16th > November > 2001 Archive

Eco site fuels anti-Esso protest

Environmental pressure groups have relaunched a protest Web site in time for a boycott of Esso petrol stations on December 1. The StopEsso campaign's new site - backed by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and People & Planet - has been constructed by a group of Web experts who've given their time and services free of charge. The result is a clean and informative site which puts across well its environmental concerns about global warming and issues surrounding the burning of fossil fuels. The site also launches a scathing attack on the oil company's environmental record, which Esso dismisses as "smear" tactics. Perhaps the site's best feature is the ability to search out Esso garages by postcode. This service also provides links to maps so protestors looking to demonstrate on December 1 can find their way to Esso petrol stations. This - and other features - means that while the site deals with global issues, it is very much a local site, empowering individuals to demonstrate for a cause in which they believe. Said James Cronin, one of the guys who helped re-design the site: "Some people warned that in the 21st century, the Internet would cut us off from the world's problems and our own community. "We hope www.stopesso.com will put people back in touch with their neighbours, and help them work to beat the most pressing world crisis of all: global warming." Esso - part of the giant ExxonMobil corporation - has issued a statement in response to calls to boycott its products in which it defends its environmental record. You can read it here ®
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2001

The obstacle to US wireless nirvana

We're loathe to draw parallels between the US and European mobile phone markets, because they're structurally and geographically so very different. But in one area they're depressingly similar: with the US networks mirroring the European carriers' tentative approach to selling packet data. Despite the launch of two spanking-new GPRS-capable phones from Motorola yesterday, no US carrier has dared buck the market by introducing a flat rate plan. On both continents, GPRS is billed by data usage. A small amount, typically a megabyte per month, is bundled in the tariff; but step over the mark and it becomes a very expensive burden. This kills the appeal of what's essentially an always-on service. Canadians can take advantage of an all-you-can-eat tariff though, thanks to Fido, for $100 per month, but that's very much the exception. Yesterday the VoiceStream network announced the availability of two Motorola GPRS-capable handsets, the triband P280 (for $169.99 with contract) and the T193 which at $49.99 looks a snap. Motorola has been talking up 2.5G packet data plenty recently, which isn't surprising as it's so far ahead with the technology that it has practically lapped the competition. But plentiful handsets still don't make GPRS attractive. It's will take a quantum leap for the carriers to embrace the new billing model. And here we're reminded of a gag told to us by a leading European handset executive on the lack of a vision thing amongst US carriers: "Their idea of tactical is 'what's for lunch?' And strategic means asking 'what's for dinner?'" Which is a good point. But the malaise isn't limited to States. Carriers face a common dilemma, and it's the same one that landline networks faced two years ago: do we install broadband and give up this burst of dial-up revenue? Or do we go flat rate and somehow juggle the two? Perhaps the time's ripe for some bold moves. The wireless Ethernet market is looking like a ghost town: with Ricochet gone, and Omnisky in the morgue. With the economy tanking and set for a long downturn, drastic initiatives are in order, and the amount of downstream revenue from services or from increased voice traffic ought to be enough of an incentive for the networks - who've already invested in the 2.5G infrastructure - to create some attractive loss-leaders. Well, here's hoping... ® Related Story Suicidal GPRS pricing puts 3G at risk One 2 One chief in 'Phones Too Cheap' gaffe Rocky road to wireless networking nirvana
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Nov 2001

Sun shuns MS ‘gutter’ benchmark challenge

Sun's Pet Shop Boys - reponsible for the J2EE Pet Store application - say they won't be drawn into a benchmark dogfight with Microsoft. Or even a catfight. Microsoft has made much of a head-to-head which pits the showcase Sun code against a clone written for .NET. This purports to prove that .NET is leaner and faster than Java 2 Enterprise Edition. It's already been widely rubbished, and today Larry Barron and Steve Wilson, who wrote the code and look after performance benkmarking for Sun, added their voices. They stress that Sun's J2EE Pet Store code is purely illustrational: "It's specifically full of code to show you how to do things," they told us. "But you wouldn't use all of those in an application." It could easily be rewritten to take advantage of stored procedures, like Microsoft's Pet Store app, giving it matching performance. "It's one of the worst benchmark documents we've ever seen. It runs on Solaris 2.6, which is several years old, and old hardware." Would Sun release an optimized J2EE Pet Store, we wondered? "We're not getting into the gutter," was the reply. "We don't believe Pet Store is a viable benchmark. We've already shown a JVM running on a machine with 72 CPUs. We're the first and only vendor to post SPEC-JBB2000 benchmarks over 200,000 and 300,000." So there. ® Related Story Pet vs Pet: MS opens .NET benchmarking wars
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Nov 2001

IP conference: copyright law has gone too far

The recording industry and the Business Software Alliance squared off against the Electronic Frontier Foundation and US Rep. Rick Boucher Wednesday in a debate over laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act aimed at protecting large copyright holders, with the hearts and minds of a crowd of Washington, D.C., decision-makers as the prize. John Perry Barlow, former Wyoming cattle rancher, Grateful Dead lyricist and co-founder of the EFF, told a Washington suit-and-tie crowd of lobbyists and congressional staffers that he can predict the history of this century after the recent terrorists attacks on the US. "I think I can safely say that history of the 21st Century is going to be about the struggle between open systems and closed systems, which was what you saw engaged on 11 September in a very pointed way," Barlow said. "This is going to be an interesting and complex struggle, because it is in the nature of open systems to breed closed systems, since for example, an open system like a free-market economy tends to gravitate toward a natural monopoly, which is a closed system." In the day-long conference, entitled The Future of Intellectual Property in the Information Age, at Libertarian think tank The Cato Institute, the phrase "open source" only came up a handful of times - but the impact of copyright protection schemes on Open Source, Free Software and ordinary consumers of online music, movies and written materials was never far away from the debate. The conference was put on by a Libertarian group that's internally divided over whether government protection of copyrights and patents is a good thing. Two of the three keynotes featured critics of expanded copyright protections: Boucher, a Virginia Democrat, and Barlow, whose organization has defended people who've run afoul of the DMCA's provision outlawing technologies that circumvent copy controls. Small group controls much information Barlow noted that since the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, the concentration of media companies has caused the majority of copyrighted entertainment to fall into the hands of a handful of companies. "I think that what we are doing with acts like the DMCA is to give them an enormous additional amount of control at a time when they don't need it," he said. "We are putting tools in their hands that are far more powerful than have been put in the hands of any kind of medium before, and they are in a position to control information like it's never been controlled by anyone but the Soviets. "If we're not going to regulate the media monsters, we at least need to be thoughtful about putting these additional tools in their hands." While Barlow talked about the philosophy of information freedom - how information becomes more valuable when it's shared, unlike physical goods - Boucher took the more pragmatic approach by talking about what's going on in Washington and what changes he believes need to happen. Boucher outlined two bills he's sponsoring, the Music Online Competition Act, which would encourage competition for online music services beyond services owned by the large music companies, and the Business Method Patent Improvement Act, which would reform the way business method patents are obtained. Both bills, he said, would help turn the tide back to consumers and against the trend toward protecting the large industries that hold most copyrights and patents. Boucher told the crowd of a couple hundred D.C. insiders that laws such as the DMCA aim to restrict consumers' fair use rights on copyrighted works, to do such things as make their own personal copies or sample the works to critique them. "[The DMCA] is, in my humble opinion, a broad overreach that severely limits fair use rights," he said. "Free speech doesn't mean much if you have to get prior permission of an intellectual property owner" to use the work for your own purposes. But the other side was well represented, with apologists for large patent and copyright holders arguing that such protections are needed in order to fuel the creation of new content and new ideas. During one panel discussion, Greg Aharonian, editor of the Internet Patent News Service, argued that Boucher was being insincere for focusing on the ease of getting business method patents, such as the famed Amazon.com one-click ordering patent and the Priceline "name your own price" patent, because the quality of all patents has been a problem for decades. RIAA vs. EFF During a panel on whether music and movie companies should be able to employ their own digital rights management techniques, Mitch Glazier, legislative counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America, and Robin Gross, staff attorney for the EFF, sat next to each other as they argued over what kind of locks should be put on digital content. Glazier said consumers will ultimately be responsible for determining how music is delivered on the Internet, although he didn't address why his organization has felt it necessary to sue customers of services such as Napster to get them to comply with the RIAA's way of doing business. "There's only one huge question nobody knows: what the consumer wants, what will succeed," Glazier said. "At the end of the day, I think consumers will be pretty happy with the number of competing services out there." Gross seemed to roll her eyes at that comment. Gross and others argued that laws such as the DMCA destroy the delicate balance between content owners' rights to be paid and consumers' rights to circulate the ideas and copy and repackage that content as long as its for personal use. She and others pointed to other examples of new technology that copyright holders fought - such as the VCR - that later became a boon to the industries originally fighting it. The Internet is helping to create a world that's moving from information scarcity to abundance, she said, and by walling off information behind stringent copyright law, "we risk creating an artificial scarcity of ideas where none needs to exist." Break anti-copy code, go to jail While the DMCA and its anti-circumvention provisions caught most of the flak, several critics of copyright expansion warned of the proposed Security Systems Standards and Certification Act, which would ultimately require copy-protection controls on all kinds of digital devices and software. In a panel called "Technology vs. Technology: Should Code Breakers Go to Jail?" Emery Simon, special counsel for the large tech-company dominated Business Software Alliance, said he was puzzled how the opponents of the DMCA can frame it as an "evil" law that's unconstitutional and limits free speech. Instead of good vs. evil, he said, the DMCA should be seen as part of an ongoing adjustment of how copyrighted works will be distributed on the Internet. But even Simon and a lobbyist for the generally conservative US Chamber of Commerce acknowledged between panel discussions that the SSSCA would create problems of compliance for their memberships. About the only person at the conference who had anything good to say about the SSSCA was the RIAA's Glazier, who said his organization doesn't have an official position on it, but it might an interesting approach. The "go to jail" panel addressed issues close to the hearts of many in the Open Source community, including the DMCA-inspired lawsuits against webmasters who posted the DeCSS code that allows Linux users to decode and play DVDS, and the arrest in the United States of visiting Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov for creating a program that strips copy controls from e-books. Mike Godwin, a technology author and policy fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said a certain amount of authorized copying is assumed in the old balance of copyright law. He said the DMCA outlaws circumvention of copy controls, whether or not the circumvention is intended for illegal uses. Godwin said the DMCA could be used to for "absurd results," such as to prosecute author Stephen King for breaking the Windows-proprietary e-book format to read one of his own e-books on his Mac laptop. "When we say that it doesn't matter whether you're an infringer or not; it doesn't matter whether you're a bad actor or not; if you engage in this technology development at all, or if you distribute this technology development at all, you're going be criminally or civilly liable - that has unmoored the copyright enforcement framework from its original policy foundation," he said. Julie Cohen, a Georgetown University law professor, suggested that the DMCA is especially problematic for Open Source developers because although it allows some reverse engineering and encryption research, it requires those developers to be "sufficiently credentialed," but that doesn't protect the 15-year-old developing Open Source software in his bedroom from a DMCA prosecution or lawsuit. "Even if you think the Open Source movement is only an interesting experiment, that's something to be troubled about," she said. Generational struggle The EFF's Barlow suggested the current copyright struggle is a generational dispute, with the old guard industrialists, who own the entertainment copyrights, against young people who see nothing wrong with trading information. The recording industry doesn't understand that a certain amount of free distribution of its product helps create a buzz for it, he said. The Grateful Dead learned this by allowing fans to tape their concerts and witnessing the resulting growth in popularity of their music. "[The RIAA is] so trapped in the industrial paradigm, they can't see it," he said. "On the other hand, there is an entire younger generation of people who do get it, all those people who find nothing morally repugnant about lifting software from one another. There is no ethical dilemma for a 21-year-old college kid when they go get some piece of information or entertainment. "If you're going to criminalize that activity to the extent it has now been criminalized... you're creating a system that naturally breeds contempt for the law. I don't think it's a great idea to have laws that young people feel are wrong and systematically abuse, because it actually damages the validity of all the other laws that have a good reason for being there." The Cato Institute is planning a book based on the conference. ® Copyright © 2001 Newsforge.com. All rights reserved
Grant Gross, 16 Nov 2001

Dell: Profits down, market share up

Dell yesterday posted its third quarter results, showing a net income of $429 million on the back of $7.47 billion revenue. Looking year on year, its net income declined 36 per cent and revenue was down 10 per cent from $8.26 billion in the same period last year. The sharper drop in profits was attributed to a price war, but this has enabled the company to grow its market share in almost every global region. For the current quarter it is predicting only a slight increase in sales, indicating a weak Christmas forecast ahead, despite the arrival of Windows XP, which the industry hoped would pick up sales. Earlier in the month, Dell predicted PC sales growth rates would remain in the high single digits for the next four to five years. IDC shows the company taking an extra three percentage points of the worldwide market in the quarter as all the other top five PC makers lost market share. It gained market share in PCs, notebooks and servers as its competitors battled their way through the quarter. Regionally, the company's strength grew quickest in Germany, China, Japan, although it showed gains in every major region. ® Related Link Dell's 3Q financial results Related stories Redmond's tablets don't work - not for Dell, anyway Dell PC biz grows in Q3
James Watson, 16 Nov 2001

802.11b market grows

The worldwide 802.11b wireless networking market grew nine per cent in Q3 with revenues of $310 million, up from $284.5 million in Q2 and $178 million in Q3 2000. Cisco led the pack for the quarter, reporting a strong 68 per cent growth to hold a 21 per cent market share. Its share bottomed out last quarter at just 14 per cent from a high last year, but is now recovering fast. The outlook for the technology looks good as well, with growth of 35 per cent expected for 2002, despite the arrival of new 802.11a kit, according to the Dell'Oro Group. Last year this time, Cisco led the pack with Agere at its heels (29 per cent share versus 25 per cent). Now, Agere retains second place, but its share has tanked to just 10 per cent. It was also the only manufacturer to record negative growth at 7 per cent for the quarter. Linksys, Buffalo and Enterasys fill in the top five vendors for the sector. The report covers 802.11b access points / bridges, broadband gateways and NICs. ® Related Stories Business drives the Wireless Web Intersil takes 802.11 knock To be or not to 802.11b
James Watson, 16 Nov 2001

Yahoo! to! shed! 400! jobs!

Yahoo! is to axe 400 jobs. Most of the losses will come from its international and broadcast operations. According to Reuters some middle management positions are also likely to be shed. But Yahoo! also says that it will recruit in some growth areas, resulting in a net loss of around 300 jobs - or around ten per cent of its total workforce. At this stage it's not known if any of the job cuts will be at Yahoo! UK or Yahoo! Europe. This is the second set if job losses this year at Yahoo!. In April, the company announced its plans to shed some 400 staff. Speaking to analysts yesterday chief exec, Terry Semel, said that he intended to reduce Yahoo!'s reliance on advertising revenue from 76 per cent this year, to around 50 or 60 per cent by 2004. Like many dotcoms that rely heavily on advertising Yahoo! has suffered from the decline in online advertising. The challenge that lies ahead now is how to make cash from Yahoo!'s 210 million regular users who are used to using its search directory, news service, email etc for free. Getting enough of them to part with their cash might not be an easy task. Yahoo! also reaffirmed that it expects revenues for Q4 2001 to be between $160 million and $180 million. It expects pro forma earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to range from between a $5 million loss to a $10 million profit. It expects full year revenues for 2001 to be in the region of $688 million to $708 million, with pro forma EBITDA of between $10 million to $25 million. Looking ahead, Yahoo! expects revenues for the full year 2002 to increase to between $725 million and $785 million, with pro forma EBITDA of between $35 to $75 million. ® Related Story Yahoo! to cut 12% of staff, reports Q1 profit slide
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2001

Motorola hints at chip biz sell-off – again

Profitability may not be enough to save Motorola's chip operation from being sold, the parent company's chairman and CEO, Chris Galvin, suggests. Despite a return to profitability, Motorola's government business wing was sold off last September, and Galvin draws parallels between that division and the Semiconductor Products Sector. "Two years ago we were losing a lot of money in the government business, and we said there is no sense in selling it now or disposing of it now," he said, at UBS Warburg's Global Telecom Conference, held in New York this week. "We fixed it. We got it generating significant positive cash flow and double-digit pre-tax profits. We sold the [government business division] last September." The implication is clear: once SPS returns to profitability, there's a real chance that Motorola will seek to boost its finances by ridding itself of the operation. However, such a plan contradicts comments made by Motorola executives in the summer. In August, Motorola president Robert Growney said that a deadline has been set by which SPS must show that it can start sufficiently contributing to the company's bottom line. Growney would not say how long SPS has to achieve this goal. And Ed Gams, Motorola's investor relations chief, added: "No segment of the company is sacred in terms of being protected from its obligation to contribute to that level of financial return. "The present level of financial performance of the segment cannot be tolerated. Improvements are expected. "There are no sacred cows here." But Galvin's reference to Motorola's former government sales operation suggests that he can't sell it until it does become profitable again. The plan appears to centre on getting SPS into a position where Motorola can sensibly make a decision over its future, Galvin said. If SPS "is valued at two, four, or six, or eight times sales, one can decide whether you want that in the portfolio or not," he said. "That's the essence of the plan we are working on right now." ® Related Stories Motorola moots Semicon Products Sector sell-off Apple looks to future - post-Motorola? - PowerPC world Apple to buy PowerPC from Motorola?
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2001

What feud? HP boss turns on media

Lazy reporting is to blame for the tepid reaction to the SirCam merger, HP boss Carly Fiorina told staff yesterday. There are no feuds, and the portrayal of the merger as new money vs old is a figment of reporters' imaginations. "Most of the media, especially here in the Bay Area, is positioning the merger with Compaq and the recent actions by Walter Hewlett and David Packard as a fight between the past and the future -- between the Hewlett-Packard of our co-founders and the future that we're trying so hard to position ourselves to achieve. "I absolutely refuse to accept this line of reasoning. And frankly, I get frustrated when I see lazy reporting on complicated issues. It is far easier to dream up a feud that doesn't exist than to research complex, far-reaching, industry-changing business concepts," she wrote in memo to staff, which you can read here, courtesy of the San Jose Mercury. A feud that doesn't exist? A bit rich perhaps, after board-level sources at HP and Compaq have smeared the sons of HP's founders in recent days as mad, bad and dangerous to know. "Sometimes the best way to move forward in times like these is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other," writes Carly. And then putting one foot firmly in the mouth. However customers seem unfazed. According to 1400 British HP and Compaq customers of British distie WStore, 76 per cent responded positively to the merger, with only 15 per cent saying they'd consider dropping either HP or Compaq. In a Register survey in September is association with Tom's MetaFacts Forum, 40 per cent viewed the merger negatively, while 24 per cent thought it was a good move. Although the impact on buying patterns was similar, as you can read here. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Nov 2001

SuSE 7.3 rocks Red Hat and flips XP the bird

The first thing a PC user notices about SuSE is that it comes with the kind of documentation that Microsoft has almost - but not quite - eradicated from the far reaches of your long-term memory. A good 800 pages worth in four manuals, such as you used to curl up with in an easy chair, in some lost era of elegance and style before the Global Economy obliterated any lingering, mocking hint of leisure time adequate for such strangely attractive pursuits as getting to know your operating system. And not only is it extensive, it's well organized. And that's important, because if there's any hope of Linux one day competing with Windows on the home desktop, our friend Harry Homeowner is going to have to get it running while channel surfing through ESPN and microwaving dinner, having already shimmed those dangerously ill-fitted cellar stairs with one of the manuals. The Harry test Those who recall my "Installation Tragicomedy" (as LinuxToday's Mike Hall called it) with Red Hat 7.2 know that I did everything I could to install on an OEM box with its factory configuration intact, and failed miserably. This, I felt, was a necessary element of the Harry test. Indeed, "Red Hat Linux 7.2 should be compatible with most hardware in systems that were factory built within the last two years," the installation guide optimistically chirps. That describes my Dell Dimension B733R perfectly, having been 'factory built' less than two years ago but not so recently that it might contain a new curve. The problem was that my two CDROM drives were hooked up to an IDE channel by Dell monkeys via 'cable select', which meant that I either had to disable DMA during the installation, or set the drives as master and slave manually with the jumpers to avoid read errors. Not quite good enough for Harry. All right, my machines are all bare and skeletal with their guts hanging out like the entrails of a George Romero corpse, but I seriously doubt Harry has ever had the cover off his. Forget jumpers. And the Red Hat installation guide is illogically laid out, with heaps of theoretical stuff interlarded with the practical nuggets, a troubleshooting section that barely mentions DMA (which Harry doesn't know from DNS anyway), and practical steps that only occasionally recapitulate the 'live' steps of the installation. The SuSE install guide, on the other hand, recaps the 'live' steps perfectly, and starts with two ingenious features. First, the 'welcome' screen immediately offers you the option to do a 'safe' install (CDROM DMA disabled); and two, the install guide urges this mode upon you on the first page as a fix if you're having trouble with the installation. Thus Harry with his monkeyed-up Dell box will probably blow it the first time around, but get it right on the second go. And if he's really conservative, he may well opt for 'safe' on the first go. And with the SuSE Pro distro, the whole shebang comes on a single DVD, which Harry has got to love. I say SuSE passes the Harry test. Default culture Whereas Red Hat defaults to ext3, SuSE defaults to the tried and true ext2. I'm ambivalent here; Harry really wants a journaled file system and will be quite appalled when his brats kick the power cord while he's working and he then finds that his computer appears 'broken'. On the other hand, ext3 can still be a bit sketch on some machines; and considering Harry's nervous nature, I suppose it's a good call. SuSE also defaults to KDE (rather than Gnome like Red Hat), which I think looks better (though you've got to love Nautilus) and will no doubt reassure Harry that he's bought a quality product just like the 'real' stuff from Microsoft. It also defaults to LILO instead of GRUB, which is probably another solid bit of Germanic conservatism working in Harry's favor. XP killer? Nearly all Linux distros are packed with applications, and SuSE is no exception. So why would you spend $300.00 on a stand-alone version of Win-XP pro when you can get SuSE pro for $80.00? And why would you spend another $300.00 for Office XP when Star Office 5.2 comes free with SuSE? (OK, because it sucks...but it's free, and not quite intolerable.) And why spend another $300.00 for Photoshop when you've got Gimp and XSane for free? And why shell out $100 - $200 for periodic upgrades from Redmond like some addict when virtually everything you'll ever need to keep your Linux box trim can be downloaded free off the Web? You've got your multimedia toys -- your jukebox and CD burner and MIDI synthesizer, just in case you tend to welcome your guests with a hearty "Hey everyone -- let's gather 'round the computer and BOOGIE!" And you get about thirty games, some of them actually entertaining, and your IRC and ICQ clones, and your Apache and Squid and SSH and telnet and firewall and network tools, along with development tools up the butt. Do you have any idea how much of this stuff you have to buy for a Windows machine? You'll be lucky to find a free hex editor, for Christ's sake. Think of it this way: if you should break your sad dependency on Redmond's digital heroin and install something like SuSE 7.3, you'll be able to run your machine pretty much like a Windows box without a struggle from the git go; but on top of that, you might one day find yourself curled up in an easy chair with the documentation, as in some bygone age of elegance and style, and then it might just hit you what a convenient patsy you've been. ® Related Stories Win-XP vs Red Hat 7.2 Red Hat Hell continued Red Hat redemption
Thomas C Greene, 16 Nov 2001

WHSmith mulls legal action against WHSpliff.net

WHSmith is musing over whether to take legal action against a pro-cannabis Web site which bears a remarkably similar name to the high street stationer's brand. WHSpliff.net was set up in August and campaigns for the legalisation of cannabis in the UK. Under the catch line "we don't sell stationery - we aim to make you stationary!" the site lays out the arguments for the legalisation of the drug. Writes Mike Cottee, Webmaster at WHSpliff.net: "Whilst the fact remains that we are able to kill ourselves with the consumption of both tobacco and alcohol, lining the pockets of both big business and government, we are not legally able to enjoy the far less harmful substance known as cannabis. There is an estimated six million regular cannabis users in the UK facing arrest for a "crime" that has no victim." WHSmith has yet to decide whether it will take legal action against the site. A spokeswoman for WHSmith told El Reg: "Clearly, this site has nothing to do with our business. But we are looking at the implications this has for our brand. We have an obligation to protect our brand." WHSpliff.net has launched a range of T-shirts - with catchy lines such as "Prohibition doesn't work... let's turn over a new leaf" and "Legalise it...let the good times roll" - to help fund the running of the site. With so many dotcoms going up in smoke, here's hoping that WHSpliff.net doesn't make a complete hash of its ecommerce operation. ® Related Stories Dope e-tailer launch goes all to pot Cannabis e-retailer claims moral righteousness Dope dealers drive eBay potty Yahoo! takes pot shot at marijuana lookalike
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2001

Transmeta: delayed chips to ship by year end

Transmeta reiterated its roadmap at Comdex yesterday and pledged that its delayed 0.13 micron 667MHz TM5500 and 800MHz TM5800 Crusoe processors will ship in volume by the end of the year. That may pacify key Transmeta customers Sony and Fujitsu who this week gave the chip company a public whipping for not shipping the Crusoes on schedule. Both vendors admitted that they have had to delay the introduction of new sub-notebook PCs because of Transmeta's inability to ship chips on time. The delays are believed to have been behind the fall from grace of the company's previous CEO, Mark Allen, who was booted out last month. Transmeta CTO Dave Ditzel once more said that the TM5800 would reach 1GHz sometime in the first half of 2002. It will be followed by the TM6000 in the second half of next year. Like the TM5800, the TM6000 will be clocked at 1GHz, but it will offer two to three times the performance of its predecessor, Ditzel claimed. The TM6000 is based on a new architecture and will sport an integrated graphics engine and built-in hard disk and I/O interfaces. Crusoe chips already feature integrated memory and PCI bus controllers. It will also support memory error-checking codes (ECC) in order to enhance its appeal to server makers. This despite the fact that ECC is no longer necessary, DRAM chips being rather more reliable than they were when ECC was developed, said Ditzel. ECC is "a marketing check-off item", he added. "It's not really necessary, and if you use it, it runs up the cost of your DRAM." That may be the case, but server vendors want it, and they've been choosing Intel chips over Transmeta's for that very reason, Ditzel admitted. He damned Intel's promotion of ECC as a "red herring". He also dismissed Intel's benchmarks for failing to take into account of the rest of a system's impact on power consumption and heat generation - ie. all the bits that are built into a Transmeta chip but not into Intel's. Transmeta's own figures do take these factors into account, Ditzel claimed. Ditzel's presentation followed Intel's launch of a 700MHz Ultra-low Voltage Pentium III processor aimed, like Transmeta's chips, at very high-density server set-ups. Intel's Low-voltage and Ultra-low Voltage parts have so far been aimed at beating Transmeta in the mobile market, with some success. Transmeta has made a number of significant design wins in Japan but has largely failed to crack Western markets, though arguably that's as much because US and European prefer full-spec. notebooks rather than the sub-notebooks to which Transmeta's chips are most suited. Transmeta has also tried to push its chips into the server market, targeting systems that try to cram in as many processors as possible and for which low-power consumption and minimal heat generation are essential. Intel's 700MHz part targets that same arena. Intel plans to roll-out faster server PIIIs through 2002, so Transmeta's rapid move to 1GHz is essential if it's to build a sufficient lead to counter Intel's marketing machine, as are the power savings that arise from the latest generation of Transmeta's LongRun technology and its shift to 0.13 micron fabrication. ® Related Stories Sony, Fujitsu bash Transmeta Transmeta Q3 revenue plummets 52% on Q2 Transmeta CEO replaced after seven months Transmeta announces 1GHz integrated graphics Crusoe 6000 Transmeta unveils 0.13 micron Crusoes
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2001

DoJ exculpa: why the MS deal doesn't stink at all, honest

The Department of Justice's Competive Impact Statement, intended to explain why the deal it struck with Microsoft will tame The Beast and not, as widely advertised, simply renew its licence to kill, is as one might expect a lengthy mea exculpa. The flaws in the Proposed Final Judgment, which was unveiled earlier this month, have plenty of holes in them, and the Competitive Impact Statement won't do much to convince critics that these aren't holes after all. It does in some areas - notably in the case of the security 'get out of jail free clause' - appear to tighten things up by saying what the Judgment is supposed to mean, rather than leaving us to wonder. This particular section, it says, "must be read in conjunction with subsection III.J.1.a., which exempts from[disclosure] certain very limited and specific portions or layers of Communications Protocols which would, if disclosed, compromise the system security provided by Microsoft anti-piracy, anti-virus, software licensing, digital rights management, encryption and authentication features. The exception provided by subsection III.J.1.a. is a narrow one, limited to specific end-user implementations of security items such as actual keys, authorization tokens or enforcement criteria, the disclosure of which would compromise the security of 'a particular installation or group of installations' of the listed security features." So here the DoJ is stressing that there's no way Microsoft could keep secret anything it liked just by howling "security!" Nevertheless the company still has the ability to argue about what is and is not covered here, and it also has the ability to require that the recipient or licensee be of good character, i.e. "having no history of software counterfeiting or piracy or willful violations of intellectual property rights." Some might argue that certain historical incidents might rule Microsoft itself out on a couple of those counts, but we won't. Microsoft can also insist on the licensee "having its programs verified by a third party to ensure compliance with Microsoft specifications for use of the information." Which could be used as another obstacle. The explanation of the security clause itself is as follows: "For example, this subsection permits Microsoft to withhold limited information necessary to protect particular installations of the Kerberos and Secure Audio Path features of its products (e.g., keys and tokens particular to a given installation), but does not permit it to withhold any capabilities that are inherent in the Kerberos and Secure Audio Path features as they are implemented in a Windows Operating System Product. This is a critical distinction, because it ensures that Section III.E. will make these features available to competing software and hardware developers and permit them to offer competing implementations of these features, and products that rely on them, that can do the same things as Microsoft implementations of these features, while protecting the integrity of actual, particular end-user implementations of those systems." Exactly how "portions of APIs or Documentation or portions or layers of Communications Protocols" (which is what it says in the Proposed Final Judgment) boils down to "keys and tokens particular to a given installation" is not made clear. One trusts the judge will make it so. Overall, the latest document doesn't do anything significant to alter the widespread perception, which is held in some remarkably odd places, that the deal was a cave-in. If like most analysts you thought Microsoft still had plenty of scope to carry on as before, and that the Judgment would do nothing to obstruct future abuses using alternative mechanisms, you're still going to think that. The sign-off pages are good though. It explains why the DoJ didn't push for something closer to Jackson's remedies, which is because it'd take two years more wrangling. This is however odd, given that Jackson could have imposed the remedies if he wanted, the present judge still could, if she wanted, and that the appeals court agreed with the original verdict. The DoJ quite likely could get relatively speedy relief based on imposed terms if it had pressed for it. Microsoft would certainly have appealed this, and might have won stays, but it might not. You don't ask, you don't get, surely. Next, the host of alternative remedies that were submitted by "industry participants and other interested individuals" gets due consideration. We'll quote them in full: "A requirement that Microsoft license the Windows source code to OEMs to enable them to modify, compile and distribute modified versions of the Windows Operating System for certain limited purposes, such as automatically launching Non-Microsoft Middleware, operating systems or applications; setting such non-Microsoft Middleware as the default; and facilitating interoperability between Non-Microsoft Middleware and the Windows Operating System. "A requirement that Microsoft disclose the entire source code for the Windows Operating System and Microsoft Middleware, possibly within a secure facility for viewing and possibly without such a facility. "A requirement that Microsoft must carry certain Non-Microsoft Middleware, including but not limited to the Java Virtual Machine, in its distribution of the Windows Operating System. "A requirement that Microsoft manufacture and distribute the Windows Operating System without any Microsoft Middleware or corresponding functionality included. "A requirement that Microsoft continue to support fully industry standards if it chooses or claims to adopt them or extends or modifies their implementation. "A requirement that Microsoft waive any rights to intellectual property in related APIs, communications interfaces and technical information if the Court finds that Microsoft exercised a claim of intellectual property rights to prevent, hinder, impair or inhibit middleware from interoperating with the operating system or other middleware." These are in general quite mild compared to some of the ideas that have been put forward, and indeed compared to splitting the company in two. One of them, covering source disclosure, was even originally thought to be part of the deal, but seems to have been chopped at the last minute. So what did the DoJ do about them? "The United States carefully weighed the foregoing proposals, as well as others received or conceived, considering their potential to remedy the harms proven at trial and upheld by the Court of Appeals; their potential to impact the market beneficially or adversely; and the chances that they would be imposed promptly following a remedies hearing. The United States ultimately concluded that the requirements and prohibitions set forth in the Proposed Final Judgment provided the most effective and certain relief in the most timely manner." And that is all the document has to say about the other proposals. You'll note that "the most effective and certain relief in the most timely manner" is DoJspeak for the most we could get Microsoft to agree to without having to go back to court. ® Related stories: Those new-look tougher MS judgment terms in full All you ever wanted to know about the DoJ's Windows cave in
John Lettice, 16 Nov 2001

HPaq execs pocket millions in merger payola

HP boss Carly Fiorina yesterday promised staff a bonus of two days pay for bearing through the protracted SirCam merger with Compaq. But this contrasts with the remuneration on offer to their senior management. As a reward for sacking some of the 15,000 staff who won't be needed in the merged HPaq, HP's top management will pocket $33.1 million in retention bonuses. Compaq's team will receive $22.4 million. The bonuses hinge on the successful completion of the merger. We knew that pushing boxes around a Visio document, and connecting them with lines was tricky - we just didn't realise how tricky. Carly and Curly will selflessly forego their share of the $55.5 million executive payout. The bonus for all staff will cost HP approximately $45 million, according to this SEC filing. The filing details how the merger sprang from simple low-level talks between the respective CEOs - um, yes, we know - and was stalled by disagreements over structure and remuneration until finally being unveiled on Labor Day. Recent HP SEC filings can be found here®
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Nov 2001

Comdex cars, Radeon drivers, Itanium issues

HWRoundupHWRoundup Comdex 2001 is struggling to keep visitor's attention. In its slowest year for a long, long time, there is a definite absence of crowded corridors, with automobiles receiving almost as much coverage as the stuff inside the halls. AMD resorted to taking journos drag-racing down a quarter-mile strip outside Vegas in three flashy sports cars, as amdmb.com shows. The site also has the skinny on the mobo scene at the show, covering VIA, Abit and many more. Geek.com is also more excited about playing with cars at the show, trading in Chimpzilla's Ferrari & co. for a Mercedes-Benz. It also has Comdex coverage. Tom's hardware has its bit too. Radeon, drivers & downloads ATI: great hardware, buggy drivers. Anandtech gets its paws on ATI's revised Radeon 8500 drivers, which now include Smoothvision support and various bug fixes, allowing users to finally see the full effects of their hardware. It's a lot better, but still not perfect. ATI promises to ship beta drivers more frequently to satisfy demands from users. (Download the new drivers for either Win 9x/ME or WinXP.) ExtremeTech has a similar conclusion: it's better, but still needs work. The site played around with the new drivers and posted benchmarks based on a Win ME machine, promising a Win XP review soon. It also has a lengthy article on high quality film scanners, for those still resisting the digital camera world. Speaking of drivers, a new DivX codec for Windows (version 4.11) is out and fully optimised for Pentium 4, allowing hugely improved encoding performance. Chips & more Is Itanium not performing as hoped? Electic Tech has a small posting about "sightings" (a.k.a. equipment that fails to perform as expected, but with no apparent defects) being experienced by Compaq as its engineers test servers running the 64-bit chips. Unlike the rest of the crowd which purchased Xbox and rushed home to kill stuff in Halo, the lads at TechTV decided to rip it open and find out just what's inside. (As Slashdot warns: this may reduce your eBay resale value.) AMD slipped out a 1.2GHz Duron chip this week. Reviews are tough to find, most reviewers are racing cars at Comdex this week. Hardcoreware has a 1.1GHz Duron overclocked to 1.2GHz up against an Athlon 1.2GHz as a near simulation of what to expect. Got something interesting on the hardware wires? Drop us a mail. Related Stories This (external) HDD supports USB 2.0 and Firewire Casio to ship Linux, Transmeta laptop HP pumps out DVD+RW PC The skinny on super slim Compaq PC
James Watson, 16 Nov 2001

Confidentiality Claws

Researchers at Imperial College, London are developing mathematical and programming techniques to better assess the extent that systems prevent the leakage of confidential information. Typically, models for confidentiality characterise the absence of information flow by trying to establish non-interference between units of a system. It is notoriously difficult to establish such absolutes in a software system. But better results can be obtained by applying a quantitative estimate of the information flowing through a system - rather than relying on the purely qualitative binary view, Herbert Wiklicky, a lecturer at Imperial College, London, argues. This approach involves trying to work out the probability of information "leaking" from a system, rather than trying to prove there is no such flow. According to Wiklicky, this approach allows the definition and investigation of non-interference which is approximate, but able to capture more realistically the security properties of a system. For example, if you can establish that it's highly unlikely that a bank ATM system will leak information, then you establish that the system is secure. Wiklicky made his comments this week at a colloquium held at Kings College, London. Imperial College wants to secure a research grant for the work, which looks at the mathematical fundamentals of the problem. Practical applications in assessing insurance risks and in computer security will flow from this work, Wicklicky says. ® Related stories SDMI crack team launches preemptive suit Hack your bank for $995 NatWest 'glitch' sees thousands overcharged E-mail wiretapping used to spy on corporate communications
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2001

Scientists tune in to molecule-sized transistors

Boffins continue to try to shrink the size of the micro-circuitry from which processors are built, to allow chips to be designed that offer ever more features yet don't rapidly become too hot to operate - and before their transistors reach one clear physical limit: the size of a single molecule. Working molecular transistors, then, are the new goal in microchip development. Here are the three latest attempts, details of which were published recently in learned journal Science. Wires Charles Lieber's team at Harvard have produced a range of semiconductor 'nanowires' measuring between 2nm and 20nm, out of which they have woven a grid. The current along one wire can be controlled by a voltage applied to a wire running across it. Build a sufficiently complex grid, reckons Lieber, and you can form logic gates - the 'brain cells' of microprocessors. And indeed that's just what Lieber and co. have done - using, more to the point, techniques that aren't based on lithography, the process used today to etch chip designs onto silicon. To build smaller chips, lithography requires ever smaller optical wavelengths to work with, making them expensive to design and construct. Tubes A second investigation, conducted at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands by a team headed by Cees Dekker, is based on lithography. Dekker and co. have created 1nm diameter 'nanotubes' constructed from carbon. Current runs down the tube, controlled by the voltage applied to an aluminium strip on which the tube sits. The snag here is that it's easy to build the basic structure of the transistor - the aluminium base and two gold contacts that conduct a signal into and out of the carbon tube. The difficult bit is getting the tube into place - effectively, Drekker and co. currently sprinkle tubes over the transistor and hope one lands in the right place. However, they've made sufficient transistors to string them together into logic gates. Organics What do you get if you fit a molecule of organic compound 4,4'-biphenyldithiol between gold electrodes and sit the lot on top of a block of silicon, a thin slice of silicon dioxide between them? According to Lucent researcher Jan Hendrik Schön, you get a transistor, and he and his team made some to prove it. They put two of them together and made a NOT gate, which flips a 1 into a 0 and vice versa - ie. flips a positive voltage into a negative one. Dekker and Lieber and their teams created a number of different logic gates, such as AND, which generates a 1 only if two binary inputs are 1, and OR, which generates a 1 if either of two inputs are 1. ® Related Links Lieber and co.: Logic Gates and Computation from Assembled Nanowire Building Blocks Drekker and team: Logic Circuits with Carbon Nanotube Transistors Schön and co: Field-Effect Modulation of the Conductance of Single Molecules Registration (free) is required for all of these links
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2001

Dixons capo is new Tory bagman

Sir Stanley Kalms, the outspoken Dixons chief, has landed a big challenge to fill his retirement days - he's the new treasurer and fundraiser for the Conservative party. The Tories took a severe hammering in the last two elections, so passing the hat around will be a tough job.But arch Euro-sceptic Sir Stan, who already funds the party, should be well up to the job of collecting from others. In Dixons' last annual report, Sir Stan vented his anger at the Labour government and EU legislation. He was not happy about European waste recycling rules, UK Sunday trading laws, the UK Consumer Credit Act, and the Town and Country Planning Act. Kalms stated in the report: "We continue to grow the group against a background of the most severe and costly regulation the market economy has experienced both from Brussels and our own government. "Too often absurd demands are being imposed on industry, frequently with insufficient thought or consideration of either the additional cost or the practical implications. Some proposals are simply unworkable and merely add costs that must inevitably be borne by the consumer." Sir Stanley's views have endeared him to Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith. Kalms was also early backer of Duncan Smith's leadership campaign. Duncan Smith described Sir Stan as "one of Britain's most successful businessman" when he announced Kalms' appointment yesterday. The retail legend is stepping down as executive chairman of the Dixons Group at the company's AGM in September 2002, two months short of his 71st birthday. He started the Dixons empire when he went to work a this dad's photo shop in 1948, and reckons his best- ever deal was buying Currys in the 80s which got the company "into white goods in a big way". Sir Stan's faviourite Desert Island Disc is 'My Way' sung by Frank Sinatra. He claimed he had a form of breakdown when he was 33 and his business wasn't performing well. He is proud of the Dixons way of doing business. "We are not cuddly. You may not get love and affection, but you get good value and service. I assume customers want to buy that way," he said while appearing on the radio show. Sir Stan is also a noted philanthropist for Jewish charities. ® Related Stories Dixons boss blasts 'absurd' EU and UK laws Sir Stanley Kalms' Desert Island Discs
Robert Blincoe, 16 Nov 2001

Nazi trinkets not banned in France

LettersLetters Surf Nazis Must Die! In reply to Mr Davidson's email stating that Nazi memorabilia was banned in France. This is not true, but this fact failed to be recognized by most of the media, The Reg included. I pointed this out to Kieren McCarthy who made the mistake in one of his articles, but oops, he did it again the last time he wrote about this. The only thing that you can't do with Nazi memorabilia in France is putting it on public display for any other reason than educational. So, Mr Davidson's suggestions of "putting on a play about Nazis, or a historical collection" are legal in France. Mind you, we have quite a lot of Nazi memorabilia in quite a lot of places, thank you. What Yahoo did that broke French law was displaying pictures of Nazi memorabilia for sale. This is punishable under French law by a fine of at most 10.000 FF. But wait, this isn't what we heard ? Well, yes, "the misguided, anti-freedom Jews in France" chose to have to a civil lawsuit, not a penal lawsuit. Under a penal lawsuit, a judge has to follow strictly the letter of the law. So Yahoo would have gotten at most a 10.000 FF penalty. Not very glorious for a "cybercrime against humanity". Under a civil lawsuit, however, the judge can decide freely which measure will be taken against the offender. The problem is that civil lawsuits are usually used for determining a material compensation, not for dealing with a "cybercrime against humanity". Not very glorious either. So what happened ? Well, apparently, the "fucking socialist French judge" (if he knew someone was uninformed to the point of depicting him as a socialist, our dear judge would probably die laughing) was greatly confused by what the opposite sides kept telling him, and he went completely overboard in his decision. There was a great deal of discussion about this (for those who are interested, and can read French, you can find a detailed explanation at http://www.canevet.com/actua/archives/di-127.htm, complete with the official law article covering this case), with most of the legal community heartily disapproving Judge Gomez' decision. So, once again, no, Nazi memorabilia is not banned in France. That was simply a case of an overzealous judge, a thing that happens quite frequently, even in "the greatest country in the history of the planet", if I am not mistaken. Regards, Frédéric DEGAND
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Nov 2001

Nortel intros europartner prog

Nortel Networks has reorganised its European channel marketing programme to make it more flexible in meeting demand for converged voice and data networks. The EMEA partner programme now includes a 'multi-tier' relationship model and accreditation scheme designed to allow a greater degree of specialisation. Tiers include: distributor, network reseller, sales agent, sales partner, product partner, solutions partner, and specialist support partner. Nortel resellers can opt to become solution partners in an area of existing skills, while electing to be a sales partner in other areas they wish to develop. The manufacturer hopes its new programme will make it easier for resellers to gain accreditation in selling specific Nortel product lines. Nortel has between 350-40 directly contracted partners in EMEA. Other firms sell Nortel kit obtained from organisation with a direct relationship with Nortel. Giorgia Casnedi, Nortel's PR manager, said the programme integrated data resellers of acquired companies, such as Bay Networks and Alteon Network, under a single Nortel programme throughout EMEA. As convergence becomes more of an issue Nortel has seen the need to adapt its channel framework and make it more flexible rather than having one level for everything, she added. Last month, Nortel announced a third quarter net loss of $3.47 billion and plans to reorganise its business which, in part, have spurred changes to its partner programme. After it divests itself of non-core businesses (which will affect around 10,000 workers), Nortel will focus on metro networks (which encompasses metro optical networking, IP networking, IP services and voice over IP products), wireless networks and optical long haul networks. When is a partner not a partner In its press release, Nortel said use of the term 'partner' (which it uses throughout) does not imply a partnership relationship between Nortel Networks and any of its resellers. This is a legal disclaimer, Nortel tells us. ® Related stories Losses pile up at Nortel Cisco shakes up distribution strategy Cisco beats the Street Channel faces cash crisis
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2001

Western Europe server sales down, again

The Western European server market continued to decline in the third quarter, as it did in the first half of the year. Unit shipments fell 7 per cent year on year from 3Q 2000, while revenues dropped 21 per cent year on year to $3.26 billion. The figures, fresh in from Gartner Dataquest, show Compaq at the front of the pack Western Europe (and the UK), while Sun Microsystems took a big hit, down 48 per cent year on year. According to analyst Karen Benson, revenues were dampened by intense pricing competition across all levels of the product spectrum. Users were more interested in maintaining their existing infrastructure, rather than splashing out on new kit, resulting in more upgrades and low-end implementations. RISC/Unix-based systems took the biggest knock, with unit shipments dropping 36 per cent year on year. As expected, Dell was the only company to post a year-on- year market share increase, climbing up three points to 14 per cent. In the UK, telecoms and finance companies zipped up their chequebooks as the server market dropped 21 per cent from last year. Most vendors got punished, with the exception of Dell, now claiming a quarter of the market. Full unit shipment and market share details: Western European All Server Shipment Estimates for Q3 Company 3Q01 Shipments 3Q01 Share (%) 3Q00 Shipments 3Q00 Share (%) Q301/Q300 Growth (%) Q301/Q201 Growth (%) Compaq 80,740 33% 85,090 32% -5% -6% IBM 45,400 18% 50,610 19% -10% -4% Dell 35,430 14% 28,380 11% 25% -2% HP 30,570 12% 34,370 13% -11% -11% Fujitsu-Siemens 18,850 8% 20,900 8% -10% 7% Sun Microsystems 11,460 5% 22,130 8% -48% -32% Others 25,340 10% 25,070 9% 1% -3% Total Western Europe 247,790 100% 266,550 100% -7% -6% UK All Server Shipments Estimates for 3Q Company 3Q01 Shipments 3Q01 Share (%) 3Q00 Shipments 3Q00 Share (%) Q301/Q300 Growth (%) Q301/Q201 Growth (%) Compaq 17,320 36% 20,030 33% -14% 30% Dell 12,230 25% 11,590 19% 5% 4% IBM 6,020 12% 8,940 15% -33% 20% HP 3,530 7% 6,740 11% -48% -7% Sun Microsystems 2,520 5% 6,950 11% -64% -41% Others 6,620 14% 6,810 11% -3% 32% Total UK 48,240 100% 61,060 100% -21% 11% ® Related Stories Dell: Profits down, market share up HP puts 3000 MPE warhorse out to grass Compaq cavalry rescues Linux clusters Worker 'rigged' HP Superdome benchmarks
James Watson, 16 Nov 2001

Brakes slammed on world's fastest DVD drive

The development of the world's fastest DVD and CD drives has hit a hitch - Zen Research has stopped giving free support to firms licensing its technology. Poor conditions in the PC market are blamed for the move. According to David Aber, Zen's chief financial officer, large manufacturers are concentrating on making the most out of existing technologies rather than investing in fresh developments. So it can't find anyone to pay for its work. Zen's technology improves the performance of CD and DVD drives by getting the data reading speed up without resorting to higher rpms that introduce the inevitable "wobble factor" that produces distortions, making the disc hard to read. The technology uses several multiple laser beams to read many tracks concurrently. It uses complex data algorithms to reconcile the data. LG, Afreey, Actima, and Lite-On are among the driver makers which have licensed Zen's Multibeam technology. Actima crowed that it would "build the world's fastest DVD drive" in a press release dated 19 March 2001. "Development has started with Zen and production of a high-performance Actima Multibeam DVD-ROM drive is targeted for later this year." Nothing has appeared yet and Zen says that Actima has known for the last six months that it was going to pull free support. "We're in a tough market, it's not ideal for anyone," said Zen's director of investor relations Mark Way. Actima's product was to involve the modification of its DVD-ROM mechanisms to accept Zen Multibeam pickups, and the development of a new PC board to accept Infineon's single-chip Multibeam DVD-ROM controller. Zen's Multibeam division is cutting staff by 65 per cent to 24. For the three months to 30 September it recorded a pre-tax loss of $9 million against $8 million a year earlier. ® Related Link Zen/Actima press release
Robert Blincoe, 16 Nov 2001

Tech Data wins IBM euro-storage gig

IBM has awarded disk drive storage franchise rights to Tech Data through out EMEA. New territories include the UK, the Czech Republic, Israel and the UAE. Tech Data Europe will drive the Deskstar and Travelstar HDD business through its Swiss-based European PC components division. This will meet the needs of pan-European systems integrators, according to the distie giant. In our book, pan-European system builders are very few and far between and tend to have global names such as Dell and Compaq and HP and Fujitsu Siemens. All IBM product through Tech Data Europe will ship from its Belgium warehouse. Local operations will also hold stock, so don't panic. ®
Drew Cullen, 16 Nov 2001

iPod-for-WinXP beta software due ‘within weeks’

Mediafour, the company behind XPod, the first commercial attempt to connect Apple's iPod MP3 player to Windows, hopes to release a public beta of the software "within a couple of weeks", a company spokeswoman said today. The existence of XPod emerged this week following the arrival of the iPod on US store shelves last weekend. Officially, iPod is a Mac-only product. Restricting the device's use in this way is all part of Apple's drive to win over users to the Mac platform, though it's interesting that the company hasn't totally ruled out Windows support being added at some point in the future. Central to the iPod experience, says Apple, is its iTunes digital music manager application. Mediafour will not be offering a true iTunes clone for Windows, said the spokeswoman. "We are currently working to provide a simple Explorer-based interface for exchange of files, in addition to plug-in functionality for Windows Media Player," she told us. Neither approach will bypass Apple's anti-piracy initiatives, she stressed. "We're not out to undo the 'keep the honest people honest' approach Apple has taken with regard to music rights protection," she said. "We foresee the final release of XPod maintaining a similar level of protection to that employed by iPod and iTunes." The iPod hides transferred music files in an invisible directory on its internal 1394 hard drive, and the device has been set not to allow iTunes users to extract music from another user's iPod. Mediafour would not give a release date for the final version of XPod, or provide a price. "We intend to price it very affordably," was all the spokeswoman would say. ® Related Stories iPod coming to Windows Apple iPod redux
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2001

C&W slides away from ASP

Cable & Wireless backed away from the ASP (application service provider) sector yesterday leaving the immature market for such services looking positively juvenile. The withdrawal is a sorry blow to the already battered ASP market. C&W is one of the first of the larger, internationally-known organisations to launch and subsequently pull out of the ASP model. But as C&W notes, it didn't pull away from ASP because it was a bad idea; the market simply wasn't ready. The messag then is that C&W may bounce back into ASP when the time is right. The telco told CRN US that it still firmly believed in the ASP model but, in a word of caution to firms operating this niche, stated that it had received very little interest in ASP services from its customers. The decision then is a simple case of supply and demand. Cable and Wireless had no demand so it isn't going to do ASP. The company hasn't reported what will happen to existing customers, if indeed there are any, but it's doubtful that any will be dumped. C&W kicked off the ASP programme in 2000 on the back of an agreement from Compaq, which came in as the hardware supplier. At the time the companies said they were investing $500m over five years in the project to sell Internet service package to small and medium businesses. Many ASPs came to the table with hugely impressive offerings, from customised packages – of off-the-shelf software – to incredible SLAs (service level agreements). And plenty of them built very impressive data centres. Since the stuttering take-up however many ASPs have either gone to the wall or retrenched into simple, bulk order applications – Office, Exchange, Sage – which they can manage more cost effectively. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Pure ASPs face rough ride - BT ASPs are the next big thing, after all ASPs no defence against piracy liability What is this thing called ASP? Compaq and C&W hop on ASP bandwagon
IT-Analysis, 16 Nov 2001

Apple patents perturb PNG programmers

Developers of the open source graphics format PNG and its derivative, MNG, have called on Apple to clarify whether its ownership of key PNG component technologies will be used to hinder their work. At issue is patent number 5379129, filed by Apple in May 1992 and granted to the company in January 1995. The patent describes a "method for compositing a source and destination image using a mask image". Essentially, it covers how computer software may blend two images using a third, the mask, to determine how the two are melded together. The process, known as 'alpha blending', is a common one in graphical manipulation. Games and multimedia applications use the technique to fade smoothly between one image and another. And Apple uses the technique to make Mac OS X's menus, dialog boxes and windows appear translucent. Alpha blending is typically performed using a greyscale image as the mask - the darkness of each pixel governs how much of the colour of each source and destination pixel in the same location appear in the final image - but Apple's patent allows the mask to be a full-colour image in its own right. Ownership of patent 5379129 emerged through the Worldwide Web Consortium's move to establish the Scalable Vector Graphic format as a standard. Earlier this year it asked interested parties to submit details of patents they own that might impinge upon the development of SVG. Apple highlighted 5379129 as part of that process. Unlike Adobe, Sun, Canon and others, Apple has not provided its intellectual property on a royalty-free basis, as have IBM, Quark and Eastman Kodak. Says the W3C: "Apple informed the SVG 1.0 Working Group very early in the SVG 1.0 process of the patent they listed in their license statement. The SVG Working Group made a concerted effort to produce a specification that does not require implementors to infringe the patent." Since PNG (Portable Network Graphics) and MNG (Multiple-image Network Graphics) both support alpha blending, its developers are concerned that Apple, as per its filing with the W3C, may only allow anyone to use its patent "on payment of reasonable, non-discriminatory royalties or fees". That's something a free, open source project like PNG is unlikely to be able to support - particularly since a motivation behind the development of the PNG format is to provide a royalty-free alternative to the well-known GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) file. The CompuServe-developed GIF contains Unisys' LZW compression algorithm for which Unisys levies a fee from software developers who choose to support the format in their code. The PNG people essentially want Apple to disclaim its patent - unlikely, we reckon, given its response to the W3C - or at least grant the PNG effort a royalty-free licence. Alternatively, the PNG team could ask for patent 5379129 to be disallowed on the grounds of prior art - if the method existed long before Apple patented it. Certainly, the group's Web site suggests that the technique may have already been expressed in academic papers dating back to 1984 and SGI's early work on what would become the OpenGL graphics API. To that list we'd add Adobe's Photoshop application, which has been allowing users to add alpha channels to images since late 1980s. Not that Apple is likely to get shirty with Adobe, even if there was a clash of intellectual property - Photoshop is too important to Mac users. We have asked Apple to comment on its ownership of 5379129 and how that is likely to affect the PNG team. By close of business, the company had yet to respond. If it does, we'll let you know what it has to say. ® Related Links PNG team: PNG and MNG tools Alpha composition patent information W3C: SVG 1.0 Patent Statements Related stories Unisys demands $5k licence fee for use of GIFs Eurolinux goes ballistic over Euro patent 'coup' IBM risks billion dollar Linux strategy with W3C RAND demands
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2001

AutoDesk trademark appears in WinXP ad

Microsoft may soon be running foul of graphics software specialist AutoDesk over its use of the phrase 'Suddenly everything clicks' in its UK Windows XP advertising campaign. Why? It turns out that 'Suddenly everything clicks' is an AutoDesk trademark, as the company states on its Web site. Microsoft UK has yet to respond to our request for answers to the following questions: has the ad has been used in the US and other countries; has Microsoft licensed 'Suddenly everything clicks' from AutoDesk? An AutoDesk UK representative told The Register that the company was seeking clarification from its US-based legal team. We were alerted to AutoDesk's ownership of the phrase by Register readers after we reported on a series of defacements of Windows XP billboards, apparently by British Linux fans keen to make the public aware that there is, in their eyes, a better alternative to Microsoft's latest operating system. One ad has the words 'Fatal error: use Linux' sprayed across the advert. Another has the word 'clicks' replaced with the word 'sucks'. Could the latter be an attempt by Microsoft Covert Operations to cover a potential trademark infringement? Makes you wonder, doesn't it? We've had reports of defaced 'Suddenly everything clicks' advertising boards in London and Bristol, but we'd be surprised if the ad hasn't appeared throughout the South-East and South-West of Britain. ® Related Story Linux fans 'hack' Windows XP advert
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2001

IEEE sets 802.11g (sort of)

The IEEE 802.11 working group has tentatively set a new 802.11 wireless networking standard: 802.11g, which will allow theoretical data transfer rates of up to 54Mbps in the 2.4GHz spectrum. 802.11g is backwardly compatible with existing 802.11b-based networking kit, a major advantage for the standard. The (other) next generation standard, 802.11a, is not. However, the IEEE will only ratify the exact 802.11g standard and its specifications next year when the working group meets again. After Intersil's efforts were heavily dented earlier this week, its OFDM modulation technology - touted at one of the key components of 802.11g - is back in the running for use in the standard. And so is Texas Instruments' rival technology, PBCC. The IEEE's new standard will borrow from both company's technologies. The working group is divided -and has been for more than a year - on which is preferable. Intersil quickly released an announcement putting its support behind the proposal. It says it will develop and market a new chipset (implying that its existing technology isn't up to scratch?) to meet the 802.11g standard set by the IEEE. It says we can expect this by Q2 2002, using both OFDM and CCK modulation (the technology currently used by 802.11b). So, a small step forward and lots more waiting. ® Related Stories Intersil takes 802.11 knock To be or not to 802.11b Business drives the wireless web
James Watson, 16 Nov 2001

Reg reader trapped in McAfee Catch 22

A Register reader ran into a Catch 22 situation when he tried to inform McAfee that its antivirus software was generating false warnings about the Nimda worm. Alarm bells triggered when Russell Elliott tried to browse www.kingcomp.net, when McAfee's antivirus tools warned him that the site was infected with Nimda. Kingcomp was able to tell him the site had been cleaned up but its "page not available" (404.html) file still had a reference to a text string used by the Nimda. This was still there even though the payload had been wiped off its servers. Russell tried to advise McAfee it was catching some systems that had been actually been cleaned and wanted to quiz it on its technology. But since his email contained the text string used to launch Nimda "window.open <"readme.eml", null" (we've changed ( to < in order to avoid getting caught ourselves), his email was quarantined and deleted. Subsequent correspondence with support staff prompted requests from them to explain what operating system and version of VirusScan he was using, rather missing the point. You can debate whether automatic detection (heuristics) in virus scanners does more good than harm, and we're inclined to argue that the occasional false alarm is a price worth paying. Being wrongly told a site is infected with Nimda is annoying but how does that inconvenience compare with having a virus slip through your protection(something heuristics is designed to prevent)? That said, Russell has a reasonable question when he asks McAfee: "wouldn't it be better to define your virus definitions around the PAYLOAD (which is binary and more difficult to modify), instead of the launch mechanism." ® Related stories Norton AV update rings false alarm bells MSN.co.uk virus alert is false alarm Sophos rebuffs virus-spreading charge Firms hit in Nimda mutant outbreak Nimda worm tails off Teenage Mutant Nimda email rides the Code Red worm>
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2001
DVD it in many colours

Optical transport market in decline

Sales of optical networking kit are in decline with sales down 11 per cent over the last quarter. According to analyst firm Dell'Oro Group, sales in all segments in the market (which includes Long Haul and Metro (Dense Wave Division Multiplex) as well as SONET/SDH kit) were down over the last three months. The DWDM-Metro market was hit particularly badly, recording its first ever sequential decline. Dell'Oro estimates Q32001 revenues in the overall market of just $3.4 billion in Q32001. Revenues for Lucent, Nortel, Fujitsu, and Ciena of optical transport kit were all down, with only Alcatel of the major five vendors bucking the trend with sales up 11 per cent. Fujitsu was worst hit with revenues down 22 per cent. Shin Umeda, a principal analyst at Dell'Oro, said that the segment of the networking equipment market was exposed to cutbacks in carrier spending, particularly in North America. After investing heavily over the last two years improving backbone capacity is no longer a high priority for many telcos, he added. Vendors such as Cisco, Foundry and Extreme are talking up the potential market for Gigabit Ethernet kit in metropolitan networks that connect carriers networks to their customers. The market for this technology, which is in its early stages of development and promises to be much cheaper than legacy optical technologies like SONET, wasn't investigated as part of this Dell'Oro study. ® Related stories Carrier backbones: bandwidth glut or gap? LINX upgrades for soaring UK Net traffic Deutsche Telekom takes 40Gbps kit for a spin External links Dell'Oro study
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2001

Sun takes UltraSPARC past 1GHz

Sun is expected to announce the introduction of Gigahertz processors on Monday, the first time Sun has shipped SPARCS clocked higher than 1GHz. The SunBlade 1000 will be the first to receive the 1,050MHz SPARC IIIs. It isn't the first RISC chip to reach the milestone: Compaq's Alpha can claim that prize. But coming so soon after the introduction of 900Mhz processors, and after a refresh of the Sun Fire with 900MHz SPARCs for the 3800, 4800, 4810 and 6800 a couple of weeks ago, it looks like Sun and SPARC partner TI have put most of the USIII yield issues behind them. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Nov 2001

Nokia Calypso smartphone pics leak

Industry sources contacted by The Register confirm Nokia will launch a colour Symbian smartphone on Monday, but reckon that two Swedish sites have not numbered the new device correctly. Rumours of a colour imaging phone codenamed Calypso have circulated in the industry for several months. Pictures of the 'Nokia 7650' can be found at Swedish Web site Aftonbladet here, and at Mobil, here. The device is a Symbian phone and has built-in imaging, as we first suggested at El Reg back in June. Our sources suggest that Calypso, which sports a 208x176 display and a motorised sliding cover, is more likely to be a continuation of the 6000 series than a 7650. Either way, we'll all know for sure before long. Nokia wouldn't elaborate when questioned by Reuters this morning. Nokia has scheduled a press conference for Monday in Barcelona prior to its Multimedia Developer Conference, which last year was the occasion for the announcement of the 9210 smartphone. Last month Nokia's 9210 became the best selling PDA in Europe for the preceding quarter. According to Aftonbladet, Nokia will also launch a mass-market colour phone, the 5210. ® Related Stories Nokia knocks Palm off Euro PDA biz top slot Palm confirms Motorola, Nokia smartphones axed The Reg Smartphone Roundup - The Verdict Is In
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Nov 2001