27th > February > 2002 Archive

Xerox priesthood suffers Graffitti setback

Xerox has been denied in its attempt to halt Palm from using the notation system Graffitti. Xerox priests claim to have sole legal rights to own the ancient alphabet, citing US Patent No. 5,596,656. Graffiti originated in the Nile Delta 4,000 years ago, where it was first used to record livestock. The name is a corruption of the name "Grafertiti", after the Old Kingdom Queen who first saw its potential for electronic personal organizers. The alphabet survived upstart notations such as DictatedByAngels™ devised by the Elizabethan alchemist John Dee. DictatedByAngels™ was praised for its technical innovation - it involved writing backwards onto a mirror - but users found it cumbersome and it failed to win popular acceptance. Xerox attempted to halt shipment of Palm PDAs and to set a trial date. Palm says the Xerox patent is invalid, and will continue to contest the case being heard in a Rochester, NY court. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2002

Hewlett's “Plan B” gains ground

Walter "Plan-" B Hewlett appears to be winning support for his plan for HP to abandon the Sircam merger, spin-off the printing division, and release Carly somewhere over the Himalayas. An institutional investor, Brandes Investment Partners, likes Hewlett's "spin-off and eject" plan so much it's swinging its voting shares, 1.27 per cent of the eligible votes - against the merger. It's more symbolic than substantial, but it is an ominous sign. If more Wall Street investors warm to the Hewlett alternative, the vote could swing decisively against Fiorina and Capellas. Hewlett's plan is terrific, until you get to the punchline, which involves spinning off HP's printing and imaging division. This would see much of the rest of HP, which is subsidized by the printing revenue, looking highly vulnerable to dismemberment. It's hard to see its PC division lasting too long, for example. But the Wall Street vultures, asset strippers and underwriters who filled their pockets during the bubble economy IPO mania, love a lucrative spin-off. Which is how Hewlett's plan could prove to be so cynically effective. HP's corporate spin took a stumble last week, with a furious ad hominem attack on Walter B Hewlett's inconsistencies. This attack forgot the basic principle (in soccer, anyway) of "take out the ball, not the man". The voters don't really care if Hewlett had a plan last week, and has one this week. They know he won't be running the company. By contrast, Hewlett's tactic of painting huge dollar signs in front of the investors' eyes appears to be one that's far more likely to win mindshare, as it appeals to pure, instinctive greed. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2002
SGI logo hardware close-up

Sun talks two-wave server blade strategy

Sun has outlined its server blade strategy. It's more of a meta-strategy right now, with more "meta" than "strategy", But at least Sun's talking. Product will appear in the second half of this year, in 5x densities, with 15 CPUs in a 3u rack. Sun's director of blades development, Colin Fowles, told us that anything that falls far short of RLX-type densities would be a waste of time. RLX squeezes as many as 24 CPUs into a 3u space, and recently offered Intel-based blades alongside its Crusoe-based offerings. He heaped a bucket of scorn over HP's blade strategy: HP has an ambitious program based on Compact-PCI, but dense it ain't. "HP's blades are far too big: with 16 blades in a 13u box. Compact PCI doesn't give you that density," says Fowles. Sun's blade initiative is two-fold: "wave one" involves getting something out of the door this year, based on Gigabit Ethernet. But Fowles doesn't think a market for "larger business blades," will be mature until 2004, by which time Sun will have Infiniband-based blades. "We'll have Infiniband from the blades to switches, and from the switches to the SAN". Sun doesn't say what processor it's chosen for Wave One, just yet. UltraSPARC II? "We could," says Fowles. Jalapeno, aka UltraSPARCIIIi? "I can't tell you that." Hmmm. Sun says there'll be a redundant shelf service processor with a CPU in the first wave of blades. "It's not a spare blade, it's just a processor over and above a blade," says Fowles. "But it gives you flexibility in administering a shelf" He adds that there'll be two Layer-2 switches, providing a separate Ethernet network for the NAS storage, and separating the blade-to-blade traffic. This sounds like a cabling mess to us, but Fowles said reducing cabling is a priority. "Even RLX's cabling is a mess," said Fowles. RLX actually has a pretty neat connector that carries both power and I/O to the blade, and we can't see how an Ethernet tangle would look any prettier. But Sun blades won't be a host for new management software. "We're not trying to create that," said Fowles, promising that the Sun blades will talk to HP OpenView and other management systems. RLX continues to set the pace however, adding a "Control Tower" management server to its range at the Intel Developer Forum this week. ® Related Stories Compaq rolls out first 'blade' servers Crusoe blade server pioneer picks Intel HP's Blade strategy isn't so dense
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2002

GPL enforcement goes to court for first time in MySQL case

MySQL AB, the originator of the MySQL GPL database, is taking Progress Software Corporation, the corporate parent of NuSphere to court because it continues to distribute a database product that links statically to MySQL's code. The product was originally released without the accompanying source code. The Free Software Foundation's chief legal counsel, Eben Moglen, is set to provide expert testimony in a hearing Wednesday at 2 p.m. in what is the first court test for Richard Stallman's GNU General Public License. (The FSF has issued a press release and a copy of the affidavit.) That's a "garden variety" violation of the GPL, Moglen says. Additionally, "We don't expect to have any problem enforcing the GPL in this situation," says Bradley Kuhn, FSF's vice president. Normally, he says, the Free Software Foundation conducts private enforcement of GPL violations on software that it holds the copyright on. In this case, MySQL retains the copyright on its GPLed apps, and the FSF is simply providing expert testimony in what is expected to be an easily-gained temporary injunction against the further distribution of NuSphere's version of MySQL. NewsForge obtained a copy of the 12-page affidavit Moglen filed in advance of his testimony, and in it he says that he thoroughly tested version 2.2 and 2.3.1 of NuSphere MySQL Advantage, the product that uses Gemini in apparent violation of the GPL. He says that 2.2 violates provision No. 3 of the GPL by not providing source code and only promising that it would be released at a later date. But in his review of 2.3.1 he found "the source code was fully available." He states that he was also able to compile the source code into machine readable language, and that the wording about releasing the source at a later date had been removed from the manual. However, says Kuhn, when NuSphere violated the GPL the first time, it lost its right to redistribute the code in any form, according to provision No. 4 of the GPL. Normally when the FSF privately enforces the GPL, it forgives a company's violation when it corrects the error. However, under the GPL, such forgiveness is not required. MySQL AB has so many other issues with Progress and NuSphere that it is electing to press a case against its adversary. On June 28, 2000, MySQL AB announced it was GPLing MySQL, an Open Source database that is considered the standard by many. At that time, Progress Software happily announced it was forming a company called NuSphere, which was to be the Open Source arm of its formerly all-proprietary business. Progress said that NuSphere would contribute code and up to $2.5 million to further the "progress" of MySQL. NuSphere ended up providing $312,501, according to MySQL AB, before a feud that ripped their collaboration apart. According to MySQL, NuSphere simply forked the MySQL project, created the Gemini software and linked it statically to MySQL code, but didn't release Gemini under the GPL. NuSphere also registered the mysql.org domain, a move that some saw as a slap in the face to the originators of MySQL. For its part, NuSphere says that MySQL has refused to cooperate in the spirit of an agreement they made at the time of the GPLing of MySQL. NuSphere officials say that MySQL AB has refused to accept code changes from NuSphere. Of course, MySQL denies that NuSphere has submitted any code. NuSphere CTO Britt Johnston was unavailable for comment at press time, but in a NewsForge report in July 2001, Johnston said that NuSphere was releasing a version of Gemini under the GPL. The report also included details about another version of Gemini that the company was keep proprietary. "NuSphere will continue to offer Enhanced MySQL that contains a commercially licensed version of the Gemini component that is a bundle of performance, support, and maintenance improvements desirable for deployment of commercial applications," he said. Bruce Perens, founder of the Open Source Initiative, has offered to become a moderator in the case if one is needed. "Moglen will get his injunction," he says. © Newsforge.com. All rights reserved. A Bigger Splash LogoWatch: MySQL swims with the dolphins
Tina Gasperson, 27 Feb 2002

N64 Killed My Son!

A woman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is suing Nintendo for "unspecified damages" after her 30-year old son died during a marathon session on his N64. the unfortunate man died after hitting his head on a table during a seizure while playing with the console. The man first started suffering seizures after buying his N64 in 1999, but he continued playing on the console for anything up to eight hours a day, six days a week, according to an AP report. He played despite the now-standard epilepsy warning which comes with every Nintendo game. This informs players that "some people may have seizures or black outs triggered by light flashes, such as while .. playing video games, even if they have never had a seizure before". The warning adds that "anyone who has had a seizure, loss of awareness, or other symptom linked to an epileptic condition should consult a doctor before playing a video game", and ends by suggesting in big capital letters that you should "stop playing immediately" if you experience any of these symptoms while using the console. It's also hard to see how the woman can seriously expect to sue Nintendo for "her son's lost future earnings" when he was a thirty year old who spent 48 hours a week sat in front of the TV playing Mario. Nintendo denies any responsibility for the death, although in a similar case last year (also in Louisiana) a jury decided that the company "did not provide an adequate warning concerning the risk of seizures". The jury did determine that the console in question (a SNES) "was not unreasonably dangerous in design". Which is nice to know. © Eurogamer.net. All rights reserved
Eurogamer.net, 27 Feb 2002

MS takes a tilt at mid-market CRM

The Microsoft Corp juggernaut is preparing to rumble into the CRM market. The Redmond, Washington-based software giant has unveiled plans for a CRM solution aimed at the small to medium-size business sector. Microsoft CRM, slated to ship in the US in the fourth quarter 2002 with phased shipments outside North America from the first quarter 2003, will provide sales and customer service capabilities plus integration with Great Plains and other Microsoft back office software. The sales force automation aspects will cover areas such as customer tracking and lead management, with rules based workflow to assist with the automation of opportunity management. On the service front the emphasis is on incident routing and problem resolution through "Case Forms" that provide a total view of customer support incidents, a knowledge base of articles and FAQs and a customer portal to enable web-based customer self service. Decision support based on all-round customer views will utilize reporting tools to help with tasks such as sales forecasting and identifying a business' most profitable customers. On the integration front Microsoft Sales and Customer Service modules will work with Microsoft Outlook, enabling users to view customer and account contacts, sales leads, activities, tasks, appointments and email from the Outlook client. They will also integrate with Great Plains back office data such as accounts, contacts, sales orders, payment history and so on. As it stands the offering looks rather basic, restricted to sales and service capabilities with no reference to marketing automation or campaign management. It can also be classified as first generation operational CRM, which focuses on automating internal business processes rather than breaking out into collaborative and analytical functionality. As such it will not present a challenge in the short term to Microsoft's CRM partners such as Pivotal Corp and Onyx Corp, who offer broader based, more sophisticated CRM suites, based around Microsoft technology. However, it is reported that its CRM partners were not aware of its plans to move into the mid range CRM market and its long term strategy. In the longer term there is more of an issue as the Microsoft CRM product will be built on the .NET platform - development moves its partners are also in the midst of making - and will compliment its other mid market business offerings including bCentral Customer Management, iCommunicate, Great Plains Enterprise Field Service, Solomon Field Service and Siebel Front Office. The fact that the CRM suite is to be integrated with the bCentral applications and built for the .NET architecture effectively means Microsoft is adding extensions to its widely used Office suite. With a presence on the vast majority of desktops within SMBs, it has a ready-made customer access point. Other CRM vendors such as Interact Commerce Corp, now owned by UK-based Sage Group Plc, who are not wedded to Microsoft and .NET will also have reason to worry once the Microsoft products are on the street, especially as Microsoft appears to be taking the same successful development route Sage did. Sage built accounting software for the mid market and added functionality, most recently in the form of CRM, through its acquisition of Interact Software. Similarly Microsoft gained access to back office accounting and business management applications through Great Plains and is now adding CRM modules. Sage was tight-lipped about the implications. In a statement it said: "Sage always welcomes competition but we are never complacent. We believe that our strong brand, broad product range and excellent reputation for customer service and support will serve us well in the attractive CRM market, which we entered last year with the acquisition of Interact. We will be watching the development of this new product offering with interest - at the moment there is little to go on regarding price and positioning." In the mid-market the most successful strategy is to provide core business applications such as accounts and add to it as user requirements develop, so it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to adopt this approach. In fact vendors are hurling themselves into the mid market, and for good reason. Research house Jupiter Media Matrix estimates that the purchases of CRM, e-commerce and financial management applications by small to medium size businesses will grow from $971m in North America in 2001 to $3.4bn in 2006. No vendor dominates the lucrative mid ground. Microsoft CRM will not impact the high end packaged CRM vendors such as SAP AG, PeopleSoft Inc and Oracle Corp, who all have broad, strong, highly developed suites, because Microsoft is not targeting this end of the market. They will clash to a degree in the mid market however, as the high end enterprise vendors are all keen to take a piece of this. But while they are targeting the top-end medium to larger mid-range players, Microsoft is going after the lower end, the small to medium businesses. Aberdeen Group believes that Microsoft is redefining what CRM and ebusiness is about, maintaining that its Passport, .NET and .NETMy Services (formerly known as Hailstorm) are set to change the rules of the CRM game. In Aberdeen's view Microsoft's aim is to become a supplier of Internet based applications and services, providing the key technologies, architecture, services and business partnerships needed to do business on the web. Where most vendors supply full CRM or point products within CRM such as sales force automation or campaign management, Microsoft supplies infrastructure level software and applications to support those CRM applications, and has a presence on the vast majority of SMB desks with its Office suite of applications. With Great Plains it gained basic accounting and business management software - traditionally core applications for SMBs - and is now branching out to front office applications in the form of CRM. By building them on the .NET platform it adds to the software as services phenomenon, positioning itself to offer the infrastructure, the application and the applications as a service. The move to break away from packaged software business models is significant. It is what .NET is all about, and Microsoft is not alone in pursuing the alternative software as a service business model. Oracle Corp is aggressively pushing the model, particularly in the mid market, and PeopleSoft is also developing its ASP channel. Salesforce.com, a relatively new but highly successful builder of enterprise CRM applications, delivers them as an online service. It has 3,800 customers and tripled its revenues last year. Commenting on Microsoft's CRM activities, Fergus Gloster, VP marketing and business development for Europe said: "It highlights we are in the right market sector and functional areas. The approach is radically different." He has concerns with how Microsoft is implementing the technology. " [Customers are] still looking at a SQL Server base, it requires a technology stack," he said. "Our view of software as a service is that when you build a building, you don't own the water or the utilities, you don't care how they get there, so long as they provide the solution. In relation to CRM, [with Microsoft] you still have to buy the hardware and software." Microsoft bought Great Plains 15 months ago and this is the first significant announcement it has made regarding its $1.1bn acquisition. But the success of the Great Plains and CRM plans are reliant on the still largely undefined .NET platform. CRM vendors need to keep watch, but they do have time to devise Microsoft workarounds. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 27 Feb 2002

Roll up for the Enron auction webcast

Seeing everybody else has been doing the Enron auction and all the shredder jokes we weren't going to bother, but our eye couldn't help catching the featured items in the London sale, and it all became somehow entrancing. The shredders, BBC Radio 4 tells us this morning, have been withdrawn, but... 50 Cisco routers and switches? Who cares, 500 Compaq and Sun servers, maybe more interesting, and 4,000 15 and 18in flat panel displays. Yum. We can't be bothered digging into the catalogue to see if the 2,000 workstations are proper ones or just more Compaqs, but then the list gets seriously weird. "Fully equipped Techno Gym... Contents of Cafe and 12 Pitstops... [Pitstops? Wassat?]... Contents of laundy [eeugh]... 15 Meeting Rooms 6-40 people [people? They're auctioning people?] ... 50 Modern Artworks." Hurry hurry folks, it commences at 10am GMT today through Friday, and if you can't get yourself to London, SW1, you'll find details of the webcast here. ®
John Lettice, 27 Feb 2002

How to TiVO-ize your PC

IDFIDF TiVO-like time shifting capabilities have come to the PC. At the Intel Developer Forum, Rakesh Agrawal, CEO of thirteen-man SnapStream, took his PVS software through its paces for The Register's pleasure. It does two clever things. First it does the job of a DVR (digital video recorder) like a ReplayTV or a TiVO, complete with the electronic program guide. Secondly it streams live or recorded streams to a portable device across an 802.11 network. This was why SnapStream was on the Compaq booth: the client in question was the iPaq. PVS can also burn shows to a DVD, so you can record them on your PC, and then veg out on the sofa in front of a real TV set. The PVS records using a range of compression ratios, including "VHS" at 1.2 mbit/s, and "near DVD" at 2.2 mbit/s. Agrawal said SnapStream plans to launch the service for around $5 a month. You'll need a TV capture card, but it interfaces to cable or satellite. Snapstream recommends a Pentium III 700Mhz or higher to encode the streams, although a Pentium 4 at 1.4Ghz is "comfortable". The downside is that it's heavily biased towards Windows users at the moment, and will use .NET as the infrastructure. "Windows Media has the richest SDKs for third parties. The player is already on a lot of desktops," Agrawal said. Support for DiVX was in earlier versions, and Agrawal promised it will be restored. He saw little pull for Real and QuickTime formats, however. He acknowledged concerns about using Passport authentication and Hailstorm (official called .NET MyServices), but said that the Liberty Alliance wasn't sufficiently mature to offer an alternative. A more likely authentication mechanism will be home grown. "As we continue to grow, we'll probably do a Mac version. But right now the numbers aren't there. And we hear a huge demand for a Linux version." "We anonymize our data. It can't be traced back to you. Once you start contemplating selling personal information to third parties you're on a slippery slope," he told us. Snapstream isn't going to be the death of TiVO, which is specifically designed for the living room, for playback on a conventional TV. But it's likely to attract similar early adopters, and looks very impressive indeed. You can find more here. Update: Several of you have pointed out that SnapStream, isn't unique, and does exactly what ShowShifter does. "And ShowShifter doesn't have that Paranoid Ass. of America DRM crap around it," writes one happy ShowShifter. We hope to compare the two real soon now, although - horror of horrors - that was mean we'd have to WATCH SOME TV. The things we do for you, dear readers ... ®
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2002

Bulldog calls for LLU cost cuts

Bulldog Communications – one of a handful of companies actively involved in local loop unbundling – has warned that BT’s decision to slash the cost of wholesale DSL could snuff out competition. Bulldog warned that unless there were "equally aggressive cuts in wholesale costs for LLU operators like Bulldog, it is unlikely that there will be any wholesale DSL competition". "The result would mean no choice, no differentiation in service offerings, and further monopolistic control of the broadband DSL market by BT. The best long term interests of 'Broadband Britain' will not be served if there is only one provider of DSL broadband services," said Bulldog in a statement. It’s already approached telecoms regulator, Oftel, for assurances that LLU costs will also fall so that it can offer an alternative to BT’s wholesale DSL service. When quizzed on the issue a spokeswoman for telecoms regulator, Oftel, said: "If BT has found room to reduce [wholesale DSL] charges then LLU costs should also come down." Elsewhere, Sheffield-based ISP PlusNet has said it plans to cut the price of its consumer DSL service to £25.99 (inc VAT) a month. And Freeserve has confirmed it’s dropping its price to £29.99 a month from April 1. ® Related Story BT slashes wholesale DSL costs
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2002

BT Openworld announces broadband price cut

Britain’s biggest broadband ISP – BTopenworld – is to cut the cost of its consumer DSL service by £10 to £29.99 a month. Today's announcement by BTopenworld comes hard on the heels of yesterday’s news that BT Wholesale is to lower the wholesale cost of DSL to under £15 a month. The ISP also finally announced plans to introduce a self-install version of its DSL product. Called "Plug & Go" (remind anyone of a hair-care product?) the new self-install product will be available from March 5. And as part of a special offer it says it will waive the £65 activation charge for orders received up to May 31. Some industry watchers might be surprised that BTopenworld didn’t announce a more aggressive retail price for its product. Oh well. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2002

Freeserve in dial-up price rise, fall, soft-shoe shuffle?

The UK’s biggest ISP, Freeserve, could be about to increase the price of its flat-rate narrowband service. Or not. We’ve received an anonymous tip-off that from next week the price of Freeserve’s flat rate dial-up service will increase by £1 to £13.99 a month. Of course, not wishing to print any old rumour we contacted Freeserve for their response. We were sent this: "If ever we decide to adjust our prices - up, down, sideways, back to front, in yen, Euros or dollars - our customers will know about it from us, and that's the way it should be." And here’s us expecting a flat denial - or at worst, a "no comment". Oh well. Last month Freeserve chief exec, John Pluthero, told the FT that the company was looking at its pricing although he said no decision had yet been made. However, he said that all pricing pressure in the market was "upwards" and that he’d be surprised if there weren’t price rises from a number of ISPs this year. His comments, of course, were made before Oftel announced plans to impose a price cut on the wholesale cost of unmetered dial-up Net access. ® Related Story Oftel acts to cut UK Net access charges
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2002

AMD shows Hammer outside Intel show

IDF-ishIDF-ish Advanced Micro Devices Inc showed off prototypes of its x86-64 Hammer technology yesterday even as Intel Corp failed to dampen speculation that it is developing a similar hybrid technology,Joe Fay writes. AMD's Hammer technology is designed to support both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems and applications and yesterday the vendor for the first time publicly demonstrated Hammer chips running Windows XP and a 64 bit version of Linux. The demonstration was held just a few blocks away from the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. The Sunnyvale, California-based company expects to launch a desktop version of the processor by the end of the year, with mobile and server versions following in the first half of 2003. The core of the processor will be the same in the mobile, desktop and server versions, although the amounts of level 2 cache will vary. The Hammer design features an integrated DDR memory controller, which runs at the same frequency as the core. The chip uses the Hypertransport interconnect technology championed by AMD. Mark Tellez, AMD's manager for platform solutions and market development, reiterated the vendor's thesis that customers would rather back a platform that enables them to run existing 32-bit software natively as well as 64 bit software, rather than Intel's 64-bit only Itanium platform. Hammer will offer customers three operating options, he said: in 32-bit mode, users can run 32-bit applications on a 32-bit operating system; in compatibility mode, 32-bit apps will be able to run under the control of a 64-bit operating system without the need to recompile; thirdly, to fully exploit the platform's 64-bit capabilities, applications can be ported across to 64-bit. Fred Weber, CTO for AMD's computation products group, said that porting the Linux OS to Hammer's 64-bit mode had been "fairly easy", although final validation would require further work. So far the vendor has not secured any commitment from Microsoft that Windows will be ported to Hammer's 64 bit mode, although Tellez said the software giant had received the specs for the platform and had provided feedback. The vendor has yet to secure vendor support for the platform, although with almost a year to go until the platform ships it is still fairly early days. Sally Stevens, director of product marketing for Compaq's density optimized servers described Hammer as "definitely exciting" but said the decision to support the architecture would turn on how robust the part's chipset set support was. When it announced its Hammer strategy, AMD appeared to taking a radically different approach to Intel, whose Itanium chip represented a definitive break with IA 32. However, recent reports claimed Intel is developing its own hybrid architecture, codenamed Yamhill, which runs both 32 bit and 64 bit software. This week Intel CEO Craig Barrett refused to confirm or deny the existence of Yamhill, citing the vendor's policy of never commenting on products it has not officially announced. However, OEMs at the show confirmed they have been at least talking with Intel about its plans for a 64 bit platform that offers continuity with IA 32. Even if Intel does follow through on a hybrid strategy, it will likely be some way behind AMD. This could fit in nicely with the launch of Montecito, the 90 nanometer Itanium platform which Intel's enterprise chief Mike Fister revealed on Monday, and which is scheduled for release in 2004. Fister said Montecito would feature "all kinds of amazing stuff" in terms of evolutions to the microarchitecture. One of these could well be the extension of hyperthreading to Itanium. However, given the time ramp to the launch of Montecito, the vendor may also exploit this to take the opportunity to rebridge the gap with its IA32 heritage. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved. Tom's Hardware: exclusive Hammer pics
ComputerWire, 27 Feb 2002

Morse hit by slow server sales in 2001

Poor sales of servers at Hewlett-Packard Co and Sun Microsystems Inc caused Morse Group Plc, Europe's largest server reseller, to report a large drop in revenue in the second half of 2001. In the six months to December 31, the Brentford, UK-based company made a net loss of £6.1m ($8.7m) compared to a gain of £8.3m ($11.8m) in the year-ago period. Revenue fell 26.6% to £226m ($320.9m), which was largely due to a 34.4% drop in its hardware reselling business to £175.1m ($248.6m). Revenue from sales of HP and Sun servers fell by 39% and 44% respectively during the period. There were two bright points for Morse. The IBM server reselling operation that it set up in 1999 increased revenue by 69% during the half year, and its professional services division, which now accounts for 22.5% of total revenue, grew sales by 23.8% to £50.9m ($72.3m). It said it was winning IBM server market share from rival resellers. Richard Lapthorne, chairman, said that business volumes have been "stable" since December, and that the company has started to see some new project activity from its clients. He said: "It is clearly too soon to forecast a recovery in the sector, and we view the remainder of our financial year with cautious optimism." © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 27 Feb 2002

This week's bunch of fives from IT-Minds

This week's discounted bunch of fives from Reg associate IT-minds bookstore features Software for your head by Jim McCarthy and Michele McCarthy. The book represents a new approach to creating software teams that ship and produce software on time, every time. Sounds good. It normally sells at £30.99, but Reg readers can, for this week only, get it at £24.79 - a cool 20 per cent off. The other hot titles are: Hack I.T. - Security through Penetration Testing Maya 4 Fundamentals The Unified Process Explained Stroustrup's C++ Programming Language And, as ever, each and every week IT-minds offers readers 10 per cent off a range of IT books, and a further 10 per cent off the "bunch of fives" featured titles.
Lester Haines, 27 Feb 2002

Firm adds bandwidth management into the WLAN mix

Bluesocket is aiming to make wireless LANs both secure and easier to manage by offering policy enforcement and bandwidth management features on its line of wireless gateway devices. The company, which is touring Europe recruiting resellers this week, is promoting its flagship product, the WG-1000, as a means of offering secure mobility as WLANs are rolled out throughout an enterprise. Flaws in the WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) protocol have been well publicised and recently the security of the 802.1X standard, which is backed by Cisco, has come under the microscope. Martin Cassidy, vice president of marketing at Bluesocket, said that deployment of wireless LANs is taking off but must be backed by education about best security practices to prevent drive by hacking becoming even more of a menace. "Users don't appreciate how insecure wireless LANs can be. WEP has been cracked and 802.1X is likely to be cracked. Its very difficult to say anything but IPSec is secure," Cassidy said. The WG-1000 supports IPSec network level encryption, but differs from VPN boxes in that it allows users to roam between sub-nets. VPN products do not support PPTP (Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol), unlike the WG-1000, and so can not provide better security to handheld personal organisers (PDAs), Bluesocket argues. Bluesocket provides role-based access control by which users can be authenticated against a local database (for standalone operation) or an existing corporate database through a username/password log-on combination. The WG-1000, which sits between an enterprise's wireless access points and its corporate LAN, manages the authorisation process allowing different categories of users to be given access to different parts of the network. Bluesocket's role-based approach enables different levels of access control, encryption and Class of Service to be assigned to different individuals or groups of people accessing the wireless LAN. For example, visitors to a corporation may be allowed to access the Internet at only low data rates. Configured by using a Web interface, Bluesocket's WG-1000 Wireless Gateway allows for the central management of a WLAN containing both 802.11b and Bluetooth access points. The WG-1000 is also compatible with future WLAN standards, such as 802.11a, 802.11g. Early adopters of Bluesocket's technology include KPMG Consulting. ® Related stories 802.1X can be toppled 'like set of dominoes' Cisco and MS team on wireless security RSA supplies answer to drive-by hacking? Secure the Wireless Network firmware Tool dumbs down wireless hacking Rogue WLANS - the next security battlefield? Wireless security is even flakier than we thought War driving by the Bay
John Leyden, 27 Feb 2002

Reg editor struck by lightning

The day-to-day news business at Vulture Central today suffered an unforeseen glitch when editor John Lettice's house in Normandy was struck by lightning. Mr Lettice was on news editing duties while in France and had just finished perusing a hot networking story by firebrand John "Lips" Leyden when disaster struck. "I felt a tingling, and then the next thing I remember was coming round to find myself lying on the floor, my fromage baguette burnt to a cinder and my glass of Chablis completely evaporated," said a shaken Lettice. Mercifully, John is expected to make a full recovery, although his laptop is said to be "extremely poorly". ®
Lester Haines, 27 Feb 2002

Intel scales back RDRAM for Xeon workstations

IDFIDF Intel is to drop support for Rambus RDRAM memory in new Xeon workstations, according to a roadmap obtained by EBN's Jack Robertson. The chip giant will instead use a Placer chipset with DDR memory for DP Xeon workstations and a Granite Bay DDR chipset for single processor versions. These replace RDRAM-supporting 860 and 850 chipsets in the workstation line-up, and the switch is slated to take place in the second half of this year, according to Robertson's roadmap. But the news is not entirely bad - the next versions of the 850 and 860 chipsets - "not new products", according to Robertson - are out in the second-half of the year and will support a 533MHz front-side bus and RDRAM. So, in other words, Intel Architecture workstation OEMs can continue to deploy RDRAM-based Intel solutions, albeit with "not new products". No News is Good News It had been going all so so well for Rambus in recent days: the company this week demoed the world's highest PC bandwidth memory module design at IDF, the RIMM 4200, and also a new, with share prices jumping at the news for the former stock market darling. Shortages in the DDR spot market in recent have seen prices sometimes match and even surpass historically more expensive RDRAM; all is quiet on the legal front. Intel is being nice to Rambus in public. Jeff Austin, marketing manager for Intel desktops, told journalists this week that RDRAM remains the best performance option for client-side PCs, certainly through to the end of the year. And Tom's Hardware, one of the company's fiercest critics in the technology review world, this month published a revised and much more favourable opinion of Rambus and RDRAM technology. But then Robertson drops his bombshell. We guess that Rambus was already aware of Intel's plans re workstations - it's clear to everyone that its major customer is pigeonholing RDRAM on the PC and server side for high-end desktops only. On the bright side, RDRAM remains in favour with Intel's ever-expanding family of network processors. But it would have been nice for the company and shareholders to have had a slightly longer run of good news. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2002

Morpheus goes to sleep – users locked out

Users of file swapping service Morpheus arelocked out of the service because technical problems. MusicCity Morpheus blames the problems on incompatibilities between it's the way its network works and a fresh release of software provided by Fast Track software, the KaZaA Media Desktop v1.5, which was released on February 11. Fast Track's code is used by KaZaA.com and Grokster as well as MusicCity's Morpheus system. The software upgrade happened unexpectedly, according to MusicCity Morpheus, which said KaZaA Media Desktop is "currently incompatible with Morpheus". "We share our Morpheus users' frustration with this action and are committed to getting you back up on the network as soon as possible. As a result, we are accelerating the release of our new Morpheus software and within days expect Morpheus users to enjoy the Morpheus Preview Edition," a statement by MusicCity Morpheus states. In a dig at other networks, MusicCity Morpheus added: "unlike other peer-to-peer networks, we remain committed to a free software product without spy ware." The announcement would appear to signal a break between MusicCity Morpheus and Fast Track, the bulk of whose assets were recently acquired by Australian firm Sharman Network Services. When, and in what form, Morpheus Preview Edition will be delivered remains unclear. The situation is complicated by the record industry's legal action against Kazaa and Grokster and Steam Cast Networks, which provides the technology behind MusicCity Morpheus. The music companies argue that the services are adding copyright piracy. Their action will be heard in a Los Angeles Federal Court on March 4. ® Related stories Morpheus application is 'safe' Ala-KaZaA-m! KaZaA ordered to cease infringing copyright Get your filthy hands off my CDs Popular file-share utilities contain Trojans
John Leyden, 27 Feb 2002

Intel outs Prescott, demos 4GHz desktop

IDFIDF Intel is to introduce hyperthreading to the desktop next year with Prescott, the codename for the next major iteration of desktop class Pentium 4s. Prescott is slated to ship in volume the second half of 2003 and is to be built using the as-yet-unintroduced 90nm manufacturing process, Intel veep Louis Burns revealed today at The Intel Developers Forum (IDF). Intel is working with the software industry to ensure that apps are available to take advantage of hyperthreading when Prescott is introduced. The "base platform" for Prescott will incorporate integrated wireless networking, gigabit ethernet, USB 2.0 and Serial ATA. Prescott will see Intel also "continue to drive to integrated graphics, Burns says. However, he was not in aggressive mode - the company wants to work closely with discrete graphics partners. During Burns' keynote, a 4GHz P4 was demoed, using admittedly "exotic" cooling technology. Although not explicitly stated, this is the kind of speed we can expect to see with Prescott, considering that a 3GHz air-cooled demo P4, outed at Intel CEO Craig Barrett's demo on Monday, is expected to ship at the back end of this year. The announcement of the base or concept platform for Prescott, marks a new development for Intel. The company says it will introduce PC concept platforms in future at each IDF Spring. This will be supported by the full publication of specs at IDF Fall, with the intention of shipping product for the following IDF spring. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2002

Tiny fallout: 130 jobs on line at Inkfish

Around 130 call centre jobs are at risk in Redhill, Surrey, following the buyout of Tiny Computers by Time Computers. Inkfish supplied technical helpdesk support services for Tiny Computers. But following the PC maker’s buy-out by Time last month the contract to supply tech support is under review. A decision on whether Time will renew the contract is expected at the end of March. A spokeswoman for Domestic & General – the domestic appliance breakdown insurance and related services outfit which owns Inkfish - confirmed today that the future of the Tiny account was in doubt and that the company had entered a consultation period with 130 of its staff. But she said the company "remained optimistic" about the future and insisted that even if the contract was not renewed there was "new business on the horizon". ® Related Story Time rescues Tiny
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2002

Intel outs Banias, mobilises notebook designers

IDFIDF Intel today demoed Banias, the codename for its latest class of mobile processors, together with the tweaked- for-mobiles Odem chipset, for the first time at IDF. Shipping in the first half of next year, Banias marks the next generation of P4 processor technology for notebooks. The first iteration of P4 technology for mobiles, the P4-M, will run at "greater than 1.5GHz "speed; other P4-M spec teasers include: incorporation of a version of the Intel 845 chipset; 400MHz FSB and 266MHz DDR support. It's built using the 0.13micron manufacturing process and it's housed in micro flip chip pin array packaging. But when will the P4-M launch - as early as next week, according to CRN. Notebooks utilising the new chips will see a huge, but unspecified improvement in battery life, with power consumption reduced by 50 per cent, when compared with their PIII-M counterparts, Anand Chandrasekher, Intel's mobile veep, said. In his keynote speech, Chandrasekher pointed out that notebook sales had risen five or six per cent in 2001 in spite of a very difficult market. The sweet spot in the "hyper-segmented" notebook market is for thinner and lighter units, in which performance is not compromised. The emerging trend of wireless connectivity - characterised by Intel as "Anytime Anywhere" - is a new inflection point for notebooks, representing a major opportunity for Intel and its customers, Chandrasekher says. With broadband to the desktop, people change the way they use their PCs - "they integrate (them) into their lifestyles," according to Chandrasekher. The same change is seen in people with wireless notebooks, he reckons. The challenge for the industry is to improve what Chandrasekher terms the "vectors of mobility" - lower power consumption; longer battery life; better, easier to use, more secure wireless connectivity; improved performance. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2002

Big things come in little (Intel) form factors

IDFIDF Intel today announced two new small PC form factors, codenamed Tidewater and Big Water, for OEMs. These are intended to help system builders produce small footprint PCs without any sacrifice in performance. Tidewater incorporates a Micro ATX board and is out in April and is a nine liter box - at least that's what we think Louis Burns, Intel's desktop platform veep, said in his IDF keynote today. Big Water comes out in 2003 - it's a six liter box and it incorporates 3GIO interconnect technology. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2002

Woz blesses Captain Crunch's new box

John Draper, the man better known as legendary phone phreak Captain Crunch, is soon to debut the fruits of recent labors: a box designed to thwart hackers. Crunch played a pivotal role in the phone underground thirty years ago, and paid for it with two spells in the clink. Crunch got his name by discovering that a plastic whistle included in a popular breakfast cereal perfectly reproduced the 2600Hz frequency which unlocked the AT&T phone network. Draper was also the inspiration for the first micro pioneers: Apple co-founders Wozniak and Jobs sold a Blue Box phone from their Berkeley dorm. But the Crunchman, now 58, is happy to play gamekeeper. The new CrunchBox is a dedicated Pentium III system, running a tweaked version of the secure OpenBSD operating system, and it fits in a 1U rack shelf. It uses the popular Snort IDS, but with added custom-written heuristics. New exploits can be identified, and authenticated rules sent back to the box within half an hour, Crunch tell us. A final price hasn't yet been set, but Crunch says the box will offer similar functionality to $8,000 boxes on show at the RSA conference last week, for considerably less money. He's confident enough to put a public version of the new CrunchBox on line, and that confidence is justified, according to his old friend Steve Wozniak. "He's devoted his life to it for the last few years," Woz told us. Over lunch after CodeCon recently, Draper modestly played down his own involvement in the phone underground, which he said began when one night, when he received a random phone call from a hacker. "It was going on before I got involved," he told us. Over a meal and CodeCon, Draper recounted the story of how he and Woz had dialed the Vatican. It was 4am, and Woz wanted the Pope. Draper recalls the conversation. "'Is the Pope there? I'm calling from California, and I need to confess!'". Woz laughs when we tell him the anecdote. Did this reallyhappen? "I've heard that story so many times," he says, "and read it so many times. So I guess it must be!" But Woz credits Draper as a true technical pioneer. "He perhaps didn't have the skills of social engineering of someone like Kevin Mitnick, but he did discover a huge amount of technical information himself, the codes and switches," all of which undoubtedly helps secure the new CrunchBox. The online demo is available at the ShopIP com. and Crunch's own website, which collects many stories about his life and deeds, is here. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2002

New York Times internal network hacked

Security holes in the New York Times internal network left sensitive databases exposed to hackers, including a file containing Social Security numbers and home phone numbers for contributors to the Times op-ed page, SecurityFocus Online has learned. In a two-minute scan performed on a whim, twenty-one-year-old hacker and sometimes-security consultant Adrian Lamo discovered no less than seven misconfigured proxy servers acting as doorways between the public Internet and the Times' private intranet, making the latter accessible to anyone capable of properly configuring their Web browser. "The very first server I looked at was running an open proxy," says Lamo. "The server practically approached me." Once on the newspaper's network, Lamo exploited weaknesses in the Times password policies to broaden his access, eventually browsing such disparate information as the names and Social Security numbers of the paper's employees, logs of home delivery customers' stop and start orders, instructions and computer dial-ups for stringers to file stories, lists of contacts used by the Metro and Business desks, and the "WireWatch" keywords particular reporters had selected for monitoring wire services. But measured by sheer star power, the hack is most notable for Lamo's access to a database of 3,000 contributors to the Times op-ed page, the august soap box of the cultural elite and politically powerful. The roster includes Social Security numbers for former U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler, Democratic operative James Carville, ex-NSA chief Bobby Inman, Nannygate veteran Zoe Baird, former secretary of state James Baker, Internet policy thinker Larry Lessig, and thespian activist Robert Redford, who last May authored an op-ed on President Bush's environmental policies. Entries with home telephone numbers include Lawrence Walsh, William F. Buckley Jr., Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Rush Limbaugh, Vint Cerf, Warren Beatty and former president Jimmy Carter. The database includes details on contributors' areas of expertise and what books they've written, and the odd note on how easily they succumb to editing or how much they were paid. Lamo notified the Times of the vulnerabilities Tuesday through a reporter, and provided them with a list of the open proxies. In a statement, a spokesperson for the paper said the Times takes security "very seriously." "We are actively investigating a potential security breach," wrote Times spokesperson Christine Mohan. "Based on the results of this investigation we will take appropriate steps to ensure the security of our network." Hacker's Helpful History Adrian Lamo has built an unusual reputation exposing security holes at large corporations, then voluntarily helping them fix the vulnerabilities he exploited -- sometimes visiting their offices or signing non-disclosure agreements in the process. In December, Lamo was praised by communications giant WorldCom after he discovered, then helped close, security holes in their intranet that threatened to expose the private networks of Bank of America, CitiCorp, JP Morgan, and others. In September, the hacker used a vulnerable Web-based production tool to tamper with a wire service story on Yahoo! News, deliberately choosing an old story to minimize the impact. The hacker professes relief at discovering that the Times intranet afforded him no similar opportunity to modify stories in the paper's print edition, without clearing human hurdles in the Times editorial process. "It's really better for everybody if the New York Times has the ability to runs something unusually every now and then without people checking it for my writing style," says Lamo. The newspaper's public Web site -- the target of a high-profile defacement in 1998 -- is outsourced, and wasn't affected by the vulnerabilities. Privacy Concerns Lamo says he began his excursion at a proxy in the Times home delivery department and scanned the newspaper's IP address range for Web servers. "The proxy was on a different network, dealing with management of subscription information, but it was trusted by their internal network," says Lamo. He quickly found the intranet homepage, and an unprotected copy of a database that cataloged employees' names and Social Security numbers. "From what I've been able to tell, it was a backup database being used for research." Armed with that information, the hacker could use the intranet account of any employee that hadn't changed their password from the default -- the last four digits of the person's Social Security number. One of those belonged to a worker that had the power to create new accounts, so Lamo set up his own account on the network with higher privileges. From there, it was a short hop to the op-ed database. "This is sort of a situation where security and privacy intersect," says David Sobel, an attorney with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). "One of the concerns with the online availability of personal information is the lack of security that often surrounds those kinds of systems... There's an ethical obligation to protect this data, given the harm that can result in the form of identity theft from obtaining a Social Security number." This isn't the first time personal information on the rich and powerful has been compromised by weak network security. One year ago, anti-globalization hackers penetrated a database maintained by the World Economic Forum, and downloaded similar data on attendees of the group's summit on global economic trends in Davos, Switzerland, including Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, South African President Thabo Mbeki and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. But with the Times hack Lamo may have gone one better. Rather than merely crossing the information wake left by the elite, Lamo says he actually joined their ranks, creating his own entry in the 'L' section of the Times database, complete with his real name, cell phone number, and email address. In the space set aside for a description of the contributor's expertise, Lamo wrote, "Computer hacking, national security, communications intelligence." © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved. Related Stories Lamo strikes again: WorldCom @Home's mis-configured proxy Excites hacker
Kevin Poulsen, 27 Feb 2002