18th > February > 2002 Archive

The Bastard Guide To Writing Software

Episode 3Episode 3 BOFH 2002: Episode 3 I HATE IT!!!! The Boss has been talking to some geeky guy from R&D who's so far 'out there' he's got satellites orbiting him, and now he wants us to develop our own software... "But it's a sure thing!" he cries, mentally preparing for his stardom on the international geek-talk circuit as the man who brought the world a new alternative. "We just write an Office type system that can compete with Microsoft and sell it for half the price!" "Compete," I respond dubiously, "with Microsoft?" "Yes." "The company whose court imposed penalty which was pretty much equivalent to a slap on the bum with a rolled up newspaper?" "Yes." "And by Newspaper I mean PART of a newspaper - something like the 'Culture' section of "The Sun", the non-boring bits of "The Financial Times" or the non-fiction portion of a vendor's Benchmarking specs handbook?". "Sorry?" "It doesn't matter." "But surely it's possible to write such a system?" The Boss asks, masking his disappointment as best he can. "It's possible, yes, but feasible, probably not." "Why not?" "Well for a start, there's the development staff. Not to mention analysis!" "Analysis?" "Yes - of needs, we'd have to find out what people know and want." "Oh, you mean like meeting rooms, questionnaires and some focus groups?" "I was thinking more of the Tape storeroom, a rubber hose and a bright light, but yes, you're in the right ballpark." "But we know what people want," The Boss continues, ignoring me. "They want what they've got, with more security - well, with ANY security - and cheaper. Obviously there's going to be expenses for the organisation in the training and travel side of things." "Travel?" "Well yes, to evaluate the options, visit vendors to see how they do things, that sort of thing?" >WHOOP! WHOOP!< >JUNKET ALERT!< And so the delicate process of junket negotiation begins... The Boss obviously knows that this project suggestion would be as popular as a Windows T-Shirt under Richard Stallman's Xmas tree and is now entering the delicate area of junket negotiation.... To get something he wants, he has to offer me something I might want in a manner that conforms to the Encoded Junket Standard RFC. "And who did you envisage going to these sites?" I ask, starting off the negotiation with a simple Query Junket packet. "Well I suppose the Project Champion, and some form of Secretarial/P.A person," he responds. (In other words, "Me and the new girl from the Admin Pool who's rumoured to be undergarment impaired and have a morally casual attitude.") "Uhuh," I respond, sending out the standard Junket Packet-Received-And-Decoded response. "...and obviously the Technical Project Manager." (Meaning: And obviously YOU, so I can get your vote when the feasibility of the matter is under discussion..) "And..." I add, resending a PRAD, and following up with an unsolicited Request For Further Junket Tradeoff Items. "And possibly one or other personnel who might be critical to the project." A standard Capacity For Extras Available packet, meaning Whoever you want to get the ball rolling "Well I was just thinking I may need some Personal Assistance myself if there's a lot of data to be compiled sorted through. And given that we're looking at external markets, probably it should be an external person." The Boss acknowledges my request for handbrake accompaniment, and the deal is struck... "I'll get right onto it." he burbles, heading out of the office at Warp Factor 5. . . . Later, at the Departmental Projects Meeting . . . "..which means we might both SAVE ourselves some licensing costs and EARN ourselves money as well. The benefits would far outweigh the costs!" "Really?" the Head of IT says. "But this travel, are you sure it's really necessary." "Well, to get a real feel for the development life cycle, yes." "But you don't seem to have thought of the higher levels of this - the management and marketing phases of the operation?" The Head responds, sending a Query Junket Packet. "Obviously, there would need to be some senior Management presence," The Boss negotiates. "Yes" the Head PRADs, followed rapidly by a RFFJT: "and perhaps.." "And obviously someone to organise the copious notes and meetings," The Boss CFEAs. Once more the deal is struck. "You've got to be kidding," The PFY jumps in, smelling blood in the water. "What about development and Analysis costs." There comes a time in every bastard's life when he has to sacrifice a friend for a junket. It's sad but true - and remember, all's fair in love and computing. More so if you're playing a teams shoot-em-up game and a team member gets in the way of your handcannon.... "Well we don't need any analysis, because we know what they want.." I respond, going on to repeat The Boss's message from before. Seeing his chance of a junket going down the tubes, The PFY tries to torpedo mine. "What about Development costs then?" he snipes. "I know it'll cost a bit, but I've been working it out. You see, development costs can be worked out by multiplying the number of programmers and testers, by the cost of the development tools, by the number of hours it takes to develop the software - right?" "Yes," The PFY concurs. "And so by lowering one, we'd lower the cost of the whole project." "Yes." "Well, I've been looking at these Open Source Tools and, well, they don't cost anything." "Yes?" The PFY asks, not seeing the trap until it's too late. "So if the Number of programmers and testers, times the cost of development tools - which is zero, times the number of hours equals the cost of the job...." "yyessssss?" "Then the job should cost nothing." "Wait a minute.." the Head of IT frowns, performing some mental calculation involving carrying a bunch of 1s, subtracting the number he first thought of, and dividing by his belt size. "You know, I think he's RIGHT!" So it's a done deal. Junket approved and booked. True, I expect that when I get back all my plants will be poisoned, my desktop will be rigged to the mains, and my hydraulic chair will be remote controlled... But it's worth it.... ® Tune in to http://www.salmondays.tv for a live-action comedy vid-strip, inspired by our beloved BOFH BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2002, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 18 Feb 2002

Censor-buster Peek-A-Booty goes public

CodeConCodeCon Peek-A-Booty, cDc's much vaunted anonymity app, is vaporware no more - it went public at the landmark CodeCon conference in San Francisco's DNA Lounge on Sunday. Peek-A-Booty is designed to let surfers access sites blocked by government restrictions, and is essentially, a distributed proxy network. It uses a peer-to-peer model, masking the identity of each node. So the user can route around censorship that blocks citizens' access to specific IP addresses, because the censor doesn't know they're going there. If you're a Peek-A-Booty node, you might be doing it on their behalf. So the software isn't itself a browser, but simply requires the user to use localhost in the proxy field of their preferred browser. Working out the general architecture was the easy bit. The tricky bit, explained cDc developers Paul Baranowski and Joey deVilla (and relax, they're happy to use their own names now), was anticipating and thwarting a wide variety of the attack measures, from outside or inside the Peek-A-Booty network itself. The design process took six months, beginning in July 2000, but coding only started in earnest six months ago, after a hiatus. Peek-A-Booty nodes send out standard SSL, so the censorware can't distinguish the request from any other secure electronic transaction: the authors describe this as a form of steganography. But a rogue node inside such a network could harvest the addresses of all the other nodes, so Peek-A-Booty deploys a "virtual circuit", borrowing ideas from the Crowds anonymous web browser. "Most P2P systems really want their nodes to be found, our problem is that you want to be found, but you really don't want to be found," said Baronowski. So Peek-A-Booty uses random forwarding based on probability - no one knows where the connection originated except the originator - and eschews time to live packets. For security, there's no attempt at initial discovery - you'll get sent details of a node by word of mouth, or from some other secure source. Baranowski and deVilla expect that citizens groups (NGOs) will become trusted servers. But as a one-time operation, you can use Peek-A-Booty to download Peek-A-Booty. The demo - of version 0.75 running on Windows XP- showed off the web-based configuration management tool and the centerpiece, the Peekabear screen saver. Which is very cute. (We've been promised screenshots and will add them to this story as soon as they arrive). Joey told us that the code was pretty standard Unix code (on the wxWindows [and not Cygnus Windows, as earlier reported] environment), so a Linux and even a Mac OS X port should be trivial. But Windows is on most desktops, and for Peek-A-Booty to work effectively - like SETI - it needs participating nodes, so that's where the numbers are. It's a single threaded architecture right now, and grabs one link at time, but the authors say it runs pretty well on a low-end PII, and the demo proved this. "This will be fixed," they promise. The pair are working on the code full time, so they need funding. There's a basic website, [note the .org TLD - there's erm, booty of the regular kind at the .com] but you'll need to mail the authors to get access to CVS tree. The pair got a tremendous ovation from third day CodeCon attendees, and if it withstands attack, will be a boost for human rights. Bravo. ® Related Stories Censorware outfit targets cDc's anonymity app 'Peek-A-Booty' Will cDc privacy app Peek-A-Booty put users at risk?
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Feb 2002
cable

mmO2 to pioneer mobile IM in Europe

mmO2's Genie mobile internet portal launched an instant messaging (IM) service on Friday. It is the first of Europe's major mobile portals to do so, and likely to also be among the first to support the Wireless Village instant messaging specification unveiled by leading wireless handset makers and others earlier last week. Genie's early support for mobile IM is also typical of the aggressive attitude to new technology adoption of its parent company, London-based BT Group Plc spin-off, mmO2 Plc. Since becoming the first operator to launch a commercial GPRS network service last year, mmO2 has quickly moved to populate its new data network with applications, such as secure corporate email . Although Genie's IM service is not limited to use by GPRS customers, it fits well with the always-on character of GPRS, and is seen by the company as a potentially strong generator of GPRS traffic. Cellnet Ltd, mmO2's UK operating company, will be the first of its five networks to officially promote the Genie service, but the plan is to extend it to mmO2's Dutch, German and Irish customers during the course of the year. When the service reaches Ireland, that market will become the first in Europe to support competing mobile IM services as Genie goes head-to-head with AirCell. In the UK, the Genie service went live on Friday, allowing users of any Cellnet GSM phone to send and receive IM messages free of charge. However, the Genie service is not restricted to Cellnet subscribers - customers of other UK cellphone networks can send and receive Genie IM messages via WAP. The service will also be free to non-Cellnet customers for three months, Genie said, but added that in this initial period, it will "try and identify services that may be chargeable". Indeed, although the Genie IM service is not being called a pilot, in some respects the whole early experience is likely to be a learning curve for Genie, its customers, and its partners - including the principal IM system supplier, OpenWave Systems Inc. According to Nigel Oakley, OpenWave's European director of messaging, although some of the IM systems software supplied to Genie is based on OpenWave WAP and messaging software already in use at the company, the system is still OpenWave's first commercial IM product to go live since it acquired the core software that it is built around with Avogadro, the Seattle, Washington-based telecoms software developer. Doubtless OpenWave's extensive list of other operator customers will be watching its first IM system implementation closely, since there are still several key issues to be resolved in delivering IM over a mobile network, not the least of which are the means to best identify terminal "presence" in a mobile IM community, and then how to most appropriately deliver IM traffic to a user, according to the state of their connection. This is very different from managing IM traffic in a fixed-line world, where an IM user is either online or not. A mobile IM user may be connected to the network, but not available immediately to an IM dialog, and if the same user is connected over a GPRS network, there is the added complication of dealing with the dynamic nature of IP address allocation in 2.5G networks. For instance, said Oakley, although a typical GPRS network user may believe that always-on means they are in a constant state of connection to the network, in reality the network removes their IP address status after a given period of activity. For an IM service, this means incoming IM traffic must be readdressed on the fly, and in a way which reallocates the receiving device's IP address. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 18 Feb 2002

McData wants Brocade to disable hardware

The two giants of SAN switching entered legal combat last week when McData Corp launched a lawsuit apparently aimed at the jugular vein of Brocade Communications Systems, in an effort to blunt a coming assault on its territory, Tim Stammers and Rik Turner write. Alleging a patent infringement, McData says it is determined to force Brocade into disabling key frame filtering functionality within its products, something that could be a major engineering task for its rival company. The suit comes at a critical time for Brocade, and was launched the day after it finally announced that it is poised to ship a key product - its Silkworm 12000 with which it hopes to challenge McData at the high end of the market. That device is already late and Brocade can ill afford to see it slip any further. The happy synchronicity of the suit, and the fact that a McData spokeswoman said she is "not aware of any plans" to launch suits against other companies also involved in frame filtering such as Rhapsody, Confluence, and Maranti, may suggest that the suit is only a feint or delaying tactic. Brocade suggested as much last week, and said it will fight the action "vigorously." It has however already settled one patent lawsuit from McData out-of-court, with a cross-licensing deal signed in 1998. McData declined to make any statements about the timing of its action."Obviously law suits take a while to file. I can't comment on whether it [the timing] was a coincidence," the spokeswoman for McData said. McData - a former subsidiary of the famously aggressive EMC Corp - is however playing it to the hilt and has declared that it is after Brocade's blood, and is not prepared to accept damages, or negotiate a licensing deal. "The outcome we're after is disablement of Brocade's products," a spokeswoman for McData said. That could be very damaging to Brocade. Not only would that involve the SN12000, but also Brocade's SN 38000 mid-range switch, the only shipping hardware from the company to implement the latest 2Gbit version of Fibre Channel. Last week Brocade predicted that these two products will account for 60% of its revenues in its current fiscal quarter. Frame filtering is an emerging and valuable facility, but the real significance of the lawsuit is in the difficulty of removing it from Brocade's products. Brocade is likely to have implemented it in silicon, as McData has done in its initial implementation of the technology. Brocade was last week unable to confirm whether it has chosen the same route, but admitted that the common factor between the 3800 and the 12000 is the ASIC switching silicon. "It would delay the SN 12000 by a minimum of six months, unless there's a way of turning off the frame filtering programatically. Otherwise it could be a huge deal," said Arun Taneja, analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group. Brocade and McData are the two juggernauts of Fibre Channel SAN switching. They have yet to really cross swords, but are set to do so. Each holds around 90% share of their respective markets. For Brocade, that is the market for mid-range switches, and for McData it is the market for high-end large and sophisticated switching devices, known as directors. However Brocade's market is being marginalized. By its own estimates corporate SANs are growing at an average increase of 100 ports per quarter, and as a result its mid-range products are being renamed by some as simply "edge switches." McData already offers these devices, albeit rather tamely, unveiling 16- and 32-port offerings in the fourth quarter of 2000 but, to date, has cornered only 8% of the midrange market by its own admission. If Brocade is to protect its stronghold there, it too needs to offer an end-to-end solution. A delay to the 12000 will give McData more time to whittle away at Brocade's market share. The device was originally promised to ship last year, and rumors that it was suffering development problems attracted a lot of attention from Wall Street last year. Last week, Brocade dismissed the rumors and said it will ship in this quarter. As to how serious a challenge Brocade can mount to McData in the director class, Brocade itself is careful not to refer to the 12000 as a director, not least because its architecture is different, essntially comprising of a multiple of smaller boxes joined together (in fact, it is two of the 64-port switch which, in turn, is really four of the 16-port ones on a blade). It clearly will not debut with all the RAS functionality characteristic of true directors but, as the pundit put it, "some customers for Brocade's low-end switches want to stick with the same supplier as they grow, even though true directors have much greater functionality." Beyond that, the issue is one of OEMs. EMC is still McData's primary customer in that area, say industry sources, with several of the other big players reselling Inrange, so in some sense, if Brocade can leverage its relationships with those other server vendors for its 16-port switches into its higher-end offerings, they might start reselling the 12000 alongside, or even instead of, the Inrange products, giving Brocade greater collective firepower vis-a-vis McData, albeit with a less performant switch. McData denied the claim of one ComputerWire source that prior to its spin-off from EMC in 2000, it had completed joint research with Brocade. This the source said ended with a divorce settlement that divided up the resulting IP, and barred either side from suing for infringement of patents. McData said this version of events may have resulted from confusion over the April 1998 cross-licensing deal signed with Brocade. The source said that even it such a joint development deal were signed it would be very unlikely that Brocade would be stupid enough to welch on it. Indeed, he went on, "this is almost a publicity stunt", opining that "McData still have that EMC mentality of putting winning first. They'll do anything to win business." © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 18 Feb 2002

GOP/Enron satire site threatened

Enron owns the Republican Party in Texas, Webmaster Kelly Fero of EnronOwnsTheGOP.com would like to make clear, just in case anyone doubts that big money puts little men into powerful offices. The site dishes the dirt on the back-channel horse trading between Enron execs and the state's current governor, Rick Perry and his several lieutenants. The state's previous governor, known affectionately as "Shrub" to his local supporters and as "Mr. President" to the rest of us, rates barely a mention, though Enron Chairman Ken "Mr. Fifth Amendment" Lay is one of his closest friends and most enthusiastic boosters. Unfortunately, the critic's site sports a parody of the Texas GOP site's 'official' logo, with the traditional elephant displaying a slanty Enron E in place of its proper Texas-border outline. Otherwise the logos are virtually the same, and this has raised the hackles of the Grand Old Party faithful. Thus the parody site has attracted a 'cease and desist' nastygram from the GOP site's lawyers, demanding that the confusing logo be changed straight away, lest a trademark infringement suit commence. Thus far, however, Fero has shown not the slightest inclination to remove or alter the offending parody logo, and is apparently waiting patiently for the other shoe to fall. Unfortunately for Fero, the Texas GOP is going to have very little financial trouble suing its case, what with all those sacks of Enron money lying about. ®
Thomas C Greene, 18 Feb 2002

PayPal's first day pop

I was dreamin' when I wrote this So sue me if I go too fast But life is just a party And parties weren't meant to last    --Prince "1999" Email payment service PayPal went public Friday and enjoyed the sort of first-day pop we haven't seen since the neurotic-joy days of 1999, when investment bankers got rich cashing out their IPO allocations, and you got poor by taking the hypertrophied shares off their hands a week or two later. Coming out of the blocks at $13, the shares blossomed 55 per cent Friday to close at $20.09, bequeathing the company a $1.2 billion market cap under the professional guidance of Salomon Smith Barney. And this in spite of being sued for copyright infringement by security outfit CertCo, and getting a jolt from Louisiana regulators who have stopped PayPal doing business in their state without a proper bribe license. Not to mention losing $265 million over the past three years, and never once turning a profit, but that's par for the course. Those lucky fatties with their IPO allocations will of course make their guaranteed quick-cash just like in the old days, because in a week or two they'll be unloading the pumped-up shares on the aftermarket where you get to buy them, just like in the old days. And of course you know what happens next. ®
Thomas C Greene, 18 Feb 2002

SafeWeb holes emerge, said fixed

Late last week Boston University's David Martin and the Privacy Foundation's Andrew Schulman released a report demonstrating the ease with which the SafeWeb proxy could be defeated with Javascript. SafeWeb no longer offers its free anonymous Web proxy, but it is licenced to PrivaSec, which is offering the service. It's possible, the researchers found, to learn more about a SafeWeb user's browsing history than that of an ordinary Netizen. The first problem is the way SafeWeb handles Javascript. Rather than disable it, which leads to irritating problems with Web-site functionality, the service uses a re-write engine which strives to render potentially revealing statements harmless. This is done with two modes, 'recommended' and 'paranoid', between which which the user can choose. Both modes, the researchers discovered, can be subverted rather easily, and in 'recommended' mode, "a one-line JavaScript statement is enough to cause a SafeWeb user’s Web browser to deliver its real IP address to the attacker." But wait, there's more. In order to maintain a user's pseudonymous identity, SafeWeb uses a 'master cookie' which, if kept independent of the user's own cookies, ought to provide a layer of pseudonymity. While a Web site can't deposit its usual cookie on a user's machine during a SafeWeb session, the master cookie does accumulate a history of the user's browsing during the session -- a record of all the cookies he's been fed. This is fine so long as the site can't associate that data with the user, or access the cookie and alter its properties. Unfortunately, the master cookie can be attacked, and a lot can be done besides reading it. It's possible to alter it, and in so doing downgrade a person's preferred mode from paranoid to recommended, for example, or to enable Java applets against the user's will. This also has unpleasant implications for SafeWeb's goal of providing anonymity to surfers in neurotic countries like China and Saudi Arabia, where access to information is controlled by a malevolent government, and curiosity can result in a jail sencence. "By obtaining SafeWeb master cookies or session transcripts with our attacks, the censors have increased leverage: they learn not only who uses SafeWeb, but they also learn which sites the users wanted to secretly visit. Inspecting the cookie values might reveal identification numbers possibly keyed to memberships, subscriptions, commercial transactions, or even authentication codes." Another serious problem is cross-frame access. The system uses frames, and normally it's impossible for Javascript to gain access to two or more frames from different domains. But because of the way a SafeWeb session attempts anonymity, the two frames originate from the same domain, rendering this irrelevant. "It is clear that the SafeWeb architecture requires cross-frame access in JavaScript," the researchers say. [emphasis original] Even in paranoid mode, where Javascript is restricted as much as possible, successful attacks have been documented. The authors say, and rightly so, that this comes from allowing statements not known to be dangerous, rather than denying all not known to be safe. Thus there are a number of ways besides Javascript by which a Web site can 'reach' a surfer through a SafeWeb session. For example, "Seemingly-simple HTML statements can induce the browser to launch plug-ins or child processes that bypass the anonymizer. For example, a computer with Adobe Acrobat installed will display PDF files directly within Internet Explorer. But SafeWeb doesn’t sanitize PDF files. So when a user clicks on a URL displayed within a PDF file, Acrobat will directly contact the named host, violating anonymity. Microsoft Office documents can leak information in the same way." SafeWeb has since developed a patch and made it available to PrivaSec and their other licensees. The patch deals with Javascript, and basically allows it to be turned off while enabling the surfer to enjoy reasonable functionality. But it doesn't address the issue of launching documents such as Acrobat and Word in a browser session. So until we hear more, fetching documents is a definite no-no for the paranoid, and the oppressed. ® Related Stories SafeWeb ain't all that Do-it-yourself Internet anonymity Internet anonymity for Windows power users Windows hack for Web-surfing privacy
Thomas C Greene, 18 Feb 2002

The return of the Internet IPO – PayPal shares soar

Shares of PayPal Inc took off following the company's initial public offering Friday, racking up a premium all the more impressive for PayPal being one of the first internet companies to make an IPO since the dot-com crash almost two years ago. Nasdaq-quoted PYPL rose 60%, closing at $20.09. The company offered 5.4 million shares at $13 each, netting about $61m for the usual corporate purposes. Salomon Smith Barney managed the offering. The feat was even more impressive given that PayPal is currently lying under the threat of a court injunction that could shut its entire service down. CertCo Inc, a rival, is suing the firm for patent infringement, and PayPal is expecting a preliminary injunction motion to be filed. Such injunctions are rarely granted. PayPal is a person-to-person and consumer-to-business online payment clearinghouse. Winning bidders in online auctions use the service to email payments to each other. The company charges fees to business users, and earns interest off its consumers' dormant funds. While the firm is arguably the market leader for such services, it faces stiff competition from banks, credit card companies and e-commerce companies, many of which are trying to muscle in on its territory. It also operates in the regulatory minefield of international finance. For a company with few noticeable large capital expenditures, the company managed to secure considerable wedges of cash in its pre-IPO funding rounds. Despite the fact that the company isn't about building fabs, data centers, or laying cable, it still managed to win over $220m - an amount that dwarfs its losses to date by about $40m - in funding from various sources. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 18 Feb 2002

Koreans pump DRAM prices – again

This is usually a time - before and during Chinese New Year - when DRAM prices fall. Not this year. Samsung and Hynix are said to be "entering negotiations with their major buyers" this week to raise contract prices by 15 to 20 per cent, the Korea Times reports. The price rise - if successful - will be the sixth increase since December. And it will take benchmark 128Mb DRAM prices comfortably past the $4 level. It means that the big DRAM makers can start making nice profits again - Samsung is there already (it says its DRAM business went back into the black in January.) Contract prices for DRAM are fixed every two weeks and are based on prevailing prices in the spot market. These are expected to remain at current levels, at least, through to Q3, despite slack demand. Production shifts to higher performance units which require more memory, coupled with reduced output will stabilise DRAM prices, Fechtor Detwiler, the investment forecasts. ®
Drew Cullen, 18 Feb 2002

Sun hits back at IBM with Project Blue-Away

Sun Microsystems has returned fire at arch-rival IBM in the battle for the mid-range server market with an upgrade programme targeted at NUMA-Q users. Project Blue-Away is designed to support the migration of xSeries NUMA-Q solutions to Oracle applications running within Sun's Solaris operating environment on UltraSPARC servers. Its hardware platform, migration services and financial solutions offer xSeries users a more powerful and TCO-focused replacement alternative for the "end-of-life" NUMA-Q platform, Sun claims. Solaris offers customers "porting ease, improved service response times, higher levels of reliability and scalability" than they will get from NUMA-Q servers, according to Sun. "The end-of-life of the xSeries NUMA-Q product line, only two years after IBM acquired Sequent, shows the company's continued lack of commitment to its customers' evolving needs," said Shahin Khan, vice president and chief competitive officer at Sun Microsystems. "According to industry analysts, this represents a $750 million market opportunity for Sun." Sun cites customer wins including Littlewoods and Virgin Atlantic Airways, which have moved from a NUMA-Q operating environment to Solaris. The offer comes at a time of intensified competition in the mid-range server market. Last week, IBtweaked its entry-level pSeries 610 "Colt" servers to better compete against the Sun Fire 280R "Littleneck" servers from Sun. Improvement to the two-way pSeries 610 include the addition of an integrated RAID 5 disk controller on the motherboard, designed to significantly improve the reliability of the server while decreasing the power requirements. ® Related Stories IBM Sequent sequel is NotFinity IBM goes after Sun Fire 280Rs IBM Intel servers '80 per cent cheaper than Dell' Sun peppers low-end with McKinley-killer Jalapeno Sun goes the whole Enchilada AMD Sun fraternity expected to blossom Sun embraces x86 in Linux overture External links NUMA explained (from whatis.com)
John Leyden, 18 Feb 2002

Kiwi judges caught in Net porn inquiry

Women's groups have called for the resignation of a senior New Zealand judge after he admitted viewing adult movies online. Justice Robert Fisher admitted that he accessed the X-rated material some 15 months ago using this computer at work but maintains that what he did wasn't illegal. The high court judge has apologised for what he did and said it won't happen again. However, that has failed to silence critics who claim that the judge's credibility has been damaged and that he must go. A spokeswoman for the Wellington Women's Refuge told Newsroom New Zealand that it would be inappropriate to have a judge with "pro-pornography views" presiding over cases such as rape. And in a new twist it's been revealed that following an internal investigation three district court judges have also been fingered for visiting adult movie sites. Further investigations are currently underway to find out exactly what's been going on. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Feb 2002
bofh_sidey

Salmon Days goes live with PayPal

OK, Salmon Days, our pay-per-view (PPV) live-action BOFH-inspired comedy streaming video epic, now accepts PayPal. Episode One (very funny indeed) costs one measly US dollar. Of course you have to have a PayPal account - that's what PPV means - but previously to watch Salmon Days you had to have a mobile phone and live in either the UK or the US. So why PayPal? It's simple, really. Reverse billing by mobile phone is expensive in the US - there are far too many intermediaries wanting their cut. And the technology is less advanced than in Europe. Also, PayPal is by far the biggest non-credit card online microbilling system in the US , and it works worldwide. Dozens of people have asked us for this option. Happy to oblige -we don't have a fetish over micro-payment systems; so long as enough people use them, we'll try to accommodate them. And yes we are still using reverse SMS billing on mobile phones (which costs you less money), and which, we believe, represents the dominant PPV mechanism of the future. In coming weeks, we hope to roll out reverse SMS billing to other European countries, in conjunction with one of our partners in Salmon Days, culturejam.tv, which does all the technical and billing stuff. ®
Drew Cullen, 18 Feb 2002

Ex-teacher wins Friends Reunited libel case

A retired schoolteacher has won a libel case after a former pupil used the popular Friends Reunited web site to allege that he had been sacked. When Jim Murray, 68, complained Friends Reunited removed the offending posting, but refused to apologise for the remarks made by Jonathan Spencer. Instead, Mr Murray took his case against Mr Spencer to the small claims court – and won after he failed to turn-up. The ex-teacher could walk away with as much as £5,000 in damages but claims that the prospect of a pay-out wasn't behind his actions. "I didn't give 32 years' unblemished service in teaching for someone to do that to me," Mr Murray told the Doncaster Star. "It's not the money, it's the principle that counts. I just want people to know that I was not sacked," he said. A spokeswoman for Friends Reunited said that it takes abuse of the site "very seriously" and claims that instances such as this are "very rare". "If we receive any report of an offending message, it is promptly removed from the site and we review it. On this occasion, we removed the message as soon as practicable after it was brought to our attention," she said. Last year Friends Reunited suspended its bulletin boards after teachers complained that it was being used to post malicious comments by former pupils. ® Related Story Friends Reunited installs libel panic button
Tim Richardson, 18 Feb 2002

One thumb-up for ultra-wideband

The US Federal Communication Commission has given a cautious go-ahead to the operation and marketing of ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. The decision opens the door for the commercial use of UWB technology for short-range, high-speed data communications, and in applications such as radar imaging of objects buried under the ground. UWB devices operate by employing very narrow or short duration pulses which result in very large or wideband transmission bandwidths. With appropriate technical standards, UWB devices can operate using spectrum occupied by existing radio services without causing interference - at least in theory - so squeezing more use out of scarce radio spectrum resources. The technology has great potential but is very much in its infancy. The regulator proposes to closely monitor its interference effects, particularly on federal government operations, prior to introducing more flexible standards, "within the next six to twelve months". In modifying its rules to allow initial, limited use of UWB technology, the FCC is demonstrating caution. "Since there is no production UWB equipment available and there is little operational experience with the impact of UWB on other radio services, the Commission chose in this first report and order to err on the side of conservatism in setting emission limits when there were unresolved interference issues," the Commission said in a statement. Communications devices must operate in frequency bands between 3.1GHz to 10.6 GHz, usage is restricted to indoor operation or peer-to-peer operation using handheld devices. Intel has shown particular interest in the technology, and has already completed a prototype system running at 100Mbps, AsiaBizTech reports. As well as communication devices, UWB devices may find their way into Surveillance Systems, medical systems, Ground Penetrating Radar Systems, Through-wall Imaging technology and even vehicle Radar Systems. The regulations cover restrictions on the use of the technology in these applications. European regulators traditionally take a more cautious view on potential interference, so use of the technology in Europe might lag behind that in the US. ® Related Stories US broadband row gets louder US wireless auction: what a palaver FCC yanks approval from Palm, Handspring wireless PDAs
John Leyden, 18 Feb 2002

Paris Bourse scrutinises Guillemot accounts

Guillemot, the French owner of Thrustmaster games peripherals and Hercules graphics boards, will have to revise its fiscal 2001 accounts, following scrutiny by the Paris Bourse. Nothing life-threatening, it seems - "There was no mistake on our part and no threat of bankruptcy", CFO Christian Guillemot says in an interview with Bloomberg. But it looks like the company's 2001 profits will be cut, following a different treatment of tax gains from loss making units. The company should have been more cautious and booked less of this as profit, the French stock exchange says. So operating profits are unchanged, but considering that Guillemot booked a net profit of only EUR 2.5m for fiscal 2001, which ended last August, it looks like it had a less than storming year. The company is to make a more detailed statement tomorrow, when perhaps we can find out just how much tax gains it's talking about. Still, the games market should pick up this year - good for Thrustmaster products. And the company's new solus retail franchise for ATI high-end graphics boards rebranded as Hercules in Europe - should come in useful for sales. In the UK, where Hercules is the dominant retail graphics brand (53 per cent share in January, according to Chart Track), Guillemot is stepping up for an assault on the OEM market. Today the company announced the signing of RealTime Distribution to handle the wholesale of Hercules ATI boards and some Thrustmaster products for the UK system builder market. ® Related story Hercules waves the ATI flag
Drew Cullen, 18 Feb 2002

Kickme.to wins BSA court search battle

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is vowing to fight on after the Swedish courts denied its request to obtain a civil raid permit on international redirect service, kickme.to. The Appellate Court in Skåne, Sweden upheld Landskrona District Court's decision not to grant a civil raid permit (ex-parte) at the premises of Maximiliam Andersen, kickme.to's administrator. Andersen told us its service, which allows users get free short domain names, is not responsible for any alleged copyright infringement on the part of its members, nor does it provide links or search tools to Warez sites. Content can't be uploaded onto kickme.to servers either, said Anderson, who states he has no control over what content users have on their hompage. Andersen said: "What did the BSA expect to find with a search warrant? They're trying to carry out a fishing expedition. The suit against me is a high profile scare tactic, it's just harassment." He said the BSA should go direct to the hosting firms or ISPs of suspects. Margo Miller, legal counsel for BSA, said the organisation had sought a warrant for a surprise search in order to gain evidence against the service, which she said allows a number of software pirates to maintain a consistent URL, even if they are forced to switch ISP. She said the BSA had sent Andersen numerous notices to disable accounts related to sites infringing copyright but he had failed to comply. Redirect services have a legitimate role, and others comply with the BSA's requests, but kickme.to has ignored numerous notices asking it to disable accounts related to sites infringing copyright, she added. "We're trying to get him [Anderson] to co-operate. We're not trying to closedown kickme.to, we just want Anderson to come into line," she told us. A suit seeking the warrant against kickme.to was filed on behalf of BSA member companies Adobe, Autodesk, Macromedia and Microsoft Corporation. In it kickme.to is accused on aiding software piracy, and point to links from Warez sites to kickme.to in order to back up their case. The courts were unimpressed by these arguments and denied a request for a warrant. After the application was turned down, Anderson was told of the case. In a statement, the BSA expressed disappointment with the court's decision and said it was intent on further legal action against kickme.to. Certainly after such an aggressive legal action the possibility of the BSA and Anderson reaching agreement seems remote. For his part, Anderson is considering a countersuit against the BSA. kickme.to says it is one of the largest domain forwarding services on the Internet with more than over 200,000 members, many of whom come from Germany. The BSA is enjoying better fortune in France, where a Warez gang of six was sent to jail for up to six months and ordered to pay restitution of EUR 40,000 to 19 software companies, ZDNET reports today . ® Related Stories BSA stomps Warez.at Law firm urges caution over BSA piracy forms Vietnam crowned as top software pirate nation MS leaked memo whips up anti-piracy 'national cause' Auction software pirate signs public confession External links kickme.to will stay online (we won the appeal as well)
John Leyden, 18 Feb 2002

Quite Big Iron – new baby IBM mainframe

IBM starts shipping on March 29 a lower-priced, entry-level mainframe designed to make the platform more attractive to medium-sized businesses. The zSeries 800 features Big Blue's Parallel Sysplex clustering technology, enabling the networking of mainframes to improve application availability. The server is designed for applications like server consolidation. Using its z/VM virtualisation technology, the z800 is capable of consolidating as few as 20 or "up to hundreds" of Intel or Sun servers on a single mainframe box. The new system will be available in eight models, as well as a Linux-only mainframe version. They will come in one-way to four-way processor configurations and with 8GB of central memory at standard, which can be increased up to 32GB. The boxen will be outfitted with IBM's "self-healing, self-managing" technologies and HiperSocket technology, which improves memory speed communication between virtual servers. You can read more about the technology and packaged storage add-ons here. Phil Payne, of Isham Research, has had a good look at the performance of the new medium-sized zSeries mainframe (formerly codenamed Raptor), which he reckons offers a base processor speed around 185 MIPS, yielding perhaps 80 to 625 or so MIPS across the range in production. IBM has also announced z/OS.e - a specially priced operating system offering of the zSeries 64 bit operating system, designed for new e-business workloads including WebSphere application server software, DB2 databases and MQSeries applications. IBM makes about a third of its mainframe revenues on licensing its software, which was a bigbarrier for new mainframe deployments. With z/OS.e IBM is charging a tenth of this price (which might compare favourably with Microsoft licensing charges), but this applies only to new applications and smaller deployments, Payne told us. He added that existing mainframe users will end up paying about the same as before because z/OS.e applies to new applications and isn't suitable for mainstream corporate workloads. ® Related Stories: IBM to push cheaper 'Linux-only' zSeries, iSeries IBM profit steady amid revenue decline Server sales down 20% in 2001, may be up in 2002 - IDC IBM doubles secure transaction performance with Zzzseries eLiza asks: what makes you say you want a self-healing server? Sun shows off mainframe chasing 106 chip StarCat Services, ZzzSeries boost IBM figures IBM ships revamped mainframe External links 'Raptor' surfaces - as the z800, from Isham Research IBM's announcement
John Leyden, 18 Feb 2002