20th > March > 2002 Archive

16,000 jump on BTo's new DSL bandwagon

BTopenworld has secured more than 16,000 orders for its DSL service in the last two weeks. The massive surge in demand coincides with BTopenworld's move to cut the cost of its single user DSL product to under £30 a month, following a fall in the wholesale costs. Speaking to The Register for the first time since her appointment just before Christmas, BTopenworld chief exec, Alison Ritchie, said: "This is very encouraging." And she believes that BT Group's broader target of installing a million DSL lines over the next year is achievable adding that she wanted a "healthy slice" of that market. Of course, with more than 100,000 broadband users already BTopenworld has a head start on its rivals. Plus its commitment to chuck around £10 million behind marketing broadband is also sure to help it pick-up punters. The real interest will come when those ISP heavyweights - Freeserve and AOL UK - really get stuck-in to broadband and start taking-on BTopenworld. When that happens it could be a right old scrap for market share - definitely one to watch. Of course, all that's in the future. For Alison Ritchie, she insists that improving customer satisfaction remains her "number one" priority. Stressing that things had improved, she added that Oftel had received a marked fall in the number of complaints it received about the ISP business. Asked whether BTopenworld would follow Freeserve's lead and increase the cost of its unmetered narrowband service, Ritchie said she could "neither rule it in or out" but agreed that the trend was probably upwards. ® Related Stories BTopenworld in multi-million broadband push BT Openworld announces broadband price cut
Tim Richardson, 20 Mar 2002
SGI logo hardware close-up

Cisco sued over Net2Phone ‘deception’

Net2Phone Inc yesterday filed suit against Cisco Systems Inc, alleging the router maker conducted a two-year deception with the aim of seizing control of the voice over IP network management market, Kevin Murphy writes. According to Net2Phone, Cisco misled the company when they jointly launched Adir Technologies Inc as a subsidiary with the purpose of developing VoIP management software that would be compatible with Cisco infrastructure hardware. Cisco took an 8% stake in the Net2Phone subsidiary. Net2Phone claims Cisco said Adir would be the "sole developer" of this type of software, and that it would not develop its own competing products. Net2Phone says Cisco then used its influence in Adir to slow the development of its Voxis product, while it used Adir's trade secrets to help create its own, rival software behind the scenes. Complicating matters further, Net2Phone claims Cisco "induced" it into making the $48m acquisition of rival NetSpeak Corp last August. Net2Phone says Cisco "had an urgent need to keep NetSpeak 'alive' and out of the hands of competitors until at least late 2001," when it could begin to poach NetSpeak's customers with its own products. Net2Phone says Cisco started marketing its own "DAS" system, which competes with Voxis, in August, and managed to delay Voxis's launch from March 2001 to October, and additionally claims that Cisco's CSR route server product competes with NetSpeak's NSR when Cisco said it would not. Cisco managed to secure clients, damaging Net2Phone's business, on the basis of these actions, Net2Phone says. The suit, filed in the District Court for New Jersey, alleges Cisco misappropriated trade secrets, engaged in unfair competition, broke the companies' strategic alliance agreement, and made fraudulent misrepresentations during various negotiations. Net2Phone wants an injunction preventing Cisco shipping any products based on the allegedly misappropriated trade secrets, as well as damages based on the injuries Net2Phone says it suffered, and a disgorgement of profits Cisco made on the products in question. A Cisco spokesperson dismissed the claims, telling ComputerWire: "This appears to be an effort to justify a business failure by filing a lawsuit." Cisco did not breach the terms of its contract with Net2Phone, he said. The company had not responded to the specific claims of the suit by press time. Net2Phone has had a turbulent time recently. In October, voting control of the firm was obtained by IDT Corp, in a complex three-way deal with AT&T Corp and Liberty Media Corp. A specially formed shell company, controlled by IDT and partly owned by Liberty and ATT, owns 49% of Net2Phone, and 60% of the voting shares. The company has also been slashing headcount. It reduced its workforce from 675 to 385 in November, and again to 275 last month. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 20 Mar 2002

Certicom says Nokia will not kill its VPN sales

The fact that Nokia Corp is to give away virtual private network clients on its 9200 series Communicators does not signal the demise of rival client developers, according to one such provider, Certicom Corp, Kevin Murphy writes. The Hayward, California-based firm yesterday unveiled movianVPN for the Symbian operating system, adding that the VPN client will be made available on 9210, 9210i and 9290 Communicators via resellers or for download. Prakash Panjwani, Senior VP of business development at Certicom, said that cross-device, cross-gateway support will keep its software selling. Enterprises that have deployed multiple VPN gateways and have different types of PDA and smartphone in the field will be better served by Certicom's software than Nokia's, he said. "Companies are not going to buy a product based on a specific device," he said. He added that movianVPN has been tested with all the major VPN gateways and on various networks. The company sells its clients through gateway suppliers such as Hewlett-Packard Co, Cisco Systems Inc and Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. Last week, Nokia said Communicators will have Nokia-grown VPN clients available for free. At the time, VP of Nokia Mobile Solutions Bob Brace told ComputerWire: "The wireless VPN client licensing model is dated. I'm not sure how other companies that make clients will sell them." The comments evidently took Certicom by surprise, and Nokia seemed to backpedal somewhat yesterday, saying in a Certicom press release: "[movianVPN] will complement Nokia's own client, which will be available later this year as separate software for corporate users that deploy Nokia VPN infrastructures." Last week, Nokia's Brace said that although its VPN client has not been extensively tested with other gateways (it sells its own gateway appliance, OEMing Check Point's software), support for the IPSec protocol should make interoperability with most third party vendors, including Cisco, easy. Panjwani said that Certicom's growth will also come from complementary client products, such as movianCrypt, which encrypts data stored locally on mobile devices. Clearly, data obtained securely over a wireless VPN still runs the risk of being compromised if, say, a PDA on which it is subsequently stored is stolen, a problem movianCrypt addresses but VPN software does not. Certicom also yesterday announced the release of movianCrypt, previously available only for the Palm OS-based PDAs, for the Pocket PC. Panjwani would not specifically commit Certicom to releasing a Symbian version, but the company's strategy seems to require such a move. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved. Related story Nokia's Communicator VPN bundle threatens vendors
ComputerWire, 20 Mar 2002

EMC pushes WideSky on sometimes unwilling world

EMC today launched its WideSky storage middleware, but admitted that the software simply bundles together and puts a front-end on interfaces that have existed for some while, Tim Stammers writes. On the question of the still-missing support for key hardware products in WideSky, once again the company threatened that even if its rivals continue to balk at supporting the proprietary and potential hugely influential middleware, it will engineer that support without their cooperation. Hopkinton, Massachusetts-based EMC released a set of tools for third-party developers to access WideSky, which it describes as translator software that allows storage and applications software to trade systems information with each other and with storage hardware. EMC described its developers program as "the storage industry's largest open software initiative," and said the program has over 100 members. But WideSky, unveiled last October, still lacks the hardware support needed to enable management software truly capable of handling heterogeneous storage systems. One reason for the emergence of those mixed systems in what has until now been a very proprietary storage market is that EMC's high-end rivals HDS and IBM Corp have recently begun to ship genuinely competitive products. Faced with this commoditization of its core hardware products, EMC is stepping up its efforts in the higher-margin software arena, in which it has already demonstrated an edge over its competitors. Hence the emergence of WideSky. By EMC's own admission what WideSky does for software interoperability is based on collecting together existing interfaces into one package. These interfaces allow "mapping" or monitoring and transfer of systems information, but no active control of applications. "There have been pieces of this available historically. The key here is wrapping these things together," said Don Swatik, EMC's vice president of global alliances. "We're providing the low-level APIs so that ISVs can focus on developing applications," Swatik said. Comparing WideSky to a United Nations translation service, EMC said it is easier for developers to code to one WideSky interface, and then let WideSky handle the translation to other vendors' systems, than it would be to code to each of several separate suppliers' interfaces. But by this analogy the company highlighted what is scaring EMC's rivals. WideSky could do to the same to their interests as an interpreter with a personal agenda could do to world relations at the UN. That could be so even if WideSky only reflected an unconscious bias towards EMC engineering approaches. On the hardware front, EMC has already announced a deal with Compaq Computer Corp under which the two companies swapped API access to the software that runs on the controllers of their storage arrays, and WideSky is also supported by storage networking vendors such as QLogic Corp and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. But even Compaq insisted that that its API swap in no way represented support for the "proprietary and counterproductive" WideSky, and EMC has yet to manage a similar deal with IBM or HDS. Swatik said more hardware deals will be announced later this year. "We're in discussions with all the major vendors," he said. Does that include IBM and HDS? "That's a good assumption," he said. Not according to IBM it isn't. "There are no active discussions with EMC," a spokesman told ComputerWire yesterday. Since the EMC middleware was first announced last year, IBM has repeatedly condemned WideSky as proprietary technology that it says will benefit EMC, but not the industry. According to IBM, any such middleware efforts are best handled by standards bodies. HDS began negotiations with EMC to trade APIs last year, but since ComputerWire reported the fractious nature of the talks, both companies have agreed not to discuss their progress. It is not know whether they are continuing. "No comment," an HDS spokeswoman said. The WideSky tools released yesterday by EMC include an SRM (Storage Resource Management) interface, which provides end-to-end mapping and access to systems information. "Access in the sense of what's going on. You're not controlling the [array] volume systems, but they're telling you where they're putting the data," Swatick said. An example of where this might be useful would be in tuning an Oracle database. If the database is aware of how a Symmetrix has distributed data across its disks - and not just which disk it is on - it can tune itself better, Swatick said. Underlining the fact that the interfaces in WideSky already exist, Swatick said that Oracle's shipping 9i database already uses such information supplied by the Symmetrix. EMC also listed IBM's DB2, Microsoft's SQL Server and Sybase's ASE database as supported by WideSky. Volume managers and file systems supported by WideSky include those from Compaq, IBM, HP, Microsoft, Sun, and Veritas. Rob Soderbery, senior director of strategic and platform alliances at Veritas said: "Mapping is one component of an SRM solution. Veritas has been making it available to EMC for some time now, with our volume manager and file system APIs." Those Veritas APIs were also made available to third parties through EMC, before WideSky. What makes EMC so sure that WideSky will be endorsed by the industry? "It's a very simple one-word answer. Customers", Swatick said. EMC is hoping that market pressure will force IBM and HDS to do what Compaq did, and cooperate with EMC. Swatick pointed out that IBM and Sun fought back hard to defend what they had considered as their captive storage markets until EMC's arrival on their doorsteps in the eighties and nineties. "Now we have extensive cooperative support agreements with those companies," he said. And if rivals don't trade APIs, EMC said as it has before that it will resort to CLI or NDMP interfaces, with which it says it will simply take longer to access their technologies. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved. Related story HDS plays down API swaps with IBM or EMC
ComputerWire, 20 Mar 2002

Don't broaden case into new trial, MS judge tells States

Microsoft antitrust judge Colleen Kollar-Kottelly yesterday appeared to fire a shot across the bows of the unsettling States' case. She refused to accept testimony from former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, and also said she was inclined to agree with Microsoft's view that most of the testimony from Sun's Richard Green should be thrown out. She has yet to rule on this, but said she understood Microsoft's concerns, and that she felt some of the direct testimony "needs to be culled through a little more carefully." She also warned that the broad approach being taken by the States would lead to a new trial, as opposed to a remedy. Although The Register won't miss another pile of dull testimony from Barksdale, this could be bad news for the States and good news for Microsoft. One of Microsoft's arguments is that the States are massively broadening the scope of the case when it should now be focussing on specific and appropriate remedies for the violations Microsoft has been deemed guilty of. The States are indeed pitching very broad-ranging remedies that are intended to stop future repetition of violations in products that were not considered in the original trial, because in many cases they didn't yet exist. They're also - as Microsoft has already pointed out - including products that did exist but weren't covered. One of their requirements for example is that the Microsoft Office monopoly be tackled via forced licensing of the product, but although Office was originally considered for inclusion in the case, they and the DoJ dropped it right back at the start. Which party is right depends on your perspective. If Microsoft has its way then the issues will be slowly whittled down until the argument is over fairly narrow legal territory and past sins, and we get dangerously close to the MS-DoJ Revised Proposed Final Judgment. If the States have their way, on the other hand, then The Beast will be more effectively muzzled in the future, but it'll have much more to do with natural justice than the law. One really is inclined, much as one regrets it, to see some of Microsoft's point here, and to agree with the judge that the States' should try to narrow their case down to the legal and achievable. That doesn't necessarily mean that current Microsoft products will be excluded from the case, but it probably does mean the States will have to present convincing arguments for why they're relevant. ®
John Lettice, 20 Mar 2002

CompuServe UK for the chop?

AOL UK has refused to confirm or deny speculation that it is on the brink of axing its CompuServe ISP service in the UK. CompuServe users could find out as early as tomorrow that AOL UK intends to pull the service with customers offered the chance to transfer to AOL UK's subscription service. Asked to confirm or deny the allegation a senior spokesman for AOL UK said: "We have nothing to announce." In September 2001 AOL UK rushed to defend speculation that it planned to can CompuServe following its decision to close its subscription-free ISP Netscape Online. At the time Matt Peacock of AOL UK "categorically denied" that CompuServe was for the chop. "CompuServe is a subscription-based service that is fundamentally sound and enjoys strong customer loyalty," he said. AOL bought CompuServe - an early pioneer of ISP services - in 1998. ® Related Stories Compuserve not for the chop - AOL UK AOL UK shuts down Netscape Online
Tim Richardson, 20 Mar 2002

3G phones – rarer than hen's teeth

PreviewPreview I wasn't supposed to review this phone. It's the most valuable one I have held; worth more than the solid platinum handset NEC made as a one-off back in 1998. The phone in question is also an NEC model, one of the prototype third-generation models being used in the Isle of Man to test the network that is under development there. Manx Telecom, a subsidiary of BT, is building an experimental network on the island. The project, costing many tens of millions of pounds, is the most advanced test of mobile phones in the world. It has 22 cell sites, with a plan to expand to 28, and advanced radio planning and billing software. The network went live in December with just 20 phones. These handsets are so rare that the managing director of Manx Telecom, Chris Hall, said he would buy phones from anyone prepared to sell them to him. They let me play with one for half an hour—then made sure they got it back. The phone has no official name, but we’ll call it the IMT 2000. It’s a clamshell design with a button on the lid and a blue light in the centre of the button, and looks rather cheap and plasticky. It’s slim and light at 103x52x24mm and 103g. At first I was impressed by this, as I know 3G functions need a lot of power and I’d been expecting a big chunky battery. Sadly, it turned out that I was right. The phone has a standby time of just 35 hours, and a meagre talktime of 2.5 hours, a figure which I suspect covers voice alone, not battery-draining video or high speed data. Like GSM phones, 3G phones use a SIM card. The one in the test phone is capable of storing 700 names and numbers. The call quality was excellent, although oddly 'dead'. It wasn't abruptly clipped like a GSM phone, but neither was it as sonorous as a land line. The IMT 2000 has a big bright 4096 colour screen, with a resolution of 132x162 pixels. There is a little smearing when it scrolls, but it's fine for watching video clips or playing games. The phones being used by Manx Telecom are single mode, meaning that they can only use the 3G network. This doesn't fit with the usual predictions about the way we’ll use 3G. As a rule the assumption is that 3G will only be available in towns and cities, and we’ll continue to use ordinary GSM in the less populated places. It costs a lot to roll out a new network and the operators will probably be reluctant to put in much effort covering areas that offer little revenue in return. So we'll all need phones that can do both GSM and 3G. Unfortunately, this calls for a lot of additional electronics. What's more, an antenna which is efficient at one frequency isn’t nearly as good at another. There are also network complications involved in handing off between technologies. All these factors mean that dual-mode 3G phones will be bigger and more expensive than the models we’re currently used to. NEC hasn't attempted to jump through this particular hoop with the prototype in use on Manx Telecom. The phones got noticeably warmer than an ordinary mobile even using a 64Kbps connection, which is a lot less than the theoretical 384K maximum. All colour phones look good and the NEC 3G makes the most of this with applications that have been developed for this. It's based on WAP 1.2 but adds graphics and colour. A fighting game against another person worked excellently. This is good news, as mobile gaming is one of the very few 3G applications promising real revenue. The screen savers of dogs chasing birds and a solar system are fantastic. There is a lot of potential for animated cartoons on 3G devices. One neat feature is that you can have a play list of ring tones, with the phone stepping through them. The ring tones are polyphonic and sound great. As far as I could tell, the phone didn't cater for WAV files or have a ring tone recorder. There is a lot missing from the IMC 2000 that you'd expect to see on a current GSM phone. It does have a scheduler, and a password protected 'secret' mode, but it misses out on some of the things we’ve come to expect, such as personal ring tones, predictive text and built in games. Messaging is only by email—there is no SMS. Nor does it have a web browser; the only way to download video clips is via WAP or through the USB link from a PC. This is disappointing; with a phone that has high-speed always-on there should be a lot more in the way of communications options such as a web browser and the ability to download Java applications. It's also a better way to communicate with computers; it has USB, but no Bluetooth or infra red. It can't be stressed too often that this was a very early prototype and lots will change. But it’s also important to make the point that the first 3G phones we see will actually be a lot more primitive in many ways than the models we're used to. The basic technological challenge is so great that it won't leave much room for subtle refinements. Ease of use Below the screen is the keypad. It has a Star-Trek four way cursor cluster with a select button in the middle. Two keys above the cluster provide confirm and function buttons. (If the screen bore legends relating to these, in the usual manner of softkeys, they’d be a lot more useful). One says 'f' for function and the other has an envelope with a tick on it, but while I was using the phone, the function button just took you to the menu. There's probably some way to go in sorting out the roles and labelling of the various buttons. The interface is rather perverse. Only one menu option at a time is displayed in the middle of the screen, and below it a text box showing which options you get if you choose up or down. That’s three lines of text, in a confusing order, on a screen that has room for 20. However, this was a very early taster and it would be churlish to criticise at this point. Handset issues aside, it was fascinating to see 3G in action. One of the impressive demonstrations Manx Telecom laid on was Isle of Man on the Move. We drove around the island in a Citroen people-mover that was equipped with a PC, Global Positioning System and a 3G phone. The screen of the PC showed where we were and the software used the phone to download relevant web pages. You could drive past the very smart hotel and book in from the sea front. To everyone who was due to fly out that evening the times and delays of the flights home were particularly important. It worked very well, proving that hand-off between the cells on the island didn’t cause a problem. The big problem with 3G remains how to pay for it. All the mobile phone networks see mobile data as being the answer but no-one has a convincing answer as to what people are going to use the data for. To this end 02 (nee BT Cellnet) which owns Manx Telecom has a developer arm called Expidas. This helps people who want to produce mobile data applications (on-line guides on an iPaq for washing machine repairmen, games and horoscopes) and Expidas is working with Manx in the hope of finding the 'killer application'. There is a lot of speculation not only on what will make 3G a success, but if it can be made a success. It’s taken GPRS a year to stagger from first launch to being available in the shops and GPRS is a very simple network upgrade. 3G is much, much harder. Even the bullish Managing Director of Manx telecom thinks it will take over five years for the number of 3G users to overtake the number of GSM users on his island, which is the most advanced place in the world. It has perfect coverage, no government licence fee and all the manufacturers co-operating with their finest engineers to make it work. There are heaps of problems, not least making all the tens of thousands of base stations needed for each of the hundreds of networks around the world which have ordered them. Then there is the planning permission needed to erect them and that's all before you start worrying about getting it working and then selling the services. The predictions that we'll see mass sales of 3G phones for Christmas after next seem very optimistic. © What Mobile. All rights reserved.
Simon Rockman, 20 Mar 2002

Symantec spills email addresses of list subscribers

UpdatedUpdated Subscribers to a Symantec digest have alerted us after receiving an administrative message that divulged user email details. Symantec sent out a message on Monday seeking to delete people from the list, which provided the addresses of 74 subscribers to its monthly Security Response newsletter. Two Register readers have copied us into their email responses to the hapless Symantec staffer who sent the message (no, we're not naming him). Symantec has yet to get back to us (or as far as we know its subscribers) for comment for this oversight, a small but, considering who's involved, embarrassing mistake to make. Last May, Computer Associates made a similar faux pas which resulted in 60,000 subscribers to its anti-virus alert email list receiving a spam message. ® Update As it turns out, Symantec did send a message apologising for its slip up a few hours after the offending email was fired off. Symantec has been in touch to say that the original message was an accident, caused by human error. It has promised to review its procedures to make sure that there is no repeat of the incident. Related Stories How secure is CA's security mailing list? Anti-Virus's control fetish
John Leyden, 20 Mar 2002

A succulent bunch of fives from IT-Minds

This week's discounted bunch of fives from Reg associate IT-minds bookstore is led by Designing from Both Sides of the Screen by Ellen Isaacs and Alan Walendowski. The book sets out to examine how designers and engineers can collaborate to build cooperative technology, offering a sound and proven philosophy for designing and building software. It explores the dialog between designer and software engineer, and gives insights which when applied will facilitate a higher degree of collaboration between them. This tome normally goes out at £34.99, but Reg readers can, for this week only, get it at £27.99 - that's 20 per cent off the list price. The rest of the bunch of fives are: Understanding .NET Computer Forensics Creative html design.2 Building Linux Virtual Private Networks Well, that little lot should keep you busy for a while, but if they don't ring your bell, IT-minds offers Reg readers a permanent 10 per cent off a huge range of IT books. ®
Lester Haines, 20 Mar 2002

Bill's vision for the future of the PC, c1980 – er, Xenix

Microsoft attorney Dan Webb's precis of Bill Gates' forthcoming trial contribution has prompted quantities of correspondence from bitter old lags on the subject Microsoft's pivotal role in the history of the computer industry, and on His Billness' "vision." to refresh your memory: "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." And there's something else Mr Webb had to say on Monday that we should take into account to set the scene. Of Unix he said: "It's used some, but it's never received widespread popularity, because what happened is that Unix got fragmented... So I respectfully suggest that a proper remedy in this case should not require the firm Microsoft, that has provided the most popular and successful product, to adopt the business models of those who have failed." OK, vision for the future, invention of DOS, Microsoft's success stands in sharp contrast to that of the companies espousing the failed and fragmented Unix model, got that? Now, back we go to 1975-81. Microsoft, in the shape of Gates and Paul Allen, kicked off with Basic, and followed up in 1978 with Fortran. Of course the real vision didn't arrive on the scene until 1980, when Microsoft got into operating systems; no, not DOS - the company licensed Unix from AT&T and announced it as Xenix, producing it for a number of processors, including the Intel 8086. This much is well-known by those who were around at the time, and it's also well-known that the Gates vision we know so well today stemmed from a swift deal with IBM over another operating system, QDOS, which Microsoft bought in so it could actually fulfill the contract. Less well-known is that the vision of the time was largely constructed around the product from which all of those failed business models stemmed. Both Microsoft and IBM viewed the IBM PC as essentially a low production run one-shot, and into the first years of the 80s Gates himself was still extolling the virtues of Xenix. Microsoft, incidentally, had farmed out much of the development of Xenix to a company called SCO, but if we get too far into that we'll get lost in the Unix Wars jungle, and never find our way out. The love affair with Unix/Xenix was company-wide, although not necessarily shared by the grunts, as one former grunt writes: "I think Gates first tried to sell Xenix to IBM who, afraid of what a post-breakup AT&T could do to their markets, wanted nothing to do with it. [This seems plausible, as Gates would surely try to sell something he already had, rather than something he was going to have to grab quick. Nice footwork though, Bill] "Anyway, when I worked there back in the mid 80's every poor sod in the company from Bill down to the mail clerks had a Xenix terminal on their desk and used it daily for email at least. Meaning every poor sod had to master vi before they could request vacation time (and everyone wonders why Microsoft is such a hateful cramped little place.) "I think the original DOS might have been developed on one of their old VAX mini's but by the time I got there everything including DOS 2.x, all their languages and applications, Mac Word and Mac Excel, Windows Excel and Windows Word were written in vi and compiled on those goddamn Xenix boxes, and all their documentation was written in vi and compiled in troff and nroff. I don't think [they] really moved to the PC platform for development until around the time Windows 3.1 came out." At the time Windows 3.1 came out Microsoft was breaking with IBM over OS/2, after a brief 'peace treaty' period where Gates at least appeared to agree that OS/2 was the future (and said it in public) but that Windows could act as a sort of interim platform. Microsoft was also covering its bets by proposing NT as an OS for ACE, which was being mooted as an alternative (to IBM's PS/2) successor to the PC. If ACE had worked we might all today be running machines using MIPS and Unix derivatives. Or alternatively, if Microsoft had agreed with IBM about OS/2 2.0, rather than spiking it with Win 3.1, we might all be running OS/2. Or if Microsoft had stuck with Xenix rather than throwing it back into the pot... But enough of that. If it is indeed true that Microsoft was running on Xenix up until Windows 3.1, it casts an interesting light on how flexible Bill's vision of the future was right up until the early 90s. Gates himself, speaking at Unix Expo in 1996, was still being nice about Unix, boasting about Microsoft's early Xenix work, and grousing about AT&T's leadership vacuum: "I have to admit, it was fairly difficult to work with AT&T back then. They simply didn't understand what they had. They didn't understand how to manage the asset, either in terms of promoting it properly or in terms of making sure that there wasn't fragmentation in how different implementations were put together. And so that vacuum in leadership created a bit of a dilemma for everybody who was involved in Unix. "Well, Microsoft stepped back and looked at that situation and said that the best thing for us might be to start from scratch: build a new system, focus on having a lot of the great things about Unix, a lot of the great things about Windows, and also being a file-sharing server that would have the same kind of performance that, up until that point, had been unique to Novell's Netware. "And through Windows NT, you can see it throughout the design. In a weak sense, it is a form of Unix." Sheesh, those failed business plans again, although to be fair the Bill vision here is presenting NT as a fix for the problems and frustrations Microsoft encountered with Unix. Like not owning it, for starters... ®
John Lettice, 20 Mar 2002

ORBZ shuts up shop, cites criminal charges

UpdatedUpdated ORBZ, the anti-spam blacklisting service, is shutting down. Ian Gulliver, the administrator of ORBZ (Open Relay Blocking Zone), sent a message to its mailing list explaining that the service was been shut down because of "criminal charges for denial of service relating to the Lotus Domino issue". Last August, Gulliver sent a message to the BugTraq mailing list stating that the ORBZ scanner creates "oddly formed mail envelopes that can cause Lotus Domino to enter a mail routing loop" resulted in the crash of a mail server. The issue, which we're told was never particularly serious, was fixed in Lotus Domino version R5.0.9 (see below). That would have been the end of the matter, if it weren't for (most unusually) the bug becoming the subject of criminal action, according to Gulliver's message. "I received an official court notice this afternoon to turn over all information relation to ORBZ accounts. This came from the 10th Judicial District court of the State of Michigan," he writes. "I was happy to try to weather any civil issues that may have come up, and I was committed to seeing it through. However, the threat of jail time is too much; I don't believe in this fight quite that much." Gulliver advises users that because of the court the ORBZ Web site Web site will disappear (we can still ping the site but can't access it) and email will stop working (our email bounced - confirming this has happened already). Users should consider ORDB and SpamCop for spam filtering as an alternative to ORBZ, he advises. Alex Shipp, of managed services firm MessageLabs, whose SkyScan AS (anti-spam) service used public blacklists of open relays provided by ORBZ said the demise of the service will make life at least temporarily easier for spammers. There are around 50 services of varying quality that will pick up the role ORBZ has vacated, he added, so the withdrawal of ORBZ is more a temporary setback in the war against spam than something more serious. ORBZ was created in June last year by the principal of anti-spam organisation ORBS, Paul Cummins, after its demise following a New Zealand court case, brought by Actrix and Xtra. Both successfully claimed they had been falsely added to ORBS' blacklist. ® Update A Notes administrator has kindly informed us that the potential undetected routing loop bug which is the focus of all the flak was fixed in Lotus Domino version R5.0.9. You can read the details on this here. With normal anti-relay configuration in place, the exploit didn't work anyway, according to the admin. "There was an additional workaround available, for situations where normal anti relay settings couldn't be used. This vulnerability never has been a big issue, in my opinion," he writes. Related stories ORBS now split into three ORBS splits into ORBZ and ORBL Junk mail costs lives
John Leyden, 20 Mar 2002

OUP reference books go online

The Oxford University Press (OUP) is making its academic tomes available online - for a fee. From today the core collection of the OUP's reference works - which includes more than 1.5 million entries - is available at Oxford Reference Online. The site has taken two years to develop and so far cost £1 million ($1.5 million). The cost of accessing the works of reference - which include dictionary definitions, facts, figures, people, places, sayings, and dates - starts from £175/US$250 (ex VAT) a year. In ten years it's expected that the general knowledge reference source will total more than 130 million words - equivalent to over 300 books. Of course, if you're not interested in Aaron's Rod, Thomas Killigrew or Ulrich Zwingli then this might not be for you. Frankly, at £175 a throw it ain't for me either. Yesterday the Times said it would start charging for content. ® Related Story Foreigners must pay for Times online
Tim Richardson, 20 Mar 2002

Mobo maker flushes P4 chipset through grey market

Pentium 4 BO chipsets are falling in price on the gray market in Asia, in response to a big clear-out by a major, unnamed mobo maker, the ever resourceful Digitimes reports (although not resourceful enough to name the company). It notes that DDR-supporting 845BO (845D) chipsets can be bought in the region for $30, compared with the list price of $36-$37. Until recently the gap between spot price and list price was as little as $2, and the widening differential should make sourcing from the gray market more attractive to smaller mobo makers. The source of the gray chipsets is a major mobo maker which is cutting stock in response to slowing orders in March, a broker contact of Digitimes says. If this is the case, prices will edge back closer to the list once this inventory is flushed through the system. However, if one big mobo maker has miscalculated on demand, how many more have stumbled? Digitimes points to the current market slowness, and the lack of "any big ticket orders" landed by Taiwanese mobo makers at CeBIT. ® Related story Digitimes: Gray-market 845B0 chipset said to be quoted at below US$30
Drew Cullen, 20 Mar 2002

MS Mira beta: buy $800 web tablet, then pretend it's not

Beta testers of Microsoft's Mira wireless display devices are going to have to pay for the hardware, according to an email sent to testers yesterday and obtained by ActiveWin. Well, fair enough, you might think, it is hardware so there's a cost factor that's absent from the usual software beta, but it's $800 for an 8.4in 800x600 TFT unit, and even odder than that, it's not a wireless display at all - it's a full-blown appliance that can operate independently of the PC it's to be tested with. It would be nice to think Microsoft had tossed all its earlier Mira plans after reading The Register's objections to them less than 48 hours ago, but we fear it's likelier that whoever's doing the organisation and deal-making here is just missing the point rather drastically. On Monday we complained about Mira being a mobile CE-based appliance that was maimed into just being a local wireless display for your home PC. well, today it's clearly worse than that - you have to buy a mobile CE-based appliance then maim it yourself. The device Microsoft is suggesting, at $799 cash or $825 credit card (claimed $350-$450 below market price) is the DT Research DT380, which as you'll see from the product announcement is a tablet that "operates as a web access device, thin client, or desktop companion." It is, friends, precisely not what Mira is specified to be, but more like what the Microsofties, bless 'em, have been telling us Mira 2, the 2003 product, will be. Mira 1 itself is supposed to be $500 at this kind of footprint, incidentally, which will no doubt cheer up contributing testers greatly if this turns out to be the case when it ships. There's more weirdness. Bear in mind that Mira is being specifically positioned for the home, where presumably the honest punter will be running the recommended OS, i.e. XP Home. So here's what you need: "Host PC - You will need a PC with Windows XP Pro that is running Terminal Server or Remote Desktop. This PC will be acting as your Mira Host. Wireless LAN - Wi-Fi 802.11b. Cisco Aironet 240/350 or Orinoco wireless Ethernet card. Mira client device hardware - DT Research, WebDT 380 Web Pad." Of course if it needs Remote Desktop then it wouldn't work with Home, would it? All the same, the thought of testers paying DT a substantial wedge for the product, then hooking it up in a near as dammit full-blown thin client network system, then having to pretend it's something far more basic, is treasurable. ®
John Lettice, 20 Mar 2002

Police tackle global ‘elite’ paedo ring

Twelve people have been arrested in a global operation designed to crack down on an "elite" group of Net-based paedophiles. The arrests were made earlier today as part of coordinated raids led by Interpol. It claims those arrested were heavily involved in the production and distribution of child pornography. The operation, codenamed ARTUS, followed the identification of a paedophile network by Germany's National Criminal Police Agency. Law enforcement officers from Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US took part in today's raids. Two men in the UK - one from Bicester and the other from Kingston-upon-Thames - are currently being questioned by police. According to the BBC the men worked in the computer industry and had computer equipment taken away from their homes. Today's arrests were made by the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. No one was available for comment at the time of writing. ® Related Link 'Elite' paedophile ring uncovered - BBC
Tim Richardson, 20 Mar 2002

Instant message, cracker tricks

IRC and instant messaging (IM) services are increasingly becoming vectors for social engineering attacks. That's according to an alert by security clearing CERT issued yesterday. This warns that script kiddies are tricking gullible users into downloading and executing malicious software using the services. These risks are well known but CERT's comment that "tens of thousands of systems have recently been compromised in this way" makes the warning more timely. Reports received by CERT suggest that crackers are using automated tools to post messages to unsuspecting users of IRC or IM services. "These messages typically offer the opportunity to download software of some value to the user, including improved music downloads, anti-virus protection, or pornography," it explains. "Once the user downloads and executes the software, though, their system is co-opted by the attacker for use as an agent in a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) network. Other reports indicate that Trojan horse and backdoor programs are being propagated via similar techniques." CERT has provided examples of the types of messages to be wary of and encourages users not to run programs of unknown origin on their PC, and to use anti-virus software. Previous advice by CERT has covered the security risks involved in using chat clients, which extend beyond social engineering attacks to include software flaws, such as buffer overflows or insecure configurations. The message here is the same as for other Internet applications - make sure your system is up to date with the latest patches. Never send passwords by IM (or unencrypted email, CERT reminds people. It's all fairly obvious advice but considering how often such common sense measures are ignored, it bears repeating. ® Related stories ICQ hack theories flood into Vulture Central AOL ICQ in hacker risk alert Israeli kids fess up to stupid worm attack Stupid worm spreads like wildfire New SubSeven Trojan unleashed DDoS attacks threaten Net's last commercial-free zone First MSN Messenger virus
John Leyden, 20 Mar 2002

Sue Ellison, analyst tells Oracle users

Meta Group analyst Mark Shainman says Oracle users should take legal action to block the database giant from renegotiating some license fees. Meta says customers who aggregate feeds to and from data warehouses on Oracle databases are now being asked to pay more. The issue arises, according to Meta, because batch jobs to the database are now being considered by Oracle as several, rather than one request. Oracle supports multiplexing, or pooling data through a proxy, from several sources into one request. Oracle now wants to regard this as many requests, rather than one request. Shainman says this could result in a fivefold increase for some users. He says users should go to court to defend existing license arrangements. Oracle says it's being entirely consistent, and characterizes the Meta bulletin as a "misunderstanding". Readers with first hand experience of the new multiplexing license arrangement should get in touch. We'd like to hear from you. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Mar 2002