24th > September > 2002 Archive

Readers scorn ‘Lawsuits in Motion’ keyboard claim

LettersLetters Handspring told us that it had no public comment to make on the Research in Motion's patent infringement lawsuit. But you have plenty to say about this claim, based on a patent for a very small keyboard on a wireless device. Yet another blow for any sort of interface standardization on hand-held devices, I suppose. Imagine if someone had successfully protected a patent on the QWERTY keyboard layout. We'd all have to learn to type all over again every time we bought a keyboard from a different company! This reminds me of the old "look and feel" lawsuits that were a big deal in the 90's, and I don't like it any better. David Brodbeck Subject: detritus from the bursting of the bubble What a truly pathetic patent from RIM. Intimidating people with junk patents is going to be a growth business: bogus patents are pretty much the only detritus remaining from the collapse of the bubble. Ken Tindell I was interested by that kind of device (PDA+phone+mail). Let I remember to buy any, but a RIM one. Regards Olivier Brasseur, from France Actually, the Blackberry doesn't do voice calls. What a croc of shit that one is Quite simply carpet bagging at it's best. Since Sony seems willing to pay up quickly and quietly on some patent issues, maybe I should start patenting Sony's innovations and file suits against them. I can see a whole new career path before me... Jim Halfpenny To quote from Nokia's 5510 page:- "The eyecatching split keyboard layout means that the Nokia 5510 is optimized for text messaging, so you can send your messages almost as fast as you can think them. And faster typing with a full keyboard also makes sending WAP e-mail a lot easier." So methinks that RIM are going to be out of luck with this one.... Ian Darling Stuart Geary, amongst others, disputes the contention that patents "were originally designed to protect small investors". Not in Elizabethan England they weren't, he tells us:- Patents for inventions, as opposed to other forms of monopoly grants (we're back in the 16th and 17th centuries here), were granted to promote economic development by encouraging the devising of new products and processes or the importing of new techniques from abroad. This was a time when skilled workers were not necessarily free to emigrate on national security grounds. At that time all inventions were made by the small guy. However, everyone else was a small guy too. Look at the wording of Section 6 of the English Statute of Monopolies of 1624:- "Section 6. Provided also (and be it declared and enacted) that any declaration before mentioned shall not extend to any letters patent and grants of privilege for the term of fourteen years or under, hereafter to be made, of the sole working or making of any manner of new manufactures within this realm, to the true and first inventor and inventors of such manufactures which others at the time of making such letters patent and grants shall not use, so as also they be not contrary to the law or mischievous to the state, by raising prices of commodities at home, or hurt of trade, or generally inconvenient." The Statute of Monopolies banned all forms of patent with the exception of those for inventions as it had been accepted that these, unlike other types, benefited the economy. However, this exclusion is itself limited by a requirement that individual patents do not harm the economy, i.e. be "mischievous to the state, by raising prices of commodities at home, or hurt of trade, or generally inconvenient". Stuart Geary CPA, EPA Venner, Shipley & Co. London Richard Hadden, of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, which is a lottery-funded agency intended to capitalize on UK inventions, also wrote to us. Patents were a bargain, he says. Subject: nature of patent I read The Reg daily and normally you are spot on - but I have to take issue with the casual asssertion that patents were "designed to protect small inventors". I don't have a particular axe to grind about what they are designed for, but they are certainly not designed for that! The history of patents, at least in Anglo-Saxon common-law jurisdictions, is bound up in the grant of monopolies. Patents were "letters patent", which were documents from the sovereign granting rights to people, usually an ennoblement or a right to bear a coat of arms, both of which are natural monopolies. In the 1620's, a famous case (well, among lawyers), the Case of Playing Cards, concerned the right of the King to grant a monopoly - as a political favour - over the manufacture of playing cards, a grant amounting to something much like a patent. After some toing and froing, the right of the King to grant Monopolies was ceded to Parliament. In the mercantile mediaeval economy, the path to riches was thought to lie in creating and defending a monopoly, hence the great guilds. Other creations of letters patent were therefore the Corporations, e.g. the Guilds, the civic corporations that ran the new industrial towns, or the trading monopolies such as the East India Company. (These were the forebears of the 18th-19th joint stock companies and hence the 20th+ c. limited liability company.) The King and after him Parliament, well beyond the mediaevial period continued happily to grant mercantile monopolies: the whole view of trade with the American colonies, the Hudson Bay and East India Companies etc. NB: I write this from the office we rent in the basement of London's fourth great guild, the Fishmongers' (http://www.fishhall.co.uk/), who had a monopoly right to tax sales of fish in the City. To recap, letters patent underpinned the creation of Corporations and the associated grant of monopolies. Corporations eventually became regulated by statute, and created mechanically by filling in forms. Patents, too, went down this path, starting of as requiring an individual application to Parliament and ending up as a mechanical process regulated by statute. At a similar time to the Playing Cards case, there had been a corresponding case about the control of monopolies for the public good. In the US this developed into common law principles e.g. common running rights (railways) and anti-trust law. In the UK, this path of development died and was reintroduced by statute in the 20th c. with regard to markets. However, patent law had considered the nature of monopolies, and evolved from indefinite monopoly of early latters patent into what we now know as a patent: a bargain between society and the inventor that the inventor will make full disclosure of their invention in return for a *time-limited* monopoly on its exploitation. Adam Smith and comparative advantage showed that competition was better for the economy as a whole, and Schumpeter has since suggested that, even if competition is not necessarily good for the individual enterprise, monopoly as a strategy is bad because it all ends in paradigm-shift tears. The robber barons of the 19th c. preferred the mercantile view of the economy, however. The framers of the US constitution appreciated the time-limit - having been under the mercantile yoke of Westminster - which is why copyright etc. appears in it. However, patents were never designed to *protect* anybody: they were a bargain to persuade all inventors to allow widespread, competitive adoption of their inventions once a limited period of cast-iron monopoly (and hence one would hope guaranteed profits) had accrued to them. Patents are generally a force for social good - the problems come with the life of the patent vs rate of innovation in a particular domain, not the size of the inventor! Richard Hadden Investment Programme Manager Invention & Innovation, NESTA Thanks to all who wrote. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 24 Sep 2002

Nortel builds security framework

Nortel Networks Corp yesterday released two enhancements to products in its range of security devices and published a catchall Unified Security Architecture how-to guide for companies planning to comprehensively secure their networks. Nortel became the second major firewall vendor to announce support for SSL-based extranets in its devices, following Check Point Software Technologies Inc's apparently reluctant move last month. However, Nortel has integrated the feature into its Alteon SSL accelerator, rather than putting it in the firewall or releasing it as a separate product. SSL extranets are a relatively new concept, pioneered by startups such as Neoteris Inc and SafeWeb Inc, that allow companies to reduce the cost of deploying a VPN by having most transactions encrypted using secure sockets layer, using a web browser as the client and an application proxy to replace the VPN gateway. Nortel said its Alteon SSL 410, which already includes load balancing and filtering, now includes user authentication, URL transformation and application proxying. Executives claimed the device has one up on the aforementioned startups due to its SSL acceleration and load balancing features, and one up on the VPN firms due to its proxying. The accelerator has also had a hardware upgrade, and now supports up to 2,000 transactions per second and up to 16,000 concurrent SSL sessions. That's about half of what some competitors claim, but Nortel executives said claims rarely matter as some products have difficulty performing half as well as their marketing in bake-offs. Nortel's Contivity secure routers also received feature enhancements. The devices, which essentially combine features of an edge router and an IPSec VPN gateway and client, have been upgraded in version 4.7 of the software to support voice over IP traffic and notoriously insecure wireless LANs. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 24 Sep 2002

Microsoft reveals Business Apps roadmap

Microsoft Corp is starting to open up regarding the scope of its business software ambitions with the revelation at its partner conference in Minneapolis last week that it plans to launch five application sets over the next 12 months in a bid to provide end-to-end software support for SME business activities. Three of the five application sets will be available by the end of this year. In addition to the long-trailed CRM application, the company also intends to launch two vertical market applications: Microsoft Business Solutions Professional Services Automation and Microsoft Retail Management System. A portal product is planned for the first half of 2003, while data exchange software is likely to appear after that, which will provide a means for organizations to exchange data over the internet with both partners and customers. Ultimately, the company aims to provide integrated functionality covering business operations, retail management, manufacturing, supply chain and service automation, enabling tight integration between front- and back-office functions. If that sounds familiar, it should do, because it is the same message that has long been promoted by enterprise-level business applications vendors such as SAP, Oracle and PeopleSoft. The difference is that Microsoft is still stressing that its area of interest is restricted to the small to medium-sized market. However, by the Redmond, Washington-based company's definition, this embraces businesses with revenue in the $1m to $1bn band, which takes it firmly into the lower-end territory of the established application vendors. The emphasis on vertical market applications is new to Microsoft, but aligns with its stated intention of focusing on the mid-market, as verticalization and the mid-market are rapidly becoming synonymous, and vertical market versions are deemed to generate better ROI due to reduced implementation effort and cost. The PSA software is built on Microsoft Business Solutions Project Accounting - Solomon and the Microsoft Project 2002 platform, and is aimed at project-based organizations. Its purpose is to integrate resource management, project management, knowledge management, time and expense, project accounting, financials and reporting and analytics functionality. Available in the fourth quarter 2002 in North America, pricing has yet to be announced. The Retail Management System is built on the QuickSell set of products and is expected to offer an end-to-end solution to automate retailer operations from the cash register to company headquarters. It integrates point-of-sale (POS) and retail management applications with Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains, and Microsoft Business Solutions Small Business Manager financial applications to bring POS, inventory management, pricing and promotions, reports and analytics with integration to back-office financial applications. Two versions are available - Store Operations for single retailers, and Headquarters for multi-store operations. It will be released worldwide in the fourth quarter priced from $1,290. Having spent approximately $2.4bn in less than two years on the acquisitions of Great Plains Software and Navision a/s, it was clear that Microsoft was positioning itself as a serious player in the business applications market, and these announcements are clearly early affirmations of that intent. However, the product roadmap remains unclear because although all the products will spring from the Microsoft Business Solutions division, and Microsoft talks of tightly integrated functionality, it is unclear how that integration will occur. In addition, PSA and the Retail Management System each piggy-back on separate back-end applications from the divisions' portfolio. So far there is no news on how or whether Microsoft will integrate the disparate collection of applications that congregate under the Microsoft Business Solutions banner that includes its own, Great Plains and Navision software. The roadmap is being laid out but the implementation still remains undefined. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 24 Sep 2002

Unisys debuts CMP-based ClearPath mainframes

The Burroughs half of the Unisys mainframe business gets its first CMP-based mainframe which uses CMOS mainframe engines with the launch of the ClearPath Plus Libra 180, writes Timothy Prickett Morgan. Until now, the ClearPath Plus line has supported the MCP virtual machine (MCPvm) variant of the MCP operating system as an application on Intel-based CMP boards that also run Windows 2000. The MCPvm environment is good enough for some customers to run their applications and is useful for all customers in providing a cost-effective MCP development environment. But the custom Unisys CMOS mainframe engines which have been added to the ClearPath Plus line with the Libra models let Unisys customers create a mainframe with up to eight engines and 1,400 aggregate MIPS of processing power. This can also have another 32 Intel processors running Windows, UnixWare, or MCPvm environments all under the same hood and sharing the same CMP backplane. Whith the ClearPath NX mainframes, the predecessor to the Libra box, the Burroughs and Intel processors were configured into the same chassis, but were connected by a normal network connection. Now the Burroughs engines have been implemented on a CMP four-way cell board and plug right into a CMP chassis that is similar to the ES7000 Wintel server sold by Unisys for Windows and UnixWare workloads. The Libra server offers from one to eight CMOS Burroughs engines today and up to 32 Intel processors, for a total of 40 processors per machine. The Intel cell boards can be equipped with Cascades Pentium III Xeon processors running at 700MHz or 900MHz or Foster Pentium 4 Xeon MPs running at 1.4GHz or 1.6GHz. Next year, says Kevin McHugh, vice president of Unisys platform marketing, the machine will support Gallatin Pentium 4 Xeon MPs and the McKinley Itanium 2 processors on Intel-based cell boards. Windows .NET Server 2003 will also be supported on the machine when Microsoft Corp pushes it out the door. An eight-way image is the largest single image supported in MCP right now, but next year Unisys will increase the single image size to 16-way SMP. In the middle of next year, Unisys will also allow a ClearPath Plus Libra machine to have all 40 of its processors running MCP images and using Burroughs engines, if they want to. The current Burroughs engines, which have 50 per cent more performance than the engines used in the ClearPath NX servers they replace, yield a Burroughs machine with an aggregate of 7,000 MIPS and a minimum of three processor domains, with many more possible. "It's going to take a lot to outgrow this machine," says Kevin McHugh, vice president of Unisys platform marketing. But with more and more server customers undergoing server consolidation to cut administration and operational costs, creating such a big bad box is not wrong. Nonetheless, McHugh says that what he sees most customers doing is taking MCPvm instances instead of true Burroughs engines running native MCP to do development work since they are much less costly. Last year, Unisys announced similar CMP-based mainframes from the Sperry side of the house, which run its OS 2200 operating system. The ClearPath Plus Dorado server came in two models. A 12-way model offered a single OS 2200 domain running on a single CMP cell board, plus two Intel-based cell board for Windows or UnixWare workloads. A 32-way configuration that could support one or two OS 2200 domains on as many as 16 Sperry engines and either 8 or 16 Intel-based engines; the only stipulation was that the aggregate number of engines not exceed 32. The largest OS 2000 image size is 16-way SMP, and that is not set to change next year; this yields just over 1,600 MIPS of power, incidentally. The Dorado models will be extended next year to meet the 40-processor top-end limit of the Libra models. Unisys does not sell a single CMP machine that supports MCP, OS 2200, and Windows/UnixWare on Intel, but McHugh says it could certainly build such a machine if enough big Unisys customers, many of whom have all of these environments, ask for it. A base ClearPath Plus Libra machine has the basic 40-way chassis and is equipped with a single Burroughs MCP engine activated on a cell board, an Intel-based cell board with four 900MHz Cascades chips, and an MCP license, and costs $954,000. Unisys is also announcing with the ClearPath Plus Libra machines that it will deliver a capacity-on- demand pricing scheme that allows customers to scale up their processing capacity when they run out of room handling unanticipated workload spikes or regular year-end or month-end processing. Also they can scale back that capacity when they don't need it. Many COD offerings are one way: Once you use it, you have to buy it and keep it. This capacity is based on per-day charges that Unisys and customers work out based on a schedule over the course of a year. All ClearPath Plus Libra models ship with the entire eight Burroughs processors physically in the base box, and customers can activate them using COD features. Unisys is also offering special workload pricing that makes development domains on the Intel side of a Libra machine a lot less expensive than they might otherwise might be, and customers using specific development tools sanctioned by Unisys can get other special deals. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 24 Sep 2002

ICANN says ISOC for .org

The Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers yesterday said it still thinks the Internet Society and Afilias Ltd is the best choice to run the .org top-level internet domain, when VeriSign Inc's contract expires December 31. The recommendation, which is still subject to board approval, comes after a period of public comment on the processes used to select ISOC from 11 applications. Applicants that were not recommended said the three evaluations were flawed, and Oracle Corp's marketing department last week criticized Afilias's choice of database software. "Although the comments contained much useful insight and, indeed, pointed out some errors in the original evaluations, none of these errors was sufficiently material to change the ultimate conclusion," ICANN said in its Final Staff Evaluation Report. The staff recommends ISOC, followed by NeuStar Inc and Global Name Registry Ltd. The recommendation is based on a technical evaluation from Gartner Inc and on a usage policy evaluation carried out by members of ICANN's non-commercial domain name holders' constituency (NCDNHC). Gartner recommended five applications, but ISOC's was the only one to be recommended by the NCDNHC. Eight of the applicants said they would use an Oracle database to manage the .org domain registry, with one opting for Microsoft Corp software. ISOC and one other bidder said they would use PostgreSQL, open-source database management software. Afilias has successfully deployed PostgreSQL in its .info registry, but Oracle was not happy. "PostgreSQL is used primarily in the embedded system market because it lacks the transactional features, high availability, security and manageability of any commercial enterprise database," Oracle marketing executive Jenny Gelhausen wrote in a comment to ICANN. But ICANN said in its report: "It could be argued that a bidder should not be penalized for whatever database system... it chooses (open source or commercial) to use provided it has demonstrated its ability to operate a TLD of significant scale over an extended period of time... The ISOC team meets or exceeds this requirement." The ICANN board is expected to approve an application before the end of the month. The winning bidder will have to sign a contract with ICANN and take over the running of the domain by the end of the year. It will be a mammoth task, especially for ISOC, which intends to set up a completely separate company, the Public Internet Registry, to take the contract. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 24 Sep 2002

Fujitsu and Toshiba chip merger unlikely

There was confusion yesterday over how far Toshiba Corp and Fujitsu Ltd plan to push the chip alliance the two Japanese electronics giants announced in June. Far Eastern reports yesterday suggested that contrary to original expectations the two companies will not be exploring an eventual merger of their chip operations. The reports said the companies had failed to agree on a full merger because of Fujitsu's desire to retain control over its chip operations. A spokeswoman for Fujitsu said yesterday that the company had made no further official comment since the original announcement in June. Back then, she said, the companies had declared their intent to "explore cooperation" and "that stance has not changed." The companies were looking at ways to cooperate on advanced system on a chip development, and possibly on fab utilization, she said, but had never really expressed any interest in merging their operations. The original joint statement issued by the two companies in June said that, "As collaboration progresses, the two companies may seek ways to effectively expand the scope of their partnership, including the possibility of integrating their operations." © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 24 Sep 2002

Qwest deletes $950m of hollow swaps

Qwest Communications International Inc will delete $950m of revenue it recorded from optical-capacity swaps from its 2000 and 2001 accounts, after deciding they were incorrectly booked. The Denver, Colorado-based carrier blamed the error on its former auditor Arthur Andersen LLP, and warned that its historical financial statements in 2000, 2001 and the first three months of 2002 "should not be relied on." Qwest admitted in July that it had incorrectly recognized optical-capacity revenue amounting to $1.16bn in the years 1999, 2000 and 2001, and the new figures include some transactions involved in the earlier statement. At the heart of its problems is its relationship with bankrupt carrier Global Crossing Ltd, and suspicions that the companies had engaged in "hollow swaps" whereby each granted the other capacity of its networks to inflate revenue. Qwest now says that historically it accounted for exchanges of optical capacity based on accounting policies approved by its previous auditor Arthur Andersen. But after analyzing this with new auditor KPMG, and discussing the issue with the SEC, it concluded that it could not support the recognition of revenue from these exchange transactions. Also in question is $531m from the sale of optical capacity for cash, and each of these deals is being examined to decide whether they can stand. The company has only been looking at optical-capacity deals since its merger with US West was completed in June 2000. While Qwest and KPMG are still examining the books and cannot give a date when the examination will be completed, it said that the adjustments it has announced represent a "significant development" in its assessment of its accounting policies and their application. Even though Qwest has managed to renegotiate the terms of $3.39bn worth of loans, it still has debts of $26.5bn, and revenue is forecast to slide by 12% to between $17.1bn and $17.4bn in the current financial year. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 24 Sep 2002

AMD cranks up mobile Athlon XP speeds

AMD has launched two top-of-the range mobile processors, the Athlon XP 2000+ and the 1900+. It's exhausting these days to find the actual clock speeds of AMD CPUs (AMD publishes them and promptly buries them deep on the web site). But suffice it to say both processors run less fast than 2GHz and 1.9GHz respectively. But as AMD keeps telling us, clock speed is no longer a good indicator of performance - because the Pentium 4 is designed so inefficiently (its pitch, not ours). On price/performance, AMD often bests Chipzilla - still. Its new mobile CPUs cost $345 and $239 in 1,000 units - Intel's top-of-the line mainstream mobile processor, a 2.2GHz jockey, launched last week, is an eye-watering $562. The AMD price is clearly right for the PC majors, especially those with retail lines. HP and Fujitsu Siemens are flogging notebooks with the new mobile Athlon XPs now. And Packard Bell, the consumer arm of NEC Computers and - yes, Americans, still huge in Western Europe - is to sell notebooks featuring the latest chips later this year. As the 2000+ and 1900+ are speed upgrades only , we are not going to trot out the specs again. Let the AMD press release do this for you. ® Related story Intel improves lives with mobile CPUs
Drew Cullen, 24 Sep 2002

Palm'sTungsten and MIMS target RIM's LIMs

No sooner was the ink dry on the previews of Palm's new wireless plans, than the company delivered details of branding and the server software part of the puzzle today. Palm will divide its PDA lines into business and consumer offerings, Tungsten and Zire, the former complementing the new Tungsten server-side software you can now read about here. The centerpiece of the Tungsten software is MIMS (Mobile Information Management Server); we're not sure if this is intended as a deliberate echo of LIM (Lawsuits in Motion), as RIM (Research in Motion) is becoming known. RIM has carved a niche of more than 350,000 users for its always-on super-pager. The services part of Tungsten is at least as important as the client hardware to Palm - RIM derives the largest chunk of its revenue, 41 per cent, from service. Meanwhile Palm fan sites at the weekend were commenting on mock-ups of what appear to be the first models in each range. If these are to be believed, the "Tungsten T" is smaller, and slightly heavier than the current Palm flagship with a slide-down case revealing the graffiti area. If that's the swan, then the The "Tungsten W" is the ugly duckling - a smartphone intended to feel comfortable to BlackBerry users, rather than as a replacement handset. (You need an earpiece to make calls, according to the leaks, but this might not be such a hindrance if Palm can get Bluetooth headsets to co-operate. The BlackBerry isn't a phone). It also uses LIM's ground-breaking, and potentially Nobel Prize-winning innovation - the VSK (very small keyboard) - for which LIM was granted a patent last week, with which it used to sue Handspring the following day. Palm will explain this coming Thursday, when it opens the doors of its new Sunnyvale campus to world+vulture. Clearing the decks of bad news ahead of the open day, Palm took a charge of $219.1m in quarterly results it announced yesterday. Net loss excluding this charge was $36.4 million, not bad for a stagnating market in which Palm still managed to shift 819,000 PDAs. Inventory is 6.5 weeks, suggesting that Palm cut its cloth to meet demand. But then again, that's $44 lost on every PDA shipped, which doesn't look so great. It'll be hoping the rebound starts here. ® Related Stories Palm targets the wireless enterprise RIM granted handheld email patent - clobbers Handspring
Andrew Orlowski, 24 Sep 2002

GeForce FAQ returns from the dead

A popular unofficial Nvidia technical resource which disappeared when cybersquatters pounced on its URL is back from the dead. The GeForce FAQ has a new home at UK tech community website the Technology Vault. GeForce FAQ author Christopher Hill selected the site after a beauty parade (several Nvidia fan sites also offered to host the resource) after the Vault undertook to maintain and update the pages. Hill who will no longer take an active part in GeForce FAQ says: "19.4, was posted on the 2nd of January 2002 and since then I have not made time to update it because of my work as a sysadmin and work at my church." He lost his URL GeForceFAQ.com earlier this year, after forgetting to renew the domain name. A company called Ultimate Search inc. stepped in and scooped up the name. Ultimate did not return Hill's emails, he says: "They bought it to exploit the domain name's popularity to use as a directory for advertising purposes and making money. The same group of people who snapped this domain name have a track record of this kind of activity and have snapped up many popular and busy web sites' domain names and pointed it to their own." The Technology Vault is an unusual site. It was set up in 1999 as a fanzine for .tv, the now dead Sky TV tech channel. And it still has a bit of that dead TV channel in aspic flavour - the front page has pictures of all the presenters, with short 'where are they now' biogs. Since its unpromising start, The Technology Vault has developed a forum-based mutual self-help PC support group. It claims 100k-150k page imps a month. Presumably, the GeForce FAQ will see it gain many more. Here is the GeForce FAQ press release. ®
Drew Cullen, 24 Sep 2002

UK car site ripped off by Chinese

Those behind the New Car Net Web site are gobsmacked after they found that a Chinese operation had "completely ripped off" the content and design of the UK new car guide. They've discovered that Chinese Web site Car-Good.net looks suspiciously like their own - and they're not happy. Director Massimo Pini told The Register: "There are some very serious copyright issues here. We just looked at the pages open-mouthed, not sure at first whether to be flattered that they had picked our site and content - or angry at the blatant forgery. The bogus site has copied New Car Net right down to the tabs and buttons." Even though the imitation Web site is a poor copy of the original with many of the buttons and features not working, New Car Net has tried to contact those behind the site for an explanation. So far they have yet to hear a peep back from them. While the UK operation is considering its options - even pursuing a legal challenge - at this stage they're still taking advice about what they can do next. And they're still scratching their heads as to the motive behind the crude copy. One idea is that the site is there merely to generate ad revenue. But at this stage it's just a guess. No from Car-Good was available for comment at the time of writing. ®
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2002

Protest site shut over alleged police ‘intimidation’

The Parking Clowns Web site - which ridicules the parking policies of Canterbury City Council and its "over zealous [traffic] wardens" - has been suspended following allegations of police intimidation. Schoolmaster Gareth Thomas, the author of Parking Clowns, claims Kent Police are "watching the site like hawks" and believes it is just a matter of time before they shut down the site and prosecute him. Mr Thomas told The Register: "They have intimidated me off the Internet." What started as a local site dealing with concerns over local parking regulations has now erupted into something that touches major issues such as freedom of speech and censorship. The site was pulled last week after Mr Thomas was again contacted by police concerning the site. Then, during an interview on a local radio station a statement read out from Kent police stated that it had never tried to interfere with the Canterbury Parking Clowns web site. But this denial didn't chime with Mr Thomas' own experiences, since police had been in contact with him on a number of occasions concerning the content of the site. He wrote on his site: "Is this new interference their way of showing they have read Kafka and want me to think I am imagining things? Or is the intention to show that they are watching the site and are waiting to pounce? Plain old-fashioned intimidation. Whatever their motives, I am suspending the web site today pending legal advice and an enquiry to the Home Office." He added: "There does not appear to exist in Kent the freedom to publish a web site about parking issues without attracting police surveillance and intimidation." A spokesperson for Kent police said they took the allegations of police intimidation very seriously and would be investigating this. They denied it was their intention to close down the site but conceded that they were concerned that people were not harassed by what was on the site. In July the original Canterbury Parking Clowns Web site was closed down following complaints by the City Council. The presence of photographs of traffic wardens was deemed to be an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Police warned that the widespread use of the term "Parking Clowns" to describe the traffic wardens was unsatisfactory since it could lead to a "breach of the peace and possible violence". ® Related Story Web site censored over pictures of traffic wardens
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2002

Intel Ireland ‘warms down’ over Christmas

A company spokesperson explained to ElectricNews.Net that most of the company's 3,200 employees will be asked to take leave between 20 December and 6 January, as the firm prepares for sluggish sales following Christmas. The spokesperson explained that employees who have no annual leave remaining for 2002 will be asked to take an unpaid break or dip into their holiday days for next year. In addition, a limited number of employees will be required to participate in a so-called "warm-down" between 22 December and 2 January. Cleaning, maintenance and service operations will continue throughout the warm-down period. The announcement was made to employees 12 days ago, the spokesperson said, and so far workers seem to be reacting well to the news. "The move is a cost-saving measure, and there are three bank holidays during that period so we hope they [employees] won't find the measures too draconian," the Intel Ireland spokesperson said. He also said that between now and Christmas staff had been offered the option of taking two additional weeks of unpaid time off, but this programme is not mandatory. The company spokesperson admitted that "it's a tough time for the chip business," a sentiment that resonates throughout the company all the way up to Chief Executive Officer Craig Barrett, who in late August said that demand for PCs and the chips they contain may not rebound during the holiday season this year. "There is always some anticipation of a holiday season up-tick in computer sales, but whether that materialises or not is a question mark," Barrett commented during a trip to Malaysia in August. Consumers, who make up a third of the PC market, are expected to hold off on buying new PCs this year for Christmas, a time that PC makers and chipmakers can generally depend on for booming sales. And with businesses still keeping a tight rein on IT spending, the prospect of a full recovery in the semiconductor industry this year, or even in the early months of next year, has effectively been stymied. Earlier in September, research company IDC said that shipments of personal computers will be lower than expected this year and next because of lacklustre demand from consumers and large businesses. Shipments will rise 1.1 percent this year to 135.5 million, IDC said, revising its 4.7 percent gain estimated in June. "We don't expect to see a significant recovery until both consumer and business demand picks up, and we may reach the middle of next year before that happens," Loren Loverde, director of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, said when that report was released. Still, Intel and most others involved in the semiconductor business expect long-term growth, and Barrett himself constantly notes that innovation and investment in new technologies and techniques will drive recovery in the industry. In this vein Intel said in April that construction at Leixlip on its latest semiconductor facility in Ireland, Fab 24, will re-commence after a one-year work stoppage. The warm-down over Christmas and the New Year will not affect work at Fab-24. When fully operational, Fab 24 is expected to employ approximately 1,000 people, and currently over 120 Irish employees who will eventually work at Fab24 are working at Intel's technology development centre in Portland, Oregon. To date there are already 300 people assigned to the Fab 24 project. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 24 Sep 2002

At least 100 countries building cyber weapons – expert

Cyberterrorism hyping has reached new heights - according to a report in the Melbourne Herald Sun, at least. The Herald quotes expert Matthew Devost, speaking at a meeting at the US consulate there recently, as claiming the CIA believes at least 100 countries are investigating waging war by computer, or cyberterror. Mr Devost is proprietor of terrorism.com, incidentally, which is something of a misnomer, as he's in the counter-terrorism game. Should any bona fide terrorist take him to the ICANN disputes panel we fear he'd be on difficult ground. But 100 countries? Could the CIA possibly believe this? Who are these countries? "How many do we need to worry about - six? Twelve?," Devost is quoted as saying. "What are the capabilities of number 100 on the list?" Disappointingly, it turns out that "a lot of questions haven't been answered." So we've no idea what the point of saying 100 countries are working on it is, aside from trying to grab headlines. The CIA itself, in the shape of its most excellent World Fact Book, reveals (as of July 1st 2001) that the top 100 countries by GDP per capita is headed by Luxembourg, with Gabon coming in at number 100. Per capita GDP is however clearly a hopeless yardstick to try to estimate cyberterror capability against. There are a lot of names in the top 100 (San Marino? Aruba?) that sound improbable proprietors of cyberwarefare development programmes, and some obvious suspects who are just to poor to make it. Yugoslavia, for example, is there way down at 160, and we seem to recall the locals nevertheless being pretty handy when it comes to the deployment of cyber weapons. So GDP doesn't really work. How about Internet connections? One can of course wreak a deal of havoc with just one Internet connection, but the number of them in a country ought to provide some kind of measure of the potential raw expertise. This chart here isn't ordered, nor is it weighted by population, and the figures are a tad old. But there are somewhere in excess of 30 countries with more than a million people connected. Again, it's a very rough yardstick, and our friends in Yugoslavia are still nowhere near the cut. However, the more you look at the list, the less probable it seems that you can drag out 100 with even the capability for a stupid, futile and laughable stab at a cyberweapons development programme. So maybe you just go anecdotal. Start with major, rich economies with developed IT businesses. Add other economies known to have expertise and/or strategic plans in that area (so India definitely qualifies on expertise, China on both). Cross out the ones who don't have serious armies (e.g. Andorra). Add in a couple of mad dictators. Add in those with money and known agendas. Add in anybody you don't like. Add anybody whose justice minister has pissed-off the White House recently. On our turn through the whole list on this basis, we come to a total of approximately 60, many of whom are barely credible and who would only be counted by the most paranoid and drug-addled CIA operative. For example, we included the Vatican on the basis of money and known agenda, and Finland and Estonia on the basis of sheer cleverness (nothing personal people, we mean to flatter). We offer our services to the CIA should it wish to recruit a research capability willing to try to justify future ludicrous claims in exchange for money. Mr Devost himself seems an intriguing cove. He is co-author of "Information terrorism - can you trust your toaster?", which won the 1996 Sun Tzu Art of War Research Award (disappointingly, we are unable to identify any other winners of this award, which in any event seems to be no more). This document includes the phrase "digital Pearl Harbor," which may be one of the first recorded uses of the expression. ®
John Lettice, 24 Sep 2002

Great Fujitsu hard drive fiasco rumbles on

Questions surrounding the Great Fujitsu Hard Drive Fiasco simply won't go away, however much the Japanese manufacturer hopes that they might. Earlier this month we reported a product recall - sorry replacement - of 300,000 faulty Fujitsu hard drives. The fault, which is supposedly brought on by heat and prolonged usage, lies in faulty controller chips used in the HDDs and is found in 2-3 per cent of the 10 million units made by Fujitsu between September 2000 and 2001, according to Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai. Following our initial reports on this we were deluged with email on the subject, over 300 and counting from all over the world. Time and again, we were told of failure rates of 30 per cent and above in machines fitted with 20GB Fujitsu HDDs. UK system builders report huge failure rates for 20GB Fujitsu drives - of the order of 30-50 per cent, and sometimes even higher. Dozens of Compaq corporate customers, collectively owning a few tens of thousands of Compaq Deskpros, also contacted us following our initial reports. One of the more interesting documents we were sent purports to be a field service notice issued by Fujitsu US. Although we were not able to confirm its authenticity - Fujitsu declined to comment - it has every appearance of been genuine. Explanation of PB16 Family Drives Field Failures: Recent analysis of field returns has confirmed that some of the PB16 family drives have a date code related issue that is PCBA related. The source of the problem is that some of sub-supplier parts used does not meet the stringent requirements established in product qualification. This issue is not related to the Servo Timing Mark whose effects were corrected with firmware The PCBA issue could exist on drives manufactured: 1. PB16E (MPG3XXXAT) - Through March, 2001 2. PB16H (MPG3XXXAH) - Through May, 2001 3. PB16HE (MPG3XXXAH-M) - Through May, 2001 This was a particularly difficult failure to isolate. The symptoms of failure are very similar to those caused by the Servo Timing Mark. Although the failure rate is relatively low, the failure rate exceeds our quality commitment that our customers have come to expect. As such, Fujitsu has decided to err on the side of conservative caution and act on every drive manufactured during the problem period. Fujitsu has a utility that will identify the drive by Month of Manufacturing. This utility can be used by our customers for screening purposes. The utility will operate in Windows 95/98/2000/NT environment. Which raises the question: If Fujitsu has such a utility why doesn't it make it available to customers? We gave Fujitsu the weekend the think about this but it again declined to comment. The faulty sub component referred to above is a Cirrus Logic controller chip (CL-SH8671-450E-A3), according to authoritative reports posted on StorageReview.com. Fujitsu refused to talk to us about this either. Fujitsu's ostrich-like line in response to customer enquiries on the matter is that it hasn't announced anything about the issue, so all the reports about the issue are speculative and inaccurate. Fujitsu is referring users of its defective HDDs to their PC vendor and saying all problems can be covered by normal warranty procedures. Fujitsu isn't extending warranties automatically from one to three years. We question whether that approach can be sustained, indeed there are signs Fujitsu is bending to the weight of public opinion. Readers who've bought their PCs through system builders who've gone out of business tell us they are been offered replacement hard drives for faulty equipment, despite the fact their warranty is no longer valid. We'd love to know whether Fujitsu was extending this move to others in the same situation but this is unclear, again because Fujitsu is declining to respond to questions. ® Related Stories Ouch! Fujitsu to replace 300,000 faulty HDDs Crash! Dud Fujitsu HDDs all over UK Bang! PC Association slams Fujitsu HDDs Wallop! Fujitsu Europe fudges HDD recall
John Leyden, 24 Sep 2002

Junk email on the increase

There's bad news for anyone who is sick and tired of the increasing amount of commercial email flooding their inboxes - there's going to be more. A survey by email publishing outfit emedia claims that nearly 90 per cent of companies it surveyed aims to increase their spending on email marketing over the next 12 months. Why? Because seven out of ten companies found that email is the most effective marketing tool for generating sales leads. Some 95 per cent of those companies quizzed said that getting people's permission to send commercial email (aka the "opt-in" system) was seen as either "essential, very or quite important" in terms of using email lists. Said emedia MD, David Clark: "These results give an indication that businesses are now starting to realise the scope of email as a viable channel for direct sales." Do what? Only now starting to realise the scope of email as a viable channel for direct sales? Heaven help us. ®
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2002

Watchdog gets tough on text spam

ICSTIS - the premium rate telephone services watchdog - has warned that it will come down hard on any operators misleading phone users with dodgy money-making text messaging scams. Publishing its latest report Director George Kidd said: "The use of text messaging to promote premium rate services has many obvious consumer benefits when carried out in a legitimate, responsible manner and in compliance with our Code of Practice. "However, we will not hesitate to take swift action against the small minority of service providers who think that they can abuse public confidence and trust in text messaging in order to make money with no regard for consumers whatsoever," he said. This hard line comes a month after ICSTIS slapped a £50,000 fine on Leeds-based Moby Monkey Ltd for sending misleading spam text messages. In that case, mobile phone users received a text message informing them that they had been chosen to receive a "£500 mystery award" and urging them to call a premium rate number to claim their prize. However, the award turned out to be discount holiday vouchers up to the value of £500. In some cases the texts had been sent to children. And in one instance someone received the spam 40 times in one day. ICSTIS' latest report also reveals that it jumped on Doncaster-based Courier Link, which sent spam text messages advising people to call a premium rate number to - get this - stop spam text messages. However, ICSTIS found that the service could not stop the receipt of all text promotions and was only able to prevent the continued receipt of messages sent out by Courier Link. The text spam also claimed falsely that the service was offered by an official body from the direct marketing industry. Courier Link was fined £1,500 and issued with a formal reprimand. ® Related Story Watchdog slaps text spam firm with £50k fine
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2002

MS design switch thwarts Xbox mod chips

Microsoft has made some modifications to the internal design of Xbox in the name of security, the most immediate upshot being apparently that existing mod chips won't work with the new design. According to a posting last week on the Xboxhacker BBS (reproduced here, the first of the new designs have been spotted in Australia. Although Microsoft habitually experiments on the Australians, we do not think this is an experiment. Microsoft sees keeping Xbox closed as a security/revenue issue, and will therefore keep trying to do so. You'll recall it recently advertised for someone in this patch and it's to expected that the company will react to successive mods with successive mod-blocks. According to the Xboxhacker posting, there are various modifications which may be cost and reliability related (e.g. the video chip loses the fan, and the DVD Rom has been switched to a Philips. The key change that at least impedes the modders is however that a small chip that used to be behind the onboard bios has been removed. It would seem likely that the bios itself has undergone some modification along with this. We've subsequently been informed that the RC4 keys have been changed, but that it should still be possible to replace the bios via the LPC bus. Which suggests the latest moves are a relatively minor impediment to the current modders. No word one yet from the Xbox Linux project on the implications of this, but the project has come up with an intensely techie explanation of how the Xbox hard drive can be unlocked without using the Microsoft-issued encryption key. Although we don't even begin to follow it, it sounds jolly clever to us.However, a reader points out that it seems the objective is to only publish a hash of the Microsoft key, thus minimising legal hassles. So it's more a legal than a techie trick, and we're just easily impressed. ®
John Lettice, 24 Sep 2002

Cambridgeshire snuggles up to NTL

NTL Business has joined forces with Cambridgeshire County Council to build a broadband network for the county's rural community. The £29m contract should bring broadband to 300 council offices, schools, libraries and community access points across Cambridgeshire by 2004. Ultimately some 700 sites will be connected to the Cambridgeshire Community Network (CCN) if the necessary finance is secured to fund the investment. Once up and running, local people will be able to access the broadband network via hundreds of computers sited across the county. However, it's hoped that other operators could come up with ways to hook up to the CCN and provide broadband to individual homes and businesses not currently served by ADSL or existing cable services. The CCN is the first community-wide broadband project to be funded under the Government's Private Finance Initiative (PFI). A spokesman for the cableco said the deal was a "landmark for communications in local government". ®
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2002

Thus challenges Nominet on ‘whois’ privacy issue

Thus - the alternative telco group that owns the Demon ISP - is looking to challenge plans to introduce changes to Nominet's 'whois' Web site ownership directory. It claims that Nominet's decision to publish the contact addresses of all registrants regarded as "trading" or "businesses" might not be legal. It has already held informal talks with the Information Commissioner and is considering whether to make a formal complaint. Thus' concerns seem to centre on what exactly is allowed under the Distance Selling and Electronic Commerce Regulations. The alternative telco believes that these regulations do state that businesses must publish their contact details under certain circumstances and in certain manners. However, it believes it is not clear that they should allow Nominet to publish this information without seeking prior agreement. It maintains that in many cases the contact details published on Web sites relate to technical and support services, and may be wholly inappropriate to be listed in a directory as the main contact address for a business. Thus' view is that the Nominet database is a directory. And as defined by the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations it gives individuals and businesses certain rights such as the option to be ex-directory. Ian Hood, Thus director of communications and regulation said: "While we can understand that Nominet would like some degree of conformity with 'whois' services internationally, we do feel we have a duty to question the proposals on behalf of our customers. "The right to privacy is an important one - individuals have entirely legitimate reasons for wishing to remain anonymous. For instance we don't object to people's phone numbers being ex-directory. It is important that any changes to the way information is handled are carried out entirely in accordance with the existing legislation," he said. Nominet, though, remains confident it has taken all the necessary steps to ensure that the changes to the 'whois' database comply with UK legislation. It has held a lengthy consultation on the matter, received "copious amounts of legal advice" and engaged in a number of meetings with the Information Commissioner over the last six months. "The only concern the Information Commissioner had was about the privacy of non-trading individuals, which is why we introduced an opt-out clause for them," Nominet MD Leslie Crowley told The Register. In April, Nominet UK announced plans to make more information available about individuals and organisations that have registered domain names. At the moment anyone who makes a WHOIS enquiry for .uk domains receives the registrant's name, the date it was registered and when the entry was last updated. But the registry for .uk Internet domain names also wants to provide the address of the domain registrant. Nominet UK clams it has taken the decision because it has come under increasing pressure to make contact details publicly available in line with other top level Domain registries around the world. In August it agreed that private individuals should be able to opt out of the scheme. ® Related Stories Nominet UK in climb-down over WHOIS data Nominet challenged on personal data changes Nominet UK to change WHOIS details
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2002

Peter Gabriel album preview deployed in MS audio push

Microsoft today announced that Peter Gabriel's new album Up would be the first ever in 5.1 surround sound to be made available via digital download. We at The Register are unable to confirm the truth of this, as religious convictions prohibit us from possessing all of the bits necessary to get the thing, but for the sake of argument we'll take it as read, and it seems to represent another front in Redmond's campaign to position itself, Windows Media Player and its file formats as 'must haves' for the music industry. The road to the Peter Gabriel download begins on this page, and you have our full permission to be intrigued, as we were, by the headline over page right that says "Trina's 'No Panties' feat. Tweet." It is no doubt fine and uplifting content, but has no immediate relevance to this piece, so pay attention again. The Gabriel download itself requires a minimum of Windows Media Player 6.4, but for Win2k the minimum is 7.1. We were pleased to see that the 'Dr Download' system check ("If Dr Download has given you all green ticks you are ready to download from this site") gave us no green ticks at all. The download itself is a preview, so presumably times out or has a cap on number of plays, and: "Songs that have been purchased may be transferred to a portable device or burned onto a CD." So in this sense it's a showcase for the anti-copying DRM capabilities of WMP. Participants will have their players upgraded to a DRM-capable minimum, and will of necessity have it turned on in order to listen to the preview. In addition, note the "Are you 5.1 ready?" tab. This leads you to the checklist needed if you wish to "enjoy the fantastic 5.1 multi-channel surround sound music experience provided by Windows Media 9 Series (beta)." Unsurprisingly, the list includes WMP 9, XP, and various audio systems. We have no idea to what extent the latter allow "consumers to enjoy licensed, high value content away from the PC, based on the DRM protection attributes set forth in [their] business model[s]." But we have our suspicions. Dolby 5.1 support is one of the compelling, must-have features Microsoft has incorporated in 9 as part of its drive to make WMP the audio industry IE de nos jours. It does not of itself stop you recording from CDs you've bought, or stop you playing all your old MP3s. But if it becomes ubiquitous, and if the music industry can be convinced that Microsoft digital formats are the secure way to police the distribution of music (which is more or less what it says here*) it will become more and more difficult to get new music onto MP3 in the first place, and there will be an inexorable logic to those CDs you buy refusing to let you copy them to MP3. ® * As long-term observers of the IT business might we, in the spirit of good neighbourliness, make a small suggestion to Microsoft? There is something deeply weird about having a Windows Media site that on the one hand tells consumers how truly great the software is, and why they must get it, while on the other, tells the music industry how most excellent this very same software is at stopping those consumers stealing their stuff. Is it not possible that some of these consumers might blunder into the wrong bit and make unfortunate connections? We merely mention it... Related story: 'Free' Costello CD seeds DRM, MS Media Player 9
John Lettice, 24 Sep 2002

Itanic: you've seen the movie, now buy the book

Another week, another Itanium launch: only this time it's the book of the project. "Itanium Rising" is authored by HP's Jim Carlson and chip designer Jerry Huck, HP's lead architect for IA-64. The 300 page book - that's thirty for every year of the project's life to date - has the obligatory long and hyperbolic subtitle (eg, Ring of Fire: How DonutsToGo Inc.reinvented the American dessert and created a Billion Dollar Pastry Industry). In this case it's "Itanic Rising: Breaking Through Moore's Second Law of Computing Power ". But hold on. Moore's First Law posits that the transistor density doubles every 18 months. His Second Law is that manufacturing costs increase on a semi-logarithmic scale, or double every generation, depending on who you believe. It's "One we don't want to follow!" noted the Intel Technology Journal in a 1998 article [here, 7 subsequent pages] which you can glimpse briefly before being moved along by an http redirect. (Funny, that). Nevertheless, the blurb promises that the tome might be more substantial than those formula potboilers that WSJ reporters write on their sabbaticals. And the ten-year Itanic project has quite enough drama of its own, without resorting to cliché. ("It was decision day for DonutsToGo. The latest batter mixing equipment had failed the alkaline tests; a Columbian civil war had sent the price of sugar skyrocketing; and early focus groups had been damning, describing it as the SUV of snacks. In his fourteenth floor office, CEO Mahoney knew the company he'd started in his kitchen was sinking. It needed a lifebelt. A lifebelt … that's it! "We'll put a hole in the dough!" cried Mahoney…" [that's enough boardroom potboiler - ed.]) We, ah … can't say for sure, because we haven't received our review copy yet. For the curious, publisher Prentice Hall's blurb is here. Jerry worked a miracle with our Berkeley unbeliever, so it may work for you, too. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 24 Sep 2002