22nd > March > 2002 Archive

Scientologists gag Google

Web search outfit Google has caved in to demands from the 'Church' of Scientology demanding that it delete URLs from its database directing Web surfers to certain pages maintained by Xenu.net, a well-known CoS critic. In this case the dreaded Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has provided the pretext for censorship. Scientology shysters have persuaded Google that it's liable for copyright infringement because Xenu has mirrored excerpts from sacred texts which the cult guards jealously as its intellectual capital. At issue here is a fairly undefinable limit to fair use, which ensures that we may, if we please, quote a passage from CoS scripture and ridicule it, but not re-publish it. But there is no pre-defined limit to how much copyrighted text may be reproduced for purposes of analysis, criticism, satire or argumentation. The best guidance is the law itself, but this is ambiguous, and appeals to the amount quoted in relation to the whole work. No baseline safe ratio is suggested. The usual practice is to quote as much as needed to illustrate a point, and no more. The Cult claims that Xenu has quoted more than fair use allows; Xenu feels it's quoted just the right amount to make its points. However, Google was served with what appears to be a legally-proper DMCA notice, in that it is signed under penalty of perjury and asserts that the complainer has a good-faith belief that copyrights are being violated, so it had no choice but comply. Google removed references to the disputed pages, but in its eagerness to capitulate to the CoS threat also removed the Xenu.net home page. That little oversight has since been corrected. A Google search for Scientology now yields the Xenu home page in its fourth result, while a search for Xenu yields the home page in its first result. In order for Google to catalogue the disputed pages again, the Norwegian-based Xenu.net would have to file a counter-notification, which it is apparently unwilling to do lest it become subject to US court jurisdiction. As things stand now, the home page is now listed, and the disputed pages are still available. ®
Thomas C Greene, 22 Mar 2002

Hello WinXP SE: Microsoft reshuffles roadmaps, again

ExclusiveExclusive Microsoft has reshuffled its roadmaps once again, and begun briefing partners and customers to expect an interim upgrade to Windows XP, dubbed XP "SE", in the first quarter of next year. This buys more time for the Longhorn team to complete the complex task of implementing a native database file store, which Jon Honeyball first revealed to the world at The Register here, last August. In January we exclusively confirmed that the native, SQL Server-derived database would go in Longhorn, with the Blackcomb release - originally earmarked for the transition - pushed out to 2004. XP SE will be principally a consolidation release. Candidates for inclusion are the essential .NET client-side plumbing: the common language runtime (CLR), Internet Explorer 7.0 and DirectX 9.0, and a mature Bluetooth stack. Microsoft has blown hot and cold on Bluetooth - mostly cold, actually - but with chipsets at the $5 mark, it's going to be ubiquitious in PDAs and phones by 2003. Microsoft has more to offer to offer in the consumer department, (and DirectX is essentially a consumer technology), and as we observed this week, the Mira tablet hinges on a multi-user, RDP-enabled XP acting as the server. Windows XP Home edition doesn't come with RDP or SMP, so this is one obvious area for improvement. One caveat: whether an XP SE will actually appear at all is another matter. All such briefings have the flavor of market testing exercise, and from experience we know that Windows roadmaps are only valid until they're superseded, and this can happen fairly frequently until the official, offical product is declared. This is exactly what happened with WinME, and to an extent with Win98 SE. Microsoft is aware that corporate customers' number one beef is that there are too many Windows updates, so it's possible that if they complain loud enough, we'll see a succession of service packs instead, which is what happened to NT 4.0 in the three-and-a-half year wait for 5.0, née 2000. Possible, but perhaps not likely. Redmond is addicted to the near-annual fix of revenue from a major release of Windows. And if you were in the position that Microsoft is in, that's an itch you'd find hard not to scratch, too. ® *The Win XP Competition Although the Longhorn database manoever has received acres of coverage since we brought it to the world's attention, our friends at C|NUT only caught up with the news last week, with one of those please-give-us-an-award, epic production jobs with a matching, Ben Hur-style credits lists. So to show we're not bitter, we invite you to guess (closing date midnight Pacific Time tonight) how many days will elapse before the yellow-and-black-and-rectangular dot.com first mentions XP SE. The prize is a bright red vulture T-shirt, size XL. It's the only red one we have left here in San Francisco. Hurry, hurry! ® Related Scoops XP successor Longhorn goes SQL, P2P - Microsoft leaks MS poised to switch Windows file systems with Blackcomb How Microsoft's file system caper could wrongfoot the DoJ Microsoft reshuffles Windows roadmap, full .NET delayed? Related Redmond Leakware MS struggles to discredit Linux Leaked MS email reveals WinXP, Xbox launch spin plans MS promotes Linux from threat to 'the' threat - Memo
Andrew Orlowski, 22 Mar 2002

DRM hardware law gets new life, new name

A piece of legislation proposed by Hollywood sock puppet Sen. Fritz Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina) requiring all electronic devices to contain copy-protection has finally been introduced, after being renamed to sound like something positive. Previously known -- accurately -- as the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA), the warm and fuzzy version is now called the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA). Sounds laudable, doesn't it? Promoting Consumers and such. What it actually promotes is federal standards for digital rights management in all electronic devices, while imposing criminal penalties for those who would dare defy it. Here's the justification: "The lack of high quality digital content continues to hinder consumer adoption of broadband Internet service and digital television products," the bill asserts. So the reason why there's too little broadband going around isn't the greed of the providers, but the lack of bandwidth-choking content. And to get that content onto the Internet, we need to satisfy the extravagant security expectations of the owners. Once we do that, they'll make their products available, and the public will flock to broadband like moths to a lamp in hopes of watching movies on a 15-inch monitor and listening to the soundtracks through quarter-inch speakers. Surely this is the Holy Grail of home-entertainment. But Hollings and Co don't stop there. They want copy controls embedded in VCRs as well. Supposedly, time-shifting will still be permitted, but it will be somehow impossible to make a digital copy of an analog transmission to prevent movies and television programs from being distributed on the Internet. Because, as we all know, there's nothing we want more than to gather round the computer and boogie. The CBDTPA gives hardware manufacturers a year to come up with a solution acceptable to the movie and recording industries. If they fail to agree, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide for them how to go about it. Naturally, Hollings' handlers in the entertainment industry are beside themselves with joy. Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA) President Jack Valenti and Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) President Hillary Rosen have both publicly announced their delight with little Fritz. Hollings' co-conspirators on the Hill are John Breaux (Democrat, Louisana), Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, California), Daniel Inouye (Democrat, Hawaii), Ben Nelson (Democrat, Nebraska) and Ted Stevens (Republican, Alaska). ® Related Stories Senator brutalizes Intel rep for resisting CPRM MPAA's Valenti pushes for copy-control PCs
Thomas C Greene, 22 Mar 2002

Captain Cyborg Lives!

Kevin Warwick, the nutty professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, has moved one step closer to man machine mind meld. He's had a microchip implanted into his arm, in a "ground-breaking attempt to create the world's first integrated data link between man and computer". "If successful, the experiment...will show that it is possible to capture data signals such as movement commands and physical emotions including pain and pleasure and transmit them to other human beings." That's a big "If". And when it comes to physical emotions that's a very big "If". In a press release, Warwick says the experiment is a small step in harnessing computers to the human body. It also marks a giant step in the very public career of Captain Cyborg. So what's the deal? Warwick will make some hand movements - yes that's what it says - which will then be stored on his microchip. This will then be replayed to the Captain, forcing him to make the same but this time involuntary hand movements. "It will then be possible to transmit the Professor's original signals via the internet to other volunteers, who will experience the movements and physical emotions created by him via their own implanted arrays." My God! There's more of them! Anyone care to tell us how hand movements translate into "physical emotions"? Sponsoring the operation is a company called Tumbleweed. And we have a statement from Martyn Richards, vice president at the company: "We are proud to potentially be part of history in the making as for the first time ever, one human will be truly able to say to the other, 'I know how you feel!" Ever get the feeling that you know that someone doesn't have a clue what they are talking about. But wait, where there's a sponsor, there's a commercial opportunity. Tumbleweed, a specialist in secure communications, is providing the technology "vital to ensure the safe transmission of our nervous system signals via the internet," Captain Cyborg says. "With real feelings flying across the Net from one person to an other via the internet, we have to be sure that the signals are transmitted safely and without unauthorised interception." On a more modest level, Warwick reckons that the experiment could aid understanding of ways of helping paraplegic and other nerve-damaged sufferers. And on this score, he may well be right. Isn't he? Err, no, according to neurological experts interviewed by the New Scientist. They think his ambitions here are hopelessly overblown. ®
Drew Cullen, 22 Mar 2002

Dixons sues Time over ComputerWorld name

The Dixons Stores Group has fired off solicitor's letters to the Time Group telling it not to rebrand its shops as the The ComputerWorld. This name is too close to that of Dixon's PC World chain and could cause confusion, DSG claims. Time has already renamed its Burnley branch The ComputerWorld and intends to have 150 stores refitted and rechristened by the end of June. The name, the result of some focus group action conducted by Time, is really annoying Dixons. A spokesman for DSG said the group was taking it very seriously. "Our legal department has written to Time expressing our concerns about the similarity of the names. PC World - the Computer Superstore is part of our registered trademark." Time is up for a fight. In a statement it said: "Dixons and the Time Group are in discussion however we are not aware of any legal action taking place. If there were to be legal action we would defend it vigorously as we are not passing off The ComputerWorld as PC World." An exasperated Simon Turner, MD of PC World, said: "We think this will confuse customers." He expressed concerns that customers will think that PC World is adopting a Tesco Metro/Sainsburys Local approach by introducing smaller high street sister shops. Turner said: "We will definitely not move onto the high street." There are 108 PC World stores: the smallest have 10,000 sq ft of trading space and carry 5,000 product lines. More typically, stores are between 18,000sq ft to 20,000 sq ft and are sited out of town. Time shops, and the Tiny branches it took over when Tiny went into receivership, are 1,000 sq ft and are mostly town -centre based. A Time spokesman agreed there was massive difference in size between the two store types and thought that people wouldn't confuse PC World, The ComputerWorld or even CarpetWorld for this reason. "It's just a completely different concept," he said. ®
Robert Blincoe, 22 Mar 2002

BTo botches billing for cut price DSL

BTopenworld has promised to refund its broadband customers after its billing system failed to charge users the new lower rate for the ISP's DSL service. Earlier this month BTopenworld said it would cut the cost of its service to £29.99 a month following a cut in the wholesale price for DSL. In an email to its consumers the ISP said: "We're delighted to tell you that we'll be reducing the monthly fee on your BTopenworld Broadband service from 1st April 2002. "This means that your current monthly rental fee of £39.99 will be reduced to only £29.99. "You don't have to do anything, as the reduction will be made automatically from your April bill onwards," it said. However, two people have contacted The Register to say that BTopenworld has not automatically made the changes to their bill. Both were shocked to find that according to statements sent out by BTopenworld they will be charged £39.99 a month for April. At this stage it's not known how many people have been hit by the glitch. BTopenworld admitted the cock-up and said that all those affected would receive a credit in their next bill. "Our billing cycle runs from March and new prices which take effect as of April are not visible on this bill. All customers will receive a credit for the reduced rental price, which takes effect as of April 1, in their next bill," it said. ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Mar 2002

AT&T launches m-mode (like i-mode but different)

AT&T Wireless Services Inc will launch a wireless data service based on NTT DoCoMo Inc's wildly popular i-mode in April, company spokespeople told ComputerWire yesterday, Kevin Murphy writes. To be branded m-mode, the service will be somewhat different to its Japanese counterpart, tailored to US market demands and the available technology. "We plan to launch a consumer offering next month," AT&T Wireless spokesperson Ritch Blasi said. "It's not i-mode, it's based on i-mode - the technology and the methods DoCoMo uses in terms of marketing." The launch will mark the end of over a year of speculation as to when AT&T Wireless would bring i-mode to market. Some kind of American flavor of i-mode has been on the cards since December 2000, when NTT DoCoMo invested $9.8bn in AT&T Wireless for a 16% stake in the company. M-mode will also preempt the convergence of WAP and i-mode technologies. The service will initially be WAP-based, said Blasi, who added that "by summer we should have a dual browser" that would also allow applications to be built using i-mode's cHTML markup language. Handsets from Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Siemens will support the service, with about two dozen ultimately expected. The service will run on AT&T Wireless's GPRS 2.5G cellular network. ATT is also bringing in some of NTT DoCoMo's network-side technology, the "underlying platform", though the company could not provide specifics. The US firm will not pay NTT DoCoMo license fees, unlike other NTT DoCoMo partners in Europe, including KPN Mobile in the Netherlands and Germany, both of which launched recently. "Part of the agreement when they bought the 16% [ATT Wireless equity stake] was that we don't have to pay license fees," said Blasi, discounting reports that the lack of license payments was a sore point between the two firms. Pricing for users has not been revealed yet, but Blasi confirmed that AT&T will charge by the kilobyte in much the same fashion as it does with current GPRS data services and as NTT DoCoMo does with i-mode in Japan. Applications will include messaging (SMS, instant messaging and email), information services and entertainment. Certain features popular in Japan, such as cartoons, "just wouldn't sell here in the States", and have been eschewed, Blasi said. Details of arrangements with third-party content providers were not available, but Blasi said there will be several content providers on the service at launch. America Online Inc seems a likely candidate, given it currently provides AOL Instant Messenger to AT&T Wireless customers. I-mode has managed to swell to 30 million users in Japan in just three years, and NTT DoCoMo has a strategy of expanding internationally through partnerships, usually involving cash investments, with local wireless carriers. Many have questioned whether the service can prove as popular in overseas markets, given national cultural differences, and refining the service to appeal to US consumers seems to be part of the reason AT&T Wireless has taken its time launching m-mode. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 22 Mar 2002

Micron sees sales slump, vague on Hynix progress

Micron Technology Inc pointed to signs of life in the memory market when it released its second quarter results yesterday. However, the Boise, Idaho-based company gave little indication of progress in its protracted takeover talks with foundering rival memory giant Hynix. Sales were down 39.4% to $645.9m in the quarter to February 28. Operating losses were $59m, compared to losses of $41m a year ago, while net losses were $30.4m, compared to last year's $88.3m loss. For the year to date, sales were down 59.4% to $1.1bn, while net losses were $296.3m, compared to a profit of $263.9m a year ago. Steve Appleton, Micron's chairman, president and CEO, acknowledged the company had been in talks with Hynix for some time, but could offer no firm details on when the talks might conclude, if at all. Both firms continued putting their positions forward, he said, but then also had to go back and forth to their relevant constituencies. "We're going to keep moving forward until we see something that is realistic," he said. Aside from the talks with Hynix, the company said it was seeing some signs of life in the memory market, whose fortunes have declined in line with the slump in PC sales. The market had continued to show "greater strength than anyone had foresaw" in the wake of the holiday period. The company was benefiting as PC vendors loaded up their systems to cope with the demands of Windows XP. In addition, recent weeks had seen "signs of life" in the commercial market, particularly for server memory the company said. And things had greatly stabilized in the firm's networking and wired communications business. © .ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 22 Mar 2002

Oracle disputes analyst criticisms on overcharging

Oracle Corp has fallen out with research firm Meta Group Inc over allegations that the database vendor is overcharging some of its customers. Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle has taken umbrage with Meta's assertion that some customers are being overcharged for batch-feeding Oracle's eponymous database management system. A senior analyst at Stamford, Connecticut-based Meta has reported that Oracle customers have contacted the research firm to complain that the company has told them they are not paying enough to set up Oracle-based data warehouses. The problem centers over whether multiple employees sending batch-feeds to an Oracle database are covered by a single license or each require an individual license. Oracle has changed its user licensing several times in recent years, but Meta has suggested that the confusion is caused not by a change of licensing terms, but by Oracle attempting to garner more license fees from existing users. Meta has further encouraged its clients to resist Oracle's claims for more fees, and urged them to take the matter to court if necessary. Oracle has responded by saying that the matter concerns a small number of customers that have been licensed incorrectly, who will continue to be covered by older license policies. Oracle said it is aware of seven customers that have complained, while Meta says that it has identified at least nine complainants. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved. .
ComputerWire, 22 Mar 2002

Legend boosts made-to-order in anti-Dell effort

Legend Holdings Ltd, China's biggest computer manufacturer plans to build up its made-to-order business as a means of warding off increased competition from overseas players, and from Dell Computer Corp in particular. "The configuration market will be very important to Legend because we expect by 2003 about 20% of our consumer PC shipment will be from replacement buyers," Mary Ma, Legend's chief financial officer told an investment conference in Hong Kong. She said that strengthening Legend's made-to-order operation is a direct move to counter the threat from rivals such as US-based Dell, which shot to the top of the global PC-making league on the strength of its made-to-order sales model. Consumer PCs made up a smaller share of Legend's computer sales last year, and the firm also suffered from shrinking margins as a result of dumping by competitors and consumers holding off purchases in anticipation of newer models or lower prices, she said. PCs for the consumer market accounted for 31.7% of Legend's total revenue in the quarter ended December 31, compared to 32.9% in the year-earlier period. Profit margins on consumer PCs dropped to 10.6% from 12.9%. Dell has made inroads in China, which is set to surpass Japan in 2003 as the world's second largest PC market with projected unit sales of 13 million, according to IDC. Legend had roughly 30.8% of the China PC market in the fourth quarter of 2001, while Dell's share was 4.6%, IDC said. However, Dell achieved this position in barely 12 months, having charged into the market and aggressively undercut even Legend's low-end price structure. Ma also said Legend would announce new investments by late March that would boost the company's capital expenditure in the financial year ending March 31 to about HKD 1.2bn ($153.8m). © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 22 Mar 2002
SGI logo hardware close-up

Mobile phones more dangerous than drink driving

Using a mobile phone while driving is more dangerous than being drunk behind the wheel, according to new research released today. Boffins at the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire found that driving is impaired more by using a mobile phone than by being over the legal alcohol limit. The results found that drivers' reaction times were, on average, 30 per cent slower when talking on a hand-held mobile phone compared to being drunk - and nearly 50 per cent slower than under normal driving conditions. Even hands-free phones posed a danger, according to the report. Insurance company, Direct Line, which commissioned the research, is supporting attempts to outlaw the use of mobile phones while driving. Said Dominic Burch, Direct Line's road safety campaign manager: "We were surprised to discover that talking on a mobile phone is actually more dangerous than being drunk behind the wheel. In effect, this means that 10 million drivers are partaking in a driving activity that is potentially more dangerous than being drunk. "Eventually we would like to see the use of mobile phones when driving, both hands-held and hands-free, become as socially unacceptable as drink driving," he said. Oh dear - it's not been a great start to the year for the image of mobile phones. In January a Government funded report found that 700,000 phones were nicked last year sparking a crime wave of theft and violence. And now this. Whatever next? ® Related Story Mobile phone thefts hit kids
Tim Richardson, 22 Mar 2002

eMachines wins Dixons PC deal

Dixons has switched its main supplier of own-brand Advent PCs from Centerprise to eMachines because of the latter's record on quality. Dixons' PC World chain has relaunched its Advent PCs this month with a new design and chassis. The range is aimed at confident second time buyers who are comfortable upgrading their machines and PC World MD Simon Turner said it was vital to get a "reliable chassis" for the systems. Turner said PC World suffered the least calls about faults on its eMachines range but did qualify this by saying eMachine customers "tend not to upgrade, and they don't add software". These two activities are the root of a lot of support calls. PC World's core range of PC brands are Packard Bell, eMachines, Advent, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple. It has exclusive UK sales rights for both eMachines and Packard Bell PCs. (As an indication of DSG's importance in the UK market, Packard Bell is ranked the fifth biggest supplier of PCs in the country). EMachines, a US maker of bargain basement PCs, yesterday announced Taiwanese mobo maker FIC is to supply it a "significant number of PC systems from its extensive range of products". In a statement, Wayne Inouye, eMachines CEO, said "eMachines has traditionally targeted the first time PC buyer but we want those customers to keep coming back. Choosing FIC as a business partner means that our customers get a quality product and will want to come back when it's time to upgrade." Which sound as though it was written with the Advent deal in mind. The new Advent range features a distinctive colour-coordinated metallic blue design, according to the press release, that moves Advent away from the traditional vanilla box format. There's also a new logo and a new website providing technical information and free downloads for Advent owners. A range of redesigned Advent notebooks, and digital projectors will follow the new look desktops. The entry level Advent will retail at £999. Its specs are Intel Pentium 4 1.9GHz processor; 256Mb DDR RAM; 40Gb hard disk; DVD; CD-RW; 64Mb GeForce2 MX400 graphics card. PC World launched the Advent brand in 1995 and Centerprise had been the main supplier since then. Speaking last month Centerprise said three per cent of Advent machines are returned in store. Its line was that this included DOAs, but also returns by customers who've seen better deals, or tried some amateur software configuring and cocked things up. In November 2001 Centerprise founder and MD Rafi Razzak said Advent accounted for less than 50 per cent of Centerprise's turnover. Last month he said he was proud of his company's association with the Advent brand and that he gets annoyed when the products are knocked. Centerprise also makes the Vulcan brand PCs for John Lewis, and Haus Technologies PCs for Jungle.com. The company also built the Bonsai PCs for the now defunct Tempo electrical goods chain. ® Related story FIC wins eMachines PC gig
Robert Blincoe, 22 Mar 2002

Criminal case against ORBZ spam blacklist dropped

The City of Battle Creek, Michigan, has agreed not to pursue criminal charges against the administrator of spamlisting blacklisting service ORBZ, which led to the withdrawal of the service earlier this week. The move lets Ian Gulliver, the administrator of ORBZ.org, off the hook for allegedly causing a major slowdown of its mail server in the course of testing for open mail relays, which are often used as a tool by spammers. According to a statement issued by Battle Creek, the city initially suspected criminal mischief when tests conducted by Gulliver triggered a weakness in the version of Lotus Domino software used by the City. The tests caused a major slowdown of the City's email network for about a day on February 25. It called the police who served a search warrant on Gulliver, a 20-year-old systems administrator from New York state, who fearful of the consequences of criminal charges, pulled the plug on ORBZ. Doubtless that helped to convince Battle Creek (the home of Kellogg's) that he had no criminal intent, prompting it to drop charges. It seems doubtful if the ORBZ blacklist will be restored to operation even though the threat of criminal charges has been lifted. Many Regsiter readers have written to us criticising ORBZ's methodology. But what about the Lotus Domino security 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 with Lotus Domino version R5.0.9 last September. With normal anti-relay configuration in place, the exploit didn't work anyway, Notes administrators have told us. Apparently Battle Creek failed to update its servers in a timely manner, so it came a cropper in February. It has now fixed the problem, and pledged to review its security policies to learn lessons from its email outage, and prevent a reoccurrence. It said it now recognises that Gulliver "has done us a service", though it has criticisms of his actions. "We are going to be taking a close look at our policies regarding Lotus security updates and how we can avoid the issue in general," said Michelle Reen, Assistant to the City Manager. "In turn, however, we have asked him [Gulliver] to reconsider his policy of making unannounced tests on servers. In today's computerised world it is everyone's responsibility to maintain a secure system." "But, if I can draw the analogy that just because everyone should wear a computerised bullet-proof vest doesn't mean that shooting people to find out who isn't wearing one is the best answer," she added. ® Related stories ORBZ shuts up shop, cites criminal charges ORBS now split into three ORBS splits into ORBZ and ORBL Junk mail costs lives
John Leyden, 22 Mar 2002

DRAM price hash makes Komplett famous in UK

Four hundred people ordered 512MB DRAM for the imaginary price of £13 per module this week from Komplett.co.uk, according to sales director Per Anders Tveit. But only 20 people had their orders shipped before the error was spotted and transactions cancelled by the online reseller. The proper price was £106 - leaving the company with a loss of £82 on each sale, aggregating to £302K - if all the orders had been fulfilled. In an email sent to disappointed customers yesterday (and thanks to everyone who sent us a copy), Komplett said: "However, some customers' credit cards will have been subject to a money 'reservation' order. This is standard practice in online payment authorisation but DOES NOT constitute a withdrawal of funds." Consequently, these customers were contacted at the first possible opportunity and made aware of our mistake. An offer of one module of RAM to each customer for £49 was made. We would like to stress that, as the price of the module was so ridiculously low that it was clear that the price was incorrect (due to human error). Therefore, we are under no legal obligation to ship any module at any price lower than as is currently set. So there you have it, the two lines of defence: first, the "money reservation order" does not constitute a sale - customer's credit cards will not be zapped; second, the price was such that no-one could reasonably be expected to believe that it was anything but a mistake. The first point is interesting, but the second point is, we believe and as we wrote yesterday, more significant. Komplett is offering the 400 punters one unit of 512MB DRAM for £49 - a bargain. It says that the majority of customers have already accepted this offer, but was unable to supply us immediately with numbers. We think this offer is reasonable: take it. The alternative, if you ordered less than £5,000 is to launch an action through the small claims court, and hope that Komplett.co.uk doesn't defend its case. A joint action will be expensive, unless you can find a law firm willing to bet on the outcome on a no win, no fee basis. As to Komplett. The Norwegian company operates online computer outlets for Norway and Sweden and Ireland, as well as the UK. In Norway it also has computer stores. It is reasonable to say that the company is not well known in Britain. But today, the company has been interviewed by BBC Breakfast and Working Lunch. "Who had heard of us in Britain before this week, and who hasn't heard of us now," Tveit said. UK orders have picked up nicely since the price hash became public, he said. ® Related story Online dealer makes Komplett hash of DRAM offer
Drew Cullen, 22 Mar 2002

Bill Clinton virus proves user security sucks

Virus writers have disguised a malicious worm as a screensaver promising to make fun at the expense of former US president Bill Clinton. Caric-A, which is spreading on the Internet to a modest extent, normally arrives in an email with the subject "bill caricature" and an attachment named "cari.scr". If the recipient is daft enough to runs this attachment, a cartoon of Bill Clinton appears, playing a saxophone from which a bra emerges. Meanwhile, the malicious payload activates, resulting in the worm forwarding itself to everyone listed in the victim's Outlook address book. If activated between 8am and 9am, it also attempts to delete files from root directories and with the extensions .SYS, .VXD, .OCX and .NLS, according to an analysis by Sophos. As usual, Mac and Linux users are immune from the bug. Text at the end of the email says "No viruse [sic] found", and quotes AV company MCAFEE.COM, to give the impression that it has been scanned and found to be clean. Antivirus vendors are in the process of updating virus signatures to spot the malicious code and protection is now largely in place. ® Related stories Britney Spears virus fails to chart Anna Kournikova virus spreading like wildfire Anna Kournikova bug drops harmlessly onto the Net Kournikova virus kiddie gets 150 hours community service 2001: vintage year for virus infections Rise in viruses within emails outpacing growth of email Hybrid viruses set to become bigger threat Users haven't learned any lessons from the Love Bug Virus toolkits are s'kiddie menace
John Leyden, 22 Mar 2002

PlusNet and Nildram update DSL prices

Sheffield-based ISP, PlusNet, has confirmed that the price of its single-user DSL service will cost from £22.99 a month. This price is based on an annual contract and users also have to pay £58.75 to activate the service. It's also offering punters the chance to reduce the cost of their service still further by joining PlusNet's referral scheme. Several hundred people have already joined the scheme and, depending on which service they've promoted to others, get a slice off their monthly bill. Elsewhere, Buckinghamshire-based Nildram, has said its entry-level wires only Home500 Lite service will cost £25.99 a month. So much choice... ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Mar 2002

Cyborg strip-searched by Air Canada

Canada's answer to Captain Cyborg is suing Air Canada for CAN$1m for hurt feelings, loss of incomes etc, after he was stripsearched and missed his flight. Professor Steve Mann of the University of Toronto, who describes himself as a cyborg, attempted to board a flight at St. John's, Newfoundland wearing "computerized glasses, headgear and electronic body suit". He was stopped and "subjected to an extensive search". So extensive that he missed his flight, and was unable to get another flight for two days. Air Canada officials did not believe Mann when he said he needed the gear for medical reasons, and, he alleges, they made him bleed when they removed electrodes from his chest. So upset was the Prof, whom henceforth we shall call 'The Toronto Terminator', that he checked himself into hospital on return to his home town. The Toronto Terminator is a specialist in wearable computers and has worn full Cyborg paraphernalia for 20 years. By the look of things, he is now the world's first activist for cyborg rights, with this groundbreaking lawsuit. The Toronto Terminator has hired a lawyer, Gary Neinstein, who has already filed notice of the lawsuit "Basically, we are going to argue Professor Mann was discriminated against because he is a cyborg," Neinstein told Canada's National Post. "You can laugh at that, but I don't see the difference between showing up at the airport in a wearable computer, and showing up in a wheelchair. "My client is a cyborg, not a terrorist." Cyborgs have feelings too, OK? ®
Drew Cullen, 22 Mar 2002

Email2go: The Motorola A008

ReviewReview The A008 is the device you buy if you can't afford a Blackberry. It does more, including being a mobile phone. The Motorola A008 has the best sound quality of any mobile phone, with its large size there's more room for the speaker. The only thing the Blackberry does better is email, but since Email is the Blackberry's reason for being that's hardly surprising. The A008 falls neatly between the Blackberry and the Treo. The Accompli uses Java so there is a bit of software around, albeit not as much as there is for the Treo. Java is proving popular with mobile phone manufacturers-both Sagem and Siemens have imminent Java phones so expect some cool games. It certainly needs these because the games it comes with are disappointing. As a way of handling mail on the move the A008 is excellent. GPRS means it checks your mail at regular intervals and then rings or vibrates when there is a new message. Mail can be left on the server or deleted, but if you leave it there it will get re-read at the next download-even if it is copied into the bin. With 8Mb RAM there is plenty of space for text only emails. The handwriting recognition is good and once you are in tune with it you can get up a fair speed. A great system uses two boxes on the screen to write in so you can draw one character while the phone recognises the previous one. Uses the Openwave 1.1 WAP browser and hass a great screen size for use with WAP. GPRS makes the whole thing work well. There's a ring tone composer and drawing program-you can sketch something and then fax it. All this makes for a phone Motorola should shout about. ©What Mobile. All rights reserved.
Simon Rockman, 22 Mar 2002

Email2go: Handspring Treo

ReviewReview The Treo starts from a position of strength. Handspring uses the Palm OS which is the most popular PDA operating system in the world and has a vast amount of software available. Handspring has also got a lot of experience with mobiles, thanks to the Visorphone add-on which is available for existing Handspring PDAs. One shrewd move by Handspring was to buy the Blazer web browser. The result of all this integration is a unit which a lot of palm users will see as their next mobile phone. Treo does the three jobs of phone, PDA and email. The last element hasn't really come together yet. While the Blackberry is always up-to-the-second with your latest email, the Treo mail software has to be set to go and collect your mail. What's more the Treo doesn't yet use GPRS so the dial-up process is slow. The Treo hardware supports GPRS but is waiting for the software to drive it. This is currently in beta test and Handspring expects to release it as a downloadable upgrade in the summer. There are two versions of the Treo available the 180 and 180g. The 180 has a small keyboard much like the Blackberry and is aimed at non-Palm users, the 180g uses the Graffiti handwriting system beloved by Palm users. It's quick to learn and works very well. The Treo is significantly the largest of the devices here, and thanks to the open operating system does the most. The phone feels a bit odd but is well designed with a good large keypad and quickdial buttons. You can dial easily enough without using a stylus. Support for text messages is good and you can read whole messages easily on the large screen. There are sensible options for reply and delete. RIM Blackberry The Blackberry does exactly what its makers claim. It is the best possible device for receiving and replying to corporate email while on the move. It will sync with corporate calendars but there is no spreadsheet, POP3 email, web or WAP browsing. Even voice is a coming-soon extra. You can edit text but it's not a word processor, there are no formatting options, search and replace or spell check. The unit is dominated by a huge screen and keyboard. You can see 19 lines of 33 characters in the smallest font. It's mechanically very high quality. There are no cursor keys or menu button, just a jog dial which presses in to select an option. It works very sensibly, hold a letter key down to capitalise and automatic capitals after a full stop and space. The user interface is excellent. You can easily create contact cards for people who've sent you mail, and it is quick and easy to mark a number of mail messages and delete them. There is a selection of ring tones and vibrate functions, which can be set to be different when the Blackberry is in or out of the exceptionally secure holster. While all other devices have a timer which goes and checks for mail every five, ten or thirty minutes, the Blackberry just gets mail when it arrives at the server. Battery life isn't great, although this is down to how much you use the vibrate and backlight. I found it lasted about one day. Among all the devices here the Blackberry is the most life-changing. You never get into the office and think 'I must check my mail', you've already read it. Quick deletion of marked messages means you can easily get rid of any messages you've already read on your PC.
Simon Rockman, 22 Mar 2002

Email2Go: Blackberry RIM

ReviewReview The Blackberry does exactly what its makers claim. It is the best possible device for receiving and replying to corporate email while on the move. It will sync with corporate calendars but there is no spreadsheet, POP3 email, web or WAP browsing. Even voice is a coming-soon extra. You can edit text but it's not a word processor, there are no formatting options, search and replace or spell check. The unit is dominated by a huge screen and keyboard. You can see 19 lines of 33 characters in the smallest font. It's mechanically very high quality. There are no cursor keys or menu button, just a jog dial which presses in to select an option. It works very sensibly, hold a letter key down to capitalise and automatic capitals after a full stop and space. The user interface is excellent. You can easily create contact cards for people who've sent you mail, and it is quick and easy to mark a number of mail messages and delete them. There is a selection of ring tones and vibrate functions, which can be set to be different when the Blackberry is in or out of the exceptionally secure holster. While all other devices have a timer which goes and checks for mail every five, ten or thirty minutes, the Blackberry just gets mail when it arrives at the server. Battery life isn't great, although this is down to how much you use the vibrate and backlight. I found it lasted about one day. Among all the devices here the Blackberry is the most life-changing. You never get into the office and think 'I must check my mail', you've already read it. Quick deletion of marked messages means you can easily get rid of any messages you've already read on your PC. © What Mobile. All rights reserved. Email2Go Battlelines, reviews Blackberry RIM Handspring Treo Motorola A008
Simon Rockman, 22 Mar 2002

Email2go: battle lines and reviews

Email has become a major part of daily life. It is now such a common form of communication you really do suffer if you can't get your email when you are away from your computer. Text messaging helps fill the gap, but only for socialising-it isn't the same kind of business communication as an email. A device in your pocket which handles email properly is clearly something that will make a difference to your life. Done well it can be as big a difference as your first mobile phone. The ability to check email on the move has been possible for some time now. The Sony CMD-Z5 was the first phone to do this over a year ago, but in the meantime there have been some significant advances. Key to this is GPRS, the always-on data service. It means that data transfers are faster, because with GPRS the device can easily check to see if there is any mail waiting. Because it is always connected checking is quick, and because you only pay for data transfer, not by the minute, costs are kept down. It costs very little when there is no mail and is cheaper per megabyte when there is mail. GPRS is the enabling technology that will make mobile email as common as text messaging. The other element is the hardware. Getting email is all very well, but you can only really make use of your time if you can reply easily. A phone with email is useful because you can read the message and then call the person who sent it to you. Of course it's possible to compose a reply in the same way as you would send a text message, but emails usually need forwarding to a number of people and to have bits of the original text quoted. This is awkward on a standard phone. With a device which has a full keyboard or good handwriting recognition you can use commuting time for communicating. What's going on? To understand what makes any of these devices work you need to learn a bit about what goes on behind the scenes with email. The first important acronym is POP3. It stands for Post Office Protocol version 3. Think of it as being like a PO Box for your email. If you have a PO Box you have to go along to the post office to see if there is any post in your pigeon hole. POP3 is like that on the internet. A computer that sits somewhere collecting your mail. Outgoing mail is handled differently. It goes through an SMTP server which is connected to the service provider you are using to make the connection.To get your mobile device to work you need to know all the right information for both sending and receiving. This all assumes that your mail is POP3. If you have a Hotmail account you can only access through a web browser. Web browsing through a mobile connection is painful. Orange makes a good fist of it with High Speed Circuit Switched data but you will need to use a device which supports this and which has a web browser. That means a computer or PDA attached to your phone or a Nokia 9210. It will also cost you up to 25p a minute and still feel horribly slow. A better solution for Hotmail users is Pogo, the cool web browsing device. Currently only available on a Fresh tariff from Carphone Warehouse it costs 10p a minute to run but works pretty well. Hotmail tends to be used by individuals. The major corporate market is very different. It's very security conscious and tends to have complicated servers with firewalls. You may well not be allowed to access your mail there without having a device that has been sanctioned by the company IT department. For this market there are systems which integrate with Lotus Domino or Windows Exchange Server such as the RIM Blackberry. In between the Web browsing Hotmail user and the corporate user is the vast majority. And there is a lot to choose from. In part you need to decide what works well for you and in part you need to look at how you set up your email. If you are an organised sort of person you can set things up so that you only divert your mail when you cannot reach your computer. This cuts down the mobile mail bills considerably. You may choose to have a separate account for your mobile device. If you do this people will only be able to reach you if they know your mobile email address. Ideally you need to be able to copy all your email to both the mobile device and your desktop computer. There are two ways you can do this. Either have both to access the same POP3 email box but to leave a copy on the server, or to copy mail that arrives in your POP3 box to a second POP3 box and use that for your mobile device. Again the solution is dictated by both the way you work and the hardware. You might choose to pick up all your mail on the PC and only copy across when the PC is switched off. To do this you delete the mail on the server if it is accessed by the PC but leave it on the server from the mobile device. This assumes the PC checks for mail more regularly than the mobile device. If your PC uses a modem and the mobile device has GPRS this isn't necessarily the case. GPRS is always-on, so email can trickle into your pocket and alert you when its there. You don't sit and wait for it to download. Synchronisation and backup These are devices that start to run your life. If you think how devastated you would be if you lost your mobile phone with all the numbers in the SIM, imagine if you lost your whole diary, email contacts and phonebook. The need to back your data up means all the devices do it. You can also synchronise data, so if you have 1000 names and email addresses on your PC you don't have to type them into the mobile device. Microsoft Outlook is pretty much the de facto standard so despite there being lots of committee based standard, chief among these SyncML, you tend to end up synchronising with Outlook. To get devices to synchronise you need to install the custom driver which is fine if you do it once, or even a couple of times but if you have a number of devices and use a serial connection they can clash. To synchronise with a Nokia 9210 you have to uninstall Psion series 5's Psiwin. Handsprings and Palms use the same Hotsync which works exceptionally well with automatic synching when you press a button on the cradle-or in the case of a Treo on the cable. Windows CE devices like the Trium Mondo and Sagem WA3050 use Microsoft Activsync. Again this works very well at handling both program installation and synchronisation. Motorola phones and the Accompli A008 use Truesync from Starfish software which can be temperamental. The ideal is that you don't sync with a cable but do it over the air using GPRS. Unfortunately this is very much a 'coming soon' feature. Expect devices like the Sendo Z-100 and mm02 XDA (in the shops this spring) to support Microsoft Server Activesync. The website Fusion One which specialises in synching PCs-so that your home and work machines can have the same contacts, appointments and filing systems-has a SyncML system in beta test. When it is publicly available you will be able to use it with a Nokia 9210 to keep your mobile and PC in step. More details at www.fusionone.com. Operating systems There is a war going on out there. Officially the battle lines are Microsoft Vs Palm Vs Symbian Vs other systems. By other systems the contenders are proprietary operating systems often running Java Virtual Machines and Linux. And if all that is gobbledegook to you don't worry. What it means is 'Can I buy additional programs to run on my connected PDA'. In theory if a program is written for an operating system it will work on all the connected devices which run that system. Just as you can buy the same Windows program for a Dell or Compaq PC, so you should be able to buy a Symbian program and run it in a Nokia 9210 or Psion series 5. In practice this isn't yet possible. At the moment, if you want an integrated mobile device with a lot of software the Palm is the best choice. But that is set to change. Expect the first Microsoft Smartphone 2002 phone, aka the Sendo Z-100, to be available some time around April. Microsoft is keen to get its developers to produce custom applications for Smartphone 2002 and have made it easy to convert programs from Windows CE. For Symbian read Nokia. The biggest mobile company in the world, able and smart enough to stand up to Microsoft. Symbian is a consortium of Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson-represented by the new SonyEricsson joint venture. Between them they represent something like 80 per cent of the phones sold. Other interested parties include Toshiba and Siemens which have licences for both Microsoft and Symbian software. If you are buying a device today it doesn't matter much, just don't expect the device to be up to date for long. Traditionally people have replaced their mobile phones about once a year. PDAs like iPaqs and Psions have had a lifespan of around three years. Expect the advances in technology and ease with which you can move your data to bring PDA replacement to something closer to one year. Compaq is even trying the car manufacturer trick of 'this year's model' by having devices with minor improvements come out each year. If you have a particular application in mind you should look for which platform it runs on and then choose the device. So a wine waiter will find that there is more in the way of Wine Databases for a Palm OS than for Windows and should go for a Handspring Treo rather than a Trium Mondo. In time the battle will settle down to being one between Microsoft and Nokia, but that should not dictate what you buy today. Expansion The computer world learnt a long time ago that taking the lid off the box and being able to add bits the makers never intended was key to success. It's what made an Apple II better than a Commodore Pet. The mobile phone world hasn't learned this yet. The Nokia 9210 takes MMC memory cards and the Sagem WA3050 has an add-on which will let it take cards. Compaq has a flexible system with expansion jackets but unfortunately to add mobile communications you have to use a jacket and so you can't have more than one at a time. Most disappointingly the Handspring Treo doesn't support the Springboard modules used by other Handsprings so you can't add a camera or MP3 player to a Treo. What is needed is a single format for adding peripherals. The emerging standard is SD I/O. This uses cards which look like the MMC cards used by the Nokia 9210 and Siemens SL45 as memory cards but lets them do more than just memory. Palm has a Bluetooth card and you can expect digital camera add-ons. Only Sendo has announced plans to support SD I/O. Email2Go reviews Blackberry RIM Handspring Treo Motorola A008 © What Mobile. All rights reserved.
Simon Rockman, 22 Mar 2002

Quad Sledgehammers out by June 2003 – AMD

Nailing down a release date for Hammer, AMD's upcoming x.86-compatible CPU, is harder than wrestling with jelly. In this week's Upside.com interview with Jerry Sanders (linked ad nauseum elsewhere), the AMD chairman refers to a 2003 launch for Hammer. This would represent a little bit more slippage. However, the company has been a little bit more specific elsewhere. Speaking at CeBIT, an AMD exec called Mark de Frere told Ace's Hardware Johan De Gelas: "It is very, very likely that we'll launch the Clawhammer in Q4 of 2002." Mark de Frere put up an even bigger grin when I asked about the SledgeHammer's timeline and commented: "It is going to blown you away." Well, Mark told us that we will see quad-processor SledgeHammer server motherboards in H1 2003, or most likely June 2003!" According to the AMD reps, there will be tier one support for the Sledgehammer server platform in H1, 2003, but no names are mentioned. Ace's hazards a guess at Fujitsu Siemens as a supporter - and as this company is AMD's biggest customer in Europe, this seems like a reasonable guess to us. De Gelas' scoop is contained in a six-page article on AMD and Intel at CeBIT, There's an especially good exposition of the Hammer architecture, some tidbits on Thoroughbred and Barton, and useful first run through Intel's new hyperthreading technology. You can catch the lot here. ®
Drew Cullen, 22 Mar 2002

Encryption patent firm stakes claim on industry

A previously unknown Californian firm which has obtained a patent for application-independent file encryption is seeking to enforce licensing from other companies in the security industry. The move has spurred anger among vendors hit by patent infringement claims; they say they will contest the action vigorously. Maz Technologies was granted a patent last year for a "method of transparent encryption and decryption for an electronic document management system". Recently the company appointed lawyers to press its claims. PC Dynamics, the publisher of a virtual disk encryption product for Windows called SafeHouse, is among the first companies targeted in Maz's claim. Through attorneys Koppel, Jacobs, Patrick & Heybl, Maz is seeking a minimum $25,000 license fee from PC Dynamics. Another small vendor, Arizona-based Envoy Data (which resells SafeHouse alongside its own products), has also received a letter from the lawyers along similar lines. Peter Avritch, president of PC Dynamics, told us he was surprised to be approached this week about what he considered was an "absurd" claim, based on a patent filed in 1998 - long after the widespread use of electronic encryption technology. "This is a very broad patent, which covers almost everything that saves encrypted files to disc. It could cover everything from secure laptops to electronic encryption," he said. "My arguments to the lawyers that this was 'prior-art' didn't go down well," he added. Avritch is unsure who else has been approached by Koppel, Jacobs, Patrick & Heybl. PC Dynamics makes products that compete with tools from larger firms like Norton's N-Disk range, PGP Disk and solutions from RSA Security. The lawyer handling the case, Stephen Sereboff, was not available to talk with us when we called the attorneys. Avritch, is heavily critical of the US Patent Office's lack of knowledge of the basics of encryption, and said its actions in granting the patent place him a difficult position in defending his firm against the patent infringement claim. "The patent application failed to disclose a single encryption product. Unreal for 1998," Avritch said "Naturally, with all the need for encryption, it is ridiculous for somebody to come along this late in the game and claim a lock on the entire industry." Avritch hopes to put together a media campaign, including supporting quotes from influential industry leaders, to oppose the claim. ® External links 'Method of transparent encryption and decryption for an electronic document management system' patent
John Leyden, 22 Mar 2002

Nokia US communicator set for summer release

The much anticipated Nokia 9290 communicator will finally be available "in the summer", Nokia US told us today. The phone giant had earlier promised a release in the first half of this year, so if you can find one before June 30, we guess that promise could still hold good. Kinda. It's the first of a flood of rich color, multitasking, integrated devices that could redefine what PDA and phone users expect today. Both Handspring and Samsung have done a nice job of bringing PalmOS-based devices to market, but Nokia becomes the first vendor to guage demand for much more capable, and more expensive, communicators. The 9290 is a version of the 9210 released in Europe last summer, only it works on the GSM 1900Mhz frequency used in North America. Or more accurately, it's based on the 9210i model launched at CeBIT earlier this month, and there are subtle differences. The phone will be available without contract for $699, $150 more than a SIM-less Handspring Treo, and in theory it should be possible to find one for even less. Handspring scored a coup in getting a generous subsidy for the Treo, which retails for $399 with a contract. Which is impressive as carriers are more reluctant to subsidize handsets than they used to be. Because smartphones generate more data usage, creating more downstream revenue, you'd think the networks would be eager to regard them as loss leaders, and price them low to create a data market. But for many, that's too far sensible. (We've come to anticipate such anti-logic from the wireless carriers here: ie, think of something sensible - like cross network roaming, or interoperable text messaging - and you can guarantee the carriers will do the opposite.) So what will the 9290 give you that the cheaper, Treo-style models don't? Well, full web browsing for a start. The 9290, with its 4096 colour screen, will include a version of Opera that supports Javascript and the ability to display two browser Windows side-by-side. Then a highly impressive messaging client. And it plays Doom. The killer feature is probably multitasking. On the Symbian-based 9210 we got used to taking conference calls through the speakerphone, while flipping between a PowerPoint slide and taking notes in the Word program, all the while recording the call for later use. SMS messages would appear, and it never hiccuped. What don't you get in the 9290? The Treo boasts USB, a huge advantage over the much-slower, serial-port based synchronisation in the Nokia communicator, and Handspring says a packet-data version will be available in the summer. The Treo is also a true world phone. There are some differences between the 9290 and 9210: a faster processor in the US model, and 16MB of internal memory. In the 9210, the applications were divided between 8MB of internal storage and a much slower MMC card. Java MIDP applets execute "in place", rather than using execution memory. So Nokia has learned some lessons there. It comes bundled with Real Player and Flash. The 9210i didn't exactly get a warm reception over at My-Communicator.com from the early adoptors, but Nokia's starting with a clean slate in the US market. For a glimpse of some of this year's smartphones and communicators in the pipeline, see our exclusive preview here. Since we published that article, the "Linnea" Sony/Ericsson tablet flip-phone has become public, and Samsung has announced it will produce a Symbian-based smartphone too. There's a link to the Sony/Ericsson device, officially christened the P800 from this page, and better pictures here). It's a triband device, so it should eventually make its way across the Atlantic, although no commitment has been made yet. Nokia's 9290 page can be found here. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 22 Mar 2002

Oracle double-dipping drives Reg readers to penury, open source

Register readers have confirmed Meta Group's reports of Oracle demanding steep multiplexing license fees from users. Patrick Wheeler is an IS manager for a US-based interactive TV company which aggregates data from millions of clients into several middle tier servers. These servers feed an Oracle database, but only after at least three different massaging and aggregation processes. "They consider it to be a multiplexer all the way the way to the client. But each and everyone of these set-top boxes we work with is not talking to Oracle directly," he told us. "It's one-way traffic. This is not a two-way communication, like, for example a web user hitting a database, by any stretch of the imagination." In the end, Wheeler negotiated a per-processor license much lower than the figure suggested by Oracle, and a tiny fraction of what a multiplexing license would have cost. Wheeler is looking at open source alternatives to Oracle. He acknowledges that MySQL and Postgres are not as robust or feature-rich as Oracle, that there are added costs in migration, but he says "there's no upfront fee". Per-processor license also makes scaling expensive, he told us. Several of you have experienced the same demands:- "I am an Oracle DBA and we are having this same issue with Oracle licensing," writes one. "Even though we use a separate system to perform the OLTP side of things, basically the following scenario fits what they are telling us and attempting to charge us for. "Named Users 1 perform transactions on a Oracle OLTP Database Server which batch feeds its data into an Oracle Warehouse Database Server which is used for reporting purposes by Named Users 2. Named Users 2 do not directly connect to the OLTP Database Server and Named Users 1 do not directly connect to the Oracle Warehouse Server. "However, according to Oracle's new licensing scheme, all licensed named users of the OLTP Server must also now be licensed as named users of the Warehouse Server. The opposite holds true as well. "A classic case of double-dipping in my opinion," he writes. And Oracle seems keen to add revenue in other areas, too:- "For at least 10 years Oracle Reports has been available for under $1000. I'm not sure of the exact price. Oracle Reports is no longer available as a single product. It is now part of Oracle's application server. Application Server is available for a $20,000 per processor... "The company I work has hundreds of complicated reports, and three large products that use Oracle software including the reports. Many of our systems run on four or more processor boxes. Needless to say, $20k is too much for a few reports that could easily be written in something else. We had virtually no warning of the change suddenly our new customers simply couldn't order Oracle Reports. "I think what most technology companies forget is that it is the little tech guy that decides what development tools are used, and what OS is run. Microsoft won the Windows vs. OS/2 battle because there were cheap development tools. Cheap development tools mean they get into the hands of more people. I think you know where I'm going. I thought Oracle was headed in the right direction with OTN. It has been awhile sense I've seen any development tools that require a runtime license. $20+k for a report runtime is a little much. SQL Server, anyone?" Wheeler says he examined SQL Server but found that recent Microsoft license hikes had narrowed the SQL Server price advantage considerably . Oracle said it had received few complaints, and denies price gouging. ® Thanks for your letters. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 22 Mar 2002