2nd > January > 2003 Archive

Amstrad promo cuts e-m@iler price in half

Can it really be almost three years since Amstrad launched the e-m@iler to widespread indifference, sprinkled with a less-than-generous helping of scorn? Today, the iconic UK consumer electronics firm cuts the price in half of its second generation version wired phone/emailer device, the e-m@iler plus, "in most retail outlets" to £49.99. The bigger handset subsidy is offset partly by lower manufacturing costs as well as new recurring revenue services, the company says. It's supporting the promo with press advertising and in-store marketing. In a statement, Simon Sugar (some relation), Amstrad commercial director, says: "We have had nearly three years experience of running the e-m@iler business and the revenue earned per phone has held up well and we continue to add new revenue earning services to the phone. The significant increase to the installed base expected from this move will enhance the future profitability of the e-m@iler business". The e-m@iler plus is designed for people who don't have computers, but who want to send and receive the occasional email. The price per email is expensive, but it's peanuts, say, for the Granny, who wants email simply to keep in touch with her family. And of course, the handset is dirt-cheap, especially now. However, the e-m@iler plus has failed to set the UK alight, and sales have missed the bullish, nay defiant, projections issued by Sir Sugar over the last three or so years. ® Related stories Living with the e-m@iler plus Heavily qualified thumbs up from The Register's Tim Richardson Amstrad CEO resigns over Sir Sugar's emailer obsession
Drew Cullen, 02 Jan 2003

Balloons burst in Intel-VIA trial

It was at Computex in 2001 that four Intel execs hatched a cunning plot to undermine upstart competitor VIA. They decided to rid the Taipei trade show of the chipset designer's - balloons. Yes, that's right: Chipzilla burst the VIA promo balloons festooning the booths of mutual customers, namely the mobo makers. For this heinous crime, four Intel executives fingered by VIA, stood trial in Taipei. The verdict, delivered on New Year's Eve? Not guilty, Digitimes reports. The reason? Intel had secured the permission of sundry mobo makers in writing to remove VIA balloons from their stands. VIA says it is to appeal, as the balloon-bursting episode is evidence yet again of Intel's monopolistic anti-competitive behaviour. Surely, it's time to give this one up, VIA? There's plenty of court action elsewhere, to be getting on with. ® Related story Appeals Court overturns VIA-Intel antitrust ruling
Drew Cullen, 02 Jan 2003

xBox Linux donor extends prize offer

The anonymous donor who offered $200,000 to fund two prizes for the development of xBox Linux has taken off his mask. And yes, it is as most people who care about such things suspected all along, Michael Robertson, CEO of Lindows.com. He is extending the deadline for part B of the prize for another year. This is to enable hackers to produced a Linux capable of running on xBox with no hardware modifications. The original deadline was the end of 2002. The terms of Part A of the prize, to run Linux on the Microsoft games machine, has been accomplished. The distribution of $100,000 to several hackers as their reward is expected to be completed by the end of January, 2003, The Xbox Linux Project says. ®
Drew Cullen, 02 Jan 2003

Sun drops free email service

Sun is dropping its free email service MySun from March 24, in a house clearing exercise. In an email to users last week, Sun said: "We have come to the conclusion that we can no longer support a free email service as it is currently offered to MySun subscribers. "Effective March 24th 2003, we will discontinue the MySun email service. "We are notifying you of this change now in order to give you enough time to identify an alternative email solution and move your messages to a new provider," it adds. Intended primarily as a conduit for marketing to Sun users and the like, the MySun email service was launched around the time Microsoft acquired Hotmail some years ago. Even though Sun execs rarely tired of pointed out that Hotmail's backend ran on Solaris servers, the thinking was they wanted to be able to offer an alternative of their own. When job cuts are flying around the industry, it's hard to justify running a free email service - especially when there is plenty competition. User numbers for MySun aren't available but it is reasonably safe to infer that the user base was small. Some MySun users have greeted the decision with sadness, and a little anger that its discontinuation comes without any apology. They tell us the service (though not without its quirks) is superior to more popular options such as Hotmail. "It had a customisable login page that you could fill with Sun-related content, although from the outset it certainly had great functionality for a Web-based service," MySun user Gerry Smith tells us. He liked features such as auto-forwarding of received email, "noticeably better uptime performance than Hotmail", POP3 account access, priority flag and read/delivery notifications from mail servers and 10MB Inbox space. MySun was "always a bit clunky to use (i.e. two browser windows) but worth the hassle," Smith said, adding that he will miss the service. ® Related Stories Sun demolishes Dotcom Builder MS paper touts Unix in Hotmail's Win2k switch Hotmail, Yahoo! erect roadblocks for spam sign-ons
John Leyden, 02 Jan 2003

Macro and script viruses dying off

The end of standard mass mailing worms is nigh - maybe as soon as before the end of 2003. But their replacements - Trojans and Spyware - are much, much worse. Or so Roger Thompson, technical director of TruSecure, a risk management firm, forecasts. In particular he warns of the risk from Remote Access Trojans (RATs) or backdoors posted on the Net or spread via email. "Malware code writers will continue to disguise RATs and backdoor scripts as 'adult' movies and then post them to pornography new groups targeting inexperienced users," he writes. "Expect them to continue through 2003 but they will be mixed with more and more grey ware (i.e. spyware and advertising monitoring that is barely legal)." Thompson notes mass-mailing Windows viruses were largely unsuccessful in hitting corporations in 2002, with the notable exception of organisations which did implement proper filters. One of the two biggest worms of the year was Klez, which infected home PCs mostly. Macro and script viruses emerged at a rate of 200 to 300 a month in 2002 but this will decrease to approx. 20 to 30 per month, TruSecure believes. According to Thompson, the impact of the mass-mailing worm is mostly over for corporations but it will still have an impact on SOHO (small office/home office) environments this year. Code Red TruSecure (and more particularly its affable "Surgeon General" Russ Cooper) came to notice in 2001 for predicting that the Code Red virus had the potential to "meltdown" the Internet. This warning was, we now know overstated. Cooper told us, when we met up with him before Christmas, that he did not regret the warning. He was acting, he said, on early analysis of Code Red and its possible spread through NT4 boxes. This turned out to be a lesser risk than first believed. Fair enough; but TruSecure is still banging on about Code Red-style attacks to this day. Thompson warning he expects "another attack in 2003 in the class and level of Code Red". If he means another outbreak of hysteria from sectors of the security community (which ought to know better) over some supposed Internet-crushing threat, how could we disagree? ® Related Stories The Code Red hype Hall of Shame Home user insecurity spurs email virus growth in 2002 Porn diallers and Trojans - the new face of malicious code Closing spyware loopholes External Links Information Security Predictions for the New Year, by TruSecure
John Leyden, 02 Jan 2003

Sony preps AI music composer

Boffins at Sony are working to develop artificial intelligence technology capable of composing original music. Eduardo Reck Miranda, a researcher for the Sony Computer Science Laboratories, is working to create artificial intelligence agents capable of more than simply mimicking particular musical styles, EETimes reports. It's jolly clever stuff, and the possibility that the agents will come up with something more satisfying than the output from the current wave of Popstars-created Karaoke combos is certainly there. And we'll listen to the results with interest: After all, there is no computer yet which passes the Turing tests, where a machine responses are indistinguishable from those of a human. Sony's idea sounds uncommonly like the versificator, machines used for the creation of music for the masses which feature in George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984. ® Related Stories Journalists to be replaced by robots RIAA invites comments Personal music stations for 3G phones
John Leyden, 02 Jan 2003