3rd > March > 2003 Archive

150 Brits x 419 fraud = £8.4m

You'd like to think that after all the publicity generated around Nigerian 419 advance fee fraud, the boys from Lagos would be pretty well out of business. Sadly not. According to figures from the UK's National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) - quoted in Scotland on Sunday - no less than 150 Britons got burned last year alone for a total of £8.4m. That's a sobering average of £56,675 per victim. One of the latest is a man from Fife who, although losing (a comparatively modest) £7,000, luckily did not share the fate of the globetrotting chap who travelled to Africa to collect his booty, only to be beaten and tortured. UK police are not, happily, standing idly by while this outrageous scam continues to sucker the stupid and greedy. A London-based unit is tracking emails and attempting to sucker the fraudsters into revealing themselves for the benefit of waiting officers. We wish them luck, but suggest that an alternative method might be to jail anyone idiotic enough to believe that someone from West Africa is going to give you millions of pounds in the first place. Or perhaps naming and shaming would be sufficient deterrent. ® Bootnote The very last batch of our Ghostly Nigerian 419 shirt is available at Cash'n'Carrion. No advance fees, torture or beatings involved.
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2003

Massive growth ahead in Net traffic

Traffic over the Internet is set to double every year for the next five years, according to IDC. The market research firm predicts the volume of Internet traffic generated by end users worldwide will nearly double annually between 2002 and 2007. This will mean an increase in traffic from 180 petabits per day in 2002 to 5,175 petabits per day by the end of 2007. This news should be a boost for telecoms equipment suppliers such as Nortel, Cisco and Ericsson, which have suffered greatly during the tech downturn. "Some industry observers have speculated that slowing growth in Internet traffic is at the root of the current telecom malaise, but IDC research shows that not only is Internet traffic growth strong, but it will continue at near triple digit rates over the next five years," said Sterling Perrin, senior research analyst, optical networks, IDC. Perrin added that this surge in Internet traffic will increase demand for telecoms equipment, particularly in the optical market. "As long as the total amount of voice and data traffic on the network continues to increase, then the need will arise for carriers to buy equipment, such as next-generation optical, that transports and manages it cheaper and more efficiently than the earlier generation of pure SONET-based products," he said. According to IDC, the growth in the number of Internet users will continue to be an important driver of traffic, but the migration of Web surfers to broadband is even more significant. The research firm forecasts greater adoption of high-speed Internet access by consumers globally will make broadband the fastest growing and largest segment in terms of Internet traffic volume. IDC also predicts that consumers will account for 60 per cent of all Internet traffic generated, compared to around 40 per cent for business users, by 2007. Mobile Internet users are expected to have a minimal impact only on overall traffic volume during this time. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 03 Mar 2003

Why criminalizing Crypto is wrong

OpinionOpinion The Justice Department's plan to make routine encryption illegal in the hands of criminals will hurt law abiding citizens, and prove catastrophic for Internet security, writes Mark Rasch There is nothing like the fear of weapons of mass destruction to bring out weary old legislative proposals. Earlier this month, it leaked out that the Justice Department was considering a broad expansion of its investigative authority, including the creation of new criminal offenses, ostensibly to assist in the fight against terrorism. Many of the proposals contained in the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003" had nothing to do with fighting terrorism, but would substantially increase penalties for such mundane offenses as wire fraud or claiming too many deductions on a federal tax return. One such proposal -- which has been floated out many times before -- is the idea of making a new crime out of using encryption in during the course of commission of a different and unrelated crime. The language would create a new offense which would punish anyone who "during the commission of a felony under Federal law, knowingly and willfully encrypts any incriminating communication or information relating to that felony." It defines encryption as referring to "the scrambling (and descrambling) of wire communications, electronic communications, or electronically stored information, using mathematical formulas or algorithms in order to preserve the confidentiality, integrity, or authenticity of, and prevent unauthorized recipients from accessing or altering, such communications or information." This is a bad idea. A few preliminary observations: the proposed law applies to any federal felony, not simply terrorism or related offenses. And it punishes the encrypting of any communication related to the offense -- not simply encrypting communications with the intention to conceal or obstruct the offense. It also takes an expansive definition of encryption to include not only encryption that is used to protect the confidentiality of the communication, but also encryption that may be used to authenticate -- such as digital signatures. If you order a book from Amazon.com and fail to pay state tax, the SSL session with Amazon supports a five year felony. Is this Law Necessary? It is true that terrorists have in the past used encryption both to conceal their activities and to authenticate themselves to others. Terrorist investigations like those of Ramsey Yousef, Aum Shinri Kyo, Bolivian terrorist organizations, and domestic terrorist plots including plans to bomb New York subways, and plots to attack IRS offices, have all revealed encrypted files, most of which were decrypted because investigators either found the keys or were otherwise able to crack the encryption. It's also true that as criminals become more sophisticated, cracking their crypto will become more difficult. Make no mistake about it -- in the future, serious crimes, including terrorism, will go undetected because of the ubiquitous use of encryption. But this is a bad proposal. For one thing, it's hopelessly overbroad. Even if it was limited to "terrorist offenses" it would be overbroad, since the government ultimately gets to determine what kinds of offenses are so defined. For example, from 2001 to 2002 federal "terrorism" prosecutions increased by over 1,000%, from 115 to 1,202. However, a closer look at these cases reveals a large number of minor crimes -- such as using fictitious social security numbers to obtain airport employment. In fact, the median sentences for these "terrorism" crimes dropped from 21 months in 2001 to a mere two months in 2002. In any event, the proposal is not limited to encryption related to terrorism, but to encryption related to any federal crime. Sure, if you never do anything illegal, you have nothing to worry about -- or do you? If you take too many deductions on your tax return (or fail to declare those frequent-flier miles as income), and then e-file over a Web site that uses SSL, this becomes an additional five-year felony. Felony SSL If you order a book from Amazon.com, and fail to pay the state "use tax" (yes, you still owe tax on it, even if it's shipped out of state), the SSL session with Amazon supports a five year felony, in addition to whatever penalty comes with the "wire fraud" scheme to defraud your state out of its five bucks in tax. Withdraw $9,000 twice from an ATM and you might get pinched for both money laundering and crypto crime -- even if the money is totally legitimate. Significantly, the proposal does not even require that the encryption assist or further the crime or its concealment, or that it be intended to do so -- only that the encryption occur "during the course" of the commission of the felony and that the communication "relates" to the felony. It is nearly a universal practice among prosecutors to "load up" a defendant with criminal charges: adding money laundering, racketeering, forfeiture, or conspiracy to garden variety crimes like theft or fraud. Many of these charges carry penalties and sanctions much more onerous than those for the underlying offense, a fact prosecutors frequently use to induce individuals to waive their right to trial and to plead guilty in return for dismissal of the additional charges. Now that people use encryption for routine e-commerce and communication, crypto crimes can be added to almost any type of federal felony. We already have an effective obstruction of justice statute -- one that requires proof that a defendant's actions were designed to corruptly impede the due administration of justice. Federal sentencing guidelines already enhance sentences if the defendant took steps, including the use of encryption, to conceal or impede an investigation. The new legislative proposal would be counterproductive. It could stigmatize encryption as a criminal tool. People will grow wary of using crypto, consequently vendors will become wary of building it in to products, and ultimately the nation will become less secure. Let's go after crime and terrorism vigorously. This new proposal, unrelated to terrorism, is merely a tool to enhance penalties for ordinary crimes, and should be rejected. © Security Focus Online Mark D. Rasch, J.D., is the Senior Vice President and Chief Security Counsel at Solutionary Inc. He lives in McLean, Virginia.
Mark Rasch, 03 Mar 2003

Getting Red Hat Network support for free just got harder

With the impending rollout of Red Hat Advanced Workstation the company has made another move to 'encourage' users to pay for Red Hat Network support. As you'd expect it's a mixture of carrots and sticks, but some of the sticks look quite painful for people who're trying to run businesses off of the free RHN service - presumably this is deliberate. "Demo subscriptions," as Red Hat is now calling them, will continue to be available, but "we will... introduce some new rules that will make it easier for us to provide service to these accounts." Be afraid? Perhaps. First, all demo accounts have to confirm their email addresses, otherwise they'll be disabled. And demo accounts using non-unique email accounts will be disabled "in accordance with our terms and conditions." This process Red Hat calls, in terms that remind us of, um, somebody else, a "maintenance process." The net effect is that it will become a lot more onerous for IT managers to use the free service for multiple machines, because they'll need a separate email ID for each machine. When subscribing to the free service for the second time a while back, The Register wondered why Red Hat wouldn't let us service more than one machine with the same logon - it's free, we thought, so what's the big problem? Well, now we know. The verification process, which has started already, should also kill off quite a lot of defunct accounts, but that seems reasonable enough. Here, however, is what looks like the killer to us: "Second, demo users will be asked to take a short survey every 60 days in order to provide Red Hat with valued customer input and to validate that the account is still active. Upon completion of each survey, RHN will extend your demo account for 60 days until the next survey." Red Hat's registration process is in our view a tad control-freaky already. Having to complete one form every 60 days you could maybe put up with, but the life of the panhandling small company tech clearly just got a lot more complicated. If you want to use the free RHN for, say, 20 machines then you've got to have the 20 separate IDs and you've also got to pretend to be 20 different people every 60 days. The author of this piece is currently pretending to be four, and is viewing the prospect somewhat gloomily. That last bit is significant too: "RHN will extend your demo account for 60 days until the next survey." That is, it means the RHN is not free, but something you can earn in exchange for services rendered. That is an important shift in categorisation and philosophy, and most certainly won't be welcomed in substantial sections of the community. The carrots? There are implied sticks to most of these. Paid subscribers will get instant access to ISOs as soon as they're out, which means "no more long downloads from ftp sites, driving to the store, or waiting for your friends to finish with their copy." They'll also get priority during heavy traffic periods, won't be subject to blackouts, and have "the ability to manage multiple systems from a single user login and password, and a single email account." Red Hat pitches the paid for service as being "from as little as $5 per month" (complete pricing and service info available here). But depending, the total cost will be greater, and if we introduce the M-word here (which we fear we must), it's maybe quite a lot. If Microsoft could get $60 per user per year, how happy would it be? Very, surely - from consumers it gets something like $50 for the OS every two to three years, and throws in a free update service. Granted, Linux distributions include applications in areas where MS tries to sell separately, but most of the MS apps revenue comes from business, not consumers. Which brings us back to that "depending." The tweaks to RHN are only half of the Red Hat deal. A couple of months back it rejigged its support policies, the intent being to split free "consumer" products from paid for business/professional. So to get an OS that's supported for more than 12 months you need to go professional, and whatever the entry cost of that turns out to be. But Red Hat is doing it backwards again. It has plans to widen the Advanced range beyond the current high-ticket Advanced Server products, but it's announcing the associated changes before anybody's in a position to assess where they ought to go. Red Hat Advanced Workstation is soon, but not here yet. Red Hat meanwhile is busily building mailing lists of people who're interested in Advanced Workstation. Click on the link at redhat.com and you get through to a nice form to fill in. We can't help noticing that although Red Hat's privacy statement says "We ask our customers how they would like Red Hat to communicate with them, if at all", there's no obvious place on the form where this question is posed. But we're sure that's an oversight. Careful though, people. We try to love and understand you, we really do, but sometimes it's more difficult than others. ®
John Lettice, 03 Mar 2003

Wanadoo makes a profit

French ISP Wanadoo has notched up a profit a year ahead of forecasts. Publishing its full-year results today, the company reported a net income of 30m euros, compared to a net loss of 193m euros in 2001. Earnings before interest etc (EBITDA) rolled in at 90m euros compared to an EBITDA loss of 64m euros the year before. Total revenues jumped from 1.56bn euros in 2001 to 2.07bn euros last year. Wanadoo chairman and chief exec, Olivier Sichel, said that the results "reflect the successful efforts to spur innovation and build profitable performance that Wanadoo has pursued over the past years". Indeed, that certainly appears so for Wanadoo's ISP operation in France, which saw an EBITDA loss of 120m euros in 2001 turned into a 7m euro EBITDA profit in 2002. Spain also managed to cut its EBITDA loss from 60 million euros in 2001 to 55 million euros in 2002. Losses also narrowed in Wanadoo's operation in The Netherlands, Belgium and Morocco. In the UK, though, Wanadoo's Freeserve racked up increased losses of 92m euros in 2002 from 74m euros the year before. Clarifying the numbers, Wanadoo said that Freeserve's EBITDA loss went from 76 per cent of revenues in 2001 to 38 percent of revenues in 2002. Despite this improvement, Wanadoo is still taking action to cut its losses in the UK. In a statement it said: "In view of a regulatory environment in the country that is unfavourable to ISPs competing with the incumbent carrier, Wanadoo has initiated a programme aimed at enhancing income performance to cut its losses in the UK market, based on better control of network and customer service costs, as well as diversification of distribution channels." No one at Freeserve or Wanadoo was available at the time of writing to explain exactly what this might mean. However, as well as speculation that Freeserve could be sold, last week it sneaked out a £1 a month price rise that will take effect from March 25 for its Freeserve AnyTime product (it'll now be £14.99). ® Related Stories Freeserve denies it's gone cold on BB Freeserve for sale? - report
Tim Richardson, 03 Mar 2003

Colt gets new MD

Telecoms outfit - Colt - has a new UK Simon Vye was, until recently, senior VP of sales and customer operations at Priority Telecom, a telecoms outfit in the Netherlands, Austria and Norway. He replaces Cedric Smith, who moves sideways to head up the company's blue chip sales force. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Mar 2003

Friends Reunited ditches sale, plans to go global

Friends Reunited has shelved plans to flog itself. Instead, the UK schools and colleges reunion outfit has recruited former FT.com COO, Michael Murphy, to help expand the business. According to the Sunday Times, the site is looking to double in size by turning itself into a multi-national operation. It already has 8m registered users with all but 160,000 coming from the UK. However, numbers could explode if the Friends Reunited concept can be exported and reworked for other countries. There are also plans to develop the Friends Reunited brand with ideas to branch out into dating and introduction services, plus an idea to run a "Friends Reunited" music festival. [do you think they've thought of doing a range of t-shirts? Ed] Last month it was revealed that Friends Reunited co-founders, Stephen and Julie Pankhurst, had appointed BDO Stoy Hayward to find a trade buyer or a management buy-in team for the reunion Web site. The price? Start at £25m and head north. ® Related Story Friends Reunited up for sale
Tim Richardson, 03 Mar 2003

DVD Jon faces summer retrial

Norwegian teenager, Jon Lech Johansen, is to be tried again by an appeal court this summer despite being cleared of cyber piracy crimes earlier this year, his lawyer confirmed last Friday. "DVD Jon" Johansen, 19, was acquitted on criminal charges this January relating to his involvement in creating and distributing a utility for playing back DVDs on his own computer. An Oslo district court decided that Johansen was entitled to copy legally-purchased DVDs using his DeCSS DVD descrambling program, in order to play back movies on his Linux PC. On this basis, Johansen was cleared of piracy and distribution of the DeCSS DVD code-breaking program. Norway's special division for white-collar crimes, Økokrim, acting at the behest of Hollywood studies, decided to appeal this verdict to the Borgarting appeals court. Økokrim is appealing against the "application of the law and the presentation of evidence" during the original trial, Reuters reports. Hollywood had hoped the case would set a legal precedent in Europe for its fight against piracy and is determined that the original verdict, which might frustrate its plans, won't stand in its way. "The appeals court has decided to bring up the case again," Johansen's lawyer Halvor Manshaus, of the law firm Schjødt AS, told Reuters. The legal move is not unexpected and Johansen is prepared to fight the case. "We have a victory behind us and we are confident with regard to the final outcome," Manshaus added. A fresh trial is expected to begin this summer. The case began three years ago when Johansen, then aged only 15, helped develop DeCSS to get around the copy protection measures on DVDs that prevented their playback on Linux computers. The Motion Picture Ass. of America concluded the tool could be used to facilitate piracy by defeating "security" safeguards on DVDs. It filed a complaint against Johansen with Norway's Economic Crime Unit. A raid on Johansen's home three year ago, led to charges by the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit for obscure offences against Norwegian Criminal Code 145(2) that carry a sentence of up to two years in jail. ® Related Stories Prosecutors to appeal DVD Jon innocent verdict DVD Jon is free - official DVD hacker Johansen indicted in Norway 2600 withdraws Supreme Court appeal in DeCSS case 'DeCSS' DVD descrambler ruled legal Greece, Denmark (and no-one else) make EC copyright deadline
John Leyden, 03 Mar 2003

Gates gives China peeking rights at Windows source

Explaining Microsoft's Government Security Program a while back Craig Mundie intimated that it applied to practically everybody except Cuba and Iraq, and he even gave China as an example of a qualifying country. So Bill Gates goes to China and it's not exactly a surprise that Chinese participation in the GSP is announced. Hey, it's free, so why wouldn't they? Microsoft has already had a couple of bites of the 'India signs up for GSP' story, although that one hasn't quite happened yet. But next trip, trust us. Where, however, is the beef this trip? Aside from providing Bill with a handy auto-announcement which can be used on his travels, giving governments looking rights to Microsoft source code has other advantages. As we sourly noted earlier, the process of looking will tend to draw governments into the Microsoft kirk, and if they had previously been digging around on a freelance basis (not of course that we'd suggest China would do such a thing), then it's useful to Microsoft to have such activities to some extent 'officialised' and controlled. We note that Dr. Wu ShiZhong, Director of the China Information Technology Security Certification Center (CNITSEC), himself comments that: "Microsoft's GSP provides us with the controlled access to source code and technical information in an appropriate way." Which is more what you'd expect the Microsoft rep to say while explaining why the company was giving China source access. Microsoft's own explanation of the GSP makes it clear it has restrictions, although it's bashful about what they are, and it also makes it clear that it is intended to provide a jumping-off point for wider co-operation: "The Government Security Program...is a no-fee initiative that provides program participants the ability to review Windows source code using a smart-card-based secure online access and subject to certain license restrictions. [which are?]... In addition to source access, the GSP provides for the disclosure of technical information about the Windows platform, enhancing governments? ability to build and deploy computing infrastructures with strong security technologies in place. The program also promotes increased communication and collaboration between Microsoft security professionals and program participants, providing opportunities to visit Microsoft development facilities in Redmond, Wash.; review various aspects of Windows source-code development, testing and deployment processes; discuss existing and potential projects with Microsoft security experts, and generally interact with and provide feedback directly to Microsoft staff." You can almost see the colour brochure. We do not expect Chinese IT people to be wildly impressed by being able to hang out with the cool geeks in Redmond - not anything like as impressed by the weaker-willed ones at UK.gov, anyway. But you can see the objective, and see how Microsoft might think it can profit handsomely from the "no-fee initiative." ® What else Bill did in China Beijing signs MS deal with Gates, Linux deal with IBM
John Lettice, 03 Mar 2003

Leaked NSA email exposes UN bugging offensive

The US National Security Agency is mounting a bugging offensive against UN delegations in order to gain "information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to US goals or to head off surprises" in the Iraq debate. According to an email from one Frank Koza leaked in yesterday's Observer, UN Security Council members are prime targets, but paying attention to non-Security Council members "UN-related and domestic comms for anything useful related to the UNSC deliberations/debates/votes" is also important. Which does sound awfully like bugging phones and opening mail. Helpfully, the targets are largely based in New York. The Observer says it has confirmed that Koza holds a senior position in the NSA's Regional Targets section, and that the operation is being carried out at the behest of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The email was sent to "both senior agents in his organisation and a friendly foreign intelligence agency." And seeing it leaked, we can't help thinking Koza may now be revising his view that the offensive should not be directed against the delegation likely to be associated with that friendly foreign intelligence agency. The longer version of the story in the Observer's paper edition notes that once upon a time the NSA predecessor Signals Security Agency caused a huge scandal by bugging overseas delegations at the time of the UN's formation. But different days, different standards, we fear. ® Related links: Observer story
John Lettice, 03 Mar 2003

DDR surge favours Infineon, Nanya

Surging DDR SDRAM sales backed by higher prices drove Infineon and Nanya respectively into the top three and top five global DRAM suppliers for the first time, according to preliminary data from US market research organisation iSuppli. But with Samsung extending its market dominance to 32.5 per cent of the world's DRAM chip sales, such shuffles represent relatively slim gains. Infineon's sales grew 67 per cent year on year, allowing it to nudge ahead of troubled producer Hynix, which experienced far more modest growth of just 11 per cent. Nanya, a VIA subsidiary, saw its sales grow 153 per cent, driven by a focus on DDR products, allowing it to shoot ahead of Elpida, the NEC/Hitachi joint venture, and Toshiba - the latter experienced a dramatic 37 per cent fall in DRAM sales, falling from sixth place in 2001 to tenth place last year. Samsung's sales increased 55 per cent, keeping it well ahead of the world's second largest player, Micron. On the basis of these figures, had Micron successfully acquired Hynix's DRAM business last year as it attempted to do, it would be just 1.5 percentage points behind the market leader instead of 14.3. According to iSuppli, the world DRAM market grew 33 per cent between 2001 and 2002. Taiwanese suppliers increased their share of the market, from eight per cent to 13 per cent, largely at the expense of the Japanese producers. ® Company 2002 Marketshare 2002 Rank 2001 Rank 2002 Revenue 2001 Revenue Change Samsung 32.5% 1 1 4985 3205 55% Micron 18.2% 2 2 2794 2324 20% Infineon 12.8% 3 4 1965 1175 67% Hynix 12.8% 4 3 1962 1768 11% Nanya 5.5% 5 7 844 333 153% Elpida 4.0% 6 5 615 874 -30% Winbond 3.1% 7 11 478 130 268% Mitsubishi 2.4% 8 8 362 261 39% Mosel Vitelic 2.0% 9 10 302 205 47% Toshiba 1.9% 10 6 287 459 -37%
Tony Smith, 03 Mar 2003

IETF aims to can spam

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the influential Net standards body, has set up a research group geared to fighting the spam menace. Although there's no shortage of tools designed to filter out spam from legitimate email, the industry has yet to come up with a co-ordinated approach. Enter the Anti-Spam Research Group, formed under the auspices of the IETF's Internet Research Task Force, which is dedicating itself to developing a co-ordinated approach to combat the problem of unsolicited commercial email. First the Anti-Spam Research Group (ASRG) will try to develop a consistent definition for spam, which is not as easy at it might at first seem. Following on from that the ASRG wants to develop a mechanism whereby users can "express consent or lack of consent for certain communication and have the architecture support those desires". The group wants to develop a framework with three components: consent expression, consent enforcement and source tracking, as explained in more detail here. The ASRG is looking to develop a "taxonomy" of the spam problem and put forward proposals for tackling the issue, which it hopes will be easy to deploy on a wide scale. It's too early to say whether protocol changes might be proposed as part of this work. The ASRG will not look into the legal aspects of fighting spam, except in so far as these issues affect technical approaches to fighting spam. Spam mitigation needs to be carried on many fronts so current research efforts to apply Bayesian analysis in weeding out spam messages from legitimate email and to slow spammers down using tar pits, are complimentary to the work of the ASRG. The ASRG is to hold its first meeting on the morning of Thursday, March 20 as part of the 56th IETF conference in San Francisco. ® External Links Anti-Spam Research Group Related Stories Spammers break law with covert tracking Where the heck is all this spam coming from? Plaid up in arms as Commons spam filter bans Welsh Messenger Pop-up Spam makes us sick Europe bans spam
John Leyden, 03 Mar 2003

Pricey Tungsten T prompts Palm sales slide

Palm's current quarterly sales will be $25-40 million less than it had hoped, the PDA maker admitted to shareholders today. Last quarter, Palm predicted Q3 2003 revenues of $230-250 million. Now its expecting just $205-210 million, a dip of between 11 and 16 per cent. Palm blamed the shortfall on diminishing demand for its top-end Tungsten T PDA. Slick but expensive, the Tungsten proved popular last quarter, leading to high expectations for the current three-month period. But post-Christmas sales proved disappointing, despite remedial price cuts last month. Even allowing for slight dips in demand for its other PDAs - Palm says sales of its low-end and mid-range models remains within expectations - and other expenses, including the $2.7 million settlement of two unnamed "legal matters", the revenue shortfall announced today shows Palm is selling several hundred thousand Tungstens fewer than expected. How come? Enterprises just aren't buying, says Palm. That doesn't bode well for the recently released $549 Tungsten W smartphone. And don't forget, Palm had already said it expects to take a $140-145 million hit on the back of its recent layoffs and a write-down of property values. Praised from the start for its technology and styling, commentators nevertheless unanimously damned the Tungsten T's $499 price as just too high. Ironically, PalmSource's Vice President for Worldwide Licensing, Lamar Potts, told attendees at last May's European Palm Developers Conference that the company's own research showed limited demand for PDAs priced $499 and up. Potts was thinking of PocketPC devices, yet less than six months later Palm had itself released a $499 device. Today's announcement suggests that Palm really start listening to its own executives. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Mar 2003

World chip sales rise despite seasonal dip

Global chip sales in January were up significantly on the same month last year despite a fall against December 2002's figures, according to data released today by the Semiconductor Industry Association. Last month, worldwide chip sales totalled $12.2 billion, down on December's $12.5 billion. The SIA blamed the "modest" 2.4 per cent month-on-month slip on "seasonal demand patterns" - apart from 2000, every year among the last ten has seen a similar December-January dip. However, January 2003 sales were 22 per cent up on the $10 billion the SIA recorded for January 2002, a sign, it believes, that its healthy double-digit growth prognosis for 2003 as a whole remains viable. All territories showed increased year-on-year chips sales, the SIA reported, with the Japanese and Asia-Pacific markets both seeing 34 and 32.6 per growth, respectively. Europe followed with a 16 per cent year-on-year sales rise. Sales growth in the Americas was just 2.8 per cent. The SIA sees rising IT spending and double-digit PC sales growth leading the upturn, along with increasing demand for broadband and wireless communications systems. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Mar 2003

The US M1A2 Abrams, and war as a video game

Over the past few months there's been no shortage of improbable military technology stories lauding the latest in risk-free smart weaponry and cyberwarfare techniques. Today, for example, AP posits spoof text messages from Saddam giving his generals misleading orders. Which we suppose would be dead clever if Saddam habitually texted orders to his general staff, and if Iraq actually had a GSM network. Which it does, kind of, but if you look at the map you'll see a slight snaggette. The Iraqi government ordered a new GSM system from China, but as far as we can gather this is not now happening. The first stage would have consisted of 60 base stations offering capacity for 25,000 subscribers in Baghdad. The network it already has, but only sort of, covers the city of As Sulaymaniyah in Northern Iraq, where the Kurdish separatists are running it. Good plan though, all the same. The Washington Post's contribution to the digital battlespace however has the virtue of being real. It may still present a sanitised and risk-free view of war, but that's precisely what the kit the US military is deploying is intended to do to war. The Post first, then we'll do the spec in more detail: "The upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks, equipped with powerful computers, laser designators and improved infrared sights, can operate either as reconnaissance sensors, passing target coordinates back to command headquarters, attack helicopters or artillery units, or as killers, destroying Iraqi armor with even greater precision and range than they did in 1991." The army is using a network "that enables commanders across the battlefield... to track the movement of friendly forces as a battle unfolds and plot their relationship to enemy targets as the hostile forces emerge. [The vehicles are equipped with] a Global Positioning System receiver, a data link and digital information screen... each vehicle-mounted computer screen plots not only their locations, but those of all other friendly forces moving in concert with them -- and bounces that data off satellites to command posts all over the world." Satellite imagery of the terrain is then bounced back to the screen, friendly forces show up on this as blue dots, and enemy as red. Cool? Perhaps. We old European thinkers have always been impressed by the boundless faith the US military places in tech, in the face of past disappointments. But there's certainly a whole lot of it in the M1A2. They have built in a digital command and control system, Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2), which you can read some more about here. BOFHs of a militaristic persuasion will appreciate the completely baffling collection of acronyms used in the FBCB2 Operator Troubleshooting Card, while there's more detailed information on FBCB2 here. Army Technology has an overview of the M1A2 System Enhancement Package, while there's a pic of FBCB2 here. Actually, we put the last one in largely because the whole Equipment Gallery is such an amazing rocks-off collection of militarised lethal tech toys for the boys. And baffling acronyms - is that "All Source Analysis System (ASAS) Remote Work Station (RWS)" Sun kit? We think it is. Much of us.mil's tech gear these days is so way out you keep wondering if it's a spoof. JAWS, for example: "JAWS is the Army Judge Advocate General Center's (JAGC's) single system for providing legal support to operations. The Rucksack Deployable Law (RDL) office is a computer-based system with some stand-alone capabilities... Legal organizations/personnel located at all echelons above company level, i.e., battalion, brigade, division, corps, joint task force, use JAWS to provide legal support to operations." You're kidding, right? But the rest of USJFCOM's concepts and initiatives look real enough. But we digress. Back in the Abrams, the comms system is provided by Single Channel GRound and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS). This is the standard radio system that links everything together. So there you go. All of the components for the digitized battlespace are real, they're being deployed, and if war breaks out us.mil will have the opportunity to see how they work. Will they? On previous experience, they'll tell us the truth just before the next war. ®
John Lettice, 03 Mar 2003

Energis creates 100 jobs

Energis is to create more than 100 jobs after announcing that it has generated more than £1bn in sales in the last six months. The telecoms outfit began advertising the jobs - which include technical roles and consultants - over the weekend and claims the creation of new positions "reflects the growth in new business". Indeed, it certainly is a marked turnaround from a year ago when the telco was forced to shed hundreds of jobs in a bid to slash costs. In a statement Energis chief exec, John Pluthero, said: "We have turned this company on its head and are creating a sharp and focused business, unlike other telcos who seem unable to shake off the deeply ingrained habits of this industry which have resulted in uncommercial behaviour and poor service." Over the last couple of months Energis has renewed contracts with a number of outfits including Freeserve and Dixons, as well as adding new accounts such as Tesco and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). ® Related Stories Energis keeps Freeserve gig Energis culls 400 jobs
Tim Richardson, 03 Mar 2003

UK distie fingered for selling pirate MS software

UK software distie Blue Solutions has settled with Microsoft for inadvertently dealing in counterfeit Microsoft software. Settlement terms weren't disclosed. Since 1997 Berkshire-based Blue had unknowingly sold a number of counterfeit and incorrectly licensed Microsoft products to its customers through its extensive (7,000-plus) reseller network, Microsoft announced today. Investigations recently completed by Microsoft's anti-piracy squad, through a number of test purchases, revealed that Blue had purchased illegal copies of Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Office 97 Professional, Microsoft Window 98 and Microsoft Office 2000 Professional. These products were then sold on to Blue Solutions' customers, which range from IT contractors to large system integrators, throughout the UK. After learning of their firm's accidental role in flogging pirated software, Blue's directors reached an undisclosed agreement with Microsoft. They were then forced into participating in the 21st century's equivalent of being pelted with rotten fruit in public stocks, lending their comments to a Microsoft anti-piracy press release. In a statement, the directors of Blue Solutions, said: "We were shocked and concerned to learn that Blue Solutions had inadvertently purchased illegal Microsoft software in the past. Despite stringent checks and staff training, it has become apparent that some products slipped through the net, and that we have been conned by unscrupulous suppliers that we had ordered from in good faith." Following its settlement, Blue Solutions has promised to purchase all its Microsoft products from authorised distributors and tighten up its procedures to prevent falling foul of anti-piracy regulations again. No law says you have to buy from authorised distributors, of course, just Microsoft. Is this different? Microsoft said the case illustrates the success of its anti-piracy program. This program, since you ask, aims to "level the playing field for legitimate channel partners by taking action against traders who deal in non-genuine software". Or via non-authorised distributors, or the grey channel, perhaps? ®
John Leyden, 03 Mar 2003

RIAA website now routable and public

The Recording Industry Association of America website is once again up and running. It may have been up and running a lot longer. When we checked in yesterday, riaa.com had been registered with the domain service with an IP address of 10.10.10.1 - a nonroutable, private address. So, in order to see it, you had to call round to the hosters' home and ask permission to join his private network. On Saturday we reported that a beginner to the world of web hosting, Tomorrow's Solutions Today, Inc., had been given the job of looking after one of the preyed-upon websites in the world, and was running it from home. You can read the story, Disabled war veteran hosts Disabled RIAA website here. It's one of the strangest sequence of events we've ever reported. Neither Tomorrow's Solutions Today, Inc. nor the RIAA has yet responded to our enquiries. A chart showing availability statistics for the website can be seen here. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Mar 2003

Microsoft quits OpenGL board

ExclusiveExclusive Microsoft has tendered its resignation from the consortium governing the OpenGL standard, signalling an intention to go it alone with its Direct3D graphics platform. Microsoft was a founding member of the Open GL architecture review board (ARB), and in a letter to ARB members seen by The Register, said it would "focus our energies on improving and evolving our own Windows graphics platform", from mid-February. The OpenGL ARB website still listed Microsoft as a member today. This doesn't necessarily mean Microsoft is making a huge break with the OpenGL standard. Microsoft recently posted this vacancy. Microsoft is currently recruiting for a kernel engineer to "the next generation infrastructure for graphics", which calls for OpenGL skills. The sheer number of applications that require the presence of OpenGL suggests that Microsoft will continue to support it, even though its priorities lie elsewhere. As a founding member, Microsoft has been a presence since the First meeting of the Board, which began with this cute detail: "Meeting commenced in parking lot, as Kurt [Akeley] shows us his Lotus automobile with license plates which read 'OpenGL.' Some discussion about whether the Lotus should be added to the GLU." ®
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Mar 2003