2nd > October > 2001 Archive

‘Nimda fix’ Trojan disguised as security bulletin

An e-mail message claiming to come from the SecurityFocus ARIS Analyst Team and TrendMicro is being used to deliver what appears to be a Trojan horse to unsuspecting users. Do not run this attachment. These messages do not come from TrendMicro or SecurityFocus, as a quick check of the headers will reveal. The e-mail message comes with an executable attachment named FIX_NIMDA.exe. The name is similar to the one used by TrendMicro for their free Nimda removal tool (FIX_NIMDA.com). Last night, SecurityFocus sent e-mails to its global distribution list to alert users of the fakery. Below is a link to an example of the false e-mail, as well as the recommended patch. SecurityFocus will never send executable attachments claiming to be a fix to any worm or vulnerability. If you have received a similar message we would like to hear from you. Common sense and best practices indicates that you should not execute any code that is delivered via email unless you can authenticate the source of the message. A link to the message is given in the Incidents Mailing List Archive here. © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
Elias Levy, 02 Oct 2001

Novell sues Microsoft over Netware death ad

Novell filed a lawsuit against Microsoft yesterday in its home town of Salt Lake City for making "false and misleading statements about Novell and its products in violation of state and federal laws". It's furious about some advertising Microsoft sent out to Novell customers in which the Beast of Redmond alleged Novell was ditching its NetWare operating system. The advertising came in the form of a breakfast cereal packet and read: "What's the expiration date on that NetWare platform? As a result of the recent Cambridge Technology Partners merger, Novell is shifting its focus from software development to consultancy services. You're left with a server platform without the full support of its manufacturer. Which means increasing costs as it rapidly becomes obsolete, forcing you to implement time-consuming retrofits." The idea of course is that people should switch to Microsoft's software instead of worrying about Novell not supporting its products in the future. Novell is not amused: "These questions and statements are completely false and misleading," said Stewart Nelson, Novell COO. "Microsoft has tried to create a fictitious end of life for NetWare to create fear and uncertainty within Novell's customer base and to discourage future customers from doing business with Novell." Instead, a press release put out by Novell reads: "There is no expiration date for NetWare. NetWare has been and continues to be Novell's flagship software offering. In fact, development of NetWare 6.1 and future releases of NetWare has been underway for more than a year. Far from becoming obsolete, NetWare is a state-of-the-art networking platform, and it has Novell's full support both for currently shipping versions and versions yet to be announced." Novell wants "corrective advertising", the pulling of the current advertising and damages, currently unannounced. Of course we should point out that the rumour of Novell discontinuing NetWare is hardly a new thing. In fact, we can barely remember a time in the last two years when the company hasn't been asked by inquiring journalists if its latest reinvention will see the company ditch the operating system. The company is widely believed to have given up trying to get NetWare on new computers and leave Windows and Linux to battle it out while it concentrates on its One Net dream (ripped off by MS in .Net). But then there's a difference between asking the question and writing the rumour and being Novell's main competitor and putting out thousands of pounds worth of advertising. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Oct 2001

Imation sues Quantum for Antitrust

UpdatedUpdated Imation (a large maker of storage media) has slapped a lawsuit against Quantum (large maker of storage devices) for violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act. In return Quantum has replied and implied that Imation is bitter about its failure to qualify its tape media product for use with its DLTtape drives and the lawsuit is a 'transparent' attempt to distract customers from this fact. Imation believes that the big chiefs at Quantum are imitating tactics from Microsoft and dabbling in price fixing and conspiracy to monopolise the production and sale of data storage tape. At one point, Imation even refers to the vendor as a 'cartel' claiming to have proof of this. (see below) Quantum seems to find the whole affair a bit of a joke, with the expected replies of the case being “completely without merit.” It then goes on to say how nice the company was to Imation, providing it with faith and care, as well as lavishing time and expense on it; at the end of it all, Imation failed to produce the goods and now seems to be really upset about everything. It goes on to call the cartel idea “preposterous.” Imation has stated that it hopes for a settlement to the affair. ® Update In Imation's online documentation (it has prepared a whole 'feature' on the lawsuit, here) the company shows off an email from a Quantum exec, a Philip Ritti, to Imation exec Frank P. Russomanno. In the message, Ritti acknowledges Imation's efforts to prepare for DLTtape IV (Tape IV) qualification and wishes him well. He then goes on to make an offer for Fuji and Maxell (other Tape IV licensees) to sell their products to Imation at reduced prices; in exchange Imation would need to drop all plans regarding the manufacture of Tape IV products. In reply, Russomanno politely snubbed the offer and informed him that Imation would proceed with qualification. See the messages here. Related Links Exhibit to Complaint: E-mail From Quantum Executive Imation Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against Quantum Corporation
James Watson, 02 Oct 2001

WorldCom zaps 1,000 Euro jobs

WorldCom has confirmed it is to shed 1,000 jobs in Europe - many of them in the UK. According to the FT the cuts are a continuation of WorldCom's internal merger with UUNet. WorldCom also said the cuts were as a result of the slackening demand for Internet kit. The company is also in the process of moving its European HQ from London to Reading in a bid to cut costs. In a statement the company said: "As a continuation of the integration process of WorldCom and UUNET's European operations, WorldCom plans to reduce its European-based workforce by approximately 1,000 positions. "This reduction stems from reduced capital expenditure anticipated from the completion of WorldCom's international networks as well as the streamlining of duplicated staff functions in multiple countries." Earlier this year WorldCom shed some 6,000 jobs in the US and some 1,000 jobs in Europe. Oh well. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Oct 2001

Carly Fiorina most powerful woman in business

Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard has retained her crown as the most powerful woman in business, according to Fortune magazine in its new top 50. Carly has topped the list every year since it was first launched in 1998. The list is very US-centric but then since most of the biggest and richest companies reside in the US, it's not a bad measure. Carly of course also gets an extra boost thanks to the mega-merger with Compaq that she is currently trying to pull off. Second place is given to another woman in the computer business - Meg Whitman, the president and CEO of eBay. Seems a little too high a ranking to us (she was third last year), but Fortune reckons: "Whitman, who at times took heat for not managing aggressively enough, has never overpromised investors; instead she has diligently delivered above-target profits every single quarter." Third is Oprah Winfrey - you know the chat-show host. And then the rest of the list is mostly made up of women in the entertainment business or investment banking. A further six women from the computer industry make it into the list: 6. Ann Mulcahy, President and CEO, Xerox 21. Ann Moore, executive VP, AOL Time Warner 23. Betsy Bernard, President and CEO, AT&T Consumer 28. Ann Livermore, President, HP Services 30. Linda Sanford, senior VP and Group Executive, IBM Storage Systems 32. Donna Dubinsky, CEO Handspring (down from 4) Gone from the list are: Deborah Hopkins - second last year - who lost her CFO job at Lucent this year and Ellen Hancock whose startup, Exodus, failed. Fortune leads us into the top 50 with the paragraph: "For some 30 years - ever since women started jockeying for power in the workplace - patience has gotten a bad rap. After all, the virtue fairly reeks of a Victorian mission to corset women into the role of submissive wife and mother. So women have shunned it. Instead they have felt the need to make bold pronouncements and rush to action. That was never truer than during the season of dot-com mania, when every CEO professed to be leading a revolution. And any leader who failed to act quickly was supposed to get trampled by the capitalist vanguard..." If you want to read more or see the full list, go here. ® Related Story Fortune.com
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Oct 2001

W3C defends RAND license

The W3C has extended the public review period for its RAND proposal - which would permit royalty-bearing proprietary technologies to become web standards for the first time in the W3C's history. The review period opened on 16 August, but it was only at the weekend, 18 hours before it was due to expire, that world+dog took notice of the controversial proposal. The W3C also issued an FAQ on the subject. While acknowledging that Royalty Free licenses have been "essential" to the widespread adoption of web technologies, and that software libre developers are "critical to its success", it adds:- "W3C also recognizes that software patents exist (and patent issues have become more prevalent with the growth of the Web), and ignoring them will do more harm than good." The note says that the RAND issue emerged as a way of avoiding 'submarine patents' and ensuring full disclosure of patents, with "the expectation that information will allow a Working Group to proceed as is, to work around a perceived patent obstacle, or to abandon work entirely if perceived to be too encumbered by patents." That's pretty much how it works now, we thought: if a technology is believed to be encrusted with proprietary patents, it's either bounced out of the W3C, or an open and royalty-free alternative is eventually worked out. What has infuriated the free software community is that RAND appears to give active encouragement to royalty-bearing patent holders to forward their wares to the W3C - which they argue represents a dramatic commercialisation of open Web technologies, to the detriment of free software implementations. W3C press officer Janet Daly points out (as several readers have) that the IETF has blessed royalty-bearing patents with its own RAND license for several years. "Yes, but the IETF isn't advancing toward the rear," open source license watcher Karsten Self told us. "The W3C is moving from RF to RAND while the IETF is under strong pressure to emphasize, or exclusively adopt, RF." EFF co-founder John Gilmore acknowledged the point to in his analysis of the W3C RAND move, but responded:- "I've served on standards committees. I also understand why these bodies are full of fights among organizations to get THEIR technology adopted as a standard. It's so THEY can get the windfall profit from forcing everyone else to license it," he wrote. "The companies have rigged the government standards game so that big companies with big patent portfolios get extra advantages from standardization." We'll be hooking up with the W3C's Patent Policy Committee later today - if you have polite(-ish) questions, we'll ask them. ® Related Story The free Web's over, as W3C blesses Net patent taxes
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Oct 2001

Xmas sales kick in for Electronics Boutique

Electronics Boutique has reduced first half losses on the back opening new stores in Europe. The UK's largest games retailer reported a net loss of £5.5 million for the six months to June 30. It lost £6.4 million in the same period a year earlier. EB expanded its European chain to 486 stores in the last year, up from 353 at the end on June 2000. It has bought Spain's game chain CentroMail and eight stores in Sweden. It looks like sales are picking up as the market heads towards Christmas. In the nine weeks to 29 September EB reported sales were up 46 per cent in shops that had been open for more than a year. It also says Sony PS2s are selling three times as fast as the PS1 did and its shifted 750,000 of them already. The box is now priced at £199.99 after a £70 Sony price cut which should shift more units in the Christmas countdown. ® Related Stories http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/archive/20051.html Electronics Boutique gobbles up Gameplay
Robert Blincoe, 02 Oct 2001

Semiconductor sales down 42% in August

Worldwide semiconductor sales in August were just $10.49 billion, down $7.59 billion or 42 per cent from the $18.08 billion recorded a year ago, according to the latest figures from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). SIA reports that August sales were also down 3.4 per cent on July revenues of $10.86 billion, as a slowdown in IT spending continues to hit chip sales. Compared to August 2000, August sales in the European market were lower by 40 per cent, the Americas market was down 55.3 per cent, and Asia Pacific was down 31.7 per cent. In the Japan market, sales declined 36.3 per cent from last August. Looking ahead, SIA believes that excess inventories in the channel will be exorcised by the end of September, and unlike some analysts, forecasts brighter times ahead with little long term impact from last month's terrorist attacks on the US. George Scalise, SIA president, said: "The tragic events of September 11 may slightly dampen sales for the month of September due to short-term logistical issues; however, we are still confident that we will see sequential quarterly growth commencing in the December quarter. "We expect that traditional holiday sales of personal computers, communications products and a variety of hand held devices will accelerate year-end demand for a broad range of semiconductors." ® External Links SIA survey: Worldwide Semiconductor Sales Slow to $10.49 Billion in August 2001 Related Stories Lower estimates for AMD and Intel after US tragedy AMD shuts fabs, fires 2,300
John Leyden, 02 Oct 2001

Expiring OSes? Check the Windows ‘best before’ dates

Microsoft claiming Novell products have an expiration date will have prompted gales of laughter in IT departments throughout the world. Redmond itself is home of the expiration date, habitually unleashes a 'new' operating system on us every year, and deploys a battery of weapons - retirement of MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) qualifications, price juggling, withholding of handy widgets, menacing new licensing regimes - in order to achieve de facto expiration of the old ones. In claiming Novell might do something like this at some point over the next few years, the Redmond marketing droids have achieved Olympic standards in chutzpah. Particularly if one does a quick reality check as to the status of NetWare's one time competitor, Windows NT. By a miraculous coincidence, just last week Microsoft posted a notice that Windows NT 4.0 Server would be retired (or, as we say in mailshots to NetWare users, expired) as of 1st October. Which by another miraculous coincidence is when Novell filed against Microsoft in Salt Lake City. Microsoft is pulling Windows NT Server 4.0, Windows NT 4.0, Enterprise Edition, and Windows NT 4.0 Client Access Licenses (CALs) from its volume licensing programmes, and upgrade versions are being pulled from retail channels. The company says full versions will still be available at retail for "the foreseeable future" and also offers a special 'deal' whereby you can deploy new NT 4.0 installations by buying a Win2k licence for each copy of NT installed. "These 'downgrade' installations can then be upgraded to Windows 2000 later at no additional cost," says Microsoft. The announcement also seems to suggest that Microsoft Downgrade Options is some kind of programme in itself "(Please see Microsoft Downgrade Options in Volume Licensing for further information)". Regrettably, we can't seem to find this under volume licensing, but it is referred to in the Windows Desktop Product Lifecycle Guidelines, here. A couple of weeks ago we speculated that it might make financial sense for IT departments to buy into the new Microsoft licensing regime now, but not actually install the software - i.e., you equip with the licenses for the latest now, but don't bother about the expensive rollout until later. Well good grief, Microsoft has effectively formalised this procedure. Check the FAQs: Q If I have a significant business need to continue deploying Windows 2000 after March 31, 2003, what should I do? A Microsoft Volume Licensing allows downgrade rights under Volume Licensing 6.0. Customers who purchase Windows XP Professional have full downgrade rights to, Windows Professional, Windows NT, Windows 95, and Windows 98. Just as prior to March 31, 2003, media will continue to be available via Worldwide Volume Licensing Fulfillment. Media will also continue to be available for sale pre-loaded on machines via authorized OEM distributors. Note that expiry date; the lifecycle guidelines also give handy expiration dates for the other MS operating systems. There's a 'slow death' phase, "Extended Phase," where life becomes more expensive and difficult, and note NT 4 seems to be entering it six months early: - Windows 95 (December 31, 2000) - Windows 98 / 98 SE (June 30, 2002) - Windows NT 4.xx (June 30, 2002) - Windows 2000 (March 31, 2003) Then there's the definitely dead, "Non-supported phase:" - MS DOS x.xx (December 31, 2001) - Windows 3.xx (December 31, 2001) - Windows 95 (December 31, 2001) - Windows NT 3.5x (December 31, 2001) - Windows 98/98 SE (June 30, 2003) - Windows NT 4.xx (June 30, 2003) Quite an expiration massacre due on New Year's Eve, no? ®
John Lettice, 02 Oct 2001

Viral plague benefits Sophos

Anti-virus specialist Sophos has posted annual results that show profits are up 65 per cent. It's also announced plans to expand its operations, creating 160 jobs. For the year ended 31 March 2001, Sophos made £7.8 million on a turnover of £22.6 million compared to profits of £4.7 million it recorded on a turnover of £14.7 million last year. On the strength of these results, Sophos intends to expand its operations to Milan and Singapore. The UK-based firm already has offices in France, Germany, USA, Japan and Australia. Sophos, which specialises in the corporate anti-virus market, has not been hit by the slowdown in PC sales that has effected the sales of competitors Symantec and Network Associates, both of whom have wider product portfolios. Some players in the anti-virus market, such as F-Secure have even made job cuts. ® External Links Sophos crows over increased profits Related Stories PC market slowdown hits Symantec Virus plague fails to stem losses at Network Associates Profits go west as Trend Micro expands from the east
John Leyden, 02 Oct 2001

Time claims 1GB RAM PC breakthrough

Time Computers is marketing its latest desktop PC with the slogan "I am the Greatest", and to justify the claim it's packed it with 1GB RAM.. The slogan is reminiscent of boasts surrounding great boxing matches involving Prince Naseem Hamed or Lennox Lewis (surely Mohammed Ali - Ed). And Time's boast for the machine is that this is the first desktop PC to be launched in the UK with 1GB RAM. This rings some alarm bells. 'I am the Greatest' can handle 1GB RAM because it's running Windows XP, allowing proper utilisation of the system memory above 1GB for the first time on a desktop PC - Windows XP supports up to 2GB RAM. However, Windows 2000 Professional was capable of supporting more than 1GB of memory. Time has since qualified its claim and said it was referring to consumer OSes (Windows '98 and ME), which were unable to support this amount of RAM. The machine is retailing for £1799 (incl. VAT and delivery.) Time is aiming it at graphic designers and those working with digital photography. It comes bundled with a scanner, Epson printer and digital camera. The machine specs are as follows: 2GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor 2 x 80GB hard disk drives 64MB GeForce 2 DVD-ROM & CD-RW drive 17-inch monitor ® Related Links Time Computers
James Watson, 02 Oct 2001

Top Cisco execs forego bonuses

Top Cisco executives have forgone bonuses this year as falling demand, particularly from key telco customers, continues to affect the performance of the networking giant. Chief executive John Chambers received no income from stock options this year, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission made this week. However chief financial officer Larry Carter made $29 million and senior vice president Mike Volpi $30 million from exercising their options. Many of Chambers' options are at an exercise price higher than Cisco's stock price, something described in financial circles as "underwater" options. The San Jose Mercury News reports that Cisco's stock fell from $60 to $19.06 during its last fiscal year, as demand slumped and Cisco was forced to make slash its workforce by 8,500. As previously reported, Chambers made the symbolic gesture of cutting his annual salary from $323,319 to $1 per year from April, and his salary will be pegged at this level until Cisco's fortunes revive. Chamber's is unlikely to go hungry though because he made $156 million from exercising options last year. It seems unlikely that other senior Cisco execs are working without a salary but it has been decided that none will receive bonuses this year, a welcome decision that sits in stark contrast the bonuses paid to fat cats in Britain's loss making railway industry, for example. Chambers received $1 in bonuses for the fiscal year 2000. In August, Cisco posted profits for its fourth quarter of just $7 million, down 99 per cent from $796 million profits in the same period last year. The results, which were in line with Wall St expectations, showed Cisco's sales dropping 25 per cent from $5.72 billion to $4.3 billion in its fourth quarter this year. For the full year, Cisco recorded losses of $1.01 billion compared to income of $2.67 billion for fiscal 2000. ® External Links Cisco CEO Chambers Cut Salary, Got No Options Gain Last Year (Bloomberg) Related Stories Cisco splits into 11 technology groups Cisco loses $2.69 billion on declining sales Where have all the Cisco customers gone? Cisco boss slashes salary to $1 Cisco boss apologises for slashing jobs Cisco's Borg-like acquisition spree may be curtailed
John Leyden, 02 Oct 2001

Robbers hit Microtronica for £500K

Thieves have raided PC component distributor Microtronica UK and made off with £500,000 worth of kit. Trays of Pentium 4 2GHz chips made up most of the haul. Microtronica, which is part of the Arrow Group, was hit at the weekend. UK MD, Les Billing, said the job was done extremely professionally, but could not comment on whether or not it was an inside job. He added that it will not make an impact on the company's distribution cycles at all, with box CPUs available to cover and replacement stock on its way. Interestingly, although the blaggers nabbed a few AMD chips as well, the bulk of the goods taken were definitely Intel. Poor old Chimpzilla, it can't even seem to get its chips stolen at the moment. Billing is prepared to offer a reward for anyone providing information about the robbery, although he has not specified an amount as yet. He is contactable on 01189 633 760 or email. He also plans to make the serial numbers available. ®
James Watson, 02 Oct 2001

Iomart call centre ‘tampered with’

Police have been called in to investigate the alleged tampering of phone lines at Iomart's call centre in Stornoway. Communications at the Scottish broadband provider's call centre were snagged yesterday although repaired after a couple of hours downtime. Sources have told El Reg that someone took a pair of shears to Iomart's cabling, severing all phone lines to and from the datacentre. One insider claimed that the finger of suspicion pointed towards a "disgruntled employee". A spokesman for Iomart declined to comment on the incident since he said police "would be involved". He did, though, confirm that Iomart's phone lines had been tampered with and that iomart was investigating. A notice of Iomart's Web site reads: "Unfortunately the iomart customer support centre is experiencing difficulties taking support calls from customers. "Until this problem is resolved, please use our online support and fill out the appropriate product support form." ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Oct 2001

Thousands of idiots still infected by SirCam

The Nimda worm might be the worst virus at the desktop level but SirCam continues to be the most widely circulated email-borne virus. That's the conclusion we draw from September statistics on viruses blocked by MessageLabs, a managed service provider that scans its users email for viruses. MessageLabs blocked 143,949 emails containing SirCam, originating from 18,700 different email addresses, (belonging to individuals whose service should be suspended by ISPs until they clean their act up, we reckon). The next most common virus, Magistr.A, was only filtered out by MessageLabs 23,295 times, while the much publicised Nimda worm was blocked 1,683 times (indicating the most problematic aspect of the worm is its ability to infect, and scan for, vulnerable servers). Alex Shipp, senior antivirus technologist at MessageLabs, said that Nimda only just scrapped in at number 10 its chart, whereas the Love Bug reached the heights of number seven, thanks to only 25 security-adverse plague spreaders. By contrast, antivirus vendor Sophos reports that Nimda was the biggest irritant for its clients last month. MessageLabs' list considers the actual number of viruses blocked during a month, unlike the monthly study by anti-virus vendor Sophos, which only looks at calls to its support centre (an inferior metric). That said, Sophos will pick up on incidents of file infecting viruses, such as the destructive FunLove pathogen, which normally aren't spread by email. ® Top ten viruses blocked by MessageLabs in September SirCam Magistr-A Magistr-B (Magistr variant) Hybris-B (Hybris variant) Apost BadTrans.A LoveLetter.A MTX Kak.A Nimda.A External Links Latest monthly stats from MessageLabs Related Stories Nimda worms its way to top of September virus chart Nimda worm tails off Users haven't learned any lessons from the Love Bug Rise in viruses within emails outpacing growth of email
John Leyden, 02 Oct 2001

Amstrad CEO resigns over Sir Sugar's emailer obsession

The CEO of Amstrad, Bob Watkins, has resigned after 25 years with the company, less than a week after it had unveiled yet another poor set of results. The reason is believed to be chief exec Sir Alan Sugar's obsession with the emailer device - a phone that lets you send emails. The emailer has been a fantastic failure, cost the company millions and still shows no signs of taking off. Mr Watkins is believed to have become incensed with Sir Sugar's plans for expansion in the face of overwhelming evidence that it will not be a success. Commentators have accused Amstrad of becoming a one-product company. An official announcement to the stock exchange today read: "Mr R.J.Watkins, chief executive of Amstrad plc, resigned from the Board on 1 October 2001. Sir Alan Sugar has taken on the role of Chief Executive in addition to his role as Chairman as of this date. Sir Alan would like to personally thank Bob for his contribution to Amstrad over the past 25 years and wish him success in the future." An Amstrad spokesman refused to expand on the announcement. It looks as though Bob Watkins is just the latest victim of Sir Alan Sugar's blinkered emailer attitude. Since March 2000, he has tried tirelessly, and unsuccessfully, to sell the concept to everyone from journalists to politicians to the City - all have turned the device down. Termed "the most important mass market electronic product since he kick-started Britain's personal computer market 15 years ago" by some idiot on the Mail on Sunday, the emailer emerged in a blaze of glory at the same venue as the cheap PCs that made Amstrad a household name 20 years ago. It cost £79.99 and still does and within a week we concluded it was far too expensive. With even low usage, it would put £150 per month on your quarterly phone bill. The public agreed with our analysis and no one bought the thing. But the more it has failed to take off, the more fanatical Sir Sugar has got about it. He vehemently denied technical problems in August that year, then when the subsidiary set up to deal with the emailer, Amserve, put up a £2.3 million loss, he took up most of the company's financial report explaining why the device was so wonderful. The next set of results in February were even worse. Profit down 82 per cent from £8.2 million to £1.51 million. Again Sir Sugar waxed lyrical about how wonderful the emailer was - sales continued to be "encouraging". This time Amserve took a £3.9 million loss. He managed to persuade the then home secretary Jack Straw to back it up. Mr Straw said it was the perfect example of how technology could be used to "improve the flow of information and intelligence in a bid to decrease crime" at a Neighbourhood Watch photo opportunity. It made no difference to sales. The IT correspondent for The Independent then incurred Sir Sugar's wrath when he wrote, one year on from the launch, that the emailer had been a failure. Sir Sugar sent an email to all emailer owners, ranting about the piece and providing the journalist's email address. Unfortunately it backfired because many of the received emails concerned the terrible problems they were having with the device. Now with the latest set of results, profit is down again. From £15.4 million to £6.2 million. Amserve increased its losses yet again to £5.2 million. And guess what? Sir Alan Sugar again took up most of the financial review ranting on about how successful the emailer was going to be. Apparently, Amstrad is now ready for phase 4 of the emailer programme (how many phases do you need?). A new emailer with more features is to be released on the market this financial year. It was this decision to continue sending good money after bad that it believed to have finally caused Bob Watkins to quit before the company was run into the ground over a daft dream. To date, Amstrad has sold just 92,000 emailers. You are looking at this decade's Sinclair C5. &ref; Related Link Marketing magazine very unimpressed with the emailer Independent even less impressed Related Stories Amstrad leaks like leaky thing over 'Web phone' launch Amstrad product of the century looks expensive to us Amstrad results find Sugar bittersweet E-m@iler costs Amstrad £3.9m Sugar's em@iler backlash backfires
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Oct 2001

Sun unveils kinder, gentler StarOffice

Office software masochists, rejoice! Hot on the heels of Office XP, Sun has made a beta of StarOffice 6.0 available for download. It's the first major update in the suite for eighteen months, and in the intervening period there's been a drastic change of license: the code's slipped away from the lease of Sun's Community License, into the OpenOffice project, although Sun sponsors OpenOffice and retains the rights to package the code as StarOffice. The new version does away with the much-hated integrated desktop, saves files as XML, and has improved language support. But what would be just another software release, has found itself a mainstream business IT issue du jour. With Microsoft intent on driving its customers onto an annual subscription model, which in many cases involves significant price rises, there's a financial incentive to look at alternatives. Whether the free (as in beer) StarOffice saves money depends on how extensively corporate users need to be retrained, but in many smaller outfits this need not necessarily be an issue. Sun's download page is here, and the beta is available in English and German for Windows, Solaris and Linux. If StarOffice is simply too much bloat, there are plenty of alternatives. Joe Barr has a positive review of Hancom, a new lightweight suite here, while the official software libre KDE project, KOffice was updated to 1.1 in August. Purely the best software libre word processor we've found is AbiWord, which improves continually, and makes for a nice ride. A dark horse - and it won't be open source, but it will be available for Linux - will be Gobe's Productive Suite, from the authors of the original ClarisWorks. Gobe debuted on BeOS, but no date's set for the Linux version. ® Related Stories Sun to take on MS Office with free, Websourced StarOffice StarOffice chief: why Sun community source beats GPL Boerries confirms StarOffice to go GPL StarOffice creator on the GNOME pact
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Oct 2001

Intel releases 1.2GHz Celeron

Just one day after AMD's launch of its 1.1GHz Duron processor, Intel has released a new Celeron chip, running at an increased clock speed of 1.2GHz. The processor includes features such as 256KB on-chip, level two cache with a high-bandwidth interface to the processor core. In quantities of a thousand, the chips are selling at $103. It is based on the 0.13-micron process technology. ® Related Story AMD 1.1GHz Duron turn-on
James Watson, 02 Oct 2001

Afilias' .info launch hurt by backstage shenanigans

The arrival of the first Web sites using new top-level domains has been greeted with joy by Internet enthusiasts this week. However, the success of finally enlarging the Net despite years of arguments has been undermined by the bad-tempered behaviour of the board of the company behind the .info TLD, Afilias. It has been reported - but not as widely as it might have been - that the so-called sunrise period in which trademark holders can put first claim to domains fell apart at Afilias, leading to thousands of pirates gaining possession of domains they shouldn't have. In a desperate bid to avoid publicity, Afilias withheld the names of domains already registered from registrars and members of the Afilias consortium. Eventually, one its most important members and a member of the Board, Robert F Connelly of PSI-Japan, quit over the matter. Following publicity of Mr Connelly leaving, Afilias then made the list of domains that it had refused to hand over immediately available to all member registrars. According to Mr Connelly, shortly after resigning he received an offer to buy him out of the Afilias consortium from Afilias, presumably in a bid to keep the situation under the control of the Board. Eager to discover where the sunrise period had gone wrong, Mr Connelly has since made a request for a copy of all minutes of meetings held by the directors - something he is legally entitled to do as a board member. That request was made three weeks ago, but he has yet to hear anything. Under Irish law, there is no defined time limit in which the minutes have to be handed over. Afilias management has since gone out of its way to rubbish Mr Connelly, claiming that he abused his position on the board to try to obtain "privileged information" i.e the list of domains registered. It first claimed that this was in line with ICANN rules but soon changed its approach, saying instead there have been an agreement by all board members that no information would be shared. Mr Connelly outrightly denies any such agreement existed and points out that his request was for Afilias to release the information to the public and admit the mistakes it had made, rather than sit on the problem. More companies each day are surprised to find their domains are already owned by someone with no right to the domain. So what went wrong and why is Afilias so keen not to let anyone know? Well, one of two things have to have happened. One, Afilias failed to check trademarks; or two, sunrise and non-sunrise requests were mixed up by mistake. In either case, Afilias is open to lawsuits since it offered a service which it failed to deliver. It will also prove a huge embarrassment to the company and affect its trusted status. On top of that, if there is too much pressure, it may be forced to run the entire system all over again. Considering how long these new TLDs have been in the making - not to mention claims of favouritism towards Afilias from the notoriously secretive ICANN Board - such a cock-up would cause many to ask who on earth we have left in charge of the Internet's infrastructure. ® Related Stories Afilias founder company quits over .info cock-up War breaks out over Afilias cock-up resignation Afilias extends/ delays .info roll-out
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Oct 2001

Web standards schism ‘terrible’ – W3C patent policy boss

A web standards schism would be "a terrible thing", says the man at the centre of the firestorm over the blessing of royalty-bearing patents by the World Wide Web Consortium. Danny Weitzner is the head of the W3C's Patent Policy Working Group, and we caught up with him earlier today. We raised the prospect of a breakaway after the ferocious reaction to the W3C's mooted RAND license. The suggestion that royalty-bearing licenses (RAND) should take their place alongside royalty-free licenses would make open source implementations difficult or impossible, say community luminaries. The public mailing list has drawn over a thousand critical comments since Saturday. The nightmare scenario runs like this. A company introduces a royalty-bearing technology under a RAND license, and it become a W3C-approved standard. The free software community decides not to pay the piper, and sets about creating a royalty-free and open alternative. "That would be a terrible thing," says Weitzner. While acknowledging that it's a possibility he says, "for me as the chairman of the working group we'll do everything possible to prevent this." "We are looking for other ways to keep this discussion going, but we don't expect everyone's going to be one hundred per cent satisfied," he told us. Wouldn't the fear of a balkanization of the web cause W3C members to pause before blessing a standard that incorporates a punitive patent? "I'd hope that's true. If we did stuff in RAND mode, and the open source people were going to use a different technology in a royalty-free license, it would have to cause us to think about it." However Weitzner defended the RAND license on the basis that it puts patent nasties upfront, and forces patent holders to declare their interests at the start of the standards process:- He cites the example of the P3P issue. In that case, Platform for Privacy Preferences discussions were well-advanced when one of the participants - Intermind - declared that it had relevant patents and demanded a royalty of 1 per cent. The W3C hired a patent attorney and found examples of prior art, but the process took a year. That wouldn't be permitted under the dual-track RAND/RF licenses, he says. At the time of the Intermind dispute, Weitzner was vocal in his defense of royalty-free as the One True License Model. "Weitzner is equally insistent that the only way a privacy standard would gain widespread industry adoption is if it is open and license-free," noted Interactive Week. What changed his mind? "We observed some general trends, and concluded that we should at least think about RAND," he says. "Number is one that overused word, 'convergence'. More and more we're seeing the convergence of the Web into broadcasting, consumer electronics, broadcasting and telecoms, and I would suggest that they've pretty much succeeded in RAND mode," says Weitzner. Ah yes, but RAND-style licensors currently have to fight to get a patent through the W3C. Doesn't the W3C's RAND give them a green light to do so? Again, he disagrees, arguing that the proposal still has to be ratified, and hoping that the patent holder would realize that they "have to make money by implementing it well", as he puts it, rather than seeing a web standard as a cash cow. "We'll use every tool at our disposal to clear the way for a Royalty-Free proposal". We asked if the W3C stood to gain financially from RAND licenses? "The W3C owns no patents and takes no revenue," he says. Wouldn't it accept even a little bakseesh in the form of administrative fees? "Absolutely not. That's between the licensor and the licensee. There's no cut for the W3C." Weitzner is leaving the door open, with an extended review period. On a number of occasions he stressed that royalty-free standards had been instrumental in the adoption of the Web. And he described such standards as a valuable social contract. However the determination of the open source community to develop royalty-free alternatives should the need arise is equally strong. Should a RAND license be eventually adopted by the W3C, an alternative is sure to be created. Whether that involves the creation of alternative web standards umbrella, or the adoption of web standards into an existing body, or simply the trench warfare option of taking each RAND standard as it comes, remains to be seen. ® Related Stories W3C defends RAND license The free Web's over, as W3C blesses Net patent taxes
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Oct 2001

Carnivore substitute keeps Feds honest

The Forensics Explorers division of CTX has lately come to market with a Carnivore-like suite called NetWitness which, the company says, can enable ISPs to surrender to the Feds only those specific bits of information about a suspect which a court has authorized for collection. The NetWitness package can separate data to ensure strict, minimal compliance with a pen register or trap and trace order, and later associate the original content if a search warrant or a wiretap warrant is issued, Forensics Explorers General Manager Mark Longworth told The Register. Because Carnivore is capable of capturing far more data than a pen register or trap and trace order is meant to make available, an ISP may well prefer to install its own kit rather than trust Carnivore operators to stick to the letter of the law. There are two chief problems with Carnivore in terms of over-collection, as we reported in a previous article. First is the fact that packet traffic belonging to perfectly innocent subscribers passes through it along with the suspect's data. Basically, we have to trust the FBI not to abuse this incidental access. The motive for them not to do so is the looming possibility of screwing up a prosecution; but now, in the wake of the 11 September atrocities, it's a fair bet that the Feds are going to get a good deal more latitude from the courts in borderline cases. The second problem is that we have no assurance that, when used in 'pen mode', Carnivore doesn't capture more of the packet than its origin, destination and time of transmission. It's quite possible that the subject line of an e-mail memo would be captured, for instance. This certainly goes beyond what's understood as a pen register or trap and trace, where only the origins and destinations of phone calls are to be recorded. The FBI is now exuberantly installing Carnivore on public networks in pursuit of the Bearded Chupacabra. But it's reasonable that an ISP, however eager to cooperate in this venture, might well object to having a mysterious 'black box' installed on its lines. But the fact is, it doesn't have to, so long as it can provide the FBI with the data it's authorized to collect. Doing in-house surveillance can become a feature with which an ISP might differentiate itself from its competitors. For example, you the innocent subscriber can be assured that if a pen register is executed against someone else on the network, your e-mail isn't going to end up in the hands of the FBI. And if you're ever unfortunate enough to come under federal scrutiny, you can be assured that the FBI won't be getting any data beyond what's been legally authorized. There is no logical reason for the FBI to insist that an ISP use its black box. Phone companies don't let them install mysterious devices on their lines, and neither should ISPs. These collections are covered under the CALEA (Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act), which obligates communications providers to comply, all right; but that isn't the same as saying that only equipment cobbled together by the Feds can be used. The FBI's irrational devotion to Carnivore is most likely the result of needing to justify the development costs, which we're told were in the neighborhood of $3 million. Pushing it aggressively is essentially a way of denying that it's a sub-standard tool. The NetWitness kit is well within the reach of most ISPs; the collector sells for approximately $2,500 and the analysis station for between $35,00 and $45,000, Longworth told us. Network Ice offers a free do-it-yourself Carnivore kit, but this requires development effort. It may or may not end up cheaper than NetWitness, according to the efficiency of one's in-house geeks. ® Related Stories How Carnivore works Network Ice posts do-it-yourself Carnivore kit
Thomas C Greene, 02 Oct 2001