11th > July > 2002 Archive

Software in China, India to top $27bn by 2006

China's software and application development services sector has the potential to become as big as India's by 2006, when the industry in both countries is expected to generate revenue of more than $27bn, according to Gartner Inc. The Stamford, Connecticut-based market research company said China's WTO entry, its hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and the reform of its domestic banking sector will all add momentum to an already fast-growing software and applications development services sector that is set to match the 35% annual compound growth recently enjoyed by its Indian counterpart. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 11 Jul 2002

Liberty move on Telewest faces legal challenge

A move by Liberty Media Corp to gain control of UK cable operator Telewest Communications Plc by buying a chunk of the company's bonds has hit a snag. A group of bondholders is taking legal action, claiming the move was illegal. Though Liberty denied the allegation, and said its offer complied with security laws, it extended the expiry date of the offer from July 11 to July 19 and allowed those bondholders who have accepted its bid to change their minds at any time up to the expiry date. With 48.8% of the Telewest equity under its control and up to 20% of the company's bonds, Liberty is putting itself in a position to win control when the company engages in a debt-for-equity swap to cut its huge interest burden. But as this circumvents the rules governing conventional take-overs, legal action was only to be expected. Once in control of Telewest, Liberty's next move is expected to be to merge the company with the other UK cable operation NTL Inc, which is undergoing a debt-for-equity restructuring. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 11 Jul 2002

W3C releases first drafts of WSDL 1.2

The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) has announced the first public working drafts of Web Services Description Language (WSDL) 1.2, an XML-based language that describes a web service - the data exchanged, the protocol to use and its location on the web. The new specification was developed by the W3C Web Services Description Working Group, which was set up after companies and developers expressed interest in W3C pursuing the development of a WSDL standard that could be based on WSDL 1.1, but would be subject to the W3C Process and technical requirements. These include support for W3C recommendations, including XML Schemas and XML Information Set, and coordination with other W3C technical activities W3C said that WSDL 1.2 includes better component definition, which was the result of having open participation in the framing of requirements and review of WSDL 1.1, and the working group requirements for an unencumbered specification. Other improvements over WSDL 1.1 include language clarifications, which makes it easier for developers to understand and use, and a conceptual framework approach to define the description components, which makes them simpler and more flexible. In addition, W3C said that WSDL 1.2 removes unnecessary and non-interoperable features from WSDL 1.1, and includes the WSDL 1.2 Bindings draft, which provides a better definition for the HTTP 1.1 binding and will soon provide a binding for SOAP 1.2 , which allows description of services using the most current version of SOAP. These are the first in the series of WSDL 1.2 drafts and over 30 W3C members and invited experts were involved in the development process. W3C invites the web development community to review and comment on both these and subsequent versions. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 11 Jul 2002

Soap and WSDL ‘must haves’ for web services – IDC

Support for fundamental web services standards such as SOAP and WSDL will become a "must have" feature of application server software platform (ASSP) by the end of 2002, according to the latest report from industry analyst firm International Data Corp (IDC). The Framingham, Massachusetts-based firm said that the majority of vendors have now added basic web services capabilities to their ASSP products, and believed that it will become virtually impossible to sell an ASSP product that does not have at least basic support. It also believed that the increasing interest in deploying web services could help drive application software sales. The report, which is entitled Western European Application Server Software Platform Market Forecast and Analysis, 2002-2006, compares ASSP market growth in Western Europe with the rest of the world. IDC said that during 2000 and early 2001, the ASSP market enjoyed dynamic growth and attracted a large number of vendors. However, the IT downturn last year caused worldwide market growth to dwindle to 10.5%. Growth in Western Europe for 2001 was a disappointing 10.6%, while the US market stagnated at 0.1% growth, according to IDC. Other regions were not as badly impacted and achieved more respectable growth rates of 33.8% (Asia/Pacific) and 59.9% (rest of world). Forecast growth for 2001 to 2006 is rather modest, with initial growth for 2001-2002 of slightly over 20%, falling to around 12% by 2005-2006. IDC believed that the market in recovery is likely to become commoditized and the number of vendors will consolidate. It also predicted that vendors will rely on revenue from higher level products based on ASSPs to retain their profitability, and that basic ASSP will be provided as a freely downloadable product, or some of the application server functionality will be absorbed into the operating system. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 11 Jul 2002

Yahoo! Back! In! The! Black!

Yahoo!, the world's biggest Internet portal (whatever MSN claims), is on the road to recovery, reporting a 24 per cent advance in Q2 revenues to $225.8m (Q2 2001: $182.2m) and making its first profit in six quarters. The boost may be almost entirely down to HotJobs, bought in Q1, but sales are up, and that's what counts in these days of dotcom gloom. Yahoo! is looking more confident too: a few months ago it was forecasting $750m-$800m revenues in 2002. Since then the figures have been revised upwards twice - yesterday the company forecast 2002 revenues of between $900m and $940m. Q2 earnings before bad stuff (EBS) - interest, depreciation, amortization and, interesting one this, stock compensation expenses - was $36.1m, against an EBS loss of $38m in Q2 last year. The latter figure includes $45.5m of restructuring and acquisition-related costs, Yahoo! notes - in other words, underlying operational performance was better than the splash of red ink suggests. The company's core advertising revenues appear to have stabilised (we say 'appear' because there is no indication of how many annual contracts are up for renewal in Q3), down 4 per cent in Q2 last year to $135.7m. Advertising from Internet companies is down, but this is offset by higher revenues to SMEs "realized through Yahoo!'s sponsored search services and inside sales organization". Fees and listings were $74.1m, 109 per cent up on the same period last year. This is attributed to the HotJobs acquisition, the monetisation of Yahoo! Personals and higher take-up for Yahoo's other paid-for services - the company says it has one million paying customers and hopes to hit 2 million by the end of the year. Ecommerce revenues were $16m, 179 per cent up on last year. ®
Drew Cullen, 11 Jul 2002

Fox recommends hacked DVD players for The Simpsons

Fox is recommending that UK customers bypass the regional encoding system enforced by DVD manufacturers. And the recommendation comes from no less an authority than Homer Simpson himself. The call to action can be found on page four of the FAQ on the Fox UK website for the new DVD collectors' edition of The Simpsons First Series. Potential buyers of DVD players have a much happier time in Europe. In California, Apex's multi-region DVD player was hounded off the market two years ago, with e-Bay seeking out Apex players placed for auction. On London's Tottenham Court Road, you have to try really hard to find a DVD player that hasn't been 'chipped', or a helpful sales assistant who won't explain a workaround. Now if Homer's recommendation was made in the USA, would the cartoon character be liable for prosecution under the DMCA? We know regional coding isn't strictly an encryption scheme, but answers on a postcard please. ® * And very good it is too: Krusty Gets Busted is described the first "modern" Simpsons episode, with the predecessors considered formative experiments. ® Related Links The rec.video.dvd FAQ [HTML format] Regional Coding FAQ
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jul 2002

MS licensing deadline doom looms – buy or die

In three weeks time, corporate IT people, your Microsoft software licensing regime is completely screwed if you haven't done something about Licensing 6, which kicks in on 1st August. From that point you'll be unable to license Select version 5, Upgrade Advantage (UA) and Software Assurance (SA) on products you've already got and, as the good people from Gartner point out in this handy ready-reckoner, if you haven't figured out your options and taken appropriate action, you could end up paying 45 per cent more next time you upgrade. Gartner does not suggest never upgrading again and phasing in Linux systems instead as an alternative, but really that's a leap you should have been planning from the moment Licensing 6 was announced, rather than at this late stage. Gartner suggests a couple of defensive strategies that are particularly applicable for companies who don't want to upgrade quite as fast as Microsoft would like. Companies planning near-term upgrades on the likes of Office 97, NT 4.0 Server, Exchange 5.5 and SQL Server 7.5, for example, should consider squeaking in to buy Upgrade Advantage on them before the deadline. Companies planning upgrades on current products (just about anything with a 2000 or an XP in it) should look at Software Assurance before the deadline. And companies looking for bargains (a relative term, we accept) should scan the literature for Microsoft 'hurry hurry' special deals designed to induce them to make the deadline. All of this naturally involves spending money, and spending it now, but there you go. By a miraculous coincidence, a ring round of analysts by the good people at Reuters (you can find it here) reveals that they expect great things from Redmond's Q4s, on the back of a buying rush for the new licensing regime. Nice to see your money's getting a good home. ®
John Lettice, 11 Jul 2002

Attack of the Cyber-Terror Studies

Last month's Business Software Alliance report on cyber security (pdf) concluded that cyber terrorism was going to be really serious, so everyone should protect themselves by giving more money to the members of the Business Software Alliance. How did it reach this conclusion? No, not by using professional intelligence experts or foreign affairs specialists, but by asking corporate security officers for their opinions. OK, so it's hardly the first time that a commercial interest group has conducted such a flawed study. But it is disappointing to see professional academic researchers following the same pattern of asking security experts if they feel under-appreciated, and then claiming that their unanimous affirmative response is categorical proof that security expenditures are too low. Created at Dartmouth College, the report Law Enforcement Tools and Technologies for Investigating Cyber Attacks (reg req'd) starts with an assumption that is not substantiated within the document: cyber attacks are a significant threat. It implicitly suggests that because the digital forensic tools are so bad, law enforcement will be unable to protect us from these attacks. The explicit conclusion is that there must be a national agenda for the research and creation of law-enforcement specific investigation tools. Typical questions posed to law enforcement investigators read "In general, I completely satisfied with the tools I have available for..." It's hard to imagine anyone choosing 'strongly agree,' when asked if they are completely satisfied with any software, let alone forensic tools. Questions on the perceived shortcomings in investigation tool features had 'lack of law enforcement-specific features' as one of the possible responses, and it should not be surprising that this was a popular answer. Any system administrator can sympathize with the difficulties in analysing log files, but it is hard to imagine what features would be useful to law enforcement that haven't already been considered by the dozens of startups that have yet to provide a useful log consolidation and reporting tool for corporate use. All investigations-both physical and cyber-include long and boring manual examination of evidence. We didn't need this report to explain that the analysis of system logs is boring. It's easy to envision the staff at Dartmouth brainstorming topics for interesting research topics that would help put their new Institute for Security Technology Studies on the map. Did they deliberately design a survey that would inevitably conclude such research topics were vital to national defence? This report, bankrolled by the US Department of Justice, gives that impression. It will now be used as evidence to justify requesting additional public money on security software, an area where 25 years of government sponsorship has resulted in virtually no useful technology. Like all the other self-serving surveys, much of the substance of this report is reasonable. Forensic experts recognise that better tools would be a big help, but few would claim that the relative immaturity of today's tools is 'one of the critical public security and national security issues of the 21st century'. It was always clear that digital forensic products could withstand improvement, but nowhere does this report ever offer any evidence that the future costs of cybercrime (or as they prefer to refer to it 'cyber attacks') will be unacceptably high without immediately ploughing more public funds into R&D. Why should we accept the conclusions within studies such as this and the BSA report, when the studies themselves are so contrived? Sponsored by organizations which want to obtain more of our money, and eagerly devoured by reporters who would rather titillate than educate, flawed 'research' doesn't help decision makers better understand what needs to be spent to provide an appropriate level of protection. ® Related story Soon al-Qaeda will kill you on the Internet
Jay Heiser, 11 Jul 2002

MS: our phone software might not be good enough

A refreshing wind of honesty seems to be blowing out of Microsoft's phone division these days. Yesterday Roberto Cazzaro gave an interview with IDG in which he admitted he had "no idea" if Microsoft new Smartphone software was good enough to be accepted by the carriers. Cazzaro is director of International Strategy at Microsoft's Mobilie Devices Division, the umbrella for the PDA and phone operations. This is quite a change to the "World Domination tomorrow...the Universe next week" theme that accompanies so many tech launches, and Microsoft's in particular. But after so many delays and reshuffles to the much-vaunted Stinker platform, it's probably hitting the right theme. Even if the message itself - "heck, even I don't know if this works!" will be frostily received by Microsoft's flagship Smartphone vendor Sendo. Sendo's MS-based phone was been delayed for the fourth time this week. Last month Cazzaro was obliged to make a rare retraction on behalf of The Beast. Within 24 hours of informing the press that Microsoft had inked deals with every major US and European wireless carrier, Cazzaro was prodded onto the stage to explain that this wasn't actually the case at all. Promising business deals which don't exist could have exposed Redmond to a class action suit. Significantly, Cazzaro disclosed that the next version of the phone OS due next spring will be based on a new kernel. Stinker and the troubled Pocket PC 2002 are based on the CE 3.0 kernel. Actually, pleading ignorance is a strategy which has served two recent British Prime Ministers (Thatcher/Westland; Major/Arms-to-Iraq) and three recent US presidents very well indeed. You can hardly blame IT executives for following this example. Perhaps the next constitutional amendment should be: "Don't ask me - I only work here." ® Related Stories Smartphone roadmaps for 2002 The MS plan for smartphones: Get Nokia! Ballmer takes charge of MS Phone biz
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jul 2002

MS SQL Server multiple vulns

First up we have a trio of issues, all of which have been fixed with a single cumulative patch. There are two exploitable buffer overrun vulnerabilities, one of which allows an attacker to run arbitrary code, and a registry stuff-up enabling the SQL Server service to write to the registry and specify another account, like LocalSystem, say and have OS-like privies. The buffer overrun in the authentication and password encryption functions would allow an attacker to execute code in the context of the service account, which the registry exploit could easily escalate. The attacker would have to log on and be able to load and run a query on the server, or be able to pass uncontrolled information into an existing query on the system. The second buffer overflow vuln exists in the bulk insert procedure, which allows data files to be copied into a table. The attacker would have to be a member of the bulk administrators group, which by default has no members. The registry problem allows for privilege escalation, but the changes won't take effect until the service is restarted. SQL Server 2000 (all editions) and SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE) 2000 are affected. The MS bulletin with links to the required patch is posted here. Next we find that the installation routine for the server and the service packs makes it possible to store unencrypted and poorly-encrypted administrator passwords in the setup.iss and log files (sqlstp.log and/or sqlsp*.log), which can be accessed by nosey third parties other than the admin. Anyone who can log on to the machine may be able to find the SA password in clear text or ready for some trivial cracking. The fix here is to move the files to a protected directory, or delete them, or run an MS utility called killpwd.exe which will scan the files for passes and delete them. SQL Server 7, including MSDE 1.0 and SQL Server 2000 are affected. The MS bulletin is posted here. ®
Thomas C Greene, 11 Jul 2002

PGP Outlook plugin has major security hole

A malicious e-mail can create a buffer overrun in Network Associates' PGP plugin for MS Outlook on Windows, which in turn can be used to run arbitrary code with the user's level of privilege. At a minimum this could compromise the user's passphrase and expose his encrypted messages, and at a maximum surrender control of the machine. Attachments do not need to be activated; merely selecting the malicious message is sufficient. PGP Desktop Security 7.0.4, Personal Security 7.0.3 and Freeware 7.0.3 are affected. NAI has a hotfix posted here. The issue was discovered by eEye's Marc Maiffret. ®
Thomas C Greene, 11 Jul 2002

Wales gets broadband boost

The Welsh Assembly is to stump-up a load of cash to bring broadband to Wales, Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies announced today. The £100m Broadband Wales programme - made up of a combination of aggregated public sector demand and barrow-loads of cash - should bring broadband to 310,000 extra homes and 67,000 extra businesses in Wales. Broadband services are currently limited in Wales due to the cost of extending the network, especially in rural areas. Those behind the project claim it will help build the foundations of an "all-Wales broadband network" and stimulate significant further infrastructure investment. Said Davies: "To build a more prosperous Wales for the future we must have strong communication infrastructure. "It is essential to help us generate more wealth, give people more skills and ensure that Wales plays its full place in the modern world. Broadband Wales is our strategy to help deliver a winning Welsh economy by 2010. "This is the biggest public sector investment of it kind in the UK. It will push Wales ahead of the rest of the UK in public broadband access." The Welsh Assembly has already committed £23 million to broadband, along with £20 million from the Welsh Development Agency. There could also be cash from Europe courtesy of Objective One status. From September 2002, Broadband Wales will subsidise the cost of broadband ADSL satellite connections to SMEs where no terrestrial connection is available in a bid to ensure that all businesses get equal access to fast Net access. And within five years it's hoped that broadband will be made available to an extra 310,000 homes, 67,000 business and all new and existing business parks in Wales. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Jul 2002

IE scripting flaw uncovered

Security researchers yesterday released details of a cross domain scripting flaw in Internet Explorer ahead of a fix by Microsoft. The flaw leaves applications that use WebBrowser control, including Microsoft IE, Outlook and Outlook Express (when run outside restricted zones), vulnerable to a variety of attacks, researchers from security consultancy PivX say. Possible exploits include elevating privileges, arbitrary command execution, local file reading and stealing arbitrary cookies. The vulnerability arises because the object property of embedded WebBrowser controls, which is used to embed external objects inside a page, is not subject to the cross domain security checks which embedded HTML documents ordinarily go through. It is explained in greater detail here The upshot is that it's possible for crackers to construct exploits which escape any sandboxing and security zone restrictions. Such objects can be the WebBrowser control and other ActiveX controls, images or applets. PivX have put together a series of proof of concept exploits to back up their warning. The vulnerability was notified to Microsoft on June 25 but Redmond has yet to develop a fix To guard against the vulnerability, PivX suggests that administrators should disable ActiveX scripting until a patch is available. The release of information about vulnerabilities has been a point of contention between independent security vendors and vendors, most notably Microsoft, recently. Research by the Hurwitz Group, released late last month, suggests users would like to see information disclosed full disclosure of security information. PivX said it had decided to release information on this vulnerability following our report on this research. According to PivX, Internet Explorer is subject to 19 unpatched security holes. ®
John Leyden, 11 Jul 2002
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MS talks to self about not talking about home 802.11b range

Microsoft, as we've all been aware for some time, plans to enter the home wireless arena at the tail end of this year, and the company today announced that it, er, plans to enter the home wireless arena at the tail end of this year. And...? Er no, that's it folks, they're refusing to give details. But they're not refusing to publish content-light softball interviews with themselves on Microsoft Presspass, so at some personal psychological risk The Register has gone in there on your behalf to decrypt the spin. Microsoft hardware division general manager Randy Ringer does not have a great deal to say, but there is just a little information in there. Today, for the record, Microsoft "announced plans to launch a line of products that will allow users to access high-speed connections and other conveniences on any PC almost anywhere in their home - or even their favorite coffee shop." So we are talking a broadband wireless gateway system, and 802.11b PC Cards, so far so obvious. Randy tells us users "want more mobility - the ability to move about their house or set up a computer anywhere, to connect to their information from wherever they are." Again obvious, although the moving about bit suggests it's either a weight-loss programme, or Mira and Freestyle will be involved. Microsoft's other major research finding is that home users find networking very difficult, so Microsoft will make it easier. Ringer doesn't say how, but the company is known to be well advanced in the beta of its home wireless product, so all should become apparent in the fullness of time. Then - brace - yourself - it starts to get a little interesting. Consumers want to "want to play head-to-head games, talk to and see friends across the country over the Internet, and access and play their music from any PC in the house. That's where the Microsoft wireless networking products come in. They will allow users to access the Internet and their data from all areas of their house - regardless of which computer it's housed on - while adding expanded mobility and the option of putting a PC wherever they want it." So, we'll be pushing internet telephony, maybe tying in our online games services, and facilitating home networked jukebox systems. Which implies some interesting developments in player software and licence management. These should be worth looking forward to, as will the security side. Security comes up in response to a question from Presspass' unnamed inquisitor, who we suspect will have had some hand in the preparation of the answer (this sort of thing can make you blind, you know). The exchange goes: "PressPass: Security seems to be a big concern when it comes to wireless networking. How are you going to ensure this is a secure solution? "Ringer: Again, we're not going to discuss product details until later this year. But I can tell you that Microsoft is monitoring the security concerns around wireless networking, particularly with regard to WiFi, and we will address these concerns in our products. It's important to keep in mind that security needs to be balanced alongside other important considerations, such as speed and ease of use. Also, security always involves a tradeoff between safety and performance." Now, doesn't that sound weirdly like managing expectations downwards? security "needs to be balanced alongside... speed and ease of use." So, although wireless as it's used in great swathes of the world is inherently insecure, Microsoft is not going to be setting itself up for a fall by promising to bulletproof its home users. It will "deliver a line of wireless networking products that are more secure than others on the market and that also perform well for our customers in the home, home office and small office." Which is no more than promising its home systems will be more secure than some current products. Hoorah. ®
John Lettice, 11 Jul 2002
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Team Register, 11 Jul 2002

Welsh Assembly Web site sick

Oh dear - the Welsh Assembly is to spend £100 million on broadband. It might need to spend some of that on its Web site. A notice on the site reads: "The Assembly is experiencing technical difficulties in updating its websites due to problems with internet service provision which are beyond its control. Please bear with us while we remedy the situation. We hope to be fully operational within the next two weeks." Ho hum. ® Related Story Wales gets broadband boost
Tim Richardson, 11 Jul 2002

Fighting the Pigopolists with bricks not bluster

LettersLetters An overwhelming response to our report on Rep. Rick Boucher's proposal to outlaw share-denial systems, beginning with copy-protected CDs [see Congressman vows Pigopolist legislation]. In this report we resurrected a modest proposal of ours which is neither new nor entirely original, but which caught your attention nevertheless : that we legislate the entertainment complex off our PCs for good. It's pretty simple. You're allowed to own either a content creation empire - a studio or label - or a playback device empire (Walkmans, or PCs). But you can't have both. This idea is an anathema to today's libertarian techno orthodoxy: or at least in its West Coast version. Governments are bad, and can only do bad things. But this is now, post-Enron, post the DoJ's AntiTrust Seattlement, and with the perspective of the EFF - the best we've got - having failed in its noble crusades against the Pigopolists. The RIAA is stronger than ever, and not only have the forces of light failed to halt its advance, the geek world looks more isolated, and less able to transmit the imperatives to the rest of the world. Andrew: Kudos to you on the insightful article! You have in very few words explained something inherent to the geek community that I have been trying to wrap my brain around for several months - why there is nothing other than name-calling and pouting going on on this side of the fence to counter the eloquent stupidity of the MPAA/RIAA and their cronies. We need someone who can explain in simple terms, to anyone who asks, the geek community's stance on fair use and copyright law. Only then will the rest of the world open their eyes and say to themselves "hey...that makes sense." By the way, you probably already know this, but your two-line copyright law would have the added effect of causing some serious conflicts in some of the bigger media/content providers (Sony/Viacom and AOL-TW come immeditaely to mind), who own both the content and the playback device/software. Maybe this would lead to a few more antitrust cases and slow down the rate of mega-mergers as an added bonus? Liz Heltman Pittsburgh, PA, USA Your piece on Rick Boucher really was spot on about geeks not having worked out their FOR muscles and constantly favouring their AGAINST side, though I'm afraid the condition also affects way too many others as well. Keep up the good work. Chet Outstanding! Great article, and spot on; if our governmental systems are based upon law (and they are), blank refusal to engage in the process which produces the law hands the battlefield to the enemy. The ONLY defences that the individual has against the big corps are laws passed by good and honest men like Boucher; more power to his arm, and to you for a masterly and concise explanation of why we need people like him in the States and here in the UK as opposed to lapdogs like Hollings in the US and the spammers' friend Cashman in the UK and Europe. Slashdot be damned; they've made a lot of noise, told each other how radically simon-pure they are, and accomplished nothing. Nick Palmer IT Manager The point of explaining stuff is a good one, Liz. We all know our DMCAs, CPRMs - does your Mum? I mentioned telephone trees as a good way of disseminating this information. But maybe readers have better suggestions... Mark Lively writes that we don't need a new law, because we already have one. "It was passed in 1890," he points out with a sigh. But would such a law breach the First Amendment? Some of you think so, but I modestly disagree. The law wouldn't prevent a soul from owning a studio or a record label. In fact even the weakened cross-media ownership regulations in the US make similar demands. And you cite plenty of historical precedents where cross-media restrictions make perfect sense:- This is *precisely* what happened in the late 50s and early 60s to the fim industry - they owned both the means of production (the studios) and in some cases, the means of distribution - the theaters. So, in Los Angeles, I remember the chain of "Fox" and "Warner" movie houses, now formerly owned by 20th Centory Fox and Warner Bros. So, the precedent has been set, if not eroded considerably in the last 10 years. (AOLTimeWarnerCNN comes to mind....) After I finish this little note to you, I'm going to write tothe Good Congresman and offer my support. Thanks for bringing him to my attention. Lee Webber We had a similar problem in France a few years ago (around the 97's-98's) when the socialist government threatened to pass a law which would forbid any major building company, or a private company which gets to work over major contracts with the government or public services (for building roads, sewerage systems, telecom networks, providing accomodation and so on) -- such a company should not be allowed to be the majority shareholder in a press business. This was in order to protect freedom of information. That law was never passed. Simply because the aforementioned companies had lavishly funded the various candidates to parliament for their campaigns. And those MPs (both left and right-wing) simply did their best to have that law project cancelled. And there we end up with the major TV channel in France, TF1, being owned by the Bouygues consortium, which also owns the biggest building companies in France, as well as major services providers for collectivities such as the Sodhexo company (provides meals for companies, administrations, also in the private jail business in the US). If you want to hear about bribery trials involving Bouygues, don't tune in to TF1. Likewise, the infamous Vivendi, formerly known as "Générale des Eaux", owns not only the major water distribution networks in France, but also a wealth of companies providing various services to public institutions, administrations, communities. It's no use watching Canal+ or reading L'Express if you want to know more about the Vivendi problems these days : Vivendi actually owns them, along with a number of other TV companies and newspapers. I think the matter of having reliable, unbiased, varied information media is as essential (if not more) as the right to fair use of bought CDs/DVDs. Unfortunately, unless the Hollywood majors stop funding campaigning congressmen, I can't see your law being passed this hundred years... Cheers & keep on with the good work, Hervé Gourmelon What you describe is vastly similar to the law in the UK concerning the owenership of Television and Radio broadcast companies. A private company cannot own both of these things in the same broadcast area. For example the radio station ScotFM was owned by Grampian & Border Television (which serve the north and south of Scotland respectively) -but was only broadcast in the Scottish central belt. If it can work that simply here why can't they apply it to media? David Grierson If the will is there, nothing can stop it being applied. There is an election coming up in November, and the Boucher test can be applied to every candidate. It's going to have some overturn some pretty entrenched interests, though. The tech-lib orthodoxy states that keeping Gubbment out of our computers is the imperative. Even more pressing is keeping Disney out of our computers: this is the most powerful lobby currently seeking to mandate technical standards, not the Government. The fear that new legislation will poison the well-springs of capitalism is looking as dated as a mullet haircut. Especially when you think how much it's done for us already... ®
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jul 2002
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Team Register, 11 Jul 2002

Open source developers wary of MS graphics patent grab

We solicited your views on Microsoft throwing its patents up for trade at an OpenGL meeting this year. Scare or dare? Key KDE developer Hetz Ben Hamo wrote to us - speaking for himself, he stresses, not the KDE Organization:- It's amazing how SGI was short-sighted when they sold lots of their patents regarding 3D to Microsoft. I have read the forums back when you posted the news about MS buying some patents from SGI and many people pointed that MS needed it for their XBox - and that made me wonder: why wouldn't NVidia bought those patents back then? They made the XBox graphics chip, so any lawsuits against MS would have simply forwarded to NVidia - the author of the NV chip. Few people wrote back then in the forums that MS cannot do much with their new patents - and if there will be problems with those patents, that will be the graphics manufacturers (Nvidia, Matrox, ATI, you know - the usual suspects).. With Apple, it's not much problematic - Apple can make some deal with MS regarding those patents and license them, so Apple case is pretty clear - so Apple can have OpenGL without any problem... Now - enter Linux (and *BSD - depends where/how you look). Inside XFree there's something called MESA which is an OpenGL "clone" without the OpenGL logo. MS can quickly kill Mesa with a simple cease-and-desist letter unless Mesa author will pay the license. MS can also ask money per copy of Mesa - who'll pay that? Hetz Ben Hamo Paul Shirley thinks this has the same capacity for mischief as the Farenheit project. And Matthew Skala writes:- I think the key sentence in that document is this one: "Microsoft suggests that other bodies have licensing terms that are more effective in a corporate sense, and we should look at adopting some of those terms." We know from their other publications that "more effective in a corporate sense" means "proprietary", and especially "not GPL", in Microsoftese. The subtext is that they're offering a Devil's bargain - OpenGL can have this technology without fear of Microsoft's claims on it, provided OpenGL makes it and all the rest of OpenGL's own technology unavailable to those Godless commie open source loons. Zach Smith adds:- Regarding OpenGL, I'm an open source coder and although I don't use OpenGL, someday I might. MS's behavior with regard to its supposed IP just goes to show the evil of patenting software. It will prevent me from using that functionality in free programs, thus harming the public by depriving them of better software while forcing the public to use expensive crap programs written by MS's lackeys and allies. In addition, it will restrict my commercial use of patented ideas, should I decide to go commercial, unless I pay to use it. No doubt their patents will be protected via their Orwellian solution, Palladium. Getting my programs OK'd would involve a fee, probable discrimination, and there would be a royalty *if* it were OK'd. Probably I would not be able to afford the fees, just as internet radio stations cannot afford to pay fees for the songs they play. Thus another multinational is finding a way to force out small competitors and increase its own profits, while finding allies in other big companies and the government (which it owns). I wonder why (or whether) no organization seems to exist to challenge bad patents (the US PTO surely doesn't). Lack of an allied, *active* resistance to this clear danger is a problem that needs to be solved without delay. Zach Smith The postbag is divided between people who think OpenGL is already tainted - alarmist, we think - and those who think we say the sky is falling. The latter group are quite correct in pointing out that what Microsoft offered is standard OpenGL bargaining procedure. But we'd think you would rather know than not. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jul 2002