. "Napster knowingly and willfully set out to build a business based on copyright infringement on an unprecedented scale. Today's action brings us one step closer toward closure in this case by determining Napster's liability," it said, laughing maniacally with a torch held under its chin. Guess what? Napster doesn't agree. Not that it matters to the rest of us anyway because Napster isn't even up following a judge's decree at the start of July. And so it goes on. ® Related Link Stern's interview with Hilbers Related Stories New Napster bossman Appeal Court says Napster can go live again Napster appeal deadline set Napster to ditch MP3 for proprietary format Napster bends over and takes it from Metallica Napster down until futher notice Napster still down Napster in a coma Napster signs up UK indie labels Napster signs away its soul Napster nears deals with music industry
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Aug 2001

NTT DoCoMo rethinks London listing

NTT DoCoMo, the Japanese mobile company famous for the success of its i-Mode mobile system, is reconsidering listing on the New York and London stock exchanges, reports the FT. The company had planned to list next month to get itself known internationally and expand its financial options but is concerned about the recent drop in technology shares. As such, it is now revaluing current investments in Europe and the States. For example, it paid £5.75 billion for a 16 per cent stake in AT&T Wireless, another £2.3 billion for a 15 per cent stake in KPN Mobile and another £1.2 billion for a 20 per cent stake in UK 3G licence holder Hutchison. Since telecoms stocks in particular have taken a battering recently, DoCoMo is considering a complete rethink to make sure it doesn't overstretch itself at a delicate time for the market. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Aug 2001

Summer camp set up for sacked dotcom workers

Laid off dotcom workers are been encouraged to forget their problems and go to summer camp. Recessioncamp.com, which was itself set up by two former Internet high-fliers, is offering activities like hiking and golf to the casualties of the dotcom recession. The firm is certainly not short of prospective clients. Since that start of this year, approximately 120,000 US Internet workers have lost their jobs. Recessioncamp.com aims "to help those downsized in this year's economic downturn to remain healthy, happy, and social while they look for their next job." Michael Feldman, co-founder of Recessioncamp.com, told Agence France-Presse: "You can't look for work all day, every day. "You need to take a break and get in touch with yourself and others," said the former software developer, whose start-up Internet marketing services firm, Tools Inc, went titsup.com in February. Camp "counsellors", including Feldman, organise trips for unemployed workers who come to them via the Web site or through word of mouth. The prices charged for activities are based only on the cost of events, so that unemployed Internet workers are more likely to be able to afford them. ® External Links Recessioncamp.com
John Leyden, 10 Aug 2001

ISA links up with Daisytek

ISA International, Europe's biggest computer supplies distie is joining forces Daisytek, in a move that will see its US counterpart take over the company. Daisytek is pumping in &163;10m into ISA, receiving &163;8m worth of convertible preference shares that give it the right to own 50 per cent+1 share of ISA's enlarged share capital - anytime over the next 10 years. Daisytek also gets 2m worth of warrants for subscription of 15.4 million ordinary shares in ISA, exercisable at Daisytek's option. It will be interesting to see what ISA's shareholders will make of the proposal: considering that Leed's-based ISA International is a #163;300m t/o business, it looks likes Daisytek is driving a hard bargain indeed. With ISA, Daisytek realises its ambition of plugging in Western Europe into a global computer and office supplies distribution network. And it does this far more cheaply than if it had tried to do this organically. Following the transaction, ISA International will delist from the London Stock Exchange, moving instead to AIM, which requires a smaller percentage of shares in free float. ®
Drew Cullen, 10 Aug 2001

SiPix Mobile

ReviewReview We've seen a number of small, portable printers before, but nothing quite like the SiPix Mobile. It has its roots in the belief that road warriors still like to work from hard copy. It can be connected up to a notebook or PDA via an infrared or serial connection, allowing you to print out from either. Installation and use is easy because SiPix has sensibly kept features down to a bare minimum. The only confusion might lie in the separate paths for sheets of A6-sized paper or rolls. That said it only comes bundled with a roll of paper and the manual is fairly comprehensive about set up. We would, however, suggest getting sheets because the roll has to be ripped off which does not look professional. Users won't have any problems changing print cartridges because SiPix has opted for monochrome thermal print technology. A resolution of 400dpi (dots per inch) is the only setting and it outputs up to 2ppm (pages per minute). You will need to bump the font size up to at least 18 for text because anything smaller is hard to read. PowerPoint presentations look good as long as there aren't too many dark colours, but graphics don't fare that well. To put the size of the mobile printer in perspective consider that its weight is doubled by the addition of the roll of paper for printing and four AA batteries. You can invest in rechargeable batteries though, as the power adapter has a built-in charger. If you need to print on the move this is a good solution, but for high quality, fast printing wait until you get back to the office. ® Info Price: £124 Contact: 0160 645 008 Website: www.sipix.com Specs Optical resolution: 400x400dpi Speed: 2ppm Connection: Serial and IrDA Size: 150x109x22mm Weight: 250g without batteries, 400g with batteries Paper: roll of A6 paper supplied; six rolls cost £9.99 Requires: Win98/Me/2000 or Palm PDA with OS 3.0-4.0 Scoring Build quality: 7 Features: 6 Value for Money: 5 All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
PC Advisor, 10 Aug 2001

Dell tops (Intel) server satisfaction poll

Dell has topped the Technology Business Research Q2US corporate customer satisfaction poll for Intel servers, desktops and notebooks. During the quarter, the PC vendor made "some spectacular gains...across all three form factors", TBR says. Dell's performance in Q2 wipes out most of its losses in the previous three quarters, which had tracked a gradually decline in customer satisfaction. In Q2, Dell regained its pole position from Compaq in the Intel platform server satisfaction chart, broke free from IBM to take the sole lead in notebook satisfaction and reasserted "a strong lead over its corporate desktop competitors". TBR attributes Dell's rebound to "aggressive price cutting in a marketplace being driven out of necessity by cost issues and Dell's rapid response to customer demand by making targeted improvements to its service and support programs". Between April and June, TBR polled 535 IT managers, collectively responsible for an installed base of three million systems and a purchase intent of around 850,000 systems. The general mood of these people is, TBR, says "one largely driven by pricing issues, particularly in the predominantly commoditized corporate desktop marketplace". This is interesting: US corporate IT buyers equate perceived cost of ownership with good service. But forget all that Gartner guff about the cost of the hardware working out at only 12 per cent of the total cost of ownership etc. When it comes to corporate buying practice and customer satisfaction this translates to the headline price and "the depth of discounts received". This means that the easiest way for Compaq,IBM, HP et al to improve customer satisfaction ratings - in the short term - is to cut prices. At what point does this bbecome a recipe for disaster? ®
Drew Cullen, 10 Aug 2001

Meet Marvin, the paranoid Web server

Dutch fans of author Douglas Adams have set up a script on a Web server that returns errors in the style of a famous character from the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Surfers trying to access a page on a site run by an association for electronics students at the University of Twente are treated to an error message from a Web server that seems to have had a personality transplant from Marvin The Paranoid Android. Very droll (if you're a Hitch hiker's fan), and we won't spoil your enjoyment by printing here what the "manic depressive" Web server with a "brain the size of the universe", has to say. Share and enjoy... ® Thanks to Reg reader Matthew Sullivan for bringing this little gem to our attention. Update The site has been knocked offline, probably due to interest from Register readers. Apologies to those who wanted to see the script in all its glory. Related Link Here I am, brain the size of the universe, trying to serve you a simple web page... Related Stories RIP: Douglas Adams Life, the universe and supercomputers
John Leyden, 10 Aug 2001

Old code defeats new CD anti-ripping technologies

Macrovision's SafeAudio and Midbar's Cactus - both new technologies designed to prevent CDs from being copied successfully - may have been defeated by software released over two years ago. CloneCD, from German developer Elaborate Bytes, was written to duplicate discs bit by bit. The code requires a CD-R or CD-RW drive that supports RAW mode, which, according to EB, almost all currently available models do. Essentially, RAW mode allows data to be read and written as pure binary data rather than files (as a CD drive does) or music tracks (the way a CD player works). CloneCD generates a perfect copy of the data on the source CD - including all the noise and other modifications to music and control data made by the likes of Cactus and SafeAudio. Of course, that also includes any other copy protection system. As EB's own Web site points out, "CloneCD does not disable the boot protection found on console CDs... CloneCD does not modify the data it reads or writes in any way". Both SafeAudio and Cactus are designed to prevent file copies. Theoretically, then, CloneCD copies are not affected, though duplicating a CloneCD copy in the usual way will be blocked by those two technologies. We understand that CloneCD has been used to successfully bypass SafeAudio, but as yet we've seen no corroboration for that claim. EB is smart enough to loudly proclaim that CloneCD is not licensed to be used to copy discs for which the user lacks permission to do so. It's a moot point whether that's enough to protect the authors from the strictures of the US' Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which renders any attempt to bypass a copy protection mechanism illegal, but we'd caution them not to make a fuss if they're ever visiting the States - Dimitri Sklyarov is proof of that. EB notes that not all CD writers support RAW mode, and we suspect that over time fewer and fewer will as the music industry attempts to plug this particular hole in their anti-piracy wall. ® Related Stories 'Hi-fi nuking' CD technology safe claims developer CD anti-piracy system can nuke hi-fi kit Anti-rip CD system bypassed Related Link Elaborate Bytes: CloneCD homepage
Tony Smith, 10 Aug 2001

BT sacks 4000 in German cost cutting

BT is to get rid of 4,000 staff at its German mobile subsidiary Viag Telekom - 13 per cent of the total work force. The chairman of Viag, Joachim Preisig, told the FT in Germany that the job losses will come from "normal personnel fluctuations" and the company was hoping to avoid redundancies. Viag Interkom, he said, was trying to come out with a positive earnings figure by the start of 2003. What he didn't expand upon was the pressure from BT, in particular Sir Christopher Bland to cut down debt. This has been the chairman's crusade still starting in the job several months ago and Viag Interkom, together with other European mobile asset Telfort, caused some embarrassment when they announced joint losses of £154 million, which took BT Wireless into the red. The FT did say however that Preisig had not ruled out any takeovers as a way to build a larger customer base. Viag Telekom was known to be interested in the mobile company Talkline, but is unlikely to get hold of the £190 million needed for the purchase. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Aug 2001

Microsoft releases Content Management Server

Earlier this summer Microsoft acquired the Canadian company NCompass and its Resolution content management product. This has now been released as Content Management Server (CMS) 2001. The two biggest differences between Resolution and CMS are their platform support and their pricing. As far as platform support is concerned the former runs under both Windows NT and Windows 2000, while CMS only runs under Windows 2000. According to Microsoft this is because the product offers significantly better performance on Windows 2000. No doubt this is true but you don't need us to explain the other potential reasons for dropping support for Windows NT. The other big difference is the pricing. NCompass sold Resolution in unbundled format with a base price of $59,000 per server. If you wanted the server-clustering add-on this amounted to a further $25,000. Then there was a site deployment manager that allowed you to deploy content from Resolution server to another, which retailed for a further $10,000. And, finally, there was a content connector module for integration between Resolution and Microsoft’s Commerce Server 2000. This was yet another $10,000. All in all a total of $79,000 for a single server and with prices starting at $163,000 in server-clustering environments. Of course, content is so crucial for most companies that the thought of implementing it on a single server is likely to be anathema. So $163,000 would be the starting price for most companies. Microsoft, however, has bundled all of these components into CMS and the recommended retail price is $39,901 (why does it bother with the "1"?) per CPU. So, for a two server system you are talking about a starting price of $79,802, which is less than half price of the previous NCompass figure. Given than NCompass’ prices were competitive with other vendors in the market such as BroadVision, Vignette and so on, how much of a bombshell will this sort of price cut have on the market? Obviously it will have a significant effect but the undercut is not as great as it might appear. This is because implementation costs are usually reckoned to be about equal to the cost of the software (though there are exceptions to this rule, Eprise for example, major on their reduced implementation costs at about half of the norm). So, assuming that implementation costs remain the same then total costs are reduced from $326,000 to $242,802. Still a hefty saving but now only around 25 per cent. But that is not the end of the issue. If there is one thing that Microsoft is good at, it is making things easy to use. No doubt it will build suitable tools and add them to the product over the course of time. These will reduce implementation complexity and reduce costs there also. Nor is this the end of the problem for the traditional content management vendors. Computer Associates will shortly be announcing its Jasmine Advanced Content Management product. While details of this are not yet available we do expect that it will have Microsoft-level pricing. This brings us to one further point. CMS integrates not only with Commerce Server but also with SharePoint Portal Server. Add the digital dashboard to these, plus Microsoft’s other products and you are well on the way to a full-blown Enterprise Information Portal. We expect a suitable announcement in the not too distant future and, no doubt, it will similarly undercut the market in terms of price and put the same sort of pressure on companies like Plumtree and Hummingbird. Interestingly, Computer Associates’ Jasmine Portal is already priced at Microsoft levels and, within a year of its launch it has already become the market leader in terms of sales, with some 600. This is well ahead of the perceived market leader, Plumtree, which has only around 170 customers (though many of these, like Ford and Boeing, are much bigger than typical CA customers). The bottom line is that shake-outs of the content management and enterprise portal markets have long been predicted. It starts in the former now, and the latter will not have long to wait. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 10 Aug 2001

PC gloom to continue through to 2003 – IDC

Intel's hopes that September's back-to-school sales period and the arrival of Windows XP on 25 October - plus the Pentium 4 price cuts it's set to make on 26 August - will reinvigorate PC sales aren't shared by market watcher IDC, it seems. IDC now reckons the eagerly awaited recovery in the PC market will not take place until 2003. Previously it had predicted the turnaround would begin during the first half of 2002. Now, the US and Europe may see a little growth during 2002, but Japan won't turn around for a lot longer. The reason for IDC's pessimism? Sales to consumers remain depressed and there's little sign that the world's major economies are about to spring back any time soon. But what about Windows XP? "We're uncertain that WinXP will notably accelerate the market, based on the economy," said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's Worldwide PC Tracker Service, according to CNET. "We're sceptical that it will provide that much kick for the market." IDC's outlook is broadly supported by fellow market watcher Gartner Dataquest, which today forecast a 26 per cent year-on-year drop in annual semiconductor sales. Last year chip makers sold $226 billion worth of kit - this year their sales will total just $168.1 billion. For PC market watchers, the telling statement is this one: "There are few signs of growth in design wins. Component prices and lead-times are still low, and electronic system component demand is weak. Based on guidance and early reports from some of the larger bellwether companies involved in PCs, storage and communications, the second half of 2001 will be dismal for the semiconductor industry," according to Gartner Dataquest worldwide semiconductor group chief analyst Mary Olsson. Poor chip sales effectively means poor PC sales, just as IDC is now saying. Merchant bank Thomas Wiesel Partners, meanwhile, reckons Intel's 26 August price cuts will feed higher PC sales through the remainder of the year. TWP basis its predictions of a revived PC industry on the improving component supply situation - as inventories normalise, PC makers will start buying memory and other parts again. Meanwhile, users will start buying again to get the best technology. These factors are certainly likely to improve PC sales, but slight growth through the last six months of 2001 isn't really a sign of recovery, reckons IDC. We'd agree - the points TWP raises will make matters easier for PC makers, but they won't not necessarily attract customers. Some will buy new PCs in the back-to-school period, more will upgrade with Windows XP, but many more will wait until they feel they can better afford new equipment. ®
Tony Smith, 10 Aug 2001

El Reg's favourite Haxploitation films

After our recent stories listing films featuring hackers or hacking (see The Reg guide to hackers in film and Haxploitation: the complete Reg guide to hackers in film) we thought it only right that we come up with a top ten list for you to disagree with. So after a straw poll in the office, here's a list of our favourite films, which fall into the loosely defined hacker-film sub-genre, or as Reg readers have christened it, Haxploitation flicks. Share and enjoy... The Italian Job Terminator 2: Judgement Day The Matrix WarGames The Conversation Die Hard 2001: A Space Odyssey Ferris Beuller's Day Off Independence Day Tron So that's our list of Hollywood's various attempts to commit the world of hacking to celluloid. In truth there are few films in which hacking is the central subject and we've ending up with a list of films which somehow featured hacking in their plots, and which we enjoyed. Your opinions may vary but if they do - you're wrong. ® Related Stories The Reg guide to hackers in film Haxploitation: the complete Reg guide to hackers in film Blowjob assisted hack defies logic Related Links Internet Movie Data Base - excellent site for everything to do with films Essay on why films about movies are all rubbish
John Leyden, 10 Aug 2001

Oftel gets touchy feely

In its crusade to become the most loved UK watchdog, Oftel has taken touchy feely to new lengths. In a new set of guidelines, the winged watchdog (which should be checking up on the telecoms sector) plans to spend so much time asking us, the public, what we think that it will hardly have any time to do any enforcing. It won't of course. The watchdog is terrified of asking people's opinions in case they get angry and ask it to actually do something. And you know how angry BT gets if you try to make it do something it doesn't want to. Still, be nice to be asked won't it? Well, no, not really. There's little more irritating that being asked for your views as if they matter and then find them disregarded as soon as they don't fit in with what people want to hear. The whole piece - which can be read in its entirety here - reads like an essay by a sociology teacher gone soft. You may disagree, you may think that this is great and more public involvement in quangos is exactly what we need in this country. We would argue that Oftel should learn how to do its job first and then worry about whether we love it or not. ® Related Link Oftel tells us how much it loves us
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Aug 2001

‘How can you have a shooting in England’

Shooting Rampage disrupts Reg ops A plague of locusts decended upon The Register this week, with a combination of technical glitches and gun-toting maniacs disrupting many hours of 'normal' news staff work practice. The shooting caused a stir with American readers, who seemed alarmed that anything more dangerous than a croquet stick could be wielded in a British tiff. Mick Grant felt the urge to get this off his chest: Wanted to add myself to the hundreds of Yanks who've already responded... How can you have a shooting in England? Labour got rid of all your guns... and... Ahh, for one competent citizen with a concealed pistol permit... probably would have ended differently. Come on out to Arizona. Beer's shit, but the thong tan lines are plentiful. Fellow American Connor W. Anderson was equally shocked by the incident. Good God. Does the USA have to export ALL of it's cultural idiocies? As an American, I apologize. :) Apology accepted, Connor. Meanwhile, Derek Cohen, editorial director of Dennis Publishing, had a more sinister explanation for the 'shooting' (which led to police shutting off streets in various parts of central London yesterday). It is all of course a big undercover operation by IDG or Future Publishing. How else to explain a supposed club shooting that managed to disrupt The Register, VNU (Broadwick Street) and Dennis (Tottenham Mews is behind us and the area was cordoned off when we got to work this morning). Quite right, Derek. Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you. ®
Linda Harrison, 10 Aug 2001

Captain Cyborg crops up in Focus magazine

Captain Cyborg aka Kevin "Wally" Warwick has managed to sneak back into the country and continue his self-publicising tour of gibberish masquerading as science. But worse than that, he's managed to get into Focus magazine. How does he do it? We were sure everyone had been alerted to the professor of cybernetics and his experiments. Seeing as Focus is a science-based magazine, Kev was less bonkers than usual (or maybe it was just clever editing). Of course he started off by talking about the reed switch put under his skin for a week and how this meant he had become a cyborg. He then leaps straight into his new chip - ah! the new chip - which as we all know by now will somehow enable him to record electrical impulses, and play them back. "Many people know the effects that chemicals, such as alcohol or nicotine, have on the brain, but what happens when we stimulate those parts of the brain with electronics instead? The brain is electrochemical, not just chemical." It all sounds so plausible doesn't it? He does of course extend this experiment - the one that still hasn't happened despite his talking about it for nearly two years now. Rather than saying this will enable him to create telepathy and remote orgasms with his wife, he merely alludes to it. Which is a nice change. But would you believe it? He doesn't give a date for when this magical experiment is going to take place. Tch, foiled again. So what new madness did he come up with? Well, he spoke about being there when his Dad died. It was in response to a question about brain activity after death, and while the death of a loved one is never a joking matter, we fear greatly that this innocent question may spark off Kev's next area of specialism. Just wait and see. He also comes up with a great quote: "The genetic genome project has nothing on what we're looking it - it's just twidling at the edges of humanity, not changing it." It someone could prove categorically that Kev honestly believes this statement then he is quite clearly sectionable. As for the biggest extension of truth: asked if his research was motivated by money, Kev said "for me, money is not a driving force. As long as we've got enough to get by and to continue the research, that's enough. I think that technically the patents are owned by the university and the implant work is mostly fuelled by industry." And as if to prove his point, five signed copies of his latest book, retailing at £9.99, (which, coincidentally, twine very neatly with his "research") are offered as prizes to Focus readers. ® Related Stories Captain Cyborg plans to build a better bionic nose Captain Cyborg infects Ireland Lunatic pulls gun on Captain Cyborg Captain Cyborg goes on a lecture tour Kevin Warwick wanders into Reg territory Captain Cyborg back on the BBC Captain Cyborg: I'm embarrassed to speak Captain Cyborg's media monkey business back No! No! No! Captain Cyborg is back
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Aug 2001

Channel laughs at Compaq $20m rebate fraud lawsuit

Compaq accuses brokers of $20m rebate fraud Compaq's decision to sue a handful of brokers after they allegedly defrauded the company out of $20 million in rebates ruffled a few feathers in the channel. Angus Dorbie seemed to find Compaq's approach a little cheeky: This is funny. Companies have no problem trying to stuff the channel with unsold kit to inflate their numbers for a dry quarter, or spin customers and channel partners all manner of bullsh*t about prices & schedules, but when the channel gets a bit inventive with the truth in order to negotiate the price down this is fraud? What happened to the rough and tumble of a free market? Meanwhile, Wolfram Hauk threw these comments in: This practice is actually fairly common, even if not on this large scale of a couple of millions. But a good purchasing department of a reseller's always orders some more (resellable to others) kit than needed for the fulfillment of a large contract in order to resell the surplus at discount prices to anybody. Makes the other resellers always wonder how you manage to obtain these prices and helps your own profits quite a bit, as the discount which you receive from the manufacturer is invariably larger than the discount which you pass on to the end user (or it should be if your sales staff is worth a dime). But this of course only works on really large contracts, not on one-shot-deals, where the manufacturer can supervise nearly everything. And one former Compaq authorized service provider also found the article amusing: You might find this interesting. After being a Compaq authorized service provider for 2 years (this ended 3 years ago) Compaq had yet to pay my company, Columbia Photy & Video, for ANY labor done for them. In fact they have never paid. My company did not sue because recovering $7-8000 from a company that large usually takes more money than we could have possibly won. To add fuel to the fire of incompetence my company... is still listed. This is after literally dozens of phone calls to get our name removed. To this day I still get 1-3 calls a week concerning Compaq's warranty service. I always make sure I tell them about our experience w/ Compaq and unsurprisingly no one is surprised. My point with this story is...Compaq doesn't have a leg to stand on integrity wise. It's the equivalent of the prosecutor who regularly takes bribes getting VERY upset about the judge who did also. Of course in the world of the WIPO and DMCA nothing a corporation says or does surprises me anymore....unless it's ALTRUISTIC (which would kill me from shock). ®
Linda Harrison, 10 Aug 2001
SGI logo hardware close-up

Powerful supercomp grid for US boffins

Four US research centres are to be linked to create an interconnected series of Linux clusters capable of processing 13.6 trillion calculations a second. The computer 'grid' system - known as the Distributed Terascale Facility (DTF) or TeraGrid supercomputer- will enable American boffins to share computing resources over the world's fastest research network. The plan is that researchers will be able to draw on the resources of the computing grid in much the same way that consumers draw electricity from a power grid. Funded by the National Science Foundation to the tune of $53 million, its backers hope the system will lead to breakthroughs in life sciences, climate modelling and other critical academic disciplines. Building and deploying the DTF will take place over three years. IBM Global Services will deploy clusters of IBM Linux systems at the four DTF sites beginning in the third quarter of 2002. The servers will contain the next generation of Intel's Itaniium microprocessor, McKinley. These will build upon two existing clusters of 1,300-plus Itanium and IA-32 processors already deployed at the National Center for Supercomputing (NCSA), one of the four hubs of the network. IBM supercomputing software will handle cluster and file management tasks, but there is a commitment to use of open protocols with the project. The system will have a storage capacity of more than 600 terabytes of data, or the equivalent of 146 million full-length novels. The Linux clusters will be connected to each other via a 40Gbps a dedicated network, supplied by Qwest. This will link to Abeliene, the high-performance network that links more than 180 research institutions across the States. The four hubs of the supercomputer will be the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the San Diego Supercomputing Center, Argonne National Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology. ® External links The world's most powerful computational infrastructure (press release by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications) Related stories Life, the universe and supercomputers NASA's new supercomp sits on a desktop AMD cluster sneaks in Supercomputer top 500 list Sun's Oz super computer goes horribly pear shaped $10m super'puter to crunch genetic code
John Leyden, 10 Aug 2001

Readers Letters ‘You are a blackard of the first water’

Elizabeth the Queen Mother is dead Our report on the Yorkshire Evening Post's premature coverage of the death of the Queen Mother caused outrage among royalist Register readers. Here's one tongue-lashing Lester Haines received from someone who chose to identify themselves only as 'Vagabondo': Lester.... You do a diservice to the entire publishing industry by giving print space to that report of the Queen Mother's death. You KNEW it was all made up and you KNEW the manner in which you presented it would leave many believing that the report was true. You are a blackard of the first water and should be thrashed at dawn and left for the birds to pick thru your inards. angry with the REGISTER and its sick sense of humor. 'Blackard of the first water'? Similarly upset was Andre Ludwig in Hong Kong, who fired off the following comments to News Ed Rob Blincoe: When I think that I put your web site as my starting page I feel regret now. How can you say that the queen mother is dead without even making sure of it? I will send the news to the queen and see how she feels about it. are all your information the same quality? I'll put back cnn as a starting page instead change your staff or change your job Next came threats, such as this one from a confused Noah Senders: Dear Sir; No mention of the death of the Queen Mother in the U.S.A. newspapers, T.V., and on-line. Where did this story come from? I read your email every day; but if this is a hoax; then your website is being removed from my computer. And finally, a lesson for us all from reader Chris Hopkin. Re. "Elizabeth the Queen Mother is dead - A nation mourns" I don't think it's appropriate for the reg to run this as the headline. I'm not in any way a Royalist, but I did feel like a right berk when I told others in the office that she's croaked, prior to looking in the content of the article. Surely putting something like "Queen Mum dead - allegedly" would give readers more of an immediate idea of what was happening? Best of the Rest 'How can you have a shooting in England?' Americans fumble with reality Channel laughs at $20m rebate fraud lawsuit Opts for the term "inventive with the truth"
Linda Harrison, 10 Aug 2001