13th > November > 2002 Archive

Gates gives $100m to fight HIV, $421m to fight Linux

We do hate to rain on a high-profile corporate love-fest, but we have to point out that in addition to the much trumpeted $100 million Billg has donated to India's fight against HIV, he's funding the Microsoft jihad against Linux to the far more impressive tune of $421 million. That means that Linux is more than four times worse than AIDS to Billg and his happy Redmond family. God forbid any of them should learn the bitter truth the hard way and start talking sense. Billg's personal $100 million goes to health initiatives over ten years, while $421 million of Microsoft's money goes, over a mere three years, to support MS-friendly development and 'educational' initiatives. And being a monster MS shareholder himself, a 'Big Win' in India will enrich him personally, perhaps well in excess of the $100 million he's donating to the AIDS problem. Makes you wonder who the real beneficiary of charity is here. Oh, and let's not forget the five, count 'em, five, vanity puff-pieces appearing in the New York Times this week glorifying Billg's generosity, one of which he wrote himself. That's worth quite a lot too, in PR brownie points for both him and his company. It's far better than free advertising; it actually looks like news and therefore has immensely more persuasive value. Interestingly, the NYT neglected to mention the gargantuan MS marketing tie-in and obvious bribe against, and obstacle to, Linux adoption in India. Certainly they've been falling all over Gates in their eagerness to give him ink, so we're at a terrible loss to explain why they could find no place, among those thousands of words, to plug in a brief mention of the $421 million in anti-Linux ammo he's delivering. Readers see greene-eyed monster Now for some reader feedback. Admittedly, criticizing a man who's giving a vast sum of money to needy people has its pitfalls, though since Biblical days the hypocrisy of rich men conspicuously giving away what they can't use has been a constant, exemplary theme, often treated with acidic and sarcastic language.1 Nevertheless our notoriously sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued readers have detected both bitterness and envy in my recent article criticizing Billg's pledge of $100 million to fight the spread of HIV in India, and the media blitz which the New York Times so graciously provided him. Basically, I'm just plain bitter because I can't afford to offer such grand gifts myself, readers say: Bill and Melinda Gates are philanthropists we could only dream of becoming. They have given $600 million away since the inception of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and chances are they are only getting started. Bill Gates said years ago that he will likely spend most of his later years giving most of his money away to help make the world a better place. Even though I'm sure that has given you a good laugh. he is living up to that prediction. NYT spent a lot of ink on the story because it was a rare instance of high-profile human generosity and HIV in India is truly and epidemic. The fact is the man will never be able to do anything for the rest of his life without zealots like you trumpeting how it's somehow made you into a victim. It's pathetic - get on with something productive! Bill Gates and Microsoft, as much as I'm sure you hate to admit it, have the BEST (notice I didn't just say "leading") product in most of the markets in which they participate and THAT is why Microsoft is successful. Your article with the only waste of (electronic) ink that I've read on the subject. The Register has also been removed from my Favorites list. --Lyndal McMurphy Did you know that the gates foundation has an endowment from Bill and Melinda of $24 odd billion dollars? Their recent quest to help alleviate the spread of aids in India is costing $100 million dollars. You said in you article that you quite often give money to charity... I hardly think your/our measly donations to charity are worth talking about; however $100 million dollars is worth making a song and dance about. It is obvious to all who read your articles on Bill and Microsoft that you're a victim of the green eyed monster we call jealousy and can't stand the fact that Bill is in the position to donate away billions of dollars and you are not. Why don't you find something else to rant about you dried up old hack? --Luke Faichney I'm particularly intrigued by the line, "I hardly think your/our measly donations to charity are worth talking about; however $100 million dollars is worth making a song and dance about." Our Luke has clearly not taken the old story by another Luke, of the widow and the two 'mites' (i.e., coins of little value), to heart.2 It's the disposition of the offerer, not the size of the gift, that defines the difference between self-interest and charity. Selfish motives, especially vanity and its corporate cousin, PR, cheapen gifts. There's also a general sense among people that the gift should cost the giver. It ought to hurt a bit. And it ought to be done primarily out of a desire to help another. Giving away money you couldn't spend in a million years is not charity any more than giving table scraps to a dog is charity. Another letter, describing the tax shenanigans of Ireland's mighty Merchant Princes, offers additional food for thought. If Gates and his like paid normal rates of tax on their income, whether by capital accretion or otherwise, it might be a lot more than they give away. We have a local variation where Tony O'Reilly, Michael Smurfit (Monaco), Dermot Desmond (Gibraltar!), PJ McManus (Geneva), Tony Ryan (Monaco), Denis O'Brien (Portugal) and others go into tax exile and avoid paying Irish tax. Some of them then make big gestures of funding academic institutions which bear their name. I am sure I have paid enough tax for a school hall somewhere by now, but it has gone to welfare payments, law & order, medical services, etc, etc. These guys, who can live up to 182 days per year on their Irish estates, lecture us on fiscal rectitude and cutting back on government expenditure. Lots of other smaller players live in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands. I would much sooner [see them] pay the tax. I expect that if these people paid normal Irish tax, I would have less to pay. George Soros, having scammed the long-suffering financial industry, seems to be recycling some of his money to good causes in deprived areas, mainly Eastern Europe and the Southern USA. Not likely customers for him. Anyway, it is better if Gates and the others give money away rather than hoard it. --name withheld by request I'll admit freely that if I had Gates' money I'd be tempted to buy myself a humanitarian image that will endure for centuries. Giving it away is a no-brainer: there's absolutely nothing else you can do with that kind of wealth. I'd like to think that I'd give it away generously, and quietly, and that I'd even make personal sacrifices in order to do so. But the money would probably corrupt me as much as it's corrupted our poor Bill, who's using it not just for vanity, but to advance the sales agenda and polish the image of his mighty mega-corporation. But yes, assuming his kind of bankroll, I can all too easily picture "Thomas C. Greene" carved in the eaves of libraries and museums and concert halls and plastered on the brochures and letterheads of relief, educational and artistic endowments throughout the world. And I'd probably become fatally proud of it, and of myself, too. But Chesterton makes the key observation here. The man with tremendous wealth is a paradox: he has to be smart enough to get it, yet stupid enough to want it. Fortunately, I'm neither. ® 1 "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." Mt 6:1-4 2 "And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, 'Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.'" Lk 21:1-4
Thomas C Greene, 13 Nov 2002

HP tops Q3 EMEA Intel server sales

The latest figures from research firm IDC Corp for the EMEA Intel Corp server market indicates that Hewlett-Packard Co has slightly increased its lead as the top vendor by unit shipments. Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC's latest analysis of the EMEA "Standard Intel Server Architecture" market gave HP a 42.8% share of the market for the third quarter of 2002, up 1.2 points from the second quarter. The research company estimates that 294,000 Intel server units were shipped in the quarter, a growth of 5.9% from the same quarter last year. Of that figure IDC estimates that 126,000 units were from Palo Alto, California-based HP, an increase of 2.2% year-on-year. HP's nearest rival was Dell Computer Corp, which was responsible for 14.6% of all units shipped, followed by IBM Corp with 13.6%, Fujitsu-Siemens Computers BV with 7.8%, and Acer Inc with 2.4%. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 13 Nov 2002

VeriSign tackles customer service problems

VeriSign Inc, which is right up there with Microsoft Corp and America Online Inc in the disgruntled customer rankings, says it has made satisfying its dwindling base of domain name registrants its number one priority and has made progress this year, writes Kevin Murphy. According to John Donoghue, senior VP at VeriSign since the start of the year, the company has a way to go, but has measurably reduced dissatisfaction this year by fixing outmoded technology and increasing the effectiveness of its customer support call centers. "My biggest concern over the last 10 months has been dealing with the customer experience, of which customer service is a part," Donoghue told ComputerWire. "On any given day you can find somebody who has a problem with us, but there are a lot less people that do now than there were a year ago." Scores of web sites are dedicated to tearing a strip off VeriSign and Network Solutions Inc (NSI, acquired by VeriSign in 2000). Some date back to before the domain market was opened to competition and NSI was a monopoly, but others have been launched as recently as the third quarter this year. VeriSign's domain market share has been dropping like a rock for the past couple of years. While VeriSign claims the drop is largely due to the demise of the speculation market, a claim with more than an ounce of truth to it, it seems likely many customers are fleeing to the competition. Hundreds of people have been annoyed enough to hunt down appropriate forums and post their experiences online. Stories vary from names inadvertently deleted and resold and fraud allegations to Catch 22 situations where in order to change your contact email address you must retrieve a password from a defunct email account. A post to NSIHorrorStories.com tells of a customer who wants to make a citizen's arrest of CEO Stratton Sclavos. Another says he had to complain to his local Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau before his service issue was resolved. Donoghue said historically "the reputation was well deserved" but says that technology upgrades, workforce expansion and training, and operational efficiencies are paying dividends, with key metrics indicating satisfaction is improving. According to Donoghue, less than 2% of VeriSign's registrants call its customer service hotlines in any given month, half February levels. Call abandonment is down to 3% from about 30% in February, and average call time has been reduced from eight minutes to six minutes, he said. "That's still too long, we still have to work to improve that," Donoghue said. "As a company we're dedicated to satisfying our customers." Part of addressing the problem involves throwing manpower at it. VeriSign recently opened a new call center, its third, and has 500 call center employees, each of which has to take a two-week training course prior to manning the phones, Donoghue said. The company also had to address the cleanliness of its customer databases, one of which dated back to 1993 and was originally kept on an Excel spreadsheet. One database had no facility for account numbers and passwords, and had to be migrated to newer software. New web-based self-service tools are being introduced to simplify processes such as transferring a domain that previously would have required a four-page form to be completed, notarized and faxed back to the company, Donoghue said. However, it seems there still may be room for improvement in VeriSign as a whole. The domain name business and the digital certificate business are "for the most part relatively autonomous", meaning domain support staff cannot help cert customers and vice versa. This can become a problem because part of the authentication process VeriSign uses before issuing a web server cert is to check that the requesting party is also the registrant of the domain the cert will authenticate. VeriSign's main rival in the cert space, GeoTrust Inc, claims this is driving customers its way. Donoghue, who works for the registrar side of the house, declined to comment on matters involving the cert business, but said that because the cert customer base is relatively small compared to the domain business, the amount of customer crossover is limited. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 13 Nov 2002

IBM tweaks WebSphere pricing

IBM Corp has overhauled its Websphere pricing structure as it dresses up the middleware family to appeal to the as yet untapped medium-sized business market. The IT giant recently announced a mid-market version of WebSphere Express family of Web application servers and associated e-business middleware. In a teleconference call with analysts and press last week, Rich Cohen, director of WebSphere Midrange & Industry Marketing for IBM Software Group, detailed IBM's go-to-mid-market strategies for its WebSphere Express family and elaborated on a new pricing strategy designed to tempt small-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). IBM defines mid-market organizations as having between 100 and 1000 employees, and generating between $50m to $100m of revenues. "There are around 400,000 of these types of organizations around the world, representing a $12bn opportunity for our e-business middleware software", said Cohen, pointing to internal IBM market research. "This is a strategic market that IBM wants to succeed in with its WebSphere brand", he added. IBM hopes to match the success it has had with WebSphere in the large enterprise in the mid-market. But Cohen also acknowledges the unique requirements of the latter market. "Mid-market organizations want to buy solutions not technology; while there is increased pressure to implement e-business systems, these companies are approaching the Internet very cautiously", he said. Cohen also highlighted the need to start small and grow incrementally, demonstrate quick ROI, and provide robust security as other critical requirements for mid-market businesses. The WebSphere Express family comprises of four main product offerings: WebSphere Application Server Express, a low-footprint, out-of-the-box server that has an integrated runtime and development environment; WebSphere Express and WebSphere Portal Express Plus, the core portal framework (the Plus version adds collaboration capabilities); and WebSphere Business Connection Express, which leverages Web services technology to connect to partner systems. Users can download Web services for key industry processes; today IBM focuses on two sectors, but expects to add around five more in 2003. Cohen also stressed the importance of local partners as a key route to market for the WebSphere Express family. "An IBM study of worldwide buyer behavior shows that 65% of buyers buy solutions and middleware from partners; this year the figure is even higher - around 90%," said Cohen. He unveiled a special Express Partners Pack service bundle aimed at ISVs, systems integrators and solutions providers for $500 - which is normally valued at over $10,000. However, Cohen also stressed that IBM would be careful to draw explicit boundaries between its e-business platform and its partner solutions. "We are aware that many solutions partners may express concern over being marginalized as more and more platform providers move up the food chain, and deliver more and more of the value that their own applications deliver", said Cohen. "But IBM does not intend to play in the applications space; rather we will continue to provide a secure platform to power our partners' solutions and enhance their value net". IBM claims to have over 100 development partners and has set-up numerous development panels to define requirements for the WebSphere Express platform. Cohen also said that beta programs ensured that development stayed focused on key customer requirements. IBM's pricing strategy holds the key for widespread adoption. Cohen detailed a flexible pricing structure that would make WebSphere Express affordable to businesses of all sizes. "Our pricing structure matches the needs of our partners; many of who price their solutions on a per-use and/or per-processor basis", Cohen said. "This makes it easy to include WebSphere Express into their solution offerings, and allows organizations to grow incrementally by paying for what they need, when they need it", he added. All the WebSphere components are priced separately - based on per-user of unlimited user options. For example, WebSphere Application Server starts at $25 per user. WebSphere Express is $77 per user and WebSphere Express Plus, which adds collaboration capabilities, starts at $122 per user. The WebSphere Business Connection Express component is priced differently - based on partner connections ($5,000 for up to 10 connections per server). The price comparison between WebSphere Express and Microsoft is wide; with IBM claiming that an inventory management application, supporting 60 defined users and allowing an unknown number of users with purchasing access over the Internet would cost $2,000 with WebSphere Express - compared to $5,800 for a Microsoft solution (this scenario assumes that the operating system is bought separately). WebSphere currently runs on Windows 2000; but IBM will add support for Linux on Intel and iSeries in 2003. IBM's iSeries is an especially important market for WebSphere Express; of the 490,000 systems worldwide (around 250,000 customers) that have deployed iSeries worldwide, around 90% of these are mid-market organizations. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 13 Nov 2002

BIND vulnerable, upgrade now

There are several newly discovered "serious vulnerabilities" in BIND, the internet's dominant domain name system server that hypothetically could be exploited to bring the internet to a grinding halt if not widely patched. Internet Security Systems Inc, which discovered the flaws, and the Internet Software Consortium, which maintains BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain), warned yesterday that all versions of BIND 4 and 8 up to 4.9.10 and 8.3.3 are affected by multiple vulnerabilities and that administrators should upgrade to unaffected versions. "The vulnerabilities... affect nearly all currently deployed recursive DNS servers on the internet," ISS said in an advisory. Recursive DNS servers are those used by ISP subscribers and companies to find out the correct IP address for a domain without having to go to that domain's authoritative name server every time. ISS said there are no known exploits, but added: "If exploits for these vulnerabilities are developed and made public, they may lead to compromise and DoS [denial of service] attacks... an internet worm may be developed to propagate by exploiting the flaws in BIND. Widespread attacks against the DNS system may lead to general instability and inaccuracy of DNS data." The three vulnerabilities outlined by ISS are a buffer overflow that could allow hackers to take over the name server if recursion is enabled, a DoS flaw in the way non-existent subdomains are handled, and another DoS flaw in the way BIND caches domain lookup information and sets the time-to-live. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 13 Nov 2002

RIM axes staff, cuts spending

Research In Motion Ltd, one of the pioneers of the PDA market with its Blackberry devices, plans to axe some 200 staff, and decrease discretionary spending, in an effort to reach its breakeven target date of February 2003. The staff reductions will bring its total workforce down to 2,000 employees, and will result in a special pre-tax charge of $8m to $9m in the third quarter of 2003. The long-term cost saving of these measures is estimated to be approximately $20m to $25m annually. In a statement, chairman and co-CEO Jim Balsillie said: "In order to solidify our position and achieve financial targets, we are moving ahead with a difficult yet strategically important decision to tighten operational efficiencies, and adjust our current staffing level." Only last week, the Waterloo, Canada-based company signed potentially lucrative licensing deals with some of the world's most prominent names in the mobile computing market, namely Nokia, Palm and Handspring. The market remains skeptical that RIM will hit its February breakeven target, due to current market conditions and an increasing number of competitors, and analysts are predicting that it will continue to lose money through to March 2004. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 13 Nov 2002

HP claims first for automatic storage provisioning

Hewlett Packard Co has at the very least pulled alongside EMC Corp in the race to the next major milestone in the automation of data center storage - and is claiming that it has actually beaten its rival to the draw. The company has begun shipping software that it promises will reduce the complicated and labor-intensive task of provisioning storage space on a disk array to a trivial task that even end-users can handle. Although HP's claim that it got its product out of the door before EMC may appear trivial, it highlights the storage sector's current focus on rapidly developing the sophisticated software tools which are badly needed in order to manage ballooning corporate data storage. By a recent Gartner estimate, storage capacities are increasing at around 70% per year. While EMC and HP will this year and next be locked in another race to match each other's third-party support and cover more platforms, IBM and Hitachi Data Systems have yet to say when they will supply their customers with automatic provisioning software. Hitachi last month announced a reselling deal with start-up InterSan Inc, whose SRM software includes automatic provisioning. HP says it began shipping its OpenView Storage Provisioner software on November 5 - the same day that EMC Corp says it began shipping its equivalent Automated Resource Manager product. HP and EMC officials crossed swords yesterday when HP suggested that EMC has not actually shipped ARM yet, on the grounds that "none of the analysts we briefed on our software have seen the EMC product yet." EMC for its part was adamant that its software, which it unveiled in September, did ship on the 5th. Because of the coordination required between different IT teams, current manual procedures for provisioning new or extra storage space to applications can take days. "If it's taking 37 steps, or 73 steps, or even 103 steps to do it now, we can take it down to just one step, " said HP director of product market Don Langeberg. This will not only reduce the workload for storage administrators completing a frequently occurring task, but will also reduce the risk of error, Langeberg said. The OpenView Provisioner will even be so simple to use that it will include an interface designed to offer end-users a self-service facility to allocate extra space to their applications. Even though that self-service interface will be governed by a quota system integrated with the HP software, it is not yet clear whether IT departments will be brave enough to allow their customers to simply help themselves to precious storage space. Some vendors have already admitted that IT departments are even themselves nervous of using automated provisioning tools themselves, because of the potential to disrupt applications or create hidden problems. EMC says it has reached the same level of simplicity as HP in its automatic provisioning, but says it doesn't think its customers want to offer self-service storage to end-users just yet. For HP, Langeberg said: "I think over time you'll see IT departments allowing end-users to provision space themselves." In terms of cross-vendor support, EMC currently has a clear advantage over HP, despite HP's unrivalled success in negotiating API swaps with other suppliers of storage hardware. The HP software - which began development at Compaq - will work only with the company's EVA, MA and MSA series of arrays. Those were all originally Compaq devices. Early next year HP says it will add support for the Hitachi Data Systems Lighting which it currently re-badges, and will cover EMC and IBM arrays later in 2003. EMC's third-party support already covers HP's arrays, although not HP's flagship EVA array. The API swap negotiated between HP and EMC did not cover this device, HP said yesterday. The HP OpenView Storage Provisioner runs on the HP OpenView Storage Management Appliance and is operating system independent. An entry-level license for the software, HP OpenView Storage Management Appliance and 2TB capacity lists at $20,000. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 13 Nov 2002

Infineon climbs into bed with Nanya

Infineon has signed a memory manufacturing and technology sharing deal with Nanya. The duo are to build new plant in Taiwan, committing €550m each to the project, until 2005. The deal will see 1,300 new jobs created and a total investment commitment of €2.2bn. The first chips will roll off the production line in late 2003 and capacity will ramp up to a maximum of 50,000 wafer starts a month. They are also building a new 300m facility which is expected to open for business with an initial capacity of 20,000 wafer starts a month in the second half of 2004 Nanya, the Taiwanese player, estimates the additional production capacity will take it into fourth place worldwide in the DRAM maker league table, with double digit market share. According to Infineon, joint share will be above 20 per cent worldwide, when production is fully ramped up (sometime in 2004/2005). Infineon and Nanya will also pool together development efforts for the introduction of 0.09micron and 0.07micron assembly lines. Co-operation is the name of the game in the DRAM market, with soaring costs for the introduction of new technology and tumbling prices. But getting rival to work together is not necessarily easy: last month, Infineon walked away from its original Taiwanese manufacturing partner, Mosel Vitelic, citing persistent breaches of their agreement. At the same time it walked away from ProMOS, a DRAM manufacturing facility jointly-owned (mostly) with Mosel Vitelic. Infineon said it was prepared to continue placing business ProMos's way (it accounted for 40 per cent+ of production) subject to new negotiations. Today's announcement suggests that ProMOS will have to look even harder for new customers. ® Related story Infineon beats up Mosel-Vitelic
Drew Cullen, 13 Nov 2002

Cable & Wireless trims 3,500 jobs

Cable & Wireless is to slash around 3,500 jobs, as first-half losses ballooned to £4.5bn. In a statement on Wednesday, the beleaguered UK telecoms company said that it had plans to cut around 25 per cent of workers employed in its Global division, which provides data and Internet services to corporations around the world. These cuts, which follow 8,000 job losses since December 2000, will leave the unit with just 9,000 workers. The company's data centres, many of which were bought when Exodus collapsed, will be reduced from 42 to 23. Also included in the restructuring plan, which will cost about £800m but should lead to costs savings of £600m a year, is a retreat from Continental Europe and the US as well as a reshaping of the company's UK operations. Cable & Wireless said it considered plans to exit the US and European markets altogether, but has instead opted to focus on large-scale multinational customers overseas, and will no longer service smaller clients. Most of the cuts will take place in the US, it is thought, with the reminder set to take place in the UK. A spokesperson for the company was unable to say what impact the proposed job losses would have on the more than 20 Global division workers based in Ireland. "The scale of the restructuring we are undertaking represents a major challenge, particularly given the current market turmoil," commented David Nash, the company's chairman designate. "However, the board believes this approach represents the best available option for Global's future by focusing on businesses with potential for growth whilst preserving cash by minimising exit costs and operating cash outflows." CEO Graham Wallace, who has made ambitious pledges to make the Global unit profitable by the end of next year, made similar comments. "These are tough measures in a tough market but we are committed to achieving our cash flow target for Cable & Wireless Global," the CEO commented. There has been some speculation that Wallace would be called on to resign in the wake of the company's troubles, but he told reporters in a conference call that he had not been asked to leave. Under Wallace, the UK company invested a massive £5bn in its Global division in the years before the telecoms meltdown, before the price of global data services crumbled. In the US alone, the company spent $1.1bn on acquisitions to compete with the big telecoms there. But in its results on Wednesday, the firm wrote down the value of its Global division by £3.5bn, leading to pre-tax losses of £4.43bn for the half-year to 30 September. This figure compares to last year's pre-tax loss of £291m. On a per share basis, the company lost £1.945 in the six months, compared with a net loss of £0.203 a year ago. Revenues shrank from £3.3bn to £2.4 bn year-on-year. Much of Cable & Wireless' suffering in recent months is thought to have come from its US operations, parts of which the firm is now abandoning following earlier restructuring announcements in May. In September, the firm said it was referring around 300 of its US customers to a rival operator, New Edge Network, for £2.5m. Earlier in that month the firm said it had entered into a definitive agreement to transfer its US retail voice customer base to a subsidiary of Primus Telecommunications Group for an aggregate maximum consideration of $32 million in cash, payable over two years. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 13 Nov 2002

Eidos settles Hitman Sikh dispute

Eidos has released an official statement about the controversy over Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, which came under fire from Sikh groups for allegedly depicting the religions adherents as members of an evil cult. The UK games publisher claims that it has now come to an "amicable position" with the Sikh Coalition, and will respond by removing all relevant content from the Hitman 2 website, making changes to the forthcoming GameCube version of the title and taking steps to adapt the current editions of the game to edit out the offending content where possible. "In recognition of the concerns and sensitivities which have been raised, Eidos and the developers, IO Interactive, have responded in both a socially and commercially responsible manner," the statement reads. "Eidos and IO Interactive would like to stress that no offence was intended but would like to apologise to the Sikh community and other persons for any offence taken." The red-faced company goes on to state that it has learned its lesson from the debacle, and will "observe and respect cultural, religious and ethical sensitivities in its future products". © gamesindustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 13 Nov 2002

T-Online ups rev and profit

Europe's biggest ISP, T-Online, added 200,000 broadband customers during the summer, taking its ADSL subscriber base to 2.5 million. This healthy growth in broadband punters helped deliver a 38 per cent growth in revenues for the first nine months of 2002 compared to the same period last year. Net revenues for the three months to the end of September rolled in at €383m, up from the €270m during the same quarter last year. This performance means that the outfit has recorded its second consecutive quarter in the black with an EBITDA (earnings before interest etc) profit of €35.6m, compared to an EBITDA loss of €34.8m last year. Last quarter T-Online reported an EBITDA profit of €28.8m. T-Online's total European subscriber base grew to more 11.8 million at the end of September - a 21 per cent increase on last year. In particular, subscriber growth in France grew 44 per cent to almost one million. In France T-Online is represented by the brand Club Internet, in Spain with Ya.com and in Portugal with Terravista. In Austria, Germany and Switzerland it is run under the T-Online brand. ® Related Story T-Online gets into the black
Tim Richardson, 13 Nov 2002

MS teams with Samsung Semi to produce low cost PDA design

While Palmsource's Dave Nagel was denouncing Microsoft for attempting to commoditise the PDA market, Microsoft was, er, commoditising the PDA market some more. Following up on its production of reference designs for Microsoft-based mobile phones earlier this year Microsoft has teamed up with Samsung to produce a reference design for cheaper Pocket PC devices. The ARM9-based design has a 3.5in colour or greyscale screen, can weigh as little as 2.9 ounces, and is intended to produce devices at the $299 pricepoint or below. And it's available already, meaning that Samsung and Microsoft have been quietly busy on this one for some time already. The price point really just skims at the lower edge of Pocket PC pricing, so is unlikely to shake Palm's belief that it can own the entry level at $99. But it'll allow lower tier players to put out the dreaded undifferentiated commodity PDAs, which may be of some concern to Microsoft's existing Pocket PC partners. It probably won't be of concern to Dell, and we would be shocked, stunned and appalled if it turned out that Dell had not found itself in a position to benefit from Microsoft's work on lower-cost designs in the run-up to its own and to the Samsung announcement. Microsoft and Dell both work that way, and like doing so very much. As for Samsung, what can you do with them? From their perspective maybe it's just simpler to license everything, but the company now has several areas of serious overlap. It supports Palm, Symbian, Nokia Series 60, Pocket PC, Linux and if any of you would care to make one up and fax it to them they'd probably support that as well. The actual Microsoft deal here though is with Samsung Semiconductor, so although Samsung will no doubt use the tech in its own finished products, Samsung Semi will be wanting to sell the design into OEM/ODM channels. There are a lot of smaller Korean companies likely to bite so, coming to a supermarket near you Real Soon Now... ®
John Lettice, 13 Nov 2002

Opera 7 browser goes into beta

Beta 1 of the latest version of the Opera browser, Opera 7, was released late last night, and is now available for download in the Windows version from Opera.com. Version 7 is an extensive rewrite intended which includes a new rendering engine with support for Document Object Model (DOM) version 2, a new email client and Opera's forthcoming Small Screen Rendering (SSR) technology, which is intended to allow you to browse via a mobile phone, or similarly small-screened device. The email client, a weak feature in previous versions of Opera, includes numerous bells and whistles, not forgetting an integrated spam filter. Opera has also twiddled with the look and feel as regards skimming, buttons and the multiple and single document modes introduced with Opera 6. Briefly, this was intended to allow you to run Opera either like Windows, or in the previous Opera mode of having everything anchored together in an Opera window. Now, you can apparently do both at the same time, with tabbed browsing lobbed in as an extra. No, we've no idea how that works either. In addition, Opera now supports multiple user profiles, so there's less chance of your having your saved browser windows (one of our favourite Opera features) overwritten by other people's sessions. The software is available free with a sponsored ad banner, or at a $10 discount from the usual $39 registration during the beta period. Registering also gets you free support via email, and six months free OperaMail Premium, which will run from when you download the finished version. ®
John Lettice, 13 Nov 2002

Tiscali remains in the red

Sardinia-based ISP Tiscali remains in the red despite posting a modest improvement in figures. Earlier this year the pan-European ISP was cock-a-hoop when it reported that it had scraped into the black for Q1. However, those giddy times were short-lived as the ISP plunged back into the red during Q2. Today, it has published its results for the three months to September and reports that revenues slipped in at €179.9m, 4.3 per cent ahead of the previous quarter but 5 per cent lower than Q3 2001. Revenues from Internet access - which account for two thirds of Tiscali's revenues - remained flat in Q3 at €121.7 million. Portal revenues hit €9.4m, up 23 per cent on the previous quarter despite continuing problems with the advertising market. The ISP also saw an increase in revenue from its B2B operation. Losses before interest, taxation etc (LBITDA) fell to €3.6m, down 62 per cent compared to Q2. Tiscali claims today's results "bear out the validity of the company’s business model" and confirm the company as a "leading European internet services provider". With around 125,000 ADSL users in Europe at the end of September, Tiscali believes the roll-out of its broadband products in UK, France, Germany is "satisfactory". The number of broadband subscribers is growing by around 8,000 a week and it predicts it will have around 220,000 by the end of the year. No country break-down of broadband subscriber numbers was available at the time of writing. ® Related Story Tiscali culls half of Danish staff Tiscali slips back into the red
Tim Richardson, 13 Nov 2002

Unholy trinity puts users in a BIND

Multiple vulnerabilities in older versions of BIND could lead to compromise and denial of service attacks against vulnerable Domain Name System servers, security tools vendor ISS warned last night. The companies advises of three remotely exploitable flaws affecting BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain Server) 4 and BIND 8. The latest version of BIND, version 9, is immune to the problems. BIND 4 and 8 are still very widely deployed, however, making the flaws a real threat to overall Internet stability. The vulnerabilities are: BIND SIG cached RR overflow flaw, which affects BIND 8, versions up to and including 8.3.3-REL and BIND 4, versions up to and including 4.9.10-REL; a BIND OPT DoS, affecting BIND 8, versions 8.3.0 up to and including 8.3.3-REL and a BIND SIG Expiry Time DoS, again hitting BIND 8, versions up to and including 8.3.3-REL. There's more detail of these flaws in ISS' advisory here. Although there are no reports of active attacks using these particular bugs, ISS warns the flaws might lend themselves to automated attacks. "Since the vulnerability is widespread, an Internet worm may be developed to propagate by exploiting the flaws in BIND," it warns. "Widespread attacks against the DNS system may lead to general instability and inaccuracy of DNS data." Users are advised to upgrade to BIND version 4.9.11, 8.2.7, 8.3.4 or to BIND version 9. These versions will be available soon here. BIND is the most common implementation of the DNS protocol, is used on the vast majority of DNS servers on the Internet. DNS is an important Internet protocol that mediates links between a database of easy-to-remember domain names (host names) and their corresponding numerical IP addresses. ®
John Leyden, 13 Nov 2002

Welsh Web designer charged with virus writing, child porn offences

A 21-old Welsh Web designer has appeared in court charged with creating and distributing three mass mailer viruses. Simon Vallor, of Llandudno, North Wales, also faced charges relating to the possession of indecent images of children in an appearance before Bow Street Magistrates Court last Friday (November 8). The appearance follows his arrest on suspicion of creating the Gokar, Redesi and Admirer mass mailing viruses. Acting on information received from the FBI's Baltimore field office, Valler was arrested on February 14 this year and charged with offences under section three of the Computer Misuse Act 1990. His computer was seized during this arrest, and its subsequent examination - allegedly - uncovered child porn. North Wales police were assisted in their investigation by officers from Scotland Yard’s specialist Computer Crime Unit. ®
John Leyden, 13 Nov 2002

Remote Windows desktop access with the Sharp Zaurus PDA

theKompany and ThinSoft are working together to bundle tkcJabber and WinConnect Z, in a deal that will have them co-marketing the products on each other's site. WinConnect Z is especially interesting because it allows remote access to a Windows PC. Shawn Gordon, theKompany CEO, says that ThinSoft approached him because of theKompany's reputation as "the leader in Zaurus software. They wanted to see what we have that would be kind of synergistic." Gordon says that with ThinSoft's WinConnect and theKompany's tkcJabber, enterprises can equip their staffs with Zaurus PDAs and turn them loose. "Within the enterprise, say IBM, people are walking around with [PDAs]." He says that with new applications being developed by theKompany and ThinSoft, among others, PDAs are becoming the natural replacement for laptops -- in fact, they are better than laptops because they are so small and can be used in a discreet fashion. For example, if they're using Zauruses, they can chat with tkcJabber, do remote admin on a user's PC or check their Windows email with WinConnect Z, all while attending a meeting - and now they can do collaborative whiteboarding with tkcWhiteboard, which uses Jabber technology and Jabber servers. tkcWhiteboard is not part of the ThinSoft deal as of yet. WinConnect Z adheres to the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) 5.1. With it, you can access a Windows remote terminal server or Windows NT, 2000 or XP Professional computer. Gordon says theKompany is looking to move into the enterprise space instead of focusing so much on "retail." Looks like they're encouraging that at the online store, where theKompany provides discounts for bulk purchases. You can get 25% off the final price if you buy 10 or more copies at the same time. To purchase the tkcJabber and WinConnect Z bundle and save $10.00, visit either ThinSoft or theKompany. The bundle is available for $59.95. tkcJabber by itself is $19.95, and WinConnect Z can be had for $49.95. © Newsforge.com
Tina Gasperson, 13 Nov 2002

‘Successful IT Project Delivery’ at 30 per cent off

This week Reg associate IT-minds.com is steering you towards success. Discounted specials include a range of Cisco certification libraries, a digital seminar from Scott Mueller to help you upgrade and repair your PC and our book of the week on IT project delivery. The consequences of IT project failure are enormous. Successful IT Project Delivery provides you with an understanding of why IT projects have failed in the past and what can be done in the future to prevent similar failures. The book provides project building blocks to help deliver a successful IT project and discusses the role of people in an IT project to show how the behaviour of the project team and key stakeholders can influence the outcome of the project. Successful IT Project Delivery is available to Reg visitors at £20.99, a discount of 30 per cent. You can also benefit from a 30 per cent discount on the following books: The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source Testing Embedded Software Sams Teach Yourself BEA WebLogic Server in 21 Days Upgrading and Repairing PCs Training Course IT Web Services: A Roadmap for the Enterprise Cisco CCNA 640-607 Preparation Library Cisco CCNP Certification Library Cisco CCNP Preparation Library Cisco Interactive Mentor: CCIE Expert Labs IP Routing As ever, all other titles from IT-minds.com are available at the usual 20 per cent off. ®
Team Register, 13 Nov 2002

UK tipped for bumper eChristmas

European online sales this Christmas are set to beat all records, according to Santa's little helpers at Forrester. They predict European online retail sales will total €7.6bn this year - up 86 per cent on last year. And they claim the UK will be the brightest star of this year's ecommerce Christmas tree by spending a festive £2.6bn in November and December. Although Germany has more eshoppers (18m) than the UK (15m), it spends 30 per cent less online than the UK. Instead, it seems Net shoppers in Germany prefer to research their purchases online before buying them at a shop. That's why Germany's ecommerce turnover for this Yuletide is not expected to exceed €2.2bn. Last month Gartner predicted that Europe would become the leading region for online sales in the run-up to Christmas with online sales set to top $15.77bn - up 75 per cent on last year. North America should perform almost as well, it said, notching up around $15.66bn in online sales in Q4. Together, Europe and North America will account for more than 80 per cent of all online sales in Q4, said Gartner. ® Related Story Europe set for bumper eChristmas
Tim Richardson, 13 Nov 2002

Brit charged with hacking Pentagon, NASA

An unemployed British sysadmin was yesterday indicted for what US authorities describe as the "biggest hack of military computers ever detected". Gary McKinnon, 36, of London, was charged in absentia with one count of causing intentional damage and seven counts of computer fraud relating to alleged attacks on scores of US government computers in a period spanning over a year. From February 2001 until March 2002, McKinnon allegedly exploited poorly-secured Windows systems to attack 92 networks run by NASA, the Pentagon and 12 other military installation scattered over 14 states. Private sector businesses were also affected by the alleged attacks, which caused an estimated $900,000 in damage overall. According to court papers filed in New Jersey and Virginia yesterday, McKinnon mounted an attack in attack in February this year that shut down Internet access to 2,000 military computers in the Washington area for three days. Prosecutors told Reuters that McKinnon "stole passwords, deleted files, monitored traffic and shut down computer networks on military bases from Pearl Harbour to Connecticut". He is accused of scanning networks for vulnerabilities prior to using a software program called RemotelyAnywhere to snoop on network traffic and erase files. "This is an incredibly sophisticated cyber criminal," Newark U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie told Reuters. "He was a very busy guy." Despite the seriousness of the alleged attacks, US authorities are keen to stress no classified information was obtained through the year long assaults. Authorities believe that McKinnon (whose handle is Solo) acted alone and are not attributing his alleged crimes to any terrorist motive. US authorities are seeking to extradite McKinnon, who faces charges punishable by fines of up to $1.75 million in fines and 80 years in jail (each count in his indictment carries a maximum prison term of 10 years). Reuters reports that McKinnon's lawyers in London yesterday issued a statement yesterday admitting that he was arrested in March for computer-related offences. His present whereabouts, and even if he is currently held in custody, remain unclear. ®
John Leyden, 13 Nov 2002

A Linux smartphone that does Bluetooth

With Qualcomm more preoccupied by pumping out press releases than modern phone chipsets, it isn't possible to buy a CDMA 1x phone that does Bluetooth here in the US, we noted here. But a former Qualcomm employee, with the backing of IBM, has created a Swiss Army knife of a smartphone which boasts biometrics, Bluetooth on a smartphone/PDA that runs on Linux. CDL's Paron is a practical industrial handheld capable of using GPRS 2.5G packet data networks, runs Opera and Trolltech Qtopia-based embedded applications, and boasts a biometric fingerprint sensor, 320x240 color screen and USB. It's also a phone. The IBM influence is evident from the inclusion of DB2 and Websphere client software. The Paron was co-developed with IBM's Rochester lab. CDL already markets a Bluetooth access point and is building up a coherent wireless infrastructure, which you can read about here. You can also read Rich Lehrbaum's excellent summary at LinuxDevices here. Pervasive computing made real? Quite possibly. The official GPL Linux Bluetooth stack BlueZ rarely gets a mention, but it's mature, highly regarded, and one of the most strategic weapons in the software libre arsenal. And CDL is another example of a start-up innovating around the Qualcomm monoculture. Thanks to lower economies of scale, CDMA phone manufacturers must pay a premium for their chipsets over the more popular GSM-based chipsets, which come from a choice of suppliers. (Think Wintel vs Apple economics). But innovation can't wait, and it's refreshing to see start-ups providing the impetus for new wireless products and services that Qualcomm - engaged in fighting a pointless trade war - doesn't seem to think are a priority. Qualcomm isn't lacking in brainpower or expertise, but appears to be as conducive to innovation as IBM was when faced with the PC industry in the mid-1980s. Embattled shareholders who've been promised the earth will doubtless disagree. Nirvana forever lies just around the corner. But jam today is much more interesting, we reckon. ® Related Stories Qualcomm monoculture is 'killing American wireless' Gang of Four set W-CDMA royalty cap
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Nov 2002

ASA clobbers Vodafone for texting and driving

Vodafone's been clobbered - again - by the advertising watchdog following allegations that its saucy ads promote texting while driving. Last month the giant telco got a ticking off after the ASA (Advertising Watchdog Authority) ruled that an ad featuring a semi-naked couple on the bonnet of a car with the woman straddling the man was "explicit and gratuitous". The caption read: "Get the flirting over with before you get home. Text. Make your move while you're still on the move". However, the same ad has been ruled offside again - not because of the steamy embrace but because the ad was deemed potentially "dangerous and irresponsible". It seems whoever got the hump and complained believed the ad implied that the driver of the car had been texting while driving, and that this encouraged people to do likewise. Vodafone said this was nonsense, arguing that the ad showed a car parked in a garage. It claimed there was nothing in the ad that suggested that either of the semi-naked individuals had been texting while the car had been moving, and insisted the ad didn't promote texting and driving. Not so, ruled the ASA, which reckoned that because the ad showed the couple on the car in a garage and used the wording "get the flirting over with before you get home. Text. Make your move while you're still on the move", it suggested that at least one of the people had recently arrived home in the car. The ASA concluded that the ad could encourage people to text while driving. The ASA told Vodafone not to do it again. ® Related Story 'Explicit' ads floor Vodafone
Tim Richardson, 13 Nov 2002