15th > July > 2003 Archive

SGI: new Onyx visualization server may open new markets

SGI has launched a new visualization server, the Onyx4. SGI claims its new high-end visualization server has a price/performance ratio 40 times better than the next best technology. This may open up new markets for visualization systems where, previously, all but the largest organizations have found the price prohibitive. SGI has rolled out a new high-end visualization server that it says will set the pace for price and performance in this burgeoning market. The Onyx4 UltimateVision system is an offshoot of the same NUMAflex shared memory clustering technology that is at the heart of the company's Origin 3000 MIPS-Irix HPC servers. Rather than try to create specialized graphical engines for the visualization system, SGI designed the Onyx4 UltimateVision system can to use between two and 32 high-end graphics cards made by ATI Technologies in parallel to create what is in effect one giant and very powerful multi-pipelined graphics card. Unlike the Origin 3000s and related Onyx InfiniteReality visualization systems, the Onyx4s have processing, as well as memory and I/O scalability, with up to 64 processors able to share the same memory space and I/O. The resulting system is one-fifth the price and five times as physically compact as the InfiniteReality visualization server, while having about eight times the visual processing power of an Origin 3000 system with the same MIPS processors. According to Shawn Underwood, director of marketing at SGI, this kind of price/performance improvement - a factor of 40 - is exactly what spawns whole new markets, as has happened in areas from Unix workstations to Lintel clusters. The servers and visualization systems that are based on them are only part of the equation, but the idea of having an immersive virtual reality center would no longer be preposterous for many organizations. SGI has taken some lumps in recent years, but any company that can sell 600,000 workstations and servers (mostly workstations by number) and generate $1.3 billion in sales a year in the cut-throat workstation and server markets has to be taken seriously. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor © Datamonitor is offering Reg readers some of its technology research FOC. Check it out here. Related stories SGI upgrades kit big and small SGI's Tezro workstation gone before it arrived SGI renders 400 redundant SGI finds 2,048 uses for an Itanic
Datamonitor, 15 Jul 2003

McDATA sets out its virtual stall

McDATA has revealed its plans for hybrid out-of-band SAN virtualisation, combining programmable intelligent switches with an external control engine. This separates the control path from the data path, says McDATA senior marketing manager Chris Ilg. Most data then goes straight through the switch at high speed, whereas the appliance approach favoured by the likes of DataCore, FalconStor and IBM requires all traffic to be processed by a Linux or Windows 2000 server along the way. Ilg says that McDATA's 'fast path' technology will come to market in the second half of 2004 in two forms: a blade to upgrade directors by adding fast pathing to existing Fibre Channel ports, and within a new version of the Sphereon 4500 fabric switch. Both will feature an ASIC-based acceleration engine within the data path, plus an API that allows software developers to program the intelligent switch via a separate control engine. The control engine loads mapping tables into the switch, for example to mirror or migrate data, and also handles errors and exceptions. "Once you've set it up, the control server fades into the background. You could lose it and still run, but we'd never recommend that because there is always some interaction when an unrecognised frame comes by," Ilg says. "Each fast path can support from 20 to 40 ports depending on the application mix, and you can mix and match fast and normal ports in a switch depending on your needs. In a director you would always start with two fast path blades, because they'd be clustered for redundancy." The hybrid path has already been trodden by a few others, most notably HP in its blend of the ex-Compaq VersaStor technology with the CASA virtualisation device it acquired from Storage Appliance and the Rhapsody switches that it buys in from Brocade. The difference, says Ilg, is that McDATA's version will be open: the company has no plans to sell control servers or applications, instead relying on third parties for these. He demonstrated a prototype running data migration software from Incipient. He adds that ultimately there will have to be a standard API for intelligent switches of this kind. "Right now it's not happening but eventually it will be mandatory," he says. "We are in the very early stages of talking about it in the ANSI T11 committee, but it's probably 18-24 months before we even see version 1. "The standard will have to be driven by the application vendors because software porting is such a lengthy business for them. I think they do have the muscle to do this because many of them are storage vendors themselves - IBM, HDS and EMC all have big plans for software." ® Related stories Cisco switch price cuts a bad sign - Analyst Brocade gets big backing for new software Brocade feeds analyst dirt on Cisco switch
Bryan Betts, 15 Jul 2003

Corel founder slams ‘pathetic’ bid

Corel founder Dr Michael Cowpland has thrown in his support for dissident shareholders who are fighting the takeover of the company. Describing the $97.6m cash offer tabled last month by Vector Capital 11 as "pathetic", Cowpland also expressed hopes that "we Corel fans succeed in helping an independent amazing future for Corel". The dissident shareholders say that Corel's board is selling at bargain basement prices at the bottom of the market. They want the company to continue as an independent, executing its three-year turnaround plan. According to Cowpland "Corel has a fantastic future with great Corel Graphics, WordPerfect Office 11 and Linux surging worldwide". Is Cowpland bitter? He was, after all, probably ousted in 2000 by the board which is recommending the takeover. Or is he a hopeless romantic? Cowpland lost much credibility at Corel's helm, because of the Panglossian statements he made concerning the company's prospects, only to be undercut quickly by the stark reality of the company's actual performance. Whatever. His intervention will succour the well-organised shareholder rebellion. Set up last month, CorelRescue.com claims that it has the support of seven million shareholder votes against the Vector Capital bid - even though most shareholders are against the plan. Admittedly this expression of support is in the form of a poll, rather than a formal proxy, so Corel's board can safely ignore this for now. &Reg; Related stories Corel shareholders rebel Corel's Cowpland quits
Drew Cullen, 15 Jul 2003

It's curtains for voice recognition, says survey

Curtains, drapes, blinds, hangings, shades, valances, jalousies - call them what you will, but consumers see them as a key application for voice recognition technology, according to the latest survey to emerge out the silly season. Yes, some 44 per cent of web users surveyed on behalf of Intervoice, a developer of voice control technologies, want to use such systems to control their curtains. So says a release the company put out yesterday. The survey's key finding is that 49 per cent of respondents want to browse the web using voice control, but it's sunny, hot and frankly the curtains statistic impressed us more. Right behind drawing the curtains, respondents said they most wanted to use voice control for security applications (43 per cent) and to tell their car to turn the aircon on (33 per cent). "Voice is the most natural medium in the world," says Simon Edwards of Intervoice, sensibly. Then spoils it all by announcing to the world, that the survey's respondents think that teleporting, water-fuelled cars, household robots and talking computers will be common in the next 20 years. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Jul 2003

Infinium to unwrap Phantom console next month

Infinium Labs will pull the sheet off the mysterious Phantom broadband-oriented games console next month, the company said yesterday. Phantom is being touted as a "next-generation console" that will be "the fastest console on the market" at launch thanks to a "state-of-the-art design and architecture". It hit the enthusiast sites' headlines last month after Infinium posted the Intel and Nvidia logos on its web site, suggesting that the device uses parts from both chip makers. Since then, the Nvidia logo has disappeared, leaving Intel alone among a listing of web design types and Enterprise Florida. According to Infinium, Phantom will be an always-on broadband device that uses the connection to pull down games on demand - much like in-flight aircraft games systems, we imagine - and enable the console's "massive multi-player capability". Presumably there's some hard drive storage in there somewhere, since Infinium talks about "a broad selection of pre-loaded games" and the console's inbuilt patch management - the latter being pointless if titles aren't stored locally. Titles will be available to demo, buy or rent. Essentially, Phantom sounds like a customised PC and running "PC games, interactive content [and] ported console games" all supplied down the wire via Infinium's Phantom.net e-commerce service. The last two title types in particular sound like Flash or Java games, and emulators. Supporting existing software development will be essential if Infinium wants to avoid the fate of previous independent console development efforts - think 3DO - who foundered on poor games availability. We'll learn more when the console is unveiled at the Ultimate Gamers Expo in Los Angeles next month. The event open on 15 August. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Jul 2003

Chip fab kit spend to rise 3.9 per cent this year

Chip makers are forecast to spend 3.9 per cent more on semiconductor production equipment this year than they did in 2002, according to the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) organisation. SEMI reckons chip makers will spend $20.52 billion in 2003, up from $19.75 billion in 2002. Most of that investment will be made to equip fabs in China, Japan and South Korea - spending will continue to decline in the US, and Europe will see single-figure growth. SEMI's equipment spending figure is less bullish than recent Gartner figures, which put the industry's capex at $29.9 billion this year, up 7.9 per cent on 2002's spending. Look further ahead, SEMI said it expects spending to grow 24 per cent in 2004 to $25.4 billion and 18 per cent in 2005 to $30 billion before contracting 2.7 per cent in 2006 to $29.22 billion as the cycle passes its peak. Driving the growth will be the implementation of 30mm wafer production, SEMI said. Wafer processing kit will account for $17.3 billion of spending next year - more than 68 per cent of the total equipment spend. This year, the big areas of spending are assembly and packaging kit, and testing equipment, which will grow at a rate of 30 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively. ® Related Story Chip makers' 2003 capex to buck downward trend
Tony Smith, 15 Jul 2003

Samsung ramps up 1Gb DDR chip output

Samsung yesterday said it has begun mass-producing 1Gb DDR SDRAM chips. It added that the parts were the first of their kind to receive Intel validation. The 1Gb chips are fabbed at 100nm (0.1 micron) and punched out on 300mm wafers. Available in 266MHz and 333MHz speeds - for PC2100 and PC2700 memory, respectively - the chips finally make possible 4GB DIMMs. Samsung said it has produced 2GB unbuffered DIMMs and - interestingly - SO-DIMMs. That should help drive down the cost of high-capacity notebook memory, allowing users with otherwise limited RAM expansion opportunities to start bunging in 1GB modules and higher. About time, too. If you want a 1GB PC2100 SO-DIMM today, memory specialist Kingston Technology will charge you $1188 for it. Samsung expects demand for 1Gb chips to ramp up significantly through the rest of 2003 and beyond. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Jul 2003

Sony-Ericsson stops the rot

Sony Ericsson sales and shipments have started climbing again. The handset maker reports Q2 shipments of 6.7 million, 34 per cent up year on year, and net sales of €1.125bn for the quarter ended June 30, a 40 per cent advance on last year. S-E claims a strong performance for its core business areas - GSM and Japanese standards. GSM shipments in Q2 were up 84 per cent and Japanese shipments up 45 per cent year on year. The firm is still losing money and it says that restructuring will mean that it will not make a profit in 2003. It also not yet profitable on the operating front: Earnings before Bad Stuff (excluding restructuring charges and taxes ) was €-45m, better than last year's Q2 loss of €-98m, but it's still a hefty loss. Chuck in the bad stuff and Nnt loss for the quarter soars to €-88m, of which €58m can be attributed to the costs of last month's decision to withdraw from the North American CDMA handset market and to shut its Munich research centre. This will cost the firm another €12m at some point, but the re-org is expected to bring in €120m in annualised savings. Since pooling handset operations into a London-based JV, Sony and Ericsson have seen their market standing slide from third to fifth place, with Samsung and Siemens overtaking them. ®
Drew Cullen, 15 Jul 2003

Student hackers: we didn't defeat campus debit card system

Two student hackers yesterday settled a lawsuit filed against them by campus debit card firm Blackboard with an admission that they never built a device to defeat the system. Georgia tech student Billy Hoffman (AKA Acidus) and University of Alabama student Virgil Griffith (Virgil) were to present a paper on security flaws involving Blackboard's popular university ID card system at the Interz0ne.com conference last April. Blackboard Inc. got wind of the talk on the supposed shortcomings of its Blackboard Transaction System and filed suit against the pair. At first the case looked like a big company using lawyers to gag security researchers but subsequent reports on the case reveal something more complex was going on. For instance, the Washington Post reports that in March Hoffman attended a trade show for campus card users as a paid consultant for Blackboard competitor NuVision Networks. The Blackboard Transaction System is used by many US universities; it enables institutions to manage student accounts, lets students spend their money on the Web or on campus using their student ID card. The system can be Web-enabled or integrated with campus equipment such as cash registers and vending machines. Hoffman's Web site (www.yak.net/acidus), according to Blackboard's lawyers, detailed plans to "release code to make a computer emulate any Blackboard reader, as well as the hardware designs ... to make a drop in replacement for any Blackboard reader" during the cancelled talk. But Hoffman and Griffith did not actually make a device that could manipulate the Blackboard system for illicit gain, at least according a settlement the pair made with Blackboard Inc. this week. AP reports that the settlement requires the students to "apologize to Blackboard and its clients, promise that they never built a transaction processing system and serve 40 hours community service". In return Blackboard Inc. has agreed to call off its lawyers. "They actually didn't do a lot of the things they were claiming to do," Blackboard spokesman Michael Stanton told AP. "They knew full well the claims they were making were silly. They're obviously bright young guys, but a little misguided in where they were focusing their attention." Blackboard said the settlement shows its systems are secure but the whole case is better understood as a successful attempt to protect the firm's reputation against the possibly exaggerated claims of a pair of student hacker/crackers. ® Related Stories DMCA threats gag security researchers
John Leyden, 15 Jul 2003
cable

Agere designs wireless VoIP chipset

Chipmaker Agere Systems today announced plans to integrate wireless LAN and VoIP technology on a single integrated chipset. Agere's wireless VoIP phone technology offers the promise of making low-cost, mobile phone calls over the Internet more widely available once the chips become available from September. Wi-Fi/802.11 technology allows users to access the Internet and wirelessly transmit data through network access points. VoIP technology enables converged voice and data connections on phone networks, increasing network efficiency and reducing per-call costs. By combining these two technologies into a single, integrated chip set, Agere's technology will support communications devices that give users the freedom to roam across corporate networks, residential broadband networks and public Wi-Fi hotspots. Agere is to incorporate NTT's Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) software into its wireless IP phone technology. Agere plans to offer a development platform and reference design for handset makers that takes advantage of NTT's UPnP software. This should help manufacturers provide low-cost handsets that are capable of communicating over NTT's residential and enterprise VoIP broadband services. Agere's new chipset is designed to meet the compact form-factor and low-power consumption requirements of today's handheld mobile devices, offering performance benefits such as improved talk and standby times over wireless IP phones currently available on the market. Industry analyst firm In-Stat MDR expects worldwide shipments of voice over wireless LAN handsets to grow from 90,000 units in 2002 to more than 1 million units by 2007. Agere's wireless VoIP solution consists of the following components: The T8307 system-on-a-chip, which provides VoIP call control and voice processing by integrating Agere's DSP (digital signal processing) 16000 capabilities with an ARM946E-S(r) microcontroller and advanced I/O capabilities. The WL60010 802.11b media access controller (MAC) chip, which provides programmable host interface support, one megabyte of on-chip memory and a glueless interface to Agere's 802.11b radio chipsets and modules. The chip is certified to use the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security approach. The WL1141 PHY module, which is the industry's first integrated 802.11b radio and baseband device, according to Agere. The CSP2200 chip, which integrates enhanced-quality audio codecs, power management tools, battery charger and ringer control drivers. As part of its wireless IP phone chip set product, Agere also will supply software drivers for the uClinux operating systems, the session initiation protocol (SIP) stack, voice compression codecs, and sample demonstration applications. Sample quantities of Agere's wireless IP telephony chip set and development platform will be available in September, with volume production expected in the first quarter 2004. Unit pricing for complete chipsets will begin at $30 in sample quantities. ® Related Stories Agere, Infineon pool WLAN development Agere demos 162Mbps wireless LAN chip Moto to make hybrid WLAN phones Leave your Cisco WiFi mobile phone at the door IP Telephony far better than 'two cans connected by string'
John Leyden, 15 Jul 2003

Samsung ships compact Q20 Centrino notebook

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Notebooks Samsung has expanded its range of Centrino-based notebooks, with the new Q20 series of compact machines and the X05, a low-cost alternative to the company's X10 notebook. The Q20 family comprises the TEC 1100 and TLC 1200, powered by 1.1GHz and 1.2GHz Low-voltage Pentium M processors, respectively. The 1100 ships with a 40GB hard drive and 256MB of DDR SDRAM, while the 1200 contains 60GB of hard disk storage and 512MB of RAM. Both offer two USB 2.0 ports, one 1394 connector and a three-in-one Memory Stick, SD card and MultiMedia Card slot. Their 12.1in LCD screens are driven by Intel's Extreme Graphics 2 engine integrated into the Centrino 855GM chipset. Connectivity is provided by built-in 10/100Mbps Ethernet, 56Kbps modem and 802.11b WLAN adaptor. What really differentiates the machines are their size: 1.9cm thick and 27 x 23cm when closed. Both weigh 1.29kg (2.8lbs). The downside is that there's no optical storage built-in - you need Samsung's optional SliceDock add-on for that. The 1200 retails for £1599 ($2581), the 1100 for £1399 ($2258). Prices exclude UK sales tax. The X05, meanwhile, also comes in two versions: the XTC 1400 and XTC 1500. Both ship with low-power 14.1in displays, again powered by Intel's Extreme Graphics 2. Wired, wireless and analog communications are built in too, as are USB, 1394 and S-Video ports. The 1400 is powered by a 1.4GHz Pentium M, the 1500 by a 1.5GHz version of the chip. The machines contain 30GB and 40GB hard drives, and 256MB and 512MB of DDR SDRAM, respectively. Both feature DVD/CD-RW combo optical drives. Samsung claims a 4.5-hour battery life for each notebook, rather more than the Q20 battery's three-hour lifespan - and that's without an optical drive and a lower-voltage CPU. X05 prices start at £1099 ($1774) excluding UK sales tax. Flash Storage SanDisk has announced its latest entry into the crowded Flash drive market: Cruzer Mini. Crowded it may be, but according to market watcher NPD Techworld, some 171,000 USB Flash drives were sold through US retail channels last May, together amounting to sales in order of $11 million. So it's not hard to see why world+dog wants to be a part of it. Available in two sizes - 128MB and 256MB, retailing in the US for $49.99 and $79.99, respectively - the Cruzer Mini is almost identical to other such products from no-name suppliers and big brands alike. SanDisk's product supports Hi-speed USB 2.0 - ie. it's a genuine USB 2.0 device. It's also rather slimmer than previous generations of Cruzer and "does not block most other USB ports when plugged in", which would have been a problem with older versions, by the look of them. SanDisk doesn't say whether it bundles a USB extension cable just in case. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Jul 2003

Fujitsu creates 800x600 PDA LCD

Fujitsu has succeeded in cramming 480,000 pixels into a 4in PDA-oriented LCD screen - more than four times as many as current PDA screens sport. Our Palm Tungsten T has a 320 x 320 display. Fujitsu's 4in panel has a resolution of 800x600 - enough, the company claims, to show digital TV pictures. It will also show an entire web page, Fujitsu boasts - but we reckon PDA users will need major eye upgrades if they want to be able to read the text. The new display doesn't so much add extra pixels as more cleverly use ones already there. Instead of separate red, blue and green pixels of the kind found in today's LCDs, the Fujitsu system uses fast-changing colour backlights to allow a single pixel to display any of the three primary screen colours. The upshot is an effective three-fold increase in the number of pixels. Still, it will be some time before Fujitsu's high precision display appears in a Palm or Pocket PC near you. The company has so far produced only prototype displays and doesn't expect to commercialise the product for a few years yet. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Jul 2003

Sucks.com issue rears ugly head again

Just when you thought commonsense had prevailed and ownership of "sucks" websites had been clarified, US mobile phone company Nextel and a media school in Florida have reopened the issue. Nextel has sent a legal letter to the owner of Nextelsucks.org, Ty Hiither of Michigan, threatening him over alleged trademark infringement. It reads: "It has come to our attention that you have registered the domain name, http://www.nextelsucks.org. Your unauthorized registration and use of the domain name infringes our client's valuable trademark rights and unfairly trades upon NCI's fame and established good-will..." etc etc. "The activity that you are engaging in violates the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, federal anti-dilution laws and federal unfair competition laws." Meanwhile, Full Sail Real World Education took out a WIPO case against www.fullsailsucks.com on 9 July and the decision is pending*. Surely all this was decided over two years ago with the spate of sucks.com domains both through the courts and ICANN's domain dispute process? We thought so at least. There were several rulings in which the addition of "sucks" at the end of a company name was seen as "fair use" and so could be excluded from trademark disputes. The most famous case concerned "ballysucks" - which, although it was a web page and not the domain itself, the court decided the owner had a valid free speech interest in using Bally's mark. Also, after a few false starts (in particular when legendary WIPO arbitrator William Cornish decided against five varied "sucks.com" sites on the same day using his particular brand of interpretation), the UDRP (ICANN's flawed domain arbitration system) eventually came to realise that "sucks" was a legitimate use (wallmartcanadasucks.com was the turning point). Although it still doesn't rule out transferring "sucks" domains to company in certain circumstances. It seems incredible then that Nextel would start a legal action on this basis. The letter arrived within a week of the domain being renewed by Mr Hiither, suggesting that Nextel is closely watching the domain market. It is therefore also possible that the legal letter was an automatic response and wasn't properly assessed by someone who knows about this area of law. But then since the company will never admit this or wish to be seen to be "backing down", it's best to presume the clampdown on "sucks" sites is official policy. Ignoring the possibility of corporate bullying, perhaps Nextel thinks it has a chance. Corporate lawyers have been very busy the past two years pushing the new Anti-Cybersquatting legislation to its very limits. Maybe Nextel thinks it can sneak through a "sucks" case and set a precedent. None of this makes Mr Hiither very happy though. He set up the site after having a particular bad time with the company - odd charges that weren't explained and the company failing to turn his phone off when requested, resulting in large bills and an unsympathetic accounts department - and uses the site to vent his anger. Meanwhile, ICANN's UDRP process is always a pretty random affair and even though the most recent cases have tended to tear the older decisions apart, the idiosyncratic nature of WIPO decisions means that the case could leap the other way and mess up the consensus that had gradually been building. Fortunately for Mr Hiither and for Ryan Spevack (owner of www.fullsailsucks.com), both have, knowingly or not, followed all the essential rules that make their defence watertight. Neither has attempted to make money from the domain nor offered to sell it to anyone, especially the complainants. They have not make any use of the related company's logos or materials without adding their own input and so copyright has not been infringed. Neither have represented themselves as the company in question nor in any way as affiliated with it. There are no libellous or unjustifiable comments about the company, and both wisely distance themselves from what is printed on their forums. As such, Mr Hiither (nextelsucks) has a very strong case and if Nextel does insist on pushing the issue further, he should himself push for the case to be considered as "reverse domain name hijacking" or even "malicious prosecution". That would create an excellent precedent - although whether Nextel would let it get that far or whether Mr Hiither can afford to do so is another matter. Mr Spevack is in a tighter spot, although if he pushes he may be able to clear up one important anomaly in the ICANN process. If the addition of "sucks" to the end of a company is (quite rightly) viewed as legitimate use since no one would logically not expect such a domain to be about the company itself - how on earth can it be right to hand that domain over to the company in question? With letters and threats still flying about threatening people with action, we would all benefit from better clarification in this area. With luck these two cases will provide it. Either that or they will muddy the waters all over again. * - Thanks to J Rossa McMahon for bringing this to our attention. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Jul 2003

Mac fans pervert Forbes tech-CEO popularity poll

It's hard to decide what's more pathetic: scripting an electronic ballot stuffer for a trivial on-line poll of tech-CEO popularity, or creating a trivial on-line poll that begs to be abused. Both have happened. First off, Forbes did create a trivial on-line poll of tech-CEO popularity and did leave it absurdly easy to exploit. Rather than use some lame CGI which only half the boneheads connected to the Web know how to subvert, they decided to use hotlinks to register each vote, which every bonehead connected to the Web can subvert. Once a vote is cast, a unique URL related to it is displayed prominently in the browser's address bar, easy to capture and tinker with. It's really no more complicated than http://vote.for.Steve.Jobs or http://vote.for.Carly.Fiorina. We've bolded the identifying bits in the real-world examples below to make them even more painfully evident: The Jobs thumbs-up URL: http://forums.prospero.com/n/mb/viewpoll.asp? webtag=fdc_ceorate&tid =219&lgnF=y&dlink=1 &vote=1&submit=%A0%A0Vote+Now%A0%3E%3E%A0%A0 Jobs thumbs-down: http://forums.prospero.com/n/mb/viewpoll.asp? webtag=fdc_ceorate&tid =219&lgnF=y&dlink=1 &vote=2&submit=%A0%A0Vote+Now%A0%3E%3E%A0%A0 Mind the word-wrap. We leave it to the occasionally evil, always inspiring, ingenuity of El Reg's beloved readers to do the right thing with them. Then there's the business of taking this little reader distraction far too seriously. Mac fanatics apparently grew alarmed by the nose-dive their cult hero began to sustain in this meaningless electronic vox pop, and this week set about correcting it. Users of the Mac Daily News forum suspected foul play from some "Anti-Mac Wintel Sufferers" who they suspected were siphoning off Jobs votes by some diabolical means. To correct this injustice, they circulated a script to automate their pro-Jobs votes, and a battle of the ballot-stuffers commenced. We've heard from one 'Anti-Mac Wintel Sufferer' who says he scripted a Jobs thumbs-down ballot stuffer for Windows to counter the Mac fanatics' thumbs-up ballot stuffer. Not that this could make the Forbes poll any more meaningless than it already is, mind you. Both sides in the dispute claim the other started it. According to the Mac Observer forum, "the Wintel crowd is bot-voting (using an application to auto-vote again and again) against Steve Jobs AND for Steve Ballmer (approx. 20-30000 votes per day). The only way to compete is to auto-vote, too." (Here again the pro-Jobs script is available.) Meanwhile, our 'pro-Wintel' source says he only reacted to ballot-stuffing by the Mac boosters, while the Mac mob says they only reacted to him, or him and his MS-boosting Anti-Mac compatriots. Our source, who calls himself 'GK in Little Rock' and who has shown us his anti-Jobs voting script, says he's had enough of Mac evangelists calling Microsoft users 'sheep, lemmings, losers and idiots,' so he decided to "strike back at a small group of zealots that had been pouring this constant badgering down on myself and a host of friends." "The funniest part of this is the truth," GK says. "Mac users had been stuffing the ballot box for months already." Of course this is not something we can verify, having just now been brought into the dispute. But it's healthy once in a while to hear from an MS booster who doesn't mind fighting fire with fire: "OSX is becoming more and more like Windows with every release, and they think every feature that is robbed from Windows is some new AAPL innovation. It's pathetic. I used to think that there was an extreme segment of AAPL that made most of them look bad. After today, pouring over dozens of AAPL sites, I now know that the vast majority of them are extremists, and they make the few good guys look bad. It's really a shame that they are this lost." Whether strictly true or not, you have to admire the conviction in that. Though when GK moves in for the kill he forgets that the contest is not quite binary: there's a third OS lurking in the field. "The one question I really want them to answer is...'If Steve Jobs is doing such a wonderful job for AAPL, why is AAPL's market share decreasing quarter after quarter with an all time low of 1.9%'" GK wonders. The problem with asking a rhetorical question is that someone may answer it. There's an obvious reply: because Linux rocks the party that rocks the par-tay. Jobs should show a lot more fear of Linux than Gates already does. Tux will eventually do what Billg never could: bury the Mac and dance on its grave. At any rate, there clearly is a battle raging between Jobs' personality cult and at least one angry MSFT booster on lightweight issues of CEO popularity and somewhat more substantial issues of operating-system prejudice and the relative merits of continuing to produce a lot of translucent plastic boxes. The weapons are roughly the same, though the MS script is immensely simpler than the Mac script if that matters. And as for the person who started it, we'd forget the Mac and MS lobbies altogether and finger instead the unbelievably sloppy Webmaster at Forbes who made it all possible, or perhaps inevitable. ® PS: for automated Ballmer fun try these: Thumbs up: http://forums.prospero.com/n/mb/viewpoll.asp? webtag=fdc_ceorate&tid =220&lgnF=y&dlink=1 &vote=1&submit=%A0%A0Vote+Now%A0%3E%3E%A0%A0 Thumbs down: http://forums.prospero.com/n/mb/viewpoll.asp? webtag=fdc_ceorate&tid =220&lgnF=y&dlink=1 &vote=2&submit=%A0%A0Vote+Now%A0%3E%3E%A0%A0 Mind the word-wrap.
Thomas C Greene, 15 Jul 2003

Toshiba enters 17in notebook market

Toshiba has launched a 17in notebook into the European market in a bid to catch up with Apple's technology lead. The Satellite P20 series (in the US it's the P25 series) is - surprise, surprise - aimed at the desktop replacement market. Models within the series are based on the Pentium 4 processor, clocked at up to 3.06GHz and running an 800MHz effective bit rate frontside bus. Each machine ships with at least 512MB of DDR SDRAM, up to 80GB of 5400rpm hard disk space. The P20 also sports SD card slot, TV out, IrDA, 10/100MBps Ethernet, 56Kbps modem and a 1394 port. Unlike the US P25, the European P20 doesn't have integrated Wi-Fi. Every machine, says Tosh, has "DVD-burning capabilities" thanks to DVD-RAM and DVD-R/RW drives. The company has "added desktop publishing on a big, widescreen ratio display" to the list of applications its machines are suitable for. Thanks to the HyperThreading-enabled CPU, the notebook is ideal for "making your own music". There are even built-in Harmon Kardon speakers. If that's not signaling Tosh is after Apple, we don't know what is. But what of the display itself? It's a 1440x900 - just like the 17in PowerBook. The Toshiba's screen is powered by an Nvidia GeForce FX Go 5200 graphics with 64MB of dedicated DDR video memory (though the web site says 32MB), which is, it has to be said, rather better than the PowerBook's GeForce 4 440 Go chip. The Apple makes up for it in portability, however. It weighs 3.1kg to the P20's 4.5kg, and is 2.6cm (1in) thick. The Toshiba is nearly double that: 4.7cm (1.9in). It's also bigger: 41.9 x 29.3cm (16.8 x 11.7in) to the PowerBook's 39.2 x 25.9cm (15.4 x 10.2in). We'd say the Tosh isn't as stylish, either, but we're sure some of folk will prefer the P20's looks over the aluminium PowerBook's. It's hard to see anyone not preferring the P20's price, however, which at around £2199 ($3550) is four hundred pounds cheaper than the Apple, which is currently priced at £2599 ($4196). That gives you built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but 20GB less hard drive space and, as we've said, a lesser graphics chip. But is does look nicer... The P20 ships later this month. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Jul 2003

EU preps phase two of war on spam

The European Commission today fleshed out plans to fight spam. Member States must implement the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications by putting a 'ban on spam' into national legislation before the end of October, 2003. With a limited exception covering existing customer relationships, this directive states that email marketing is allowed only with prior consent. This 'opt-in' regime covers both email and SMS messages received on any mobile or fixed terminal. Member States can also ban unsolicited commercial e-mails to businesses. As a second step, the European Commission expects a Communication on spam to be adopted in the Autumn. Action is to focus on "effective enforcement, notably through international co-operation, technical measures for countering spam, and consumer awareness," it says. The proposed measures are to be tested first with Member States and interested parties through a workshop to be convened in October. Prior to this meeting, the Commission will be working together with data protection authorities from the Member States in developing policy. It is estimated that before the end of the summer, more than 50 percent of global email traffic will be spam. As well as a complete waste of time, spam can cost companies money in wasted employee productivity and misused computer resources. The EU cites estimates that spam cost EU-based businesses up to € 2.5 billion in 2002, in the form of lost productivity and misused computer resources. The EU was a first mover on the legal front by adopting in July 2002 a Directive ((Article 13 of Directive 2002/58/EC on Privacy and Electronic Communications) that will lead to a pan-European 'ban on spam' to individuals by October 2003 at the latest. Other actions outlined by the EU today address the various legal, technical and educational facets of spam. Member States, industry and consumers are all expected to contribute to an effective implementation: measures include enforcement by public authorities, co-operation within industry (filtering, codes of conduct), consumer (and industry) awareness, as well as bilateral and multilateral international co-operation. Since most spam comes from outside the EU, international co-operation is a key element of the Commission's response. During a visit to the US Federal Trade Commission in June, EU Commissioner Erkki Liikanen stressed the need for a global approach to what is a global problem. Commissioner Liikanen offered today to host an OECD workshop on spam early in 2004 to bring together experts from the different regions of the world. The EU has also asked that the issue of international co-operation in the fight against spam be included in the Action Plan to be agreed at the forthcoming World Summit on The Information Society to be held in Geneva on 10-12 December this year, in order to focus political attention on the mounting problem. ® Related Stories E-commerce minister calls for spam global offensive EU reviews infosecurity regime EU extends Safer Internet scheme US anti-spam laws 'will legalise spam' External Links SPAM: European Commission goes on the offensive Commissioner Liikanen talks about "Combating Spam on All Fronts" Fab O'Really T'shirt at Cash and Carrion How to deal with Spammers - permanently
John Leyden, 15 Jul 2003

Symantec ‘security scan’ distributes rootkit

"Symantec Security Check is a free web-based tool that enables users to test their computer's exposure to a wide range of on-line threats," the press release begins. Unfortunately, Symantec Security Check has also been installing an on-line threat of its own in the form of a dangerous ActiveX control. "The ActiveX control, named Symantec RuFSI Utility Class or Symantec RuFSI Registry Information Class, contains a buffer overflow exploit," the company says, though we're nearly certain they mean that it's exploitable, not that it's actually been infected with something. But you never know; the press release is one of those waffly ones that doesn't quite tell you everything you want to hear. The buffer overflow can be exploited by hip Webmasters, and victims turning up at their sites risk having malicious code run on their Windows boxes. The easiest way to get rid of the dangerous ActiveX control that security experts Symantec have planted on your machine is to visit the Security Check Web page again, submit to the security check once more, and allow them to install a much better one in its place, which they are now prepared to do. Or, if you've had enough of their security expertise for now, you can, in Symantec's words, "attempt to remove" the relevant file thus: Boot to a DOS prompt and delete the file rufsi.dll from the %Windir%\Downloaded Program Files\ directory. Choose your poison. ®
Thomas C Greene, 15 Jul 2003

Tomb Raider developer chief quits Eidos board

Games publisher Eidos today announced the immediate departure of Jeremy Heath-Smith from the company's board. Heath-Smith has also stepped down from Core Design's board. Core Design developed the Tomb Raider series of games, which were published by Eidos. Heath-Smith's role as both Eidos' Global Head of Development and Core's Managing Director is a sign of how intertwined the two companies' fortunes have become as Lara Croft's adventures have propelled both to great success. Indeed, Core is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Eidos. Heath-Smith founded Core back in 1988. In 1994, it was taken over by CentreGold, which in turn was bought by Eidos in 1996. Given how central Core has been to the Eidos story, how can we explain the sudden departure? No reason was given for Heath-Smith's move in the official announcement, and Eidos would not comment any further, referring us back to the terse press release. Many observers will conclude that the move was forced upon him. A few weeks back, Eidos admitted that last-minute delays to the release of the latest release in the Tomb Raider series, Angel of Darkness, would mean that a significant percentage of the titles sales would have to be included in the company's results for fiscal 2004, not fiscal 2003, which ended on 30 June. The profit warning prompted a ten per cent dip in Eidos' shares. "While some units may ship within the current financial year, up to one million units will ship in July, the first month of the next financial year," the company said. "This has led the Board to significantly reduce its expectations for profit before tax for the financial year." Eidos won't say what it expected to earn during 2003, or what it now believes its income will total. Its 2003 results will be announced on 4 September. Analysts were expecting sales of $283-300 million. It's hard to imagine shareholders not demanding the head of someone for the income shortfall. ® Related Story Eidos issues profit warning
Tony Smith, 15 Jul 2003
server room

IBM, Cisco team on iSCSI and FCIP

IBM and Cisco are putting their collective weight behind iSCSI and FCIP, hoping to give the fledgling protocols a kick in the pants. IBM has agreed to resell the Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module. Don't let the long name fool you. The Cisco product is just a bit of multiprotocol kit that supports iSCSI (Internet Small Computer Systems Interface) and FCIP (Fibre Channel over IP). Customers will use the module to link their Fibre Channel-based SANs (storage area networks) to the rest of their Ethernet network or in the case of an SMB to set up a SAN. IBM has long been a big iSCSI backer. It released the first system to support iSCSI in 2002, but sales of the product have been slow. However, IBM is not one to let slow sales get it down. Both iSCSI and FCIP help customers send large chunks or blocks of data over existing IP networks. Ideally, the protocols should help link Fibre Channel-based SANs over long distances and give more users access to the data in the SAN. But as one analyst points out, iSCSI, in particular, has been picked up by small and medium-sized businesses rather than the enterprise customers storage vendors were looking to attract. "The interesting thing about iSCSI is how customers -- especially small to medium businesses -- have actually been asking for the capability," said David Freund, an analyst at Illuminata. Despite these customers' affinity for iSCSI, a number of large vendors have been slow to promote the protocol, fearing it may cut into higher margin sales. "Vendors have not been pushing iSCSI all that hard," Freund said. "Reduce networked storage to commodity levels, and you also reduce profit margins." IBM, however, has been trying squeeze every penny possible out of SMB customers during the IT spending slump. Selling iSCSI and FCIP at full force fits right into this strategy. "Fibre Channel hardware is expensive, and an IT staff that moves into Fibre Channel for the first time also has to learn about this different type of network," Freund said. "iSCSI on the other hand, uses TCP/IP, on which every IT shop already has in-house expertise." Going with iSCSI means an SMB customer can shuffle blocks of data such as database or multi-media files across IP with ease. The protocol lets an SMB feel like a big boy without all the expense. Along with the module announcement, IBM said it has cut prices on the entire family of Cisco MDS Fibre Channel switches. We took the liberty of reporting this move last month. At the time, an analyst warned that Cisco may have trouble cracking into the Fibre Channel switch market. Competitors such as Brocade and McData have already won a large chunk of customers mind-share. The iSCSI/FCIP market could be more kind to Cisco, as no vendor has really proven itself as a clear winner yet. ® Related Stories Cisco switch price cuts a bad sign - Analyst HP claims IBM price scalp for Cisco storage switches
Ashlee Vance, 15 Jul 2003

HP claims HPTC bragging rights

HP has retained top spot in the High Performance Technical Computing (HPTC) market, according to the latest statistics from researchers IDC. The market research firm's "Worldwide High Performance Systems Technical Computing Census 2002" report shows that HP holds 34 percent revenue share (based on the combined revenue of HP and Compaq), a 5 percentage point lead over its nearest rival, IBM. IDC Research Vice President Chris Willard commented that HP's introduction of HPC cluster technology bodes well for its future growth potential in the market. In addition to ranking number one in market share overall, HP leads all vendors in two technical computing market segments with 53 per cent in the technical enterprise segment and 35 per cent in the technical departmental segment. IDC defines technical enterprise servers as capacity systems that sell for $1 million or more, such as HP Superdome systems. Technical departmental servers are defined as capacity systems that sell for less than $250,000. IDC attributes HP's leading position in this segment to a significant sales of Intel-based HP Linux clusters, "including the continued ramp up of Itanium 2-based HP systems into the HPTC market". According to IDC, the total HPTC market for calendar year 2002 was $4.7 billion. Yesterday's IDC market share results complement HP's strong showing in the TOP500 Supercomputer Sites list, which for the third consecutive year shows HP with more sites than any other technology provider. HP posted 159 entries on the list - more than 30 percent of the sites - with HP Superdome servers (127 entries) and HP AlphaServer systems (21 entries, three of those in the top 10) featuring prominently. HP has more sites (four) in the top 10 than any other vendor. Interestingly in a release, HP prefers to highlight the first time an installation based on HP's new Itanium 2-based systems has made it into the top 10 (a rx2600 cluster at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash) rather than a higher placed Alpha-based system. The ASCI Q system at Los Alamos National Laboratory, built by Hewlett-Packard and based on the AlphaServer SC computer system, occupies the number two spot in the top500 list. Far be it from us to suggest that this oversight was anything but purely accidental... ® Related Stories Intel powers more TOP500 supercomputers NEC crowned supercomputer king (again) IBM, EMC win big Applera HPC server storage deal (mentions DOE's HP-supplied supercomputer)
John Leyden, 15 Jul 2003

Dell's big R&D bet – Solar Power

It turns out that Dell Computer does invest in research and development - just not for computers. Around 100 students today met in Round Rock, Texas at Dell HQ to kick off the eighth annual Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge. The high schoolers are to head out on the open road and make their way from Texas to Florida in solar-powered vehicles. Don't let the Winston brand fool you. These race cars are not backed by the same cigarette-maker that sponsors NASCAR. No, this is the Dallas-based Winston School, which focuses on "realizing the potential of bright children who learn differently through individualized learning." "The Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge is an example of how companies can do their part to provide students with 21st century skills that are now required in the 21st century workforce," said John Bailey, director of technology, U.S. Department of Education, in a statement. If only Dell could apply the same principles to its PC and server groups. A few more R&D dollars, and they too could be trained for the 21st century workforce. But rest assured, should the computer business collapse, Dell will be primed to take its direct model to solar car building. Throughout the nine-day race, the students will use Dell notebooks and wireless technology to check on solar car battery usage, weather and competitors. The really smart kids will turn the solar panels off and run off the juice from Dell's notebooks. A mild case of penis burn is a small price to pay for victory. A much larger solar race began this weekend in Chicago. Racers in the American Solar Challenge are heading across the U.S. in a 2,300-mile race that will end up in Claremont, California - home of Pomona College. The cars can travel up to 70 mph. ®
Ashlee Vance, 15 Jul 2003

Intel doubles earnings in Q2

Intel saw both revenue and income rise in its second quarter, as processor sales came in better than expected. It's 35 years to the day since Intel first opened its doors, and the company shows no signs of slowing just yet. Intel pulled in $6.8 billion in revenue for the quarter ended June 28. This marks an eight per cent rise over the $6.32 billion generated in the same period one year ago. Income came in a whopping 101 per cent higher year-on-year. Intel posted $896 million in net income compared to $446 million in last year's Q2. The Asia-Pacific region was particularly strong in the quarter, setting an all-time revenue record, Intel said. Faster Pentium 4 chips and the Centrino notebook chips did their part to spur revenue in the period. Intel is spreading the good fortune around to workers. After putting a PC giveaway program on hold, Intel has decided the time is right to bring the deal back. "We are fulfilling the promise we made to employees in 2000 to provide home PCs," said an Intel spokeswoman. "We plan to substantially complete the programme in the third quarter but we aren’t providing additional details at this time regarding the size of the program or vendors." For the third quarter, Intel is predicting revenue to come in between $6.9 billion and $7.5 billion, with a boost coming from improved gross margins. Intel has also upped its research and development budget for 2003, saying it plans to spend $4.2 billion instead of $4.0 billion. Intel shares edged slightly higher during Tuesday's trading to a close of $24.10. ®
Ashlee Vance, 15 Jul 2003