13th > August > 2002 Archive

High-class, low-bloat office suite goes open source

"They just don't like to do the boring stuff for the stupid people!" said Bruce Sterling recently, satirising the reluctance of open source hackers to add the nice usability finishings non-hackers expect. "That's just not in the job description! It's not even a job." Well, here's some good news - we think. The powers behind the Gobe Productive office suite, which was much loved by old BeOS users, will open source the software under the GPL. That's the plan anyway, we learn from OS News which got the scoop. FreeRadicalSoftware, a new company comprising some former Gobe employees, including Bruce Hammond, expect to acquire the code base, and release it under a dual license, one of which will be the GNU's GPL. It doesn't sound like a done deal yet, according to comments by Hammond and Gobe's Tom Hoke, but the plan is to allow a reconstituted Gobe to market Windows binaries, while FRS keeps the source. But this is very good news, because Gobe Productive is a lean, nimble, and highly functional package that already has enough good taste built-in to survive even the most ideologically insane faction fighting. It's everything that OpenOffice isn't - and has matured without adding cruft. A while ago, it served as my main office suite for a time when Be was my primary platform. The only thing Be couldn't then do that I needed was read PowerPoint presentations - and it was with no small pleasure that I could tell PRs that I had to refuse them on "technical grounds". And the only thing I missed in Gobe was funky macros - which again, other parts of the OS compensated for. On the other hand, I had a unique UI in which the document remained central, while the 'parts' swapped in and out where appropriate, some unique features like multiple select and a nice redo/undo widget, and a blinding set of image filters. Productive's weakness - although not one enough to cause much UnProductivity - was Word support. It was OK, but as an open source project, it should only improve. Or should it? We wait with some trepidation for the first Gobe Productive schism round about 2004. There'll be a serious code fork over the issue of whether fold-down menus should unfurl to the left or the right. Tempers will rage, there'll be a long and acrimonious Slashdot discussion, and a fringe third force of hooligans will set about rewriting the whole thing in XUL. We jest. Back here we called Gobe's software a "dark horse" in the Linux office sweeps, and it surely is poised for a very bright future. ® Related Story A Silicon Valley Funeral for Be
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Aug 2002

PGP, GPG defeated

OpenPGP and GnuPG are susceptible to a chosen-cyphertext attack which would allow an adversary capable of intercepting an encrypted message to use the intended recipient as an unwitting 'decryption oracle', researchers Kahil Jallad, Jonathan Katz and Bruce Schneier report in a recent paper. In a nutshell, Jane sends an encrypted e-mail message to Dick. Unfortunately, Bill intercepts Jane's message and forwards her message to Dick following a bit of tinkering. When Dick receives it, he's puzzled by an incomprehensible message. If he replies to Bill for clarification with the cyphertext in his reply, and if he has his crypto program set on cruise control, Bill may well be able to read Jane's message. Of course there are numerous complications which we'll get to presently, but conceptually that's all there is to it. It's similar to a man-in-the-middle attack, only Dick and Jane are not kept under the illusion that they're communicating with each other. The authors have confirmed that the attack can be exploited practically. However, it's not exactly easy. One obstacle for the attacker, Bill, is to tempt Dick into replying. If they're already acquainted, this should be easy. If they're strangers, then a bit of social engineering will be in order. The most obvious point of failure, then, is the problem of causing Dick to take action. On the technical front, there are a number of conditions which have to be met for the attack to succeed. First, Dick has to set his PGP or GPG application to encrypt automatically, or somehow choose to encrypt a reply to what appears to be a nonsense message. Second, if he uses the crypto application's compression feature (which is normal) the attack will fail. With GPG it fails because of an integrity check which is not actually required by the standard, but which is widely employed. With PGP it fails because, while the standard requires that 'uncompressed' be a valid condition, no one follows the requirement. If Dick's reply is not compressed by the crypto app, but is compressed with an outside application, the attack will succeed. What this example shows is that the standard is wrong and that the attack is unlikely in the real world merely because the rules are not being followed. The team recommends, obviously, that the standard be modified to protect against this sort of attack. It also illustrates the importance of a holistic approach to crypto applications. It's not enough that an algorithm is strong. As we reported recently, a buffer overflow vulnerability in Network Associates' PGP plugin for MS Outlook on Windows was capable of compromising the user's privacy, and even of giving up his machine. In this case, too, there was no 'breaking' of the algorithm. It was simply an attack against a component of a crypto application, which in practical terms is just as bad. The research team's paper describes the chosen-cyphertext attack in gruesome detail, parts of which, I readily confess, went in one eye and out the other as I read it. ®
Thomas C Greene, 13 Aug 2002

The original anti-piracy hack

Hey, all you Peer-to-Peer Piracy Prevention Act purveyors! I have a can't-miss technology development plan for you. Buried deep in the stacks of ancient cyber-history, it is called the tale of the AIDS Information Trojan horse. It goes like this: in December 1989, thousands of floppies containing what claimed to be an interactive database on AIDS and the risks factors associated with the disease were mailed to attendees at a World Health Organization meeting and subscribers to an English computing magazine. Belonging to the "PC Cyborg Corporation," the software on the diskettes contained a licensing agreement which should be of keen interest to anti-piracy entertainment industry legal enforcers. "If you install [this] on a microcomputer...then under terms of this license you agree to pay PC Cyborg Corporation in full for the cost of leasing these programs," it read. The cost, $378 U.S., was to be sent to a post office box in Panama. Continuing balefully, it stated: "In the case of your breach of this license agreement, PC Cyborg reserves the right to take legal action necessary to recover any outstanding debts payable to PC Cyborg Corporation and to use program mechanisms to ensure termination of your use... These program mechanisms will adversely affect other program applications... You are hereby advised of the most serious consequences of your failure to abide by the terms of this license agreement; your conscience may haunt you for the rest of your life... and your [PC] will stop functioning normally... You are strictly prohibited from sharing [this product] with others..." The "install" program for the AIDS Information program contained licensing enforcement strategies, of a sort, that you, the Peer-to-Peer-Piracy preventing programmer, may wish to copy. It placed a counter in the start-up routine of the computer and after ninety reboots (deemed a sufficient time to pay for the intellectual goods) it initiated a process that encrypted the names of most of the files on the hard disk. The data remained intact, however, and after an additional marking of the file directories as hidden, the system was rendered unusable -- except, of course, that the user could read the demands to renew the license and the instructions on contacting PC Cyborg for help in recovery from the denial-of-service. Both licensing agreement and programming techniques of the software are very adaptable to any condition under which an entertainment industry corporation might wish to smite file-sharing scofflaws. And while we won't give away the juicy details here, the efficiency of it could be improved. Hint: The original Trojan was snail mailed -- but Hollywood is no longer chained to such clumsy distribution. Insanity Defense However, the anti-piracy zealot will also want to know that the creator of the AIDS Information Trojan horse, an American named Dr. Joseph Popp, was sniffed out by members of the British anti-virus industry, New Scotland Yard was put on the hunt, and as the cry of "Blackmail!" rose to the Anglo heavens the alleged extortionware was added to anti-virus scanners everywhere. Now, it is well known that some U.S. congressmen feel that with proper legislation, anti-piracy warriors can be immunized against prosecution for imitation of AIDS Info-style technology. But the good planner will nevertheless want to take into account the possibility that other shires might not be so taken with his work. Dr. Popp, after all, was named on a New Scotland Yard arrest warrant and eventually extradited to Brixton Prison. The good news is that Popp, even though charged with eleven counts of blackmail, withstood legal challenge. At first, the argument was that the software was made to raise money for AIDS research. When tied definitively to the criminal evidence, Popp was said to have suffered a psychotic episode so severe the court dismissed the case and banished him back to America. The sophisticated Hollywood hacker can use this knowledge. If dragged into court or thrown to the wolves of public censure by the media, the wearing of a condom on the nose or hair curlers in unorthodox locations -- ala Popp -- would persuade authorities that the entire business was the work of someone non compos mentis. A bracing holiday in a psychiatric unit would also be part of the defense. It should be a cinch for the Hollywood anti-piracy hacker to exhibit convincing signs of mental illness and endure the minor inconvenience of rotten publicity. The daily complementary spoonful of lithium carbonate would help the pulse rate go down, too. (More on the case of the AIDS Information Trojan horse can be read on-line in the archives of Virus Bulletin magazine.) © 2002 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
George Smith, 13 Aug 2002

Win2k SP3 – how to uninstall MS apps, or not…

Microsoft yesterday began spinning the proposed MS-DoJ antitrust settlement, telling reporters it introduced new, uniform licensing terms for its top 20 OEMs on August 1st (the day Licensing 6 kicked in), and that it would be disclosing details of 272 APIs (so there's an official API counter somewhere in Redmond) and offering 113 proprietary protocols for license. The effects of these actions won't be clear for some time yet, but given that Microsoft has been insisting its own programmers don't get preferential access to APIs for years, one suspects. With the release of Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, however, it's been possible to see how at least one part of the proposed settlement, the hiding of Microsoft middleware and its replacement by alternative applications, works - or not. The Register applied SP3 to the ancestral Thinkpad as part of the annual OS hosing, which generally takes place during the vacation. Yes, we take the Thinkpad on vacation with us, along with two PDAs, three other computers, a hub, a wireless access point and a giant pile of software - possibly more of this deep sadness anon. SP3 applied onto a fresh installation of Windows 2000 provides you with a couple of capabilities relevant to the settlement, and something very similar, judges permitting, should ship with WinXP SP1. First of all, you can hide IE, Outlook Express and Media Player via the add/remove feature. This is something you used to be able to do anyway, and to some extent you could even actually uninstall the things, albeit frequently leaving large piles of bloat lurking in a directory somewhere, ready to spring into action if you showed the slightest inclination to put them back. And in some instances it's possible even now to get things that don't appear in the add/remove of XP to show up there by adding the odd switch to the registry. You can do this with Messenger, for example, swo not all of this stuff is anything like as hard and Windows-breaking as Microsoft argued in court. But the real wackiness of this implementation of the settlement Ts & Cs lies in the addition of a Set Program Access and Defaults entry to the start menu. This is the bizarrely byzantine route Microsoft has chosen to follow to make it "easy" for users and application providers to slot in non-Microsoft middeware. It is supposed to work through application providers tweaking their software so that it's aware of this feature. Naturally, none of the software people are actually using right now is aware of it, so it's of precious little utility for people applying service packs to existing systems. After hiding the usual suspects via add/remove, we installed Opera, then took a turn through Set Program Access. Opera isn't aware of this, and although all of the relevant Microsoft middleware had already been zapped via add/remove, the only entries in Set Program Access are those very Microsoft applications. Not only that, the UI is sufficiently confusing for you to think you can set a program (Opera here, for the sake of argument) as the system default by checking a box over by the IE entry. This doesn't happen, because your build of Opera isn't compliant with the system, and what happens instead is that IE is reset as the system default. The layout has entries for "use my current program" or "use Internet Explorer" (in the case of browsers) over to the left, and a "show this program" check box over to the right. So if you have "current program" checked rather than IE, you'd expect the "show program" check to relate to this program, rather than IE. But it actually makes IE reappear, at least in the case of non-compliant programs. The box is actually alongside IE, rather than the unnamed current program, and presumably another checkbox would appear next to this if it were compliant, and therefore was named. Down at the bottom, meanwhile, it says if you're having trouble getting your app to work with the system, you should contact your vendor. Which could mean a lot of irritating support calls for MS' rivals... Aside from the support calls, if rival middleware suppliers don't rejig their software to be aware of Set Program Access, then it seems to us that it's more likely that Microsoft middleware will remain the default applications. Set Program Access provides Windows with a new central UI for setting system defaults, it's prominently displayed, people are more likely to use it than going straight to add/remove, and the playing field isn't exactly level, if you think about it. Microsoft apps hidden in the system still appear in it, while even compliant non-MS apps that aren't installed on the system don't (which isn't anything like as dumb a thing to say as it sounds - Microsoft could provide entries of for major rivals like Netscape or RealPlayer). The user experience for people buying from PC companies who've done deals with Microsoft's rivals will likely be different. Presumably if a company has opted to ship with Netscape, then it will have arranged for Netscape to appear in Set Program Access, but will it be possible for it to arrange for IE not to appear? We doubt it. ®
John Lettice, 13 Aug 2002

Godzilla attacks harmless blogger

The Davezilla blog site is under threat from humourless owners of the Godzilla trademark, Toho Ltd., for using the venerable *zilla name and having a goofy cartoon lizard in their graphics. Among the more absurd claims against the blogger is the likelihood of consumer confusion over his "reptile-like character." "Please be advised that your use of the Godzilla mark constitutes a trademark infringement and confuses consumers and the public into believing that your 'Godzilla' character originates from Toho, which it does not," the nastygram says. Obviously, if the real Godzilla had looked even remotely like Dave's anorexic 'reptile-like character' not a single Japanese would have fled from him: He'd have been dispatched with a garden hose by a gang of schoolchildren at his first appearance, and reams of expensive film might have been spared and possibly placed in the hands of someone with a clue, like Kurosowa, say. "Guess the little dragon at the top has to go bye-bye. At least they are letting me keep the domain name. A few inaccuracies: I have, until today, never mentioned Godzilla, nor do I have any imagery of him on this site. Nor do I refer to my logo as Godzilla. It's always been, 'That little dragon guy.' Could have been a lot worse. Expect a new banner this week and changes to the colophon," Dave says. Now we have to wonder if Mozilla.org will be Toho's next target. Consider that the priceless *zilla mark is again in flagrant use, and further that their "reptile-like character" is a good deal more muscular and healthy than Dave's -- far more like the famous fire-breathing original: One imagines that upwards of ten or perhaps even fifteen drug-addled, brain-damaged Web surfers could be confounded by that one. ®
Thomas C Greene, 13 Aug 2002

TogetherSoft in, Borland out, in WebGain deal

A buyer has emerged for WebGain's Inc's Java development environment, but uncertainty still surrounds the suite's future, Gavin Clarke writes. TogetherSoft Corp has snapped-up the WebGain's Studio integrated development environment (IDE) from San Jose, California-based WebGain in a deal completed Friday. The price was not disclosed. The deal means Raleigh, North Carolina-based TogetherSoft gets its hands on Visual Café, Structure Builder, Business Designer and Quality Analyzer. Sources, who wished to remain anonymous, told Computerwire TogetherSoft beat Java tools rival Scotts Valley, California-based Borland Software Corp to clinch the deal. Another un-identified vendor was also believed to be in contention for WebGain Studio. Borland senior vice president of software products Frank Slootman confirmed talks took place with WebGain, but did not provide details. "There are conversations always going on," he said. ComputerWire broke the story of WebGain's decision to exit tools and sell its Enterprise Java Bean (EJB) mapping software to Oracle Corp in June. Despite the deal with TogetherSoft, uncertainty over WebGain Studio's future will persist at least into next year. TogetherSoft said Monday it will provide existing WebGain Studio customers a migration path onto its TogetherSoft ControlCenter development suite. The company, meanwhile, is examining which features of this version and the next planned version of WebGain Studio - version 7.0 - to bring into ControlCenter. A TogetherSoft spokesperson said: "We are considering future research and development [of WebGain Studio 7.0]. We may decide to launch it or integrate it with our existing product." WebGain Studio 7.0 is expected "sometime next year", WebGain said. It is thought highly unlikely TogetherSoft will plough valuable research and development dollars into WebGain Studio 7.0, the first full Java version of WebGain's IDE. WebGain Studio 7.0 development costs - set against an increasingly competitive and cost-conscious environment - actually helped break WebGain's back in the first place. TogetherSoft said it plans to sell WebGain 4.5 and offer customers support, although it is not buying any former WebGain staff under the deal. TogetherSoft will rely on approximately 12 former WebGain staffers recruited before Friday's deal. TogetherSoft will instead use WebGain to help it jump up the league-table of Java IDEs, by buying market share. Analyst GartnerGroup estimates WebStudio's market share around 20%. The TogetherSoft spokesperson said the company can use WebGain's IDE to help sell ControlCenter. The deal also tightly integrates TogetherSoft with San Jose, California-based BEA Systems Inc's WebLogic Workshop development environment. TogetherSoft is already a BEA partner, but the WebGain Studio 7.0 code is tightly optimized to WebLogic Workshop. Despite missing out WebGain, Borland is quietly rubbing its hands. Slootman said TogetherSoft had simply bought a customer list. He added, though, customers would not automatically switch to TogetherSoft creating an opportunity for Borland. "This doesn't necessarily give [TogetherSoft] the inside track to picking up customers. [ControlCenter] has limited appeal to a broad market," Slootman said. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 13 Aug 2002

ISPA wins changes to EU ecommerce directive

The UK's Internet industry is claiming a partial victory after securing key amendments to new ecommerce regulations coming into force later this month. ISPA - the trade association for Internet Service Providers in the UK - lobbied Government in an attempt to remove certain ambiguities contained in earlier drafts of the European Union E-Commerce Directive, which becomes UK law on August 21. Prior to the changes secured by ISPA, the Government's draft regulations had suggested that UK providers of Internet services were subject to the laws of each member state of the European Union. ISPA believes that the "Country of Origin" principle - as it is known - gives those engaged in ecommerce a legal certainty that they will only be subject to UK law, rather than the law of every Member State of the EU. Elsewhere, ISPA claims the draft regulations were also ambiguous concerning the civil and criminal liability of service providers which transmit, cache or host third-party content. ISPA claims these ambiguities have now been removed and ensure that service providers benefit from the same limited liability in both civil and criminal matters. However, ISPA is still concerned that the new regulations fail to outline a formal procedure for the removal of illegal content (aka "notice and takedown"). Said Nicholas Lansman, Secretary General of ISPA UK: "It is crucial for the development of the UK Internet industry that the E-Commerce Directive is accurately interpreted and implemented the UK Government." But he warned that formal procedures governing the removal of illegal material (notice and takedown) need to be developed to further clarify the rights and responsibilities of service providers. The aim of the Directive is to ensure the free movement of information society services across the European Community. It's designed to promote greater use of e-commerce by breaking down barriers across Europe and boosting consumer confidence by clarifying the rights and obligations of businesses and consumers. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2002

e-Minister talks up wireless

InterviewInterview Guy Kewney, veteran IT hack, has set up The Mobile Campaign to lobbying for better Wi-Fi coverage in the UK. Also he wants the London Underground railway opened up to wireless access. That's not something that ever bothered us, and if wireless means voice, as well as data, we'll be on the other side of the barricades. Here he interviews e-minister Stephen Timms The politician in the firing line for the Mobile Campaign, Stephen Timms, started his job as e-Minister by declaring commercial WiFi to be legal in the UK - a great start. So we asked him what his attitude to open wireless in this country really is... The first thing on our agenda was: "What's your attitude to our campaign to get the London Underground opened up to wireless?" And his response: "A lot of people would like access on the underground... but what the implications for London Underground Limited are, I don't know." I don't know? What sort of Ministerial reply is this? An honest one, it seems. Astonishingly, the Department of Trade and Industry seems to have made a mistake - as a reporter from the FT was heard to say after meeting him for the first time - he appears to be someone who knows what he's doing in the job as e-Minister. He also seems somewhat unusual, as top politicians go, in being at least relatively BS-free. Well, that's an early diagnosis, and it's far too soon to be sure; but the first sign that all was not quite conventional was when he answered his own email, and agreed to meet to discuss the Mobile Campaign's objectives. Timms could easily claim to be a programmer; he did actually do some programming assignments when he first joined software company Logica. But clearly, he knows enough about programmer culture in the UK to realise that no genuine code-hack would regard that as real programming; and he concedes without being questioned that he was more involved in marketing assignments - after he left college in 1978 with the plan of doing a post-graduate Operational Research. The first thing he did when he arrived at the DTI was to announce what everybody had unofficially known for some months - that the antiquated law making it illegal to run a commercial wireless operation on licence-exempt frequency bands, was ending. And again, creditably, he didn't try to take the glory for this decision which, he says, was taken by his predecessor, Douglas Anexander, who launched the consultation process back in October last year. So, lots of good points for the new e-Minister; does this mean he really understands the importance of wireless in the UK? Short answer: not yet. Not entirely surprisingly, perhaps, he seems not to be up to speed on this issue after just a couple of months on the top floor of the Victoria Street office. So he makes sense: "I think wireless is going to be an important part of the broadband future." But he's not yet inspired: "I think this is interesting; the idea of sitting in airport departure lounges and being able to access your network - that's very attractive - but it is also the case that there are significant bits of the country now where wireless looks like being the first way we will get broadband available. ADSL won't be, cable isn't, satellite is - well, let's say it's available, but is largely one-way. Wireless is potentially the way of opening up broadband more widely." The point, as far as WiFi war-net enthusiasts are concerned, is that WiFi can do everything, now, which people hope to get from third generation phone networks one day. And one of the big steps in getting there, is to open up the faster bandwidth used by Wifi 5, the IEEE 802.11a standard running at 50 megabits per second on the 5 GHz band. On this, Timms gets full marks for honesty; when asked what the current status of 11a regulations are, he admits: "I don't know." But he probably needs to know less about WiFi than other things in his remit. Where Timms can make a difference will be in the areas where Government spending can occur and be directed: "One of the things striking for me in last weeks is how much of a call there is for broadband in those rural areas. Letters written by MPs on behalf of constituents, and fair number of emails direct to me, as well. That call will need to be addressed," he says with the air of someone who is reporting a decision, rather thanthinking about what would be nice. And then the police announcement: "So I think an important and very welcome step is Gordon Brown's spending announcements; we don't know the exact figures, but there is going to be significant extra spending on broadband - aimed at getting broadband to schools. It will be for public procurement of broadband. Now, I think that we will be able to use that extra spending to further the roll out of the infrastructure and to make the services available more widely; one of my jobs over the next few months will be to work out how we can be smart about using that extra spending which will be made." What will happen, exactly, will be decided later this year, Timms promises. "In the Autumn we will set up this regional broadband unit, and set up groups of people in each of the regions to look at how we can do this. Our advisors will apply their minds to this in the Autumn. They will look to bring together public sector would-be users of broadband. If you can get them together into a larger body, the likelihood of getting a service provider interested is greater." And next year, following the Puttnam report in the future of broadcast media, the new Communications Bill? Timms wasn't giving anything away other than that the Puttnam report is out, and looks "interesting" and that the decisions will be taken later this year. So, moving onto the other area where Government influence can play a part, what does he think about the Campaign to bring wireless to the Underground? His answer makes it clear, at least, that he hasn't had a chance to discuss this with LUL; he asks what their response has been to the idea. A response, of course, would be a step in the right direction; getting one would indeed be the first miracle, given the corporate nature of the administrative body that runs the trains under the capital. I explained this in a few succinct words. "OK, well. I can't say I am engaged with that, but the issue has been raised with me. I can see the attractiveness! and a lot of people would find it very helpful to have access on the underground. But at this stage, I can't take a position on it. I have to talk to people in the department of Transport and so on." Nice to meet you, Stephen, and we hope to have the chance to advance this matter with you over the next months and, hopefully, years of your time in office. I think, in all honesty, he'll need to add to his advisor list. He needs to investigate World Wide Packets if he wants to know how to drag the UK into real broadband - whether he actually buys from WWP or not isn't the issue, because I don't think any of his DTI advisers know about the technology, or the business concept they have come up with. They need to. He also has to get his head around the conflicts between orthodox third-generation phone and amateur wireless - a conflict which his department is reluctant, I think, to look in the face. They have an awful lot of income dependent on 3G succeeding, but what matters is to get this decision right. Going around Europe, one is struck by the fact that wireless access is almost commonplace in hotels in capital cities everywhere - except in Britain. And although there are companies in Britain who are trying to set up to handle it, they are hopelessly out of their depth, simply because they have no experience in the field at all, while their rivals from other countries are into their second year of deployment. Too much of the UK's future depends on getting back into the race on high technology. High tech isn't "fashionable" any more, and it's too easy to make excuses for delay, inattention, and focus on other areas. But the fashion will change, and awareness will return; and that's when decisions taken, now, will pay off - or be cursed for being missed. © Newswireless.net
Guy Kewney, 13 Aug 2002

MS recruits for Palladium microkernel and/or DRM platform

Microsoft's efforts to disassociate Palladium from DRM seem to have hit their first speed bump. Some voices within the company (and we currently believe these voices to be right and sensible) hold the view that Palladium has to be about users' security if it's to stand any chance of winning hearts and minds, and that associating it with protecting the music business' IP will be the kiss of death. So they'll probably not be best pleased by the Microsoft job ad that seeks a group program manager "interested in being part of Microsoft's effort to build the Digital Rights Management (DRM) and trusted platforms of the future (Palladium)." Oh dear. It's one of a clutch of Palladium job ads currently up on the site, and is the most blatantly off-message one. While the authors of Microsoft's discussion white paper on Palladium say, "Palladium will not require Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, and DRM will not require Palladium... They are separate technologies," the author of this ad continues: "Our technology allows content providers, enterprises and consumers to control what others can do with their digital information, such as documents, music, video, ebooks, and software. Become a key leader, providing vision and industry leadership in developing DRM, Palladium and Software Licensing products and Trust Infrastructure Services. If you are looking for an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a critical new area for MS and a position with autonomy and growth, then this is an ideal position." Content providers controlling their documents, music, video, ebooks, a critical new area for MS, oh dear oh dear. And we quite liked: "Additional responsibilities include defining the industry..." Gosh, the whole industry? That's a responsible job, but we thought Microsoft was supposed to have given this sort of thing up. The post will also "include collaboration and technology sharing across CSBU [Content Security Business Unit, whose bag Palladium is] and with other MS teams, such as Office, STS, Avalon, CLR, Windows Media Foundation, eHome, Pocket PC, Mira, MSXML, GXA, and .Net Framework." There's a handy list of current MS teams for you, people. So Windows Media is a Foundation now, and what's an Avalon when it's at home, anyone? Job two, SDE lead, is much more on message and quite interesting, as it provides some clues about the way Palladium will be built. "What is Palladium? We are a windows team working on new, trust-oriented Windows features, re-architecting and re-developing the Windows PC platform from the hardware up. We will dramatically enhance the level of Security available to any customer who wishes to enhance the Privacy, Security, and Data/Content Protection aspects of their applications. We will offer customers a very high level of data protection, no matter where they live, who they are, or what they are trying to protect." Aside from that Data/Content Protection, it's almost unworrying. Here's the techie bit: "Own lean and mean team of 4 senior developers building the very guts of this new security software. This is one of the very few opportunities to build a micro-kernel from scratch. We’re keeping everything that’s cool about a micro-kernel and nothing that’s not. Responsibilities include: abstraction of hardware from the security modes of the new CPUs to cryptographic input devices, process control, from laying out the image in memory, to providing system services, from providing memory management to interrupt handling, from a debugger to the fundamentals of structured exception handling. No file system, no networking, nothing complicated, only elegant. This is a dream job." Indeed it is. The approach sounds similar to the one the early NT development team took, before marketing started maiming the thing. Also wanted is a secure application architect, who "will be responsible for application strategy and design. The Secure Application Architect will work with development, marketing and internal and external customers to identify trusted application scenarios that will be supported. He/she will then be responsible for executing the strategy: providing support and guidance for application developers, and working with the internal Palladium team to ensure that the necessary system services and infrastructure are in place." So this one could be the nark. Apply here, here or here. ®
John Lettice, 13 Aug 2002

Apple mulls EU recycling liabilities

Apple Computer could face 'substantial' recycling liability costs, following the introduction of WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive-enacting legislation in EU member countries. In its most recent 10-Q SEC filing, covering the quarter ended June 29, 2002, the company notes: The parliament of the European Union is working on finalizing the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (the Directive). The Directive makes manufacturers of electrical goods, including personal computers, financially responsible for the collection, recycling, and safe disposal of past and future products. The Directive must now be approved and implemented by individual European Union governments by 2005. The Company's potential liability resulting from the Directive related to past sales of its products and expenses associated with future sales of its product may be substantial. However, because it is likely that specific laws, regulations, and enforcement policies will vary significantly between individual European member states, it is not currently possible to estimate the Company's existing liability or future expenses resulting from the Directive. As the European Union and its individual member states clarify specific requirements and policies with respect to the Directive, the Company will continue to assess its potential financial impact. And if the costs are "substantial" in the EU, just think how expensive it will get when the US states enforce tougher recycling legislation. (Our acknowledgement to the eagle eyes of MacWorld, who spotted this nugget.) Related stories PC disposal rules whack small PC builders Prisoners go to work for Dell Pollutors whinge and whinge and whinge How green is your PC disposal policy?
Drew Cullen, 13 Aug 2002

KDE smokes MS in SSL bug fix

A serious flaw in SSL certificate handling reported by Mike Benham, affecting IE and Konqueror, has already been fixed by KDE's Waldo Bastian, we're pleased to mention. The fix is available only in the CVS (Concurrent Versions System) tree at the moment, but KDE reckons it will have patched binaries available for its 3.0.3 version, available early next week. A patch for KDE 2.2.x is currently in the works. As for Microsoft? According to Benham they haven't even replied to him yet. Apparently, real Trustworthy Computing takes an enormous amount of time. Conversely, the speed with which the open source community jumps on security bugs and sorts them out is remarkable, and ought to be a solid selling point. Consider the nearly miraculous turnarounds by Mozilla.org on this bug, and this one. Consider a serious Apache bug fixed in less than 24 hours, though security sluts ISS shanked Apache.org with a premature-release publicity stunt. SSL, we should point out, is one of the most important consumer security protocols in use on the Web. It's what makes your credit card transactions with pr0n sites appear safe. It's what persuades you that sensitive personal data which you entrust to a Web site is a secret between you and them. Only it's broken. Mozilla isn't affected; Konqueror will be fully patched by Monday or Tuesday, and IE is vulnerable and in Limbo while MS tries to figure out how to explain it to the teeming millions who trust their products, in preparation for eventually fixing it. But the spin comes first. That's the meaning of Trustworthy Computing. Where do you want to go today? ®
Thomas C Greene, 13 Aug 2002

Germany: deep linking lunacy continues

Guest EditorialGuest Editorial Mainpost, a publishing subsidiary of German group Verlagsruppe Holtzbrinck, is sueing NewsClub.de, a news headline aggregator, over deep linking. It claims that NewsClub.de infringes German copyright law by doing this. Here is NewsClub's argument. The German Government has released a new draft law for regulating copyright in the information society, according to EU directive 2001/29/EG. Among other things, the government clarifies the rights of reporting daily news in online media - but unfortunately, the controversial article 87b of German copyright law (Urhebergesetz, "UrhG") has not been changed. This is the German interpretation of the EU database directive. The news search engine NewsClub.de has been accused of copyright infringement by a big German news publishing company. It argues that NewsClub violates article 87b of German copyright law by setting website links to their news articles, which they call a "database". Currently, there are several parallel lawsuits in Europe against searching engines, such as Newsbooster.com, Paperboy.de and Net-Clipping.de. NewsClub offers the web community a searching engine for news. Currently, it covers more than 100 different news sources. The user can search by news category and headline, and reach the publisher's web page containing the desired article, by web link, The user receives the page directly from the publisher's server, including all contents, advertising banners, etc. There is no in-frame linking, and each news headline includes the publisher's name. In addition, the news web site gains accesses by the inflow of users that come from NewsClub. Apparently, the complaining publisher did not understand that this gives it a material benefit. It has filed a suit against NewsClub by using the exceptional rule in copyright for "databases". Article 87a UrhG defines "databases" as follows: "A database within the meaning of this Act is a collection of works, data or other independent elements arranged in a systematic or methodical way the elements of which are individually accessible either by electronic or by other means, and the obtaining, verification or presentation of which requires a qualitatively or quantitatively substantial investment." In article 87b UrhG the rights of the Maker of the Database are defined: "The maker of the database has the exclusive right to reproduce, to distribute and to communicate to the public the whole data base or a qualitatively or quantitatively substantial part thereof. The repeated or systematical reproduction, distribution or communication to the public of qualitatively and quantitatively insubstantial parts of the database shall be deemed as equivalent to the reproduction, distribution or communication of a qualitatively or quantitatively substantial part of the database provided that these acts run counter to a normal exploitation of the database or unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the maker of the database." So, the question is: Does pure linking (brokering) of internet websites violate copyright law? If that were true, searching engines like Google, NewsClub, Altavista etc. could have to shut down their servers. The German government wants to clarify the situation with the introduction of two new articles of German copyright law - article 44a UrhG and 50 UrhG: By article 44a, "temporary copying acts" such as performed by searching engines are to be allowed: "Temporary copying acts which are non-permanent or accompanying and represent an integral and essential part of a technical process and whose solely purpose is 1. to provide a transmission in a net between third parties by an intermediary, or 2. to provide lawful use of a work or other subjects of protection, and which do not have commercial relevance by itself, are permitted." (non-official translation) The proposal for the revised form of article 50 UrhG also seems to be advantageous for searching engines: "For reporting current-events by radio or by other similar technical media, in news papers, magazines and other printings or by other data media which essentially accommodate daily interests - as well as in the movies - the reproduction, distribution or communication to the public of works that are perceivable in the course of these events is permitted in a scope, which is appropriate for the purpose." (non-official translation) But it is yet unclear if legislation comes to the position that these both articles are valid for databases as well - because article 87b has not been modified! If you follow the reasoning of Munich Upper Court (OLG München), which currently deals with the NewsClub case, that article 87b regulates searching engine activity regarding databases in a terminatory * way, one could assume that the legislator used different terms for one kind of redistribution, namely "copying". Then, you have a forked term of copying, as searching engines, which quote and link information from databases, already perform "copying" when the quoted text is stored in memory. According to article 44a, such a temporary, technically needed storage should not be illegal. The main point of contention in the lawsuit against NewsClub is this: Is there a right to retrieve information from public sources? Can a searching engine enable the Internet user to find the location of desired information? It is a matter of fact that the complainer's website is publicly accessible. They have not taken any precautions - either legally nor technically - to limit access by the public or by search engines. Whoever posts a document on the Internet, without undertaking provisions such as password-secured access, or a clear "don't link me" statement (robots.txt, Meta-Tags etc.), declares that he wants to be found by searching engines. Any other construction seems to be controversial and inconsistent. Not only the constitutionally but also the logically conformable interpretation leads us to the conclusion that article 87b is not really meant as a general linking ban. It is reasonable for the content creator to state explicitly that it does not wish any linking to its documents. It is inappropriate to force search engine maintainers to establish from all publishers if there is a linking permission. This would bankrupt the search engines if the burden of proof was on their side. It is even more astonishing that the news publisher is complaining, because NewsClub removed the company's web site from its crawler in 2000, as soon as it received notice to cease and desist. The damage is incalculable for all Internet users, because the Internet is inoperable without searching engines. The publisher's actual intention is clear: It wants to herd its readers like cattle along all the advertising banners, from the starting page down to the page containing the news article, hoping that the user clicks on one of them. That way, the publishing company wants to refinance its website. Metaphorically spoken, they want to forbid users to read their newspaper starting at the last page! The reader is also forbidden to skip pages - the newspaper should not be read too conveniently. Search engines as NewsClub.de simply the access to information and increase the newspapers' attractiveness. In any case, NewsClub helps increasing the page access rates - advertisers benefit from that, as they can reach a bigger audience. In other words, if newspapers exclude search engines, they lose readers and advertising income - and the advertisers are fleeced of potential customers. You can find more detailed information about the subject at http://www.newsclub.de/prozess, including documents, sentences, pleadings and links for further information. There is also a discussion forum, in English and German. The German version of this article can be found here. Christian Kohlschütter is the founder of NewsClub.de Related Deep and Shallow Links Search Engine Watch: Deep Linking Lunacy Bechtold: The Link Controversy Page *Terminatory - "the state where the act is consummated or where the last constituent element of the offence occurs has jurisdiction."

CSA computer system '£50m over budget'

A computer system designed to speed up the operation of the Child Support Agency is months behind schedule and £50 million over budget. The £200 million project was due to go live in April 2003, but has now been delayed till next summer due to unspecified "technical problems", people working on the project told the BBC. EDS won the contract for the project with a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme, and its unclear who will end up paying for the overspend - already running at least £50 million, the BBC report. The project is the latest in an ignoble line of UK government IT projects that have gone wrong, which have involved attempts to modernise the Magistrates Courts and Britain's ageing air traffic control systems. The latest problems affect an already controversial government agency. The CSA, which is responsible for administering maintenance payments for children of separated parents, has faced repeated criticism in its nine-years of operation about mistakes and delays in the payments it makes. Last month it was forced to admit that it had written off £2 billion in payments owed by absent parents, promoting calls to break up the agency. ®
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2002

Berkeley student fleeces UK in eBay scam

Police are trying to trace a Turkish man concerning an alleged fraud carried out on online auction outfit eBay. Mehmet Onay - who until recently was studying business administration at University of California Berkeley - is thought to have conned people out of an estimated £125,000 ($190,000). Onay ran a business - Berkeley Electronics - while studying, selling items using eBay's UK operation. Up until a couple of weeks ago he had a reputation as a trusted supplier with a positive rating on eBay. But following the latest batch of auctions people became suspicious when their goods failed to be delivered. Goods for sale included high-value items including music players, games consoles, digital cameras, mobile phones, pocket PCs, PDAs, camcorders and laptops. When angry customers tried to contact him they were told he had returned to Turkey. Police in the US are investigating the case along with officials from UC Berkeley. A spokeswoman for UC Berkeley told The Register that the campus first learned of the alleged fraud last Wednesday. "UC Berkeley campus police immediately began a criminal investigation and have also requested that federal law enforcement authorities look into the matter. "It is also being investigated by campus computing officials and the university's Office of Student Conduct," she said. She also confirmed that Mehmet Onay was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley and attended classes in the autumn of 2001 and spring 2002. Although officials from UC Berkeley declined to comment directly on the case, they said that it was against university regulations for Berkeley's email or Web sites to be used for commercial purposes of any kind. In cases of criminal misuse, individuals would face prosecution under state and federal laws, they said. Said the spokeswoman: "The University of California, Berkeley takes very seriously the misuse of its resources. We are committed to a thorough investigation of this case and will cooperate fully with other law enforcement agencies investigating the allegations." But those hit by the alleged scam are hopping mad at the apparent lack of interest seemingly displayed by eBay UK. One victim, who asked not to be named, said that the lack of contact was as if eBay didn't want to know. No one at eBay UK was available for comment at the time of writing. However, it's understood that an investigation is underway. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2002

Sun cool on AMD's Hammer

Last week Sun praised AMD's 64-bit extensions lavishly. AMD was the hottest date in town, and Sun had her number! But yesterday, when we asked if Sun might extend its new line of x86 computers to encompass AMD's Opteron, passions had cooled. "There's no point confusing the public," said Sun's "chief competitive officer" (more of which below) Shahin Khan. "The path to a set of standard 64-bit extensions has been elusive," said Kahn. "There's little prospect of Intel and AMD agreeing," he said. So AMD - she's just another gal, after all. Of course, last week AMD was talking about Itanium. This week it was talking about its new edge servers. Opteron is good when compared to Itanium, of course. But Opteron is bad compared to the new LX50, and Sun's own SPARC systems. Which reminds of the quote (said in another context, about something else, and perhaps you can help us with the attribution) - that the Hammer extensions are "great in practice, but how do we make them work in theory?" We were scheduled to talk to Cobalt marketing veteran Bill Roth, but discovered that Kahn was also on the call. In one of very few words Bill managed to get in edgeways, he said that Cobalt had started with Linux on MIPS, and used AMD processors, but customers clearly wanted Intel inside. We asked Bill if Sun planned to go above two-processor systems, but Shahin answered that most of the serious volume is in one and two-ways, and if people really scream for four-ways, then they might think about it. We asked Bill if the LX50 pricing (which starts at $2795 for the 1.4Ghz PIII/512MB RAM//36GB HD) wouldn't expose it to undercutting from Dell. Shahin answered that Sun has out-Delled Dell, and buys more components than anybody. So a pattern of sorts is emerging. Last week we tuned in to hear Sun's distinguished engineer Marc Tremblay - who helped design UltraSPARC I and II, picoJava and the fabulous MAJC chip - talk about processors and, Marc could barely get a word in either. So now we know what "chief competitive officer" means at Sun: there's a competition to grab as much air time at press conferences, and Shahin's won! ®
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Aug 2002

Norwegians scramble for tech savvy DeCSS judge

The trial of the teenage Norwegian programmer accused of creating the DeCSS "piracy tool" has been delayed until December 9 this year. Jon Johansen, who created DeCSS as a utitlity to play DVDs on PCs running on Linux, was due to stand trial for creating the DeCSS programme this summer. But the trial has been put back so that a "technically savvy" judge could be appointed, Greplaw reports. Johansen faces charges brought by the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit under Norwegian Criminal Code 145(2) that carry a possible sentence of up to two years in jail. The motion picture industry has launched numerous lawsuits and prosecutions in the US and abroad to ban Johansen's software, on the basis that DeCSS is a "piracy tool" that is key to descrambling and copying data on DVDs. Critics, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argue that this is untrue and that Johansen created DeCSS software that can enable DVD playback on Linux, among other lawful uses. Besides, DeCSS is not needed to infringe DVDs, critics say, arguing that in effect Johansen has been charged simply for trying to access the data on his own DVD. ® Related Stories DVD hacker Johansen indicted in Norway 2600 withdraws Supreme Court appeal in DeCSS case
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2002

Xbox Live set for November 15 launch

The Xbox finally goes online on November 15 this year, exactly one year after the original launch of the console. But only in the US, where Microsoft rolls out its Xbox Live service, along with six online-enabled software titles. The Xbox Live Starter Kit will be sold for $50 (about £33, although no European details have yet been confirmed) and includes a headset for voice communications, a years subscription to the Xbox Live service and software to enable the Xbox to utilise an existing broadband connection. Xbox Live is initially supported by six software titles, three of them sports games – Sega's NFL2k3 and NBA2k3, and Microsoft’s own NFL Fever title. The Sega Sports titles were the biggest success story for Dreamcast in the USA, and Microsoft hopes that similar success will greet the games in launching the Xbox online service. Elsewhere, shoot 'em up fans are catered for by Epic's Unreal Championship and Ubisoft’s Xbox version of Ghost Recon, while Microsoft Game Studios provides more family-oriented online antics with the "wacky" racing title Whacked. Microsoft hopes that Xbox Live will help to distinguish the Xbox from its competitors in the console market, although Sony will beat it to the online arena by two months – the Japanese giant plans to start selling a network adapter for the PS2 in the USA at the end of this month, and of course, has already managed a limited roll-out of the PS2 online PlayOnline service in Japan, backed by Square, Namco and other major game companies. Nintendo is cautious as ever about the new technology, although it will be launching a modem and broadband adapter for the GameCube to support Sega’s Phantasy Star Online titles on the console. The primary difference between Sony's approach and Xbox Live is that Sony is, for the most part, leaving the infrastructure of PS2 online to publishers,while Microsoft retains complete control of Xbox Live. The company believes that this control of the entire system from basic infrastructure to actual game titles will enable it to provide a more seamless and enjoyable user experience, giving it an edge over its rivals in the console wars. © gamesindustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 13 Aug 2002

Apple goes SMP for all pro-Macs

Apple has added faster memory across its professional PowerMac range, cranked the top of the range to 1.2Ghz, and made dual processors the default across the line. That puts some ClearBlueWater™ between the iMac range and the professional range, the two had grown so similar in capabilities that the biggest difference appeared to be the inclusion of Ottomatic on one range, but not the other. Curiously Motorola, which trumpeted the arrival of the Apollo 7455 in January, has been so far strangely silent. Perhaps they're sulking: because it appears to world+dog that IBM will be handling Apple's CPU needs in the future. The new models include more expansion room (the leaked case diagrams proving spookily prescient), ship with a choice of Nvidia's GeForce4 MX or ATI's 9000 Pro, each with 32 and 64 MB of DDR memory respectively. The low-end model retains the 133Mhz bus, while on the mid- and high-end models it's cranked up to 167Mhz; the high-end model boasts 2MB of L3 cache. The creaking ATA-66 IDE controller is retained, but all models also have an additional ATA-100 bus - - a sensible move. The Apple store lists the 2x867Mhz model (256MB RAM/60GB HD/DVD-CDRW) at $1,699; the 2x1Ghz model (256/80/Superdrive) at $2,499 - and both available for delivery right away. Speed mavens must wait 6-8 weeks for the two high-end options:- the dual 1.25Ghz (512MB/120GB/Superdrive) at $3,299 and a built-to-order version of the latter (2GB/2x120GB/Superdrive) with the Nvidia Titanium card for $4,999. UK prices are £1,349, £1,999, £2,699 and £4,189 respectively. Apple claims that the net effect of all this is to double the memory throughput, and gives it a performance rating of 18.3 Gigaflops for the high-end model (compared to 3.7 for the single-processor 500Mhz G4). Sales of the PowerMac collapsed this year, down 26 per cent from the same quarter last year, which the company attributed to "current economic conditions are having a pronounced negative impact on its professional and creative customers and that many of these customers continue to delay upgrades of their Power Macintosh systems due to the Company's ongoing transition to Mac OS X ... and in anticipation of certain software vendors transitioning their Macintosh applications to run natively in Mac OS X. Further, the Company did not experience the anticipated increase in Power Macintosh sales it expected following the introduction of Adobe's PhotoShop 7," in its most recent SEC filing. ® The Register Mac Channel
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Aug 2002

My Life as a Teenage Dotcom Millionaire

Today, We received a press release concerning one time "teenage dotcom millionaire" Benjamin Cohen. We thought we'd share it with you. Reproduced in full below. The Last of the Teenage Dot.Com Millionaires is to Disappear... He's turning twenty Benjamin Cohen has been at the forefront of one of the most innovative industries that the UK has ever seen, the dot com industry. Founder of soJewish.com, the community portal, he was thrust into the limelight at the tender age of 16. Figures of £5m were quoted for his personal stake in the business. As it goes, the company merged with the London Jewish News (the largest free Jewish newspaper in the world) and then reversed into Totally plc on the AIM market. For a day Cohen was the youngest director of a publicly quoted company ever. His share in Totally was not worth anything like the £5m that was quoted two years earlier, it was valued at £310,000 but had reduced to £40,000 when he came to sell his stake. Cohen was hyped from day one of his media debut. However, this was not by PR people - he had none - but by the press. Speculating at his stake in the business, Ben was made into a millionaire. "For Britain's business journalists, Benjamin has come to represent the internet world in all its wonder and bizarreness." Jon Ronson, Evening Standard Cohen for his part never truly believed what was said about him and his bank balance and realised that at the end of the day he'd be very lucky to walk away from SoJewish.com with a few hundred thousand pounds. Immediately after completing his A-Levels, Benjamin decided to concentrate his energies on CyberBritain.com, a business that he had first started developing when he was 15. He successfully raised capital by the end of 2000 and started to hire a team to work around his concepts. All of this was filmed by the BBC for their "Trouble at the Top" series. "When I look back at the way that I was in that documentary I cringe. I was at the top of an industry that was built on sand. I was carried away with the fact that I, a mere 17 year old had as much experience as anyone else at building an Internet company." "I can remember how rude I could be at times to journalists and people phoning up for advice. Back then, I could be as obnoxious as I liked and people would still come back for more, they had to, I was Benjamin Cohen, the Dot Com sensation." In reality the business that Cohen built up had little focus, it didn't concentrate on key ideas but instead on a logic that said its better not to have all your eggs in one basket. CyberBritain.com built up ten separate businesses and brands with the hope that one of them would be worth something in the long run. Yet almost a year later there was no revenue for any of them, just mounting costs. Shortly after the documentary was screened Benjamin says he grew up. "I realised the stupidity of what was going on, there was no concentration on key revenue streams, it was all about land grab and not about money. I decided that the only way there would be a future was to start to cut back." Company by company, dotcom by dotcom, Cohen made his already small team redundant. He closed down skipmusic.com- a loss making music and mp3 portal, dotfamilies.com - a family safe search product and ceased development on a revision website, an mp3 software business, a cross communal website and numerous others. The cut backs which took until last October to complete left CyberBritain.com with two full time staff (including Benjamin) and three part-time directors. CyberBritain.com by now had moved into the offices of the (now defunct) internet incubator Cube8.com plc. A telling sign of the times, the 5000sq ft office which once had two hundred people working in it now only houses CyberBritain.com in a 175 sq foot area. The other 4825 sq feet lays empty leaving the landlord around £16,400 short a month. Benjamin also decided to start a degree at King's College London in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics. This, he says, has also forced him to grow up. "The added work load of a degree has made me focus a lot more when I am in work. I still manage to spend around 40 hours a week at work but it is a lot more focused on what can make money as opposed to what makes me look good in the papers." "I think that really I spent too much time flirting with the media and not enough time working in the early years." The degree has also make Benjamin rethink his impressions of internet pornography, a subject that he has been criticised for in the past. CyberBritain.com owned Hunt4Porn.com; Europe's first and largest adult search engine. Destined to cause controversy, Cohen has always displayed mixed views towards this aspect of his empire. "In once sense I still stand by the comments that I made last year about freedom of speech and the right of the individual to access pornography. Yet I have come to realise that there is really little money that I can make out of it. I have not and will not ever sell actual pornographic images or content so it is very hard for me to monetise it. I had in effect a user base eager to buy porn but no one to sell it to them. If I didn't have my morals I could have already made a small fortune out of the site but I can't bring myself to selling porn. I really don't want to be a porn baron." When Jon Ronson described Benjamin as "the unlikely porn baron" it would have been more accurate to call him the "reluctant porn baron". When he sold the porn assets to British Virgin Island's based Liddell Consultants in August of 2002, he was glad to finally be able to ditch his porn baron label. Benjamin has grown up into a sensitive and sensible young man. He has dispensed of his obnoxious, brash manner of the past into quite the perfect gentleman. He has the ability to laugh at himself and realise his faults but most importantly, change them. "Benjamin is now 18, with sticky-up hair that I think he's quite fussy about in an appropriate teenage way. "Hang on," he says to the photographer. "I've got to gel my hair." Deborah Ross, Independent "This little boy - Benjamin was 15 when he burst onto the scene - makes millions. He is our first millionaire teenage dot.com success story. He is the American dream, slap bang in the middle of Kentish Town." Jon Ronson, Evening Standard Benjamin may no longer be the 18 year old concerned with how sticky his hair us. He may no longer be the 15 year old that makes millions. He may also no longer be the millionaire teenage dot.com success story; but then he prefers it that way. "I prefer the new me a million times more over than the old one. I much prefer the calmer, sensitive and perceptive nearly twenty-something than the excitable temperamental teenager." Benjamin Cohen was the first and the last dot.com teenage millionaire, sure there were many after he first appeared but they disappeared from the scene long ago. He's excited that the label will finally be dropped and he can become Benjamin Cohen, the businessman, student, media commentator and human being. ® Related story 'Dotcom millionaire' flogs porn empire
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2002

BT enlists sponsors for rural ADSL trial

BT Wholesale is to run a series of trials beginning this autumn which could pave the way to bring ADSL to rural Britain. The "Community Broadband Concept" trial adopts new technology and a fresh business approach in a bid to deliver ADSL to areas where it is currently deemed not commercially viable to upgrade an exchange. The trials will use new broadband ADSL exchange equipment that can serve as few as 16 end users per exchange, making it ideal for areas where demand is limited. However, end users will not have a choice of ISP as only one will service all 16 users. Those taking part (Highlands and Islands Enterprise; Gwynedd County Council; Denbighshire County Council, together with IT consultants The ITC (UK) Ltd; the East of England Development Agency; The New Forest Business Partnership; and Omagh District Council) will team up with a service provider to aggregate demand, source funding and deliver service. Those agencies and councils taking part will also have to stump up £7,000 towards the six-month trial. Prices for a full service - should the trial prove successful - have yet to be set. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2002

Hollywood's private war for social control

A July 25 letter sent to Attorney General John Ashcroft by 19 American legislators asked him to devote more Justice Department resources in the fight against peer-to-peer networks and users swapping digital media without permission. Forget the fact that the FBI is neck-deep in an internal crisis of confidence and competence, having a hard time recruiting and keeping qualified agents, and shifting from a diverse federal law enforcement entity to one in-line with the emerging threats to American society from terrorism. No, it seems that one of the highest priorities for the Justice Department - behind that simple task of securing America's Homeland - should be copyright enforcement....at least in the eyes of the Recording Industry Association of America. Of course, this is made all the easier when "peer-to-peer" - a valuable technological architecture - is interpreted and subsequently marketed by the RIAA as synonymous with "pirating" and evil economic - potentially terrorist - activities aimed against the $40 billion entertainment industry. And, of course, Congress, mental wizards that they are, believe whatever they're asked to believe so long as the campaign contributions are of the right type and amount. We have the "War on Drugs" and the "War on AIDS" and the "War on Terror" -- does this mean we'll see the "War on File Sharing" as the next great American undertaking with the same effect as these other "Wars" over the years? When news of this bipartisan letter broke on Friday, RIAA CEO Hilary Rosen, was, as always, quick to praise its contents, saying that "mass copying off the Internet is illegal and deserves to be a high priority for the Department of Justice." One wonders if she wears special shoes to be able to jump so quickly to applaud anything that might in some - any - way lead to profit assurance for her constituent record companies. It was only last month that Rosen was quick to applaud the controversial P2P-hack bill introduced by one of their owned Congressman, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA). Among other things, the proposed bill (Register article here) would create loopholes for cyber-criminals to potentially escape from and also turn any authorized copyright holder into a potentially legal hacker. While Rosen was more than happy to quickly jump in and praise the proposal, Berman's bill was so controversial that even Rosen's evil counterpart, Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association, took pause when the bill was introduced, noting that "there are aspects of the bill we believe need changing as it moves through the legislative process" -- implying that the powers proposed in the Berman Bill - legalizing electronic attacks and providing attacker immunity for liability in copyright enforcement activities -- were intended to be only for the large entertainment empires, not for any copyright holder no matter how small. Both the RIAA and MPAA act like drug addicts in deep denial, desperately begging for something - anything - to ease their craving for their addictive substances, but it's the RIAA that takes first prize in the desperate-moves category. Declining profits are blamed on Napster, peer-to-peer file sharing, Webcasting, MP3 file formats, the availability of blank CDs and hard drives, and the fact all PCs now come with a CD burner as standard issue. Anything but the fact that studios have produced less and less quality music that folks want to buy, or that studios are more than happy to negotiate ludicrous contracts with artists that only deliver mediocre album sales (*cough* Mariah Carey) or one-hit wonders. They've happily saturated the pop market with teen bands that look, dance, and sound so alike it's impossible to tell them apart. They also forget that CD prices have gone up steadily over the past decade - and that when the economy takes a downturn, paying $20 for a song or two is not worth it to most people. Further, their efforts so far in providing music over the Internet - to 'compensate' for the loss of Napster - makes current Afghanistan politics look like a utopian form of government. Granted, organized piracy (as opposed to individual copying and/or sharing) has caused Hollywood some economic damage, but I don't see Hilary, Jack, Lars, or studio executives standing on lines outside soup kitchens. And the fact that someone copies or uses a CD under federal fair-use laws doesn't present a significant economic impact to the entertainment industry. If anything, casual and legal sharing of music helps broaden an artist's publicity and generate "buzz" - much as Microsoft software became so dominant in the marketplace -- not through quality, but because everyone was using it and it became the de facto standard, such as it is. Rosen says that piracy "ultimately hurts consumers by undermining the creators' incentive to bring new works to the market." In her eyes - and in the eyes of her purchased lawmakers - the only 'creators' that should be allowed to easily bring new works to market are those under contract to RIAA's member companies. To RIAA, you're either part of their cartel or you don't matter. Thus, we see proposals like Berman's bill, and the RIAA suggesting that all blank compact disks (and possibly hard drives) be taxed to compensate for piracy losses, even if such media are used for the backup of software and user data, not entertainment content. Most sinister is the recent proposal by Senator Fritz "Hollywood" Hollings that would mandate copyright enforcement 'features' be part of any device that can store electronic data, from computers and DVD players to microwaves, garage door openers, and rectal thermometers. The Hollings proposal would essentially force the interests of the $40 billion entertainment industry on the $500 billion-plus technology and hardware industries in a variety of industrial sectors. Talk about the mouse trying to own the elephant herd. As users and customers (note I did not say "consumers" - "customers" implies a mutually-beneficial two-way relationship - in this case we are being exploited), we have every right to bemoan the obvious profiteering actions of these entertainment cartels to squeeze every last dime from our wallets. Sure, we will pay for quality music that's affordable, but we want a happy medium where we have the flexibility to use the entertainment content legally purchased and/or obtained in a manner consistent with the law and our expectations. Yet the entertainment cartels are only too happy to lobby for laws and technological controls that presume every customer a potential criminal until it can be proven with certainty. That's to be expected from Industrial Age business leaders - known otherwise as "The Greed Generation." However, that's not the problem with the whole copyright enforcement debate. Sure, profits are involved, but there's much more at stake than what's being discussed in Congress or the online communities. Freedom of choice in how one is able to bring his content to market means a greater chance of it reaching an audience. Up until Napster, the entertainment industry alone decided what artist gets supported, promoted, and published, and in what quantities. The Information Age threatens to reverse this centralized control mechanism and profit stream, enabling anyone to publish and promote their content around the world, cutting the middleman - RIAA and major studios - out of the financial equation and management process. Nobody in an established role likes to lose control, be voted out of office, or see their authority and influence erode....yet this is exactly what the Information Age is doing to the centralized entertainment industry. This helps explain some of the goofy proposals mentioned earlier -- like a Vegas gambler, the RIAA (and MPAA by extension) is hedging its bets, trying to not only maintain control of the content and media industry, but if it can't, get as much as it can through other methods, laws, and charges. If you control the means to disseminate content, you can subsequently control the public. If you can't afford - or are not willing - to play by the 'established' means of control, you are typically left to fend for yourself in local venues and audiences. Thanks to the Information Age, this is not the case anymore. This harsh reality terrifies the entertainment industry that will stop at nothing - no matter how ill-conceived - to keep its reign despite a failing business model and changing economic and customer environment. The copyright debate isn't only about profit, it's also about who controls information, and ultimately, people and society. Further Reading Book: Digital Copyright: Protecting Intellectual Property on the Internet (Jessica Litman) Copyright, Security, and the Hollywood Hacking Bill Operation Enduring Valenti © 2002 InfoWarrior.org, all rights reserved.
Richard Forno, 13 Aug 2002

Tele2 UK Ltd becomes Liberty Broadband

Fixed wireless broadband operator Tele2 UK Ltd has changed its name to Liberty Broadband Ltd. In June, there were concerns about the future of the broadband provider, following major restructuring at the company. Jobs were lost and the company also decided to close its doors on new customers, concentrating instead on serving existing users. That restructuring is still ongoing, although we're told that Liberty Broadband Ltd could be ready to start accepting new punters within the next few weeks. ® Related Story Tele2 axes jobs
Tim Richardson, 13 Aug 2002

Bring on the clones: Sun's Linux emerges

Sun's much feared, much vaunted Linux distro is now public, and users anticipating a revolutionary advance might be disappointed. It's essentially Red Hat Advanced Server - which Sun took a few jibes at yesterday. In Sun's words it's "highly compatible" with Red Hat AS. A reader claims that it's the result of a co-operative agreement between Sun and Red Hat, where the former provides the latter with a generous StarOffice deal in return for Red Hat's advanced features. Surely some mistake? Then again, money spent by Sun on a highly differentiated distro of its own would probably be better spent on where they can really add value: the software stacks. The distro is just a vehicle to get Sun.ONE into more shops, with downstream licensing and service benefits. Yesterday Sun told us that the drivers for the ServerWorks chipset, for ACPI power management and Ethernet had been written by Sun staffers. A person whose name has already cropped up today and will not do so again claimed Sun delivered more open source code to the community than anyone else: which is probably true, if you include the very hirsute OpenOffice code. (A "hirsuite", perhaps? [No- ed.]) Judge for yourselves. The details are already online here, and in a few minutes Scott McNealy will address LinuxWorld at San Francisco's Moscone Center with his keynote. I had hoped to be there, but I'll instead by tiling my bath in London. We'll bring you news of both momentous events later this evening. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Aug 2002