14th > May > 2003 Archive

BB punters would ‘tolerate’ price rise

Freeserve, BT and AOL continue to dominate the UK's ISP sector accounting for almost two thirds of market share. The latest figures from Oftel reveal that Freeserve has 21 per cent of the total ISP market, BT has 20 per cent while AOL UK has 17 per cent. Overall, just under half of UK homes have Net access with 14 per cent of homes owning up to a broadband connection. However, it seems that ISPs will find it increasingly tougher to sign up punters new to the Net. That's because four in ten of the population claims they are unlikely to get Net access. So while the overall market for Net access might be reaching saturation, there is at least some good news for ISPs. The research found that four out of five broadband customers would tolerate a 10 per cent price rise for their service. It seems that once people get broadband they don't want to let it go - even if it does mean having to dig deeper in their pockets. So does this mean that ISPs are likely to up the cost of broadband in a bid to make more cash? That's a tricky one. However, the research also pointed out that many Net users were reluctant to opt for a faster service because current prices are, erm, just too high. Ho hum. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 May 2003

PI calls on punters to test Govt data retention

Campaigners opposed to the UK government's controversial data retention policies are going on the counter-offensive. Ahead of a public debate on the subject in London tomorrow, Privacy International is calling on consumers to initiate Subject Access Requests for their data from communications providers. It plans to publish set of template letters for people to use (click here for ISP, fixed line and mobile requests. Privacy International director Simon Davies said the campaign aims to raise awareness about just how much data is out there, how difficult it is to get that data, and to discover how the comms providers deal with these issues. He acknowledges that the campaign is likely to prove controversial - not least because of the cost service providers might face in servicing these requests - but says that the government's lack of openness has forced campaigners' hands. "We are sick and tired of the secrecy that surrounds this important activity," he told us. "Industry and the Home Office have cut the consumer (and privacy rights) out of the equation, to the point where the only negotiations taking place relate to government subsidy for access." "The extent of data retention and access is now beyond reasonable levels," he told us. Privacy International estimates, based on Customs & Excise statistics, that there are between 500,000 and a million government requests a year for this data, involving perhaps hundreds of millions of individual communications. Someone to watch over me The Home Office created controversy last summer when it attempted to allow a long list of public authorities to access records of individuals' telephone and Internet usage. This "communications data" - phone numbers and e-mail addresses contacted, web sites visited, locations of mobile phones etc. - would (campaigners say) have been available without any judicial oversight, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. This data does not include the contents of messages or telephone calls. There has also been ongoing argument about government powers to force telephone companies and ISPs to keep copies of such communications data. Under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Home Secretary may require companies to store this data for long periods to allow later access by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The Home Office is now consulting over both issues before taking further action. The government wants to introduce data retention, where service providers are obliged to keep data on everyone, in case it is subsequently needed for investigations into serious crime or terrorism. ISPs, backed by many MPs but not the government, favour a lower impact lower impact scheme of targeted data preservation, where service providers would retain data on specified individuals at the request of the police. Currently, ISPs retain data only for billing purposes (that's the theory, anyway). But soon they will have to retain communications data for at least a year, under provision in last year's Anti-Terrorism Crime & Security Act (ATCS). Scrambling for Safety Tomorrow (Wednesday, May 14) Privacy International and the Foundation for Information Policy Research will be hosting a public meeting on communications data retention and access at the London School of Economics. This is the only public meeting during the current government consultation on this issue. The Home Office, the European Commission and industry will be speaking. More details on this meeting (Scrambling for Safety 6) can be found here. ® Related Stories Net snooping to cost UK taxpayers £100m+. A year MPs probe impact of data retention laws UK ISPs oppose data retention EU data protection chiefs oppose data retention moves EU to force ISPs and telcos to retain data for one year World leaders use terror card to watch all of us. Forever External Links All Party Parliamentary Internet Group's site, and its public inquiry into communications data retention report (PDF) Scrambling for Safety 6 (RSVP required)
John Leyden, 14 May 2003

Microsoft iLoo was no hoax – official

Microsoft has now admitted that its wired Dunny - the iLoo - was not a hoax. In a statement issued last night Microsoft UK had this to say. The MSN iLoo was not false or a hoax. It follows a UK strategy to bring the Internet to as many people in Britain as possible and encourage debate about how the Internet can affect our lives now and in the future. It follows other initiatives such as MSN Street and MSN Internet Bench where we placed the Internet in real world scenarios. The press announcement was a UK story about a UK market initiative and naturally was aimed at British culture and humour. However it was a serious concept that came about after the success of MSN Internet Bench. It was properly researched to concept stage with product designers and specialist manufacturers to see how people would react to it in the UK. It was always meant to be a one-off pilot not a major manufacturing project. The attention the story generated has made us sure that the concept is valid, however there was some misunderstanding about the context of the initiative along the way and therefore it will not be built. Earlier this week the monster company said that the iLoo press release came out of the UK and that it was not a Microsoft-sanctioned communication. Except, it's now clear that it was genuine. Someone, somewhere has cocked up. Someone, somewhere is clearly "off message" and definitely not singing from the same hymn sheet". How amusing. ® Related Story Microsoft's wireless toilet prank
Tim Richardson, 14 May 2003
Broken CD with wrench

Fujitsu Siemens goes a SuSE bundle on Intel

Fujitsu Siemens is to bundle SuSE Linux Enterprise Server with all Intel Xeon-based PRIMERGY servers, from the entry-level system with one processor right through to the high-end 16-way server. Fujitsu Siemens Computers and SuSE expect the option to be popular for blade servers in particular, as well as for the new tower and rack systems of the TX and RX series. Fujitsu Siemens said the OEM deal with SuSE comes in response to strong demand for its customers in the EMEA region for such an agreement. Fujitsu Siemens' interest in SuSE is strengthened by the latter's involvement in the UnitedLinux project. With the announcement, Fujitsu Siemens introduced maintenance charges for SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 based on a server capacity-based price system. This package is expected to be most attractive to those running smaller (one or two processor-bases systems). For euro448 plus tax per year. Last week Fujitsu (Fujitsu Siemens' parent company) announced a global partnership deal with SuSE's rival Red Hat. Under this agreement, Fujitsu will technically enhance and market Red Hat Enterprise Linux solutions for enterprise customers running mission critical aps on its Xeon and Itanium-based servers. Fujitsu Siemens chief technology officer Joseph Reger told us that the company is discussing a broadly similar technology development agreement with SuSE. This would include making Fujitsu Siemens' Prime cluster clustering software available on Linux. Fujitsu Siemens is currently negotiating an OEM agreement with Red Hat which will similar to the SuSE bundling deal, Reger said. He said the company is unlikely to partner with other Linux distributors. Essentially the company is backing two major distributions - SuSE (strong in Germany) and Red Hat (dominant market share in UK and elsewhere) - that are strongest in the server market in the countries it operates. Fujitsu Siemens trades only in the EMEA region. "We're happy to deal with two," Reger said. "We believe it would be good for the Linux market if we had fewer distributions." ®
John Leyden, 14 May 2003

Microsoft toilet troubles continue

AnalysisAnalysis Troubling questions are being asked about Microsoft's toilet initiative. MSNBC, the news channel co-owned by Microsoft and General Electric, has published a story denying that Microsoft's WiFi toilet was a hoax. We reported Microsoft's toilet statement here earlier this morning. "We jumped the gun basically yesterday in confirming that it was a hoax, and in fact it was not," said Lisa Gurry, MSN group product manager, we learn from MSNBC. She adds: "Definitely, we're going to be taking a good look at our communication processes internally." And a very good look at their toilets, we hope, too. Rumors of a false toilet were entirely unfounded, the sleuths at MSNBC reckon. The Microsoft toilet is palpably real:- "On Tuesday, though, Microsoft said it had relied on bad information from a Microsoft employee in the United Kingdom who said it was a hoax," "After more talks with people in London, the company determined it was a real project, after all." So, what's that supposed to mean? One minute it was say, a server, and the next it was a toilet? Apparently so, MSNBC wants us to believe. "The company had said it was building a prototype and was in the process of converting a portable toilet." Now that's what we call multifunctional. How did this happen, exactly? At this point, questions begin to multiply. A prototype, of what, exactly? Let's say, this was a Network Storage Appliance that was being prototyped. At some point did someone really think - 'hey, let's add some plumbing, hook it up to the water mains, and give it a seat you can crap through?' This is very hard to believe. If Microsoft is planning to give Armitage Shanks a high-tech run for its money, it's time to show us real porcelain. It's now or never: Redmond must show us the toilet. ® Related Toilet Link MSNBC confirms toilet exists Related Story Microsoft's wireless toilet prank Unrelated Story Dell shuns Microsoft's hate-radio toilet shockjock
Andrew Orlowski, 14 May 2003

My Life in a Terabyte

In the course of our lives, we accumulate a vast amount of documents, photographs, pictures, videos and even e-mail messages that are too important to throw away, writes Martin Langham of Bloor Research. This collection becomes a vast store of information that can often become overwhelming - filling our bookcases and studies with hard-to-find information that gathers dust. The aim of the MyLifeBits Project, run by Gordon Bell, a senior researcher for Microsoft, is to capture and store all this information in a personal repository modelled on Vannevar Bush's Memex. Two technology trends are coming together to make this possible. First, we increasingly live in an electronic goldfish bowl. More and more of our activities are captured automatically and electronically - from the video cameras that record our shopping trips to the e-mails we send in our business and personal lives. A high and growing proportion of our activities are now recorded electronically somewhere. Second, storage technology will soon make it possible to store all our documents, CDs, books, photographs and other digital paraphernalia, within a personal computer. The MyLifeBits Project is based on the concept of a Memex, developed in the seminal paper "As We May Think", by Vannevar Bush in 1945. MyLifeBits aims to put all personal documents and media online. For the last few years it has been capturing and storing Gordon Bell's articles, books, correspondence (letters and email), CDs, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures, and voice recordings. So far, Gordon's lifetime collection amounts to less than 30 GB of storage and 12 GB of this are CDs. But is this practical and affordable? Today, a hard drive with the capacity of 500 GB costs less than £800 or £1.60 a Gigabyte. If the price performance of storage doubles every 18 months, as it has in the past, then by 2006 a Terabyte or 1,000 Gigabytes will cost just £400 and we could afford to buy one very year. But why do it - is it just because we can? There are several benefits. Physical storage requirements can be reduced and we can say goodbye to all those CD racks and video cabinets that were never a good look. The super diary will enrich our lives by allowing us to go back to any period of our working and personal lives to use existing information and develop new knowledge. The history of our lives will be instantly available rather than needing to be dug out of dusty storage. The MyLifeBits project also plans to adhere to Vannevar Bush's principles for the Memex and provide advanced visual metaphors to navigate the "super diary" being created. The security implications for such a device are interesting - it will never forget anything and people will want to protect it carefully. Its loss would be a complete disaster. Maybe the best place to keep it would be in a secure server farm rather than on the desktop or laptop, as Microsoft intend. Given that a super diary is likely to be practical in the near future, the MyLifeBits project will make us all think about how we store and reuse the personal media that represents that sum total of our knowledge and achievements. IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 14 May 2003

Six firms named as Govt BB suppliers

Six companies have been chosen to supply broadband services, kit and consultancy to the public sector. BT, Easynet, Fujitsu, Kingston, Synetrix and Telewest have all been selected by the Government's procurement outfit, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), as part of its Broadband Solutions Framework Agreement. In essence, the "framework agreement" has been set up to help public sector bodies jump on the broadband bandwagon by using companies already vetted by the OGC. Said OGC boss Peter Gershon in a statement: "This new arrangement will be of major benefit to those government departments who are seeking to develop the use of Broadband. "It reduces the time and effort required in sourcing broadband products by offering quality goods and services at value for money prices without the need for separate tendering processes." ® Related Story Govt names Easynet as BB supplier
Tim Richardson, 14 May 2003

Security research exemption to DMCA considered

Computer security researchers would be allowed to hack through copy protection schemes in order to look for security holes in the software being protected, under a proposed exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) being debated in official hearings this week. Enacted as an anti-piracy measure in 1998, after fierce lobbying from the motion picture and recording industries, the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision generally makes it unlawful for anyone to "circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access" to DVD movies, digital music, electronic books, computer programs, or any other copyrighted work. To do so for commercial advantage or personal profit is a felony carrying up to five years in prison. But Congress built a safety-valve of sorts into the law, giving the U.S. Copyright Office - part of the Library of Congress - the power to create exceptions to the DMCA to protect legitimate, non-infringing uses of copyrighted material. In October, 2000, when the law took full force, the office carved out two narrow exemptions: one allowing researchers to crack so-called "censorware" applications to learn what websites they block, and a second exemption for old computer programs and databases rendered unusable by a defective or obsolete access control mechanism. To that list, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) would like to add an exemption permitting white hat hackers to crack copy protection schemes "that fail to permit access to recognize shortcomings in security systems, to defend patents and copyrights, to discover and fix dangerous bugs in code, or to conduct forms of desired educational activities." "I'm going to argue that the [current] exemptions aren't sufficient, because we're having security people threatened," says ACM's Barbara Simons. In 2000, a recording industry standards group used the threat of a DMCA lawsuit to block Princeton University professor Ed Felten from publishing a paper on weaknesses in a digital audio watermarking scheme. The group quickly retracted that threat, and similar cases are rare, but Simons says the DMCA still casts a shadow over the academic security community in a more subtle form, discernable in outline. "It's much harder to document what doesn't get written, what doesn't get published," says Simons. "But it's had a very chilling effect,". The current exemptions expire in October of this year, unless the Copyright Office chooses to reestablish them. The office took testimony on that question, and on proposals for additional exemptions, earlier this month in Washington D.C., and will hold a final round of public hearings in Los Angeles on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Simons, who's testifying Wednesday, indicated she'll argue the computer security exemption as a homeland security issue: independent software security research is more important than ever, she says. "The bad guys aren't going to publish the results, they're just going to exploit them... We should be eliminating the laws that encourage insecurity." ©
Kevin Poulsen, 14 May 2003

Traffic news and views on your GPRS phone

In a week when the operators of the first private motorway in the UK announced its toll rates, it's comforting to know that technology can provide some alternatives. At least alternative things to pay for. When the new toll road opens in January 2004, car drivers will be paying £3 to miss one of the busiest sections of motorway in the UK, the M6 around the M5 interchange. But what if the 27-mile long toll road is clogged up, and the M6 isn't? If you commute that section daily, you could be looking at £120 per month, and for that you could buy plenty of mobile traffic gadgets to advise you of a better route, or at least alleviate the boredom while waiting. For instance, Integrated Mobile Technologies has launched a mobile traffic information service called Traffic-i. The service will provide visual traffic information in real time, using a GPRS network, initially only for the Sony Ericsson P800, but with developments for the Nokia 7650 and Nokia 3650 in progress. It covers over 8000 miles of motorways and trunk roads in the UK, and works with all UK phone networks. Using the well-established Trafficmaster information network, it enables you to zoom around the map, spot traffic delays, and alter your route plans accordingly. As for costs, if it saves fuel and journey time, they won't seem that painful. The software is sold as an annual subscription of £39.99 for one user. GPRS traffic overheads should average around 3kb per use, so it won't eat heavily into an inclusive data tariff, and only cost a few pennies if you're paying by the kb. The Sony Ericsson P800, along with other emerging smartphones, are aimed at busy professionals on the move, and with journey times set to increase, and perhaps more toll routes appearing, this is a service well targeted at its intended audience. What a shame then, that it doesn't know where you are. Although you can store and retrieve 'bookmarks' for frequently visited locations, and specify a default starting point - perhaps the M5/M6 interchange? - there is no location awareness built in. The Traffic-i team says they are investigating the area of auto location and cell based information, but sadly it's not in the current product. The dangers caused by using mobile phones when driving just increase dramatically if you have to navigate even an intuitive user interface, as well as look for traffic speed icons on the small screen. Location awareness and perhaps direction awareness would significantly enhance the utility of the service, permitting alerts in advance for necessary route alterations. It highlights the issue that services delivered to users on the move have to take into account not only of form factor, but modus operandi of the user. Devices such as mobile phones should demand no more than one eye and one hand for effective use - any more than that, and they've become a PDA. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 14 May 2003
SGI logo hardware close-up

BT ‘telling porkies’ about its phone services

Telewest has accused BT of "twisting the truth" and telling "porkies" about its phone services. The onslaught from the cableco follows a ruling by the advertising watchdog that BT made a series of misleading statement in a direct mailing and a local press advertisement targeted at Telewest customers. The offending ads said that Telewest was upping the cost of its telephone service and that switching to BT would be cheaper. But Telewest challenged the ads and despite protests from BT, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed with Telewest on all five points claiming the ads were misleading. In a statement, David Hobday, deputy MD at Telewest said: "This is not the first time BT has twisted the truth and tried to mislead consumers with exaggerated claims about its telephone services. "Consumers are baffled enough with a sea of telephone packages to choose from, without BT sticking its oar in and muddying the water. We've all had enough of BT's porkies." ®
Tim Richardson, 14 May 2003

Hynix ups output of 0.10 micron SDRAM

Hynix has begun mass-producing 0.10 micron SDRAM chips, the company said yesterday. First on offer are 512Mb DDR and DDR 2 parts, with a 1Gb DDR 2 chip to following in the second half of the year. And 512Mb NAND Flash chips may be fabbed using the process later this year too. By the end of the year, some 20 per cent of the Korean chip maker's output will be fabbed at 0.10 micron. The announcement follows criticism from analysts last year that Hynix was falling behind its competitors in the adoption of the latest process technologies. Yesterday's announcement is proof they were wrong, the company said. ®
Tony Smith, 14 May 2003

Reg readers devote 1600 years to cancer cure quest

The Register's valiant band of Cancer Busters continue to generously dedicate their unused CPU cycles to sniffing out potential cures of the disease. Some 2671 Reg readers are currently running special software that grabs unused processor time to analyse research data generated by Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford in the UK and the National Foundation for Cancer Research in the US. Every computer's contribution counts toward the massive task of screening molecules that may be developed into drugs to fight cancer. The project is sponsored by IBM Life Science Solutionsand hosted by United Devices' special web site, grid.org. Formed just over two years ago, Vulture Central II - Vulture Central I is our SETI@home team - has gone on to become the number four team in the league, contributing a staggering 1600 years' worth of processor time to the search, testing over 1.5 million compounds for cancer-killing potential. Only by connecting team computers across the Internet into a massive co-operative network can the vast number of possible cancer-beating molecules be tested in time to make a difference. The software works like a screensaver: it churns through research data when your computer isn't being used, clocking off when you need to use your machine, and kicking back in when you stop. Each individual computer analyses just a few molecules and then sends the results back over the Internet for further research. The software identifies molecules that interact with proteins that have been determined to be possible targets for cancer therapy. The process has been likened to finding the right key to open a specific lock by trying millions upon millions of keys, one after the other. It might take a single machine millions of years to test all the molecular keys, but the more computers join the project, the more molecules can be tried in the shortest possible time. Top team member Dave_NCL alone has contributed the equivalent of more than 232 year' processing time and tested nearly 157,000 molecules. Well done, Dave - drop us a line and we'll send you some Reg goodies to show our appreciation. To join the team, you need to download the United Devices Agent software from here (Win 98, ME, NT 4.0 SP5+, 2k, XP only - UD has no plans for Linux or Mac clients, alas). It's a 1.6MB download, so shouldn't take too long. Running the setup software installs the molecular testing code and prompts you to enter your login name and choose a password. When you're down, point your browser to the Vulture Central II team page and click on the Join This Team button. The page also shows the team's progress. We should point out that United Devices hosts other grid computing applications, including the iffy PatriotGrid. If you don't want to help the US military combat bioterror weapons (or develop their own, for all we know), you'll need to switch that option off after registering. To so do, click on the 'Tick in a box' (preferences icon). Click Modify Device Profile. This will open a browser window. Login with your username and password. Click on the Profiles tab. Select your profile and click Edit. Uncheck the PatriotGrid box at the bottom of the page. Thanks to reader Clive Morely for that info. ®
Tony Smith, 14 May 2003

UK gov seizes data on 100m calls, 1m users, a year

Police and other UK government agencies are demanding personal data concerning over 100 million phone calls, subscriber data on almost a million consumers and an unknown quantity of email and Internet logs, every year, claims Privacy International. The data, to be unveiled today at Scrambling for Safety 6 at the London School of Economics, is based on estimates supplied by the Home Office, Ministerial statements, legal experts, the communications industry and the All Party Internet Group of MP's, and according to Privacy International director Simon Davies is "very much on the low side... We literally halved the Home Office estimate... just to be on the safe side." The organisation reckons that the information seized could total a billion individual items of data, including credit card numbers, dialled numbers and location data from mobile phone service providers. One individual's file could include thousands of items, which together would paint a picture of contacts, friendships, interests, transactions, movements and personal information. And because companies store information on you for years, what you've been up to all that time can be checked out by the police, and any other agency the Home Office deems eligible. From the data available it does not currnetly seem possible to produce estimates of how the monitoring zeroes in within the total annual catch. A reasonable assessment of the current state of the technology, together with an educated guesstimate of the enforcement agencies' likely priorities would lead one to believe that a rather smaller group of individuals' communications data will be the primary focus. In years gone by, however, such suspected subversives have included several who are now senior members of the British government, and the steady increase in the number of government organisations with the ability to demand personal data will inevitably increase the amount of data seized, and broaden the scope of monitoring. Once you've attracted their attention, they'll more likely than not take a 'collar the lot' approach to data seizure (as opposed to just calmy sitting down and figuring how they're most likely to find out why you apparently didn't pay that parking fine), and once they're sitting on a huge pile of data they can't easily deal with, technology will more and more intervene. So you have a million people a year who might have done something wrong (how many might that be over, say, five years?), so let's just trawl the lot and see if we can find out what that might be. The Home Office, bless 'em, has been approving all of this without legal authority and in defiance of the Data Protection Act, and has so far not been conspicuously successful - despite its best efforts - in legitimising the position. Its attempts to widen the list of authorities with the ability to access communications data failed last year after a public outcry, and now it's 'consulting.' According to Privacy International the two published consultation documents so far indicate that the current surveillance regime is likely to become universal. As we noted yesterday, Privacy International is encouraging UK consumers to try to retrieve the information held on them. Details of this can be found here. ®
John Lettice, 14 May 2003

E-biz video diaries not waste of money

UK online for business - a Government-backed scheme to promote ebusiness among firms - has denied that an online video diary soap is a waste of taxpayers' money. The video diaries were unveiled yesterday and will track the day-to-day experiences of two small UK companies as they grapple with various e-business strategies. Gripping stuff, eh? According to the bumph, these videos will give people the chance to see real life examples of companies using technology. Ultimately, it's hoped that seeing these companies in action will give others the "confidence to take the next steps to develop their e-business activity". Is that so? El Reg tried to see the video diaries for itself to see if they were any good. Through our bog standard dial-up connection, we could only get sound. There were no images - just a blur. So much for seeing ebusiness in action. A spokeswoman for UK online for business denied the initiative was a waste of public money. She also declined to say how much the year-long scheme would cost tax payers. Elsewhere, the BBC is reporting that critics are savaging a government-funded course in Birmingham where grown-ups are being taught how to text and download ringtones. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 May 2003
DVD it in many colours

IBM debuts T-Rex mainframe

IBM yesterday introduced its most powerful mainframe to date, the zSeries 990. Formerly code-named T-Rex, The z990 represents the fruits of $1bn investment and the labours of 1,200 IBM developers. This z990 scales up to 9,000 MIPS (million instructions per second) on 32 processors - twice the number of processors and almost three times the system capacity of its predecessor, the z900. According to IBM, z990 customers can scale up from one to 32-way, without taking the system down. The z990 architecture incorporates virtualisation capabilities, meaning it can support hundreds or even thousands of virtual Linux servers in a single box. This "roughly equates to an entire data center on one server the size of a refrigerator," IBM notes. Up to 30 logical partitions (LPARs) are supported on the z990, twice that of of the z900. IBM's Intelligent Resource Director (IRD) automation technology means z990 users can dynamically moves system resources to the workloads that need them, according to customer-defined priorities and objectives. The z990 also offers the ability to turn capacity on and off, allowing customers to temporarily add server engines during peak periods. This flexibility is designed to help mainframe users respond to daily or seasonal surges in demand. With the launch of the z990, IBM also cut the entry point for variable priced products in its Workload License Charge (WLC) software pricing structure. IBM's storage products and middleware (WebSphere, Tivoli etc.) are being developed to support the z990. Tech spec The z990 provides up to 512 I/O channels, double that of its predecessor. There are now up to 16 HiperSockets, which provide high speed TCP/IP connectivity between virtual servers within a single z990, quadruple the number in the z900. IBM has also introduced a new technology called logical channel subsystems, designed to maker it easier for customers to consolidate multiple mainframes into a larger z990. Billion transistor brain The z990 is powered by a redesigned IBM multichip module (MCM), 50 per cent smaller in size than the brain of the z900. Upshot, the z990 delivers almost three times the processor capacity of the z900 in the same footprint. The z990 has available up to four times the memory of the z900, 256GB versus 64GB. With the introduction of the z990, IBM is highlighting the security and reliability features (99.999 per cent availability) traditionally used to differentiate mainframes from upstart Unix competitors. Topping its own security record, the new 16-way z990 can handle up to 11,000 Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) transactions/second (a 57 per cent improvement over a 16-way z900). Coming soon The IBM eServer z990, models A08 and B16, will be available on June 16. Models C24 and D32 come on tap on October 31. On/Off Capacity on Demand functionality will be available in September 2003. Secure key cryptography, support for 30 LPARs, and z/OS exploitation of 512 I/O channels will be available in October 2003. ® Related Stories IBM looks to summer release for T-Rex mainframe Quite Big Iron - new baby IBM mainframe IBM to push cheaper 'Linux-only' zSeries, iSeries IBM ships revamped mainframe T-Rex for sale online
John Leyden, 14 May 2003

2002 is IT services Annus Horribilis

Last year was the most difficult year on record for worldwide IT services industry, according to analysts Gartner Dataquest. End-user spending on IT services totalled only $536 billion in 2002, an 0.6 per cent decline from 2001 results, according to Gartner Dataquest. Last year was the first year of declining revenues for the IT services industry, as market consolidation hit both large and small players. "Project-based services, consulting and development and integration, performed the worst, while managed services, such as outsourcing and process management, enjoyed the highest growth rate," said Kathryn Hale, principal analyst for Gartner's worldwide IT services group. "Project-based services suffered because users avoided large or technologically challenging projects, and because of price pressure on commodity-like work, which was further driven by growth in offshore services," she added. With its acquisition of PwC Consulting, IBM maintained its top ranking, billing $40.14bn for 2002. This equates to 7.5 per cent of worldwide IT services revenues for the year. Although IBM increased its revenue in 2002, the poor performance of PwC Consulting in 2002 affected its growth rate. Hewlett-Packard was a new entrant into the top five vendors in 2002, as the company's revenue roughly doubled when it merged with Compaq. Although HP's rank rose in 2002, the combined services revenue of both companies actually decreased. Of the top five vendors (Accenture, EDS, Fujitsu, HP and IBM) only EDS showed any growth. EDS' revenue grew two per cent from $20.70 billion in 2001 to $21.1 billion in 2002. IT services revenue in North America declined 1.1 per cent, while revenues in Western Europe slipped marginally by 0.1 percent. Asia/Pacific and Japan were the only regions to show growth (3 per cent) in IT services in 2002. Despite a dreadful year, the longer-term picture for the services market looks considerably rosier. Hale commented: "Many organizations are still seeing outsourcing as the best way to minimize costs in an economy of prolonged uncertainty in which very tight budgets are the norm." Gartner Dataquest's report IT Services Market Suffers First Worldwide Decline can be purchased online here. ® Related Stories IT services head offshore Cap Gemini targets EDS renewals Staff penalised for Dick Brown's failure IBM Global Services: billion dollar deals
John Leyden, 14 May 2003

Gartner's look at Alternatives to Microsoft

An increasing number of companies and governments are looking at non-Microsoft options, with Linux the number one threat, Gartner says. The research firm on Tuesday combined ten separate notes into a report entitled "A Look at Alternatives to Microsoft." Among other things, it concludes that Linux and other open source software are the most popular alternatives to Microsoft software. According to Gartner, the lure lies in the lower, and sometimes free, initial costs; the perceived freedom from lock-in with a single vendor; and the potential to help drive local IT economies. The perception of better security also drives the use of alternatives, Gartner said. Breaking down its research by region, Gartner says that governments in Asia/Pacific, as well as in several European and South American counties, go for Linux and other open source software options because they believe it will help spur local IT industry. Such governments also tend to encourage companies to use open source alternatives to Microsoft, Gartner said. "These countries believe they can spark their local IT industries and thus avoid having to export increasing amounts of their gross domestic product to US-based companies," said David Smith, vice president and Gartner fellow. Fear surrounding the dominance of Microsoft is less prevalent in North America, the report said, but in that region software rivals and hardware makers are putting up a tough fight with the Redmond-based giant to push back, stop or a least slow its influence. "Worldwide sentiment surrounding attitudes regarding Microsoft vary widely, especially by geography," said Robin Simpson, research director for Gartner. "Governments and businesses, especially outside the United States, are increasingly interested in pursuing strategies that insulate them from Microsoft's growing influence on the IT industry, even if alternate solutions aren't exactly a perfect fit." Indeed, Gartner's Smith said that there are risks associated with the non-Microsoft route, including a need for companies to install new processes in the overall development, deployment, maintenance and support of their IT infrastructures. He added that a "disciplined and carefully considered best-practice process" is necessary to get good returns from using Linux and other open source tools and programmes. "Without it, the investments could lead to higher, unanticipated costs." © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 14 May 2003

Hitachi creates dedicated notebook 7200rpm HDD

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Hard Drive Hitachi has unveiled what it claims is the first 7200rpm hard drive designed for mobile systems, the Travelstar 7K60. To date, mobile-oriented drives have had to run at 5400rpm, says Hitachi, in order to maintain acceptable noise levels and power consumption. Vendors have offered 7200rpm hard drives for notebooks, but these have really been units designed for desktop use, it claims. The 7K60 spins 33 per cent faster than a 5400rpm drive, which contributes to a 15 per cent improvement in data transfer rates and a 20 per cent lower rotational latency, ie. the time it takes to get the data required in position under the read-write head. At the heart of the 7K60 is Hitachi's 'femto' slider - the "tiny flying wing supporting the read/write head above the surface of the disk". It's 30 per cent smaller than the previous generation of slider. So what? you say. Well, replies Hitachi, it means the drive consumes 11 per cent less power and increases the surface area available for recording by 3.5 per cent. They may be small figures, but they are enough to allow Hitachi to change other drive specifications in order to allow it to raise each platter's rotational speed to 7200rpm without significantly increasing the unit's overall power consumption and noise level. The femto slider also raises the drives resistance to shocks by 25 per cent, making the unit more suitable for computing on the move, says Hitachi. The 7K60 offers 60GB of storage on two glass platters in a 2.5in form factor. The drive offers 50 billion bits per square inch maximum areal density. It has a 10ms seek time and a 4.2ms average latency. It weighs 95g. Hitachi has used the same technology to rack its 2.5in 5400rpm offering to an 80GB capacity. The 5K80, along with the 7K60, will be shipping in volume later this month. Hitachi did not reveal pricing. Chipset Nvidia has announced its support for AMD's 400MHz frontside bus, which debuted this week with the Athlon XP 3200+. Nvidia's nForce 2 400 and nForce 2 Ultra 400 support the new FSB. The nForce 2 Ultra 400 provides 400MHz DDR SDRAM support across a dual-channel bus. The nForce2 400 offers only single-channel DDR support to enable Nvidia to hit a lower price point. Both parts offer AGP 8x graphics, Motherboards based on the new parts are available immediately from a wide range of vendors, said Nvidia, and include ABIT, ASUSTeK, Microtech, Chaintech, FIC, MiTAC, MSI, QDI/Legend, Shuttle and Soltek. Notebook PC HP has launched a 'ground-breaking' graphics and multimedia-oriented 15.4in widescreen notebook, the Compaq Presario X1000. The X1000 is based on Intel's Centrino platform, offering a Pentium M CPU at 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6GHz, plus Intel's Pro Wireless 2100 802.11b card. HP is offering an integrated Bluetooth module as an option. The 15.4in display operates at 1920x1200, 1680x1050 and 1280x800 widescreen resolutions. It's apparently "20 per cent brighter, features 33 per cent wider viewing angles and includes an improved contrast ratio compared to traditional notebook displays". It is driven by a choice of ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 with 64MB or 32MB of DDR SDRAM, or the Mobility Radeon 7500 with 32MB of DDR. Buyers can select a 40, 60 or 80GB 5400rpm hard drive, and a 24x CD-ROM, 8x DVD, 24x CD-RW/DVD combo, or DVD+RW optical drive. They can add up to 2GB of 266MHz DDR SDRAM. Whatever options buyers choose, they'll get three USB 2.0 ports, one 1394 port and an S-Video output. The X1000 sports integrated 10/100Mbps Ethernet, a built-in 56Kbps modem and an SD/MMC card slot. The notebook is 3.25cm (1.3in) thick and only weighs 2.95kg (6.5lbs). It offers five hours' of battery life, HP claims. It goes on sale on 21 May in the US for around $1299 and up. ®
Tony Smith, 14 May 2003

NTT DoCoMo claws back to black

DoCoMo has returned to profitability, but its main rival KDDI has leapt ahead in the 3G subscriber race. DoCoMo has just 330,000 subscribers compared to KDDI's 7.5 million. Also worrying are DoCoMo's low expectations for revenue growth, as increased spending on data services seems to be coming at the expense of conventional calls. NTT DoCoMo has clawed its way back to profitability and expects net income to more than triple this year as subscribers switch to 3G services. However, Japan's largest mobile carrier continues to be outpaced by its main competitor KDDI, which has built up a far larger 3G subscriber base built on Qualcomm's CDMA2000 technology. For the year to March 31, DoCoMo reported net income of $1.8 billion, up from a loss of $1 billion, on revenue 3.2% higher at $41.4 billion. DoCoMo, which is Asia's most valuable public company, expects net income this year to leap to $5.3 billion, though it predicts that revenue will only increase 1.9%. It plans to boost its 3G subscriber base to 1.46 million by the end of this year from a current figure of 330,000, and president Keiji Tachikawa said this is a conservative target as it only involves an extra 100,000 subscribers a month. Much more rapid growth has been seen at KDDI, which had 14.3 million subscribers at the end of April compared with DoCoMo's 44 million. While DoCoMo has been hampered by teething problems on its 3G network, KDDI has raced ahead with Qualcomm's technology and now boasts a 3G subscriber base of 7.5 million. This has brought huge benefits to the company's bottom line, and in the year to March 31, net income was $493.9 million, up from income of $111.9 million on revenue that fell 1.7% to $23.9 billion. While it expects revenue to fall slightly this year, net income is expected to increase by about 24% to $609 million. DoCoMo's business progression is worrying as revenue growth has stalled and increased expenditure on data services seem to be at the expense of spending on conventional calls. Mobile operators worldwide may be alarmed at DoCoMo's latest figures as Japan is an avidly watched market; its advanced services are thought to offer a glimpse of the future in other regions. © Datamonitor is offering Reg readers some of its technology research FOC. Check it out here.
Datamonitor, 14 May 2003

Worldwide Q2 PC sales up a little on last year…

Worldwide PC shipments will grow just 6.4 per cent this quarter, compared to Q2 2002, market researcher Gartner believes. However, shipments will fall sequentially by 10.9 per cent, a point the company doesn't make in its press release. Some 30.7 million PCs will ship around the world during Q2 2003, generating $38.3 billion in sales, up 2.6 per cent on the same period last year, Gartner said today. Back in April it posted data showing that 34.5 million PCs shipped worldwide in Q1 2003. Even Q1 2002 was better than what Gartner is expecting for Q2 2003: back them, 32.7 million PCs shipped. While the war in Iraq may be over, the anticipated bounce doesn't appear to be lifting sales - to corporates in particular - as more deep-seated fears about the state of the world economy come back to haunt potential buyers, Gartner believes. As for SARS, well it's having an effect on Far Eastern economies, but it has yet to strike fear into the hearts of Western PC buyers. If the disease spreads, that may change. Gartner's numbers for the year as a whole put shipments at 136.9 million, up 6.6 per cent on 2002, and sales at $170.6 million, up 3.3 per cent. Gartner rival, IDC today published its figures for the state of the UK PC market during Q1. UK PC shipments grew five per cent year on year, driven by a rebound in business spending, the researcher said. Notebooks lead the way: mobile PC shipments rose 14.7 per cent during the period. Desktop shipments grew just one percentage point over Q1 2002. Shipments to businesses rose ten per cent for desktops. Consumers, on the other hand, bought far fewer desktops, leading to a fall in shipments of 12.7 per cent. Businesses bought 12 per cent more notebooks than they did in the year-ago quarter, and consumers were tempted by portable PCs too: shipments rose 22.8 per cent. The Intel server market also experienced healthy growth of 15.1 per cent year-on-year, "further testament to a gradual pick-up in business confidence", said IDC. ®
Tony Smith, 14 May 2003

Buffalo Spammer arrested

Howard Carmack - the Buffalo Spammer - has been arrested and charged in New York for four felony (i.e. criminal) and two misdemeanour counts relating to his alleged fraudulence in obtaining Internet access accounts to send more than 825 million spam emails. His nemesis, Earthlink, the US ISP, last week won $16.4m damages and a permanent order to stop spamming against Carmack. He didn't turn up in the US District Court in Atlanta where the case was held. Neither did he send a lawyer. In a statement Dave Baker, EarthLink's vice president of law and public policy said: "Today, we commend the prosecution of the 'Buffalo Spammer' by the New York Attorney General's Office. Howard Carmack's arrest demonstrates that spamming has both civil and criminal consequences. Simply put, spammers who brazenly disregard the law will wind up in jail." ®
Drew Cullen, 14 May 2003

NTL Q1 BB growth ‘unusually high’

NTL has around 691,000 broadband customers, the UK's biggest cableco announced today. Publishing Q1 results to the end of March the company said that it around 661,000 broadband users. At the end of April that figure had risen to 691,000, it said. However, NTL warned that broadband growth was "unusually high" in the first quarter due to a number of "special circumstances". As a result, the company warned: "Therefore, although broadband growth should remain strong for the remainder of the year, the absolute number of quarterly additions going forward is likely to be lower than the rate experienced in the first quarter." The proportion of punters taking telephone, TV and Internet services from NTL - aka the "triple play" - increased from around 5 per cent in Q1 2002 to 17 per cent this year. Overall, the cableco generated revenues of £546.5 million ($875.9m) in the first three months of the year. EBITDA (earnings before interest etc) ran in at £156.5 million ($250.8m). ® Related Stories NTL has 380k 128K 'broadband' punters UK cable industry has 1M broadband punters
Tim Richardson, 14 May 2003

Nvidia set to up GeForce FX 5600 speeds

Nvidia is preparing to boost the performance of its GeForce FX 5600 graphics chip, the company told The Register yesterday. The GeForce FX 5600 Ultra core currently clocks at 350MHz, the same as its memory clock frequency. However, both speeds will soon be raised to 400MHz, in the form of the GeForce FX 5600 Ultra, the company said. The current Ultra has a memory bandwidth of 11.2GBps. With the memory clock increase, that figure will rise to 12.8GBps. Upping the core clock to 400MHz, should boost the part's fill rate from 1.4 billion texels per second to 1.6 billion. The increase has come as a result of Nvidia's improved understanding of the 0.13 micron process, said European marketing chief Alain Tiquet. "It took us a long time to get it right," he admitted. It was the lack of such understanding that produced the long delay on the GeForce FX 5800 chip. Due to ship in September 2002, the part wasn't announced until November 2002 and then didn't ship until February 2003, just ahead of the GeForce FX 5600 launch. The arrival this week of the 0.13 micron GeForce FX 5900 marks the end of the 5800. The GeForce FX 5600 Ultra supports up to 256MB of DDR SDRAM across a 128-bit memory bus. It can process four pixels per clock. What happens to the current 5600 Ultra remains to be seen - likely it will become the vanilla GeForce FX 5600 chip, rounding out the 5600 family. Tiquet suggested that Nvidia's growing ability to work with 0.13 micron designs will quickly see further 5600 clock speed increases and improvements to the chips' yields. That holds out the potential for future boosts to the 5900 family too, particularly with ATI preparing to launch the successor to the Radeon 9800 Pro later this year. ®
Tony Smith, 14 May 2003