6th > November > 2001 Archive

Blair backs broadband

Prime Minister Tony Blair took time out yesterday from a hectic round of international diplomacy to address business leaders about the benefits of broadband. Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference Mr Blair said broadband had the "potential to revolutionise many aspects of our lives". And he reiterated his desire to use Government demand for broadband services, by way of schools, hospitals, GP surgeries etc, to help drive the roll-out of high-speed Internet services in areas currently devoid of such technology. Said Mr Blair: "The UK is already one of the most connected economies in the world. Internet use is higher than in any other European country. "The new challenge is broadband. We are in the early days of broadband but it has the potential to revolutionise many aspects of our lives. "It has the potential to increase productivity, enhance competitiveness and enable new markets to be reached. It could radically improve public services. "And it can help rural and remote economies - geographical location will no longer be a restriction to competing with urban rivals," he said. While few would disagree with these sentiments, his assertion that the Government is "already taking the action necessary to advance broadband in Britain" is unlikely to be met with the same sense of nodding approval. He said that there is more competition thanks to local loop unbundling and new wireless and satellite services. He pointed out that more effective regulation had been put in place - where competition is absent - to ensure prices are internationally competitive. And he said that Government was promoting exciting content to attract users to broadband services. Some critics would argue that there is little hard evidence of this actually happening. Surely, the Prime Minister doesn't believe that 150 unbundled lines justifies the tag of competition? And while BT is on the verge of launching a broadband satellite service, the prohibitive costs involved (£900 to install, compared to just £150 for ADSL, and a doubly expensive monthly subscription) is hardly a sign that prices are "internationally competitive". Still, at least the Prime Minister's heart is in the right place. It's not as if he told business chiefs that Government will only support the roll-out of broadband if business gets behind it. ® Related Story UK Govt wobbles on support for broadband
Tim Richardson, 06 Nov 2001

Cisco beats the Street

Cisco posted income of $332 million on the back of $4.4 billion sales in Q1. Add in one-time charges for various exceptional items (acquisition costs, inventory gains and investment write-down), actual net loss is $268 million, compared to a net income of $7 million last quarter and $798 million year on year. Sales were up three per cent from the last quarter, but 32 per cent down year on year from Q1 2000's $6.5 billion. Income improved considerably from last quarter's $163 million, although for the same quarter last year it raked in $1.36 billion, now down nearly 80 per cent. Even with the drops, the results came in two cents per share above expectations. While the numbers are heavily down from 2000, Cisco is showing a gain for the first time in three quarters. The company forecasts single digits gains for the near future. Employeeshave reason to smile; CEO John Chambers says he is currently happy with the numbers of Ciscoites scurrying around the offices, after various staff culls were announced earlier in the year. On the technology side, Cisco expanded its portfolio during the quarter, including a 12404 Internet router, which it claims is the smallest footprint 10-Gigabit router around, alongside a variety of other IP-based products. It also completed the acquisitions of Allegro Systems and AuroraNetics. ® Related Stories Cisco does a road runner from Wile E Coyote plan Cisco shakes up distribution strategy Related Link Cisco's Official Numbers
James Watson, 06 Nov 2001

HP to give away app server

Hewlett Packard is turning on the pressure on BEA Systems, the leading app-server vendor, by offering its own app-server for free. HP is making the move to pique interest in its web services stack, which earns the company money, HP's Andre Pino told InfoWorld. Sun is mulling similar moves, and after software chief Pat Sueltz let slip that Sun would bundle its own iPlanet app server with Solaris for next year, conspicuously failed to deny that the app server would be bundled for free. It is questionable how much difference the app-server price tag actually makes. Typically, the app-server forms part of a bigger, strategic purchasing choice, and BEA's leadership today owes as much to the spurs the company earned - long before the app-server category was born - with its CORBA middleware. HP, Sun and IBM can all grab headlines with changes to app-servers list prices without significantly affecting their software revenues. HP made a smart move last year in purchasing middleware leader Bluestone, prompted partly by frustration with the lack of traction it had obtained with its visionary E-Speak web services architecture. (It's worth remembering that despite the noisy claims to be open, E-Speak has the most open license of all). Despite the traditional difficulties HP seems to have in swallowing its acquisitions, that deal looks even better today. ® Related Story Sun drops bundle bombshell on BEA
Andrew Orlowski, 06 Nov 2001

Never Mind The Wingdings

Site NewsSite News Laurence Sterne, the 18th century novelist, was an accomplished practitioner of visual jokes on the written page. In his landmark comic novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, a long black squiggle represents the movement of a stick. This is possibly the first typographical joke in the English language. In a small way, we upheld this tradition with a small story for the weekend. Or so we thought. Heralding an announcement of a new t-shirt line, this article had the word "bollocks" in the headline. The joke was that the headline was written in wingdings, so satirising conspiracy theorists who somehow read the NYC tragedy in this typeface. (Our original story on Net conspiracy theorists was one of the more popular on the site in recent weeks with more than 100,000 reads and 200-plus emails.) Unfortunately, our wingdings headline did not render in some browsers, turning our typographical triumph into something rather more boorish. Bollocks is a mild profanity in English English, but it is not obscene (a court case over the Sex Pistols album "Never Mind the Bollocks" established this). Nevertheless, it has no place as a headline on our front page, in any typeface, or language. Bugger Bognor And now to Bugger, a word as mild a profanity in English English as one can find. Yesterday we received dozens of bouncers for our daily email news update. The cause? Corporate firewalls had rejected two headlines - our wingdings piece, and the classic "Bugger Hastings". Here's some context for people outside the UK: there is no sexual innuendo. "Bugger Bognor" are the last words of George V, uttered after he was told by his doctor that he should go to this Sussex seaside resort to recuperate. (Contemporary newspapers reports published rather different dying words: "How is the Empire?" the old goat was supposed to have said.) Hastings is a seaside resort in Sussex. It is to be an e-city and lots of government money is to be pumped into it. We raised our eyebrows, and several readers, some of them Sussex locals, agreed. The headline Bugger Hastings works for us - but not for the blunderbuss word-blankers behind corporate firewalls. Bugger, alas, joins a list of words banished forever from our front page. ®
Drew Cullen, 06 Nov 2001

Photoshop for Mac OS X nears completion?

UpdatedUpdated Adobe at long last announced the immediate availability of the Mac OS X version of Illustrator yesterday and promised that OS X-native versions of its other applications will ship within the next six months. Certainly if there's one application Mac users want ported over to OS X as soon as possible, it's Photoshop. Two separate sources suggest that it's not too far off. The code is currently in "fairly late" and "mid-to-late" beta testing, and we reckon Adobe is on course to announce the product at Macworld Expo San Francisco early next January. That event will, says an emailer who claims to be an Adobe staffer, mark the arrival and announcement of almost all of Adobe's key applications, including InDesign 2, Adobe's DTP software; digital video editing package Premiere; and LiveMotion, which converts Photoshop and Illustrator files into Web-based animations. GoLive and After Effects are expected to be announced sooner. GoLive, Adobe's Web design tool, may be unveiled later this month, we're told, with After Effects - a video effects package - following in early December at the DV Expo show in Los Angeles - where, incidentally, Apple's chief spin doctor, Phil Schiller, will be giving the keynote. Will Adobe's CEO, Bruce Chizen, join him on stage for a demo? Beyond Macworld Expo, Adobe is hard at work at its Web-based 3D environment generator, Atmosphere, which we hear is in late beta for Mac OS 9 and alpha for OS X. Ditto AlterCast, and Adobe's publishing workflow management system components InCopy and InScope. An Adobe spokeswoman itself described the details as "completely inaccurate", so it may be worth taking the above with a big pinch of salt. However, we understand InDesign is set to ship in December, the date our source claims it will go Golden Master. That's no confirmation, to be sure, but perhaps sufficient not to dismiss the schedule out of hand. ®
Tony Smith, 06 Nov 2001

E-envoy says Chancellor is ‘obstacle to broadband’

E-envoy, Andrew Pinder, has landed himself in hot water after labelling the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a possible "obstacle to broadband". It seems the prudent Gordon Brown is sceptical about broadband because demand for high speed Internet access has so far failed to take off in the UK. Mr Pinder's remarks at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference yesterday came as an embarrassment to the Government and was made worse by headlines in today's papers which have jumped on this apparent rift in Government circles. "E-envoy claims Brown is blocking progress on Net," trumpeted the Times. "Chancellor 'may prove obstacle to broadband'," said the Guardian. There were more red faces hours later as Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to convince business leaders of the Government's commitment to broadband. Yesterday, Mr Pinder said that business leaders should adopt broadband if they wanted the Government to support the roll-out of high-speed Net access. In a way, Mr Pinder has done us all a favour. With the current lack of broadband take-up in the UK the Chancellor is absolutely right to be sceptical. Businesses will not adopt high-speed Net access unless they believe it will benefit their business and save costs. Nor will they respond by empty threats of support unless business hooks up to broadband. By drawing everyone's attention to Mr Brown's scepticism, Mr Pinder has, in effect, shone a bright light on his office's own failure to drive the take-up of broadband Britain. After all, that's what he's there for. And Mr Pinder has also succeeded in drawing attention to himself and Britain's lack of progress in the broadband world. Congratulations - a beautifully crafted own goal. Of course, there was no need for these divisions and cracks to have surfaced yesterday. Mr Pinder is famed for not using a script when he makes speeches. The eloquent orator far prefers to work from a few scribbled notes rather than stick to a pre-prepared speech. Unfortunately for him, by shooting from the hip yesterday he only managed to blast himself in the foot. ® Related Stories Blair backs broadband UK Govt wobbles on support for broadband UK is still broadband laggard - OECD
Tim Richardson, 06 Nov 2001

Apple seeds 1.6GHz Power Mac G5s

We're getting reports that appear to confirm that Apple has indeed begun to distribute PowerPC 8500-based development systems to its main third-party software partners. It's tricky to confirm the accuracy of these reports without sufficient material to cross-check their claims, but circumstantially they seem plausible. But we'd caution against taking them as gospel. Our correspondents essentially confirm that the company has shipped 1.2GHz, 1.4GHz and 1.6GHz 8500s - aka the G5 - to developers in standard PC-style ATX cases, though one source claimed to have received a G5 in an Apple El Capitan case design featured in the Graphite Power Mac G4. One source, allegedly from Adobe, told us: "We have four 1.6GHz machines with the Photoshop and After Effects teams, and several 1.2 and 1.4GHz machines on every team." And: "The early motherboards use a modification of the old bus, and the new machines have a 400MHz bus with HyperTransport elements. All of them support DDR RAM, USB 2.0, IEEE 1394b and ATA 133." Another mole notes: "The heatsink looks similar to the one on the dual G4 800s, including an on-chip fan and the h/w specs pdf file I have suggest that there may be a few interesting hardware additions." We also have some (basic) performance information, which appears to confirm that the G5 is indeed significantly faster than G4-class processors and other processors. "The machines we have here are much faster than Pentium 4s in every single task," notes our Adobe insider. Since the "P4 is far faster [than the G4] in most tests except for AltiVec-optimised tasks", that's a good sign. AltiVec isn't too hot, though, with one correspondent claiming that has "hasn't had much of a play with the AltiVec stuff yet, but your source is correct in that it doesn't appear to be quite up to the same snuff as Apollo [the third-generation G4-class Power PC 7460]". ® Related Story Prelim PowerPC G5 hits 2.4GHz
Tony Smith, 06 Nov 2001

Bin Laden hackers denounce founder

Leet German script k1dd13 and would-be investment guru Kim Schmitz aka Kimble, who recently promoted his YIHAT (Young Intelligent Hackers Against Terrorism) Ninja force with loose claims to have hacked a Sudanese bank with /bin/laden accounts, has been denounced by two people claiming to be members of his organization. We denounced him too a while back. Now two reputed compatriots have rounded on him as well, drawing heavily on an article published by The Standard in January 2001. In their own words: YIHAT, the group who was to take the money away from terrorists, caused a big controversy in our world today. Kimble was their mysterious leader. Directly from the inside of the group, I, Splices along with Demannu, tell you the truth of Kimble. Kim Schmitz is an owner of Kimvestor which is not even registered company yet. For this reason and involvement with Netherlands online dealer Letsbuyit.com, the federation of the capital investors and German state attorney are preparing charges against Kim Schmitz for investment fraud. He's not reach as he appears to be. He sold 80% of his company Data Protect which is Security Company and had until recently about 15 employees. Most of his money he spend on expensive penthouse in Munich, cars, yacht and expensive trips to Monte Carlo, Caribbean sea and women. His other two companies, Monkeybank and Megacar are only paper tigers, loosing money. Secondly, his is not a hacker. He is banned from the German hacker scene, because he betrayed the hackers who worked with him on credit and calling card fraud. (The reason why he got only six months) Do you know his ten rules? One says: Don't talk too much, obviously not good enough for your Kimble; he's known as biggest mouth of Germany. Why do you think there's almost nothing about business on his website but over 300 pictures of him, not to mention silly flash movies. Hacker? Yes of course. Bellow you can read what Boris Gröndahl (journalist working for Standard) found out: Kim Schmitz, doesn't make a secret of his past alias of "Kimble", the convicted computer hacker. On the contrary, he makes this one of his selling points. This may appear honest at first glance, but if you compare what stunts he lays claim to, and what his court verdict in 1998 found him guilty of, his past looks a bit less glamorous. However, Schmitz's claims follow a pattern. He takes bits of what he has been found guilty of, bits of other hackers' publicized doings, even tales of hacker movies, and mixes them together to form his "personae". MYTH: Many papers reported that Schmitz lowered the credit rating of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl to zero. TRUTH: Credit ratings on individuals in Germany are different from the US. There is no rating of a kind that you could "lower to zero". And the court verdict against Schmitz has nothing to say about this. THE LINK: According to Schmitz's verdict, he had broken into the computers of the Deutscher Beamtenbund, a public officials' union, and among other documents, copied the union's correspondence with the chancellor. The Masters of Deception, a New York hacker group, lowered the credit rating of cyber-celebrity John Perry Barlow to zero during an online discussion in the early 1990s. MYTH: Schmitz told the Sunday Telegraph he "got into Citibank's system and transferred $20 million by taking tiny amounts from the accounts of 4 million customers and giving it to Greenpeace". TRUTH: Nothing like this is in the court records. In fact, there's no link to Citibank or Greenpeace at all. A Greenpeace spokeswoman told The Standard Europe the claim was "just not true", adding that $20 million would have been half the organization's annual budget in the mid-1990s. THE LINK: In a widely publicized case in 1996, Citibank did indeed fall victim to a group of Russian hackers who caused $10 million in damages. The money didn't go to Greenpeace, though. However, the final scene in the hacker movie "Sneakers" (featuring Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd and Sidney Poitier) is a TV news speaker announcing that the Republican Party had to declare insolvency while Greenpeace announces an enormous anonymous donation. MYTH: Schmitz also told the Sunday Telegraph that "he developed the Blue Box, software that would override the phone charging system". TRUTH: According to the court papers, Schmitz didn't use clever software to "override the phone charging system", but simply stolen calling card numbers he had bought from US hackers. THE LINK: Blue Box is the name for a hardware device which cheated the phone charging system by simulating its signals. They were widely used in the US, years before Schmitz was born in 1974. MYTH: In the prospectus of his company Kimvestor, Schmitz claims to have broken into NASA and the Pentagon. TRUTH: Nothing like this in on the records. The spokesman of the German hacker organization Chaos Computer Club dismisses his claims as "made up". THE LINK: The hacking into a wide array of computers including those of the NASA made the Chaos Computer Club world-known in 1988. Some of the hackers who had done this were hired by the Soviet intelligence service KGB and broke into computers of military research labs in the US, but not into the Pentagon. MYTH: Schmitz told the Sunday Telegraph "when he came out of prison he was inundated with offers from companies... Within a week he was working for Lufthansa". TRUTH: According to his verdict, Schmitz was breaking into systems and used what he found to offer those firms his advice in security matters through an accomplice's consultancy. The accomplice was a former Lufthansa employee and Lufthansa was among their victims. However, the court states that it wasn't Schmitz who broke into Lufthansa's network but another accomplice. P.S., US Patent and Trademark Office does not have any records on Monkey nor Magacar technology as Kim Schmitz is claiming on his website nor any other patent registered under his name nor names of Kimvestor, Data Protect, Megacar or Monkey AG." Kimble was a fraud and is a fraud. In fact, call him at +49-172.444.4444, and tell him how you feel. I and Demannu were very devoted to his cause and he lead us into nothing, and in light of everything the very spirited ones who were the brains behind everything have compiled something new to take YIHAT's place. Don't get us wrong -- we are totally different. Meet ECHO. This is who we are: We are a research group made up of Security Parishioners, Programmers, Mathematicians, and Security Researchists that cover areas from software flaws to encryption and even ranging from viruses and Trojans - we haven't a limit. We will eventually form a security firm, and sell our own line of software that will be aimed toward security. I can't place a limit on our expansiveness - our entrepreneurial eye has released something BIG. Our goals lie to secure the internet in an entire new way not seen before. I am not at liberty at this time to release our ideas, but we will revolutionize the way security is handled among the internet - and prove it. We are open to all criticism and expect it, but all criticism will be accepted as constructive criticism. We don't wear batman capes and we don't chase terrorists and have suckers in our mouth. We research security and will bring a new light to the Internet. Related Story Bin Laden hack-meister in defacement, financial debacles
Thomas C Greene, 06 Nov 2001

Vodafone/ Mannesmann multi-million payouts not illegal

The multi-million payouts given to executives of Mannesmann and the CEO of Vodafone when the two companies merged, currently being investigated by German authorities, aren't illegal, a new report has concluded. Which is fine until you consider the fact that the report was commissioned by Vodafone and Mannesmann. The two companies paid an undisclosed sum to Theodor Baums, a law professor at Frankfurt University, to investigate the payouts. They describe him as a "renowned expert" and have sent the report to the Dusseldorf state prosecutor for his consideration. It comes two months after inaccurate press reports stated that the prosecutor had decided to drop the case. That time a spokesman for the prosecutor had to officially deny the stories. The investigation hinges on the Mannesmann board's sudden decision to accept Vodafone's £79 billion bid for the company even though it had previously been at odds to say it would not accept any hostile takeovers. When the deal did go through, Mannesmann CEO Klaus Esser received £30 million, nine other executives received £2 million each and head of Vodafone Chris Gent received £10 million. The "awards" were added to the deal only at the last minute. Vodafone leaked its plan to buy out Mannesmann to the press in July 1999. Then it formally offered £64 billion for the company which was valued at £59 billion at the time. Esser said the bid was "wholly inadequate" and "extremely unattractive". Esser then put pressure on Goldman Sachs to not advise Vodafone, something a German judge later called "totally disgraceful and unacceptable". Four days later, Vodafone made a revised bid of £79 billion, causing the German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to get involved, saying the deal would ruin the "culture" of Mannesmann. This in turn sparked UK prime minister Tony Blair to advise Mr Schroeder to keep his nose out of it. The German press turned against Vodafone, dredging up age-old hostilities between England and Germany and pointing out the German stock exchange had never in its history accepted a hostile takeover. Then, in an unexpected turnaround, the Mannesmann board - including the head of the IG Metall trade union, Klaus Zwickel, and top executive of Deutsche Bank, Josef Ackermann, accepted the bid. The suggestion is that the multi-million pound payouts influenced the decision made by the people involved. Not so, says the new report. Professor Theodor Baums says that the size of the awards and the decision process had been "appropriate". Mr Esser's payout was apparently "proportionate to his achievements as head of Mannesmann" (it is undeniable that Mr Esser did turn the company around and this is why, initially at least, he was so set against given up control of "his baby"). Reviews of executives' payouts when large deals are made are frequent in Germany but only occasionally are formal charges made. There is still no set date for a conclusion of the investigation. ® Related Stories Chris Gent still under fraud investigation Vodafone CEO faces Mannesmann merger fraud probe
Kieren McCarthy, 06 Nov 2001

Alcatel to snuff 1,500 US staff

Alcatel is shedding 1,500 US employees. The move comes less than a week after the troubled telecom company announced it is canning 10,000 European job cuts. While the announcement has not been made official to world+dog yet, an email was sent yesterday to workers in the company advising them of the cuts, which it blames on the economic slowdown and the need to restructure the business. Mike Quigley, the man behind the mail and CEO for Alcatel USA, says affected employees will receive severance and outplacement assistance. The full message has been posted on dotcom obituary site FuckedCompany.com. In short, Alcatel is restructuring its Transmission business "in light of the slowdown in the US optical networking market", and slimming down its Access Network businesses in both development and support areas. R&D and operations costs are also being chopped. The cost saving measures should be completed by the second quarter of 2002. The company made a third quarter net loss of E558m on sales of E5,613m (£3,500m), down 18 per cent on the 6,806 million Euro (£4,242m) it booked for the same period last year. Weak sales in the US and a decline in its handset and submarine businesses were blamed for the losses. Optical networking and data switching were bright spots. It predicts Q4 operating losses will be comparable to those of this quarter, and expects to make net loss for the full year of E5bn (£3.12 billion). ® Related Stories Alcatel guillotines 10,000 jobs Merde! Alcatel posts massive loss Alcatel slashes 300 UK jobs Alcatel to pink slip 2,500 US workers
James Watson, 06 Nov 2001

US e-Xmas looks bleak

Softening consumer confidence in the US could hit ecommerce revenues in the run-up to Christmas, according to gloomy research released by San Francisco-based Odyssey. It found that consumer confidence in the US has slipped with shoppers less likely to spend online in the run-up to the busiest time of the year for both retailers and etailers alike. Odyssey found that only half of those who made online purchases in the first half of 2001 said they would make e-purchases in Q3 and Q4. It also found that fewer people have shopping online in the last six months. The fear is that etailers hoping for a rush of orders during the run-up to Xmas might be disappointed. Indeed, Odyssey is so gloomy about its forecast that it fears some etailers might not survive. Said Nick Donatiello, Odyssey's President and CEO: "Online retailers are going to face some very tough sledding this holiday season. "Certainly some of those who have established brand names and exercise extraordinary discipline in targeting customers will come through fine, but the data provides ample reason to believe that many online retailers who expect this holiday season to be their salvation will find it instead to be their demise," he said. The research is at odds with a recent survey by Yahoo! and ACNielsen which reports growing confidence among e-shoppers. ® Related Story Consumers more confident, savvy about ecommerce
Tim Richardson, 06 Nov 2001

T-Online losses down, sales up

T-Online, Europe's biggest ISP, has announced smaller-than-expected losses and increased sales. The company, majority-owned by Deutsche Telekom, posted losses before interest, tax etc. of £21.6 million, down from £26.5 million last year. Analysts actually expected losses to increase slightly to £27.7 million. This comes on top of a 50 per cent increase in sales in the nine months up to September to £498 million. Despite this, and promises by the company that things could only get better, its share price has dropped slightly this morning. One reason could be that some analysts suspect the bulk extra sales are to parent company Deutsche Telekom - T-Online has not published much information about the sources of its new revenues. Analysts also want the ISP to move away from low-price unmetered offerings and get into high-profit Internet services. Deutsche Telekom is obliging. Slowly. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 06 Nov 2001

All you ever wanted to know about the DoJ's Windows cave in

The DoJ-Microsoft settlement deal doesn't get any better once you've actually had the opportunity to read the small (and often largely unintelligible) print. It won't stop the onward march of integration, it won't stop Microsoft inducing PC companies to take the easy way out, and it won't magically reinvent tough competitors to dispute the slightly levelled playing field with Redmond. But in addition to the sellouts and the numerous loopholes, there are a few good points. Unfortunately, they get less good the more you read. But here it is, warts and all, Everything you want to know about the Proposed Final Judgement." At last, OEMs shipping Linux PCs? Given the confused state of the rest of the document, it's a bit of a puzzle that this one got in at all. But there it is, in black and white: Microsoft shall not penalise an OEM "because it is known to Microsoft that the OEM is or is contemplating... shipping a Personal Computer that (a) includes both a Windows Operating System Product and a non-Microsoft Operating System, or (b) will boot with more than one Operating System." Microsoft OEM licensing deals have historically meant that dual boot systems, or indeed any non-Microsoft software getting involved in the boot sequence, were streng verboten, so this looks like progress. One can of course see a possible loophole here, because if it's still forbidden in the licence they still can't do it, but no, on the very next page it says Microsoft shall not restrict by agreement any OEM licensee from "offering users the option of launching other Operating Systems from the Basic Input/Output System or a non-Microsoft boot loader or similar program that launches prior to the start of the Windows Operating System Product." So there you go, free at last. It ought to be fairly cheap and simple for the big PC companies who allegedly support Linux to ship dual boot systems, and it wouldn't cost them any more if they made all of their machines, or at least all in particular lines, dual boot. The users would benefit from choice and the fact that the alternative OS would be pre-configured for the hardware they'd bought, and Linux would benefit from the PC companies really supporting the OS, as opposed to just mouthing off about supporting it. Ah, but will they jump? Although Microsoft is forbidden to do anything about it if they do, Bill is sure to be very cross anyway. Do the OEMs seriously believe the DoJ deal will protect them? Do they have the guts to test it? Will the retention of bribes and incentives (see below) mean the big outfits remain loyal Ringwraiths? We'll see soon enough, but this has the potential to be a, possibly the, major benefit. For what it's worth Be founder Jean-Louis Gassée seems at least slightly hopeful on the subject. Middleware swap-shop The OEMs, bless 'em, are more likely to want to take advantage of the non-Microsoft middleware clauses, because there'll be money attached. This will not be an entirely unmitigated blessing for users, because they'll likely be getting in-your-face offers from all and sundry, rather than just The Beast itself. The definition of middleware here covers the usual suspects, IE, WMP, Outlook Express Messenger and the JVM, and Microsoft's licence agreements now won't be allowed to outlaw the substitution of rivals. There are some unintelligible riders to this which may be cunning loopholes, or they may just really be unintelligible. For example, we have: "Microsoft may restrict an OEM from displaying icons, shortcuts or menu entries specified in the Windows documentation as being limited to products that provide particular types of functionality, provided that the restrictions are non-discriminatory with respect to non-Microsoft and Microsoft products." Sorry? It may, or may not mean something, but we're not entirely clear what. Or, in allowing the intrusion of non-Microsoft middleware we have this curious rider: "... provided that any such non-Microsoft Middleware displays on the desktop no user interface or a user interface of similar size and shape to the user interface displayed by the corresponding Microsoft Middleware." So if you replace Outlook Express you've still got to do so with something around the same shape and size? Can this be Microsoft's daft (and utterly rejected by the courts) desktop copyright argument sneaking back in, or something odder still? But finally in this section, we have a genuine and intelligible loophole candidate. OEMs can insert their own Internet access offer "provided that the OEM complies with reasonable technical specifications established by Microsoft." Friends, do you seriously believe such things exist? Show us the money In the past Microsoft has been able to use differential pricing and marketing subsidies (Market Development Agreements, or MDAs) to reward or punish PC companies. IBM's experiences around the launch time of Windows 95, where it was effectively punished for selling a rival OS in the shape of OS/2, provide an example of how this process worked. Now, however, the deal proposes that "Covered OEMs" should have "uniform license agreements with uniform terms and conditions." The charges for Windows will be published - but not, er, public. They will be placed on a web site "accessible to the United States [we fear they mean the Government of the United States here, not the people] and all Covered OEMs." Still, it's a level playing field, right? Not exactly. "Covered OEMs" are defined as the 20 PC companies worldwide with the highest Windows licensing volumes in the preceding Microsoft fiscal year. Anybody below this, all the little guys, gets nothing from this deal. And here come the riders. Microsoft can charge different royalties for different language versions, and can also "specify reasonable volume discounts." The schedule may also include MDAs, "programs and other discounts in connection with Windows Operating System Products." Sounds a little bit like the status quo ante, doesn't it? Except that the discounts have to be uniformly available to Covered OEMs. Microsoft can however split these into the top ten and the next ten, which brings it more into line with the status quo ante. It can work closely with the big companies (really, we're only talking about five or so here), but it can't pick on one specific recalcitrant vendor as previously. Some change, but not much. and still plenty room for manoeuvre. Disintegrating IE, etc From the release of XP Service Pack 1, or 12 months from the submission of the Final Judgement to court (whichever is sooner), Microsoft will have to supply users and OEMs with mechanisms to remove access to Microsoft middleware and replace it with non-Microsoft middleware. To some extent this is good news for users, because it will likely become easier to dump Outlook, IE, WMP and Messenger and use alternatives, but it's obviously less than half a loaf, it's maybe a year down the line (the move itself will no doubt delay SP1), and... what about Passport? Passport seems not to have even made it into the document's list of definitions; we do not think this is accidental. If - as seems likely - the partial unbundling is a year down the line, then the whole XP strategy is intact, and Microsoft will have been able to benefit hugely in the interim. Note also that as we're talking about removing access rather than the product itself here, the DoJ has conceded Microsoft's claims that the middleware products are integrated parts of the OS that can't be removed, despite having pretty much disproved this during the trial. When the add/remove functionality ships, there will also be some limitations: "...except that Microsoft may restrict the display of icons, shortcuts, or menu entries specified in the Windows documentation as being limited to products that provide particular types of functionality, provided that the restrictions are non-discriminatory with respect to non-Microsoft and Microsoft products..." Sorry? Microsoft clearly has some kind of authority as regards what can and can't be done, but there's precious little else about the sentence that's clear. There's a much clearer brace of escape clauses that guard .NET, and offer a fair bit of scope for Microsoft to nit-pick about the capabilities of alternative software: "...the Windows Operating System Product may invoke a Microsoft Middleware Product [without your permission, even after you've hidden it, presumably] in any instance in which: "1. that Microsoft Middleware Product would be invoked solely for use in interoperating with a server maintained by Microsoft (outside the context of general Web browsing), or "2. that designated Non-Microsoft Middleware Product fails to implement a reasonable technical requirement (e.g. a requirement to be able to host a particular ActiveX control) that is necessary for valid technical reasons to supply the end user with functionality consistent with a Windows Operating System Product, provided that the technical reasons are described in a reasonably prompt manner to any ISV that requests them." Point 1 gives pretty good cover for .NET services (which can easily be "outside the context of general Web browsing"), while 2 provides endless scope for Microsoft to tell its rivals how fundamentally broken their products are. It's also worth noting that the rotating middleware concessions could easily be interpreted as only applying if Microsoft had an equivalent of the relevant non-Microsoft product already in place. Which could actually work as a brake on innovation, and keep everybody in line behind Microsoft. In summary, it's perfectly possible that this little pile of "concessions" won't just be ineffectual - it could pave the way for .NET, part two. Technical disclosure This comes in two parts. The ludicrous procedure for source code revelation to appointed high priests in a secure facility has fallen on the cutting room floor, and instead we have API disclosure, and the licensing of communications protocols. "Starting at the earlier of the release of Service Pack 1 for Windows XP or 12 months after the submission of this Final Judgment to the Court, Microsoft shall disclose to ISVs, IHVs, IAPs, ICPs, and OEMs, for the sole purpose of interoperating with a Windows Operating System Product, via the Microsoft Developer Network ('MSDN')... the APIs and related Documentation that are used by Microsoft Middleware to interoperate with a Windows Operating System Product." So if you want to produce software that interoperates with Windows software, Microsoft is going to tell you about the APIs via MSDN. Well well - how on earth have those MSDN subscribers been able to manage, all these years? The Samba Team has already responded to the protocol licensing clause. Nine months after the judgment "Microsoft shall make available for use by third parties, for the sole purpose of interoperating with a Windows Operating System Product, on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms... any Communications Protocol that is... (i) implemented in a Windows Operating System Product installed on a client computer, and (ii) used to interoperate natively... with Windows 2000 Server or products marketed as its successors." The Samba response points to the document's definition of Communications Protocol, and says: "If Microsoft is allowed to be the interpreter of this document, then it could be interpreted in a very broad sense to explicitly exclude the SMB/CIFS protocol and all of the Microsoft RPC calls needed by any SMB/CIFS server to adequately interoperate with Windows 2000. They would claim that these protocols are used by Windows 2000 server for remote administration and as such would not be required to be disclosed. In that case, this settlement would not help interoperability with Microsoft file serving one bit, as it would be explicitly excluded. "We would hope that a more reasonable interpretation would allow Microsoft to ensure the security of its products, whilst still being forced to fully disclose the fundamental protocols that are needed to create interoperable products." And of course we've already highlighted the borad piracy-security get-outs here. Also on the definitions front it's worth noting that "major version" (which in many cases is the trigger for moves and disclosures to be made, "shall be identified by a whole number or by a number with just a single digit to the right of the decimal point." WinXP, the 'most important product' since Win95, is of course 5.1, so go figure. The Three Kings A three strong Technical Committee to "assist in enforcement... and compliance" will be installed in Mordor itself, although we believe it is not intended for them to be in thrall to Bill - immediately, anyway. There'll be one appointed by the Government, one by Microsoft, and the pair will then select a third. The members won't have been recently employed by Microsoft or a competitor, and won't have consulted or testified for them. Even without the two sides furiously vetoing each other's nominations, this will surely make it fiendishly difficult to assemble a TC that actually knows about what it's supposed to be supervising. The TC will have access to source code, "subject to the terms of Microsoft's standard source code Confidentiality Agreement" and its members will also "sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting disclosure of any information obtained in the course of performing his or her duties... All information gathered by the TC in connection with this Final Judgment and any report and recommendations prepared by the TC shall be treated as Highly Confidential under the Protective Order in this case, and shall not be disclosed to any person other than Microsoft and the United States execept as allowed by the Protective Order entered in the Action or by further order of this Court." And just in case they don't get the message from that: "No member of the TC shall make any public statements relating to the TC's activities." So they're going in there, and we're quite possibly never going to hear from them again. If they do have a beef, and the DoJ doesn't agree it's a beef, then nobody need ever know. If they're hopeless, outnumbered and outflanked, we're never going to know about that either. ®
John Lettice, 06 Nov 2001

Tiscali UK delays broadband satellite roll-out until 2002

Tiscali UK has delayed the roll-out of its broadband satellite service until next year while it completes the integration of its UK business. The ISP will begin taking orders in December ahead of a three-month trial beginning in January. Upon completion and contingent upon the level of demand assessed the ISP could make the service generally available in the UK in early summer. In June this year, Tiscali announced it would launch a commercial service aimed at SOHOs(small office, home office) and home users in Italy, Germany, France and the UK by the end of the year, with the rest of Europe following in 2002. So far, Tiscali has launched a two-way broadband satellite service in Italy and Germany. Steve Horley, ISP and Business Development director at Tiscali UK, told The Register that the ISP had delayed the roll-out of the service in the UK while it focused on the integration of its UK business following the acquisition of World Online, Liberty Surf and LineOne. Yesterday, BTopenworld announced hefty pricing for its two-way broadband satellite service. BTopenworld's installation costs start at £900 with monthly rentals for the service, twice as expensive as its ADSL offering. BTopenworld and Tiscali have both sourced their services from Gilat Satellite Networks. Mr Horley declined to disclose pricing details for Tiscali's service but said that it will be "competitive with BT's offering". "Priced at this level will make it a niche consumer market," he said. Last month OnStar Europe - the information, entertainment and communications arm of General Motors Europe - pulled the plug on its Beam broadband over satellite service. ® Related Stories BTopenworld charges £900 for satellite broadband service BTopenwoe launches broadband satellite service Tiscali to launch European broadband service in Autumn
Tim Richardson, 06 Nov 2001

Multi-format DVD writer arrives

Hitachi-LG Data Storage (HLDS) has developed a multiple format drive that is able to write in both DVD-RAM and DVD-RW formats, as well as DVD-R and CD-RW. HLDS is a joint venture between LG Electronics and Hitachi. Its combo drive, expected to hit the market in January, should be a boon for consumers mired in confusion over a range of DVD formats that are not all fully compatible. The notable format exception in this product is DVD+RW, although most DVD+RW drives can typically read DVD-RW or DVD-R formats, as can most set-top players. HLDS has not yet announced pricing on the product (the GMA-4120B), although it claims the drive will be cheaper than existing DVD writing products. HP currently sells its DVD+RW/CD-RW combo drive for $599. Simply put, users will be able to use a single drive to write in a variety of formats, allowing nearly any other drive or player on the market to read its discs, something not readily available to them right now. HLDS develops optical disc drive products for both desktop PCs and notebooks. It supplies a variety of companies, including Compaq, IBM, Dell and, interestingly, HP. ® Related Stories 'DeCSS' DVD descrambler ruled legal Tiny chooses DVD-RAM Related Links DV Direct's DVD format comparison Pioneer's DVD format comparison
James Watson, 06 Nov 2001

The end of the MacLine?

Cambridge-based online Mac dealer MacLine has gone bust. It ceased trading last night, according to UK publication MacUser. MacLine says it is close to agreeing a rescue deal with a third party and will issue a statement tomorrow. The collapse of the Cambridge-based reseller comes one month after London Mac dealer Mygate went into liquidation. Mygate's assets have already been sold, to Guildford-based Apple dealer Cancom. The demise of MacLine and Mygate reduces the UK online Mac reseller market to five main players: MacWarehouse; Computer Warehouse; Jigsaw; Cancom; Gordon Harwood Computers. Mygate piled up debts of £1 million despite a turnover of around £6 million. ® Related Story Mac, PC reseller Mygate shuts up shop
Robert Blincoe, 06 Nov 2001

IBM continues writing Lotus out of history

IBM's desire to completely absorb Lotus has entered a new stage - it has pulled the search function out of the Lotus knowledge base and is directing sysadmins to the main IBM site instead. The Lotus knowledge base is still used by hundreds of customers to search for solutions to problems with Lotus products such as Notes or Domino. However in a continuation of Big Blue's slow, low-key but determined attempt to completely envelop the software company, those who need to find in-depth information on Lotus products will have to go to the IBM main site and search its main database. Posters to Lotus discussion forums are furious, with many complaining that the main IBM search function is hopeless at finding Lotus specific queries. IBM has retained a category search for Lotus products, but its contents are limited. In response to an email sent by one of the posters, IBM's customer service responded: "Thank you for contacting Lotus Customer Service. We have provided below some technical support resources below to further assist you. "We recommend that you visit the Developer Network Discussion forum, where you can chat with other developers depending on the Notes/Domino product you are using. You can also access downloads and toolkits, product betas, and technical documentation. To get to the developer's network, go to the following web address: www.lotus.com/home.nsf/welcome/developernetwork. Select "Discussions" in the left navigator. "You may also troubleshoot or obtain additional information on your own by visiting the IBM.com support site and searching on a specific product name or phrase at http://www-4.ibm.com/software/support/. "The Lotus/IBM Redbook site at http://www.lotus.com/redbooks also provides a lot of helpful resources for Notes and Domino products, such as books, downloadable files and posted updates. "If you currently have a Notes and Domino support agreement, you may reach the Support console from the United States at 1-800-553-xxxx or from Canada at 1-888-263-xxxx. "Regards, Lotus Customer Service" IBM first bought Lotus in 1995, assuring everyone that it would continue to run autonomously. Big Blue then spoke of restructuring at the start of this year. In July, we noticed that people's email address had changed from @lotus.com to @uk.ibm.com. Again Big Blue downplayed any integration of Lotus into its bigger parent, only admitting the absorption officially in September - by which time it had pulled in a number of Lotus products. It then quietly removed 130 or more Lotus positions but did not, repeat not, get rid of any staff. It offered them other opportunities within the IBM corporation - not all of which were taken up. We are awaiting on IBM's response to why it has removed the Lotus knowledge base search function. ® Related Link Poster's anger at IBM response Related Stories IBM axes 130+ Lotus positions Lotus and IBM pull products together RIP Lotus
Kieren McCarthy, 06 Nov 2001

WLANs hit 22Mbps

Buffalo Technology recently announced a range of 802.11b-based WLAN (Wireless LAN) products that allow a theoretical transfer rate of up to 22Mbps. This is twice the transfer rate of regular 11Mbps 802.11b products. The range is the first to ship based on Texas Instruments' (TI) ACX100 chipset. Buffalo, a subsidiary of Japan-based Melco, will release a range of wireless Access Points (or base station) and PCMCIA-based network interface cards later this month, complementing the company's existing family of AirStation WLAN products. TI's ACX100 is a single-chip wireless LAN medium access controller (MAC) with an integrated 802.11b WLAN-compliant spread spectrum baseband processor. Using TI's PBCC (Packet Binary Convolution Coding) modulation to significantly improve its performance, it is able to provide a 22Mbps transfer rate (in the 2.4GHz spectrum) and up to 70 per cent more area coverage than existing 802.11b products. TI released the chipset in June, following the IEEE 802.11 working group's decision to pursue Intersil's OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) modulation, instead of TI's competing PBCC technology, for ratification in the 802.11g standard (the next generation WLAN standard following 802.11b and on the path to 802.11a). Due to excessive delays, exacerbated by the September 11 disaster, the group has yet to ratify Intersil's technology, although it is hoped this will happen this month. TI worked hard to make ACX100 the first deployable high rate technology in the 2.4GHz spectrum, which Buffalo has now confirmed with its AirStation product. This is a small victory for TI after its snubbing by the IEEE on 802.11g - a product has yet to ship featuring Intersil's OFDM technology. Buffalo's new products, which are fully compatible with existing 802.11b networks, are targeted at the SME and upper range SOHO market. Pricing has not yet been set for the European market, although the base station products are expected to range from £200 to £250, while client devices should start at about £100. It also has PCI and ISA bus options available via adapters for desktop PCs, as well as a USB adapter. ® Related Stories Bluetooth gives bite to high speed wireless network 100Mbps - long range wireless through wind, rain, snow Rocky road to wireless networking nirvana Intel to ship 802.11a wireless LAN kit in 2002 Related Links Buffalo's Press Release TI's 802.11 Wireless LAN Overview
James Watson, 06 Nov 2001

Hewlett family hates Compaq merger (true)

Hewlett-Packard today suffered a major embarassment when the offspring of founder William Hewlett announced their intention to vote against the proposed takeover of Compaq. HP shares leapt 19 per cent on the news. The Hewlett family account for approx. five per cent of Hewlett-Packard's share capital, directly or through trusts. But unlike, say the Ford family, which effectively controls the car company that bears their name, the Hewletts do not have a say in how their company is run. Even so, their intervention is a big a spanner in the Compaq takeover works. The HP board cannot bring itself to attack the Hewlett family, as this bland statement, also issued today, shows. "While we regret very much the Hewlett family's decision, we are not surprised. The HP Board of Directors and HP and Compaq remain fully committed to the merger and expect shareholder approval. HP's S-4 registration statement will be filed within the next several days and will serve as the basis for thoughtful shareowner evaluation." And now for a statement from Walter Hewlett (son of William Hewlett). "After careful deliberation, consultation with my financial adviser and consideration of developments since the announcement of the merger, I have decided to vote against the transaction. I believe that Hewlett-Packard can create greater value for stockholders as a stand-alone company than as a company combined with Compaq. Hewlett-Packard has a strong tradition of innovation and product development, a highly profitable printer and imaging business, a strong foundation for expanding its outsourcing and consulting services business, and an extremely talented workforce. "I firmly believe that partnering with Compaq will not give Hewlett-Packard what it needs most to create additional stockholder value: expansion of its printer and imaging business as well as the higher-end segments of its services and server businesses. "The combination would dramatically increase Hewlett-Packard's exposure to the unattractive PC business and dilute current stockholders' interest in Hewlett-Packard's profitable printer business." ® Related Stories SirCam merger gets personal: Valley aristos send Compaq paqing HP/Compaq merger: You the Jury HPaQ must die - major investor Compaq name to go, will trade as HP HP-Compaq merger - readers speak their minds Princess Fiorina kisses the Ugly Frog Princess Fiorina addresses subjects
Drew Cullen, 06 Nov 2001