13th > December > 2001 Archive

Laptop thief kills have-a-go hero

A have-a-go hero who attempted to stop a thief stealing laptops from a college was killed after the would-be robber mowed him down in a car. Charles Tandy, 56, a trainee college lecturer from Birmingham, spotted a man trying to make off with college equipment and, having prevented the theft, gave chase as the robber tried to get back to his Toyota car. He was joined in his chase by fellow lecturer Leslie Hillstead. In the car park, Tandy attempted to stop the robber making his escape by attempting to pull him out of the vehicle in what police described as a "fairly violent struggle". The thief reversed his red Toyota, sending Tandy and Hilstead sprawling to the ground. He then drove over both men and made his escape. Tandy died of his injuries after he was taken to Heartlands Hospital from the EFF Technical Training Centre in the Tyseley area of Birmingham. Hillstead suffered serious crush injuries to both legs as a result of the crime on Monday. West Midlands Police have begun a murder inquiry and forensic scientists are examining the college's car park in an attempt to find clues. Tandy leaves behind a wife, a 26 year-old son and 29 year-old daughter. Acting Detective Superintendent Graham Bennett praised Tandy's bravery but said anyone face with a similar situation to call the police before attempting to stop a thief. ®
John Leyden, 13 Dec 2001

‘Sucks’ online is a good thing: official

Every American and a great many Europeans will presume that if you say something "sucks" you mean it isn't any good. In fact, the slang use of it is in many dictionaries: "to be very bad or inferior". But you (and we) are all wrong when it comes to using the phrase online. And that's official. Welcome to the world of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, better known as WIPO and recently accused of providing the "lowest common denominator of internationally agreed and accepted principles concerning the abuse of trademarks" by a US Appeal Court. WIPO is one of four organisations which decide who is entitled to own particular domains. Its critics say that it has carefully and methodically misinterpreted the rules over domain disputes (called UDRP) in order to rule in favour of trademark holders, big business and famous people. By deciding in favour of the person that take its case to WIPO, the organisation guarantees itself a healthy income and an ever increasing number of people that wish to complain to it. It was perhaps only a matter of time then that WIPO found a way of justifying why a domain name of a company or person with "sucks" tacked on the end is part of a company's trademark and hence their property. And this is it, in all its full, mind-numbing state: "This Panel, by a majority, is of the view that the addition of the word 'sucks' to a well-known trademark is not always likely to be taken as 'language clearly indicating that the domain name is not affiliated with the trademark owner'. Two examples of the use of the word 'sucks' which do not so indicate, even to English speakers, are: (1) the use of the words 'sucks' purely descriptively, as in the advertising slogan "Nothing sucks like Electrolux" (If there were a website at , it would be unlikely to be taken as unaffiliated with the company Electrolux); and (2) the Web site of the band Primus, , so named after the album Suck on This (1990). (The website of the band's lead singer, Les Claypool, at , has a link to the website). More importantly, it must be borne in mind that not all Internet users speak English as their mother tongue." And that is it. Despite millions of people understanding what the term "sucks" means in slang, WIPO has found an advert for a vacuum cleaner, a rock album called Suck and a Frenchman who didn't know what the phrase meant. Does it get any better than this? ® Related Link That WIPO logic in full (under section 6 - Discussion and Findings)
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Dec 2001

‘Cybersquatter’ Sallen in landmark court case

Jay D Sallen - the man found guilty of cybersquatting on the domain Corinthians.com by domain name arbitrator WIPO in July last year - is poised to change ownership in cyberspace forever, and for the better. Mr Sallen was ordered to hand over the Corinthians.com domain to a Brazilian football team of that name by a sole WIPO pannelist. Under the flawed rules on domain disputes used by WIPO - UDRP - Mr Sallen was found to have no rights or legitimate interests in the domain, which he used to post Biblical scipture. Mr Sallen was so unhappy with the judgment that he decided to take it to the courts. However, despite pointing to an important clash between UDRP, WIPO's interpretation of it and the new Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), US District Court Judge William Young decided not to hear the case. Judge Young's basic argument was that Mr Sallen had agreed to abide by the WIPO decision by taking part in the arbitration process and hence was legally required to accept it. Mr Sallen and his lawyer, Linda Harvey, appealed against the decision and last week, the Appeal Court overturned the ruling, as well as making some disparaging comments about UDRP and WIPO in general. No date has been set for a trial yet, and Ms Harvey told us there were still a large number of unanswered legal questions but in what is a David against Goliath battle, she is convinced Mr Sallen's arguments will defeat the two legal firms defending the Corinthians football team. The court case itself is about clearing Mr Sallen from any accusation of cybersquatting (he claims he had never heard of the Corinthians football team before being contacted by it in Spetember 1999. He had registered the domain in August 1998). However, as the Appeal Court judges point out several times in their judgment, if he is cleared of cybersquatting, it effectively undermines WIPO's decision and subsequently UDRP itself. Once so undermined, it could potentially open every previous decision made using UDRP to a judicial review. This in itself could make UDRP - widely seen as flawed and skewed towards big business - untenable and force a rethink of domain arbitration. An increasing number of critics have been urging Internet overseeing body ICANN to do just this for more than a year but so far the organisation has refused to discuss the issue or order a review. Thanks to UDRP's makeup and some peculiar thinking by arbitrators - then used as a basis for future decisions - the problems with the system grow ever more visible over time. Of course, all this depends upon Mr Sallen winning the court case, which will most likely be a one-day trial taking place any time from a month to a year's time. But if the Appeal Court judges' feelings are anything to go by, the much-derided system may be in serious jeopardy. In their judgment, they slam WIPO's interpretation of UDRP, referring to it as the "lowest common denominator of internationally agreed and accepted principles concerning the abuse of trademarks". They query WIPO's finding that Sallen had no rights to or legitimate interests in the domain, noting "a finding by a federal court that Sallen was within his rights when he used corinthians.com to post Biblical quotes would directly undercut the panel's conclusion". They also say "a court's decision that a party is not a cybersquatter under the ACPA, and that a party has a right to use a domain name, necessarily negates a WIPO decision that a party is a cybersquatter under the UDRP". This judgment, the forthcoming court case and the fact that one of the four domain arbitrators - eResolution - quit this month, citing the impossibility of working in the current system mean that the writing may finally be on the wall for UDRP and WIPO. ® Related Links The Appeal Court judgment WIPO decision on Corinthians.com Related Stories What the hell is UDRP? Kevin Spacey loses pivotal cybersquatting court case eResolution quits domain arbitration
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Dec 2001

Yahoo! wants! HotJobs!

Yahoo! wants to buy HotJobs, the US job board currently being acquired by TMP Worldwide, Monster.com's owner. The portal is offering a cash and stock deal worth $10.50 a share - $463m - to buy HotJobs, the world's second biggest recruitment site (behind only Monster.com). This represents a premium of 6 per cent over the TMP all-share offer as of close of play on December 12 and a premium of 23 per cent over TMP for the preceding 30 days. HotJobs says it will consider the proposal but it has "not changed or modified its recommendation of the TMP merger, and the merger agreement with TMP remains in effect". The company has published the very nice letter it received from Yahoo! which we reproduce in full. Offer Letter to HotJobs December 12, 2001 Dimitri Boylan Chief Executive Officer HotJobs.com Ltd. Dear Mr. Boylan: On behalf of Yahoo!, I am pleased to submit the enclosed offer to acquire HotJobs. We are extremely impressed with the business you and your management team have developed. We are particularly excited about how HotJobs complements our businesses and our strategies for future growth by establishing deeper relationships and delivering greater value for our consumers and business partners in vertical markets. We see recruitment as a valuable part of Yahoo!'s future growth strategy - it's been one of the fastest industries to migrate online and is poised to grow substantially over the next few years. We believe that the combination of HotJobs and Yahoo! will create a powerful new force in the recruitment marketplace. Yahoo! is well positioned to help HotJobs capitalize on the future opportunities in this market and to provide an exciting platform upon which HotJobs's management and employees can build. Yahoo!'s broad reach, distribution, and desire to commit significant resources to this opportunity, together with HotJobs's experienced management team, large consumer base, diversified customer base and well-trained sales force, would create a winning combination. In short, the combination we propose is a logical next step for the shareholders, customers and employees of both of our companies. We believe a transaction between HotJobs and Yahoo! would provide demonstrably superior value to your shareholders compared with the transaction with TMP. We also believe that the combination of Yahoo! and HotJobs represents a uniquely attractive opportunity to your management team and employees. To that end, Yahoo! proposes to acquire all outstanding HotJobs common stock at a fixed price of $10.50 per share of consideration consisting of equal parts cash and stock. The proposed price represents a 23% premium over the average implied price of the TMP transaction over the last 30 trading days, and a 6% premium over the implied price today (based on TMP's closing price on December 12, 2001). To effect the transaction, we would commence an exchange offer for all of HotJobs's outstanding common stock followed by a merger at the same per share price. Yahoo! would use its currently existing cash balances to finance the cash portion of the consideration. We expect that the transaction could be consummated within six to eight weeks of the execution of definitive transaction documentation. Because the cash portion of the transaction would be financed entirely through Yahoo!'s existing cash reserves, our offer would not be subject to any financing contingency. We are prepared to begin discussions with you as early as tomorrow. Our proposal is clearly superior for your shareholders to the proposed transaction involving TMP for the following reasons: -- Our proposal provides higher absolute value for each HotJobs share -- Our proposal provides value certainty -- Our proposal provides immediate liquidity -- Our proposal is not subject to significant regulatory risk Additionally, paying equal parts cash and stock should permit the transaction to be treated as a tax-free reorganization in most circumstances, thereby providing tax-deferred treatment for the stock portion of the consideration. As is customary, our proposal is subject to completion of a brief, confirmatory due diligence review, the negotiation of definitive merger documentation, and the termination of your merger agreement with TMP, in accordance with its terms. As you know, it is necessary to communicate our proposal in this manner (i.e. in letter form) because of the "no shop" provisions of your merger agreement with TMP. However, we prefer to work collaboratively with you and your Board of Directors to complete a negotiated transaction that helps HotJobs realize the full potential of its franchise. We believe that time is of the essence, and are prepared to move forward expeditiously by committing all necessary resources to promptly complete a transaction. We have engaged Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP to advise us in this transaction. We and our advisors are ready to meet with you and your advisors to discuss all aspects of our offer, and to answer any questions you or they may have about our offer. Although we have already completed a thorough due diligence review based solely on publicly available information, we would like to commence confirmatory due diligence as soon as possible and are ready to begin tomorrow. We are also prepared to enter into a customary and reasonable confidentiality agreement no less favorable to HotJobs than the one between HotJobs and TMP. The Board of Yahoo! has unanimously approved this proposal, and has unanimously authorized us to proceed. We aim to promptly conclude a transaction that is enthusiastically supported by you and your Board of Directors, shareholders and employees. We look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, YAHOO! CEO Terry Semel ® Related Story Monster swallows HotJobs
Drew Cullen, 13 Dec 2001

MS rolls out security obscurity bribe program

MS has rolled out its Faustian bargain for security vendors. Sign up with the Microsoft Certified Security Partner Program and saddle up with a heap of free software and deep discounts worth many thousands of dollars. Just look at these giveaways: Up to five licenses for Visio 2002 Pro and Project 2002 Pro Up to ten licenses for Office XP Developer Edition Up to twenty licenses for Windows XP Pro One SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Server Ten SQL Server 2000 CALs (Client Access Licenses) One Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server Ten Exchange 2000 Server CALs One SharePoint Portal Server Ten SharePoint Portal Server CALs One Small Business Server Five Small Business Server CALs One Windows 2000 Advanced Server One Project 2002 Server Ten Microsoft Project 2002 CALs But wait, there's more. You also get: Windows XP -- buy one get one free for a maximum of ten. Visual Studio.NET -- buy one get one free for a maximum of five. Visio 2002 Pro -- buy one get one free for a maximum of five. Project 2002 Professional -- buy one get one free for a maximum of five. SharePoint Portal Server -- buy one get one free. SharePoint Portal Server CALs -- buy one get one free for a maximum of ten. On top of that, you'll get "the program plaque, the Identity Kit, which contains Microsoft Certified Partner Logo materials and Logo Guidelines, and technical, sales and marketing materials." And what will this cost, you ask? Why, a mere $1450.00 per year. Quite a bargain. All you have to do is keep silent about any Microsoft security bugs you might discover, until Redmond authorizes you to speak. Oh, and you have to employ at least two exclusive Microsoft Certified Professionals, such as MCSEs. Go for the gold Now if you want even more -- and let's face it, who doesn't -- you can apply for the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Program for Security Solutions. This entitles you to "elite brand identification, prioritized access to advanced training opportunities, increased product licenses and MSDN access, prioritized listing on referrals and business engagements, an exclusive Web site, and differentiated marketing materials." For this you'll have to employ at least four MCSEs and/or MCSDs. And of course you'll have to pay MS for their further technical enlightenment, as "exam 70-220 is likely to become mandatory for the Security Solutions category by July 2002." Oath of allegiance Of course you'll have to be duly sworn in. Partners "shall follow a code of conduct regarding the responsible handling of security vulnerabilities," Redmond decrees. "This code of conduct is intended to allow a product vendor to address any individual vulnerability and issue a patch, workaround or other response to the public. Microsoft Gold Certified Security Solutions Partners shall take reasonable steps to ensure that they do not publicly disclose details that would directly allow an outside party to develop or execute an attack exploiting the vulnerability." Interestingly, this self-serving 'code' from bugware central may well be in conflict with the ISC2 (International Information Systems Security Certifications Consortium), a highly-respected trade organization which administers the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) program. Their code of ethics, incredibly, requires practitioners to "tell the truth." It also requires one to "discourage unsafe practices," such as security through obscurity, for one example we're fond of. "There is a requirement to disclose vulnerabilities to vulnerable parties... Ethically, the first duty is always to the vulnerable party," Sierra Systems senior security consultant Jon Espenschied (CISSP) told us. "I find it disturbing that MS' Code of Conduct would require someone to report a software vulnerability to MS before notifying a client of, for example, a gaping security hole in an IIS-based healthcare application that exposes patient information in violation of federal HIPAA privacy rules." "While the ISC2 Code of Ethics rightly prohibits scare mongering, it does not say 'protect a vendor's reputation at the expense of clients' property and livelihood,'" Espenschied adds. The company has already demonstrated its inclination to sacrifice the public's security and privacy to sidestep negative PR, as it did when it attempted, unsuccessfully, to sweep under the carpet an exploitable hole in Passport which would have left millions of users' personal details and credit card data vulnerable. In this case the party at risk was the general public, precisely the group MS would leave in the dark and unable to take steps to protect themselves. Hence the glittering giveaway to tempt security vendors' loyalties away from the public and towards the company's interests. Tantalizing stuff, we must allow. Only one question remains: do you really need your soul? ®
Thomas C Greene, 13 Dec 2001

Intel treads on Sun telco toes

Intel is driving into Sun's telco heartland with its first industry-certified carrier grade servers. The chip giant is offering two form factors, both conforming to reliability and robustness standards ordained by the Network Equipment Building Specification (NEBS). These are a 2U-sized dual Pentium III processor server and the second is a 1U, dual-processor form factor (1U = 1.75in. The company is also signalling its intention to introduce Xeon and Itanium-based carrier-grade servers at some point. Intel's pitch to the telcos is that it can supply non-proprietary -i.e. cheaper - server building blocks. Even if it is slow to pick up sales in the sector, its price lists will put Sun Microsoystems, the historic market leader, under more pressure, at a time when customers are thinking long and hard about capital spending. ® Press Release Intel Targets Telecom Market With Carrier-Class Server Products
Drew Cullen, 13 Dec 2001

Nokia 5510: the wrong way around

ReviewReview The first thing which strikes you about a Nokia 5510 is that it's the wrong way round, with the display in the middle instead of at the top and the keys in a horizontal formation more like a games console than a mobile. At 134x58x28mm and 155g, it's noticeably larger than the 3330, on which it is based. Carphone Warehouse is just getting them in stock for £99.99 with contracts on BT Cellnet or Vodafone. Given that a cheap MP3 player is likely to cost £100, this is the sort of price you can't really argue with. Virgin hasn't yet announced a price, but if Carphone is asking £99.99, Virgin will probably be looking at £170-200 with no contract. Unlike the 3330, the 5510doesn't have exchangeable covers and looks very different. It's no coincidence that the shape owes more to a Nintendo Gameboy Advance than a traditional phone. With a 5510 you can play games, listen to music, text message... oh, and make phone calls. It has a full keyboard, FM radio and MP3 player. There isn't a speakerphone for the music, although there is a headset in the box and cables for downloading music from your stereo or PC. You dial by pressing the buttons along the top row of the keyboard, which is awkward, but then again you could always dial direct from the phonebook. And with the full keyboard it's easier to input names in the phonebook. Virgin's model will probably be the usual blue to show off the red Virgin logo, but we saw a model raw from Nokia without the paint job. The colour scheme was a little odd, the front being blue or red, the centre section cream and the back black. Buttons and... more buttons The 5510 has more buttons than a Cadburys factory. In addition to the 45 keys on the keypad there is the clear key, a soft key and a menu rocker switch. The power button is on the end, there are volume buttons on the side plus buttons to turn the radio and music player on and off. Even the headset has a button on the cable. Nokia has also found space for a good collection of sockets. There is the standard power socket, two headset sockets (one for headset, one for the microphone), an audio in connector to record from a hi-fi and a USB socket so that music can be downloaded from a computer. The concept of the 5510 is reminiscent of the Motorola V100, an open-out product based on a similar principle, with a tiny full keypad). However, it builds in a lot more functionality than the V100 did. The V100 didn't have the music capability and its games were less than gripping. The prospects seem much brighter for the Nokia product, not for the first time. People are more ready for this kind of product now and the 5510 does the thing more whole heartedly than the V100. The 5510 screen is the same as a 3330, so it's still a bit small at 84x48 pixels. The keys are a bit too squidgy, not as bad as the V100, but still not great. The space bar on the left works well and typing is somewhere between thumb typing and proper typing. While small keyboards used to be laughed at there is now a wide range of products coming out with add-on or built-in full keyboards only a few inches across. Text messages can be up to 459 characters long, using three concatenated messages, so you'll be charged for three messages. The chat mode, where you can see the thread of the conversation, works really well. As standard you can only chat to one person at a time but Nokia makes software for the networks to run that will, in theory, let you have a number of people in a chat room. There is room to store 150 messages in the phone, or 50 picture messages. The music format is AAC, a protocol which includes software to look after the copyright of the performer. The 5510 will accept MP3 tracks, but turns them into AAC so that you can't then freely distribute them. Unless you're in the recording industry, the major advantage of AAC is that it produces better sound for the amount of memory it consumes. There is 64MB RAM, which is enough for two hours of music. You can't add any more memory. The 5510 comes with the Nokia Audio Manager PC software and connectivity cable which will let you upload MP3 files. The software lets you create playlists and build up an audio library. With the software you can trade off size against quality with sample rates from 64Kbps to 192Kbps. Idea whose time has come? An audio lead allows you to connect the 5510 directly to a Walkman or stereo unit. The quality of the FM radio is surprisingly good and you can record directly from it. One nice feature of the radio is that you can type the frequency in manually. You can only listen to the radio and recorded music through headphones. A major plus point is that you can use your own hi-fi headphones with a supplied 2.5mm adaptor. If you are listening to music when a call comes in the 5510 beeps and plays the call ringing. You can press a button on the headset lead to answer it. Sound from the incoming call is sent to both earphones which feels strange for a phone call. (It's also dangerous while driving.) You can listen to music and play games simultaneously, a first in mobiles. All this multifunctionality is made easier to control by the buttons on the side. The shape of the 5510 owes a lot to handheld games console design and has controls for the five embedded games-Bumper, Space Impact, Snake ll, Pairs ll, and Bantumi. Additional game levels can be downloaded. Future phones from Nokia, Siemens and Motorola will run Java and you'll be able to download games. The games use letter keys, and have the same controls on both sides of the screen, so you can play left or right handed-using one side for up, down, left and right and the other for firing standard and special weapons in Space Impact. It's not all that comfortable. There is the standard 3330 WAP browser, which is version 1.1 of WAP. Since the 5510 doesn't have GPRS it doesn't matter too much that the browser isn't the latest 1.2.1 version. There is a limited calendar, which cannot be synchronised with a PC. Ring tones are a bit disappointing. There is space for 42, but they are not polyphonic and it would have been cool to have had music recorded on the device play as a ring tone. Ringtones can be downloaded and you can assign individual ring tones to different people, but unlike the 8310 you can't assign ring tones to text messages. Nokia quotes best and worst case figures for talk time - 2hrs 30mins to 4hrs 30mins. Standby time between 55 and 260hrs, but that is with no game playing or using the music player features. Nokia expects 10hrs of music playing. The 5510 uses the same 950 lithium ion battery as the 3330 and takes 3hrs 45mins to charge. Perhaps more than any other phone the success of the 5510 will depend on the price. It's a neat little product that's bound to have huge appeal for a very closely defined demographic. Knowing your customer is the first rule of sales, and Nokia's got this one right. ® Copyright © 2001 What Mobile. All rights reserved.
Simon Rockman, 13 Dec 2001

AMD to reveal 300mm fab partner any day now

Where is AMD going to build its first factory to produce 300mm wafers? The plant, timetabled by the chip maker to go on stream as a pilot sometime in 2003 before beginning volume production in 2005, has yet to be located. What is known is that AMD is seeking to operate the facility as a joint venture with a second, as yet unnamed party. The plant's location will ultimately be decided by AMD and its partner. So while the head of the company's Fab 30 in Dresden, Hans-Raimond Deppe, can say that his factory "is a natural choice", that's by no means certain. Back in August, Dirk Meyer, the head of AMD's computer products division, said the company would name its 300mm fab partner by the end of the year. With less than a month left to 2001, we expect AMD's news any day now. AMD's Fab 30 is currently churning out Athlons and Durons using a 0.18 micron process. AMD has already committed itself to shrinking its dice to 0.13 micron, beginning early next year, with full-scale production kicking in around mid-2002. Fab 30 will also produce all of AMD's 64-bit Hammer CPUs, due to sample this time next year. At this stage, AMD is keener on getting its 0.13 micron process right than trying to migrate to 300mm wafers at the same time - as its arch-rival, Intel, is trying to do. AMD has enough on its plate implementing silicon-on-insulator too. SOI will be introduced mid-2002 in time for the introduction of Hammer, though work on the technology has already begun. Intel has to move to 300mm quickly, of course, because its P4 and Itanium die sizes are so large, though, like AMD, they will be much-reduced by the shift to 0.13 micron. Still, Intel arguably sets the pace of development in the processor industry, and many observers - and investors - will be keen to hear just how AMD's 300mm plans are progressing. At their heart lies the choice of partner, so we hope AMD isn't too late in revealing who it intends to work with. ® Related Stories AMD to announce 300mm wafer fab partner by year's end AMD plans plant in Brazil Related Link EBN: AMD prepares for SOI processing in Dresden fab
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2001

SonicBlue sues TiVo

SonicBlue has followed up on its threat to sue TiVo by filing a patent infringement suit against the digital video recorder company. Ken Potashner, SonicBlue's CEO, threatened TiVo with legal action earlier this week after his company announced it would like to talk to its rival about licensing opportunities. Two weeks ago, SonicBlue - via its ReplayTV subsidiary - was granted a broad patent covering almost every aspect of recording TV programmes digitally on a hard drive-based unit. TiVo said it wasn't interested in talking to SonicBlue, which then threatened to sue. TiVo clearly hasn't changed its stance, hence the writ. TiVo said it was "disappointed" by its rival's action and slammed the legal action as little more than an attempt to use the law to "build visibility for its company". It said it would "take appropriate and rational legal steps to protect our technology". That technology includes two patents that, also recently granted, that cover techniques employed by SonicBlue, so we'd be surprised if TiVo doesn't launch a counter-suit against its enemy. The result: both will soon tire of the cost and settle out-of-court, opting to license each other's intellectual property. ® Related Stories SonicBlue challenges TiVo to sign or be sued onicBlue owns digital video recording US TV biz sues ad-zapping SonicBlue
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2001

Psion mulls Teklogix writedown

Psion is reviewing the value of its Teklogix business following a tough year for the division in the North American market. In a trading statement today Psion said its results for 2001 could include a write down on the value of the Canadian maker of software and wireless-comms kit, bought last year for $360 million. Psion carries £204 million of goodwill related to Teklogix on its books. Psion said: "Psion Teklogix costs have been reduced and full year profits for the division are therefore likely to be only marginally below current expectations." Teklogix's European business hasn't suffered a slowdown. In July Psion announced it was sacking 250 staff in a shake-up of Psion Digital, putting back the Bluetooth products it said it would launch this year to next year, due to slow take-up. It also said it was moving away from consumer business and concentrating on enterprise and industrial markets through Teklogix, and with next-gen digital appliances and Symbian products. Psion today said that sales of PDAs and PC Cards through 2001, from the restructured Psion Digital division, were higher than expected, resulting in lower losses than anticipated. Overall the company expects sales and operating profits to be in line with current market expectations, and it had net cash of £15 million at the end of November. ® Related Stories Psion sacks 250; delays Bluetooth; runs from consumers
Robert Blincoe, 13 Dec 2001

Egg makes first profit

Internet bank Egg reported a profit for November, keeping its promise that it would break-even by the end of the year. The news helped push Egg's share price up 6p in early morning trading before falling back to its opening price of 154p by mid-morning. Egg's performance was boosted by its credit card business, which has made a positive contribution since the beginning of October, the company said. The Internet bank, created by the Prudential and floated in June 2000, reported that it had recruited 129,300 new customers since the beginning of October. Its customer base now stands at 1.92 million. In a trading statement issued today the company said: "This has been an important year in the development of Egg. We have taken the UK business into profitability and continued to grow the customer base strongly." It maintains it is now well placed to sustain growth and profitability during 2002. In Q3 this year it reported that operating income had doubled to £127 million, up from £61.2 million during the same quarter last year. Pre-tax losses fell by 29 per cent from £25.5 million in Q2 to £18.4 million in Q3. ® Related Story Egg to axe up to 50 jobs Egg has cracked online finance Egg still on target to break even in Q4 Egg to break even in Q4
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2001

Fujitsu takes 10 mins to process PC orders

Fujitsu has slashed its PC order processing time from two and a half days to ten minutes by using an e-commerce ordering system. Taking longer than two days to process an order doesn't sound that speedy, but ten minutes sounds pretty swift. Dell says it processes orders the same day they are placed, then builds them within five to six days, depending on part availability. Short build and delivery times are probably the key to being competitive, but if your order processing takes ages, it's going to severely hamper the rest of the sales cycle. Fujitsu acknowledges the system is going to shorten its delivery times. Fujitsu's Glovia International e-commerce subsidiary implemented the order management system to the Personal Computer Division of Fujitsu Limited. "Our goal in implementing the system was to get a timely delivery commitment for personal computers from Japan to our sales organizations worldwide," said Toshio Morohoshi, CEO of Fujitsu PC Corporation. "Now, the entire order management process, from submittal of the electronic order to the acceptance of the order, happens within 10 minutes, compared to the previous turnaround of two and a half days." The system currently links Japan to the US, but the company is hastily rolling it out across Europe and Asia. The glovia.hub system allows Fujitsu's different sales organisations to use different ERP systems. ®
Robert Blincoe, 13 Dec 2001

Chips, chipsets & mobos, Intel i845D

HWRoundupHWRoundup Mobos, chipsets and other inner bits: X-bit labs has a lengthy piece discussing Intel's i845D chipset, the first one from Chipzilla to support DDR SDRAM (up to DDR266). It's much the same as the existing i845 chipset, but with a modified memory controller. There's no new support for any new things like USB 2.0 or ATA 133, although the company plans to replace it around April next year with i845E, which will include DDR333 support and other features. Amdmb.com reviews an ECS K7VTA3 Rev2 (based on the KT266A chipset) and finds it to be a decent, stable and inexpensive board. If you're not looking for frills, check this out, otherwise you'll need to look at other options. AMDZone reviews and overclocks an Athlon MP 1900+ (initially clocking in at 1.6GHz, but easily revved up to 1.8GHz). It's tested on the 760MPX mobo, which now ships with 66MHz PCI (and audio) support, a good improvement. VR-Zone picks up an Iwill XP333-R mobo (using the new ALi MAGiK1 revision C1 chipset) and finds out how much overclocking it can handle, notching the FSB clock speed up to 205 MHz. (Overclockers and others messing about with inner bits may get exciting about the prospect of custom atomic fan grills - I kid you not.) Skycar, Segway and personal hovercrafts In the last roundup, I got excited about the prospect of a personal skycar coming our way in the not too distant future. A few people have slapped me back to reality. Reader Peter Simpson has a link to an interesting article showing that Mr Moller has been tinkering with his M400 Skycar dream since 1963, but he hasn't spent much of that time in the air. Sadly, the chances of it taking off from our backyards in the next couple years are, well, slim to none. All is not lost though, Richard Tietjens has a link to a Zap! Airboard, which is essentially a shrunk-down hovercraft that floats three or four inches above the ground and speeds along at around 15 mph. Unlike Moller's dream, you can actually buy this one for a mere $9,500. Then, of course, there's Segway, another device not intended for the faint of wallet. It's expected to sell for around $8,000 to $10,000, although that should be reduced to around $3,000 over time. Extreme Tech looks inside the roller, uhh, personal transportation machine, takes some nice snaps of its inner circuitry and walks away, as many others have, grinning madly. Inkjets Tom's Hardware does printing this week, comparing various inkjet printer models from HP, Canon, Epson and Lexmark. An exhaustive test, broken down on the basis of cost, puts the Canon S500 as the overall leader with the best overall quality / price / speed ratio, although Epson's C80, HP's 980cxi DeskJet and Lexmark's Z43 draw mention for various strong points. Got something interesting on the hardware wires? Drop us a mail. Related Stories Nokia 5510: the wrong way around Sony is killing PlayStation mod-chips Palm's wireless i705 launch imminent
James Watson, 13 Dec 2001

Watch out! There's an anti-terrorist law about

Yesterday, the Anti-Terrorism Bill was discussed for a second time in the House of Commons and Home Secretary David Blunkett succeeded in persuading MPs to vote against just about every amendment put forward by the Lords. Here are his arguments, contained in an edited version of the debate in the Commons yesterday. The full version is here: David Blunkett, Home Secretary:Our law enforcement agencies and our security services have given us a clear understanding that if the Lords amendments are approved, they will simply not be able to do their job. I give an example in relation to the interchange of information, the knowledge that exists and the way in which people react. Take an employment agency that is being inspected. The inspectors come across information relating to an individual seeking to take up a particular, sensitive job. It is discovered that that person has claimed large amounts of benefit. Let us call him Mr AQ, just as an example of someone who might seek to do that. According to the framing of the House of Lords proposal, it would not be possible for that information to be shared. No one outside the House would thank us if we so restrained information giving and the sharing of concerns that Mr AQ continued to draw benefits. It would be illegal to pass on the information required. Mr Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam): I fail to understand the Secretary of State's reasoning. If it were suspected that Mr AQ is involved in terrorism and a threat to national security, under the terms of the Lords amendment the information could be shared. On the other hand, if we wanted to investigate Mr AQ for benefit fraud, surely the correct way to deal with that would be through benefit fraud legislation, not anti-terrorism legislation. Mr Blunkett: But we would not know; that is the point. A Mr AQ is investigated for a range of activities, including massive benefit fraud, and discovered - he may be discovered, let us put it no more strongly than that - to be involved in or even wanted by security and intelligence services elsewhere. That is just a possibility, which even those on the Liberal Democrat Benches might concede to be fairly close to reality. Mr A J Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): Does the Home Secretary not realise that a wide gate is opening, through which comes this proposition? Anyone suspected of any crime, or indeed anyone against whom there is evidence of any crime, may have applied to them the full rigour of measures that we could not justify for inclusion in normal criminal legislation. There is just a possibility, unsupported by evidence, that he might have a terrorist intention, but surely that is not the purpose of the Bill. Its purpose is to enable the authorities, if they have such a suspicion of a terrorist involvement, to bring into play powers not normally thought proportionate to the crimes involved. Mr Blunkett: Take Customs and Excise rightly intervening on those who seek to smuggle, be it drugs, people or tobacco. It suspects that someone is undertaking a crime, but it needs to be able to share information, even if it has no proof. Remember that, in those particular circumstances, judicial review and the normal protections of the legal fraternity fall into play. There may be no suspicion of terrorist activity, but Customs and Excise needs to be able to share information with law enforcement agencies, knowing that a great deal of drug smuggling and other activity leads to the funding of terrorism [our emphasis], as the Leader of the Opposition rightly pointed out. Mr Fisher: Can the Home Secretary explain how a suspicion may be arrived at if there is no proof of any sort against such a person? Mr Blunkett: I am struggling to understand why my honorable friend feels that a body involved in such dealings - as Customs and Excise is day in, day out - that had a reason to pass material to the police would do so other than because it suspected that something was amiss [our emphasis]. Before the Lords amended it, the clause sought to harmonise arrangements for the sharing of information in a way that would assist the apprehending of terrorists. That is where we started on Second Reading, and it is where we are today. As well as referring to the Data Protection Act 1998, we have indicated that the Human Rights Act 1998 would protect people from unjustifiable intrusion... proportionality should apply in relation to the use of the powers we are discussing, so that a judgment can be made on whether those using them have taken into account the proportionality of their suspicions. Norman Baker (Lewes): Does the Home Secretary accept that there may be disclosures, or sharing, of information of which an individual has and can have no knowledge, and that that individual will therefore be unable to invoke the Human Rights Act? Mr Blunkett: Yes. That is why my amendment helps: rather than having to apply the Human Rights Act retrospectively, or rely on agencies' familiarity with the terms of the Act, people would be able to understand the meaning of "proportionality" if it were built into the legislation and the guidance issued to such agencies. I understand the suspicion that is felt; I understand why it is right for every Member, whatever side he or she is on, to ensure that the Executive are challenged and scrutinised. Given that I am trying to be helpful, however, I hope that my efforts will be reciprocated, because tomorrow night we must make decisions that will indeed stand the test of time. [cut] So there you have it. Basically, we have to trust that the range of government agencies that will be entitled to gather seven years' worth of information on any individual if they have an unchecked suspicion that they may be involved in terrorism, will not abuse their position. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Dec 2001

NTL sorry for email gaffe

Troubled cableco NTL has apologised for an administrative cock-up which resulted in the personal details of more than 800 employees being published without their consent. The incident happened Friday, 2 November but has only recently come to light following a forum posting on nthellworld.com. More than 50 people who were already on "gardening leave" from the cableco had expected to receive a list of vacancies within NTL. Instead, they were sent a spreadsheet containing the names, addresses and other personal details of around 820 people earmarked for redundancy. A few of the names had private comments written alongside their name. One of those who received the email, but asked not to be named, told The Register: "I'm exceedingly annoyed that these details went out - but I'd be even more annoyed if I was one of those people with a comment next to my name. This is just typical of the lack of organisation within NTL." Unconfirmed reports claim that the lapse has been reported to the Information Commissioner's Office (IC) which enforces data protection regulation in the UK. A spokeswoman for the IC declined to confirm or deny whether a complaint had been made. However, a spokesman for NTL said he was unaware of action. He apologised for the error, calling it an "honest mistake" by someone in their first week in the job. On Monday NTL announced 2,000 job cuts. ® Related Stories NTL job cuts 'regrettable but absolutely necessary' NTL axes 2000 jobs
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2001

Appeal Court upholds Intel ex-staffer's email injunction

The US Third District Court of Appeal in California has ruled that ex-Intel staffer Kourosh 'Ken' Hamidi did indeed commit an act of trespass upon his former employer's computer system when he sent anti-Intel emails to 65,000 company workers. The Court's decision essentially upholds the judgement of the lower court, made in April 1999, and backed a request made by Intel, which had sought a permanent injunction banning Hamidi from contacting its employees via its own network. That injunction was upheld by the Appeal Court. Justice Fred Morrison ruled that Hamidi's claim that the injunction hindered his First Amendment right to free speech was unfounded. Hamidi remains "free to send mail - 'e' or otherwise - to the homes of Intel employees and is free to send them regular mail," wrote Morrison. "The injunction simply requires that Hamidi air his views without using Intel's private property." The judgement marks the latest in a long line of legal cases Hamidi has lost to Intel. In 1998, he sued the chip maker alleging "industrial injury to his psyche" during the time he worked for the company through the way he claimed it treats its staff. A Workers Compensation Board initially sided with Hamidi, but the verdict was overturned the following year after Intel appealed against it. Since then, Hamidi has operated the Face Intel Web site, which catalogues what he claims is the chip giant's corporate misbehaviour in its treatment of workers and the environment. Hamidi attempted to bring his claims to the attention of 65,000 Intel workers by email. Since the emails were effectively sent to intel.com mail addresses, they were by definition routed through Intel's mail servers. The company objected, and sued Hamidi to prevent him from mailing staff again. Intel initially sought damages from Hamidi, but later withdrew those demands from its lawsuit and asked instead for a simple injunction. Of course, since Hamidi wasn't using Intel's computers to send his spam, he claimed that any attempt to prevent him contacting Intel employees this was a hindrance to his right to free speech. That defence attracted the support of free-speech groups the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society of Harvard Law School, who all backed Hamidi's appeal against the injunction. In the appeal, the three judges considered Hamidi's right to free speech - and Intel's "rights - of at least equal constitutional force - to wisely govern his lands (or, in this case, his chattels)", Morrison said. However, the verdict was not unanimous: it was carried by a two-to-one majority. The dissenter, Justice Daniel Kolkey, said that Intel's claimed injury - the loss of employees' work while the read the emails - was insufficient to warrant a claim of trespass. "If that is injury, then every unsolicited communication that does not further the business's objectives (including telephone calls) interferes with the chattel to which the communication is directed simply because it must be read or heard, distracting the recipient," he said. Intel probably hasn't heard the last of Hamidi. Last year, he threatened to launch a series of class actions against the chip giant. The actions, for which Hamidi has been garnering employee testaments, allege Intel paid insufficient overtime to certain staff and exposed fab workers to hazardous materials. ® Related Stories Hamidi outlines proposed Intel class actions Intel vs Hamidi email case continues ACLU: Intel 'violating free speech' Hamidi loses to Intel Intel retreats on Hamidi case Hamidi forces Intel to argue Spam case Intel did not damage employee's psyche Related Link Face Intel: Hamidi's class action suits
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2001

ARM finance chief quits

ARM yesterday admitted that its finance director, Jonathan Brooks, is to leave the chip developer next February after seven years with the company. Brooks' departure is likely to be an amicable one - why else would he stay on for another two months - though chairman Robin Saxby did say he thinks the company needs "some new blood and some new energy" and "you've got to bring new players in to keep winning the matches". Saxby stressed there was "nothing sinister" in Brooks' move. Investors may think differently, however. ARM's shares fell four per cent to close at 358.5p after Brooks' departure was announced. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2001

Beast of Redmond rants at rebel States

Microsoft yesterday filed a Proposed Final Judgment and an accompanying "explanatory brief" with the DC court. As one would expect, the PFJ is as previously agreed with the DoJ, and therefore dull and unsatisfying. But the brief is largely a hilariously incandescent onslaught on the nine holdout States who filed their own, somewhat more radical, proposals at the end of last week - the massed attorneys of Redmond have indeed let rip in style. The document commences sniffily: "At the outset of these proceedings, the Court clearly expressed its view that this case should settle." Already it begins to sound like the States are in contempt of court by not agreeing with Microsoft and its new friends at the DoJ. "The United States - the only plaintiff here with legal responsibility for enforcing the Sherman Act [there, ultra vires as well]... has concluded that the RPFJ [Revised Proposed Final Judgment] adequately addresses each and every one of the anticompetitive acts found by the Court of Appeals." We're revving-up now. The nine States have chosen "to pursue their own radical and punitive injunctive relief that extends far beyond the case that was tried and the liability determinations that were upheld on appeal... wholesale confiscation of Microsoft's intellectual property and unprecedented governmental regulation of Microsoft's product design decisions... This document will not provide an exhaustive list of all of the defects in the non-settling States' proposed judgment... fundamentally misguided..." Now we've set the scene by showing what a bunch of deranged mullahs the attorneys general are, we move swiftly on, revisiting ultra vires, towards conflict of interest. The States "have no responsibility for formulating national competition policy or enforcing the Sherman Act [but they] seek to supplant the RPFJ negotiated by the United States. In effect, they are attempting to substitute their judgment as to what nationwide relief is appropriate here for that of the United States." Clearly, the States have no business being involved in this suit in the first place. So maybe they shouldn't have merged their action with the DoJ's - maybe they should have to start suing Microsoft all over again, from the beginning? Unfortunately, the massed attorneys don't specify which they'd prefer. They are however specific about the role of the States. They "have standing here only as parens patriae on behalf of natural persons - i.e. consumers residing within their borders, and they are entitled to relief only to the extent that their citizens are faced with the threat of antitrust injury... Neither the non-settling States' parochial interests nor their differing views as to national competition policy should be permitted to interfere with a settlement negotiated by the United States on behalf of the citizenry of the entire country." To paraphrase, translate and mangle, what we're saying here is that it is the job of the Department of Justice to deal with antitrust and competition policy, and the job of the States to defend the interests of their consumers, and only their consumers. Thus, if the DoJ chooses to cave in by signing a toothless and worthless deal, then the States have no business objecting. Unfortunately, the massed attorneys of Redmond may have some kind of valid legal point here. Onwards, though, to the States being in the pockets of Microsoft's vindictive competitors. "It is readily apparent... that the non-settling States seek to punish Microsoft and to advance the commercial interests of powerful corporate constituents - Microsoft competitors such as Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Apple and Palm." Support is co-opted from Judge Richard Posner, the mediator who failed to cut a deal a while back: States "are too subject to influence by interest groups," he later wrote, "that may represent a potential antitrust defendant's competitors. This is a particular concern when the defendant is located in one state and one of its competitors in another, and the competitor, who is pressing his state's attorney general to bring suit, is a major political force in that state." One wonders what all those Microsoft lobbyists have been pressing for, who they've been pressing, and whether this is at all related. But onwards, again, to the dreadful, brutal, vindictive proposals themselves. "Ignoring the instructions of both this Court and the Court of Appeals [contempt again], the non-settling States not only have decided to pursue all of the conduct provisions of the vacated judgment; they have also dramatically expanded those provisions and have requested numerous additional provisions." Oh, the outrage in those italicisations... "Many of these provisions are truly draconian in nature." And here we go with three examples. By forcing Microsoft to disclose "without any royalty whatsoever all of the source code for the Internet Explorer components of Windows" the court would be "requiring Microsoft to place in the public domain intellectual property that Microsoft has invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars developing." Similarly, the auction of porting rights to Office would mean that Microsoft "would receive no royalty... other than the one-time price determined at the auction... extreme and draconian requirement... effective confiscation of Microsoft's valuable intellectual property..." (Just let the foam wash over you.) This requirement, in any event, is ludicrous given that "the States abandoned their claim that Microsoft has a monopoly in their office productivity software when they amended their complaint in July 1998." This of course is not strictly true - the matter of the Office monopoly simply wasn't pressed during the trial. Now we get onto the old chestnut of IE removal, which was argued over ad nauseam during the trial, with the addition of removal of the various other bits of stuff that have subsequently become inserted. "Section 1 would require Microsoft to do the impossible - remove critical software code from its operating system yet somehow preserve the functionality supplied by that software code. And Microsoft would be required to perform this impossible task for every feature of Windows that qualifies as a 'Microsoft Middleware Product' under the non-settling States' hopelessly vague and open-ended definition of that term." One does kind of wonder what use Microsoft's source code, software blueprints and APIs would be anyway, given that what appears to happen is that the coders shove stuff in, then forget precisely where they put it, so can't figure out how to get it back out without breaking stuff. But we knew that about Microsoft development already. Here, however, comes the summing up. "In many respects, the non-settling States' proposed conduct restrictions are no less extreme than plaintiffs' previous proposal to break up Microsoft... In requesting that Microsoft be required to make available to its competitors the source code for one of the most important features of Microsoft's operating systems and for Microsoft's Office suite of applications - some of the most valuable intellectual property in the world - the non-settling States' proposed 'relief' is tantamount to divestiture. By stripping Microsoft of its intellectual property rights, the non-settling States' proposal also raises serious constitutional and public policy questions." So there you go, the whole system would collapse as well... ® Related link That foam in full
John Lettice, 13 Dec 2001

Commons reject Anti-Terror amendments

The House of Commons rejected nearly all Lords amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Bill yesterday, setting up a battle between the two. Home Secretary David Blunkett complained of the "disembowelling" and "knee-capping" of his bill by the House of Lords earlier in the week. He made various concessions, including a review of the powers in years to come, but the next day the Lords voted in even more amendments - including the requirement for the code of practice for ISPs etc to be given Parliamentary approval before becoming law. Yesterday, it returned to the Commons, where Mr Blunkett suceeded in getting nearly all the amendments rejected and the bill sent back to the Lords. MPs complained numerous times throughout the debate that the time restriction before a vote was taken was hampering a legitimate review of the bill, but the government is desperate to get the legislation on the books before Xmas. The debate started at 7.50pm and the entire thing was completed by midnight. Everything except the proposal for a committee of privy councillors to review the bill within two years and report to the Home Secretary was rejected. A significant number of backbench Labour MPs revolted but the government's huge majority assured that everything else was rejected (examples: 320 to 213; 307 to 236; 322 to 215). That means that the law against racial hatred is still in, the sunset clauses for review are out, parliamentary and public review of aspects of the bill are out. Most importantly with regard to the Internet and mobile phones, data retention powers are back in and the Home Secretary still has the overriding power of decision over what police are allowed to do and what ISPs, mobile phone companies have to comply with. Meanwhile, the European Parliament didn't kick up the fuss that many feared it would over a new directive to standardise the European telecoms market. It went straight through and now member states only have to rubber stamp it. This could have enormous benefits for European telcos and the Internet in general as Europe moves towards working on the same infrastructure. ® Related Stories Lords attack Anti-Terror Bill again Lords 'disembowel' Anti-Terrorism Bill Single EU telecoms market edges closer to reality Terrorism bill 'biggest threat to competition since RIP' - ISPA Related Links The Commons debate The Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Bill (pdf)
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Dec 2001

Buffer the overflow slayer

A buffer overflow vulnerability in login programs used by Sun Solaris and IBM AIX systems could allow crackers to take control of servers, security experts warn. The flaw arises from the way System V derived implementations of Login work in conjunction with remote access protocols such as Telnet and Rlogin, which are enabled by default on most Unix platforms. This software bug means environment variables passed over from Telnet and Rlogin are handled incorrectly. As a result a maliciously constructed message might allow hackers to execute arbitrary commands on a target system with superuser privilege. The issue is serious because an exploit for the vulnerability has been made public, according to security tools vendor Internet Security Systems, which discovered the problem. Systems running Solaris 8, and earlier versions of Sun's operating system, as well as IBM AIX versions 4.3 and 5.1 are vulnerable, according to an advisory by CERT. There is no simple workaround for this issue. However, disabling all default terminal communications services and installing SSH will eliminate the vulnerability. Sun is in the process of testing a patch that will deal with the vulnerability and will be made available here. An interim fix is available from IBM here. ®
John Leyden, 13 Dec 2001

Palm to buy corporate wireless software op

Palm's Solutions Group is to buy corporate data-oriented wireless applications developer ThinAirApps in a stock-swap deal worth $19 million. The deal comes after an attempt to buy Extended Systems - which, like ThinAirApps, develops software to hook PDAs into corporate information systems - came to nothing early last summer. If at first you fail to succeed, try, try again. And PSG needs to succeed. It believes that the availability of a solid platform to hook corporate data into its PDAs is essential to persuade big business to roll out handhelds and to buy them from Palm. So too does Handspring, which announced a "strategic alliance" with ThinAirApps rival Synchrologic last October. Palm too has a number of such partnerships, which essentially amount to little more than co-promotional arrangements centred on marketing each others' products to their customers. Palm, however, intends to split in two by the end of the year, with the operating system operation going one way and the Solutions Group another. PSG needs to become something more than just one more Palm OS PDA maker, hence the move to buy first Extended Systems and now ThinAirApps. The juiciest margins are at the high end of the PDA business, doubly so if you can build hardware sales into a solution pitch, particularly when, owning both hardware and software, you can provide the lucrative service side of the deal too. Palm can at least say ThinAirApps' offerings are tried and tested - it uses the company's software itself. The two have already been working on Palm client-side messaging, email and push software, and the purchase is as much about bringing all that development work in-house as acquiring the server component. The timing of the deal is interesting too, coming as it does just a month or so ahead of the anticipated launch of Palm's next major wireless-enabled PDA release, the i705. That machine was to have debuted by the end of 2001, though Palm said in September that its launch had been delayed. Presumably once Palm owns the back-end software on which it hopes to sell the i705 to corporates, it will be ready to release the new PDA. Palm confidently expects the ThinAirApps acquisition to be completed by the end of the month. Related Stories Palm's wireless i705 launch imminent? Palm, Handspring wireless PDAs debut on Web Palm halves Q4 revenue guidance, doubles loss Palm buys Extended to fuel corporate push
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2001

Online Xbox gaming in six months

Microsoft will launch online gaming services for its Xbox console in the US within the next six months, presumably around May. The Japanese market, scheduled to get Xbox by late February, will get their broadband gaming services around August - or within six months of its arrival there. Microsoft and NTT communications partnered in March to provide the broadband gaming services. The announcement comes just a couple of days after Sony said it was getting into bed with a division of NTT to provide the same thing for its Japanese console users by April. Sony plans to launch similar online options in the European and US markets at an unspecified date next year. This follows its May announcement that it has tied up with Telewest to provide broadband gaming to PS2 users in Europe, which is currently undergoing testing. Microsoft made no mention about European online gaming, according to Reuters. Microsoft confirmed yesterday that it is on track to hit the scheduled 22 February console launch date in Japan. The Xbox is due to hit European shelves on 14 March. ® Related Stories Sony preps online gaming Sony is killing PlayStation mod-chips Microsoft ships 1m Xbox consoles
James Watson, 13 Dec 2001

Gateway ships 25 millionth PC

Gateway is shipping its 25 millionth PC today, 16 years after the company started. As is the way of such things, Gateway has selected a worthy customer to be the focus of the celebration for reaching this sales milestone. In this case its Quentin and Theresa Vasconcellos of Glendale, Arizona, who ordered the Gateway 500X PC last week for their daughters. The lucky family get regional vice president Judy Quye round at their house to set up the PC. The Vasconcellos get a free PC in return for being the poster family for Gateway. But the celebrations can't really hide that the company is in the mire. This year Gateway announced it was pulling out of Europe and Asia Pacific, although it remains the fourth or fifth biggest PC supplier in the US. The company is certainly much smaller and weaker financially than its main rivals - Dell, HP/Compaq and IBM. And it is less nimble than smaller system builders, supplying the so-called white label market. In the UK it was down to selling less than 1,500 PCs a week before it fled the market - this was very small potatoes for a big US player. The company has also just put its closed plant near Salt Lake City up for sale at the discount price of $14.5 million. Gateway laid off the plant's 660 workers as part of broader cutbacks this summer. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the plant cost an estimated $22 million to build in 1998, according to a commercial real estate broker. ® Related Stories AOL pumps $200m into Gateway Gateway US sales fall Gateway slashes quarter of staff Was Gateway down to selling just 1,500 PCs a week in the UK?
Robert Blincoe, 13 Dec 2001

BT chiefs face early test

BT's new boss faces an early showdown with chairman Sir Christopher Bland in what could prove to be the first power struggle at the monster telco. Relations between BT's new chief exec, Ben Verwaayen and chairman, Sir Christopher, could be put under strain just a day after the Dutchman takes up his new appointment at the embattled telco. However, any tension between the two men is unlikely to revolve around the future strategy of BT or anything quite so trivial. Instead, it will concern the deep-rooted tribal loyalties of two soccer fans as Arsenal face Southampton at Highbury on February 2. Mr Verwaayen is a big supporter of the Gunners and Sir Christopher is a long-standing Southampton season ticket holder. The two teams meet just a day after Mr Verwaayen succeeds Sir Peter Bonfield as CEO. It's not known if both men will put their loyalties to one side and attend the match together. It would make an ideal opportunity for BT's bigwigs to get to know one another. The last time the two sides played each other in the Premiership Arsenal won 2-0. Perhaps that explains why Arsenal are currently second in the table just four points behind Liverpool. Southampton, on the other hand, have taken up their usual residency at the other end of the table hovering fourth from bottom. Today's newspapers were unimpressed with the appointment of Mr Verwaayen describing the market's reaction as "underwhelmed". ® Related Story BT appoints new CEO
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2001

The Microsoft Secure PC: MS patents a lock-down OS

Remember the Microsoft Research Project for a "Secure PC" that we told you about in March? A formal patent claim for a "digital rights management" - i.e. share denial OS - was granted on Wednesday and has surfaced, via the Cryptome web site. The authors include Secure PC team leader Paul England and distinguished Xerox PARC veteran Butler Lampson, who as well as working on the design of Ethernet and the Alto, has a long history in studying trusted systems, and the application was filed in January 1999. It's very simple. The patent application seeks to protect "a computerized method for a digital rights management operating system comprising: assuming a trusted identity; executing a trusted application; loading rights-managed data into memory for access by the trusted application; and protecting the rights-managed data from access by an untrusted program while the trusted application is executing." And that's it. However the designers have thought of many circumvention tactics likely to be thrown at what they call a "DRMOS", and the patent lists methods of secure access to the page file, of ejecting untrusted applications off the system, and resetting the system clock against a trusted server. The filing also pays attention to the practical difficulties of publishers maintaining huge databases of their consumers' PCs. "the content provider would have to maintain a registry of each subscriber's DRMOS identity or delegate that function to a trusted third party," and the number of unique DRMOSes, the authors acknowledge, could run into the millions. It represents a work in progress, as regular readers will know. There's no attempt to cloud its intentions behind a smokescreen of law enforcement or national security - although the Secure PC is an advance on current standards. No, it's designed to prevent the "Piracy of digital content, especially online digital content. "In a very real sense, the legitimate user of a computer can be an adversary of the data or content provider. 'Digital rights management' is therefore fast becoming a central requirement if online commerce is to continue its rapid growth," according to the patent. "Content providers and the computer industry must quickly provide technologies and protocols for ensuring that digital content is properly handled in accordance with the rights granted by the publisher. If measures are not taken, traditional content providers may be put out of business by widespread theft, or, more likely, will refuse altogether to deliver content online." The DRMOS relies on a secure boot sequence and an identifier in the CPU, the latter being the subject of an earlier filing. But that's not all, quite possibly: if the PC configuration is changed, "a plug-and-play DRMOS must then 'renounce' its trusted identity and terminate any executing trusted applications... before loading the component. The determination that an untrusted component must be loaded can be based on a system configuration parameter or on instructions from the user of the computer." The patent doesn't specify how keys should be generated, or where they should be stored, and kicks around a few suggestions. At which point in the filing, the enormity of the challenge of creating a DRMOS should be evident: it's a mammoth task. But perhaps not as great as the political and social challenge as selling such a proposition to consumers. Microsoft may be a convicted monopolist, but that doesn't make the task any easier. This particular DRMOS architecture doesn't specify any kind of DRM, and when the technology vendors do agree on a magic bullet for copy protection, as they did with opening the door to build CPRM into fixed storage, they found a ready and immediate public backlash. (CPRM has succeeded on its original goal of removable media, with the SD card). In any case, the amount of privately generated content (home videos, spreadsheets) which could fall foul of a DRMOS, and the amount of existing, unsecured freely shared media (MP3s) also presents an obstacle to consumer acceptance. However the precedent of Microsoft's introduction of its own Windows Product Activation could be viewed as a dry run. It was introduced with fairly strict requirements for how much of a PC's configuration could change, and was gradually loosened. But it's here. ® Related Link Microsoft DRM OS at Cryptome View the patent Related Stories Microsoft plans Secure PC that won't play 'pirate' audio files  Welcome to .NET - how MS plans to dominate digital music sales CPRM on ATA - Full Coverage
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Dec 2001

ATI to launch Mac Radeon 8500 next month

ATI will unveil Mac versions of its Radeon 8500 and 7000 graphics cards at Macworld Expo San Francisco next January, according to the graphics company's show guide blurb. The Radeon 8500 is based on ATI's second-generation Radeon chip, codenamed R200. The 7000, however, is based on the original Radeon technology that power ATI's current Radeon Mac Edition board. The 8500 runs at 250MHz and supports 64MB of DDR SDRAM buffer memory clocked at 275MHz. By contrast the current Radeon Mac Edition is clocked at 166MHz (core) and 166MHz (memory), respectively. The 8500 is capable of handling 2.4 billion texels per second; the 7000 can chuck out 1.6 billion texels per second. The 8500 offers digital LCD, video output and dual-monitor support alongside DVD playback. Full-colour 3D resolutions of up to 2048x1536 are supported. The 7000 can also support 32-bit colour 3D graphics at up to 2048x1536 resolution. It too offers DVD playback, but ships with just 32MB of DDR SDRAM. The PC versions of both boards only support AGP 2x and 4x systems. Since the 7000 is essentially the PC equivalent of the Radeon Mac Edition with a new name, it's hard to see the current Radeon Mac Edition not being replaced by the 7000, it looks like ATI will be dropping PCI support, leaving owners of older, PCI-only Macs unable to upgrade to the latest ATI graphics technology. Both boards support OpenGL - the 8500 supports OpenGL 1.3. Macworld Expo will be held at San Francisco's Moscone Center between 8 and 11 January. ® Related Link Macworld Expo: ATI exhibit info
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2001

Kangaroo domain court

A joint venture between RegistrarsAsia and Afilias has been awarded the com.au, net.au, asn.au, id.au and org.au second-level domains. The decision deepens the controversy regarding ownership of the .au country top-level domain for Australia. Following a long battle, Robert Elz, a reclusive but respected IT engineer, lost control of the main .au top-level domain in October this year. He was displaced by commercially run organisation auDA (.au Domain Adminstration) - which Mr Elz had granted the rights to run the most-used second-level domain, com.au. auDA argued that Mr Elz was damaging their business since he was unable to keep up with demand. It argued an organisation (such as itself) was needed to run the Australian Internet infrastructure and wrote to the Internet's overseeing bodies asking for ownership. Mr Elz said he had no problem with an organisation running the TLD but raised several concerns he had with auDA, in particular the effect on competition that handing .au over to auDA would have on other registrars. He turned to the Australian government and asked it to run the domain. The government replied that it wished the market to self-regulate. auDA was handed the .au TLD and preceded to put all the second-level domains out to tender, ignoring the current owners. This sparked some argument over its rights. But - backed up ICANN - it has gone ahead. Yesterday, it decided to hand the most significant second-level domains to one company, created by RegistrarsAsia and Afilias. Afilias has long been a controversial company. It is a consortium of some of the largest companies in the Internet market, including Netnames, Network Solutions and Register.com - which, combined, provide a large proportion of the funds that keep the Internet overseeing body ICANN afloat. Afilias argues, with some justification, that its expertise makes it an ideal choice to run a top-level domain. However, its critics see the selection of Afilias in many cases (often through closed-doors, non-transparent decision-making processes) as evidence of an old boy's network. Afilias was awarded the heavily contested .info TLD, and proceeded to embark on a disastrous registration system which has seen have to prepare to send at least 10,000 suspect registrations to a domain arbitrator. auDA also made the controversial decision to sign up to ICANN's newly created contract for ccTLDs. The contract gives ICANN a stranglehold over different countries domains and is despised by most countries. Many believe that auDA signing up to ICANN's contract was a reward to the secretive organisation for its support in securing the .au TLD. Now, with auDA awarding most of the second-level domains to an old friend of ICANN's, the Internet looks more like a gentlemen's club than ever before. It's debatable whether any of the involved organisations have the authority to make these decisions. (See here for an excellent review of the .au situation). Of course, it's unlikely that anyone will see anything to gain by overturning the agreed situation - even if they could - and so the perceived takeover of the Internet by a small group of self-interested parties continues. ® Related Link Who controls .org.au? Where domain name policy and law collide
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Dec 2001

Telcos sidestep BT goons

Telecoms operators can have unescorted access to BT's exchanges telecoms watchdog, Oftel, confirmed today. The ruling means that operators are not subject to unnecessary costs for providing broadband services over unbundled local loops. Instead, escorted access will only be necessary where BT requires its own contractors to be accompanied. The ruling is welcomed by Bulldog Communications, one of the few operators actively involved in LLU. It argued that BT's security fears over the planned installation of a rival telco's equipment in BT exchanges - known as "co-mingling" - was little more than a "smokescreen". It's argued consistently that BT should treat local loop operators as it treats itself. Richard Greco, CEO of Bulldog, told The Register that he was delighted with Oftel's decision which had been made despite sustained pressure from BT. "Oftel has done the right thing," he said. "But BT is still foot-dragging and we must keep the pressure up," he said. A spokesman for BT said he was "disappointed with the decision" and said the telco would have to work through the implications of the ruling. Privately, though, BT is furious at the decision and maintains that its opposition to unescorted access to its exchanges is perfectly valid. But its protests were dismissed by David Edmonds, head of Oftel, who said: "Oftel has decided that approved staff working for an operator must be treated in exactly the same way as an approved contractor working for BT. "These arrangements will not jeopardise the security at BT's exchanges or of the wider telecoms network," he said. ® Related Stories Bulldog snaps at BT's co-mingling security fears Security fears hit unbundling progress
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2001

Messiah does not play pirate software, humans do

Channel Technology has slammed Sony for forcing it to to stop distributing a PlayStation mod-chip product. On its web site, the company attacks legal actions from the consumer electronics giant and defends the legality of its Messiah mod-chip. The site's owner, calling himself Gazza, says the mod-chip can be used for legal purposes, such as playing imported games from other countries and regions and being able to view certain titles in full-screen mode at 60hz resolution on PAL consoles. Bar possible restrictions on how Messiah's other capabilities are advertised, this functionality is useful and, arguably, legal, he says. Mod-chips are a popular addition to gaming consoles and other devices which remove various restrictions placed on them by their original manufacturers. Typically, players are restricted to playing games or watching DVDs zoned for their particular region, but installing a mod-chip can free users to use titles from any zone. On the site, Gazza enters a lengthy dialogue on the ins and outs of how various alternatives work and how Messiah remains a useful addition to the PS2. He notes that certain other mod-chips, widely sold across the Internet, are built to only play unlicensed or pirated media, whereas Messiah is able to perform various legal functions (as well as the illegal ones). But, as he summarises further on: Messiah does not play pirate software, humans do. It's the chips ability to play copied and pirated titles that has annoyed Sony enough for it to stamp down on two UK-based mod-chip distributors - Channel Technology and Playstationmods.com - forcing them to stop sales of their products with immediate effect. In a personal email, which The Reg has seen, Gazza bitterly admits that even though Channel Technology's position is legally defendable, its ability to do so is entirely dependent on the depths of its wallet. As he describes it, it's "like I have to fight by getting in the ring and taking on the likes of Mike Tyson ... I'm probably going to get knocked out in round one". Attempts to contact Gazza and Channel Technology were unanswered. ® Related Story Sony is killing PlayStation mod-chips Online Xbox gaming in six months Sony preps online gaming More about mod-chips Mod-chip Q&A A mod-chip comparison chart
James Watson, 13 Dec 2001

Reg hack debating brain fingerprinter on CourtTV today

I'll be doing battle with Larry Farwell, PhD, promoter of brain fingerprinting as a counterterrorism measure, on CourtTV's Catherine Crier Show at 5:30 PM Eastern and Pacific time Thursday. You may recall our skepticism of this techno magic. The format is simple: Farwell will demonstrate his kit, and I'll attempt to debunk it. ®
Thomas C Greene, 13 Dec 2001