30th > October > 2001 Archive

Microsoft's Trick or Treat

In the gothic novel of public opinion, Microsoft is a veritable "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." The general business community regards Microsoft as a prominent and respected corporation with a substantial product line which has literally changed the face of modern-day computing. It's stock is on the rise (presumably in reaction to the highly publicized launch of XP), and quarterly earnings over the past year have met or exceeded industry projections. In the last quarter, roughly 85 per cent of analysts have classified MSFT as a "buy" with more than half of those putting the stock in the "strong buy" category. With several technology companies posting losses in the billions alongside employee lay-offs into the thousands, some think Microsoft is looking pretty good. Many consider it a family of Shiny Happy People who want to buy the world a Coke and keep it company. Saying that some in the information security community have a different view would be an understatement reminiscent of DNA's structure being described as "biologically interesting." There are substantial numbers of people out there that openly despise Microsoft with an almost religious furor, describing it as a purveyor of garbage, devoid of any security knowledge, absorbed in an horrifying monopolistic quest for world domination. To them, Microsoft is a group of Evil Troglodytes on coke who want to make the world their company. The vast majority of us are somewhere in the middle. To embrace Microsoft technologies is to engage in a bittersweet relationship between function and form, cost and capability, and simplicity and security. The latter is what tends to bite most of us in the back pocket. In between good and evil, we find ourselves with a job to do and a limited amount of time to do it in. So when security issues arise that threaten our networks, they divert us from our goals, potentially expose resources, and rob us of our profits. However, we have to realize that security problems are part of the deal; they are the Yin intermingled with our Local Area Yang and will exist across the board. In an amazing coincidence of almost serendipitous timing, my last "everything has security issues" article was immediately followed by multiple security advisories for varied distros of Linux, including issues with Apache. Sun also issued multiple advisories against different versions of Solaris and SunOS. You see, security issues are here to stay. I'm not surrendering to the machine; I'm just accepting that it will always have to be oiled. But there is hope on the horizon for MS shops. Microsoft has taken a look at the process through Code Red colored glasses, and has seen the light. In an unprecedented initiative, the company has been rolling out security provisions one after another in an effort to illustrate its commitment to security, and quell the fears of its customers. Beauty in the Beast Within a very short period of time, we saw the release of HFNetChk, IISLockdown, and URLScan. Shortly thereafter, details of the new Strategic Technology Protection Program (STPP) and its "Get Secure, Stay Secure" offerings were released. While there are some to whom this news will be as exciting as a conversation with Ben Stein after a bong hit, I think it is an important step for the company, if not the entire industry. Some say it's "too little too late" or they're "closing the barn doors after the horses have left," but I don't there is such a thing when dealing with evolving technologies. While there may be plenty of historical evidence to dispute Microsoft's concern or capacity to secure its past products, I am optimistic about the "from here, forward" directive. While the Microsoft security team has been beating against products for some time in an effort to increase their security, I have been of the mindset that true security in the product line can only be gained from a change in the development model -- and that change must be in the form of an Executive Decree. This is now all taking place. Brian Valentine, Senior VP of the Windows division has made some very clear promises about what is to come: The company is committing resources, unifying divisions, and creating consortiums that will even include competitors, if that is what it takes. SP3 for Win2k, due in February, promises to yield fixes based on a complete code-level review of all sensitive processes. And Bill Gates himself has been quoted as saying that there is "no higher priority for us than closing security holes." Some might simply consider this to be lip service or corporate rhetoric, but I don't think so. Special support services are being carved out, and enterprise tools created and distributed -- all for free. Besides, I think they know that this is something that has to be done. The success of .Net depends upon it, and Microsoft knows it. Given the vast range of public opinion about Microsoft, Robert Louis Stevenson himself would have difficulty fully describing the persona that is The Microsoft Monster. Only time will tell whether it will be man or beast. © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved. Tim Mullen is CIO of AnchorIS, a developer of secure, enterprise-based accounting software.
Tim Mullen, 30 Oct 2001

Linux update withholds security info on DMCA terror

Citing a controversial U.S. copyright law, a top Linux developer announced this week that Americans would not be given details about the security fixes in an update to the open source operating system, a first for a software development community that prides itself on transparency. An update to version 2.2 of the Linux kernel, an older version of Linux that's still in wide use, was released Monday, conspicuously shorn of information about a number of security holes patched in the software. In an email to a Linux developer's mailing list, U.K.-based Linux guru Alan Cox wrote that the self-censorship was necessary to avoid running afoul of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law that makes it a crime to create or distribute software "primarily designed" to circumvent a copy protection scheme. Cox controls the 2.2 release, and is generally considered Linux's second-in-command after creator Linus Torvalds. The DMCA has been under fire from computer programmers and electronic civil libertarians who argue that it is an unconstitutional impingement on speech, and interferes with consumers' traditional right to make personal copies of books, movies and music that they've purchased. In July, the first criminal prosecution under the Act kicked-off with FBI agents arresting Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian computer programmer who was visiting the U.S. to give a talk at a security conference. Sklyarov is the author of a computer program that cracks the copy protection scheme used by Adobe Systems' eBook software. "With luck, the Sklyarov case will see that overturned on constitutional grounds," Cox wrote on the list. "Until then U.S. citizens will have to guess about security issues." America Boycotted But U.S. Linux developers and users suspect Cox of using them to carry a political message. "My personal belief is that certain people are using this as an excuse to draw attention to the dangers inherent in the DMCA," says Birmingham system administrator Wayne Brown. "I'm sympathetic to their efforts, but not at all happy that people who need access to this information will be denied just to make a point... It seems to me to be contrary to the whole spirit of free software development." "I still think this is an extremist view of the DMCA," wrote U.S. Linux developer Tom Sightler, in a post to the developer's list. "I don't see where it keeps you from posting information about security fixes to your own code." Cox didn't respond to a reporter's inquiry, but on the mailing list, he wrote that the new closed policy was necessary because Linux's standard security features may be used for "rights management" of copyrighted work. He declined to elaborate further "on a list that reaches U.S. citizens." The programmer plans to post Linux security information exclusively on a Web site that will block access from the U.S. Despite Cox's fears, describing security holes or patches in Linux doesn't violate the DMCA, because the information isn't primarily designed for the purpose of circumvention, says attorney Jennifer Granick, director of the Stanford Law School's Law and Technology Clinic. "He seems to be assuming that the DMCA prohibits discussion about any kind of security, and that's not what it does," says Granick. "The DMCA is bad, but it's not that bad." "Part of the problem with the DMCA is it doesn't make intuitive sense to people who are practicing in this field, so even after reading the statute, people don't understand exactly what they are or aren't allowed to do," says Granick. Copyright © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 30 Oct 2001

UMC loss doubles as sales halve

UMC saw profit turn to loss during its most recently completed quarter - its third - as sales fell by nearly 60 per cent to NT$11.96 billion ($346 million). For the three months to 30 September, UMC lost NT$4.02 billion (NT$0.30 a share), well down on the NT$14.6 billion (NT$1.31 a share) it earned this time last year. It's also more the double the NT$1.9 billion loss it posted for Q2. UMC is the world's second-largest chip foundry, behind TSMC. Its rival posted income up nearly 300 per cent quarter-on-quarter, so UMC has clearly some way to go to catch up. Looking ahead, UMC said it anticipates a ten per cent sequential increase in sales this quarter on the back of growing "consumer electronics and PC orders", according to company deputy chairman John Hsuan. But that's unlikely to prevent the company turning in another loss, we'd say, particularly since "wireless and wire-line orders show no sign of increasing", in Hsuan's words. Certainly for the full year, UMC expects to lose NT$3.2 billion on revenue of NT$63.5 billion. UMC will cut capital spending even further next year, reducing its budget for plant from $1.5 billion to $1.1 billion, both well below the $2.8 billion it originally intended to spend. ® Related Stories TSMC Q3 income up 297% quarter-on-quarter UMC's August sales up... just about TSMC, UMC July sales: no better than June
Tony Smith, 30 Oct 2001

Canon looks to nanoholes to drive up storage densities

Expect storage media capacities to increase significantly this decade, if Canon's latest research bears commercial fruit. The company this week said its R&D division has developed a material capable of supporting data densities of 500Gb per square inch. By comparison, Fujitsu's top-of-the-line 2.5in hard drive, which the company claims has the highest data density in the world, can store 100Gb per square inch. And Canon's ambition is to extend its new material to provide data densities of around 1000Gb per square inch (1Tb) by 2010. The company's boffins have essentially developed a material substrate into which magnetic elements made of cobalt, cobalt alloys, or nickel compounds can be embedded. The magnetic particles sit inside cylindrical pockets called 'nanoholes', each of which is 50nm in diameter and 500nm deep. Canon reckons the technology will allow it to reach its anticipated data densities more quickly than can its rivals who are attempting to stretch the limits of conventional materials. The Japanese giant also believes its process will be cheaper. Initial versions of the process are expected to appear in commercial products in 2007-2008. ®
Tony Smith, 30 Oct 2001

Dr Bott brings Apple LCDs to Windows PCs

x86 PC users who fancy Apple's sleek, sharp LCD monitor series but have in the past been disappointed by the company's Mac-only policy can at last be assured that the screens will at last work with Windows. Oddly named Mac peripheral company Dr. Bott has released a Windows version of its DVIator product, which allows Apple's LCD screens - including the 1600x1024 widescreen Cinema display - to be connected to a graphics card with a standard digital video port. Apple's 15in and 17in Studio and 22in Cinema displays use a proprietary connector that adds power and USB lines to the standard DVI interface. That renders them useless to anyone without an Apple Display Connector-equipped video card, which is pretty much everyone without Apple's own OEM Nvidia and ATI cards. The DVIator splits the ADC port into separate power, DVI and USB cables, making it handy for folks with older Macs such as the Blue'n'white G3 and, now, Windows machines. Dr Bott is now offering the part with a 32MB ELSA Gladiac 511 card - it's based on Nvidia's GeForce 2 MX 400 - for $289. You can buy the card on its own for $139. The company certifies the bundle to working with Windows 95/98/NT/Me, though not, we note, XP or Windows 2000. Cheap at twice the price, we say, which is more than you can say for Apple's expensive LCDs, which start at $599 (15in) and rise to $2499 for the 22in model. ® Related Links Dr Bott: Get more DVIator info here Apple: Pricey-but-nicey LCDs
Tony Smith, 30 Oct 2001

Napster relaunch delayed until next year

Napster yesterday blamed obstructive record companies for its decision to delay the relaunch of its music service by several months. Konrad Hilbers, Napster's new CEO, said the service will now launch in Q1, 2002, and not this year as previously announced. In his keynote speech at Webnoize 2001 in Los Angeles, Hilbers blamed rival record companies which are failing to agree terms with Napster over use of their music. "The biggest hurdle Napster faces is obtaining this content," he told the conference. The disagreement is seen by some as stalling tactic by the record companies, all of which are releasing their own online music sites in the near future. Although Napster has lost much of its credibility since US courts found in the music industry's favour and shut the service down, recent figures have shown that it still has a huge online awareness. If people have to pay for the music, they are likely to go to Napster, unless record companies can establish their new brands, MusicNet and Pressplay, first. Hilbers argued that Congress should think about "compulsory licensing" - which isn't a bad idea and a case could be made for it, but is unlikely to help him out at the moment. Napster had 60 million users at its peak but has been in purgatory since March. Yesterday, the site's owner, German media and music giant Bertelsmann, invested a further £18 million in the company. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 30 Oct 2001

EMC spreads software wings

Today EMC takes its first public steps down the road which leads to true heterogeneous platform management. EMC has held the rank of world's number one storage hardware supplier. Recently the company has gone out of its way to let everyone know that, in dollar terms, it leads the way in storage management software sales as well. However, these software tools provided functionality which only worked, for the most part, in conjunction with EMC's own storage hardware technologies. This will change with a range of new products and existing technologies under the umbrella of EMC AutoIS that are targeted to supply enterprise storage management. AutoIS stands for automated information storage and EMC plans to supply tools that are simple "open" and capable of assisting in the administration of a number of hardware products, including those of SAN switch suppliers and the storage hardware systems of other vendors. As the world of storage lacks many fully functional, widely accepted and deployed standards, EMC is supplying access to an API programme that will provide "doorways into a walled garden". It is clear that any muli-vendor storage management technology will be forced to make use of any APIs that are available in order to administer the underlying hardware components. EMC kicks off its AutoIS roll out with a number of products launching over the course of the next ninety days. At the heart of the range is the tool EMC WideSky, which is described as storage management middleware. EMC sees this abstraction layer of the storage architecture as providing integration capabilities in a multi-vendor storage environment. Along with WideSky will come EMC ControlCenter / Open Edition which operates as a repository of standard functions to consolidate operations through a single task oriented interface. The product also allows for tasks to be automated in a straightforward manner. ControlCenter / Open Edition supports the discovery of the storage elements and the monitoring of service levels. The EMC ControlCenter / StorageScope product provides business level management reporting capabilities for the whole storage infrastructure. Finally EMC ControlCenter /Replication Manager supplies sophisticated automatic management of disk replication processes and tools and also manages the "instant" restore process. In its current state, the WideSky middleware supports several file systems (including IBM AIX JFS, IBM MVS, Novell, Sun Solaris VSF, HP VX JFS, Windows NT and 2000 along with VERITAS VxFS) and leading Volume managers. WideSky also supports leading SAN platforms including those of Brocade, McData, Qlogic and Connectrix whilst the storage platforms supported include EMC's Symmetrix and Clariion, Compaq, JBOD, HP XP256 and XP512, HDS / Sun 7700E and 9900 and IBM ESS and RVA. A number of tape devices are also covered and WideSky integrates with leading enterprise management frameworks including CA Unicenter, Tivoli Netview, HP Openview and Micromuse. An important development will see EMC use a common repository to store information on the storage infrastructure, to ensure that all applications are able to access common information about the storage resource assets. This step should make available better management information and reporting and open up the whole infrastructure to new automated processes. This is the correct approach to managing the storage infrastructure as a whole and is exactly the type of technology that many organisations desperately need. It is equally obvious that this is the first step down a very long path for EMC. The other major storage management companies, including the likes of Tivoli, CA, HDS, HP and VERITAS, are also pursuing the same objectives and each desires to be the vendor to supply the single management tool that will administer every storage component. With the declared entry of EMC into the battle the space should become quite active and we can expect to see many new developments reaching the market over the next twelve to eighteen months. EMC openly sees these announcements as just the beginning; it plans to widen platform coverage and deepen the functionality as the markets mature and as customer demands increase. This would be a really good time for all of the interested parties in storage to get together to create and enhance the standards that are so clearly required to help everyone win. Storage management will become a very competitive arena and EMC means to own a large piece of the turf, as do Tivoli, HDS and Veritas. Watch this space for future developments. © IT-Analysis.com. All rights reserved.
IT-Analysis, 30 Oct 2001

UK govt wants to decide own spam policy

The UK government has said it supports the European Parliament's plan to let individual countries decide their own spam policy, something that is bad news for UK consumers since the government is known to be swaying towards an opt-out approach to unsolicited mail. A DTI spokesman told news site Netimperative: “The recommendation before the EU... is something we support fully." The proposal that each country can decide its own approach to spam has been put forward in the latest incarnation of the Telecoms Data Protection Directive in a bid to get it past the first reading and into EU law. The directive is currently with the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs, which has been told to come to an agreement after the legislation fell apart when first presented to the Parliament. This proposal may smooth the way for acceptance but effectively removes its most important aspect (for UK citizens anyway) as UK politicians and government are known to be in favour of the opt-out approach to spam - namely that you will have to ask to be removed from a mailing list. The other option is the opt-in approach where people have to actively agree to be put on a particular mailing list. British MEP Michael Cashman annoyed many when he attempted to justify a pro-spam stance back in July. Since then the Directive has been batted back and forth in a bid to find consensus. Sadly, the latest version still has several major flaws, as we reported a week ago. Spam is set only to get worse. ® Related Stories EU says 'oui' to spam EU anti-spam legislation up again this evening 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, 30 Oct 2001

Back broadband during the downturn

TMATMA NTL has called on business to embrace broadband and communication technology in a bid to beat the economic downturn. Speaking at TMA 2001 in Brighton this morning NTL Business MD, Mike Wagner, warned that cutting spending on communications could damage the potential for companies to recover once the economy begins to pick-up. Said Mr Wagner: "We're witnessing exceptionally strained economic conditions, and there can be few industries that have escaped the drive to reduce cost across the board. "Communications managers are under a huge amount of pressure, but it's vital not to lose sight of the fact that downturns do not last forever, and that they provide opportunities as well as hazards," he said. Earlier, Stephen Carter, MD and COO of the cableco, picked up on a number of themes that have dominated the conference here at Brighton. Lamenting the UK's failure to make any real headway in the broadband world he urged Government to intervene and give the sector a boost. He said that Government should be "very interventionist" suggesting that it could provide positive tax breaks for businesses in the sector. And he added: "We need to educate people about the benefits of broadband; we need to use it and train for it. "There is still a big gap for customers trying to understand what broadband is. "We must increase awareness of the benefits of broadband for consumers and businesses," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 30 Oct 2001

Baltimore board votes in pay cuts

Senior execs at security firm Baltimore Technologies have agreed to take a pay cut that reflects the firm's diminished financial health. Newly appointed chief executive, Bijan Khezri, has agreed to work for a salary of £150,000 and to wave any bonus entitlements he might earn this year. Backdated to October 1, Baltimore's chairman, Peter Morgan, has agreed to slash his wages from £90,000 to £40,000 per year. Non-executive directors will get £18,000 per annum, instead of £25,000. In a proposal to be put to share holders at Baltimore's next annual general meeting in April, only one third of these sums will be paid in cash with the remainder coming as Baltimore shares bought at prevailing market rates. Dwindling cash reserves (which stood at £32.4 million on September 30) and disappointing sales of its core PKI technology have forced Baltimore to take a scythe to its business, after a string of disappointing financial results that have been accompanied to heavy job losses. Around 1,400 people worked for Baltimore at the start of the year but this will be cut to 470 by the second quarter of next year. Meanwhile Baltimore's share price has collapsed. Khezri, who was appointed this month to oversee its ongoing restructuring (which will involve the sale of Baltimore's content security business), said reduced salaries for its board weren't only about saving cash but showed "leadership and sensitivity to both our shareholders and employees at this crucial time." ® External Links Baltimore Technologies Appoints Bijan Khezri as Chief Executive Officer and announces financial highlights for Q3 2001 Related Stories Baltimore appoints new chief as revenues decline Baltimore unveils lifeboat plan as 220 crew drowned More jobs to go at Baltimore Baltimore CEO quits Baltimore slashes 250 jobs as losses grow Baltimore denies it's in takeover talks with CA Baltimore Technologies faces takeover action
John Leyden, 30 Oct 2001

Handspring strikes corporate data alliance

Where Palm failed, Palm OS licensee Handspring is hoping to succeed - in the corporate mobile data arena. The company today announced a partnership with Synchrologic to bring the latter's iMobile Suite, which essentially ties corporate databases into mobile platforms and allows enterprise IT staff to manage their mobile resources, with Handspring's Visor PDAs and upcoming Treo smartphones. It's a plan not dissimilar to Palm's scheme to buy Extended Systems. Rather than form a broad alliance, Palm instead chose to buy its putative partner for $264 million worth of shares - only to bail out at a later date, when its own troubled finances made the deal impractical. Palm is left with the option to resell Extended's server software. Where Synchrologic focuses on software, Extended offers hardware products too (a part of the business Palm had planned to knock on the head), so we suspect Handspring's partner has been better able to withstand the shocks that have rippled through the communications and networking hardware market over the last nine months or so. Handspring and Synchrologic will " work together in an effort to bring mobile and wireless hardware and software solutions to corporate customers" - in short, they'll jointly promote each others' products. Synchrologic's code supports PocketPC and notebook computers as well as Palm OS-based Handsprings. Since many of the key PDA photos on Synchrologic's Web site are of old Palm Vs, we'd suggest that upgrading the site with some Visors might be a good. first step in the relationship. That, however, might not go down too well with Palm, which entered into a similar business alliance in 1999. ® Related Stories Palm buys Extended to fuel corporate push Palm halves Q4 revenue guidance, doubles loss
Tony Smith, 30 Oct 2001

£25m Barclays blackmail trial begins

An encryption expert attempted to blackmail Barclays Bank for £25 million after becoming disillusioned with his work and leaving the bank, a jury at the Old Bailey heard yesterday. Graham Browne, 57, from Knutsford in Cheshire, told police that his threat to reveal the encryption codes which protected the security of credit cards was "a joke" he had made to call attention to poor security practices at Barclays, prosecution barrister Sallie Bennett-Jenkins told the court. Until January 2000, Browne headed Barclays' team of cryptographers but he became frustrated at what he saw as the bank's failure to recognise his skill and the value of his work. After his application for voluntary redundancy was rejected "he became more erratic and his tolerance for the workplace diminished, Bennett-Jenkins told the court. He subsequently resigned, and to the surprise of those working with Browne, the bank accepted this decision, The Telegraph reports. The prosecution case is that soon after leaving Browne sent the first of four letters to the firm's chief executive threatening to reveal sensitive codes which, if disclosed, would put the security of the bank's credit and debit card operation at risk. The letters were accompanied by demands that 14 people - including Browne - would get a payment of £25 million and that Barclays set up a unit to improve security. On receipt of the fourth email, Barclays called in the police who subsequently arrested Browne after recovering incriminating evidence from his house and computer. A number of pre-trial hearings in the case were hold behind closed doors, or in camera, because of concerns that sensitive details of security systems used by Barclays might be revealed. A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service told us that the application to conduct hearings in camera was made by Browne's defence lawyers. No such application for the trial itself has yet been made, she told us, which means the trail is continuing to be heard in open court, at least for now. Browne denies the charges against him and the case continues today. ® External Links Court report by The Telegraph Related Stories Barclaycard £25m blackmail crypto case cloaked in secrecy IT consultant denies £25m Web site blackmail Barclays goes down on customers Barclays beats Egg for top online bank crown Barclays online cockup
John Leyden, 30 Oct 2001

AMD Processor Products, Prices

UpdatedUpdated In the event, AMD made only one price cut yesterday, dropping the top-end Athlon XP 1800+ from $252 to $223, a fall of 12 per cent. Not much, you might think, but presumably sufficient in AMD's view to pitch the part against Intel's mid-range Pentium 4s. AMD also trimmed its Duron prices a little and dropped some T'bird Athlons. Once again, the prices quoted are AMD's official numbers, based on volume purchases of 1000 chips. Street prices for boxed processor are likely to be somewhat lower, so there's really no need to let us know that you can get them for less on CheapAsChips.com. ® Desktop CPU Price Athlon XP - 0.18 micron 'Palomino' 1800+ (1.53GHz) $223 1700+ (1.47GHz) $190 1600+ (1.40GHz) $160 1500+ (1.33GHz) $130 Athlon - 0.18 micron 'Thunderbird' 1.40GHz - 200/266MHz FSB $125 1.33GHz - 266MHz FSB $125 1.30GHz - 200MHz FSB $125 Duron - 0.18 micron 'Morgan' 1.1GHz $89 1.0GHz $74 Duron - 0.18 micron 'Spitfire' 950MHz $69 Mobile CPU Price Athlon 4 - 0.18 micron 'Palomino' 1.1GHz $425 1.0GHz $290 950MHz $260 900MHz $230 850MHz $195 Duron - 0.18 micron 'Palomino' 900MHz $130 850MHz $100 800MHz $90 Server/Workstation CPU Price Athlon MP 'Palomino' 1800+ (1.53GHz) $302 1600+ (1.40GHz) $210 1500+ (1.33GHz) $180 1.2GHz $175 1.0GHz $165 Related Story Intel Processor Products, Prices
Tony Smith, 30 Oct 2001
Cat 5 cable

Orange takes bronze in 3G race

Orange has put claim to the UK's bronze medal for 3G today, saying it has completed its first voice, data and video call on a third-generation network. The call happened in France - Orange's biggest market and home of its owner France Telecom - and VP Didier Quillot called it "a key milestone". He continued: "The significance of this is that it was a live call using network and terminal equipment similar to that which customers will actually use when these services are launched." Fantastic! Well, sort of. NTT DoCoMo won the race of course and actually got the world's first 3G network up and running in central Tokyo this month. But in terms of companies with UK licences, BT, closely followed by Vodafone, announced in April this year they had managed their first calls over a test network. And now Orange. Third out of five in the UK and fourth (as we understand it) in the world (the South Koreans tried to cheat, saying 30Kbps was 3G). That leaves only Hutchinson 3G and One2One. BT Cellnet, now called mmO2, said it was going to have the world's first 3G network in the Isle of Man in time for the TT races earlier this year, but that all went horribly wrong and it was abandoned. According to the company though it is now up and running and being used as a test bed for the rest of the UK. Handsets are due to be handed out to several residents soon, we were told, who would give the company feedback. Hutchinson started hyping up its system in July, saying it would have a mobile version of Quake but when we asked it for any further details, we were given some nonsense about keeping it under wraps. Vodafone always said it would put video on its phones from launch. But once it had pushed back the launch date to 2003, it then admitted that video would play no part until several years down the line. Orange said it would have football clips but then if memory serves us right, it was only for French football - and who the hell would want that except the French? Orange it also looking at 2003. MmO2 is wisely keeping quiet about it all, as is Deutsche Telekom owned One2One. In fact, One2One is looking the least ready at the moment, unless of course it's playing a wise game of watching everyone else's mistakes. Of which there have been many. ® Related Stories Vodafone makes 3G work! I've got the first 3G network. No, I have! No, I have! Isle of Man pitches for world's first 3G network
Kieren McCarthy, 30 Oct 2001

AOL told to stop shipping AOL 6.0

AOL has been forced by a US court to halt shipments of its AOL 6.0 software - and could affect the recently launched version 7.0. PlayMedia, the company behind the AMP MP3 player engine under the hood of WinAMP and other popular MP3 playback applications, has successfully forced AOL to cease shipping product that contains its technology. Judge A. Howard Matz in the Los Angeles District Court yesterday ordered AOL to stop shipping AOL 6.0 while it continues to include AOL Media Player. Look at the software's initials and you'll see why: Media Player is essentially a modern version of WinAMP, developed after AOL bought Nullsoft. PlayMedia originally licensed Nullsoft its AMP MP3 code and granted the WinAMP maker the right to sub-license AMP. That right, it insists, does not convey on AOL a right to use AMP in its own online access software, even if it did buy Nullsoft. And, to prove its point, PlayMedia sued AOL for copyright infringement last April. Judge Matz' ruling grants PlayMedia a preliminary injunction against AOL until the company's case against the media giant has been judged in court. The ruling prevents AOL from shipping AOL 6.0 - either directly or through third-parties - while it contains AMP code, though it is permitted to ship the MP3 decoded in WinAMP. Equally, it has to block any AOL 6.0 user whose installed version of the software contains AMP - though said users are allowed access to the AOL service in order for the company to remove the offending code through its Live Update mechanism. AOL has been ordered to put up $500,000 as security for its complicity in the Judge's order. AOL originally sought to block a preliminary injunction on the grounds that such a move would cost it too much money and, in any case, it denies the copyright infringement charge. It's now heavily promoting AOL 7.0, but since that software may contain an AMP-based AOL Media Player, it is also covered by the injunction. The Judge's ruling forbids the use of AMP in all software but WinAMP. As we went to press, AOL had yet to comment on the presence of AMP code in Media Player 7.0. PlayMedia, meanwhile, has a history of litigation. The licensing deal it struck with Nullsoft came about after it sued the WinAMP maker in May 1999 for illegally including AMP in that very application. The suit soon took in MP3.com, which was promoting WinAMP at the time, but was settled the following June on the day after AOL announced its intention to buy Nullsoft. More recently, PlayMedia was signed by Napster to produce a proprietary '.nap' music format for the sharing company's upcoming copyright-protecting service. ® Related Stories PlayMedia settles MP3 suits PlayMedia sues MP3.com Napster relaunch delayed until next year Napster to ditch MP3 for proprietary format
Tony Smith, 30 Oct 2001

Secondhand WinXP for sale

Computer Exchange (CeX) is to buy and sell secondhand copies of Windows XP. But all copies must be unused and sealed. By insisting on this, the UK's leading retailer of secondhand games and IT goods hopes to avoid any copyright issues arising from the new product activation system used in Windows XP. Here are CeX's prices (inc VAT): Windows XP Home Edition £135 Windows XP Professional Edition £195 Windows XP Home Edition Upgrade £69 Windows XP Prof. Ed. Upgrade £135 You can expect to pay these prices if you're buying new (inc VAT): Windows XP Home Edition £179.99 Windows XP Professional Edition £259.99 Windows XP Home Edition Upgrade £89.99 Windows XP Prof. Ed. Upgrade £169.99 If the copies are unused and sealed, who is selling them in to the second-hand market? Microsoft believes that none of its products arrive on the grey market legitimately - and it's early days for system builder OEMs to be realising they've ordered too much. And it can't possibly be the case that an OEM has ordered software, fully intending to sell it into the distribution channel to improve cashflow and make a little margin. Microsoft wouldn't like that. CeX suggested to The Reg that the secondhand WinXP units could be unwanted presents. This is possible. You may have a friend who bought a new PC with XP installed on it, so you've seen how it performs, what hardware it doesn't support, and you want nothing to do with it. But you didn't tell your gran, and she bought you a copy anyway. The Joy of CeX More likely, sealed copies are promotional units collared by journalists, among others. But not so, according to an intriguing New Media Diary snippet in The Guardian. An IT journo who attended last week's WinXP launch in London, made away with the free software, scooted off to CeX's branch in Tottenham Court Road, London and tried to sell her promo copy. "'It seems that Bill Gates got there first', comments our source. 'Microsoft had told the shop not to accept any review copies from journalists. What do they expect us to with things - use them?'"? Hmmm. As the copies of WinXP doled out at the launch were 120-day evaluation-only, it could be that CeX was simply performing a bit of quality control. But the Microsoft clampdown angle is interesting. Microsoft's anti-piracy squad says it is wrong for hacks to sell review software, but it also says that it has not put the frighteners on CeX. CeX declines to answer our questions on this subject. Microsoft has not yet formulated an official response to CeX's decision to resell secondhand Windows XP, but the UK anti-piracy team "wonders where the hell (CeX) is getting its stock from". In the meantime, CeX is treading on eggshells. It insists on buying in only completely unused goods, in contrast with other PC software titles. This is CeX's usual line on how it buys PC software. If you are selling PC Software, any licence agreements, registration forms, manuals, CD Keys, the original box (if the Full Retail Package version), etc., must be supplied. Also, all software must be unregistered and be free of any manufacturers brands, i.e. Compaq, Dell, IBM, etc. If selling OEM software, cex.co.uk will only accept software that is vacuum shrink wrapped. CeX has 10 branches and also buys and sells from its website. It's going to be tough to sell your copy of WinXP, even if you've acquired it legitimately, installed it and then decide you don't want it. Ebay sellers seem to be thinking along similar lines. A quick look at eBay's UK site reveals one copy of WinXP - it's a Pro version, and it is sealed and untouched. ® Related Stories MS anti-piracy crew jumps on Basingstoke grey dealers Grey market resellers hit back at MS 'intimidation'
Robert Blincoe, 30 Oct 2001

Pure ASPs face rough ride – BT

Pure Application Service Providers (ASPs) are in for a rough ride as big systems integrators and telcos bundle managed applications onto their offerings. They will need to provide much more than just application hosting in order to survive. This is the message from David Furniss, BT Ignite's eBusiness VP, who compares the ASP sector to the early days of telephony services. Previously, separate organisations provided voice mail and other value added stuff, but now it is available as a bundled offering from the telephony provider. Similarly, companies buying network infrastructure in the future will expect managed applications to be bundled into the mix. BT Ignite currently flogs systems integration, content hosting, Internet services, network access and more. This positions the company precisely where it sees the ASP (or managed application) market moving. According to Furniss, industry views of ASPs have changed significantly over the last two years. Previously, it was perceived as a hosted rental model focused on SMEs and often involved with ERP. Now it requires mixed deployment (some applications hosted externally, some remaining internal); it is aimed at enterprise companies; and ERP is a no-go. This viewpoint is backed by research commissioned by BT Ignite, showing that company size is a key factor in the adoption of ASP solutions. On average, companies employing over 500 staff are "more than twice as likely to use the ASP model than their smaller counterparts, with large retail enterprises in the financial services and retail sectors being five times more likely to adopt an ASP solution." And don't think it will come cheap, Furniss points out that 'rented' software, like a rental car, will cost more than purchasing the software outright, but offers the benefits of flexibility, freeing up of resources, reduced in-house support costs and the ability to update systems more easily. ® Related Stories BT releases its demerger plans ASPs are the next big thing, after all
James Watson, 30 Oct 2001

Tiny chooses DVD-RAM

Tiny has bundled a recordable DVD drive into its latest home PC deal - the first time its gone with DVD. But the PC ships with a Panasonic DVD-RAM drive, which could be a concern for consumers wanting to share their data with others. While users are able to burn CDs easily (and cheaply) and then share them with friends, colleagues or family, it's not quite so simple with DVDs. The biggest downfall with the DVD-RAM format is its limited compatibility with other DVD drives and players in the market. Once you write a disc in this format, it can only be read by a DVD-RAM compliant drive. Earlier this month, The Reg reported on HP making its push into recordable DVD drives. Its format of choice is DVD+RW, which is able to read DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW, but not DVD-RAM (it writes in DVD+RW format). Panasonic's DVD-RAM product can read all the listed formats, but the problem comes in when other players try to read the data it has written. (See a comparison of DVD formats here or here.) Tiny's solution to the problem is choosing a DVD-RAM drive that is able to write in both DVD-RAM and DVD-R formats. DVD-RAM is convenient because you can use it as second hard drive, happily writing and rewriting to it as much as you want (well, about 100,000 times). DVD-R is a write once format, but can be read on most other DVD drives and players. It recommends users work with the DVD-RAM disc format until they have a video or some data that they want to share with someone else and then burn it from the DVD-RAM to the DVD-R, much like you would copy a CD on a CD-RW drive. It believes that users will not have a problem understanding all this, although it does concede that it is a little confusing. We're just glad that we're not on the help-desk team. Cost Then there's the issue of cost. Blank CDs are cheap enough to use as cup coasters, while blank DVDs are currently a lot more expensive. Tiny is advertising its blank DVD-RAM disc at £19.99, while it sells a DVD-R disc for £14.99. Of course, the price will drop rapidly. HP put its price recommendation on a single DVD+RW disc at $15.99, but as reader Rich Michaels points out, CNET's Shopper.com site already shows pricing for that particular media as low as $10. Apple's online store advertises a 5-pack of its DVD-R media for £20.00 (excl. VAT and delivery). The site is careful to note that the DVD-R media is "For use only in DVD-R General drives, such as the Apple SuperDrive ... These discs are not compatible with DVD-R Authoring drives (i.e. Pioneer 201)." Tiny's machine includes a Pentium 4 1.5GHz processor, 256MB RAM, 60GB hard drive, 17-inch monitor and a CD-RW drive, as well as the DVD-RAM drive, all for £1,199. ® Related Stories Recordable DVD clinic Tiny goes large Related Links DV Direct's DVD format comparison Pioneer's DVD format comparison
James Watson, 30 Oct 2001

Ali Demin leaves Samsung

Long-serving Samsung UK chief Ali Demin left the company this month to "concentrate on returning to full fitness after suffering from a back injury." That's the official company line, anyway, but Demin is setting up a management recruitment consultancy called adandad.com (AD & AD). A visit to the site confirms this, with a message reading: "The AD&AD website will be here soon, offering new opportunities in recruitment, training and consultancy for sales and marketing executives in the electronics industries." It says you can contact him on 'ali@adandad.com'. Demin joined Samsung in 1988 and was awarded its 'Employee of the Year' award in 1997 for his efforts. In 1998, he was promoted to executive director responsible for sales and marketing. Company president Y.C. Kim expressed his sadness to see him go. ® Related Stories Samsung goes mad on memory chips
James Watson, 30 Oct 2001

Oftel reconsiders digital TV pricing

Oftel announced today it is to review how digital TV companies pay for "conditional access services" i.e. things like encryption and user identification which allow subscribers to view certain programmes but others can't. Currently there's a free market approach but Oftel is considering setting the prices of the services, and making it cheaper for "public service broadcasters" - meaning those on terrestrial TV from BBC1 to Channel 5 - and "commercial broadcasters" such as Sky and ITV Digital. While the current system lets companies argue their own prices and terms & conditions, Oftel is worried that the situation is getting out of hand and that it is losing its ability to control the market at the same time. This could result in small players being knocked out of the market and companies losing their incentive to produce "quality" programmes rather than mass-appeal programmes. Hence Oftel suggests that it sets the prices and splits them into two, accounting for the fact that Sky etc. make a lot more money from their programmes and so should be charged more. It is looking at two basic options: one, a company is charged on the number of channels in puts in a certain package sold to consumers; or two, the cost of the conditional access services varies according to how much the consumer is charged for the service. Oftel is inviting comment- the deadline is 25 January next year. Head boy of Oftel David Edmonds said: "Digital television has been a great success in the UK. Consumers can choose between three different networks and a huge number of channels, with 40 per cent of UK households subscribing to digital TV - a higher level than in Europe or the USA. The current regulatory regime gives companies the flexibility to negotiate terms and conditions..." etc etc. BTW, while we have rarely covered digital TV on The Register, we figure it is becoming an increasingly important topic and so are considering getting to know the industry. Is this an example of great foresight or just a waste of time? Let us know - click here. ® Related Link Oftel's full report
Kieren McCarthy, 30 Oct 2001
DVD it in many colours

Get online from low-earth-orbiting research craft

Cisco Systems has developed technology which makes it easier for a router, along with a network of connected IP devices, to access the Internet from planes or trains that are themselves on the move. The capability, which has attracted the interest of NASA, comes from the addition of mobile IP functionality, called Cisco Mobile Networks, in Cisco's Internet Operating System software. Mobile IP, which was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), enables an IP device to roam across networks and geographies while remaining constantly connected to the network or the Internet as if it is attached to its home location all the time using the same IP address. A mobile LAN powered by Cisco Mobile Networks supports an "always on" connection to the Internet, for example, an aeroplane with a router running Cisco Mobile IP with the Cisco Mobile Networks functionality can fly around the world with all passengers continuously connected to the Internet. Passengers connect clients (such as laptops and personal digital assistants) to the router on a plane using traditional LAN technologies such as Ethernet or 802.11b. There's no need for special software, hardware or configuration on client devices. Cisco Mobile Networks is independent of the physical layer and operates over cellular, satellite and other types of communications networks. NASA scientists at its Glenn Research Centre are working with Cisco to work out how to deploy the technology in low-earth-orbiting research craft, and believe it offers a far more flexible way to connect its craft. As well as in space, Cisco believes the technology will allow wireless service providers to expand their offering into such markets as emergency management services, telematics, railroads and shipping systems, and automobiles. Cisco's Mobile Networks functionality is available now in Cisco IOS Software release 12.2(4)T. Cisco began the support of Mobile IP itself in 1998. More information on the technology is available here. ® Related Stories NASA scramjet probe hots up Teen charged with hacking into NASA research centre Want to know about the technology on the space station?
John Leyden, 30 Oct 2001