27th > March > 2003 Archive

Broadcom axes ServerWorks chief

Like an abusive parent slapping an over-active child, Broadcom has dismissed the head of its ServerWorks subsidiary and made a public spectacle of the event. Duane Dickhut, former head of Broadcom's broadband processor business unit, will step in to lead ServerWorks and replace current chief Raju Vegesna. Such a move might have slipped under the radar were it not for Broadcom's astonishing press release detailing the executive dismissal. Broadcom ever so tactfully remarked: "Raju brought ServerWorks from a start-up enterprise to a position of industry leadership," said Alan Ross, President and CEO at Broadcom. "Recently, there have been disagreements between the ServerWorks and Broadcom management teams over a number of operational issues and the strategic direction of ServerWorks and how the business fits into Broadcom's long-term plans. In view of concern over these issues, we felt that Broadcom's long-term interests would be best served by the actions we have taken today." Broadcom rallies around Dickhut One possible explanation for this move could be that Vegesna wanted too much control over ServerWorks and was not willing to listen to suggestions from the Broadcom overlord. A fierce boardroom battle is the only way to make sense of such spiteful language. Then again, Vegesna has faced some embarassing moments of late, including a slip up when ServerWorks failed to produce enough of its Grand Champion chipset to satisfy demand. Broadcom's CFO Bill Ruehle explained that "most people sugar coat their release," as defense of the language used today. "The fact is that there have been some disagreements on a professional level on the direction of the business," he said. "We mutually felt those were getting in the way." Ruehle said that Broadcom does indeed want to have tighter control over its product portfolio and be able to mesh technology together as it sees fit. He hopes morale at ServerWorks will stay high, but with a send off like that, one can only imagine the trepidation with which other execs walk the ServerWorks halls. ®
Ashlee Vance, 27 Mar 2003

IBM overhauls Tivoli

Come April, IBM plans to release three revamped Tivoli software products that will include wider support for various storage hardware and improved system monitoring tools. Big Blue will roll out version 5.2 of the Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and version 1.2 of both the Tivoli Storage Area Network Manager (TSANM) and Tivoli Storage Resource Manager (TSRM) products. IBM said that it will officially announce the products at its Developer Works Live conference in New Orleans early next month, but the software will not ship until late April. IBM likes to say that is has added "self-managing functionality" to the Tivoli software. This jargon means little beyond the addition of a few automated tools and some administrative alerts. This approach to storage software is similar to that taken by rivals EMC, CA, HP and Veritas. TSM is IBM's offering for data back-up and archiving tasks. With version 5.2, IBM has taken care of some cosmetic details with a new GUI for the client software . Beyond this, the company has also added in support for more of what is calls software modules. Customers can now use TSM in conjunction with Oracle running on an IBM xSeries server and Informix 64-bit with Solaris. The new software will also work with Linux on IBM's zSeries mainframes. This product will cost $600 per processor. IBM first introduced the TSANM product in the third quarter of last year year, pitching it as the answer for doing hardware discovery -- servers, switches and HBAs -- in a storage area network (SAN). Laura Sanders, vice president of storage management products at IBM, said close to 50 customers purchased the product in the fourth quarter, which is a fair number given users' apparent reticence for this type of product. With the new version of TSANM, IBM has added support for Red Hat and SuSE Linux agents. The product will also tie into the storage management console for Windows XP and work with iSCSI devices and Cisco switches. IBM charges $500 per processor for this software. Some of the more interesting advancements at IBM come in the update to TSRM. As of last December, IBM started supporting AIX 5.1, DB2 and Veritas' Volume Manager software. Now, it has also added in automated file system expansion for AIX and Solaris. In addition, IBM can now do LUN masking and more refined system reporting on its own Shark storage server. This product will cost $700 per processor. Virtual Reality Like any storage software vendor, IBM likes to tout all of the automated tools and "virtualization" functions in its products, but unlike most of its rivals, the company does not expect users to snatch up complex SAN software at a quick clip. This practical stance could indicate that IBM actually listens to users who tend to have enough problems making their SAN function without adding as yet untested software into the mix. On the other hand, of course, IBM could just be covering up a technology gap between its products and those of say EMC, which Sanders described as "feature rich." IBM, after all, has been known to fall behind on storage technology. Storage Tank, for example, has been pushed back for so long that Sanders remarked, "That's the smile I always see," when she informed us the technology won't arrive until "sometime this year." When Storage Tank does finally arrive it will only allow users to create large pools of storage out of IBM hardware, but Sanders assured us that support for other vendors' hardware will come one day. In a move similar to Sun Microsystems, IBM may be planning to unveil a provisioning server to complement its software line, according to Paul Ellis, program director of storage marketing at IBM. Sun has a virtualization server that runs its N1 software and tells data what path it should take and how it should be provisioned in a network of multi-vendor gear. Ellis said he did not want to step on the IBM hardware team's toes and announce anything early but added that IBM is considering a specialized server for these types of tasks.®
Ashlee Vance, 27 Mar 2003
Broken CD with wrench

Northern Ireland signs up HP for €107m e-learning gig

Hewlett-Packard has won a massive e-government contract in Northern Ireland, worth more than €100 million. The five-year deal, with a two-year extension clause, will see HP provide and manage technology infrastructure for 1,200 schools and 350,000 students, as well as teachers and administrators. The massive technology roll out is part of the Classroom 2000 (C2K) education project in Northern Ireland, which aims to give each student access to the Net and virtual classrooms, from primary school to university level. HP described the project as one of the largest and most ambitious in the world. The company said it would use so-called adaptive infrastructure in the undertaking, which should give schools the ability to easily upgrade systems and incorporate new technology in the future. Indeed, some of the supposed benefits of the C2K programme will, over the next 10 years, include Internet connectivity from school and at home for every teacher, student and family in Northern Ireland. Older students will be given their own e-mail addresses. Another benefit of the programme will be the ability of students and teachers to collaborate over the Net and set up virtual classrooms. According to C2K, this feature is designed to benefit students at home due to extended illness or severe weather. It is also envisioned that schools and students will be able to draw resources from media organisations such as the BBC and Channel 4, as well as from on-line libraries. "C2K is not just about the best use of technology for our schools, it's about the future of the education process," said Jimmy Stewart, director, C2K. He said that HP was selected, in part, because of the company's use of adaptive infrastructure, which would allow for smoother integration of new technology down the road. Jim Kent, vice president and general manager, HP Services UK and Ireland, described C2K as "a pioneering initiative" and said the project was a "global example of e-learning best practice." HP has picked Amaze and Hyperwave as strategic partners to work on the C2K project. The news of the project comes just as HP said it has secured a new contract with the Irish Navy for new IT infrastructure, designed to improve communications with ships at sea. The value of this deal has not been disclosed. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 27 Mar 2003

SuSE boards Itanic

SuSE Linux is to tie its fortunes to Intel's Itanium processor, prepping a 64-bit release of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 for the chip. SuSE will ship the new OS at the end of next week and join HP-UX, Red Hat and Windows as the available options for Itanic 2. The company also plans to roll out product for AMD's x86-64 bit Opteron processor when it arrives next month. SuSE has been working closely with IBM on both the Itanic and Opteron fronts. This week, it announced a deal in conjunction with IBM to ship Itanic 2 systems for the TeraGrid scientific computing project. As has been the case with any deal involving IBM and Itanic 2, the hardware is actually an Intel white-box with a Big Blue logo on it. IBM continues to keep its own Itanic 2 box - the x450 - moored to the design room docks even though it promised a system last year. SuSE estimates that the TeraGrid deal will bring in several hundred thousands of dollars. The cluster will use Myricom's Myrinet interconnect to link the systems. Being a polite software vendor exec, SuSE's Holger Dyroff, US general manager, said the Itanium and Opteron ports require equal amounts of effort. "For us, it wasn't any different," he said. "We are working together with both vendors." According to Dyroff, Itanic has not quite reached the panacea of price/performance perfection that its backers so often tout. Still, he clung to prophecies of Itanic's success in the long run, as we both envisaged Intel's hulking tanker ripping through chips from Sun and IBM. ® Related Stories The state of SuSE
Ashlee Vance, 27 Mar 2003

AV vendors muscle in on anti-spam

The three major anti-virus software vendors are all building on their anti-spam offerings. Symantec, Trend Micro and Network Associates are all fighting for a share of the growing market. With these established players making moves, pure-play spam filter vendors will have a hard time gaining much market share without being acquired. The big three anti-virus software vendors are all developing anti-spam products. Symantec announced on Monday that its AntiVirus for SMTP Gateways 3.1, which has anti-spam features, is now available. Trend Micro has already started shipping a Spam Prevention Service, and Network Associates has a launch planned for next month. "Before now we had dabbled in anti-spam," with features such as subject-line blocking and blacklist filters, Symantec group product marketing manager Chris Miller said. "But this is our first significant entry into the enterprise anti-spam market." While Symantec is going the route of building its spam features in-house, rival Trend Micro has partnered with Postini. Trend's offering currently requires a separate spam-filter server to be deployed (a major drawback, Symantec's Miller said) but the company is working on a one-box system for release in the second half. Network Associates, meanwhile, bought Deersoft in January for its spam technology. Like Symantec, Network Associates already has a client-side spam filter offering, but has yet to release its mail gateway - where the bulk of the market is expected to be. The product is expected early in the second quarter, a spokesperson said. Trend was first of the three to market with a gateway filter, but has yet to flesh out its client-side strategy. A partnership or an acquisition seem distinct possibilities, but the company is tight-lipped. Trend global product manager Jeani Boots said the company is "investigating that market space". Trend says its spam gateway, launched in January, has 10 beta customers for the Solaris version of the software, the Windows version in beta, and about 80 customer prospects in the pipeline. Service providers, some in the Latin American market, are also testing the software. The presence of the three big established virus gateway companies in the spam market means the chances of many pure-play spam filter vendors making it big without being acquired are challenging.
Datamonitor, 27 Mar 2003

FBI seeks Internet telephony surveillance

The US Justice Department and the FBI ask regulators for expanded technical capabilities to intercept Voice Over IP communications... and anything else that uses broadband, writes Kevin Poulsen of /SecurityFocus. The FBI and Justice Department are worried that Voice Over IP (VoIP) applications may become safe havens for criminals to communicate with one another, unless U.S. regulators make broadband services more vulnerable to lawful electronic eavesdropping, according to comments filed with the FCC this month. The government filing was prompted by the efforts of telecom entrepreneur Jeffrey Pulver to win a ruling that his growing peer-to-peer Internet telephony service Free World Dialup is not subject to the regulations that govern telephone companies. Free World Dialup has been called "Napster for Phones." It's a free service aimed at developing Internet telephony as a mainstream alternative to the public switched telephone network. After an initial investment of about $250 for a Cisco SIP telephone -- a device that functions much like a conventional analog phone, but plugs directly into an IP network -- users can "dial" each other over the Internet anywhere in the world at no cost. Free World Dialup provides a directory service that assigns each user a virtual telephone number, and sets up each phone call. Since it was launched in November, the service has gathered over 12,000 users. If it catches on, FWD could be a nightmare for old-fashioned telephone companies. Those companies were likely agitated further when Pulver asked [pdf] the FCC in February for a "declaratory ruling" that his service is outside the commission's jurisdiction. Pulver argues that FWD is not a telecommunications service, but is just an Internet application, no different from e-mail or instant messaging. Verizon, SBC and other phone companies filed comments in opposition to Puliver's petition. And on the last day of the public comment period, so did the FBI. It turns out that one of the regulations from which FWD would be incidentally exempt is the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), the federal law that required telecommunications carriers to modify their networks to be wiretap-friendly for the FBI. Crafted in 1994, before the Internet was a household word, it's not entirely clear that CALEA even applies to Voice Over IP , but the government has had some success persuading companies that it does, or soon will, according to Stu Baker, a partner in the Washington law firm of Steptoe and Johnson. "Right now, I think Justice would lose a case trying to apply CALEA to VoIP," Baker wrote in an e-mail interview. "But eventually... VoIP will be a mainstream substitute for the switched network. So a lot of companies are complying now to avoid a hassle later." The government worries that Free World Dialup's petition could buck that trend: if the FCC finds that FWD is free from the plug-and-play wiretap requirements, other Internet companies handling VoIP traffic might start thinking they're exempt as well. "The DOJ and FBI are concerned that if certain broadband telecommunications carriers fail to comply with CALEA due to a misunderstanding of their regulatory status, criminals may exploit the opportunity to evade lawful electronic surveillance," reads the government filing. Pulver says it's the government that misunderstands the situation. "My hope is that the DoJ/FBI did not take the time to fully understand what Free World Dialup is and isn't, and after some proactive education it will be clear that we don't fall under the definitions," says Pulver. "It is much easier to build the wiretap function into the access method, which is infrastructure based, rather than on every Internet application that comes along." Easier Broadband Surveillance Sought Indeed, extending CALEA to cover Free World Dialup and services like it would likely be futile, says Orif Arkin, founder of SSys-Security Group and an expert on IP telephony security. Arkin says users determined to skirt surveillance could easily set up their own ad hoc directory services on the fly. "It's like a buddy list on instant messaging," says Arkin. "They just have to build up such a server, and give everyone access to it." Arkin says the FBI's best bet for spying on VoIP users is to eavesdrop directly on a target's broadband connection, perhaps using the Bureau's "Carnivore" DCS-1000 network surveillance tool. With access to the raw traffic, VoIP phones become exceedingly easy to listen in on. "Those phones don't have a lot of CPU power, so the communication between the two ends is not encrypted," Arkin says. "Whoever was to sniff the information on the uplink or downlink or between those two can hear whatever is said." That point isn't lost on Justice and the FBI. The government is asking that, should the FCC not reject FWD's petition outright, the commission at least delay its decision until after it's ruled on two other broadband proceedings that the Justice Department filed comments on last year. In those proceedings, Justice is asking the FCC to reinterpret CALEA as extending to DSL and cable modem service -- not just telephone calls. It's also asking the commission to expand the scope of the law to include raw data communication -- Web surfing, e-mail, and anything else that crosses the wire. Broadband providers are already obliged to cooperate with court-ordered surveillance requests; the government's FCC proposals would go beyond that and require companies to reengineer their networks to make Internet eavesdropping easier technically, and dirt cheap on a case-by-case basis. "It would be a major expansion of the CALEA requirements," says David Sobel, an attorney with the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "It would really obliterate the distinction between voice and data." Opponents of the CALEA expansion include AT&T and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. But the government's argument for the additional capabilities is the same one that persuaded Congress to pass CALEA in the first place eight years ago, and it only carries more weight today. "Although we cannot describe in this forum the particular circumstances, the FBI has sought interceptions of transmissions carried by broadband technology, including cable modem technology, in terrorism-related ... investigations involving potentially life-threatening situations," the Justice Department wrote [pdf] in one of its filings last year. "Unless carriers are required to ensure such access, law enforcement surveillance capabilities will suffer a serious and dangerous gap." If the FCC adopts the government's position, then broadband's last mile will be the FBI's listening post, and Free World Dialup will be off the hook. ©
Kevin Poulsen, 27 Mar 2003

NEC, SVA to expand LCD output with $710m plant

NEC and Chinese electronics group SVA yesterday said they will together invest an initial $710 million to construct a new fifth-generation LCD plant in China. The fab will produce 1.1 x 1.3m glass substrates from which a number of large LCD panels for PC monitors and TV screens can be cut. The plant will be located in Shanghai and its output primarily used to target the Chinese market. SVA is contributing 75 per cent of the up-front cost of the plant, NEC the remaining 25 per cent. The plant, which is due to begin production in October 2004, will be run by an NEC-SVA joint venture. Earlier this week, Samsung said it would be spending a total of $963 million on its latest, sixth-generation LCD plant. ® Related Story Samsung to spend $963m on latest LCD plant
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2003

Tundra ships first RapidIO interconnect silicon

Tundra has begun sampling the first commercially available RapidIO system interconnect silicon, in the form of a PCI-X bridge and a multi-port switch. Tundra also announced the first commercially available RapidIO hardware interoperability platform (HIP) mobo. The board will be manufactured by US-based IneoQuest Technologies. The HIP is an open standard that developers adopted as the RapidIO interoperability and component-testing platform. Tundra's Tsi400 connects PCI and PCI-X devices to RapidIO devices. The interconnect is effectively transparent to software, allowing RapidIO-based systems to exploit legacy components and code. The Tsi500 multi-port switch contains four 8-bit, full duplex, double data rate RapidIO interfaces and is essentially a communications hub for RapidIO devices, including processors, memory, graphics, InfiniBand fabrics and other I/O. Each RapidIO interface has performance monitoring capabilities that enable the Tsi500 to observe data traffic and gather statistics on each interface. The performance monitoring capabilities optimize system efficiency by highlighting areas of improvement in the system, hardware design and traffic flow. RapidIO is a next-generation system bus for embedded systems and is backed by Motorola and IBM, among others. RapidIO support is a key part of both companies' processor roadmaps going forward. Like HyperTransport and PCI-Express, RapidIO is a high speed, point-to-point, packet-switched bus. Initially, RapidIO will provide 10Gbps aggregate device bandwidth using 8-bit wide input and output data ports, but the low-voltage differential signaling technology used by RapidIO has the capability to scale to multi-GHz speeds, and the port width can scale to 16-bits and beyond. Tundra has been Motorola's system interconnect design partner since September 2000, leaving Motorola to concentrate on processors while Tundra gets on with system interconnect logic. Motorola developed RapidIO in the first place. Tsi400 samples cost $39 in batches of 10,000, and the Tsi500 costs $59 in the same quantities. Both parts are available now. The HIP board is due to ship next month, for $2499. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2003

LCDs took 30 per cent of PC monitor sales in Q4 2002

Price cuts of up to 30 per cent drove LCD monitor shipments up to 9.9 million units during Q4 2002 - a 54 per cent increase on the same period in 2001 and 30 per cent up on the previous quarter, DisplaySearch research reveals. Cheaper displays led consumers to chuck out their bulky CRT monitors in favour of slimline LCD screens, the market research company reckons. As yet, relatively few consumer-oriented machines ship with bundled LCDs, suggesting that the surge in sales was indeed driven by buyers replacing CRTs. Price cutting was the motor behind the sales. Panels of 15in or more were 11-30 per cent less expensive at the end of the quarter than they were at the start. CRT prices fell too, but by only five per cent on average, compared to a nine per cent average decline in LCD panel prices. That helped LCD panels take 30 per cent of the monitor market in Q4 2002, up from 26 per cent in Q3. The market for all monitor types rose 15 per cent to 117 million units in 2002, says DisplaySearch, yielding revenue of $36 billion. LCD revenue rose 55 per cent. ® Related Stories NEC, SVA to expand LCD output with $710m plant Samsung to spend $963m on latest LCD plant
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2003

Reg Kit Watch

Desktop ViewSonic has launched its first Windows XP Media Center Edition-based PC to support digital video recording. The NextVision M2000 Digital Media Center packs a 2.8GHz Pentium 4, a 160GB hard drive, 512MB of DDR SDRAM, and more I/O ports - including USB and 1394 - than you can shake a stick at. There's a six-in-one card reader that supports Memory Stick, SD card, SmartMedia, CompactFlash, IBM Microdrive and Multimedia Card formats. The M2000 ships with a DVD-R/RW burner and CD-RW drive. Users can create DVDs that can be played in consumer DVD players. They can also record direct to DVD from any video input. Available now, the M2000 costs around $1995, though ViewSonic is currently offering a $100 mail-in rebate. Server NEC UK has introduced the Express5800/320Lb-R fault tolerant server. It provides continuous availability with redundant CPU and I/O sub-systems. The 320Lb-R supports standard Windows 2000 and the forthcoming Windows 2003. For the first time, a member of the Express5800 family is available as a compact rack-mount (4U) system. The Dual Modular Redundant (DMR) design of the 320Lb-R allows easy replacement of all essential server sub-systems without shutting down the system. Indicator lights provide alerts on the status of each sub-system and confirm successful replacement of hardware components. The server is based dual Intel Xeon processors and provides an internal storage capacity of 218GB. It includes three free PCI slots and network connectivity with an embedded 10/100/1000 Ethernet. The Express5800/320Lb-R costs around £25,000. Display Sony has announced three new members of its HS LCD monitor line. The new screens, the HS53, HS73 and HS93 measure 15in, 17in and 19in, respectively. The HS53 has a native resolution of 1024x768; the other two operate at 1280x1024. All three displays offer an enhanced screen brightness (260cd/m2) and contrast ratios of up to 600:1. Each display is available in a choice of colours: white, anthracite and blue. The HS53 will be available in April, the HS73 in May and the HS93 in June. Sony has yet to set prices. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2003

Iraq's mobile network – Qualcomm to follow the tanks?

And in a flash, the war on terror started to morph into the war for CDMA. North Korea, watch out - there's a jumping-off point right next door. US wireless company Qualcomm has often been described as the civilian wing of the military-industrial complex, so perhaps the only thing that should surprise us is how speedily its arrival in the wake of the tanks in Iraq occurred. The new Iraq will need (among other things) a mobile phone network, GSM phone networks are supplied by ungrateful and despicable Europeans*, so any attempt by the DoD and USAID to install anything other than a US-designed CDMA system would be, would be... But we'll let the Congressman tell you all about it later. Spread-spectrum radio began life as a military technology; Qualcomm grew fat on Pentagon pork defense contracts in the late Reagan years as it sought to tame CDMA for civilian use. Which it eventually did, after many delays, and with some admirable panache. Only CDMA arrived, when it eventually did arrive - three years after co-founder Dr Jacobs promised - too late to make an impact on the cellphone industry as it was. The world had multilaterally decided on an older time-division digital technology several years previously. The result is that the world has a single standard, and enjoys economies of scale and very, very cool gadgets. The USA on the other hand decided to allow four incompatible standards to battle it out, thus blocking innovation from overseas, and allowing cellphone carriers to play atrocious bait and switch games with cellphone subscribers here. Er, that's us. But back to the Gulf. Congressman Darrell Issa (R., San Diego) yesterday issued a rallying cry for the new, reconstructed Iraq to embrace CDMA instead of GSM. Issa is urging Congress reps to sign a round-robin letter to Donald Rumsfeld, denouncing GSM ("French" and outdated) and urging the cause of the Q stuff instead. Qualcomm, we note chipped in $4,500 for Issa's 2002 campaign, but then so did lots of other outfits. We hope the Iraqis like their Centrinos, too. Says Issa: "We have learned that planners at the Department of Defense and USAID are currently envisioning using Federal appropriations to deploy a European-based wireless technology known as GSM ('Groupe Speciale Mobile'- this standard was developed by the French) for this new Iraqi cell phone system." This is fighting talk, as the mere mention of the word "entree" is enough to send a patriotic USAian into paroxysms of rage, right now. It's also quite incorrect, and ETSI anoraks will tell you all about Groupe Speciale Mobile, should you let them. WIth almost a billion users, in over 150 countries, GSM is the world's cellphone standard. But let Mr Issa continue: "If European [sic] GSM technology is deployed in Iraq, much of the equipment used to build the cell phone system will be manufactured in France by Alcatel, in Germany by Siemens, and elsewhere in western and northern Europe." He seems a little vague here about "Northern Europe" and is very coy about naming the Nordic telephony pioneers explicitly: Sweden and Finland. But he continues, a little shakily: "Therefore, if our understanding of this situation is correct, because of ill-considered planning, the U.S. government will soon hand U.S. taxpayer dollars over to French, German, and other European cell phone equipment companies to build the new Iraqi cell phone system." "This is not acceptable" he cries. Er well, no. American manufacturers such as Lucent and Motorola are very keen to export GSM technology into foreign markets indeed. And the European competitors may well be Siemens, but are just as likely to be LM Ericsson and Nokia, from Sweden and Finland respectively. But they're not quite on the wrong side. Yet? Aside from Issa's objections to the possibility of the French and Germans getting contracts, there is, he says, a security issue at stake here: "... we understand that CDMA cell phones include an integrated global positioning system (GPS) feature that allows the precision location of callers in times of emergency. [do we detect the teensiest of a briefing here?] European GSM cell phones do not have integrated GPS. If US relief workers in Iraq are equipped with CDMA cell phones with GPS, they will be immediately locatable in case of terrorist attack or kidnapping. Finally, because US CDMA systems are compliant with the US Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, this system provides all necessary access for law enforcement in post-conflict Iraq." Depending on who's doing the enforcing, of course. But yes, there do seem to be roaming advantages in the case of US security people commuting between the US and Iraq. We could observe that the European networks make a pretty good fist of figuring out where you are without GPS, and we might mention that there are other points about CDMA GPS. But we won't - not today, anyway. Issa's punchline is quite unambiguous: "If the U.S. government deploys US- developed CDMA in Iraq, then American companies will manufacture most of the necessary equipment here in the United States." Er, wrong again. What bomb-shattered bits of Mesopotamia that may survive will be as intrigued by Lucent's 4G network as anything that "Europeans" have to offer. Issa's shaky pitch is founded on a shaky assumption: that the US national interest relies on one single patent hoarder, in his home constituency, and not the great wealth that the real US-based manufacturers could bring home. You must question, once again, how a patent licensing company came to identify itself so closely with the national interest. Qualcomm's key patents were filed in 1989. Under the seventeen-year rule, the most important of these will expire in three years time. Patient Mesopotamians may be wise to sit this one out, but we doubt anybody will ask them. ® * Some years back The Register picked up the latest edition of what was then a very fat magazine bloated with lovely, lovely PC advertising, but which is now sadly slimmed. And boggled we were to read the amazing diatribe on poison European GSM technology, written by someone who, as far as we know, remains a senior executive of the rump of the publishing company. Had he been getting good brief from something beginning with Q?, we wondered. GSM was nothing like as good as the home-grown technology that was just around the corner. GSM was dangerous. GSM would stop pacemakers, hospitals would cease to function, planes would fall out of the sky... Wheelchairs would run haywire into the paths of uncoming trucks. Excellent stuff, and no, we're not making it up - he was. But at least you seem to get a more sedate class of black propaganda these days. Related Stories The US M1A2 Abrams, and war as a video game EU frets over China's 3G plan Qualcomm monoculture is 'killing American wireless'
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Mar 2003

UK.gov seeks input on anti-spam law

The UK government began consultations on strengthening laws to prohibit spamming today. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-led consultation will focus on how to write measures outlined in the European Union's Electronic Communication Data Protection Directive into British law. The consultation marks the first step in creating UK anti-spam laws which will mandate following the opt-in principle for all email and SMS marketing. This will technically ban the sending of unsolicited bulk e-mail / spam, without prior approval. UK legislative process is beginning as US State governments are toughening up their current anti-spam laws. Twenty-six US states have anti-spam laws today, anti-spam filtering firm Brightmail reports. As the public problem with spam grows, several states are adapting their laws to give individuals the power to sue spammers. Currently, this power tends to be reserved only for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the State District Attorney. States also are considering proposals to increase fines for sending spam. In California, a new bill would allow recipients of unsolicited bulk commercial email to sue senders for $500 for each piece of email received. The bill would also give Californian judges the ability to triple the fine if they find that the sender knowingly violated the ban. This bill is now passing through California's legislature, while in Indiana a similar law is on the verge of being signed into law by the State Governor. US and UK proposals under final consultation send out a clear, tough message to US and UK companies about how their e-mail marketing should be conducted. But while tougher laws are welcome, their effect on spam volumes is questionable. That's because the vast majority of spam is generated offshore and the senders are untraceable. According to Brightmail, spam accounts for 42 per cent of the email sent to the 250 million email boxes it monitors. It advocates a multi-pronged approach involving user education, technology and tough regulations to push bac the spam Tsunami. The DTI' consultation also includes plans to control the use of cookies and other tracking devices on Web sites. More info here. Deadline for submissions is June 19. ® Related Stories Spammers break law with covert tracking Where the heck is all this spam coming from? Plaid up in arms as Commons spam filter bans Welsh Europe bans spam IETF aims to can spam
John Leyden, 27 Mar 2003

ISPs left in limbo over ADSL price cut hints

BT has been accused of leaving ISPs in limbo the future of wholesale prices for broadband. There's speculation that price cuts could be on the way following a meeting earlier this week in which BT Wholesale met ISPs to discuss future plans for ADSL services in the UK. One insider told The Register that BT had said that pricing was "under review" and picked up several hints that price cuts were in the pipeline. So much so, at least one ISP is thinking about "pre-emptive price cuts" ahead of any possible formal announcement by BT. However, in what appears to be symptomatic of BT's lack of clarity on the matter, another ISP felt prices would be left as they were - or could even rise. While another ISP we spoke to thought that any hints of price reviews related to potential new services such as BT's 256kbs and 1Mb/s service. The picture, among ISPs at least, is one of confusion. And if there's confusion among ISPs, then there are concerns that this could spill over to potential consumers who may feel it is better to hold off signing up to broadband in the hope that prices might come down. When asked about potential price cuts, BT says that it is "always reviewing prices". This is stating the bleeding obvious (most companies continually review prices after all), but ISPs are looking for something more concrete from the dominant telco. Clarity and firm information, they argue, will help them plan their marketing campaigns to sell more broadband connections. Equivocation on BT's part serves only to muddy to the waters and could hamper progress to deliver broadband. A spokesman for BT insisted the company was "open and transparent" and insisted it "did not set out to cause uncertainty". "We will tell the market [about any new prices] once a decision is made," he said. In the meantime, though, confusion, speculation and uncertainty reign. ® Related Story BT to trial 1Mbps ADSL
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2003

Stampede for places onTelewest 2Mb trial

Telewest is considering an increase in the number of people it will take on its 2Mb broadband trial after all 1,500 places were snapped up in just a few hours. The cableco informed its punters last night how they could sign up for the trial. Within an hour 500 people had signed up. Shortly after, the registration site was knocked over under the sheer weight of traffic. Telewest managed to resuscitate the site late last night but by dawn this morning all 1,500 places on the trial had been filled. A spokeswoman for the cableco told The Register: "We completely underestimated the demand for the trial." She apologised to all those who didn't manage to sign up adding that execs were looking at increasing the number of people who could take part. It's not known when a decision on this will be made. Telewest may be pleased with the take-up, but some customers are far from happy at last night's debacle. Some hacked-off Telewest punters say the whole thing was a shambles while others have threatened to downgrade their service - thus spending less money with the cableco - in protest. ® Related Story Telewest to trial 2Mb home service
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2003

North America is WLANtastic

The number of frequent WLAN users in North America may grow from 4.2 million in 2003 to more than 31 million in 2007. According to a Gartner study there could be more than 100,000 wireless LAN 'hot spots' within the next five years. Building out this infrastructure will take investment. It will also take time for consumers to latch onto the benefits of the technology. For these reasons Gartner reckons profitability for hot spot providers will be "stalled" for three or four years. It recommends that businesses and service providers should deploy established 802.11b kit for now, rather than its higher-speed successors (802.11a and g). In most cases, businesses will be satisfied with performance of 802.11b, making it the technology of choice for hot spot frequenters. However 802.11a, in combination with 802.11g, will begin to replace 802.11b purchases in early 2004, Gartner believes. The additional bandwidth will be used for new applications such as voice over IP and streaming video. 802.11a technology brings other benefits too. "When they mature in 2004, 802.11a WLANs will offer significant technological advantages over 802.11b networks," said Ken Dulaney, Gartner research director. "Some of the advantages include link rates of up to 54 Mbps, lack of interference from Bluetooth and consumer devices operating in the crowded 2.4 GHz band, and the availability of up to 13 channels in North America and more in European markets." Gartner reports that enterprise demand for wireless LAN technology is particularly strong within vertical segments such as education, healthcare and warehouse/manufacturing. ®
John Leyden, 27 Mar 2003

Macworld Expo renamed Create as Apple touts WWDC

AnalysisAnalysis Macworld Expo organiser IDG World Expo has announced that this summer's show won't carry its traditional name, but be re-titled Create - just as our colleagues over at Think Secret revealed earlier this week. The move - jointly announced with Apple - comes at the end of a long-running wrangle between the two companies over the future of the show. Originally held in Boston, the summer Macworld was moved to New York in 1998, in order to attract a bigger, broader audience. "Staging the show in New York will provide our exhibitors a greater reach to those core Mac markets and, at the same time, serve as a significant draw for potential attendees from other East Coast cities and international markets," said IDG's then chief, David Egan, in September 1997, announcing the move. Apple, later fresh from the successful launch of the iMac in May 1998, preferred the more prestigious location, which it undoubtedly felt would give the gig a more cosmopolitan, less in-crowd atmosphere. The Boston show had always had more of the feel of a fan convention than did its winter counterpart in San Francisco. IDG's attempt to bring the show back to Boston - much to the delight of many a Mac buff fed up with New York hotel room rates, and exhibitors who are increasingly finding the city too expensive, particularly given post-September 11 insurance coverage - was certain to upset Apple, and it did. Announced last October, IDG's move was immediately followed up by a communication from Apple saying it won't support a show in Boston. Renaming the show is presumably all about providing IDG with a way out if Apple stays away from Boston - after all, there's no way it can call the exhibition Macworld if Apple isn't present. The new name will also help the show reach out to the broader creative community - PC users in other words. And we wonder whether this, rather than arguments over location, is really what lies at the heart of the conflict. In the UK in 1998, Apple pulled out of the main (indeed, only) Mac show, after the organiser, Emap Exhibitions, wanted to give the show just such a broader appeal. Back then, Apple's market share was falling, and once Mac-specific ISVs and others were wondering whether they should shift their focus to another, potentially more viable platform, Windows NT. So Emap changed the Mac show's name to the Total Design Show (TDS) to reach out to PC vendors and Windows software developers keen to target creative types. TDS proved to be indeed tedious, and it was canned the following year. In January 1999, in the US, the main Mac news weekly, MacWeek (owner: IDG) changed its name to eMedia Weekly (and not, eWeek, as I wrote before, ahem) the better to attract for all those NT users. The MacWeek name lived on as a now long gone but fondly remembered Web site. No one remembers the now defunct eMedia Weekly. Create sounds like the same kind of gig. Apple may have proved the doomsayers of 1999 wrong, but today's harsh economic climate and low professional IT spending means that IDG has to look further afield if it's to attract sufficient exhibitors and a commercially viable audience. Apple, on the other hand, wants to keep its existing Mac user base loyal, and doesn't want them distracted with ugly but powerful and cheap Windows machines running at 3GHz plus. Of course, Apple has only itself to blame by failing to deliver pro machines capable of trouncing Windows boxes in performance tests. Adobe and Quark - both key Mac developers - have suggested over the last 12 months or so that they think the PC is a better creative platform than the Mac. Adobe has done so because of the performance gap, as per its PC Preferred web page. It's also concerned that Apple's pro-video editing and DVD mastering tools compete with products of its own. Update There's a rather good rebuttal of the Digital Video Editing site's conclusions - repeated by Adobe on its PC Preferred web page - at Creative Mac.com, here. The bottom line: blame Adobe's code. And after Apple complained that Quark was taking too long to port XPress to Mac OS X, Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi made the rash statement that "the Macintosh platform is dying". Quark later back-pedalled and reaffirmed its commitment to the Mac (though we're still waiting for XPress X), and Adobe has since said the above page is for folk using a PC already - though why these users need the reassurance that some PCs out-perform Macs, we're not sure. Both companies still sell a lot of product to Mac die-hards, so they can't afford to promote the wholesale adoption of Windows just yet. If they could, they'd have done it by now - developing and providing customer support for one platform is a lot easier and less expensive than supporting two. That they can't make such a move is a sign of Apple's strength, but its failure to ship significantly faster professional machines erodes its position, and risks encouraging buyers to turn to Dell and co. Given this weakness in its pro-oriented hardware line-up, Apple must believe it really can't afford to have Macworld become a multi-platform show. Which may explain its attempt at brinkmanship with WWDC. Delaying the conference and shifting to a new, smarter location - San Francisco's Moscone Centre, home of Macworld San Francisco - is certainly partly an attempt to front it out with IDG. Apple is presumably too committed to Create to pull out now, and while it has said Steve Jobs won't be giving a keynote, it will be present and has ensured Create has a strong Mac agenda. But what it needs to remember is that it's good products that win customers, not shows or Steve Jobs keynotes. Macworld or Create, it doesn't matter what the show is called - provided Apple has killer kit to announce. Some observers hope a Power Mac based on IBM's 64-bit PowerPC 970 will be announced at WWDC. Maybe it will be previewed at Create. Apple should really worry about getting such a system out of the door, not what shows are called and where they're held. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2003

Telewest claims 300,000 broadband punters…

Telewest has almost 300,000 broadband customers, it boasted today. Publishing its full year results, the cableco said that it had 297,000 broadband users, with 31,000 of those signed up to its 1Mbps service. No doubt Telewest is keen to plug this good news story and the fact that it is to begin trials of a new 2Mbps broadband service. Predictably, though, many of today's headlines have focused on the cableco's announcement that it made a loss of £2.2 billion for the year, which included and "exceptional non-cash charge" of £1.64 billion for the devaluation of some of its assets. Turnover for the year was up a smidgen at £1.3 billion. Zeroing-in on its Internet operation, Telewest reported that revenues from this had increased by 98 per cent to £79 million in 2002, due mainly to the growth in broadband subscribers. Of which it now has nearly 300,000. The company also claims that its broadband product is helping to attract new customers for other services, including digital TV and telecoms. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2003

Toshiba PlayStation-on-a-chip company closes

Toshiba has closed down its US processor subsidiary, EE Times has reported. The company, Artile Microsystems, was formed two years ago to offer system-on-a-chip devices derived from the PlayStation 2's Emotion Engine CPU, itself jointly developed by Toshiba and Sony. Artile's gameplan was to partner with manufacturers of embedded systems to design custom SoCs. Toshiba would handle the fabrication of the chips. The strategy seems not to have paid off, and now Artile's projects and assets have been folded into Toshiba's TX Risc business, the company said in a statement. The TX operation produces SoCs in its own right and is keen to expand that part of its business. ® Related Link EE Times: Toshiba's US CPU spin-off closes its doors
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2003

Al Jazeera's web site – DDoSed or unplugged?

The launch of Arab satellite TV network Al Jazeera's new Web site on Monday drew immediate hack attacks, but this has been swiftly followed up by the disappearance of the site's DNS records. These now point to mydomain.com nameservers, but this company's site is also currently inaccessible; as you might expect, under the circumstances. Al Jazeera (aljazeera.net, for the record) could have been taken offline by DDoS attacks, but considering the timing one is also drawn to the possibility that something involving a Big Red Switch might have been involved. Prior to the site's complete removal company IT manager Salah Al Seddiqui told Reuters that its Qatar-based vendor had said "US-based DataPipe could no longer host its site from the end of this month," and that Al Jazeera would be moving its servers to Europe. Al Jazeera had two listed nameservers - one at datapipe.com and one at nav-link.net. NavLink has offices in the US (it's incorporated in Delaware), Europe and the Middle East (the UAE and Lebanon), so there's a logic to Al Jazeera using it. However if the dual-server system is intended to provide some form of resilience it clearly hasn't worked. The problem seems to have taken Al Jazeera unawares. When The Register spoke to the company's London office earlier today they said that their most recent information from Qatar had been that the site was unavailable because of heavy demand, and that they were trying to get through to Qatar for an update. Al Jazeera is not, as you will no doubt have noticed, universally popular, and today in particular it has been heavily criticised by UK military spokesmen for screening pictures of dead British servicemen. But even at the best of times the network is not a customer that many hosting companies in the US would want to boast about. At the worst of times - which probably includes now - it's unlikely the company would stand any chance whatsoever of being accepted by US providers. So it's perfectly possible that someone along the line decided, owing to pressure and/or common prudence, not to continue involvement with the company. This sort of thing might of course trigger legal action, but Al Jazeera itself is well-aware that it treads a very tricky line, so probably won't want to make unnecessary waves. And as its site was already pretty unavailable because of the attacks, and it's said it's heading off to Europe, what difference would it make? That you will note is one of two possible conspiracy theories, and does not necessarily involve US.gov. But we expect that if the site hadn't disappeared already, pretty soon US.gov would get involved until it did - which is conspiracy theory two. The alternative to the conspiracy theories is that weaknesses in Al Jazeera's DNS meant they were vulnerable to load, and that the disappearance of the DNS was therefore a consequence of the attack. As we understand it, this is technically possible, although it has also been suggested to us that the company's DNS did not come under an insupportable load during the attacks. So right now we think the jury is still out. But in the long run the question of whether the company was DDoSed or unplugged will be fairly academic. Given that it's pretty much unthinkable that it could have been allowed to continue running via US companies, it was going to go anyway, one way or the other. Europe might be some form of solution, but one might estimate that here too quite a few hosting outfits will view Al Jazeera as a poisoned chalice, a customer with a profile several notches to high. And even if it does get itself sorted out on the other side of the pond, it will still be likely to gain experience of how much of the Internet, when it comes down to it, is actually US-owned. But perhaps it has some cards. US companies wanting to play in the Middle East are unlikely to find their local operations going down a storm if they're refusing to do business with a popular TV station like Al Jazeera, so they'll be pressured in both directions. That's the trouble with the Internet - it connects things that sometimes you'd rather didn't get connected. ®
John Lettice, 27 Mar 2003

NT4.0 too flawed to fix – official

There's a nasty rider with Microsoft's latest security problem for NT users. Although a denial of service risk exists in an "important" security vulnerability, publicised yesterday affecting NT 4.0, Redmond tells users not to expect a patch for that operating system anytime soon. Windows 2000 and XP users do have access to a fix, designed to address a flaw involving Endpoint Mapper, but the best on offer for Win NT users is advice to shelter vulnerable servers behind a firewall. The vulnerability involves the Microsoft's implementation of Remote Procedure Call protocol, more specifically the component that deals with message exchange over TCP/IP. Malformed messages received by the Endpoint Mapper process, which listens on TCP/IP port 135, might cause a server to hang. Microsoft has provided patches with this bulletin to correct this vulnerability for Windows 2000 and Windows XP, but not Windows NT 4.0 - even though the OS is affected. In a surprisingly candid admission, the company states that fixing NT4.0 is simply too difficult. "The architectural limitations of Windows NT 4.0 do not support the changes that would be required to remove this vulnerability," Microsoft says. "Windows NT 4.0 users are strongly encouraged to employ the workaround discussed in the FAQ in the bulletin, which is to protect the NT 4.0 system with a firewall that blocks Port 135." Firewalling will probably keep external attackers at bay but the flaw gives attackers with intranet access considerable scope to crash, though not (it would seem root), inherently vulnerable NT4 boxes. ® External Links Microsoft's Security Bulletin Related Stories Critical Win2K flaw yields multiple attack vectors (different, even more serious, problem) Too cool for secure code Windows Root kits a stealthy threat Small WinXP security glitch, not many dead
John Leyden, 27 Mar 2003

FAST protocol supercharges networks

Boffins at California Institute of Technology are looking at ways of refining Internet protocols to achieve greatly increased transmission rates. By using FAST (Fast Active queue-management Scalable TCP), rather than the ubiquitous TCP/IP protocol, scientists have trebled the rate at which data can be sent over the Internet, Naturereports today. Essentially, FAST throttles transmission speeds when errors are encountered far more elegantly than is possible with TCP/IP. In tests using existing hardware and networks, Nature reportsFAST has "run the international links between labs at more than 95 per cent efficiency," . Nature categorises FAST as software, but it's actually a protocol. CalTech supplies a better and more detailed overview here. The development of FAST as still at its early stages (although the concept has kicking around the more esoteric branches of the IEEE for some months). In particular, tests on interaction with other forms of traffic on the Internet need to be carried out, to ensure the protocol does not hog connections or cause other unfortunate side-effects. For now this is very much a technology for nuclear scientists and the like to transfer large files over dedicated networks. Don't go expecting your broadband connection to speed up anytime soon. Nonetheless this seems to be a fruitful avenue of research and we await developments with interest. ®
John Leyden, 27 Mar 2003