In last month's report on a Chinese effort to build a home-grown Win98, we appealed for further enlightenment on the nature of the project. Well, it's taken a while, but a kindly Chinese speaker has done some digging, and reveals it's Linux-based, and GPLed. Thanks to the unnamed translator for the following*, and to Mark for passing it on. The apparent involvement of the Taiwanese government, alongside Linux International, is particularly interesting: Called Yangfan Linux, which means "raise the sail" in Chinese, the open source operating system is being pieced together by the Beijing Software Industry Productivity Center, a group established by the government to organize Linux development in China. Now six months in the making, Yangfan has been installed on 2,800 government computers, replacing Windows and in some cases early versions of Linux already running inside the government, The source code for Yangfan was made available last week under the GNU General Public License. The group is now collecting feedback and will continue improving the operating system. Nearly 100 software engineers from 18 organizations, including universities, private sector as well as the Taiwanese government, have contributed to the project. Some of its major achievements include developing a graphical user interface that aims to simplify Linux for the desktop. The group has also done significant work localizing the operating system to support Chinese-language characters, which will be contributed back into the Linux community, according to Jon "Maddog" Hall, director of Linux International, a nonprofit Linux advocacy group that has been working with the Chinese government. The Beijing Software Industry Productivity Center said it is aiming to duplicate about 70 per cent of the functionality of Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system. It is also working to add various hardware device drivers to the operating system. Yangfan is based on two distributions of the Linux operating system. One is the distribution developed by Chinese Linux vendor Red Flag Software. The second is a version of the operating system called Cosix Linux, developed by China Computer Software Corp. In addition to an operating system, the Beijing Software Industry Productivity Center is developing office applications and other Linux-based software to sit on top of Yangfan. The group's goal is to develop an entire desktop environment with open source technology for the government (this will be the MS Office equivalent functionality referred to in the original report, so it would appear we're talking about file formats rather than a clone). ® * It's been drawn to our attention that this translation is in fact a retranslation of an original English language piece by IDG's Matt Berger, which you can find here. Our apologies to Matt and IDG for this goof.
Taiwan has highlighted the amount of added value its high-tech business sector generates compared to its mainland Chinese counterparts, even as the People's Republic begins to flex its muscles in the sector. According to figures from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan's high tech industries generated an average of 45.62% added value in 1999, compared to China's 24.48%. In the electronics sector, according to the figures, Taiwan adds 40.10% while in optical telecommunications, the figure is 63.4%. In China, the figures are 20.06% and 23.81% respectively. Taiwan claims the figures show it has a healthy lead in technological competitiveness and research. Over 70% of Taiwanese firms maintain R&D centers, compared to 32% in China. However, while Taiwan is trumpeting its lead over its much larger rival, it is worth remembering the figures apply to 1999. In the meantime, China has actively sought expertise from the outside world, while foreign companies have been falling over themselves to set-up shop in the country, hoping to grab a piece of the world's biggest emerging market. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
Details have leaked out of a Samsung Electronics Co Ltd mobile handset that will use Microsoft Corp's long-awaited phone operating system. The CDMA SCH-i600 incorporates Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 software in a clamshell form factor with color screen and an integrated Secure Digital card slot. The phone appears to have an uncanny resemblance to the Palm OS-based Bluechip prototype that Seoul, South Korea-based Samsung showed at June's CommunicAsia2002 event in Singapore. Samsung has also aligned itself with Symbian, making it the only major hardware manufacturer developing devices around all three major mobile OSs. The SCH-i600 is only the second device based on Microsoft's much-hyped mobile phone platform to be seen in its final release form. The long-time holder of this distinction has been Birmingham, UK-based Sendo Holdings Ltd's Z100, although this device has not yet made its commercial debut. Details of the phone appeared last week on the US Federal Communications Commission web site, after receiving technical approval. Photographs on the web site show the device sporting the logo of Verizon Wireless. Specifications indicate the SCH-i600 is a tri-band, dual-mode unit with 800MHz and 1900MHz CDMA and AMPS capability. There is no indication yet as to whether the handset will be able to utilize Verizon's CDMA2000 1xRTT network. Functionality in the SCH-i600's implementation of Smartphone 2002 is generally similar to that of its bigger brother, Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition. However, support for Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel appears to be absent from the device's specification. No details are available regarding release date and pricing. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission may file for a civil injunction against RSA Security Inc, following an investigation into the company's disclosures of revenue recognition changes, it emerged this week. In an SEC filing, RSA said SEC officers are to seek permission to "commence a civil injunctive proceeding" and that RSA will "submit a written statement explaining why no such proceeding should be commenced." "We were notified that part of the next step of the investigative process may be a civil injunction procedure," RSA spokesperson Tim Powers told ComputerWire. "We're giving them more information on why they don't need to go to this next step." The investigation, which began in January 2002, was into whether RSA provided adequate disclosure to investors that it had changed its accounting practices in the first quarter 2001. The company disclosed in its quarterly SEC filing that it had changed its practices, but did not press release the information at the time it announced its earnings. In the first quarter 2001, RSA changed its revenue recognition procedures from "sell-through" to "sell-in", said Powers. This means that it went from recognizing revenue after the end user purchase to recognizing revenue as sales were made to distributors. The change resulted in an increase in revenue of $1.7m for the three months ended March 31, 2001, according to RSA's Q101 SEC filing. Overall, revenue for that quarter increased 21% year-on-year to $76.3m. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
The executives at Sun Microsystems Inc are rubbing their hands together not because it is cold in Palo Alto, but because the new Sun Blade 150 workstation the company will roll out today is a machine that is a very good upgrade option for the users who bought over 1 million of its Ultra 5 and Ultra 10 entry workstations in the past few years, writes Timothy Prickett-Morgan. The "Grover" Sun Blade 100 workstations that were announced last year were decent machines that offered some performance enhancements compared to the "Darwin" Ultra 5 machines that were Sun's first real shot back against the onslaught of Wintel and Lintel workstations a few years ago. While the Sun Blade 100s could replace many aging Ultra 5 machines, they could not really replace the more powerful and expandable Ultra 10 workstations. With the advent of the Sun Blade 150s, which offers more main processing and auxiliary graphics processing power than even the Ultra 10s, Sun can now go after that installed base of Ultra 5s and 10s with a vengeance. The Sun Blade 150 workstations come with either a 550MHz or 650MHz UltraSparc-IIi processor (that is not the "Cheetah" UltraSparc-III, but a modified version of an earlier generation of UltraSparc-II processor aimed at entry workstations and servers). The UltraSparc-IIi processor in the Sun Blade 150 has been equipped with 512KB of on-chip L2 cache memory. The Sun Blade 100s came with a 500MHz UltraSparc-IIe processor (a different variant on the UltraSparc-II design) with 256KB of L2 cache on the chip. So the faster Sun Blade 150 model offers about 30% more clock speed and twice the L2 cache, which results in a SPECinto2000 rating of 246 (41% better than the Sun Blade 100) and a SPECfp2000 rating of 276 (51% better than the Sun Blade 100). Phil Dunn, product line manager for workstations at Sun, says that for MCAD and other graphics-intensive applications, customers moving to the Sun Blade 150 can see performance that is a 63% to 76% improvement over Sun Blade 100s and Ultra machines, depending on the configuration. The Sun Blade 100s and 150s have space for up to 2GB of main memory and have the same PGX64 on-board 2D graphics cards. For 3D graphics applications, the Sun Blade 100 could be equipped with the optional Expert3D-Lite card from Sun, but the new XVR-500 3D card from Sun for the Sun Blade 150 has twice the graphics processing power. The Sun Blade 150 can be equipped with two 40GB disk drives (twice the capacity of the Sun Blade 100), and comes with Solaris 8 and Star Office 6.0. Solaris 9 is still being certified for many of the technical and graphics applications that Sun customers use on their workstations, which is why the new operating system is not shipped by default on the Sun Blade 150s. Solaris 9 is available as a free upgrade, however, for customers whose applications are ready to roll on Solaris 9. A base Sun Blade 150 workstation with a 550MHz processor, 40GB of disk, 128MB of memory, and built-in 2D graphics costs $1,395. A base model using the 650MHz processor with 256MB of main memory and the PGX64 2D graphics costs $1,995. A machine with the XVR-500 3D graphics card plus the 650MHz, 512MB of main memory, and a 40GB hard disk sells for $3,395. Dunn says that Sun will ship more Sun Blade 150s than the shipments of rival Hewlett-Packard Co's entire Unix workstation and server line. He says that one of the reasons this will happen is that, according to Sun's math, the Sun Blade 150 is half the price of the comparable B Series 3700 PA-RISC workstation and one third the price of the comparable SGI 3D workstations. In addition to the Sun Blade 150 debut, Sun will also today announce that it has made 1.05GHz UltraSparc-III+ processors available in its high-end Sun Blade 2000 two-way workstations. The machines were originally announced with 900MHz chips. The Sun Blade 2000 can now be equipped with the XVR-500 3D graphics card, rather than the more powerful and more expensive XVR-1000 card, which lowers the cost of the configured workstation a little for some customers. Sun is now shipping the 1GHz processors in volume, and will allow customers to buy these chips and snap them into existing Sun Blade 1000 and 2000 machines as well. Sun's list price for these 1.05GHz processors is $6,995, but most Sun customers have their own discount schedules and Sun offers a 30% upgrade discount on workstation processors (if they return the older parts to Sun, that is), so the price can come down a bit. Customers with 600MHz and 750MHz UltraSparc-III processors in their Sun Blade workstations can upgrade to the 1.05GHz processors and see a 50% to 70% performance boost without changing anything else in their machines. Even customers with the early generations of the 900MHz UltraSparc-III processors, which had a math bug that degraded performance, can see a 20% performance bump moving to the 1.05GHz UltraSparc-III+ chips. A Sun Blade 2000 with a 900MHz processor, 1GB of memory, a 73GB disk, a PGX64 graphics card costs $10,995; the machine with two 900MHz processors, 2GB of memory, 73GB of disk and that integrated 2D graphics card costs $15,995. A Sun Blade 2000 with two 1.05GHz processors, 1GB of memory, and the base 2D graphics costs $19,995. Sun also announced yesterday that it had cut the price on 256MB and 512MB memory DIMMs for the Sun Blade 1000 and Sun Blade 2000 workstations and the Sun Fire 280R servers by 38%, and said further that it expects to deliver 1GB DIMMs sometime later this year. email@example.com © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
On Monday of last week, we published an article by a former IT employee at PA Consulting Group. PA Consulting has sent us a detailed rebuttal of the claims made in the article. We are happy to set the record straight. And we're sorry for getting it wrong in the first place. Here are the most important points that PA makes: PA is demonstrably not hostile to free software, nor does it have any special relationship with Microsoft beyond the usual purchasing agreements. The consultancy has some of the leading European exponents of Open Systems working as consultants, including a long time contributor to the Open Source project Emacs. It points out that it has several major assignments implemented using Open Systems. And that as long ago as 1999 it predicted that Linux would be a major platform. PA also has several people within the internal IT department working on Linux and it has a lively in-house Open Source SIG. It has a number of Linux servers running on its internal networks in addition to the FTP server mentioned (and FTP has never been banned as alleged in the article, merely moved to a firewalled DMZ). On a separate note, the article implied that PA's UK staff were anti-American. We accept that this is not the case. Apologies all around.
Citing the "compelling, credible testimony" of ex-hacker Kevin Mitnick, state officials urged Nevada regulators to force a series of dramatic security reforms on Las Vegas telephone company Sprint of Nevada last week, as final arguments were filed in the case of an in-room adult entertainment operator who believes he's being driven out of business by phone hackers. Sprint would be required to retain outside computer security consultants, launch a security training program for company employees, develop a process for detecting a deterring intrusion attempts into its network, and begin documenting its security investigations, if the Public Utilities Commission follows the recommendations of its regulatory operations staff, acting as independent investigators in the case. Plaintiff Eddie Munoz first complained to the commission in 1994 that the phone company was allowing mercenary hackers to cripple his business by diverting, monitoring and blocking his phone calls - a complaint that's been echoed by private investigators, bail bondsmen and some of Munoz's competitors over the years. Sprint has maintained that Munoz's problems are in his own equipment, and that as far as they know their systems have never suffered a single intrusion. But the company's invulnerability was brought into question in a series of hearings earlier this year in which Sprint officials admitted that they'd lost or destroyed years of investigatory records in a reorganization of their security department, and that they permitted dial-up access into their switches for maintenance purposes with little logging. The hearings concluded in June with testimony by Mitnick -- hired by Munoz as a consultant and an expert witness. The ex-hacker testified that prior to his 1995 arrest he had illicit control of the company's Las Vegas switching systems through the dial-ups, and also enjoyed unfettered access to a computerized testing system manufactured by Nortel Networks called CALRS -- pronounced "callers" -- that allows users to monitor phone lines and intercept or originate calls. Sprint: Mitnick's a Liar Challenged to prove his claims, Mitnick used a break in the hearing to visit an old rented storage locker, returning with a list of passwords he said unlocked the CALRS system at the time of his arrest (Contacted by SecurityFocus Online, Nortel Networks spokesman David Chamberlin declined to comment on CALRS, writing in an email, "I'd point you back to Sprint to discuss their phone network with them.") Sprint opposes a new docket to supervise their security, and slammed Mitnick's testimony. In the company's closing arguments Friday, outside counsel Patrick Riley described the ex-hacker as an unreformed "con artist," reminded the commission of Mitnick's criminal record, and pointed accusingly to his authorship of the upcoming Wiley book on social engineering titled "The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security." The company also claimed Mitnick lacked the technical know-how to be an expert witness on Sprint's security ills because the hacker never worked as a "switch engineer" for a telephone company. "Although Mr. Munoz presented Mr. Mitnick as an 'expert' witness, Mr. Mitnick is an expert in only one thing-- lying," wrote Riley. But PUC staff attorney Louise Uttinger found Mitnick's detailed testimony -- coupled with Sprint's admissions in some areas, and silence in others -- credible enough to raise serious questions about the security of Sprint's Nevada network. Those questions, Uttinger wrote, "could impact economic, social, and national matters of importance to all Nevadans and to anyone conducting business in Nevada." While they disagree on Mitnick's credibility as a witness, commission staff agreed with Sprint that Munoz never produced a smoking gun in his case. Pointing to undisciplined testing procedures and unclear record-keeping by Munoz, as well as several tests that failed to show any unexplained dropped calls, Uttinger recommended that the complaint be dismissed. In his closing argument, Munoz attorney Peter Alpert argued that his client had limited resources and access, and asked the commission to compel Sprint to conduct a battery of additional tests under PUC supervision. "It is respectfully suggested that Mr. Munoz has come upon a flaw in Sprint's system which only Sprint is capable of detecting since only it has access to the network." The commission is expected to rule this fall. © 2002 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
The UK Government is looking to ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving in an attempt to reduce the number of road accidents. It claims research proves that drivers are four times more likely to have an accident if they are using a mobile phone. The Department for Transport claims it has come under considerable pressure from safety organisations and the public to ban the use of phones by drivers. The proposals outlined today would make it an offence for drivers to use a hand-held mobile phone except when the vehicle is parked with its engine switched off. The ban would apply even if a vehicle was paused at traffic lights or stopped in a temporary traffic jam or in very slow moving traffic. Drivers would still be allowed to use hands-free mobile phones. Passengers would not be subject to the new legislation. Those caught could face fines of up to £2,500. Launching the consultation Road Safety Minister, David Jamieson said: "We know that driving a vehicle whilst using a hand-held mobile phone is dangerous. "We are therefore consulting widely on introducing a specific offence of driving while using a hand-held mobile phone. This should leave no-one in any doubt that we are serious about the dangers that this practice presents to drivers and all road users," he said. Related Link Mobile Phones and Driving – Proposal for an offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving
AOL France has followed in the footsteps of its UK cousin and is offering unlimited unmetered Net access for E24 a month. The service will be available to 100,000 subscribers to start with as AOL France seeks to manage the demands on its network. It also has plans to make a similar service available in Germany. AOL France announced its new offer yesterday claiming that it introduced the product in response to demands from Net users. It also claims the move will help increase Net usage - a move seen as vital step in the march towards the take-up of broadband services. AOL Time Warner's European Internet head, Michael Lynton, told Reuters that he still believes there is plenty of growth in the narrowband market even though many telcos and ISPs are pushing broadband. ®
We'd be hard pressed to identify a person with better open-source advocacy credentials than Tim O'Reilly. So it came as a mild surprise to read his column over the weekend lamenting the politicization of software by a radical fringe. He characterized the efforts of Peruvian Congressman Edgar Villanueva Nuñez to mandate free software in government as "great theater," but ultimately misguided. Particular IT solutions should never be mandated, he argued quite reasonably. He also dismissed the Digital Software Security Act, a (halfhearted?) 'proposed law' written chiefly to draw attention to open source alternatives for government bureaux, delivered to the SanFran City Hall during the recent LinuxWorld Conference by Red Hat honcho Michael Tiemann and our own occasional guest columnist and evangelist-at-large Bruce Perens, along with a few stragglers. Perens wrote a good column for us here, in which he advocated not specific mandates for government, but a few basic principles for government to consider in choosing software. Personally, I found them modest and sensible: maintaining open standards, using open-source development as a way to keep publicly-funded research in the public domain, that sort of thing. There was nothing 'radical' about it. Perhaps the DSSA was a bit much; but surely one can indulge in a bit of theater like it or the Villanueva proposal to dramatize an important issue without actually being a maniacal all-or-nothing insurgent. Where are these 'radicals' O'Reilly is concerned about? Apparently he's been frightened by a handful of teenage Slashdot trolls. Meanwhile the grownups are making sense, so far as I can tell. So what if they get a bit dramatic to make their point? Drama, like open source software (and skateboarding), is hardly a crime. Common sense Ensuring a citizen's right to communicate electronically with the vast bureaucracy which regulates his life from cradle to grave, involving everything from his indoor plumbing to his public behavior, certainly doesn't depend on forcing every bit of software in use to be GPL'd. It does, however, require that open standards be mandated. Suppose a government decided to accept only document files 'certified' in some way (think Palladium). Fine if the certification mechanism is open and available to all document files, and the formats are open and interchangeable. Let's use Palladium as an example. MS says the certification standard will be open, and that's grand. Perhaps they're even telling the truth (though their past inclination to use secret little coding landmines to thwart competitors isn't encouraging). But for the sake of argument, let's give them the benefit of the doubt: the Palladium standard will be open, and there will be no tricks. This means OpenOffice.org can incorporate this certification scheme into their own, open document format. So far, so good. But there's more to it; suppose MS keeps its Word format closed. This might well mean it won't be possible for an 'open' document application to create a Word document with the required certification, so it becomes useless if the government or business entity one wishes to communicate with insists on a certified and proprietary file format like Word. That's how I see Palladium working in the end (if it ever succeeds); and that's how I think MS sees it working, the sneaky bastards. Currently there's no legislation in effect anywhere in the world that I'm aware of which would prevent government bureaux from using proprietary standards for documents and Web services. I really don't care what software they use, so long as they take it easy on taxpayers by doing an honest cost of ownership analysis (none of this mickey-mouse MS marketing propaganda) and choose the least expensive solution that addresses their needs adequately; and so long as whatever software they buy interoperates with 'alien' files, browsers, software apps and hardware. Even with the best of intentions, e-government may end up shutting out citizens through some unforseen 'catch' buried within reams of cheerful marketing and lobbying propaganda eagerly proffered by certain software behemoths with the resources and inclinations necessary to pile on the distractions until it's too late. The answer is legislation demanding -- yes, demanding -- open standards for Web access and document formats. Not particular standards, mind; that would be just another drag on innovation. I'm merely saying that whatever IT solutions a government chooses, costs have got to be calculated rationally and standards have got to be open so that citizens aren't paying more than necessary or getting locked out of the public debate merely because they've chosen their own software. Government should never be forced to choose a particular brand of software or type of licensing scheme; but it should certainly be forced to pinch pennies and consider open-source alternatives seriously. And that's all I hear the 'radical fringe' saying. Fancy being frightened by a proposal like that. ®
Atlanta-base EarthLink has topped a customer satisfaction survey of US ISPs. According to the JD Power and Associates 2002 Internet Service Provider Residential Customer Satisfaction Study (blimey- that's a bit of a mouthful), Earthlink was ranked number one in the survey for its dial-up service thanks to a high scores for performance and reliability, email and customer service. Earthlink also shared the top slot among broadband service providers with ISPs Roadrunner and BellSouth. Last year Roadrunner was ranked as the best broadband ISP. However, while the study found that overall satisfaction of dial-up subscribers has risen in 2002, JD Power claims that satisfaction among broadband subscribers is "down significantly". In fact, the problem is so bad more and more users are looking to switch broadband providers. Although price is one reason for the churn, it seems that other factors such as performance, reliability and customer service are more important. Said Steve Kirkeby of JD Power: "To avoid losing these disillusioned newcomers, high-speed providers need to re-examine what they're offering their customers beyond a fast connection and navigation speed and take into account all the specific factors underlying the overall customer satisfaction experience." Elsewhere, EarthLink yesterday announced that it is to introduce a new feature which lets its subscribers block pop-up ads. The ISP reckons its "Pop-Up Blocker" will prove popular with punters ®
Contrary to the marketing push of many security and storage firms, few users believe the events of September 11 should play a part in developing their business continuity strategies. That's the main conclusion of a survey of IT managers responsible for business continuity, which found more than half (52 per cent) believed brand and customer service should be the most important factors in developing business continuity strategies. Less than one in 30 (3 per cent) of the IT managers surveyed by business continuity specialists Synstar claim to have been influenced by September 11 or threats of terrorism in developing their plans. That's if they have plans in the first place, of course. Of all those questioned, half (50%) either have no awareness of, or never review processes within their organisation in order to identify points of failure or downtime. A conscientious minority - 14 per cent - claim to review the process on a bi-annual basis, Synstar reports. ® External Links Synstar's research Related Stories IT Directors rate data storage Terror talk stalks RSA Conference Web pornographer hacks bin Laden
Struggling cableco NTL has so far failed to comment on allegations that a rival Web site contains libellous comments concerning some of those behind its nthellworld.com site. In April the cableco bought the nthellworld.com protest site in a bid to make it an online forum to help improve customer service. Although NTL insisted it would not gag the site, a new independent protest site, ntlhell.co.uk, was set up for NTL customers to voice their opinions about the company. Ever since then there has been ongoing tension between the two sites. Last month, one of those behind the NTL-owned nthellworld.com site wrote to the host of ntlhell.co.uk's forums alleging that they contained "libelous comments" about two people and the nthellworld Web site. The complainant called on the forum host to "review [its] T&Cs as to whether the person who owns this account is breaching them, and decide whether [it is] going to do something about the content of the site." The forum host replied asking for "specific links to posts which you consider are libelous towards yourself, so that I can request that such posts are removed from the site." However, despite an extended exchange of emails it seems the host of the ntlhell.co.uk forums remains unconvinced that the site contains anything that is defamatory. Faced with this apparent stalemate, those who claim they've been defamed have written to say that they are "now taking legal advice" on the matter. However, Bryan Stevens, who runs the ntlhell.co.uk Web site, says he's heard no more from NTL and insists that the forums contain no defamatory comments concerning those who've made the allegations. No one from NTL was available for comment at the time of writing. ® Related Stories NTL gets new protest site NTHellworld.com protest site bought by NTL