8th > January > 2003 Archive

SGI finds 2,048 uses for an Itanic

If anyone can find a use for an Itanium chip, it ought to be SGI. Although the processor remains stillborn as a commercial computing proposition, the benchmarks are impressive and improving, and SGI's technical computing customers typically need a much smaller working set of software to get their work done. Still, it's interesting that SGI should introduce a global shared memory system based on Itanic, running Linux (and Linux only). The Altix 3000 series are single system image boxes based on SGI's C-brick where each node has access to all the memory across an interconnect that has much lower (50 ns) latencies, SGI's Greg Estes told us. In the flagship 3700 "supercluster" each node can host up to 64 1Ghz Itanics, up to a maximum of 512. Estes said this will double each year, with 2048 node Altices planned for 2005. There's also a single node "entry level" model 3300, which will host up to 12 CPUs, for around $70,000. "The Origin is a modular design based on the C-bricks, and the Origin 3000 was designed with both MIPS and Itanium in mind," said Estes. The systems are targeted with the life sciences market in mind and SGI insists that less configuration, and less-DIY assembly is required than with white box PC clusters. The Altix allows CPUs to be dynamically allocated to different tasks. "If you want to calculate large prime numbers you can download the software from the Internet and do it now on your PC. But life science codes can use the larger address space and better floating point performance." Although IBM, who SGI sees as the main competitor in the market, has built large clusters, only SGI can share memory across all the nodes. SGI issued figures comparing the new system from IBM and HP. But not Sun? "We only included serious competitors in technical computing," said Estes. Miaow. ® Related Link Altix Related Stories SGI gets dense with Origin 3900 Supercomputer SGI bakes denser superbricks SGI raises the Itanic l">IBM racks up 128 CPUs with P655
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Jan 2003

Dixons chokes on Christmas turkey

Shares in Dixons slumped in early morning trading after the high street electrical retailer revealed it had experienced a very unhappy Christmas. Dixons' share price slipped 20 per cent (29p) to 118p after the company admitted that sales in December were "below expectations". This was due mainly to weaker sales of games consoles, audio products and extended warranties. However, sales of computers, widescreen TVs and DVD players - especially in the sales - proved a little more encouraging. Sales in the UK for the eight weeks ended January 4 grew by 6 per cent but were flat on a like-for-like basis. Publishing its interim results today for the 28 weeks ended November 9 2002, pre-tax profit increased 8 per cent to £94.8m on turnover of £2.6bn. However, following the disappointing Christmas it seems forecasts for full-year profits are being downgraded to around £300m, down from around £320m. In a statement Dixons chairman, Sir John Collins, said: "Trading in the UK over the Christmas period has been below our forecasts. "With an increasingly uncertain economic outlook and consequent risk to consumer confidence, we are cautious about the near term outlook for our markets. "We therefore expect that the results for this financial year will be below current market expectations," he said. Some market watchers are viewing Dixons' performance as a key economic indicator for the wider UK economy warning that this could signal a retreat in consumer confidence. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Jan 2003

StorageTek numbers boost prospects for storage recovery

Storage Technology Corp has joined EMC Corp and McData Corp in announcing preliminary fourth quarter results that are significantly better than expected, marking another indication that the fourth quarter may turn out to have been better than expected across the storage sector. StorageTek said that for the three months ended December 31 2002 it will post net income of more than $0.45 per share, up considerably on previous guidance of $0.36 per share or the GAAP earnings of $0.38 per share reported for the same period last year. Revenue will be around $584m, up 25% sequentially, and 3% year-on-year. Analysts had expected only a 10% sequential revenue growth. Earlier this week EMC announced preliminary results showing a 14% sequential revenue increase, well ahead of prior guidance of flat revenue, and analysts' expectations. EMC also announced net income of up to $0.02 per share - the first quarterly profit the company has made since the second quarter of 2001. McData's fourth quarter preliminary results announced on the same day as those from EMC showed a sequential revenue increase of 31%, compared to previous guidance of just 4% to 6% growth. Net income at the storage networking supplier will be between $0.06 to $0.08 per share, compared to an earlier forecast of breakeven to $0.01. Not all suppliers will have enjoyed the same fourth quarter party as these three, but many may have. As an OEM reseller of large volumes of other supplier's hardware, when EMC has a good quarter, others are likely to as well. Although the fourth quarter is the strongest quarter of the year, the results issued so far have caught analysts unaware. Only hours before McData and EMC issued their preliminary results, merchant bank Salomon Smith Barney said that it expects most storage companies to post fourth quarter results at the high-end or even or above previous guidance. It said that demand for storage products was "robust" in October and continued strongly into early November, before softening around the end of that month and then recovering in the last two weeks of December to give a strong finish to the quarter. SSB said EMC has built a "fair amount of [sales] backlog for the March quarter," and that McData has built a "healthy" backlog. Merchant Bank Merrill Lynch, which had expected EMC to post only flat revenue, pointed out that giant disk drive component supplier Hutchinson Technology Inc has also issued preliminary results showing revenue at the top end of previous guidance. The drive maker said that it does not expect demand to drop in the first quarter of this year, and that the outlook has recently improved for the second half of its fiscal year, ending in September. Despite that, Merrill was cautious about the prospects of an upturn for the storage sector, let alone for the IT sector as a whole. "Our surveys consistently put storage at the top of the priority heap, so maybe it's unique to storage. EMC had a particularly poor 3Q with substantial share loss, so there likely was some catch-up effect. Also, analysts may have underestimated 4Q seasonality," it said. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 08 Jan 2003
server room

Cisco recruits IBM for storage attack

Cisco Systems Inc is about to begin its assault on the turf currently dominated by McData Corp and Brocade Communications Systems Inc, and has at last recruited IBM as the first vitally-needed ally to resell the SAN switches and directors it first unveiled last summer. The MDS 9000 series of Fibre Channel and IP switches and directors to be resold by IBM starting some time this quarter represent Cisco's first true entry into the storage market. Despite some misperceptions of the products as hybrid IP and Fibre Channel devices, IP is intended solely as an option and initially they will ship only with support for Fibre Channel. This makes them direct challengers to existing products from suppliers such as Brocade Communications Systems Inc or McData Corp, which have never before faced such competition from a player with such size or track record. But without the support of a major storage supplier, Cisco's attempt to take on Brocade and McData would have been doomed, because of its almost total lack of a storage track record. Although other large storage vendors such as EMC Corp or Hewlett Packard Co were already very likely to take on Cisco's products, the fact that IBM has broken the ice will help speed their recruitment. "It's taken a long time for Cisco to sign up a major partner. Cisco's new to the storage business and there was a lot to sort out - such as would the product work, was the support structure in place, and issues for support such as the terminology," said Randy Kerns, partner at storage consultant the Evaluator Group. IBM said that it will not start shipping the hardware until the end of February at the earliest. "The whole industry has been waiting to see what would happen. We thought it was appropriate to prepare the market ahead of time, " said Craig Butler, IBM brand manager for mid-range storage products. EMC Corp confirmed that it has been testing Cisco equipment in its certification laboratories, although it would not say when or if it will qualify the products or begin reselling them. HP already rebrands Cisco's Ethernet switches, and yesterday made it clear that it intends to follow IBM's lead, although it too refused to say when. Roger Archibald, vice president of infrastructure at HP's network storage solutions said: "Adding Cisco Fibre Channel switches is a natural extension of our offering, and our long relationship with Cisco. For those customers that want to build SAN infrastructures using Cisco components in the future, they can continue to work with HP." Despite or perhaps because of Cisco's status as a champion of IP, Archibald added a plug for Fibre Channel: "For all customers, Cisco's entry into the market confirms that Fibre Channel will continue to be the network fabric for high performance storage solutions." Kerns said that despite the time it has taken for Cisco to recruit IBM, it will inevitably sign up other suppliers. "It's a good idea to OEM with multiple suppliers, because you can cut a better deal. Cisco has the potential to drive prices down because of their size, and because they're a switch supplier. IBM should be able to lever this deal," he said. So why are HP and EMC apparently not as eager as IBM to sign up? "Because it might be better to let somebody else have the pain of teaching Cisco how to do storage support, and dotting the i's and crossing the t's. That's what I would do if I were them," Kerns said. The devices IBM will resell are Cisco's MDS 9216 16-port to 48-port storage switch, and the MDS 9509 16-port to 144-port director. These modular devices will first ship only with Fibre Channel support. At the end of the first quarter, Cisco will ship blades that will fit any MDS 9000 devices and will include 8 ports supporting any combination of the IP-based iSCSI and FCIP storage protocols. Despite the existence of the smaller 9216, both Cisco and IBM said that the best sales prospects will be among larger customers. Many of these customers run multiple SANs which are kept separate for reasons of security and reliability. Cisco is pitching what it calls Virtual SAN technology in the MDS9000 which will allow them to consolidate those separate networks. VSAN, which involves adding a header to Fibre Channel data packets, allows one physical network to carry multiple logical networks. "The sweet spot at the moment seems to be those customers who have already implemented a SAN, but want to scale out with diagnostics and stability. This is not necessarily the early adopter," said Jackie Ross, vice president of marketing at Cisco. "I think a lot of these customers are going to link up their SAN islands with the MDS 9000," Butler said. He claimed that IBM has received enquiries about the Cisco from customers in a range of industries. "Originally I thought it was just going to be the telcos, but it's actually been across the board," he said. In 2001 Cisco shipped its first storage networking product, which was the 5428 iSCSI and Fibre Channel switch. Cisco has not said how many of these devices it has sold, but the number is certainly very low. iSCSI has so far enjoyed almost zero take-up in the market, and has suffered from a drastic lack of support from other major suppliers. Cisco would not say what the future of the 5428 is. It admitted that there is an overlap with the 9216, but said that, unlike the newer device, the 5428 is aimed at SME customers. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 08 Jan 2003

Cray preps X1 succesor

Cray Inc may have only recently released its flagship X1 supercomputer, but it is already making plans to follow it up with a machine that currently goes under the codename "Black Widow". According to Seattle, Washington-based Cray, Black Widow will be instruction set compatible with X1 and is expected to have a peak performance of "several hundred teraflops" on release. With two stages of enhancements, its performance will grow to in excess of one petaflop. X1 became generally available at the end of 2002 and has a peak performance of 52.4 teraflops and is designed to be capable of delivering petaflop-level aggregate processing power by 2010. Unfortunately for Cray a significant problem stands in its way to the development of Black Widow. The company's license agreement with Silicon Graphics Inc, from which it acquired the Cray vector supercomputer business in March 2000, only allows it to use SGI's Irix Unix operating system variant in the X1. If Cray is unable to license Irix from SGI for use in Black Widow and other successors to X1, the company said, it will have to develop, acquire or license an alternative Unix operating system. News of the Black Widow system emerged in a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission which details Cray's plan to sell six million shares of its common stock, which could generate in excess of $45m for the supercomputer vendor, alongside 250,000 shares of common stock from undisclosed shareholders. Cray said it plans to use the funds raised by its six million shares for general corporate purposes, and pointed out that it will not receive any proceeds from the additional 250,000 shares. A final price for the share offering has not been set, although the proposed maximum offering price has been set by Cray at $7.54 per share. The company has also granted its underwriters, Needham & Company Inc and SG Cowan Securities Corp, a 30-day option to purchase 937,500 shares of common stock to cover over-allotments. A date for the offering has also yet to be confirmed, although Cray said it is keen to commence the sale as soon as is practicable. Cray did not return calls by press time to provide details of Black Widow development and delivery plans. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 08 Jan 2003

Sage begins European expansion with Concept buy

Accountancy software vendor Sage Group Plc has paid 4.7m pounds ($7.5m) for Paris, France-based Concept Group, which supplies treasury, cash management and financial consolidation applications for small and medium-sized businesses. The deal, which could see Sage paying out an additional 1.8m pounds ($2.9m) over the next three years dependent on performance, is in line with the company's policy announced in December of looking for additional acquisitions in Europe. Sage plans to sell Concept's products to its existing user base in France and market its own applications to Concept customers. Europe was one of Sage's most dynamic markets last year with revenue growing by 17%, but it still only accounts for 21.5% of the total. Newcastle, UK-based Sage is looking for companies to buy, particularly in Spain, Italy and the Eastern bloc countries. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 08 Jan 2003

Start-up marries blogs and camera phones

A Dublin-based start-up is to offer software to mobile operators that will enable mobile phone users to create and maintain Weblogs or "blogs" using only their phones. NewBay Software, a privately funded company headed by former Baltimore Technologies executive Paddy Holahan, is aiming to capitalise on the explosive growth in weblogs over the past year. It is estimated that over 500,000 have been created over the past 18 months and are now starting up at the rate of about 5,000 daily. The content of Weblogs can range from personal diaries and opinion sites to amateur publishing on sports, politics, events and reviews. Weblogs are created using PCs and blogging software that is available both commercially and for free over the Internet. NewBay Software is hoping to capitalise on the ubiquity of mobile phones and particularly the MMS capabilities of the latest generation of camera phones to market its FoneBlog software product. Using FoneBlog, network operators provide Web addresses for customers who can then update their personal Web sites by sending text and images from their phone. If the user's phone does not have MMS, a text only site can be created. Speaking to ElectricNews.Net, Paddy Holahan, chief executive of NewBay and former vice president of marketing with Baltimore Technologies, said that the response from initial approaches to mobile operators had been very positive. "We think in the short term network operators will see this as an immediate way of capitalising on the new wave of camera phones." The company is targeting 200 operators worldwide, starting in Europe and the US, and hopes to announce the first deals within a few months. Holahan said he was hopeful of generating revenues of at least USD10 million. The company, currently employs nine people at its offices in Upper Baggot Street, may also expand into other areas eventually but for the moment is concentrating on its Weblog product, he said. Up until now, blogging has appealed to a small band of relatively sophisticated PC users ranging from amateur journalists to angst-ridden teenagers, but Holahan says the convergence of weblogs and camera phones will crack open the market for weblog services. As well as boosting revenues for network operators, it will drive the sale of camera phones, he said. According to research from Strategy Analytics, camera phones are expected to make up 11 percent of phone sales by 2004, while 50 million MMS handsets will be in the European market by 2004. It is also estimated that there will be 147 million camera phones in existence by 2007. The software, hosted by the network operator, automatically stores and formats incoming messages that are then added to the user's Web site in a diary or log fashion. As each entry is sent, it is automatically added to the top of the Web site with each day creating a new Web page. The Web site can be viewed from any Web browser and visitors automatically see the most recent entry or can click on a calendar to view previous days. Mobile phone users who maintain their weblog using their phones will still be able to edit their sites using PCs. Holahan said that 3G phones will open up the creative possibilities for weblogs, such as including video images. NewBay Software, which was established in November is a privately funding start-up. It is owned by a number of private investors, including Holahan, but with no venture capital involvement <© ENN Related links ENN Year in Review: Wi-Fi, picture phones offer a port in the storm NewBay press release
ElectricNews.net, 08 Jan 2003

Ireland set for flat-rate Net by June

Flat-rate Internet should become a reality in Ireland by the end of June, after ComReg said it would force Eircom to sell the service to other telecoms. The widely expected move follows years of bitter disputes over the provision of wholesale FRIACO (Flat-Rate Internet Access Call Origination), with entrant telecoms, lobbying groups and consumers all calling for former monopoly Eircom to begin selling the service. With a FRIACO decision in place, Eircom and other operators will be able to sell consumer Internet services that allow users to remain connected to the Net for unlimited periods of time at a fixed monthly price. ComReg's Decision Notice, which was issued on Tuesday, will force Eircom to begin selling wholesale flat-rate Net services by the end of February 2003, with services available to consumers by the end of June 2003. The move comes after the Minister for Communications, Dermot Ahern, published a draft policy directive late last year that, among other things, directed the communications regulator to focus on the introduction of flat-rate Internet access. Amid all of the clamouring for flat-rate Internet in the press and among consumers over the past three years, ComReg's predecessor, the ODTR, was unable to force Eircom to introduce the service because no formal request had been made. It was only in July 2002 that two Irish telecoms formally requested that Eircom introduce such a facility, and when negotiations broke down in November, ComReg was able to step in. Telecoms in many other EU states already offer flat-rate Internet, including firms in the UK, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. FRIACO-based Net access is also currently available in Germany, although a recent court decision there is thought to have put the service at risk. David Long, the chairman of pressure group Ireland Offline, one of the most vocal organisations pushing for the introduction of the service in Ireland, described the news as important. "We are delighted with this. It is exactly what we wanted and have been working towards for almost two years now," Long said. He added, however, that with no formal pricing structure in place, the group remained cautious and was concerned that Eircom's wholesale rates could be prohibitively expensive. The ComReg decision said only that Eircom's product must be "cost-oriented" and a ComReg spokesperson refused to elaborate on this. Long said any price above €35 per month for consumers would be excessive. Esat BT also greeted the news with enthusiasm, with the firm's director of communications, Una McGirr, saying the announcement was satisfying. "But the devil is in the detail," McGirr warned, suggesting that further industry wrangling could hinder the launch. When Esat begins selling a flat-rate service, the company is aiming to price it between €25 and €30 per month. Other industry watchers said that they expect Eircom to fight ComReg's decision tooth and nail. One insider commented, "For Eircom to spend €50,000 a day fighting this in the High Court would be a small sum if they really did not want to introduce the service." For its part, Eircom said it had no immediate comment on ComReg's decision. A ComReg spokesperson meanwhile pointed to EU legislation which says that any dominant fixed-line telecom must meet "certain obligations" in providing access to the network if "reasonable requests" from entrant telecoms are made. © ENN Some related stories from ENN ENN Year in Review: Telecoms suffer globally, offer hope locally Ahern sets deadline for cheap broadband
ElectricNews.net, 08 Jan 2003

Vodafone throttled for throat sweet stunt

A toddler from Essex nearly choked after swallowing a lozenge included in a Vodafone mailshot. The child's parents complained to the advertising watchdog because they said the throat sweet could easily fall into the hands of young children. The mailshot was offering customers free calling time and exclaimed: "Soon there'll be no excuse for you not being able to use your mobile. Unless, of course, you lose your voice ...". [a-hah, hence the throat sweet - ed] It seems the kids opened the mail because they felt something inside. When they opened the letter, they thought the lozenge was a sweet. One of the children swallowed the lozenge and nearly choked on it. Even though Vodafone pointed out that the lozenge was safe and sealed inside a plastic bag, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed with the parents and told Vodafone not to repeat any similar sweet-toothed promotions. Vodafone apologised for the incident and said it had not intended to worry customers. Last year Vodafone was ticked off by the ASA after complaints that its saucy ads - featuring semi-naked couples - promoted texting while driving. ® Related Story ASA clobbers Vodafone for texting and driving
Tim Richardson, 08 Jan 2003

I am Centrino™, son of Banias

LogoWatchLogoWatch Well, it's official - Intel has formally announced that as of right now Centrino™ mobile technology is the new brand name for its forthcoming wireless mobile computing technology. Lovely. For the record, the technologies represented by the Centrino brand will include a microprocessor (formerly code-named "Banias"), related chipsets and 802.11 (Wi-Fi) wireless networking capability and further signify a new generation of mobile PCs that will change where and how people compute. Yes, yes, it's the old "changing where and how people compute" line, doubtless leading to a major restructuring of the whole of world society by Q4 2003. Naturally, for such a major paradigm shift, you'll need an appropriately go-ahead logo, a logo which features a striking magenta color and a completely new shape, [and] suggests flight, mobility, and forward movement. Actually, it does. In fact it suggests to us nothing less than a set of plastic dart flights. Accordingly, we'd like to suggest that any Centrino TV ad capaign might benefit from "arrers" supremo Eric "The Crafty Cockney" Bristow, lager in one hand, mobile computing device in the other, effortlessly demonstrating the freedom and flexibility of being unwired as he solemnly approaches the oche. "Eric, you require 802.11," dum dum dum dum.... ®
Lester Haines, 08 Jan 2003

Department of Homeland Security cast in privacy role

The Bush administration has pared back the number of government initiatives on computer security in revised plans that give more responsibility the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Earlier proposals to consult regularly with privacy experts on the civil liberties ramification of security plans have also been dropped, AP via reports today. Instead, the Homeland Security Department will include a privacy officer charged with balancing "privacy and civil liberties concerns" in developing security plans. An ironic position given the Homeland Security Department's leading role in plans to build the most comprehensive Net surveillance system yet created. AP has obtained leaked drafts of Bush administration plans that show the number of security proposals scald back from 86 to 49. Gone are proposals to provide government guidance for US companies on improving security, ditched as ideologically unsound for an administration naturally inclined to oppose wider government regulation on principle. Government should instead focus on getting its own house on in order first rather than telling business what to do, the new thinking suggests. "Governments can lead by example in cyberspace security," the draft National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace plan states. However the plan isn't altogether inward looking. The Homeland Security Department is to be given the role of testing computer systems controlling America's utilities to ensure they are robustly defended from possible Internet attack. Meanwhile the Defence Department is given explicit permission to strike back in kind if the US if ever attacked in cyberspace. Forget for a minute such fears are frequently overstated: the point is that the Defence Department is been given a clear mandate to wage Cyber Warfare (and justification to tap Congress for funds to equip itself for war on the Net). President Bush is expected to approve the plan and begin implementing its proposals within the next few weeks, according to wire reports. ® Related Stories US preps Big Brother Net monitoring FBI plays cyber-fear card again Congress blasts Feds on cyber-terror FOIA games Big software pushes hard for national Gestapo
John Leyden, 08 Jan 2003

Mandrake 9.0: It takes two, baby

ReviewReview Review The first thing I noticed about Mandrake 9.0 Linux is that the goofy cross-eyed penguin is gone. Mandrake is pointing itself in a more sophisticated direction - it's not drab like Red Hat, but elegant and inviting. It looks expensive. Mandrake 9.0 is, in fact, not expensive at all; it's free if you're willing to take the time to download it and burn your own CD or do a network install. One thing I can tell you is that buying a set of CDs has become much, much more convenient than downloading, because MandrakeSoft has come up with an ingenious little scheme that places much of the expected stuff on the second CD. More about that later. The install for Mandrake 9.0 is simple; a given by now, since the past six versions have been getting progessively more intuitive. It recognized everything on my Thinkpad T20. I appreciate not having to fiddle with the display settings. Test. Mangled. Choose different settings. Test. More mangled. Choose other different settings. Test. Ah, finally. No more of that. Defaults all the way. In the visual appeal department, Mandrake has changed the user icons to include beautiful images of flowers and other things (I only really saw the flowers because I like flowers. Now instead of a penguin with yellow ponytails, I am a lovely flower.) Mandrake 9.0 includes KDE 3.0. KDE has come a long way with this release. It is beautiful to behold, which is important to me, but even more important is the increase in speed. It loads quicker, and KDE apps load quicker. Prior to installing Mandrake 9.0, I ran SuSE 7.3 for at least six months and had switched to GNOME because it was quicker. Maybe it's just because SuSE is a KDE shop, but I found that GNOME was too quirky and non-intuitive for my enjoyment (although I did have a brief stint with GNOME on a Red Hat install that I only kept for about three days). I am very glad to be back with KDE. Oh, and they even changed the dorky orchestral startup sound to something techno and less obtrusive. A notable inclusion in 9.0 that I haven't seen in any previous releases is the YaST2-like Mandrake Control Center. Much more prominent and convenient to run than the old configuration tool, it provides easy access to all the important administration tasks for hardware, system configuration, and user administration. Of course, Mandrake 9.0 is LSB (Linux Standards Base) certified as long as you choose to install the LSB modules up front. Anyway, if you're like me and usually just download the first CD (after all, it's got everything I need), you'll be surprised. I installed it, and started opening up my most-used applications for work - mail, irc, browser, and text editor. The first thing I noticed was that the only mail client on the menu was Evolution. Evolution is fine with me - it is one of those treasure apps I find every now and then that does everything I need it to do and doesn't complain. But where was KMail? It was odd. You just don't expect to see Evolution as the only choice on KDE in Mandrake. It could be part of that move to elegant professionalism I sense. A quick check of the console revealed that KMail was not even installed. How interesting. Then, to my dismay, I discovered that not only was there a dearth of email clients, but there were NO irc clients at all! Not a good thing for a remote worker whose virtual office is an irc channel on slashnet.org. At least Mozilla was installed (though not on the menu, so newbs are limited to Konqueror), so I could run Chatzilla and show up for work. Another MIA frequently used app was a simple calculator. There were many other things missing from the first CD - it is definitely barebones, a la Lindows? Bear in mind that I wasn't sure all these missing things were going to be on the second CD, but it was a pretty good bet. So I went back and downloaded it, burned it, and ran an upgrade, packages only. Voila! There's all the "stuff." Now, when I pull up the menus, they are jam packed with all the familiar items - maybe even more than I am used to, especially under Amusements and Office. Mandrake comes with OpenOffice.org now that StarOffice charges. There was the irc client, there was KMail, there were all the graphics programs - oh yeah, I forgot about those. And in an effort to appeal to Windows users, there is a new menu element: "What To Do?" Click on this and you'll have choices like "Use the Internet," "Read documentation" (yeah, right), "Enjoy music and video," and "Use office tools." I've noticed, after using Mandrake 9.0 for a few days, that the era of funky application crashes and X-server misfires seems to be over.. /me crosses fingers really hard. The overall sense is that Mandrake has matured into a tool that anyone could make use of - those familiar with Linux and in need of the advanced capabilities of a "real" distribution, and those who have never used Linux and are coming fresh from a Windows environment. There's nothing to figure out - just point and click and run the applications... as long as you've installed the second CD, that is. © NewsForge.com Related Stories Living with Red Hat as a productivity client
Tina Gasperson, 08 Jan 2003

Misleading anti-Sun ad lands HP reseller in hot water

Lancashire-based HP reseller PSL has earned itself a rap on the knuckles by advertising watchdogs for a direct mailing campaign rubbishing Sun Microsystems' products, strategy and business. In a mail-shot sent to IT directors, PSL made unfavourable comparisons between HP's existing technology and Itanium roadmap and Sun's flagship UltraSPARC III processor as wall as Sun's overall business. Sun complained. In an adjudication published today, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld all seven of Sun's complaints about PSL's provocatively titled you can't .com all of the people ... all of the time leaflet. The leaflet criticised Sun for rejecting Intel's Itanium architecture and described Sun as a "generation behind in processor technology". PSL claimed HP is on the right track in backing Itanic, while Sun can't afford to keep developing UltraSPARC. But the rest of the industry is not all adopting Itanium, the ASA noted, referencing Dell as a case in point. So PSL's claim that Sun is on its own is therefore misleading, the watchdog ruled. After taking expert advice, and wading through a number of SPEC benchmark figures, the ASA concluded that PSL had not substantiated its claims that the overall performance of the HP PA-8700 processor was better than the UltraSPARC III. Meanwhile PSL's claims that Itanium was the natural way forward from HP PA RISC processors backfired rather badly. In its ruling the ASA comments: "The Authority understood that the UltraSPARC III was one of the first 64-bit processors and both its hardware and operating systems had settled down to the satisfaction of users. It noted the same applied to HP's PA-8000 series and IBM's processors but not to Itanium". Ouch. PSL's leaflet alleged "Sun was heavily dependant on the .com market which has collapsed". Again misleading, the ASA ruled. True the server market is in decline, but PSL "sent no evidence to prove that Sun was suffering solely because of the dotcom collapse". The ASA ruled PSL's sweeping statement was unfairly derogatory "because it exaggerated the importance of the failure of the dotcom market to Sun and implied Sun might not be able to replace the revenue from the dotcom market" elsewhere. There were other less serious criticisms by the ASA for comments on PSL's leaflet about HP's overall position in the server market and superior services offering, where complaints by Sun about the wording of claims were upheld. The ASA ordered PSL not to send the offending mail-shot again, and to seek advice on amending the mailing in light of its ruling from the Committee of Advertising Practice Copy Advice team. ® External Links The ASA's full adjudication (required reading for marketing execs in the server market) Related Stories HP edges IBM and eclipses Sun in SSL benchmark Sun demolishes Dotcom Builder Scott McNealy on: Sun's secret weapon and its biggest mistake (not you, Apple) UltraSPARC III hits 1.2GHz Sun smacks Itanic with NEC doubter IBM wins Intel server bragging rights My dad's server's bigger than yours
John Leyden, 08 Jan 2003

College girl's breasts in your hands

Those readers who still have a bit of Xmas charity in their wallets might like to consider the heartbreaking appeal of college girl Michel, a lady very much in need of a new-year boost. Michel, 24, has launched a website asking for contributions to transform her "itty-bitty boobies" from a modest 34A to a mouth-watering pair of "big tatas (o)(o) !!!" Phew. Michel explains: "I made this site because I have been considering breast augmentation for many years and would like support getting there. I do just fine with padded bras (BestForm hidden pushups, 34A), but I think augmented boobs look nice, and I think a lot of other people do too. "However, everyone I talk to tells me NOT to get the procedure (best friend, sister, etc..). After a lot of arguing with my mom, she finally told me that it would be expensive and not worth it. "That's when I figured I would let the world decide. If somebody likes augmented breasts, they will add a tiny amount to my breast fund. If they do not, they will leave and my boob fund will stay zero. If the boob fund ever reaches $4,500 (the current going rate), then I will have proof that the world loves large shapely breasts as much as I do, and I will go get my breasts augmented. And nobody will be able to say that I wasted money or that nobody thinks bigger boobs are better! The fate of my boobs are in your hands!" For the record, Michel's fund currently stands at $19.36, which by our reckoning will add a modest 0.01in to her assets. Hardly the groundswell of public support she was hoping for. Of course, she might do better if she posted something a bit more provocative on her photo gallery, where readers are issued with the following "Warning: There are no 'nudes' here (I'm not that kind of girl!!). I will consider posting a tasteful topless photo if this site succeeds and I get new boobs". Fair enough, Michel doesn't want her mams splashed all over the web, but here's a suggestion from the El Reg marketing team: what about a "Boob-o-meter" featuring a pair of animated breasts which expand as the cash flows into the kitty? Alternatively - as my wife has just reminded me with a firm clip round the ear - Michel could just leave her chest as God intended and find someone to love her as she is. You must decide. Michel's breasts are in your hands. ®
Lester Haines, 08 Jan 2003

Workers revolt at Time

Time Computers has strongly rejected a list of grievances made by a group of call centre staff critical of the company's pay and working conditions. In an email outlining their workplace gripes the group - which calls itself "The 'Independent' Time Employee Forum" - is demanding increased wages and an end to working practises it says makes staff "answer calls repeatedly like robots". The disgruntled employees claim they are made to spend too much time working at their computer terminals and say they suffer from high levels of workplace stress. In an email to Time bosses and copied to the media, the group said: "We simply ask for an overdue higher pay for our hard working underpaid people who work as Customer Care and Technical Support Advisors, we ask for better treatment as human beings." Time rejected the complaints claiming that the email has been circulated by just two or three employees and did not represent the views of a majority of staff. "We are looking into it but we don't think there are any grounds for their complaints," said a spokesman. Time employs 800 people in its customers care department and regularly holds meetings with staff to address workplace issues. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Jan 2003

NTT Docomo slashes 3G capex

NTT Docomo is taking an axe to capital expenditure in 2003, following disappointing take-up of its FOMA 3G service. "Reckless spending on network expansion won't help promote" such services, DoCoMo CEO Keiji Tachikawa told Bloomberg. "We'd better focus more on returns on investment." In its next financial year starting April, the Japanese firm will spend around 800bn yen on its 3G network infrastructure($6.9bn), c.11 per cent down on this year's 891bn yen NTT Docomo is the world's second biggest mobile phone operator, ranked only behind Vodafone. Its DoCoMO services are held up regularly as the great success for 2G content. However, the Japanese firm has singularly failed to transfer this success to 3G, upgrading only 4 in every 100 subscribers to date for FOMA, according to Strand Consulting. In Japan, where it is trailing behind KDDI's 3G service, FOMA is poorly regarded, apparently. Getting better phones, or at least phones with half-way decent battery life and which don't drop calls in 2G-3G handovers, and working up better content partnerships, would appear to be rather most cost-effective than erecting more masts and buying in more base stations. In the short-term, at least. ® Related story South Korea leads the way on 3G (even though it's 2.5G) http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/64/28307.html
Drew Cullen, 08 Jan 2003

Americans give thumbs up to biometrics

Most Americans are willing to accept increased use of biometric technologies by private sector firms, providing proper privacy safeguards are applied. That's the main finding of a study funded by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics and developed by lobbyists Privacy & American Business (P&AB). Although consumer experience with biometrics is generally low, 56 per cent to 91 per cent quizzed in the study say it is acceptable for the private sector to request a biometric scan (using, for example, fingerprint recognition technology) when: Checking the identity of an individual buying a gun against a database of convicted felons (91 per cent) Verifying the identity of those making credit card purchases (85 per cent) Withdrawing funds from an ATM (78 per cent) Accessing sensitive files, such as medical or financial records (77 per cent) Conducting background checks (76 per cent) Screening out those banned from gambling or professional card counters in casinos (56 per cent) The survey, conducted through a series of phone interviews last August, shows a strong link between public concerns over identity fraud and support for the uses of biometrics by both the public and private sectors. The vast majority of those questioned agreed that a number of privacy safeguards need to be put in place if biometrics systems are to be used. These include: informed consent, people should be informed about the uses an organization will make of their biometric ID and why it is needed; a prohibition on using biometric IDs for any purpose other than those originally described to the individual and safeguards so people can have any rejection of their identity re-examined and verified. Most of those quizzed also wanted biometric IDs to be kept apart from other personal identifiers and a ban on sharing biometric data between organisations without specific authorisation either by the individual concerned or through a mandatory legal requirement. People should be told when biometric identifiers are being collected - except where secrecy is needed in national security situations, the majority of Americans surveyed also believe. Privacy safeguards should be established by legislators and adopted voluntarily by companies as a way of gaining consumers trust, the survey (more details of which can be found here) indicates. ® Related Stories Face recognition fails in Boston airport Biometric sensors beaten senseless in tests Iris recognition is best biometric system Feds break massive identity fraud Trainee(!) dishwasher pleads guilty to $80m identity fraud
John Leyden, 08 Jan 2003

UK school plans retinal scans in the dinner queue

Retinal scans are to be used by a Sunderland school to identify pupils. From next September, the Venerable Bede Church of England Aided School is to use the technology on school kids withdrawing books from its library or obtaining meals at the school canteen. Ed Yates, headteacher of the 900-pupil school, told the BBC that retinal scan technology is cheaper and more cost effective than card swipe systems. Parents are yet to be consulted about the plan, but kids are reportedly enthusiastic about the idea (possibly because the idea of using James Bond-style equipment to obtain their meat and two veg every lunchtime appeals to their young minds). The BBC ponders the health implications of introducing the technology but concludes that the health risks are probably minimal. But what about the privacy concerns? Last year, Privacy International roundly condemned the growing practice of fingerprinting school children as part of cost cutting projects to "automate" school libraries. The human rights watchdog warned that tens of thousands of UK school children are being fingerprinted by schools, often without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Privacy International condemned the practice as "dangerous, illegal and unnecessary", a criticism that can also be levelled at the Venerable Bede's retinal scanning scheme. Simon Davies, a director at Privacy International, said "the use of such systems will have the effect of de-sensitising people to more comprehensive privacy invasion - such as ID cards and DNA testing - later in life." "Schools should invest their time and resources in creating a more meaningful and exciting curriculum and environment, rather than trying to replicate Minority Report," he added. ® Related Stories Fingerprinting of UK school kids causes outcry Biometric sensors beaten senseless in tests We don't need no stinking ID cards British ID cards to revolutionise crime External Links Privacy International's campaign on child fingerprinting
John Leyden, 08 Jan 2003

AMD, IBM pool chipmaking development

AMD and IBM are teaming up to develop chipmaking processes for use in new high-performance processors. IBM is of course a major semiconductor player and a powerhouse of materials and processor design. But like AMD, it is a minnow compared with Intel. An AMD-IBM combo should mean that both can now comfortably, or less uncomfortably than before, keep pace with the capex arms race set in train by Intel. AMD and IBM say they will aim to improve microprocessor performance and cut power consumption, through the use of materials such as high-speed silicon-on-insulator (SOI) transistors, copper interconnects and improved low-k dielectric insulation. The duo are also collaborating on 65nm and 45nm production technologies to be used in 300mm silicon wafers. They reckon the first 65nm chips will roll out of their respective fabs in 2005. In January last year, AMD announced a deal with UMC, the Taiwanese contract semiconductor maker, to build a new 300mm wafer chipmaking factory in Singapore. But according to EE Times, the IBM deal means the end of this relationship. The UMC gig had only got to memorandum of understanding stage, AMD told the magazine. ® Related story AMD talks Ab Fab with UMC
Drew Cullen, 08 Jan 2003