19th > September > 2002 Archive

Sun discloses UltraSPARC VI and VII, shows IV silicon

Sun's processor roadmap is at sixes and sevens - or VIs and VIIs to be more precise. The company has disclosed for the first time that it has embarked on UltraSPARCVII (7) work and has been working on USVI (6) for some time, Sun's David Yen said today, in response to a question from The Register. Yen is executive VP of the processor and network products groups at Sun. We were musing how long it had been since we heard about USV, and whether Sun thought the announced cores would be enough to provide for its future needs. Well, obviously not - as you now know. The even and odd numbers are compatible Yen reminded us, and USVI work has been underway "for some time". Yen said Sun has started on USVII. This would be a "very impressive processor" he said. Why? "Each new project has the advantage of the maturity of the computing infrastructure," he told us, "so we know our requirements better. USVII will have some new concepts," he added before clamming up completely. Earlier, Yen displayed UltraSPARC IV silicon for the first time. But blink and you'll have missed it: and it was intended to be ironic. Yen was flashing around the silicon die at the conference, he said, to demonstrate that that flashing around silicon dies at conferences doesn't prove anything. "Last week Intel rushed in and desperately tried to persuade people that Itanium is still alive. All they could do was show Maddison silicon. This is working UltraSPARC IV silicon," he said, taking the die from his breast pocket. "Well, probably not anymore." Yen's point was that "we do kind of like to show processors at the right time - there's still some amount of work from producing working silicon and a shipping tested reliable working system". "We will officially make an announcement at the right time." But that won't be Microprocessor Forum. Sun has no plans to divulge information on either UltraSPARC IV or UltraSPARC V, which is slated to follow hot on its heels, at the MDR annual event. Last year Sun has a strong presence announcing the UltraSPARC IIIi "Jalapeno" processor. Er, yes … quite. Remember Jalapeno? Mike Splain, CTO of Sun's microprocessor group (see Monday interview) today told us that this was simply bad timing - there was no beef with the Forum. ® Related Stories UltraSPARC III hits 1.2GHz Sun chip chief - Real men can't afford fabs
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Sep 2002

No escape act for General Magic

General Magic Inc, a provider of speech recognition technology, is to cease operations in the face of dwindling revenues and its failure either to obtain additional financing or find a merger partner. While the demise of the Sunnyvale, California-based company, which made a $5.4m loss on revenue of revenue of $2.1m in its last quarter, is hardly a surprise, what is remarkable is that no one was prepared to make a bid for a company that had customers of the stature of General Motors. With just $6.5m left in the bank, the company said it will discontinue operations from the close of business yesterday and initiate "an orderly and expeditious liquidation of its business." Most of the 80-strong workforce will leave immediately, but a small team will remain to manage the sale of assets and handle obligations to creditors. Another team will remain to ensure the transfer of obligations under a $2.4m contract with General Motors' subsidiary OnStar. General Magic is a comparative veteran, having been formed in the early 1990s by former Apple Computer Inc staff. With funding from Apple, AT&T Corp and Sony Corp, it held a successful IPO in 1995. But it always lacked focus, initially positioning itself as a intelligent agent software and handheld operating system developer. Its financial history suggests that those behind the company found it more exciting to develop technology than to make money. Its technology was certainly appealing and in 1998 Microsoft Corp invested $6m in the company to gain an 11.9% stake and gain access to its technology. General Magic saw great potential in the Serengeti computer network service, which was designed to integrate email, faxes, address book, calendar, news and stock quote information in one place, accessible through the phone or via a browser. The system, subsequently renamed Portico, was trialled by many of the major US phone operators. But by 1999, the company slide had begun and it was forced to cut its workforce by 20%. Latterly the company had concentrated on VoiceXML & J2EE-based systems designed to enable companies to integrate voice access into enterprise applications. On the news yesterday, the company's shares slumped 84% to $0.04 and the once-fashionable company is now worth just $373,000. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 19 Sep 2002
SGI logo hardware close-up

Cisco adds Dell to competition

If Cisco Systems Inc's reasons for dumping Dell Computer Corp as a reseller last week were in any doubt, the company dispelled it yesterday. Cisco thinks Dell is a competitor. In the company's 10-K annual report, filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday, the company listed Dell alongside the likes of 3Com, Ericsson, Foundry, Lucent and Nortel when it disclosed where it sees competition. Dell was not listed in last year's report. It emerged last week that from late this month, Dell will no longer be an approved reseller of Cisco kit. It is believed that Dell is thinking about expanding its line of PowerConnect switches from Layer 2 routing to Layer 3 routing, essentially moving Dell in direct competition with Cisco's flagship Catalyst core routers. Dell told us at the time that the company has not announced any new networking products, but said it is "looking at" the market. The firm, best known for its PCs and servers, is looking to expand into other hardware, such as printers, as it seeks revenue growth. Dell has been known to have a commoditizing effect on markets it enters, possibly giving Cisco some cause for concern. Dell also has reseller deals with Extreme Networks Inc, Nortel Networks Ltd and Enterasys Inc that it may rely on when the Cisco deal ends on September 27. © ComputerWire Related story Cisco expels Dell from reseller fold
ComputerWire, 19 Sep 2002

UnitedLinux might not be very GPL-friendly

UnitedLinux held a telephone party yesterday to announce new general manager Paula Hunter and talk about its open beta release. Lots of curious journalists showed up. The question-askers all had a cynical air about them, and yet UnitedLinux bigwigs didn't seem surprised by the grilling. The underlying question still: what will UnitedLinux mean in the big picture that is Linux business? Our question: what about the GPL? (Also inside, an open letter to the UnitedLinux group from the FSF.) The UnitedLinux people shielded Hunter from having to answer any technical questions about Linux (or Line-Ux as the conference call coordinator pronounced it), when someone asked just how much experience she's had with Linux and Free Software anyway. Some thought it odd that Ransom Love is no longer in the picture either at SCO or UnitedLinux (Paula didn't really have an answer for that either.) And there was talk from some journalists about the possibility of the separate Linux companies that make up UnitedLinux simply merging to form one gigantic Linux behemoth that could be the unstoppable Goliath all corporate guys lust after. UL batted its eyelashes at that suggestion, not willing to play kiss and tell just yet. But what we at NewsForge really wanted to know was how UnitedLinux is planning to stay true to the heart of Linux -- the GNU General Public License. Nobody else seemed interested, so we asked how UL managed to release a closed beta and still comply with the terms of the GPL. UnitedLinux admitted it had its partners sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to use the closed beta, which likely means that UL violated the copyright of kernel developers everywhere and others who have contributed to GNU/Linux. If the NDA was structured so that the GPL would take precedence on non-proprietary, Free Software elements of the software, then that NDA would not violate the terms of the GPL. It is more likely, however, that the NDA squashed the GPLed freedoms by forcing recipients of the closed beta to agree that they would not redistribute any portion of the software. Bradley Kuhn, executive director of the Free Software Foundation, was also on the conference call, and he asked the UnitedLinux hosts if they would be willing, as a show of solidarity with the Free Software and Open Source communities, to open up their NDA to inspection in order to show that they did comply with the terms of the GPL. They said they'd take that under advisement. But I wouldn't hold my breath. Kuhn followed up his phone question with this open letter, sent to all members of UnitedLinux: Dear UnitedLinux Board of Managers, On the conference call announcement that occurred on 18 September 2002, you indicated that you'd be willing to release to the Free Software community the terms that of your "closed beta" NDA, to show that your closed beta was indeed distributed in compliance with the terms of the GNU General Public License and the GNU Lesser General Public License. As you know, distribution of any type is still distribution under copyright law, and thus requires that you properly comply with terms of GPL and LGPL. Of course, it is your prerogative to distribute only to those parties you wish to receive a copy, but you may not restrict those parties' rights under GNU GPL and LGPL. However, since nearly all of the volunteers from the Free Software community (your fellow developers) did not receive a copy of the so-called "closed beta", we ask that in a show of good faith, you make available at least the terms of distribution you used for that product. Even as you release your new product to the public, the past situation must be clarified. Not only does the community deserve to know, but I also believe it behooves you to put to rest and clarify the legal ambiguities that arise naturally from doing a "closed beta" of GPL'ed software. I look forward to your prompt response, and thank you for taking my question today. I presume that you are acting in full compliance with GPL; this is just a matter of clarifing that fact for the community. Sincerely, Bradley M. Kuhn Executive Director, Free Software Foundation Other so-called Linux advocates don't seem to be too concerned about the closed tendencies showing up in UnitedLinux: Linux International and the Free Standards Group are two .orgs that have endorsed the group, composed of Turbolinux, SCO, SuSE, and Conectiva. Pundits have suggested that Linux International and the Free Standards Group may have even signed NDAs themselves. So what's the big deal? UnitedLinux is going to put a public beta online in the next week or so, and the source code will be included for free (even though it doesn't have to be free). UL will only charge for commercial use. But will they include the source on that? And will there be another NDA to sign? That's the big deal: Is UnitedLinux down with the idea behind software libre, or are they just trying to become a Red Hat killer and Linux oligopoly in order to make some fast bucks? After all, Turbolinux, SCO, SuSE and Conectiva have not been known as staunch Free Software adherents -- unlike two other commercial distros: Mandrake and Red Hat. A little more openness, a little more communications, and maybe a peek at the NDA would go a long way in developing trust in the community which has so generously provided to UL years of hard work on the Linux kernel and other Free Software. © Newsforge.com.
Tina Gasperson, 19 Sep 2002

Watch out! the audicons are coming

Irish company 2PM Technologies has unveiled a new application that will let users send whimsical noises alongside audible SMS messages. The noises, which can be attached to any standard text message, have been dubbed audicons, because they are designed to have a similar effect as emoticons, which have been used for years in SMS messages, IM messages and e-mails. Text only smiley faces, such as :-) are typical emoticons. To attach an audicon to a message, users simply write out a text message and include a special audicon sequence of characters to generate the sound to associate with the message. For example, an SMS reading "Congratulations on winning the big match [cheers]," would include a cheering sound effect. Additionally, messages that include audicons can be sent to any phone, including fixed-line phones that generally cannot receive SMS messages. This is because the service dumps audicon text messages into users' voicemail boxes in the form of an audio message that includes the audicon. "MMS will make money when it arrives, but this service is a way to exploit text revenues today," explained Ray Collis, sales and marketing director for 2PM. "We have gone away from technology for technology's sake. This technology has been designed to help [fixed-line] telecoms increase revenues." Although estimates vary, the number of SMS messages sent each month worldwide has skyrocketed from four billion in mid-2000, to an estimated current monthly rate of about 30 billion. Moreover these figures are projected to grow to 100 billion per month by 2005 and currently about 10 percent of mobile operators' revenues come from SMS messages. Until recently, most of the revenues for SMS have gone to the mobile operators. Services, such as the one unveiled by 2PM and Eircom's soon to launch fixed-line SMS service, are designed to help fixed-line operators tap into the ever-growing SMS market. Consumer research by 2PM suggests that, once the fixed line networks in the UK adopt emerging mobile-to-fixed line SMS technology, up to 17 percent more text messages could be sent as a result, on top of the 1.4 billion a month that are already sent in the UK. "Our consumer research suggests that most people will use it the same way that they use mobile-to-mobile messaging now: quite happily and in great volumes," claimed Audrey McCallum, business development director and head of 2PM Technologies UK office. "The only pre-condition for these applications becoming reality is for the fixed line operators to recognise the revenue opportunity it opens up to them." The technology behind the audicon service is 2PM's core messaging platform is named the Media Interworking Gateway (MiG), which essentially gives telecoms the ability to convert messages from any format into any other format. Telecoms network operators that employ MiG could, for example, let users access e-mails over SMS, or receive SMS messages over a fax machine. Voice, e-mail, SMS, WAP and fax all become interchangeable through MiG, the company claims. 2PM employs around 45 and has offices in Athlone, Ireland and Plymouth. The company has received investments from Enterprise Ireland and ICC Venture Capital. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 19 Sep 2002

Prudential sues Unisys for £12m

Prudential, the UK insurance giant, is sueing Unisys for £12m over an Internet based IT system which failed to "failures and inabilities to perform its obligations". Called "Unite", the system was designed to enable Prudential sales agents to process orders over the Internet in near real time. Only it didn't work. Now the company is seeking the return of its outlay, at least £12m, while Unisys is estimated to have spent £10m on the doomed project, according to CW360.com. Prudential's claim could rise to £15m, according to the the IT news site, which notes that this is the third time that Unisys has seen court action over the early termination of an insurance project. The Unite system was based upon Unisure, Unisys's flagship insurance app. ®
Drew Cullen, 19 Sep 2002

Intel cranks up Celeron to 2GHz

Intel yesterday began shipping a 2GHz Celeron chip, which means that tcheap PC you buy for Christmas needn't run like a dachshund. Celerons are aimed at the budget PC market, also occupied by AMD's Durons (for now - AMD is winding down Duron production in 2003). Intel's new top-of-the line chip is certainly cheap - $103 a pop in 1,000 units - Intel can price the part this low partly because it is manufactured on the 0.13m process line. What else? The 2GHz Celeron has a 400MHz system bus and uses 478-pin packaging. ®
Drew Cullen, 19 Sep 2002

Internet filtering software ‘damages educational opportunities’

Surprise, surprise, Internet filtering 'wrongly blocks many sites', according to a new study on the use of this technology in schools. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Online Policy Group ran "Internet searches on Internet searches of all topics from the state-mandated curriculums of California, Massachusetts, and North Carolina", through two censorware packages, N2H2's Bess and SurfControl. Here are the preliminary conclusion, based upon the examination of nearly a million web pages. Schools that implement Internet blocking software with the least restrictive settings will block tens of thousands of web pages inappropriately, either because the web pages are miscategorized or because the web pages, while correctly categorized, do not merit blocking. A large proportion of blocked sites are miscategorized-- probably about half of the sites blocked. Although curriculum topic categories more often blocked by N2H2's Bess product in an East Coast high school include such topics as the Klan (36% blocked), firearms (50%), drunk driving, slavery, genocide, and perjury (33%), they also contain topics such as pogo-stick (46%), comedy (42%), personal care (32%), likes and dislikes (32%), blend sounds to make words (24%), write or dictate short poems (32%), and "examine the effect of political programs and activities of Populists" (100%). Schools that implement Internet blocking software with the least restrictive settings will block between 1/2% and 5% of search results based on state-mandated curriculum topics. Schools that implement Internet blocking software with the most restrictive settings will block up to 70% of search results based on state-mandated curriculum topics. The report is published in full in mid-October. Here is the URL (there's nothing there yet, so this is for bookmarking purposes only). In the meantime, you can find links to more EFF advisories on censorware here. ®
Drew Cullen, 19 Sep 2002

SK govt ‘sceptical’ of Hynix independence

The South Korea government is 'sceptical' of Hynix's ability to survive on its own, because of falling memory prices. Speaking yesterday, SK Finance Minister Jeon Yun Churl said the memory maker's future will be decided 'soon'. The government is awaiting a report from Deutsche Bank which is mulling break-up, sell-off, or lots more taxpayers' money sunk into the strick DRAM producer, Bloomberg reports. Earlier this month the Korea Economic Daily reported comments from Lee Keun-young, head of Korea's Financial Supervisory Commission, that "Hynix must be sold overseas before the December presidential elections." The government wants Hynix to open up talks again with Micron, and soon, to avoid its sale turning into an election issue. But if Micron returns to the table - and it may prefer to avoid this headache - it will be offering much less money this time around. Hynix is the world's third biggest memory company, and by far the weakest financially. Micron, the US DRAM rival, bid $3.4bn for the firm in April after months of tortuous negotiations, but was rebuffed, after everyone thought the deal was sealed. Korea's intensely nationalistic unions were aghast at the thought of Hynix falling into the hands of an overseas firm, and were horrified at the thought of huge job losses. At the time, memory prices were on the rise, for the first time in more than a year, so the argument from the unions was that Hynix could trade its way through to profitablility.Since then, memory prices have sunk back again to historically low, lossmaking levels. The upshot, Hynix was left in financial limbo until control of the company was seized by the creditors in June this year. Hynix is still in limbo - the debtholders, largely banks, have no longterm interest in running a semiconductor firm. Our guess is also that Hynix is losing market share - even if it is dumping product into the EU, as Infineon alleges. This week, Samsung, the world's biggest DRAM maker, said that its slice of the world DRAM market has jumped from 27 per cent in 2001 to 33 per cent in 2002. Samsung also announced that it is to make 90nm DRAM chips. This will press home a unit cost advantage once the new chips start rolling, but of course this production process costs an awful lot of money to get off the ground. Money which Hynix doesn't have. How can it keep pace with the capital outlays of competitors? Answer: it can't. ® Related stories Hynix and Micron agree to agree Hynix union comes out fighting Micron walks away from Hynix
Drew Cullen, 19 Sep 2002

BT blankets TV with broadband ads

BT is to spend a whopping £33m over the next couple of weeks in a bid to double the take-up of broadband in the UK. From Sunday the monster telco is to spend £1m a day in a ten-day nation-wide TV campaign to plug broadband. Immediately after it will launch into a £23m campaign promoting its no-frills, access-only BT Broadband service with the view of signing up 500,000 customers by next summer. The 10 days of blanket TV advertising is a key part of BT's drive to get one million ADSL broadband connections by summer 2003. It's also designed to increase the average weekly sign-up to ADSL from 12,000 to 24,000. Speaking to The Register BT Retail CEO Pierre Danon said: "It is ambitious but we have enough indications that we can do it." He argued that the scale of what BT is doing is yet further indication of the telco's intention "to put broadband at the heart of BT" while becoming the "flag-bearer for the industry in the government's drive to make Broadband Britain a reality". BT reckons its broadband strategy will generate £681 million a year by 2004/05. The official launch of the no-frills, access-only BT Broadband service is set for early next month. However, it's been available since June, during which time some 10,000 people have signed up. "This campaign, on top of the other initiatives BT Group has introduced in recent months to kick-start the market, should help provide all operators supplying broadband in the UK with the launch pad they need to sell their products and services in unprecedented numbers," said Danon. BT has also signed up high street retailer Carphone Warehouse to help flog the no-frills BT Broadband service. ® Related Stories BT boss talks up broadband BT Broadband has arrived BT Broadband not sexy enough BT to launch cheaper 'no frills' ADSL service
Tim Richardson, 19 Sep 2002

VIA climbs on Quad Band Memory bandwidth wagon

VIA and its US sub S3 Graphics are to produce chipsets which support Quad Band Memory (QBM). This memory technology, from Kentron Technologies, is designed to double the bandwidth of DDR SDRAM. Kentron's pitch for QBM is that it "provides DDR II speeds, cost savings and a dramatic performance improvement over DDR333 and future DDR 400 and DDR II modules, as well as other non-DDR compatible, more expensive memory technologies". The point is that DDR II devices are not out on the market yet - maybe 2004, maybe 2005 - while the first QBM QBM533 (PC4200) memory modules should be available for eval at the end of this year and swinging off the production lines in Q1, 2003. Also QBM is 'evolutionary' i.e. no big system redesigns, backward incompatibilities etc. You can find a technical FAQ for spec, architecture, product launches and the like at Kentron's Quad Band Memory web site. Armed with a Kentron license, VIA/S3 will build QBM-enable chipsets for PC, server and workstation markets. According to Kentron "developers that use QBM enabled chipsets from VIA and S3 will immediately find themselves in a very strong, market leading position". Hmm. Most OEMs have successfully resisted the blandishments of VIA, so far as Pentium 4 is concerned. VIA's stand-off with Intel over P4 licences is hurting the Taiwanese firm a helluva lot more than Chipzilla. Until VIA signs an official licence with Intel, P4 mobo makers will continue to flock to Intel or SiS chipsets. VIA/S3 will try to address this by building their own QBM-enabled mobos. The next big challenge is to sell these - the Pentium 4 flavours, at any rate - to the system builders. reg;
Drew Cullen, 19 Sep 2002

Record biz rips off UK – a history lesson

Punters steal when they swap music over P2P services, right? So what is the music industry doing when it sends in the goons to stop retailers from importing CDs? That's what happened in the UK, where the Office of Fair Trading has uncovered evidence of anti-competitive behaviour in the UK CD market. It's a history lesson, the events took place two years ago: CDs were cheaper in mainland Europe than in the UK, maybe - the OFT has not nailed down the proof - because the music companies were charging higher wholesale prices in the UK than on the Continent. The obvious thing then for retailers was to import CDs from Europe, enabling them to sell to the UK general public for up to £2 a pop less than UK-sourced product. And what did the record companies do? Here is a list of practices, itemised by the OFT. agreements with some retailers not to import - some offered retailers discounts and/or marketing and promotional support favourable terms being given to retailers who didn't import - such as volume discounts set at such a level that they could not be achieved if significant numbers of CDs were imported threats to retailers who did import that they would lose their discounts and marketing and promotional support. The practices were in the past, there's no evidence that they are still happening and, besides, prices are more aligned with mainland Europe so there's little pressure for parallel importing, anyhow. The upshot is that the music majors, accounting for 75 per cent of the UK's annual £2bn CD sales, have escaped fines and referral to the Competition Commission. But the OFT warns: "The major record companies - an international showcase for British talent - must not create barriers to international competition that harm British consumers. Free competition is the way forward, and the industry is on notice that the OFT will act if anti-competitive agreements are found in the future." But they did create barriers, didn't they? Each CD that they successfully prevented being imported was £2 stolen from their paying customers in the UK. ®
Drew Cullen, 19 Sep 2002

Rural Hants could get wireless broadband

Rural Hampshire could be getting broadband, according to the boss of Andover-based Net outfit SP10. Marc Warman hopes to provide a wireless broadband service in the south of England by the end of the year, once he gets the go-ahead to install half a dozen base stations around Hampshire and Sussex. SP10 already has around 1,500 people - including Hampshire County Council - trialling the service in and around the Andover area. That could increase considerably if the service delivers what is promised. The cost of installation starts from £150 and mostly subscription for a 512k service costs £29.99 a month. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 Sep 2002

MS slammed for antitrust deal violations in XP, Win2k SPs

ProComp, the Sun-, Oracle- and usual suspects-backed lobbying group set up to push for tougher measures against Microsoft, has launched an attack on WinXP SP1 and Win2k SP3, saying they contain clear violations of the MS-DoJ proposed antitrust settlement terms they're claimed by Microsoft to comply with. That is not of course to say that ProComp would be happy with those terms even if the Service Packs did meet them - it would not - but it has taken the opportunity to send an extended and reasonably well-researched 'told you so' to the DoJ, listing six claimed violations, and it intimates that its study of Microsoft's API disclosure procedures will follow shortly. ProComp's study, we are pleased to note, supports several of The Register's preliminary observations on SP3; it does major on XP SP1, but the two are similar in intent and execution. The new 'Set Program Access and Defaults' item introduced with the stated aim of allowing users to hide access to Microsoft middleware and substitute other products is confusing, and will only make it easier to substitute products if those products have been redesigned to comply with, er, the new Set Program Access and Defaults. ProComp notes that you could do something pretty similar with add/remove, and actually if Microsoft was really complying rather than doing the old dumb insolence stuff (we paraphrase a tad here), then the system could check the hard disk to see what possible rivals were installed. Which is true enough - Microsoft's quick enough to check out what you've got when you're using, say, Windows Update. Which brings us onto 'and another thing.' In order to download SP1 you need to be running Internet Explorer, so if you've already bundled it off somewhere into the bowels of your hard disk you can't get either your bugfix or the the compliance routines. This, according to a Register reality check we just performed, is not entirely true. Start at the Microsoft front page, go to get SP1 and opt for express install and you do get kicked to Windows Update which then tells you to clear off if you're running Opera pretending to be Mozilla (which we are today). But follow the network install link instead and it will allow you to download in a single file, while the link that went live slightly ahead of MS announcing SP1 is still here. ProComp would however argue that it's the front door route that counts, and that people having to figure their way around the barbed wire for themselves is just the same old story, not compliance. Which seems reasonable. And as it took us a whole five seconds to insert the link above, Microsoft putting it on the get SP1 page would also seem reasonable. But, erm, here comes ProComp with another objection or two. Set Program Access and Defaults has a non-obvious name, no instructions with it and you can only get it attached to SP1/SP3, when it is in essence a trivially small routine. Not everybody is going to have the facility to download a very large service pack, if there are known issues with their own setup they may not want to apply the service pack, and $10 for the CD version looks like Microsoft making itself more money out of not pretending to comply with the settlement when it's not really doing so. Well yes, that would also seem reasonable. There is, furthermore, an interesting claim made in the document. Many OEMs do not, it says, intend to start shipping new machines with SP1 applied until next year. Naturally they need some time to check it with their hardware, but they have had it for a while, and they could have had it tested and installed for the Q4 sales (cross fingers) rush, so what's their problem? It's not as if there aren't any security rollups in SP1... In addition to the gripes above (which cover three claimed violations), ProComp has these. Shop for Music in the MyMusic folder has IE popping up straight away, no matter what you selected (this is valuable research - The Register does not know anyone who'd be likely to ever try this). Set Program Access and Defaults does not disable the .NET Common Language runtime, and the implementation of the system in Win2k is substantially less intuitive than in XP. The Register was equally baffled by both, but as it is also baffled by add/remove these days, what do we know? We do however have a vague feeling that once upon a time add/remove was somewhat more intuitive than it is now. Are we right, or are we losing it? Anyway, the full ProComp document, in terms far more outraged and colourful than we feel inclined to muster, is available here. ProComp itself is here. ®
John Lettice, 19 Sep 2002

LCD monitor sales pedal backward in Q2

LCD desktop monitor sales in Europe fell for the first quarter ever in Q2 this year. Two quarters of consecutive price rises proved too much for the already weak PC market to bear it seems - In France, Spain and the UK, LCD market share compared with CRTs actually fell in Q2. But if sales of LCD were down in Q2, the long-term trend is up. Take a gander at CRT desktop unit sales, down more than 20 per cent on Q2, last year, against a backdrop of an overall year-on-year fall of two per cent. Sales of desktop monitors, of all categories, in Q2 were down a whopping 20.9 per cent on Q1 this year. These figures are supplied by UK consultancy Meko which tracks anything with a pixel. According to its estimates, LCD sales volumes in Europe in Q2 were approx. 1.9 million units, 15.9 per cent down on Q1, 2002. Year on year sales were up more than 130 per cent. Fifteen-inch LCD monitors sales were particularly badly affected in Q2 with sales down 18 per cent sequentially. Meko notes that the Far Eastern LCD panel makers have moved "more production to larger screen sizes in order to keep average selling prices and margins as high as possible". But with limited effect: Prices for 17in LCD monitors have "continued to fall as LG Philips LCD in Korea and a number of Taiwanese panel makers increased availability of this screen size". The result is that 17in LCD screen sales rose in Q2, the only category to do so. Judging from Meko's figures, 18in screen sales are getting squeezed between the 17in and 19in models. Sales in this category fell by more than 29 per cent sequentially and grew only 82.8 per cent year on year. Meko attributes this to the lack of large volume corporate projects, notably in the UK, France and Germany. The new 19in LCD screens are coming to market in a variety of shapes and resolutions. Meko is putting its stake in the ground and forecasts that in this category monitors with a "resolution of 1.9 megapixels (1600 x 1200) will win in the end because they increase the visual bandwidth for the user", The top five LCD monitor vendors by volume in the European LCD desktop monitor market is (in descending order): HP, Samsung, Dell, Philips and Fujitsu Siemens. ®
Drew Cullen, 19 Sep 2002

NHS PKI project in sick bay

All is not well in the changeover of digital certificate technology providers used to transfer pathology results within the NHS. In May this year the original provider Royal Mail ViaCode closed its digital certificate operation citing slow development of the market and a failure to reach profitability. The NHS Information Authority selected EDS as ViaCode's successor and set a timetable for the transfer. he ViaCode PKI was to be switched off on August 13 and the EDS system was supposed to issue new keys from August 19. A month later and the service still isn't up and running. The latest NHSIA bulletin on the PKI migration notes: "Integration testing is still running behind schedule due to both technical difficulties encountered and response times from the managed service provider; communications have now been further formalised and all parties are committed to completing the testing in as short a time as possible." The NHSIA expresses a low confidence 'aim' that the service will be available from September 30, or soon thereafter. The six-week (absolute minimum) outage in the PKI services will have a knock-on effect. The NHSIA has mposed an internal deadline for local projects to complete end-to-end testing of the paths service, from Labs to GPs, for the end of the year. But delays at the NHSIA/EDS end will make this very difficult, perhaps impossible to achieve. Currently, there is no sign that the NHSIA is prepared to relax this deadline, insiders say. ® External Links Implementing National Standard Pathology Reports Messaging - links to NHSIA documents on the issue Related Stories Digital certificates for UK pathology results Royal Mail pulls plug on ViaCode digital certificate Royal E-Mail backs security service with a £100K bond
John Leyden, 19 Sep 2002

Greek gaming tragedy turns to farce

The Greek gaming tragedy is fast sliding into farce. Last week a Greek judge threw out a case against two cybercafe owners from Thessaloniki, ruling that a law banning computer games was unconstitutional. Had they been found guilty, the two proprietors and an employee could have faced a three month jail sentence and fines of about E5,000 each, along with the loss of their business licences. The game-banning law was introduced to crack down on Internet gambling. Trouble is, this sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut legislation also made it illegal to play computer games in public. So the judge's decision to throw out the case appeared to be a return to good old-fashioned common sense. Not so. Yesterday, an appeals court overturned the decision and ordered a retrial. According to Ananova no trial has been set yet. The farce continues. ® Related Stories Greek court throws out gaming ban case Greek govt bans all computer games Greek ban on gaming threatens Internet cafes
Tim Richardson, 19 Sep 2002

Linux rootkit hacker suspect arrested in UK

A 21-year old from Surbiton, Surrey has been arrested on suspicion of writing and distributing the T0rn rootkit, which dumbs down the process of hacking Linux servers. Officers from Scotland Yard's Computer Crime Unit arrested the man for alleged offences under Computer Misuse Act 1990 earlier this week, as part of a joint FBI/Scotland Yard investigation into the creation of the T0rn rootkit. A search warrant was served and computer equipment seized from his house. Today the man was released on police bail until October pending further inquiries. The T0rn rootkit has been a hazard for system admins since its creation two years ago, most particularly when the rootkit was bundled as the backdoor component of the Lion worm, released in the middle of last year. Lion, which attacked vulnerable Linux BIND (DNS) servers, was a particularly nasty little package. It left infected victims with no choice but to re-format their entire systems and rebuild from scratch. TOrn is explained in greater detail here. ®
John Leyden, 19 Sep 2002

HP issues statement on Compaq Fujitsu HDD failures

Last week we reported a product recall - sorry replacement - of 300,000 faulty Fujitsu hard drives (possibly only in Japan. Fujitsu is not saying). Dozens of Compaq corporate customers, collectively owning a few tens of thousands of Compaq Deskpros, contacted us following our initial report. Time and again, we were told of failure rates of 30 per cent and above in machines fitted with 20GB Fujitsu HDDs. This was very different from the story told in Japan by Fujitsu, where it spoke of a failure rate of 2-3 per cent of a production run of 10 million hard drives. So how many 20GB drives were there in this 10m run? We asked HP, Compaq's new owner, for a response. It took more than 72 hours for the company's US offices to furnish us with this reply. Which we publish in full. "HP is currently investigating reports of problems with Fujitsu Hard Disk Drives. Until our investigation is complete, it would be inappropriate to speculate as to which, if any, products are affected. We will update all relevant parties as the investigation continues." There we have it, a genuine strangulated lawyer-throttled admit-nothing reply. We are surprised that HP/Compaq has to do any investigation. Surely it has some whizzy audit software in place which can pull out a near-time RMA report? Compaq has been replacing Fujitsu HDDs in their thousands. Its engineers know what the problem is. But how long did the company know about this without communicating the fact to its customers? Sometimes silence is not golden. Especially when product liability suits are in the air. ® Related stories Ouch! Fujitsu to replace 300,000 faulty HDDs Crash! Dud Fujitsu HDDs all over UK Bang! PC Association slams Fujitsu HDDs Fujitsu Siemens extends warranties for Fujitsu HDDs Wallop! Fujitsu Europe fudges HDD recall
Drew Cullen, 19 Sep 2002

Motorola mega-leak: the agony lingers on

Motorola has plugged one source of the leak that saw most of next year's GSM handsets spill on to the web over the weekend. But a Czech site still appears to have chapter and verse, and includes some information that Howards didn't publish. Motorola sources reminded us that phone roadmaps are updated monthly - and unofficially more often - and since this a month old, it's really just old news. Details change, and models can disappear. All true, but how fun it would be to be treated to such old news every day! Although the handset manufacturers like to display their flagship models (the Nokia 7650, say, or the P800) six to eight months ahead of launch to maximize publicity, details of new midrange models are closely guarded. So it's rare to find such a large portion of a future portfolio revealed in one go. The industry's bush telegraph often gives competitors several month's warning of a launch. When handset manufacturers share the same component channels, the same customers (the carriers), and have to jump through the same regulatory compliance hoops, it's hard to keep a secret completely secret. But they do a pretty good job, and Nokia is about the most inscrutable. Motorola sources we spoke to on Monday were mortified by the leak, but by yesterday appear to have decided to roll with the punches. Moto told CNET yesterday that it wouldn't be taking legal action against the Czech site mobil maniz.cz which has portions of the presentation, including some details not seen before. (For example, the TA02.7, a dual-band 900/1800 phone). CNET's report curiously omitted any mention of the two most interesting devices on the roadmap: Paragon II and the A835. The latter is a tweak of a handset that was announced earlier this year, the A830, which we're told Siemens will license and market under its own banner. Moto's share price even edged higher yesterday, on a bearish day, so perhaps the leak reminded the markets that the company's R&D is alive and kicking. And we're at one with Motorola in hoping that this kind of leak is never seen again. Where would that leave old-fashioned sleuthing? It's hard work. Our 2002 smartphone roadmap was based on several dozen interviews with over a dozen sources, and omitted much fascinating detail that we could only single-source. Dang - if handset manufacturers start blurting their plans out like this, us hacks will have no choice but to give up, retire to Dorset and play skittles. ® Related Stories Motorola plugs mother of all roadmap leaks Smartphone roadmaps for 2002
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Sep 2002

Flaws in Microsoft VM. Fix now

Microsoft has alerted the world+dog to a trio of vulns in its implementation of Java Virtual Machine. The most serious enables an attacker to gain "complete control" over a victim's system. So get patching now. In an advisory, the company warns that the flaws to Microsoft VM, which ships as part of most versions of Windows and IE, are a critical risk to users. First, there's a flaw in a class which supports the use of XML by Java applications. This is supposed to differentiate between trusted and untrusted applets - except it doesn't, allowing any old applet to take "virtually any desired action on a user's system". The second vulnerability involves Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) classes which enable Java applications to connect to and use data from a wide variety of sources. The vulnerability results because of a flaw in the way the classes vet a request to load and execute a DLL on a user's system. However, it's possible to spoof this check with a malformed request, which allows crackers to load and execute any old DLL on a victim's system, with potentially unpleasant consequences. The last flaw also involves JDBC classes, and results because "certain functions in the classes don't correctly validate handles that are provided as input", MS explains. One straightforward use of this flaw, Redmond helpfully explains, would be to supply invalid data instead of an actual handle when calling such a function; this would cause IE to fail. The exploit scenarios for unprotected users are all too familiar. An attacker would either create a web page which, when opened, exploits the desired vulnerability, or construct a maliciously-formated HTML mail. Setting up email clients to open HTML emails in Restricted Sites Zone guards against the risk; or admins could filter out mobile code entirely, MS suggests. ®
John Leyden, 19 Sep 2002

RIM granted handheld email patent – clobbers Handspring

On Tuesday Research in Motion was granted a patent for a "hand-held email device", and waited just 24 hours before clobbering rival Handspring Inc. with a writ. Have a close look at the patent [6,452,588, here], because it's sure to cast a very long shadow over the handheld wireless and cellular businesses in the coming months. (Coyly, RIM didn't mention this in its press release yesterday, and the first wire reports this morning haven't twigged that this is a new grant). The 45-page filing, submitted last July, is for a "Hand-held e-mail device with a keyboard optimized for use with the thumbs ... In order to operate within the limited space available on a hand-held electronic device, the present invention optimizes the placement and shape of the keys, preferably using keys that are oval or oblong in shape, and that are placed at angles designed to facilitate thumb-typing. The angles at which keys on either side of the keyboard are placed is [sic] complimentary [sic]." So the patent already fails the Microsoft Word grammar checker. But will it succeed in intimidating RIM's rivals? RIM isn't the first PDA company to protect its keyboard design. Psion filed two patents for its Series 5 device, but these were mechanical issues. Psion had produced an ultra thin, slide-out keyboard and the competitive threat at the time (1997) appeared to come from the first generation of keyboard-based, clamshell Windows CE 1.0 devices. (Stop sniggering at the back, please). It patented the hinge and the key contact: and both it could be argued, were genuine innovations. By contrast the RIM patent goes into great detail about the geometry of the keyboard: for example. And for good measure, and this will cause ructions on its own, we predict, RIM's grant also patents a thumb wheel for controlling menus: which is a common feature on today's PDAs and some phones, too. 6,452,588 cites over thirty previous patent filings. Hewlett Packard, which pioneered the calculator, and Ericsson, which has sold an identical add-on phone keyboard for several years now, will be particularly interested in this, we suggest. Good bashing RIM followed-up today by filing its fourth lawsuit in a California court against Good Technology, Inc., which produces a BlackBerry-clone, and this is pretty nasty too. And it accuses Good Technology which aped both the RIM business model as well as the client device, of "misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, tortious interference with contracts and prospective economic relations, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and civil conspiracy." Good heavens - we didn't even know there was a statute against "unjust enrichment" - and if there is, there are surely many, many more worthy candidates than Good. Patents were originally designed to protect small inventors, but as with copyright law, the system has been abused to create private monopolies. Now RIM seems to be determined to compete not with its engineering or marketing skills, but with its lawyers. ® Related Stories RIM unleashes more lawyers on Good JPEGs are not free: Patent holder pursues IP grab No more JPEGs - ISO to withdraw image standard
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Sep 2002

WLAN sales reach for the stars

Wireless LAN sales are rocketing, with shipments expected to grow 73 per cent this year. Even though prices are falling, revenue will grow 26 per cent this year, according to Gartner Dataquest. The industry will continue this consistent growth in 2003, as worldwide wireless LAN shipments total 26.5 million units, up from 15.5 million units in 2002. Gartner forecasts revenue will hit almost $2.8bn in 2003, up from $2.1bn in 2002, with continued growth expected through to 2007. Initially the growth in WLANs was driven by the mobile data needs of professional laptop and PC users, but as equipment prices continue to fall and speed increases, wireless solutions will become a viable alternative to wired LANs in small premises. There's also a growing market for equipment in WLAN hotspots, for telecommuters and more generally in the home. Gartner forecasts the penetration rate of WLAN into the professional mobile PC installed base will grow from 9 per cent in 2000 to almost 50 per cent by the end of 2003. Most WLAN cards are currently being purchased as an add-on PC adapter. But in 2002 approximately 10 percent of all mobile PCs will ship with a bundled WLAN card, and it will increase to 31 per cent in 2004. "Already the top-tier mobile PC manufacturers offer portable PCs with bundled wireless adapters," says Andy Rolfe, principal analyst for Gartner Dataquest's worldwide telecommunications and networking group. Intel's intention to incorporate wireless LAN capabilities into the forthcoming Banias mobile platform will spur still more widespread wireless LAN integration in new mobile PCs, he reckons. By 2007, 68 per cent of mobile PCs shipped will include a wireless LAN capability, according to Gartner. Because the industry has a great deal of potential, many vendors are trying to enter this market. In 2001, there were more than 70 vendors offering WLAN equipment. This is far too crowded, so an shakeout is on the cards. The result will see only six or seven significant adapter vendors left by 2005, Gartner Dataquest predicts. North America is the largest region for WLAN shipments, accounting for 63 per cent of shipments in 2002. But interest in Asia, particularly Japan, and Europe (where regulatory issue are being overcome) means these regions will be increasingly important to sales over the next five years. ®
John Leyden, 19 Sep 2002

Gwana-gwana landslide buries Sun Linux

AnalysisAnalysis What are we to make of Sun's Linux Desktop announcement? We inadvertently provided the answer ourselves talking to Sun executives yesterday. What a good idea it is, we mused, to revive the vendor show: the press arrives in droves, and for a few hours at least, you have their undivided attention. The trick is to sneak something onto the wires, even though we will all have forgotten exactly what it was they said in a few months time. This worked a treat yesterday: Sun's plan to strike at Microsoft's desktop heartland made the leader column of the New York Times, which people round here seem to think is a very big deal. (The truth is somewhat different, as we'll see: Sun isn't so much striking at the heartland as making low-level offshore flying runs in planes equipped to broadcast rude noises). As a residual benefit, many other parts of Sun's business bask in attention they wouldn't otherwise have received. For example today is "N1" day - and we nursed hopes of seeing a recreation of King's Cross station and Islington's Union Chapel as a tribute to London's most cinematic postcode - but that's a different N1. We'll also hear about elliptical cryptography, and much else too. How HP, which has a $4 billion R&D budget and sets the pace in several research areas including memory, storage and imaging - would love to have this attention. Sun's secret is to fight an air war with big ideas - few of which may ever come to fruition - designed to capture hearts and minds and position Sun as a bleeding edge, visionary kind of place. Down on the battlefield, the warring parties fight each with the same gwana-gwana, and how HP and IBM despair that Sun customers keep returning to the company when HP and IBM can often provide superior kit. But that's the value of the air war, you see. And Sun fights a great air war because it makes Sun a fun company to write about. Destination: Gwanaland Where it falls apart, however, is when the Gwana-gwana obliterates the content. What is Gwana-gwana? Gwana-gwana is all the stuff that isn't useful. Useful stuff includes details such as utility pricing programs, failover times for HA clusters, and pin compatibility. By contrast, Gwana-gwana includes "go to market solutions" and earnest expressions of "meeting customer requirements". Gwana-gwana is the sound of a trade hack and a tech executive both snoring, only one is supposed to be talking, while the other one is supposed to be listening. Sun indulges in Gwana-gwana along with everyone else, and Shahin Khan - far and away our favorite Chief Competitive Officer at any systems company beginning with the letter 'S' [here's why]- appears to have exclusive mining rights on Gwana-Gwana at Sun, and we suspect, runs some fiendish internal Gwana-distribution racket, much like Milo Minderbender in Catch-22. (Milo/Shahin was hosting what Sun described as a "Competitive Lunch" today - but not having taken part in a speed-eating contest since fourth grade, we declined, citing fitness as an excuse). Sun's Linux Desktop turns out to be prime-time Gwana-gwana. Sun will release a distro at some point in 2003 - can't say when; and it'll be competitively priced - can't say how much, but it will be cheaper than whatever we reckon Windows costs. Er, that's it for now. N1 also looks like Gwana-gwana right now, for there's nothing as concrete as say, a Java Language Specification underpinning it. Sun thinks that data center resource allocation will look different in the future; but every other systems company thinks so too. They're all right. But to indulge in any more on the subject now is to participate in the Gwana-supply chain - it just isn't terribly useful. The truth of the Sun Linux desktop initiative isn't as dramatic as the pre-launch hype, but then if you're a Sun shareholder you'll probably be relieved to hear that. Sun isn't doing a Novell: it just looks like it. Sun's Linux distro, one source told us yesterday, is just Red Hat and patches, only Sun can't call it "Red Hat and Patches". Despite years of air war bravado, Sun hasn't got to where it is by picking battles it can't win. (As Sun's chief software architect Rob Gingell reminded us yesterday, and James Gosling chipped in with a "well, most of the time", no doubt ruefully thinking of old NeWS.). Ray Noorda learned that the hard way. Sun's Linux should stand a chance of succeeding in education and call centres, the demographics it has targeted, if only because Microsoft's rapacious, and short-sighted licensing policies have priced them out of key home markets. We also learned that although Sun simply wants to move batches of 100 licenses at a time, it will encourage its resellers to pitch for smaller deals. Sun doesn't really want to get into the OEM scrap with IBM, HP and YLWBD (your local white box dealer) at all, and the crucial part of the equation is that it sells enough servers to make it worthwhile. (The Linux PCs use Sun server authentication, and a JavaCard reader attached to the client). If it doesn't, the initiative will go the way of the ("What FREEDOM Looks Like!") JavaStation [Google cache][Take Me Back!] and NeWSPrint As we've pointed out before, Sun is really much more pragmatic than it is Quixotic. ® Related Stories Sun's gwana-gwana mystery Bye Ed - Analysts pull the chain on Sun chief Recent Sun Coverage Sun discloses UltraSPARC VI and VII, shows IV silicon Sun punts cheap PCs at blue collar workers Sun chip chief: real men can't afford fabs UltraSPARC III hits 1.2Ghz Sun claims ECperf 4way server best
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Sep 2002