12th > November > 2002 Archive

Billg tosses coins to India's poor, touts MS

In his twilight years John D Rockefeller liked to play the benevolent, eccentric old geezer, giving shiny new dimes to children whenever he had a chance to be photographed in their presence. Nowadays there aren't enough urchins and ragamuffins in North America for Billg to pull the same act, at least not in neighborhoods where he stands a reasonable chance of walking out alive, so he's gone off to India for a bit of philanthropic pandering to women and children, and selling of MS products to developers. The actual selling will be handled by legions of MS flacks, not Gates, to help establish the illusion that this trip is purely humanitarian in nature. In a recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, His Billness claimed that India's economic progress (and value as an MS marketplace) "will be threatened by AIDS. India already has at least 4 million people living with HIV, and the United States National Intelligence Council predicts that the number of people infected in India could jump to between 20 million and 25 million by 2010." Gates says he'll donate $100 million, possibly more, to reduce the spread of HIV in India. Adjusted for inflation, that might come out to less than a John D dime for each Indian child, but if it's distributed and spent wisely it may just do some good. The last thing I wish to do is make light of the worldwide AIDS crisis or discourage anyone doing anything to address it. Still, there is something profoundly tasteless in donating money to avert human suffering as part of a commercial publicity campaign, and touting it so publicly. Many of us donate money to charities, and still we manage to refrain from bleating about it in the op-ed pages of the NYT. Indeed, the Times has run five items related to the Gates Indian giveaway in three days, starting with the op-ed letter. Usually, coverage this comprehensive is reserved for matters of greater significance than what Billg is doing on his trips overseas. Yet we have the Gates letter in the Opinion section; a roundup of his itenerary in the Technology section; a list of the goodies he's pledging in the Technology section; and a three-page piece on AIDS in India in both the Health and International/Asia sections and a substantial re-write with even more fawning language of the itinerary item. That's one hell of a lot of NYT ink in one hell of a short time. The US president would probably get less if he were to go to India. Of course we have no idea what Billg and MS have done to deserve this immense generosity, but we're certain it has nothing to do with the NYT's whopping share of the MSN-8 advertising budget. Nope, nothing whatsoever. ®
Thomas C Greene, 12 Nov 2002

Microsoft MCSEs are bogus boffins, say Canadian engineers

The professional engineers' association in Canada is dismayed that Microsoft Certified System Engineers (MCSEs) are calling themselves "engineers". Microsoft agreed to discourage the use of the term among MCSEs last year, but changed its mind in the summer. The decision has angered the CCPE (Canadian Council of Professional Engineers), which is rallying holders of a P.Eng qualification to rally against the bogus boffins. In Canada only licensed professionals can call themselves engineers, who must be P.Engs, a trade qualification administered by the regional territories. Non-P.Engs attempting to pass themselves off as engineers have even been fined. Marie Lemay, chief executive of the Canadian engineers' association the CCPE (Canadian Council of Professional Engineers) wrote recently that "the term 'engineer' does carry significant value, or weight, because engineers and the engineering profession have gained a reputation for technical excellence." Implying that MCSEs don't. "Unless we make the public aware of the meaning and significance of the P.Eng. and what it means to call yourself an engineer, there will always be confusion that pushes people like MCSE certificate holders to take advantage of our status as engineers and, more importantly, inadvertently put the Canadian public at risk." Indeed. There's nothing more sickening than hearing someone attempt to push their way to the center of a public crowd with the cry, "Let me through, I'm an engineer!" only to discover that their skills amount only to a meager knowledge of Visual Basic. "We must take ownership of who and what we are, and we need every engineer in Canada to get on side," urges Lemay. According to the P.Eng website, a P.Eng is a "global brand". In addition to an engineering degree, a prospective P.Eng must complete two to four years of internship under the tutelage of an older P.Eng. P.Engs must ensure that they:- Are legally and ethically responsible for your work, and hold public safety paramount Maintain the highest levels of competence, as judged by your peers Continually upgrade your knowledge Adhere to a strict code of ethics " Most other places you can buy yourself a set of spanners and an oily rag and call yourself an engineer," writes one participant to the discussion here. Perhaps in deference to local sensitivities, Microsoft can use the less charged description "Thingy" (MCST) until a compromise is reached. Thingies and real engineers are welcome to comment. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Nov 2002

Apple adds drop-in journaling to OS X server

Apple has added journaling capabilities to its HFS+ Extended file system in a point.point update to the OS X Server software. Journaling is a convenience feature for system administrators: it improves restart times after a crash on large volumes, as the system only needs to check the journal rather than every block on the disk. Linux users can take advantage of three journal file systems: ext3, ReiserFS and Silicon Graphics' XFS. Like ext3 (tunefs -j ), but unlike some of its other counterparts, HFS+ journaling does not require the partition to be reformatted: there's a one button "Make journaled" option in the 10.2.2 Disk Utility program, or a command line alternative which allows BoFHs to enable journaling remotely via ssh. The 10.2.2 update includes a improvements likely to be useful to users of the Jaguar desktop. There's a faster 'Find' (hurrah!) and a number of enhancements have been made to the revamped Jaguar address book, the very rudimentary interface to a new contacts engine that will play a critical role in establish the Mac as a smartphone and PDA-friendly system. (Given Microsoft's antipathy to Palm and Symbian, this is a shrewd move). Last month eWeek reported that Apple would be introducing the feature, codenamed "Elvis". Earlier this year Apple hired Dominic Giampaulo, who wrote BeOS' journaling file system BFS. In addition to being a fast 64bit file system, BFS was designed to have database-like properties, making extensive use of file attributes. You can read about that in an interview we conducted back in February, here with Dominic and Benoit Schillings, author of BFS' predecessor Modal View Controller. BFS database qualities were made possible by BeOS extremely low thread latencies - allowing it to index file attributes in the background. Whether OS X is yet up to snuff in this department is hard to say. An incremental "HFS++" that makes use of attributes is possible today, but could impose an unacceptable impact on performance. Performance remains a touchy subject around Cupertino: and no one wants to use a system that's dog slow. Apple has been encouraging developers to move away from the traditional data fork/resource fork model for file typing. Whether it's planning for continued evolution or revolution, we can't yet say. ® Related Stories Windows on a database - sliced and diced by BeOS vets Microsoft reanimates Bob to cover missing Windows features
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Nov 2002

Don Capellas leaves HP

In a story created, but rejected by our automatic news generator for being too absurd, Mike 'Don' Capellas is to leave Hewlett Packard and join WorldCom, the Wall Street Journal reports. HP today confirmed the Don's departure, although the President can still be see in a spooky lit-from-below horror snap here. The outgoing CEO of the disgraced random-billing specialist, which misstated earnings by $9 billion, has tipped Capellas as his successor, and WSJ sources say the Don's name is already felt-tipped on the Chief Executive's door (economy measures, you see). At Compaq, the Don paved the way for the merger with Hewlett Packard by sending the world's fastest microprocessor to a watery grave. "We can't make a better microprocessor than Intel," Capellas told financial analysts in a vision statement earlier this year, forgetting that he already had. With WorldCom's business ebbing away, and the company staffed only by desperately anxious people, fearful for their jobs, and with a rats' nest of incompatible computer systems, Capellas should feel right at home. We recommend he read 'You have no idea the evil we do' - MCI insiders break their silence to get up to speed. The Don's departure leaves our favorite HP executive, the magnificent Shane Robison within a cutlass' swing of Carly's nape. Behind you, Carly. ® Related Stories Don Capellas articulates HPaq's vision thing HP makes Don Capellas an offer he can't refuse Don Capellas justifies Compaq Alphacide Farewell then, Alpha - Hello, Compaq the box shifter
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Nov 2002

Nationwide banks on biometrics

Nationwide, the UK's largest remaining building society, last week announced plans to roll out biometric signature capture and verification technology to all its branches in the UK. Work will begin on the installation during the first quarter of 2003. By embedding biometric signature data into electronic documents, Nationwide hopes to "remove paper from branches and eliminate filing and retrieval systems". A bold ambition, particularly in the banking sector where notarised paper receipts are very much the order of the day. Nationwide believes that the ability to check a signature and its biometric data against previously captured information provides a more robust method of verifying a customer's identity than current visual checks of signatures. The building society believes adopting new technology will make its business processes more efficient and help save it money. Nationwide's system, which is complaint with UK legislation on electronic signatures, has been developed over the last two years. Should there be any dispute over transactions, forensic data captured when a transaction is made will help settle the point, Nationwide believes. A built in diagnostics system and audit trail enables Nationwide to prove an individual signature pad was working correctly at any given time. In Nationwide's system, electronic pads sample the signature 200 times a second capturing data including the position of the stylus and the pressure exerted on the pad. In addition, the physical characteristics of the signature and the overall time taken to complete it are recorded. This forensic data is embedded in the electronic document and can be retrieved by the system at a later date to be used as verification of the customer's identity. Most forgers only have access to the physical shape of a signature, either by finding a receipt or a stolen card. They cannot copy the pressure used during the signing of a signature, nor the speed of stroke used. Both vary during the process of signing a document and are extremely difficult to mimic. Because of this Nationwide hopes the technology might help reduce fraud, at least in its own branches. If a crook steals you debit card and uses it in a retail outlet, Nationwide's system won't make a difference. If you loose a savings book, things might well be better though. Nationwide has signed contracts with two suppliers, MotionTouch and Florentis, to develop the system. If successfully rolled out to all of its branches, the system would be the UK's largest installation of biometrics in a retail environment. The system is based on electronic signature software provided by Communication Intelligence Corporation (CIC). The installation is phase two of a three-phase project. Phase one was to allow signatures already imaged to be viewed on screen by customer advisors and was completed in August 2001. Phase two is aimed at eliminating paper from the process by embedding signatures, including biometric data, into electronic documents. Phase three will involve the storage and automated verification of signatures. Nationwide has a history of pioneeering new technologies in the traditionally conservative banking sector. In 1998, Nationwide and NCR piloted an iris recognition system, developed by Sensar Inc, in a cash machine and at branch counter positions. The trial was the first public test of an iris recognition system. As a Nationwide customer, and one that's impressed by its general level of competence, I have to say I've never come across one of these iris recognition machines - which strike me as slightly scary, and best left to the realms of defence establishments. Even if this signature recognition technology is a success, and on first take it looks a lot more promising than many ideas in biometrics, its hardly going to lead to a paperless bank. Unless Nationwide stops handling money, that is. ® Related Stories British ID cards to revolutionise crime Biometric sensors beaten senseless in tests
John Leyden, 12 Nov 2002

Oracle claims ‘unprecedented’ interest in Collaboration Suite

Oracle Corp is claiming surprise at "unprecedented" levels of customer interest for its Collaboration Suite, saying the three-month-old product could outgrow its application server business, writes Gavin Clarke Preliminary interest in Collaboration Suite has surpassed that of the company's other software products, Oracle said yesterday. Driving interest is businesses' anger with messaging stalwart Microsoft Corp. Speaking at Oracle's user conference in San Francisco, the company's veteran chief financial officer Jeff Henley told press and analysts: "We have never seen that much interest early on, traditionally you [only] get the early adopters." Senior vice president and chief marketing officer Mark Jarvis added: "Typically when we launch a new product we have to explain it to customers. In the case of Collaboration Suite, customers have been calling us." Henley claimed "hundreds" of customers are interested in demonstrations, while Jarvis said Oracle currently has 50 pilots of the suite in action. Executives spoke as Oracle launched a second release of the suite. Collaboration Suite Release 2 features real-time communications, instant messaging (IM), online meetings and co-browsing. Also launched was a hosted version of the suite, Oracle Collaboration Outsourcing. Oracle has offered some elements of the suite, such as Oracle e-mail, for some years, but is only now attempting to break the messaging and collaboration duopoly of IBM and Microsoft. Support for IM and real-time collaboration, puts Oracle on more of an even keel against the companies. Fueling Oracle's desire to take on Microsoft especially is the perception that a growing chink is opening in its competitor's armour. Microsoft customers are seeking alternatives to Windows applications and operating systems, as many are unhappy that the company introduced its new licensing model this summer. Called Licensing 6.0, that model is regarded as more expensive for many customers and garnered additional hostility because it was introduced by Microsoft during the depths of a recession. Microsoft risks further alienating enterprises with the scheduled retirement of its Exchange 5.5 server. "There are a lot of customers upset with Microsoft," Jarvis said. He predicted Oracle could successfully convert growing levels of customer dissatisfaction into business wins, and potentially outstrip the size of its Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) application server business. "Our application server launched two years ago and we have 15,000 customers, BEA Systems has 13,000 customers. The collaboration suite is going to be as big if not bigger than the application server," he said. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 12 Nov 2002

ICANN plays safe with new domain plans

The Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers is proposing that three new top-level domains be added to the internet, but plans currently under discussion call for a limited roll-out that would focus on niche markets. In a document published over the weekend, ICANN president Stuart Lynn asks for public input on recommendations that three "sponsored" TLDs be added to the internet, and that proposals be solicited from interested parties. A sponsored TLD is one with a narrowly defined registrant base, such as .pro or .aero, which target certified professionals and the aerospace industry respectively, as opposed to unsponsored TLDs, such as .com or .info, which are open to anybody. Lynn said experiences with the last batch of new TLDs, approved two years ago, "seem to indicate that sponsored TLDs can be added smoothly and with little fanfare." He said they "have generated relatively few problems" and "can fill easily demonstrable community needs". In the document, Lynn also opens the floor for proposals to create a taxonomy, or category structure, for the domain name system, into which all future TLDs can easily be slotted. He said he has heard arguments for and against such a taxonomy versus an open marketplace with no such restrictions. © Computerwire
ComputerWire, 12 Nov 2002
DVD it in many colours

SMS a Sin, say Indian protestors

Indian cultural conservatives targeted wireless providers yesterday, claiming short message service technology was a major cause of divorce in the country. India's National Human Rights Council staged protest in the capital, New Delhi, according to news agency AFP, where they burned a cellular telephone. The group's leader, Subhash Gupta claimed that the SMS sub culture ran counter to Indian norms of etiquette, sparked marital discord and were diverting Indian youth towards other Western trends, such as dating. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 12 Nov 2002
Broken CD with wrench

Intel sells Shiva VPN business

Intel Corp has sold its Network Systems virtual private networking business to Simple Access Inc, which has immediately renamed itself Shiva Corp, the name of the VPN security business that Intel acquired for $182m back in October 1998. Newton, Massachusetts-based Shiva began life as Simple Access in December 2001 and will combine the Intel VPN gateway products with its own broadband security technologies, as well as the firewall, VPN and secure socket layer products that it acquired along with Galea Secured Networks in July 2002. With the latest acquisition, Shiva has also gained a development facility in Toronto, Canada. Additional details on product and distribution strategies are expected from Shiva in the coming weeks. Shiva is the third business that Santa Clara, California-based Intel has spun off since August, following high-speed content processing vendor Tarari Inc and desktop systems management software business LANDesk. As with the previous spin-offs, financial details have not been disclosed, but it has been confirmed that Intel will retain an interest in the new company through its Intel Capital investment arm. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 12 Nov 2002

AltaVista returns from the Wilderness

AltaVista Co wants to get back to the good old days when it was the most respected web search engine on the internet, and this week outlined how it hopes to learn from the lessons taught by Google Inc, the usurper that came from nowhere to own the market Kevin Murphy writes. The firm, which is currently a subsidiary of CMGI Inc, has increased the size and relevancy of its search engine and has eliminated much of the fat accumulated on its pages during its wilderness years, to better appeal to the web search OEM channel. "AltaVista has repositioned itself as an internet search company," said AltaVista chief scientist Jan Pederson. "There was a period when AltaVista was in the position Google is now. Then there was a drift in the company, a lack of focus - the portal strategy." As a highly respected search engine trying to become a portal, AltaVista waged an un-winnable war against the likes of Yahoo!, AOL and MSN, only to find Google emerge from nowhere to steal its crown when nobody was looking. The challenge of being a search engine provider is to balance revenue earned from your destination site against the wishes of portal partners, which will pay you to use your search engine provided you don't steal customers from them. Pederson admitted AltaVista lost contracts - notably with MSN, which went to Inktomi Corp - due to its ambitions as a destination site. But Google has demonstrated that having a destination is not only acceptable but also desirable when courting OEM portals, he added. Under new management, the company is dropping as far as possible graphical advertising, including pop-ups and so-called "skyscrapers", which add clutter. There will be a renewed emphasis on relevant ads and text-only ads provided by the likes of Overture Services Inc, Pederson said. AltaVista is also currently test-marketing a service called Tracer, which attempts to provide a relevant advertisement on the estimated 70% of keywords in the query stream that do not have advertising sold against them. Tracer remembers previous queries a user has made. If a user searches for "cars", she sees a text ad for cars. If she subsequently searches for "hammocks", and Overture cannot provide an ad from a hammock company, AltaVista will serve an ad from a car company. In terms of search index quality, Pederson said the company has made a number of incremental tweaks and refinements to increase the relevancy (up to 40% more relevant versus nine months ago, according to internal panel tests) and has increased the freshness and size. There are now "just shy of one billion" pages in the AltaVista index (about a third the size of Google's index). AltaVista re-crawls URLs that its users have visited every 24 hours, and refreshes the entire index every 30 to 60 days. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 12 Nov 2002

FT site defaced to promote Russian DJ

The FT Conferences Web site was defaced overnight by mischievous crackers promoting a Russian DJ. Defacement archive Zone-H reports that hackers broke in using a mistake in the Web site's configuration to post pictures of Vasya Strelnkikov, a famous Russian DJ. The defacement, which carries a note for the site's administrator saying no files were changed plus the name of the supposed attacker, can be seen here. The hacker told Zone-H he'd carried out the defacement "just for fun". We doubt the FT would see the defacement in quite the same light. The FT conference Web site is now back up and running. So the attack was only a minor inconvenience which only illustrates that many high profile Web sites continue to be vulnerable to Web vandals and pranksters. FT Conferences.com runs on an Apache Web server running on a Linux platform, Netcraft reports. ®
John Leyden, 12 Nov 2002

Freeserve's legal broadband challenge clears hurdle

The competition watchdog is to examine a complaint made by Freeserve concerning BT's marketing of residential broadband Internet access. The investigation by the Competition Commission Appeal Tribunal (CCAT) follows complaints made by Freeserve to telecoms regulator, Oftel, earlier this year. The complaints centred on allegations that BT Wholesale had abused its dominant position through cross-subsidy, discrimination and predatory pricing. Freeserve alleged that BT Openworld, BT's ISP division, was given advance notice on the 40 per cent price reduction on wholesale broadband access announced earlier this year. The UK's biggest ISP alleged that this enabled BT Openworld to put together marketing campaigns and price offers before the rest of the market had a chance to react. Oftel rejected Freeserve's allegation. However, following yesterday's ruling the CCAT ruled that the Director General of OFTEL had made an "appealable decision" in relation to all areas of the complaint made by Freeserve, and the CCAT can now proceed to examine the substance of the complaint. In a statement David Melville, Freeserve General Counsel, said: "Notwithstanding institutionalised inactivity and prevarication by the industry Regulator Oftel, we welcome the CCAT judgement as underlining a judicial commitment to ensure competition in this important new market. Competition is vital if the UK is to achieve its ambitious programme for mass consumer take-up of broadband Internet." A spokesman for BT said that this was a "matter for Oftel" but added that the ruling was merely "dealing with their [Oftel's] procedures". A spokeswoman for Oftel said: "Any decision made by Oftel is open to appeal." The case is due to be considered by the CCAT in mid-January 2003. ® Related Stories Freeserve in legal fight against Oftel BT will 'dominate DSL segment'
Tim Richardson, 12 Nov 2002

El Reg voted Top 20 UK web site

The Mirror has teamed up with Practical Internet to compile a highly scientific list of the UK's top 100 Web sites, and who should turf up at no.17 - with a bullet - but theregister.co.uk. Which is nice. Alright, alright, it's somewhat mortifying to be trounced by a download site and railtrack.co.uk. We will work up the bribes next year. The Mirror has published a list of the Top 20 web sites here. The full list is published in the next issue of Practical Internet. ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Nov 2002

Why Palm will succeed, and Microsoft will fail – Palmsource CEO

Armed with an impressive pile of research data, Palmsource CEO Dave Nagel mounted something of a troop-rallying exercise in London yesterday, and quite convincing it was too. But then you'd expect no less from a sometime industry demigod. It is not the case that the Palm platform is dead, doomed, about to be eclipsed by Redmond, says Nagel, unleashing another battery of heavy-duty Gartner - au contraire, it's in fine fettle, and Microsoft is maiming itself by trying to apply the wrong industry model to the handheld device business. The wrong industry model in question is of course the PC one. In Nagel's view the only surviving name in the PC business that makes a profit is Dell, and this has been caused by Microsoft's commoditisation of the market. Similarly, Microsoft is now applying fairly rigid platform standards to the PDA and phone business (and in the latter case is even specifically attempting to unleash a wave of no-name cloners). Manufacturers going the Microsoft way therefore have little scope for differentiation, are forced to compete on price, and will get killed. Not that many of them are doing so - while the already-anointed PC ringwraiths have moved into the PocketPC market, the handset companies have looked at the model, looked at the history books and beaten a swift retreat. But we've done this one before, haven't we? In the (still pretty convincing) world according to Nagel, the PC model won't work, the Palmsource approach of having a looser set of standards for a looser coalition of licensees will, and furthermore, having those licensees innovate and then put the results back into the pile means the Palmsource platform can and will develop faster than the Microsoft one. Ah, but develop what? This is one of the areas where the contents of the Nagel research locker get seriously interesting, and the interpretation seriously industry demigodish. He unleashes a chart (data from Europe, the US and China), which has the handheld market itself showing modest but sustained growth over the next few years, the communicator market starting to go mega from now through 2006, and somewhere out in the middle distance, "other" going seriously mega. Nobody yet knows what "other" is. Nagel's clipboard army asked people what they wanted, and by far the largest number said communicators. But half of them were interested in buying devices that don't exist yet. These could be games machines, notebook replacements (he said that twice, secretly he must really believe this one will work), or, well, "other." Nagel therefore paints a picture of another major transition where the new platforms will kind of invent themselves, and where the fleet of foot, flexible and innovative are the ones who will survive and succeed. So in what way does Palmsource qualify? Its relation, Palm, currently leads the market, and despite appearances to the contrary even leads the corporate market (the devices are frequently bought personally and reimbursed, so the numbers can be difficult to track). Licensees include the mighty Sony and Samsung (both, granted, facing several ways at once), and Palm OS 5 is allowing the platform to transition to ARM without too much angst. And it's about units - crump! The research mortars lob in another salvoe showing Palm starting at $99, while PocketPC is just about making it down to $299. Nagel explains, rationally, that the intense slimness of the base hardware platform compared to the Microsoft alternative means it can always come in under its rival, and can always therefore sell more units. And remember they researched China, where one might speculate that a $99 entry device could move pretty seriously. Not, to get back to the plot, that it's particularly difficult to explain how you'll take care of Microsoft in this sector - what, though, about the Microsoft of mobile phones? What about Symbian? The Palm platform is not currently dripping with licensees in the phone business, but despite the alleged interest of the public in the communicator business, the phone business has not been conspicously successful in selling it communicators. Clearly, they do not want that kind of communicator, and although there's likely to be something in the middle, it's not yet clear what that something will turn out to be. Maybe it's separate boxes, maybe it's something like the intensely cool-looking CDMA Kyocera 7135, maybe it's something else. As Nagel pitches it the Symbian-Nokia alliance (for the sake of brevity we'll just call it an alliance, OK?) has a couple of key disadvantages. Nokia's ownership of the Series 60 UI is one of them, because it potentially gives the Finnish company Microsoft-style levels of control. Comparative lack of developer momentum for Symbian is another one; there are large numbers of Palm apps, large numbers of Palm developers, and nothing like as many of either for Symbian. Nagel apologises for only having US stats on this, and muses that Europe might be better, but actually, it makes sense. Symbian is currently aimed at mobile phones, where yes, there will be apps but where we're not really talking a general purpose platform where you can see an obvious need for lots of different apps. Plus the phone companies are more control-freaky anyway. The general nature of the model means fewer apps, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, just different. But if the mysterious future devices turn out to be more general purpose, then yes, it'll be a disadvantage for the Symbian camp. What, though, if the new devices, communicators or whatever turn out to be more rigid, phone-type devices along the lines of the Nokia 7650? This is where the Microsoft of mobile phones may turn out to have the advantage. Nagel points out that the US market is more datacentric, while Europe more phone-centric (we've done why this is many times, we won't again here). That's certainly an argument for why a $99 entry point PDA should succeed in the States, but it's not convincing for Europe. Palm reps we spoke to afterwards see their own somewhat less visionary goal as to use this entry point as part of a campaign to educate people into using PDAs and grow the mass market, but it seems more likely to us that the sub-$99 entry point in Europe will be a phone. People will always have a phone, and with subsidies in Europe it's quite possibly a free phone. The service providers do not however like subsidising two box solutions (which was Psion's explanation for the ill-fated Odin project), so even the cheapest PDA will tend to be a lot less free than a phone. Less PDA functionality on the phone? People wanting PDAs will still have to buy them? Yes and yes, but if the mass platform is the phone, steadily acquiring whatever PDA functionality people need, then the PDA market will tend to remain niche. But presumably, having thought of so much else, Nagel's already thought of that too. Another couple of more overtly phone-type licensees Real Soon Now, perhaps? ®
John Lettice, 12 Nov 2002

BT gets broadband supremo

Alison Ritchie, the chief exec of BTopenworld, is to become BT's broadband supremo responsible for driving BT Group's whole broadband strategy. As BT's first chief broadband officer, Ms Ritchie will direct the company's policy on broadband across the whole of BT Group (including BT Wholesale, BT Retail and BTopenworld) in a bid to develop a "co-ordinated approach" to the dominant telco's delivery of high speed Internet services. BT chief exec, Ben Verwaayen, described the appointment as a move that "underlines just how central broadband is to BT". However, the appointment has been criticised by some in the industry as further evidence of BT trying to tighten its grip on a sizeable chunk of the broadband market in the UK. A spokesman for AOL UK said that the appointment "blurred the regulatory lines", since the different groups within BT are supposed to operate at arm's length. However, BT insists Ms Ritchie will not be involved in any pricing or marketing issues that might compromise her role. Underlining her impartiality, Ms Ritchie is handing over the day to day running of BT Openworld for regulatory reasons to John Butler, currently director of new services and strategy. Still, the move does at least provide some good news for consumers. With a boss specifically responsible for all of BT's broadband initiatives, there's now someone to complain to when things go wrong. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Nov 2002

US military zeros in on Brit cracker

US authorities are seeking the extradition of an unnamed UK cracker who broke into an estimated 100 unclassified US military systems over the past year, according to reports. officials have declined to name the suspected perp, but its is believed charges will be filed against him (or her) northern Virginia and New Jersey as early as today, Associated Press reports. The US will seek this person's extradition from Britain to face these charges. Army and Navy investigators have been on the trail of the cracker, regarded as a committed, as opposed to "recreational" miscreant, for over a year. But why they're talking about this investigation now - apparently prior to an arrest? Although no networks containing classified information were compromised, the authorities view the repeated attacks as very serious and have expended huge effort to find the suspected culprit. US authorities are believed to be seeking extradition, rather than a trial in the UK, due to the previous collapse of high profile prosecutions here involving alleged attacks on US military systems. ®
John Leyden, 12 Nov 2002

UK Govt warns of e-scams

The mollycoddling UK Government has warned punters to be on their guard against e-mail, text and fax scams run by unscrupulous operators. Thank goodness for that. And here's me thinking that poor widow from Nigeria really does want to hand me a slice of her $3m inheritance just so long as I cough up $2,000 to get the cash out of the country. Speaking today at the launch of National Consumer week Consumer Affairs Minister, Melanie Johnson, said: "We have warned the public about the danger of postal scams, such as bogus prize draws and competitions. But people also need to bear the same warnings in mind if they use mobile phones, fax machines and e-mail. "Every day, people throughout the UK open their mail, turn on their computers or switch on their mobile phones to learn that they've won 'an exciting prize' in a draw, lottery or some other promotion. While much of the marketing conducted in this way is legitimate, unfortunately it also includes examples, which are misleading or untrue. "All too often those people taken in by scams make the mistake of being too trusting and lose money as a result," she said. We can all have our wits about us now thanks to the ever-vigilant Government. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Nov 2002

Oracle in buffer overflow brown alert

Security researchers are warning of a potentially nasty buffer over-run flaw in Oracle Database 9i databases. In common with such flaws, a buffer overflow in the iSQL*Plus module of Oracle 9i might allow an attacker to run arbitrary code in the security context of the Web server. iSQL*Plus is a Web-based application that allows users to query the database. David Litchfield of NGS Software warns that the problem affects Oracle Database 9i R1,2 on all operating systems - not just Web servers. He decribes the problem as "high risk". In an advisory posted on BugTraq last week he warns: "On most systems this will be the 'Oracle' user and on Windows the 'SYSTEM' user. Once the web server has been compromised attackers may then use it as a staging platform to launch attacks against the database server itself." NGS Software alerted Oracle to this problem on the 18th of October and Oracle, last week, issued an alert. The Oracle bug number assigned to this issue is 2581911. Patches can be downloaded from the Oracle Metalinksite. ®
John Leyden, 12 Nov 2002

Vodafone sales soar, losses fall

Vodafone interim sales jumped 67 per cent, thanks to a first-time contribution from its now wholly owned Japanese subsidiary. On an operating level, the world's biggest mobile network operator remains very profitable, generating £4.25bn in Earnings Before Bad Stuff, and cranking up free cashflow to £2.9bn in the six months to September 30. But there is the goodwill amortisation bog of Bad Stuff to wade through - £6.8bn this time around dragging net losses down to £4.34bn.Peanuts, considering that Vodafone produced losses of £9.74bn in the first half last year. Net debt was reduced during the period by 11 per cent to £10.7bn. Vodafone reported climbing ARPU (average revenue per users) in some key markets - it quotes percentages but it does not say by how much. Non-voice revenues - essentially SMS at this time, accounted for 13.2 per cent of service turnover. The company last week launched Vodafone Live! a consumer portal, and is prepping a service called Vodafone Remote Access for corporate road warriors. Vodafone ended the financial period with 107.5 million "proportionate registered customers", compared with compared with 101.1 million, recorded 12 months earlier. ®'
Drew Cullen, 12 Nov 2002

AMD ships mobile 2200+

AMD yesterday launched the mobile Athlon XP 2200+, and in a pleasant change from recent 'launches', actually has parts in stock to ship. Fujitsu Siemens, AMD's biggest customer in Europe, is fitting in the 2200+ into the AMILO A-x600 series and it has stock available now. Time Computers, a major UK system builder and probably AMD's second biggest customer in Europe, is prepping a notebook launch featuring the part and in Japan, Epson Direct is expected to launch a notebook too. And in the US? You can go buy a 2200+ notebook from the Home Shopping Network. This is not exactly the first name to trip off our tongues when we're thinking of buying a new notebook. But if stocks are tight, then this can be guaranteed to choke off demand... HSN's exclusive offer is an unbranded 2200+XP laptop retailing for $1,498. You can check out the spec here. ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Nov 2002
DVD it in many colours

3Com, Xircom make patent peace

Xircom has blinked first in the patent spat with 3Com, agreeing to pay $15m royalties and acknowledge 3com IP in its RealPort and RealPort 2 mobile connectitivity kits. It is also cross-licensing patents with 3Com, which is hailing this outbreak of 'patent peace'. 3Com can afford to be magnamimous in victory; in battle it showed little mercy after a court ruled on March 22, this year, that 3Com was "likely to prevail on its claim that Xircom infringes claim 29 of U.S. Patent # 6,146,209". In July, 3Com pressed home the advantage a preliminary injunction to stop Xircom selling Realport products in the US. Xircom is, of course now owned by Intel which has grown accustomed lately to making cheques out for large back payments for patent infringements. Last month, Intel lost its patent dispute with Intergraph, a court decision which cost it another $150m. 3Com launched its legal action against Xircom in 2000m, well before the company was bought by Intel. But the fact that the money is coming out of Chipzilla's pocket will please the networking equipment maker greatly. 3Com's fortune was founded on low-end NICs (networking integration cards). Profits from this business paid for everything else more or less, including the badly-judjed acquisition of US Robotics. This cash machine ended, more or less overnight, when Intel embraced the NIC market, pumping out cards much more cheaply than the market leader. 3Com had to follow suit, but the gravy days were over. ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Nov 2002

Toshiba goes Dutch with i-mode phone

Toshiba has launched its first handset into Europe, but you have to be Dutch, or at least live in the Netherlands,oh, and be a KPN Mobile subscriber to get your mitts on one. KPN also has subs in Germany and Belgium so we can expect TS21i handsets to tip up in these countries too. Called the TS21i, the Toshiba-branded handset costs nothing for a two year contract, and €49 for one year. i-mode data services are free for the first three months, and prices thereafter start at 10Mb/month. So, apart from the occasional roaming Dutchmen and women, is the UK likely to see anyone carrying the TS21i? In a word,no. Unless one of the networks plumps for i-mode. (Which would be nice for those roaming Dutch - no i-mode means no data roaming). In Europe, Bouyges Telecom in France and Telefonica in Spain have also signed up to i-mode, a wireless data protocol developed by NTT Docomo, and in use by millions of users in Japan. So will Tosh phones tip up in these territories - the company is not saying, but told us to watch out for announcements later this week. Toshiba cheerfully admits that it is late into the Europe, but with a replacement market of 100 million handsets a year, it thinks there's plenty of potential for growth. It says it is working closely with network operators to bring more data-centric phones to market. Toshiba last year made seven million mobile phones for the Japanese and North American markets. ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Nov 2002

Easyart.com to face Stelios in ‘easy’ court action

Easyart.com is to face easyGroup in the High Court next year to rebut allegations that it is profiting from the 'easy' name. EasyGroup, run by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, has a long history of trying to protect the "easy" prefix maintaining that this is part of the company's trademark. However, in a fight of David and Goliath proportions, Easyart.com has decided to make a stand and refused to hand over the domain. Last year, print site Easyart.com received a letter from Easy Group's lawyers warning that it was guilty of "passing off" on easy Group's good name. Lawyers demanded Easyart.com hand over the domain or face the courts. Two months ago Easyart.com boss, Simon Matthews, told easy Group to either sue him, or call off the lawyers. Last month easy Group issued proceedings against the small company. Now, Easyart.com is fighting back and it's lawyers have agreed to proceed with the case on a "no win, no fee basis". Said Simon Matthews, CEO of Easyart.com, whose family has been in the art business in London for over 150 years: "The word ‘easy’ is in common use and cannot be owned by any one company. There are literally hundreds of companies trading with the word ‘easy’ as part of their name, many of which pre-date any of the easyGroup companies. "We operate in a completely different area of business to easyGroup and our branding has a totally different colour and look. We are not aware that any of our 16,000 customers have been confused by our name or any implied association. Easyart.com is confident of its position and points to a past action involving easyGroup against easyrealestate.com. Although easyGroup won the case because the domain owner had copied easyJet's set-up, colours and design for the Web site, the judge made it clear that the word "Easy" was not relevant. A spokesman for easyGroup told The Register that Easyart.com's continued use of the domain posed a "commercial threat" to easyGroup's brand. "We are trying to protect our consumers, we are trying to protect our brand from commercial threat," he said. The case is due to be heard in the High Court in 2003. ® Related Story Stelios faces challenger in easy domain name crusade
Tim Richardson, 12 Nov 2002