25th > March > 2003 Archive

Sprint to meet WiFi halfway

There was a time when the cellular networks fought tooth and nail to keep every packet of data running through their masts. But now there are just too many pipes to choose from. With the take-up of WiFi hotspots and no less importantly, the first PMG phone from Siemens, the carriers must make way. The combination of wireless and broadband makes an attractive alternative to wired homes and small businesses - there's even an open source VoIP project called Bayonne - and thanks to PMGs there are even more tricky combinations. With a personal mobile gateway - a Bluetooth device such as Siemens' new phone can use landlines when you're indoors, and switch to the GSM/GPRS when you're outside range of the PMG. Comments by Sprint PCS chairman Len Lauer in the current issue of Business Week suggest that he knows this. "In 18 months to two years, some mobile-phone traffic could go through the private Wi-Fi network and onto the IP network, and that's somewhat of a threat," he said. However since Sprint already provides IP services, it would be well positioned to gather any lost revenue. Indeed, and it's often overlooked too that the carriers' billing systems give them an incumbent advantage. Lauer also points out that no one has figured out how to make money from WiFi hotspots. They probably never will. The beauty of the carrier model is that it amortizes investment over many millions of users over a long period of time. It's several factors more efficient than peppering the landscape with 802.11 base stations - and who's going to line them up on freeway off-ramps? - while battery-guzzling WiFi devices will always be more cumbersome and less efficient than phones. Meanwhile the carriers only need to increase voice usage slightly on their more efficient 3G networks and the investment will have been rewarded. 3G is already VoIP. However such practicalities appear to be overlooked in the current mania. We appear to be in a replay of the dot.com era, when businesses which didn't make money and had little hope of ever making money, were hyped to the skies, such was the desire to sweep away the old order. The future is going to be pretty interesting as it is, without such hype. And as Lauer hints, the future is more likely to belong to vast cartels of consolidated telcos, rather than a bold generation of upstarts. Is that such a bad thing? Not necessarily - and not if it's the recipient of enlightened regulation. (You can read Lauer's obligatory bitch about number portability at the end of the Business Week article.) No, the real value - and wealth - comes from the services that we use, not from fighting over the plumbing. The last thing the USA needs - it's already handicapped by three incompatible air interfaces (GSM, CDMA, IDEN) - is another infrastructure war. The full interview can be found here. [Thanks to Mobitopia for the link] ® Related Stories Suddenly, the personal phone hub is respectable Carriers conspire to cage 800lb reindeer Popup Senator debuts cellphone rights bill US 'doesn't need wireless data' Phones more disruptive than PC or Internet Boffins outline 24Mbps phone chip design New wireless 11g standard ends in tears Wireless gurus battle ghosts of VC past
Andrew Orlowski, 25 Mar 2003

Telewest to trial 2Mb home service

Telewest is to trial a 2Mb broadband cable service aimed at home users. The cableco is looking to recruit around 1,500 customers of its existing 1Mb broadband service and upgrade them to the 2Mb service. If the trial proves successful, then the 2Mb service could be made available for people in Telewest franchise areas later this year. Pricing for the new service has yet to be confirmed. In a statement Gavin Patterson, MD of Telewest Broadband, said: "We've already proven there's a need for speed, with ten per cent of our blueyonder Internet customers taking the 1Mb service. "Not every internet user will want a 2Mb connection, but we're now well on the way to offering a menu of broadband services to suit different requirements, while BT perseveres with its one trick pony." Telewest described the 1Mb service when it launched last June as being like "viagra for your PC, providing a mind-blowing Internet experience." Which is nice. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Mar 2003

UK workers succumb to email paranoia

UK workers are becoming increasingly paranoid about who exactly is reading their e-mail and also accidentally forwarding personal mails. Findings from a survey of office workers by Yahoo! Mail showed that close to half believe that their colleagues are sifting through their in-boxes for scandalous details, while nearly a third are concerned about e-mails with private and/or embarrassing content finding their way into the wrong hands. According to the survey of 18,000 adults with access to e-mail at work, just over 60 per cent think that the IT department reads their personal mail in secret. In addition, 45 percent are fearful that colleagues are rummaging through their personal e-mails while they are out of the office or away from their desks. Women seem to be more distrustful then men, with 49 per cent of females compared to 42 per cent of males believing that the people they work with are dishonest enough to secretly look through their in-boxes. Personal e-mails becoming common knowledge is also a major concern of many office workers. Nearly 30 per cent said they could see themselves sending a personal e-mail to a fellow worker by mistake, while almost one-third thought that sending such e-mails at work could lead to someone they trust forwarding on personal or intimate details to others in the workplace. This is, of course, what happened in the new infamous case of Claire Swire whose boyfriend reportedly sent on a personal e-mail of an intimate sexual nature from her to his friends who then circulated it to their friends. Within days, the e-mail was arriving in in-boxes around the world and the story got massive media coverage. Over a quarter of employees are also concerned that they could send on a personal mail to their boss by accident. This is more of worry with women than it is with men. According to Yahoo! Mail's Head Producer, Alick Mighall, the results show that e-mail paranoia appears to be "spreading like wildfire...More and more workers are looking over their shoulders whilst at the computer. Shoulder surfing and e-mail snooping are a part of every day office life and workers need to adapt in order to survive in this office jungle," said Mighall. Unsurprisingly, Yahoo! recommends people to refrain from using their work e-mail for personal mails, but should used a Web-based mailing system instead. Messages with sensitive content should be deleted once sent, and people should log-off their PCs when leaving their desks. Yahoo! also advises you to attach a mirror to your computer monitor. This acts in the same way as a car rear-view mirror and will help you to stop people sneakily viewing what you're reading on-line. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 25 Mar 2003

2003 Big Brother Awards: The Winners

Privacy International today announced the winners of the 2003 Big Brother Awards. One of the judges, estimable Dr Ian Brown of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), writes: "It was alternatively amusing and depressing to be one of the judges for these awards. RIP and data retention played a large part in our deliberations..." Here is Privacy International/FIPR's press release in full. The judges of the 5th annual UK Big Brother Awards have today (Tuesday 25th March) announced this year's shameless winners. The awards are presented each year by Privacy International to the most persistent and egregious privacy invaders in Britain. From their inception in London in 1998 they are now an annual event in fifteen countries. The gold awards - in the shape of a boot stamping on a human head - will be presented in five categories. MOST INVASIVE COMPANY: CAPITA This category was a contest between Capita (the company behind many of the government's most controversial surveillance and data management schemes), Argos, which (among other transgressions) has participated in a customer thumb-printing scheme, and the credit reference giant Experian, which won the company category award in 1999. Capita won because of its long standing involvement in a vast range of government projects. MOST HEINOUS GOVERNMENT ORGANISATION - ASSOCIATION OF CHIEF POLICE OFFICERS (ACPO) This was a fiercely fought contest between our old favourite the Home Office, and two newcomers: the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). ACPO won because it has recently gone beyond merely being a patsy for bad government policy, and has taken a more active role in developing and promoting invasive schemes. WORST PUBLIC SERVANT - KEN LIVINGSTONE David Blunkett was consistently nominated for this category, but his transgressions against personal privacy have been so grave that the judges also unanimously promoted him to the Lifetime Menace (see below). He competed with Ken Livingston (nominated because of his obsession with travel and transport surveillance), and the government's secretive "Interception of Communications" Commissioner, Sir Swinton Thomas. MOST APPALLING PROJECT - PIU DATA SHARING REPORT The government's discredited Entitlement Card proposal went head-to-head with the "Data Sharing" scheme shepherded by the government's Performance & Innovation Unit. The judges felt the Entitlement card idea was just too stupid, woolly and nebulous to win. The other short-listed nomination was Electronic Voting. LIFETIME MENACE AWARD - TONY BLAIR This was a fiercely contested category, but Tony Blair was always slightly ahead of the field because of his active involvement in the government's attack on civil liberties. David Blunkett was close on his heels. Capita becomes the second company ever to make it to the Lifetime Menace category. NEW AWARD: DOG POO ON A STICK Each year the judges consider a nomination that is so odious and contemptible that they are reluctant to agree to spending scarce money on an expensive gold award for the villain. These occasions deserve an appropriate award, and so this year we give the first "Dog Poo On A Stick" prize. It goes to David Blunkett. Privacy International's Director, Simon Davies, said the award winners reflected the "prolonged and vicious" attack on the right to privacy. He said privacy invasion in Britain has become "a vast industry that threatens the rights of everyone in Britain". "The judges were overwhelmed this year with a vast number of malodorous nominations. Many politicians and companies have since the September 11th attacks jumped onto the security bandwagon without any justification". He added "The UK Government is attempting to systematically extinguish the right to privacy. Their plans should be resisted by everyone who cares about freedom". Privacy International also gave a "Dishonourable Mention" to the Office of the Information Commissioner, and accused the office of complacency and dereliction of duty. "Because of its consistent failure to adequately promote and protect the principles of privacy the Office is rapidly becoming part of the problem" said Mr Davies. THE WINSTON WINNERS On a more upbeat and encouraging note, the judges each year give a number of Winston Awards to individuals and organisations who have made an outstanding contribution to the protection of rights and privacy. This year those winners are: Posthumously, to the greatly respected Dr Roger Needham Teri Dowty, Joint national coordinator, Childrens Rights Alliance for England and Wales Marion Chester, Legal Director, Association of Community Health Councils of England and Wales STAND Richard Norton-Taylor and Stuart Millar of the Guardian Undercurrents Privacy International offers its best wishes and gratitude to these champions of privacy. Their contribution has made a huge difference to the defence of rights in the UK. ®
Drew Cullen, 25 Mar 2003
cable

EDS: new top execs get warm welcome

While Michael Jordan begins his career at EDS in the top role, the freshly reinstated position of president and COO is to be taken by a former occupant, Jeffrey Heller. Speculation is rife over whether EDS is likely to be acquired, as its low share price may make it tempting to some of the industry's larger players. Investors last week greeted Dick Brown's departure from the helm of Electronic Data Systems with relief. Speculation that the new management team might position the company for an acquisition may have been partly responsible for fueling the euphoria. Brown stepped down as chairman and CEO of the services giant on Thursday, to be replaced by former CBS chairman and CEO Michael Jordan. The company has reinstated the position of president and COO, which will be taken on by Jeffrey Heller, EDS' former vice chairman. Heller, who has come out of retirement, held the president and COO role at EDS from 1996 to 2000. Observers on Friday gave their blessing to the appointments of Jordan and Heller, and pondered what the new team would do to turn around the company after a year that has seen profit warnings, job losses and the opening of an SEC investigation into the company. EDS' shares on Friday closed at $17.63 up 11.87% on the day, but still way off its 12-month high of $65.91. There was speculation that an acquisition of the firm could be an objective for the new team. The high point of Jordan's career was turning around Westinghouse House Electric, transforming it into CBS, which was subsequently taken over by media giant Viacom. Dell Computer has been mentioned as a possible suitor for EDS. The two companies already have a relationship, and Dell has made no secret of its ambitions to boost its services operation. However, in a recent interview, Dell COO Kevin Rollins said that if the company were to make acquisitions, these would most likely be small buys. HP also has ambitions for its services operations. Nevertheless, the decline in EDS' share price over the last year could make it a tempting prize for any large software, hardware or services vendor looking to extend its services footprint.
Datamonitor, 25 Mar 2003

EC clears Azlan takeover

The European Commission has approved Tech Data's acquisition of data networking distributor Azlan. In a press release yesterday, the EC said "the operation does not raise any serious competition concerns on these product markets regardless of whether the market is national or European". Tech Data is the biggest IT products distributor in Europe, while Azlan is probably the biggest distributor of data networking equipment. ®
Drew Cullen, 25 Mar 2003

War on Warez

Managers of websites offering illegal business software could face criminal proceedings under new laws due to come into effect from the end of this month, the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) warned yesterday. The new law, precipitated by the EU's Information Society Directive, makes it an offence to "communicate to the public" copyright works, such as software, if the person knew or had reason to believe that this would infringe copyright. Until now, UK copyright legislation (principally the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) has been directed to illegal dealing in physical articles - such as CD Roms - rather than Warez (illegal software) sites as such. In general, according to FAST, ISPs have taken down websites used for distribution of illegal software. However, mirror-sites can easily be established. Copyright enforces are pleased at the forthcoming introduction of law that allows them to target running pirate sites directly. The new law (Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003) "offers the prospect of up to a two year jail term and fine to companies running such sites", according to Fast. The law also makes any director, officer or manager of companies operating such sites liable under the same offence. Paul Brennan, General Counsel at FAST, said that the removal of uncertainties within current law means "enforcement bodies and the police can at last begin to target these illegal sites with confidence." Robin Fry, intellectual property partner at city law firm Beachcroft Wansbroughs, explained: "The existing criminal sanctions date from 1911 and were principally to criminalise physical copies. This has rapidly become meaningless in the digital age - and the new rules put beyond doubt the criminality of offering illegal downloads." But trade in illegal software over peer-to-peer networks remains a grey area. Fry commented: "Where it's a member of the network sharing files - rather than the website owner himself - the website may not itself be handling any illegal copies. But, in truth, such networks are no different from the organisers of car boot sales. "If they know what is going on then they have to take the rap", he added. ® The new Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 include a specific extension to existing criminal provisions. This states that "a person who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public - (a) in the course of business, or (b) otherwise than in the course of business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright, commits an offence if he knew or had reason to believe that copyright in the work would be infringed". [Proposed Section 107(3A)] Related Stories FAST hails copyright 'big stick' BT Broadband accuses P2P users of copyright abuse Danish anti pirates continue to target copyright theft Threat of gaol not enough to deter piracy Piracy turns directors into criminals Greece, Denmark (and no-one else) make EC copyright deadline UK's DMCA: there ain't no sanity clause The XXX Clause - why it's not obscene The XXX Clause is Obscene
John Leyden, 25 Mar 2003

Affinity Wireless goes tits up

Affinity Internet Holdings plc has called in administrators for its Affinity Wireless Ltd telecoms business. Today's announcement follows yesterday's suspension of the outfit's shares. In a statement this morning the company said: "Affinity Internet Holdings plc has in recent weeks been negotiating with its creditors and due to the uncertain financial position it finds itself in has taken independent professional advice. "They regret to announce that this has resulted in Andrew John Pepper and Lee Anthony Manning of Kroll being appointed as administrators for its subsidiary Affinity Wireless." The Register understands that there are a number of offers on the table for Affinity's telco business and that a deal could be completed as early as this week. No one from Affinity was available for comment this morning. A voicemail message at its head office in London claims that the "office is now closed". Two weeks ago Affinity Internet flogged its loss-making Internet operation to an outfit called Cleverview Investments Ltd for £250,000. ® Related Story Affinity Internet shares suspended
Tim Richardson, 25 Mar 2003

Smartphones sales climb in EMEA

Who wants a Smartphone? Answer, Europeans and others shoe-horned into the EMEA regional category, who will buy 3.3 million units in 2003, according to Canalys, the UK research firm. This will see Smartphone sales comfortably overtake those of PDAs - Canalys forecasts sales of 2.8 million units for the latter in EMEA in 2003. Is this any great surprise? PDA sales are numbered in the millions, while mobile phone sales are in the hundreds of millions. According to Canalys, sales volumes in the mobile device market overall should double in 2003, with PDA handhelds rebounding after a poor 2002. Question is: will the likes of the SonyEricsson P800 and the Orange Smartphone SPV reach out beyond the geeks and fashionistas and into the mass-market? Right now there is little sign of this happening: walk into a mobile phone retailer today and ask them to explain the benefits of 2.5G and the data capabilities of the phones that you are interested in buying. Smart doesn't register on the feature sales set. This is a point that Canalys makes too. Chris Jones, analyst, notes: "For a start, the channels don't know how to sell a wireless handheld: the mobile phone retailers struggle demonstrating the benefits to potential customers, while the IT/data-centric channels don't really want to get into the tariff debate that becomes essential with a SIM-dependent device. Similar problems apply to smart phones, but mobile phone retailers will generally find it easier to sell something perceived as a mobile phone with added features than a less familiar type of device." According to Canalys, the mass market will plump for "less expensive phones offering little more than colour, MMS and an integrated camera in a compact format... (these) are likely to appeal to many more consumers and will limit sales of true smart phones until users and retailers develop their understanding of what additional benefits the more sophisticated devices bring." And what about convergence of mobile phone and PDA? Well, it's probably better to concentrate on device coupling through Bluetooth, Canalys recommends. Wireless handhelds are bulky, expensive and feature-poor compared with their non-wireless counterparts, the research firm argues. And they sell in very poor numbers. ®
Drew Cullen, 25 Mar 2003

Micron intros 512Mb DDR400 part

Memory maker Micron has launched its 0.11 micron high density 512Mb 400MHz DDR SDRAM chip, the company said yesterday. The chip is fully compliant with JEDEC's DDR 400 specification, said Micron. DDR 400 has yet to become an approved JEDEC standard, however. "We expect to validate this component and module by mid-2003," said Bob Donnelly, Vice President of Micron's Computing and Consumer Group, in a statement. Last week, Micron unveiled the world's first 4GB DDR DIMM. Samsung yesterday announced it had begun mass production of its 512Mb DDR 2 part. ® Related Stories Micron touts first 4GB DDR DIMM Samsung 1GB DDR 2 DIMM enters mass production
Tony Smith, 25 Mar 2003

Samsung to spend $963m on latest LCD plant

Samsung is to spend a total of 1.29 trillion won ($963 million) on its latest LCD production facility, Line 6, the company said today. Last December it said it would spend 66.1 billion won on Line 6, which is currently under construction. Samsung expects the plant to be operational by the end of the year. The new line will be capable of producing 60,000 fifth-generation (1.1 x 1.3m) glass substrates per month when it enters full operation some time in the first half of 2004. It will churn out 17in and larger monitor panels, and 20in-plus TV screens - each substrate yields 12 17in or nine 19in panels, said Samsung. The move, hopes Samsung, will allow it to increase its share of the LCD market, in particular its lead over its nearest rival, LG.Philips - though it too claims market leadership. It also hopes to outclass smaller LCD producers who can't compete with Samsung's economies of scale. That same tactic allowed the giant to dominate the world memory market. Samsung's goal is to reduce the cost of LCD panels, which should mean cheaper displays for consumers. In the longer term, that may happen, though we note other producers are complaining that prices will have to rise, thanks to the Iraq war. The cost of shipping panels has risen since the commencement of hostilities, the Economic News reports, leading to a $5 increase on the price of a 17in panel, presumably thanks to greater insurance premiums. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Mar 2003
Osborne 1 portable computer

Adam Osborne 1939-2003

ObituaryObituary Adam Osborne, pioneer of portable computing, has died after a long illness. He was 64. Osborne achieved fame as the founder of Osborne Computer in the early 1980s, which launched the first ever portable computer, the $1795 Osborne 1, in April 1981. Designed by Osborne but made to work by his Osborne Computer co-founder, engineer Lee Felsenstein. The bizarre looking beast looked sported a tiny 5in, 24x52-character monitor, flanked by two 91KB 5.25in floppy drives, all revealed by the fold down keyboard. It contained 64KB of memory and 4KB of ROM. Based on a 4MHz Zilog Z-80A - along with CMOS' 6502, one of the two processors of choice for 8-bit computing - the Osborne ran the CP/M 2.2 operating system. It weighed 23.5lbs (12kg). In another first, the Osborne 1 shipped with a heap of software: WordStar, SuperCalc, dBase II, and two versions of BASIC: CBASIC and MBASIC. In 1981, Osborne sold $5.8 million worth of Osborne 1s. By the end of 1982, he had sold $68.8 million - around 10,000 units a month on average. But having risen to prominence as a computing innovator, Osborne as quickly found notoriety as the industry's first victim of pre-announcing unready products. In 1983 he revealed that his company was working on a much two new models - the Vixen, a smaller version of the Osborne 1, and the Executive - he effectively killed sales of the current model. The Executive was to feature an 80-character display and a built-in hard drive. To be fair, his failure appears to have resulted as much from the technology press' eagerness to break non-disclosure agreements. Starved of essential capital, and with piles of unsold Osborne 1s filling up warehouses, Osborne Computer collapsed. The company was declared bankrupt on 13 September 1983, less than three years after its formation. Following the collapse of Osborne Computer, Osborne published a best-selling memoir of his experiences, Hypergrowth. Later, he formed Paperback Software to offer software at paperback book prices. Alas, his spreadsheet was deemed to resemble Lotus 1-2-3 too closely - it was alleged Paperback ripped off 1-2-3's whole menu structure. In January 1987, Lotus sued, alleging copyright infringement, and on 28 June 1990, Osborne lost. He left the company later that year. Osborne was born in 1939, in Thailand, the son of British parents, and he spent most of his childhood in Southern India, a place he returned to in 1992 following a decline in his health, and in which he died, on 18 March. He suffered from a brain disorder that triggered minor but frequent strokes. He had battled the disease for more than ten years. Schooled in England, Osborne graduated from Birmingham University in 1961. He travelled to the US to complete his PhD at the University of Delaware. Soon after he joined Shell as a chemical engineer. He eventually naturalised as a US citizen. In the early 1970s, he quit Shell and was given the task of writing a programming manual for Intel's first microprocessor. In 1972 he founded Osborne and Associates to create a series of easy-to-read computing manuals - long before the For Dummies... series. By 1977, Osborne Books, as the company had become, had published over 40 computing titles. In 1979, Osborne sold the lot to McGraw-Hill in order to pursue a gap in the computing market: for a machine users could operate on the move. Backed by Silicon Valley VC Jack Melchior, and with the help of ex-Intel engineer Lee Felsenstein, Osborne Computer came into existence. ® Related Links Justin Mayrand's history of the Osborne 1 Famous Osbornes: an Adam Osborne biography
Tony Smith, 25 Mar 2003

Reg Kit Watch

UpdatedUpdated Robotics Sony will next month introduce a second humanoid alternative to its popular Aibo 'entertainment' robot. The SDR-4X II improves on the previous model, introduced last year, by offering better movement, safety and conversational capabilities. So it is better able to recover from motion that might or already has upset its balance, and if it falls it can adopt a pose that minimises the risk of damage. It has a new processor that can recognise continuous speech and is backed by a 20,000-word vocabulary. The robot is just over half a metre tall and weighs 7kg. It is based on an unnamed 64-bit Risc processor and contains 64MB of memory. It features PC Card and Memory Stick slots, and runs Sony's Aperios operating system. Toshiba will introduce a prototype personal robot product, ApriAlpha, next month too. Dubbed by Toshiba a "robot information home appliance", the small, spherical (35cm diameter) droid has a built-in camera and facial recognition software that allows it to recognise 100 faces. It also has speech recognition and synthesis built in. Toshiba has equipped the 9.5kg ApriAlpha with its own 802.11b, Bluetooth and IR networking capabilities to allow it to communicate with similarly enabled household appliances. ApriAlpha's functionality is intended to be extensible, through Toshiba's Open Robot Controller Architecture (ORCA). ORCA provides an abstraction layer between kinematic control, communication, image processing, speech processing and sensor input, and the processor and OS, the better to allow, say, one speech processing system to be implemented on different robot hardware aimed at different roles. Servers Linux hardware specialist Penguin Computing has launched a 4U server equipped with a 16-drive ATA/133 disk sub-system. The Relion 430 is based on dual Intel Xeon processors - from 2.0 to 2.8GHz - and Intel's E7575 chipset. Up to 4GB of DDR memory is supported. The drive sub-system can take units of 40GB to 200GB for a maximum capacity of 3.2TB. The unit incorporates 3ware IDE RAID controllers for extra data security. Individual drives are easily accessible, says Penguin, for cold swaps. Connectivity is provided by a single Gigabit Ethernet port, but Penguin notes that the mobo's four PCI slots - one 133MHz PCI-X, two 100MHz 64-bit PCI and a 32-bit PCI - provide plenty of scope for the addition of extra ports. There's an AGP 8x slot for users who want to connect a monitor to the Relion. Prices depend on configuration but start off at around $3582 for a uni-processor, diskless machine. Printers Dell's entry into the printer market with own-brand products kicked off today with the launch of four models. The Dell Personal All-in-One A940 puts colour printing, scanning and copying into a single $139 unit. It prints at 4800x1200dpi, but scans at 600x2400dpi. Colour printing averages at 12ppm; monochrome at 17ppm. The Dell Personal Laser Printer P1500 is a 600dpi, 19ppm machine for home and office. It retails for $289. For networked organisations, the Dell Workgroup Laser Printers S2500 and S2500n provide 600dpi, 22ppm printing for $499 and $839, respectively. The S2500n includes a built-in Ethernet port. All the others sport USB and parallel ports. And following on from Dell's launch of its PC recycling programme last week, the company said it will cart off customers' old printers when they buy a new Dell job. Each Dell printer comes with a postage-paid label - just attach it to the printer's box and put your old printer inside. The PC recycling scheme costs users $15 (see Dell revamps PC recycling scheme). ®
Tony Smith, 25 Mar 2003

Hotmail caps email

Microsoft is capping the amount of email punters can send using their Hotmail accounts in a bid to crack down on spam. In a statement, the company said: "In an effort to prevent spammers from using MSN Hotmail to spread spam, MSN Hotmail recently began further limiting the number of outgoing messages a user can send each day. "MSN is strongly committed to helping stop the widespread problem of spam and this change is one way we are preventing spammers from using Hotmail to spread spam." No one is more shocked by this announcement than El Reg. Ten days ago, following an enquiry from one of our readers, we asked Microsoft specifically about whether it was limiting the amount of email that can be sent via its Hotmail service. An official spokesperson for the company denied it had introduced any new limits and insisted that the only limit in place was an existing cap of 500 a day, which, we were told, had been in place for some time. There was no story. Now, Microsoft has come clean and admitted that its new anti-spam email-limiting policy has been in place since the middle of the month. Microsoft has apologised for any misunderstanding and denies it deliberately misled us. Whatever. So, what is the new limit it's imposed? A Reuters report quotes MSN's lead product manager, Lisa Gurry, as saying that punters will be barred from sending emails to more than 100 e-mail addresses in a 24-hour period. In contrast, the MSN spokesperson on this side of the pond has declined repeatedly to put a figure on the limit, except so say that it would not affect "99.9 per cent of its users". ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Mar 2003

Portable computer pioneer Adam Osborne dies

Adam Osborne, the real inventor of the portable computer and - possibly - corporate immolation via preannouncement, has died aged 64, after a long illness. Osborne's star blazed briefly bright with his 1981 introduction of the Osborne 1; by today's standards it looks somewhat counter-intuitive, but it caught the mood. Huge, heavy, 5in green screen and industrial-style clacky keyboard, but you could always kid yourself you were something important in secret intelligence, especially if you had the Land Rover to lug it in. The Register had some slight acquaintance with one of the beasts at the time, and does not frankly remember it as something you'd casually stow under an aircraft seat, as the link above suggests. The machine was a big success, and the follow-ups looked pretty promising. However in 1983 Adam Osborne goofed, preannouncing the next generation before it was built, cutting the feet out from under the existing machines and triggering the collapse of the company a few months later. This 'Osborne effect' subsequently became a textbook example of how not to do it - you'll note however that people do still do this these days, possibly through total ignorance of Adam's existence. Osborne then came up with a second good idea - Paperback Software. He took the view that software prices were way, way too high, resulting in sales levels that were way, way too low. So he launched a new company which packaged the software in paperback book format and charged lower prices. This initiative could have had a lot to say about issues that are still live today - piracy, pricing and software distribution models, but it wasn't to be. Paperback Software was (how much pioneering can one man do?) sued by Lotus fairly early on in the latter company's bid for the title of the software industry's biggest bully. I didn't meet Osborne in his hardware phase, but talked to him when he was launching Paperback. He was a good talker, with a certain Errol Flynn-like suaveness about him. He was a charismatic mover and shaker early on, when the ones we know today were barely over their acne, but partially through his own failings and partially through bad luck, he became a largely forgotten hero. And his illness finally took him out of the picture too soon. Reuters provides some more details of Osborne's life here, and we're sure some of the people who knew him well (John C Dvorak and Guy Kewney spring to mind) will be paying their respects shortly. ®
John Lettice, 25 Mar 2003

UK ID cards being mooted first for Scotland?

Despite the UK Government apparently taking a step back from ID cards earlier this year, moves are afoot to introduce the scheme in Scotland. From a brief BBC Scotland report it would appear that the Labour Party's apparatchiks north of the border haven't heard the news. Or possibly, the country that was used to pioneer some of the Thatcher Government's more interesting experiments in taxation is once again going to act as the beta test site. Surely not... ID, aka entitlement cards were the subject of a ludicrously obscure consultation exercise which ended earlier this year. Government spinners had first talked the consultation up as being largely pro-cards, but were subsequently - one surmises - overwhelmed by adverse reactions. The theory is that a 'voluntary' system of entitlement cards would be used by citizens wishing to access government services, however such a system would clearly escalate into one that was to all intents and purposes compulsory. According to BBC Scotland the latest move comes in a pre-manifesto Scottish Labour Party document which says "we will introduce a national electronic entitlement card for all public services." The Scottish elections take place on 1st May, and as Labour's manifesto has not yet been published it's not clear whether or not this pledge makes it into the document. But we should know soon enough. ®
John Lettice, 25 Mar 2003

Red Hat offers paid subscribers early ISOs for 9.0

Paid subscribers to the Red Hat Network are being offered early access, from 31st March, to ISOs for the forthcoming Red Hat Linux 9. The new version is scheduled to be available in stores and via FTP from 7th April, so Red Hat is killing two birds with one stone by giving it to subscribers early. Subscribers' estimation of RHN service will probably be enhanced because they can get the new software without being killed in the rush, while Red Hat may be able to cajole some "demo" RHN subscribers (i.e. the ones who don't pay) into coughing up the $60 annual fee. Actually the first is probably more important than the second, because surely most people will be prepared to grit their teeth and hang in for another week, rather than cough up the money. But on the other hand, if you were intending to hare down to the store on 7th April and buy retail, but you have the bandwidth to handle the download, then the $60 might make sense to you. The offer (you can sign up here) is however still something of a pig in a poke, as Red Hat hasn't yet said what's in the packet. This is particularly intriguing because, as Linux Today points out, Red Hat ordinarily puts point releases in between full version releases. So what's so special about 9.0? We think we should be told. ® Related story Getting Red Hat Network support for free just got harder
John Lettice, 25 Mar 2003

Dell launches own-brand printers

Dell's entry into the printer market with own-brand products kicked off today with the launch of four models. The Dell Personal All-in-One A940 puts colour printing, scanning and copying into a single $139 unit. It prints at 4800x1200dpi, but scans at 600x2400dpi. Colour printing averages at 12ppm; monochrome at 17ppm. The Dell Personal Laser Printer P1500 is a 600dpi, 19ppm machine for home and office. It retails for $289. For networked organisations, the Dell Workgroup Laser Printers S2500 and S2500n provide 600dpi, 22ppm printing for $499 and $839, respectively. The S2500n includes a built-in Ethernet port. All the others sport USB and parallel ports. And following on from Dell's launch of its PC recycling programme last week, the company said it will cart off customers' old printers when they buy a new Dell job. Each Dell printer comes with a postage-paid label - just attach it to the printer's box and put your old printer inside. The PC recycling scheme costs users $15. ® Related Story Dell revamps PC recycling scheme
Tony Smith, 25 Mar 2003

Malicious impostors sow seeds of disinformation

Security testing outfit NTA Monitor has warned of the increased likelihood of attacks against news sites and corporate Web sites during the current war in Iraq. News sites are especially at risk, because attackers could use weaknesses in sites or domain registration tricks to 'rewrite' breaking news to try to create confusion and panic, according to NTA. The most obvious risk is denial of service attacks, in which sites are deliberately brought down by extreme traffic volumes. However the subtler attacks are of much greater concern. By registering similar domain names or 'typo squatting' - booking domains with common typo errors (e.g. wwwcompany.com) - traffic intended for official news sites could be re-directed. Attackers can impersonate Internet news sites and make major changes to the news, with potentially disastrous impact. Kevin Foster, Strategy Director, NTA Monitor, said: "The mushrooming of Internet domain names is open to abuse. There is a real risk here that attackers can exploit weaknesses to redirect visitors to fake News sites to sow confusion and panic. "It worries me how many people are completely unaware of the security problems surrounding Internet domain names - eBay, Paypal and Nochex have all fallen victim to attacks exploiting domain name issues recently. Taking some sensible steps can reduce the risk of similar attacks affecting your site, or your brand being used to disrupt other sites." ® NTA Monitor's top 10 steps to take if you believe you're at risk are: Compile a list of domains you believe you own, and then identify what domains are actually registered under your name (or named subsidiaries) in the main domain name registration bodies Define a list of combinations and permutations of these domain names, including typographical errors and common spelling mistakes Conduct a thorough search and verification of all the registry bodies around the world to pick up similar registered domain name entries Verify the ownership of similar domains found to double check whether they do actually belong to you / named subsidiary, or not Perform manual verification to determine whether domains are being registered maliciously to hi-jack web traffic, or simply by coincidence Physically check any web sites relating to any similar domain found Investigate suspicious registrations and take pro-active action before users are duped by rogue web sites. Contact the hosters of malicious web sites and the domain name registration bodies to take immediate action. Register domains under a pseudonym - this can protect against data mining techniques, Internet footprinting, social engineering attacks - so use something that people looking to harm your organisation wouldn't necessarily associate with it Engage a third party specialist to carry out regular searching to identify hostile registrations Above all do NOT overlook the fundamentals - make sure your official web sites can protect themselves. Get your security tested by an independent specialist. Related Story Spoofed story pokes fun at Gore Hacktivists DDoS 10 Downing St site Email scammers target Nochex users Email scam aims to swipe PayPal users' credit card details
John Leyden, 25 Mar 2003

UAVs, drones of death, what can you get for $300k?

When we saw the price of one of the US military's latest UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), we just couldn't resist a comparison-shop. The Desert Hawk, aka Force Protection Airborne Surveillance System, is at $300,000 for a sixpack, base station and spares quite cheap as these things go, but it still looks a stiff price for a remote control model aeroplane. Desert Hawk is cute, we accept that. You can see a picture here, where some of the construction and technology is also explained. It's bungee-launched, has an electric motor with one hour's endurance, and it's made out of light foam-type material that minimises damage in crashes and makes it more easily field-repairable. And of course, it takes pictures. But it's in no sense an attack drone - essentially, it's intended to operate as a kind of sentry supplement, patrolling in the neighbourhood of bases. And as far as we can see in this rev it only follows preset flight paths, although it appears you can switch between these in mid-flight. AeroMech Engineering built 48 of them for Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, which itself is responsible for the rest of the gear, including ground station. We don't know about you lot, but we think we'd get pretty bored having to keep a rota of six model aircraft going round the base perimeter, having to switch the batteries for each of them every hour, and not being able to play with them much when they're up there. Conceivably, being a normal security guard would be more fun. So what can you get instead? Well, starting at the serious end we have Insitu Group's Seascan, which is intended to combine low cost with long endurance. Seascan is the basis for the Boeing ScanEagle, and is itself a descendant of the Aerosonde Laima, which managed a solo Atlantic crossing in 1998. Price? The Laima is claimed to have cost $10,000 to build, but we expect the Boeing version won't quite make it down to that bracket. OK, so what about that intriguing notion that a UAV could in fact just be a converted, cheap, full-size aircraft? What woud you pay for one of those? The MIG21 on Ebay seems not to have been real, but the purchase and restore cost of a MIG 15 seems to be around $200,000. Not very stealthy these, though. A reasonable deal is this one third size Sukhoi SU-31, which goes for $849.99, but infrared imaging and video gear would of course be on top of that. Here, though, is a serendipitous deal. Yak UK now seems to specialise in Yaks, but in 1999 had imported Saddam's "anthrax" plane from Estonia. The tab then for an L-29 Delfin, a jet trainer that can carry real bombs, was £35,000 plus £15,000 to make it runway-legal in the UK. There are more details, including a more current price of £50-60,000 and a fax number for the Russian Jet Co in Lithuania, here. What was that about Saddam's anthrax plane, we hear you ask? This long-standing claim seems largely to relate to L-29s which may have been converted to "drones of death" in the second half of the 90s, which may well have been destroyed by US/UK raids in 1998. The most recent sighting of the claim is probably a retread from the UK government in its weapons of mass destruction dossier. This says: "L-29 remotely piloted vehicle programme: we know from intelligence that Iraq has attempted to modify the L-29 jet trainer to allow it to be used as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) which is potentially capable of delivering chemical and biological agents over a large area." Still, as bangs per buck go, the L-29 looks good to us, and you get three of them for a Desert Hawk cluster while still having change for bombs. Keep away from the Gulf for now if you buy one. But The Register's tip for the ultimate in money-no-object cool is the Focke Wulf 190. There are currently no flying examples of this legendary aircraft, but Flug Werk proposes offering them in kit form for $535,000. It's a lot of L-29s, but hey... ®
John Lettice, 25 Mar 2003

C&W escapes escrow fiasco

C&W today wrote a cheque for £380m made payable to the Inland Revenue, to settle obligations arising from the sale of Mercury One2One to T-Mobil, the Deutsch Telekom sub. This means that the hard-press UK telco can now set free the £1.5bn in escrow set aside to cover the potential tax liability arising from the sale. C&W always denied that it would have to shell out so much, but it was forced to freeze the money in January this year, in line with a contractual obligation to DT, following the downgrade of its credit-rating to junk status. Shareholders were outraged at the time, with a US group filing a class action against the firm. Why? Because the £1.5bn escrow liability had never been made public, on the grounds that a descent by C&W into junk status was too fantastic to contemplate. The escrow fiasco did for Graham Wallace, C&W chief executive. He had survived a string of bad-to-awful news in 2002, but this was one cock-up too many So will C&W now have enough money to wade safely through the dotcom datacentre dead-pool? Remember, question marks over the company's stability is what triggered the junk status re-rating in the first place. Furthermore, its milch cow, the Caribbean country ops, may soon start running dry. Here is what Richard Lapthorne, chairman of Cable & Wireless, has to say: "Establishing clarity over the group's tax position was an essential element in our planning for the future financial shape of the group. With the settlement in place and consequent anticipated release of funds under escrow we now expect to have a firm financial base for securing the future of the company." Hardly definitive, is it? ® Related stories US investors sue C&W over secret £1.5bn liability C&W slumps on £1.5bn tax shock
Drew Cullen, 25 Mar 2003

BT to trial 1Mbps ADSL

BT is to trial a new home-based 1Mbps ADSL service in the autumn which, if successful, could be rolled-out as a full commercial service before the end of the year. News of BT's decision to provide a 1Mbps service comes on the same day that Telewest said it plans to trial a 2Mbps service for its consumers ahead of a full launch later this year. BT Wholesale also confirmed that it now has more than 750,000 ADSL-connected end users and - despite some doubts - is on target to hit one million broadband punters by the summer. In a raft of announcements made today, BT Wholesale claims that it is listening to its customers (ie. ISPs) and is working to offer new services. Many of today's announcements are merely teasers for trials and pilots for later in the year and in some cases full details, such as pricing and spec, have yet to be finalised. However, today's announcements give an idea of BT's progress on broadband. For example, as well as trialling a 1Mbps service for the home, BT Wholesale is also to test an entry-level 256Kbps product in the autumn. However, there are indications that BT does not regard this as being a true "broadband" service and is unlikely to market it as such, even though this will be an ADSL product. Prices and other details surrounding both the 256Kbps and 1Mbps services are expected to be announced in the summer. BT is also planning to extend the reach of its ADSL service which it claims will mean that an extra 600,000 households in DSL-enabled areas should be able to hook up to broadband. The reason why they can't lies in the fact that BT's 512Kbps ADSL service is only effective up to a range of around 5.5km from the exchange. Beyond that, and the line can suffer a reduction in signal strength leading to a duff service. However, the telco now reckons it can effectively extend the range to 6km and still maintain a decent line quality to provide a 512Kbps ADSL service. The predictions are that 97 per cent of those connected to ADSL-enabled exchanges will now be within reach when this new initiative finally goes live sometime in June. On a similar note, BT is also mulling whether to introduce a "simple fix" that would mean people connected to their local exchange via optical fibre (which doesn't support ADSL) - rather than copper - should be able to get broadband. Once again, more details of this are expected to be published next month will a full service launch pencilled in for June. Providing an update on its broadband demand registration scheme, BT reports that so far 300,000 people from non-DSL areas have registered their interest in ADSL. So far 35 exchanges have been upgraded as a direct result of the scheme with a further 206 in the process of being upgraded by BT. By next Monday, BT expects to publish triggers for a further 102 exchanges where demand has been strong but which have so far not been given thresholds. Finally, BT is also expanding trials of its SDSL service from the current 22 exchanges to 100, with a view to launching the service commercially in August this year. ® Related Story Telewest to trial 2Mb home service
Tim Richardson, 25 Mar 2003

RSPCA in censorship crusade against humour site

The RSPCA is rallying support for a campaign to have the Bonsai Kitten Web site shut down, even though it knows the site is a hoax. Bonsaikitten.com, a site "dedicated to preserving the long lost art of body modification in housepets", has raised the ire of members of the RSPCA, which campaigns against cruelty to animals. More than 600 people have contacted the RSPCA about the site complaining that it "encourages cruelty to kittens". The jet-black humour on evidence on bonsaikitten.com may be distasteful to some but is that reason enough to wipe it of the face of the Net? The RSPCA certainly believes so, even though it knows the site is a hoax, "albeit in very bad taste", and "believes no kittens have actually been subjected to this procedure". "As the Internet is not controlled or regulated centrally, the RSPCA is unable to complain to any central authority," writes RSPCA Online editor Amanda Bailey. "We have written to the Internet Service Providers (ISP) hosting the site to express our concern and asked them to close the account immediately." The RSPCA invites concerned parties to write to owners of the domain Ennui Networks and hosters Soylent at the snail-mail addresses it provides. Email addresses of the parties which have offended RSPCA member sensibilities aren't given - which is just as well given its recent history of Internet-based campaigns. Last month the RSPCA brought FaxyourMP.com servers to a standstill for 48 hours by emailing people to submit email fax forms, in contravention of FaxyourMP.com's explicit policy. It never apologised for this. Our friends at NTK.net record this unfortunate episode in anti-hunt campaigning. This month RSPCA apologised onsite for a 'spam' email campaign, on the dangers of fireworks for animals, which it claims was conducted without its authorisation. RSPCA's mailouts were sent unsolicited to numerous addresses via cowboy spammers. NTK.net questions RSPCA's assertion that it, and its marketing agency PHDiq, had nothing to do with the spamming. PHDiq is looking into the subject and NTk.net has promised to monitor the situation. Self-appointed guardians of political correctness The RSPCA is in many ways a fine organisation but some of its pronouncements demonstrate a questionable rush to censor "offensive" material on the Net, which remind us of the worst excesses of political correctness. Take what the RSPCA has to say about "offensive material" in general: It is increasingly easy for individuals to set up websites quickly and cheaply. National authorities are looking at ways of controlling material on the Internet and moves are under way to create legal and practical ways of regulating the Web and cleaning it of offensive material. The RSPCA is doing what it can to keep watch on material concerning animals on the Internet. It is also examining ways of dealing with the publication of offensive material or any specific events of cruelty which underlie these types of websites. The RSPCA also co-ordinates its activities with US-based animal welfare organizations and has brought concerns about this particular website to the attention of the Humane Society of the United States, who have been leading the protests in the USA. ® External Links Kitten cruelty website is a hoax, RSPCA article on the controversy Related Stories Cardiff City ace in "sheep shagging" contract Molesting Google Google in paedo censorship debacle Google pulls sick site, following Chester protests
John Leyden, 25 Mar 2003

‘Iraq war’ virus suspect detained

Investigators in Sweden have questioned an unnamed person on suspicion of writing the Ganda worm, according to local reports. The worm, which posed as a screensaver offering spy satellite photographs of Iraq, caused concern when it began to spread, albeit modestly, last week. Swedish paper Tidningen Angermanland reports that Swedish police authorities searched an unnamed suspect's house, in the Hõrnösand area of eastern Sweden, and seized computer equipment for analysis. Torbjörn Ull, an IT crime specialist working for the Swedish police, is quoted as saying the suspect admitted involvement in writing the virus. The identity of the suspect has not been disclosed. Carole Theriault, anti-virus consultant at Sophos, believes messages in the virus itself may well have helped police identify their unnamed prime suspect. The Ganda worm spread via email in either English or Swedish using a variety of email subject lines and message bodies. The worm appears to have been particularly successful in spreading in Sweden. Infected users in Sweden may have been lulled into a false sense of security when they received an email in their native language, rather than the English adopted by many viruses. The worm, as usual, only affected Windows PCs. More details of the Ganda worm are available in from Sophos? Web site, while MessageLabs records the worms modest progress across the Web here. MessageLabs has blocked only 1050 instances of the worm since its appearance on March 16: barely one per cent of the number of times the messaging service firm blocked Klez over the same period. Attention has been drawn to Ganda because of its war theme rather than the damage it causes, although MessageLabs says it is capable of taking out AV programs and causing some collateral damage on infected PCs. Finnish AV specialists F-Secure have a technical write up of the worm here. ®
John Leyden, 25 Mar 2003

MS recalls ‘extinct hackers’ ad

Microsoft has been censured by a South African advertising watchdog for claiming that its "secure software" will make hackers extinct. The advertisement, that ran in the trade press and Time last November, juxtaposed three extinct animals with an image of a "hacker". The copy reads:- "Microsoft software is carefully designed to keep your company's valuable information in, and unauthorised people and viruses out." No, really. "Which means that your data couldn't really be safer, even if you kept it in a safe. Which is great news for the survival of your company. But tragic news for hackers." The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) ruled that this breached the advertisers' code of practice because the supporting material could not be independently corroborated. The agency ruled that the advertisement, which was scheduled to run more widely this Spring, must be withdrawn. You can see the questionable advertisement here. The British Advertising Standards Authority also operates a voluntary code of practice, and has taken tech companies to task on many occasions for misleading advertisements. For example, early this year an HP reseller was censured after complaints from Sun Microsystems over several unsubstantiated claims in an ad. In November, Vodaphone got the rap for encouraging SMS foreplay while driving. Nannyish, perhaps. But two years ago, the ASA ruled that PC and TV advertisements must describe the visible viewing area of a CRT display, rather than the size of the CRT tube itself.®
Andrew Orlowski, 25 Mar 2003