5th > October > 2001 Archive

DVD it in many colours

Zero-Knowledge bags anonymity service

Zero-Knowledge Systems' Freedom Network, an Internet privacy service that many believed would make on-line eavesdropping all but impossible, will cease to exist 22 October, the company announced Thursday. The Montreal-based privacy and security company notified its subscribers of the change in a curt support notice on the Freedom Web site. The company will continue to supply other privacy tools to corporations and consumers, however, including personal firewall and e-wallet software. The sudden suspension may have come as a shock, but not a surprise. Privacy mavens contacted by SecurityFocus said they saw little evidence that Freedom was being used. "I get only a few hits from ZKS, but I get only a few hits from anonymizers of any kind," said John Young, a New York City architect who operates Cryptome, a site dedicated to airing documents that deal with the world intelligence community. "What most of us were concerned about was how long they could keep it up." ZKS co-founder Austin Hill conceded that Freedom never really took off. "This was purely a business decision," Hill said. "Initially we got incredible response for the premium services, but we knew we were dealing with early adopters. But soon we saw the transfer into the mass market just didn't carry over. The subscription rates really plunged." Hill declined to disclose subscriber numbers. ZKS made a huge splash in the world of privacy-aware Netizens when it announced Freedom in 1998. Back then, the Internet was still riding high. High, too, was anxiety over unscrupulous governments and corporations that might monitor Internet users' every click and keystroke. The looming combination of Web cookies, server logs and purchase histories, many feared, would lead to the compilation not just of what people bought, but what they wrote, what they read, and every aspect of their on-line identity. Product had cypherpunk credibility To some, ZKS' Freedom seemed to be the answer. To prevent others from tying tell-tale data left by PCs back to individuals, Freedom used powerful data-scrambling technology to make that data unreadable, and users virtually untraceable. Customers paid about $50.00 per year for the service. Adding to the buzz was ZKS' solid cypherpunk pedigree. Company executives signed up a passel of renowned security experts to design Freedom, including Ian Goldberg, who first won fame by exposing security flaws in the Netscape browser. If people like civil libertarian Goldberg and fellow cryptographer Adam Shostack designed the system, the reasoning went, it had to be good. Special servers that resided on the Internet functioned as privileged gateways for Freedom users. Instead of broadcasting their data to their ISPs and the rest of the world, PCs with the ZKS software installed talked only to Freedom servers through a series of specially encrypted packets. Users could pass their Web traffic through one, two or three separate Freedom servers before landing at the Web site they wanted to browse. When their requests touched down at a target site, the server there saw only that it came from a Freedom user. Because Freedom never left any other information that could be traced to the user, the target Web site had no way of tying, say, a user's numeric IP address to the name he might leave behind on an order form. And since the service encrypted traffic as it passed from the user to Freedom server and back again, would-be eavesdroppers never had a chance to figure out what John Q. Netizen saw on the Web. The Freedom network would even run traffic through two or three such servers if a user feared that cyber spies could somehow correlate their Web requests to activities on a given server. The technology was almost too good to be true, and, some said, too costly to last. "The business was awfully expensive," said Lance Cottrell, president of Anonymizer.com, a Web-based privacy service that has survived in part because it does not go to the same lengths -- extreme lengths, some say -- to protect its users. The Freedom network came with performance costs, in part because it generated many packets that served only to make snooping on subscribers more difficult. The proportion of excess traffic declined as more users signed up, but the system would always use much more bandwidth than the unprotected Internet did. Many users noticed a visible slowing in their Net connections as a result. Too much privacy? Greg Broiles, a lawyer and cryptographer who advises companies on issues of security and e-commerce, said he didn't think there would ever be enough users to justify the expense of the network. "I just don't see how it could work," said Broiles. "It makes it hard to get out of bootstrap mode." The system also required users to operate a separate toolbar. "It was more than what the market wants," Cottrell said. "We're down to the point that you download this teeny little button, and you click it on and you're off. That's it." Observers said the timing of the announcement -- just weeks after terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania -- was sure to generate conspiracy theories about law-enforcement pressure to kill anonymity throughout the world. But even Broiles, a long-time opponent of federal restrictions on privacy technologies, said anyone who needed the extreme privacy protection Freedom offered, probably has many more things to worry about. "I don't imagine there's anyone out there especially interested in knowing which Web pages I have read," said Broiles. "But if I did, I would also worry about whether they had broken into my house and installed an (eavesdropping device) on my machine." "The only people who have to worry about the NSA spending $100,000 to go after them just aren't the people we want as customers," said Anonymizer.com's Cottrell. "That's a pretty scary group." Cryptome's Young wonders how much of a future anonymzing services have left. Although some privacy-aware people like them, others simply choose large, national ISPs on the theory that only a formal criminal investigation will likely divulge what they have been doing. And even then, he adds, using anonymity services poses risks to people whose best defense may be simply to blend in. "Using anonymizers at all raises all sorts of red flags," Young said. "Most of us now are using things other than anonymizers. Staying on the move, not using one system for very long, is what I tell people to do." © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
Will Rodger, 05 Oct 2001

Did Captain Cyborg implant a dog tracking chip?

We've often pondered exactly what the magic chip that Kevin Warwick believes transformed him into a cyborg is. To reiterate, Kev claims the chip implanted in his arm (put under several millimetres of skin for nine days) enabled the doors of his office to open for him, turn his computer on and switch lights on and off. We concluded that it was basically a location device and the real technology came with the door recognising that the device was close to it. Same with the computer, lights etc. We decided the term "reed switch" was more appropriate. Now, however, thanks to vulture-eyed reader Paul Trezise we can finally reveal what it is. It is a pet-tagging chip "implanted" into dogs and cats so you don't lose them. You can buy one at Chippet.com. See here. Kev's on the other hand is viewable on his university's pages here. Both are pictured below. Which just goes to show that man's best friends have been cyborgs long before Kevin. ® Will you PLEASE not email me to tell me the pics above are the wrong way round. Let us assure you it was entirely intentional and is a sort of an homage to UK satirical paper Private Eye which always puts the wrong caption on look-a-likes. See here. If you are wondering how you are supposed to know it was a joke, look at it like this. We at The Register are not completely stupid. Now, the reason the picture is funny is because the two chips are clearly so different. While Kevin Warwick's claims that his chip turned him into a cyborg are rubbish, the chip itself is bound to be a little more complicated that something you put into a dog. And as for the reader that wrote "the implants are clearly not identical, although they are of the same form, rather like an aspirin tablet looks similar to a paracetamol tablet", well, we really don't know what to do. You are officially banned from looking at The Reg until Monday. We shake our head sadly at the rest of you. Related Links The Chippet.com chip Kev's chip
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Oct 2001

Palm, Symbian postpone developer shows

Both Palm and Symbian today announced that their respective annual developer conferences would be postponed until next year, citing travel concerns in the wake of the WTC and Pentagon terror attacks. PalmSource was due to take place in San Jose in three weeks, but Palm said "travel concerns" had obliged the company to postpone the event until later this year or early 2002. Symbian was a little more specific. Its annual developer conference was scheduled for November 6-7 in Barcelona, but the company says it will now be held in Europe after the CeBIT and CTIA shows. ® Related Links Symbian Developer Network PalmSource
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Oct 2001

Gateway US sales fall

Gateway is in the mire. The Pan-US PC maker issued a profit warning yesterday, saying it will lose more money than previously expected in Q3, because of September 11. The attacks have hurt demand, the company says. "We saw a pretty significant impact to our demand in the consumer segment. We saw impact to our demand in the government segment, as well as in the business segment." CEO Ted Waitt said in a conference call. Analysts had expected a loss of 4 cents per share; Gateway says it will now loss 14-17 cents per share. The company is to take a charge in the quarter of $100m-$130m to write down equity investments. Demand has returned to pre-September 11 levels, according to Waitt, who forecasts the company will still make profits, before charges in Q4. Gateway is not alone in pegging a profits warning to Sept 11. Compaq and HP have been caught up in the aftermath too. But not Dell. Yesterday, it too released a trading statement which revealed that it was not re-adjusting its expectations post-September 11. Which means that there has to be plenty of gouging on market share. Gateway to the US Gateway has had an awful time recently, pulling out of Europe and Asia Pacific, although it remains the fourth or fifth biggest PC supplier in the US. The company ends the quarter with $850m+ in the bank, but a few more quarters like the one just passed and there won't be much left in the kitty. The company is certainly much smaller and weaker financially than its main rivals - Dell, HP/Compaq and IBM. And it is less nimble than smaller system builders, supplying the so-called white label market. Gateway's strategy to claw more margin by selling services also fails to convince. Without PCs - made at profit - the company is nothing. ® Related Stories Gateway slashes quarter of staff Gateway pulls out of Ireland and the UK http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/archive/20509.html">Gateway gets hammered in Europe
Drew Cullen, 05 Oct 2001

Compaq recalls fiery laptop adapters

Compaq has issued a recall and replace notice for 1.4m faulty laptop AC power adapters, after five caught fire. No-one was hurt, but it would not do for Compaq to torch its customers. (Very bad for business and for legal costs as anyone who remembers the exploding Ford Pinto will know.) Compaq says it is making the worldwide recall of the potential fire hazard "in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission". The affected laptops were made between 1998 and September 2001. You can find out if your notebook is on the list here. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Oct 2001

MSN UK offers flat-fee service

MSN is to offer flat-fee Net access in the UK for the first time - although the portal and Net services outfit insists it has no intention of attempting to become a major player in the ISP market. After all, it abandoned that strategy ages ago and is now only a serious competitor in a handful of countries such as the US and Japan. Instead, MSN reckons its two new packages will provide a niche service somewhere in between a pay-as-you-go offering and full-on 24/7 unmetered Net access. Both new services come from BT, which already supplies MSN with its pay-as-you-go service, Freeweb, currently used by around 50,000 people. When it's launched later this year, the light users package will cost £4.99 for a maximum of ten hours Net access a month. A second package will cost £8.99 and give users 25 hours a month. If users exceed their monthly limit they will simply be charged 2p a minute on a pay-as-you-go basis. A spokesman for MSN UK said that the outfit would not be spending any money marketing the service other than advertising it on its own portal. "We're not getting back into the ISP business," said the spokesman. "We're not going head to head with AOL or Freeserve." Which makes you wonder why they're bothering to do this at all. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2001

Atlantic Telecom shares suspended

Business telecoms and broadband outfit - Atlantic - has had its shares suspended on the London Stock Exchange "pending clarification of its financial position". It's not known when the company will make a further announcement about its future. Last month the troubled outfit - which has debts of around £200 million - put itself up for sale. At the time the company said that it was talking to a number of interested parties and that any potential purchase would be swift. Last year Atlantic's share price climbed as high as £13. Last night it closed at just 5p. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2001

http:// theregister…

Many of you have expressed irritation at your inability to log on from http://theregister.co.uk/And our complete inability to alter this unhappy state of affairs. We've got our fingers out at last: calling all wwwisk-averse readers... http://theregister.co.uk/. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Oct 2001

Dell keeps the faith

Dell's third quarter financial results are on track. The company projects earnings of 15 to 16 cents per share, on revenue between $7.2 and $7.6 billion. CEO Michael Dell said the company's strategic, operating and financial position "is better than it's ever been". He also says it has benefited from customer confusion regarding the proposed HP/Compaq merger and expects gains in all product categories. The news comes on the back of September 11-related profit warnings from Gateway and Compaq (on Monday), helping to pick up some other tech stocks on the market. Cisco also announced this week that it was on track to meet profit expectations, giving ailing investors something to smile about. Dell's share rose ten per cent yesterday on the news. ® Related Story Gateway US sales fall Related Links Dell Reaffirms Guidance for Third-Quarter Revenue, Earnings
James Watson, 05 Oct 2001

Energis exits local loop debacle

Energis has pulled out of Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) in a move that has further dented the Government's vision of a genuinely competitive "Broadband Britain". The telco blamed the decision on the high cost of LLU and BT's massive head start for its decision, although it did say that would continue to review its position. Energis' decision effectively leaves LLU dead in the water. Only EasyNet, FibreNet and Kingston Telecommunications remain active in LLU - a far cry from last year when 40 operators were involved in opening up BT's network to competition. A spokeswoman for Energis told The Register: "The fixed costs associated with providing DSL, combined with BT's first mover advantage in the market, mean that Energis considers that any future development of services via LLU will be limited to areas of high demand." "For the rest of the country BT will be the only DSL provider," she said. Last month telecoms regulator David Edmonds admitted that LLU had "not been a success". He said: "There is no doubt that the actual practicality of that has been a painful and often miserable process. There is no doubt that in carrying through the strict requirements on them, BT didn't behave in a way that I believed showed that they really wanted to unbundle the local loop to let their competitors into the network. At every stage we've had arguments and we've had disputes." This is at odds with what BT Chief Exec Sir Peter Bonfield said earlier this week. Addressing the Royal Academy of Engineering he said: "Local loop unbundling has dominated the [broadband] debate, when it is a relatively minor aspect of the process - and one that BT wants to encourage, not discourage." So far, fewer than 200 of the 33 million BT phone lines in Britain have been unbundled. ® Related Stories BT urges reasoned debate on broadband Oftel's Edmonds says LLU 'not been a success'
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2001

Price war exacts AMD toll

AMD warns that its third quarter loss will be far larger than previously projected, due to weaker than expected sales. The new figure is expected to be between $90 and $110 million (excluding restructuring and one-time charges, which will add about $80-110 million to the bill). The profit warning comes at a time when the company is selling a record number of CPUs: more than 7.7 million in the quarter. It says falling prices, as a result of its price war with Intel, have bought about the increase in projected losses. Sales for the quarter dropped 22 per cent (instead of the anticipated 15 per cent). Revenues declined from $1.2bn to $766m, dropping below even the revised analyst expectations of $824.7m. It also says that sales of its flash memory fell about $100m from the previous quarter. This year, it has lost IBM in North America and Europe, Gateway, Tiny and most of Micron as customers, adding to its woes. Related Stories AMD shuts fabs, fires 2,300 Lower estimates for AMD and Intel after US tragedy Related Links AMD Sees Sales Fall More Than Expected
James Watson, 05 Oct 2001

Beenz.com sold in multi-million dollar deal

Beenz.com, the defunct online loyalty currency, is funct again. The company has been acquired by US-based marketing services agency, Carlson Marketing Group. The exact financial details were not revealed other than it was a "multi-million dollar" deal. Once finalised, Carlson will acquire beenz.com lock, stock and barrel including the hardware and software assets, the beenz brand and all of the company's intellectual property assets including its patents. Carlson said it was already developing new customer loyalty concepts using the beenz technology and patents. Can't wait. Beenz.com amassed more than five million registered accounts during its short 18-month life. It managed to raise $80 million in funding and at its height it employed some 260 people. When the operation finally went titsup.com in August it employed just nine people. At this stage it's not known if they will absorbed into the Carlson Group or told to sling their hook. ® Related Story Beenz is dead: official
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2001

Government cock-up over online PIN numbers

The Government may have sent out hundreds of activation PIN numbers for its online gateway to the wrong addresses. Reg reader Ed Hoppitt was very surprised when he received a letter from UK Online at his single detached house in Suffolk addressed to a Mr GJ Worthington and containing an activation number for the government gateway at www.gateway.gov.uk. The Government Gateway is the entry point for citizens to all online government services, including the Inland Revenue. Services available once logged in include access to tax and VAT returns, enrolment to government schemes and the ability to send official forms to government agencies. The letter informs Mr Worthington: "You must keep your User ID safe and not share it with anyone." Mr Hoppitt told us that he hasn't registered with UK Online and knows of no one called GJ Worthington. When he called an enclosed helpline number, the operator asked him to open the shaded paper which protects the PIN and read it to her. She then confirmed that the computer system had Mr Worthington down as living at Mr Hoppitt's address. A government spokeswoman refused to speculate on whether more PINs may have gone to the wrong addresses. "We are looking into the matter as we speak," she told us. It was the first UK Online had heard of a PIN going to the wrong address. However, the government remains unconcerned over any security breach. "We are confident that security has not been compromised," we were told. "You still need a password - which wasn't in the letter - to get into the system." The PIN number itself will expire in 14 days and presumably some time after that Mr Worthington will get in touch with UK Online to ask where the hell his letter is. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Oct 2001

Finnish city plans switch from Windows to Linux

Finnish local government is leaning away from Windows and towards Linux, according to Helsingin Sanomat, the country's largest newspaper. The city of Turku, population around 200,000, has reacted to Microsoft's latest licensing changes by kicking off a study of Linux alternatives. And, according to the paper, other Finnish cities are watching developments with interest. There are of course other reasons why Finland of all countries ought to be supporting the local boy made good, but in this case cash is the driver. Turku estimates its Windows costs are set to rise by €1 million, or by €2 million if hardware and training costs are included. Given the prodigious hardware requirements of Microsoft's latest generation of software, in many cases (particularly in cash-strapped areas like local government) the biggest part of the upgrade cost will be hardware. If Turku does switch, it'll be moving 3-5,000 computers over to Linux and replacing Microsoft Office with OpenOffice. City director of computer operations Heikki Kunnas commented that he felt compatibility was no longer an issue for local government, and pointed to Finnish Customs' use of OpenOffice as evidence that switching away from Windows was feasible. ®
John Lettice, 05 Oct 2001

NatWest replies to browser banking debacle

NatWest has got back to us over its decision to prevent access to its online banking service for the latest version of Navigator, Mozilla and Opera over security concerns. An official statement read: "NatWest takes the issue of Internet security extremely seriously. Therefore, our policy is only to add browsers to our approved list for use with NWOLB (NatWest OnLine Banking) once we have fully tested compatibility ourselves. "Our approved list offers users the flexibility of using Internet Explorer (IE) version 4.0 with service pack 2 to 6.0, and also the Netscape Navigator versions 4.1 to 4.75. The assertion in your recent article that NWOLB can only be accessed by IE browsers is not therefore accurate. "These system requirements are clearly stated when customers apply for the NatWest OnLine Banking Service. "We are still in the process of testing Netscape Navigator 4.76, 4.77 and 6 to ensure full compatibility with our service, however we are not suggesting in any way that these browser systems are not secure." So there you have it. We have been privately assured that NatWest is keen to get the site working with Mozilla. Apparently the security concern with Navigator is thanks to Password Manager remembering passwords - something there is now a fix for. However customers that don't want to use Explorer to access the site are having to downgrade to Netscape 4.75. There do remain some concerns however and sadly they revolve around the bank's apparent love affair with Microsoft. First of all, it is running on IIS4.0 - the Swiss cheese of servers - which last week Gartner advised companies to steer away from because of endemic security problems. The browser conflicts appear to be arise from NatWest's shift from running a Java applet to using Microsoft ASP pages (basically Web pages but with Microsoft server-side script in them). And would you believe it, but this appears to conflict with Navigator but not with Explorer. ® Related Story NatWest declares war on Internet
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Oct 2001

WinXP activation harmless, cuddly, says MS chief. Again.

Microsoft Windows Product Activation chief Allen Nieman was in London this morning for city number five on his tour of Europe, evangelising his baby. WPA is simple, unobtrusive, doesn't invade your privacy, almost cuddly and much misunderstood, apparently. Nieman's been telling everybody precisely this ever since WPA appeared in the WinXP beta programme, so the point of him coming to London to tell us all again wasn't entirely clear. And The Register disagrees about it being misunderstood - the problem for Microsoft is that people do understand it, but just plain don't like it. So really, it's Microsoft that's doing the misunderstanding. But on this trip he came up with several useful facts, concessions or possibly hostages to fortune. Microsoft has already climbed down a fair bit on WPA. Yes, if you change your hardware too much after activating XP then you'll have to call up to reactivate, but the number of pieces of hardware you need to change to trigger this is now six, and the change counter resets every 120 days. So you can, if you want to and you are a dishonest person, install WinXP on a new machine every 120 days. There will be no quibbles about this, says Nieman, with a sigh almost creeping into his voice. Microsoft's anti-piracy campaigning could be more successful "if it had a negative effect on the user, but we're going to err on the side of the user." And if you've got one of the OEM pre-activated versions of XP, then you can change practically anything you like on the machine, as here WPA only takes account of the bios - so you'd have to change motherboard and bios manufacturer in order to trigger a reactivate. If these terms and conditions weren't liberal enough for you, Allen has more. The people on the other end of the phone when you have to call up to reactivate are going to be positive pussycats. Honest. What happens if you uninstall XP, throw away your old machine and install on a new one? What happens if you uninstall and sell it to somebody else - how do they activate? "If you phone and say you sold the product, you're going to tell me and I'm going to assume you're telling the truth." Allen didn't specificy how many times the call centre people were going to assume a particular individual was telling the truth, or indeed whether particularly flimsy stories (Martians kidnapped my Dell, this is the sixth time I've been burgled just this morning) would eventually trip the wire, but it really did sound like he meant these people would be pre-programmed to believe and accept absolutely anything. We'll see. Nor does he see activation for a product ever expiring. He sees the phone systems still working for "seven to ten years" after the product's first out, or possibly a turn-off patch going out when Microsoft finally got bored of keeping them running. We might even get an unactivate routine (so you can move machines) in a service pack. The only nasty bit was that he wouldn't rule out Microsoft bombing compromised codes in service packs (it's done this at least once with Office). "If you use pirate software, you do so at your own risk," he says. But that's as sinister as it gets. And on top of all this virtually complete lack of pain, aggravation and invasion of privacy, you have to bear in mind that 80 per cent of people will get their software preactivated, or via one of the corporate licence programmes where they don't have to activate, so it's really only a very small number of people who're barely going to be troubled at all by it. So Allen, what's the point? Why has Microsoft put itself through all the grief of being misunderstood, having techies raging at it, being on the receiving end of paranoid privacy rants? Especially when WPA won't have the slightest effect in stopping professional pirates and the warez crowd. Allen concedes that escaped OEM versions (like the Dell one that was out immediately after XP RTMed) "will certainly become the pirate media of choice," but disputes that WPA is pointless, and will have no effect on copying. He cites the results of the Australian pilot of WPA for Office 2000, saying licence sales there did go up, and also says that Microsoft research data showed that users weren't particularly inconvenienced by WPA. But he doesn't seem to consider the possibility that Microsoft may have been measuring the wrong things, or consulting the wrong people, possibly at the wrong time. Microsoft UK's very own anti-piracy chief Julia "Auntie" Phillpot reckons illegal copying of Office is rife in small business, and unusually, we agree with her. Activating product is not going to be a problem for these people, but buying it is. There's quite a difference between running Microsoft applications software and only paying for, say, 20 per cent of it and having to stump up for the full 100 per cent, especially when you'll probably end up having to stump up full price for the latest version. Businesses who've bumbled along casually copying and have therefore stuck with Microsoft software quite frequently won't have the budget for going legit at Microsoft prices, so they'll be inclined to take a look at cheaper or free alternatives. They won't in general go warez, because that would be stealing, and they don't tend to think of casual copying as stealing - more, sort of, borrowing. Microsoft might see some slight increase in licence sales for Office through WPA, but it could also find it's inadvertently given Sun and Corel a leg-up. ® Related Stories: MS starting to retreat on WinXP product activation MS opens up on Whistler copy protection
John Lettice, 05 Oct 2001

Irish punters call for Net boycott

Irish Internet users are threatening a one-day Internet blackout by means of registering their frustration with incumbent telco Eircom. Eircom recently released a broadband service - it costs IR£61 a month, £166 to install, has a 3Gb per month limit on it and is available only in certain parts of the country. A group of punters, called Ireland Offline, is trying to organise a one-day "blackout" in which no one uses the Internet. We suggest that writing to the Irish government or the telco watchdog ODTR (Office of the Director of Telecommuncations Regulation)would have more effect. Still, each to their own. If you want to know more check out the newsgroup at www.irelandoffline.net or lobby group Ireland Offline.com. ® Related Stories DSL roll-out delayed in Ireland Ireland gets ADSL Net users demand 'affordable' access in Ireland
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Oct 2001

Digital right lobbyists picket UK record stores

The Campaign for Digital Rights (CDR) is planning a "day of action" tomorrow against record stores all over the country to complain about copy-protected CDs. Protestors plan to hand out leaflets against the technology outside HMV and Virgin stores in Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Newcastle and Rugby. The message apparently is: "The paying public are not your guinea pigs." Copy-protected CDs are basically the music industry's way of protecting its status quo. Technological advances have made data transmission and manipulation very cheap and fast, with knock-on effects on the music industry's level of control. But rather than come up with a new, expansive way of looking at the dissemination of music in society, the music industry has opted for enforced control mechanisms. Copy protection comes in various forms for CDs (often to the detriment of the quality of the "listening experience"). It will prevent the CDs being played on certain devices, such as CD-ROM drive, or ripped to be sent over the Internet or played before 9pm if it contains rude words (we made that last one up). As soon as a new system is introduced someone finds a way of breaking it, but everytime the sound quality gets worse. Which is a bad thing. A press release from CDR says: "If the record industries want to experiment with copy protection, let them do so in their laboratories, and not at the expense of the general public. And if they want to sell these CDs, let them make the warning labels prominent and truthful." The campaign is building a database of CD titles and equipment which include copyright protection while it will then make publicly available - something that the music industry doesn't seem keen on doing itself. There is loads of information on the protests here. Loads on different copyright systems here. Or just go to the main site here. ® Related Link Campaign for Digital Rights Related Stories Anti-rip CD system bypassed CD anti-piracy system can nuke hi-fi kit
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Oct 2001

Sun Micro Cuts 3,800 Jobs

Sun Microsystems became the latest company to add to the economic gloom by cutting 9 per cent of its 42,000 staff, an unprecedented number in the company's history. As a result of the job cuts and a reduction in facilities capacity, Sun will take a $500m charge this quarter. The company stressed it has $6 billion in the bank, and blamed lower demand, rather than competition:- "Outside of us competing with IBM, competition has got weaker if anything," COO Ed Zander said. Low-end servers will be launched at the end of the month - Daktari and Cherrystone 4-way and 8-ways, in other words - and a big storage revamp was due in early December, he said. Until this year, Sun last suffered an unprofitable quarter in 1989. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Oct 2001

Uninterruptible power to the PC

A company has come up with a radical new concept for making "an old PC an object of consumers' interest"... by banging a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) underneath the PC box. This saves a "lot of space and reduces or even totally removes cable connections" and is designed by a compny called Atelab, whose Web site reveals scant details about the company's location, prior successes or telephonic contact details. With the UPS+ box concept, for which Atelab provides pictures in case you're confused about how it may work, the copany appears craftily re-engineered a UPS to clip onto the bottom of the main PC unit. Email the company, if you are interested in investing in this concept. Other exciting developments from this research pioneer include a modular lighting system which promises glare-free lighting (currently available for licensing). ® Related Links Atelab's Web-site
James Watson, 05 Oct 2001

Microsoft plans Java counterpunch for .NET

We're receiving credible reports that Microsoft will shortly unveil Java language support to .NET, alongside its home-brewed Java clone C#, and VB, in a project that goes under the internal name of "Java.NET". Sun and Microsoft have been sparring over Java for several years. Microsoft's foray signals a shift in its approach to the Java community, but risks re-opening a fresh round of litigation. Right now, Microsoft currently offers its Jump tools to encourage developers to migrate from Java to C#. But the Java language appears to have a fairly unstoppable momentum, and is predicted to set to surpass C++ in popularity: so it's become a constituency Microsoft can't afford to ignore. The Beast's ultimate goal is to get its .NET platform adopted, so welcoming Java developers into the camp simply makes good business sense. It runs the risk of devaluing its C# proposition, but in the greater scheme of things losing a language is a small sacrifice on the road to gaining the dominant enterprise developer platform. Which would you rather have? However, Sun is likely to view any Microsoft Java with deep suspicion. Or more precisely, a battery of deeply suspicious and well heeled attorneys. Microsoft has long been rumoured to be working on a clean room version of Java, which would allow the Beast to market compatible implementations in all but name. And the name's the very rub: Sun tolerates clones, so long as they don't actually brand themselves as "Java": Sun controls the test suite and to achieve the Java-compatible logo, submitters need to pass some pretty hairy tests. .NET developers can already use a third-party Java interface from Halcyon Software, who are beta testing a Java compiler JIL, and a bi-directional Java/.NET bridge called JROM. Microsoft's implementation integrates Java into Visual Studio, we're told. It's expected to be unveiled in November. We'd expect a few fireworks from Sun first though. Any developers already seeded with working copies of Visual Studio incorporating "Java.NET" are very welcome to share their findings with us. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Oct 2001