11th > September > 2002 Archive
Internet standards body OASIS has established a technical committee to develop a web services specification for cross-platform distributed systems management. The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) Management Protocol Technical Committee has been created to build a protocol that integrates systems and management tools. Committee chairman Winston Bumpus said in a statement: "Our work... will help us level the playing field and allow companies to manage systems regardless of the platform they use." The protocol will be built for management of desktops, services and networks across an enterprise or internet environment. OASIS said the protocol would also let users oversee their services' interaction with services offered by other companies. OASIS said it is reviewing a number of web services standards for potential use in the protocol, including XML, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Open Model Interface (OMI) and the Distributed Management Task Force's Common Information Model (CIM). © ComputerWire
WorldCom Inc CEO John Sidgmore intends to leave the post shortly, he said yesterday, and the scandal-rocked carrier is now seeking a replacement. Sidgmore took the job in April following the departure of Bernie Ebbers, shortly before the company uncovered record-breaking accounting irregularities and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. "Mr Sidgmore always intended for his appointment in April 2002 to be an interim solution in response to the swift departure of WorldCom's former CEO," the company said in a statement. "Mr. Sidgmore had always intended to bring the company to a point of stability and to hire a new CEO...which the company believes can be accomplished in an accelerated timeframe." When the bulk of the Chapter 11 restructuring is completed, Sidgmore will return to his former role as vice chairman, the company said. The executive search will be conducted by the WorldCom board, along with the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors. The company is also looking for new directors to sit on its board. The company said it "remains on track to restructure and emerge from Chapter 11 protection in mid-2003." According to reports, the executive search will take "several weeks", implying the lucky new CEO will have to guide WorldCom through the latter stages of its bankruptcy proceedings. © ComputerWire
VeriSign Inc has secured itself a place at the heart of Intel Corp's mobile strategy with a deal to embed its technology in the chip giant's next generation notebook processor. Under the deal, announced at the chip vendor's developer forum in San Jose yesterday, VeriSign will optimize its digital certificates and Personal Trust Agent Technology for Intel's Banias notebook processor, which is due to launch next year. VeriSign's digital certificate technology will be available in Trusted Platform Modules, meaning that, in effect, OEMs will be able to embed VeriSign's technology into notebooks built around the Banias technology. John Weinschenk, vice president of business development for VeriSign, said the deal meant security could be built into hardware at the most fundamental level: "You can't get any stronger than that." Anand Chandrasekher, vice president and general manager of Intel's mobile platforms group, said the deal was not exclusive and the chip giant would not be mandating that OEMs use VeriSign's security technology. However, he added, "we certainly recommend our OEMs take a hard look at it." He said the deal was "one stop on the way" towards securing notebook systems. Intel would also validate TPM solutions from other vendors for use with Banias, said Chandrasekher. The deal also draws parallels with the LaGrande embedded security technology Intel is developing. Intel president and COO Paul Otellini alluded to LaGrande vaguely on Monday, but the technology is not expected to hit the market for at least another couple of years. Chandrasekher said LaGrande was "completely consistent and backwards compatible with what we're doing here." A VeriSign spokesperson said yesterday's deal with Intel was the second of its kind. Earlier this year it struck a deal with Phoenix Technologies to embed security technology into the PC Bios. He said it was fair to assume the company was looking to cut similar deals with a variety of silicon vendors. © ComputerWire
The Liberty Alliance Project is considering Java-style measures to avoid proprietary implementation by vendors of its specifications for single sign-in to web services, Gavin Clarke writes. Sun Microsystems Inc-backed Liberty told ComputerWire that members are considering a set of test suites and reference implementations to ensure its specifications for federated network identity conform to original documents once adopted by vendors. Test suites and reference implementations are an established process used by the Java Community Process (JCP) to test compatibility of vendors' Java implementations. However, Liberty members are stopping short of a Java-style cup of steaming coffee logo that could be slapped on conformant products and services. Michael Barrett, acting president of the Liberty Alliance management board and vice president of Internet strategy for American Express Corp, told ComputerWire a logo was considered "too heavyweight". "There was a feeling [by members] they didn't want the alliance to have a strong brand of its own," he said. It is believed more brand-conscious members of Liberty were unwilling to have their own identity cluttered by another logo. Conflicts over branding along with control of customer data in Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp's separate .NET My Services forced the company to re-think its own proposed offerings. Barrett spoke to ComputerWire as Santa Clara, California-based Sun prepared to release what is believed to be the industry's first Liberty-based products. The company is preparing versions of its Identity Server and Directory Server for later this year that support version 1.0 of the Liberty specifications, published in July. No date is set for the test suite and reference implementations, but Barrett said discussions have taken place. These discussions have tackled areas such as how vendors' submit products for testing under non-disclosure agreement. "We are absolutely looking at static conformance requirements and interoperability testing," Barrett said. Testing and a reference implementation would be useful in an e-business scenario and large organizations, such as corporates and governments running intranet and internt sites based on different identity systems. Governments, especially, buy IT on a project-by-project basis, meaning different vendors' products could be used - a fact that makes interoperability essential. Sun's director of Liberty Alliance technology Bill Smith said: "This will make it easier for large organizations, like governments, to adopt. They have a requirement for passing a level of conformance. People have all these different ID systems, that they are not going to replace overnight." © ComputerWire
AltaVista Co and Google Inc have both seen their web search engines become inaccessible to internet users in China, evidently as part of a censorship initiative in the run-up to the Chinese communist party congress in November, Kevin Murphy writes. But AltaVista is offering affected users alternate ways to access its services. The company yesterday told users they could visit raging.com or one of AltaVista's international sites, which offer the same search services but are not blocked. "People in China cannot access our site," said AltaVista chief marketing officer Fred Bullock. "We contacted the Chinese government [via the consulate in San Francisco] to see if we've been blocked last Friday but we haven't heard anything." Google has evidently had better luck that AltaVista. VP of corporate marketing Cindy McCaffrey said the company is in talks with representatives of the Chinese government, but has yet to resolve the issue. AltaVista's Bullock said "less that 5%" of the company's traffic comes from China. Google does not disclose details of its user base, but McCaffrey said that the company has "millions" of users from the country. "This could turn into a cat and mouse game," Bullock said. He suggested that any moves to block AltaVista domains or IP addresses could result in new AltaVista domain names or IP addresses. But he also suggested it will likely not come to that. "Generally before politically sensitive events you see a crackdown by the Chinese government," Bullock said, adding that the policy will possibly be relaxed after the November meeting, which is expected herald significant leadership changes in the governing party. It appears that AltaVista and Google were blocked not for providing links to sites China considers subversive, but because they also provide the means for users to see the content of blocked sites without having to visit the site itself. Other search sites that only provide links have not been blocked. Google's cache feature allows users to see what a site looked like when it was spidered, without leaving the google.com domain. AltaVista's Babelfish translation service acts as a proxy between the user and a site, and also machine-translates the text into the user's native language, which is a popular feature in China. China is able to block sites from its citizens because there are a finite number of internet backbones running into the country, and it has control over all of them. Some US-based search sites that have branches in China are believed to have agreed with the government to pull subversive links or content. © ComputerWire
Vodafone Ireland paid EUR44.5 million to the Irish government on Monday as it accepted one of Ireland's 3G 'B' licences after a one-month delay. "We think it was the right thing to do for our employees, our shareholders and above all our customers," commented Paul Donovan, chief executive officer, Vodafone Ireland after the company confirmed that it had accepted one of Ireland's four 3G licences. The business will now begin rolling out its 3G network, with portions set to go into operation by early 2004. Donovan said that the company's delay in taking up the license was based solely on its desire to re-evaluate the actual value of the licence. He also said the decision was made entirely by local management and not by Vodafone Group leadership. "It's not often that you have to make an EUR1 billion decision. It would have been irresponsible of us to make such a decision without re-thinking our bid." Vodafone now joins Ireland's other two 3G licence owners, mmO2 and Hutchison Whampoa, who own a 'B' licence and an 'A' licence respectively. Over the next few years all three firms will prepare to launch UMTS mobile services that will offer dramatically faster download speeds, allowing for sophisticated applications such as mobile video and teleconferencing. There had been speculation that Vodafone declined to accept the ODTR's offer because the business was disappointed that it did not receive the 'A' licence, or possibly because the company wanted to pressure the ODTR to lower its price. If Vodafone had not accepted this licence, the permit may have gone to auction with the fourth un-claimed UMTS licence at a later date, and possibly at a lower cost. However, Donovan denied that either circumstance was the case, highlighting other concerns that made the company review licence acceptance. Among these were regulation of the mobile sector in Ireland, as well as the ODTR's plans for fixed wireless broadband roll out. Additional worries included the ultimate return the business would get on the EUR1 billion that was required for the licence, as well as network infrastructure issues. In the end however, the company determined that it was in a better position than competitors to deploy 3G services because of its relative size. With more subscribers (1.7 million), Vodafone Ireland will spend less than O2 Ireland and Hutchison Whampoa on a per customer basis over the next 20 years. The company also noted that with the possibility of site sharing on the horizon, as well as recent technological innovations and supplier promises, the actual cost of network deployment could be lower than initially calculated. Currently the business is considering the implications of site and infrastructure sharing agreements with O2 and Hutchison, but has declined to make any firm commitments. "As one of the largest companies in Ireland, you havea special responsibility," Donovan added. He said that Vodafone's decision to "invest in Ireland" by taking the permit would serve to encourage further high-tech investment in years to come. In that vein, he was critical of the ODTR's decision to give greater consideration in awarding licences to new entrants. "Hutchison could operate their network [in Ireland] with just a skeleton staff. Marketing, application development and even management could all take place in the UK and just get shipped over here," Donovan said, hinting that such a set up would do little to boost the Irish economy. © ENN.
The U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration is making good its promise to host a consumer-focused meeting on digital rights management. The Technology Administration will host a private meeting for about 15 consumer advocates September 17, after a group of Free Software and fair use activists protested at a big tech and big Hollywood dominated DRM meeting in mid-July. Most of the protesters weren't allowed to comment on the record during that meeting; instead, they sometimes shouted comments from the back of the room. A transcript of the July DRM workshop, minus most of the off-mike comments is available here. A spokeswoman for the Technology Administration said all consumer advocates who expressed interest in the follow-up meeting were invited to attend. Officials chose to keep the meeting small and private, she said, to give all the groups a chance to respond. Jay Sulzberger, a Linux advocate and one of the protesters at the July meeting, says this formal invitation is important for consumer rights advocates to make their case in person. "This time, owners of computers will be heard," he said. "This time, makers and users of the 'Net will be heard." Sulzberger says he'd also like to see public meetings "at which owners and makers are at the table." © Newsforge.com.
Professor Kevin Warwick is a media tart, and the kiddie chip that won worldwide publicity last week probably does not exist. These nuggets have been unearthed by Stephen Naysmith, Science Correspondent of the Scottish Sunday Herald, whose report we warmly recommend to Warwick watchers everywhere. Attempting to secure an interview with Warwick, Naysmith was referred by Reading University to Reading agency INS, which quoted him the rate of £75 for a ten minute interview. INS happily told him: "He's working with us. Everyone involved is signed up with us. A lot of people have been happy to pay." Given that his paper comes from the home of fiscal responsibility and prudence we're pleased that Naysmith declined to cough up, but secured a brief interview anyway. Although Warwick claims he intends to plant a tracker chip in 11 year old Danielle Duval before the end of the year, he has not asked for ethical approval from Reading University. This would be required prior to any operation. He also told Naysmith that there were "several options" for the technology used by the device, while refusing to confirm or deny that a prototype existed. But if we're still at the options stage, and these options include GPS (according to the Herald interview, they do), then that seems a pretty strong signal that no operational device exists. Further wackiness about the workings of the system was also added in a piece in the Sunday Times earlier this week, which says it'll need recharging every two weeks and claims, "Hand-held monitors could be used in areas not covered by mobile phones." Coo... how does that work? Warwick refused to discuss technical details with Naysmith, and justified his refusal to say anything about a prototype by saying, "There are commercial interests involved." Now, we at The Register had been hoping to redeclare our moratorium on Captain Cyborg coverage shortly, and not resume hostilities until the next major atrocity. But we're intrigued by these "commercial interests" - any of them care to put their hand up? ® Related stories Kid-chipper Cap Cyborg reported to police, social services Cap Cyborg to chip 11 year old in wake of UK child killings
It was a schizophrenic Intel that faced the world at its Developer Conference in San Jose yesterday. In the morning keynote it touted its new multimedia "adaptor" platform, with glossy lifestyle videos explaining how our "digital media experience" would become "more convenient". In the afternoon it explained why it was embedding digital certificates into the hardware - and a spokesman from VeriSign Inc., which is partnering with Intel in this great adventure, could hardly believe his luck. On Thursday, when most of the press will have departed, it will host a session discussing a variety of share-denial technologies being funded by, or developed in, Intel's labs. These include our old favorite CPRM - incorporated into DVD-Audio players from Panasonic (DMR-E20) and Pioneer (DVR-3000) - along with DTCP (Digital Transmission Content Protection, which encrypts air to ground, or cable transmissions over FireWire) and HDCP (High Bandwith Digital Content Protection), which encrypts the display transmissions from your computer to your monitor. What an astonishing loss of courage from America's greatest technology company - and we mean that most sincerely. Intel can at least lay a legitimate claim on the crown, as students of the Victorian era will know. Much of Intel's R&D goes largely unnoticed - it's spent on manufacturing improvements that shrink the process size, for example, and allow unimaginable quantities of processors to be produced on these processes at low cost. Although the great computing pioneer Charles Babbage never actually completed anything, his R&D into ever more exacting tools and processes gave Whitworth, amongst others, and an ungrateful British Empire, a fifty year technology lead. Thanks to Chipzilla, we don't have to wait this long. Intel's R&D work feeds directly into finished consumer goods, which is A Good Thing, and it's doubtful that anyone else would commit the capital, or have quite the single-minded devotion to advancing the semiconductor industry's processes as Intel. But under pressure from the Pigopolists who own today's analog entertainment distribution industry, Intel is buckling under. It's now devoting its considerable brainpower to kill the open platform that it nurtured and popularized. Embedded certificates Intel is to embed certificates into the processor. Embedded certificates will be a feature of Banias processors next year. That's an extraordinary gambit, considering that Intel backed down under a hail of fire when in 1999 it introduced, and then withdrew its processor ID. But certificates are much worse, as they leave you with little use for your communications device, unless that is, you want sit there and recompile vi all day. The audit trail leads right back to the certificate provider, so shopping and other, typical retail exchanges are linked to the certification authority. Verisign Inc. and Intel yesterday boasted how if your laptop was lost, you could magically revoke the certificate and render the machine as dead metal. Well, whoopee. What are the downsides? You can count them. The business of ownership of a device suddenly becomes very important indeed - your PC is tagged at birth, and your choice of operating system or browser is contingent on the generosity of the certification authority. Now let's contrast this with the genius of GSM, which became the world's mobile phone standard, trumping the technically superior CDMA air interface, by ensuring that independence was mandated as part of the specification. In GSM land, you can use your phone account - your contract - in another device, without the carrier knowing that you've changed. This guarantees the consumer a huge amount of freedom, and consumers like this kind of freedom, and exploit it. Carriers must consequently compete on better service, and handset vendors must to compete with ever swishier and more attractive phones. Members of the free marketeer Taliban consider this an onerous burden on entrepreneurs, but the results speak for themselves. The certification model announced yesterday seems to be modeled on the American cellphone lock-down, and all that's achieved is to assign permanent Developing Nation status to this fine country's wireless infrastructure. This is a desperate state of affairs, and all your bases - to tamper a phrase - belong to VeriSign Inc. Education - that's what you need Intel's true priorities - or the full extent of its cowardice - are revealed in the presentation we'll see (or not) on Thursday. The talk, by Michael Ripley a "content protection architect" is significant not for the technical information it divulges - this is already in the public domain, although we're grateful for listing which DVD players we'll know not to buy (see above) - but in the language deployed. Intel is involved, we learn, to ensure an "expanded customary use of content by consumers". But of course, this isn't the case at all. The customary use of content we know under existing fair use laws includes recording TV shows on video for subsequent consumption, playing music we've bought back to our friends on their hardware - and Ripley's endeavors are designed to thwart such "customary use". "CP [content protection] should not infringe of customary use of content", says Intel in the next slide. Much as the inventor of the guillotine mourned the popularity of separating the head from the body, no doubt. It gets better. CP must allow the revocation of compromised keys and injunctive relief. A creation of a "protected digital environment" - note again, the Orwellian language that seals the "protection" of the copyright holders, not the consumers - brings a "Need for consumer education... law enforcement, definition of customary consumer use". The telling phrase is "consumer education" - ie, we're too stupid to appreciate the loss of fair use, and need to be schooled in the new ways, toot-sweet. Stuckist options Intel is the kingmaker in this equation, and it's a historic moment for the industry. But with Chipzilla so obviously captured by outside interests, and both Europe and American consumers lacking the stomach to rewrite laws to thwart the pigopolists, we raised the possibility that China and India could take up the slack. They can, and they most probably will. (Who needs Hollywood, when you have Bollywood?) To our now rather naiive summary of a "Stuckist" net - ie, one in which the hardware and protocols remain open - we must add one more requirement - an accountable certification infrastructure. Sorry we missed it first time round, but good people are working on this as we write. ® Bootnote: We shamelessly borrowed the term 'Stuckist' from the art movement of the same name, which can be found here. We don't really have anything in common - except that we're all stuck if this madness ensues. The term was coined by Charles Thomson. Related Stories The Stuckist Net - what is your post-Palladium future? A Stuckist Net - you want in Vote against a paid-for Pigopolist pol! Rebranding Fair Use - your answers
Virus writers have exploited interest in the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks with their latest attempts to create a damaging email worm. Fortunately due to bugs in the code of Chet-A it fails to work properly and is considered a minimal threat. In the unlikely event you receive it, Chet-A arrives in the form of an email attachment called 11september.exe to a letter advancing a preposterous conspiracy theory that the motive for attacks on the US was to conceal money laundering. AV vendors reports few instances of the Windows-specific virus in the wild, those most likely arising from the VXers themselves mailing their malware to vendors, a common tactic about such s'kiddiots. Even though it doesn't work, AV vendors have updated their tools to detect Chet-A. Users are also advised, as always, to treat unsolicited email attachments with deep scepticism. ®
Boffins have harnessed advanced computer techniques to devise how to play a perfect game of Awari, an ancient board game originating in Africa that is more than 3,500 years old, for the first time. Awari is a two-player game where both players own six pits, in which stones are kept. These 48 stones are sown around over the pits, and can be captured according to the rules of the game. The objective of the game is to capture more than 24 stones. Although the rules are simple, the game requires deep strategic insight to be played well. Dutch computer scientists from the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam solved the game by developing a program that computes the best move and eventual outcome for all 889,063,398,406 positions that can possibly occur in a game. If played perfectly by both players, Awari results in a draw. To analyse the game, scientists used a large computer cluster of 36 IBM dual processor servers, featuring 1GHz Pentium III chips (72 processors in all). This cluster ran a newly developed fast, parallel algorithm which successfully generated a 778 GB database on the game in only 51 hours. Dr. John Romein and Professor Henri Bal, who led the work, had to overcome several obstacles in order to complete their task. One complication was that the available main memory, 72 GB, was far too small to hold the entire database. Another problem was the heavy communication between the processors, which strained the network used in the project. Having successfully completed this task, the researchers developed an invincible Awari program, which uses the database to play a perfect game. The game can be played online, with its default settings turned down so that humans stand a chance of winning. Although the research resulted in a faster parallel processing algorithm, Dr. Romein said it wasn't directed towards any particularly commercial application. The researchers took on their task out of a spirit of intellectual curiosity and the fun involved in developing a Web-based version of the venerable game. Romein told us, however, that the Dutch researchers intend to quit while they're ahead. It seems unlikely that games like chess and go will prove solvable in the foreseeable future, no matter how much computing power is thrown at the effort. Solving draughts (checkers) does seems feasible, but is not something the Dutch researchers have any plans to take on. ® Related Stories Greek govt bans all computer games Uni chess course aims to spawn smarter supercomputers
IT Security legend Stuart McClure - author of best-selling title "Hacking Exposed" - has just published the follow-up "Web Hacking: Attacks & Defense", a must-have for anyone interested in security. As usual, Register readers can get this title at a 30 per cent discount from IT-Minds.com, so it will cost you a cosy £26.59. Other titles available with the same 30 per cent discount this week include: Bulletproof Unix by Tim Gottleber Software Engineering for Real-time Systems STY Crystal Reports 9 in 24 Hours Cryptography & Network Security CCNP: Multilayer Switching Comp Guide Unix System Management Primer Plus UNIX Unleashed Linux Clusterin Adobe Type Library Reference Book And don't forget - Reg readers get all other titles from IT-minds.com at a 20 per cent discount. ®
It's all go on the 419 fraud front this week as the latest email circular breaks all previous records of riches beyond the wildest dreams of avarice. Not to outdone by the Nigerians, the white Zimbabwean farmers have rustled up an impressive $46 million dollars for immediate transfer to an honest and trustworthy partner abroad. Their contact man is Max Crawford - a good, solid Anglo name to be sure - although Max seems to have learnt his English in downtown Lagos. Still, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. It can't be easy spamming half of the western world while enraged war veterans are firing AK47s through your office window. Yup, this one looks legit alright: Dear Sir, I am Max Crawford, the secretary of Commercial farmers Union (CFU) OF Zimbabwe. After the last general elections in my country where the incumbent president Mr. Robert Mugabe won the presidential election, the government has adopted a very aggressive land reforms programme. This programme is solely aimed at taking the land owned by white African farmers for redistribution to black Africans. This programme has attracted worldwide condemnation from world leaders including British Prime Minister, Mr.Tony Blair and also forced several white farmers to flee the country for fear of victimization and physical abuse. A Few weeks ago, our headquarters in Harare was attacked and looted by black protesters and in the process burnt down the whole building. Fortunately, they did not get access to the huge funds kept in the strong room which belong to the co-operation. This cash was kept at the secretariat rather than in the bank for fear of seizure by the government. Now I have the funds in my possession and would need to get it Invested in a viable business venture in Europe. The cash in question is US$46Million dollars. Once I can get your commitment and sincerity of investing this fund on our behalf then I would proceed to get the funds freighted to Europe, where you would be required to pick it up for investment for us. You do not have anything to worry about as I would undertake all Charges involved in freighting the funds to Europe, and the business proposal is 100% legal and risk free. You would be adequately compensated for all your effort once we Have gotten the funds to Europe. Please get back to me if you can be of assistance and I would want our correspondence to be via email as most phone lines of white farmers are bugged by the government. Please reply to the following email addresses. William Hamilton ESQ (PRESIDENT CFU ZIMBABWE) email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org I expect 100% confidentiality and your prompt response to this mail so as to proceed. Kind regards, Max Crawford. So, there you go - a swift few million bucks just for helping a few beleaguered cattle-ranchers get their rightful wedge out of Zimbabwe. Can't be bad. Alternatively, for a entirely risk-free £14, you could kit yourself out in one of the few remaining Reg Nigerian 419 t-shirts. We can't promise you'll get rich quick, but your cup of admiring glances will certainly runneth over.® Bootnote Thanks to spamee Dean Varney for alerting us as to this quality business opportunity.
Episode 16Episode 16 BOFH 2002: Episode 16 So I'm at a Telecoms conference while The PFY minds the fort back at Mission Control. And roger me senseless with a vampire connector if I'm not sitting next to a bloke who's just dying to sell me something. He's so easy to spot they should slap photos of him on the sides of Chinese Aircraft as a USAF navigation aid. The silver suit was a dead giveaway, as was the keenness to sit next to someone he'd spotted arriving alone... "Amazing stuff this technology isn't it?" he whispers furtively, going for the back-entrance approach of pretending to be a fellow professional. "Technology?" I ask vacantly, playing along. "Yes, V-O-I-P," he mouths, using one of the crappest acronymns available on the market to date. "VOIP?" I ask vacantly. "You mean those planes that can take off like a helicopter?" "No, that's VTOL. I mean Voice Over I.P!" "IP?" "Yes, IP!" he replies, drawing an acronymic blank and deciding to bluff. Well, two can play at the idiot game! "Oh. That sounds a bit technical to me. I only came here because they said they were going to talk about how to reduce our phone bills." "THAT'S PRECISELY WHAT V-O.." the salesbloke begins excitedly. "..And there was lunch," I interrupt. "I remember they said there was a lunch thrown in! I never miss out on a good lunch - the chance to mingle, network, and maybe get some pointers from the real techno boffins!" He can smell blood in the water, but just wants to check the type before making his pitch. "And what do you do?" "Oh, I'm an IT Director." "Really, of....?" "The Dnebonk Group. A.. Danish company. It's very small here at the moment, but we're looking at expanding our operation into the UK, branches all over the place, that sort of thing. Anyway, they say we're going to be wanting to look at some leased thingies, a VPM or something, and some rooting things." "Really?" he drools, thinking of his potential commission and end-of-year bonus cheque "Yes, and I want to make sure I get the right stuff - I'm a bit of a duffer at this actually - as I have to get everything right before I put the setup budget plan in..." "Really? How many people will be situated in the off..." "Oh just five or so of us for now - But 30-40 about the place by year end." "I see. And who does your installation?" "Well I did," I admit, with a liberal coat of pride. "We have a dialup network. Obviously I'd get a network firm in when we get bigger, but for now we just use the local hardware suppliers." "And you have a maintenance contract?" "With Dixons? No, not yet. Do you think I should get one?" "You buy your stuff retail?" he gasps. "Well yes, for now - it's just easier. The company doesn't mind too much at the moment because they're still getting all the accounts set up, so it's pointless waiting till all that's done to buy stuff. So they just send me Bank Drafts till we're up and running. And it's small potatoes in the scheme of things - the company's loaded." Before I know it I've been dragged out of the conference like a shot and into an environment more suited to decision-making. The snug bar of the nearest drinking establishment. "For as little as, er, 50 quid per machine, we could get you some state-of-the-art.. thinwire cards and some multiport repeaters to hook them all up." "50 quid, is that cheap?" I ask naively whilst trying to get another pint in before he gets to his next item of computer scrap. "Well you won't see many for that price these days," he responds. . . two hours and seven pints later ... "Right, and what about that bundle price on that Operating System stuff. We buy 50 OS2s for 100 quid apiece, and you'll give me 20 quid trade in on my old Operating Systems. That saves me ?" "1000 quid!" he burbles. "AND, I'll throw the manuals in for free!!" I suppress the urge to say "into the bin" and instead nod my head appreciatively. The only concern I have is that I'm starting to like the idea, which can only mean one thing - I've had too much to drink and I need backup. "Right, well, I think I'd better get my technical bloke in to give it the once over," I mumble. "Technical bloke?" my salesguy cries unhappily. "I thought YOU were the technical bloke!" "Yeah, but we've got this young bloke in who installs all the stuff." I slur, "Crash hot at the screwdriver work, he is. Only he's probably going to need some pointers on where all the pieces go. But once he knows what he's doing, he's bloody aces!" I get The PFY on the cellphone and quicker than Richard Stallman can say "Free Beer" he's on the premises with a pint in his hand. "This is my technical assistant who they sent over from Norway just last week. Doesn't speak a word of English!" I don't know why I threw that in - and regret it immediately - but once it's out there what do you do? "Norway?!" the Salesbot asks - "I thought you said the company was from Denmark." "Yes, the COMPANY is," I respond, recovering from the oversight as soon as possible, "But the support guys are from Norway. Isn't that right Sven?" The PFY makes some dubious grunting noises and nods his head mindlessly for a bit until our Salesperson is assured that he's unlikely to constitute a threat to the sale. "I did a bit of freelance work in Norway years ago," The Salesbloke blurts, really starting to annoy me now, "and I've still got a bit of the lingo under my belt! Hey, ..." He proceeds to try and establish a protocol for exchange with The PFY, but that Comms circuit is just NEVER going to be established, so I have to think fast. "He only speaks Croatoinuit and a little bit of Portuguese-Danish. " "Inuit? That's Eskimo isn't it?" "Something like that. Which is why you need to SHOW him how to install things. But once he's got the hang of it there's no stopping him." "Well how do you talk to him?" "Well he's trying to learn English - but he's only mastered a few of the more common phrases." "That's terrible. You'd think they'd train him a bit better. Another Lager?" "Go on then," The PFY burbles, slapping his empty pint on the table. "That's one of the more common phrases?!" "It is in our company!" ... Three hours, 8 pints, a curry, a cigar and a strip club later... "Well it certainly has been a great day!" the Salesbloke says, pulling out an order form and writing some hasty line items on it. Leaving room for an extra zero or two in the qauntity column, I note. "How about we sign this stuff off and I'll process it tonight before I go home for you?" "Sounds great!" I slur, leaning on The PFY for support. "I'll give the signing guy a call." "Signing guy? "But I thought YOU could sign orders?" "Nah, he can only approve them." The PFY responds, having 'learnt' English at an astounding rate over the course of the night. "But the accounting bloke has to sign orders for him. Hang on, I'll give him a call - where are we?" I point out the street name and The PFY dials The Boss's home number and proceeds to do Swedish chef impressions down the line. "Buludddy nice bloke," The PFY mumbles to us. "But doesn't speak a word of PortugeseThingy. With you in a mo." . . . Three more hours, uncountable beers, curries, cigars etc later . . . It's hell being a computing professional. ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Rival 3G operators 02 and T-Mobile are close to receiving approval from the European Commission to share network capacity in the UK. Formal approval depends on follow a month of consultations among interested parties, but this seems increasingly unlikely to block the process. A green light from Brussels would also allow O2 and T-Mobile to link up their networks in Germany. By sharing network capacity operators could save around a third of the cost of in setting up 3G networks, the FT estimates. As well as saving cash-strapped telcos huge amounts of money, sharing network capacity minimises the need to erect further mobile phone mast, increasingly seen as eyesores and viewed by some as a possible heath risk. O2 spokesman Simon Gordon said the network sharing arrangement is expected to save the two operators £1.2 billion in capital expenditure over the next ten years. By working together on linking up their networks, both O2 and T-Mobile will enjoy greater coverage when services launch, he added. The Commission's decision on the O2-T-Mobile deal is expected to act as a blueprint for future co-operation in sharing network costs. In the UK, O2 and T-Mobile are proposing to share urban base station sites. The countryside will be split into various regions or territories where one or other of the operators will build and run a 3G network, which can be used by the other service provider. The Germany arrangement is less specific about setting up territories. Competitors, particularly in Germany, are expected to make some criticism of these arrangements and seek to obtain restrictions or guarantees on the deal from Brussels. Its also possible different telecoms policies from rival parties fighting the forthcoming German elections might have an effect. These factors might modify the deal, but are most unlikely to break it, after the Commission gave its first indication this week that it intends to approve the 02/T-Mobile deal on some terms. ® Related Stories BT confirms 3G building contract with Deutsche Telekom Hutchison signs 3G leasing deal with mmO2
Colt Telecom could be about to shed 1,000 jobs amid the continuing difficult business environment facing the industry. According to insiders the jobs are due to go over the next couple of months with employees bracing themselves to find out if they are among those to face the chop. The Register understands that big losses could be seen in Colt's European operations, with some satellite offices reduced to little more than skeleton staffing levels. In the six months to the end of June, Colt reported that sales had increased to £505.05m against £433.5m during the same period the year before. It made a pretax loss before exceptionals of £129.5m against £108.2m during H1 2001. In the first six months of 2002 the company reduced its workforce by 214 employees and shed 156 temporary and contract workers. In a statement accompanying its H1 results in July Colt said it would "continue to improve [its] operating efficiencies". Colt employs around 5,000 staff. No one from Colt returned phone calls or was available for comment at the time of writing. ®
We used to come to Intel Developer Forums to sniff out speeds and feeds. These days, the most interesting stuff is tangential to Intel's traditional PC business, which has now become so competitive that Intel can't afford to leave an announcement on ice for a major keynote. If the two coincide, all well and good. But with this PC business in its most serious recession ever, Intel also appreciates that helping infrastructure and markets grow is more important than tightening up the process and ratcheting up the clock frequencies. So it makes some guesses - some perspicacious, some simply hopeful, and a few quite hilariously hope-less. We'll update this roundup throughout the remainder of the show. Ultra Wide Band Back in February, Intel gave the first public demonstration of UltraWideBand networking, which transmits data in short pulses over a wide range of the spectrum. GPS systems didn't stop working, and the world carried on much as before. UWB performance drops off dramatically: the 400-500 mbps throughput at distances of 10 metres falls to about 25 mbps at 20 metres. So this clearly isn't a cellphone replacement technology, when rural cells span 20 miles. You can build more cells, but technology isn't the problem here, as much as politics: more cells means more planning permits. However, it's a libertarian's wet dream, because they can dream that only an artificial government-created scarcity stands between us and nerdvana, when in fact this artificially-created scarcity stands between us and a mess that looks even worse than the current cellphone free-for-all. Intel's Carol Jacobsen described it as a promising technology for high speed, short range connectivity, and a bad choice for WLANs. Intel envisages it in a point to point and PAN (personal area networking) successor to Bluetooth. UWB is simply the physical layer of the stack, and a IEEE working group is expected to define the MAC interfaces by 2004, with the first standards-based products hitting the market the following year. Bluetooth MIA But not without a hitch, if we can take Sean Maloney at his word. The Brit runs Intel's network division and told us yesterday that every new network technology gets a good kicking before it's finally accepted by the market. Bluetooth had just received such a kicking, he said. Maloney dissed suggestions that we have years and years of excess capacity in our communications infrastructure after the latest splurge of capital investment, and he expected to see growth in the network market. Where, I asked him? Most of the decisions for deploying 2.5G and 3G had already been taken. Maloney said he expected explosive growth from 802.11 networks. (Intel is building 802.11 support into its mobile chipsets). That was the only mention of Bluetooth, which is odd, as figures here suggest Bluetooth will be shipping as many units in a week as 802.11 will in a year. (Note: this is a Bluetooth vendor writing, and can hardly be expected to be unbiased, but unless cellphones are banned overnight, the trend is clear). Where Intel should step in, is to create a clean and free Bluetooth stack for every PC operating system under the sun. Microsoft has veered between dissing Bluetooth and hugging it to death, and while device to device connections are OK, device to PC connectivity is a mess. Maloney's point, that process improvements (9 nanometers imminent, 6 next) permit much more integration, was amplified in a Labs Wireless session later yesterday, which reiterated the goal to put the analog parts of radio onto the chip. This "soft radio" project could take seven years. This was one of many talks that grappled with the problem of intelligent roaming between network technologies. How could we take our notebook PC from a meeting at a wireless hotspot, and keep our connection on the packet data network provided by the cellphone carrier? "If I could solve that problem I'd be the richest man in the world," he said. "I think Nokia already has," whispered my friend from The Guardian, who pointed out that the Finns already have an 802.11 card with a GPRS SIM built-in. And they're not alone, for the industry crossed this river about a year ago. Carriers were once terrified of 802.11, and wanted to squeeze every second of airtime out of users. Now they're broke, and 3G revenues are a long way away, and squabbling over pennies isn't so clever. Every carrier is embracing WLAN hotspots, and we'll see some interesting client devices as a result. But perhaps not quite as Intel envisages. One of its concept designs, a "Digital Briefcase" was a lunchbox-sized device that included biometrics ... a video camera! .... with MPEG playback! ... wireless capabilities! ... and a color screen! In other words, it looked like one of these, which is somewhat smaller than a lunchbox, as you know. Aaarggh. Sometimes the most instructive gift you can possibly give a labs-bound wireless engineer isn't an oscilloscope, but a return plane ticket to Finland or Sweden. ®