5th > September > 2002 Archive

Novell intros cheaper licenses for Web services

Novell has announced cheaper prices for companies using its software to provide Web services. In addition to traditional pricing based on an organisation's employee users, Novell is offering heavily-discounted "Business-to-Consumer" (BtoC) and "Government-to-Citizen" (GtoC) user license pricing. BtoC user licensing is 25 per cent the cost of standard user licenses and GtoC user license 10 percent of the standard price. For all three categories, Novell charges based on the number of individual users of a software service, not the number of computing devices connected to the network. Novell said its licensing scheme reflected the different levels of usage and benefits employees and customers make of software service, in a move clearly seeking to position itself as a 'fair deal' provider of Web services software. This is quiet a shrewd move at a time of user disquiet about Microsoft's latest licensing scheme and longstanding customer dissatisfaction with the pricing policies of other major suppliers, such as Oracle. Novell, as much as Microsoft, is staking its future on Web services - its One Net strategy competes squarely with much of Microsoft's .Net - and hopes to attract banks and government services into its fold. The company has an installed base in government and big business, largely through its diminishing NetWare franchise, and it has succeeded in selling its more recent directory and Web services products into local government and major firms, such as Lufthansa. Whether it can succeed in banking, or in the wider market, is a different matter but at least Novell has given its consultants a decent sales story to pitch. ®
John Leyden, 05 Sep 2002

DNS vulnerability ‘critical’

Nominum Inc says a recently discovered flaw in the dominant domain name server on the internet is far more serious than originally thought, and could allow crackers to crash or even take control of any internet-connected application running on Unix, Kevin Murphy writes. "We know for sure we can use this bug to crash any application," said Richard Probst, VP of product management at Nominum, which has released a product that fixes the problem. "And we think we know how to use it to hijack any application, but we haven't seen an exploit yet." The CERT Coordination Center, which tracks internet vulnerabilities for the US government, warned June 28 that a flaw in DNS resolver libraries (the code that handles the transformation of domain names into IP addresses) in multiple Unix applications were susceptible to a buffer overflow attack. To exploit the attack, a cracker has to be in control of an authoritative name server for a domain (example.com). The server is set up to send a malformed response to DNS lookups. When an application running on Unix looks up a bad address in the cracker's domain, that application either crashes or is hijacked. Because the malformed DNS responses actually look like healthy messages, they will also be stored on DNS caches, allowing the cracker to crash more applications even if the authoritative server is turned off. CERT initially said companies that upgraded their DNS caching server to BIND 9, the latest version of the Berkeley Internet Name Domain name server, would be protected. However, it emerged August 27 that the only foolproof way to stop attacks is to upgrade your DNS resolver libraries, a fix Probst describes as "like a mini-Y2k response". CERT said in its advisory: "The only complete solution to this problem is to upgrade to a corrected version of the DNS resolver libraries... Note that DNS resolver libraries can be used by multiple applications on most systems. It may be necessary to upgrade or apply multiple patches and then recompile statically linked applications." The bug in question dates back to the 1980s, according to Probst, and still remains in most flavors of Unix, though Windows and Linux are unaffected. Products from IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co, Caldera International Inc (now SCO Group Inc), Network Appliance Inc and Nortel Networks Ltd are among those that use the vulnerable libraries. Most vendors have issued bulletins and patches. Nominum says all the patching and recompiling makes securing your systems a logistical nightmare. One of its larger and more paranoid customers, which it would not name, demanded Nominum build a fix "as quickly as possible", and the company yesterday released into beta its first-ever commercial product, the DNS Response Validator. DRV, a 1U appliance sits beside the DNS cache, inspects DNS messages for signs that they carry the malicious attack. If they do, it logs and blocks them. Probst said the device can create a "measurable but not problematic" performance issue (not enough to cause a bottleneck). The product is available to beta customers now, for $30,000. Recognizing that some companies may just want a short-term solution while they patch and recompile their affected applications, Nominum said the DRV can also be leased for $1,500 a month. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 05 Sep 2002

KT plans WCDMA 3G launch next June

KT ICOM, the third-generation mobile unit of South Korea's fixed-line incumbent, Korea Telecom, yesterday said it will launch 3G service based on WCDMA technology in June next year. The company said it has awarded a KRW 140bn ($117m) contract for 3G equipment with local manufacturer LG Electronics. As probably the most "broadbandized" nation on earth, South Korea presents both a major opportunity and a challenge for WCDMA technology, which has so far failed to ignite commercially anywhere else. In Japan, for instance, where NTT DoCoMo launched the first WCDMA 3G network in October last year, the company, widely regarded as the leader in provision of wireless data services has been embarrassed by the poor demand for its 3G service, FOMA. In Europe, wireless operators who paid billions of euros to acquire spectrum, are now putting off launching WCDMA services amid doubts about likely demand, and persistent concerns over the availability of appropriate handsets. In Korea itself meanwhile, KT ICOM's competitors, SK Telecom and KTF (yet another wireless unit of KT) have launched 3G services based on the CDMA2000 1X standard. These services are enjoying good early demand, and it may be difficult for KT ICOM to claw back market share from them when it arrives on the scene in 10 months time. However, yesterday, KT ICOM's chief executive, Cho Young-chu said that WCDMA, which is geared to allowing users to enjoy genuinely high bandwidth applications, such as streaming media, would add a new dimension to mobile services in the country. "The 3G network will open a new chapter in the nation's telecommunication industry and bring about a change to the everyday lifestyle of individuals," said Cho to the Korea Times. He added that he is confident that WCDMA 3G can be a commercial success in Korea, which has not imposed a high license price on KT ICOM, and the company has plenty of cash with which to build its network. The only obstacle to an earlier launch for the service is a lack of handsets that are both dual mode, supporting both existing networks and future 3G systems, and dual-band, supporting both GSM and CDMA radio frequencies. The Korean government has insisted that 3G handset meet these requirements, but Qualcomm, which owns most of the key CDMA2000 patents, is not expected to supply appropriate chipsets to handset manufacturers before April. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 05 Sep 2002

Borland preps more .NET support

Borland Software Corp will increase its support for .NET with development tools the company believes will win corporate backing despite reduced IT spending, Gavin Clarke writes. The Scotts Valley, California-based company is preparing an integrated development suite called Borland .NET Development Environment, as an alternative to Microsoft Corp's Visual Studio.NET. Borland .NET Development Environment was announced at the company's developer conference, where it was code-named Galileo. Borland said yesterday its IDE would expand the current level of support for .NET, provided in Delphi 7.0 Studio. The Delphi 7.0 Studio, launched in August, can compile elements of an application to Microsoft's Common Language Runtime (CLR). Borland's senior vice president of business development and chief strategy officer Tod Shelton told ComputerWire Delphi is just "one of the languages" the integrated development environment (IDE) would support. Shelton, though, was unwilling to say what other languages would also be featured. Borland .NET Development Environment is also expected to support the next iteration of Microsoft's .NET Framework, codenamed Everett. Shelton said Borland's IDE would work "extremely well" with the Microsoft products "that are in customers hands at the time." Borland .NET Development Environment is due in the first half of 2003 while Everett is scheduled for the first quarter of next year. Shelton was upbeat about chances for customer uptake of Borland .NET Development Environment, discounting analysts' pessimism over short-term IT spending. He said IT spending has been "right sized" through the bursting of the dot-com bubble. Underlying "spending has been chugging along at an average rate," he said. Customers are now focussed on application integration, which can be assisted by web services and Borland .NET Development Environment, Shelton said. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 05 Sep 2002

WebSideStory upgrades HitBox Pro

WebSideStory Inc, the San Diego, California-based provider of web analytics software for mid-size firms has released a version of its HitBox Professional service that features enhanced e-commerce return on investment (ROI) functionality. Version 3 is the second major upgrade to WebSideStory's subscription-based service for small to midsize customers. With HitBox, analysis is done via the placement of JavaScript 'beacons' on a site that feeds information about traffic, customers, and other data in real-time to WebSideStory's servers. The approach is in contrast to web server log monitoring that many other web analytics companies, such as WebTrends, use. HitBox Professional version 3 will provide users with new capabilities to monitor the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns and selling strategies. Specifically, new analytics features in version 3 will provide real-time information about email promotions, banner adverts and web site affiliates to determine what strategies are driving traffic and generating the most revenue. Additionally, the new version of the service will allow companies to determine what keywords are generating revenue, when buyers find their site from a web search engine site. This caters to the trend in which companies bid with paid-performance search providers such as Overture and Google to have their URL prominently displayed against certain results sets. Other new features in HitBox Professional include real-time reporting (on orders, revenue, and browse-to-buy ratios); generation of date-criteria reports; report scheduling and forwarding; and exporting of reports to Word or Excel format applications. WebSideStory also offers an Enterprise edition that comes with more in-depth support and consulting services, as well as customized analytics for individual web sites. HitBox Professional is more of a self-serve service that is easy to implement, but not as flexible as the Enterprise edition. Pricing for the HitBox Professional service starts at $24.95 per month through Sept. 15, then goes to $29.95 per month. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 05 Sep 2002
SGI logo hardware close-up

Solaris users slam Sun Intel plans (again)

Sun Microsystems Inc is still facing protests from unhappy Solaris x86 users despite announcing the resurrection of the Unix operating system for Intel Corp-compatible processors at last month's LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, Matthew Aslett writes. Santa Clara, California-based Sun has fought a running battle with Solaris x86 users since it canceled the development of Solaris 9 x86 in January, citing development costs and market economics. The user community has come together to launch a web site, www.save-solaris-x86.org, and has run advertisements protesting against Sun's plans in several newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News, the Boston Globe, the Australian Financial Review, and the UK Guardian. The latest, and largest ad appeared in the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday September 3, and comes just weeks after Sun announced the return of Solaris x86 with plans to support version 9 on its new LX50 general-purpose Intel-compatible server. Despite that announcement, the user community is still unhappy that Solaris 9 x86, due for release in early 2003, will initially only be licensed for use with Sun's own LX50 server. "The customer community will not be satisfied until Solaris 9 x86 is available as a stand-alone product at reasonable prices and until management fully engages us as partners who share the same goal for Sun to be the leader in the technology industry for another 20 years," reads the ad, which is entitled "Shame on you, Scott," and challenges Sun's CEO Scott McNealy to meet with community members and technical press to support his company's actions. With previous versions of Solaris x86, Sun had only made the software available for users to install on their own servers. Talking to ComputerWire last week, Sun's global head of product development, volume sales, Peder Ulander said the change had been made to ensure that the company could provide a consistent quality of service to its users. However, it also means that existing users, who have been campaigning for Sun to bring back Solaris 9 x86, have to buy new Sun hardware to get support for it. In announcing the return of Solaris x86 to the user community, Sun's director of Solaris product marketing, Graham Lovell, noted that a new licensing program designed for use by the Solaris x86 community is under development and will be announced before the end of September. With no announcement yet made, some members of the community are getting itchy feet and are asking questions about the program's existence. In conversation with ComputerWire, Ulander certainly seemed unaware that any kind of licensing program is under development, but maintained that Sun is actively engaged with the x86 user community. Despite the doubts, Lovell has maintained that the licensing program is still in development in a recent posting to the Yahoo Groups SolarisonIntel user forum. He also stated that the Solaris x86 community's elected representatives, know as "the secret six", are assisting Sun in the program's development. Last week Ulander also noted that Sun is looking for OEM partners to license Solaris x86 for their own hardware. He would not name names, and Sun's choices are thin on the ground after a period of consolidation in the hardware industry, but Ulander stated that partnerships would be in place by the time Solaris 9 x86 ships in early 2003. Sun has also made a commitment to the community that any further x86 servers will run Solaris x86 as well as the company's own Sun Linux 5.0. Details of Sun's expanded strategy for the x86 line are expected at the SunNetwork user event later this month. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 05 Sep 2002
DVD it in many colours

Intel spins out LANDesk

Intel Corp is spinning off its LANDesk desktop systems management software as an independent company, selling the products and assets to The LANDesk Acquisition Corp, a company created by venture capitalist firms Vector Capital and vSpring Capital. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed, but Intel will retain a minority equity position in the company through its Intel Capital corporate venture arm. The company will be led by CEO Joe Wang, formerly vice president of Symantec Corp's enterprise administration division, while John Sutherland, former general manager of the LANDesk business for Intel, becomes the new company's vice president of operations. Members of the current LANDesk management team are all being offered positions in the new company, which will base its operations in Salt Lake City, Utah and will employ about 150 people worldwide. Specifically, Vector Capital and vSpring Capital are acquiring the LANDesk products, including the LANDesk Management Suite, and some intellectual property from Intel, while licensing further intellectual property. The LANDesk products include the LANDesk Management Suite systems management software, the LANDesk Client Manager desktop management suite, the LANDesk Asset Service laptop and desktop inventory tool and the Instant Support Suite remote control diagnostic software. Also included in the deal are the discontinued LANDesk Server Manager server management software and the Mobile Manager mobile device management software. Designed for use with Microsoft Corp Windows clients, Windows CE/Pocket PC devices and PalmOS-based PDAs, the Mobile Manager product provides a key area for growth, and was recently integrated with Xcellenet Inc's Afaria mobile management tools. The LANDesk systems management software is just part of what was once a much larger Intel systems management and anti-virus portfolio. The LANDesk Virus Protect Business was sold to Symantec Corp in September 1998 and integrated into its Norton AntiVirus suite. Over the years the LANDesk management software has been licensed to some of the biggest names in systems management software. In 1995 Intel licensed the LANDesk discovery agents and installation technologies to what is now IBM Corp's Tivoli business, while in 1998 it struck a configuration management software licensing deal with Platinum Technology International Inc, now owned by Computer Associates Inc. The software spin-off is the second Intel has announced in the last two weeks. In August the company spun out its high-speed content processing in the form of Tarari Inc. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 05 Sep 2002

Siebel 7 performance issues revealed by user

Rumors of performance issues with the Siebel 7.0 client, which have been circulating for several months, were yesterday confirmed by one of Siebel Systems Incs' biggest customers. During a presentation outlining Reuters Ltd's migration from version 6.3 of the Siebel software to Siebel 7, at the company's UK user group conference, Reuters' ecommerce director Dave Weller revealed that, in general, response times at the desktop using Siebel 7.0 were slower than they were under Reuters' previous implementation, version 6.3. The news is particularly embarrassing for San Mateo, California-based Siebel because the company made much of the performance-related benefits accruing from its SmartWeb architecture and zero footprint client when Siebel 7 was launched last year. At the time it said performance was much improved under SmartWeb because in contrast to classic HTML clients, client-side layout and data were retrieved separately so when a page was loaded for a second time, only the data need to be loaded. "Performance is still an issue," said Weller. "Some transactions are faster, others are slower. It is probably because of the way the configuration has changed and it will be solved." He said the system was sluggish with Siebel 7 transactions slower than 6.3 but again hoped to address these issues by further tuning. He indicated that the problems were largely confined to the desktop rather than areas such as database access. Siebel is aware of the problem and is shipping an option pack to address the issue and Weller is confident that the issue will be resolved. Siebel said the patch should significantly improve performance taking response times of 2 to 2.5 seconds closer to the 1 to 1.5-second mark. However, Weller also commented on the need for surprisingly high client-side hardware specifications indicating that while the Siebel client was thin client by architecture it was not thin in terms of design. To achieve reasonable end user response times, desktop machines needed developer-like specifications. Despite the problems Reuters remains pleased with Siebel 7 and the migration program it is undergoing in conjunction with Siebel's services branch. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 05 Sep 2002

More indictments for WorldCom brass

WorldCom's senior fraudsters executives are set to turn on each other under increasing pressure from federal prosecutors determined to get at former CEO Bernard Ebbers, the Associated Press reports. Former CFO Scott Sullivan, former comptroller David Myers and accounting exec Buford Yates have all been charged with securities fraud, a very serious offence which can draw up to ten years in Club Fed. In the wings are Betty Vinson and Troy Normand, accused of doing crucial dirty work for Sullivan and Myers. Presently, Myers, Vinson and Normand are believed to be preparing plea deals, which presumably will involve some degree of cooperation with the Feds in exchange for leniency. This should inspire Sullivan to follow suit, the wire service speculates, and give up the Big Enchilada, Ebbers himself. Meanwhile, Assistant US Attorney David Anders has said that he intends to name more defendants in the coming weeks, though he did not say who or how many. This likely means that the DoJ is going to systematically pressure little fish to rat out the next bigger fish, in hopes of establishing a rat-chain-reaction ending ultimately in some portion Ebbers' anatomy being mounted on US Attorney General John Ashcroft's office wall. Isn't Justice a beautiful thing? ®
Thomas C Greene, 05 Sep 2002

Music labels are bleeding – Midbar

Midbar, the company that has been selling a lot of anti-copying technology to music publishers, says it is just that: a technology provider. "It's up to the labels which of the CD products they want to implement," says Midbar's v.p. of sales and marketing, Noam Zur. Consumers with complaints need to contact the music companies, not Midbar, he says. Zur wants to make sure that Midbar's technology is presented in a fair light, something he believes did not happen in a previous NewsForge article that pointed out problems with the Midbar anti-copying scheme, particularly the CDS-100, which prevents the playback of a "protected" CD on a computer CD-ROM drive -- sometimes even causing damage to the computer. He stressed the fact that the CDS-100 technology was created intentionally to prevent operation on a computer CD-ROM drive. When asked about the issue of fair use, a provision of copyright law which says that citizens are allowed to make copies of copyrighted materials for certain uses, Zur calls that a "label question -- we're here to provide according to market needs, market recommendations, and market requests." Zur agrees that the labels have not been completely forthcoming in sharing with consumers which CDs will work with what. "In Japan, all protected CDs are labeled. In the U.S., they haven't reached a standard because they haven't agreed on what should be said." NewsForge has received many emails from users in response to the recent article, many of which contain claims that the felt-tip marker hack does indeed still work on CDs "protected" by Midbar's technology. Zur now admits that no anti-copying technology is 100% unbreakable, even though the company previously claimed that felt tip workarounds had been "completely neutralized," but seems to infer that using a felt tip marker on a CD will damage it. When we mentioned that, to the mind of a consumer desperate enough to try the felt-tip marker workaround, the CD is already corrupted, he replied, "Exactly, in their mind." There is also some controversy about the CDS-200 technology in place, which allows users to playback the audio on a computer. The files that run are specially created compressed audio files that some say are lower in quality. "[The CDs] include a data track with a Windows player app on it, along with some heavily compressed versions of the tracks in an encrypted MP3-style format," says Jim Peters, the CD campaign coordinator for the http://uk.eurorights.org/issues/cd/docs/natimb.shtml">UK Campaign for Digital Rights. "These are encoded at anything from 80kbps to 128kbps, which is very low quality when compared to the full-quality CD audio you would expect from a genuine CD disc. "For years everyone has been making CD devices on the basis that people will put genuine CDs in them -- going outside that specification is asking for trouble, and that is what we are still getting even now," Peters says. Zur disagrees that the quality isn't comparable. "Anything you listen to on the PC is compressed files." Zur says that Midbar CDs are redbook compliant and that there is no difference in audible quality. "Some labels believe that PCs were not intended as playback machines," says Zur. "We're in the business of helping the music industry protect their copyright. Obviously some people do not like it because some people have copied it; they feel we are taking away some of their freedoms. We only provide the technology." "The labels are bleeding. There's a lot of information published by the music industry to support that." Zur says that music lovers should be pleased with the next Midbar release, which is market-ready and waiting for buyers: CDS-300, which will use DRM (digital rights management) technology to allow "secure" streaming downloads. © NewsForge.com
Tina Gasperson, 05 Sep 2002

How to get out of Outsourcing

Over the past couple of years we've seen the phenomenal growth of Outsourcing as businesses focus on their core competencies in an attempt to ride out the economic slowdown. We've also seen the emergence of the mega-Outsourcing deal - multi-million dollar and involving passing on a significant part of the customer's IT delivery capability. The recent early termination of the Bank of Scotland deal with IBM has challenged the wisdom of such deals. Mega-Outsourcing deals make the balance sheet look good and are received positively by the shareholders as they show the business is taking action and has shifted some of its assets. But whether such deals pass the test of time has yet to be seen. As the economy recovers, organisations will want to be fleet of foot and may find themselves entrenched in a quagmire of contact clauses and restrictions. The Bank of Scotland deal was struck in 2000 and at a cost of £700 million, it was predicted cost savings would be £150 million over the course of the 10-year deal. In 2001, the bank announced its merger with the Halifax Building Society to form Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) and then in 2002 the deal was cancelled, alongside a Halifax Outsourcing deal with Xansa. The reason for the cancellation was that requirements had changed following a strategic review of IT needs and HBOS assured the market that this would not affect the 3-year, £690 million cost savings plan it had promised shareholders. IBM attempted to counter the termination with a managed services insourcing deal but HBOS stood firm as it gave 12 months notice. It will be a busy time for both companies over the next year as they attempt to unpick the contract. The success of the transfer of services back in house will depend on the exit clauses in the agreement. Exit clauses are rarely given the attention they deserve in the negotiation process - the customer is keen to Outsource and the vendor is keen to book the revenue; it's all part of the honeymoon period before the going gets tough once the contract starts in earnest. A well-defined Outsourcing agreement will provide as much flexibility as can be allowed within the commercial and resourcing constraints of the deal. Just think of it as a transition in reverse and consider staff, hardware and software (including licences), intellectual property and real estate. Then there are the financial aspects - many Outsourcing contracts amortise costs over the duration of the contract and so aside from a termination penalty these costs will all be brought up front. If the termination is because of the vendor failing to deliver the service, the customer has all of the negotiating collateral. This isn't the case with IBM and HBOS - here the customer simply changed its mind and therefore places itself largely at the behest of Big Blue. Outsourcing is a good idea, it just needs careful consideration. While no one can predict the future, a well-written contract should consider all eventualities, especially the merger and acquisition scenario that seems to be the driving force at HBOS. It's more than likely that coverage of this deal will disappear into the sunset, which is a shame as the lessons learnt here would be useful to many others who should have looked before they leapt. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 05 Sep 2002

MS patches bogus certificate hole on NT, XP

Microsoft has finally begun patching a severe security flaw in its implementation of digital-certificate basic-constraints checking which we've been ranting about for nearly a month. The stuff-up makes it possible for SSL and e-mail signature certs to be forged. Currently, Win-NT and XP users have fixes available for their kit. This leaves Win-98, 98-SE, ME, and 2K users waiting for patches which will be 'issued shortly,' the company says. There will also be patches for numerous versions of Internet Explorer, MS-Office, and Outlook Express for the Mac. On Windows it's necessary only to fix CryptoAPI for each OS version, but on Macs the situation is reversed; each Microsoft application needs to be fixed separately -- so if you're using more than one, you'll need more than one patch. Interestingly, MS rates this Trustworthy Computing stuff-up 'Critical', in contradiction to their earlier whitewash of the issue. Even now, with the 'C' word plastered all over the MS bulletin, the company can't resist plugging in every bit of soft-pedal boilerplate from its original 'what, us worry?' PR offering. There is no mention of the fact that a valid certificate and key have already been circulated with SSLsniff, an exploit tool developed by Mike Benham, who first reported the issue. There is also no mention of the way SSLsniff can be used to intercept a third party's SSL session where the victim and attacker are on the same LAN. Indeed, there's no mention of Benham himself, but that's probably due to Redmond's irritation with him for spilling the beans before they were ready to have them spilt. Of course there was always a simple workaround: Windows users could have used Mozilla for both e-mail and browsing, and simply not been troubled. For its part, MS seems not to have appreciated the the elegance of this solution. The MS bulletin and links to the patches can be found here. ®
Thomas C Greene, 05 Sep 2002

BT slams ‘scandalous’ phone hacking claims

A former BT engineer claims that phone hacking is a "disease" within BT and that the telco is failing to protect its customers from premium rate phone scams. Whistlebower Bob Godsiff was featured earlier this week on a Meridian TV show Cheatlines, in which he claimed that BT was ignoring the growing problem of phone hacking. He claimed BT's phone network was "easily accessible" for anyone with "basic electrical knowledge". And in a worrying revelation, he alleged that most of the calls - which are made to premium rate phone lines with the cost appearing on unsuspecting customers' bills - are made by BT engineers or contractors. Said Mr Godsiff: " BT are just saying no, it's [phone hacking] impossible. Well, I'm here to say it is possible. It does go on and it will be going on unless BT do something about it." He reckons that as many as half of engineers engage in phone hacking and has personal knowledge of eight people being sacked, but not prosecuted, for their activities. "The debatable point is who put that charge the line?" asked Mr Godsiff. "If it wasn't the subscriber it has to be somebody else and nine times out of ten it will be one of the engineers - not necessarily a BT guy but any one of these numerous contractors they've got working for them at the moment," he said. BT has reacted angrily to the programme calling the allegations "scandalous". A spokesman for BT told The Register: "This is an outright slander on all the good names of people at BT. This is scandalous." "We can't say that it never happens, or that it has never happened. But to say this is widespread and rife is rubbish. "Customers can have confidence in the accuracy of their BT bill. There is no substance in the allegation that unlawful access of phone lines is rife or commonplace. "BT's network is very secure and is subjected to rigorous testing at every point," he said. He also cast doubt on the validity of Mr Godsiff's allegations, saying that he left BT some 14 years ago. The programme featured three cases where people had disputed their bills after they discovered that they carried hundreds of pounds worth of calls to premium rate sex lines. Those involved claim they weren't even in their homes when the calls were made and no one else had access to their phones. And now they're preparing to take legal action over the disputed bills. A spokesman for BT said he was unaware of any legal action at present. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Sep 2002

Sage buys small US developer

Sage, the accountancy software supplier, has bought a small US firm for $14.3m in cash. Florida-based CPA Software supplies accounting practice management systems to 10,000 firms in the US. Turnover for the year to December 31, 2001 was $7.4m. Sage grew big in the UK by getting accountancy firms to act as its resellers to small and medium business. It aims to repeat the trick in the US, where it claims a 20,000-strong network of certified public accountants (CPAs) which 'already' recommend Sage software, such as ACT!, Peachtree and Saleslogix. Sage will market CPA Software products to this network. It also supplies software for accountants in the UK and France. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Sep 2002

Computacenter sales down on PC slump

Slumping product sales were to blame for a big drop in half year sales at Computacenter, the UK's biggest reseller produced group revenues £975m for the six months to June 30 (2001: £1,173.7m). It notes a 20 per cent fall in product sales during the period. But improved margins on the back of better service revenues contained the fall in profits before to tax to £24.3m (£29.3m). Net income was £16.24m, down 18 per cent on 2001 (19.8m) Computacenter generated £25m of cash during H1 (2001 £56m), closing the half year with a net cash position of £66.3m. Also it notes a "strong improvement" over the second half of 2001, with sales up 6 per cent and profit up 32 per cent. Computacenter France saw revenues rise to £140.1m (2001: £117.1m), probably reflecting the first contribution of GECITS France, acquired during the period. Operating profit was a measly £0.2m (2001 £2.1m), which means that the business is almost certainly making an net loss. France's performance represnets a softening in market conditions, Computacenter says. The reseller is calling the bottom of the market - it is "highly unlikely" that conditions will get worse. However, it does not detect an uptick yet. It is forecasting full year profits at a similar level of last year's £51.1m. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Sep 2002

Orange offers DIY price plans

Orange is to scrap different price plans and replace them with a single DIY package which customers can devise themselves. From October 1 punters will be able to build their own plan from a range of choices. "Your Plan", as it's called, offers a variety of options including inclusive call time minutes and access to information services. Punters are also allowed to roll over unused messages and minutes to the next month. And if customers uses all their inclusive minutes and messages from a bundle before the month is over, all additional calls and texts are charged at the same flat rate. Orange reckons this move to simplify contract phone packages will turn the industry on its head and force other operators to follow suit. "The UK mobile industry currently offers dozens of tariffs with many variations, leading to misunderstanding and uncertainty about service plans. Customers are presented with a confusing range of options rather then being able to choose the specific services that they want." Elsewhere, Orange is to close its ISP from October 19 three years after it was originally set up. However, only the access side of the ISP is to shut and its portal operation will continue. Instead, Orange is advising its customers to switch to Freeserve (both Orange and Freesere are ultimately owned by France Telecom) where they can pick up the ISP's 24/7 unmetered service for £5.99 a month for six months, before reverting to the usual price of £13.99 a month. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Sep 2002

HM Customs VAT probe paralyses UK CPU broking

The UK CPU broking market has been paralysed in recent weeks, following an industry-wide delay in refunding VAT payments on export sales. HM Customs & Excise confirmed this week that it is conducting "extended verification" of claims submitted by traders in computer chips and mobile phones. Exporters pay VAT upfront on shipments overseas and then reclaim the tax by submitting monthly returns. Typically, refunds are made by Customs two weeks after the end of each month. But a freeze in June and July VAT repayments has torpedoed the cash flow of CPU brokers, which typically operate on small margins. The action destroyed the ability of the brokers to trade throughout August. Glyn Mosses, owner of Wokingham-based Harringtons Ltd, said: "My normal VAT refunds are £3-£4m a month. In August my claim was £16,000." His business is owed £9m by HM Customs & Excise, he says. GSI Distribution Europe, a leading CPU exporter based in Chelmsford, says it was able to conduct just three deals in August, as a direct consequence of the VAT freeze. The freeze is having a knock-on effect in September. The Register understand that approx. 20 of the smaller traders received their VAT refunds last Friday, and that the biggest traders, numbering no more than 10, can expect to see refunds in their accounts next week. Missing Trader Intra Community fraud, as it is officially dubbed, is the EU's biggest source of fraud, costing the UK alone an estimated £1.7bn- £2.6bn in 2000-2001. Because of their high-ticket, commodity status, computer chips and mobile phones are favourites with so-called missing VAT trader fraud gangs. In this simple fraud, traders import goods VAT free, then sell the goods supposedly with VAT applied. Usually, the goods are sold cheaper than with pukka-VAT transactions, ensuring a quick turn for the fraudster, who then disappears without paying VAT to Customs. But longstanding CPU exporters have slammed Customs for a catch-all action, which is harming legitimate businesses. They already follow very rigorous procedures implemented by Customs, they point out. According to advice from legal counsel, HM Customs’ action in freezing payments seems unlawful, according to GSI, which is contemplating legal action. Dean Johnson, GSI managing director, said: "We provide Customs with a full list of new customers, and new suppliers and their bank accounts and their VAT details by fax. And we only trade with these companies when we have received authorisation from Customs. Every single month we have Customs come into check us. We do everything we are told to. And now this. What are we supposed to do?" A Customs spokesperson told The Register that the organisation is currently conducting a co-ordinated programme to verify submitted VAT claims in areas "rife with fraud". This is Customs entitlement and part of its duty "in the care and management of VAT". The Customs spokesperson said: "It is not Customs’ intention to delay payments that are lawfully due... Legitimate businesses have nothing to fear from us,". Traders can appeal to a VAT tribunal or seek judicial review if they believe that payments have been unlawfully delayed, he added. Companies such as Harringtons and GSI operate a useful safety valve for the worldwide CPU spot or grey market. Typical suppliers of the CPU brokers are big OEMs buying large quantities of Intel and AMD CPUs at favourable discounts directly from the manufacturer. According to Gartner Dataquest analyst Brian Gammage, these OEMs are actively buying CPUs to trade in the spot market, as well as using it to push out overstocks. Typical buyers for the CPU exporters are smaller system builders which otherwise would have to buy through distribution. By buying from the spot market, even though credit terms are not often extended, smaller system builders can get access to cheaper prices. "If you get your Intel CPU £10 a part cheaper, and you are building a thousand units a month, your savings quickly mount up," Harrington's Mosses points out. "And that means cheaper prices for end-users." ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Sep 2002

IT is not geeky, says industry group

The IT industry is trying to shed its "geeky" image among schoolchildren in a bid to attract more youngsters into the sector. Industry group, e-skills UK, has launched an education initiative to coincide with the start of the new school year to promote a positive, exciting and up-to-date image of IT to secondary school students. Aimed at 13 and 14-year-olds the IT Schools Workshops consist of interactive sessions and involve inviting youngsters into the workplace. Said Anne Cantelo, project director at e-skills UK. "Research has shown that many people, particularly women, are put off a career in IT primarily because of its poor image. The notion that IT is geeky and untrendy tends to be formed around the age of 13 years and is very difficult to change later on in life." Dell is among the first companies to promote the workshops at its European and UK headquarters in Bracknell, Berkshire, and will provide a further 10 sessions in the coming year. For more information about the Schools Workshops programme, contact Melody Hermon at e-skills UK on 07810 508056 or melody.hermon@e-skills.com. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Sep 2002

PBS purges Web content on Israeli disapproval

The US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is airing a documentary film this week by affiliate WNET in New York, called "Caught in the Crossfire: Arab-Americans in Wartime," which considers the predicament of Arab-Americans since the 9/11 atrocity. In addition to the film is a companion Web site offering background material for curious viewers. Unfortunately, a few people disapproved of some of that material, and PBS did exactly what any spineless pandering coward would do; they buckled to pressure (or the fear of pressure) from New York's Jewish and Israeli lobbying groups, and removed content from the companion site which dares to tell the Palestinian story without the mandatory pro-Israel bias. Some of the purged, non-Kosher information may have been inaccurate, according to this heavily-biased report by Ira Stoll in the New York Sun. But the story's chief implication, that PBS buckled because it feared that some diabolical cabal of well-heeled New York Jews could obstruct its funding and shave its viewership makes this something of a cyberattack -- or at least a cybersurrender. Now, I don't want to get into arguments with readers about who's right and who's wrong and who threw the first punch in Palestine. The conflict is messy and old and full of complications and interference from geopolitical players, the full effects of which which I don't pretend to understand. I'll say this much: personally I'd be a lot more comfortable with the Palestinian struggle if they'd stick to attacking Israeli military targets exclusively, and leave civilians out of it. On the other hand they are under occupation, they have no homeland, and most importantly, no army with which to attack military targets. They're so outmanned, outmanouvred and outgunned that it's hard to think of what else they could do to fight back. But here we're concerned with another area where Israel has the Palestinians hopelessly outdone: in the marketplace of public debate, which the PBS self-censorship move illustrates, and, in its own pathetic way, exacerbates. Israel possesses, by Palestinian standards, effectively limitless resources to advance their propaganda. They demonize Palestinian combatants as 'terrorists', lionize their own dead as sacrificial lambs, and justify their aggressive military assaults as a matter of self-preservation. And that's fine; propaganda is what governments do. But we ought to be permitted to hear from both sides and draw our own conclusions. I may come close to vomiting from NY Times blowhard William Safire's 'Israel uber alles' screed, but my preferred solution to clumsy propaganda like that is opposing propaganda. Keep the marketplace of ideas open to all comers, I say, and caveat lector. This is a fundamental element of civilized life which we simply cannot allow to be subverted by legions of well-heeled lobbyists and their obedient mouthpieces in the mainstream press. But in this case, there's no evidence that a lobbying effort had got underway; indeed, there hardly seems to have been adequate time to organize such a thing. It appears that PBS was cowed into jelly-like submission merely by the fear of such a terrible inconvenience as alienating New York Jews, who the organization assumes will do them harm. The PBS explanation is laughable: "The 'Homelands' section of the site drew attention away from the message of the film. Our goal was to provide background information that contextualized the cultural histories of the people whose lives are chronicled in the film. In an effort to keep the focus on the current experience of Arab Americans, we have removed that section of the site.' Not only are they too spineless to defend their own content in the face of what may well be completely imaginary threats, they haven't got the cojones to admit it, either. The background material 'drew attention from the film's message' indeed. That's what background information is all about, for Christ's sake. It's an excursus, an appendix. So what they're really saying is, 'we purged the background information because it was background information.' And what they really mean is, 'we took down controversial material which we feared might invite financial and public-relations retaliation from a small, and small-minded, fraction of our patrons.' Well, if one journalist can frighten them into censoring themselves, perhaps another can shame them into showing a bit of spine. It's worth a shot, I suppose; but I'm not optimistic about a network which has descended in the past couple of decades from airing the superb intellectual contributions of Jacob Brownowski and Eugen Weber to airing the crowd-pleasing psycho-babble of such lowbrow parasites as Deepak Chopra, Suze Ormond and Andrew Weil. ® Related Link The forbidden page
Thomas C Greene, 05 Sep 2002

One last feed for HP e3000 warhorse

HP unveiled the final upgrade - probably - for its venerable e3000 range yesterday, along with more details of the user migration programme to its mainstream range of HP/UX servers. Enhancements to the HP e3000 line of a- and n-class servers include: making HP's latest PA-8700 processor available with the server; OS upgrade to MPE/iX Release 7.5; and increased storage capacity. According to HP, the processor upgrade delivers more than double the performance in the server's entry-level range, a 60-100 per cent performance increase in the mid-range and more than a 35 per cent more horsepower on high-end e3000 systems. In addition, HP e3000 servers now also come loaded with new storage options, including the HP Surestore Disk Array XP128/XP1024 and HP Virtual Array 7100. Both are supported with the new native fibre channel connectivity with MPE/iX 7.5. HP is also touting availability of e3000 server transition tools and services, including no-charge hardware conversion kits for use when migrating a- and n-class servers to the HP-UX operating system and trade-in rebates towards HP-UX servers. As announced last November, HP will continue to sell HP e3000 servers and software until October 31, 2003, and support the products until December 31, 2006. Some servers will be discontinued earlier than this, so users should consult HP's e3000 server discontinuation site for full details. The 3000 series server was launched in 1972 and has seen numerous upgrades and changes over the nearly three decades since. With the discontinuation of the line, HP will focus its attention on its 9000-series Unix servers and NetServer line of Intel-based servers. Many users say that HP's decision to discontinue the e3000 series line is premature. In a survey last December, a poll of 1,000 users found that two thirds of companies using HP's e3000 hardware platform do not support its decision to end support for the platform. The survey by Interex, an independent organisation of companies which use HP and HP-compatible technology, revealed users were in the early stages of planning their migration strategy with many considering turning to alternative suppliers for their computing needs. ® Related Stories HP puts 3000 MPE warhorse out to grass HP e3000 death is wrong
John Leyden, 05 Sep 2002

Anonymous $1m grant to test copyright laws

An anonymous gift of $1 million to Duke University in the US will be used to finance a new centre conductin research into curtailing recent extensions of copyright law. James Boyle, a Duke law professor, said the centre is likely to take a close and critical look at laws like America's highly-controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). "This is an attempt to figure out the balance between intellectual property and the public domain," Boyle told CNET's Declan McCullagh . "If you want to have a rich culture and an innovative society, you have to leave a large amount of material freely available for all to use." Boyle is not in favour of abolishing copyright, merely addressing the balance between the rights of copyright holders and the general public, which has got out of kilter, he suggests. Congress has been too willing to swallow the views of the entertainment industry when considering copyright laws, rather than consider other perspectives on the issue, according to Boyle. Duke intends to help fill this knowledge deficit, something that can't come a moment too soon after Congressman Howard Berman's soft-headed suggestion that copyright holders should be allowed to hack into and disrupt P2P networks with impunity. In related news, Adobe - which initiated the first DMCA prosecution against ElcomSoft and Dmitry Sklyarov - has found itself scurrying off to the courts in hopes that it of confirming it hasn't run foul of the DMCA itself. Claims of violations against the DMCA by Adobe came up during contractual disputes with font suppliers Agfa Monotype and ITC (International Typeface Corporation), whose technology is embedded in Acrobat. ®
John Leyden, 05 Sep 2002

MP presses ahead with anti-spam campaign

Derek Wyatt is looking to press ahead with a national campaign to clamp down on spam. The MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey told The Register that he is "sick of the excuses" and wants something done to curb the amount of spam pouring into people's in-boxes. In particular, he's concerned about the rising quantity of pornographic spam and the impact it may have on children using the Net. His determination to campaign against junk email - which he hopes to put on a formal footing in the near future - has not waned despite receiving a number of abusive emails from people who oppose his opposition to spam. That said, he's taken heart from the fact that he's also received far more emails from people who share his concerns. In a newspaper interview last month Mr Wyatt said: "The amount of porn I get on a daily basis and the amount my children get is outrageous. It's so explicit and has put my children off using the Internet". Related Story MP wants law to force ISPs to get tough on porn spam
Tim Richardson, 05 Sep 2002

Flat-rate Net access returns to Ireland

UTV Internet has launched a flat-rate off-peak Internet access service, making it the only ISP in the Irish market to offer such a product. The service, UTVip, will allow users throughout the Republic of Ireland to surf the Internet for up to 150 hours a month during off-peak periods at a charge of EUR29.99 per month. However, customers will also have to sign-up to UTV Internet's telephony package, which it said, has national and international calls rates that are 25 percent less expensive than Eircom's standard charges. According to Martin Lyons, chief technology officer of UTV Internet, the ISP decided to introduce the product because of the "huge demand" for flat-rate among Internet users in the Republic. "Every day we get e-mails asking when flat-rate is going to be introduced and I have no doubt that the service will prove very popular among consumers," said Lyons. He declined to discuss target figures for sign-ups to the service because the company is currently in a closed period. UTV Internet's move comes just over a year after Esat (now Esat BT) withdraw a similar flat-rate offering. Esat said at the time that this was because some customers were using the Surf No-Limits service excessively. The company went on to say that offering flat-rate off-peak at that time was not economically viable. However, UTV Internet said it believed its offering will make money for the company. "We have researched this thoroughly and we think there is enough demand to make this pay its own way. We won't be crying poverty," commented Lyons. It also now appears that Esat BT is going to re-introduce a flat-rate product. An official announcement is expected from the company within days and ElectricNews.Net understands that packages offering 30 hours, 60 hours and 90 hours off-peak Internet access per month for a flat-fee will be introduced. Esat BT also recently said that it is working with Eircom and the ODTR to bring in 24-7 flat-rate before the end of the year. Although these are positive steps for Irish Internet users, some may be disappointed that UTV Internet did not introduce true flat-rate, which is a common offering in most European countries, including Northern Ireland. Lyons remarked that UTV Internet was "itching" to introduce true flat-rate, but could not due to the current regulatory environment. "We would love to bring it in as we have done in the North, but it is not possible because of Eircom's charging model. We hope that UTVip will show that there is great demand for flat-rate, which will put pressure on Eircom to lower its rates." UTV's move has been welcomed by lobby group Ireland Offline. "We are very happy with this," said its chairman, David Long. "It is an excellent step in the right direction and it will show the likes of Eircom and the ODTR that there is a market for this kind of product. Hopefully, it will lead to 24-7 flat-rate being introduced sooner rather than later." There will be a EUR30 joining fee for UTVip, but this is waived for users who sign up to the service before Christmas. Its voice service is available to anyone in Ireland with an Eircom line and will be delivered using Carrier PreSelect (CPS). Just over 40 per cent of UTV Internet customers are in the Republic and the company claims to be the third largest ISP in Ireland. The business reached profitability ahead of schedule in the second half of 2001. © ENN.
ElectricNews.net, 05 Sep 2002

Oracle confirms numbers in UK jobs cull

Oracle has confirmed that it is to axe 270 jobs in the UK, equivalent to eight per cent of the workforce. It seems that most, if not all the jobs are going from the company's consulting division. According to insiders, that's around a quarter of the division wiped out in one go. However, no one from Oracle was available to comment on this at the time of writing. In an earlier statement the company said that "no organisation is immune to the current economic crisis... gwana-gwana". ® related Story Oracle preps UK job cuts
Tim Richardson, 05 Sep 2002