19th > December > 2001 Archive
Last week we invited you to submit the best Usenet posting you'd never seen. Thanks to Barry and David at Google, who've send us some fresh pairs of undies, we can announce not one, but four winners of our Google Usenet Underwear Competition. And they've helped avoid a disaster. The original underpants earmarked as the prize were confiscated on our way through US Customs last week - apparently they contain nuts. Er, no ... actually your humble scribe left them behind in London. So this is fresh stock, right out of the Google promotional linen cupboard. And here they are being modelled by The Register's West Coast Bureau Mascot, Bradley Butternet*. There were some near misses. Commiserations to Greg Hundley, for the funniest unprintable entry involving Bill Gates, and to a "high ranking British Civil Servant" whose identity we shall not reveal, for his completely libellous Usenet posting attributed to "email@example.com". They say the Queen can't sue... but we don't want to be the first to disprove this. Onto the winners. Nick Gully's is widely applicable. Sad but true... From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Jerusalem Newsgroups: soc.culture.arabic, soc.culture.palestine, soc.culture.israel, talk.politics.mideast, alt.sex.carl.malden.nose, alt.religion.islam, alt.religion.jewish, alt.religion.islam, alt.religion.kibology, comp.os.linux.advocacy Date:2001/11/09 View: Complete Thread (10,014 articles) "email@example.com wrote:" > ... And that is my plan Your arguments are well formed and insightful, and I concede that your peace plan would be amicable and fair to both sides. Have a nice day, Pete There's nice attention to detail in the following victorious submission from Ben Ostrowsky, who cunningly detourned a real Usenet post made that month... From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bill Gates) Newsgroups: comp.os.msdos Subject: Free Macintosh-like kernel sources for 386-AT Keywords: 386, preliminary version Message-ID: <1991Oct5.email@example.com> Date: 5 Oct 91 05:41:06 GMT Organization: Microsoft Corp. Lines: 55 Do you pine for the nice days of CP/M, when men were men and wrote their own device drivers? Are you without a nice project and just dying to cut your teeth on a OS you can try to modify for your needs, even though it'll never work? Are you finding it frustrating when everything works? No more all-nighters to get a $600 program working? Then this post might be just for you :-) As I mentioned a month(?) ago, I'm working on a free version of a Macintosh-lookalike for AT-386 computers. It has finally reached the stage where it's even usable (though may not be depending on what you want), and I am willing to sell it wholesale for wider distribution. It is just version 0.02 (+1 (very small) patch already), but I've successfully run Finder etc under it. Sources for this pet project of mine can be found at ftp.microsoft.com (220.127.116.11) in the directory /pub/OS/Windows. The directory also contains some README-file and a couple of binaries to work under Windows (fdisk, format and delete, what more can you ask for :-). Full kernel source is provided, as it's incomprehensible anyway. The system is able to compile "as-is" and has been known to work. Heh. Sources to the binaries (fdisk and format) can be found at the same place in /pub/ms. ALERT! WARNING! NOTE! These sources still need Macintosh OS to be compiled, and you need a Mac to set it up if you want to run it, so it is not yet a standalone system for those of you without Macs. I'm working on it. You also need to be something of a hacker to set it up (?), so for those hoping for an alternative to Macs, please ignore me. It is currently meant for hackers interested in operating systems and 386's with access to lots of money. The system needs an AT-compatible harddisk (IDE is fine) and EGA/VGA. If you are still interested, please ftp the README/RELNOTES, and/or mail me for additional info. I can (well, almost) hear you asking yourselves "why?". DaikatanaOS will be out in a year (or two, or next month, who knows), and I've already got millions. This is a program for idiots by an idiot. I've enjouyed doing it, and somebody might enjoy looking at it and even modifying it for their own needs. It is still small enough to understand, use and modify, and I'm looking forward to any comments you might have. Bill Graeme Bell wins by submitting what he described as "two weak attempts"... but they raised a titter here. From: Rob Malda
Subject: FIRST PSOT!!!
Ouch. And before we say a pot-shaped 'you're black!' to the kettle, here's his other submission:-
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Alan Cox)
Subject: PROBLEM ISTALLING LINUX
I AM A VERY FRUSTRATED AND SMART PERSON WHO THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUN TO
GIVE LINUX A TRY BUT IM SICK OF TRYING TO GET MY BL**DY NETWORK CARD AND
SOUND WORKING IN LINUX AND NOT BEING ABLE TO OPEN WORD DOCUMENTS SO I
AM WIPING MY HARD DISK AND INSTALING WINDOWS 95 ON IT INSTEAD!!!!!
i cannot even get a floppy disc to work on it???! WHAT IS UP WITH THAT??
Finally, and pursuing a similar theme, here's Simon Greenwood's entry. "History could have been so different," he writes. Indeed...
Relay-Version: version B 2.10 5/3/83; site utzoo.UUCP
Posting-Version: version B 2.10.1 6/24/83; site mit-eddie.UUCP
From: RMS@MIT-OZ@mit-eddie.UUCP (Richard Stallman)
Subject: New UNIX not worth the effort
Date: Tue, 30-Mar-84 02:22:01 EDT
Posted: Tue Mar 30 02:22:01 1984
Date-Received: Thu, 29-Sep-83 07:38:11 EDT
Organization: MIT AI Lab, Cambridge, MA
After four months of toiling away at trying to create a free version of UNIX I've decided it's not worth the effort. Ideological purity is all well and good but there's no money in academia anymore. I've been approached by a newish company based out west who say they appreciate what I'm doing and would like to help me to concentrate my talents in managing their open operating system project.
This will be the last post from me at MIT. I'll keep in touch with the community about how the new project is going. I'm very excited. They're a young team, committed to embracing all that's good about open software and extending it to the marketplace. I'm on the 6am flight to Redmond, Washington.
I'll post my contact details when I know what they are.
Congratulations to all the winners, and a special thanks to the fine Google people, purveyors of the finest underwear, and a jolly good search engine. ®
*Bradley was designed by the distinguished cryptographer Len Sassaman and he's actually a Spaghetti, and not a Butternut Squash. But that isn't as funny.
"Asset light" Motorola will close more chip fabs and lose another 9,400 staff to save a $1 billion a year. "The greatest impact of these actions is in the Semiconductor Products segment," said the company in its Q4 guidance. Moto wouldn't say which fabs would be closed. The company has suggested that it will spin-off its loss-making chip business, and a fabless, or at least fab-light division would make it a more attractive buy. Deals have been inked with Chartered and TSMC to fab Moto silicon. CEO Chris Galvin said he expected Motorola to break even in the second half of next year, and with sales 5 to 10 per cent lower this year than in 2000. "Personal Communications", which includes handsets, remains the only division to see increased margins, albeit on weaker demand, in the most recent quarter. ®
Intel is set to roll out high speed wireless LAN kit based on the 802.11a standard in Europe from the start of next year. Which is a pretty good trick, given that 802.11a is currently illegal this side of the pond. But before you reach for your regulators, we should assure you that the would-be Wavezilla will be shipping dual standard wireless access points with an 802.11a-shaped hole in them, pending what it sees as the standard's inevitable approval in Europe. The units have two slots which will take cards "close to mini-PCI," so initially they'll sell in Europe with one filled with an 802.11b card, and as and when central and country approvals are granted (which won't be all at once) you can just go out and buy the 802.11a version. 802.11a increases throughput to 54Mbps, as opposed to 802.11b's 11Mbps; 802.11a is - possibly - close enough on the horizon in Europe for it to stall the rollout of wireless networks, so you can see why Intel's cunning plan of selling it while not selling it has been devised. Intel is meanwhile sure that most of the people and organisations who count in Europe are already gagging for 802.11a, and that the necessary deals will be/habve already been cut to allow its sale. The unfortunate death of obscure and largely unloved local contender Hiperlan will be collateral damage. According to Intel EMEA head of Wireless LAN product marketing David Bradshaw, ETSI is pro approval, as are numerous local regulators. The UK Radio Authority is the most pro in Europe, he says, and Brussels seems to be onside too. He postulates two possible routes to approval for 802.11a - a cunning ETSI rule change that would call it a "type of Hiperlan," which would mean it would technically have been legalised already, or a worst possible case scenario where ETSI would make a formal rule change. That would kick back approval until Q4. Once it is approved centrally, it will then be up to the individual countries to approve it locally. Opposition to approval for 802.11a, which occupies the 5GHz part of the spectrum, comes largely from the military and satellite operators. Bradshaw is bashful about precisely which satellite operators, but it's been alleged to us that Globalstar and friends for some bizarre reason want to retain the transcendental state of peace their efforts have achieved there. Keep the chatter down boys, we're trying to sleep... The technical objection to 802.11a is that it does not include Dynamic Frequency Selection, which allows devices to change channels to avoid interference, and Transmission Power Control, which reduces power as a device gets closer to a base station. Both of these are mandatory in Europe, and are being incorporated in 802.11a. As far as we can make out 802.11a users in the States just get to happily cook the immediate locality, or something. Bradshaw also provides tantalising clues to some shifty business that might or might not have gone on in the backstabbing standards-setting bodies. 802.11g was originally supposed to double the throughput of 802.11b while continuing to occupy the same 2.4GHz part of the spectrum. But 802.11g is now seriously late, and has been beefed-up to hit 54Mbps. The reason for the delay, claims Bradshaw, is that Intersil and TI were wrangling like crazy over whose silicon it would use. Now, the happy outcome of this, from Wavezilla's point of view, is that 802.11g will now roll out after 802.11a, whereas it was originally envisaged as an upgrade path from 802.11b, with 802.11a to follow. Cunning stunts like Intel's dual standard access point however present 802.11a as the upgrade path from 802.11b, so by the time 802.11g gets here, we'll all be saying, well, what's the point? And guess whose silicon...? Icing on the cake is possibly the likelihood that 802.11g will arrive just as Bluetooth finally starts to take off, so the kit that does get out there will be done to death by Bluetooth chatter in the same part of the spectrum. Intel of course didn't plan any of this, it was all TI's and Intersil's fault, honest. ®
A judge has stopped Adobe shipping its Quark-killer desktop publishing package InDesign. The litigious software giant, which recently used copyright provisions in the DMCA to send Russian programmer Dmitiy Sklyarov to the clink, has itself been accused of breaching copyrights held by Trio Systems, a tiny software company based in Pasadena, CA. Trio filed the case on October 24, and is seeking $10 million in damages from Adobe. The judgement, made in a Los Angeles District Court yesterday, establishes that Trio has a likelihood of success in the case, and applies to InDesign and InCopy. Adobe acknowledges uses both products use Trio code. Adobe has countersued Trio Systems. Neither case has yet to go to trial. Trio Systems describes itself as "software development company providing tools for web developers and C/C++ programmers". Trio's company webpage was designed using Adobe GoLive 4.®
3Com has reported narrowed losses with the announcement of its Q2 results, which show its restructuring plan is on track. The networking firm reported a net loss for the quarter of $104m on revenues of $394 million. This compares to a net loss of $129m on revenues of $390 million in Q1. Operating expenses, which include amortization and write-down of intangibles and restructuring charges, were $231 million, an improvement of $76 million sequentially. 3Com's annual expenditure is now $865 million less than it was a year ago. Looking ahead, 3Com said Q3 revenues are likely to be down between five to 10 per cent on Q2 with Q4 revenues roughly matching those in Q2. During the past year 3Com has shed 6,000 jobs, almost half its workforce and exited several unprofitable business areas, including the fledgling Internet appliance market and the consumer broadband-modem business. 3Com is now focusing its business on the telco market, through its CommWorks unit, the enterprise networking market (3Com's Business Networks Company) and a business connectivity company, which supplies NICs and the like. The firm reports that it has achieved "positive cash flow" from its remaining operations ®
The UK Government is putting its faith in its UK Online Centres in a bid to ease the growing digital divide between different regions of the UK. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that only one in four homes in Northern Ireland, the North East of England and Wales has Net access. In contrast, almost half of homes in London and the South East has access to the Internet. The national average for Internet access penetration is 37 per cent, according to ONS. In total, the number crunchers reckon some 9.7 million households in the UK have Net access. However, the growing gap in take-up is bound to be of concern to those keen to promote the adoption and use of new technology. A Government spokeswoman told The Register: "We recognise that there are disparities and to address this the Government is developing 6,000 UK Online Centres across England providing local Net access and support." These "centres", which offer help and advice on using email, the Web etc, range from High street Internet cafes, public libraries, colleges, community centres - in fact just about anywhere you can plug in a PC. With such a large number of UK Online Centres it's just as well the Government's UK Online Centres Web site has a database that can be searched by region, town or postcode. Of course, one has to question how much help this search facility is to someone who doesn't already have access to the Net and wants to find where their nearest UK Online Centre is. Ho hum. ®
Ireland has fixed the price firms will have to pay for a 3G licence in the country. Unlike Britain, Ireland has decided to award four licences through a "beauty contest" and not through an auction process. Reuters reports that the one "A" licence, which requires comprehensive coverage, will cost 50.7 million euros (£31.4), and the three "B" licences 114.3 million. Firms that obtain a "B" license need only offer coverage in Ireland's five major cities. There's an unfront payment of about a quarter of the licence fee, followed by regular payment between the fourth and 15th years of the 20 year licence. Operators have complained that the licence fees are too high but, reflecting the current telco slump, they are a fraction of the price that might have been raised by an auction last year. Ireland's 3G bidding process has been put back a year because of a dispute between telco regulator Etain Doyle and the country's finance ministry. The winning applicants for the licences will be announced in June next year, with services expected to begin in January 2004. ®
A tax loophole that exempts AOL from paying VAT in the UK could about to be closed. A new European Directive that is scheduled to be ratified in February would mean that non-European Union businesses offering digital services in the EU would now be liable to pay Value Added Tax (VAT). The decision has been jumped on by rival ISP, Freeserve, which has campaigned for a level playing field concerning tax. It claims the current situation is unfair and hands AOL competitive advantage. Freeserve CEO, John Pluthero, called for the directive to be adopted immediately. The matter is already the subject of a review by Customs and Excise but Mr Pluthero is angry it's taken the Government so long resolve the issue. Said Mr Pluthero: "I am bitterly disappointed that despite the new European proposals Customs and Excise still refuse to make an announcement in relation to the VAT treatment of AOL. "The UK government has been sitting on this issue for at least one year, and despite attempts by us to raise the matter with the Treasury Minister, Paul Boateng, he hasn't even acknowledged our correspondence. "Having previously blocked this proposal, Freeserve is calling on the UK government to now implement the new Directive into UK law at the earliest possible opportunity," he said. Freeserve claims that AOL saves at least £30 million a year by not paying VAT. A spokesman for AOL UK said: "A review of the matter is currently underway and so far guidance from the UK tax authorities has not changed." Freeserve has worked hard over the last few months to raise awareness over what it believes is an unfair anomaly. In November it published newspaper ads accusing the Government of shying away from action adding that the VAT not paid by AOL could be used for "hospital beds, bobbies on the beat or teachers for Britain's primary schools". Earlier, it had threatened to sue the Government unless it resolved the matter. It has also threatened to move to Algeria in a bid to become exempt from paying the tax. ® Related Stories Freeserve fingers Chancellor in VAT ad VAT net closes in on AOL Europe Freeserve threatens legal action against UK Govt 'If AOL UK paid full VAT it could fund heart transplants' Freeserve takes swipe at AOL's tax free status
As The Register, tediously, has been telling you for some months now, it's important for Microsoft to be able to claim that XP is the biggest-selling software product of all time, selling X times as fast as the previous (Microsoft) biggest selling software product of all time, cure for cancer, world famine, saviour of the economy... But actually, the only important thing is that Microsoft has some kind of excuse to say this kind of stuff - it really doesn't have to be true in the long term. And the long term is just a few weeks. Cast your mind back for these few weeks to all of the rubbish Microsoft was putting out following the Windows XP launch, then check out the cold, hard facts NPD Intelect (which got a slot supporting the Microsoft post-launch spinning frenzy) has passed on to Joe Wilcox at CNET. We expect the figures will be generally public Real Soon Now, but at present they are not, so Joe's got them. And we like Joe anyway - he's a good and thorough journalist, and works his patch. The bottom line of the NPD figures he has is that WinXP is by no means the incredible elixir of life that Microsoft's spinmeisters peddled it as being. It sold 400,000 copies in October, and then 250,000 in November, whereas Windows 98 (which The Register recalls as an upgrade that was somewhat less than compelling) sold 580,000 in its first month, and 350,000 the next. So actually all of the nonsense about WinXP being the galaxy's most incredible, desirable, fast selling software product was based on pent-up demand (or pre-orders, as they're termed in less frenzied circles) funneled into the last week in October. It was an imaginary frenzy constructed entirely by Microsoft, Windows XP did not save the economy or the planet, Windows XP is just another dumb operating system. And they're not sexy, we told you so. Windows XP however is a massive success, and we told you this would happen as well. The vast majority of sales, as NPD Intelect points out, are made via new PC sales with the currently decreed Microsoft operating system on board, and obviously the percentage of new PCs shipping with XP as the default OS is already very high. Retail sales of operating systems from Microsoft's point of view are a sideshow that can be used for a PR slideshow, they have no statistical validity, whereas the PC OEM franchise pays the rent. Although NPD Intelect hasn't yet made numbers for XP sales generally available, it has issued something that you could view as a useful little reality check - top selling software, week of 18th-24th November. In the top ten we've got two Sims, NAV 2002, Harry Potter, Return to Wolfenstein, MP Roller-coaster Tycoon, and then in seventh position, XP Home Edition Upgrade. The biggest selling software product of all time? Right... ® Related told you so links: Small WinXP sales boom - not many sold WinXP sales press releases fly off shelves Huge Windows XP sales save the world
Seven companies are to join the MS Passport-rival Liberty Alliance today, amongst them Hewlett Packard. That's a hugely significant addition because when Sun put the coalition together, its chief server rivals IBM and HP were missing. So it'll be hard to sustain the 'friends of Sun' jibe at the Liberty Alliance now. The Alliance seeks to build an open alternative to Microsoft's Passport hub, giving punters to ability to use a common sign-on identity at participating sites. The others new members include General Motors, Mastercard and AOL-Time Warner who had already confirmed that they'd be joining Liberty. And the grouping also adds another telco, in the shape of France Telecom. Holy Smoke We're still assured the name is a working title only. Type www.libertyalliance.org into your browser, and you'll find Jerry Falwell's website. The domain was registered back in 1997 and is a Falwell Ministries affliate. The IT Liberty Alliance can be found here. We'll resist the obvious gags about getting authenticated into the next life... ® Related Stories Nokia kingmaker in Passport-killer alliance Do Androids Dream of Electric Single Sign-Ons? Friends of Sun rally for Passport-killer
UpdatedUpdated Symbian has closed its US office in Redwood City, CA and all but three of the staff have been made redundant. The cuts took place last month, when we were out of town. A spokesperson for Symbian told us the office wasn't closing, but moving to a new location in Redwood City". "There is still a US team comprising partnership management, technical consulting and new business development," said a spokesperson. We gather that the three remaining staff are working from home. Partnerships with US-based technology partners Texas Instruments, Intel and Qualcomm will be handled by the remaining Stateside personnel, from London, and from Beijing where Symbian wants to beef up its presence with the appointment of a business development chief. Although there too, it sounds like home working is the preferred regimen: the job description calls for an "an entrepreneurial self-starter, initially working as the only business development person along with the Technical Marketing Manager." There's no mention of a sandwich allowance. But the picture isn't entirely gloomy. Although Symbian has recently made cuts in marketing and administrative personnel in London and Tokyo, the balance seems to being tilting towards R&D. The Symbian jobs page confirms that engineering vacancies are opening up in the UK and at its Ronneby facility, which did the Quartz and Pearl (now Nokia Series 60) user interfaces, and these are new positions we hear. All of which is long overdue - we always wondered why what is essentially a systems company has just 150 of its 600 plus staff devoted to engineering. Symbian founder and the consortium's most vocal evangelist Nokia claims to have 20,000 engineers. Symbian recently rejigged its mission statement although the new strategy hasn't been fully wheeled into place just yet. It's dropped the DFRD platforms - Quartz, Crystal and Pearl - with licensees allowed to help themselves from previews of the next major OS release, codenamed Hurricane. But where will the fall out land? Closing Redwood City, which Symbian tonight stressed isn't permanent, looks to the world like Symbian has concluded that the US wireless market is a basket case. Quite the opposite, said a spokesperson today. The US remains strategic and of increasing importance to Symbian, she told us. Cutting the headcount is just a funny way of showing it. And it's odd timing given the discomfort around Microsoft's rival phone ambitions.® Related Stories Symbian signs Fujitsu for 3G phones Can Club Nokia thwart .NET? Nokia takes charge at Symbian Ballmer takes charge of MS Phone biz
Server sales in Western Europe fell for the third consecutive quarter in Q3, says Gartner Dataquest. Overall shipments fell 7 per cent to 248,000 compared to the same quarter last year, while revenues slumped 21 per cent to $3.26 billion. But the pain doesn't seem to have been dispensed equally. Scaleable enterprise servers, where Risc/Unix systems are dominant, fell 36 per cent in units and 33 per cent in revenue. Here at least the vendors can console themselves that they're keeping the price up, even if a lot fewer customers are prepared to stump up for big ticket items right now. Sun however can't console itself much - its own unit shipments plunged a whopping 48 per cent. Over in the PC killing zone, Compaq lost 5 per cent in units, IBM 10 per cent and Dell gained 25 per cent. Dell is still 10,000 units shy of IBM's number two position (IBM sold approximately 45,400 units), while Compaq remains way ahead with 80,740. The whacking revenues loss underlying the unit numbers though makes it clear companies are having to collapse margins in an attempt to keep volumes up. ®
Yes, OK. We know you're busy people. But our passion for bringing obscure Linux file system announcements to your attention remains undiminished. Especially when they're important, and this one is certainly worth keeping tabs on. Last week Sistina released version 5.0 of the open source GFS clustered file system. It richly deserves its obscurity rating - any FAQ that begins with the question "Is STOMITH absolutely required?" can be judged to have a small but intense following. But Matt O'Keefe's GFS long predates Sistina, the company he founded to commercialize the project he began at the University of Minnesota. GFS not only has the potential to unseat the leading vendor in its class - Veritas - but to bring open source commoditisation to servers and storage. Hardware storage vendors insist that the expensive magic belongs in the box. And up to a point they're right - EMC's high end storage is based on fabulously well-tuned, specialist servers. But there's a school of thought that suggests that given the right software, there's nothing that a room full of white box PCs can't do almost as well. This school maintains that storage is essentially a software problem, the problem being massaging a load of PCs to act and behave as a single SAN. EMC can justifiably contest this argument, of course, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to find a commodity software answer to SANs. And so clustered file systems have long been touted as the key that opens the door. The debate has been maintained in the Linux community who see clustered file systems as paving the way for The Final Victory. First the invisible infrastructure turned to open source, more BSD than Linux here admittedly - in the binds and routing services. Then the edge infastructure followed, running the web servers. That invites Linux in as a development platform, which tempts real grown-up application vendors like Oracle to suggest Linux is a viable platform. To succeed there, and in storage, it needs to behave as respectfully as a Solaris however, and that's been singularly lacking. And Network Appliance has scooped up much of this business very neatly: it's Linux friendly but ensures the file system protocols favor NetApp kit. So it can claim the best of both worlds. Basically, Sistina tries to do what Veritas does - provide a clustered file system and lock manager for applications - only cheaper, and on Linux. More recently GFS has got more attention recently for all the wrong reasons. At LinuxWorld in August, Sistina announced that it would no longer be available under GPL. But it remains the most used Linux clustered file system, despite several academic rival projects (Andrew and Coda) and recent competition from Compaq's decision to open source its Non Stop Cluster work. GFS Version 5.0 adds some SSI (single system image) functionality and the ability to split mirrored backups to the really high end storage from EMC and Hitachi (which is licensed by Sun and HP). How extensive this is compared to Veritas or NSC we're not in a position to judge, but we'd welcome experiences from the field. What we would like to know is how far a Linux-centric clustered file system matches up in cost and performance to the propietary alternatives, and whether a non-free file system is judged to be trustworthy. Or just a low-budget Veritas. Then we'll have a clearer idea of how far Linux is from storming the data center. ®