11th > December > 2002 Archive

Darwinists don their Finking caps

Fink, the program that brings oodles of Linux software to Mac OS X, has been updated for Jaguar. It's a native, Darwin version of the Debian GNU/Linux package manager - specifically three tools dpkg, dselect, and apt-get - and opens up a new world for OS X users by bringing everything from small utilities to complete desktop environments such as KDE and GNOME to the Mac. Thanks to last minute changes by Apple to version 10.2 that broke compatibility with Fink, many packages have needed to be rebuilt and re-tested. The total number of available packages stands at 1,867. The new version is numbered 0.5.0a, and it's 10.2-only. 10.1 users can use 0.4.1. " I cannot describe in one message the vastness of body of software fink opens to the OS X user. In sum, it makes the Mac simply the most versatile, powerful desktop Unix on the market, bar none," says one user - and what's to disagree with? Treat yourselves here.® Related Story The Jagwyre Review
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Dec 2002

Google debuts reputation, slideshow experiments

Two new toys from Google's "technology playground" make their debut today, the first new experiments since Google Labs opened their doors in May. One, Google Viewer turns your results into a slideshow. Take your hands off the keyboard and allow it to pan across the results. You can speed up or slow down the refresh rate, which defaults to five seconds. This could make for an amusing alternative to a screensaver if used with those novelty misspellings which feature in NTK. The second could be much more interesting: an instant reputation service. Google Webquotes "annotates the results of your Google search with comments from other websites." Of course gaming Google results is a popular hobby. The Church of Scientology goes to considerable expense to ensure it's the most popular site on Google - but can't stop anti-Scientology information sites coming out at Numbers 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 in the rankings. And it's even been the vehicle for a rather hubristic attempt at blackmail in one our most famous Flames of The Week from "jpzr". (One of my two online stalkers). It's at the earliest stages of development: a search for "Scott McNealy" turned up two corporate bios from Sun, and eight interviews with McNealy. Neither really contained any third party opinions about the search subject. Related Links Google Viewer ">Google Webquotes Related Stories Google Labs passes Borges Test Google explains new page rankings
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Dec 2002

Spammer gets junk mailed

A US bulk emailer is threatening legal action after so-called "anti-spammers" signed him up for lots of junk mail. Detroit Free Press tech columnist Mike Wendland reported last week that Alan Ralsky is now experiencing what it likes to be flooded with unwanted correspondence. Mr Ralsky has the capacity to send a billion emails a day and has made a fortune doing it. Now, he's receiving sacks of paper post, brochures, and catalogues [AOL CDs? Ed] after being signed up for all manner of junk mail - and he ain't happy. He told the DFP: "They've signed me up for every advertising campaign and mailing list there is. These people are out of their minds. They're harassing me." Some people have already pointed out the delicious irony in this situation made all the more sweeter because of Mr Ralsky's apparent distress. And who are the anti-spammers? The heroes of the hour hatched the plot on Slashdot, with spam haters posting Ralsky's address and "even an aerial view of his neighborhood". You can read the full DFP story here. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Dec 2002

VeriSign goes Swiss as Web Services war brews

VeriSign Inc CEO Stratton Sclavos sees 2003 as the year of the web services platform war, and wants to make his company as "Swiss" as possible, providing the security plumbing for multiple vendors' offerings. Sclavos, talking to ComputerWire at VeriSign's web services strategy day in San Francisco yesterday, said the time has come for companies to forget the hype and buckle down to do the boring integration work, while the big platform players battle for developers. "This is a phase that every long period in technology goes through," Sclavos told an audience of analysts and reporters. "A pit of despair where a lot of hard work goes on... We're reinventing the underlying infrastructure of software development." "Scott McNealy was wrong. The network is not the computer, the network is the operating system," he said. "We will be calling assumed functionality from the network. It won't be DLLs stored in the OS as it is today, it will be web services found in UDDI directories and stored on the network." "We have the large platform vendors ready to go to war," he said, alluding to the likes of Microsoft, IBM and BEA. This is a good thing, he said, as it means web services will go beyond its hype, unlike previous fads that had a similar vision and end goal but lacked big vendor backing. "VeriSign tends to be neutral in platform wars," Sclavos said. The company sees itself providing the security plumbing for the platform and tools vendors, much like it provided the security infrastructure for virtually every browser during the emergence of the web. VeriSign provided the digital certificates in the half dozen or so browsers that were around in the mid-nineties, and continues to provide them for Internet Explorer (huge), Netscape (challenger) and Opera (for the enthusiasts). "SSL worked because the technology was fully embedded in these browsers, and because it only required one party to do something to enable it to work," he told ComputerWire. "We want to do the same thing here with the app server vendors and web services tools vendors." As part of its strategy, VeriSign has released the Trust Service Integration Kit, which allows XML Encryption, XML Signature and XML Key Management Services (XKMS) and, separately, a free open source implementation of WS-Security. The company also plans to release a web services security gateway product next year (see separate story). In terms of partnerships, Sclavos said web services platforms will be released by major vendors with VeriSign technology embedded during 2003. The company has announced close partnerships with Microsoft and IBM, and vendors including BEA, Sun and webMethods have expressed support for its framework. But can you extend the web services platform market slash browser market analogy out to predict its long-term shape? Possibly, Sclavos said saying there is likely to ultimately be a "strong number one", a primary challenger, a smaller third player, and "pretty much everybody else becomes irrelevant." © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 11 Dec 2002

nCipher teams up to secure Web Services

Hardware security vendor and cryptographic acceleration specialist nCipher Plc has put together a series of new partnerships and products in a bid to ease the problems of deploying security to XML applications and web services. The difficulties of managing and protecting authentication and authorization processes using cryptography and digital signatures is seen as a barrier to widespread adoption of XML applications and web services. Cambridge, UK-based nCipher has announced XML-ready versions of its nShield and nForce cryptographic key management products, and said it will be working with a trio of XML security partners to identify "key points of risk in delivering web services." Partnership deals have been signed with the Salt Lake City, Utah-based secure appliances vendor Forum Systems Inc, the Belmont, California-based firewall vendor Reactivity, and Westbridge Technology Inc, a supplier of an XML Message Server system based in Mountain View, California. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 11 Dec 2002

Caribbean storm brews over C&W

Cable & Wireless Plc, which had a stock market valuation of £7.8bn ($12.2bn) a year ago, slumped to a new low of £952.8m ($1.5bn) yesterday, on fears that the company's cash cow in the Caribbean may be eaten by competitors. The new blow to the troubled carrier came in the form of an internal C&W report leaked to the Financial Times that showed that the company's operations in Jamaica are losing out badly to aggressive new rival Digicel. The Caribbean operations are the last legacy of C&W's history as providing communications to former UK colonies. Now the Islands are opening their markets to competition, C&W's creaking infrastructure has proved vulnerable. Digicel, which was set up by Irish entrepreneur Denis O'Brien with the ambition of becoming the Vodafone of the Caribbean, has already grabbed a 65% market share in Jamaica, and now plans to roll out its networks on other islands. The C&W report reveals that Digicel's GSM networks had 230 cell sites in Jamaica with a further 100 planned by the end of this year. C&W, which uses the older TDMA technology, has only 122 cell sites. The report says: "Digicel has proved to be adept at rapid strategy execution, guerrilla marketing campaigns and recruiting skilled employees. All these factors have served them well and fuelled the company's confidence regarding their ability to seize other markets in the Caribbean." The report is damning about C&W's own operations. "Morale is at a record low. The structure creates restrictions in spontaneity or functionality in a competitive environment. There is a lack of capex and the existing mobile system cannot offer the flexibility of functionality of GSM." C&W recently announced that its Caribbean operations are to be upgraded to GSM next year. However, the fact that it could allow a competitor to grab a 65% share of one of its key markets without an adequate response suggests that the company's senior management in the area needs replacing. However, there must be suspicion that while the C&W board were happy for its Caribbean operations to compensate for the losses it was running up on its global operation, it was reluctant to provide the investment for it to retain its competitive position. Meanwhile, C&W said it has rearranged the management of its global operations to give it more focus as it embarks on a £800m ($1.3bn) downsizing. Global chief executive Don Reed will be based in the US, while Adrian Chamberlain, who is currently director of group strategy and corporate development, will take responsibility for all non-US business. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 11 Dec 2002

EDS issues profit warning on United bankruptcy

IT services firm EDS Corp has issued a profit warning following news of the bankruptcy of the world's second largest airline United Airlines. Plano, Texas-based EDS was forced to cut its fourth-quarter and full-year 2002 profit forecast by 5 cents per share, or as much as 10%, as it announced that it would have to write off a $40m leasing investment made with United Airlines in 1991. EDS said it now expects full-year earnings to be between $2.00 and $2.05 per share compared to its earlier revised guidance of $2.05 to $2.10 per share. The news follows a turbulent few months for EDS, which has seen the company issue a shock profit warning in September, followed by a slew of concerns surrounding its business, including accounting procedures used in its outsourcing projects, which raised fears it would not have sufficient cash reserves to fund future large-scale deals, as well as losses worth millions of dollars it incurred from other high-profile client bankruptcies of WorldCom and US Airways. EDS also lost out as the primary contractor on one of the largest ever outsourcing engagements last month, a $7bn 10-year project with consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 11 Dec 2002

HP comes clean in latest wave of storage benchmarks

The Storage Performance Council has posted another wave of benchmarks, including new results for hardware from IBM Corp and 3Pardata Inc, and a re-test by Hewlett Packard Co in response to criticism of what was diplomatically called the "real world applicability"of its previous results. While HP set an example for others - namely LSI Corp - to follow by coming clean over a configuration issue, IBM applied the SPC-1 benchmark to the latest version of its Shark ESS storage array, and start-up 3Pardata Inc tested an entry-level configuration of its storage device. SPC-1 is designed to measure throughput in a simulated OLTP environment. HP's engineers took the company's Enterprise Virtual Array back into the laboratory to re-test it because the first benchmark was completed with write cache mirroring switched off. This is a feature which slows down performance by a fair margin, but which most customers leave switched on to provide improved data protection. In the first test, when write cache mirroring was switched off, the EVA scored an SPC-1 IOPS figure of 24,005. In the second test when it was switched on, that IOPS number dropped by 16% to just 20,096. The EVA's average response time when handling 10% of the SPC's full benchmark load also slipped, slowing from 2.29ms to 2.36ms. David Scott, CEO of 3Par, was among those that criticized the first set of HP results as being less than representative. Yesterday he said: "It's admirable of HP to put these new results on the table. Now, the pressure is going to be on LSI to do the same," he said. LSI switched off write cache mirroring when it tested its FastT arrays earlier this year. Write cache mirroring involves writing of data to two rather than one solid-state caches within a storage array. Without it, data is exposed to a single point of failure. The SPC allows it to be switched off during a benchmark test because it is a supported configuration which customers are not discouraged from using. LSI, which estimates that at least 25% of its customers switch it off in order to improve performance, said yesterday that it has not decided yet whether or not to follow HP's lead. IBM's test of its latest model 800 version of the Shark ESS returned an SPC-1 IOPS figure of 22,999, up heavily on the 8,009 IOPs recorded for the smaller and much cheaper Shark F20 tested earlier in the year. Privately-held 3Par tested a medium-sized configuration of its InServ S800 storage server in order to demonstrate what it said is the unmatched scalability of its storage array. In the first test of an eight-controller version of the S800 earlier this year, 3Par scored an SPC-1 IOPS figure of 47,001. In the company' latest test, a smaller two-controller version of the same machine scored an IOPS figure of 12,906. The purpose of the second test was to map out a lower end for what 3Par claims is a massive performance and capacity range that can be provided by just one device undergoing non-disruptive upgrades. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 11 Dec 2002
cable

VeriSign plans Web Services security gateway

VeriSign Inc plans to announce web services security gateway software early next year, it emerged yesterday. Speaking at a gathering in San Francisco, CEO Stratton Sclavos disclosed the plan, which seems likely to place the company in competition against a number of startups and potentially larger security players. VeriSign executives declined to comment deeply on the details of the offering, but Sclavos indicated that the offering will sit near application servers, authenticating users and encrypting and signing messages using emerging standards including XML Encryption, XML Signature, WS-Security and SSL. "It will allow you to configure security so you don't have to build it into the web service itself," VeriSign director of product marketing Anil Chakravarthy told ComputerWire. He said the offering will comprise both software and service components, like its existing public key infrastructure systems. The software sounds rather similar to products already on the market from young companies including California's Reactivity Inc and Ireland's Vordel Ltd, both of which make firewall-like gateway systems that examine and secure XML traffic as it passes into and out of an enterprise network. Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, a major firewall vendor, also has plans for SOAP security for its Firewall-1 product. The major application server platform vendors also have security components embedded in their systems. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 11 Dec 2002

Web filters block health sites

A study from the US has shown that Internet filters designed to screen out pornography can end up blocking access to health information Web sites. The study, carried out by the Kaiser Family Foundation and published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that when Internet filters were set at their most restrictive level, they blocked nearly a quarter of health information sites and half of all sites with advice about safe sex. The problem is a serious one, says the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), because many schools and libraries tend to set Internet filters at their most restrictive level. American schools receiving federal funds are required by law to have filters on all their computers, although the application of the same law in US libraries was overturned by a federal circuit court earlier this year and is shortly to be reviewed by the US Supreme Court. Striking a balance between blocking most pornography sites and still accessing health information and safe sex Web pages will depend on the exact set-up of the Internet filtering software, the report said. If not configured carefully, the filters could present a "serious obstacle, especially on issues such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and birth control," said Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President Vicky Rideout. Earlier research has confirmed that the Internet has become a widely used source of information for health information for teenagers, including sexual health. "The Internet has the potential to revolutionise access to health care information and services," said study co-author Dr. Caroline Richardson of the University of Michigan Medical School. "It's important to ensure that filters don't interfere with that potential." The study, "See No Evil: How Internet Filters Affect the Search for Online Health Information," tested the six most commonly used filters at the "least," "intermediate," and "most" restrictive settings. The researchers tested the search engines Yahoo, Google, AOL, MSN, Ask Jeeves and Alta Vista. The 3,000 health and 500 pornography sites that came up during these searches were then systematically tested against the six filters most widely used in schools and libraries: 8e6, CyberPatrol, N2H2, SmartFilter, Symantec, and Websense. The Kaiser study found that running the filters at their highest configuration results in blocking a large percentage of legitimate health sites, while only marginally increasing the amount of pornographic content blocked by the software. At the least restrictive level, the filters incorrectly block an average of just 1.4 percent of health sites. However, when set at the most restrictive level, filters block 24 percent of health sites. Blocking of sites on sexual health issues such as condoms and safe sex was higher at all levels: from 9 percent at the least restrictive setting to as much as 50 percent of all sites at the most restrictive setting. The amount of pornographic content blocked was found to increase only marginally, from 87 percent at the least restrictive configuration to 91 percent at the most restrictive level. Significant amounts of information on homosexuality, pregnancy and birth control were also blocked when the filters were set higher. © ENN Related stories Internet filtering software 'damages educational opportunities'
ElectricNews.net, 11 Dec 2002

More flexible software licences needed for Utility Computing

The basic ideas behind utility computing, also known as computing on demand, are very simple, writes Tony Lock. At the core can be found the concept that today's rapidly changing market conditions place a requirement that every organisation's IT infrastructure needs to be flexible in order to satisfy the fluctuating demands for service. In other words, IT must be able to support its users whatever the workload whilst still maintaining tight control over the cost of service delivered. One approach to supplying service in such potentially variable loads is to build an infrastructure scaled to meet peak demand. Such a solution may, however, entail a significant cost penalty. The idea behind utility computing is to allow organisations to allocate sufficient resources to meet the service level requirements of users as the demand changes. When more users require use of the system, the infrastructure allocates more resources (scales up) and when demand lowers the system scales back down and releases any excess capacity. Clearly any attempt to implement such systems demands that all of the solution components be capable of operating in such a flexible fashion. To this end, several of the leading vendors have produced a range of tools and products designed to operate in such on demand environments. Typically such offerings have included server engines, storage systems and sophisticated management tools to allocate and de-allocate resources in response to varying user demand. At this moment in time a number of vendors, including IBM, Hewlett Packard, SUN, Dell and a number of others, can supply IT infrastructures capable of operating in such an on demand fashion. However, while these systems are very good at allocating and de-allocating physical resources as and when required and can manage the application software deployed on these systems, there is one area of cost associated with this type of operation that has received comparatively little attention, namely the licensing of the software applications and tools deployed. Currently most of the software vendors operate on models whereby they 'sell' licenses for each product. The licenses concerned may function in a variety of fashions, but most often operate on a 'per server', 'per CPU' or 'per user' fashion. Some applications may function on a 'concurrent' basis whereby the license covers simultaneous use by a specified number of users rather than of individually identified users. In order to function cost-effectively, utility or on demand computing requires that software licences be made available on the fly and that consumers pay only for the software while the licenses are in use rather than for periods when the infrastructure has been scaled down. Independent software vendors need to address the issue of licensing by usage in the very near future if the development of utility computing is not to grind to a halt. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 11 Dec 2002

Last day for EU orders at Cash'n'Carrion

Just a quick reminder that midnight GMT tonight is the final order deadline for pre-Xmas delivery within the EU from our Cash'n'Carrion" Reg shop. Final UK order deadline is midnight GMT on Friday. We've been doing brisk Yuletide trade, with the new O'Really XXLs and Hacker mug proving popular with the punters. Last-minute stocking fillers include the now-legendary Traser GlowRing (UK only), or why not protect a loved one against the winter chill with a classic Register t-shirt? And, as ever, we have an extensive range of NTK t-shirts, including several in XXL. Happy shopping. ®
Team Register, 11 Dec 2002