19th > March > 2002 Archive

Canada mulls blank CDR, MP3 player tax

The Canadian government is mulling copyright levy proposals which will see a royalty charge of CAN$1.23 imposed on each blank CDR, and CAN$100 added to each MP3 player sold in the country. Lobbying for the changes is the Canadian Private Copying Collective, a representative of music companies and publishers. It is pressing for new royalty lines, bringing blank CDRs and MP3 players into line with other recording media, such as audiocassettes which already carry a levy to compensate for their use in copying music. It also wants paying on "blank DVDs, flash memory cards, MP3 players with internal hard drives and other media that could be used to store music", the Globe and Mail reports. But hang on a mo - approx. 100m blank CDs are sold a year, of which 44million a year are used in home-ripping, according to the Canadian Private Copying Collective's own figures, the Globe And Mail notes. So why should the levy be applied on all CDs, the majority of which is used in IT? No, we can't work that one out, either. And what about the pirates who store stolen movies on CD. Shouldn't the movie industry get a slice of the pie? If the Canadian music industry gets its way, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young will get even richer, while electronic shops will get poorer, as Canadians, where they can, buy hardware and recording media from across the border. There is still everything to play for: The Copyright Board, the Canadian government body which decides such things, is mulling over the new copyright tax proposals. It's taking soundings from interested parties, with hearings starting on May 23. If the music industry wins, the new copyright tax rates will come into effect in 2003, lasting until 2004, end. It's not going to happen, is it? Canadian readers can voice your complaints through this online petition. Or you can email directly to The Copyright Board here. You can also write in: the snail mail address is - Copyright Board Canada Suite 800 - 56 Sparks Street Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C9 The deadline for submission is May 8. Good luck. ®
Drew Cullen, 19 Mar 2002

eBay hacker trashes bail with caps-lock defence

Accused eBay hacker Jerome Heckenkamp is back behind bars tonight, after his first solo court appearance in front of his trial judge took an odd turn. During what was to be a routine proceeding to set future court dates, Heckenkamp challenged the indictment against him on the grounds that it spells his name, Jerome T. Heckenkamp, in all capital letters, while he spells it with the first letter capitalized, and subsequent letters in lower case. Last week, Heckenkamp, 22, fired attorney Jennifer Granick, and co-counsel Marjorie Allard, in order to personally defend himself against two federal grand jury indictments charging that he cracked computers at eBay, Lycos, Exodus Communications, and other companies in 1999. It was the second time Heckenkamp fired his lawyers -- in January, he had a federal magistrate appoint him as his own counsel, only to change his mind the same day. At Monday's appearance, Judge James Ware seemed initially perplexed by Heckenkamp's challenge, and spent some time explaining the nature of the proceedings. Finally, he advised Heckenkamp to take it up in front of a jury when he goes to trial. "I cannot help but comment that you have substituted out a capable attorney," the judge added. Heckenkamp went on to demand that he be immediately allowed to take the stand and testify, and was again rebuffed by Ware, who noted that the appearance was not a hearing or a trial. The computer whiz then asked the court to identify the plaintiff in the case. Ware explained that the United States was the plaintiff, and was represented by assistant U.S. attorney Ross Nadel. Heckenkamp said he wanted to subpoena Nadel's "client" to appear in court, and Ware asked him who, exactly, he wanted to bring into the courtroom. When Heckenkamp replied, "The United States of America," Ware ordered him taken into custody. "The comments that you are making to the court lead me to suspect that either you are playing games with the court, or you're experiencing a serious lack of judgment," said Ware. The judge added that he was no longer satisfied that Heckenkamp would make his future court appearances. Heckenkamp had been free on $50,000 bail, and living under electronic monitoring -- prohibited by court order from using cell phones, the Internet, computers, video games and fax machines. Before two deputy U.S. marshals hauled Heckenkamp away, he threatened legal action against the judge. "I will hold you personally liable," he said. "I will seek damages for every hour that I'm in custody." In a telephone interview after the appearance, Heckenkamp's father, Thomas Heckenkamp, said his son is only trying to protect his rights . "They've overstepped their bounds, and they're keeping him from defending himself," he said. Heckenkamp's next court appearance in San Jose is scheduled for April 8th. Trial in a related case in San Diego is set for April 23rd. © 2002 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 19 Mar 2002

Senator ‘Cheesy Chuck’ Schumer phears the virus

Poor worm, thou art infected! I mean the computer virus, not its target. Its image ripe and diseased with grand fictions, the gravity and nature of the computer virus phenomenon, as far as the public understands it, is now whatever anyone with the microphone says it is. To wit: "A more technologically sophisticated Timothy McVeigh may, at this moment, be at home developing a virus that could undermine the American economy," declared U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat, New York) as recently as February. The destruction of the WTC didn't really undermine the U.S. economy, neither has the "War on Terror," but the lowly computer virus "could." Why claim such a ridiculous thing? Too much strong drink before lunch? A codependent need for a techno-bogeyman to rail against? Victim of a Beltway culture of exaggeration in which no one pays attention unless the message is delivered draped in hysteria? I used to strongly favor creeping nincompoopism as sufficient explanation. But having seen the mythos of the computer virus escalate over ten years, it's too glib. Take, for instance, one of the FBI's first forays into virus discussion in 1996. Well before the National Infrastructure Protection Center opened its doors, the bureau published an allegedly scholarly article on computer crime that discussed viruses. It was, at the time, an unintentionally amusing piece that told of the "Lecture" virus, a malicious popinjay, said to corrupt the hard drive and scold the user for not catching it, and the "SPA" virus, which was alleged to examine programs to determine whether they were properly licensed. If it detected illegally copied software, it dialed 911 and asked for help. Most infamous of the bunch was the wishy-washy slow infector, the "Clinton" virus -- said to "[eradicate] itself when it [could not] decide which program to infect." If you worked in the computer security industry at the time and saw the article, it was immediately obvious the FBI authors had been sucked in by a series of jokes. Specifically, the citation was traced to an April Fool's column in a computer magazine, a column taken way too seriously in the FBI's haste to provide something that sounded informed to the law enforcement community. Once it became publicized, the bureau's gaffe generated much clucking and snide comment on the nature of incompetence. However, there would be no real reason for embarrassment today, when Schumerian claims re the capability of computer viruses are commonplace. Philosopher's Stone The senator's press release from February included much terrific copy: "Terrorists can use viruses to shut down commerce ..." and "Frankly, I fear we're on the verge of a digital Armageddon," among others. Although his words were gone with the wind in a day or two, the hyperventilating assessment of the nature of virus danger is constant. The names on the delivering end change, but that's it. As a political and social practice, it's much like alchemy -- that Middle Age pseudo-chemistry dictated by magical and philosophical associations. In more modern terms, excluding the minor and elementary business of updating anti-virus software, everyone devotes themselves to either winging it or making unusual, sometimes interesting and weird but always wrong, guesses about the nature of future and what should be done about it. There are many Philosopher's Stones promised to turn lead into gold: Trustworthy Computing, the Govnet, corporate-government information sharing. There is the lip-service search for the elixir of youth: an anti-virus program that's not after-the-fact and which timid corporate America can actually be persuaded to use. The computer virus itself is the alkahest -- the alchemical universal solvent, the solution for every need. Need to melt the Internet? Call for the alkahest. Are economic losses attributed to poor computer security uncompelling? Dissolve them in the alkahest. Must the irrational claim be transformed into rationality? Mix it with the alkahest! In 1996, the "Lecture" virus only formatted the hard drive. Loser! No alkahest for "digital Armageddon," it was just an April Fool's joke and an underpowered one at that. (And the happening term for doom was "electronic Pearl Harbor," a far more modest interpretation of Megiddo.) The "SPA" virus was pathetic, too, but not particularly far-fetched. An actual DOS virus, named Raubkopie, chided the user, in German, over the use of pirated software. Those pulled in by the virus jokes knew none of this then, and it exposed them as rank amateurs. But if anyone of the same vintage remains in the bureau or NIPC and they remember the incident, it must surely be with a bemused, "What was all the fuss about?" © 2002 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
George Smith, 19 Mar 2002

Yahoo! pedo! community! busted!

They took away their bullets and stuck them in front of computers in the office where they can't do too much harm. They thought their careers were over, but posing as thirteen-year-old girls in chatrooms can yield prosecutorial pay dirt once in a while when the moon is right. And sure enough, untrusted FBI Special Agents nailed ninety slobbering pedos which Yahoo! was sheltering in its 'Candyman' egroups online community. Kudos, ladies and gentlemen; you may well have earned your bullets back. Forty pervs are currently in handcuffs, and another fifty are expected to be rounded up by week's end. Among the sickos currently in custody are police officers, athletic coaches, and sundry military, medical and clerical workers. Among the clerics, only the two Catholics have been meticulously identified by denomination in the American press, in keeping with America's rabid anti-Catholic inclinations. The others may be Jews or Buddhists or Muslims or lowbrow America-First Protestant proles, but this detail is not regarded as newsworthy by Reuters, Yahoo! News, NBC, or the Washington Post. The Yahoo! group in question, www.egroups.com/groups/thecandyman, is believed to have contained upwards of 7,000 members, most of whom will, regrettably, escape prosecution. "Operation Candyman demonstrates our commitment to protecting our nation's children from sexual predators. This extensive operation should serve as a warning to others that we will find and prosecute those who target and endanger our children," US Attorney General John Ashcroft nevertheless said on Monday. 'Commitment', perhaps; but 'effectiveness' is another story. One in seventy isn't quite the ratio we're looking for. We admire the effort, and the spirit as well; but perhaps it's time to let the Special Agents who still have their bullets contribute a bit as well. ®
Thomas C Greene, 19 Mar 2002

Sun saves Clustra from enemy clutches

Clustra Systems Inc, a database software vendor which specializes in clustered, high-availability databases that are required by telecoms and service providers, was acquired a few weeks ago by partner and investor Sun Microsystems Inc it has emerged, Timothy Prickett Morgan writes. Clustra Systems seems to have run up against an IT market that is not exactly keen on trying out new technologies in this uncertain economic environment. Back in June 2001, Clustra Systems, a provider of what it calls a zero-downtime SQL database known as Clustra Database, secured $22m in Series B venture funding. Sun Microsystems was the first major IT vendor to join a group of venture capitalists in backing the company. Vantage Point Venture Partners and TeleSystems-Argo Global Capital made a combined $10m Series A equity investment in Clustra Systems in 1999. In late April, these two investors plus two new venture partners, Clarity Capital and Mustang Ventures in late 2000, put in another $19m in funding. Clustra was founded in Boston in 1997 based on research and development performed by Telenor AB, the Norwegian telecoms company. Oystein Torbjornsen is the chief architect of the Clustra database and was the director of research at the company. He and a dozen former employees of Telenor founded Clustra, which then moved to Morristown, New Jersey - near AT&T's headquarters - and then subsequently moved to Silicon Valley (Oakland, to be specific) Gary Ebersole, a former top software executive from Informix Software, Angara Database Systems, and Sun, was the CEO of Clustra and was probably instrumental in bringing in Sun as a venture partner last year and as a buyer a few weeks ago. Sun seems to have been smart enough to realize that the technologies behind the Clustra database can be woven into its iPlanet software stack and its SunONE initiative that is attempting to rival Microsoft Corp's .NET and IBM Corp's mish-mash of WenSphere and Java technologies. The Clustra intellectual property was too valuable to fall into enemy hands - and in some cases, this includes Oracle and Sybase, too - and Sun, on the inside about whatever woes were affecting Clustra Systems, moved quickly and snapped up the company before someone else did. Sun and Clustra have not discussed the financial details of the acquisition. Clustra Systems announced Version 4.1 of its Clustra Database in November 2001, and this represented the first time that the database was aimed at more general database jobs rather than the special needs of the telecoms market. Unfortunately, the telecoms and service provider market had imploded by then, and every other sector of the economy was battening down the hatches and locking up the money chests just as Clustra Systems was ready to deliver a product that was arguably what many of them needed to perform reliable e-business. The Clustra Database was developed to support large numbers of concurrent, simple queries like those supported by telecoms exchanges without crashing and with more throughput and faster response times than a normal relational database. The high availability is accomplished through parallel clustering rather than mirroring an entire database across two distinct servers or partitions on a single server. The trick with the Clustra Database is that it is organized so each node in a configuration acts as a primary database engine doing production work; these nodes also act as a secondary backup for another node in the parallel cluster. The overhead of using each node as both a primary and a secondary is built in, so there is no additional overhead placed on a primary node when and if a backup for another primary node in the cluster fails or has a software crash. The high availability that Clustra delivers is not for each node, which is obviously no more reliable than any other single server, but rather for the entire Clustra network. The company has said that the Clustra Database has self-repairing algorithms that allow the database to have a mean time between failure of 50 years and a recovery time in the event of a crash of about 90 minutes. Clustra is intended to be run on a cluster of four server nodes with two backup nodes; if each node is a symmetric multiprocessor, the performance of the database increases because of the parallel database technologies that the Clustra Database employs. The database was designed to be able to process 1,000 transactions per second with an average response time of under 15 milliseconds and have less than two minutes of downtime a year and near-linear scalability. Sun will find some way to make use of this, even if it isn't a database vendor, you can be sure. It would not be surprising to see Sun license the technologies to Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, and the few other database vendors so it can can make their products more reliable - but it will want to tie those improvements specifically to the iPlanet software stack, if possible. The Clustra Database runs on Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD, and Windows servers. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved
ComputerWire, 19 Mar 2002

RealNetworks unveils Pocket PC player

RealNetworks Inc yesterday released a version of its RealOne Player for Microsoft Corp's Pocket PC operating system, and said Compaq Computer Corp will be the first OEM to ship a device with the software bundled. Ian Freed, general manager of media systems at RealNetworks, said how the software is shipped - preinstalled or on an accompanying CD - depends on the device, and is Compaq's decision. "At the very least, it will be on the CD," he said. He added that the deal encompasses multiple future iPAQ-brand PDAs, but declined to reveal how long the deal will last. "We see the benefit of being bundled with other providers," he said, declining to comment on other potential OEM deals. Freed said the Pocket PC RealOne will also be made available for download from the RealNetworks web site. The software works on all the Pocket PC-based PDAs the company has tested it on (including those from Toshiba and Audiovox), though when used on the handful of monochrome Pocket PCs available on the market, RealOne will be audio-only, Freed said. RealNetworks' strategy is to have its client software available on as many platforms as possible. The company announced a Symbian OS version of RealOne in January, and followed through with bundling deals with Nokia Corp for forthcoming 9200-series Communicator phones. The company has not yet announced support for Microsoft's Pocket PC Phone Edition or Smartphone platforms, though such a port is feasible. Freed said it depends on the uptake of such devices - none of which are currently available - among buyers. "There's nothing to stop us doing it," he said. "Our goal is to get on the devices that are going to be predominant on the market." ©ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 19 Mar 2002

Hynix creditor claims major progress in Micron talks

The Korea Exchange Bank (KEB), one of the biggest creditors of Hynix Semiconductor Inc, said yesterday that Micron Technology Inc is close to agreeing the acquisition of Hynix's DRAM business. Recognizing that frequent rumors of imminent agreement have failed to be confirmed in the past, the KEB vp Lee Youn-soo said that "agreement in principle has been reached on many issues", and that Hynix creditors, who vetoed Micron's last $4bn offer, are "generally satisfied with the latest talks." Boise, Idaho based Micron, which stands to become the world's biggest memory chip producer if it acquires Hynix's dram business, has generally allowed Korean participants to do the talking in public, whilst clearly playing a tough negotiating ha
ComputerWire, 19 Mar 2002

Novell supports XML – again

Novell Inc has re-emphasized its support for XML-based standards in a belated attempt to steal a slice of the emerging web services market from Microsoft Corp, Sun Microsystems Inc and IBM, and revive its moribund fortunes. Provo, Utah-based Novell also extended an alliance with BEA Systems Inc, forged with Cambridge Technology Partners, to build systems based on the company's products. Novell made the announcements on the opening day of its Brainshare 2002 conference yesterday. Vice chairman of the office of the CEO Chris Stone said the strategy would help Novell grab a significant share of the emerging web services market. "Novell Net Services are a basic form of web service. Our challenge and our opportunity is to put the pieces together and dominate pieces of this market place," Stone said. Novell is well positioned to elbow-aside Microsoft, Sun and IBM he said. Stone is clearly focusing on the long-term, though, as Novell's short-term prospects look bleak. The company is reported to have cut its capital expenditure estimate by roughly $40 million from $50m for fiscal 2002. Novell said its expenditure estimate could be further reduced if growth continued to be less than expected. The focus on web services is Novell's second strategy overhaul in two years. Novell used Brainshare 2000 to announce One Net - for universal access to the internet and software services from any platform or location - and Denim - its technology roadmap to underpin One Net and to which all products would adhere. Senior vice president of product management Dave Shirk used that event to call Denim an endorsement of XML and Enterprise Java Beans, which would be wrapped into all products - moving away from programming in C. Former chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said at the time: "There will be more users of Denim than of Windows." Yesterday's endorsement of XML and web services, though, leaves Novell trailing most major vendors - especially those singled out as rivals by Stone. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, Palo Alto, California-based Sun and IBM are already well advanced in their plans to support XML and web services in products. Novell plans to infuse support for Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Services Description Language (WSDL) and Web Services Development Kit (WSDK) into products, while Stone said Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) will help uptake of eDirectory. Novell also plans to cut some of its 163 products. The alliance with San Jose, California-based BEA will see offerings delivered that are based on the companies' products. The companies did not provide details, but said the first fruits of this deal would come with secure access to BEA's WebLogic Platform, promised under the Novell Secure Partner Portal announced in November 2001. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 19 Mar 2002

Aussie cops and Feds use DIRT

The DIRT filesThe DIRT files Our recent item Cyber cops & security orgs: DIRTy, stupid and out of control touched on the pathetic federation of fools, patsies and malicious creeps which comprises the international securocracy. In particular, we mentioned that World Systems Resource (WSR), an Australian discount enterprise computing vendor, had sought a non-exclusive deal as a DIRT reseller in the Aussie cyber-cop/securocrat market. We hardly dared imagine that WSR would have succeeded in selling this preposterous kiddie Trojan as a law-enforcement tool in Oz, but apparently they have with some success. But there are problems with the toy. In particular, the Aussie Feds want to be able to erase evidence of their filthy deeds (which may include planting evidence) from the victim's machine, but unfortunately DIRT doesn't include a simple scrubber. An email memo from WSR to DIRTmeister Frank Jones and his shyster Terrance Kawles obtained by The Register illustrates the difficulty: From: sales@wsr.com.au To: [tkawles@codexdatasystems.com] Cc: "Stuart Ellis" [stuart@wsr.com.au] Subject: Dirt Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2028 22:56:55 +1000 X-Priority: 3 Frank, Terrance We have noticed that when you email a bug and it runs on a target, it leaves information in the desktop.exe dll ie the email address that it is sending the information to. Do you have a version that can delete this registry once "kill bug" has been initiated? This is going to be an issue with the Police department as they will want to make sure that there is no trace of the bug once it has been terminated. Also, we need to find a way to kill this rouge bug. We do not know what to do. The only option that we can think of is a virus or a self extracting email we can send that will kill it and delete the registry. Have you come up with anything yet ? Please can you email me with a solution. Thank You. Regards, David This is how sad Australian Feds and cybercops are. They want to use a tool no better than an IRC kiddie's Trojan which enables them to control a victim's machine -- even upload incriminating files to it -- and then skate away without leaving a trace. And they think Frank Jones gives a shit. We know how his licensing scam works. He sells a full version of DIRT to his patsies for $30,000, and then sells them 35% discounted versions thereafter. Once the distributor/patsy is jammed up over a worthless $35,000 toy, he gets desperate to recover his loss. Enter law enforcement with their public funds. But law enforcement expects real stealth so they can screw anyone they please. Only DIRT fails to deliver the required level of FILTH. Hence desperate email exchanges like the one above. But by this time Jones has made his money; he doesn't expect to gouge anyone for more than 30K, unless they're especially masochistic. Aussies rightly concerned about illicit government use of DIRT may consult this roundup of its many flaws and limitations, along with numerous countermeasures. ® Related Stories Super DIRT Trojan to infect indiscriminately Cyber cops & security orgs: DIRTy, stupid and out of control Law-enforcement DIRT Trojan released Reg duped by crime-busting D.I.R.T Trojan
Thomas C Greene, 19 Mar 2002

Microsoft ‘killed Dell Linux’ – States

Microsoft sharpshooter Joachim Kempin, who was convicted of illegally shooting antelope in Montana in 1998, has been turning his guns on a more familiar target: Microsoft's own OEM customers. The States' remedy hearing opened in DC yesterday, and States attorney Steven Kuney produced a devastating memo from Kempin, then in charge of Microsoft's OEM business, written after Judge Jackson had ordered his break-up of the company. Kempin raises the possibility of threatening Dell and other PC builders which promote Linux. "I'm thinking of hitting the OEMs harder than in the past with anti-Linux. ... they should do a delicate dance," Kempin wrote to Ballmer, in what is sure to be a memorable addition to the phrases ("knife the baby", "cut off the air supply") with which Microsoft enriched the English language in the first trial. Unlike those two, this is not contested. The bullets aimed Spaghetti Western-style at the feet of the dancing OEMs translate to Microsoft withholding source code, according to the memo. For these details we're indebted to eWeek's Darryl Taft, who unlike some his fellow reporters, appeared to stay for the afternoon session of the hearing. His account of the day's proceedings can be found here, and includes the delicious detail that late in the afternoon, Sun Microsystems was desperately trying to close the session, arguing that cross examination would reveal confidential information submitted under seal. Reuters also mentions the Linux threat in passing, but compare and contrast with The New York Times, which doesn't. CNET and Wired simply carry the Reuters report. Earlier memos described that it was "untenable" that a key Microsoft partner was promoting Linux. Kuney revealed that Dell disbanded its Linux business unit in early 2001. Dell quietly pulled Linux from its desktop PCs in the summer of 2001, IDG's Ashlee Vance discovered subsequently, six months after we heard Michael Dell declare his love of Linux on the desktop the previous winter. Compaq was also mentioned in other memos, with Microsoft taking the line that OEMs should "meet demand but not help create demand" for Linux. Kempin was Microsoft's chief OEM enforcer in the second half of the nineties, contributing a string of memorable memos to the 1998 Trial, and takes the credit for ensuring that the price of a Windows rose as the price of PCs were falling, during this period. "The plaintiffs are not here to punish Microsoft - the plaintiffs' goals are to make Microsoft behave properly," argued a States' attorney. But how? Short of obliging the executives to wear antelope horns and race in front of an SUV under a hail of rifle fire, it's hard to see what language they understand. ® Carry on Kempin Cut a deal or you don't get Win95 - IBM faces PC suicide Secret deals MS uses to control PC companies MS OEM VP to IBM: dump Lotus and we'll cut a deal MS exec's hunting trip: illegally chased and shot 4 antelopes MS paid $50k to buy 'Compaq of Europe' out of DR-DOS deal MS exec in shock Windows is great white whale claim MS pricing strategy exposed - cheap when there's competition, but... Kempin, star MS enforcer, gets Ballmer special projects gig
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Mar 2002

Affinity revenues and losses up

Shares in Affinity Internet Holdings - the UK telecoms and Internet outfit - slipped in early trading after the company reported increased turnover and widening losses. Publishing its prelims for the year to December 31 Affinity said that turnover for the year was up 366 per cent to £52.8 million. Pre-tax losses increased by £4 million to £30 million. Terry Plummer, Affinity's chairman, said that he "continues to view the future with enthusiasm and confidence" and that his operation is "now directed to growing revenues, increasing profitability [and] strict cost control". Despite this bullish outlook Affinity's share price dipped 18.5p (6 per cent) to 282.5p by mid morning. Elsewhere, Affinity claims that its ISP business will become profitable later this year even though the number of small companies looking to run branded ISPs continues to fall. This, though, is compensated by the number of established brands looking for ISP services. Affinity saw an increase of traditional brands taking up its white label ISP services - including WHSmith, Prudential, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Powergen - and believes these "bricks and mortar" brands will come to dominate the Web. At the end of 2001, the number of registered ISP users had increased 23 per cent to 1.5 million, the company said. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 Mar 2002

SCH saves Metrologie from the knackers

Specialist Computer Holdings, Europe's biggest - or is it the second biggest, we can never remember - computer dealership, has snapped up Metrologie France and Metrologie Systems from Europa IT. Terms were undisclosed, but we don't think it was a lot of money as a: SCH specialises in distress purchases b: Europa IT had already announced its intention to a: close down or sell Metrologie France and b: instruct an investment bank to investigate money raising schemes including selling the entire business. SCH is taking on 200 employees and will continue to operate Metrologie Systems, now renamed ETC (its distribution brand name) Systems as a separate business. Metrologie France is to be combined with the distribution activities of SCH's existing French business, Allium. Post-acquisition, SCH's French operations will turnover €1bn a year. Metrologie France is a commodity distribution business, while Metrologie Systems wholesale servers and enterprise storage. Their owner Europa IT, was an management buy-in, formed from the European wreckage that was CHS Electronics, briefly (before its collapse) the world's second biggest computer distie. Europa IT reckons it is Europe's sixth biggest distie (or did before this fire sale). Last month, the company said that it had too little capital to compete successfully in the French commodity market, but that it was committed to retaining commodity distribution elsewhere, as well as keeping its systems business in the country. ® EuropaIT exits PC biz in France
Drew Cullen, 19 Mar 2002

Window v. Lindows – round one to underdog

Lindows.com has won the first round in its legal trademark battle against Microsoft. A Seattle court last week denied Microsoft's motion to stop Lindows.com from using this name for its company and LindowsOS for its new operating system. Worse, for Microsoft, the company may have shot itself in the foot by launching the action in the first place. In his ruling Judge John C. Coughenour said: "Microsoft has raised serious questions about the validity of its trademark [Windows]." This may deter Microsoft from further action - any appeal and it could risk having Windows explicitly stripped as a trademark. We shall see. In the meantime Lindows.com is victorious, and it looks increasingly like our initial assessment of its chances of success were wrong. ® Coughenour's ruling.
Drew Cullen, 19 Mar 2002

UK Govt earmarks £30m spending on broadband

The UK Government has finally said how it intends to spend £30 million in bringing broadband to rural areas - more than a year after it first pledged the cash. Eminister Douglas Alexander today announced a number of schemes designed to take broadband to areas currently not commercially viable for the necessary investment. These include: wiring up business parks in Yorkshire and Humberside with broadband links; and a trial of satellite and wireless broadband links in the east Midlands. In a statement Douglas Alexander said: "With the help of this £30 million fund, Regional Development Agencies across the country are embarking on innovative and exciting projects that could have a real impact on the roll-out of broadband infrastructure, especially in rural areas where access is currently limited. However, critics claims that this initiative is little more than tinkering around at the edges and fails to address the real issue of broadband availability. Currently, four out of ten people in the UK are outside the reach of a DSL-enabled exchange. The Government's £30 million pledge for rural broadband initiatives was first announced by the then e-minister, Patricia Hewitt, in February 2001. It was also re-announced by Douglas Alexander in October 2001. ® Related Stories UK Govt pledges £30m to broadband UK Govt backs broadband
Tim Richardson, 19 Mar 2002

Setback for security through obscurity scheme

A proposal on the "responsible disclosure of security vulnerabilities" has been withdrawn from consideration by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), after criticism that the issue was too political to be decided by the Net's prime technical standards body. Discussions on the IETF's Security Area Advisory Group mailing list reflected the belief that the document is "out of scope" as it does not deal with technical protocols. Because of this, Steve Christey, lead information security engineer for government engineering firm Mitre, and Chris Wysopal, director of research at security consultants @stake, have decided to take their ideas elsewhere. "There does not appear to be any way to achieve consensus on this issue, regardless of the merits of the current draft or any future document that may attempt to describe disclosure recommendations," Christey said in a message to the SAAG list yesterday. "We are currently identifying other forums that may be more suitable for discussion of the current document and future revisions. If we can't find such a forum, we will create one." Although Christey is careful to thank security experts on the list for their feedback, the decision to withdraw the proposals from discussion is a clear setback. Information anarchy The proposals seek to strike a compromise between those who favour full disclosure of security problems (including us) and software vendors, who want to control information about security risks. The guidelines, drawn up by the Organisation for Internet Safety, clearly follow Microsoft's agenda (recently articulated by Scott Culp, manager of the Microsoft Security Response Centre) that openly discussing exploits is creating "information anarchy". Microsoft is attempting to throttle the exchange of vulnerability information relevant to their famously buggy products, clearly in hopes that patches and fixes can be fed to consumers discreetly. Briefly, the "responsible disclosure of security vulnerabilities" scheme requires vendors to withhold detailed security data and to suppress the exchange of exploit code, which, unfortunately, is the only means of verifying that a patch actually works. Vendors will exercise "best efforts" to avoid disclosing details that can be used to exploit a vulnerability for a period of 30 days from the initial discovery. After this grace period, or if the Blackhat community begins exploiting it sooner, "additional details" may be released. These details will of course not be sufficient to exploit the flaw, or to test the patch. There will be exceptions for the Federal authorities, recognised infrastructure protection organisations and "other communities in which enforceable frameworks exist to deter onward uncontrolled distribution." While it sounds like a common-sense proposal for limiting damage by restricting access to exploits, the effect of this scheme is likely to be a reduction in security. For one thing, there are a number of highly-respected vendors who believe in full disclosure, and who regard Microsoft's partnership arrangement, in which they obviously won't be able to participate, as an assault on the way they do business. Slow disclosure Even those who believe vendors need time to prepare patches before vulnerabilities are made public have criticisms of the proposals. Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security, said that the proposals are too vague. "There are so many suggestions and so few requirements that someone could do almost anything and then claim to be following the document. And I believe the document could be used by companies to justify withholding vulnerability information and ignoring security problems," Schneier wrote in his Crypto-gram newsletter last weekend. The threat of full disclosure of recent SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) vulnerabilities forced companies to patch their systems, Schneier argues. "To the extent that following the IETF document reduces that threat, it also reduces our security," said Schneier, who added that the document should more properly be called "Limited Disclosure," or maybe "Slow Disclosure." "Whether or not it is responsible is still a matter of debate," he added. ® External links "Responsible Vulnerability Disclosure Process" draft
John Leyden, 19 Mar 2002

MS Stinger smartphones finally poised to ship

Mobile phones based on Microsoft's Stinger smartphone platform are finally set to ship, with the UK's Sendo likely to be the first. Yesterday Sendo announced that it would be supplying handsets, starting with its Z100 smartphone, to US carrier Cingular Wireless, while at CeBIT Sendo said the phone would be available in Europe from the beginning of June. Also at CeBIT Samsung, another Stinger contender, was showing its own version, and promising it would ship in four countries in Europe in early Q4. Jay Yeo, Samsung manager of wireless communications told CeBIT News' Peter Dykes that the company was currently in talks with several European operators, but declined to be more specific. The handset, which has a 176x200 16bit/65k colour TFT screen and is GPRS, will be aimed at high end and corporate users. Earlier, Samsung had said it would be shipping Symbian-based phones, but would not be abandoning Microsoft-based designs. Samsung handsets using Microsoft's smartphone platform were however - according to an announcement made by the companies in June 2000 - due to be available "in 2001." Sendo's Stinger was demoed at GSM Cannes last year, and was due "in autumn 2001," while HTC was coming up with phones "later" in 2001 and Mitsubishi Triums were down for "late 2001." So we're all just a tad late here, and it surely can't all be down to the introduction of the joint reference design with Texas Instruments last month. But the TI design (which uses Microsoft's Smartphone 2002) is intended to give "manufacturers a simple, fast and direct approach for getting new products with enhanced data capabilities in their customers' hands." So maybe there's some relationship. Microsoft places wired pocket devices in two categories. Smartphone 2002 devices are essentially phone handsets with keypads, usually colour screens and the necessary buttons to play games with, while PocketPC 2002 Phone Edition devices are essentially PDAs with phone capabilities. One of the first of the latter out will now be mm02's xda, which is built by HTC, but these are if anything even later than the smartphones. Sagem's WA3050 was the subject of some ecstatic spinning by Microsoft in November 2000, and the device was originally promised for Q1 2001. Today, Sagem's online sales site is indeed offering the WA3050 for sale, but even on the French site it's flagged as "nouveau." And even with an SFR sub the price is eye-watering. Meanwhile the man in charge of Microsoft's Mobility Group, Ben Waldman, has taken "personal leave," which in Microsoft parlance can mean being out of the office for up to a year, but does not mean you're leaving, necessarily. It is apparently entirely different from sabbatical, which doesn't last so long, but generally means you are leaving. And no, we're not making this up; if anybody made it up it was ZDNET, and why on earth would they do that? Waldman, for the record, recently did an entertainingly gung ho interview with The Register. Presumably he must have been demob-happy. ®
John Lettice, 19 Mar 2002

Orange network down again (some of it)

Tens of thousands of Orange subscribers are unable to make or receive calls today because of equipment failure on the mobile operator's network. A spokeswoman for Orange said it expected to fix the glitch, the precise cause of which she was unfamiliar with, within the next hour. It is believed the problem is caused by equipment failure in the Merseyside area, which is affecting Orange subscribers across the country. Reg readers who contacted us about the issue said that a problem involving Orange's home location register database meant that 250,000 subscribers have been able to make calls since mid-morning today. Orange said far fewer people were affected, but wasn't able to come up with a precise figure. Last week, more than a million Orange customers experienced difficulties using their mobile phones which meant they had to redial numbers repeatedly before being able to make calls. At this time, it is believed that the two problems are unrelated. ® Related Stories 1m Orange punters hit by glitch BT Cellnet mmail falls off the Internet Orange takes bronze in 3G race Orange: revenues up, shares down
John Leyden, 19 Mar 2002

Foreigners must pay for Times online

Foreigners will have to pay to read The Times online, with tariffs levied on 10 separate channels. The newspaper, part of the Murdoch empire, says it can identify overseas visitors with "90 per cent accuracy,". "The free ride is over and the days of free content have gone," Paul Hayes, the general manager of Times Newspapers, told the Media Guardian. The Times charges for some online content already, most notably for access to its famous crossword section. It is also to start charging for access to law reports and for a new World Cup section, the Guardian reports. So what will happen when the charges are introduced: first the reader numbers will drop, and then the advertising revenues will follow. Overseas readers will tip up at for their UK fix at The BBC and the Guardian Online and, so long as it remains free, the Electronic Telegraph. Very few newspapers have made a success or a profit out of their online sisters. In the UK, The Guardian and The FT have done well on the readership front, and the latter has done well on revenues (while managing to drop £30m last year on its FT.com subsidiary). As for the Times, we guess that its online readership is a damn sight smaller than... ours, for instance. If you are interested in the slow death of the free Internet, check out The End of Free, which monitors the headlong rush among publishers to charge for stuff. ® Related stories Guardian: Times to charge for Internet Pay for content? Norwegians would FT.com, Slashdot, GeoCities flag up charges On Wallace, Gromit and charging by mobile phone
Drew Cullen, 19 Mar 2002

Novell in talks to bundle eDirectory on Linux servers

Novell is in talks with IBM and Red Hat about bundling its eDirectory services with Linux servers. The network software and services firm already supports Linux, so the deal - which is still at the discussion stage - would involve expending Novell's commitment to the platform that boosts the availability of directory services for Linux, CRN reports. Indications are that Novell has no plans to make eDirectory an open source product, but it clearly wants to make its applications more attractive to the open source community. eDirectory is bundled free of charge with many of Novell's products. The standalone product is priced at $2 per user, and volume and upgrade discounts are available. During its Brainshare 2002 user conference this week, Novell detailed plans to provide improved support for emerging standards such as (Simple Object Access Protocol and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) within its One Net Web services platform. Novell's suite of Web-based applications and services are becoming less reliant on use of NetWare client, a move that it overdue in the view of critics who compare Novell's effort to those of Sun Microsystems, IBM and Microsoft in the fiercely competitive Web services market. Novell's latest version of eDirectory, eDirectory 8.7, provides new features to allow Web-based management of key networking functions, providing greater flexibility for network administrators. The company also released Novell Workspace, a Web-based team solution, with information exchange, messaging, and other features which make it easy for ad-hoc teams to communicate. Management for handheld devices is mproved for Novell users with the release of its ZENworks Synergy suite. And let's not forget NetWare, Novell's flagship product. Executives outlined a roadmap for NetWare which will include ease of deployment features as well as and additional support for Internet standards and the J2EE environment. These features will come with the imminent release of "Nakoma", the code name for the next revision of NetWare, which will be followed up by "Hayden", a release that will feature support for dynamic partitions and policy-based management on servers, CRN reports. ® Related Stories Novell supports XML - again Novell predicts breakeven for current quarter Novell flies high with Lufthansa Novell frees clients with NetWare 6 Novell sues Microsoft over NetWare death ad Novell makes eDirectory freeware Novell CEO steps down as it acquires consulting firm
John Leyden, 19 Mar 2002

Intel sharpens twin blades

Intel today launched a twin set of 800MHz Tualatin PIIIs, the first dualie, it says for the low power ulta dense blade server segment. The dual processor delivers 63 per cent better performance than their singleton counterpart, according to benchmarking conducted by Ziff Davis Media sub eTesting Labs. Other features include support for up to 4GB memory, 512KB of on-chip level 2 cache memory on each chip, support for PC133 SDRAM, and a 133MHz bus. The chips are made on a 0.13micron production line (i.e. smaller, cheaper, lower power). The processor are housed in uFCBGA packaging. Intel is targeting the servers at a subset of the blade server market. Products from Dell and Fujitsu Siemen is expected to ship later this year, while dual mobos from companies such as Force Computers, I-Bus/Phoenix and Kontron are immediately available. The boards are targeted for areas where space and energy consumption, as opposed to performance, are at a premium. Intel suggests Web hosting and Internet firewalls as suitable apps for ultra-dense blade servers. Its not finished yet: the mobos are aimed at applications that require "extended life-cycle support in the communications, transportation, automation, medical and military market segments, among others. Specifically, the boards are optimal for security, storage, telephony and wireless applications". Intel is leaving it up to OEMs to publicise prices. ® Intel press release
Drew Cullen, 19 Mar 2002

Coming soon: 4,096 mutant versions of Windows

In his opening statement in the unsettling States' antitrust action yesterday Microsoft attorney Dan Webb explained the maths of Steve Ballmer's millions of versions of Windows nightmare, and promised much in the way of fireworks to come. The States' opening statement we can pass over unremarked, because we knew what they were going to say anyway, so it is Microsoft's defence that at this juncture provides the interest. First, those numbers. According to Webb there would in fact be 4,096 mutant versions of Windows. This is based on there being ten middleware products which anyone who had licensed 10,000 or more copies of Windows could, under the States' proposed remedies, demand be removed from Windows. They could ask for all ten to be removed, they could ask for one to be removed, they could ask for any combination. This does not chalk up 4,096, of course, but Webb's argument is based on there being four versions of Windows, so it's 4x1,024. And no, it doesn't multiply up to 1,024 either, but we're sure that numerous Register readers who don't have lives will shortly tell us what it does add up to. Not that we care, because it isn't the point. The point is that the States are really arguing for Windows to be designed in a componentised form where middleware from Microsoft could plug and play alongside midddleware from rival companies. This is hardly radical, and was proposed by a couple of IDC analysts (albeit with a good bit of PR-spin and timing attached) two years ago. Nor is it original from a design point of view - it was precisely what opponents who've long since become roadkill were arguing back in the early 90s, when Microsoft was sticking bits onto Windows more or less at random instead. And, ahem, it might kind of relate to what DLLs were supposed to do before they became such a version control nightmare (wonder whose fault that was?) that we arrived at the total insanity of keeping multiple versions of the same DLL on the same machine in order that all of your programs stand a fighting chance of actually running. Webb, and the technical experts he promises will support his case, may have a point when he claims that trying to disentangle Windows now would break it, but it's pretty clear whose fault that is, and if it's not stopped it'll only get worse, not better. The best defence, The Register suggests, would be to point out that the commingling of unrelated code for anticompetitive reasons accounts for only a small fraction of the whole nightmare, version-control free entanglement, and that it is not the place of the courts to benefit consumers by forcing companies to design decent software. This is, unfortunately, true, but we can see how Microsoft might have a slight problem arguing the point. Back, however, to more frivolous matters. Webb's preamble outlines the Doomsday Defence: "remedy proposal, number 1, will force Microsoft to withdraw Windows from the marketplace. One of the most valuable pieces of intellectual property in the world. That's a pretty Draconian remedy. "Number two, that remedy, the evidence will establish, will unfairly confiscate billions -- yes -- billions of dollars of Microsoft's intellectual property. "And, number three, we will prove without question that that remedy will severely damage Microsoft's ability to innovate new products and to effectively compete in a marketplace. "All of this, to the detriment of consumers and major sections of the PC industry." To cut a long story short, the 4,096 versions of Windows will kill it (5m person hours claimed testing of WinXP, multiply by 4,096, keep multiplying), forced licensing of Office will steal Microsoft's IP and money and destroy the value of Office (and is also unconstitutional), and general restrictions will stop Microsoft being able to innovate. Along the way the disclosure of APIs will make it easy to clone Windows, and for some reason the word "Sun" crosses Webb's lips in relation to this matter. Webb also claims Microsoft has spent $4.5 billion on .NET development over the past year - this is entirely unrelated, apart from being a big number, but we'd like to see a breakdown. Much fun, too, is promised for the puppermaster defence. Microsoft will provide evidence that "Oracle, Sun, AOL Time Warner" have been pulling the strings, and "actually were the originators of some of the provisions that appear in the nonsettling states' remedy proposals." Which they were, and Webb admits this isn't illegal, but they'll also be tarred as the chief beneficiaries of the destruction of Microsoft. Which again, they would be, but it should make a spectacular show all the same, provided not too many of the witnesses turn out to be stiffs. Webb also outlined the various areas Microsoft's own witnesses would cover. In general, these are pretty obvious, but there are two worth looking out for. First, we have Bill's Excellent Adventure and the History of the Computer Industry, and second, an explanation of how the unsettling States proposals constitute a vast security nightmare. Both are clearly worth looking forward to. The security scare is simply tantalising: "Roger Needham, who works for Microsoft in England and who has a lot of job experience in the area of security... will pinpoint for Your Honor the sections that will require or that create the greatest security risk, and he will explain to Your Honor in some detail that the nonsettling states' remedy proposal is truly a recipe for a security disaster, and he will discuss in detail the provisions that relate to that." Alas, that's all we have for the moment, so we'll have to wait for Roger to take the stand. Bill's bit, however, sounds like it's going to be utterly treasurable. "We will present evidence, primarily through Mr. Gates, about the historic role Microsoft played in the formation and development of the ecosystem [NB this is a new Microsoft marketing word that has apparently now made it through to the attorneys]. They had a vision. Their vision was that Microsoft could facilitate consumer acceptance of personal computers if it developed this common operating system that could be installed in many different configurations of personal computers and that would provide these blocks of software code that software programmers, application developers could write to. That was the dream. That was the idea. That if you could develop an operating system that would have this widespread usage, that a lot of good things would come up that." Sounds suspiciously like he's bought Bill's version of history wholesale, doesn't it? Yes he has: "And it was in 1981 Microsoft introduced its first operating system called MS-DOS." No mention of IBM, no mention of neither IBM nor Microsoft thinking anything other than this was a short production run home computer, no mention of the lucky break of having a lawyer father and thus winding up with a favourable contract where IBM had PC-DOS and Microsoft had the franchise for everything else. Nor indeed, mention of getting hold of QDOS quick and cheap in order to be able to fulfill the IBM contract in the first place, then paying off the author a couple of years down the line. But we're sure Bill will set him straight when he takes the stand, and we're looking forward to that. ®
John Lettice, 19 Mar 2002
server room

Why Microsoft's EU ‘concession’ is no concession at all

Microsoft announced an "olive branch" to the EU last week, by offering to document the interfaces to its file and print server protocols. But the offer is less generous than it appears. Eurocrats may not be pleased to discover that these CIFS protocols - which are considered undocumentable by developers who work with them - were due to be published anyway, as part of a two-year project which involved Microsoft's co-operation. Microsoft's CIFS, or Common Internet File System, protocols are better known by their former name SMB. The CIFS moniker is misleading: it's not a file system, and it has little to do with the Internet. (SMB is a subset of CIFS). But it is the way that Microsoft has implemented file sharing and network printing since the OS/2 LAN Manager days. But while other protocols have become commoditized (eight years ago, IBM and Microsoft charged extra for their PC TCP/IP stacks), SMB/CIFS has resisted the trend by presenting a moving target for developers, and introducing inconsistencies in each new Microsoft implementation. Existing documentation is considered worthless, and so NAS vendors have one of two choices: license the Microsoft code, which is what storage pioneer Network Appliance chose to do, or use the GPL Samba Project, which has been incorporated into dedicated server appliances from Sun's Cobalt division, Hewlett Packard, and many others. In 2000, the industry trade body the SNIA (Storage Network Industry Association) agreed to work on the CIFS specification, and the first cut of the draft was issued in April the same year. The 120+ page document is now at version 0.9. And then my troubles bega... However, such a document doesn't end interoperability problems with Microsoft systems. In fact it doesn't even begin to end them, say insiders. "There can't be a specification that's worth anything," says Jeremy Allison, joint lead of the Samba Project. "The source code itself is the specification . The level of detail required to interoperate successfully is simply not documentable - it would produce a stack of paper so high you might as well publish the source code." That's because software developers who need to interoperate with Microsoft file and print servers must work around the implementation inconsistencies. A pristine specification has little value in the real world, argues Allison. He illustrates this with an example of an implementation detail which only emerges in real world tests and would never be included in a specification. When the Samba team tested Windows 2000 clients against Samba servers it discovered a feature of the locking code that threw the servers into a loop. The team traced this to a zero value parameter in a function call that's "virtually never used", and widely implemented as zero. There is information that the Samba developers want to see: the IDL descriptions for remote procedure calls. These underpin tasks such as adding users, and adding quotas and shares, and Samba developers have successfully decoded them over the wire. But it's hard work. "These IDL descriptions are *key* for providing interoperability with Microsoft clients," wrote the team in a submission to the EU commissioners earlier this year. "If these IDL descriptions were published, open and equal interoperability with Microsoft products would be greatly enhanced (although still not perfect)." Allison says the Samba team has requested the IDL definitions from Microsoft annually, most recently at the 2001 CIFS conference, without success. And he points out - and here we hope that both Judge Konsonant-Kollection and the EU commissioners are listening - that such protocols are not largesse: they're straightforward legal obligations which Microsoft - convicted of breaking the law - has agreed to perform. "A pessimistic view would be that this is an attempt to make releasing something that the consent decree requires anyway into a separate magnanimous gesture," Allison tell us, wryly. "Having said that, any further documentation on CIFS is good. However it may not be so helpful in the real world for those working to interoperate with Microsoft servers." The stakes are high. Microsoft jealously guards its file and print business, and with its embedded Windows kits (which are stripped down, headless NT boxes) seeks to provide an "official" alternative to the Samba industry, by inviting NetApp, Cobalt and others to become Windows hardware OEMs. We contacted the SNIA, individual contributors to the CIFS draft, and Network Appliance for comment, but have not received a response at time of writing. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Mar 2002

Pennsylvania orders ISPs to censor the Net

Child-protective mania has given State of Pennsylvania a pretext to indulge in Internet censorship. The legislature has passed a law requiring ISPs to block access to child porn websites. Under the scheme, PA residents will have to be prevented from accessing the sites, which will be identified by the state attorney general's office. The law is backed up with penalties ranging from $5,000 for a first offense to fines of $30,000 and seven years' imprisonment for a third offense. The PA legislature doesn't offer any guidance as to how the blocking is to be accomplished. The legislative measure was brought to our attention by Richard M. Smith of ComputerBytesMan.com. "ISPs are going to have to filter by URLs. I think this is a hard technical problem. I'm not even sure what kind of software can deal with ISP traffic volumes," he noted during an email exchange. Add to this the fact that active KP URLs often change on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, and you see that PA is going to be issuing constantly out-of-date URL lists to ISPs throughout the nation and expecting them to dutifully filter them for its residents. So, will this reduce the amount of KP circulating on the Web? Will it protect children from exploitation by pornographers? Obviously, it will do neither. It's pure self-congratulatory legislation with no appreciation of the practicalities, and no hope of accomplishing anything worthwhile. It will, of course, accomplish Internet censorship for PA residents, which may later be expanded once the necessary tools are in place; it will tax the resources of ISPs struggling to comply with impossible demands; and it will impress the uninformed with Pennsylvania's devotion to child protection. But it will not make the slightest dent in the trafficking of this filth. No online KP haven is going to be put out of business merely because it can no longer accommodate the diseased sexual desires of Pennsylvania's perverts. No pornographers will be prosecuted -- only ISPs will be. No KP sites will be disabled; and no online archives will be erased. Trading via IRC, ICQ and AIM will go on unimpeded. Business will be burdened with extravavant requirements and Draconian penalties; and the public will be burdened with censorship, all for no good reason. The Pennsylvania legislature has pulled a terrific fast one here. It's granted censorship rights to the state on the pretext of child protection. It's created a superficial image of concern over KP, while laying responsibility for it as far from the source, and from itself, as humanly possible. And it's got away with it. Governor Mark Schweiker signed the bill into law last month. It takes effect in April. ®
Thomas C Greene, 19 Mar 2002

HP declares victory (and no you can't see the votes)

Hewlett-Packard today declared its victory in the proxy battle to takeover Compaq by a small majority. It bases this on a tally of the votes from major institutional shareholders. So all you retail shareholders, your proxy votes are important only insofar as the size of the majority. So it's all over bar the counting? Not quite, Walter Hewlett Jr, the dissident director and son of a founder, who led the battle to stop the merger, refuses to concede defeat to Princess Fiorina just yet. The count is expected to take up to four weeks to complete. Tomorrow Compaq shareholders get their chance to bless the Sircam Merger. And then? Fifteen thousand people lose their jobs, top brass get their merger bonuses, and PC and server rivals swarm all over the accounts of two highly introspective companies beating themselves into one. ®'
Drew Cullen, 19 Mar 2002

Walter cheered, Carly jeered at HP merger vote

Although HP today offered about as much empirical evidence that it's going to win the Sircam merger vote as you find accompanying a report of an alien abduction, that didn't dent its confidence. The Walter B Hewlett Jr camp thinks there's only one per cent between the respective tallies. Adding up the votes will take several weeks, but HP management is already proclaiming victory. No wonder that HP declined to webcast the event. Hewlett himself had five minutes to speak, but received two thunderous standing ovations, at Cupertino's Flint Center. By contrast, Fiorina was booed three times by the hostile crowd in her two hour question-and-answer session. However, in what some attendees described as a bravura performance, she didn't flinch from answering a single question. The thousand-plus strong audience included HP employees past and present, who were overwhelmingly against the Sircam merger. They far outnumbered any Sun Microsystems employees who took the morning off to back the merger. In a statement [PDF, 19kb] issued this today, Hewlett thanked the HP staff for backing his campaign to block the merger, noting that HP staff had voted 2:1, and Agilent staff 8:1 against the deal. The decisive votes come from institutional investors, who are evenly split on the deal. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Mar 2002