27th > November > 2002 Archive

Sun builds StarOffice SDK

Sun Microsystems Inc is building a StarOffice developers kit, to further boost its desktop productivity suite's chances against Microsoft Corp's Office, writes Gavin Clarke. Santa Clara, California-based Sun told ComputerWire it is working on developer tools which simplify construction of both enhancements to StarOffice and entirely new applications for the suite. Sun said it is also looking at tools which can convert Office macros written in Visual Basic (VB) into StarOffice macros that use Java APIs. Macros offer functionality for specific actions or are tailored to customers in vertical sectors, and tools that automate conversion could simplify migration from Office to StarOffice. Sun's goal is to increase StarOffice's appeal to corporate customers who are disillusioned with licensing of Office and other business software products from Microsoft. Microsoft introduced changes to its licensing this summer, considered to be more costly than the previous licensing regime by many who are now evaluating rival's offerings. Sun hopes to increase the appeal of StarOffice by increasing the number of applications and macros available, developing an ecosystem of third parties and ISVs around the suite. Equally important are migration tools, which can potentially cut costs and reduce development effort associated with changing code for customers who take the decision to shift. While Sun has offered StarOffice developers support in the past, this has been mostly in been in the form of documentation and plug-ins to the company's Sun ONE Studio Java integrated development environment. Such an approach, though, is out-moded under Sun's re-invigorated software program, lead by Sun executive vice president Johathan Schwartz. Vice president of engineering for desktop solutions Curtis Sasaki told ComputerWire Sun has "a couple of years" to seize the initiative and build a community of users and developers around StarOffice. "The window is open now... a lot of governments and enterprises are looking for something else, that lets them take back control of their destiny," he said. Sun last week took steps to help persuade customers to adopt StarOffice, by addressing potential fears that formatting of data held in existing Office documents would be lost when exporting data to Office. Sun submitted a set of XML-based file formats used in StarOffice 6.0 to the Organization of the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) for ratification as standards. Sun is backed by desktop software vendor Ottawa, Ontario-based Corel Corp among others but Microsoft - invited to joint the effort - is thought unlikely to participate. Sun will use the tool kit to play on customers' ongoing concerns over the security of Office and associated products like Internet Explorer and Outlook. VB macros converted to StarOffice will be more secure, Sasaki claimed, because of Java's sand box approach, which he said would help cut-down on spread of viruses. He added, though, "the hard part" faced by Sun is trying to convert macros from VB into Java APIs. As such, no date is set for the developer kit's launch, but a next version of StarOffice is due in October 2003. The next StarOffice will also be promoted as a "slim" alternative to Microsoft's up-coming Office 11, which will be packed with a host of new features. Organizations will be able to turn-off a greater number of StarOffice features, tailoring the suite to needs of specific groups of users within an organizaiton, such as call center staff. Sasaki added the modular concept of StarOffice, launched with version 6.0, has largely failed to catch-on. Those installing StarOffice 6.0 can pick the graphics engine, spreadsheet, presentation and word processing modules, instead of the full suite. However, Sasaki said most customers had chosen to install the whole suite. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Nov 2002

South Korea leads the way on 3G (even though it's 2.5G)

South Korea may be the great world economy recovery play, but it's only just out of the sick bay. And, as the case of the sorry Hynix illustrates, admittedly in extremis, the world's eleventh biggest economy has to overcome this basic problem - not enough profit and too much debt. But in some matters South Korea is world-class: Taekwondo, riots, kimchee, multiplayer gamers, broadband and now - 3G. According to Strand Consulting, a UK research firm-cum-fan of the Korean comms infrastructure, SK has overtaken Japan to become by far the most developed market for mobile services in the world. This is a real-world lesson in 3G to the rest of the world, with multiple operators who have refrained from dishing out handset subsidies, Strand argues. The SK infrastructure is 2.5G, a CDMA 2000 1X network, but its 144 Kbs of transmission speed is sufficient to handle "almost all 3G mobile services" i.e. not streaming video, Strand says. But take-up in South Korea is huge, with 40 per cent of mobile phone users owning a 1X terminal. SKT, the biggest mobile network has 8.8 million customers for its CDMA 2000 1X service - 75 per cent of its subscriber base. It's a different story in Japan, where only 4 out of every 1000 mobile users in Japan own a heavily subsidised NTT DoCoMo FOMA 3G handsets (capable of transmitting at 384 Kbs), according to Strand. And the high penetration rate in SK has been achieved without subsidising the handsets. SKT, South Korea's largest mobile operator, has in a relatively short time attracted more than 8,8 million subscribers to its CDMA 2000 1X based services. Already these subscribers represent 75% of SKT's total customer base. So what is the secret of the 2.5G success in SK? We suspect that cultural attitudes to new technology plays a great role, but Strand has nothing to say on this matter. Instead it points to King Content. The SK mobile operators have cut revenue-sharing deals which are attractive enough for content provider to build services. The services in turn are attractive enough for users to "subscribe to these services and to upgrade their 2G terminals. This positive chain reaction has resulted in a considerable increase in the number of both content and service providers," says Strand. "South Korean operators have done what operators in Japan and elsewhere have refused to do. They have accepted their role and responsibility as drivers of the market for mobile services. They have understood that this chain reaction is key to the successful development of the market for 2.5G and 3G mobile services." Sounds simple, doesn't it? But equitable revenue- sharing deals does not come naturally to telecom operators. Certainly in Europe. The Register, for instance, was once approached to supply news for an IT channel set up by a broadband provider. The cost - to us! - would have been £5,000 a month for this privilege. The mobile network operators too have had difficulties in intellectually offering reasonable revenue splits with content providers. This is, even more so than competing standards, is the major reason why content providers are so reluctant to spend too much effort on building mcommerce propositions. It is far, far easier to stick up a PayPal button, customer complaints and all. ® Related story South Korea invests $11bn on broadband
Drew Cullen, 27 Nov 2002

Shareholders block C&W chairman choice

Institutional investors have blocked the appointment of David Nash as the next chairman of Cable & Wireless Plc, and have forced the loss-making carrier to look for someone from outside the company. Non-executive director Nash was due to become chairman at the end of this year. But after a meeting between directors and shareholders representing a "significant proportion" of the company's equity, he has decided to quit the board at the end of December. Investors have been baying for boardroom blood since chief executive Graham Wallace's strategy of using cash raised from the sale of traditional telecoms businesses to become a major player in areas like web hosting left the company with massive losses. Even though C&W was forced to scale back its international ambitions and ditch thousands of unprofitable customers earlier this month, investors remain skeptical about the company's claim that it will become free cash flow positive by March 2004. With net cash of 2.2bn pounds ($3.5bn), they believe that surplus funds should be returned to investors rather than used to fund continuing losses. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Nov 2002

Vivendi fills war chest for Cegetel battle

French media giant Vivendi Universal SA has signed a 1bn euro ($1bn) loan with its banks, in a clear sign to the market that it is ready to enter a bidding war with Vodafone Group Plc for control of French telecom operator Cegetel SA. The new financing, added to recent asset sales, should give the Paris-based conglomerate enough cash to pay BT Group Plc $3.92bn for its 26% Cegetel stake, which would leave Vivendi with a controlling stake in Cegetel and its prize asset, mobile operator SFR SA. BT had already agreed to sell its stake to Vodafone, but Vivendi has "pre-emption" rights that give it until December 10 to raise enough cash for a counter bid. Chief executive officer Jean-Rene Fortou has stated that no decision has yet been made on whether to launch a counter bid, but Vivendi's disappointing third-quarter results in which it reported a 28.5% increase in its net loss for the quarter, means it has little choice but to try to hang on to its Cegetel cash cow, which accounted for 37% of operating profit in its most recent quarter. Vivendi has been involved in a series of asset disposals including its publishing businesses, and most recently, half of its $4.06bn holding in Vivendi Environnement SA. It is estimated that it has managed to raise in the region of $5bn through asset disposals, but the company is also battling with crippling debts of $18.6bn. Last week, Vivendi rebuffed a $15bn bid for its US entertainment assets from a group of investors led by US oil billionaire Marvin Davis. At the time, it said the offer was too low, but has now said that it would look at any offers for entertainment assets, most likely to be in the $20bn to $25bn price range. Meanwhile, Vodafone chief executive Christopher Gent reiterated that the Newbury, UK-based mobile operator has no plans to launch a bid for the whole of Vivendi. He was responding to reports that suggested Vodafone was considering a bid for the whole of the French media giant to gain control of Cegetel. Vivendi unveiled its third quarter results yesterday. Overall revenues at Vivendi Universal were stable at 14.6bn euros ($14.5bn) in the three months to September 30. Total operating profits were up 25% to 1.2bn euros ($1.2bn). The company's net loss was 1.2bn euros ($1.2bn), compared to a 960m euros ($953m) loss a year ago. Cegetel showed revenues of 1.8bn euros ($1.79bn), up 9% on the year. Maroc Telecom's revenues were up 18% to 399m euros ($396m). Cegetel's operating profit was up 64% to 460m euros ($457m), while Maroc Telecom had profits of 111m euros ($110m), an 18% rise. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Nov 2002

Sun on track for $2.9bn in Q2

Sun Microsystems Inc yesterday held its traditional mid-quarter update with Wall Street analysts and confirmed that the company was on track to meet the analyst consensus of about $2.9bn in sales for the second fiscal quarter ending in December, Timothy Prickett Morgan writes. However, Stephen McGowan, Sun's chief financial officer, cautioned that the company was only eight weeks into a thirteen week quarter. As such, he was extremely reluctant to offer any kind of view of the product mix that Sun was selling or how economic conditions were varying across different geographies or industries. He did say that hitting the $2.9bn level would represent a seasonal uptick that was consistent with Sun's historical trends, but the murmuring among Wall Street analysts in the next few days will probably concern the fact that this uptick is a lot smaller than in past years. Some people just don't get that it is 1995 in the server market, not 2002, and the bubble isn't coming this time around to IT like it did the last time. McGowan also said that Sun's gross margins were under pressure and would come in a little lower than the levels Sun set in the first fiscal quarter ended in September. This pricing pressure was attributed to the intense competition in the core workstation, server, and storage markets where Sun gets the bulk of its sales. Gross margins are also being somewhat adversely affected by research and development expenses and a number of acquisitions Sun closed in the quarter. Sun's CFO reiterated that the company was on track with what it considers as its core goals: remaining cash-flow positive and moving toward long-term profitability without sacrificing investments in R&D, which Sun sees as vital. When pressed by the Wall Street analysts, McGowan affirmed that Sun was indeed cash-flow positive in the current fiscal quarter and that it was going to attain its goal of profitability in the second half of fiscal 2003, which begins in January. McGowan said that given these factors, Sun did not see a need to reduce its headcount further and that it had no plans to do so. Many Wall Street analysts disagree with this assessment, and would obviously like to see Sun make more money and do so quicker, because that boosts Sun's stock price. But with Sun sitting at a humbling market capitalization of $12 billion - down incredibly from the $200bn+ level it hit during the height of the dot-com boom - its executives are more concerned with staying in its technology and marketing races with IBM Corp, Hewlett Packard Co, EMC Corp, Intel Corp, and Microsoft Corp than in cashing in their stock or squirreling away profits for some other purpose. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Nov 2002

WorldCom settles with SEC

The US Securities and Exchange Commission drew a line under its fraud action against WorldCom Inc yesterday, when the embattled telecoms carrier agreed to a partial settlement in the case. The move marks a major step forward in Clinton, Mississippi-based WorldCom's rehabilitation effort yesterday, and its efforts to emerge from chapter 11, although the SEC reserves the right to seek a penalty from the company in the future. The agreement also represents a relatively rapid conclusion to the SEC's civil fraud action against WorldCom, which was launched in June after the company made the first in a series of financial restatements that eventually topped $9bn, and pitched it into chapter 11. When WorldCom's financial misstatements first became apparent the SEC condemned what it described as "improprieties of unprecedented magnitude". Earlier this month, it expanded its case against WorldCom, saying the company had misled investors from at least 1999. Under the partial settlement, WorldCom neither admits or denies the commission's allegations. WorldCom has agreed "not to violate securities laws in the future". It also pledges to ensure its senior operational officers and financial reporting personnel receive training to minimize the possibility of future violations. It will retain a consultant to review the effectiveness of its internal accounting and agreed that the corporate monitor in the case will review its corporate governance and ethics policies. It is understood that agreement ends the threat of action from the SEC. Even if further accounting misdeeds under its previous management are uncovered at the firm, these will be considered to be "in the past" and will not prompt further legal action by the SEC. WorldCom's senior management has been culled since the accounting scandal first broke in June. Both its former CFO Scott Sullivan and former controller David Myers are facing action over their role in the financial misstatements. Yesterday's move by the SEC does not affect those cases. In a statement, president and CEO John Sidgmore, said the agreement was in line with steps it had already taken to restore confidence in the company, and "provides additional reassurance that WorldCom's plan to emerge from bankruptcy remains on schedule." © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Nov 2002

2003 Tech spending flatter than flat pancake

Tech budgets through 2003 will not grow as many predict, falling instead by 0.03%, finds a new tech spending confidence study from Gartner. It might not sound like much but it shows the tech blues will continue for at least another year. Tech spending in 2003 will be flat, the same as in 2002. One can assume that the IT departments know what they are doing ( Really? -ed) so it's doubtful that they will be sorely affected by the lack of readily available funds. But the vendors will be hammered. Gartner believes this lack of funds is creating what a "demand gap", between demand for technology and technology budgets. It doesn't sound entirely accurate to us. Rather, organisations are at last realising that they have spent far too much on technology; and the business people, as opposed to the techies, are now taking charge and demanding real value be squeezed out of these elaborate, and frankly shoddy, systems. This is a good thing. Still, it will hurt the vendors. The hype is gone, interest is diminishing and now they have to find new ways to survive. Another Gartner study reckons that the vendors will do this by continuing the onslaught of consolidation - that is the only way they are likely to get money flowing around the industry. The problem, as Gartner rightly notes, is that there are simply too many IT vendors out there. The big solution vendors are increasingly leading the way and winning the contracts, while the smaller, specialist point product vendors are losing business and failing to compete effectively. That means there are some prime opportunities for acquisitions. Indeed, the past year has seen this trend reach unprecedented heights with HP's acquisition of Compaq and IBM's acquisition of PWC Consulting. And there's more to come. One of the markets currently primed for consolidation, according to Gartner, is telecommunications which, as demonstrated by KPNQwest, is now in a rather startling state of flux. There are no predictions about who, when or where the acquisitions are likely to take place but no doubt Europe will be at the centre of developments leading, as it does, the majority of telco developments. © IT-Analysis.com Related articles Ariba, Commerce One, I2, Siebel 'will never come back' - Ellison A whisper of a hint of a light at the end of the IT spending tunnel
IT-Analysis, 27 Nov 2002

Free Chinese Net users – Amnesty

Amnesty International has called on the Chinese authorities to free all those who've been locked up for using the Internet to express their views or share information. The group claims that at least 33 people - including writers and political activists - have been detained for Net-related offences. Two of those died in custody apparently after being tortured by police. Both were members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which was banned as a "heretical organisation" in July 1999. In another case a former police officer was sentenced for 11 years in prison after downloading articles from Chinese democracy Web sites. All his appeals have been turned down. In its report People's Republic of China: State Control of the Internet in China, Amnesty International claims that in some extreme cases people could face a death sentence for publishing sensitive information on the Internet. "Everyone detained purely for peacefully publishing their views or other information on the Internet or for accessing certain websites are prisoners of conscience," said Amnesty International in a statement. "They should be released immediately and unconditionally". China's unease with the very concept of the Internet has forced it to take strict measures to monitor people's usage of the Net. For example, in the central Chinese province of Jiangxi people who use cybercafes now have their online activities monitored by police. Anyone who wants to use a cybercafe must now carry an Internet identity card containing personal details including their name and address. These details are then logged onto a police database. And in the summer Chinese authorities were fingered for blocking access to Google. Amnesty International's report can be found here. Related Stories Chinese province issues swipe IDs to Internet cafe users China clamps down on Net cafes - again AltaVista and Google to fight Chinese censorship
Tim Richardson, 27 Nov 2002

Possessed! The Solaris font daemon

A buffer overflow risk exists in the font service which ships with Solaris. There is a workaround, but no comprehensive fix just yet. Security clearing house CERT warns in an advisory that Solaris X Window Font Service (XFS) daemon (fs.auto) contains a remotely exploitable buffer overflow vulnerability which could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service. The Solaris X Window Font Service (XFS) serves font files to clients. It ships with Solaris and is included as a component in a limited number of other operating systems. The issue effects Solaris on both SPARC and Intel platforms. NetBSD ships the xfs from XFree86, though its not turned on by default. HP is investigating the issue. An advisory by Sun says it is working on a patch (it actually says "a final solution is pending completion" but let's leave that unfortunate turn of phrase to one side). Until patches can be applied, users are asked to consider disabling the XFS daemon (fs.auto) as a workaround. Blocking access to port 7100/TCP on firewalls is also something to consider. This will guard against possible external, but not internal, exploitation on the flaw. The vulnerability was unearthed by security tools vendor which had planned to release its advisory in co-ordination with Sun's patch on Monday, November 25. This hasn't happened. So has ISS jumped the gunas it allegedly did with a patch for an Apache flaw earlier this year? That, and the release of an advisory on a BIND patch ahead of widespread availability of a fix last month, has sparked some criticism of ISS by sections of the security community, and deserves closer examination. With the Sun fix we're informed by independent researchers that the release of the advisory before the patch was down to a lack of communication between Sun and ISS, rather than self-promotion by ISS. We've put in a request to speak to ISS' senior techies on the issues, and will bring you more on this anon. ® Related story Unholy trinity puts users in a BIND Apache admins screwed by premature vuln report
John Leyden, 27 Nov 2002

Chip industry heads for bounce back

The latest slump in the semiconductor industry has hit beyond the usual manufacturing base of Intel et al and reached right out to the UK with its community of specialist chip designers - the effects of which have been devastating. With redundancies, office and plant closures this has been, "...the worst recession in the semiconductor industry." It all started, inevitably, with the dot com and subsequent tech market collapse. The semiconductor industry was hammered as demand for PCs slumped, the market was flooded with secondhand servers and spending dried up. In 2001 revenues going into the semiconductor industry fell by 32% (over 2000 revenues) down to just $152.5 billion. 2002 has shown signs of recovery, or at least a slow down in losses. It's currently predicted to grow revenues by only 0.5% over 2001. That's not a lot of growth. But hope is on the horizon. Dataquest has released a new report which points to a substantial upturn for the fortunes of the chip designers and manufacturers. The company forecasts 2003 will see a return to double digit growth and that the chip industry can expect revenues of $171.8 billion flooding back in. This will give the industry some much-needed breathing space. Several factors areinvolved with this re-worked prediction: previous predictions were more pessimistic. Top of the list, or at least one of the key drivers, will be the up and down PC market. Dataquest reckons the corporate PC replacement cycle is long overdue, having been put on hold for at least a year because of the economy. This will buoy business considerably. Wireless is the other big driver for the semiconductor industry. A raft of new products gradually creeping into the market, will rely on a new batch of deliverables from the chip manufacturers. So, tt's all down to another upgrade cycle. As consumers ditch the old 2G phones and reach instead for 3G and phones with colour screens and cameras, chip manufacturers reap the returns. 2003 will see the start of this whole upgrade cycle, which is expected to happen across a broad range of electrical appliances, and is therefore seen as something of a transition year for the semiconductor industry. 2004, Dataquest predicts, is when the real action will start. But we don't have any figures for this yet. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 27 Nov 2002

Incorporated man makes ‘murder confession’ online – arrest follows

New Hampshire police arrested a man yesterday after a poster 'confessed' to the murder of a California policeman online. In this extraordinary post to San Francisco's Indymedia site on Monday evening, one "Andrew McCrae" wrote:- "Hello Everyone, my name’s Andy. I killed a Police Officer in Red Bluff, California in a motion to bring attention to, and halt, the police-state tactics that have come to be used throughout our country. Now I’m coming forward, to explain that this killing was also an action against corporate irresponsibility." Acting on a tip-off, police arrested an Andy McCrae at a Concord, NH. Hotel on Tuesday morning. Police had been hunting the killer of 31 year-old officer Dave Mobilio[honored here] murdered nine days ago in Northern California. They have yet to release any evidence linking the man arrested to the killing, but the suspect is reported to have made a verbal confession to a reporter from the Concord Monitor, which promises to run its account later today. McCrae claims he isn't responsible for the killings, because he's acting on behalf of a corporation he's registered called "Proud and Insolent Youth." This is an ironic gesture which will bring McCrae lasting infamy. Assuming certain facts are true, which we will unassume shortly. "I’m going to utilize the WTO’s tactic of applying to a foreign state the laws of the state in which I was incorporated. I encourage everyone else to do the same," writes the Indymedia poster McCrae. McCrae's point is that corporate crime[*] goes largely unreported, and since the end of the last century corporations have been protected by assuming the rights of an individual: specifically first amendment rights, and it's this concept - so rarely-mentioned - that underpins much of the current copyright debate, for example. (This provoked a heated mailbag over several weeks here over the summer [example]. And that alone must ensure McCrae figures as a major topic of conversation over the holiday season turkey this week. Particularly as his critique was so humane and eloquent. " I am a graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School, Airborne School, and Jungle Operations Training School," he claims, which is … topical. At no point does he attack capitalism by name, or claim that all business is bad business. In fact, he seems guided by a sentimental small-town ecology which most of us can relate to. You don't need a political label to know that to be at the receiving end of a credit card company, or an MCI Worldcom, a Starbucks or a Microsoft your "customer experience" is going to be nasty, brutish and short. And McCrae makes a powerful and at times poetic case that big money interests have broken their social contract, and morphed into cynical and brutalizing lobbies that buy influence at home and destroy cultures abroad. "Through the IRS’s Net Operating Loss deduction, corporations can demand back tax money they’ve paid if they lose money in their business. When you are just barely able to afford rent, and groceries, are you allowed to ask for your taxes back?" he asks. Guilt by association All of which raises a fair few questions. Is McCrae a tasteless, publicity-seeking prankster who's trying to use an unsolved murder to promote his cause? Or is he an instrument of a psyops operation to discredit the burgeoning anti-globalization movement - which, when you take away the richly-funded thinktanks and institutes and warblogs of the conservative right, is the only political movement in America with any momentum right now? A feeble campaign saw the Democrats deservedly trounced in the recent elections, and the party quite seems to have forgotten what it is, and what it was ever supposed to do. Drawing from, and taming, the wellspring of ideas from the anti-globalization movement - which ranges from libertarian copyright-querying file-swappers to die-hard constitutionalists, and right across to the decidedly insecure middle-classes (who have been shafted hardest by the "boom") would seem to provide an alternative. Unless, that is, this "alternative" is tainted with such murderous connotations as a nutball cop-killer. We don't know - because McCrae hasn't even been indicted yet. But either way, Amerca has its new Unabomber, which is fascination enough. ® Bootnote: [*] A few days before the 2000 election I was called by a telephone pollster who wanted to know if I felt "crime in my area" was rising or falling. I thought it was getting worse, I said. My neighborhood of San Francisco back then, like much of America, is a safe and beautiful place to be. No, I said as he delved into specifics: I don't feel I'm going to be robbed, or mugged. But crime is stratospheric: we were just entering the power crisis that we suspected, and now know was rigged by Enron and which cost California billions of dollars, and the Microsoft antitrust case was lurching closer to its guilty-but-acquitted verdict. A few of the victims of Microsoft's business practices were "in my area", as the pollster requested. But he didn't have a tick-box on his form for my answers, and we concluded the conversation in a state of mutual exasperation.
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Nov 2002

Lik-Sang changes hands, preps mod-chip court case

Lik-Sang, the Hong Kong based online retailer of videogames "accessories", is to hand over the running of its business to a company called Pacific Game Technology Limited, in a move designed to allow the current management of the company to focus on fighting its forthcoming court case against Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. The move comes as something of a surprise, as most people had expected the company to capitulate to demands from the platform holders, who have won an injunction preventing the retailer from selling mod chips, flash linkers or any other devices which can be used to circumvent game copy protection. "Just a few days after having received High Court Orders not allowing us to sell Mod Chip products for the Playstation 2 and Flash Linker products for the Nintendo Gameboy Advance, Lik Sang realized that the powers of those three multi-billion dollar corporations are simply infinite compared to the budgets and resources businesses like Lik Sang have available," commented Lik Sang director Alex Kampl. "Their legal actions have been hurting our customers and our business a lot in the last couple of weeks, so that we have finally decided to let somebody else take over Lik-Sang.com and solely concentrate on the lawsuit." The decision to fight the lawsuit is an interesting one - with the potential ramifications for the platform holders if they lose the case being severe. This is certainly not an open and shut case for them; although under American laws like the DMCA, mod-chips are entirely illegal, this is unproven under Chinese law. Lik-Sang may have been emboldened by a widely reported case in Australia recently, in which a court ruled that a man selling mod chips for PS2 consoles had not broken any laws - and accused the platform holders of artificially denying Australian consumers the right to purchase goods from abroad by enforcing the software regions system. © gamesindustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 27 Nov 2002

Danish anti pirates continue to target copyright theft

The Danish Anti Pirat Gruppen (Anti Piracy Group) is to continue targeting Net users who swap copyright material illegally. Confirmation that the APG is to continue its hard line comes after it issued invoices totalling 1m Danish Crowns (£86,200) to around 150 users of KaZaA and eDonkey for allegedly illegally swapping copyright material. The biggest offenders face bills of around 100,000 Crowns (£8,600). According to Morten Lindegaard, a lawyer for APG, around 80 per cent of those who received the invoices have already agreed to pay up. Those that don't face being sued. "Most were surprised that we were able to discover them," Mr Lindegaard told The Register. And in a clear warning to Danish Net users, he insisted that APG would continue to pursue this approach to crackdown on copyright infringements. "If we can stop people sharing [music and video files] we should be able to solve the problem," he said. At the moment the APG is targeting people who are offering music and films -for free - for other people to download. It has no plans at the moment to target end-users. No doubt this approach will be viewed as a means of "scaring" some people from obtaining material illegally. Indeed, only last week an intellectual property lawyer who works with the Federation against Software Theft (FAST) suggested that action against end-users will "increasingly be the only way to break a widespread habit" of copyright theft. So could Net users in the UK face similar tactics as being carried out in Denmark? A spokesman for the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) - which works to combat music piracy, among other things - said that it has no plans at present to follow APG's approach to combating the illegal downloading of music. "But we wouldn't rule it out," he said. ® Related Story Anti-pirates hit Danish P2P users with huge billsFAST hails copyright 'big stick'
Tim Richardson, 27 Nov 2002

First hackers sighted in high speed mobile phone arena

T-Mobile has installed a firewall on its GPRS network in the States after a small number of users complained of receiving hacker probes when using its high-speed mobile service. The issue came to light after Mike Palmer, the technology director for the broadcast division of AP, spotted numerous probes against his PC while using T-Mobile's GPRS network, Computerworld reports. T-Mobile admitted to Computerworld that around 100 users were affected by the issue, prior to the recent introduction of a firewall on open segments of its GPRS network. Palmer told reporters that he's not spotted probes since then. Like DSL broadband, GPRS networks offer an always on connection - hence a greater need for firewall protection both from service providers and end users than for dial-up connections. If mobile operators haven't this technology in place already, they ought to review their security policies pretty darn quick. "GPRS is an 'always on' service, with your IP address being propagated to a greater or lesser extent throughout the wireless network," Neil Barrett, technical director at security consultants Information Risk Management told us. "I'm not aware of any personal firewall products for GPRS-enabled handhelds, and I'd have to suggest that there's a market there waiting for someone to rip into." Barrett said if a user's GPRS has a Bluetooth connection to a laptop, which has a personal firewall installed, that partially addresses the security issue. But that's not the only issue to consider. Since GPRS services are normally paid for by the volume of traffic used, hacker probes could end up costing end-users money as well as threatening their security. "I love the idea of people having to pay for the hacker traffic that's attacking them," Barrett wryly notes. ® Related story Mobile security needs to change with GPRS RIM propagates new BlackBerries
John Leyden, 27 Nov 2002

BT's broadband registration scheme a ‘shambles’

The organiser behind a campaign to get his local exchange upgraded to ADSL has described BT's pre-registration scheme as a "shambles". Lee Stoneman is the driving force behind the campaign to bring broadband to Worle, near Weston Super Mare. Three weeks after reaching its trigger point of 400 registrations, fewer that 15 per cent of the registrations have been chased up. If 75 per cent of the registrations aren't secured by December 18, then Worle will have failed in its bid to get ADSL. Said Lee: "I'm extremely concerned that our exchange might not get broadband. I'm also concerned that other exchanges might not get it too." Part of the problem appears to be the confusion surrounding the scheme. He's been told by BT that three ISPs account for around 85 per cent of all the pre-registrations at Worle. Snag is, these ISPs don't appear to be contacting those who've registered their interest to see if they still want broadband. Indeed, BT is so concerned it is also investigating the matter but won't say which ISPs are to blame. The matter is further complicated because BT has also said that ISPs don't have to contact people. Instead, ISPs merely have to be "confident" that they will convert those registrations of interest into firm orders. Unfortunately, it leaves people like Lee in the dark over the progress of their campaigns. The whole process appears to lack any transparency or formal set of rules. This is particularly disheartening for Lee and other campaigners who have effectively acted as unpaid marketing volunteers working to generate demand for BT's broadband service. Not only has Lee set up a Web site, he's also been involved in leaflet drops, getting the local press to cover the issue and securing the support of his local MP. He believes he's been misled by BT and is concerned at the ambiguity of the whole process. He wants to be reassured that the work he and other campaigners have put in to try and generate demand for broadband will not be wrecked by ISPs failing to take part in the scheme. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Nov 2002

BTo anti-spam move kills its users' mail servers

BTopenworld anti-spam measures introduced today are preventing customers with dynamic IPs from running their own mail servers. The prohibition comes after that the ISP blocked inbound port 25 communications on all of its narrowband services (except Connect LAN with static IP address) and most of its broadband services. Of these only Business ADSL service with static IP option and Satellite services - both of which are expensive for mainstream consumers - are unaffected by the change. BTo said it was only introducing policies already introduced by other ISPs. It said only a very small number of users would be affected by the changes, which it argues are part of the steps ISPs need to take in tackling the spam problem. In a policy update, BTo explains that the move will prevent Internet Connection Sharing software that exposes your Internet session to the rest of the Internet from being used by spammers to send unsolicited emails. The frustration from users over the move which they tell us was done without notice (BTo says its impractical to give notice on network changes made for operational reasons, like this). Stewart Gilray told us the first he heard of the issue was when he came home and found his home mail server had died. Other users have similar complaints and express frustration in dealing with BTo support staff in connection with the move. Users question the effectiveness of the measure, which they argue is the wrong way of dealing with the problems open mail relays pose in the overall spam problem. Adam Davies expresses widespread concerns that the change will make it too expensive for him to run his home mail server using his BTopenworld account. "This affects all narrowband and broadband users unless they are on a static IP," he told us. "If you aren't on a static IP then unless you pay them an extra £30 per month you have to use their own mail servers which are notorious for going down and losing your mail". A spokesman for BTo said the port blocking was separate from its recently announced agreement to use anti-spam services from Brightmail. ISPs need to tackle the spam problem on multiple fronts, he argued, saying that BTo's policy would benefit most users. ®
John Leyden, 27 Nov 2002

SMS security risks highlighted by Friends Reunited hacking case

Breach of trust by two dismissed mm02 workers, rather than deeper problems, led to the release of private text messages to a jealous boyfriend that sparked a campaign on revenge against his cheating girlfriend. Last week, 21 year-old student Philip Nourse was jailed for five months at Guildford Crown Court for his subsequent revenge on her. Nourse hacked the Friends Reunited account of his 19 year-old girlfriend altered her details and pasted photographs of the two having sex. Nourse also printed up explicit pictures of her which he planned to post around where she lived and, as if that wasn't enough, hacked into her email account to direct her friend to explicit images of her posted online. Nourse obtained proof of his girlfriends' infidelity by persuading two friends, employees at O2, to intercept her text messages and pass them on to him. A spokeswoman for O2 told us this was only possible because of a breach of trust by two engineering workers who have subsequently been sacked and convicted for offences under the Data Protection Act. O2 is not prepared to release the names of the pair but tells us both were convicted and fined for DPA offences this July. The person who intercepted Nourse's girlfriend's messages worked in a "privileged position" at an engineer on 02's text platform. He was aided by another engineer. Cracker tools were not used to extract the text message, O2 told us. The firm said that, despite the incident, it is happy with its systems and users should feel comfortable about the using text messages. Analysts Gartner said the case illustrates that SMS is not a secure environment suitable for sending confidential messages. "The contents of SMS messages are known to the network operator's systems and personnel. Therefore, SMS is not an appropriate technology for secure communications. Most users do not realise how easy it may be to intercept," it warns. Gartner added that the case also showed how important people issues - rather the technologies concerns - are in trying to prevent security breaches. ®
John Leyden, 27 Nov 2002

We've got a mobile computing survey which wants filling

We are, at long last, thinking of setting up a mobile/PDA Reg, but it needs funding. For The Register that means numbers to crunch for advertisers. Rather than make up the figures, we thought we'd ask the people who know best. You. So we've compiled a reader survey. If you have 10 minutes or so out of to spare, oh, and have an interest in matters mobile - notebooks, PDAs, cellphones, WLANs etc - give it a twirl. What do you get in return? Our gratitude, and entry into a prize draw to win one of 10 Reg t-shirts. You can see we are pushing the boat out on this. ® 1 What is your e-mail address (for competition fulfilment purposes)?   2 What is your main source of IT news and information? Please select Online Magazines/IT publications Email Newsletters Other   3 a) Do you want a Register PDA/mobile phone delivery channel? Yes No Don't know b) If yes, how much would you be willing to pay for such a service? £0 per year ($0 per year) £5 per year ($8 per year) £10 per year ($16 per year)   4 How likely are you to be to be accessing the internet or networking using wireless technology in the next 12 months? Very likely/already do Quite likely Not likely   5 If you use wireless LAN devices/services already to you use them mostly... Please select ...on the road? ...in the office? ...at home? I don't use them   6 Have you purchased any computer hardware or software in the last 12 months? Yes    No   7 Have you used the Internet to research any hardware, software and/or electronic product purchases in the last 12 months? Yes    No   8 Do you expect to be getting a new computer (desktop or laptop) for your own use (home or work) in the next 12 months? Yes    No If yes, will you specify your own requirements? Yes    No   9 What type of computer do you use? Please select Desktop only Laptop only Both   10 Do you plan to purchase a laptop in the next 12 months? Yes    No   11 If you use or intend to buy a laptop in the next 12 months, what is the most important consideration in your laptop? Please select Portability (Size and battery life) Power Do not own or intend to own a laptop   12 In your opinion, how important will integrated wireless LAN capabilities become as a laptop feature over the next 18 months? Very important Quite important Not Important   13 a) Do you own a PDA or an integrated mobile-PDA device? Yes    No b) If yes, what operating system does it have? Pocket PC Palm Other c) If yes, does it have a colour display? Yes    No   14 Are you intending to purchase a new PDA in the next 12 months? Yes    No   15 Do you think you will be using 3G technology within 18 months of launch? Please select I'd like to think so No thank you very much Not sure   16 Approximately how many people do you advise on computer-related matters in a typical month? Please select None 1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 More than 20   17 In which region are you based? Please select United Kingdom or Ireland EC Europe (excluding UK and Eire) Non-EC Europe United States or Canada Other   18 What is your status in your organisation? Please select Board-level director responsible for IT Other director Proprietor/partner/managing director Overall head of IT IT departmental head IT manager Project/team leader Senior staff Student/Academic PR/marketing/advertising Journalist Other (please specify)   19 Which of the following best describes your job title? Select from this menu first IT staff IT management Corporate / Business management Other   Select from other menu first   20 What is your organisation's approximate annual IT spend? Please select £10 million plus ($16 million plus) £5m to £9.9m ($8m to $15.9m) £1m to £4.9m ($1.6m to $7.9m) £500,000 to £999,999 ($800,000 to $1,599,999) £100,000 to £499,999 ($160,000 to $799,000) £50,000 to £99,999 ($80,000 to $159,999) £20,000 to £49,999 ($32,000 to £79,999) £10,000 to £19,999 ($16,000 to $31,999) Under £10,000 (Under $16,000)   21 In what way are you involved in technology purchasing for your organisation? Please select I influence what IT products and solutions are bought I purchase IT products and solutions for the organisation I have an influence on and purchasing responsibility for IT products and solutions I have nothing to do with decision making process   22 How many employees are there in your organisation/site? a) In your organisation? Please select 1000 or more 500 to 999 200 to 499 100 to 199 50 to 99 1 to 49 b) At your site? Please select 1000 or more 500 to 999 200 to 499 100 to 199 50 to 99 1 to 49   23 What is the main business activity of your organisation? Please select Financial services, accountancy, law, property, business services Education, training Government, local authority, public sector agency Healthcare, medical, pharmaceutical Manufacturing, engineering, construction, oil, gas, mining Telecommunications Retail, wholesale, Distribution, Logistics, Transport Utilities: energy & water Media, leisure, travel, entertainment, marketing, advertising, PR IT equipment and/or software manufacturer Computer dealer/reseller/VAR/network integrator/systems integrator Other (Please specify)   24 Can The Register contact you again to help with user research? Yes    No  
Drew Cullen, 27 Nov 2002