2nd > May > 2003 Archive

Citizens Advice refute Welsh hack allegation

Our article yesterday suggesting that Welsh nationalists had hacked the Citizens Advice Bureau website failed to impress a number of readers. Among them was to Tim Blackwell who suggested we must have been "having a very low quality brain day if you truly imagine that www.citizenadvicebureaux.co.uk is the real Citizen's Advice Bureaux website. It's a pretty obvious pseudosquat by the nowinnofee people prominently advertised in the second paragraph." Correct: the whole thing is nothing more than a front for some shameless ambulance chasers. In fact, www.citizenadvicebureaux.co.uk has nothing to do with Citzens Advice, as Andy Taylor was quick to point out: Dear Lester As I work for Citizens Advice, I was a bit suprised to see your article today. Closer investigation shows that www.citizenadvicebureau.co.uk is not an official site, the domain is not even registered to the Citizens Advice Service. Our official "public" site is www.adviceguide.org.uk and the organisational site is www.citizensadvice.org.uk. I will pass this on to our Press Office who will probably be in touch with an official response. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you could update your story accordingly. Regards, Andy Taylor No problem. We reckon that the owners of www.citizenadvicebureaux.co.uk should run for cover and pull down the hatch. As for the "low quality brain day" slur, we'll let it pass. In the words of the old Jedi master: "Never let inconvenient facts impede publication of amusing story." This is a tenet to which we ridgidly adhere, as outraged members of the The New York Monaghan Association know only too well. ®
Lester Haines, 02 May 2003
server room

IBM x450: Stuck between Power and a hard place

AnalysisAnalysis IBM's release this week of its first Itanium 2 server gave the public a glimpse into the internal schisms affecting a company trying to be a one-stop server shop while still showing its mettle as a vendor with enough engineering expertise to go it alone. On one level, the x450 Itanium-based system is just another server. IBM already has a strong line of Intel-based hardware running on 32bit Xeon chips, which makes a four processor 64bit box look like a natural addition to the family. All the servers run Windows and Linux, and they use a common chipset -- Summit. Like its Xeon companions, the x450 also performs well in benchmarks. Armed with four 1.0GHz Itanium 2 chips, IBM delivered a record score running a SAP benchmark on DB2 and Windows Server 2003. The box outpaced HP's comparable rx5670 server. (PDF) IBM, however, has not uttered a peep about this benchmark, which is one in a long list of signs that the x450 is more than just another server. This product sits at the heart of a (T)itanic struggle within IBM. Secret Shame The x450 is the bastard child in IBM's server family. The company said in July of last year that it would deliver an Itanium 2 server sometime in 2002. By August, it already had product up and running in demos, but somehow it took eight more months before IBM put the system on sale. IBM says it wanted to wait until the Windows 2003 Server operating system arrived before shipping the x450. This reasoning does not jive with IBM's intense backing of Linux or the adoption trends of Itanium. The x450 demoed last August already ran mySAP and DB2 on top of 64bit SuSE. In addition, Itanium 2 has seen the majority of its success in technical computing accounts where Linux is the favored operating system. So why would a company backing Linux with a billion dollars wait for Redmond? The more likely scenario behind the x450's tardy arrival stems from a conflict between the xSeries Intel server folks and pSeries RISC server team at IBM. Itanic Sinking The first Itanium chip was a disaster, and IBM was burned by agreeing to join Intel on stage with HP, Dell and others to champion the new processor. IBM and Dell showed their displeasure with Merced by giving McKinley -the second Itanium- the cold shoulder at its release last year. IBM and Dell muttered at times about their support for the chip, but left HP to take the stage alone with actual servers. The slow adoption of the chip must have made IBM's xSeries and pSeries teams nervous. IBM revitalized its Unix server line with the 64bit Power4 processor, and the company did not want to cannibalise this. The pSeries executives spoke openly about their dislike for Itanium and desire to make the chip an afterthought. With Dell holding out on Itanium 2 as well, IBM knew it could put some public pressure on HP by keeping its systems in the labs. HP was the only major vendor with an Itanium 2 server and looked a little silly sitting by itself on the deck of the good ship Itanic. Compare IBM's strategy here to its support for the Opteron chip from AMD. IBM was the only big name vendor to bless this x86-64bit processor on its launch day and promised an Opteron server next quarter. With Opteron, IBM would stand alone, while HP chuckled nervously. The Opteron chip poses less of a threat to Power and more of a threat to Xeon, so this move makes sense. Itanic, on the other hand, runs square into the higher margin Power business. IBM prides itself on designing top class processors and Power4 stands as a shining example of research and development paying off. The chip is the first from any RISC vendor with dual processor cores and has rivaled Itanium 2 in performance. What motivation could IBM have for supporting a rival's chip over its own homegrown product? Out and proud. Sort of Truth be told, IBM came out with an Itanium 2 system to save face and keep up its image as a complete IT store. IBM always stresses that it will provide whatever customers need, and, for the most part, sticks close to this strategy. Selling hardware based on a wide variety of technology helps open sales for the software and services teams that generate the most revenue at IBM. When something like Itanium pops up, however, being all things to all people has certain costs. It's for this reason that IBM's marketing team debated whether or not to even put out a public statement about the x450's availability, according to sources. IBM was willing to ship Itanium; it just didn't want a lot of people to know about it. To the best of our knowledge, IBM only pre-briefed CNET about the system instead of doing the usual massive media outreach. We certainly were not on the briefing list, but that's alright since we announced the x450 to the world first. In the end, IBM did the deed and buddied up to Intel for a day instead of championing its own product. But now even with the product out the door, IBM's commitment to the x450 remains in question. The benchmark mentioned above used to be displayed with pride on Big Blue's server page. Thanks to Google for cacheing this page because after one call from The Register about the benchmark, it disappeared from IBM's performance hall of fame. (Update: The link was restored several hours after our story posted.) ®
Ashlee Vance, 02 May 2003

Scottish Linux centre helps secure boat to Rockall

Charity appeal updateCharity appeal update There was a tremendous response to our appeal to Register readers for support for The Rockall Times 2003 charity assault on Rockall, wittily entitled Rockall Ho! Our biggest problem at the time was securing transportation to Rockall. We should have known that the power of Vulture Central would come up trumps, for within an hour of the story going up, we were rung by one Malcolm MacSween. Malcolm is MD of Enterprise Management Consultanting which recently opened The Linux Centre on the Western Isle of Lewis as part of a development initiative in that part of the UK. Incredibly, he knows not only the Reg's own John Lettice, but also a sailing man in Troon, south of Glasgow, who put us in touch with local RNLI member and skipper Bob Johnston. Within a week Bob had secured us the use of the Syros Gyda, a 40-ft ocean going yacht: The two terrified-looking individuals on the right are none other than team members Kieren McCarthy, well known to Reg readers, and photographer Mark Alden. The photo was taken a few minutes after they found out we had a boat and really would have to go to Rockall after all. Says it all, really. So, on 20 July our team of five plus two skippers will leave Troon bound directly for Rockall. After roughly three days we should arrive at the sacred rock and begin our assault. In this we will be greatly aided by Al baker of Greenpeace, who recently signed up for the adventure. Al is a Rockall veteran, having participated in Greenpeace's 1997 42-day occupation of the islet in protest against exploitation of North Atlantic oil reserves. Our landing on Rockall will be benefiting Learning Difficulties Media, a new project by well-respected charity Mental Health Media. Learning Difficulties Media is "the latest initiative developed by Mental Heath Media. It will support and promote the voices and experiences of people with learning difficulties through a wide range of media including video, CD-ROM and websites. "It will bring together people with learning difficulties and those with expertise in media and production to work on a range of innovative projects. This will include media skills training for people with learning difficulties, training for journalists and film makers, an annual media award and the production of video and new media resources." Good stuff. There is, however, much still to be done. We continue our search for corporate support to offset the costs of our appeal. Naturally, we've got the best possible deal on practically everything, but there is an unavoidable cost associated with the boat. We've already attracted some kind sponsors, and we're sure that there are many firms out there who would like to add their name to list and bathe in glory alongside ace TV reporter Donal MacIntyre and the mighty Reg. And, if it's within reason - your corporate banner or t-shirt/hat on Rockall, we'll do it in return for your support. Contact us at rockall.ho@therockalltimes.co.uk. Alternatively, we are sure that someone among the friends of Vulture Central can help out with this: we need a laptop/satellite phone set-up for email/press/interview purposes, to compliment the digital camera set-up kindly donated by Fuji. If you think your kit can survive a trip to Rockall, here's your chance to find out. Naturally, we'd be delighted to return the favour with whatever form of publicity you think appropriate. Email us here if you can help in any way. We also need some proper sailing waterproofs and boots. In the unlikely event that a manufacturer of such apparel is reading this and would like to see his or her clothing take on the North Atlantic for charity, let us know. Finally, any individual wanting to donate straight to the appeal fund can do so via Pay Pal right here. Every penny of cash donated in this way goes straight to the charity. We're sure readers can spare a couple of quid or dollars: Thanks to all those who have so far supported our Rockall Ho! charity appeal, especially El Reg for its continuing help and encouragement.
Lester Haines, 02 May 2003

NTL has 380k 128K ‘broadband’ punters

More than half of NTL's customers use its always on 128K service, The Register can reveal. The UK's largest cableco has been very protective over any breakdown in its "broadband" customer base. However, according to internal figures seen by Vulture Central, NTL has, in total, a shade under 690,000 customers it regards as "broadband" punters. A smidge over 380,000 (55 per cent) of them are hooked up to the cableco's 128Kbps service. Around 280,000 (40 per cent) use the cableco's 600Kbps service. Almost 26,000 (four per cent) take NTL's 1Mbps service. A handful (1,800) subscribe to the company's 64Kbps service. Confirmation that more than half of the cableco's "broadband" customer base is made up of 128Kbps customers is likely to stoke further the debate over total broadband take-up in the UK. Only this week, the UK's cable industry (NTL and Telewest) bragged how it now had more than a million broadband customers. However, this breakdown of figures seen by The Register, combined with Oftel's decision to redefine broadband as services that are always-on and faster that 256Kbps, suggests that the cable industry has still some way to go before it truly meets its one million milestone. A spokesman for NTL declined to discuss the leaked figures saying: "We never comment on the breakdown of the figures." ® Related Stories Oftel redefines broadband UK cable industry has 1M broadband punters How broad before you can call it broadband? NTL's 128k service is/is not broadband - ASA Oftel in tizz over broadband Government redefines broadband
Tim Richardson, 02 May 2003

Microsoft's growing threat to biz app rivals

Microsoft is placing increased significance on its Business Solutions division, investing $2 billion and merging the SMB (small to medium businesses) and Business Solutions sales teams. The division's history of seeming semi-independence is over, and the increased level of backing will give specialist mid-market business application vendors a fresh cause to be fearful of Microsoft. Doug Burgum, head of Microsoft Business Solutions, has said the division is undergoing a massive step-up in terms of its significance within Microsoft. The company is investing $2 billion in the division, which will be split across product development, sales and marketing initiatives and investment in its partner channel. Of equal significance is an internal realignment of the sales operation whereby the Business Solutions sales team and the core Microsoft SMB sales team will come together as one unit under the Business Solutions banner to massively ramp up market momentum. The move means that for the first time, Microsoft will be able to offer SMB customers a single point of sales contact and support for its complete technology and application stack - a proposition that comes with the implicit promise of affordable, manageable integration. Previously, the SMB sales team sold the Windows platform, SQL Server, Exchange Server and the Office desktop application suite, leaving the Business Solutions division to sell business applications including the Navision and Great Plains lines plus in-house developed ones like Microsoft CRM. This approach created unnecessary complications for customers, as in some instances it meant they had to split a single solution purchase across two different sales operations. The end-to-end offering is likely to be a compelling argument among risk-averse, limited-resourced mid-market organizations. These can often be fazed by the prospect and the cost implications of putting together and managing the complex mix of middleware technologies and applications from multiple vendors that are needed to automate business operations. Although Microsoft Business Solutions is one of the seven core business units within Microsoft as a whole, it has maintained a semi-independent air and has appeared to have a lesser role within the organization. What is clear from these initiatives is that this is all changing and Microsoft will support the division with the full force of its brand and its deep resources as it attempts to capture the fragmented mid-market. © Datamonitor is offering Reg readers some of its technology research FOC. Check it out here.
Datamonitor, 02 May 2003

Computer crime sentences are ‘not good enough’

A senior policeman has called for higher sentences to combat hi-tech crime. Detective Superintendent Mick Deats, second in command of Britain's National High Tech Crime Unit, said that computer crime sentences are "not good enough". "What we're dealing with is hi-tech burglary - and sentences don't reflect that or the full impact on business of cybercrime." Det Supt Deats made his comments during a panel discussion on cybercrime at this week's Infosecurity show in London. During the session the Hi-Tech Crime Unit outlined its progress to date in investigating hi-tech crimes. These include investigations concerning: denial of service attacks, hacking, hi-tech fraud, extortion intellectual property theft and the use of the Internet by paedophiles and drug dealers. Since its foundation in 2001 the NHTCU has dealt with 2,000 crime reports, conducted 41 operations and made 101 arrests, 25 per cent of which relate to paedophilia charges. Det Supt Deats said 85 per cent of these arrests result in prosecutions, the majority of which are waiting to go to trial. Of those who have gone to trial, Det Supt Deats is far from satisfied with the outcome. So is additional legislation needed? Not according to Detective Chief Superintendent Les Hynds, head of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, who said existing laws - such as the Computer Misuse Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - are adequate. However he added a rider that neither piece of legislation has been fully tested in court. And there is now "incontrovertible evidence" that organised criminals are becoming involved in hi-tech crime, Hynds says. A recent NOP survey on cyber-crime revealed that even excluding the most common offences of lap-top theft and viral attacks three in four of 150 business surveyed had suffered from some type of hi-tech crime. Financial fraud and sabotage by insiders are the biggest problems. According to Deats, 56 per cent of organisations hit by hi-tech crime do report offences to police. However there remains a lack of openness about reporting cybercrime in particular sectors of the economy. Banks less than Frank Banks, for example, are not sharing information about serious fraud among themselves and this makes it easier for criminals to operate, Det Supt Deats believes. Ged Edgcumbe, security risk control manager, at investment bank UBS Warburg, conceded this point. "Bank don't talk about cybercrime, even internally. And if they do talk it is not necessarily open and frank," he said. Jeremy Beale, head of e-business at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said business concerns about cybercrime differ markedly from those of the police. Business are principally concerned that the rising problem of cybercrime might discredit ecommerce, which many firms are successfully adopting to improve their competitive advantage. For individual companies, damage to brand reputation caused by cybercrime incidents is the principal concern. The police want to catch criminals involved in cybercrime and prosecute them as a deterrent whereas firms hit by e-crime are principally interested in making sure it has a minimal impact on the businesses. "Police and business perspectives on cybercrime are world's apart," said Beale. ® Related Stories Hi-tech crime threatens UK plc - survey Web pedos crack into corporate servers Organised Net crime rising sharply - top UK cop UK plc reamed online Cybercops are go!
John Leyden, 02 May 2003

Chuck out your handsets, here come the wristphones

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Phones Samsung has said its GPRS wristphone will ship in Europe in time for Christmas. The device, announced earlier this year, is the world's smallest GPRS phone, claims Samsung. The phone operates in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands, and provides Bluetooth connections for headsets and PDAs. It has a built in speakerphone, and dialling is voice activated. The screen is a 256-colour 96x63 OLED panel. The phone measures 3.8 x 6.4 x 1.8cm and weighs less than 80g. Oh, and it offers 40 polyphonic ring tones. The 400mAh Li-ion battery provides one-and-a-half hours' talk time and 80 hours stand-by time. Pricing has yet to be announced. Not that Samsung wristphone will be first to market. Japan's DoCoMo will have that honour when it ships its Wristomo i-mode phone next week. The ¥37,000 device operates on Japan's PHS system, enabling internet access as well as voice calls. It also ships with software allowing its internal phone book and diary to by synchronised with Microsoft Outlook via a separate data cable - alas there's no Bluetooth support here, unlike the Samsung. However, the Wristomo does offer two hours' talk time. PDA Staying with NTT DoCoMo, the company has also launched a wireless sub-notebook, the Sigmarion III. Based on Windows CE.NET 4.1, the clamshell device offers built in wireless connectivity via Japan's 384Kbps FOMA network, the 64Kbps PHS system and slower GSM connections. The device sports a 400MHz Intel XScale PXA255 processor 800x480 widescreen TFT display. It contains 64MB of SDRAM and 16MB of Flash storage. There's a Type II CompactFlash slot and an SD Card slot for expansion. It contains a 5in 800x480 TFT colour screen. There's a USB port for PC synchronisation, plus the usual IrDA port, and 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks. The Sigmarion measures 18.9 x 11.7 x 2.1cm and weighs 455g, including the battery. The Li-ion power source provides four-and-a-half to eight hours usage, dropping to between three and five hours when the wireless connection is active. Mobo Tyan has unveiled its Thunder K8 S2880 mobo, designed for rack and tower servers based on AMD's Opteron chip. The Thunder K8S S2880 supports both Serial ATA and SCSI storage options, and includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports. The board can take up to 12GB of memory. There's a PCI-X 133/100 riser card support, integrated VGA graphics with 8MB local memory and IPMI v1.5 remote management. The Thunder K8S S2880 is sampling now, with volume production due later this month. Gigabyte has announced its GA-K8DPXDW mobo for AMD Opteron-based servers and workstations. The board can take up to two Opterons, and provides both Gigabit Ethernet and Serial ATA support. What chipset the part is based on isn't known - Nvidia's nForce 3 Pro 250 or VIA's Apollo K8T400M seem the likeliest choices - and Gigabyte won't say when the product will become available. ®
Tony Smith, 02 May 2003

EC waves through 3G UK network share

The EC has given the thumbs up for a 3G site-sharing agreement struck between T-Mobile and mmO2 in the UK. It says it expects to approve soon a similar site-share between the two companies in Germany. By teaming up in both countries, the duo can expect to save a few hundred million euro in capital expenditure. The Commission also ruled that there are no competition concerns between a proposed network share, which is restricted to "smaller cities and rural areas". National roaming agreements will not include the UK's 10 biggest cities, where, presumably, population density is high enough for the two mobile network operators to build exclusive infrastructure cost-effectively. It seems that this concession, offered by T-Mobile and mmO2 in March 2003, was the key to gaining EC approval. The site and network share proposal had, after all, been sitting in Brussels since February 2002. The site share also escapes competition concern as it is restricted to "sharing basic network infrastructure such as masts, power supply, racking and cooling". Besides, fewer masts chime with EU health and environmental policy, which is a bonus. According to the EC, the site-share will see a quicker 3G roll-out and better coverage into the countryside than would otherwise be the case. And it has exempted national roaming from antitrust rules in smaller cities until the end of 2007 and rural areas until the end of 2008. In a statement Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said: "This decision strikes the right balance between infrastructure competition in 3G markets and the immediate consumer benefit of having faster and wider roll-out of advanced 3G services. It gives guidance to mobile operators on the extent of co-operation that it permissible at this important juncture for the roll-out of 3G services across the EU". The press release is here ®
Drew Cullen, 02 May 2003

AOL centralises European ops

AOL's UK business - which doesn't pay VAT due to a loophole - is to start paying the tax indirectly via a new centralised European company from July 1. The UK ISP intends to absorb the tax hike and has no plans - at the moment at least - to pass on the charge to its UK customers. The move follows a decision by AOL to set up a new company - AOL Europe Services SARL - in Luxembourg that will provide all of AOL's services in Europe. Under the new set-up, all of AOL's European customers will be billed by the Luxembourg operation. As a result the company will be able to charge a single rate of VAT across all of its country operations, instead of charging different rates of VAT based on each individual country's tax laws. The move to centralise AOL's European business has been timed to coincide with the introduction of new European tax legislation, which comes into force from July. By establishing a central operation in Luxembourg, AOL claims it will lead to lower administration and network costs for its European business. An office employing around 25 people has already been set-up in Luxembourg alongside a new network operations centre (NOC). Details of the move were contained in an email to AOL UK subscribers yesterday. In the email Tony Hanway, VP Member Services, he said: "On 1st July 2003, the contracting party responsible for the supply of the AOL service (whether broadband or narrowband) and for the proper treatment of your personal information will be changed to another company within the AOL group, AOL Europe Services SARL. "From 1st July, this company will be contractually responsible for the provision of the AOL service to you in place of the current supplier, America Online Inc. "We are taking these steps to allow AOL to continue to provide services across Europe efficiently and cost-effectively," he said. AOL UK has received a lot of stick in the past - predominantly from rival Freeserve - over the tax loophole that exempts it from paying VAT in the UK. In September 2002 Freeserve estimated that AOL UK had avoided paying around £40m in VAT due to the exemption. It made the claim as it was given the green light to challenge an HM Customs and Excise decision not to charge VAT on AOL's Internet service in the UK. However, the judicial review has now been delayed until October 2003 because a key witness is on maternity leave. ® Related Stories Freeserve mulls another Madeira VAT move Freeserve gets nod for AOL legal action
Tim Richardson, 02 May 2003

Will the WiFi Bubble hypesters kill WiFi?

"Or the arrival of the Web browser, which blew millions of minds, making a mouseclick feel like teleportation." - Wired I was really calling the editor of Wired magazine, Chris Anderson, to check up on which weird and interesting drugs he was taking when he wrote the sentence you see above you. [* answer below] Anderson bet me that in five years time, there will be more 802.11 chipsets then there will be mobile phone chipsets. Naturally, opportunities like this don't come up every day, so of course I took him up on the offer. It was an affable chat, but by the end it was clear to me that Chris hadn't just drunk the Kool-Aid, his metabolism has mutated itself, Science Fiction-style, to produce the stuff on demand. So you never need go thirsty ever again. "The technology is Wi-Fi, and it's the first blast in a revolution, called open spectrum," he writes, "that will drive the Internet to the next stage in its colonization of the globe." "Dear ... ... L-L-Lord," my colleague here Ashlee would say. (Texans pace their speech with great care and attention to timing, which we appreciate, and which is how you can identify the POTUS as not being a genuine Texan, if you examine his speech closely. But we digress). Far from colonizing the globe, the Internet has failed to create much of a plut even here, in the land of its birth. From recent research, we learn that half of the richest nation on the planet has cottoned on to the Internet for what it really is: a boring, stupid and expensive information tool that doesn't really work very well. True believers dismiss this significant part of the population as Luddites. But I think they're making a sensible value judgment on the quality of the information they're receiving. It's not that they don't get it: they are simply exercising a vote and it's a pretty smart one: The PC-Internet proposition has value, but the experience is awful. It's not as easy to use as a can opener or a remote control. So where do you think our Brothers and Sisters go? C'mon. This isn't hard to figure out. However, to indulge the Deregulation Lobby for a moment, we must confess: it's certainly a beautiful dream. Home grown WiFi networks will cover the nation, giving us unlimited Internet access and phone calls, and the evil carriers will melt into history. Who doesn't want to believe? Show us the money However we must have a rational basis on which to proceed. And the problem with this alluring vision now is that there won't be enough money to sustain it. After all, everyone expects public WLANs to be free. "It's a hype cycle like we had around dot-coms. It's not focused on technical or economic reality," Qualcomm VP James Belk tells Business Week, a point we made here Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs tells the magazine how expensive it is to provide WiFi access, and the hidden costs that the lobbyists often fail to point out. "We believe Wi-Fi will explode in homes, large businesses, and college campuses," he says. "The real question is: Is there a business [behind] providing Wi-Fi in hot spots?" "The problem I have is seeing a long-term financial model in hot spots. Wide-area coverage, such as EV-DO, will provide high data rates over larger areas than Wi-Fi can. If you're paying a monthly rate to your cellular provider for the capability to get data anywhere, would you pay more to get Wi-Fi in hot spots? No. Plus, EV-DO is secure and requires less power than Wi-Fi does." Successful WiFi companies sell into the three business sectors Jacobs mentioned above, and stay well clear of the public access sector: "Hotspot is a good idea - but who gets paid?" Ben Guderian, a marketing director at SpectraLink told us. SpectraLink has a good business selling into health care and commercial organizations, and this week launched two new campus 802.11 phones. "When you try to make Wi-Fi cover a wide area, it's absolutely the worst way to do it, Martin Cooper, told CNET recently. Cooper is credited as the first person to make a cellphone call (in 1973, he led Motorola's cellular project). "In order to cover a city, you need a million sites; we actually did an analysis of that. And every one of them has got to have backhaul. So it turns out it's neither economical nor practical. " Can I climb up your pole? Writing in the investor magazine The Chili, Woz Ahmed, sums up the Bubble and adds another hidden cost to Jacob's list: infrastructure build out. This isn't a problem on campus or corporate networks, but planning permission is time consuming and expensive. "A WLAN operator must have the expertise to select, obtain planning permission, commission and manage hotspot sites. It may be uneconomic to do this, as the potential number of WLAN users will always be lower than cellular voice users." Even in densely populated urban centres, "it will not be cheap, as premises owners are contributing to the WLAN bubble by charging operators high fees for attractive hotspot locations, such as airports, conference centres, hotels, major transport terminals and routes." Of course, these inhibiting factors don't apply in a campus environment, or the home, as SpectraLink's Guderian told us, "The cost of wireless is getting low enough so that wireless can save wiring for both voice and data," he told us. Indeed this is where WiFi poses an acute danger to the incumbents: In The Chilli's opinion, WLAN is the Rabbit of Internet data, given its weaknesses in standards fragmentation, interoperability, roaming and business model. Rabbit was a hotspot initiative by Hutchison launched in 1989 which failed because the seamless coverage offered by the 2G networks was so much more popular. People appreciate the certainties of something just working. It will be amusing to see the WiFi lobby explain to their mothers, and other relatives, that you only need to "reset your Mac WEP parameters" every four hundred yards to keep your WiFi phone working, and we eagerly the responses to this modest request. Advantage Incumbent But who expects the carriers to vanish overnight? Debt-laden they may be, but they still have a steady income. And the traditional carrier business model has a significant advantagein economies of scale, over new entrants. The carriers have made expensive investments in upgrading their networks, but it voice. 3G networks are roughly four times as efficient as the 2G networks and more savings will be achieved as the old networks are turned off. Data is just a bonus. Admittedly, the carriers had expectations for mobile data that were almost as unrealistic as the WiFi/spectrum deregulation lobby has now. If only they'd asked the other half, the people who have voted with their feet when asked to comment on the glories of the Internet. The successful models for mobile data have been the ones that eschewed all pretence to be "The Internet" - WAP was sold as "the mobile Internet" - and delivered us a simple social service or communication channel. Forever Blowing Bubbles But you have to wonder how the bubble-boosters affect the prospects of successful businesses, such as the SpectraLinks who have built solid businesses on 802.11. In no small part, by wisely avoiding the public access arena. It's not as if the wireless world isn't interesting enough already. There's a frantic pitch for the retail markets going on right now, for the last "yard". Because so many people have phones, and they trust them to work, there's a lot of maneuvering around "Proximity Servers" and local wireless gateways. These represent serious gambles for the investors. But the WiFi Bubble is interesting if only because, a couple of years after the greatest loss of wealth in human history, it proves that we have astoundingly short term memories, that we are incapable of fixing structural problems with our trust capital relationships, but most of all, because we insist on perpetuating the dippy belief that technology can provide all of our answers. These delusions remain here on the West Coast. I suspect these folks will realize pretty soon that American capital - already thinking of a Sinofied Dell - has cut them adrift.® [*] Since you insist. This extraordinary statement had us leaping to the phone, such was our curiosity. Was it, we wondered DMT or Peyote? "Is this on the record?" Fraid so. "I'm, erm, much too boring to do anything like that." Shame. Related Stories Boffins outline 24Mbps mobile phone chip design Bored and confused by the PC Internet - world turns to phones
Andrew Orlowski, 02 May 2003

UK gov's ‘save on MS software’ deal slip-sliding away?

Is the Office of Government Commerce pushing water uphill when it comes to saving money on UK government software licences? A report published by the National Audit Office this week, Purchasing and Managing Software Licences, contains not a few hints that this might be the case. The OGC has, variously, negotiated memorandums of Understanding with software suppliers (the most significant of these being Microsoft), and published a guide on open source software implementation. It continues to make cautiously optimistic noises about the use of open source. Yet its savings target of £100 million over three years (one of which is already up) is largely dependent on the continued purchasing of Microsoft software by government departments, and although Corel, IBM and Sun have all struck similar deals to the Microsoft one with the OGC, they have found the response "disappointing" - only Sun, on the strength of StarOffice, remains optimistic. The NAO surveyed 66 departments and agencies, received more detailed responses from ten, and conducted case studies on four. 31 departments have used the Microsoft memorandum so far, and the ten departments "were able to estimate likely savings... of around £5.4 million." The report comments hopefully that the remaining departments "had largely purchased their software and licences [before the memorandum and] may be waiting until their existing agreements expire before taking advantage of the new arrangements." The NAO itself doesn't have a procedure whereby departments can report savings to it, and therefore uses data from suppliers. From this, it calculates "savings of £31 million from direct price reductions" (which we presume is not exclusively memorandum savings) across the public sector up to January 2003. 95 per cent of departments have Microsoft licences, which total 775,000, 70 per cent of all licences held. National Audit Office head Sir John Bourn pats the OGC on the head for securing the memorandums, but says it has to publicise the benefits more widely. Quantities of them, it appears, profess to have never heard of them. Essentially, the memorandum deals (specifically, the Microsoft one) can be seen as an attempt to short-circuit the 'divide, confuse, conquer' approach that software vendors can employ when dealing with governments department by department, or possibly in even smaller units, because it seems clear that numerous UK government departments do not even use their own mass to secure unified, advantageous deals. It may well be however that, so long as purchasing under the memorandums remains voluntary, so long as reporting is inadequate, and so long as ignorance is an excuse, a major balkanisation component will remain. (Last par entirely Regcomment, incidentally - as far as we know Bourn didn't say a dicky bird to this effect.) Of the four departments subject to case studies, the Department for Education and Skills (70 per cent Microsoft by volume) is using MS' academic discount schemes, and is "working on identifying where all its software is held and how it is licensed." Much-audited (by both the DES and MS) UK teachers will take some grim satisfaction in learning that the report feels the Department's licensing database is only 75-80 per cent accurate, and that it needs to learn to count better. The Ministry of Defence, with 130,000 Microsoft desktop licences, negotiated a four year deal prior to the engagement of the memorandum, and claims it could save £17 million on a total expenditure of £69 million. But one should consider the possibility that this is like those supermarket 'spend to save' offers. The more you spend, the more you save, and the more departments spend on MS Software, the more likely the OGC is to achieve its £100 million 'saving.' It's worth noting that tracking licences, and controlling the unauthorised purchase and introduction of software, is a major issue returned to repeatedly in the report. This is of course a perfectly rational concern in the world of government software as it currently exists, and as it will persist through the Microsoft memorandum, but it's clearly an area where the government could also apply itself to identify savings - via, perhaps, alternative apporaches to licensing? ®
John Lettice, 02 May 2003

US advises against Taiwan travel

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially recommended that travellers steer clear of Taiwan because of concerns over the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The CDC is now advising "people planning elective or non-essential travel to Taiwan may wish to postpone their trips until further notice". It said it is issuing this advice as a result of the "magnitude and scope of the evolving outbreak, including a rapid increase in suspected and probable cases without apparent epidemiologic links, raising concern about community transmission". Taiwan has recorded 95 SARS cases to date, three of which have proved fatal, though up to 200 people may have been infected. Yesterday, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian called the outbreak "a national security issue," according to a Reuters report. Today, Taiwan's parliament approved a $1.4 billion special fund to combat the disease. As yet the economic impact of the disease and the uncertainty surrounding has not been calculated. Earlier this week, the Taipei Computer Association announced it had postponed this year's Computex show, originally due to be held on 2-6 June in Taipei. Computex is the region's largest computer show. Taiwan itself is home to many of the world's key computer manufacturers, producing PCs, notebooks and peripherals for the world's best-known brands. ® Related Story SARS suspends key Taiwan trade show Related Link CDC: Taiwan travel advisory
Tony Smith, 02 May 2003
Broken CD with wrench

Dell ‘looking closely’ at AMD's Opteron – again

The old 'Dell to offer AMD-based systems' chestnut has been pulled from the roasting tray again following comments made by various senior Dell executives to the effect that the company is taking a very close look at AMD's Opteron chip. So we have Dell COO Kevin Rollins telling a Merrill Lynch conference that the PC giant is looking at the new 64-bit CPU "very closely". And in a Fortune article on AMD's new baby, Rollins says: "We are looking very closely at AMD's products right now." The same article notes a comment made by Michael Dell himself at the World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland earlier this year. "We're open to whatever our customers want," he said at the end of a discussion about Dell using AMD's chips. Now there's no doubt AMD would very much like to have Dell on board, as would the company's many fans. Apart from IBM, AMD has no top-tier server vendor support for Opteron, and if it's to build credibility with business buyers, that's exactly what it needs. AMD may have a good reputation in the consumer PC space, it has relatively little standing in the business computing arena, particular in the server segment. And Dell remains the one major vendor AMD has yet to crack. Dell remains an Intel-only supplier, and AMD would love to change that. Whether that's an issue for Dell's customers, however, is open to question. Certainly they appear happy with the status quo - Dell's not exactly losing customers, after all. But can we read anything into Rollins and co.'s comments? For a start, it's hard to imagine that Dell wouldn't be looking at Opteron. What server/workstation vendor isn't going to take the opportunity to check out new processor technology when it arrives. We've heard similar comments concerning Dell's interest in almost every new chip AMD has launched during the past three or four years, but to date the manufacturer hasn't gone on to use one of them. In the Fortune piece, Dell CTO Randy Groves offers one reason why: "Until now, AMD's value proposition has been Intel compatibility at a lower cost," he says. "Now it's not a pricing discussion. [AMD64] is something Intel doesn't have." This is interesting for two reasons. The obvious one is the acceptance that AMD64, the 64-bit technology on which Opteron is based, takes AMD to a new level. The second reason is more puzzling. If AMD is offering Intel compatibility at lower cost, why isn't Dell, that most price-driven of PC vendors, more interested in its products? Groves' comment suggests that Dell hasn't bought AMD before because of price. It can't be because those prices were too low, so it must be because Intel was cheaper. It has often been claimed, but never confirmed, that Intel offers Dell preferential pricing, either because of Dell's weight or to ensure it remains an Intel-only shop. Groves' comment is the closest we've come to a statement from either company that that's the case. Now, with Athlon and its predecessors, Dell could make that trade-off work, threatening to take AMD's chips if Intel wouldn't give it a better deal. Opteron changes that by delivering, as Rollins says, something Intel doesn't: 64-bit computing at 32-bit prices. Dell can no longer say to Intel, give us the same but cheaper. No matter how far Intel discounts Xeon, for example, it still can't provide 64-bit processing. And there's no way - well, no sensible way - it's going to cut Itanium 2 pricing to Opteron levels. But before AMD supports start celebrating AMD's conquest of Dell, it's clear that nothing's going to happen until customers start asking Dell for Opteron-based systems. Rollins implied at the Merrill Lynch gig that Dell is waiting for customer interest to hit the point at which the company's spreadsheets tell it that it could make money selling Opteron-based systems. That spreadsheet will undoubtedly factor in Intel's discounts and the effect on Dell of losing them, so we'd imagine that a very large number of potential orders will have to come Dell's way before it starts offering Opteron. And that is unlikely to happen before Microsoft ships Windows Server 2003 with AMD64 support, an event not expected before the summer. Businesses interested in Opteron's potential will want to evaluate systems before they commit to the new processor. Given current corporate spending patterns, that could take some time, and AMD has to convince them first that its technology has a place in the business computing environment. In short, there's a long way between 'looking closely' and 'buying' - and many a slip twixt the two. ®
Tony Smith, 02 May 2003

Intel to counter Athlon 3200+ with 3.2GHz P4

AMD will launch its anticipated 400MHz frontside bus Athlon XP processor later this month ahead of the official debut of further 800MHz FSB Pentium 4 parts from Intel. The AMD's 400MHz FSB chip is based on the company's Barton core. AMD has yet to announce the part, but as we've reported before, company staffers have alluded to and mobo companies have effectively pre-announced. Some roadmaps detailed by Japanese Web site PC Watch suggested back in March that the 400MHz FSB Athlon would ship in a late-April to mid-May timeframe, and recent reports from CNET and DigiTimes cite sources confirming the latter date. The initial roadmap report pointed at a 400MHz FSB Athlon XP 3200+. Later reports confirm that rating, and claim that AMD will release a 3000+ version too. The current Athlon XP 3000+, which supports a 333MHz FSB, is priced at $325, so we'd expect the new parts to come in at that price-point or just above it. They are unlikely to be more expensive than the $690 Opteron 242. We'd estimate a price of around $600 for the 3200+. Intel's plan to introduce 2.4, 2.6 and 2.8GHz Pentium 4s supporting the quad-pumped 200MHz FSB - for an effective 800MHz frequency - has been known for some time. The chip giant will ship its Springdale chipset at the same time. However, while earlier reports claimed Intel would ship a 3.2GHz clock, 800MHz FSB P4 toward the end of the current quarter, DigiTimes' mobo-maker sources claim that the part will debut on 21 May too. The chips' introductory prices are expected to be $278 for the 2.8GHz P4C, $218 for the 2.6GHz P4 and $178 for the 2.4GHz P4C. The 'C' indicates 800MHz bus support when there's already a 533MHz FSB chip at that clock speed. The 3.2GHz P4 is expected to be priced at $637. The 21 May launch will be prefaced by price cuts to the current 533MHz FSB P4 line-up on 11 May. ® Related Stories Nvidia to support 400MHz FSB Athlon XP with new chipset AMD plan to offer 400MHz FSB Athlon XP slips out AMD 'evaluating' 400MHz FSB for Athlon XP AMD roadmap slots 400MHz FSB Athlon XP launch in April/May Intel readies 11 May 30 per cent Pentium 4 price cut - report
Tony Smith, 02 May 2003

Finns swoop on Commtag

Commtag, the always-op mobile email start-up, is to have a new owner. Step forward, Smartner Information Systems, of Finland, which is to wrap Commtag's Duality Always-On Mail technology into its mobile office suite, Office Extender. Terms are not disclosed, and Commtag's VCs will have to wait a while yet for a clean exit, as the transaction is entirely share-based. Unless there's a big upside in Smartner equity, the VCs look like they're taking a bit of a bath. Our understanding is that the deal values Commtag at €1.3m, somewhat less than the $5m or so sunk into the business to date. Smartner claims Vodafone Ireland and Swisscom among clients for Office Extender. This product "enables real-time access to office systems with practically any mobile device available". ®
Drew Cullen, 02 May 2003

St Albans e-voting trial goes horribly wrong. Almost

It's still too early to say whether evoting helped increase the number of people taking part in last night's local elections in England. The Electoral Commission reports that local authorities trialling all-postal pilot schemes saw turnout rise to an average of 50 per cent compared to an average voter turnout of around 33 per cent. But early indications show that electronic voting - by telephone, text messaging, digital TV and the Net - did not have the same impact on turnout as postal pilots, said the Electoral Commission today. A report into yesterday's evoting trial is expected to be published in July. No doubt it will contain a sizeable explanation concerning the goings-on in St Albans. For although more people voted in yesterday's local elections in St Albans compared to last year, there were red faces all round after the technology on trial went on the blink. The local election vote was thrown into confusion with the St Albans Observer reporting that things got so bad it almost led to the vote being declared null and void. The problem centred on the Presiding Officers' PCs, which are designed to check the electoral roll as voters entered the polling station. Some of the PCs in the voting booths - which gave punters the chance to vote online - also suffered hiccups. As a result, voters were forced to resort to traditional methods of voting - a piece of paper and a crayon. BT - the outfit behind the St Albans trial - said the computers which "experienced faults" were "installed by one of the contractors employed by BT to deliver technology and services to the local authorities". Normal service was resumed at around 5pm yesterday afternoon. The local council today confirmed that turnout in St Albans was up five per cent to 43 per cent compared to last year. According to research published recently by the Electoral Commission, half of adults reckon technology could make the difference to them voting or not. ® Related Story E-voting could cure voter apathy
Tim Richardson, 02 May 2003

Cisco's IP phone eavesdropping kit ready to go

Cisco is pressing ahead with plans to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to monitor IP telephony calls. The networking equipment giant is "testing surveillance products in its labs and making the service available to customers on request", Cisco spokesman Jim Brady told AP. Although the technology is yet to be deployed, surveillance capability has been built into a number of products, Cisco says. The company has submitted a standard for a "Lawful Intercept In IP Networks" service to the IETF back in March. Although still only a draft, Cisco latest statement on the subject shows that the undetectable tapping of IT Telephony calls is just around the corner. A key requirement of the standard is for intercepts to remain undetectable. Cisco has also put some thought into securing the technology from misuse by crackers. When a service provider encrypts traffic (for example using a VPN) tunnel the standard provides for a mechanism for ISPs to turn over encryption keys to law enforcement agencies. Wiretaps are normally made only with judicial oversight. Cisco says it's up to its customers to make sure that relevant laws are observed. In developing the technology, which essentially provides a more targeted and elegant means to do something that's already possible, Cisco says it is only responding to customer demand. The lawful interception draft was developed by Fred Baker, a Cisco fellow and former chairman of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Prior to the availability of the technology, CNet's Declan McCullagh conducted an informative interview with Baker on the subject. ®
John Leyden, 02 May 2003

IT certification scam rumbled

Pearson VUE, the electronic testing business of Pearson Education, is trying to track down a rogue outfit offering guaranteed online IT certifications - at a price. An email currently doing the rounds is promising people what it calls the "easiest way to pass IT certification exams". The rogue outfit is offering guaranteed passes for Microsoft exams for $150; $300 will secure a Cisco exam. Says the email: "You can achieve any IT certification at your doorstep without doing anything. You don't need to go any testing centre, no need to cram questions, no need to spend money on braindumps. "We have our own Testing centre...and we will register and take your exam at our center with 100% passing guarantee." However, a spokesman for VUE Business - one of the testing centres named in the email - told The Register that the company was aware of the scam and warned that anyone taking a certification exam should stay well clear of such offers. "VUE has over 3,000 authorised testing centres around the world, so every now and then one of them engages in this illegal behaviour and our security people work to track down the perpetrators and shut them down," he told us. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 May 2003

NJ couple accused of mass ID theft

An office junior at a New Jersey mortgage broker and her boyfriend have been charged with fraud by the FBI following the theft of thousands of credit reports from Weichert Financial Services. Marie Louissaint and Ronald Hyppolyte have been held without bail since their arrest on Wednesday, AP reports. Investigators believe 3,774 credit profiles on Weichert Financial's computer systems had been illegally accessed since November 2002, including 500 allegedly accessed from a PC located at an address where the couple lived earlier this year. Louissaint and Hyppolyte are charged with using this information to fraudulently obtain credit cards issued in false names, which they used to buy goods over the Net. FBI officers recovered 11 credit profiles, fake driving licenses in the name of a Weichert Financial customer but bearing Louissaint's picture and two digital projectors, worth over $3,500 each, when they arrested the couple. ® Related Stories ID theft: a $1bn a year crime Feds break massive identity fraud Trainee dishwasher pleads guilty to $80m identity fraud Identity Thefts from the Rich and Famous Stomp the identity thieves
John Leyden, 02 May 2003

What really happened with the NewZealand.com case

Following the saga over the NZ$1 million (£350,000) that it was recently revealed the New Zealand government had paid for NewZealand.com, further parliamentary questions have uncovered more revelations behind the expensive cock-up. MP Rodney Hide, a specialist in finance in auditing, has been unearthing quite what happened and how come so much public money was unnecessarily wasted. In answers given today to Parliamentary questions asked just over a week ago, it appears the government reached agreement with Virtual Countries to pay it NZ$1 million for NewZealand.com, just 19 days after its attempt to steal the domain at domain arbitrator WIPO had failed and the government was accused of reverse domain name hijacking. An extraordinarily small time-frame for such agreement to be reached you would think, especially considering the sums involved. Unless of course you believe that the government already knew its legal case was doomed to failure. That, after all, is exactly what the three WIPO judges believed. In their official report, they stated: "Having read the Response of the New Zealand Government to the WIPO Secretariat’s questionnaire referred to above, the Panel is unanimous in its view that when the Complaint was launched, those responsible for the Complaint, the New Zealand Government, were well aware that a claim to trademark and service mark rights in respect of NEW ZEALAND was baseless." So, the government KNEW it was going to fail before it even took out the action. How much did this action cost? Well, thanks to immaculate bookkeeping (and Mr Hide's questions), we can tell you that it cost exactly NZ$57,770.21 (£18,500). Of this, the vast majority - NZ$47,100 (£16,500) - was taken up by legal advice. Legal advice that presumably said the government had no chance of winning. (We could have told them that for, say, £1,000.) So, another NZ$58,000 wasted unnecessarily. It gets better though. The New Zealand government did manage to get hold of NewZealand.biz following a very dubious decision by WIPO because of its impending trademarks on 2 October 2002. Its bill in that case was just NZ$18,734.54 (£6,560) of which NZ$14,491 (£5,070) was in legal fees. The New Zealand government had applied for five trademarks covering the words "New Zealand" for a range of goods in June 2001 (T/marks 640615 to 640619). It was sent warning of abadonment a year later and, obviously inspired, within a week it filed at WIPO against the owner of NewZealand.biz. WIPO decided to award the domain on the basis of these trademarks (itself an arguable position). But the trademarks themselves were REFUSED by the New Zealand Patents Office just 27 days later on 29 October 2002. The government made no attempt to fight the decision and they were abandoned on 17 March 2003. Even more interestingly, the New Zealand government failed to raise the fact that it had also applied for two "Biz" trademarks at exactly the same time as the other goods trademarks. These were finally accepted AFTER the WIPO decision on 4 November 2002 and were registered last month on 3 March 2003. Why on earth didn't the government raise these trademarks? Surely a pending "biz" trademark makes its case all the stronger? Or could it be that this would make its aggressive approach too transparent and risk not only a decision against it but also the charge of reverse domain name hijacking that was subsequently found in the NewZealand.com case. You also have to question Frederick M. Abbott's skills as a WIPO judge. Since WIPO is solely concerned in these cases about trademarks, is it not incredible that Mr Abbott completely failed to notice the "biz" trademarks? Or if he did, should he not have commented on the fact? Mr Abbott himself is one of judges most frequently chosen by WIPO to sit on single-panellist cases. Although his pro-complainant track record is not as high as more controversial WIPO judges, it is certainly above average. In the case of the NewZealand.com case, made just one month later, the situation was slightly different however. The final decision not to hand over the more valuable .com domain was made after the trademarks had been refused on 29 October 2002. The original complaint to WIPO was made on 12 August 2002 and the final piece of evidence submitted was on 5 October 2002. So the panel could well have been aware that the trademark application had been refused (simply by checking online) but were not able to raise this fact since it had not been submitted in evidence. Indeed, it was impossible for it to have been. This may explain the odd paragraph in the .com judgement: "The Complainant [NZ government] has no trademark registrations of the name and has not produced in evidence details of any such registrations in the name of anybody else whom she represents. In passing, the Panel observes that the trademark and service mark applications for NEW ZEALAND filed in New Zealand by the Complainant of themselves are no indication that the Complainant has any relevant rights in the name and the Panel ignores them. On their face they are open to the objection that they are deceptive unless the specifications are restricted to goods/services from New Zealand; yet, if the specifications are so limited, the inherent descriptiveness of the name will be highlighted." This then is why the New Zealand government thought it would win the case since it would play by WIPO rules by having impending trademarks. This was no doubt the expensive legal advice it was given. And it worked. For .biz anyway. Among WIPO's many many sins in deciding domain cases has been the acceptance of an applied-for trademark as pseudo-proof of a real trademark. It manifestly fails to account for the fact that a soon-to-be trademark owner could simply delay their action until they received the trademark and ignores the fact that many trademark applications fail. But as soon as the trademark applications were turned down on 29 October 2002, the New Zealand government knew it would - or, rather, should - lose the case and so drew up plans to buy the NewZealand.com domain, without consultation, we may add, with Parliament of any of those taxpayers that would foot the bill. So a huge waste of money because the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs (in WIPO reports) and Minister for Trade Negotiations (in Parliamentary questions) the Honourable Jim Sutton wanted the .com domain. And if our suspicions are right, we may go through the whole thing again for NewZealand.net and possibly even NewZealand.info. But more of that later. ® Related link Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand Related story NZ.gov coughs up NZ$1m for newzealand.com
Kieren McCarthy, 02 May 2003

HP shuffles hardware execs

Hewlett-Packard today announced a sweeping set of management changes in its enterprise hardware group in a much-needed move to better align the company's overall strategy since it acquired Compaq one year ago. HP has created a new business unit called Enterprise Storage and Servers that will be headed by Senior VP Scott Stallard. The company previously had separate groups for its Business Critical Systems, Industry Standard Servers and Network Storage products, but has now brought them together under one executive. Stallard will continue to report to Peter Blackmore who runs the Enterprise Systems Group at HP. HP has also started a new Business Management and Operations group and appointed Howard Elias, former head of storage, to oversee this division. Sadly, Mary McDowell, current head of Intel-based servers at HP, will take a short sabbatical, but she plans to return as a senior vice president, HP said. McDowell is always a pleasure to talk to, so we hope she does indeed come back. All of these changes point to a recognition on HP's part that it needed to better align its product strategy. "The various system groups at HP may have made nice with each other in public since the merger," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata . "But time and time again, you see an Industry Standard Servers strategy and a Business Critical Systems strategy and you wonder if the merger was just a bad dream that never actually happened because the two strategies certainly appear to be from different companies." A number of analysts charge that HP's different business groups gave mixed messages about future product directions. The old Compaq folks, for example, had a thriving Xeon server business and have been reluctant to even mention HP's high end Superdome system, which has been part of the Unix group. While Superdome is still only available with HP's own PA-RISC chips, it will soon ship with Intel's Itanium 2 processors, making it a natural extension of the Compaq group's Xeon servers. So, all of the server groups within the new HP should have been hawking Superdome for some time. "This reorg looks to be a determined attempt to create the sort of integrated product line that Compaq itself always lacked after its Digital and Tandem acquisitions," Haff said. "But common executives don't automatically create common cultures. That's going to be the tough one." "If things still aren't fixed 6 or 12 months from now, maybe someone else will be going on sabbatical." HP's hardware business has been losing money hand over fist, and the company is working to correct this through layoffs and other cost-cutting measures. This reorganization appears to be another attempt at bringing the hardware business back to profitability. ®
Ashlee Vance, 02 May 2003

RIAA flames Sun

Sun Microsystems employees have been caught with their hands in the file-trading cookie jar, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is not happy about it. The RIAA sent a "cease and desist" order to Sun after discovering that some of the server makers' employees had been downloading copyrighted files at work. This is part of a broad attack by the RIAA against college students, the military and companies. Sun responded to the RIAA's order by issuing its own cease and desist order to employees. "Downloading copyrighted software is illegal and a violation of Sun's business conduct policies regarding inappropriate use of Sun's resources," a pair of Sun executives wrote in an e-mail, The Register has confirmed. "Sun employees are prohibited from engaging in this practice using Sun time or Sun resources." "Employees engaged in this practice are putting Sun (not to mention themselves) in legal jeopardy and must cease and desist IMMEDIATELY," the e-mail continues. "In addition, employees who have such downloaded songs on their Sun systems must IMMEDIATELY purge these works. . . We will be conducting an internal audit shortly to ensure compliance, and that infringing materials have been removed from Sun's systems." Sun does have intellectual property of its own that it likes to protect, but in many ways this must have been a bitter pill to swallow. Sun's long-standing mantra has been "The Network is the Computer," and P2P systems provide a nice proof point of the power inherent in connected systems. Millions of files zipping across the Internet also means more business for Sun's server and storage groups. In addition, Sun developed its JXTA project to help make P2P networks work better and to create, in the long run, more demand for powerful servers. Intel's Chairman Andy Grove has also spoken out about his appreciation for P2P networks as a driver for the technology business. Again, more media files demand more processing power, which plays right into Intel's hands. It's time for the technology powerhouses in the U.S. to stand up and fight the music labels. Technology is the future of this country, and we should not let a few laggards keep us in the 20th century just so they can preserve an ancient music distribution model. ®
Ashlee Vance, 02 May 2003

DRMing up support for Steve's music shop

LettersLetters A frantic surge of email in defense of Apple's online music service appeared yesterday. Here's a selection of letters from the week. I have 1.3 days of music burned into iTunes3; all from my own collection, none "stolen"... but I am thinking twice about using the AAPL service. DRM seems inescapable, but Steve's terms have to be a little sweeter I think. Weldon Monsport The problem isn't Apple, many of you say. Apple is simply doing the RIAA's dirty work for them: Ideally we'll get to 15 cent downloads for whimsical impulses and trial listens and $6 CDs. Personally I think that's where the record companies could optimize their revenue. These things are incremental, and there's no reason they can't open the streaming to purchased music in the next rev once they calm the fears of the record folks. To slap the RIAA in the face with streaming at the moment they've opened their catalogs to you is pretty harsh - it's good to pull the punch just a bit. It's the decent thing to do... Free music isn't fair, but it's currently justifiable as retribution against a belligerent recording industry. I've also finally figured out over these last couple days what I want out of online music - cheaper CDs. I don't like downloading music. Didn't like it free, and don't like it for a fee. I like holding the CD, looking at the art, seeing the paint on the disc. A transfer of bits just feels like reading a secondhand paperback - fine if it's a trash novel, but not the way you want to build a library of classics. The problem isn't Apple, the problem is the record companies insisting on $.60 a song when all they have to do is sit and count. Greg Best But many reckon we haven't cut Apple a break: "Rex Raymond" Date: Fri May 2, 2003 12:44:58 PM US/Pacific To: andrew.orlowski@theregister.co.uk Subject: RE: Sugared water Apple censors Miles Davis Quit whining. From: Zapski Date: Thu May 1, 2003 7:05:57 PM US/Pacific To: andrew.orlowski@theregister.co.uk Subject: Oh smeg off Insert rant here. That's about as meaningful and accurate as your reviews have been of late. Cheers. Z Thank you. Fortunately there others who make the case slightly more articulately. A student writes: It's quite plain to see that you are not very clued up when it comes to commenting on Apple's Music service. It is a true breakthrough, and although DRM is included, it is done in a truly sane manner. So stop whining, just because you're not such a big fan of Apple/have a bug-bear about ANY DRM when it actually turns out that things aren't so bad. -Peter Laurens Be careful Peter - you must stop sharing music or you will be in trouble. Although you may be in the UK, they are going after our youth, now. Give the service a chance to grow, many of you in the Thursday flood say: The catalog is definitely short, no surprise there, the labels have pretty much demonstrated their insane fear of electronic distribution by third parties already, and I hardly expected them to jump in with both feet. I certainly wasn't ecstatic about the restrictions but the terms aren't really that onerous for my habits, I mostly burn to CD for my walkman or car, and since there's no restriction on that, I'm fine with it. As far as losing purchased music due to some failure or other, I really don't see the point at all, if I haven't properly backed up, I'm not going to complain to Apple that I've lost my porn stash and all my invoices, why would I complain about the song files? Cory D Cyr ('FMU fanatic) I think the quotes from disgruntled Apple Music store users were a bit over the top. Such as: "I'm all for Apple's great new music idea," says Don, "But I'm afraid Apple made it easy for us to have to 'repurchase' all our music if the shit hits the fan. I feel they should be responsible for giving us a way to redownload without having to repay". Most Apple users, I like to believe, take small incidents with a little more equanimity. Like myself: I've spent a mere 15 hours over the last week trying to convince my iMac that "Yes, darling, that's a fucking mouse-down, so select something from the drop-down menu, you fucking white and plexi turd before I take you over to Tiburon and shove you straight up Steve Job's ass". With that sort of adamantine reliability, why Don act so worried? He's undoubtedly a pirate. I'm of a mind to stick the RIAA on him. Pat Collins If you want to remove the copy protection, just burn the song onto a CD in iTunes then reimport it using the same. Shazzam, new mp3s (or AAC files if you like), with no copy protection and minimal loss of quality. The workaround is there using the same Apple app that hosts the music store, for anyone who can be bothered to look for it. The article also gave the impression that the Music Store launch has fallen a bit flat. Given that so far this venture is limited to people who own Macs running OS X, who live in the US, who want to buy music so much they downloaded iTunes 4 (8mb), and who had even heard of the service, I'd say 275,000 tracks sold in the first 18 hours is nothing short of phenomenal when compared to previous on-line retail efforts. Nathan Harris But it's not that simple. Apple DRM locks your music: Here's an idea. I think it points out the absurdity of the whole DRM situation. We know that you can take an AAC file from Apple's music store, transcode it to a WAV file, and then re-encode that WAV file to whatever you want - MP3, Ogg Vorbis, unprotected AAC, etc. - using whatever software you want. The resulting WAV file sounds as good as the original AAC, obviously. [1] The WAV->FormatX re-encoded file suffers from some loss of quality, yes, but the consumer can decide whether that's acceptable. So why doesn't Apple start selling the AAC->WAV transcoded WAV files? Or better yet, re-encode these to high-bitrate MP3 and Ogg Vorbis and unprotected AAC (to keep the re-encoding as pristine as possible)? Save the customer a step, give everybody using non-Apple products what they want, sell a *lot* more music. No harm done to the music industry, since they've already bought into this system (whether they realize it or not). Is it just me, or is this not *painfully* obvious? I find it absurd that the RIAA has agreed to a DRM system where you can create a WAV file that is unprotected and sounds as good as the protected AAC. What the hell is the point of DRM, then? Just give me the unprotected AAC file and save me the hassle! The hassle won't stop legions of filetraders from doing this on a massive scale. The success of Napster and Kazaa has proven that. I'm a willing-to-pay customer, so why penalize me? Drew Hess [1] this assumes that Apple hasn't "sabotaged" the protected AAC->WAV decoding process to introduce noise and artificially degrade the quality. That's certainly one to watch. Chris Marshall makes a similar point, and adds, "I, too, believe that Fleetwood Mac sold their soul when they traded P.G. for B.W." Without doing some serious investigation into this particular service I can't really say where the balance was struck on this one, though at first blush it appears much more equitable than the entertainment pigopolist's idea of DRM (buy one copy for the car, one for the home stereo, one for your boom box, one for the walkman, etc.; hmmm...sounds a lot like software licenses, doesn't it?). Regardless, DRM is probably as inevitable as file swapping. I think the real action now is in the legal, political and social arenas where the way this stuff gets used will be determined. Chris Kaminski On the other hand, nothing is inevitable, we must point out. Others point out more flaws in the Apple DRM: Isn't the point of having an Apple Account stored on Apple's servers with which to purchase music from iTunes 4 so that they can track your purchases and know what songs you've bought? Apple's statement that if you lose your songs you'll have to purchase them again is pure ridiculousness. You can only have up to three computers authorized to play your music (the KB article coyly doesn't mention whether it's three at once, or three ever, which is a very important distinction), so the worst that could happen if they let you re-download music that they know you've already purchased is that you could download them onto three different computers that are, oh wait, authorized to play the music anyways. Is Apple getting stingy and charging for bandwith, here? Keep up the good fight against CPRM, by the way. I salute your efforts. Jeff Mitchell P800 owner Tim Biller asks an important question: If Apple is censoring Miles Davis' Bitches Brew what will they make of Wayne County and the Electric Chairs (mysteriously missing from most FM playlists) "If You Don't Want To Fuck Me Baby, Baby Fuck Off" track? One of my personal Desert Island Discs, but not heard much on UK radio. Censoring a word like bitches is possibly understandable. Try doing a search for a track like 'Cock the hammer' by Cypress Hill! I would have thought an American company wouldn't have a problem with a gun reference. "Woody" Thanks Woody, but look out - with your name, you may be next. Nick Birch asks, "Just a thought: might the ...B***ches Brew... edit be to stop a content sensitive firewall preventing the download?" Maybe. But it would have to be an incredibly stupid firewall. Or an incredibly clever Puritan firewall which would find new ports to watch, and look for rude words there. I like the McDonalds quick-fix of the music world metaphor... Nothing replaces that live music performance Rob Hague And another music lover writes: As someone wedded to vinyl, I'm unlikely to be using the iTunes Music Service even if it does appear on these shores, but I do think its worth pointing out that Apple have alaways used software to drive Hardware sales. OK so 3rd party mp3 player owners may be a little pissed off they can't use their players with the iTunes music service, well perhaps they will buy iPods next time. First time mp3 player buyers are more likely to buy iPods as a result. Once again Apple is driving hardware sales with proprietary software, which is pretty much their business model. One might hope, though, that Apple produces a solid state based 'Baby iPod', say an un-expandable 128Mb player. A player for the rest of us who can't afford iPods just yet. We can but dream. Ed Lynch-Bell On a related subject, a word on the antics of a friend of Al Gore, who is a friend of Steve Jobs, Ms. Hilary Rosen: RE: RIAA's Rosen 'writing Iraq copyright laws' Writing copyright law, or any law for that matter, requires knowledge of the people who will be living by it, or so one would think. Hilary barely understands the people in her native US of A. This *is* a late April fool's Day joke, isn't it. It is too ludicrous to be believable. Joe McGuire In fact, this story first appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Greg Palast tells us. "Hilary Rosen was talking to Grover Nordquist [President of Americans for Tax Reform] at a social discussion, and she says 'I'm writing the copyright law', and Nordquist says 'And I'm writing the tax law'". Just thought you should know. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 02 May 2003

CA geeks told What Not to Wear

The good old days of strolling to work in a pair of torn jeans, a t-shirt and sandals have passed at Computer Associates. The software maker has instituted a new dress code, allegedly after Chief Sanjay Kumar expressed shock and awe about some of CA's unkempt engineers. CA's human resources department last month sent a memo to all employees calling for them to wear "business appropriate" clothing, company spokesman Bob Gordon told The Register. Among the list of outed attire are overalls, jeans, torn clothing and tennis shoes. CA instituted a more relaxed dress code a couple of years back, bowing to the carefree trends present in the technology industry. A tighter economy, however, has sparked the call for more conservative clothes. One source nestled within CA says the new dress code came straight from the top. "The story is that Sanjay Kumar was embarrassed by a bunch of geeks one day," the source said. "He was walking a customer around the main office, when they ran into a group of geeks. Several of them had jeans with holes, faded t-shirts, etc. He was deeply embarrassed, seeing how poorly this reflected on the company, and the customer was outraged." The source points out that this could be a sweeping trend in the industry as companies look to batten down the hatches and focus on driving sales. Based in New York, CA is more prone to abide by the staid East Coast standards. The hippies of Silicon Valley may yet keep jeans, shorts and sandals safe. For those CA employees worried about what not to wear here's a helpful link . ® Related Stories BoFHs fail Stenchmark test "OK - I smell a bit" - but leave us BoFHs alone! Top IT execs look like sh!t
Ashlee Vance, 02 May 2003

Anti-spam packages ‘too unreliable’ to certify

Poor performance of anti-spam packages is frustrating attempts by a leading certification vendor to develop benchmarking standards. ICSA Labs, which runs one of the most important security industry certifications programmes, has recorded disappointing results in its preliminary tests of eight open source and commercial anti-spam packages. Larry Bridwell, programme manager at ICSA Labs, an independent division within TruSecure, said it had "trouble getting up to 60 per cent" recognition of spam email in the products it has tested thus far. ICSA Labs is well known for testing a wide variety of security products - anti-virus, cryptography, PKI, IPSec, VPN, firewall, intrusion detection and content filtering - against specific criteria for compliance and reliability. Products which pass the test - and most do not at the first attempt - earn the right to bear the ICSA Labs Certification Seal. Further testing is carried out to make sure products continue to meet certification standards. Plans to create a certification programme for anti-spam products flowed out of ICSA's work in certifying content filtering packages. George Japak, VP of ICSA Labs, told us that in the "near term there's unlikely to be a formal certification programme" for anti-spam products. "It's hard to say 60 to 70 per cent is good enough," he said. However stakeholders in ICSA certification programme - including developers, corporate end-users and independent researchers - are arguing that even 60 per cent efficiency contributes to reducing the spam problem. In our own use of anti-spam packages like SpamPal and MailWasher, we found it fairly straightforward to achieve (we estimate) efficiency levels for blocking spam of 80 per cent or above. However this has at the expense of occasional (less than one in 100) false positives. There is a disadvantage in using these products of mail downloads slowing to a crawl but the overall benefits of these packages outweigh their pitfalls. We also hear good things about SpamAssassin. Doubtless other products and services achieve better results but without comprehensive independent testing it's hard to be sure what package to use. The recent proliferation of anti-spam products and difficulties in agreeing testing criteria are complicating factors.. In testing only eight products, ICSA Labs is looking at only a very small sample of the scores of packages out there - a point that that hasn't gone unnoticed at ICSA. We shouldn't read too much into ICSA Labs preliminary results, but they do point to the immaturity of the anti-spam market. Longer term the future looks much brighter. With the best minds in the IETF, and elsewhere, focusing on the problem, gives reason for optimism. Current research efforts to apply Bayesian analysis in weeding out spam messages from legitimate email and to slow spammers down using tar pits appear most promising. ® Related stories On spam cures that are worse than the disease Web giants to declare war on spam Florida spammers sue anti-spam groups Rise of the Spam Zombies IETF aims to can spam Spammers break law with covert tracking Plaid up in arms as Commons spam filter bans Welsh Vendors complete tougher ICSA 4.0 firewall tests
John Leyden, 02 May 2003
Cat 5 cable

Off the starting Grid

IBM last week highlighted the availability of grid solutions to four new industries; petroleum, electronics, higher education and agricultural chemicals, complementing those already existing in the aerospace, automotive, financial markets, government and life sciences sectors, writes Tony Lock, of Bloor Research. The idea behind grid computing is to assemble a collection of distributed computing resources (potentially connected over a local or wide area network) and have them appear to an end user or application as one large virtual computing system. IBM is, alongside Sun Microsystems, one of the leading advocates of Grid usage outside the boundaries of academia. Indeed, Big Blue is the largest vendor actively pushing forward the development of grid systems and has recently spent much time explaining just how Grid systems can bring value to organisations operating in the cut-throat world of business. Beyond this, the company also released information on its efforts to build a "Grid Ecosystem". The ecosystem is a recognition that no one supplier will be able to either control or deliver all of the components required to make grid technology usable in as many areas as possible. The initiative seeks to bring together software designers and business partners to help further the assembly of commercial grid solutions. In addition to those companies already taking part in the ecosystem, new entrants include Accelrys, Calypso Technology, Cadence, Force10 Networks, Landmark Graphics Corporation and MSC.Software. It is also worthwhile noting that two very well recognised vendors, Cisco and Mercury Interactive, also joined up to bring the total number of organisations involved to over thirty-five. It is hoped that the addition of Cisco should help simplify data access and resource sharing across the Grid with the potential eventually to enable globally scaleable access to data through grids. The most interesting development however, lies neither in the focus on new verticals nor the creation of the so-called grid ecosystem, valuable as this is. Instead it is to be found in the budding extension of the architecture into "information grids". Until recently most of the focus has been on deploying grid solutions as large compute engines. There is now a clear desire to bring in new software vendors to enhance the ability to provide information access and complex business analytic capabilities via grid systems. Grids are slowly getting out into the real world. They still require significant service work and customisation to make them operate but the architecture is now ready for mainstream users to recognise that Grids may soon be offering them valuable opportunities. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 02 May 2003

Linux and DRM – succeeding where MS failed?

LettersLetters Re: Linus Torvalds blesses DRM, and nothing happens "The important thing to remember is that the GPL is a social construct, rather than a legal construct, which has never been tested in court. Its authority derives from consensus, not from the random fancies of a Judge. Throwing the GPL to the legal system now does seem to expose the Movement to an enormous amount of risk." I normally try to argue politely, but honestly, are you completely nuts? Presumably the reason Microsoft doesn't rip off huge chunks of GPL code to stuff into their products is because it accepts the social consensus of the Free Software Movement. There are about a million software licenses out there, of which the GPL is just one. Only a tiny proportion have been "tested in court", because they all rely on the same legal basis and it's not necessary to examine each one. As the GPL makes much weaker claims than 99% of sofware licenses, it has even less need of special affirmation by a judge to get people to believe that it would be upheld in court if challenged. Certainly there are some grey areas, such as whether a binary module is a derived work of the kernel, or whether a signing key is part of the "source code" of a signed binary file. Those will have to be tested in court if someone does something assuming one interpretation, and someone else tries to stop them using another. But if the GPL doesn't prohibit using covered code in DRM applications, then it does prohibit prohibiting using covered code in DRM applications -- that's its nature. If Linus publishes work derived from other people's work, under the GPL, then he must allow recipients to use the work for any purpose. Andrew McGuinness Thanks Andrew. You raise one of the most important questions we can ask: "Presumably the reason Microsoft doesn't rip off huge chunks of GPL code to stuff into their products is because it accepts the social consensus of the Free Software Movement." Or you can re-phrase it as "hasn't ripped off huge chunks yet". Let's take it a little broader without losing your underlying point. Microsoft may not need to or want to "rip off huge chunks", but it certainly regards GPL as a viral threat, and it is in its commercial interests not to see it so widely used. It's said so many times. But yes, I think the stink that would be raised against a direct legal challenge to the GPL would be too much even for Microsoft to handle. It can't tackle the GPL head on in court. But maybe it won't ever have to, if someone else will make that challenge. Think of the GPL as a the cold war deterrence policy. It's worked so far. But once the ICBMs are flying, the policy has failed. Couldn't these people who want to incorporate the Linux kernel in an embedded system use a *BSD instead? The BSD licenses do not care if you use it for fun or profit, regardless of whether the code is released or not. At least that was my understanding from my father, who is developing a product based on a BSD core because the GPL was somewhat acidic to the profit making capabilities of the company. In other words, anyone could have their box's code. William Kelly III Indeed. I simply can't imagine why the Linux leaders, who have a perfectly good thing going would want to allow the embedded Linux people to ruin everything. Ruin everything how? A bit like this: Thanks for your intelligent article on the DRM issues in the Linux kernel. As a kernel hacker, I can tell you that any Linux kernel that I compile myself will inevitably have any trace of DRM removed. Actually, I would go one step further, and fork the kernel **source** to remove any trace of DRM in any piece of code in the kernel source. I have done that before: the linux ¨Jumbo¨ patches that included IDE DMA code and other kernel fixes that had been rejected initially by Linus. In the end, every single piece of code found its way into later kernel versions. Although many decisions related to the Linux kernel are in the hands of Linus, in the end there has to be consensus. And the present consensus is that DRM has no place in the Linux kernel - whether Linus likes it or not. Best regards, André Derrick Balsa (Andrew). ® Related Stories Linus Torvalds blesses DRM, and nothing happens Steve Jobs blesses DRM, and nothing happens MS to eradicate GPL, hence Linux Gates: GPL will eat your economy, but BSD's cool GPL Pacman will eat your business, warns Gates Ballmer: "Linux is a cancer" Open source terror stalks Microsoft's lawyers MS-funded think tank propagates open-source lies MS 'Software Choice' scheme a clever fraud Open Source is good for America - US military advised
Andrew Orlowski, 02 May 2003