21st > March > 2003 Archive

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BEA Systems: long term logic

Much has changed in the 12 months since BEA Systems unveiled the first version of its web services development environment WebLogic Workshop. BEA now seems to be in the second phase of what is emerging as a long-term strategy to win the backing of enterprise developers. Workshop 8.1, which was formally announced in March 2003, broadens the reach of its predecessor. The new version has been integrated with BEA's WebLogic Portal and WebLogic Integration, going beyond just the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) WebLogic Server. Workshop 8.1 is a recognition that much web services work is and for some time will continue to take place in the spaghetti-like world of enterprise application integration (EAI), not the stratosphere of online services. Support for integration means simplified EAI that will help BEA win business from IBM, whose own integration is driven by Global Services. But this represents only the beginning of phase two. To attract sustained growth, BEA must round out its EAI and integration story because it offers very little in the way of unique EAI. Despite dismissing vendors like webMethods Inc as "niche", BEA uses adapters based on the generally available Java Connector Architecture. Acquisition of companies with either unique technologies or vertical market skills should be expected. BEA also this year introduced phase two for its dev2dev community, and began to give away developer seats. Such changes lock developers' minds and pockets into its platform, and partnerships with companies like ComponentSource will mean that developers are given the J2EE software they need to build WebLogic applications and services. However, BEA's campaign among the grassroots remains a long haul not a sprint, as proved by the company's failure to reach a desired goal of one million developers by December 2002. BEA enjoyed a rough-and-tumble year in 2002, making great play out of the business that it won from its number-one competitor IBM in both application servers and business integration. However, development of large-scale Web services using the first version of Workshop failed to materialize. Workshop 8.1 and changes to BEA's community program should help the company to drive the stake it planted last year deeper into the enterprise space. © Datamonitor is offering Reg readers some of its technology research FOC. Check it out here.
Datamonitor, 21 Mar 2003

Hackers claim NSA breach

Hackers claim to have compromised a computer at the National Security Agency in Ft. Meade, Maryland. But their target was the least secretive organization imaginable within the massive intelligence agency: the public affairs office. And instead of scoring a cache of highly-classified documents about the NSA's global surveillance work, the purported hackers mostly just obtained a few biographies of agency personnel, and a handful of private, but routine, correspondences between NSA spokespersons and media outlets, including CNN and Forbes. The letters arrived at SecurityFocus Thursday morning as attachments to a short e-mail message listing the Internet IP and e-mail addresses for the agency's public affairs office, and the message "Please find attached some documents from Don and Trisha Weber, NSA." A NSA spokesperson confirmed that Don Weber works in the office, but otherwise refused to comment. In addition to the press material, the documents included a short NSA phone directory, and a four-page reference guide on handling outgoing e-mail problems, with advice on how to respond if an e-mail is rejected for foul language, or for user errors like attempting "to send [a] SECRET message from a SECRET to Unclassified" destination. A more recent version of the same document is available publicly from a Defense Department website. Journalist and NSA expert James Bamford says the apparent breach probably isn't a threat to national security. "I haven't heard of an NSA computer being hacked into before," says Bamford. "I certainly don't think that it's acceptable that even unclassified computers can be hacked into there, but it doesn't sound like they've gotten beyond the non-classified computers in public affairs." An e-mail message sent to the hackers' address in Switzerland was not immediately answered Thursday. The group signed their message "Nescafé Open Up", the slogan of an ad campaign for flavored instant-coffee. The hackers' motives aren't clear, but may be related to the United States' military action against Iraq, which, like past conflicts, has already spurred a rash of protest website defacements. The hackers' e-mail included a distribution list of approximately 500 e-mail addresses, most of which belong to the U.S. military. © SecurityFocus Online
Kevin Poulsen, 21 Mar 2003

EC calls on member states to free up WLAN spectrum

The European Commission has called for member states to promote public wireless broadband services such as Wi-Fi. The Commission adopted a recommendation on Thursday that encourages EU countries to allow for the deployment of what it calls public R-LAN access networks (R as in Radio, but which we know as W-LAN and Wi-Fi) with as little regulatory burden as possible. R-LANs are currently operating mainly in licence-exempt frequency bands. The Commission said that such networks should be made available without sector specific conditions and subject only to general authorisations. The recommendation also asked member states to subject the use of available radio spectrum to the least onerous authorisation system, but insisted on the security and confidentiality of public communications networks and services. Such networks had been originally been deployed within organisations, but are increasingly being made available as a way for the public to wirelessly access high-speed Internet connections in places like airports, train stations and hotel lobbies. According to Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner for enterprise and information society, the recommendation is an important step in encouraging the deployment of multi-platform and high-speed Internet connections. "The R-LAN technology will give European citizens ready-access to the knowledge based society when in public places, and away from their home location and will be complementary to other means of accessing broadband services," he said. However, despite this potential, take-up of public WLAN and Wi-Fi in Europe may be affected by high tariffs. Research released in February showed that although Europe has only 12 percent of the world's hotspots, it is one of the most expensive regions to access a public W-LAN. The average price of a subscription in Europe is $62 per month, compared to $39 in the US and $16 in Asia. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 21 Mar 2003

PalmSource in the black as Palm Q3 slides

UpdateUpdate The seasonal hardware sales dip and the weak IT economy pulled Palm's Q3 2003 figures, announced yesterday, well below the results it posted for the same period last year. There was one positive sign, however: its PalmSource subsidiary recorded its first profitable quarter. Its net income was $1.4 million. Operating income was $6.6 million. The group as a whole realised revenues of $209 million for the three months to 28 February, a fall of 28.6 per cent from the $292.7 million it posted this time last year. Its operational loss was $26.5 million ($0.91 a share, adjusted on the basis of last October's stock split), rather worse than Q3 2002's $14 million ($0.49 a share). Factor in various exceptional charges and Palm lost $172.3 million. That includes $140 million in restructuring and property charges Palm had already announced. Palm also said it managed to cut inventory from $50.6 million in Q3 2002 to $23.3 million and operating expenses from $105.2 million to $86.5 million. Gross margins rose year-on-year to 31.3 per cent from 29.2 per cent. However, none of these figures have been audited according to GAAP. Palm doesn't explicitly break down figures for its two subsidiaries, the hardware-focused Palm Solutions Group and the OS-developing PalmSource, but it did say the latter had had a profitable quarter and contributed revenues of $26.3 million, its best yet. Having signed three new PalmOS licensees, Legend, Group Sense and HuneTec, all targeting Far Eastern markets, that's perhaps not surprising. It also signed Portable Innovation Technology (PiTech) as a Palm OS licensing sub-licensor, allowing it to focus its efforts on big-name (and big paying) licensees. Traditionally, Q3 is PalmSource's best-performing quarter because it realises revenue from licensees' Christmas sales during the quarter. Revenue from licensees other than Palm Solutions Group was up 40 per cent. That profitability may attract the attention of other potential buyers, not just Sony. Its CEO Nobuyuki Idei said he would like to buy PalmSource - if only Palm would sell. We suspect it's keener on offloading the Solutions Group. Despite shipping two very well-designed PDAs, the Zire and the Tungsten-T, the latter has proved too pricey for many buyers in the current economic climate, while the wireless-enabled Tungsten-W is disappointingly underpowered, with almost nothing in common with the T other than its branding. ® Related Story Sony keen to buy PalmSource Pricey Tungsten T prompts Palm sales slide Palm hardware lays off 200 Sakoman quits Palm amid job cull
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2003

Silicon Valley staff help paralyse SF with swarm tech

Silicon Valley techs and engineers helped paralyse the city of San Francisco in a day long series of actions and surprises, which closed off freeways and most of downtown. Over one thousand were arrested - and the final total may be much higher - creating havoc as a demonstration against the war on Baghdad. Protesters used lo-fi technology and distributed, or swarming techniques as the local paper the SF Chronicle characterised it, in this story, entitled "S.F. police play catch-up: Protesters roam in small, swift groups to stall city traffic". Valley engineers took the day off work to join them. We saw physicists against the bomb and all kinds of engineers rallying in the city, and proud to tell us that they were engineers. For example, a software engineer called James who works at Apple, and who had this sign. The extent of the many concurrent actions can be seen at SF's Indymedia site. The decentralised and spontaneous nature of the action owes much to the experimental techniques of derive of Amsterdam's Situationists - who marry dada with an unforgiving critique of the media's collaboration with capitalism. These were repeated by their Manchester counterparts in England, MAP (Manchester Area Psychographic). A derive is a spontaneous "wander" - it's French for 'drift' - through a city, using such disruptive techniques as for example, taking a walk through Vienna using as your guidebook the A-Z of London. With such "playful-constructive behavior", you get to notice a lot more of the power alignments around you. The Dadaists came up with the idea, but the Situationists added detournement - repurposing something such as this Bebe poster, and there was no shortage of Dada on display in San Francisco. One group held a Vomit For Peace. Bob Dickinson, who recently led a derive in Manchester, was glad to revive the group after a few dormant years. "We experimented with new techniques where groups went off on their own in small numbers - the Dutch call it swarming - and it was a great success. It became a history tour or a pub crawl, then, too," he told us. The element of surprise was vital to the anti-war demonstrators in San Francisco today, and can be considered a success: the demonstrators were always one step of the authorities, as the SF Chronicle acknowledges. The tactics were honed in Seattle, in the landmark protests against the World Trade Organisation, but have been refined since. It was strictly non-violent, which much have exasperated the authorities, for as soon as one action appeared to be getting critical (as this chain-in by A Jewish Voice for Peace) seemed to appear, it evaporated, and a new action appeared. At times as many seven at once were taking place, and had vans full of truncheon-armored, and teargas-armed cops veering from one corner of the city to another. Overhead, from 7am when the actions started, four or five helicopters hovered overhead: typically one or two police rotors, and two from the TV networks. Who despite their airborne hardware, didn't have a scope on the unfolding action. Half a mile away from the nearest sit-down, in front of an empty Macy's store, a plush TV presenter who looked like a tanned afternoon chatshow host was speaking to camera. Apart from the police, he was the only one on the street. But hang on, isn't IT supposed to be about this decentralised technology, swarms, and stuff? That's where all the cool people go! Well, not everyone. When Clay Shirky, who's written much about decentralised technology, was asked about the Seattle WTO riots he had something to say. Helpfully Clay - who writes down everything he thinks and publishes it - has given it a web page on his website of harvested thoughts: Clay Shirky's Writings About the Internet - subheading Economics and Culture, Media and Community, Open Source. Look, it's all there: and this observation has a page of its own. Only this is very reactionary, and a case of not noticing what you preach being practiced in front of your eyes. Clay, meet swarm. And only yesterday Doc Searls was bemoaning the scarcity of Peace Blogs, observing: "There isn't a conversation about peace in the blogosphere to equal the conversation about war." He brought up a link to one of Clay Shirky's "Power Distribution Curves" (whatever they are, but whatever they are is surely Very Important) to prove it. Except, the Peace movement had paralysed and entertained a city of a million, and been reported around the world. Which takes a lot more imagination and courage than hiding behind a computer screen, and surely proves that you need to peer into Wetspace now and again - or at least out of your window - to see what's happening in the world. People were communicating to each other to provide 16 hours of spontaneous entertainment for themselves and the city - but the answer isn't very sexy: it wasn't weblogs, it was phones. Indymedia and lots of amateur photographers have left records, but getting people to create this required time in meatspace. To get thousands of people to create such a spectacle, you might not really need weblogs at all. As a friend said today, it was nice to see this kind out and about, enjoying themselves, and away from their computers. Similar demonstrations took place in many cities all over the world. It was quite a day. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Mar 2003

Govt web sites bashed by new report

Government web sites run the risk of wasting taxpayers' money, according to yet another critical report into the public sector online. An outfit called Parallel Ltd reckons Job Centre Online and the 10 Downing Street site are among the worst offenders. Its eight-week study of 70 public sector sites found that the average download time was 22 seconds - almost three times longer than recommended download times. The worst offender was the Job Centre Online, which took one minute and 20 seconds to appear onscreen. While the size of the 10 Downing Street home page was 187KB, more than four times bigger than the recommended average size for a home page. Said Tim Moore, a director at Parallel: "When you consider the amount of money and effort the UK government has invested in encouraging its public to use its online services, it needs to ensure that it is delivering a usable site. "If the UK government fails to provide effective services that ensure real benefit to the public, then they run the risk of wasting taxpayers' money," he said. Last month, the Government's spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO), told it to improve its web sites after reviewing 65 sites. And in January, research by Keynote Systems found that more than half of the Government's Web sites were too cumbersome and slow-to-load for people accessing them with dial-up connections. ® Related Stories e-Govt not solving 'digital divide', says NAO Govt needs to spruce up its Web sites
Tim Richardson, 21 Mar 2003

Telcos and ISPs prepare for charity bar battle

Some of the biggest names in the telecoms industry are meeting up next week for a charity pub quiz in aid of the Samaritans. The press offices of AOL UK, Freeserve, NTL, Telewest, BT, Oftel, Hutchison, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and O2 are among those who will suspend hostilities for a couple of hours so they can battle it out to find who's the brainiest of the bunch. Each of the 17 teams taking part is forking out £100 to take part in the quiz, with all the cash being punted to the Samaritans. Last year, One-2-One (now T-Mobile) swept the board. This year the competition is expected to be much tougher, although mobile outfit O2 has already been branded rank outsiders. BT remains quietly confident about its chances, especially if some of the questions related to its specialist subject - "principles of fixed line telecommunications regulatory framework theories". ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Mar 2003

Is SSL safe?

Czech security researchers this week claimed to have uncovered weaknesses in SSL that might permit crackers to decypher transmissions over supposedly secure links. However, independent cryptography experts, who are studying a paper from Czech security outfit ICZ, are yet to verify the risk is real and as serious as ICZ suggests - so the research needs to be treated with caution. A press release issued on behalf of Czech cryptologists Vlastimil Klíma and Tomá? Rosa, both of ICZ, and Ondrej Pokorný, paints a picture of severe problems with the SSL protocol. It states: "The weakness identified by the cryptologists makes it possible to attack the SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security) protocols used as a cryptographic protection of a majority of electronic transactions, such as on-line purchases and e-banking, and, in some cases, a secured transmission of e-mails as well. "An attack on these protocols, as described by the team of Czech cryptologists, can break through the protection completely and decrypt protected communication. This means for clients using applications relying on SSL/TLS protocols that an attacker is able to retrieve their credit card numbers, sensitive information about their bank accounts and misuse confidential data from their e-mails." Lordy. From the press release and an abstract of their paper we learn that the researchers have uncovered a possible means of obtaining cryptographic keys from a server and thereby unlocking the contents of a captured session. This side-channel attack, which builds on previous research, is explained in detail in the trio's paper, which you can read here (PDF). The Czechs found "two thirds of randomly chosen Internet SSL/TLS servers were vulnerable" to the attack they document. Improvements to SSL are put forward in the paper, which, drawing as it does on complex mathematical analysis, doesn't lend itself to distillation into a news story. So how great a risk does the attack present to e-commerce transactions? To answer this question we contacted noted cryptographer Bruce Schneier, CTO of Counterpane Systems. Schneier wasn't available to provide an immediate response but told us he would be looking into the issue. We'll let you know what he comes up with. A month ago Swiss security researchers discovered an attack against implementations of the ubiquitous SSL protocol that could potentially compromise email passwords, though not ecommerce transactions. Writing about this attack in his Cryptogram newsletter, Schneier says users should be more concerned about their credit cards been lifted from insecure servers - rather than snapped up in transit, using either the Swiss or Czech attacks. "The real risks to personal data are the large databases at the endpoints, not the communications between them. I wouldn't discard SSL as being irrelevant, but neither would I worry very much if it could be attacked. Security is only as strong as the weakest link, and SSL is nowhere close to being the weakest link," he writes. ® Related Links Attacking RSA-based Sessions in SSL/TLS - Czech it out... Password Interception in a SSL/TLS Channel, paper by security researchers at (Swiss firm) Lasec Related Stories Crypto attack against SSL outlined Admins slow to tackle SSL security risks
John Leyden, 21 Mar 2003

ATI income down, revenues up

ATI lost $8.3 million in its last quarter, the second of its 2003 fiscal year, on revenues up to $318.5 million from the $266 million it recorded for the same period last year. Operationally, ATI did rather better than that loss suggests: before exceptional items are taken into consideration, it made a profit of $9.7 million ($0.04 a share). This time last year it saw an operational income of $17.6 million ($0.07 a share) eroded to a loss of $3 million ($0.01 a share) thanks to other one-off charges. This quarter's charges included a class action lawsuit settlement, costs relating to Canadian SEC investigation of the company, and restructuring charges arising from the closure of its European manufacturing operation. Gross margin for the quarter was 28.9 per cent, up from Q1's 27.3 per cent, said ATI. Operating expenses increased $0.7 million to $80.3 million compared to the first quarter. During Q1 2003, ATI posted a net income of $5 million ($7 million before charges) on revenue of $322 million. The represents a quarter-on-quarter dip of just 1.1 per cent - not bad given the usual post-Christmas seasonal decline. Looking ahead, ATI said it expects sales to shrink a little further during the current quarter, to around $300 million. Gross margin, as a percentage of revenues, for the third quarter is expected to improve slightly. Operating expenses will also rise, it admitted. However, it expects net income to rise through the current, third quarter and the fourth as its set-top box products begin to move into profitability. In the long run, this business is likely to contribute a lot more to ATI's bottom line than its high-end graphics chips, if it gets the price:volume ratio right. It's leadership of the notebook graphics market will help it going forward too, particularly as that's a growth sector, but competition with Nvidia will be intense. Once X factor is its recently awarded Pentium M bus licence, which could boost ATI's standing in the mobile space. ® Related Story ATI quietly Pentium M bus ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 to sport on-chip DDR RAM
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2003

Micron sheds more red

Memory maker Micron lost $619 million ($1.02 a share) during Q2 2003, which ended on 27 February. Exceptional charges account for around half that figure - without them the company lost $386 million. Those figures are significantly higher than the $30.4 million loss Micron reported this time last year. Its Q2 2002 operating loss was $59 million. Sales, however, were up year-on-year, from $646 million to $785 million, and up $100 million on the previous quarter. Average selling prices were down quarter-on-quarter, and they must have been significantly down on Q2 2002, if that period's sales and income figures are anything to go by. Its transition to 0.11 micron/200mm wafers and 0.11 micron/300mm won't have helped either, but should pay off when the downturn ends. "We are ahead of plan for the worldwide transition to our 200 mm 0.11 micron process and our 300 mm 0.11 micron production line in Virginia is progressing on schedule," said President and CEO Steve Appleton in a statement. The latest quarter's charges included $197 million for the write-down of work in process and finished goods inventories to their estimated market values, and restructuring and other charges of $116 million. ® Related Story Micron touts first 4GB DDR DIMM
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2003

PalmSource spin-off slips again

Palm will now not spin off its operating system subsidiary, PalmSource, until the summer, CEO Eric Benhamou has revealed. Speaking at a teleconference held to discuss the group's Q3 results, Benhamou admitted "our schedule estimate for the final completion of the PalmSource separation has now moved out to the summer of this year". Preparing for the separation of the group into two independent entities is taking longer than planned, he said, and "the amount of timed required proved to be longer than originally budgeted". Discussing the progress of the separation, Benhamou added that the US Internal Revenue Service has said Palm won't have to pay any tax for spinning off PalmSource, and neither will Palm shareholders. Palm is now ready to complete the documents it must submit to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Incidentally, Palm expects separation costs to be approximately $3 million during the current quarter, said CFO Judy Bruner. They amounted to $1.7 million during Q3. ® Related Stories PalmSource in the black as Palm Q3 slides Sony keen to buy PalmSource
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2003

Apple lead on 17in notebooks challenged

HP and Acer, to name but two, are preparing a Windows-based alternatives to Apple's 17in PowerBook. Apple is currently advertising its new notebook like crazy. Well, it's got until the third quarter to attract buyers for the world's only big-brand laptop with a 17in screen. Come Q3, and HP will launch its model, according to sources close to Taiwanese notebook contract manufacturer Quanta. Said sources, cited by DigiTimes, claim Quanta will produce the beast. Previous HP wide-screen notebooks have been made by fellow Taiwanese manufactuer Inventec. Apple's own creation is built by Taiwan's Compal. Acer's machine is said to be scheduled for a Q4 introduction. Apple's 17in PowerBook was announced in January, but the notebook has only just begun to ship to customers. Apple has a history of mobile computing innovation quickly ripped off by other vendors. Its PowerBook 100 - manufactured by Sony - was the world's first notebook with a built-in trackball. The first trackpad, the first integrated modem, the first integrated 802.11b WLAN, the first 15in widescreen LCD, and the first backlit keyboard (in the 17in PowerBook) are among Apple's other notebook firsts. Against that, Apple took a long time to incorporate PC standards such as PC Card slots and infra-red in its notebooks, not to mention coming very late to the laptop party in the first place. ® Related Link Quanta said to land orders for HP's 17-inch wide-screen notebook
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2003

Monaghan-Iraq – the outrage continues

LettersLetters Oh dear, oh dear. Our piece yesterday, snappily entitled US Irish in St Patrick's Day Iraqi banner outrage, has itself provoked a fair bit of reader outrage. Apparently, so great was our collective St Patrick's Day hangover that we'd failed to notice our maps of County Monaghan and Iraq were reversed, and were suggesting that allied forces bomb a defenceless and genteel corner of the Emerald Isle. Amid the tsunami of indignant emails were a couple of noteworthy contributions, not least this from Charles Manning: According to the National Geographic Society, most Americans could not find the North Pole on a globe. Is comes as quite a surprise to me that they are able to notice the similarity of map shapes. That's a little unfair since a good percentage of Irish Americans seem to be able to spot a likeness of Iraq even through a Guinness-fuelled haze. In fact, it's the Vulture Central graphics department which is geographically challenged. Or is it? Robert Grizzard has a keen eye: What a subtle piece of satire you wrote at http://theregister.co.uk/content/28/29855.html. I'd wager very few got it. Correct. Cue Dan Halford who feels you've been reading too much Private Eye :). Thank you Dan. Now for the full explanation. UK satire publication Private Eye has for years been running a "lookalike" strand in its letters page. Any two celebrities with even a passing resemblance will be presented side-by-side, traditionally with an accompanying letter stating something to the effect of: "I wonder if your readers have noticed the uncanny resemblance between X and Y. I wonder if they are by any chance related? I think we should be told." Naturally, picture Y will be captioned as X, and vice versa. It's an old chestnut, to be sure, but one which will mean nothing to our readers from across the pond. Robert Clayton notes: Given that the map on the right clearly says "Baghdad" in the middle, I assume you're using that staple of British wit, to wit, "irony." Please be reminded that Americans, in particular, don't understand "irony." You should put a footnote somewhere to at least tell us that you're being ironical, so we can understand you, and maybe even laugh at the joke. Fair enough. We apologise to our non-UK readers and have decided to dust off a graphic we haven't used for some time. Those from beyond the bounds of our sceptred isle can rest assured that if we do use Brit in-jokes involving irony, sarcasm or any form of indigenous humour, this will in future be clearly flagged, as shown here. And so, having cleared that up, let's get back to the burning issue of the day, i.e: Do we spare Monaghan an aerial onslaught or is it time to unleash the stealth bombers? Here's the view of our man on the ground, Sean MacMhaoinigh: Being a Monagahan native, I cannot agree more, the one on the left is the one to be bombed. Bootnote Steve Warren dropped us a line to ask: "How is this related to IT?" We're working on that one. ®
Lester Haines, 21 Mar 2003
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UK.biz ready for disaster, says UK.biz

UK enterprises are ready for a major disaster. That's the conclusion of a survey by server hosting outfit TDM Group which found 79 per cent of businesses believe they would have their IT Systems "up and running within minutes in the event of a disaster". In a telephone poll of 100 enterprise IT managers, commissioned by TDM, the vast majority reported they had disaster recovery provisions in place that would allow them to restore systems with minimal delay in the event of a disaster. Only 21 per cent of companies surveyed don't have disaster recovery plans in place, according to the survey. TDM extrapolates these stats to suggest that as many as 360,000 UK firms have made inadequate contingency plans for their IT systems. The true figure could be even higher. A spokesman for TDM conceded that IT managers might not be altogether candid when confronted with questions about whether they would cope when something goes wrong. So maybe the 21 per cent of companies who say they don't have disaster recovery plans, or believe recovery from a major problem may take some time, are simply been more honest. So what actually happens when disasters strike? A few examples help to clarify the point. An arson attack in Manchester last October damaged the city's telecom infrastructure, affected the operations of Co-op Bank and left many firms in the area without phones. Denial of service attacks all too frequently affect the services of an attacked ISP (for example the attack against Tiscali this week). Meanwhile Cropped cables made Dabs.com unavailable last October. The list goes on. Disaster recovery is not just about dealing with the aftermath of terrorist outages but a far wider range of risks created by acts of God, human error or ciminal behaviour. Previous experience suggests, in our opinion, that far fewer than four in five companies would be "up and running within minutes in the event of a disaster". So the basic message is that businesses need to have some kind of disaster recovery plan in place, appropriate to their business needs, that is regularly tested and reviewed. That way they might cope better when trouble strikes. Hopefully. ®
John Leyden, 21 Mar 2003

Reg Kit Watch

Server Bull has announced its entry into the Itanium 2 server sphere: the NovaScale range. Based on Bull's FAME architecture - which it claims is a kind of SMP-and-then-some system - NovaScale supports Windows Server 2003, Linux and soon, Bull promises, its own GCOS operating system. Each OS can run simultaneously on the same machine. NovaScales are based on Intel's E8870 chipset, but Bull's FAME Scalability Switch technology "federates the four-way processors boards and optimizes memory and I/O". The range comprises three models: the NovaScale 4040, 5080 and 5160. The former is a compact model supporting up to four processors. It costs 25,000 euros. The 5080 and 5160 support respectively up to eight or 16 processors, from 900MHz with 1.5MB of cache, or 1GHz with 1.5-3 MB of cache. Prices start at 85,000 euros and 95,000 euros, respectively. ®
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2003

Dick Brown: Action, urgency, excellence!

MemoWatchMemoWatch Yesterday we noted the absence of Dick Brown in the EDS ouster press release. But he did pop up, in an email missive to fellow "EDSers", as he calls himself (yuck!). So here is Brown's valediction, followed by a statement to the troops from the new guys in charge (we have reversed the order of the messages in which they appeared in the memo). 20 March 2003 To the EDS Worldwide Team: I had the privilege of joining EDS in December of 1998. It has been an all-consuming experience with numerous opportunities, the excitement of an industry that's fast-paced and a string of challenges along the way. My guiding leadership principle has always been to do what I believed is right for EDS. Today, I believe that means transferring leadership to a new executive team. We've accomplished a great deal in these past four years: * First and foremost, we developed and supported the best professional team of people in the industry. * Forty-eight strategic businesses were reduced to four lines of business, and in the process, we raised productivity and reduced costs by $5 billion. * A restructured business put more than 80 percent of our professionals in positions where they are facing the marketplace. * We've booked more than $100 billion of new business. * Together, we've undertaken a relentless march to distinguish EDS as the premier service excellence leader. Our successes have also been accompanied by challenges: * A difficult global economy and an IT industry where growth has all but halted * The bankruptcies of several key clients and systemic problems in the airline and telecommunications industries, where we have a significant presence * A rebalancing of our business to accommodate the gradually lowered spending of our largest client, GM We have managed these challenges together. EDS is a financially solid company with an excellent future. While the stock market isn't giving us much of a break right now, there is no question EDS is better positioned today to deliver long-term success than at any time in our history. There are times in the history of any company where change in senior leadership makes sense. Now is such a time at EDS. Together, the board and I have reached an agreement that a change should occur. Monday, new Chairman and CEO, Michael Jordan, will be on hand. Jeff Heller will return as COO. They will bring needed new energy. They will create a fresh and new perspective. I wish Michael and Jeff every success. Under their leadership, I have no doubt EDS will move to a higher level of growth and performance. I believe this strongly and have voiced it to our Board. The Board has agreed. The change process has now commenced. I will be available through a transition period and for as long or short a time as needed. I want to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your pride, professionalism and great performance. I am proud to say I'm an EDSer and will always speak with affection for this great company. I will sign off as I commenced, with ... Action, urgency, excellence! Dick Brown 20 March 2003 To the EDS Worldwide Team: Today opens a new chapter in the history of EDS. The EDS Board of Directors and Dick Brown mutually agreed the time is right for an orderly change of leadership. We are delighted to accept this opportunity to lead EDS. This company is a strong, stable enterprise with an industry-leading reputation for excellent client service. It has the financial strength to serve existing clients and pursue new business. Its markets have tremendous long-term growth potential. To this strong foundation, we bring a fresh perspective -- as well as a deep understanding of this great company's heritage and potential. Working together with you, we look forward to building a strong, successful future for EDS. Michael H. Jordan Jeff Heller Chairman and Chief Executive Officer President and Chief Operating Officer
Drew Cullen, 21 Mar 2003

Office work is a pain in the neck

Office workers risk health problems as communications technology makes them slaves to their desks. So says research from cordless communications outfit, GN Netcom, which found that a third of workers are tied to their desks for more than seven hours a day. Two thirds of those quizzed blamed health problems on being chained to their desk, with half claiming they suffer from stress and four in ten complaining of neck and shoulder ache. The research also found that email now takes up almost as much time as telephone calls for the majority of the UK's office workers. Six in ten people spend more than an hour per day on emails with a third spending up to three hours a day ploughing through their inbox. Ann Brooks, principal consultant at Ergonomics in Practice, said: "Many people now multi-task while on the telephone, which usually means wedging the phone between ear and shoulder while they type or write. "This posture is extremely bad for the neck and shoulder, especially if held for long periods, and can result in discomfort in these areas, sometimes leading to longer-term injury," she said. Earlier this month the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) warned that too much texting could lead to RSI-type injuries. ® Related Story 2 mch txting cud corz RSI
Tim Richardson, 21 Mar 2003

MS takes axe to Xbox Japan

The Japanese arm of Microsoft's Xbox division is to see personnel reductions across the board, as the console continues to struggle in the Far East - but the company denies any scaling back of the Xbox operation itself in the territory. The headcount of the 200-person strong division will be cut by 34, with reductions affecting personnel in both marketing and production. The company claims that these changes are being made to improve the profitability of the business. It's not clear whether the departments affected are purely related to the sales, distribution and promotion of Xbox in Japan, or whether development personnel will also be hit. The main title created by Microsoft's Japanese division, Kakuto Chojin, has been withdrawn from release overseas - due to potentially offensive religious content, if Microsoft is to be believed, although most commentators suspect that the critical and commercial pasting the game received in Japan may have something to do with the decision as well. To date, Tecmo's Dead or Alive and Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball titles remain the only real success stories on the Xbox in Japan. The console has not yet reached 400,000 units sold in the territory, according to figures quoted by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper today. Although Microsoft strongly denies that it is terminating or scaling back its Xbox operations in the Far East, this is almost certainly how the story will be interpreted by analysts - with the scaling back of the unsuccessful division being seen as a tacit admission that Xbox is dead in the water in Japan. © gamesindustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 21 Mar 2003

The Pentagon's tactical Internet – a war too early?

The Pentagon is furiously buying up commercial satellite capacity in order to meet the bandwidth needs of a new kind of IT-driven war, reports the Washington Post. But Register sources suggest that the US military has other, rather larger problems in delivering on the digital battlespace vision. A recent Department of Defense briefing included an instructive illustration of the growth in this hunger for bandwidth, and of what it is that the military intends to do with it. Note that between the first Gulf war and Kosova the requirement grew from 256Kbps to 1.5Mbps, and that the target for 2010 and beyond is 25Gbps in order to achieve "network centric warfare", quite possibly with no soldiers at all needed on the ground. We are currently somewhere beyond the "Web tools" phase, but you'd probably be right if you reckoned that, despite the existence of pioneering units in the military, the Pentagon spinners are a couple of years ahead of themselves when they push the digitised battlespace for this war. We covered that here. The first unit to be equipped with this technology, the 4th Infantry Division, was originally intended for deployment in Turkey, northern Iraq invasion for the use of, but as you may have heard there were problems with this. Earlier this week it was still in Texas, with its equipment on ships in the Eastern Med, so it will quite possibly miss this one. The Abrams tank implementation of the digitized battlespace, the M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package) is described here, some of the salient points being "improved processors, color and high resolution flat panel displays, increased memory capacity, user friendly Soldier Machine Interface (SMI) and an open operating system that will allow for future growth." The objective of the digitized battlespace is to deliver systems whereby data is gathered by individual units, communicated back to the centre in order to produce a complete picture of the battlefield, and then this picture is sent back to the individual units. Thus, the commanders (who could conceivably be anywhere in the world) have a clear picture of what's going on, and the troops on the ground also know what's around them, which is friend and which is foe. But how do you handle the comms? Buying up bandwidth may help the Pentagon deal with some of the big picture, but the current scramble is over bandwidth for less ambitious but more profligate purposes. If you're going to sit on the other side of the world controlling, say, an RQ-1 Predator UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) that's sending you video, you must expect to be using a hell of a lot of bandwidth. The Pentagon plans many more UAVs, and has lots already deployed in Iraq - they chew up bandwidth, they do not produce a joined up picture. So go figure. Also, note that UAVs were the stars of the 4th's EXFOR tests a few years back - the 'Internet in a tank' didn't figure highly at that point. They're arguably two different concepts, and the one we're not currently excited about is the one that won the wargame. Aspects of the digitized battlespace clearly need a lot less bandwidth, but this obviously mounts up when you equip a whole army with the technology, and the weak link here is currently SINCGARS. Single Channel Ground Airborne Radio System is the army's standard radio system, and within the digitized battlespace is intended to route data messages via the "Tactical Internet" which itself may be composed of multiple SINCGARS radio nets. Other technologies, eg WIN-T and JTRS (Joint Tactical Radio System) will eventually start to build a functional Tactical Internet (JTRS will begin deployment in 2005-6), but at the moment SINCGARS is what's available. In operation, this is a pretty narrow pipe. Even taking a fairly conservative view of the comms requirements of the digitized battlespace at client level, you find you need something in the region of a 1200 baud modem connection. The actual data requirements are lower, but with the addition of COMSEC and network management (obviously necessary), that's what you come to. SINCGARS, however, is essentially old technology, a voice system that can't seriously do the tactical Internet. For data it's constrained to a single 25Khz voice channel, and other limitations force it into approximately 3.5KHz available voice bandwidth. So it's currently possible for units to know where they are via GPS, and to report their position to commanders via their existing comms systems. They can also do combat identification, reducing friendly fire casualties, and the command centres now can at least get all of the data they need to build a pretty accurate picture of where all of the friendly units are; the big picture is possible because it has the available bandwidth, the last mile is a lot trickier. And what it is that the ground units are getting on those colour, high resolution flat panel displays today rather difficult to conceive. Are we, perhaps, a war too early? Maybe best stay in Texas this time around. ® Register apology In our first take on the digitised battlespace, we recklessly claimed that the equipment to do this was already being deployed, and that therefore the gosh-wow stories were not entirely spin. We begin to suspect that this was not the case.
John Lettice, 21 Mar 2003

XFree86 dust-up questions X11 model

The furious row over the vital open source software project XFree86 has raised questions over what future direction the group should take. One of the project's founders, David Wexelblat (actually the fourth guy - see this good history), has suggested that the X model is anachronistic and needs a fundamental garbage-can shaped overhaul. The row stems from accusations levelled at developer Keith Packard, which saw Packard expelled. That's less interesting than what happens to XFree86, but tempers are running high, so let's pause a moment. Packard says that the project is under-resourced and that stems from a poor governance model. His expulsion follows accusations that he had been working against the interests of the project by touting a closed source spin-off. "What Keith has done is among the most low-class, unprofessional and tactless things I have ever experienced in my professional career," wrote Wexelblat. Linux users wait too long to see new 3D graphics hardware - which arrives at a dizzying rate these days - supported by the windowing system, according to Packard. He cites a year-long wait for a version that officially supports Radeon, for example. The project has only 250 contributors, compared to over 800 for the fetchmail project. We're not sure how much to deduce from that, because quite often the most important work comes from only a small number of regular developers. But don't blame the developers, blame the model, says Wexelblat. "X is obsolescent," he wrote in a mailing list posting. "I've been working in the Windows world for years now, and client-server display systems are utterly irrelevant to the majority of real-world computer users. X needs to be replaced by a direct-rendered model, on which a backwards-compatible X server can be reasonably trivially implemented". X11 offers the flexibility of running your application over the network, but that power comes at the cost of speed and flexibility for most users, who don't need that capability. "The idea of being able to remote individual windows isn't relevent to the vast majority of desktop users," explained Wexelblat. "So the paradigm really needs to be inverted - direct-rendered desktop, with remotability." Key Linux kernel developer Alan Cox agreed that the project needed a wake-up call, but didn't think a splinter project by Packard could cause too much harm: "X has to evolve, X has to do cool stuff, X has to let people break stuff, X has to delegate trust to driver maintainers far more," he wrote. "To me it doesn't matter if Keith and friends spin off an "Xperimental" or XFree itself changes, but that change is vital to the future of X11." So when the dust has settled over the Packard issue, what will the future X look like? ® Bootnote The historical link cited above explains why the "86" remains part of the project's name, when it has long since evolved past being x86-specific. It's partly a pun, but partly in answer to the question "why not XFree?". In the interview, Dawes answers: "Take a look at xfree.com, you might see one reason why we're reluctant." Obvious, when you think about it.
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Mar 2003

Norton SystemWorks heisted for terror war spam scam

Spammers/scammers have reinvented irksome unsolicited emails promoting Norton SystemWorks to hype up the terror angle. Al-Qaeda wants to root your machine so buy Norton SystemWorks from us at a knockdown price now, chirp the intrusive messages (example below). These spam messages commonly promote either pirated software or attempt to get people to divulge their credit card details to sites run by fraudsters. They don't come from Symantec or its legitimate partners. That said the emails do nothing to enhance Symantec's reputation. Some Internet users express frustration that the company isn't doing enough to stamp out the problem. This is possibly slightly unfair because Symantec is, through piracy, one of the main victims of the scam. So how common is the Norton SystemWorks spam scam? Extremely prevalent, evidence suggests. According to spam filtering firm Brightmail, Anti-virus software spam was the most common form of unsolicited email last year. Brightmail doesn't break this figure down by product, but our own experience suggest spams about Norton AntiVirus 2003 and Symantec's Norton SystemWorks PC utility suite are by far the most common. If anything these messages are increasing in frequency. One Reg staffer has received 16 Norton SystemWorks emails this month, and he's far from alone. (Stop whining and just delete them, John - Ed) It's completely tiresome and the latest emails, adding a terror spin to mix, irritate us all the more. (I've told you once - Ed) On a related, though slightly brighter, note the Centre for Democracy & Technology this week published a paper looking into the vexed question "Why Am I Getting All This Spam?". The study from CDT covers trends in spam over the last six months and tips for avoiding unsolicited commercial email. Its basic advice is to avoid posting email addresses on Web sites or newsgroups and to use a filter, which is all pretty obvious, but its stats are quite interesting. ® From: horridspammer@horridspammer.biz Sent: To: Subject: FWD: Global War on Computers - Terrorists Experts Warn that millions of home & business computers may be exposed to a Major Terrorist Attack by Al-Quida or other Terrorist cells within the next few weeks if not NOW. Various news organizations have debated the topic and only 1 solution has stood out from the rest...Integrated Advanced Software called NORTON SYSTEMWORKS PRO 2003 CLICK HERE NOW [REMOVED] We are offering an amazing deal on this software to protect the Billions exposed to this potential attack. A $300.00+ Combined Retail Value for Only $39.99! FREE SHIPPING Some indications that your system may be under attack: -slow performing system -internet speed is slow -programs don't respond -NO CHANGE Do your part in homeland security by protecting & increasing your PC's performance. CLICK HERE NOW [REMOVED] to unsubscribe click here: [REMOVED] Related Stories Septic tank spam - the 419 de nos jours? We hate Spam (email your friends) Where the heck is all this spam coming from? Messenger Pop-up Spam makes us sick Spammers break law with covert tracking Europe bans spam IETF aims to can spam External Links Debunking the Osama bin Laden virus threat
John Leyden, 21 Mar 2003

Birmingham council gets tough on personal email

Birmingham City Council is clamping down on staff sending personal emails while at work. It seems the council is miffed that so much of its IT resource is used up by people emailing their friends. A document seen by ICBirmingham suggests that unregulated use of email is "a drain on productivity". And it appears that it is also keen to introduce email monitoring to ensure that email abuse does not go undetected. The ">report claims that the council is to introduce a new code of conduct outlawing the sending of personal emails while also giving the green light for the authority to snoop on emails. However, Birmingham City Council employees will be allowed to send a limited number of personal email, as long as any attachments don?t exceed two megabytes. (So no concept albums then? - Ed) Research published last year found that email and Net abuse at work have become the number one reason why UK employees face the sack. London solicitors KLegal and Personnel Today magazine found that disciplinary cases for email and Net abuse at work exceeded those for dishonesty, violence, and health & safety breaches put together. ® Related Story Net abuse top reason for the sack
Tim Richardson, 21 Mar 2003