3rd > November > 2001 Archive

MS snags crucial authentication, DRM opt-outs in DoJ settlement

The DoJ's capitulation to Microsoft, described by the San Jose Mercury's Dan Gilmor as "[awarding] the hen house to the meanest fox in the woods", was as Dan says not unexpected. Microsoft might not be the natural barbecue companion for the Texas oilmen who make up the Bush Administration: but the decision to nullify the AntiTrust laws by failing to enforce them is entirely consistent with the 43rd Presidency. But what really should make enemies of The Beast weep tonight isn't the remedies, it's the opt-outs Microsoft has secured for itself. The biggest omission you'll notice, when comparing the agreement against Judge Jackson's proposed behavioral remedies is the absence of technical disclosure practice. The original conduct obliged Microsoft to disclose APIs, and did so in some detail. It outlined the creation of a neutral clean room: an independent verification facility staffed by both industry opponents and Microsoft representatives, to ensure that compatibility issues were solved within a fixed time period. Or else. In today's agreement, not only is Redmond not obliged to disclose APIs to third parties, it's secured an explicit guarantee that it doesn't have to. The small print in Section J 1 of the 'Prohibited Conduct' notes:- . "No provision of this Final Judgment shall: 1.Require Microsoft to document, disclose or license to third parties: (a) portions of APIs or Documentation or portions or layers of Communications Protocols the disclosure of which would compromise the security of anti-piracy, anti-virus, software licensing, digital rights management, encryption or authentication systems, including without limitation, keys, authorization tokens or enforcement criteria; or (b) any API, interface or other information related to any Microsoft product if lawfully directed not to do so by a governmental agency of competent jurisdiction." It's the most significant part of the entire agreement document, as it describes oversight of Microsoft's future conduct in the most critical areas of web services (authentication) and multimedia content (DRM). It also represents an end-run around the AntiTrust Laws: Microsoft only needs to claim that its security is being compromised to get the authority of a Government policeman. In its own way, this section institutionalizes corporate malfeasance. New balls, please For much of the nineties, big business spent enormous energy on promoting the idea that markets and not the ballot box were the true instrument of democracy. Swashbuckling businessmen didn't just reject tiresome burdensome regulations, they stole the revolutionary couture of the Left to brand such interference as anti-democratic. For the IT industry, with its instinctive fear of government, this became axiomatic: tech folk bought into the notion faster and deeper than anyone else, and ideology trumped common sense even amongst Microsoft's most articulate opponents. "Market failure is only solved by freer markets," chirped Eric Raymond in his 1998 essay which argued for the repeal of the AntiTrust laws. It's an argument that's welcomed, of course, by powerful monopolies. But not even in their wildest dreams could the business elites have imagined that in 2001, the AntiTrust department itself would be offering a convicted monopolist state protection. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2001

The Sun doesn't shine on yacc

Cherrystone delay highlights x86 v RISC War Sun drops bundle bombshell on BEA Sun has a hard fight ahead of it. Slowly but surely companies are recognising that x86 technology (in Xeon or AMD MP) form is available that matches or exceeds the performance of very high priced Sun hardware. For example, SPEC (www.spec.org) benchmarks indicate that a 2 processor Xeon at 2Ghz costing roughly $8000 outperforms a 4 processor Sun Enterprise 4500 at roughly $128,000. Better yet, a 2 processor Athlon MP 1800+ box is in a similar performance range and is available for $2000 (just over 1% of the cost of the Sun box). Granted, the Enterprise 4500 is based on Ultrasparc IIs but it is still being sold at the incredible price listed above. As a consultant, I strongly discourage people from purchasing Sun hardware in favor of examining x86 hardware used in stand-alone or clustered configurations. The price/performance ratio is many times greater and the company has an easy upgrade path open to them in the future. Sun has an armada of drones in the workplace that blindly insist that Sun is "more reliable" (not so according to a Gartner report on Linux versus other *nix platforms and Windows 2000), faster (see SPEC benchmarks, Gartner etc.) and worth every penny (or billions of pennies). Google knows it. I know it. Companies spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on Sun hardware to power their 5000 hit web / database servers do not seem to know it. Jerry Reid Thank you for reminding me of the word Elegaic: "Last week an elegiac Linuxgram story told us that the Compaq dream team ...." When I looked it up, I found two meanings, either of which could be a suitable metaphor in the given context. The first relates to a particular variety of distorted dactylic hexameter couplet and the second to elegy, "a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation especially for one who is dead." Did you intend to indicate that the Linuxgram story was written in a doggerel style or that it lamented the impending death of Compaq through ingestion by HP? Thanks for making my day, in addition to providing that info. on the RISCy wars, Allan Frankel Certainly not doggerel, Allan. Cheer up Maureen and take out a Linuxgram sub today. While talking about some Sun stuff: However because something is bundled for free, there's no guarantee it ends up getting used. Think yacc(1). Tsk! I can think of one non-trivial thing that you might use yacc for on a Sun platform: compiling Nethack! True, most prefer gnu tools, and I must admit I've also never used Sun's yak, oh, and of course, Nethack may be trivial. But it just goes to show I'm *right*, goddamnit. Declan Malone This week's mailbag 'Pimply Assed' programmer's girlfriend demands T-shirt Bugger Hastings Zeus - not what the Doctor ordered? BOFHs to blame for LAN downtime after all The Sun doesn't shine on yacc In Jedi We Trust
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2001

BOFHs to blame for LAN downtime after all

Note: this email contains traces of irony, which may cause small children to choke. I have just read your article regarding the Top 10 reasons for LAN downtime. I personally think it could be modified to look like so below... 2nd line Support, resolving the below because of.... 1 Crap Network Team:-) Misconfigured routers: devices installed incorrectly in the first instance 2 Crap Network Team:-) Faulty Ethernet cards: poor quality cards that fail soon after installation, but take some time to detect 3 Crap Network Team:-) Broadcast storms: caused by legacy applications on legacy servers, which should have been taken out of commission 4 Crap Network Team:-) Unwanted protocols: many networks suffer from having had Windows terminals, printers and other peripherals installed along with extra protocols, but these are left on the network when they are no longer in regular use 5 Crap Network Team:-) Poor switch allocation: LAN bottlenecks caused by too many devices being allocated to run through one overloaded switch 6 Crap Network Team:-) Server overloading: poor ongoing maintenance of file servers causing slow spots on the network 7 Crap Network Team:-) Faulty devices: fundamental faults with devices attached to the network, which can be difficult to detect initially 8 Crap Network Team:-) SNMP management tools: the design of Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is such that it can impact the performance of the devices being managed and adds to the traffic burden on the network. 9 Crap Network Team:-) Rogue equipment: unauthorised connection of illegitimate or inappropriate devices to the network 10 Crap Network Team:-) Power outage: the total failure of power supplies to networked devices "Mad Nutter" This week's mailbag 'Pimply Assed' programmer's girlfriend demands T-shirt Bugger Hastings Zeus - not what the Doctor ordered? BOFHs to blame for LAN downtime after all The Sun doesn't shine on yacc In Jedi We Trust
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2001

Zeus – not what the Doctor ordered?

Zeus rips platform to splatter Apache Zeus is a fast webserver, but not the fastest. The fastest, especially for static pages is Tux. See the results here Dennis Voss Subject: Apache vs Zeus It's all very well to compare the two in performance, but what about price? It's almost sick how much Zeus costs. With the money you save on not buying Zeus, you could fund a poor programmer to build you a custom Linux box, save some whales (or is it dancing bears these days), get pissed at the local pub with a couple of mates, and have change left in the pocket. Oh well - I'm sure someone is dumb enough to buy their product. Harley. This week's mailbag 'Pimply Assed' programmer's girlfriend demands T-shirt Bugger Hastings Zeus - not what the Doctor ordered? BOFHs to blame for LAN downtime after all The Sun doesn't shine on yacc In Jedi We Trust
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2001

Bugger Hastings

UK govt to turn Hastings into 'e-city' Kieren, "it is a nightmare to get to", surely that's the point, why should we be "getting anywhere" when we could work from where we are? Strangely, Hastings was in the first round of towns to have ADSL so perhaps the Government is pulling a fast one and will claim this as a policy success already! Kind Regards Steve Hardy I am the technical director of a small IT firm based in St Leonards on Sea, right next door to Hastings. Firstly we already have ADSL - we're using it for our Internet access. Admittedly it took ages to get it installed, but that seems to be the case wherever you are. It seems to work pretty well. Secondly, why shouldn't a deprived area of the country benefit from government investment? We were denied the bypass intended to create local jobs, this would be a greener way to regenerate the area. Lastly, the state of the rail and road links between Hastings and London is a reason to improve the digital connectivity - making it less necessary to travel. Perhaps you need to turn your cynicism generator down a notch or two. Regards Andy Taylor Technical Director, Optology Limited I live near Hastings and at the moment things couldn't be worse. What the govt needs to do is spend money improving the infrastructure of the area and sorting out the current problems instead of adding in new ones. Totally agree. Good piece. Matt Corby And if you believe that, then pigs might just fly....As you quite rightly point out, Hastings is at the arse end of a poor railway line where new rolling stock should have been deployed in the late 90's and it has still not been deployed. The A21 'snail trail' main "drag" to/from London is just that. Brighton along the coast is 40 miles away, 72 mins on a fast train and quite often more by car. So, if Hasting did become this e'city, how the hell are we going to move. The local workforce around. Bexhill to Hastings (4 miles) during peak times is a 30+ minute crawl. Now, the local workforce to operate this e'city... Where are they going to come from considering that a good percentage of the local population are unskilled in most things. Now, you may think I have a downer on Hastings (just as a side note, I have lived in Hastings and Bexhill since 1966) and in some respects I have when it comes to tin-pot ideas as this one. Now't is going to happen in Hastings until there is a MAJOR transport infrastructure change and the 'bleeding heart' liberalists get out of the way along with the bird fanciers, spider savers and green grass growing watchers to let those who want to change things do so. When I say MAJOR, I mean MAJOR. Proper trunk routes west, north and east of Hastings. A proper train service and a bus service that actually runs to a timetable and on routes where people live. It seems that some people who do the route planning have this idea that everyone lives in the town-centre or the local hospital. So what could the e'city bring us...? Yes, it is a good idea, there some people in Hastings who could make this work but unless British Telecom, Stagecoach, RailTrack/Connex, Dept of Transport, Dept Of Education get off their collective pontificating arses, then this is a waste of time and money. Peter Burnett Pontificating arse? That reminded us of the gag by Sister Mary Immaculate, who once asked - "did you get to kiss the Pope's ring?" This week's mailbag 'Pimply Assed' programmer's girlfriend demands T-shirt Bugger Hastings Zeus - not what the Doctor ordered? BOFHs to blame for LAN downtime after all The Sun doesn't shine on yacc In Jedi We Trust
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2001

‘Pimply Assed’ programmer's girlfriend demands T-shirt

GNOME version 2.0 officially 'not of use to anyone' There's no place like GNOME FoTW Poser: Are binary executables eligible? A month or so ago we ran a tongue-in-cheek article suggesting GNOME give up on the desktop and for the sake of unity focus on one desktop and concentrate on writing great apps. Of which there are many. As a publicity stunt the author of one of these, the 'Pimply Ass Newsreader', Charles Kerr, named the latest release of PAN 'Andrew Orlowski can kiss my ass'. We responded by considering him for Flame of The Week - a tricky decision as submissions actually need to be genuine emails to us, and Kerr hadn't actually written in. Holli Kerr, who we presume to be Charles Kerr's spouse, seems share his need for attention, sending this to The Reg's Managing Editor Tony Smith: Charles sent me a copy of your um reporter's articles nuking Gnome, as well as the Flame of The Week award article. Very amusing. I'm so glad that he will see some material gain from his countless hours spent debugging old source code and leaving me stranded alone in bed. For this reason, I want a T-shirt too... that black vulture one... I think it would be justifiable. I'll have you know that he took the Gnome article very personally (it was one of those days) and *I* had to put up with it. Holli Kerr We'd have certainly have offered you a T-shirt if either of you had been bold enough to mail me directly. Worryingly, after Kerr misread the original to be a personal attack he then misread our humorous follow-up too, assuming he'd won FoTW. Oops. (In fact so pleased with himself was Kerr, he rather prematurely broadcast his "award" at LinuxToday and GNOME.org.) So no T-Shirt. ® This week's mailbag 'Pimply Assed' programmer's girlfriend demands T-shirt Bugger Hastings Zeus - not what the Doctor ordered? BOFHs to blame for LAN downtime after all The Sun doesn't shine on yacc In Jedi We Trust
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2001

Red Hat redemption

I had to abandon my abysmal Red Hat 7.2 installation on my Dell Dimension to follow a few other stories, but I couldn't let it go down as a defeat. So Friday after work I rooted through the 300+ e-mails I've received with suggestions for getting it done. I've been contacted by Red Hat staff and by Dell staff, and by hundreds of Linux enthusiasts, all of whom have offered tech support, much to my delight. But in the end it was Reg reader and Boeing Shared Services Computing System Architect Kenneth Frazier who cracked the nut. For some reason, his suggestion (more on which below) appealed to me most, and, luckily, I tried it first, saving myself many hours staring at the monitor and drinking heavily to mitigate the tedium. As I mentioned earlier, the chief consensus was that my CD drive is stuffed; but I rejected it because I've never had the slightest trouble installing any app or OS, including several flavors of Windows, BSD, and other Linux distros on this box. My hardware may well be causing the grief, all right; but, that's not the same as saying that there's anything wrong with it. And let's keep in mind that the focus here is to find a Linux distro that the average PC user ('Harry Homeowner') can install and run with ease as an alternative to 'doze. For that reason I installed on a consumer machine such as one finds from Compaq, Dell, Gateway, etc, without recourse to anything more complicated than CMOS setup. Nevertheless, I was urged to use a different HDD, my Western Digital 204BA with ATA-66 controller being highly suspect. I was told to disable DMA on my CD-DVD at the command line while running Anaconda in addition to disabling it in CMOS setup. I was told to yank my SIMMs in sequence, on the theory that one of them is bad. I was told to install a PCI IDE controller, to separate the CD and HD drives. I was told to put all my PCI cards in different slots, to identify IRQ conflicts, since the Dell BIOS unfortunately forbids productive tinkering in this area. I was told that ext3 is utter crap, and to format for ext2 instead (but 'Harry' wants a journaled file system). I was told to use DOS fdisk instead of Linux fdisk, and Linux fdisk in place of DOS fdisk, in spite of having reported trying both to no avail. I was told GRUB is utter crap and to opt for LILO, in spite of having reported trying both to no avail. I was told that Anaconda is utter crap, and to spare myself the trouble until SuSE and Mandrake arrive in my post box. I was told to get a Mac. Too obvious In the end it was painfully simple, but I resisted it (and several other suggestions) because it struck me as a bridge too far for our Harry. My sense is that he's averse to opening his case and mucking about with hardware -- hence my bias towards using only CMOS setup and the tools supplied with the distro. But at the same time, I couldn't let some obscure gremlin thwart me. No, I'd persist until I'd made two clean, trouble-free installations in a row. And if that meant breaking character, so be it. It was a simple thing, but let's let Frazier tell it in his own words: "I know this is probably the quarter millionth tip you have received on this subject, but have you tried switching the jumpers on your drives from cable select (the Dell default) to Master and Slave accordingly?" I hadn't, because BIOS recognized the setup. I'd had this problem with an older machine: when I installed a second HDD it was invisible to BIOS, so I set the jumpers for master/slave manually and all was well. But in this case, I figured, if BIOS recognizes it, then I should reasonably expect my OS to recognize it as well. It also struck me as something Harry Homeowner would never think of, though it did make more sense to me than any suggestion I received. Since I've got 2 CD drives I tried switching them first, leaving the cable select intact, and encountered the same problem with freezing during the file installation. But when I set the jumpers on my CD drives to define master and slave manually, it worked. I did it both ways, using the NEC DVD/CD as master first and the Sony CD/RW as master second, and managed two clean installs with absolutely no problems on each setup. I used the automatic format feature in Anaconda and accepted all the defaults. I installed GRUB and KDE in a workstation config. I'd altered nothing else, so this has got to be the issue. I was prepared to do the same with the HDD if that modification didn't work and continue exploring other possibilities, changing one variable at a time; but thankfully I, and my liver, were spared this exhaustive exercise in boredom. But as for Harry Homeowner, I still can't recommend Red Hat 7.2 as a Windows alternative in good conscience. He's not going to play with jumpers on his drives. I'll be returning the machine to cable select and to the CMOS defaults, just as i received it out of the box, before I test any other Linux distro. I hope for better. Is this Dell's fault, or is it Red Hat's fault? I'll be pleased to hear from readers on that question. But my own sense is that if Red Hat can't work around simple issues with common, vanilla hardware, then they need to focus more on R&D and less on stuffed Tuxes. ® Related Stories Win-XP vs Red Hat 7.2 Red Hat Hell continued
Thomas C Greene, 03 Nov 2001

Conspiracy Theory? We say bollocks

Readers may recall a recent piece we ran on net conspiracy theories surrounding the attack on the World Trade Center. One of the most tiresome was a rendering of the flight number (Q33NY) of one of the hijacked planes in Wingdings: Scary stuff. The fact that Q33NY was not in fact the flight number of any of the hijacked planes did not stop the black helicopter theorists working themselves up into a right conspiratorial tizzy. Enough of this madness, we said, enough. Accordingly, we have decided to fight the Nostradamus-quoting cyberwristers head-on with a new limited edition t-shirt: Yes indeed. At the same time, we would like to draw your attention to the other t-shirt featured above (bottom right) - none other than our own white Reg logo on black. Unfortunately - and due to a set of circumstances too tedious to recount here - we have got 250 of the damn things with our url in red rather than white. Rather than bin the whole lot, we thought we'd let you have 'em cheap - £8.00 inc VAT, to be exact. Apart from the colour cock-up, they're the usual high-quality product that you have come to expect from the IT world's leading t-shirt wholesaler. And there's more. Those of you who have recently invested in a Palm M5 might like to check out our latest Reg-branded hard case for the same. It's a top-quality item from PalmTec. All of the above are available at our Cash'n'Carrion online store where our secure servers are waiting to talk to your credit card. ® Links Go straight to the Conspiracy Theory shirt here. Rummage through our bargain bin here. Get your PDA cases here
Lester Haines, 03 Nov 2001

In Jedi We Trust

LettersLetters Jedi Knights achieve official recognition as a religion hi there I am emailing you from the England. This religion is now official within the UK. I know that other countries followed suit and also signed this on their census forms worldwide. I can only extend my hand to these people in an act of fellowship. People seem to be under the impression that 'Jedi' is just a creation of George Lucas's imagination and nothing more than fantasy. This is very wrong. George based most of his ideas for the Force on the Eastern Philosophies. The idea of an 'all empowering and enveloping force' or energy, is not something new to humans. If you read the older, less poluted, texts of the Christian or religions involving 'God', you will find that they teach people to believe that he ecompasses all things. He is in everything - as is the force. This is not to say that George did not base some of the idea from Christianity, but he certainly did not add all the idiocy and pathetic back-street politics that this religion and the spin-offs it has created over the millenia into the equation. A statement from George will probably be in the loop for the near future - it will be interesting to see what he (and the people who help to write it) state within. If Jedi is now an official religion - considerately placed by the British government alongside Atheism and 'Heathen' - then there needs to be a guide toward the ways of this religion. Obviously, a persons first frame of reference will be the Star Wars movies, but there needs to be more laid down - I'm sure the internet will spring into life with philosophies and comments about what a Jedi should or shouldn't do. I only hope that as this idea porgresses it does not go the way of every other religion upon this planet - twisted beyond belief and taken out of context at every turn. If there were a God for any of the religions present on Earth in 2001, I doubt they would be anywhere near us right now! With War in the middle east rearing it's malavalent head once more - why stop now, it's only been raging for 3,000 years! - and pathetic excuses for humans bellowing join our 'Holy War', could it be that people such as our selves who decided to go against the idiots in their high halls and choose a religion that condones war and will do anything to avoid it. As I am now formally a member of the religion of the Jedi, I can only state that we have chosen wisely and will watch as the world unravels into even more chaos with the madmen spouting the name of the deity as they kill each enemy in turn on their conquest for a true religion. feeble minded fools - that's what they are. I only hope that others will follow the example of my country and choose Jedi - then maybe in 100 years, others will look back and grin at a decision well made. Ben Miles This week's mailbag 'Pimply Assed' programmer's girlfriend demands T-shirt Bugger Hastings Zeus - not what the Doctor ordered? BOFHs to blame for LAN downtime after all The Sun doesn't shine on yacc In Jedi We Trust
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2001