12th > October > 2001 Archive

Network Associates puts PGP up for sale

Network Associates plans to sell off its PGP desktop encryption and Gauntlet firewall product lines. It's a surprise move that reflects weakness in the encryption market that has hit other major players, such as Baltimore Technologies. Up until Network Associates can find a buyer, development will cease on those products (though support will continue) while the rest of the PGP Security products and technologies will be integrated into the firm's McAfee and Sniffer product lines. PGP VPN, PGPfire (Distributed Firewall) for corporate users, and the PGP E-Business Server will be branded and sold as McAfee products. The CyberCop vulnerability assessment tool will continue to be available as a stand-alone product, but will also be integrated into the Sniffer range of network diagnostic tools. Network Associates hopes the restructuring, for which it will take a charge of between $9 million and $11 million in its fourth quarter, will help it save $50 million next calendar year. We've asked Network Associates how many jobs will be lost in the restructuring, as it remains unclear. However a posting on Slashdot claims between 250 and 300 people will go. The news of the Network Associates intention to offload two of its best known products came as it announced third quarter consolidated net revenues of $209 million and a net loss of $11.3 million. The firm expects its consolidated net revenue for next quarter, which includes income from its (majority owned) McAfee.com ASP subsidiary, to be between $217 million and $232 million. ® External Links Networks Associates (confusing) statement on its finances and changes in branding PGP security customer FAQ Related Stories Virus plague fails to stem losses at Network Associates Investors mis-interpret McAfee/MS .NET deal McAfee.com sitting pretty after viral outbreaks NAI belatedly joins OpenPGP Alliance Baltimore appoints new chief as revenues decline
John Leyden, 12 Oct 2001
DVD it in many colours

Security fears hit unbundling progress

BT is to oppose plans to give rival telcos free access to its exchanges claiming the measures are a security risk. Telecoms regulator, Oftel, has published proposals that could allow operators to cut significantly the costs involved in local loop unbundling (LLU) by installing their kit in operational parts of BT's exchanges. However, BT believes the proposals are a recipe for disaster and is strenuously opposed to the idea. It seems BT is worried about vandalism - intentional or not - and the damage that could be done to other operators' equipment. The monster telco fears that wires could be disconnected or equipment damaged - either deliberately or accidentally - leaving customers without a service. "Anything could happen," explained a BT spokeswoman. "You cannot just have anybody working around an exchange. "These are genuine security concerns and we will raise them with Oftel," she said. However, BT's fears of industrial sabotage are unwarranted, claims Oftel. A spokesman for the winged watchdog agreed that security was an issue but argued that BT uses outside contractors in its exchanges and that this would be no different. In a statement, David Edmonds, head of Oftel, said: "Oftel accepts that security is vital and is seeking the views of the industry on proposals that, subject to security safeguards, approved contractors and other operators' staff can have unescorted access in exchanges." ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Oct 2001

Pain in the RSA

RSA Security, best known best known for its SecurID key-token authentication products, has announced plans to lay off up to 215 people after it reported losses on declining sales. Revenue for RSA's third quarter was $62.6 million, compared to $72.0 million for the same quarter last year. The firm made a net loss of $15.5 million compared to net income of $40.0 million for the third quarter of 2000. Operating losses this time around came in at $5.4 million. After the disappointing results, RSA has announced a radical restructuring and cost saving program to cope with declining sales. Up to 15 per cent of RSA's 1,430 workers (or 215 people) face a pink slip and remaining US workers will have their pay cut by 10 per cent. The firm has also taken an axe to its discretionary spending program. RSA also announced an immediate moratorium on any further investments in the RSA Ventures fund, and plans to wind down its RSA Capital segment which will see its New and Emerging Security Technologies group brought back into its core business. The firm expects to take a charge of approximately $10 to $11 million in its fourth quarter to cover employee severance and other costs in connection with its restructuring. "The weakening global economy and the aftermath of September 11th had a dramatic impact on our results," said Art Coviello, chief executive and president of RSA Security. "Whether the current economic conditions persist for an additional quarter or more, we believe we are taking the steps necessary to navigate through these difficult times and position our company to grow when the economy begins to rebound." RSA expects to make revenues of between $63 to $65 million in its fourth quarter which it expects will result in a loss of between $(0.15) to $(0.17) per share. This translates to a net loss of between $8.3 million to $9.4 million, based on the same number of shares in circulation then. However it expects to return to profit next year with revenues of between $285 to $295 million in 2002. Net income per share will come in at between $0.09 to $0.19 per share in 2002, RSA estimates. ® External Links RSA's Q3 results Related Stories RSA takes a long-term risk on safety Network Associates puts PGP up for sale Baltimore appoints new chief as revenues decline RSA poses $200,000 crypto challenge Internet security firm RSA's Web site hacked Secure the Wireless Network firmware
John Leyden, 12 Oct 2001

Intel's Server Roadmap

UpdatedUpdated You might think that Intel's server processor release schedule would be settling down a little after the problems the company has had over the last quarter or so with late shipments of Pentium III Xeons and the delays to Foster, the 0.18 micron Pentium 4-derived Xeon processor. And indeed Intel's latest roadmap does show the company firming up its roll-out of 0.13 micron Xeon processors, largely in harmony with their desktop equivalents. It also puts in place a solid release schedule for high-density blade server systems, all based around its 0.13 micron Tualatin-based Pentium III-S processors. Incidentally, Intel appears to be phasing out the 'Pentium III Xeon' brand in favour of 'Pentium III-S', the name it introduced when it debut the first Tualatin (0.13 micron) server PIIIs. Yet is also refers to the parts as plain old 'Pentium III' and even 'Tualatin'. But there are delays. The 0.13 micron four- and eight-way Xeon chip, codenamed Gallatin, has been put back three months to Q4 2002, undoubtedly because of the delay to its 0.18 micron predecessor, Foster, which instead of shipping last quarter will now appear early next year. Prices for the 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6GHz multi-way Xeons will be $1177, $1980 and $3692, respectively. AMD-style, they will be branded as Xeon MP processors. Prices for other parts, where we have them, are listed in the roadmap. In the IA-64 world, McKinley's commercial release appears to have been put back from May 2002 to June 2002, but given Intel's fluid approach to Itanium releases, with initial pilot programmes and later full-scale roll-outs, that's not entirely surprising. Nor is the arrival of Madison, the successor to McKinley, which will now take place early 2003 rather than Q4 2002. New specs. are listed: Madison will have a massive 6MB of on-die L3 cache, and Madison will debut at 1GHz. New introductions include the Plumas 533 chipset, which extends Plumas' 400MHz frontside bus support to 533MHz. Intel will also release the Plumas LE, designed to take the chipset into more price-conscious markets. And Intel will offer Granite Bay, a new chipset for workstations, in Q3. That's about the same time as it will release Tehama-E, its next-generation Rambus-based chipset for the desktop market, so we should perhaps expect Granite Bay to be a souped up version of that part. ® Q4 2001 ·Itanium - 0.18 micron McKinley - 1.5-3MB on-die L3, 400MHz FSB (pilot programme) ·700MHz Pentium III-S - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 512KB L2, 100MHz FSB, 1.1V core (uni-processor thin, low-power servers) ·Chipsets: i870, Enabled January 2002 ·1.4, 1.5GHz Xeon MP - 0.18 micron Foster - 512KB on-die L3 (multi-processor systems) $1177, $1980 ·1.6GHz Xeon MP - 0.18 micron Foster - 1MB on-die L3 (multi-processor systems) $3692 February 2002 ·800MHz Low-Voltage Pentium III-S - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 512KB on-die L2, 133MHz FSB (blade systems) ·800MHz Ultra-low Voltage Pentium III-S - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 512KB on-die L2, 133MHz FSB (blade systems) March 2002 ·2.2GHz Xeon - 0.13 micron Prestonia - 512KB on-die L2, 400MHz FSB (workstation, dual-processor systems, low-power rack servers) $669 ·Chipset: Plumas - DDR + Infiniband support Q1 2002 ·1.4GHz Pentium III Xeon - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 512KB on-die L2, 133MHz FSB (dual-processor, blade systems) $320 June 2002 ·1GHz Itanium - 0.18 micron McKinley - 1.5-3MB on-die L3, 400MHz FSB (dual- and multi-processor systems) released as commercial product following pilot programme Q2 2002 ·2.4GHz Xeon - 0.13 micron Prestonia - 512KB on-die L2, 400MHz FSB (workstation, dual-processor systems) Q3 2002 ·2.53GHz Xeon - 0.13 micron Prestonia - 512KB on-die L2, 533MHz FSB (workstation, dual-processor systems) ·Chipset: Plumas 533 (1U, 2U dual-processor systems) ·Chipset: Granite Bay (workstations) ·1.53GHz Pentium III Xeon - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 512KB on-die L2, 133MHz FSB (blade systems) ·933MHz Low-Voltage Pentium III-S - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 512KB on-die L2, 133MHz FSB (blade systems) ·900MHz Ultra-low Voltage Pentium III-S - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 512KB on-die L2, 133MHz FSB (blade systems) September 2002 ·Chipset: Plumas LE (1U dual-processor systems) Q4 2002 ·2.4GHz+ Xeon - 0.13 micron Prestonia - 512KB on-die L2, 400MHz FSB (workstation, dual-processor systems) ·2.53GHz+ Xeon - 0.13 micron Prestonia - 512KB on-die L2, 533MHz FSB (workstation, dual-processor systems) ·1.6GHz+ Xeon MP - 0.13 micron Gallatin - 1-2MB on-die L3 (multi-processor systems) Q1 2003 ·Itanium - 0.13 micron Madison - 6MB on-die L3 (workstations, dual- and multi-processor servers) ·Itanium - 0.13 micron Deerfield - 3-6MB on-die L3 (rack servers)
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2001

Doubleclick in the Q3 dumps

Doubleclick is cutting jobs to slash costs, and expects to make a smaller Q4 loss than expected. But it will still miss its forecasts. As for Q3, it has reported an operating loss of $12.6 million, compared with a profit of $3.7 million for the period a year earlier. Sales fell 31 per cent to $92.7 million. Chief Exec Kevin Ryan predicts the company could be profitable in 2002, with help from stringent cost-cutting. He said the company has cut about 700 jobs this year and is likely to slash another 100 this quarter to make up for declining advertising sales. ® Related Stories Doubleclick fails in California privacy challenge We really do love Doubleclick because...
Robert Blincoe, 12 Oct 2001

Resellers confirm PowerBook G4 shortage, update

Suggestions that Apple is planning to launch new portable Macs in the very near future - as we reported yesterday - are gaining credibility thanks to numerous reports coming in from UK and US Mac resellers. One of The Register's Apple sources yesterday told us that the company intends to upgrade its Titanium PowerBook G4 line within a matter of weeks, primarily by using the new PowerPC 7440 processor to up the two machines' 400MHz and 500MHz clock speeds to 600MHz and 700MHz, respectively. UK reseller sources gave us tacit confirmation of that claim by noting that Apple's UK distributors currently have no PowerBook G4s in stock. And we now hear that the situation applies to iBooks too, suggesting an upgrade to this line too. One reseller told us: "My wholesaler has none and a cryptic message to them from Apple yesterday was, 'Don't hold your breath waiting for them'. My contact at the wholesaler say the last time they received a message like that was shortly before the arrival of a new model." We also understand that major retail outlets, including John Lewis and PC World, are out of iBooks and PowerBooks - and don't expect to stock existing models any time soon. Our sources have some notes of caution: first, that distributors running out of stock isn't unusual, and second, that supply problems could have resulted from the effects of the recent Taiwanese typhoon on Apple's Far Eastern supply chain or to components used in portable construction, such as LCD panels. Such factors may simply have served to delay the new models' introduction, however. In the US, Web site Think Secret's reseller sources are confirming that Apple is indeed about to introduce three new iBooks and two new PowerBooks. "A reseller we spoke with for the above article says that he will probably begin to receive the new units next week, implying that the announcement will be at that time or sometime beforehand," says the site. The timing ties in well with what our Apple source has told us. ® Related Story Apple preps 600MHz, 700MHz PowerBook update Related Link Think Secret: New PowerBooks and iBooks in Pipeline, Resellers Say
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2001

Juniper buried in telco gloom

Juniper Networks, Cisco's main rival in the high-end router market, remains in the red with its latest financial results. The slowdown in spending by debt-laden telcos is continuing to hit networking firms. Net revenues for Juniper's third quarter were $201.7 million, compared with almost the same figure $201.2 million for the same period last year. Actual net loss for the third quarter was $12.1 million, compared to net income of $58.1 million in the third quarter of 2000. Recent statements by Cisco's chief executive, John Chambers, that its revenues are in line with market expectations have boosted confidence in part of the networking sector, which has been damaged by the failure of a number of US telcos. The slowdown in the IT market in general has simply piled on misery for the likes of Cisco and Juniper. ® External Links Juniper's results Related Stories Juniper makes Q2 loss, but says Q3 and Q4 revenues won't slide Juniper sales soar Cisco misrepresents test results
John Leyden, 12 Oct 2001

Bonfield to leave BT early?

Sir Peter Bonfield is to quit as chief exec of BT before his contract ends in December 2002, the FT has reported this morning. Which is along the same lines as announcing that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. But since the FT has gone to the trouble of sticking it at the top of its Companies & Markets section and listed three of its journalists as the story's writers - including a further two for "additional reporting" - it looks like the paper has gone with it out of overriding commonsense.* The story claims Pete, 57, is likely to go in the middle of next year "according to people close to the issue". The logic, which is faultless, is that Pete will leave after BT has finished its restructure and everything has settled. If you remember, Sir Bonfield was kept on after chairman Sir Iain Vallance was kicked out (following FD Robert Brace). There was an almighty battle at the time (April) between Vallance and Bonfield over who would go and Bonfield won. His contract was extended by new chairman Sir Christopher Bland for 12 months and he was offered an £820,000 bonus if he stayed til the end of it to oversee the restructure. Well, BT Wireless is close to flotation, the company has ruled out demerging the retail and network businesses and it looks as though BT has finally sorted out its problems with Concert, so what's the point of keeping Sir Peter around when BT is now a very different beast? We're sure the bonus can also be carefully managed to turn into a restructure bonus as opposed to an end-of-term bonus. Bland was right to keep Bonfield on, especially since BT looked so uneasy at the time. The extended contract and mass denials of his leaving gave it some stability. Plus of course there was no heir apparent. That's all changed and the next chief exec of BT is going to have to lead it forward as opposed to hang on its glorious past and Sir Pete is definitely not the man for that job. So step forward Pierre Danon, who is a breath of fresh air at BT and has a healthy obsession with customer service - exactly what BT needs to focus on as it turns from the guardian of a telecoms network to a services company. When Pete finally does go, we've already promised we'll be outside BT's headquarters with a ghetto blaster playing Hanging on the Telephone. ® * In fact, we called BT just last week to ask about rumours Bonfield would be leaving early. That was "very doubtful" a spokeswoman told us. Related Stories 'I'm not a quitter and I love my critics' - BT's Bonfield Vallance quits BT Farewell Sir Iain Vallance! BT finance director quits
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Oct 2001

Intel's Small Form-factor Desktop Roadmap

Intel's latest desktop processor release schedule includes a new category: small form-factor machines. Some industry analysts have been banging on about how these slimline desktops will soon come to dominate corporate PC purchasing, and it appears Intel is beginning to take note. It all sounds a bit too much like previous fads for ergonomically designed computers and, later, thin-client systems to us, but clearly there must be something to it or Intel wouldn't be sniffing around the (potential) market. Come to think of it, a move by Intel to satisfy the demands of such a business ties in nicely with its keenness to drive the adoption of legacy-free PC designs. Interestingly, Intel doesn't see the market as a corporate-only affair, since it has mapped out a release programme for small form-factor PC-oriented Celeron processors too. Both the Value (Celeron) and Mainstream (Pentium 4) segments lag a step or so behind their equivalents in Intel's main desktop roadmap. That said, the roadmap includes a 2.3GHz Pentium 4, which isn't listed on the desktop roadmap. The chips will use the '-P' suffix to indicate their aimed at the small form-factor market, eg. Pentium 4-P. Q1's processors will be launched very early next year - before 27 January 2002, in fact, since on that date, the 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz parts' prices will cut in line with the other price adjustments Intel is scheduled to make on that day. We've listed the launch prices in the roadmap; the 1.6GHz chip will fall to $189 and the 1.6GHz chip will fall to $268 on 27 January. Q1 2002 1.6, 1.8, 2.0GHz Pentium 4-P - 0.13 micron Northwood - 512KB on-die L2, 400MHz FSB $225, $289, $476 1.33GHz Pentium III-P - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 128KB L2, 133MHz FSB - 30W power consumption $257 1.2, 1.3GHz Celeron - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 128KB L2, 100MHz FSB 1.0, 1.1GHz Celeron - 0.18 micron - 100MHz FSB Q2 2002 1.8, 2.0, 2.2GHz Pentium 4 - 0.13 micron Northwood - 512KB on-die L2, 400MHz FSB 1.40GHz Pentium III - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 128KB L2, 133MHz FSB 1.2, 1.3, 1.4GHz Celeron - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 128KB L2, 100MHz FSB Q3 2002 2.0, 2.2, 2.3GHz Pentium 4 - 0.13 micron Northwood - 512KB on-die L2, 400MHz FSB 1.3, 1.4, 1.5GHz Celeron - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 128KB L2, 100MHz FSB Q4 2002 2.3GHz+ Pentium 4 - 0.13 micron Northwood - 512KB on-die L2, 400MHz FSB 2.2, 2.3GHz Pentium 4 - 0.13 micron Northwood - 512KB on-die L2, 400MHz FSB 1.5GHz+ Celeron - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 128KB L2, 100MHz FSB 1.4, 1.5GHz Celeron - 0.13 micron Tualatin - 128KB L2, 100MHz FSB In future, we'll wrap changes to Intel's small form-factor desktop processor roadmap into our main desktop release schedule. ® Related Stories Intel's Desktop Roadmap Intel's Mobile Roadmap Intel's Server Roadmap
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2001

$200m WinXP media assault begins

Microsoft will kick off a $200 million marketing campaign on Monday 15 October to build consumer awareness of Windows XP. A decent slice of this is likely to be in the currency of channel promotion 'fluffybucks'. As our own John Lettice pointed out here, in the marketing spend minefield the only thing clear is that nothing's clear - marketing spend tends to be fuzzed into development costs, so huge amounts of fluffybucks can pop up in wild marketing claims covering several departments. But back to channel promotion, although today was supposed to be the first day that ads highlighting Windows XP were allowed to be run by system builders, a number of companies broke ranks and ran promotions on XP soon after it was shipped to OEMs about three weeks ago. No notable advertisements were to be seen in the main papers today, other than ones that have been seen previously from the main local system assemblers. Toys 'R Us, Staples, PC World and typically MS-friendly Dell actually ran promotions on machines running Windows Me in various papers. Tiny, Time and Evesham all ran ads on Win XP-based machines, but didn't make an enormous fuss of the OS. The MS deal was you could sell XP loaded PCs but not make a song and dance about it, until today. It is doubtful that the software monolith will reprimand any of the companies for prior ads, especially as some analysts believe it should have started promoting the software heavily as soon as it became available. The Seattle Times today quoted a Giga Information Group analyst as saying, "They should have rolled the campaign early and got as much pre-sell on the product as they possibly could." In Bloomberg, the same analyst was quoted as saying, "The slowness of the ad campaign is a major strategic mistake." Microsoft's group product manager for Windows countered that the company did an early push on Windows '98, which got people into stores; but they were then turned away because it hadn't shipped yet. Madonna's 'Ray of Light' will be the theme tune this time around and we can expect to hear the song belting out from the television ads, which should hit screens come Monday. The ads will feature the same grassy hill / blue sky that can be seen on the background of new Windows XP installations. The Beast's lead agency, McCann-Erikson, had to rush to redraft the initial theme of "Prepare to Fly" following the 11 September WTC tragedy. The new line is "Yes You Can" and focuses on the communications and media-manipulation features of the OS, such as Windows Messenger and Media Player. The campaign is expected to last for about four months. ® Related Stories MS to blow imaginary $1bn on hyping WinXP to stardom
James Watson, 12 Oct 2001

CA cans 900 workers

Computer Associates, the world's fourth largest software maker, will lay off 900 people, five per cent of its total staff. President and CEO Sanjay Kumar said the company has changed its focus over the past twelve months towards security, storage and enterprise management, resulting in a need for different skills. It will also crop people whose performance are not up to scratch, he told the FT. The axe will fall most heavily on mid- to upper-management and the cuts are effective immediately, he added. El Reg wonders how many fall into the "bad performers" slot. This culling business ain't cheap, with the company spending $20 million to effect the changes, or a neat $22,222 (and some change) per person. ® Related Link CA Announces Staff Reductions
James Watson, 12 Oct 2001

IBM preps low-power PowerPC for PDAs

IBM's key contribution to the numerous launches to be made at next week's Microprocessor Forum will centre on the unveiling of a low-power, PDA-oriented version of the PowerPC, the company has said. The chip is a version of the PowerPC 40x family - the same line that bred the PowerPC 406 used in Nintendo's GameCube - and will be aimed at power-sensitive applications. The PowerPC 405LP is capable of shutting down elements of the chip not in use at any given time. That, the company claims, plus the other power management technology, copper interconnects and silicon-on-insulation construction will result in an average power consumption that's around ten per cent of rival processors. "The 405LP reduces active power by dynamically scaling processor performance to the level required to support the application," says Big Blue. The chips also "includes a mode in which power is reduced to virtually zero while still providing 'instant-on' response to an external stimulus, such as a pen stylus on a touch screen." IBM also said the 405LP will contain circuitry the accelerate complex processing tasks such as data encryption and voice recognition. That suggests to us some kind of on-board DSP functionality or perhaps SIMD instructions along the lines of Motorola's AltiVec technology or Intel's Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE). IBM will ship the part some time next year and has "five or six" customers already lined up to use it, said a company spokeswoman. No names were forthcoming, but she did say they included makers of cellphones, PDAs and handheld games machines. ® Related Story AMD, Intel, Transmeta, VIA to go into launch frenzy on 15 October
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2001

IBM to unveil faster G3 CPU next week

UpdatedUpdated IBM will next week unveil the latest member of its G3-class PowerPC 750 family, the chips that currently power Apple's consumer computers, the iBook and iMac. Apple uses the 500, 600 and 700MHz PowerPC 750CXe in its current iMacs; the iBook uses the 500MHz part. Little is known about the next member of the 750 family - the name is believed to be the 750FX - but it's likely to extend the part's clock speed above 700MHz and dangerously close to the 800MHz Motorola's G4-class PowerPC 7450 operates at. IBM's roadmap lists its next 7xx-family CPU running at 1GHz or more. That will give Apple something of a marketing problem - consumer machines clocked the same or higher than its much more expensive professional computers - and highlights the trouble companies like Apple and AMD have with a consumer base that continues to see clock frequencies as the be all and end all of PC performance. So don't expect faster iMacs to ship until Apple can up the clock speed of the Power Mac line, either with the upcoming G5 processor or the company's stop-gap option, the PowerPC 7460, aka Apollo. If all goes to plan, Power Mac G5s should be launched next January at Macworld Expo San Francisco. The event could also see the arrival of faster iMacs, possibly in a new enclosure equipped with an LCD screen. The development of an iMac 2 design to replace the computer's current look has been expected for some time - many observers expected it to appear last summer. If that was the plan, Apple undoubtedly delayed the launch until such a time as the economy and consumer confidence is better able to support it. Apple may well be planning to unveil a new - or at least upgraded - iMac before the Christmas sales period, though much will depend on how the effects on the economy of 11 September pan out. That won't stop IBM's chip announcement, however, which is still scheduled to take place on 17 October. IBM describes the upcoming chip as one that will offer "both high-performance and low-power features as well as improved bus utilisation, memory management, and reliability". IBM sources cited by eWeek say the part, codenamed Sahara, is likely to sport a SIMD system (as, we note, will IBM's other launch next week, the PowerPC 704LP), not unlike the G4's AltiVec engine. ® Related G5 Stories Bugs fail to knock PowerPC G5 off schedule Motorola completes 1.6GHz PowerPC G5 Related New iBook Stories Apple preps 600MHz, 700MHz PowerBook update Resellers confirm PowerBook G4 shortage, update Related IBM Chip-Launch Story IBM preps low-power PowerPC for PDAs
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2001

The world will end tomorrow – official

There's some good news today for all our London readers who have always believed - as do we - that two days is just not enough of a weekend. Well, we have it on good authority that you won't have to get up early on Monday and trudge your way to the office. Here's why: To all, I have just been told this story from a friend at work, I would take it seriously My friends friend was walking in London last week and she saw a man drop his wallet. she picked it up and ran after him. once she caught him she gave the wallet to him and he was so grateful that he thought he would give her a piece of advice for the thanks. he was an Arab and told her to do herself a favour and do not be anywhere near the centre of London on the 13th of October. She was so scared that she went straight to the police. the police asked her if she would be able to identify the man, they gave her a book of wanted terrorists and she was able to identify him in the book. This is not a circular its from me and was told to me from a reliable source. tell all your friends That's right - it's all going to kick off on Saturday. Tell all your friends and then run for the hills. Or, if you've already received another version of this email: where the Arab drops his wallet in a cab/pub/pole-dancing club; where he gives the date as 28/30 September or 1/5/10 October; or where MI5 turn up at your door with a really big book of wanted terrorists, you might want to reflect on the net hoax phenomenon which can reduce otherwise rational people to headless chickens. US inboxes have recently been infected with various strains of the 'Klingerman virus' email. It warns people not to open any blue envelope they get from 'The Klingerman Foundation'. If you do, you're dead - inside is a sponge saturated with an unknown, killer virus. Laughable nonsense, or is it? Sadly, it's the very scale and scope of the net - it's great strength - which makes it the ideal platform for the rapid dissemination of disinformation and conspiracy hysteria. And for every hoaxer there are a thousand gullible people willing to believe. Conspiracy theory The tragic events at the World Trade Centre have spawned a veritable industry of imbecility. You want conspiracy? Try this out: Here we have Q33NY in Wingdings font. It clearly shows a plane about to hit the WTC. Throw in a skull and crossbones and a Star of David, and there you have it - Zionist terrorist conspiracy. It all makes sense. After all, thousands of Jewish office workers stayed at home on 11 September, didn't they? But hold on, what's Q33NY got to do with it? Well, it's the flight number of one of the hijacked planes. Actually, it isn't. But hey, we've found a meaningful set of symbols. Let's not let the truth get in the way of a good yarn. Indeed, the Wingdings controversy has been raging for some time. Why not render NYC in the same font?: As long ago as 1992 Microsoft was obliged to issue a disclaimer stating that any apparently significant output in Wingdings was no more than co-incidental. This cut little ice with the black helicopter brigade, who continue to inflict their tiresome paranoia on cyberspace. www.youreallgoingtodie.com Another fear-inducing story which has been doing the rounds is the one about some urls which were registered before the WTC attack: attackamerica.com attackonamerica.com attackontwintowers.com august11horror.com august11terror.com horrorinamerica.com horrorinnewyork.com nycterroriststrike.com pearlharborinmanhattan.com terrorattack2001.com towerofhorror.com tradetowerstrike.com worldtradecenter929.com worldtradecenterbombs.com worldtradetowerattack.com worldtradetowerstrike.com wterroristattack2001.com Naturally, the fact that they were registered before the attack is clear evidence that the people who bought them had prior knowledge of the terrorists' plans. Quite what they intended to do with them remains unanswered. Many of the urls cannot in fact be found. One that is active, www.pearlharborinmanhattan.com, can hardly be considered an al-Qaeda product. If you do fancy hopping on this particular conspiracy bandwagon, www.attackontwintowers.com is up for auction at afternic.com. Starting bid $1000. Get in there now and avoid the rush. But Nostradamus said... Ok, that's all rubbish. But Nostradamus really did predict the WTC disaster. What about this posting gleaned from advogato.org?: Nostradamus once wrote: "In the City of God there will be a great thunder, Two brothers torn apart by Chaos, while the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb" , "The third big war will begin when the big city is burning" - Nostradamus 1654 I always believed in the words of the great Nostradamus. Again, he prophesized the truth. Convincing stuff. Even more so given that Nostradamus' powers must have extended to divination from the 'other side' - he died in 1566. Interest in Nostradamus has rocketed in the weeks following the WTC attack. The above 'quatrain' (four-line verse), and many other versions of it, have been doing the rounds. They have found a credulous audience among those who have, apparently, neither the time nor the inclination to check the veracity of the words. It's a hoax. So, what about a real Nostradamus prediction? youngskeptics.org offers the following, which apparently foresaw the space shuttle Challenger disaster: Le pare enclin grande calamit, Par l'Hesperie & Insubre fera:Le feu en nef peste & captiuit', Mercure en l'Arc Saturne fenera. The sloping park great calamity To be done through Hesperia and Insubria:The fire in the ship, plague and captivity, Mercury in Sagittarius Saturn will fade. Wtf? We would suggest that any connection with Challenger is, at best, tenuous. 'The fire in the ship'? Hmmm. As for the rest of it, well, suggestions on a postcard please. The predictions of Nostradamus have achieved an almost mythical status among believers. Such accolytes have the great advantage of being able to make the quatrains reflect any circumstance after the event. This process is what Stephen O'Leary recently called vaticinium ex eventu (prophesy after the fact) in the Daily Telegraph. Put simply, it's hammering a square peg very, very hard into a round hole until it fits. No doubt many readers will be eager to prove that Nostradamus's predictions are right. If so, can they send us next week's National Lottery winning numbers? Thanks. The face fits No disaster conspiracy theory would be complete without a complimentary set of images demonstrating a hidden and sinister power at work. Who else but Satan himself would appear at the WTC?: This process of finding images is known as pareidol, and is discussed further here. While the name of Allah in an aubergine, or a likeness of Mother Theresa of Calcutta in a sesame bun (no, really), might be amusing simulacra, accrediting an arbitrary plume of smoke with mephistophelean significance is preposterous. When, as is the case of the above photograph, the image has been enhanced to more adequately make the point, you wonder what anyone has to gain from such rubbish. But for real effect, just cut out the enhancement and go for the full fake: This offering comes allegedly from the camera of a tourist who clearly picked the wrong moment to visit the World Trade Centre. It is so laughably amateur that it merits no further discussion. 1+1=4 It all adds up. And the answer is 11. Be afraid: The date of the attack: 9/11 - 9 + 1 + 1 = 11 September 11th is the 254th day of the year: 2 + 5 + 4 = 11 After September 11th there are 111 days left to the end of the year. 119 is the area code to Iraq/Iran. 1 + 1 + 9 = 11 Twin Towers - standing side by side, looks like the number 11 The first plane to hit the towers was Flight 11 State of New York - The 11th State added to the Union New York City - 11 Letters Afghanistan - 11 Letters The Pentagon - 11 Letters Ramzi Yousef - 11 Letters (convicted of orchestrating the attack on the WTC in 1993) Flight 11 - 92 on board - 9 + 2 = 11 Flight 77 - 65 on board - 6 + 5 = 11 This numerological gem comes from snopes2.com. The site notes: The telephone country code of 119 is used for neither Iran nor Iraq -- Iran's country code is 98, Iraq's is 964, and 119 is invalid. Also, American Airlines Flight 77 carried 64 people (58 passengers and 6 crew members), not 65; hijacked United Flight 175 had 65 people on board. Oh dear, oh dear. Back to the abacus then. Numerical cock-ups notwithstanding, numerology has a long tradition. Those of an enquiring disposition can bone up on the subject at simplynumbers.com In the spirit of investigation, we decided to take our own name - The Register, and apply simplynumbers' mathematical calculation to it. In summary, each letter is given a value. All the values are added up and reduced to a single figure. In our case this is 8. And, according to the blurb, eight equals Authority, Insight, Power, Money, Active. You see? It works. Well, apart from the money bit... It's written in the stars If the numbers don't add up, then what about the stars? What have they got to say? Quite the most astounding piece of astrology regarding the WTC can be found at astrology-online.com. They offer nothing less that the birthchart of the WTC: In the most audacious piece of vaticinium ex eventu to be found anywhere, these charlatans explain how they deduced the WTC's birthdate: First, lets determine the birthdate of the towers. Groundbreaking for construction was on August 5th, 1966. Steel construction began in August 1968. First tenant occupancy of tower one, WTC was December, 1970, and occupancy of tower two WTC began in January 1972. Ribbon cutting was on April 4, 1973 For our purposes, we will consider 08/05/1966 as the conception we don't do birthcharts based on conception date for people, so we will not for this building either. I am assuming since the first tenant took residence in December of 1970 that since most bills start first of the month (and leases) that we can safely call 12/01/1970 the birthdate of the first tower. The Birthdate for the second tower we use the same logic 01/01/1972 Since this is a business not a residential area, the birth time will be considered, naturally, 9am. Read it and weep. Now, can you guess what was written in the stars for 11 September?: Transit Sun in the 8th House This transit is often marked by certain major changes or transformations. Feelings tend to be enhanced, and emotions tend to run high. If this were a person and not a building, I would advise them to take the day off. The eighth house is also the house of death, it is a window of death, and this is important when you consider that the strongest element, the sun, is involved. This does not always mean physical death, it could mean the death of a way of life, however in this case, it most certainly pointed to physical death. This one simple transit alone, had it been pre-known or ran up by an astrologer in advance, would have been enough to keep me and everyone I know away from the WTC on this date. Were it not for the fact that many people genuinely believe in astrology, this rubbish could be dismissed out of hand. As it is, the authors should be ashamed of themselves. Apocalypse Now It would be agreeable to end this piece with a touch of levity. Sadly, this will not be possible. A quick look at The India Times Astrospeak column reveals all: Will there be a world war in 2001? The years 2001 to 2005 are tumultuous for world peace as a whole, and it is certain that atomic and nuclear weapons will be used across the world. Millions will die. There you go - no hoax emails, no faking of photos, no black helicopters. Just straight, tell-it-like-it-is prophesy. Depressed? Don't worry, it's not all bad news: Luckily India will not be affected as compared to the degree of devastation in other countries... As far as the Indian economy is concerned, investments in land and gold will be safe. The proper time to invest in land would be after the war between April-July 2002 by which time land will be available at attractive rates. Spot on - if there's one thing guaranteed to free up real estate at attractive prices, it's all-out nuclear war. In the meantime, enjoy yourselves - it's later than you think. ® Related links More on the Klingerman virus from snopes2.com. A general overview of WTC hoaxes from time.com Nostradumus's 'prediction' debunked by snopes2.com and urbanlegends.com
Lester Haines, 12 Oct 2001

BTopenworld in game of snakes and ladders

BTopenworld has admitted the existence of "Mamba" and "Boa" - internal projects that should help solve its narrowband network congestion problems. According to last night's BBC consumer affairs programme, Watchdog, the secret projects are designed to "constrict" the service (a boa kills by suffocation, a mamba by poison, by the way) and force people to upgrade to BT's broadband ADSL service. This has been denied by BTopenworld which maintains the projects are merely concerned with network management. It's now almost a month since The Register started receiving emails from readers complaining about a marked deterioration in the BTopenworld Anytime service. During that time we have received scores of complaints from readers complaining about how they are unable to access the service, and how, when finally connected, they are often booted off within minutes. Most of those who contacted us were moved to a new dial-up number last month. They claim their problems only started following this migration. BT has consistently denied that it is deliberately offering these consumers a worse service. The Register believes that BTopenworld's handling of this affair has been disastrous and goes far beyond allegations of offering some heavy users an inferior service. As serious as it is, until hard, irrefutable evidence emerges to the contrary - they will remain just that - allegations. However, what cannot be ignored is the seemingly increasing number of complaints being circulated about BTopenworld's Net access service. This is not some fly-by-night ISP. This is British Telecommunication's ISP. It has the resources of a nation-wide telco behind it and yet it is beset with problems. Worse still, it's failure to handle customer complaints is a slur on the whole of BT. Internal reporting lines might mean that BTopenworld is a standalone operation inside the telco. But that's not how customers see it. To them, BTopenworld is BT. And customer discontent with the telco will percolate down into customer satisfaction benchmarks so favoured by senior execs at BT. Last night's item on Watchdog did not make the distinction between BTopenworld and BT. So millions of people who watched saw a story about BT mistreating its customers. To make matters worse, no one from the company appeared live to answer questions on the show. This is just one email we received today from a frustrated BT customer. It reads: "I have sent 3 recorded letters, made over 10 phone calls and sent over fifteen emails and still had no reply about broadband and anytime? Not even a bounce back! What is customer service? BT have their own definition. WE IGNORE, YOU PAY!" This is no way for any company - let alone BTopenworld - to behave. It needs to sort out its problems - and fast. ® Related Stories BT kicks off 60 more Anytime users, threatens others BT rewrites Ts&Cs to kick off more Anytime users BT stops port throttling in time for Watchdog programme Punters still suffering BTOpenwoe Anytime misery BT admits to bandwidth restrictions for file-sharing sites BTAnytime turns into Notime for 200 'abusers' BTopenworld accused of providing two-tier Net access service
Tim Richardson, 12 Oct 2001

Symantec users risk redirection to hacker sites

Users of older versions of Symantec's anti-virus software have been warned of an exploit that might mean users looking for virus updates get redirected to hacker sites instead. The issue concerns Symantec LiveUpdate, a component of Norton Anti-Virus which checks for fresh virus signature definitions and installs them from Symantec's Web site. A group of German hackers, called Phenoelit, have published an advisory which explains how Version 1.4 of LiveUpdate (which ships with Norton Antivirus 5.x) might be turned into a distribution medium for hostile code. The same trick might be used to penetrate systems, they warn. Version 1.6 of LiveUpdate (which ships with Norton Antivirus 2001 and 2002) is immune to the particular attack, but it can be prevented from downloading virus definitions or product updates using the exploit. Phenoelit believes there's a denial of service risk even for the newer product. If the attacker were to point people to a very large download file, a scheduled LiveUpdate session in a medium sized company might lead to network degradation and outages due to the large amount of traffic generated. Eric Chien, chief researcher at Symantec's antivirus research lab, said that the DNS attacks Phenoelit details in its advisory are standard Internet attacks that involve DNS spoofing, poisoning and redirection. Symantec rates the problem, which it said is not particular to them, as a medium class risk. Only a small percentage of Symantec's users would be using Version 1.4 of LiveUpdate (which has been superseded for well over a year), Chien told us. Those who are should consider updating to Version 1.6 of LiveUpdate, which contains cryptographically signed signature updates that can't be easily forged. More information on the issue and Symantec's advice to its customers can be found here. ®
John Leyden, 12 Oct 2001
Cat 5 cable

Bulldog snaps at BT's co-mingling security fears

The CEO of Bulldog Communications - one of the companies that is still committed to local loop unbundling (LLU) - has hit back at fears that co-mingling would pose a security threat. Richard Greco told The Register that security fears over the planned installation of a rival telco's equipment in BT exchanges - known as "co-mingling" - was little more than a "smokescreen". "BT should treat local loop operators as it treats itself. All we want is a level playing field," said Mr Greco, who believes equal access to BT exchanges would help bring down the cost of LLU. And he scoffed at BT's fears that contractors might interfere - deliberately or otherwise - with other operators' equipment arguing that many telcos use the same sub-contractors as used by BT. Telecoms regulator, Oftel, has published proposals that would allow operators to cut significantly the costs involved in local loop unbundling (LLU) by installing their kit in operational parts of BT's exchanges. However, BT believes the measures are a security risk and said it will oppose the plans. ® Related Story Security fears hit unbundling progress
Tim Richardson, 12 Oct 2001

Captain Cyborg becomes nutritionist and mind-reader in one day

You simply will not believe what Captain Cyborg aka Kevin Warwick has been up to this week. Even for a publicity obsessive, he has really outdone himself. Perhaps for the first time though, the press are as much to blame - Kev is one thing, but for journalists to buy this bull... First up: "Bacon, the brain food - A tasty butty can boost children's performance in school, says study" - courtesy of the Daily Mail. "A bacon sandwich could be the best way to set your child up for a day's studies, it was claimed yesterday." In an almost indentical "study" to the one that garnered Kev press attention last year, he has created an interesting headline from a completely ludicrous experiment and managed to tie it in with his book. Get this: 50 kids aged between eight to 11 were given a certain breakfast every day for a month. Over this time they were given three "verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests". Ten kids ate bacon sandwiches, ten egg on toast, ten cornflakes, ten toast and orange juice and ten whatever they normally had (the control group :-) ). Kev gave them a test "involving word association, numerical and shape recognition" at the start, halfway through and at the end of the month and then compared how the scores had changed over that time. Kids that had the toast and orange juice improved the most - then the bacon, then cereal, then eggs. Obviously this means "the protein in something like bacon combined with vitamins in fruit juice provides good mental stimulation for children". "We believe this is the first scientific test on which breakfast foods boost intelligence," said Kev, among many other things. Where do you begin? It is almost impossible to know where to begin with this. Even by Kevin's standards the "experiment" is so poor as to be worse than worthless. There are so many ways in which these results are skewed that it is difficult to get them out one at a time. This is the equivalent of stabbing people with different knives and asking which was the most painful. But there's more: here he is again in the Daily Telegraph. Except this time he's become an expert in psychology and physiology. It's a feature about Marc Salem, who just happens to be a mind-reader doing some shows in London at the moment. The thing is that Marc isn't like other mind-readers who use complex code, behaviour and language to give the impression of mind-reading. No, Marc is the real deal. He also has an interesting commercial sideline training people with money in the same powers. The article discusses how he does it and then lo! here is "Professor Kevin Warwick, author of QI: The Quest for Intelligence". Kevin doesn't dismiss Marc as a charlatan, not at all. "It is quite possible that he could pick up radio waves," says recent expert in electromagnetic waves Kevin. "If you test identical twins when they are far apart, they come up with similar answers; if you put them in neighbouring rooms, their answers are different. It's as if their thoughts interfere with one another." What! What the hell does that mean? That's total gibberish. And since when has Kev done any experiments with identical twins? Just misunderstood And then of course we have to add in a recent feature in the Guardian which started as a fairly interesting piece about artificial intelligence, using Spielberg's AI movie as a tag. You're getting to the end and then suddenly here's Kev saying that machines have their own form of consciousness - that's why we can't see it or measure it or understand it. In fact, if you didn't know better, you'd think that it wasn't doing anything at all when it was supposed to be running down a road but Kevin can see beyond that. "Professor Warwick is perhaps best known for becoming the first cyborg, when he had an implant that allowed his office to react to his presence. Next month, he plans to have an implant attached to nervous fibres in a complex operation at Stoke Mandeville hospital." Uh-huh. But get this - he's gone back to the bat-hearing thing: "'Part of the aim is to give me some of the extra-sonic properties of a bat,' he grins, 'to see if I can sense my surroundings with my eyes shut.'" Hang on - here comes the questioning journalist: "Not everyone is prepared to take the same risks with their health as Professor Warwick and there are some who see these experiments as opportunistic stunts. But such is the nature of academia; outwardly everyone is very polite about one another, but behind closed doors the gloves come off. Everyone has a vested interest in promoting their own particular line of AI inquiry because their research funding depends on their credibility." Do me a favour! Rather than write off criticism of Warwick as academic jealousy, how about you ask how precisely a chip inserted into an ARM is supposed to enhance the hearing in your EAR to the levels of a bat? Just... how... is... that.. supposed... to... work? Huh? ® Related Story Reg jealous of my success, claims Captain Cyborg
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Oct 2001

AOL CD record bid in boy band frenzy

There's encouraging news concerning 24/7 Freecall's world record attempt to collect one million unwanted AOL CDs. Last week MD, Sal Abdin, announced his intention to get in the Guinness Book of Records - but only if he can get enough unwanted AOL CDs. According to Sal, so far he's received 87 of the shiny discs along with 15 BTopenworld CDs - oh, and a solo album from one-time Take That heartthrob Gary Barlow. ® Related Story 24-7 Freecall wants 1m AOL CDs
Tim Richardson, 12 Oct 2001

What the hell is Microsoft's new software licensing programme?

There has been a lot of fuss made about Microsoft's new software licensing programme recently but following weeks of claim and counterclaim, depositions to government bodies, two delays and plenty of public posturing, if you're anything like us you will be completely confused as to what the hell is actually going on. That is why we've decided to write a small, informative and mildly entertaining guide to what it is, why Microsoft is doing it, why others aren't and what's going to happen to it. This is it: Will the scheme cost companies more or less money? Both, depending on how frequently you upgrade software. If your company has a policy of always having the latest software, Microsoft loves you and it will work out cheaper. If you are running old software and only upgrade occasionally, it will be more expensive (which obviously applies to most small businesses). How come? Basically - as Microsoft points out - because it is simplifying its software licence system. Previously (and currently) there was a whole range of bulk discounts on software upgrades. Microsoft is simplifying this down to an annual one-off upgrade fee. At the same time, however, MS is insisting that companies buy new licences every time they upgrade software. A simpler, cheaper system benefitting those who automatically upgrade their Microsoft software. But companies are concerned that Microsoft is effectively trapping them (by making it more financially viable) into paying it an annual fee rather than licensing/purchasing its products. Microsoft becomes a software outsourcer rather than a simple supplier. Effectively you are renting software from Microsoft. Why has Microsoft done this? Is it because, as it says, customers have asked for it and it makes everything simpler, more predictable and easier to budget? Don't be bloody stupid Why then? Because it makes companies beholden to it So it makes companies upgrade automatically all the time, making any controlling mechanisms in the latest version (oh look, mummy, it doesn't work with anything else but Microsoft software) a hundred times more effective; and it makes the company more money (£100 now or 11 lots of £10 over the year)? But that's... Basic economics, yes. The question is: where did it go wrong? I know this one. Because while Microsoft claims it has its customers' best interests at heart, it didn't actually ask them about this new scheme and hoped to push it through with the support of its most loyal fans in the IT departments of big business - who, incidentally, have the most to gain out the new system. So what's going to happen between now and July? Well, if Microsoft can persuade enough people that it's right, the system will go through despite protests. That is nowhere near decided though. If Microsoft maintains its arrogant approach it may just alienate the people it needs to support the scheme and then we'll see some rapid redrawing of rules. Will all this encourage take up of Linux and cheaper software? To a degree. Small companies stand to gain the most by shifting to cheaper alternatives but then there is the magic Microsoft tie-in factor. People know the Office suite - if it's not available on Linux, small companies may consider the extra is worth paying, rather than retrain staff on new packages. In a small company, time taken out for retraining is even more significant. Does all this have anything to do with Microsoft's .Net vision? Yes it does. The great advantage - and coincidentally, people's great fear - about MS' .Net idea is that everything is run by Microsoft. It knows so much and is so considerate that it will take all those pesky problems with IT away from your gaze and worry about it itself. Everything fits together; just buy Microsoft. The licence scheme is the first step in pulling companies IT concerns away from an internal department and into Redmond. Once it is in control of these aspects of a companies business, it might feel free to revise its pricing. Is Microsoft the devil? Come on, Microsoft wouldn't be Microsoft if it didn't try these things on every year. ® Related Stories UK plc hates MS licence terms (true) MS prices will 'damage UK business' MS urged to delay licence (to print money) changes Upgrade your MS apps before 1 October - Gartner Put brakes on Windows upgrade escalator, Gartner urges MS MS doubles prices for enterprise customers
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Oct 2001

Christmas cancelled for Logica staff

Christmas has been cancelled for staff at Logica, despite the company proudly announcing a 60 per cent rise in profits at the start of September. In an internal memo sent out today, the COO of Logica Mobile Networks Gerry McKenna lays out the company's extensive cost-cutting plans which includes the removal of all pay reviews, a ban on non-essential travel (and forget about business class) and worst of all, the cancellation of the company's Christmas party. This knock to staff morale comes on top of 250 job cuts at the end of September. So while the company's chief exec Martin Read enjoys his estimated £27.3 million salary this Yuletide - making him the UK's highest paid director - staff have been informed that "all employee entertainment is shut down with immediate effect". Plus, "client entertainment is restricted to business critical entertainment only with the number of Company employees attending restricted to the absolute minimum." Other measures include: no international phone calls; phone cards to be used instead of hotel phones; no conferences, exhibitions marketing or advertising without direct approval of the chief exec; reduction in the number of translators and the elimination of freelance contractors. "By implementing these measures with your help and support we will ensure a bright future for our company," writes Mr McKenna. "Your continued commitment to the achievement of our fiscal goals in these uncertain times is very much appreciated." Logica has confirmed the memo is authentic, and says it is "evidence of the company's good housekeeping". A spokesman told us the cuts were in line with its commitment to provide value for its shareholder and investors. He would not rule out further job losses however saying that a three-month consultation period is underway, at the end of which the company will decide what it needs to do. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Oct 2001

The Time/Tiny concession battle

In what is will inevitably be marketed by both sides as a victory, competing computer retailers Time and Tiny have announced major plans for their retail operations. It looks as though Time is leaving home appliance chain Powerhouse, where it runs concessions in 60 branches, and we suspect Tiny is moving into some of them. Time has stepped forward to announce a bold foray into new retail territories. It says it will relocate a high percentage of its 150 stores into premier, high street, retail locations and revamp them from PC showrooms into fully stocked IT retail stores. This process will begin immediately and will take around 18 months to conclude. Of these 150 stores, most of which it says currently lie in out of town locations. Maybe it means the 60 Powerhouse concessions are out of town as we thought it specialised in off high street locations in smaller towns. A channel source tells us that the Time plans to terminate its contract with the chain, adding that sales in these stores for PCs were sitting at about a quarter of its standalone stores, and one tenth of the business for consummables and peripherals. On the other side of the ring, Tiny has just announced a press briefing on Tuesday where it will detail plans for a "major retail expansion expected to add over £100 million to annual turnover and create at least 450 new jobs," according to the press invitation. We think there is a very good possibility that Tiny will announce plans to move into the Powerhouse chain that Time is in the process of retreating from. The link here is ScottishPower, another domestic appliance retailer. Last November, Tiny announced a partnership with ScottishPower, opening a series of concession stores within it. Tiny's marketing director at the time said that moving "from the high street into retail parks will ensure that we further expand our business". Then, in June of this year, Powerhouse announced that it would buy around 100 of ScottishPower's stores and take on over half of its retail staff. The situation is effectively this: ScottishPower is in bed with Tiny. Powerhouse, sleeping with Time, then gobbles up ScottishPower. Being a monogamous type, it prefers a single partner and so a shake-up is inevitable. The main questions are: Is Time leaving, or is it being asked to leave? And will Tiny now be snuggling under the duvet with Powerhouse? Time will not confirm the rumour that it is moving (or being removed) out of Powerhouse, only stating that it has 150 stores now and will have 150 stores in the future. Of these, it reiterates, a high percentage will be relocated to new, premier retail locations. Tiny refused to confirm or deny the rumours, saying that all would be revealed on Tuesday. Of course, it was only back in the middle of August that Tiny announced plans to launch a series of new-look high street showrooms, which it said would enable it to go head to head with rivals like Dixons. The saga continues next week. ® Related Story Time to start downloading software in-store
James Watson, 12 Oct 2001

SirCam due to wipe Windows PCs next Tuesday

SirCam, the bandwidth-munching privacy invading mass mailing virus, is due to attempt to wipe infected users' Windows PCs next Tuesday. That's the bad news. The good news is that indications are the malicious payload the virus contains isn't particularly effective, probably because of shoddy programming on the virus writer's part. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said that the virus is programmed so that there's a one in 50 chance that on any day the virus would fill up an infected user's hard disc with rubbish. There's been very few reports of this ever happening, suggesting the virus is "buggy" or sensitive to user's set-ups, he told us. Because of this the one in 20 "possibility", at least according to how the virus is programmed, that SirCam might wipe a victim's PC on October 16 is probably not going to be realised. That said it still makes sense for people to get themselves disinfected, especially since the virus is still common three months after it appeared on the Internet in mid-July. MessageLabs, a managed services firm that scans its users email for viruses, has blocked 2,967 copies of SirCam in the last 24 hours and a 414,000 copies of the virus in all. As previously reported, SirCam normally arrives in an email with a random subject, body text and attachment name. Infected attachments contain a double extension, which gives users a clue that an email might contain a virus. The subject line of an email is the name of a file found on the sending PC. The attachment will carry the name of this document file, with a second extension such as COM, EXE, PIF, LNK. The worm contains its own SMTP routine, which is used to send email messages to email addresses found in the Windows address book and the temporary internet folder. A document file is included in the executable that the worm mails, which means there is a possibility of confidential or embarrassing material being mailed out. If the document is large - so is the infected attachment, and that means some copies of SirCam can weigh in at 10MB and above. ® External Links Write up on Sircam by Sophos Related Stories Thousands of idiots still infected by SirCam SirCam virus hogs connections with spam Users haven't learned any lessons from the Love Bug Rise in viruses within emails outpacing growth of email Internet will become 'unusable' by 2008 SirCam tops Virus charts
John Leyden, 12 Oct 2001

This is a great deal. No, really!

A large Canadian electronics chain, FutureShop, placed an ad yesterday offering "do a Windows XP upgrade analysis on your computer for only... $19.95", which works out to about US$12. As Ralph Grabowski (the reader who made us aware of this fine deal) rightly points out, this leaves us with two possible outcomes: 1. Yes, your computer is ready for Windows XP. Please cough up an additional CN$149.99 for your very own copy (or CN$299.99 for the Professional version). 2. No, your computer is not ready for Windows XP. Please make your way over to our upgrades department and cough up whatever it will take to make your PC ready, then you can pay the CN$149.99 (about $95) for the software. Of course, various possible system upgrades are highlighted at the bottom of the ad. This reminds us of another great Microsoft+Canada offer that ran at the beginning of the year. Consumers buying a copy of MS Office would receive a free toboggan with it. We're also wondering if PC World is going to improve its £40 PC Healthcheck deal, with an PC WinXP analysis service. ® Related Story PC World in-store virus check a bit of a scan?
James Watson, 12 Oct 2001