22nd > October > 2001 Archive

Blue Monday for NewMonday.com

Newmonday.com, the online jobs board jointly-owned by VNU and Randstad Holding, the Dutch temp staff agency, is to "discontinue activities". The companies say that revenues have failed to meet expectations - "due to considerably changed conditions in the recruitment market". And they see "insufficient prospects" for carrying on with their joint venture. Currently the jobs board is active in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. Its closure will see up to 100 jobs from a total of 140 disappear. NewMonday.com went live, with high hopes, in September last year. Post-closure, VNU will carry the recruitment torch in its key Dutch and UK markets. In other words it's status quo ante; prior to the Randstad tie-in, VNU was already an online recruitment player in both markets, and was particularly strong in the Netherlands. VNU is to integrate some online recruitment business into existing brand. It points out that Intermediair and Computable in the Netherlands and Computing and Accountancy Age in the UK have leading positions in the recruitment market in their areas. ®
Drew Cullen, 22 Oct 2001

PowerPC G5 ‘blazingly fast’, claims Motorola mole

Motorola sources have confirmed what Apple insiders tell us: that the next generation of PowerPC processor, the PPC 8500 - aka G5 - is now consistently coming off the production line at 1.6GHz, and that it is a very fast chip. However, the source - who claims to be an engineer with Motorola's PowerPC Architecture Development Team - cast doubts on short-term fixes to some of the chip's main bugs and that AltiVec performance may not prove as good as the version currently available in G4-class PowerPCs. The source, cited by MacOS Rumors, confirmed that the G5 will indeed be a 64-bit processor and that with the current iteration, version 0.5, "yields are up and we are now getting a consistent product running at 1.6GHz". Yields look set to improve further - "This processor seems to have a great potential for high success rates. The current poor yields are mostly due to tinkering with the die to get the bugs eliminated." This, (s)he claims, should impact the cost of the chip very positively: "Prices reported on The Register are much higher than what we expect." (see PowerPC G5 performance 'stunning' - sources) The source said the G5 is "blazingly fast", adding that the Specmarks we reported last week are "fairly accurate". We would echo the "fairly" since the figures cited by our own source rise at a higher rate than the chip's clock speed, which by all accounts is physically impossible. We suspect that such slight errors arose from our source hastily scribbling the numbers down or mistakes in recalling the figures from memory. The Motorola mouth also confirmed the G5's cache problems our own source revealed. However, (s)he thinks it unlikely this will be fixed in version 0.6. "Many of us on the team are not as confident as major changes in the fabrication process might need to be made in order to address the issues," the source said. And: "AltiVec performance has not been as robust as seen in the G4. This could be due to the cache problems, but honestly, we are not sure right now." That's not likely to impress Apple, which, we hear, is becoming increasingly fed up with Motorola's progress at getting new PowerPC chips out of the door, an issue Apple has felt frustrated by ever since the clock speed debacle of late 1999. Back then, Apple had to drop the clock speeds of its three recently released Power Mac G4 desktops by 50MHz because of a bug that prevented the PowerPC 7400 operating at over 500MHz. Apple went as far as to issue a statement that its future financial position was under threat from Motorola's inability to ship sufficient processors. The Mac maker then signed IBM to produce G4-class CPUs in its behalf. ® Related Stories PowerPC G5 performance 'stunning' - sources Bugs fail to knock PowerPC G5 off schedule IBM announces 1GHz PowerPC G3 Related Link MacOS Rumors: Another update from the inside: G5 Futures
Tony Smith, 22 Oct 2001

MS issues bum security patch, contradicts self

Recently-issued patches for an exploitable RDP (Remote Data Protocol) bug in Win-NT and 2K have given users trouble enough for MS to yank one of them (details below). The timing is unfortunate. Only last week Microsoft Security Manager Scott Culp called on outside security researchers to follow Redmond's no-tell bug reporting example. One core issue is exploit code, and the examples are Nimda and Code Red. "It's high time the security community stopped providing blueprints for building these weapons," Culp said. His aim is to keep exploitable data out of the hands of the Blackhat development community, which, while perfectly legitimate, is a fairly shaky proposition in practical terms. Blackhats are often well ahead of vendors, as we've seen many times. We certainly don't advocate broadcasting step-by-step exploit manuals -- especially by the mainstream press and by security vendors which stand to profit from abuse; but we believe that the tech press and independent security lists should continue to publish detailed information. We wish Microsoft would contribute the data they find, at least after a patch has been issued. We say this because system configurations vary and it's important to verify that a given patch actually does the job in each case. Withholding the information needed to prove that it works forces admins to trust that it does. This can produce a false sense of security, which is worse than incomplete security of which one is, at least, aware. For rigorous evaluation we need two things: a detailed description of the bug, and as many working exploits as we can find to run against the patch. Only then can we be confident that a patch is robust. "Without exploit code, how do we ensure that the patches actually work," VulnWatch moderator Steve Manzuik asked in a recent letter to Culp. "Trust our vendor? I don't think so. Vendors have proven that they bow to stock prices and market pressures and will continue to do this over and above security needs. Multiple vendors, not just Microsoft, have also proved that they will not completely research the issues themselves, and release insufficient patches," Manzuik says. Funny that Talk about insufficient patches. MS concludes that the NT version of their RDP-bug patch can be installed safely, while the 2K patch will make a mess of your system and has been removed from the TechWeb site pending a fix. If you've downloaded the 2K patch and not yet installed it, then you should discard it before some well-meaning OFH ninny goes ahead with the installation for you. The patch is not crucial as the RDP hole can't (yet) be exploited in a destructive manner. A "particular series of data packets" will shut the server down, but a simple re-boot is all that's needed to bring things back. Of course, if one's being deliberately attacked with this vulnerability, re-booting every fifteen minutes pretty much equals a denial of service. The systems affected are: NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition; 2K Server; 2K Advanced Server; and 2K Datacenter Server. The NT patch is available here; and the 2K patch will be posted as soon as possible, MS says. It would be nice if MS would specify the 'particular series of packets' which triggers the RDP freeze, as it's quite possible there's a simple workaround which might be applied as a stopgap. It would also be nice to run an attack against one's own machine after patching, to ensure that the fix is effective on one's system. But that would require us to regard exploit code as a tool, not a weapon. Unfortunately it's both, which is why it may never be possible to reconcile these two quite legitimate, and eternally conflicting, points of view. ®
Thomas C Greene, 22 Oct 2001

Cracks appear in Nutshell service

UpdateUpdate Unmetered ISP, Nutshell, has confirmed it is trying to resolve the problems that left it unable to provide Net access over the weekend. The ISP is currently locked in legal talks with Cable & Wireless and was not prepared to discuss the matter until this had been resolved. Confirming that the service had been suspended, Jason Moody, a director at the ISP, said: "We are locked into a contractual dispute with our supplier Cable & Wireless. We are trying to resolve the issue." No one at Cable & Wireless was available for comment by press time. In a sign of just how competitive the ISP market is at the moment, Basingstoke-based Cloud Nine has issued a statement this morning in which it claims to have seen "a massive increase in subscriptions over the last five days following the suspension of the Net in a Nutshell unmetered service". According to customers of the service, Nutshell has been unavailable since Friday. ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Oct 2001

Samsung won't chop DRAM production

Samsung has been hit with a 75 per cent Q3 profit slump thanks to memory prices sliding down the toilet. But it's not going to cut production to try and jack up prices, preferring, like Micron, to try and force weaker rivals like Hynix out of the market. The outlook according to analyst firm Gartner is that the DRAM market will shrink 19 per cent next year, a slight improvement on this year which is seeing a 67 per cent sales slide. Samsung believes its size will carry it through the downturn, but it will chop spending on the chip business by 10 per cent to 4 trillion won ($3 billion), according to VP of investor relations Chu Woo Sik, speaking on a conference call and quoted by Bloomberg. Net profits for the quarter abseiled to 420 billion won ($323 million) from 1.7 trillion ($1.3 billion) a year earlier. The chip business suffered a 380 billion won ($290 million) loss. Samsung's telecommunications unit, the mobile phone and networking parts of the business, increased operating profit 20 percent from the previous quarter to 360 billion won. Related Stories DRAM market to shrink 19% next year - Gartner Hynix Q3 loss balloons to $1.3 billion
Robert Blincoe, 22 Oct 2001

Coach blames Linux for team's defeat

Sports fans have heard all manner of strange excuses for a team's underperformance but Baltimore Ravens' coach Brian Billick has distinguished himself by "blaming the Linux operating system". In a preview to Sunday's visit to Cleveland (where they lost 24-14), the Washington Post reports that Billick blamed the previous week's "defensive breakdown on team's switch to Linux operating system". On October 14, Baltimore went down 31-23 at the Green Bay Packers. What? Has the Washington Post been hacked? Did the Baltimore defence forget how to "crash" into the opposition? Has the world gone mad? Or, are Americans displaying a sense of humour? Yes, strange as it may seem it appears that writer Norman Chad is having a joke at the expense of Brian Billick, a noted Mac fan. In the story he also says: "if you play [an Arizona] Cardinals game film backward, I believe there's a satanic message." Very droll. So we guess that Sir Alex Ferguson's excuse for a few seasons ago that Manchester United was losing at half-time in a game against Southampton because players couldn't see each other in grey shirts remains the best worst excuse ever. Unless you know different... ®
John Leyden, 22 Oct 2001

Apple looks to future – post-Motorola? – PowerPC world

AnalysisAnalysis Apple is becoming increasingly irritated with its prime PowerPC provider, Motorola, to the extent that it talking to fellow PowerPC partner, IBM, about how the platform can continue to evolve without the chips-to-cellphones giant's participation, sources close to the Mac maker have claimed. We can't say we're entirely surprised. Like a marriage, the PowerPC alliance has seen its fair share of fights between partners, threats of divorce and, ultimately, reconcilliation. Steve Jobs' decision to can Apple's clone programme didn't go down to well with Mac OS licensees Motorola and IBM, and those two later fell out over how the processor should be extended beyond the G3: Motorola wanted to leap ahead with the G4 and its vector processing technology, AltiVec, while IBM believed that there was still plenty of mileage to be made out of the G3 architecture. G3 vs G4 With hindsight, IBM was probably right. It has at least announced a 1GHz G3-class processor, and while Apple and Motorola sources claim the upcoming G5 goes like the proverbial off a shovel, the G4 has largely failed to provide the significant performance lead over the G3 that both companies promised. Yes, clock-for-clock, the G4 is faster and does provide higher clock speeds than the G3 too, but the real booster, its AltiVec engine, hasn't exactly inspired all those third-party Mac programmers out there to use it in their own apps. "The G4 delivers superior performance in vector operations to its Intel counterparts, but it stacks up very poorly in terms of integer and floating point performance scores when stacked up against the P4," claims our Apple source. "This is because several key design improvements in the G4 that were proposed did not make it into the final product, which is what explains insignificant [real-world] performance advantages of the G4 over the G3 in non-AltiVec applications. The G5 will end this nonsense: in many tasks, there have been fourfold increases in integer and floating point performance." But though it shows plenty of promise, the G5 remains unnannounced, with no official release schedule, and its Q1 2002 ship date remains tentative at best. To all intents and purposes, then, the G4 can be regarded as little more than a faster G3. It should have been much more and the fact that it hasn't been must largely be down to Motorola. The bug in the original PowerPC 7400 that prevented it running efficiently above 500MHz arguably forced it to redesign the chip from the ground up in order to deliver higher clock speeds. That's what it did with the 7450, the second-generation 'G4 Plus'. It's currently doing the same with the 7460, the third-generation G4-class CPU - codenamed Apollo - which will take the G4 to 1GHz and beyond. Why? Because, we hear, the 7450 won't run at over 900MHz, just as the 7400 couldn't exceed 500MHz. Apple vs Motorola Apple's current processor strategy is tied to Motorola's ability to get ever faster desktop processors to market. Given Motorola's record, it's no wonder Apple might be feeling frustrated. Megahertz Myth comments are all very well, but the bottom line (for now, at least - we've yet to see how AMD's new naming scheme tunes buyers into new performance metrics) is that it needs higher and higher clock speeds to avoid appearing to have been left way behind by the x86 world. Who's in charge here? To be fair to Motorola, its focus is directed toward other markets and Apple is only one of many, many PowerPC customers. Cisco, for instance, has committed itself to using the 7450 in next-generation routers. If the networking market picks up and begins to approach its size last year, Cisco could well become a bigger customer than Apple (assuming it isn't already). And at least Cisco won't constantly whine about not keeping up with Intel et al and won't impose unrealistic deadlines - something, we hear, Apple does rather a lot. Essentially, both Motorola and Apple each want to define the pace and method by which PowerPC platform should evolve, and each wants to do so according to their own markets - the broad embedded arena for Motorola, or the narrow high-end desktop for Apple. These viewpoints aren't mutually exclusive, but they do bring very different priorities. Buying PowerPC The logical move for Apple, then, is to take on the development of high-end PowerPCs itself - to steer the evolution of the platform in the direction that will best serve its desktop and notebook sales. We've been hearing for some time suggestions that Apple might well pursue just such a course by buying Motorola's PowerPC assets. As we've seen, that would bring Apple considerable freedom of movement, but the downside is both the upfront cost and the ongoing expense of running a processor developent programme. That's a very expensive business, even if you're a fabless - ie. you don't physically make the chips yourself - chip company. Sun continues to develop its own processors, as does IBM, but both Compaq and Hewlett-Packard (even if they don't merge) have been chosen to end the development of their own Risc processors - Alpha and PA-Risc, respectively - and buy Intel's Itanium instead. One alternative we've suggested before would be for Apple to form a closer partnership with IBM and together buy Motorola out. Apple benefits because it takes tighter control of PowerPC development than it has now and shares the risk and cost with IBM. IBM wins because it acquires technology it currently has to license off Motorola. It also gains marketshare and the customers that go with it. Unlike Apple, it has the resources to sell high-end PowerPCs to a broad, embedded customer base. All this has to be seen in the context a sale of Motorola's chip division, the Semiconductor Products Sector, something the company has threatened to do should the operation fail to improve its financial position. Bringing in Big Blue Our Apple sources suggest that Steve Jobs has indeed discussed the matter with IBM chief Lou Gerstner, though lacking Jobs' diary, it's impossible to confirm this. It would hard to imagine that the two have not conversed on the subject, however. At the very least, we believe Apple has discussed signing IBM as a second source of G5 processors, just as, in late 1999, it brought Big Blue on board to produce G4 CPUs after it emerged Motorola was having problems making enough of them. Apple's move came after the G4's infamous '500MHz' bug, which force the company to reduce the clock speeds at which it had begun shipping its Power Mac G4 desktop line. Contractual issues may make it harder for Apple to bring IBM on board as a G5 supplier, but past history has shown that it may have to. It may also look for alternative suppliers, such as TSMC, the world's largest chip foundry. Our source's comments suggests that these are indeed the lines on which senior Apple figures are thinking, though it should be pointed out that it could equally simply be what the lower orders think what their bosses are up to. We'd happily take Jon Rubenstein's call to put us in the picture... And if Motorola delivers the G5 on time and with the requisite level of performance, such contingencies may prove academic while the two companies continue to co-operate as before. Exit PowerPC, Stage Left? But what if it all goes horribly wrong? Mac OS X does, thankfully, provide Apple with a much more straightforward PowerPC Exit Strategy, though as our source notes, only if it's willing to drop Classic compatibility and Mac OS 9. Native OS X apps could be modified for a new architecture and recompiled relatively easily, but that's not the case with older software. But shifting to, say, second-generation Itanium (aka McKinley) or Sun's UltraSparc III - both platforms suggested by our source and certainly the most likely alternatives - would require a significant effort to smooth the path for developers who have already had to go through one major transition (to OS X) as it is. We can only see Apple making such a move if it had literally no other choice, such has been its investment - in money and intellectual capital - on PowerPC. That won't stop it exploring the potential of such platforms, and its important not to mistake experimental systems never intended to go beyond the lab for a strategic change of direction. The bottom line is that everything hangs on the G5. Relations between Apple and Motorola may be strained, but that's no reason to assume that their differences are irreconcilable. But Apple would do well to make some contingency plans and, if our source is correct, it's wisely doing just that. The marriage has, after all, been through more rocky times before. ® Related G5 Stories PowerPC G5 'blazingly fast', claims Motorola mole PowerPC G5 performance 'stunning' - sources Motorola completes 1.6GHz PowerPC G5 Related G3 Stories IBM debuts 1GHz PowerPC G3 IBM preps low-power PowerPC for PDAs IBM extends PowerPC roadmap to 2GHz+ Related Apple PowerPC Strategy Stories Apple to buy PowerPC from Motorola? Motorola moots Semicon Products Sector sell-off
Tony Smith, 22 Oct 2001

EU anti-spam legislation up again this evening

Anti-spam legislation is about to go through another round of voting tonight in Strasbourg as the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs tries to adopt a new report with amendments. We don't want to get into the whole involved mess but basically what you need to know is that the Telecoms Data Protection Directive (which includes the laws on spam) is in the fifth stage (first reading) of seven before it becomes EU law. The whole spam saga was last discussed in Parliament in September, when a majority of MEPs voted in favour of an amendment that would have prohibited the sending of unsolicited email (spam) without prior permission. Except this clashed with other amendments and "pro-spam" politicians therefore referred the whole thing back to committee. New amendments have been tabled and it's hoped that this time it is edging towards an acceptable compromise. Sadly, this seems extremely unlikely as Joe McNamee of the European Internet Service Providers Association (EuroISPA) - who has lobbied for a spam ban for over two years - has already found several large holes in the new amendments. Among the amendments are the inclusion of SMS as a form of unsolicited marketing. Except, of course, SMS is soon to be outmoded by EMS and MMS, so will these also be included in the legislation? The inclusion of an obligatory (and working) email address for people sending unsolicited electronic mail may seem an excellent proposal, except, as Mr McNamee points out, what's the point when the person is under no obligation to even open emails sent to that address? Then of course the suggestion that email systems are adjusted so people only have to see the sender and subject line before downloading the email appears to many as a step back in technology. Plus, you would still have to delete the emails and this approach works against the basic idea of the directive that you can insist you are taken off any mailing lists. An argument increasingly being put forward by proponents of the "opt-out" spam approach (i.e. you have to ask not to be put on a list) - especially the British MEP Michael Cashman who has infuriated many by coming out in favour of spam - is that since people outside the EU will not be affected by the legislation and will send spam anyway, what's the point in having EU laws on spam? This, both Mr McNamee and ourselves feel, is a classic case of false logic - like "if you've got nothing to hide, why can't we search your house?" As Mr McNamee pointed out to several MEPs in a mass emailing (spam? :-) ) - "Would it be reasonable to argue that there should be no copyright law in Europe because people outside Europe will continue to use the Internet to abuse intellectual property?" It's a long and winding road. ® Related Link A pdf of the directive's amendments (the relevant ones affect Article 13) Related Stories Euro spam vote in limbo MEP Cashman tries to support pro-spam stance Europe bottles spam ban Europe holds key vote on spam tomorrow
Kieren McCarthy, 22 Oct 2001

Sony mid-range PDA draws bead on Handspring

Having achieved considerable success at the high end of the PDA market, Sony has set its sights on the middle-ground, launching a new machine, the Clié PEG-T415, against the likes of Palm's m125 and Handspring's Visor Pro. Sony claims the device is the slimmest PDA on the market. Indeed, at 0.39in (1.025cm) it's thinner than Handspring's Visor Edge (0.44in) and the 0.40in Palm m500. But what's one hundredth of an inch between chums? The T415 is based on a 33MHz Dragonball VZ processor running Palm OS 4.1. The device contains 8MB of RAM, a greyscale screen and a 16-channel polyphonic sound system. The standard IR port has been enhanced to allow it to transmit over greater distances - which, in conjunction with bundled software, allows the Clié to be used as a TV/VCR/DVD/hi-fi remote control. Like other Cliés, the new model supports Sony's MemoryStick expansion system and the PDA family's JogDial cursor control mechanism. The T415 is set to ship at the end of November for $300. Sony's success at the high end was detailed last week when market watcher NPD Intelect published its August US retails sales figures. Sony's Clieés - among the priciest of PDAs - took 10.4 per cent of the market. That puts it in third place to Palm and Handspring, but since it had zero marketshare in August 2000, its growth rate outclasses its rivals. With brandname proving such a key motivator in consumers' choice of PDA, the T415 is likely to drive Sony's marketshare even further upward. Palm is probably safe for now, but Handspring ought to be rather more concerned. ® Related Story Palm still very strong in US retail arena
Tony Smith, 22 Oct 2001

Win-XP as terrorist tool story contradicted

Computer forensics specialist Michael Anderson, who we suspected of exaggerating the threat of Win-XP's secure file-wipe feature for personal gain, contacted us to contradict our reading of his position. Briefly, the forensics outfit (New Technologies) president had gone on record denouncing the secure file-wipe feature in Win-XP Pro as a feature that will "make it impossible for federal agents and law enforcement to find and reconstruct digital evidence buried on computers, particularly those seized from terrorists." He recommends that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) force a delay of the 'XP launch until law enforcement can figure out a dodge against it. In that we smelled a conflict of interest. The man sells forensics tools, after all, and their effectiveness is sorely threatened by an OS featuring a default wipe of deleted files. We said he'd have to be "a damnable bastard for trading on the WTC outrage to muscle the DoJ into accommodating his rickety cash cow." Which he would. Only Anderson insists that his sole motive here is the law-enforcement angle. He can't prove it and we can't verify it, but he's taken pains to assert it. What I like here is that Anderson has not whined; has not accused us of calumny; has not defensively retreated to communication by means of some babbling, well-scrubbed flack. He handled it instead in a most manly fashion -- which gains points with me any day. He e-mailed and simply said that I'd read him wrong. I replied with my phone number, and we talked. OK, I like the guy. I can't say he's right -- only he and God know his true beliefs and motives; but I am a sucker for a man who can take a hard shot and keep his cool. Whether I pegged him or not, it's been a delightful experience. I look forward to attacking him again at the earliest opportunity. ®
Thomas C Greene, 22 Oct 2001

PC sales down 12% in Western Europe

PC sales for Western Europe dropped 12 per cent in the third quarter, with the spread of the economic slowdown into continental Europe being blamed. Zooming out a little, the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region as a whole decline 9.5 per cent. Back in August, the Reg reported on Western Europe witnessing its first ever year-on-year sales decline for Q2, while EMEA was flatter than a flat pancake. The new stats, a report from IDC, show that while Compaq remains in pole position, its market share slipped again, partly due to its upcoming acquisition by HP that investors seem to be increasingly opposed to (as are readers of the Reg, with 40 per cent of people who took part in our survey rating it as a negative move, in our recent research). The company's share for EMEA dropped to 14.5 per cent (from 15.5 per cent). Meanwhile, following the US trend (where it is already the sales leader), Dell managed to grow its share to 10.4 per cent, citing the usual 'price cuts and direct sales' motivation. It was the only manufacturer in the top five to record an increase for the quarter. PC sales in the UK dropped 15.5 per cent, which the report attributed to businesses delaying or cancelling computer-related projects. In comparison, figures from Gartner Dataquest (in August) showed sales for the UK dropping 7.3 per cent in the previous quarter. Analysts from IDC didn't have much positive news to give, saying, "Worsening economic conditions will add to an already-slowing PC market and affect the prospects of a larger rebound". Elsewhere, PC shipments in Eastern Europe had decent growth at 13.8 percent, which IDC says was "driven by strong double-digit growth in Russia," while the Middle East and Africa were affected by a serious decline in Turkey and Israel. The top five vendors for EMEA, in order of market share, now sits like this: Compaq 14.5% Dell 10.4% Fujitsu-Siemens 8.5% HP 8.5% IBM 6.6% ® Related Story Q3 PC shipments down
James Watson, 22 Oct 2001

BT faces probe into cut-price ADSL installs

BT's decision to halve the cost of DSL installation from £150 to £75 is being investigated by telecoms regulator, Oftel. According to the Times Bulldog Communications - one of the remaining telcos to be involved in local loop unbundling - is unhappy at the promotional price cut claiming it makes it even harder for other operators to offer competitively priced unbundled services. A spokesman for BT declined to comment on the issue but confirmed that it had received an enquiry from Oftel and would comply with its requests for information. Oftel also confirmed that it was investigating the matter but denied a report that it had "encouraged" Bulldog to make the complaint. A spokeswoman for the winged watchdog said that oftel had merely "advised Bulldog on procedure". BT announced its intention to cut the cost of ADSL installation - for three months from October 1 - back in September. In the summer BT cut the cost of its wholesale DSL service by £5 a month. Oftel has not received any complaints about this price reduction and did not carry out its own investigation into the matter. A spokesman for Oftel said: "We welcome lower prices as long as they are not anti-competitive." ® Related Stories BT halves cost of broadband installation BT cuts price of DSL, gets arse in gear
Tim Richardson, 22 Oct 2001
Cat 5 cable

IBM doubles secure transaction performance with Zzzseries

IBM has announced that it has doubled the ability of its mainframe platform to handle secure transaction, with the latest edition to its Zzzz series boxes. The eServer z900, with use of a PCI Cryptographic Accelerator Card, can process up to 3,850 SSL transactions per second, and features a number of software enhancements in reliability, manageability and Linux support. The server comes with a revamp of the z/OS operating system which extends Intelligent Resource Director (IRD), which reallocates system resources where they are most needed, to users running Linux and z/VM on the mainframe. z/OS also comes with bundled intrusion detection technology. To boost interoperability, Big Blue has announced the server comes with a new C++ compiler and Unix file system which IBM said "significantly improves the portability and performance of Unix applications running under z/OS". With the release, IBM has also announced the development of a technology which allows high-speed information transfer among mainframe partitions, called HiperSockets. HiperSockets improves server response time and availability and reduces the cost and complexity of inter-system communications because it is not dependent on external networks. ® External Links Washington Post reports that Billick blamed the previous week's "defensive breakdown on team's switch to Linux operating system" Related Stories eLiza asks: what makes you say you want a self-healing server? Sun shows off mainframe chasing 106 chip StarCat Services, ZzzSeries boost IBM figures IBM ships revamped mainframe IBM's Linux-ready ZzzSeries triples big iron bandwidth
John Leyden, 22 Oct 2001

VIA set for gloomy Q3 – analysts

VIA will announce its third-quarter results on Wednesday and if the five analysts Bloomberg quizzed are correct, it will post a significant slump in profitability. The reason: thanks to Intel's legal action against the company, no one its buying VIA's Pentium 4 chipsets, the analysts claim. Oh, and the PC market's a bit tough at the moment. VIA itself has already said quarterly sales will be down, from Q3 2000's NT$10.2 billion ($295.46 million) to NT$7.9 billion, a fall of just under 23 per cent. The upshot, Bloomberg's brains-trust has suggested, is a dip in quarterly income of just under 63 per cent. For the three months to 30 September, VIA is expected to have made earned NT$934 million. This time last year it made NT$2.5 billion. Here's what two of the analysts are saying about VIA, according to the Bloomberg report: "We're not that optimistic about VIA... I doubt they'll have an overwhelming competitive edge" - Michael Ding, International Investment Trust Ltd. Ding apparently sold his stake in VIA earlier this year. "Customers have been scared away by the legal issues with Intel. The PC market is also not as good as was expected.'' - John Leong, Deutsche Bank AG. Related Story VIA chipper about mobo market moves
Tony Smith, 22 Oct 2001

Data Protection Act kicks in on Wednesday

The first transitional period for the Data Protection Act (1998) ends on Tuesday and the second starts Wednesday morning - with huge implications for all UK businesses. From Wednesday 24 October, any company in the UK will basically have to hand over whatever personal data they possess on someone - whether electronically or on paper - for a fee of no more than £10 and within 40 days. If they fail to do so, they could face a fine of up to £5,000. Most at risk of logistical nightmares are small companies, employment agencies and estate agents. Small companies in particular are concerned that they will have to hire someone full-time just to hand over information - a big drain on resources. However, that's the law and as the government and various recent reports have pointed out, if you arrange your business in such a way that gathering such information is quick and efficient, it will have positive knock-on effects on the rest of your business. The issues here are enormous, so we'll give a very brief rundown and then point you in the direction of the Data Protection Web site that has a huge amount of (mostly clearly written) information for anyone concerned. Incidentally, the Act also has extensive implications for Web sites both here in the UK and abroad, so we'll cover that in another story later on today. What does the Act cover? Personal data gathered and processed by you or your company And what is "personal data"? Information about living, identifiable individuals. This means any identifiable data, such as a name or address. Is this Act a good idea or just a massive pain in the arse? It's a good idea. It pulls the balance of rights back away from companies and towards individuals. Those that wish to record, use and/or sell your personal data will have to do so transparently. They will also have to tell you what information they have on you and you are entitled in law to change any of it that is wrong. That said, it will also be a massive pain in the arse for many companies that aren't set up to release this information. But it's a rough-with-the-smooth deal here. All companies - no matter what their size - are equally affected. And if I refuse to do it? Then you can be fined £5,000 plus costs at a Magistrates Court, or an unlimited fine in the courts above that. You have 40 days to provide someone with their data - however, that 40 days may only start when you have sufficient information to find the data, when you have enough proof that the person is who they say they are and you have received the maximum £10 fee (if you have asked for it). So what do you get for your tenner? A company will have to disclose all information they have on you, both on a computer and in any filing cabinet. It will have to say why that information is being processed, who may be given that information and where it came from. All this can come as a computer print-out, a letter or a form. To get this information, you need only send a letter to the relevant company, saying: "I want to see what information you hold about me." Anything else? Yes, companies will need to follow five basic principles of good information handling. These are that the data must be: Obtained fairly and lawfully; Held only for specific and lawful purposes and not processed in any matter incompatible with those purposes; Relevant, adequate and not excessive for those purposes; Accurate and where necessary kept up to date; Not kept for longer than necessary. You will also have to work along with the Act so that if anyone asks for the information, you have to give it; if they ask for it not to be used for direct marketing, you have to make sure it isn't; if they ask for wrong or inaccurate data to be changed, you have to do it. Then of course, you have to make sure that adequate security measures are in place to prevent the unauthorised disclosure of the information. And also make sure the data is not sent outside the EU unless you are satisfied of that country's security arrangements. Don't that all sound like fun? Everything you need to know is on the Data Protection Web site at http://www.dataprotection.gov.uk. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 22 Oct 2001

Kevin Mitnick plays CIA lackey in TV role

Kevin Mitnick, who spent five years is prison for alleged computer crime offences, is to play a CIA computer expert in an episode of an American TV series to be aired next Sunday. Bringing a touch of credibility into the TV Haxploitation genre, Mitnick will plays the agent in an episode of new ABC series Alias called "Doppelganger", Wiredreports. Mitnick's terms of probation since his release in January 2000 ban him from using computers without the permission of his parole officer, so the show's production team had to set up a dummy computer for him to use during filming. Sounds interesting, and we're sure it'll play better than the much derided Takedown, the "dramatisation" of the pursuit and capture of Mitnick. After an extended spell on the run, Mitnick was arrested in February 1995 for hacking into the systems of firms like Sun Microsystems, MCI and Motorola, and obtaining copies of proprietary mobile phone code. He was held without bail for four and a half years, before he pleaded guilty to the unauthorised entry of computer systems, which earned him another eight months in the can. Brit newspaper The Guardian gave Alias the thumbs up at the weekend in its roundup of US TV programmes. The show is about a woman who's college kid by day, spy by night. However the Guardian thinks the production team behind the show blew its wad on the opening episode. This was so good, apparently, that Alias has nowhere left to go. ® Related Stories The Reg guide to hackers in film Haxploitation: the complete Reg guide to hackers in film El Reg's favourite Haxploitation films External links ABC's Alias home page
John Leyden, 22 Oct 2001

Dell to sell EMC's mid-range storage

Dell has inked a deal with EMC to resell its CLARiiON line of enterprise storage kit. The range will now form Dell's standard offering for SAN (Storage Area Networks) and NAS (Network Attached Storage). The alliance extends over five years and is obviously intended to boost both players standing in the market, by giving Dell a respectable storage offering (it will co-brand the products) and giving EMC a huge new reseller for its gear. It's a much-needed thing for EMC, with consolidation and partnership being the name of the game as everyone tries to be the real market gorilla (and after the shot to the pills it suffered recently when IBM allegedly nicked part of the huge Wal-Mart account from it). Tony Lock, a senior analyst at Bloor Research, says the move is completely logical for both companies, but will depend on how well they manage to work together for it to become successful. Beyond the usual reseller deal, Lock highlights the clause showing that EMC will attempt to take advantage of Dell's procurement and manufacturing capabilities in the production of these CLARiiON products. Recently, the Reg posted an interview with a top dog at Big Blue, Dietmar Wendt, who claimed that EMC was no longer the main competitor for it, advising people to watch Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) instead. He also commented that EMC was losing ground in major accounts due to bad strategy. Dell will continue to offer other storage products in its portfolios, such as its PowerVault products. It plans to start offering the new products, which includes the FC4500, FC5300, FC4700 (all fibre channel storage arrays) and IP4700 (a high-end fibre channel NAS solution), from November. It has also agreed to "work together" with EMC when its enterprise customers require more advanced products, which comes in the form of EMC's Symmetrix line of products. As to how closely they will work together, the release reads, "The companies will collaborate on the definition and explore the joint development of future open, networked storage systems." ® Related Links Dell, EMC Sign Multi-Billion-Dollar Enterprise Storage Agreement
James Watson, 22 Oct 2001

Colt revenues up, losses widen

Shares in Colt Telecom dipped 19p (15.8 per cent) in mid afternoon trading following the publication of widening Q3 losses. The voice and data carrier reported that its operating loss increased from £26 million in Q3 2000 to £52.3 million in Q3 2001. Revenues jumped 39 per cent to £231.4 million Despite the slowdown in economic activity Colt said that it continued to see an increase in demand from corporate customers. However, the company continues to see weakening demand in the wholesale bandwidth market. "These trends are continuing and we do not expect any change before the end of the year," said Colt chairman, Jim Curvey. By mid afternoon Colts shares had fallen 19p to 101.5p. ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Oct 2001

Intel confirms 845 supplies are ‘very tight’

Intel has admitted that its 845 chipset is in short supply, for the immediate future, at least. Speaking to reporters in Taipei today, Jason Chen, Intel's Asia-Pacific general manager said: "Overall for the whole quarter we believe we will be able to supply the market demand, but we believe we will see some short-term tightness." "If you're talking specifically about a hot item, like the 845, it will be very tight," he added. Chen's comments will fuel speculation that Intel has been restricting the availability of Socket 478 products in order to clear out stocks of older Socket 423 parts. Socket 423 Pentium 4 chips and 850 chipsets support Rambus' RDRAM memory, a technology Intel is broadly moving away from in favour of more popular types of memory. The Socket 478 845 supports PC133 SDRAM. An updated version, due early next year, will support DDR memory. Motherboard makers in Taiwan - and system integrators over here - have claimed that Socket 478 P4s have been hard to come by of late. Intel has been accused of holding back on supplies of the part - and, presumably, the 845 - until supplies of Socket 423 P4s and 850 chipsets have dwindled somewhat. Intel's official line is that there are no shortages, but we note that the company has privately told distributors that supply will remain a little tight until late November - the timeframe we previously reported that mobo makers were citing as the end of the shortages. Chen said Intel is "pushing [its 845 supplier] hard to give us more, so we can have some more 845s". Why, then, isn't it doing the same with the Socket 478 P4? ® Related Stories P4 shortages cause Athlon XP drought Socket 478 Pentium 4 shortages to end in December Pentium 4 and DVD shortages
Tony Smith, 22 Oct 2001

Is Wednesday the end for Web bugs and dodgy cookies?

This Wednesday (24 October), the second transitional period of the Data Protection Act takes effect in the UK, meaning that companies are required by law to provide all the personal data they store on anyone, if that person requests it. This has far-reaching implications for all UK businesses but more significantly (from our perspective anyway) it means all UK Web sites, Web sites with servers based in the UK, and companies that have cookies or Web bugs on UK Web sites will have to review their approach if they are not to fall foul of the new law. The new laws do have fairly complex repercussions, but only if a site is using the data it has gathered to personally identify visitors. If, as is the case with The Register, any data gathered on the site is used only to build impersonal stats, it is not affected. There are however two main areas of concern for most Web sites: cookies and email addresses. If a cookie is installed on your machine so a site knows exactly who you are when you visit, the data protection laws come into effect. Also, if visitors are asked to insert personal details such as an email address, name, address etc, that also falls under the new laws. The security distributor Allasso recently claimed that nine out of ten UK sites collect at least one type of identifying information, and most do so without the visitors' permission, going against the Act. In essence, if data that can identify you is gathered, a Web site has a legal duty to tell you what exactly is being gathered, what use that will be put to and who will be given access to that information. It will also have to ask you if you are happy with that. In much of Europe, there is an "opt-in" policy, so a visitor will have to actively click a box to say that information can be used. Legislation going through the EC may soon mean that the UK follows along the same lines and so the Information Commissioner suggests that UK sites adopt the same policy as "best practice". However, legally at the moment, sites need only give you the option, which you need to unclick. Other main points are: A privacy statement on its own is not enough if you are taking personally identifiable data. People should be made aware if you are taking this data at the time or before you are taking it. The Register's privacy statement is here. Storing IP addresses is not in itself much of a problem because most visitors will be coming in on dynamic addresses (i.e. they will come from a different IP address every time they visit). Static IP addresses are fine unless a site uses that address to link with other data held on someone. Companies have to be careful with data obtained from outside their own sites. Using spiders to gather email addresses is very likely to cross the threshold. If a company buys an email marketing list, it will need to ensure those addresses were obtained legally. Web bugs - if used to gather personally identifiable data - are likely to infringe the Act because, by design, they are not observable to the visitor. This sits badly with the Act assertion that all data be "obtained fairly". In cases where it is possible, Web sites should tell a visitor if they have information on them which they obtained from a third party. Extra care needs to be taken when dealing with kids. The company running a Web site needs to make sure that any personal data stored is secure. Placing personal data on a Web site is not allowed, first because of security but also because it allows that information to be picked up outside the EU. This doesn't apply if that information is already out in the public domain. If a company changes its privacy statement, all data gathered before that point is still subject to the old statement. It a company wants that statement apply to all that it has already, users' consent to that change will need to be sought. Companies that do gather personal data have to, by law, notify the Information Commissioner that they are doing so. This costs £35 a year. If one company takes over another, it will need to take account of how that company's data was gathered before using it under its own privacy statement. Basically, the best way to view all this is as a tidying up of what has been a very contentious issue for several years. If you don't mind what companies do with the information they pick up from you, there's no problem. If you do, then you have some recourse. Check out the Data Protection Web site for a lot more information. ® Related Links Data Protection site Related Stories The Register's privacy policy Data Protection Act kicks in on Wednesday
Kieren McCarthy, 22 Oct 2001

Vultures circle DRAM producers

Another week passes and the nail biting continues as the world (well, the DRAM world anyway) waits to see who going to be the first to fall. Adding to the pressure, EBN reported Friday that Samsung was the latest company to take the industry to task, with what is usually a Steve Appleton (Micron's chairman) type assault. As the article says, "Financially irresponsible DRAM suppliers are being subsidised by government interests, trashing delicate pricing structures and upsetting the market's delicate balance." Local memory reseller, Memory Plus, couldn't agree more. Marketing manager Steve Flack says he is praying that his Christmas present comes in the form of one of the big DRAM producers crash-and-burning, driving the memory price back out of the horrible pit it is stuck in at the moment. He says memory prices are so low now that the small price fluctuations that happen are not worth recording, it's down to pence bobbing up and down in the barely-flowing price stream. Flack adds that if he was the betting type, his money would be on Hynix to fold first. DRAMeXchange concurs with this in its weekly round-up, saying the company is currently in the most exposed position. It adds that NEC and Toshiba are not in strong positions either, but that those companies are on their way out of the market (see our article on Toshiba and Infineon getting together). The companies in question are trying their best not to show any weakness. As they are all competing on a base level here - pricing - none wish to slow down on their production, risking the loss of a price edge and, accordingly, market position. Due to this, inventories are rising, possibly exacerbating and prolonging the pricing situation. AsiaBizTech reported last Wednesday that inventories have been growing, "as leading DRAM makers are still at full production ... the excess supply will likely persist at least during the first half of 2002". In stronger positions are Samsung and Micron (allowing both of them to sound off at their weaker counterparts, as we see). Of course, no one is sitting pretty, with Samsung reporting today that its profits slid 75 per cent in the third quarter, mainly due to the state of memory prices. Last week, we reported on Gartner's prediction of the DRAM market shrinking a further 19 per cent next year, following this year's 67 per cent slide and adding more dark clouds to an already gloomy sky for those in the game. Of course, consumers are not very anxious for the blowout to come anytime soon as they revel in the cheapest memory prices anyone has ever seen. ®
James Watson, 22 Oct 2001

Business should ‘embrace anthrax’ and Internet

Companies should use the fear if receiving Anthrax by post as a fillip to adopt new IT-based business processes. Louis Halpem, CEO of edesigns.co.uk believes the threat of anthrax gives businesses a "new opportunity to rethink the value of the Internet". In a press release circulated today Mr Halpem said: "Businesses should go beyond assessing whether they still need to send anything by post or not. "They should embrace anthrax as an opportunity to go back to the basics, and identify - from the ground up - all the parts of their business that can be made more productive using online solutions. "They should jump on anthrax as a chance to transfer everything online; from internal and external communications, to marketing, to sales transactions, to distribution and so on. He went on: "We can use anthrax as the catalyst we have been waiting for to increase our productivity." Speaking to The Register Mr Halpem denied that the press release was a tasteless, perhaps cynical attempt to exploit a testing and uncertain time. E-designs is an email marketing consultancy which carries out email marketing campaigns on behalf of clients. ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Oct 2001

Nortel helping China to overhaul state surveillance architecture

Human rights activists have launched an attack on Nortel Networks, accusing it of contributing to human rights violations in China by helping the country overhaul its ageing surveillance technologies. The "Great Firewall of China", which controls content entering the country, is failing, largely due to the increased volume of Internet traffic in China, so the Chinese are looking to build a more sophisticated system involving content filtration, and the monitoring of individual users. That's one of the main conclusion in a report by The International Centre of Human Rights & Democratic Development (ICHRDD) which states: "Old style censorship is being replaced with a massive, ubiquitous architecture of surveillance: the Golden Shield." "Ultimately the aim is to integrate a gigantic online database with an all-encompassing surveillance network - incorporating speech and face recognition, closed-circuit television, smart cards, credit records, and Internet surveillance technologies," it adds. Many other Western firms are also involved in the development of China's state security apparatus but Nortel, which like the human rights group, is based in Canada, has come in for particular criticism in ICHRDD's report. Among the Nortel projects singled out for criticism are: Nortel's joint research with Tsinghua University on speech recognition technology, for the purpose of automated surveillance of telephone conversations The Canadian firm's support for FBI plans to develop a common standard to intercept telephone communications, known as CALEA, in conjunction with technology transfer through its joint venture, Guangdong Nortel (GDNT) The promotion of JungleMUX which allows video surveillance data to be transported from remote cameras back to a centralized surveillance point at the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) The deployment of Nortel's "Personal Internet" suite in Shanghai, "greatly enhancing the ability of Internet service providers to track the communications of individual users" A US$10 million project, involving Nortel, to build a citywide fibre-optic broadband network in Shanghai (OPTera) enabling central authorities to monitor subscribers at the "edge" of the network, principally through the Shasta 5000 firewall. Nortel's integration of face recognition and voice recognition technology in collaboration with AcSys Biometrics, a subsidiary of Canadian firm NEXUS Nortel is no stranger to controversy with its Personal Internet technology, which was criticised on its announcement in February by consumers activists and anti-junk mail campaigners, and has rejected ICHRDD criticism. "Nortel Networks categorically rejects in the strongest possible terms the notion that we are collaborating with any government to repress the human rights or democracy of its citizens," a statement by Nortel said. "Nortel Networks is a longstanding supplier of advanced telecommunications products and technology in China where we have a broad range of customers. Nortel Networks sells the same range of products and solutions in China as we do elsewhere." This response cut little ice with ICHRDD which believes Nortel's technology will be used to clamp down on political dissent. On September 28, four Chinese citizens were tried for subversion for participating in an on-line pro democracy forum. The four are but the most recent of several arrests in recent years for Internet-related crimes. Pacific rim leaders are expected to announce an "anti-terrorism" pact at the APEC summit this week which human rights advocates fear could be used to excuse increased crackdowns on Internet privacy and human rights, particularly in authoritarian states such as China. ® Related Stories Nortel helps stalk you on line External Links Nortel technology threatens human rights in China (press release by ICHRDD) China's Golden Shield: Corporations and the Developement of Surveillance Technology in the People's Republic of China (report by ICHRDD)
John Leyden, 22 Oct 2001

Doom for .NET? InterTrust opens up on the MS lawsuit

InterTrust is a tricky one for your average freedom fighter. On the one hand, you'd like to see Microsoft's OS monopoly broken, in which case InterTrust's lawsuit against the company is probably A Good Thing. But on the other, you're against companies who're patented up to the gunwhales using them to bludgeon rivals into submission - so which way do you turn? Last week, InterTrust MetaTrust Utility president Ed Fish talked to The Register, told us why his company was going to win the lawsuit, why sometimes patents might be good for you, and why InterTrust winning might even be good for Open Source. The last two are related, but not entirely because the destruction of Microsoft's .NET strategy would open up the horizons sufficiently for rivals to prosper. Aside from 'they're breaking into our house and trying to steal our stuff,' InterTrust objects to what Microsoft's doing with .NET because it perceives it as being a proprietary strategy designed to dominate, and to lock out rivals. It's worth noting that InterTrust doesn't actually have to think this in order to establish that Microsoft has been stealing it's stuff, so this could well be idealism rather than beliefs held for purely legal purposes. "It is a good future goal," says Fish, "to execute a layer so that objects can move around and be interoperable," and that layer should be "open except as required for security... We'd like to see an open, interoperable Internet OS layer that can be available and used by other companies. So a variety of important companies can commit themselves to building off a common platform that is open." Except as required for security, of course. E-commerce just plain won't work without the establishment and maintenance of secure trust relationships, so the alternatives Fish effectively presents are where that layer is owned by Microsoft and used as a tool for building Microsoft as a services company, or where it is licensed by InterTrust, and outside of it everybody else can do their own thing. Given the respective companies' lines of business it certainly seems more plausible that InterTrust's activities would be confined to the area "except as required for security." Warming to his theme, Fish waxes lyrical on another hot potato relating to his company, Digital Rights Management. Again, for e-commerce to work, you have to be able to stop people stealing things they haven't paid for, so you really do have to have DRM in some shape or form. If people can just walk into a store and take what they want without paying, then stores will cease to exist, and if the same applies for e-commerce, then e-commerce will not exist. So long as you accept that, then any objections to DRM you have should be made over the oppressive nature and unfairness of DRM as the record industry and its friends (Microsoft being a prime wannabe here) are currently trying to implement it. Fish simply suggests that the first generation has been a PR disaster in that it is seen as "pitting providers against users," and he's far too tactful to point that the providers have been the ones doing the pitting, by aiming to vastly increase their revenues without accepting the need for radical changes in their business models, and by pouring money into building better padlocks. If users perceive something as having a value, and the price and the terms are fair, then they will probably pay for it. They need simple, secure and non-oppressive ways to prove if they've paid for something already, and no doubt in some parallel universe DRM is a neutral system that establishes and protects their rights, and is not part of a battery of weaponry being used to take them away. That's what it already says on the label back on Planet Earth, and it might even become true here if consumer resistance triumphs over the providers in the end. The case itself Lawsuits against Microsoft, The Register sourly pointed out to Fish, have an unsatisfactory history. Generally Microsoft incorporates something more into the OS (compression, a GUI, say), the victim sues over a period of some years, there's then an out of court settlement, at which point the victim stops howling and Microsoft carries on happily. So maybe Microsoft has been stealing your stuff, but why the hell should we care if the net effect is simply going to be InterTrust collecting an unspecified bundle a couple of years down the line, and Microsoft carrying on happily? And if Microsoft is doing so much infringing in Windows XP and .NET, why don't you show us your preliminary injunction? The answer is multi-headed, and takes us through a fair slab of the interview. Last week InterTrust added three more patents to its suit against Microsoft, bringing the total so far to seven patents claimed to be infringed, involving a total of over 50 patent claims. Two of the new ones cover .NET, while the third concerns XP's product activation features. InterTrust's current 22 US patents represent, says Fish, "about ten per cent of what we have based on the specification filed in 1995." This portfolio is in the company's view absolutely key to Digital Rights Management and Trust relationships, and (again in the company's view) Microsoft should have licensed the technology from InterTrust, because it is practically inconceivable that a non-infringing alternative implementation of .NET could be invented. This is, says Fish, one of the larger patent cases in US history, and is second only to the DoJ's action in terms of importance for Microsoft's future. "We invented the core technology for digital trust management and we're prepared to go all the way to resolution." So no accepting sacks of gold in exchange for silence then? What about that preliminary injunction? "We did not yet ask for a preliminary injunction," he responds, first because the courts tend not to be inclined to grant them under such conditions, and second because the real impact won't occur for at least another 18 months. InterTrust could ask for a preliminary injunction to block XP now, but the court would certainly consider the impact on Microsoft, the PC business and the economy in general when considering the likelihood of success of the main action. It'd clearly have to be pretty damn sure. Preliminary injunctions are most likely to be asked for and granted when a company's core business is in clear and present danger, and InterTrust clearly does not think this is the case. Microsoft's rights management efforts are currently a moving target, with Fish observing that Media Player and e-book technologies are incompatible with one another, and the Common Language Runtime is different again. Under these cicumstances the big pay-off in the rights management arena is still some distance away: "the hockey stick is 24-36 months in the future." So actually, it's not just the rollout of Windows XP that InterTrust's legal activities will fail to impact on, it's anything up to the next three revs of the OS. After which? It's the big ones Fish is interested in, Polaroid versus Kodak, Bell versus Western Union. Polaroid's action against Kodak ground on for years, then one day Polaroid won and Kodak's instant photo business was shut down, instantly. "If a product infringes it's a matter of law that you're entitled to an injunction." The Bell-Western Union comparison is perhaps a less happy one, given that Western Union hired Edison, who "made a better phone," and still lost because Bell had the patents. But it illustrates the point. If InterTrust does own the fundamentals of digital rights management technology, and hence the fundamentals of .NET, then when it proves it in court the lights will go off very suddenly, and Microsoft's .NET strategy will be toast. Particularly so if Fish is right about the difficulties involved in inventing alternatives. InterTrust will still own the technology, the partners who've worked with it in the meantime will have their foresight rewarded, and Microsoft will have to license and fall into line. So how did you get to be so smart? The trick was prescience above and beyond the call, combined with a clear understanding of what they had. Around 91-92, InterTrust saw "the world as it has emerged," and started building for it. "It provides great leverage." As far as the Internet is concerned the obvious comparison is Netscape but, "think where Netscape would be if Netscape had patents." There is indeed a moral there. Which takes us to the other component of the success formula. "People ask us, how did you assemble such a legal team in such a little company?" Figuring out the importance of hanging on to the technology was probably more prescient than figuring out the technology itself, and InterTrust's assiduous filings could well result in the little guy winning this time. But a little guy winning via patents and shedloads of lawyers? It's a complex world we live in... ®
John Lettice, 22 Oct 2001

The451.com is back from the dead

Subscription-only tech news site The451.com is back, after chief exec Martin McCarthy led a management buy- up of the company's name and other assets from the receivers. The new The451.com has kept the offices in New York and San Francisco, but has no plans to re-open its London digs. All the US staff are back on board in full-time or freelance capacities, according to McCarthy. He is negotiating similar deals with the UK staffers, but admits there will be fewer people working on The451 than the 25 or so who were employed before its brush with death. Majority-owner Durlacher announced to the stock market on Monday 15 October that receivers had been brought in to handle the site's company 45Onecom Ltd. The451.com was valued at £500,000 at the end of June, but McCarthy declined to say what it had cost to buy the name, database of subscribers (in the thousands according to McCarthy) and back file of wide-ranging IT analysis stories, plus PCs and some furniture. The Register has always been sceptical that an online publishing model, requiring large numbers subscribers to pay for mainstream IT news and analysis, would survive, when idiots like ourselves are giving the stuff away for free. McCarthy is confident that the model will work with a bit of retuning. "The cost structure didn't quite jibe with our revenues," he said then pointed out that losing a London office and some staff has addressed this issue. What about competitors giving content away for free? "I come from a background where people are prepared to pay for quality," said McCarthy. But The Reg is good and free. "I'm not too familiar with your site, but with all due respect we have a higher quality offering," said McCarthy. The Reg always said The 451.com was absurdly self-regarding but McCarthy may have a point. In our story The451.com is dead, we suggested the company's Manhattan offices on 5th Avenue were swanky, coming complete with leather sofa and exposed brick; one visitor described the set-up as "the dog's bollocks". Apparently the sofa is naugahyde, not leather, and had been left there by the previous tenant. The brick is exposed because of a minor damp problem. ® Related Stories The451.com is dead The451.com wields job axe
Robert Blincoe, 22 Oct 2001

Brocade flips 2Gbps FC switch

Brocade has announced the first in a range of products designed for 2Gbps Fibre Channel storage area networks. The 16-port SilkWorm 3800 Enterprise Fabric Switch is the first implementation of the Brocade Intelligent Fabric Services Architecture, which is designed to enhance the manageability, availability, and security of networked storage. Brocade said that 64- and 128-port fabric switches will available shortly to OEM partners. Backward compatibility with 1Gbps switches is promised. Several fibre channel vendors, including QLogic, McData and Gadzoox, unveiled 2Gbps switches at the Storage Networking World conference in Orlando today. The development comes as Fibre Channel vendors cast at anxious eye over their shoulders at the forthcoming arrival of iSCSI interfaces (an IETF standard due early next year) which will make it easier to carry storage traffic over Ethernet networks. Using Ethernet as a switching fabric promises to lower the costs of building storage networks as it makes use of cheaper hardware and applies widely understood Ethernet skills to the problem. Early deployments of iSCSI technology are expected in the second half of next year. Paul Trowbridge, marketing manager at Brocade, told us that there was "a lot of noise" about iSCSI from the likes of Intel and Cisco, but people will continue to invest in Fibre Channel in the data centre. "People can't award to wait for iSCSI, which has an unproven effect on other network traffic," said Trowbridge, who added that Fibre Channel will remain the mainstay of the enterprise data centre for "three to four" years. ® Related Stories Sayanora to SAN Squabbles SAN sanity, TCO parity Intel lays out network stall
John Leyden, 22 Oct 2001