13th > August > 2001 Archive

Affinity Internet munches Blue Carrots

Affinity Internet has scooped up the assets of niche ISP Blue Carrots for approx. £700K. The company is taking on all commercial contracts, existing staff and equipment, so it makes one wonder what liabilities are being left behind with Blue Carrots former owner, Cube 8. Emails from Blue Carrots members suggest that the liability could be equity commitments made by Cube8. Set up originally as a mutual ISP-owned by the members, Blue Carrot converted to a joint stock company last year. Members were told that they would receive shares in the company in three slugs, the first tranche to be handed over on August 11. However, members say that this allotment has not been received. It will be interesting to see how Cube8 resolves this: Blue Carrot 550,000 claimed members (how many actives?) could leave in droves if they feel hard-done by. But presumably membership attrition is factored into the price Affinity is paying for the assets. Affinity has built its business on the back of supplying white-label infrastructure and content services for third-party companies to brand as their own ISPs. The company is now building its own-label ISP - and on the cheap. BlueCarrots.com is to operate as a branded ISP alongside former basketcase and fellow recent acquisition, Breathe.com, in Affinity's new portal subsidiary. Cube8 will pick up 30 per cent of the shares in this business, 10 per cent of which will be converted to Affinity Internet stock (locked in for 24 months). Affinity reckons it can generate considerable cost savings - certainly there is scope in deduplicating technical resource, and doubling up on content. The company also reckons the Blue Carrots/Breathe combo is worth more together than separately. Again this is true - size means it's easier to negotiate better Cost per Click/Cost Per Aquisition deals with merchants. And size means it is easier to generate straightforward advertising revenues. However, the Affinity Combo will need to be a darn sight bigger before it gets on to the A-List...the big three - AOL, MSN and Freeserve - soak up 80 per cent of UK online consumer advertising revenues placed with ISPs. Finally, size means that Tiscali is interested in buying you. Cube8 The sale of Blue Carrots tidies up Cube8's portfolio and injects a useful sum into the business. Cube8 set up life as a mini-Internet incubator, not a very wise thing to be these days. Now it is now focused around two operating businesses, Boris Commerce, a shopping engine, and Freeloader, a games download concern. In recent months, the company has shut down a number of businesses in its portfolio. It says it will support the remaining businesses where possible. But clearly this does not extend to fresh funding. ®
Drew Cullen, 13 Aug 2001

MS eases up on WinXP photos, Passport – but only sort of

It's concessions a-go-go for Microsoft this week - or is it? Today, according to the WSJ, the company intends to take some of the sting out of Windows XP's photo capabilities (thus, it hopes, mollifying Kodak), and just a few days ago it cut back on the amount of information you need to supply in order to sign up for its Passport authentication service. But in neither case is Microsoft actually addressing the core issue. As far as photos are concerned, the switch involves allowing users of XP to use multiple online photo finishing services, as well as those affiliated (i.e. paying money) to Microsoft. That means Microsoft still intends to leverage XP's role as a vast, pervasive advertising hoarding for its own and for partner products. So is Microsoft a company that builds and sells operating systems, or is it's core business flogging sundry services and stuff to you? The latter, of course... The Passport move comes in the wake of a complaint by EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) to the FTC demanding modifications to Passport. Microsoft is now only going to require an email address and a password for you to sign up for Passport, is going to require partner sites to use P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences), and is splitting out Microsoft Wallet into a separate My Wallet service. Passport however still provides the mechanisms for tracking specific users' behaviour on the web, and for other Microsoft operations and other web sites using Passport to aggregate information about users. This could and will consist of the usual stuff, name, address, credit card details. Microsoft says that it will say what extra information in excess of email and password goes to partners, but really this is all about Microsoft ducking a little but not doing anything serious to address the actual objections to the system. The photo issue boils down to Microsoft leveraging revenue out of what it anticipates will be a dominant and ubiquitous software platform. There is much else associated with XP which leverages similarly in other and related areas, and Passport squats over the lot. Microsoft already leverages practically everything it's got in order to get everybody in the world a Passport, and as XP is much more geared to online services and is tuned to deliver sign-up prompts to coax the users on, this process can only intensify. Microsoft will therefore be likely to end up running a system that allows you to be recognised by the people you want and need to know who you are; but it's also providing the tools for the people you don't want to know, and don't want to pester you, to assemble lots of data about you. As a defensive move Microsoft may (not before time) clean up its act when it comes to sharing data across Microsoft sites, but it's not likely to disadvantage its own operations significantly against those of its partners. History tells us that it is, ahem, usually the other way around. In both cases the objections stem from a blurring of Microsoft's role as the custodian of industry standards with its role as a supplier and/or enabler of services. But then that's what .NET's all about, isn't it? The "concessions" don't go any way towards taking XP and .NET out of the legal firing line. ® Related Stories Watchdogs file Win-XP complaint with Feds
John Lettice, 13 Aug 2001

Fear and Loathing in the co-lo cabinets

Nightclub shootings by Reg Towers, as happened last week, certainly didn't impress this staffer. I live in Hackney and frankly, if I want nightclub shootings there's absolutely no need for me to travel into the West End to get them. Plus if the psychotic Hackney Yardie gangster with a spray and pray gets narked in a nightclub queue, he's going to do a heap more damage than just wing a bouncer. Basically, I'm underwhelmed. And there are other jolly features of living in Hackney too — for instance, it's horribly close to the physical location of The Reg servers in Aldgate. Horribly, horribly... There's really no way out. The techies are in Bradford, Cullen's conveniently out in the wilds of Kent, and when Birtles isn't out not quite clinching vast money-spinning deals with the movers and shakers over the odd chablis he's in flipping Merseyside. Or on a train. Or a plane. Face it Lettice, you're IT. Which, given the state of The Register's Cisco gear over the past week*, has meant many happy hours down at Level 3 watching support engineers at play. Friends, it's been an education. But before I continue I should just pay due credit to Mike Banahan of GBDdrect, who was IT for the day Sunday of last week, who hared down from Bradford, patched things up into the wee small hours then got to sit at Kings Cross station while winos hurled abuse at one another until dawn, it being too late for him to get a hotel or catch the last train back. Well done, Mike. Monday–Tuesday Naturally, it then fell over again on Monday night, twice. After the second we left it down and called support,and at about 1am clinched an appointment with an expensive professional at 8am on Tuesday. At the time we seem not to have noticed that this didn't entirely fit with the four hour response time guaranteed in our support contract, but there you go. This is where the handily-based IT comes in. I am authorised to wander into Level 3 at all hours of the day and night, obtain a cabinet key and sit morosely on the floor in the Arctic chill of the server room while security gaily shouts "put that mobile phone out!" I can also email Level 3 support with the name of a contractor and get them on the door list at Level 3, but if I don't have the name of the engineer who's going to show up, I can't do this, and in general the support people don't seem to know who's going to show up until, er, they actually show up. Never mind, I can go down there and sign them in, which is what happens on Tuesday at 8am. Or not. Episode One of the mighty Cisco support machine cranks into action approximately on cue at 8am, when I overhear a bloke from DHL asking for somebody called Simon Myers at Level 3 reception. They've never heard of him, of course, but he's in Bradford anyway, and despite him always stressing this and telling the support people to ask for John Lettice, his representative on earth, they always ask for Simon Myers. And it might be worth us just doing some kind of Vulcan mind-meld job, given the extent to which we're starting to overlap. Last night, for example, a Cisco rep who's clearly losing the plot entirely emailed some useful data for Simon to me, and left a gung ho message for him on my home phone line. Anyway, I get the net over the DHL guy before Level 3 shoves the replacement Localdirector behind the desk then starts denying it exists (if it's not on the list it doesn't, even if it's sitting next to you — one of our Compaqs may or may not currently be in this limbo there, but that's another story), and go back to waiting for the engineer. Who arrives at 9am, this having been the time his people had actually booked him for. This triggers my first observation about how support works, or doesn't work. Note that the hardware arrives to schedule, on greased ball-bearings, and things only start to wobble when the humans get into the picture. The picture was exactly the same regarding the Compaq I just mentioned — the swapout parts were on the lorry (albeit to the wrong place) nanoseconds after we'd put the phone down, whereas the engineer... But as I say, that's another story. Slipping our disks Naturally, this being The Register, it's a little more complicated than just swapping out the LocalDirector, and it's this teensie complication that turns out to be fatal. We need to get the configuration off the faulty kit in order to put it back onto the replacement, but we can't do this without the password, and we don't have the password. This is sort of our fault — the company that put the system in place (did I tell you about the backup admin server that wasn't actually connected to anything else until we noticed? But that's another story as well) is now no longer with us, and the staff who'd done it were no longer with the company well before that happened. We know somebody who thinks he might know somebody who might know where the bloke who might know the password went, but for chrissakes do you really have to involve Interpol to nail down the password for your LocalDirector? Resetting the password is actually dead simple, because all you need is a Cisco floppy disk that you shove into the floppy drive cunningly concealed under the plate on the front of the box. It's dead simple if you have the floppy disk, that is. The engineer doesn't but never mind, Cisco's emailed it to him, he just has to get to his email. But... By happy coincidence the hard disk in his portable died that very morning. Fortunately Mr Lettice has a portable about his person, but unfortunately the floppy drive is elsewhere, Mr Lettice having more or less abandoned floppies quite some while ago. Never mind, the engineer is from NCR, so in a twinkling we can have a replacement portable shipped over from his base in Marylebone Road. This turns out to be one of life's more sustained twinklings. Over a period of approximately five hours we wait while totting up the number of times Mr Lettice could have gone back to Hackney and got his floppy drive, the number of times the the engineer could have gone to Marylebone Road and got his email, and the number of times we could have gone to whichever safe Cisco keeps the ruddy thing in and blown it. Engineer's boss eventually elects to drive a replacement portable down himself, claiming he'll be there in 15 minutes. No, I think, that's how long it's going to take you to park. Eventually, we have a total of three portables with no floppy drives (it's catching), and one geriatric Tosh running Win95 with — result! — a floppy drive. Boss instructs file to be emailed to him, and he can then collect it on one of the machines with, er, no floppy drive. Now all we need is a phone point. You guessed it. Considering that Level 3 is hosting a giant pile of servers all of them connected to the Internet already, why the blazes would you want to bother with boring old analogue phone points? You could actually just connect the portable at the cabinet, filling in the right IPs etc (as the saintly Mike Banahan had done on Sunday), but the engineers elect to wheedle access to the only available analogue line, at the front desk fax machine, instead. I discover later that Level 3 reception doesn't care about the fax line anyway, given that the fax is out of toner. Nokia 7110s, incidentally, seem to be general issue to NCR, but setting portables up for mobile data doesn't seem to be. Mr Lettice's 7110 is set up for mobile data, but as I do it via a Psion netBook which the Win2k portable obstinately refuses to talk to, that gets us nowhere. There's a 1.5 meg download on the Nokia site that lets you use the 7110 with Win2k, and I got it the following day, just in case. I bet the NCR guys didn't, though. Numerous "will you send that bloody email!" phone calls to NCR later, we have the file on the machine with no floppy. So we just need to set up an IR connection to the old Tosh with the floppy, and we're in business (it is now 3pm, and the site is still down). Privately boggling over the optimism of people who think an IR connection on a Win95 machine will actually work, I decide to press the reset button on the LocalDirector and see what happens. The site comes back up, and of course the IR connection doesn't work. I now have a dilemma. I know that pushing the button brings the site up, but I know it'll go down again at some random point. Could be a couple of hours, could be 16, could be you never know. So I can actually keep us alive so long as I camp in the cabinet room (no mobile phones, no data points, no food or drink, no chairs, Arctic microclimate) for the rest of my life. It's actually quite attractive compared to the day of futile tedium I've just been through, but it really is very cold in there, and although it's warmer by the Starlabs cabinet (what a lot of Compaqs they've got), it's still pretty damn parky. Alternatively, I could not let these two poor suckers go until it's fixed, which I calculate at being another three hours, even if everything goes according to plan (and given experience so far, how could that be?). I crack, say we'll go with the resets for the moment and reconvene tomorrow morning, where they guarantee one of them will be there, plus another techie who's cleverer than either of them, plus all of the gear they need to do the job in the first place. Another observation — maybe they honestly believe they'll do this, but you, I and they (subconsciously) know they're out of here, never to return. This is standard support procedure. And the guy who's going to wind up coming tomorrow is the mark, who's not going to know he's been stiffed until it's too late for him to do anything about it. Wednesday The next morning a guy arrives asking for Simon Myers (the password, you remember) and although he can't get a pass because he's not one of the two guys who definitely weren't coming I'd arranged passes for, I've taken the precaution of getting my own tail down there so I can sign him in. (Note in passing this wonderful opportunity for blowing several hours of expensive techie time. You don't know who's coming so you can't arrange for them to be let in, so numerous techies arrive and hang around morosely, barking into their mobiles in reception, and then eventually shuffle off, access denied.) Engineer three — I'm sure you guessed this as well — doesn't actually have the critical floppy, but don't worry, it's been emailed to him, so all he's got to do is pick up his email, which he hasn't yet. I note he's got a Nokia 7110, but of course... I explain the case to him, show him how to wheedle the fax line out of reception, then head for the office after leaving instructions for him to press the reset button whenever we call him. As the day goes by it gets weirder. He does actually get the floppy and use it, then discovers the firmware in the replacement LocalDirector is severely older than in the dead one. Simon, who's on his case while I'm in meetings, claims that "they" (which I assume means another engineer may have arrived at some point) came up with the wheeze of opening up both boxes and trying to swap the bits about, but retreated in horror on discovering that in there "it was just like a PC." I'm not entirely convinced this allegation is true, although I believe the bit about it being just like a PC, but eventually, after an afternoon of the site whipping up and down like a flasher on acid, we have an operational unit with up to date firmware and we know the password. Thursday Except that's not the end of the story. Down again goes the all-new kit in the early hours of Thursday morning, we press reset to confirm it's still a LocalDirector problem, and we call support. Support advises us to wait until it goes down again, then leave it down while they send an engineer ASAP. It goes down again at five, by which time the guy who told us that was off-shift and the replacement didn't seem to think we needed an engineer, because we were back down to a priority three, or something. We shout our way back up to a priority one again, and my email resumes filling up with automated messages; I've shouted at Cisco in the US to shout at Cisco in the Netherlands to get us an engineer now, with name and ETA and it's 6.45pm UK time. But I think I'm going to Aldgate tonight, and when I get back I fear I'll have to write some more of this. I might even be able to post it when I'm through. Upside — we might not be getting our money's worth out of this support contract, but it's sure as hell cost somebody a packet more than the £2,300 annual wedge we pay for it, so there's a certain grim satisfaction attached. The call from Cisco comes with the engineer's name at 8.20pm, and remarkably his ETA is 12.20am. Within four hours of them actually confirming the engineer's coming? And there was me thinking it was supposed to be from when we reported the problem... It turns out to be engineer number one again, whose mobile phone number I cunningly collected back on Tuesday. So I call him. To the background of munching noises at his end (I'd already eaten everything in the house that could be manipulated with the 'not on hold to Cisco' hand) we discuss the case. But then the site that's supposed to be staying down until the engineer gets there comes back up. We agree this could change things, so I call Cisco, which can now consider a remote log in to check what happens. But actually they come up with the useful nugget that the site came back up 37 minutes ago, so it looks like the engineer's still coming. The engineer calls, but it's not engineer one after all — it's some mug who's now halfway from Cambridge. I tell him to call me again when he hits Tottenham, and I'll snag him and pilot him in. He calls again, tells me he's been pulled off the case, and after a screaming u-turn is heading back to Cambridge. I call Cisco, they confirm the engineer ain't coming after all. Up in Yorkshire Simon thankfully heads for the pub before last orders, I demolish the bottle of wine I'd been looking glumly at all night, and go to bed. Friday We keeled again overnight, apparently, but Simon dug some luckless Level 3 techie out of bed at 6am so he could go in and push the button. Whew, could have been me. He tells me that Cisco has juiced up the logging on the LocalDirector, raving that they've only done so six days into the case. But we must be reasonable — given that we didn't know the password for some of that period, they could surely only have done so 36 hours ago, or thereabouts. We resume waiting. Simon considers that as all of our kit is working and that we're running a complete new LocalDirector, it does kind of look like the problem is somewhere beyond our cabinet. What, for example, if some klutz has duped one of our IP addresses on another piece of kit? Wouldn't that slay us every time it gibbered into action? We're going to have the damned job getting whoever it is to admit it, but if we can get close maybe they'll stop and carry on denying they ever did it in the first place. Through Friday we don't go down. I do go to Level 3 on the way home to seek out the MIA Compaq server which Compaq may or may not have repaired. My not having been in Level 3 reception when it arrived, it's in the bowels of the building addressed to an indeterminate person and signed in as being from the repair company, not Compaq. Easy-peasy. I prove it's mine by telling them what the label we stuck on the front says, shove it in the rack, plug in and run. Saturday–Sunday We still don't go down. Is it... over? Shush... If so, this untracked issue has probably cost us about a third of our traffic over the past week, has cost Cisco and/or NCR absolute piles of dough, and whatever it was fixed itself (maybe) without our being able to affect it. Weirdly, we do now seem to have a backup available, although it's not, er, exactly ours. Back on Tuesday engineer one and I pulled the replacement LocalDirector out of its packaging and shoved it in the cabinet before we aborted that day's mission. A plaintive call from engineer three on Wednesday however revealed that Level 3 security had tossed the packaging, which engineer one had left in the aisle. Cisco won't accept it back without documentation, so he shoves it in the cabinet. He calls me again Friday and gives me a phone number for the people at Cisco who can facilitate my returning it. I consider the alternative strategy of charging them for rack space, and security... ® * In order to keep the helpful suggestions in line a tad, we'd just like to point out that we know having a single point of failure in the shape of the LocalDirector is unwise. But it's stayed up for over a year, and the entry cost of the lot when we bought it was around £12k. We really could not afford two of these, although we're now checking out Ebay for bankrupt stock (buy two or three, stuff the support, just shove one in when the first one breaks). Or we're looking at a couple of alternatives, but they have to be next to free, and it's only the load balancing we've got to get back on top of, so we don't want new servers unless you give them to us for nothing, we don't want expensive total rip and replace services, and we're only interesting in hosting deals if you savagely undercut Level 3. Feel free to make suggestions anyway, but vendors, you're in it for the glory, not the money, OK?
John Lettice, 13 Aug 2001

Redstone hit by DTI/FSA investigation

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) are investigating troubled broadband telco, Redstone Telecom, over whether it kept investors properly informed over price-sensitive information, today's Independent reported. The investigation centres on a statement issued on May 8 in which the company said that at the end of March 2001, it had £18.7 million in free cash. This, the company said, would enable it to "operate within its existing financial resources". Two days later, the telco issued a follow-up statement intended to "clarify" the situation in which it admitted that the £18.7 million figure included £3.4 million already allocated for acquisitions made last year. As a result FD, Alan Harrold, left the company saying that "he felt he had to resign". Six weeks later Redstone' chief exec, Graham Cove, walked out citing "differences over the company's future direction". Redstone has played-down the DTI/FSA investigation describing it as "old news". A spokesman for the company told The Register that the DTI/FS hadn't been in contact for three months. ® Related Stories Redstone CEO resigns Redstone bean counter is out the door
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2001

Palm m125: spec. slips out

More information has leaked out about Palm's upcoming m125 PDA. Register sources close to a big US electronics retailer largely confirm what we noted last week. And Web site Palm Infocenter has received a leaked datasheet that provides a pretty full description of the machine. The m125 will be based on a 33MHz Dragonball VZ processor, with 8MB of RAM and 2MB or 4MB of ROM, depending whether you're buying a US model or European one. As the OS is stored on ROM, you can't replace the system software with a newer version. The OS that will ship with the m125 is a modified version of PalmOS 4.0, as expected. As per previous hints, the new model will sport Palm's Universal Connector, allowing the m125 to use add-ons designed for the m50x family. It will also ship with a USB cradle, and an SD/MMC slot. There's an infra-red port too. In most respects the m125 looks like other m10x-series PDAs. However, at 6.1oz, it's slightly heavier. The mono screen is the same as that of the m105. The m125's shell is plastic, but apparently has a metallic sheen, presumably to make it look like a budget version of the m500. August 24 is the anticipated release date; the price: $250. ® Related Stories Palm readies m125 pro-'sumer PDA Palm ate my Dell PC Palm retains world marketshare lead - just Related Link Palm Infocenter: More details on the m125
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2001

Think tank urges face-scanning of the masses

The famous Rand Organization, a putatively non-partisan think tank, has come out in favor of using face-scanning technology to violate the privacy of the innocent masses in search of -- you guessed it -- terrorists and pedophiles, the two most detested fringe-groups on the planet. Following the regrettable inclinations of all modern governments, a recent Rand report reckons that the natural rights of the majority of ordinary, law-abiding citizens should be sacrificed for the sacred mission of identifying and prosecuting a mere handful of sexually perverted or homicidal lunatics. "Biometric facial recognition can provide significant benefits to society," Rand says, and adds that "we should not let the fear of potential but inchoate threats to privacy, such as super surveillance, deter us from using facial recognition where it can produce positive benefits." Chief among these are the detection of terrorists and pedophiles, as we said. No matter that these sick individuals comprise a mere fraction of a fraction of normal human beings. No matter that detecting them requires the most outrageous government intrusions into the natural comings and goings of millions of innocent people. Rand's answer to serious questions of personal liberty is a few easily-skirted regulations which ought to allay all of our concerns. "By implementing reasonable safeguards [for government use of biometric face scanning], we can harness its power to maximize its benefits while minimizing the intrusion on individual privacy," the report chirps optimistically. Rand returns repeatedly to the controversial, and prosecutorially worthless, use of biometric face scanning at the 2001 Super Bowl. "While facial recognition did not lead to any arrests at the Super Bowl, there is evidence that using such a system can help deter crime. In Newham, England, the crime rate fell after police installed 300 surveillance cameras and incorporated facial recognition technology. While it is possible that the criminals only shifted their efforts to other locales, crime in Newham at least was deterred." That's rich. So it's 'possible' that local criminals moved elsewhere, is it? Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows it's certain that they did, which implies that no one will ever be safe until every dark corner of the planet is blanketed by high-tech cameras performing a sort of criminal triage on all of us. And after all, things could be worse. "The facial recognition system used at the Super Bowl was not physically invasive or intrusive for spectators. In fact, it was much less invasive than a metal detector at a public building or an inauguration parade checkpoint. In this sense, facial recognition helped to protect the privacy of individuals, who otherwise might have to endure more individualized police attention," Rand points out. Of course, no appeal to Fascism and Kafkaesque control would be complete without reference to the safety of innocent children. Rand does not let us down: "many parents would most likely feel safer knowing their children's elementary school had a facial recognition system to ensure that convicted child molesters were not granted access to school grounds." It's all very popular, but immensely dangerous, thinking. Preserving personal liberty requires that we all accept a bit of chaos, a bit of hooliganism, a bit of risk. Yes, you or I might possibly get our heads bashed in by brain-dead hooligans, or get blown up by terrorist bombers, and our little lambs might get exploited by sexual sickos if we don't keep a close eye on them. But probably not. Surely, the suffocating, risk-free environments our governments are trying so desperately to sell us to extend their powers of observation and control are far more grotesque and soul-destroying than anything a terrorist or a pedophile might ever hope to produce. ®
Thomas C Greene, 13 Aug 2001

Rambus must pay Infineon $7.12m

Rambus must pay Infineon $7.12 million in legal fees, the US District Court of Virginia ruled late last week. That goes some way to making up to Infineon the loss of $3.5 million in damages, awarded by the jury after it won its claim that Rambus had committed fraud. That figure was later cut to just $350,000 to meet the restriction on such settlements imposed by Virginia State Law. The post-trial hearing didn't all go Infineon's way, however. Rambus was able to have part of the jury's verdict that it committed fraud in its dealings with JEDEC, the semiconductor industry standards body. The Court ruled that Rambus didn't commit fraud when it allegedly hid its DDR SDRAM patents from JEDEC. However, the verdict that Rambus did commit fraud with single data rate SDRAM by filing for patents on SDRAM technology without mentioning the fact to JEDEC. As a JEDEC SDRAM Panel member, it was obliged to declare the patents. The upshot is that Rambus can't sue Infineon again for allegedly infringing the SDRAM patents mention in the case. That said, it can sue the German company for alleged infringement of its DDR patents. It may do so. "Ultimately, we believe that Infineon needs to compensate us for the use of our patents," was the company's response. Judge Robert Payne ruled that Infineon hadn't infringed those patents, according to the scope of the case set in his Markman judgement. Rambus has always maintained that ruling was too narrow, and that if broadened, would show that Infineon's DDR products do infringe its patents. In other words, the way is paved for future litigation, for which Rambus hailed the ruling a victory - just as Infineon has done, on the basis of the SDRAM ruling. ® Related Stories Rambus damns fraud trial as a 'miscarriage of justice' Infineon lets Rambus retain SDRAM patents Infineon damages slashed Guilty! Rambus committed fraud Infineon demands $105m damages Rambus loses patent fight Rambus, Micron SDRAM patent trial delayed
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2001

Buy.com confirms Intel's next price cuts, 2GHz P4

Intel's upcoming 2GHz Pentium 4 has begun to appear on Web retailers' catalogues ready for its official release on 26 August - in just under two weeks' time. US online store Buy.com has the 2GHz, 256KB on-die L2 cache chip - Intel part number BX80531NK200G - on its Web site here. It's certainly the Socket 478 part - the version designed for the i845 chipset (aka Brookdale), though the blurb refers to the Socket 423 chip, presumably for Intel's Rambus RDRAM-based i850 chipset. Buy.com wants $626.95 for the 2GHz P4, a nice mark-up on the $562 Intel is expected to charge PC makers for the part, albeit in batches of 1000 processors. The 2GHz P4 is expected to launch on 26 August, alongside a 1.9GHz part, which Buy.com has in both Socket 423 (part number BX80528JK190G) and Socket 478 (part number BX80531NK190G) forms. Both 1.9GHz parts cost $421.95 from Buy.com. Intel's PC OEM price is $375 (again, in batches of 1000 chips). Interestingly, Buy.com is offering the 1.8GHz P4 (Socket 478, part number BX80531NK180G) for $290.95 here. Now, since this currently ships to PC OEMs for $562 and is expected to fall to $256 - a cut of 55 per cent - on 26 August, Buy.com has nicely confirmed Intel's next round of price reductions ahead of their official announcement into the bargain. Buy.com is also offering on pre-order an Intel Socket 478 mobo based on the Rambus-supporting i850 chipset for the princely sum of $176.95 (Intel part number BOXD850MVL). ® Thanks to reader Ken Knierim for the tip-off Related Stories Intel gets ready to cut Pentium 4 prices by up to 55% Intel's gigahertz Celerons coming this quarter Intel's Desktop Roadmap
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2001

BT to completely write-off Concert?

BT may write off the entire Concert joint venture with AT&T, at a cost of £1.2 billion, according to the Mail on Sunday. BT has called the article "pure speculation" but did admit that a complete write-off was one of the options being investigated by new chairman Sir Christopher Bland. Having removed a large chunk of BT's debt, Concert is known to be the chairman's main priority. Previously, all talk of Concert revolved around how the company would be split between the two giant telcos but with it haemorrhaging £3.5 million a day, Bland's patience is running short and he may simply walk away from the whole deal and throw a massive one-off write-off cost in the next quarterly results. We wouldn't put it past him. Bland has completely turned BT's debt situation around in four months. He has sold stakes and floated off parts that had been dithered about for years under the previous management. The longer the break-up of Concert goes on, the more a complete write-off makes sense. Yes, it would lose £1.2 billion, but Bland sees his job as getting BT back on its feet as fast as possible before other companies make the most out its incapacity. If he stays with the break-up process, BT will benefit from returned assets but in the meantime it will continue to lose money and act as a drag on the rest of the company. Once these assets have been pulled into BT's other business - most of it into BT Ignite - the real value of Concert may become negligible. Is it better now just to put it down to experience and get on with redeveloping BT? - that is what Bland has to decide. And with other companies starting to bid for chunks of the monster telco, his attentions are needed elsewhere. It's a tough decision. We look forward to seeing what Bland decides. If he does go with a write-off, it'll be within weeks rather than months. ® Related Story BT to announce death of Concert
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Aug 2001

FBI swoop on $10.5m software piracy gang

A gang of four suspected software pirates were arrested in a raid by FBI agents in Los Angeles last week. Counterfeit Microsoft software worth an estimated $10.5 million was seized. According to Reuters, the software CDs included copies of Microsoft's Windows Millennium Edition which were easy to spot because they used a sticker instead of the hologram which features on a genuine CD. It is believed that a gang of five people, four of whom were arrested, smuggled a number of different software packages from Asia to the US, where they were then sold at knockdown prices. Richard LaMagna, Microsoft's senior manager of worldwide piracy enforcement, told Reuters that the gang was well-organised, well-funded and appeared to be "distributing millions of dollars of software." The men arrested by the FBI reportedly include Chien Sim Cheh (alias Ted Chien), Hung Gia Huynh (aka Raymond Wong), Eddy Chun Yao King and Henry Chi Wong. A fifth suspect, Cheuk Hong Wong, remains at large. ® Related stories MS Counterfeit gang gets ten years in jail Pirate MS software sales 'fund global drug terror gangs' Vietnam crowned as top software pirate nation How XP WPA will squeeze more money out of businesses IT worker sacked for piracy on the job
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2001

More ‘Palm ate my PC’ cases emerge

Palm's line on the 'Palm ate my PC' affair is clear-cut: "Palm is not aware of any HotSync operation that will cause damage to computer motherboards," said a company spokeswoman late last week. However, comments from Register readers in the PC repair and tech support business suggest otherwise and that we were perhaps hasty in our conclusion that the lawsuit launched against Palm alleging full knowledge of the mobo-mashing problem might be specious. "I have a client whose Palm blows the serial port on a regular basis," claims one correspondent. "He has a generic PC with an additional serial card for the palm cradle connection. Every few months he has to change the serial card as the ports are blown. "We have probably a hundred customers with Palms and this is the only one who has the problem, [but] it is definitely the Palm. There are some references in the newsgroups and on the Web to the problem." Two possible issues may be causing the problem: power fluctuations and/or a build up of static electricity. Says reader Dan: "I can tell you from experience exactly how [the Palm] ate the PC: static Electricity. There's a screw at the top of my Palm IIIx, normally your hand is on that screw when you insert the palm into the cradle. On my work PC if I insert the Palm into its cradle, I sometimes shock the computer through the cradle. I've blown out three serial ports before I got smart and put a surge protector on the serial port. "I'm not sure it's a design flaw on the Palms or not but... All it would have taken is a piece of plastic or tape over the screw to solve that particular problem." And this from reader Kelly: "Unlikely as it sounds, Palm Pilots have a history of being hard on serial ports, and not only on Dell computers. I'm not sure how the HotSync feature is supposed to tie into it, but the problems I've experienced and seen documented in my time as a tech involved power surges from the (continuously powered on) cradle to the serial port when the handheld is removed or inserted into the cradle. "This has happened with different motherboards, different flavours of handheld, etc. Out of thousands of computers, the only serial ports I've personally seen go bad were attached to handheld cradles." Is there a solution - apart from recourse to law? There is: USB. Another correspondent, who "recently worked for Dell tech support through an outsourcer" tells us "the only connector which would cause the motherboard to become non-functional was the serial connector. Not USB!" Indeed, that seems to be what Palm itself is saying. Macworld UK cites one Palm user who contacted the company late last year about the problem and was told "to purchase a USB cradle which would not have such issues". Palm tech support apparently blamed the problem on a "floating voltage" generated by the power supply connected to a Palm V cradle and which could physically damage serial ports on some mobos. Which is, of course, why the Palm spokeswoman referred to HotSync - the problem relates to the device's cradle and not the HotSync operation per se. She appears to be correct, there isn't a problem with HotSyncing - but there does seem to be a power and/or static issue. Worse, it may not be restricted to Palm. Reader Kelly again: "I think Palm is taking the hit for the whole industry on this one, but static discharge frying a serial port is a legitimate issue. Probably spending a little more dollars on grounding would be a nice move on the industry's part." ® Related Stories Palm ate my Dell PC Palm m125: spec. slips out
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2001

Creative Tech to ship Audigy next month

Creative Technology has confirmed it will release its next-generation audio card, Sound Blaster Audigy, in September, as part of a plan to refocus the company's efforts on sound products. Audigy details emerged a couple of months ago. The Audigy line is based on a new sound chip, the EMU10K2, which provides sound in and out, and supports Dolby 5.1 and Surround Sound. The card can convert audio to the MP3 format, and contains an IEEE1394 port for fast transfers to hard drives and other devices, including an upcoming version of Creative's Nomad Jukebox MP3 player. To keep the music industry happy, Audigy contains ContentPass technology to prevent unauthorised music duplications. We hear that Creative will offer Audigy in a variety of forms, aimed at different types of users, including gamers, MP3 and online music listeners, and home music makers. Prices will range from $99 to $199. Creative hopes Audigy will help revive its fortunes - the company has just posted a loss of $73.4 million on sales of $234.2 million for its fourth fiscal quarter. Both figures are well down on the same period last year. The company will also focus entirely on audio kit, presumably by dropping its other lines, such as graphics cards. However, Creative has yet to confirm this. ® Related Story Creative preps 1394-based digital music rig
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2001

Bill Gates spells out the future

Bill Gates has spelt out what he believes is the future in the Sunday Times this week. The article was sparked by the 20th birthday of the PC, reported widely since Billy Boy and Andy Grove got together to say how wonderful it was - and by extension, how wonderful they are. It's about as likely that Bill actually wrote the piece as it is that Microsoft will release bug-free software, but like Windows, it does the job. It's basically a puff piece for the PC but the Great Bill allows himself to look to the future, and would you believe it? It's the PC. While you're picking yourself off the floor in amazement, let's consider "Bill's" arguments. He starts by saying what the PC used to be: "Twenty years ago, the typical PC had a monochrome screen, modest floppy-disk drive and only 64,000 bytes of memory." Ignore the obvious memory joke for the moment. He then goes on to give various stats and say how the PC has revolutionised our lives. Which would be hard to disagree with. "More than 38 per cent of households in Britain have a PC"; "more than 500 million PCs are in use around the world" etc. Here's where the argument starts coming in: "Another 140 million [PCs] will be sold in 2001 - far more than the number of television sets that will be bought this year." He neatly brushes over his own inability to see the Internet's importance by going all personal on us. "When I started using personal computers, I was amazed and inspired by what they could do - and by what they might be able to do in the future But what's even more amazing is that, even now, we are a long way from exhausting the PC's potential." "We're at the start of a wave of digital innovation that will create plenty of new, exciting ways for computers to enrich our lives." And this remains Bill's argument. Yes, there are lots of "new and exciting" ways to utilise computing power and the Internet - handhelds, TVs, mobiles and other devices that Microsoft has failed to exert its influence on - but it's the PC that "is moving to the centre of an ever-expanding network". You will still use a PC to "write a letter, balance an investment portfolio or browse complex Web sites" but the information will be accessible through a range of devices. Obviously Mr Gates wishes that he is right so he can remain the richest man in the world and one of the most influential. But is he? Tough to tell, ain't it? There have been a range of hyped-up products over the last few years that will make the PC obsolete but none of them have touched it when it comes to anything but specialised or simple tasks. WAP is still crap and 3G is well behind. Digital TV is not proving popular and the idea of people using a TV actively rather than passively has yet to really be tested. Handhelds have been a success but just look at what has happened recently with Psion. PC sales are certainly dropping too, but no one seriously thinks that the market is doing anything but slowing slightly. WebPCs - which, we would argue, aren't really PCs - have sold but still there remains a fascination with highly spec'd computers, the full potential of which most people never even touch. It's the fact that the PC can do so much that makes it such a great thing to have. Whether you do anything more than play an odd game, write a letter or check out a couple of Web sites is irrelevant. But then we ought to remember two things. One, Bill Gates is notoriously poor at predicting the future. Not that that means he can't use his muscle to pull it one direction of another, but anyone betting their future on what he believes would be a fool. The other thing is that PCs have fascinated us for 20 years precisely because they have continually come up with completely new things that they can do. But this rate of innovation has slowed enormously. When was the last time you saw an application and thought "Wow! I never thought computers would be able to do that"? As a computer CEO-turned-guru, Bill inevitably ended with the super-optimistic and self-deprecating ending: "If the past 20 years have been impressive, the next 20 will be astounding." ® Related Link Bill says it like it will be
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Aug 2001

Stelios fails to show outside AOL UK

Cybercafe chain - easyEverything - appears to have bottled plans to park its advertising lorry outside AOL UK's headquarters. It's expected to feature a picture of Easy Group boss, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, ripping up his AOL account and urging others to follow suit. However, according to AOL UK's scouts, no one's seen the van all morning. Of course, there's still plenty of time left for easyEverything to carry out its advertising stunt - if they can avoid getting snarled up in London's busy traffic first. A spokesman for AOL UK dismissed the prank warning that the Internet giant's offices are surrounded by no parking signs and double yellow. If the van does stop - or even breaks down as was mooted last week - it is liable to be towed away. Now wouldn't that make a pretty picture? ® Related Story Stelios ads slam AOL
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2001

Haymarket suspends the net

Haymarket is to suspend publication of its flagship Internet monthly magazine the net, blaming the advertising slump. The 15 staff on the publication, which launched amid the dotcom frenzy in September 1999, were told of the move on Friday. The final October issue of the magazine will come out on 5 September. Two editorial staffers are to be made redundant, while the rest of the team, including the other four editorial staff, will be shifted to jobs within Haymarket. the net, which Haymarket claims was the top-selling mag in the area, has been hit by falling circulation (during 2000 the net sold an average of 52,600 copies per month), as well as advertising sales. According to the net publisher Sian Rees, advertising revenue has dropped 45 per cent since last year in the crowded general monthly Internet magazine sector. "The market as we see it continues to decline," Rees told The Register. "We don't believe it has levelled off." The suspension, rather than outright closure of the mag, will enable Haymarket to re-launch the mag should the market rebound. "It gives us that option," said Rees, but "in the short term we can't see the market picking up". ® Related Stories Daily Radar.com falls off screen PC Direct sticks two fingers up at former employer The Times closes Interface tech section Industry Standard calls time on Europe
Linda Harrison, 13 Aug 2001

NTL to shut Welsh call centre

Around 70 staff are expected to lose their jobs at NTL's call centre in Newport, South Wales. The cableco confirmed on Friday that the centre - which employs 135 staff - is to shut. NTL said the closure - code named "Project Nero" - was part of an "on-going drive to improve operating efficiency and identify opportunities to reduce costs". The company declined to say how many jobs would be lost. However, insiders have told The Register that as many as half the workforce could be looking for new jobs when the site closes in November. The operations handled by the Caradog House call centre - which provides back-up and support for NTL's Internet customers - will be transferred to Swansea 45-miles away. Meanwhile, NTL's handling of closure has come under fire after an employee stumbled upon documents detailing "Project Nero". Said one NTL employee, who asked to remain anonymous: "The closure will mean at least 50 per cent of people losing their jobs and all others relocated to the call centre in Swansea. He accused bosses of "stabbing employees in the back" over the closure. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2001

Hunt for Code Red authors turns into witch hunt

Reports that the author of the infamous Code Red worm belong to virus writing group 29A have been comprehensively refuted by hacking groups and security experts alike. In the run-up to the Hackers at Large (HAL) conference in Holland last weekend, the German newswire DPA carried reports that "computer security experts" had identified the "Dutch hacker group 29A" as source of Code Red by means of "information from online forums". In fact, 29A are a largely Spanish group one of whose former members, Wintermute, wrote a DOS virus called RedCode, which has nothing to do with the Code Red worm. Mental Driller, a member of 29A, has sent an email out denying its involvement in the development of Code Red, which contained destructive code that his "research virus programming group" would not include in their viruses, which he claimed were designed to show up system vulnerabilities. We're not inclined to take statement from virus writers at face value but Mental Driller's statement is backed Frank Rieger, of respected white-hat hackers the Chaos Computer Club as well as antivirus experts. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at antivirus vendor Sophos, said Code Red was "unlikely" to have been written by 29A because the worm didn't fit with their "style or method of attack". 29A, Hexadecimal for 666, features in the source code of Code Red and this may have led to people jumping to conclusions about the involvement of the group in writing the worm, Cluley suggested. Frank Rieger, of Chaos Computer Club, said that erroneous reports that 29A were Dutch had caused stress for organisers of the HAL conference who feared that the DPA article would provide an excuse for the authorities to come down hard on them. Meanwhile almost a month after its first appearance on the Internet there are few leads as to who might be behind the creation of the Code Red worm. As previously reported, both the Code Red Worm and a more virulent variant, Code Red II, exploit a well known flaw to infect Windows servers running IIS. Once installed the worm scans the Internet for other vulnerable servers. Code Red II also has the potential to give an attacker system level access to compromised systems. ® Related Stories MS internal network whacked by Code Red Son of Code Red is born Internet survives Code Red IIS worm made to packet Whitehouse.gov IIS buffer-overrun attack has been scripted External Links RedCode by 29A Deutsche Presse-Agentur (English home page, which doesn't contain links to stories)
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2001

Nikon Coolpix 995

ReviewReview The last Coolpix model we reviewed didn't fare too well. However, it seems Nikon may have listened to our criticisms because the 995 irons out some of the problems we had with its predecessor. There are some minor changes on the hardware, but the unique swivel chassis remains the same. Nikon has split the camera, so you can take shots through a 275-degree rotation. The built-in flash on the previous model had a tendency to produce red-eye, so this time round you get a pop-up flash. Also gone are the four inadequate AA batteries in favour of a large lithium-ion one, giving longer life and, thanks to the charger, less cost. At 390g the Coolpix 995 is still heavy, but all this extra weight does add up to a meaty camera. Because the 3.34Mp (megapixel) CCD (charge-coupled device) offers an extremely high resolution, you can only store ten top-quality shots on the 16MB CompactFlash card. You can drop down to 640x480 to hold 220 shots but, at this setting, the images can only be used for display on the Web or email. The high-res shots we took, on the other hand, were brilliantly detailed and vividly coloured. And if you're unhappy with the photo there's an immediate shot review, so you can delete them without having to flip to Playback mode. Few digital cameras have good zoom capabilities, but the 4x optical and 4x digital zoom are impressive. The variety of manual adjustments makes it tricky to master, but superb results are possible. Our only concern was the loud motor. The Coolpix 995 is a high-end camera with a price to match, hence it hasn't secured a place on our 'recommended' list. But for more experienced photographers who can pay a bit more and are willing to exploit the high functionality for the best results, this is a great choice. ® Info Price: £660.00 Contact: 0800 230 220 Website: www.nikon.co.uk Specs Megapixels: 3.34Mp CompactFlash card: 16MB Battery: lithium-ion Dimensions: 138x40x82mm Weight: 390g Warranty: one-year return to base Scoring Build quality: 8 Features: 9 Performance: 9 All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
PC Advisor, 13 Aug 2001

TSMC, UMC July sales: no better than June

If the semiconductor industry is going to recover during the second half of the year, it had better get a move on. Initial data from the world's top two chip foundries, TSMC and UMC, suggest the turnaround hasn't started yet. TSMC's line is that its sales bottomed out in May and June, and July's increase is the first sign of recovery. Some turnaround - July's sales of NT$8.64 billion ($249.93 million) were up a mere 1.6 per cent on June's NT$8.50 billion. TSMC reckons sales will increase during August, but whether by a significant margin remains to be seen. Certainly the June-July increase isn't much to shout about. UMC fared rather badly, with July sales down 8.6 per cent on June's figure. The company recorded sales of NT$4.24 billion in June, but only NT$3.87 billion in July. It expects Q3 sales to decrease 10-15 per cent on Q2's total of NT$15 billion. Clearly, demand remains low, and TSMC is arguably keeping its head above water simply by being the market leader. If UMC's results are a good measure of the market, they don't bode well for TSMC's ability to experience much growth through the rest of the quarter. UMC today said its 300mm wafer fab, Fab 12A, is succeeding in churning out more and more chips, month on month, and should be punching out 5000 30mm wafers by year's end. Output will be increased throughout 2002, peaking at 20,000 wafers - out of a maximum capacity of 40,000 - by the end of next year. Impressive numbers, to be sure, but as yet there's no sign anyone will want to buy any of the processors the plant will produce. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2001

Prostitutes inspire Russia e-government plans

Net-literate prostitutes have shamed Russia's government into putting up Web sites for their various offices. The number of Web sites produced by Russian tarts has caused a senior official at the Kremlin, Alexei Violin, to order government bodies to shape up and follow their lead. Not that the agriculture ministry will start posting pictures of animals in saucy poses but the bureaucrats are a little embarrassed that ladies of the night are more technically literate than themselves. The departments have until the end of the year to set up their Web sites. Mr Violin plucked at the heart strings and admonished the state's fiddling about when he said: "The situation in which Moscow's prostitutes have their own Web sites and federal ministries don't is a little strange." Our thanks to Mark Franchetti from Inside Moscow for this gem of information. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Aug 2001

AOL dismisses job cuts claims

AOL has brushed aside reports of impending job losses at its US HQ as "just rumours". The put down follows a report in the Wall Street Journal which claims the online operation is set to announce hundreds of layoffs at its Dulles, Virginia, offices amid concerns about a downturn in advertising sales. A senior spokesman for AOL UK told The Register: "We hear these rumours all the time." Last month AOL-Time Warner announced that its Q2 losses has narrowed from $924 million a year ago to $734 million this quarter - partly as a result of an increase in AOL Internet subscriptions. However, chief exec Jerry Levin said that while great progress had been made, he still planned to "drive efficiencies and take advantage of cross-company synergies". In some people's book, that means job cuts. ® Related Story AOL-Time Warner losses shrink
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2001

Yugoslavs develop mobile phone gun

Mobile phone junkies who simply cannot wait for the next-generation 3G handsets may soon be able to satisfy their lust for communications device functionality with the latest innovation from Yugoslavia. This urban accessory dispenses with voice functions, mailboxes and text messaging, and instead offers the user the ability to communicate via four .22 rounds at the touch of a button. According to an abcnews.com report, police in the Netherlands first discovered the waptastic widowmaker during a drugs raid. The phone is said to be indistinguishable from a normal mobile. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the innards have been ripped out and replaced with four live rounds and firing pin. Naturally, the U.S. Customs Service is taking a close interest in the device. Although no 'cell phone guns' have yet been reported Stateside, officers will be keeping a sharp look-out at US ports of entry. ®
Lester Haines, 13 Aug 2001

CNET sneaks in European presence

CNET is taking the softly softly route to establishing its brand across Europe by launching local entry pages to its news.com site. This means visitors from the UK, Germany and France will be directed to a CNET-style page containing local stories, when they try and visit news.com. A tab button at the top of the page will give the option to go direct to the US news site. The uk.news.com site, which should go live within a month, will be populated with stories from ZDNET.co.uk. CNET owns ZDNET. ZDNET's UK MD, Shobhan Gajjar, said the move had been done to make users aware there was a local site if they wanted it. But what does this mean for ZDNET? It obviously increases CNET's options, but we think the body bag zipper could be pulled up across ZDNET's face any time now. Not so, says Gajjar - CNET is committed to the brand. "ZDNET is already established in the UK, France, and Germany - there seems little point in calling it CNET. CNET's presence in the UK is ZDNET.co.uk." So although uk.news.com will contain the same copy as ZDNET.co.uk - having both is not a waste of time. "It's just about how you package content," said Gajjar. As for the rest of the ZDNET UK business, Gajjar says games site GameSpot is important to future plans, and there have been just seven redundancies in recent weeks. We'd heard there'd been slightly more and most of them were from GameSpot. ® Related Story So how long has ZDNET got?
Robert Blincoe, 13 Aug 2001

Emails will prove vital to Hamiltons' rape denial

Emails look as though they will be the vital evidence in the bizarre rape claims surrounding disgraced former MP Neil Hamilton and his wife. Detectives are currently investigating a wide range of serious sexual allegations levelled against the Hamiltons and Barry Lehaney. An unnamed mother of four has claimed she was raped after being given a spiked drink in a house in Ilford, east London. While being raped, she alleges that former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton masturbated over her, while his wife Christine squatted on her face. The Hamiltons have been very public with their abject denial of all the allegations, however, the case looks as though it may rest on email evidence. The woman who has made the claims says she first met Mr Lehaney in an Internet chatroom. Their conversations included sexual content, and at one point the woman says she was informed she could earn £5,000 a day as a London prostitute. After these conversations, she was allegedly contacted by Christine Hamilton, calling herself Lady Hamilton and using the email address "britishbattleaxe". It is said the Hamiltons then sent her "pornographic and threatening messages". When the police arrested the Hamiltons in connection with the allegations, they seized two computers from their house, which they are now carefully examining for any trace of the emails. UK newspapers have given acres of space to the case in recent days as it has become increasingly bizarre. The Hamiltons have confused and bemused the media by being completely open about the situation, including detailed information about the allegations (which would never have been released by the police) and the supply of transcripts from police interviews. The couple, reviled and mocked in the past as their indiscretions have come back to haunt them, have also made themselves available to all manner of print and TV interviews and Mr Hamilton even repeated parts of his morning jog so that cameramen could get the best shot. They are now criticising the law - changed in the 1980s - which allows those accused of rape to be identified but the rape accuser/victim to remain anonymous. Some have already counter-argued that the Hamiltons have defeated their own indignation by being so ready to give interviews to the press. Meanwhile, the unnamed woman has been called a sexual fantasist by a former boyfriend. She also hired celebrity publicist Max Clifford to sell her story before she went to the police. The introduction of Clifford makes the situation all the more bizarre as he represented Mohammed Fayed when the Harrods boss was in court over accusations that Mr Hamilton has taken money off him to ask questions in Parliament. It looks as this will run and run. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Aug 2001

Japan implicated in Kiwi hacking probe

A Japanese government agency has been implicated in attempts to hack into a medical research institute in New Zealand. Kiwi news service NZOOM cites security consultant Philip Whitmore from PricewaterhouseCoopers to support its allegations of state sponsored espionage against New Zealand's private sector. Whitmore was reportedly called in to advise an unnamed Kiwi medical institute which was being probed in hacking attacks believed to have originated from South East Asia. According to NZOOM, Whitmore attended an incident where a server containing sensitive information inside a Kiwi medical research institute was targeted in an unsuccessful attack which "originated from a Japanese government agency". Quite what form this attack took isn't explained in the article, which goes off on a tangent about the "US-China" cyberwar. The possibility that the "attack" may have been generated by a zombie agent on a Japanese government system or a server compromised by the Code Red worm isn't explored in the article. Anyone who has a firewall knows that probes and scans go on all the time, so leaping from a scan to "Japanese govt behind spy hacks" is quiet a leap. Last week, a Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection was set up in New Zealand and we're left wondering if the story is an attempt to give a sexy news hook. In the absence of more substantive evidence this would seem to be the case. ® External links NZOOM: Japanese govt behind spy hacks Related stories The Code Red hype Hall of Shame CIA admits it can't keep up with 'commie' hackers US China cyberwar is a self-fulfilling prophecy Hackers worse than terrorists - Robin Cook
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2001

NeonHippo launches FRIACO service

Birmingham-based NeonHippo is attempting to buck the current trend towards market consolidation among ISPs and launch a new branded unmetered access service. The service is based on the wholesale unmetered package, FRIACO, which caps the cost of Net access and associated telephony costs for ISPs. Aimed at organisations with a potentially large customer base, such as businesses, football clubs, unions, and charities, the monthly service costs £14.99 for punters - the same as similar offerings from AOL UK and BTopenworld. The FRIACO service is supplied by Viatel Global Communications Limited, (now part of NTL) and Energis. Shareholders in the business include the ex-England and Arsenal footballer Lee Dixon, who is also a non-executive director of the company. NeonHippo's first customer is 24-7 Freecall, which suspended its unmetered service earlier this year. ® Related Story 24/7Freecall gets FRIACO
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2001

Trojan Room coffee pot sells for £3,350

UpdatedUpdated The famous Trojan Room coffee pot has been sold for £3,350.00. The coffee pot was the star of the first ever Webcam way back in 1993 and sat in the Trojan Room of the Computer Science Department of Cambridge University. The pot sold wasn't even the original one, but it was the longest serving, having lasted 42 months in the job. It was up for sale because it no longer worked, and the department is moving to new premises. The sellers were looking to make a few hundred quid to buy a new machine, but have been pleasantly surprised with the amount they've made. Tim Hill, who organised the sale, said: "The only coffee maker we can find on the web that costs that much is the one we've just sold! The nearest in cost is a Capresso C3000 'advanced fully automatic coffee & espresso center' with a 'pump-auto-cappuccino system' and 'the claris water care system'. Only $2799. "Seriously we're not sure what we'll spend the money on. We'd originally thought we might get a few hundred pounds which would buy a decent espresso machine -- or keep the coffee club in beans for at least a year (it's the coffee club which actually owned the pot and was selling it, rather than it being an official Computer Lab or University thing)." The pot sold starred on the Web from October 1997 until March 2001. The selling details said: "It's a Krups ProAroma with a 10 cup jug. We'll even throw in a certificate of authenticity and can provide its 19" rack-mount hardware on request. We must warn you that the machine is broken, possibly beyond repair. It leaks water and we've cut off the mains plug. " The computer department coffee pot story started back in 1991, when boffins in the computer department trained a digital camera on the pot (the only one in the whole seven-floor lab) and then wired up their computers with XCoffee software so they could see it from their desks - thereby saving themselves a trip if it was empty. Then, in 1993, on a really wibbly wobbly Web they experimented with updating the image over the Internet and made history. Since then it has become a cult site with millions of viewers all over the world. ® Update Spiegel online, the online-version of German news magazine 'Der Spiegel' has bought the pot. They plan to repair it and put in in their office. With a webcam pointed to it. Read about their plans here, in German. Related Links eBay auction The official story of the Trojan Room Coffee Pot Der Spiegel story - in German Related Story Do you want to own the Trojan Room coffee pot?
Robert Blincoe, 13 Aug 2001

Badgers ate my phone line

The Reg has had its share of drive-by shootings, Cisco fiascos and co-lo catastrophes over the last week. But at least we've escaped the attentions of the local wildlife (in London that equals rats, tree rats, also known as grey squirrels and flying rats, sometimes called pigeons)...unlike Tyler Brule, Canadian-born editor of Wallpaper, the ever-so-trendy home design rag. He swanned off to Sweden recently, leaving instructions that final proofs for the magazine should be faxed to him at his holiday retreat. Small problem: badgers had chewed through the phone line. A resourceful fellow, Brule ordered a staffer to fly out with the proofs, a response denied to most mere mortals. But who cares about this? We're more interested in the cable-chewing badgers: this is one of the top tech failure excuses of all time. It ranks up there with the grey squirrel which twice - yes twice brought stock trades on NASDAQ to a halt by chomping through power cables. Grey squirrels are suspected of responsibility for half the unsolved fires in the United States. ®
Drew Cullen, 13 Aug 2001

Ex-Panrix boss launches micro PC assault on UK

Former-Panrix boss Simon Panesar has reappeared in the UK computer market - this time selling ultra-small PCs. Panesar's latest company, Leeds-based Jadetec Electronics, is advertising a product called the MicroPC in the national press. It is described as a CD-ROM-sized computer that weighs 950g with the power and functionality of a desktop. This nifty device, which can be plugged into a monitor or TV, comes with either Celeron or Pentium III chip and runs Windows or Linux. A couple of specs are offered in today's advert - with a Celeron 800, 64MB DIMM, 20GB hard drive and Windows 98 or ME, the PC costs £675 ex VAT. With a PIII 1GHz, 256GB DIMM, 30GB hard drive and Windows 2000, it is priced at £999 ex VAT. It is branded as the Jadetec MicroPC - Jadetec is the UK distributor for the product, and the computer is made by Taiwanese outfit Atoz Technology. According to Panesar, who ran Leeds-based PC builder Panrix with his brother Gulberg until the company went into administration earlier this year, Jadetec has sold around 700 of the gadgets in the UK since June. They are available through resellers and in Office World shops. The Panesar brothers parted ways after the fall of Panrix, and Gulberg now runs a PC builder called Panrix Technologies. ® Related Link More details on the MicroPC can be found on the Jadetec Web site MicroPC review Related Stories Panrix boss starts plugging new Panrix business Panrix in administration Packard Bell shows Panrix red card over footy ad
Linda Harrison, 13 Aug 2001

Code Red and the Cisco Side Effect

Acres of newsprint have been devoted to the outbreak of the Code Red worm but little attention has been given to the collateral damage its outbreak is creating. Although Code Red targets IIS web servers, a number of readers have contacted us to report denial of service problems with Cisco DSL routers that are linked to the worm. A check on Cisco's Web site confirms that several products (including DSL routers, IP Phones and wireless networking access kit) may be vulnerable to denial of service: a side effect of the Code Red worm, which can expose unrelated problems with Cisco's kit. Cisco has produced an advisory detailing available upgrades and workarounds. The advisory also explains which of its products run IIS, and which need to be patched with Microsoft's fix for the index server vulnerability that Code Red exploits. It seems that HP print servers and other network-infrastructure hardware equipped with a Web interface can also fall over if scanned by Code Red - although there is considerable disagreement in security circles as to how serious a problem this is. According to Roy Hills, testing development director at security testing specialists NTA Monitor, it is relatively easy to prevent problems involving Code Red and corporate networking kit. All you have to do is to ensure that device configuration tools are not visible from the Internet. On many occasions it's also possible to turn off web-based management... but it's much harder to minimise exposure to problems with DSL routers as they naturally sit outside a firewall, he adds. With DSL routers, less knowledgeable users will have to look for help from their ISP to configure a router securely, according to Hills. ® External links Cisco's advisory Related Stories MS internal network whacked by Code Red Son of Code Red is born Internet survives Code Red IIS worm made to packet Whitehouse.gov IIS buffer-overrun attack has been scripted
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2001