3rd > September > 2001 Archive

All Gameplayed out

Gameplay is reduced to a shell after selling its last remaining business, games ISP Wireplay to an MBO team. To be precise, the management team, grouped under a new company called Arena Technik Ltd, is buying the assets of Wireplay for £132,500. News of the impending acquisition was leaked to The Register two weeks ago (Story: Wireplay still up for sale). Arena Technik in effect inherits a name, software and customer lists. But there doesn't appear to be much in the way of goodwill: Bruce Heck, former GamePlay CTO, and Tim Gummer, former head of GamePlay Studios, published their mobile phone numbers last week on their new Website. According to Eurogamer.net, "this attracted quite a lot of attention from former Gameplay fans and employees, with whom the pair weren't all that popular". Wireplay has been in suspended animation for several weeks and up for sale even longer. Wireplay's editorial/content team defected last month to a games ISP start-up established by BlueYonder, the broadband arm of Telewest. The Blueyonder games op goes live in September. The games ISP market in the UK looks up up for grabs: Wireplay and Barrysworld, historically the two biggest players, have both been bust, and NGUK, a niche operator, looks likes it has lost the will to live. Its servers appear to have been switched off, as of September 1. The free multiplayer gaming scene in the UK has been great for consumers, but crap for business. The sector will only become reasonably healthy, if the operators charge reasonable subscription fees to gamers. Who will be the first to lose their nerve? ® Related Stories NGUK gets fragged Blueyonder to launch new games site BarrysWorld saved by EB
Drew Cullen, 03 Sep 2001

BT Wireless changes its name to ‘O2’

BT Wireless has renamed its mobile business ahead of the operation's planned demerger for later this year. The holding company is to be called mmO2 plc with the consumer brand contracted to just O2. The makeover is expected to be fully adopted for both products and services by next spring, the company said. It seems the new brand embodies the company's ambition to provide "essential, lifestyle-enabling mobile services to its customers". And here's us just thinking it was a phone company. Today's announcement will come as a blow to those groups lobbying BT to halt the demerger of its wireless operation. Only last week the Communications Workers Union said it was talking to some investors in a bid force the telco to reconsider. In a letter to its members Jeannie Drake, CWU Deputy General Secretary said: "The CWU believes that there is no strategic or corporate logic in hiving off BTs mobile arm into an independently-listed company, and that to do so would inflict irreversible damage on the company's long-term interests, to the detriment of its customers, shareholders and employees alike. "The CWU is convinced that BT's future lies in providing integrated communications solutions for customers, embracing both the mobile and fixed networks. BT's strength is in its ability to create complete solutions across Wireless, Internet, Broadband and E-Commerce. This should not be relinquished," she said. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Sep 2001

Stephen Hawking predicts cyborg ascendancy

Poor Stephen Hawking. One has to expect that decades of wheeling about in a motorized basket and speaking through a machine like Davros, whilst being venerated by naive post-docs as a paragon of wisdom simply because he's good at maths, would inevitably soften his brains. It's just a shock to see him become a gibbering bubblehead quite this soon. And yet the renowned Cambridge physicist has claimed that intelligent computers are set to take over the world, and that we must modify our DNA to narrow the gap. "The danger is real," he asserted against all reason during an interview published in the German magazine Focus. He further recommended that we humans hurry to "develop....technologies that make possible a direct connection between brain and computer, so that artificial brains contribute to human intelligence rather than opposing it." Won't Captain Cyborg be gratified. The enduring fallacy Poor Stephen Hawking. To say that we humans should modify our DNA so our brains might compete with the awesome calculating power of near-future advanced computers is like saying that we should alter it as well so our legs might keep up with the awesome speed of cars, buses and trains. And conversely, to observe that we can't out-calculate a computer is exactly like observing that we can't outrun a Ferrari. It's true, yes, but it just doesn't matter. We humans invented such delicious and decidedly un-mechanical things as religious awareness, dance, language, visual arts and literature (and I say in that order). We are religious creatures; we are artistic creatures; and when we're exceptionally cool, we're literary creatures. No machine will be. Put this article in a time capsule and let it be read fifteen centuries from now. I tell my remote descendants with absolute confidence that they will not have built a religious, artistic, or literary machine. With advanced genetic engineering they may duplicate a human being, fine; but they will never, never ever, simulate one. It can't be done. Forbin In the 1969 movie Colossus: The Forbin Project -- a sort of Cold-War version of Frankenstein -- it's proposed that raw computational power will defeat human genius. It's a fabulous flick, but we call movies like it fiction for a reason. Yes, advanced machines may one day benefit from fuzzy logic and ape certain human thought processes, but ultimately, due to their very nature, they've got to be rational in order to function. We humans are not bound by such prosaic limitations. We're capable of something which no machine, in any future we might imagine, will ever be capable of: irrational insight. This delicious faculty is aggressively underrated by the intellectually naive because during the Enlightenment it was fervently believed that the universe is, in its deepest metaphysical nature, entirely rational. Of course this is utter poppycock, like so much of the thinking which the Enlightenment inspired among generations who've since dared imagine themselves learned merely because they've applied themselves intently, and successfully, to university studies. The rationalistic, Cartesian universe our Enlightenment Fathers so desperately longed for has long been discredited. Of course if they'd read their Greek in school instead of applying themselves to 'objective' measures of intellectual accomplishment, they'd have known that centuries earlier Plato's Theaetetus neatly (and mathematically) exposed the folly of this childish desire. It's taken many centuries for us to work thorough the rubbish and arrive at a cosmology the Greeks wouldn't laugh at. The universe, we're finally beginning to observe, is anything but rational. And yet the Enlightenment desire to rationalize it remains, perpetuated by the intellectual cowardice of our most venerated social, political and educational institutions. Even today we find it difficult to recognize that the universe is fundamentally irrational and that our true edge in dealing with it is our occasional ability to grasp it on its own terms with the mysterious and unreliable gifts of wisdom and irrational insight. No machine devised through ratiocination will ever acquire that edge. It can't be done. Only a machine devised through uncanny wisdom and irrational inspiration will possess a hope of competing with us; and I remain confident that our overwhelming rationalistic inclinations will survive as long as we do, and frustrate that possibility for as long as our species should survive. ®
Thomas C Greene, 03 Sep 2001

Palm preps successor to m505

Palm is upgrading its m505 PDA and will announce its succesor next March at CeBit, if the latest whisperings about the company's product plans are to be believed. A source cited by Palm Infocenter claims the new model, the m525, will contain 16MB of memory. It will also sport a crisper LCD and a battery better capable of keeping it lit - the backlight will stay on for up to eight hours per charge, apparently. The unidentified source also suggests the m525 won't supersede the m505, but will simply displace it at the top end of Palm's line up. All of which, of course, any Palm watcher could reasonably guess at. Palm usually launches new machines in the February/March timeframe, often at CeBit. Any successor to the m505 will almost certainly have more memory, and as the m505 didn't kill off the Vx, so the next model is unlikely to mark the end of the m505. The name is interesting. m525 is clearly a reference to the recently rumoured m125, but whether that's a Palm naming strategy or an educated guess made by Palm Infocenter's Deep Throat is impossible to say. The m125 didn't appear when sources said it would, and since the m525 is clearly a long way off, it's probably not worth worrying about it too much yet. ® Related Stories Palm m125 debuts on Web Palm m125: spec. slips out Palm readies m125 pro-'sumer PDA Related Link Palm Infocenter: Palm m525 rumour
Tony Smith, 03 Sep 2001

Nvidia GeForce 3 Titanium enters CompUSA database

We may have been a mite hasty in questioning the veracity of claims that Nvidia is about to announce a series of GeForce 2 and 3 cards under the brand name Titanium. A friendly mole within giant US electronics retail chain CompUSA tells us at least two of the rumoured parts: the GeForce 3 Ti 500 and the GeForce 2 Ti. According to CompUSA's compendious product database, details for the two parts are as follows: SKU: 286647 NAME: PNY Titanium GeForce 3 500 PART#: VCGF3TI5PB PRICE: $399.99 COST: $323.78 SKU: 286648 NAME: PNY Titanium GeForce 2 PART#: VCGF2TIPB PRICE: $199.99 COST:$152.25 And a closer look at Microsoft's Hardware Quality Labs' site shows that the part does indeed turn up using the site's search engine. Even though messing around with the page URL brings up pages for any GeForce product you care to invent, the search engine rings true, listing the GeForce 3 Ti 500, GeForce 3 Ti 200 and the GeForce 2 Ti 200. Some reports we've heard put the release date early November, others in October, some as soon as mid-September. ® Related Story Nvidia GeForce 3 Titanium just a hoax?
Tony Smith, 03 Sep 2001

BT rebranding dictated by Internet

BT has finally demonstrated some grasp of Internet pre-planning with today's rebranding of its mobile group to mmO2 just before it floats it. The name will be reduced to just O2 for consumers. Unlike last time it rebranded - just a few months ago - it has realised that it's best to register related domain names before telling the world what you plan to call yourself. But - get this - not only did BT register the appropriate domains that it could get hold of, but it also registered confusingly similar domains and registered them under an employee's name rather than draw attention to itself by using the corporate name. Even more incredibly, the entire corporate name may have been changed just to allow for the registering of domain names. How else can you explain the extra "m" at the front of the name? M for mobile, yes. But what the hell is the other "m" for? It certainly doesn't mention it in the press release it sent out first thing this morning. Could it be that since all the main domains of mO2 and m02 have been registered, legitimately, for ages, that BT decided simply to add an "m" and then pick them up? Quite possibly, especially since out of the eight domains of mmO2.com, co.uk, net and org and mm02.com, co.uk, net and org, BT has managed to register six of them, with one still available. Only www.mm02.com lies outside its grasp. Of course, it hasn't had as much luck with the plain ole O2 and 02 domains. Of those eight, BT has one. That being www.O2.com - not bad, since it is the most important. The domain www.02.com is up for sale and we have asked Online Sales.com how much it wants for it - we'll tell you when they get back. Domain www.mm02.com is owned by New Strategies and greets you with a big gif shouting "Cash in your hands" - which may well be true if BT is thinks it's worth coughing up for. ® And so, well done BT. Not only have you finally worked out how the Internet works but you have even managed to think before you speak. You even changed the name of your company to fit in with the Internet. Can we now look forward to another rebranding of Future BT so you can get some domains for that? ® Related Story Why BT is unbelievably Net stupid BT Wireless changes its name to 'O2'
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Sep 2001

BT tops up mobile phones

BT is set to make it easier for consumers to top-up their pre-paid mobile phones. The telco's consumers will be able to credit their pre-paid mobile phones by simply adding a monthly allowance to their fixed line BT bill. The new initiative means that pre-paid mobile phone users would have another method of topping-up their mobile phones other than buying vouchers. It's understood that BT customers will be given a choice of three monthly call allowances in denominations of £5, £10 or £15. According to insiders, the scheme will be open to BT's fixed line customers regardless of their mobile phone operator. The Register understands that the new service - BT Top Up Together - was due to be launched this month but has been delayed. A BT spokesman declined to comment on the new service adding that the telco did not comment on speculation. However, this is exactly the kind of initiative that would fit BT's strategy of generating more revenue from its existing BT customers. According to Oftel 27 million people in the UK have pre-paid mobile phones. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Sep 2001

VIA preps DDR333 Pentium 4 chipset

Apparently unconcerned by Intel's vague threats of legal action over its use of Pentium 4 bus technology, VIA is ploughing on with its P4 chipset plans. Having successfully launched the P4X266 last month - though not so successfully shipped it; the company has admitted to production shortages that aren't expected to be sorted until later this month - VIA is now readying the integrated P4M266 for volume production, as we've reported before. The P4M266 is now expected to ship in Q4. At the same time, VIA will ship its P4X333, the DDR333 version of its first P4 chipset. The part's launch will allow VIA to offer the same level of memory support that rival products from Acer Labs and SIS provide. ® Related Stories Mystery chipset maker set to launch Rambus, Pentium 4 part Acer Labs unwraps cheapest Pentium 4 chipset VIA ready to sample second Pentium 4 chipset
Tony Smith, 03 Sep 2001

All change in the mobile market

UpdatedUpdated It's all go at the moment in the mobile phone market. Just this morning, BT announced its wireless arm - which includes BT Cellnet - is to be rebranded O2. Now, One2One is to name itself after its German parent company T-Mobile - owned by Deutsche Telekom. On top of that, pre-empting an Oftel report into how much mobile companies charge for users to call mobiles on different networks, both Orange and One2One are to bring out a new tariff that includes calls to mobiles on different networks as part of the "free" calls you get with the monthly fee. One2One will charge £25 a month for its new package (we don't the name of it yet), which will include 100 free minutes to any number, although presumably still not a peak times. If the limit is overrun, the tariff for mobile calls on a different network will be 20p a minute. We don't know how much Orange will charge as a monthly fee (both tariffs are due to be announced formally today but nothing had happened yet), but it will give you 200 minutes of free calls and then charge 29.5p for calls to other operators. [update] Scrap all that. Reader Nicholas can kindly inform us that One2One's offering is called Everyone 100. The free minutes can be used anytime at all to anyone. Line rental is £25, extra minutes come at 10p a minute to One2One phones and landlines; 25p otherwise. The Orange tariff is called Orange Business 200. There are other tariffs that offer 400 free minutes for £53 and 1,000 minutes for £117.50. Calls are 10p a minute with 35p for other networks and it comes with free voicemail. Where did Nicholas come up with this top-secret information? The Carphone Warehouse September catalogue. Which if anything has ever demonstrated the idiocy of modern PR and media...[end update] Vodafone and BT Cellnet, sorry O2, have said they won't be responding, but this may just be bluster. Oftel is expected to insist of a 20 per cent reduction on calls to other operators, and creating a new tariff is the industry's accepted way of making changes. Whichever way you look at, we the consumers are getting a better deal. Also the issue of mobile calls to other mobiles on other networks have become increasingly important since world+dog now relies on the blasted things. As for One2One's rebranding - we think this is a big mistake. One2One is not only quite a good name but also one in which everyone in the UK is aware of. The company is frustrated that it has spent heavily on advertising and offers some of the best tariffs in the market but has not seen a responding increase in customers. It may have something to do with the slang phrase "One to none" that rolls so easily off the tongue but then the name T-Mobile is a bit, well, German. One reader has suggested it rename itself Five2One following from England superb victory against Germany in the World Cup qualifier on Saturday [all the goals were scored by Liverpool players]. By the way, just to remind you all, mobiles probably still cause brain tumours. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Sep 2001

Oops! Nokia apologises for bullying user site

Nokia has said it regrets its heavy handed treatment of the leading site devoted to its communicator phones. The Polish-based My Communicator website posts news, downloads and help for the communicator series, the newest of which, the 9210, got a splashy high-profile launch in Europe over the summer. It's often the first port of call for 9xxx owners, given that finding information in the Club Nokia and Nokia Forum mazes can take hours. Michal Jerz who runs the site, also hosts the official Nokia manuals which - incredibly - aren't freely distributable. Without warning last week, Jerz received a fax from an English solicitor demanding that the manuals be removed. There was no warning from Nokia, and Jerz was given three weeks to comply. It isn't the removal of the manuals that offended Jerz, but the manner it which it was done. "After all I've done to promote Nokia..." he fumed. Letters of support rained in on Saturday, variously offering to return their 9210 communicators, or urging him to get backing for a legal fight. Many echoed the view that given the lack of focus and quality in Nokia's official support - with which we can only agree. It's an invaluable site. "I was given a kind explanation and apologies. Let's see what happens next," said Jerz in a message. "Let's wait and see." On his part, Jerz has yanked his response and the supporting messages in support of the site, at Nokia's request, so clearly the phone giant is most anxious to avoid tainting its public image. Here's a better way: Nokia shouldn't regard its documentation as a trade secret. Although it of course has every right to ensure users are reading the most up to date information, bullying communities is not the way to do it. After all, there are enough ancient SunOS manuals floating around the Web. But you don't find Sun calling in the lawyers to "prevent" users keying in instructions which might destroy their current Solaris boxes. ® External Link My Communicator.com Related Story Nokia 9210 Communicator - any good?
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Sep 2001

Intel quietly ships 1.1, 1.0GHz Celerons

Intel finally launched its 1.1GHz and 1.0GHz Celerons on Friday, just a few days later than we'd expected. The parts, which are priced at $103 and $93, respectively, were accompanied by a 950MHz ($74). They allow the chip giant to beat arch-rival AMD on budget processor clock speeds. AMD's topmost Duron, announced a week or so back, clocks at 1GHz. The new Celerons sport 100MHz frontside buses and contain 128KB of on-die L2 cache. As we note in our updated Intel Desktop Roadmap, Intel is expected to follow up the 1.1GHz Celeron with a 1.2GHz part based on its 0.13 micron Pentium III core, aka Tualatin. ® Related Stories Intel's Desktop Roadmap AMD launches 'Morgan' Duron ahead of 'Palomino' Athlon
Tony Smith, 03 Sep 2001

BT halves cost of broadband installation

ISPs have responded swiftly to news that BT Wholesale is to halve the cost of installing its single user ADSL service for three months from October. The reduction from £150 to £75 for BT's IPStream 500 service is designed to boost demand for BT's wholesale broadband service. Said Bruce Stanford, director Broadband in BT Wholesale: "We can see real increases in broadband demand coming through. This special offer pricing is designed to ensure demand continues to rise. Nildram, PlusNet and Zen have all said they will pass on the savings to consumers from the beginning of October. However, Eclipse Internet has gone one step further and cut the cost of installation to just £25. Eclipse - the ISP behind Pig Brother, which is raising money for farmers hit by the foot and mouth crisis - said it will donate the £25 to a charity fund. Recently, BT wholesale cut the cost of its wholesale broadband by £5 a month. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Sep 2001

Notebook sales rise 9%

Notebook sales grew nine per cent in the second quarter to around 6.3 million. For the first time notebooks accounted for more than a fifth of all computer sales - and as prices drop, notebooks are expected to keep gaining market share, according to a report from Display Search. It predicts laptops will make up 20 per cent of all computer sales in 2001, and 27 per cent in 2006 - compared to 18.3 per cent last year. However, the market research company warned it had cut sales forecasts for 2001 to 25.8 million from 27 million. Larger screens continued to gain popularity, with 14.1-inch and 15-inch displays grabbing a combined market share of 63 per cent of notebook sales, compared to 49 per cent in Q2 2000. Samsung continued to be the dominant supplier of notebook displays despite its market share dropping one per cent sequentially to 23 per cent. LG Philips took 17 per cent, up from 15 per cent in Q1. Hitachi also lost market share - falling to 11 per cent from 13 per cent, with AU Optronics (formed by the merger of Acer Display and Unipac) rising one per cent at ten per cent. Earlier this year IDC dropped its forecast for total computer sales, including PCs, in 2001. Shipments are now expected to grow 5.8 per cent to 138.9 million - growth was previously tipped to reach 10.3 per cent. ® Related Link Displaysearch statement Related Story US PC shipments expected to fall 6% in 2001
Linda Harrison, 03 Sep 2001

Computerland UK upbeat (but cautious)

Computerland UK today reported that Q1 profits were up on the same period last year. In a trading statement read out at the corporate reseller's AGM, it announced "good year on year growth". But product sales are lower than last year "due to the general weakness in the market for IT hardware". Computerland is confident that strong services biz will produce a satisfactory trading outcome to the year - "provided there is no significant further deterioration in the market for IT hardware". That's a big caveat. Still it makes a pleasant change to hear an upbeat statement from Computerland. The Nottingham-based has been trying to wean itself away from dependence on commodity hardware and software sales for a few years. But this is proving to be a long, hard struggle - profit warnings were issued in March and November 1999 - and then again in April 2001. ® Related stories Computerland UK issues another profits warning Y2K bug snacks on Computerland's profits Update: Computerland UK issues profit warning
Drew Cullen, 03 Sep 2001

Insight buys Action second time around

Insight Enterprises, the US direct marketing IT giant, will leapfrog to top spot in the UK, following the agreed takeover of Action Computer Supplies for £27m in cash. Insight says the acquisition will be accretive to earnings in 2002. Insight already operates in the UK and in Germany, and is building up a European headquarters in - of all places, Sheffield, in South Yorkshire. Action has been in play effectively since the last time that Insight wanted to buy the company - in 1999. That deal collapsed in October 1999 because of a deterioration in Action's trading, which made Insight nervous to the extent of walking away. The wait has saved Insight an awful lot of money. In May 1999, Insight made an agreed $150m bid for Action. ® Related Story Insight interested in Action - again
Drew Cullen, 03 Sep 2001

Hackergate probe clears Oz MP

An Australian state MP has been cleared of wrongdoing following a police investigation into hacking in the New South Wales parliament. As previously reported, a PC from Labor MP's Tony Kelly's office was seized amid allegations that it was used to gain unauthorised access to sensitive policy files belonging to Liberal MLC Charlie Lynn. Detective Inspector Colin Dyson, who is leading the investigation, has sent a letter to Kelly saying that although files were found on an unauthorised computer, police had found no evidence of "unauthorised intrusion [hacking]". The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Police have ruled out bringing forward criminal charges in the case but say they will continue to investigate how sensitive files wound up on a PC in Kelly's office. Kelly, who stepped down as deputy president of the Upper House of the New South Wales, has issued a statement saying the police investigation has vindicated him but the political controversy the affair has created shows no signs of dying out. Investigators found a security audit tool called "LANGuard" on Kelly's office computer, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. LANGuard Network Scanner can be used to crack passwords and opposition leaders argue that this is reason enough for a full inquiry into the Hackergate affair. Let's hope this story will run and run... ® Related stories Aussie MP in hacking probe External links Police clear MP of hacking allegations (Sydney Morning Herald) Information on LANGuard (a freeware security tool from GFI)
John Leyden, 03 Sep 2001

Oprah Winfrey gives BT the 'big O'. Twice

Oprah Winfrey have given the suits BT something to smile about. In exchange for a fee - although BT is too bashful to say exactly how much - she gave it the "big O". In fact she gave it two cause she's a classy lady. And just as well or BT wouldn't have been able to work otherwise. Wtf are we talking about? Domain www.O2.com. BT has just rebranded its wireless business mmO2, or O2 for short. It had little trouble getting hold off mmO2 domains but O2, unsurprisingly, proved a little more difficult. www.O2.com was owned by Oxygen - a US-based company co-founded by chat-show queen Oprah Winfrey. Neither BT nor Oxygen will say how much the telco paid for the domain but let's be honest, it wasn't going to come cheap. Not only that but the sale of www.O2.co.uk was finalised on Thursday. Again, we don't know how much for but we'll try to find out. ® Related Stories BT rebranding dictated by Internet"> BT Wireless changes its name to 'O2'
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Sep 2001

Oops! Dell gives away Win2k product key. Not quite

Microsoft's favourite OEM seems to blotting its copybook big-time. First, there's an escaped Dell OEM copy of the RTM version of WinXP on the loose, and now, if you happen to have a copy of Windows 2000 but for some unaccountable reason you don't have a product key, well... Dell is there to help, but on closer examination prompted by about 60 emails from our nice readers it turns out the company has sneakily blotted out the last block of the key it's publishing on its web site. Win2k product keys are five block, and the Dell leak - sigh - is only four. Figure out for yourself how long it's going to take you to get the right one(s) by trial and error (five characters to check). The eagle-eyed team at tecChannel ((story auf Deutsch) started this. If you go to Dell's Latitude 810 spec page, then click on the 360 demo link, you get a nice rotatable image of the machine. Then flip the Latitude over, rotate and zoom until you see ever so clearly one of those standard stickers you get on the bottom of machines these days. Alternatively, you could just wander through other people's office flipping up machines when nobody's looking, but it's cool that Dell is doing a proper virtual version of this classic product key vulnerability. Dell is a deeply happening e-company, as we all know, and can thus be said to be walking the talk. But, ah, doesn't Microsoft get really heavy about this sort of thing, these days? One enthusiast who's apparently no better than he should be recently published a take-down notice he received from Microsoft saying: "The above location [we won't trouble you or him by publishing the site details] is offering 'Cracks' or 'Serial Numbers', intended to circumvent protection applied to prevent the unauthorized copying and use of copyrighted computer programs, for distribution by technical means." Presumably blotting out the last bit means Dell's take-down notice isn't on the way... ®
John Lettice, 03 Sep 2001
SGI logo hardware close-up

3G is born! (But only in Japan)

True to its word, Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo will launch the world's first 3G network on 1 October. Called FOMA - Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access - the service will give subscribers based in Tokyo 64Kbps real-time video, a maximum 384Kbps downlink, and maximum 64Kbps uplink and of course the ability to make phone calls. Tariffs are unannounced at the moment with the company only giving vague "basic principles" of what it will charge, like "suitable for the age of multimedia" and "facilitate smooth migration from existing phones". There will be special introductory offers to get people on the service from October to March next year, including Y1,000 of free calls to encourage people to try the new data services. Which is great until you realise that equates to £5.80. Oh well. Billing is apparently going to be based more on Europe's approach, which presumably means a flat-fee with some free calls and the rest paid for depending on time connected (rather than amount of data downloaded) - but we can't be sure as yet. There are three handsets that work with the service although worryingly DoCoMo calls them Standard-Type, Visual-Type and Data-Card-Type - which appears to suggest you can't get voice, video and data all on the one phone. In fact, it was problems with the handsets that caused DoCoMo to put back the launch of the 3G services from May to October. We'll have to wait and see whether the service offers what was expected or is a fudge. One thing's for sure: after a sudden rush of hype and adrenaline earlier in the year to get out the first 3G network, excitement has slowed once companies grasped the new complexities that this technology involves. For more info on the service go here. ® Related Story Now DoCoMo having trouble with 3G
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Sep 2001

Compaq boosts Red Hat ecommerce suite

Red Hat's new e-commerce suite has received an unexpected boost from its wannabe-best-buddy Compaq and an electronics firm called Pioneer-Standard. The suite is to be bundled with a host of configurations and servers and pushed out to customers through a joint initiative. The package consist of three offerings. Bundle No.1 will see the Red Hat e-commerce suite loaded onto a Compaq ProLiant DL360 server. The second configuration is slightly more complex in that it runs across a cluster of three ProLiant DL 360 servers and comes complete with one year of Red Hat's systems response services - albeit only covering usual operating hours. The third configuration is the biggie. It's a cluster of five DL 360's with a five cluster configuration of Red Hat E-Commerce and full 24x7 services for a year. All in all, they're pretty attractive packages. The smallest of the bunch would keep the majority of small medium sized business happy while the bigger, five server configuration puts it into the heart of e-commerce territory. It's not too big though. Undoubtedly it will not be cheap but for mid-sized business looking to get some ecommerce operations moving pretty quickly this could be a worthwhile punt. One point worth considering before anyone ventures out and buys the five system cluster is that of the database. Red Hat's database is based on the PostgreSQL database which, although fine under normal loads, has little in terms of proof points when it gets into real heavy-duty work. It is, essentially, unproven at the high end which is, presumably, the kind of work it will encounter on a five node cluster. This isn't exactly the most stunning of deals. But it does show quite clearly how Red Hat is likely to clean up in this space. The simple fact is that everybody who's anybody wants to get involved with Red Hat and this e-commerce suite has provided yet another route to market for the firm's already popular wares. Further to that of course, it should help the company proliferate the reach of its 'destabilising' database. The relationship between the vendors is actually a little disappointing though. There's no mention of joint marketing or sales operations, but they do all buddy up pretty close on the development and configuration of the package. Pioneer Standard is to do a lot of the grunt work. Through its systems integration arm, it plans to put the packages onto the servers, configure them and flog them through its own operations. Presumably this is part of a plan by the firm to tap into the increasingly lucrative world of Linux developments. But it would have been nice to see Compaq shifting this package too. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 03 Sep 2001

Iomega Peerless

ReviewReview Backing up data should be second nature to any computer user. Given the stability of PCs and the software we run on them, it's a wonder that anyone fails to protect their files by keeping copies. One reason why people fail to back up their data is the lack of media that can cope with the large amount of data they need to store. Iomega thinks it has the answer in the shape of the Peerless drive. The model we tested came with a 10GB drive, but you can add more drives with capacities of up to 20GB. The Peerless is bundled with Iomega's QuickSync, which manages the backup process automatically. It can also function as a portable drive to which files can be copied individually. Iomega even suggests putting a bootable operating system and software on to its Peerless drive, so people can effectively carry a personalised PC in their pocket. The Iomega Peerless is big in size as well as capacity. A docking cradle - ours was USB, but there will also be a faster 1394 version - holds the drive unit, which measures 90x130mm. This means it's not exactly shirt-pocket size, but it needs to be this large in order to provide plenty of antishock protection for the hard drive inside. Our main gripe about Peerless doesn't concern its effectiveness as a data storage solution - in our tests it worked fine - but its price. It comes with a 10GB drive as standard, but if you want more you'd better start saving as additional drives will cost £159 for 10GB and £199 for 20GB. Iomega plans to interest manufacturers of videos, in-car music systems and other data-hungry hardware in Peerless, with a long-term view to making it a universal storage solution. We aren't sure that will work - it never happened with Zip - but as a high-capacity PC back-up option the Iomega Peerless is a fine choice for the well heeled. ® Info Price: £340.00 Contact: 020 7365 9527 Website: www.iomega.co.uk Specs Connection: USB backup device OS: Windows 98/Me/2000 Additional drives: £135 (10GB), £169 (20GB) Scoring Build quality: 9 Features: 8 Performance: 8 All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
PC Advisor, 03 Sep 2001

VIA launches Apollo KT266A

VIA has launched its latest AMD-oriented chipset, the Apollo KT266A. The product supports all 200MHz and 266MHz frontside-bus Athlons and Durons, connecting them to DDR200 or DDR266 SDRAM. That, reckons VIA, gives the new part a speed advantage of up to 20 per cent over rival chipsets. Two south-bridge chips are supported, the VT8233 and the VT8233C. Both provide "AGP4X, ATA-100 and PC133 support" plus "integrated six channel advanced audio, six USB ports, LPC bus, and integrated 10/100Mbps Ethernet and Home PNA, AC-97 audio, MC-97 modem, and support for AMD's second generation PowerNow! technology", says VIA. The 0.22 micron chipset costs $26 in volume purchases. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Sep 2001

MS loosens XP WPA some more, to offer upgrade to Pro

Microsoft has wobbled some more on Windows Product Activation (WPA) in WinXP, but from where we're sitting it by no means looks like the final wobble. The company seems to have just about decided on the extent to which it will loosen up on WPA, and at the moment the bottom line appears to be that it will be practically no trouble at all for practically everybody. But it's still going to be compulsory, it's still going bring more small businesses within the reach of Microsoft's policing systems, and it'll still strengthen the company's control of PC OEM and software distribution channels. At the moment there are a couple of versions of the XP RTM version available in warez channels. These are claimed to have circumvented WPA, and there's no real reason to doubt this. There's also a leaked Dell OEM version which is said to install without WPA on Dell machines. In addition to this, WPA has been extensively documented, and a while back tecChannel showed how easily it could be fooled. Shortly after this Microsoft intimated that it would loosen up on the number of hardware changes it would allow before you were required to reactivate the product, and that it would introduce a sort of statute of limiations whereby the whole thing zeroed after a given period, and you could start again. It has now decided on these. You will be able to change up to six pieces of hardware so long as you have a network card installed, and this will reset after 120 days. It's not clear how many pieces of hardware you can change if you don't have a NIC, but presumably it'll be tighter, and the idea is to put the squeeze on grubby playground software swappers. The 120 day reset may be a loophole, but that depends on how Microsoft plays things at the server end. Records of hardware changes on your local PC will expire after this period, but that doesn't automatically mean Microsoft is going to throw away its own records of the product key you used to activate it. So suggestions elsewhere that you could just install again on another PC after 120 days seem unconvincing to us. You could conceivably do some kind of back-up and restore number, this possibly depending on how similar the two PCs were, and this may also ease the situation of people using Ghost and similar. But we really need more information on precisely how this will be implemented before we can make a judgement. OEM copies shipped with new PCs will be far more lax. Microsoft says this accounts for around 90 per cent of Windows licence sales, and that most of these will have WPA linked solely to the bios of the PC. So you can change anything you like without having to reactivate (or indeed activate, if the machine was one of the preactivated ones). This includes being able to change the motherboard so long as the board is from the same manufacturer, and presumably explains why the leaked Dell version installs without activation on Dell machines. We can assume that PC OEMs will have to pay some sort of contractual price for the privileges of pre-activation and only having WPA linked to the bios, so it wouldn't be in the slightest bit surprising if the net effect was to increase the squeeze on small system builders and purveyors of the dreaded 'Naked PCs.' Meanwhile, 'discounts' and easy-terms upgrades will be available for home users. If you've already got a copy of XP, then Microsoft is mooting a "Family Licence" system whereby you'll be able to get a discount of something like $8-$10 on further copies. One of the more underwhelming discounts de nos jours, this. But it gets better. If you've got a Home edition of XP - which is quite probable if you bought one of the cheaper consumer-targeted PCs - then there will be a special upgrade deal for moving to XP Professional. It'll only cost you $125, which is a cracking $74 saving on the upgrade price to Pro. You might of course note that if you've bought a PC with XP Home preinstalled you've already paid for XP, and that the full versions of Home and Pro will be priced at $199 and $299 respectively at retail - a difference of $100, not $125, and most certainly not $199. That's right - it's one of those Microsoft special offers... ® Related Stories MS starting to retreat on WinXP product activation XP prices leak, released, as Bill and Jim polish choppers WinXP product activation cracked: totally, horribly, fatally
John Lettice, 03 Sep 2001

McAfee patents virus update over the Internet

Network Associates' McAfee division has obtained a patent for updating anti-virus software over the Internet in one of the most questionable patent rulings by the US patent office to date. The anti-virus updating technology described in US Patent 6,296,456, Method and System for Providing Automated Updating and Upgrading of Antivirus Applications Using a Computer Network, "further distinguishes" McAfee brand anti-virus solutions, according to Network Associates. According to us there's nothing in McAfee's patent, which describes techniques for setting up a local server for the distribution of anti-virus updates and for checking the status of AV protection on client computers. McAfee and its competitors in the enterprise antivirus market have been applying this kind of technology for years. Last month, McAfee obtained a patent (US 6,266,774) for running security software as a service over the Internet, with a patent that was so widely drawn that it could be interpreted as applying to ASP services in general. After early bullish statements to this effect ("you either work with us or you work around this patent"), Network Associates chief executive Srivats Sampath scaled back the firm's rhetoric on the subject. After all it wouldn't help McAfee to step on the toes of key partner Microsoft's .Net strategy. While the software as a services patent might be questionable the latest "innovation" is plainly prior art and it's quite beyond us what the US Patent office is up to. On present form we're tempted to file a patent for a Method and System for Transport Using a Circular Device on a Load Bearing Rod (aka The Wheel). ® External Links Network Associates granted new US patent for updating anti-virus over the Internet Related Stories McAfee files patents for security as a service Symantec under attack over security patents over security patents
John Leyden, 03 Sep 2001

Software pirate nailed after ill-timed courier delivery

A British reseller faces two years in jail after counterfeit goods were delivered to his front door in front of Trading Standards officers. At the time Christopher Bottley was entertaining staff from Kent Trading Standards - they were raiding his house in Tonbridge for counterfeit goods. While they TS officers unearthed pirated copies of Windows 98, a courier attempted to deliver a package. On closer examination this turned out to be a batch of counterfeit copies of Windows NT Server. Bottley, who is also charged with supplying pirated copies of Windows 98 to a Bristol-based trader, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 at Maidstone Crown Court last week. Meanwhile, a director and company secretary of Middlesex-based UK Computer Distributors have also found guilty of offences relating to counterfeit software. The charges, against Paramjit Kaur Kanwal and Jasbir Singh Uppal, related to the supply of counterfeit Windows 98, Windows NT Server, and Office 97 Professional Edition. They face a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison and an unlimited fine. The judge in each case postponed sentencing to gain access to more reports on the defendents. ® Related Stories Grey market resellers hit back at MS 'intimidation' Car boot software seller arrested after raid
Linda Harrison, 03 Sep 2001
Cat 5 cable

The Big Ring licked by Finns

Virgin Mobile's record breaking attempt to have the most number of mobile phone ringing in one place appears to have hit a snag. It's already been done. Last year, in fact. At Helsinki Tähtitorninmäki Park. On May 1. You see, Finnish pop band, Nylon Beat released a single as a mobile phone ring tone. And a group of 846 people celebrating May Day played the single simultaneously, thus creating a world record. Unfortunately, we don't think it's been recognised officially. Which kinda lets Virgin Mobile off the hook. Maybe. Either way, we reckon they've got to get at least 847 people in Leicester Square on Wednesday to make this record stand up. ® Related Stories Virgin breaks mobile ring peace Richardson's ring piece causes a stir
Tim Richardson, 03 Sep 2001

FBI warns as Unix server flaw gets automated

A worm called x.c, which takes advantage of a buffer overflow vulnerability in the telnet daemon program commonly used on Unix boxes, has being discovered, and security experts fear it is a harbinger of worse to come. Many of these organisations, such as the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Centre, overplayed the destructive nature of the Code Red worm but that's not to say there isn't a problem here. The security loophole might allow an attacker to take control of a victim's system, and it is suspected as the root cause behind a number of recent hacks, so it's well worth reviewing the vulnerability. The flaw, which was first reported last month, primarily affects BSD-derived Telnet daemons, which are used on Solaris, AIX, HP-UX and several versions of Linux-based servers, for example. More information on affected systems, possible workarounds and how to obtain fixes has been published by CERT and is available here. ® Update In our original story we had a headline that warned that the telnetd bug. This is an oversimplification that we've now deleted. External Links FBI Alert: Buffer Overflow Vulnerability in Telnet Daemon
John Leyden, 03 Sep 2001

Ex-ORBS owner loses defamation suit

The ex-owner of the spam blacklisting company ORBS, Alan Brown, has lost the defamation suit brought against him by the former head of Domainz - New Zealand's domain registry maintainer - Patrick O'Brien. Mr Brown, who had to close ORBS and his ISP Manawatu Internet Service after the suit and two court cases against him put him close to bankruptcy, was ordered by Judge Gregory Ross to pay Mr O'Brien damages of Nz$30,000 (£9,000) plus an extra Nz$12,000 (£3,600) because of his "outrageous" conduct. Mr Brown said, when asked why he had chosen to represent himself: "At the moment I've got a net worth of about $500. If I could afford $42,000, then I could have afforded a lawyer." He has also said he will launch an appeal if someone provides the funds. The case was a very important one for several reasons. First of all, and as has been extensively reported by the New Zealand media, it creates a precedent for defamation over the Internet since Mr Brown made the offending comments on an Internet newsgroup. There have been several such cases in the US already and in the UK Laurence Godfrey famously took both Canadian student Michael Dolenga and ISP Demon Internet to court over libellous comments and won. But this is the first such case in New Zealand. Not only that but it led to the complete overhaul of the management board of Domainz when several of its number complained that Domainz was funding both sides of the defamation case. It was also the beginning of the end for Alan Brown's ORBS company. The situation arose when Mr Brown responded to previous arguments in a public forum between Mr O'Brien and a third party. He made a variety of claims at this point and in subsequent postings, including that Mr O'Brien had used Domainz money for his personal gain, did not have the interests of Domainz in mind, had committed a criminal offence, had threatened to silence any criticism and was a "buffoon". Domainz decided to intervene and sent Mr Brown a lawyer's letter asking for costs and an apology. Once he had received the letter, Mr Brown made a further three posts saying what was going on from his side of things and using the legal defences against defamation as justification. The judge in the case disagreed entirely and said the Mr Brown had failed to show his comments came from an honestly held belief that they were true. Instead he said they were more of a personal attack. Mr Brown also claimed the legal defence of fair comment, but the judge said that fair comment was based on an informed argument but Mr Brown has made no attempt to separate fact and opinion. The judge was also unimpressed by the fact that when Mr Brown was offered the chance to apologise, he reacted by making further defamatory allegations. The judge also said that a key motivator behind Mr Brown was the financial welfare of his ISP. The judge said of comments made on the Internet: "I must say I know of no forum in which an individual citizen has the freedom to say what he likes and in any manner he wishes about another individual citizen with immunity from suit for all consequences." And so he made sure there wasn't. The defamation case came on top of two lawsuits by rival companies that claimed Mr Brown has wrongly put them on the ORBS spam blacklist. A judge ruled for them in July. ® Related Stories ORBS' death: Alan Brown replies Cybersmears - another great Net tradition falls by wayside Demon libel loss could cripple Internet free speech
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Sep 2001

UK e-government felled by ‘overheating’

Britain's chief e-government initiative came to a standstill today after a spot of overheating. At first a representative of the Government Gateway, designed to help citizens get to grips with issues such as paying taxes online, seemed to think the site was down for maintenance. But on closer inspection it appeared that the glitch, which kicked off mid-morning, centred around a mystery 'heat problem' with a power supply. "There was overheating with a power supply at the data centre," said the representative. "As a precaution, the gateway was taken offline temporarily". It's not known for sure, but it's suspected, that the overheating caused a fire. The gateway site is hosted by Cable and Wireless. More details were not available, but the heat problem is being investigated and the site is expected to be back online by 9 am tomorrow. Cable and Wireless was not available for comment. ® Related Link Government Gateway site Related Stories E-government project doomed to fail Microsoft's UK e-government service unveiled
Linda Harrison, 03 Sep 2001