21st > January > 2002 Archive

DRAM up, telecom chips down – Infineon

Infineon blamed a deteriorating market for telecom chips for a pretty awful quarter. An upturn in DRAM prices and demand was not enough to compensate for the depressed state of what the company calls "wireline communications". But the performance of Infineon's memory products group shows that the company and DRAM market still has a long way to reach profit. Memory revenues in Q1 were Euro 285m, 18 per cent up on the previous quarter, but 43 per cent down on the same period last year. Earnings before interest and taxes were Euro 371m, better than the loss of E522m in the previous quarter (although inventory writedowns account for much of the latter figure). EBIT in Q1,2000 was Euro 66m. Group sales for Q1, 2002 (ended December 31, 2001) were down five per cent on the previous quarter and 38 per cent down on the same period in FY2001. The German chipmaker recorded a Q1 net loss of Euro 331m, better than the previous quarter loss of Euro 280m, but well down on net income of Euro 280m for Q1,2000. It attributes the loss "mainly due to continued price pressure". This includes erosion on memory prices from mid-November. Presumably, the next quarter will see the company benefit more from the uptick in DRAM prices. And sure enough, Infineon detects the "first positive signs in demand for mobile communication products and pricing for memory products as well as relatively stable demand in chips for automotive and industrial applications". But the performance of Infineon's memory products group shows that the company and DRAM market still has a long way to reach profit. Memory revenues in Q1 were Euro 285m, 18 per cent up on the previous quarter, but 43 per cent down on the same period last year. Earnings before interest and taxes were Euro 371m, better than the loss of E522m in the previous quarter (although inventory writedowns account for much of the latter figure). EBIT in Q1,2000 was Euro 66m. ®
Drew Cullen, 21 Jan 2002

AMD chip bug snares Linux users

An old bug in AMD’s Athlon family of chips may still be snaring Linux users. Affected users will need to be running a 2.4 kernel, an AGP and an Athlon or Duron CPU. At cause is a compatibility issue with Intel’s 4MB page size. (x86 processors have used 4k pages, ever since paging was introduced in the 80386). AMD issued a patch for Windows users in Fall 2000, with an accompanying PDF [13k]. But all the patch is, is a one-line registry change, described here, that only disables the expanded page size. And not all Pentium-specific instructions. For Linux users, it's a one line workaround, too. Pass the line “append mem=nopentium” at boot time (via your boot loader of choice), to disable all Pentium specific instructions. French distro Gentoo reported this yesterday, and found itself Slashdotted into the netherworld. It's still down, as we write. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Jan 2002

AMD tunes Duron to 1.3GHz

AMD is cranking up Duron speed a notch or so to 1.3GHz, the fastest version of its budget CPU line to date. The new chip costs $118 in OEM quantities of a thousand and as it's merely a speed revision (and not a platform change), it is already supported by scads of mobo makers. You can read the press release here in full. ®
Drew Cullen, 21 Jan 2002

Egg to buy Zebank?

UpdateUpdate On line bank Egg has confirmed that it is holding exclusive negotiations to buy French financial ebusiness Zebank. Earlier today a spokeswoman for Egg refused to comment on newspaper reports concerning a possible tie-up describing them as "rumour and speculation." However, in a statement issued at lunchtime the company confirmed that it is in "exclusive discussions with Groupe Arnault and Dexia which may or may not lead to the acquisition of a majority holding in Zebank". It added that Zebank is also pursuing discussions with unnamed French retailers to secure distribution arrangements. Egg added that, as yet, nothing had been finalised. Nor could it guarantee that the deal would go ahead. However, if it does go ahead it would give Egg the chance to break into Europe and expand its business, according to the FT. Zebank - owned by Bernard Arnault, one of France's richest men - launched last year and has more than 100,000 accounts. In November Egg reported its first profit since floating in June 2000 keeping its promise that it would break-even by the end of 2001. By mid afternoon shares in Egg had slipped 7p (4.73 per cent) to 141p. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Jan 2002

The 2.2GHz P4 on Linux and Win-XP

Whether Intel's new 0.13-micron Northwood P4 is a good buy for Linux or Windows users I won't be able to say until I compare it to a similar high-end system by AMD later this week; but for now I can definitely say that, paired with the 850 mobo and 512M RDRAM, it's fast on both operating systems, if not spectacularly reliable. On re-boots, regardless of which OS I'd been using at the time, and on cold startups into both the Windows and Linux HDDs installed singly, I've experienced intermittent boot failures. There's no error message, no POST panic. The thing just sits there quietly with a blank screen every now and again. A subsequent cold boot usually meets with success; but on a few occasions it's happened twice on successive attempts, though never more than that. All CMOS parameters are set to Intel's defaults. I'm not using SCSI, RAID, USB or any BIOS-dependent boot device like a PCI disk adapter, so this is a bit of a puzzler, and a bit of a disappointment. Good kernel, good drivers Because Intel provides special chipset drivers and something called an Application Accelerator for Windows users, I was curious to see if Linux would exploit the Northwood's considerable horsepower as well as Windows. The Linux kernel does by nature make better use of the CPU than Windows; the question for me was whether the 'system' -- that is, the CPU, chipset and system memory -- might work together better on Windows as a result of Intel's extra software engineering on its behalf. To test this, I tried one standard benchmark, the results of which are posted here, and a number of what strike me as common-sense comparisons of everyday tasks. The kit in question is an Intel D850MVSE mobo with a 2.2GHz Northwood P4; 512M PC800 RDRAM; an Nvidia GeForce AGP4 64M DDR; two Maxtor D740X 20G ATA-133 drives on the mobo's onboard ATA-100 controller, one booting Win-XP Pro and one booting SuSE 7.3 Pro. I'm using Win-XP on FAT and SuSE on ReiserFS, both installed clean and subsequently patched. Windows is patched with whatever the MS auto-update process does to it and Linux is patched to kernel 2.4.17. The paging files on both disks are 500MB. First I tried comparing the performance of the Gimp on Linux and Windows immediately after a re-boot. It took the application 3.5 seconds to launch (i.e., for the hourglass to disappear) in Windows and 2.5 seconds in Linux. The second launch, done immediately after to take advantage of RAM caching, took 2 seconds in Windows and 1.2 seconds in Linux. Displaying a .bmp file 3,177kb in size with the Gimp took 1 second in Windows and 0.8 seconds in Linux, and converting that file to .jpg took 1 second in Windows and 0.6 seconds in Linux. Launching Mozilla, with a DSL connection already established and my home page (theregister.co.uk) already stored in the browser's cache, took 4.5 seconds in Windows and 5.0 seconds in Linux immediately after a re-boot. A second launch leveraging the RAM cache took 2.5 seconds in Windows and 2.5 seconds in Linux. 'Launching' meant that the home page was fully displayed. (Interestingly, Internet Explorer takes only 2.5 seconds to launch and load my home page in Windows following a re-boot, but I'm told that MS partially pre-loads it during the Windows system boot to produce the illusion that it's faster than other browsers. I've found that IE and Mozilla are indistinguishable on Windows except for the initial startup time, so I'm willing to believe this is possible.) On Windows I was able to display a directory of 778MB containing 10,174 files in 0.6 seconds using Windows Explorer. The same directory copied to the Linux drive took 3.2 seconds to display in Krusader (the fastest GUI file browser I know of for Linux). The files were displayed in 'detailed list' mode in both cases. Copying that directory to another location on the same disk took 3 minutes, 13 seconds in Windows and 3 minutes, 51 seconds in Linux, using the GUI file browsers. Displaying the contents of the directory with the Bash shell in Linux (ls -al) took 2.5 seconds the first time, and 0.7 seconds the second time with the benefit of RAM caching. Displaying the same directory with the DOS shell in Windows (dir) took 4.5 seconds the first time and 4.5 seconds the second time. Copying the directory took 3 minutes, 57 seconds using the Bash shell (cp -r) and two minutes, three seconds using the DOS shell (copy). So what does this tell us? Not a lot, until we do the same tests with different kit. But I can say cautiously that the overall user experience in Windows is snappy and crisp, and that the cost might well be justified if performance suffers with an equally high-powered setup using an Athlon 2000 and DDR SDRAM. For Linux I'd be a bit more conservative. This is some expensive equipment we're talking about here, and the overal subjective 'feel' under Linux using KDE and Gnome really didn't strike me as sufficiently improved to justify the investment. We may be able to do as well, or better, with the AMD kit for less money. But that remains to be seen. Disappointments Aside from unreliable system startups, the biggest disappointment for me is that no amount of Intel processing power seems capable of making the Konqueror and Nautilus file browsers tolerable to use. Krusader is fine -- a bit slower than Win Explorer, but not so much that you'd get impatient with it. But it lacks features like thumbnail views, which can actually be useful to graphics-oriented users and porno Webmasters negotiating a large directory of images. Thumbnail views for image files are exceptionally speedy under Explorer with this kit, but so maddeningly slow with Konqueror and Nautilus that I didn't even bother to time them. The kernel recompile also didn't take as much from the 2.2 CPU as I'd hoped. Of course it was faster than with a P3, though not dramatically so. But it's probably the case that system memory has more effect here than transistors and clock speed once you get past a certain point. So now we have a baseline of sorts. An imperfect one, certainly, since we're comparing the performance of two radically different operating systems on a given platform, which is essentially voodoo no matter how hard you try to keep it 'scientific'. But when we apply it relatively to a different high-end hardware setup, I think it will will offer us a decent basis for picking the system that best suits our OS of choice, and our budgets. So stay tuned. ® Note: A large number of Reg readers have written to ask why the filesystems Reiser and FAT were used. The reason is simple: for now I'm looking into real-world situations, not optimized ones. Most XP users will be upgrading, so that means FAT since NTFS isn't available in the home edition upgrade. Most if not all recent Linux distros default to ext3 or Reiser, and most new users will accept the default. The best comparison of I/O performance would be between ext2 and NTFS, of course; but that's for a separate item which I'll do in future. --tcg
Thomas C Greene, 21 Jan 2002
Cat 5 cable

Logica builds SMS roaming service

Logica Plc last week sought to polish its credentials as the world's most operator-friendly SMS systems supplier, and announced a service that will take the pain out of organizing and operating SMS roaming deals. The London, UK company's Global Interconnect Network adds a new service dimension to its short message service center (SMSC) and foreign subscriber gateway (FSG) server business, and can also be extended to operators running rival SMS infrastructure. Roaming between different SMS networks has, according to Logica, consistently helped to drive increased SMS traffic. However, for many of the world's 600 plus mobile operators, pursuing roaming deals, and setting up settlement systems between more than fifteen or 20 other companies is not worthwhile, so Logica has decided to step in and do it for them. Janet Cohen, head of strategic marketing at Logica's mobile networks unit, stressed that, while Logica does expect to make a margin by acting as go-between "we don't want to compete with operator customers." Indeed, initially, said Cohen, revenue from the Global Interconnect Network is unlikely to be significant. However, as a catalyst for increasing global SMS traffic, it stands to profit Logica indirectly as well as directly. And, above all, it is a new means by which Logica can cement and widen its operator relationships, at a time when the emergence of new next generation enhanced messaging service (EMS) and multimedia messaging service (MMS) systems is encouraging old rivals from the infrastructure equipment, such as Ericsson and Nokia, to have another stab at contesting the messaging systems market. Market. Last week in fact, Logica's Global Interconnect Network announcement was almost drowned out by LM Ericsson's announcement that it has win a nine-network deal from Vodafone Group Plc for its MMS systems. A coup for Ericsson by any standards, the deal is also being seen in some quarters as an indicator that Logica, and fellow SMS niche player, CMG, are about to be squeezed out of the market by the mobile network equipment makers who overlooked the original SMS system opportunity in the 1990s. That was a mistake that Nokia and Ericsson are unlikely to make twice, and Ericsson already appears to have brought its extra weight, and in particular its terminal expertise to bear in forcing both CMG and Logica out of the biggest MMS contract to be awarded so far. "It's not all over until the fat lady sings" was Cohen's sanguine response to this interpretation of events last week. While conceding that Ericsson successfully stole some of her company's thunder with the timing of its news, Cohen noted that not all operators looking for the best technical solution will not be swayed by discounting, and that Logica has its own, non-exclusive relationships with handset makers. Most of all though, according to Cohen, Logica plans to build on its position as the incumbent messaging systems provider at many operators, and to use the new Global Interconnect Network as a platform for building other "mutually profitable" services for its operator customers. In the future, for instance, Logica plans to market SMS services as an advertising or customer communications service to enterprise customers. "But in partnership with operator, not in competition with them" she stressed. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 21 Jan 2002

EU e-commerce directive fails to make impact

The development of e-commerce within Europe could be hampered by the failure by several European Union member states to meet the deadline for implementing the European Union E-Commerce Directive, according to research house Gartner. The UK was among several member states that confirmed it failed to meet the January 17, 2002 deadline for Directive 2000/31/EC, which aims to put a legal framework around e-commerce transactions. The directive covers the establishment of electronics service providers, the validity of electronic contracts, the ability for consumers to opt out of unsolicited email advertisements, and the liability of intermediates such as internet service providers. The UK aims to comply by mid-2002. Until the member states comply with the directive, the legal framework will remain fluid. However, EU-wide compliance will not automatically help the prospects for e-commerce, as complementary directives such as the one that regulates and protects personal data in electronic communications is held up as the European Parliament and Council argue about how to deal with email spam, cookies and surveillance. There is also uncertainty regarding taxation of online sales. In the face of these uncertainties, Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner advises that organizations should establish policies and suitable processes to minimize liabilities under current law and reassess them periodically. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 21 Jan 2002

IBM to use Power4 across the pSeries line In 2002?

How ready is IBM to put the Power4 processors across its pSeries and iSeries lines of midrange and enterprise servers? Apparently a lot more ready than many of us had been led to believe, Timothy Prickett Morgan writes. According to IBM chief financial officer John Joyce, who was speaking to Wall Street analysts during the company's conference call discussing Big Blue's fourth quarter financial results last week, IBM is preparing to put the Power4 chips into its low-end and midrange pSeries servers by the end of 2002. Under plans that IBM was kicking around last year, customers and business partners were told that IBM would crank up the clock on the current 750MHz S-Star PowerPC processors, perhaps to 800MHz or maybe even 900MHz. But the unofficial word from within IBM as the year was turning was that IBM wants to roll the Power4 processor into as many products as possible, as soon as possible. IBM plans to sell new S-Star machines to customers throughout 2002, and that might be extended a little longer. Upgrades for these machines will be available for some time after that, perhaps 12 to 24 months, depending on IBM's mood and the availability of chip and related components. Some people expect IBM to use the "Cell" Power processors being co-developed with Sony and Toshiba for consumer devices and games machines in low-end and midrange pSeries servers. This may or may not happen. The technical specs of these chips are unknown, except that IBM says they will have teraflops of number-crunching power. While they may not be designed specifically for servers, at high enough clock speeds, they could run inefficiently in a server and because of volume economics on the chips, still yield a great bang for the buck on file, print and Web serving. If these chips see the light of day IBM has committed $400m over five years to design the Cell chip in its Austin labs--they could pack a lot more wallop than an S-Star PowerPC chip. At the high-end of the pSeries line, IBM's next generation of servers, due in 2003, is a crank on the just-announced Regatta line using the Power4-II processors. These are expected in October 2002, in fact. These second-generation Regattas will support 16 chips each with two processors per chip (32 processing elements with a shared L2 cache) running at around 1.5GHz to 1.6GHz, 384GB of main memory and up to 100TB of storage; the current Regattas have 16 chips, supplied with either one or two CPUs, running at 1.1GHz or 1.3GHz and support 256GB of main memory and 36TB of storage. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 21 Jan 2002

Avaya dismisses potential H.323 and SIP standards merger

Enterprise networking equipment vendor Avaya Inc has dismissed the idea of any potential unification between the two key standards in enterprise communications, H.323 and the emerging internet engineering task force (IETF) standard SIP. The session initiation protocol is now close to final ratification by IETF, whereas H.323 which is a mature International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standard that has defined the way that video and speech are transmitted over IP networks, originally used for videoconferencing. The problem is that although massive resources have been put behind H.323, and installing support for it within enterprise and carrier networks, the protocol remains fixed in its allegiance to the telecoms world, and the standards body that approved it, the ITU. "They will not merge, we need distinct interfaces and protocols," says Mickey Tsui, Avaya vice president of IP solutions. SIP and H.323 are largely analogous, although SIP borrows far more heavily from internet standards, mapping IP addresses to uniform resource locators (URLs) , rather than mapping identities onto network endpoints. Avaya expects to launch its first fully enabled voice over IP products, with SIP support in mid-year. The difference between the two is that "fundamentally the protocols are designed to address different aspects. With SIP services the network understands where you are, with H.323 it is designed for gateways and endpoints," says Tsui. This means that it is fundamentally easier to use the concepts within SIP to create new applications, both in telecoms networks and enterprise networks. And there is a far lower overhead for using SIP services both in desktop and mobile clients, Tsui believes. Currently the company is testing and demonstrating early enterprise applications with customers, in advance of a full roll out in mid-year. Basking Ridge, New Jersey-based Avaya, desperately needs SIP to take off, as it needs to develop new hardware and services that add the promise of web integration to existing enterprise telephony, above what is possible within existing networks. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 21 Jan 2002
Cat 5 cable

Getting sexual with Virgin textual

Virgin Mobile is to launch a text message flirting service on Valentine's Day as part of a new focus on "adult services". The mobile phone operator has created a new team to probe the opportunities of adult-orientated content and services. Those behind the service claim it will let mobile users "flirt, tantalise and tease other mobile users by anonymous text messages". Of course, the fact that each text message costs 10p a throw should not overshadow the fact that this is yet another attempt by Virgin Mobile to establish itself as the "network for cheeky fun". And any suggestion that this is simply another ruse to get people to part with their cash and increase revenue for Virgin Mobile is "cynical", according to a Virgin spokeswoman. No matter. Virgin Mobile maintains that the service is merely a progression of what people already do with their mobiles. Of course, Virgin Mobile isn't the first outfit to twig that text flirting could be big business. UK-based CosmicCupid launched its text flirting service in June 2000 and now handles 500,000 text messages a year for its 50,000 users. John Farmer, commercial director of Cosmic Cupid told El Reg: "Most opportunities [for mobile services] lie in communication and entertainment... and flirting embodies that for the consumer." ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Jan 2002

Intel takes on graphics world from April

The 845G integrated chipset, Intel's new attempt to mop up the graphics business, is to launch in April, according to Digitimes. Citing industry sources, the Taiwanese chip news service reckons that Intel could take 10-30 per cent of the low-end graphics business simply through its dominance of the market for so-called 'system PCs'. But Intel will face a tougher time in the "clone market", if history -(with the 810 and 815 PIII integrated graphics chipsets) is anything to go by. And as the 845G is supposed to be functionally equivalent to the Nvidia Geforce 2 MMX400, it looks like Nvidia and ATI have little to fear - yet - on the performance front. The Digitimes article is here. ®
Drew Cullen, 21 Jan 2002

Vizzavi UK MD stars in Pop Idol

It should come as little surprise that the MD of Vizzavi UK was in the audience of TV "talent show", Pop Idol, on Saturday night – after all, Vizzavi does sponsor the programme. However, according to one vulture-eyed reader, Geraldine Wilson was picked from the audience to ask a question and used it to launch an "eloquent" attack one of the judges, Simon Cowell. "Can this be right?" we asked Vizzavi. That's right, confirmed our Vizzavi spokeswoman, who insisted Ms Wilson received no special treatment at being singled out from the crowd to give him a piece of her mind. "So, why exactly did she have a pop at Simon 'Mr Nasty' Cowell anyway?" we asked. "She wanted to know whether the voting was fixed against Gareth," replied our Vizzavi spokeswoman. "Gareth? Which one's Gareth," we asked. "The cute one," she said. Oh. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Jan 2002

Samsung retains XBox DRAM gig

Samsung has retained the contract to supply memory for the Microsoft Xbox games 'puter and is so pleased that it has issued a press release to celebrate. Memory makers aren't usually in the habit of trumpeting the retention of contracts, but Xbox does have that special PR glow. And sales should sky-rocket with this year's debut in the Japanese and European markets. Each box is supplied with 64MB of DDR SDRAM, assembled in four 128Mb (4Mx32) DDR SDRAM devices, so that will keep the Samsung production line busy. Is this necessarily a good thing for Samsung, which is still losing money on DRAM production (although some reports say the company is the closest of all the memory makers to returning to profit)? So more sales means more red ink. Samsung has continuity of customer, but it will not have stable, predictable income from this contract (indeed from any contract with a major DRAM customer). Contract prices are fixed fortnightly and are based on DRAM spot prices, which are highly volatile. If there is a lot of fluctuation within the fortnight, major OEMs will demand, and obtain, price protection for any stock they have on consignment. ®
Drew Cullen, 21 Jan 2002

Windows wipe utilities fail to shift stubborn data stains

Several Windows file-wiping utilities fail to completely wipe some files on Windows NT, Windows 2000 or Windows XP that use NTFS file systems, security researcher Kurt Seifried has discovered. But computer forensic experts reckon the privacy implications of the advisory are limited, as standard packages, such as Word or Excel, do not make use of the secondary data streams - where file remnants might be left even after data has been securely deleted. In any case, wiping a disk entirely will destroy such data, as Chris Crute, a forensic investigator at security consultancy Information Risk Management, points out. In an advisory, security researcher Kurt Seifried details how file wiping utilities, such as PGP Wipe, BCWipe or East-Tec Eraser, fail to implement alternate data stream-wiping properly. The upshot is this: information contained within the alternate data stream which is attached to a file (such as the thumbnail of an image) or directory remains intact on the hard drive data, when the file or directory is wiped. It's unlikely that users store sensitive information using alternate data streams (which must be "explicitly created", as the advisory points out). However alternate data streams can provide a location where attack tools, snippets of virus code or the like can reside; and few virus scanners look there for malicious code, unless specifically configured to do so. This is less bad than it may seem at first because viruses would have to go out of "stealth mode" to cause any harm. Users can workaround the problem of data inadvertently stored in alternate data streams by using the "wipe free space" feature present in most secure file deletion utilities, but this is time-consuming. Encrypting disc partitions also creates an effective barrier for the recovery of data, though this is not bullet proof. Vendors of BCWipe and SecureClean are currently updating their software to address the issue, they told Seifried. East-Tec has acknowledged a "possible problem" and is analysing the issue while Network Associates, the developer of PGP Wipe, is yet to respond. Data annihilation The efficacy, or otherwise, of file-wiping alternate data streams, is a fairly arcane matter. But data-wiping is an important corporate issue, for security and data protection issues. The greatest points of weakness are when PCs are sold onto the secondhand market, and when data is stored on easily-stolen laptops. Two years ago, an obsolete PC sold on by merchant bank Morgan Grenfell Asset Management "contained 108 files relating to Sir Paul McCartney's private cash dealings" was bought secondhand. The PC was released into the second-user market without first being wiped clean of data. Jon Godfrey, consultant at Technical Asset Management, the Welwyn Garden City, Herts PC disposal company, in excess of 50 per cent" of corporates fail to destroy sensitive data effectively, because of faulty procedures. "The biggest problem is technical ignorance. There's a great difference between destruction and deletion of residual data, but most users don't understand this," he said. Reformatting a disc or even taking a hammer to it will not necessarily prevent the recovery of data. The one surefire way to achieve this is to overwrite information hundreds of times using software such as Sanitizer, which is operating system-independent. ® Related stories Paul McCartney account details leaked on second user PC Sanitizer and Shredder launched in UK Malicious code exploits unique Win2K function MoD laptop thefts put the wind up the US
John Leyden, 21 Jan 2002

Genie webmail broke

Users of Genie's web based-email service have been unable to use the service since last Tuesday. They must wait until Thursday before the service is running again. The mobile Internet business of mmO2 (formerly BT Cellnet) declined to say how many people have been hit by the outage. A spokesman would say only that Genie has 5.8 million registered users worldwide. He was also unable to comment on the nature of the problem or what measures the company has taken to keep its customers informed. In a statement Laurence Alexander, MD, Genie UK, said: "Genie apologises to all of its users affected and any inconvenience caused. "Our engineers are working around the clock to resolve the problem and it is our hope that a full service will be up and running by Thursday." ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Jan 2002

Ala-KaZaA-m!

KaZaA.com has resumed its Napster-style software downloads after the sale of assets by developer Fast Track to privately-held Australian firm, Sharman Networks Limited. Terms of the deal, which includes the license for the FastTrack P2P Stack, the KaZaA.com Web site, name, and logos, were not disclosed. Sharman has issued a minimalist press release on the acquisition. Its US PR agency was unable to answer our questions on how Sharman hoped to avoid becoming embroiled in a copyright infringement case against KaZaA, the Dutch software and products firm that founded KaZaA.com. KaZaA's change of ownership came to light through some gnomic alterations on its web site discovered by DotcomScoop.com. In October, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against KaZaA, as well as peer-to-peer MP3 file sharing services MusicCity and Grokster, which use FastTrack's code. In November, a Dutch judge gave KaZaA two weeks to cease infringing recording artists' copyrights or risk a penalty of 100,000 guilders ($40,317) a day. KaZaA, which claims its software has been downloaded more than 20 million times, responded by saying it could not comply with the judge's order as it has no way of identifying those who uses its software. The issue of identifying users is central to legal action taken against KaZaA by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America. KaZaA's code uses the true peer-to-peer principle enshrined in the Gnutella protocol. As such, there is no central server to control file transfers and so no repository of user information. That's the principle. In practice, the RIAA believes FastTrack's software does maintain a user database, to provide authentication services, and as such can identify its users. In January 16, KaZaA voluntarily suspended downloads pending a decision by a Dutch court on the copyright infringement case. A ruling is expected on January 31. ® Related Stories KaZaA ordered to cease infringing copyright KaZaA claims it can't stop users sharing music RIAA targets post-Napster MP3 sharers Napster to ask court to reaffirm Appeal Court ruling Popular file-share utilities contain Trojans
John Leyden, 21 Jan 2002