12th > June > 2003 Archive

And in America, Boingo gets Minneapolis airport

The Register's Wireless LAN Channel Airports are today's obvious "high price" wireless Internet target; American WISP Boingo Wireless may not be at Munich airport, but it has got the franchise for WiFi service at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport. "This extends the largest aggregated hot spot network to almost 90,000 travellers a day who pass through America's 10th largest airport," said the company today. The company then rather spoiled its image by exaggerating the class of service provided. It claims that its WiFi service, based on the IEEE 802.11b standard "provides speeds of up to 11 megabits per second, over 100 times faster than 56k dial-up service." Probably, not. Boingo's 1,300-plus location network may well include many major airports - like Los Angeles, LaGuardia International, Baltimore-Washington, and Dallas-Fort Worth, but if any of them runs 100 times faster than a 56K modem, they'd have to be single-user access points connected to 10 megabit leased lines. The very fastest data rate possible over 802.11b is 5 megabits per second. That's if you're the only user, sitting a few feet away from the access point. That's a hundred times faster than a dialup modem, yes. But you can't get more out of the access point than they put in; and to get 5 megabits through, you'd need a local server connected to a 5 megabit leased line. Most public access points are on DSL links, or at best, a one or two megabit leased line. And most access points are shared, and reception is usually moderate to poor. You'll get ten times the speed of your dialup modem. On a good day; airports are busy. "Since business travellers are our primary end-user customer, airports are among the highest use locations in our network," said Dave Hagan, Boingo president. The press release is here. © Newswireless.Net Related stories Wi-Fi hotspots mean some burnt fingers Munich airport offers choice of WISP Cisco to roll out airport WLAN hotspots in Europe Roam from wireless LAN to phone network, on a single bill? The Register's Wireless LAN Channel
Guy Kewney, 12 Jun 2003

Big Bother for Big Brother firms

Firms which monitor their staff’s communications without consent could face court action, under new government guidelines. The new rules aim to clamp down on snooping bosses by forcing them to inform employees if they are monitoring phone calls, emails and internet use. 'Big Brother' businesses which fail to comply with the new code of practice could be taken to court by disgruntled employees who feel that their privacy has been unfairly invaded. The code, drawn up by Richard Thomas, the UK’s Information Commissioner, is designed to give companies a clearer understanding of their obligations under the Data Protection Act. This requires employers to handle personal details fairly and properly. Currently, many firms monitor their employee’s online activities, in order to stamp out spam, viruses and inappropriate material that may circulate among the workforce. However, the new code states that looking in on workers’ correspondence can only be justified to prevent malpractice or crime. Thomas confirmed that there are few occasions where an employer can legitimately monitor their staff’s communications. "If any monitoring is to take place it must be open and transparent and with the knowledge of the employee. "Employees are entitled to expect that their personal lives remain private and they have a degree of privacy in the workplace," he said. Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, welcomed the publication of the code. The code clears up much of the legal confusion around bosses monitoring staff, he said. “It makes clear to staff that they must be told if, how and why their email, phone calls, internet use and other behaviour is being monitored. “Employees and unions are now better equipped to ensure the right to privacy at work is respected,” he said. ©
Startups.co.uk, 12 Jun 2003

EC reviews infosecurity regime

A set of recommendations for better information security standards in Europe will be debated at an open meeting to be held this Friday (June 13) in Brussels. The recommendations have been produced by the Network and Information Security (NIS) Focus Group. The group includes technical experts appointed by the two European standards organisations CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) and ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute). The group's principal goal was to evaluate existing security standards, and to identify possible gaps in the standards spectrum. Created in July 2002, the group has now completed its final draft report which has been available for public comment since mid-May. The open meeting on 13 June will debate the report plus comments received and provide a basis for a consensus on the report and its recommendations. The NIS Focus Group was established, and its study undertaken, in response to a paper by the European Commission on information security. The Commission Communication Network and Information Security: A proposal for a European policy approach network was published in June 2001. This Communication, which was followed by two Council Resolutions in 2002 and 2003, contained recommendations to the European standardisation bodies for the continued development of their standardisation activities, including drawing up a comprehensive strategy on security of electronic networks. Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner responsible for Enterprise and Information Society, said: "The growth of e-business in Europe and world-wide will be encouraged by the availability of a secure infrastructure. The European Standards Organisations have a key role to play in achieving this objective". You can read more about Commissioner Liikanen thoughts on security here. Whatever standards are developed the challenge will be to persuade more companies to follow them. Security standards such as BS7799, and its European equivalents, have historically been honoured more by their breach than their observance. ® External Links Security for eEurope paper (PDF) Network and Information Security: Better standards to improve security Related Stories Application Vulnerability Description Language coined WS-I second round spec homes in on security Rogue WLANS - the next security battlefield?
John Leyden, 12 Jun 2003

AMD and Intel scientists outline future chip tech

AMD's boffins continue to explore ways to create ever more powerful processors, and the company this week outlined a couple of the avenues its research is taking. So did its arch-rival, Intel. Both firms' work is focused on the transistor the key CPU building block. AMD has long touted the benefit of silicon-on-insulator (SOI) designs, and this week said it had measured the fastest PMOS (P-channel metal-oxide semiconductor) transistor speed ever published, equivalent to a 30 per cent speed increase over previously published transistor designs. AMD's new transistor uses fully depleted SOI (FDSOI), a technique it announced it was working on earlier this year. SOI works by placing an insulating oxide between a silicon substrate and the silicon that makes up transistor switch. It improves over traditional MOS transistors by reducing the switch's capacity to hold charge - its 'capacitance' - and thus reducing the time it takes for the switch to flip on and off. When a transistor is switched on, it has to charge up before the current will flow through the switch. The greater the switch's capacitance, the longer that takes. Equally, when the transistor is switched off, current continues to flow until the switch has been emptied of charge. SOI reduces the switch's capacitance significantly, so the transistor operates much more quickly. SOI transistors are harder to make than traditional MOS transistors because the different physical structures of the silicon and the insulator can lead to electrical imperfections where the two materials meet, slowing the switch down and allowing current to leak. Essentially, the silicon ceases to have a pure crystalline structure, degrading its performance as a semiconductor. SOI implementations typically use a thick, 'partially depleted' silicon films to overcome these defects - a sort of half-way house between the traditional transistor and the perfect SOI component, which would use thin, 'fully depleted' silicon films. AMD also said researching strained silicon - a favourite of Intel researchers - but in conjunction with metal gate technology to deliver a 20-25 per cent NMOS (N-channel metal-oxide semiconductor) performance gain over existing strained-silicon transistors. The metal gates are constructed from Nickel Silicide rather than conventional polysilicon. Essentially, the new material conducts charge better than the old one, speeding the flow of electrons through the transistor. That allows the chip maker to reduce the gate thickness and make it easier to scale transistors down as fabrication processes move to 65nm and below. Strained silicon involves depositing silicon onto a substrate whose atoms are spaced further apart than silicon atoms usually are. Because atoms inside compounds tend to line up with one another, the silicon atoms move further apart to align themselves with substrate's atoms. This essentially stretches and 'strains' the silicon, the upshot of which is that the resistance to the flow of electrons is reduced, speeding electron flow by up to 70 per cent. Transistors made from strained silicon get a 35 per cent performance boost over regular transistors of the same size. Adding metal gate technology provides a further 20-25 per cent increase in performance, AMD's scientists say. They also applied metal gates to their FDSOI transistor, contributing to the 30 per cent performance gain they experienced there. Intel, meanwhile, has demonstrated a 30nm tri-gate transistor. The transistor's gate controls the flow of current through the device - it's what allows the transistor to act as a switch and thus combine with other transistors to form logic gates, from which computational devices can be built. Traditional 'planar' transistors use a single gate sitting on top of the silicon (which itself sits on top of the substrate). Intel's tri-gate transistor has gate material on each side of the silicon as well as on top, like a saddle over the silicon's back. Because the gate only controls current through the layers of silicon it's closest to, having gate material on three sides of the silicon activates current through more of the material than on one side alone, the top. That improves the ability of the transistor to switch on quickly, and thus its performance. Intel announced tri-gate transistors last year, but this week it said it had scaled the device down to 30nm. The company was demonstrating a 60nm device this week, but it can show the device can be easily reduced to half that size. Work on the transistor has reached the point where the company can begin developing it for commercial use, it said, though it put no timescale on it. But fabbing tri-gate transistors can be done using the same processes used to fab today's transistors. ®
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2003

Micron samples first GDDR 3 chips

Memory maker Micron has begun sampling what it claims is the world's first third-generation DDR SDRAM chips developed specifically for graphics applications. The memory, dubbed GDDR 3, is roughly one-and-a-half times the speed of the previous generation, GDDR 2, yet consumes half the power, just 2W, said Micron. That comes from a lower operating voltage: 1.8V compared to GDDR 2's 2.5V. GDDR 3 provides an aggregate bandwidth of 6.4GBps per device thanks to a 1.6Gbps per pin data rate. It clocks between 600MHz and 800MHz, but Micron reckons it can go higher. Micron's version of the technology is fabbed at 0.11 micron. Samples have naturally been sent to ATI, which co-developed the technology, but chips have gone to market leader Nvidia too. As yet, GDDR 3 has not been ratified by JEDEC, the body that governs standards in the memory industry. However, Micron believes that will be a formality given the heavy involvement of a number of DRAM and graphics players in the technology's development. Volume production is expected to begin later this year. ® Related Stories Elpida samples first GDDR-2M parts ATI designs fast graphics DRAM spec, enlists vendor support
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2003

Direct marketing – new legal dangers

In the context of this article, direct marketing means marketing contact that has not been requested by the target, write lawyers Mike Pettit and Tim Cook. The legal background on direct marketing is set to change. The European Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications ("Directive") focuses on marketing by email, SMS, fax and automated calling machines ("Electronic Direct Marketing"). The requirements of the Directive must be implemented within UK law by no later than 31 October 2003. Draft implementing regulations for the UK have been published but the provisions may change in the course of the consultation process. A key purpose of the Directive concerns the requirements for anyone engaging in Electronic Direct Marketing to obtain consent from the target and whether a target must give prior explicit consent to Electronic Direct Marketing ("opt-in") or whether allowing a target to withdraw from Electronic Direct Marketing ("opt-out") is legal. Current position Currently it is legal (subject to some exceptions)for a business to send Electronic Direct Marketing to targets in the UK, without that target having given explicit consent, by allowing the target to "opt-out" of future contact. Most readers will be familiar with seeing an option to unsubscribe on marketing emails (this adapted example is taken from a marketing email that the author received this morning... "If you prefer not to receive future marketing e-mail from our business then please reply to unsubscribe@our-business.co.uk"). Revisions to the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing ("Code") came into effect in March 2003 and were essentially made to cover Electronic Direct Marketing. The Code reflects the legal requirements set out in the Directive. Although the Code is self-regulated (by the advertising industry) and not enforceable in law (except in extreme circumstances), the Advertising Standards Authority can investigate complaints about a breach of the Code. Therefore it is advisable for businesses to comply with the Code generally and also in preparation for implementation of the requirements of the Directive which will be enforceable in law. Consent Email The Directive requires those engaged in Electronic Direct Marketing by email to implement an "opt-in" approach to consent before sending Electronic Direct Marketing emails to a target, except where a target's electronic contact details are obtained during the course of supplying goods/ services to that target, in which case those engaged in Electronic Direct Marketing may adopt an "opt-out" approach to consent only in respect of marketing its own identical or similar goods/ services to that target. Where the "opt-out" applies, the target must be given an easy, free of charge and clear opportunity to "opt-out" both when contact details are collected, and on all future Electronic Direct Marketing. It is contrary to the provisions of the Directive to: (i) conceal the identity of the sender, and (ii) fail to provide a valid return email address for opting-out. Consent - SMS, fax and automated calling machines The Directive requires those engaged in Electronic Direct Marketing by SMS, fax and automated calling machines to implement an "opt-in" approach to consent before sending such Electronic Direct Marketing to a target. Consent - other means of direct marketing For businesses wishing to market by other means of electronic communication (e.g. non-automated telephone marketing) the Directive allows the UK to determine whether or not "opt-in" is required. The draft UK Regulations currently provide that (subject to certain exceptions) a business may not market by non-automated telephone where the target has contacted the business and exercised its right to "opt-out" or if the target is listed on an "opt-out" register. Review your direct marketing policies now If your business engages in Electronic Direct Marketing then its policies will need to be reviewed in the light of the current legislation and the impending changes. If your policies are in compliance with current legislation and, in particular, the Code then implementation of the impending changes will be more painless. © Taylor Walton 2003. All Rights Reserved Taylor Walton supplies a comprehensive range of commercial legal services. If you would like to discuss the content of this article or any other commercial matter, please contact Mike Pettit or Tim Cook. You can also telephone on 01582 731161
Taylor Walton, 12 Jun 2003
cable

BT blows out in new patent challenge

BT has begun legal action in the US concerning patents for blowing fibre optic cables down bores and conduits. The action was filed in Delaware earlier this month, reports Light Reading, against Broadwing Inc., Level 3 Communications Inc., Qwest Communications International Inc., SBC Communications Inc., Touch America Holdings Inc., and Verizon Communications Inc. In a statement to The Register BT has confirmed the legal action alleging that the named companies have infringed its patents in its "blown cable patent portfolio". The company said: "BT takes the protection of its extensive and valuable intellectual property assets very seriously. "We've approached the companies concerned over the use of the blown cable patent but in the absence of satisfactory responses have litigated to enforce our rights." BT's "blown cable" technology uses compressed air and other gasses to blow fibre optic cables down conduits, as opposed to pulling them through using ropes, for example. No doubt BT's action will raise eyebrows among those who saw the UK's dominant telco make a fool of itself last year by pursuing its "patent" of hyperlinks. That challenge - to get US ISPs to cough up for using hyperlinks - was thrown out last year by a US judge who ruled that BT's "hidden page" patent did not cover what we know today as "hyperlinks". BT did not appeal the decision. ® Related Stories Hyperlink case 'not on priority list' - BT CEO BT loses hypertext claim
Tim Richardson, 12 Jun 2003

Al-Jazeera cracker charged

A US Web designer has been charged with breaking into DNS servers and rerouting surfers visiting the Web site of Al-Jazeera to a "Let Freedom Ring" patriotic Web site he created, John William Racine II, of Norco, California, is also accused of intercepting Web email sent to the Arab satellite TV network, AP reports. The 24 year-old is out on bail pending a Monday court appearance when he will face charges of unlawful interception of an electronic communication and wire fraud. Prosecutors allege that Racine obtained a password for Al-Jazeera's Web site by posing as a representative of the station in forged requests faxed to Network Solutions, who handed over the vital information without verifying his identity. This social engineering trick allowed Racine to reroute people visiting Al-Jazeera's site to a Web page containing an outline map of the US superimposed with the Stars and Stripes, and containing the slogan "Let Freedom Ring". Racine also intercepted 300 emails sent to Al-Jazeera between March 25 and 27, prosecutors allege. A US attorney's spokesman told AP that he expected Racine to plead guilty to the charges. However Racine is yet to enter a plea in the case. His arraignment is due to take place next Monday, June 16. ® Related Stories US.gov warns script kiddies to stay out of cyberwar Al-Jazeera's web site - DDoSed or unplugged? Al-Jazeera and the Net - free speech, but don't say that DNS inventor calls for security overhaul
John Leyden, 12 Jun 2003

N-Gage boss slams GBA

Nokia's head of entertainment and media, Ilkka Raiskinen, has attacked Nintendo's GBA in today's Dow Jones, accusing the system of failing to appeal to adult demographics, and has revealed some details of the development business model for N-Gage. "GameBoy is for 10-year-olds," Raiskinen is quoted as saying. "If you're 20 or 25 years old, it's probably not a good idea to draw a GameBoy out of your pocket on a Friday night in a public place." Nokia would have us believe, of course, that the N-Gage will be a far more socially acceptable piece of kit. While there's no doubt that Raiskinen's comments hold some truth - GBA's demographic does indeed skew a lot younger than other consoles - they're far less on the money now than they would have been before Christmas. Many retailers have commented that the audience for GBA SP is significantly older than it was for the original GBA, with the new clamshell design appealing to a market which previously wouldn't have touched a portable console. The comments also reveal that Nokia seems to be taking Nintendo seriously as a competitor, having previously argued that the N-Gage exists in a market space of its own and does not compete directly with the GBA. Nintendo has described itself as "unthreatened" by Nokia's entry into the market, while Raiskinen now believes that N-Gage's appeal to an older audience gives the company a "bigger opportunity" for the device. Interestingly, the Dow Jones article also reveals some details of Nokia's thinking on the development business model for the console. Some developers are being paid a flat fee to create content for the N-Gage, it transpires, while others are receiving royalty fees - in some cases, royalty rates can be as high as 70 per cent. The cost of developing N-Gage titles runs at between $100,000 and $500,000, according to Raiskinen - significantly higher than the cost of developing most GBA titles. © gamesindustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 12 Jun 2003

When in Roam, do as the Roamans do

Vodafone Ireland has greatly simplified roaming prices by launching flat-rate call charges for Europe and the UK. The company, Ireland's biggest mobile operator, said on Wednesday that Irish Vodafone customers visiting the UK will now pay €0.59 per minute for any call to Ireland or within the UK. For Europe, in markets where customers can use a Vodafone network, consumers will pay €0.99 per minute. The new pricing applies to both contract and pre-paid customers and to mobile-to-mobile as well as mobile-to-fixed-line calls. A spokesperson for Vodafone Ireland said the company had wanted to introduce a simplified billing structure for roaming for some time, but was prevented by pricing agreements set when Vodafone bought Mannesmann in 2000. The agreements expired in April this year. Along with SFR in France, which is part-owned by Vodafone, and Vodafone UK, Vodafone Ireland is one of the first Vodafone networks to introduce flat roaming rates. In addition to the new rates for the UK and Europe, Vodafone Ireland has introduced a flat roaming rate of €1.99 per minute for prepaid customers roaming in Australia and €2.99 for roaming in South Africa and Malta. "These new rates will undoubtedly make using a mobile phone abroad significantly easier, with the costs now being increasingly transparent for our customers, and will deliver substantial savings to Irish customers when travelling abroad," claimed Paul Donovan, CEO, Vodafone Ireland. Roaming has, for years, been a contentious issue in Ireland, as customers often complained that the pricing system was complex. In some instances, customers returning to Ireland from a holiday or business trip have been surprised by the cost of calls. In April, some of Europe's biggest mobile operators dodged the roaming bullet after the European Commission said that that its three-year enquiry into roaming charges would be delayed. This delay meant that UK and German mobile telecoms, such as mmO2, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile, had temporally escaped the prospect of paying millions in competition fines. Although such levies were never guaranteed to be instituted by EU authorities, it was thought that Brussels had built a strong case against the firms. The EU investigation, which covers all the mobile network operators in the UK and Germany, may not produce results until as late as August. The hold-up is due to European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti's difficulties in building a rock-solid case against the firms. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 12 Jun 2003

Nokia Observation: camera phone or CCTV?

Buyers of Nokia's new Observation camera run the risk of infringing the UK's Data Protection Act, it has emerged. The Observation is a digicam with a built-in cellphone. Nokia is offering the device as a home and office security tool. The camera contains a heat-scanning motion detector. If it detects movement within its field of view it sends its owner a text message warning them of the fact. Pictures identifying the possible intruder are sent to by e-mail. The camera can operate at night, and a microphone capable of recording conversations. However, if the camera takes the snap of the intruder's face - or anyone else for that matter - that is identifiable, it immediately comes into the scope of the UK's Data Protection Act and European Directive 95/46, which deals with the processing of personal data, ERT Weekly, the electrical retail business' newspaper, reports. For Nokia and its UK customers, that means the device counts as a CCTV camera, and the user may have to register with the UK's Information Commissioner (formerly the Data Protection Registrar) at a cost of £35 per year. Users in other territories may have to register with local data protection organisations. The UK law covers computers and other devices with "some ability to process automatically, eg. CCTV systems". Failure to register is an offence. Nokia's web site carries the following warning in the camera's legal information page and at the end of the FAQ: "Some jurisdictions have laws and regulations about the use of a device recording images and conversations in public or private areas and regarding the processing and further use of such data. Nokia encourages its customers to obey all laws and to honor the personal rights of others." The Observer's manual adds: "National laws and regulations may place restrictions on recording images and regarding further processing and use of such data. Do not use this feature illegally. Honour the privacy and other legitimate rights of others and obey all laws governing, for example, data protection, privacy and publicity." The trouble is, how many users are used to scanning web sites' legal notices pages, or the large print in manuals, let alone the small print? The Observation is set to go on sale in the next few weeks, for around £300, says ERT Weekly. ® Related Links Nokia's Observation page ERT Weekly: Nokia camera phone falls foul of Data Protection legislation
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2003

MS Windows Server 2003 download leak?

Microsoft seems to be leaking code again - a link at http://download.microsoft.com passed to The Register allows free access to what appears to be an ISO image of Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition. The file, x09-22207.iso, is known to have been accessible since last weekend, and as it was still available this morning we presume the link is not yet widely known of. Or perhaps cared about. The file appears to be connected to the Windows 2003 Server eval programme. That expires after 180 days, and needs to be activated after 14. Eariler this year Microsoft also contrived a leak of a Server 2003 activation key earlier this year. Microsoft has a long history of being unable to keep a lid on direct links to this class of file, and traditionally leaks the location of service pack downloads for the convenience of geeks prior to the the official release date. A stolen copy of Enterprise Server is however a rather different matter from something more anonymous like a warezed XP Pro. Server 2003 is, obviously, something you'd use to ruin (er, run) a business, where the existence of a high-spec Microsoft network, together with the absence of records of a very large payment, would swiftly become apparent to Microsoft and its agents. So like the key leak this one seems pretty harmless. But Microsoft's inability to control its own downloads ought surely to be of some concern to Redmond, particularly as the company is trying to position itself as content policeman of choice for the entertainment industry. Or perhaps not - if Windows operating systems were protected by DRM too, well, you wouldn't need to keep control of access to the URLs, would you? ®
John Lettice, 12 Jun 2003

ABIT adds VIA chipsets to Pentium 4 mobo roadmap

Mobo maker ABIT will release boards based on VIA's Pentium 4 chipset, the PT800, during Q3, according to the company's latest roadmap. And the company will support AMD's Athlon 64 in October - a month after the chip's official launch - with two boards, one based on VIA technology the other using Nvidia's 'Crush K8' chipset. The VIA-based P4 board, dubbed the VI7, is scheduled to ship late July or early August, according to the roadmap. It will feature 400MHz DDR memory support, 800MHZ frontside bus support, AGP 8x, Serial ATA RAID, USB 2.0, 10/100 Ethernet and an optical digital S/P DIF out port - all features provided by the PT800 North Bridge and 8237 South Bridge. The same parts will be used in mid-September on a follow-up board that provides augments the VI7's feature set with a dual-channel 400MHz DDR memory sub-system. ABIT's other P4 boards are based on Intel chipsets, suggesting that the company's decision to adopt VIA's product was made possible by the settlement of the twp chip makers' legal battle a couple of months back. Speaking of Intel, ABIT will release the i875P-based IC7-MAX3 mobo in the same timeframe as the VI7. It will offer 800MHz FSB support, dual-channel 400MHz DDR memory, 6x Serial ATA, AGP 8x, gigabit Ethernet, 1394 and USB 2.0. ABIT's Athlon 64 boards, the KN8-G and KV8-G, based on Nvidia and VIA technology, respectively, should arrive in October, according to the roadmap. The KN8-G will be based on the Crush K8 chipset, likely to be a more enthusiast oriented version of the nForce 3 Nvidia launched in April to support AMD's Opteron CPU. According to the roadmap, it offer an 800MHz FSB, DDR 400 support, AGP 8x, 6x Serial ATA RAID, USB 2.0, 1394, Gigabit Ethernet, SoundStorm, six-channel audio and in/out S/P DIF. The VIA K8T800-based KV8-G has the same feature set, lacking only SoundStorm. ® Related Story Intel and VIA are friends again
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2003

FrogPad ships one-handed keyboard

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Keyboard US-based FrogPad has begun shipping its innovative one-hand keyboard, the only device of its kind on the market today, the company claims. The keyboard crams full functionality onto a grid of 15 full-size keys, plus and five more keys integrated into the keyboard's case. According to FrogPad, "the letters are arranged according to frequency of use. The top 15 letters typists use 86 per cent of the time are located in the most convenient positions and are arranged according to the natural typing and drumming motion of the hand". FrogPad is touting the device as the next "major breakthrough in human-computer interfaces", and is seeking out computer manufacturers keen to use the keyboard to shrink the size of the systems they offer. Thinking about it, any keyboard can be operated one-handed, but FrogPad's non-QWERTY approach is novel. The FrogPad one-handed keyboard isn't cheap - it costs $189.99 before sales tax and $12.99 delivery charges - but the company is shipping it around the world. Hard Drive Western Digital has launched what it claims is the world's largest 7200rpm Serial ATA drive, the Caviar Special Edition line. The top-end model offers 250GB of raw data capacity. Others provide 120, 160 and 200GB of storage. Each unit contains an 8MB cache buffer which feeds the 150MBps Serial ATA connection. In these days of low drive warranty periods, Western Digital is bucking the trend and guaranteeing the Caviar SE series for a three-year period. The launch follows the arrival earlier this year of Intel's i875 and i865 800MHz frontside bus Pentium 4 chipset lines, which support Serial ATA, as do similar chipsets from the likes of VIA and SiS. Western Digital has also introduced SecureConnect, a Serial ATA connector cable that's 500 per cent stronger than early Serial ATA cables but retails compatibility with early Serial ATA backplanes. Dodgy cables, says WD, have lead to too many connector breakages and the return of too many drives to manufacturers. Also featured on the Caviar SE family is FlexPower, a system that allows the drive to be powered by traditional EIDE power connectors, a common feature of current PCs, as well as currently shipping Serial ATA power supplies. The Caviar SE family goes on sale in July. Maxtor, meanwhile, has begun shipping its 80GB and 120GB DiamondMax Serial ATA drives to retailers. It expects to see 200GB and 250GB models on store shelves by the middle of the month. Like the Caviar SEs, DiamondMax have 8MB of cache buffer memory, spin at 7200rpm and are designed to operate with Serial or Parallel ATA power supplies, a techniqie Maxtor calls MaxATA. Pricing was not revealed. Chipset SiS has announced the SiS964 South Bridge, designed to connect to its SiS180 North Bridge. The SiS964 integrates two independent Serial ATA ports, plus a dual-channel ATA bus. Multiple RAID modes are supported, including RAID0, RAID1 and JBOD. It supports up to eight USB2.0 ports, provides 10/100 Ethernet and V.90 modem, and offers Dolby digital 5.1 multi-channel sound. The SiS964 will going into mass production during Q3, followed by SiS' further chipsets for Intel and AMD platforms. ®
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2003

SIA halves chip industry growth forecast

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) yesterday revised its forecast for growth in the world chip market downward to reflect "the new realities of the semiconductor market". Back in November 2002, the organisation predicted chip sale would increase 19.8 per cent during 2003. Yesterday, when it released its mid-year forecast, it changed that figure to a more modest 10.1 per cent, a reduction of almost half. To date, the SIA has been sticking to its claim that the industry will experience "double-digit growth" this year. It's new forecast allows the organisation to save face - by a mere fifth of a percentage point. The move follows a similar forecast revision made by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) group. Last October, WSTS predicted that the industry would grow by 16.6 per cent during 2003. Now it has cut that forecast to just 11.5 per cent. Breaking down the SIA's forecast by chip type, the organisation reckons sales of microprocessors will grow 8.1 per cent to $25.8 billion then 11.1 per cent to $28.6 billion in 2004, seven per cent to $30.7 billion in 2005, and four per cent to $31.9 billion in 2006. The DRAM market is expected to grow 2.9 per cent to $15.7 billion in 2003 and 43 per cent to $22.5 billion in 2004. In 2005, DRAMs are expected to decrease 26.8 per cent to $16.4 billion. In 2006, this market will rebound 29.6 per cent to $21.3 billion in sales. As the SIA notes, this clearly shows the highly cyclical nature of the DRAM business. Looking ahead for the industry as a whole, the SIA expects the industry to grow by 16.8 per cent next year, followed by 5.8 per cent growth in 2005 and an increase of seven per cent during 2006. By then the industry will be worth $205 billion, up from 2002's sales of $141 billion. Related Link The SIA's chip market forecast and breakdown Related Stories Chip makers to increase spending this year Chip biz body cuts 2003 growth forecast
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2003

Friday 13th deadline looms for SCO to slash AIX

Darl 'Jason' McBride has reminded IBM that it has until tomorrow, Friday the Thirteenth, to comply with its claim that Big Blue's AIX compromised SCO's UNIX™ IP, or else. Jason, as SCO Group CEO, has notched up the pressure by reminding IBM that SCO could revoke its UNIX™ licence. "If we don't have a resolution by midnight on Friday the 13th, the AIX world will be a different place," he warned darkly this week. The evidence that SCO has presented to date hasn't exactly been compelling. It has shown market researcher the Aberdeen Group 80 lines of code under a non-disclosure agreement - a move that infuriated rival analysts, who had been reluctant to accept the condition - but 80 lines doesn't represent the leap from "bicycle" to "luxury car" that SCO says represents the value of IBM's contribution to Linux - code that it claims rightfully belongs to SCO. But it's worth remembering that SCO doesn't have to prove anything yet. The real trial hasn't even begun. And that's the only one that matters. ® Bootnote See also: The Pirates of Penguinance Related Stories SCO invokes RIAA in Linux jihad SCO sues IBM for $1 billion for 'devaluing Unix' IBM puts Unix back on top
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jun 2003

Open relay spam is ‘dying out’

Open relay spam is dying out as a problem, according to a survey published today that is likely to raise eyebrows in the spam-fighting community. Only one per cent of corporate UK mail servers tested by security testing firm NTA Monitor last year were poorly configured in a vulnerable way that allowed spam to be distributed by 'open relay'. In 1997, 91 per cent of servers tested by NTA Monitor were similarly vulnerable. The firm tested only corporate - and not ISP - email servers. Even so NTA's Monitor's findings fly in the face of conventional industry wisdom on the topic and are likely to prove controversial. Open to abuse Spammers traditionally used 'open relays' to distribute their spam. Open relays allowed spammers to off load the job of sending thousands of emails to a powerful server with high bandwidth. The practice slows down the processing of legitimate email and clogs up bandwidth, to say nothing of the potential damage to reputation that comes from even innocently sending out spam. Years ago spammers were spoilt for choice for open relays, but now the window for exploitation of corporate mail servers has reduced dramatically, according to NTA Monitor. So why has the tactic declined? "The dramatic fall is due to manufacturers making it easier to turn off 'open relaying' functionality in their mail server products and disabling it in their default settings, in addition to understanding of the problem and its remedies from security staff," NTA Monitor states. ®
John Leyden, 12 Jun 2003

4G and alphanumeric soup

LettersLetters A couple of letters take us to task for yesterday's piece. The first is from analysts Visant, the second, a timely reminder that we omitted to mention a number of ETLAs which are important to the standards process. We read your piece on the question of why is there talk of 4G out there when 3G is still awaiting deployment. As a research firm, we have decided to cover 4G since there seems to be a wave of movement towards finding a technology solution that delivers much what 3G has promised, but in a more sensible way when it comes to delivering data over a wide area wireless network. What is 4G, exactly? There are countless papers and presentations that define fourth generation cellular (4G), with the common thread through all of them being an elimination of circuit-switched network and instituting an IP-based network for the achievement of optimal wireless data benchmarks, in terms of cost and performance. Other attributes for 4G include less reliance on infrastructure (fewer base stations per pop), greater spectral efficiency, and superior economics compared to 3G. 3G may be good, as 2.5G may be, but for wide area high speed wireless data, 4G may be better as it does not concern itself with the circuit-switched legacy that 2.5G and 3G systems conform to. 4G is optimized for packet data and capable of delivery of a user experience in the wide area network that will appeal to businesses and early adopters. Discussions regarding semantics aside, the real question here is why are carriers interested in these solutions? Other concerning questions are also evident: Why are carriers limiting their deployments of W-CDMA? Where is the gold rush of data revenues that was supposed to accompany 3G? Why are 3G deployments so late in Europe? And, finally, will 3G operators recoup their investment in a timely fashion? Carriers exist to attain profits. They seek return on investment and not necessarily titles (2.5G, 3G or 4G). Interest in solutions that are being coined 4G will continue because they offer operators something that 3G has failed to deliver in Europe, an attractive business model. Andy Fuertes Sr. Analyst Visant Strategies, Inc. Larry Swasey Project Director Visant Strategies, Inc. Er, "semantics aside" is a red rag to this bull. We shall not let you off so lightly. You state that the only standards setting bodies that count are the ITU and the IEEE. Fiddle sticks. Here in Europe the only one that counts is ETSI. In Japan the only one that counts is ARIB. In China it is CWTS. In the USA there are several (which may help to explain the state of your mobile networks there) of which T1 is possibly the most important. 3G technology is being standardised by a group of these organisations (ETSI, ARIB, CWTS, TTA, T1) working together under the banner 3GPP. 3GPP encompasses 2G (GSM), "2.5G" (EDGE) and 3G (WCDMA) and was responsible for HSDPA and is now studying the possible adoption of OFDM too. True. the ITU was important as an "umbrella" but when it comes down to brass tacks they had their day in fixed telephone networks but are tinkering now. They are not even part of 3GPP. As for the IEEE they are the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, they are not a standards setting body in any legal context, and probably don't want to be. At least not if they're sensible. They're not part of 3GPP either. But then I'm only a member of the IEE, which is the comparable organisation here in the UK, so I wouldn't really know. :-) David Bartlett Quite right too, and thanks, David. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jun 2003

Oracle reseller pitches to PeopleSoft accounts

Never let it be said IT salespeople are slow to seize on market uncertainty to bolster their pitch. Following Oracle's unexpected bid for PeopleSoft, UK reseller DSP Global has become one of the first companies to announce a PeopleSoft to Oracle E-Business Suite conversion programme. Oracle mounted a hostile $5.1 billion takeover bid last Friday (6 June) for enterprise apps rival PeopleSoft. Oracle offered $16 cash per PeopleSoft share, just six per cent above its closing price of $15.11 before the offer. Forget doubts about whether Oracle is offering enough to persuade PeopleSoft shareholders to sell, PeopleSoft board's opposition to the bid or even anti-trust concerns, DSP Global asserts that the deal is a racing certainty. On this questionable basis, migration from PeopleSoft is the only option for the firm's famously loyal band of customers. "PeopleSoft clients know that current market economics mean that the deal is most likely to go ahead and that they need to start looking at conversion," said Phil Huntley, DSP Global's chief executive. Under Oracle's plan, the PeopleSoft brand would eventually disappear, although technical support would be provided to PeopleSoft's existing customers. Oracle managers also indicated PeopleSoft's 8000-odd workers could expect mass layoffs. PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway has described Oracle's $5.1 billion bid as "atrociously bad behaviour from a company with a history of atrociously bad behaviour". Conway claims Oracle's bid is motivated solely by an attempt to derail PeopleSoft's plans to acquire mid-market apps vendor J D Edwards. Oracle boss Larry Ellison, meanwhile, has found time to blast PeopleSoft's services organisation while pressing his request to meet the PeopleSoft board to discuss Oracle's bid. "We are not interested in stock market egos," said DSP Global's Huntley. "We want to offer PeopleSoft clients a long-term relationship so they can protect their IT investments, while remaining in a supported environment." Oracle has announced that it will offer PeopleSoft clients a free upgrade. However, Huntley argues that potential PeopleSoft defectors would do better to go through his company. "Beware of an Oracle person bearing gifts," he warned. "In our experience there's no such thing as a free lunch." ® Related Stories Oracle ambushes PeopleSoft with $5.1bn bid Oracle to migrate PeopleSoft accounts to... Oracle PeopleSoft says Oracle is atrocious JD Edwards says Oracle is anti-competitive Oracle says PeopleSoft keeps legal attack dogs on leash PeopleSoft plunks down $1.7bn for J.D. Edwards Peoplesoft and JD Edwards: an IBM narrative
John Leyden, 12 Jun 2003
Cat 5 cable

Analysts keener on Oracle's PeopleSoft bid than customers

PeopleSoft customers are much more wary of Oracle's predatory bid for PeopleSoft than analysts. In a poll of 2,606 PeopleSoft customers by Meta Group, the number of respondents who thought the Oracle bid was a bad thing outnumbered those who thought it was a good thing by almost two to one. 921 compared to 424 thought negatively of the move. However, almost half of all those polled preferred not to express an opinion. It's a web poll, too, so caveats should apply. Analyst company Sageza was much more bullish about PeopleSoft lying in the arms of Larry. "If Oracle fails, then PeopleSoft would be able to build from its Number Two position and use the DB2 trump card to demand better terms whenever Oracle came calling with its tin cup extended," write analysts Myles Suer and Jim Balderston. "But if Oracle is successful, it could gain access to a near captive relationship with the largest enterprise software vendor, which would likely cause many a chagrined face at IBM and Sybase given their strong relationships with PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards." And no one wants to see a chagrined face. However Oracle's spin team clearly needs to work harder. In the end its PeopleSoft's customers who get to vote on how successful the merger may be - with their wallets. ® Related Stories Oracle reseller pitches to PeopleSoft buyers Oracle says PeopleSoft keeps legal attack dogs on leash JD Edwards says Oracle is anti-competitive PeopleSoft says Oracle is atrocious Oracle to migrate PeopleSoft accounts to... Oracle Oracle ambushes Peoplesoft with $5.1bn bid
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jun 2003
Cat 5 cable

PeopleSoft boss asks customers to buy, buy, buy

PeopleSoft's CEO Craig Conway has written to its customers urging them not to put off purchases because of the uncertainty created by Oracle's hostile bid for the ERP vendor. The PeopleSoft board has rejected Oracle's bid, Conway writes, principally because it does not believe an Oracle/PeopleSoft combo would withstand antitrust scrutiny. On Monday, June 2, PeopleSoft announced the acquisition of J.D. Edwards. The announcement followed months of technical and organizational meetings to ensure additional value to customers of both companies, while protecting their existing software investments. Analysts, systems integrators, computer companies, and most importantly-customers-immediately praised the proposed combination of J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft. Everyone recognized the advantages to customers of the broadest selection of integrated software applications available on the broadest choice of hardware, operating systems, databases, and application servers. Five days following our announcement we learned of a hostile bid by Oracle Corporation to acquire PeopleSoft. Incredibly, Oracle made it clear their intention was to discontinue all PeopleSoft products, ultimately forcing customers to convert to Oracle's applications and database. As you know, this would cost each organization millions to tens of millions of dollars. After careful and due consideration, our Board of Directors rejected Oracle's bid, citing a wide range of reasons, particularly concern that the combination will not withstand antitrust scrutiny. The Board was also deeply troubled by Oracle's predatory intentions and the devastating impact on customers, employees, and the industry. Beyond the laws that promote competition, PeopleSoft's articles and bylaws contain extensive protections to prevent this and other hostile takeover attempts. PeopleSoft will confidently move ahead with the J.D. Edwards acquisition to create significantly higher shareholder value. We will continue our profound commitment to customers, supporting the broadest choice of operating systems, databases, hardware, and application servers. We will continue to pioneer innovative technology. We will continue as a profitable, financially stable company. And we will always be a company of integrity because that is who we are. In the end, PeopleSoft was the target of a hostile bid exactly because we have stronger products, exactly because we are so well positioned. The calculated approach to disrupt our business assumed a dramatic slowdown in customer purchases. Don't let it happen. Show your support for PeopleSoft by moving ahead with your planned purchases of PeopleSoft products this month. Show your support and let us move forward together-this month, this year, and for years to come. Sincerely, Craig A. Conway President, CEO
John Leyden, 12 Jun 2003

Wireless not for the likes of us: The Dorchester

The Register's Wireless LAN Channel Top London hotel The Dorchester is completing a refurbishment which includes PCs and up to six 100Mbit Ethernet connections in every room, with e-butlers to help guests get connected. But in a move to avoid wandering PC users from lowering the tone of the hotel's public areas, there is no wireless connectivity. "I'm not sure you want to walk into the hotel and find 50 people around the promenade, all with laptops out," says Dorchester general manager David Wilkinson. "We have focused attention on the guest rooms - we believe we have the most advanced hotel rooms in Europe." Inside the rooms, what looks like a flat screen TV in an ornamental cabinet is actually a 42in NEC plasma screen on an HP/Compaq Pentium 4 PC fitted with a Hauppage TV card. The system can be driven via either a TV-style remote control or an infra-red keyboard. There are also connections for a laptop, with switch-overs allowing it to drive the plasma screen for presentations, or take control of the HP printer/copier/scanner hiding in a second cabinet. The hotel says 10-15 per cent of guests bring laptops, and the figure is rising. Services available on the big screen include local and international TV channels, Internet radio, music and video on-demand from a set of media servers in the hotel basement, Web browsing and Microsoft Office. In the pipeline are extra features such as online room service and restaurant booking. System software was developed for the Dorchester by London-based Neos Interactive and the installation handled by Computacenter. "It's not easy putting a system into a working hotel," says Wilkinson. He adds that the human element - the hotel's three e-butlers - is essential: "A lot of the time, when technology falls down in hotels it is because there's no one there to help." He says wireless networks can be set up in the banqueting suites for special events, while suites can be linked with private LANs. The hotel is also looking at equipping its own staff with handheld PCs. ® Related stories WLAN alert! Get your helmets on Wi-Fi hotspots mean some burnt fingers The Register's Wireless LAN Channel
Bryan Betts, 12 Jun 2003

Oracle says 'We're flatter than PeopleSoft'

Oracle's strong fourth quarter results have given rise to another wave of rhetoric from Larry Ellison in pitching the PeopleSoft takeover bid. Oracle saw net income swell to $858 million in the fourth quarter - a 31 percent jump over the $656 million reported in the same period last year. The rise in net income appears to show that Oracle is running a tight ship. Total revenue edged up 2 percent year-on-year to $2.83 billion, but the only major gains in the quarter came from software license updates and support. This business pulled in $1.1 billion - a 12 percent increase from Q4 2002. New software licenses brought in just 1 percent more revenue this quarter to $1.2 billion and services fell 11 percent to $580 million. Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison, however, was happy with the flatness of things. "For the quarter our applications new software license revenues were flat at $246 million," Ellison said in a statement. "Many of our major competitors showed significant license revenue decline in their most recently reported quarter." It doesn't take the Amazing Kreskin to guess what Larry said next. "For instance, in PeopleSoft's most recent quarter their applications new license revenues decreased 39 percent to $80 million. We believe that our growth and PeopleSoft's decline resulted in part from an increase in our competitive win rate over PeopleSoft, and the fact that we are beginning to replace PeopleSoft at a number of major accounts." PeopleSoft uses a different set of metrics. By its account, PeopleSoft has the stronger business, which is precisely why Oracle wants to buy it for $5.1 billion. Decent earnings aside, some industry watchers are concerned about the amount of cash Oracle will need to complete its hostile takeover. Moody's Investors Service downgraded Oracle to "negative," saying problems could arise should Oracle need to increase its bid and not be able to offset PeopleSoft's revenue losses. For its full fiscal year, Oracle's net income rose 4 percent to $2.31 billion on revenue of $9.5 billion - a decline of 2 percent from 2002. ® Related Stories Analysts keener on Oracle's PeopleSoft bid than customers Oracle reseller pitches to PeopleSoft accounts Oracle says PeopleSoft keeps legal attack dogs on leash
Ashlee Vance, 12 Jun 2003

Sex.com, Sex.com, you're my Sex.com

The US Supreme Court has rejected the appeal by Stephen Michael Cohen in the sex.com case. The decision brings to a close two years of pointless legal argument and leaves the way clear for sex.com owner Gary Kremen to concentrate on forcing .com registry VeriSign to admit its guilt in transferring the valuable domain to Mr Cohen in 1995. "We are pleased to put a successful end to Mr. Cohen," said Richard J. Idell, a lawyer representing Kremen. The decision was entirely expected however, since Mr Cohen's appeal against $65m costs awarded to Mr Kremen had already been rejected by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit as an "egregious abuse of the litigation process". However, while the Supreme Court decision is "the final nail in the coffin" according to Kremen's lawyers, it does not mean that retrieving the funds still owed to Mr Kremen will prove any easier. Mr Cohen is currently a fugitive from justice in Mexico where a careful reallocation of assets in offshore funds before and after the initial ruling against him means he can live a comfortable and well-guarded existence. (Bounty hunters seeking a reward offered by Kremen for Cohen were involved in several gun fights with what Cohen says was the Mexican police.) Cohen defrauded Kremen out of the domain sex.com - which is worth $500,000 a month just in advertising space - by sending a blatantly forged letter to VeriSign asking that it be handed over to him. This VeriSign duly did without checking the letter or contacting Kremen. It took Kremen nearly six years in the law courts to regain possession of the domain and the judge ordered Cohen - who has always admitted forging the letter - to repay $65m in costs and unwarranted earnings. Shortly after, Mr Cohen fled the country and since then has concocted increasingly bizarre reasons as to why he is unable to pay the fine. With the case finally put to rest however, Mr Kremen faces his toughest battle - forcing VeriSign to accept blame for transferring the domain without checking in the first place. He is expected to win although VeriSign is sticking to its defence that a domain name cannot legally be held to be property and as such it cannot be held to account for giving the sex.com away to someone else. If VeriSign eventually loses, it will face a $100m fine and legal fee bill. It would also set a legal precedent that will encourage thousands of other domain owners to seek recompense for wrongly handing over domains (something VeriSign has become particularly famous for). Such is VeriSign's concern that in a petition to the US courts it claimed that if it lost the case it would actually mean the end not only of the company but the entire Internet. ® Related stories Sex.com conman continues ludicrous legal fight California High Court refuses to interject in Sex.com case Sex.com case heralds end of Internet - NSI Sex.com could cost VeriSign $100m, says suit Manhunt starts for Sex.com snatcher Sex.com owner wins $65m damages Where the hell is my website?
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jun 2003