29th > August > 2003 Archive

Intel's signs R&D deal with China's Legend

Intel's Asia-Pacific investment spree continues unabated. Yesterday, the chip giant agreed to found an R&D centre for home networking and security technologies with China's largest PC maker, Legend. The facility will be part of Legend' Beijing HQ, said Intel China president Wee Theng Tan, according to a Reuters report. The financial terms that underpin the agreement were not disclosed. Nor was a timetable for the centre's roll-out. However, it is expected to host 30-40 engineers. They will focus their efforts on extending today's computer-centric home networking technologies toward the consumer electronics world, building in links between broadband Net access systems, wireless and wired LANs, and PCs, TVs, DVD players and Hi-Fi. Legend is one of Intel's biggest customers in the region. It accounts for around 25 per cent of Chinese PC sales. But its rise to the top, rapid though it was, is now being challenged by low-cost PC producers offering commodity systems. Legend needs to differentiate its already highly commoditised offerings from the cheaper competition, and tying its PCs into broader home entertainment systems is one way it hopes to leverage its superior resources to differentiate its products. To that end, Legend is also working with Sony, Microsoft, HP and Samsung to develop common specifications for such interlinked systems. ®
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2003

Samsung puts 256Mb GDDR2 chip into production

Samsung will soon begin mass production of its 256Mb graphics-oriented DDR II memory chip, the company said yesterday. The GDDR2 part uses a number of technical tricks to offer 50 per cent more memory performance than GDDR chips, including on-die termination, off-chip calibration and a reduced CAS latency. Samsung says the part delivers a data throughput of 1.6Gbps per pin and an aggregate bandwidth of 6.4GBps. The density of the chip, meanwhile, will allow graphics card makers to increase the on-board memory they offer to 512MB, simply by replacing existing 128Mb GDDR2 chips with the new size, Samsung claimed. The chip uses a JEDEC-standard 144-ball FGA package. Graphics card companies have already received sample parts. ®
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2003

Nvidia NV38 debut to push back NV40?

That graphics card manufacturers are going to be showing off products based on Nvidia's upcoming NV36 and NV38 processors late next month is a sign that they aren't going to release boards based on the next-generation NV40 part any time soon. So speculates Xbit Labs. It believes board makers will demo NV38 and NV36-based boards at Computex Taipei, rescheduled from last June to the penultimate week of September after the SARS outbreak. The chips' official launch will come in October and November - roughly six months after the GeForce FX 5600 and 5900 were launched - and in time for the Thanksgiving and Christmas gift-buying period. The NV38 is believed to succeed the 5900, the NV36 the 5600. Third-party roadmaps we saw recently didn't mention the NV38, but listed the NV40, Nvidia's first high-end chip to offer PCI Express support, as the follow-up to the GeForce FX 5900 - aka the NV35 - with a second-half of 2003 release window. Such broad timeframes shouldn't be taken too seriously, and it's entirely possible Nvidia has shunted the NV40 back to make the most of the AGP 8x market before PCI Express starts to come in and tempt hard-core gamers and graphics professionals. Essentially, NV38 appears be a higher-clockable version of the NV35, and would fill the gap before the arrival of the NV40 nicely. Whatever its precise spec., the availability timeframe of the NV38 means that card makers are unlikely to want to follow it with another high-end chip, the NV40, as soon as older roadmaps suggest it will become available. That, plus Nvidia's preferred six-month upgrade cycle, suggests to Xbit Labs that NV40-based products won't appear for some time yet, and possibly around the time everyone was expected the PCI Express-only NV45. Again, the timetables are broad, and leave Nvidia plenty of room to adjust release schedules the better to deal with what ATI offers in the meantime and market trends such as the uptake (or not) of PCI Express. ®
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2003

Motorola launches Symbian smartphone

Motorola yesterday unveiled its first Symbian-based handset, the A920. The new smartphone is destined for the UK and Italy for use exclusively on cellular operator 3's 3G network. The A920 features a 208 x 320 16-bit colour screen, integrated 640 x 480 digicam, MP3 playback (it also supports AAC, apparently) and even a GPS location guidance system. Below the screen is a Palm Tungsten T-style five-way navigation button and four function buttons, two for making and ending calls, the others for 3 services and the UI's home view, respectively. Two more buttons are positioned above the display, the idea being that users can turn the handset horizontally and use it as a two-hand gaming deck. Games are written in Java and run in the Symbian OS' Java virtual machine. The phone uses version 7 of the OS and Symbian's UIQ user interface - just like Sony Ericsson's P800. In addition to maintaining the handset's communications sub-system, the OS also provides full PDA and multimedia functionality. The stylus is mounted into a slot on the back of the handset, by the way. Motorola didn't say how much memory is built into the handset - we believed it's 8MB - but it can be expanded by up to 256MB using SD cards. The handset is a tri-band GSM/GPRS/UMTS device operating at 900/1800/1900/2100MHz. It measures 148 x 60 x 24 mm and weighs 212g (7.48oz), so it's a fairly chunky beast. The A920 will be available next month. 3 did not provide pricing. ® Related Story Samsung launches photo phones
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2003

Motorola sells Symbian stake to Nokia, Psion

UpdateUpdate Motorola may have launched its first Symbian handset yesterday, but its interest in the smartphone operating system company has clearly waned. Today, Nokia and Psion said they had begun the process of transferring Motorola's stake in Symbian to themselves. Symbian is a privately held company, owned by Psion, its co-founder with Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola. Since then Samsung, Matsushita-Pioneer and Siemens have come on board as investors. As we pointed out recently, back in March Symbian said 21 devices were in development from ten licensees. Last week, the number of licensees with products in the pipeline had fallen to nine. Motorola remains a Symbian licensee, and today reiterated that it will continue to support the OS. But the implication is that it will only do so if specific customers require it - something less than the wholehearted endorsement of the OS that it has offered in the past. Indeed, it now believes Java is the future, and while Symbian provides a host for Java apps, so do other smartphone operating systems. "We believe Java is what ultimately provides our customers worldwide with the most optimised and differentiated mobile experiences," said Scott Durchslag, corporate VP of Motorola's Personal Communications Sector, in a statement. Hence the shift away from Symbian and the reduction in its shareholding. When the transfer is complete, Nokia will have grown its stake from 19 per cent to 32.2 per cent, while Psion's shareholding will rise from 25.3 per cent to 31.1 per cent. Nokia clearly gets the bulk of Motorola's 19 per cent shareholding. That leaves Ericsson with 19 per cent of Symbian, Matsushita with 7.9 per cent, Samsung on five per cent and Siemens with just 4.8 per cent. The scale to the transaction - which remains undisclosed, but should turn up on Motorola's books in due course - values Symbian as a whole at £300 million ($473 million), the company said. This reference to valuation, plus Symbian's decision to start regularly announcing financial results, makes us wonder if the business is looking to float. Certainly, as a privately held company, it's under no obligation to offer such information to the public, so the fact it's doing so has to be regarded as a tactical move, if only to ensure it gains mindshare in the analyst community against its main rival, the publicly traded Microsoft. The transfer is by no means a done deal - other Symbian shareholders have the right to have a say in the matter, and the German Federal Cartel Office will have to give its blessing - but the three key parties are expecting nothing to impede the transaction progress, which they hope will be complete "within the coming weeks". ® Related Stories Motorola launches Symbian smartphone Symbian smart phone sales soar 1000%
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2003

Tiscali registers broadband growth

Tiscali has posted improved financial results for the first half of the year thanks to the uptake of broadband services throughout Europe. The Sardinia-based ISP signed up around 8000 new ADSL punters a week during the three months to the end of June - for a total of 110,000 broadband customers during the quarter - as it dug deep into its pockets to splash out on marketing the service. As it stands, the ISP has 470,000 broadband users and expects to have signed up more than 750,000 customers by the end of the year. But the growth in customers was offset by a slowdown in the number of people hooking up to Tiscali's narrowband service, although the ISP said that this was down to "one-off seasonal factors in June". In all, Tiscali has around 7.6 million customers. Commenting on the growth in broadband Tiscali said in a statement: "These good results were due to heavy promotion of the service in all Tiscali’s markets, and to the gradual implementation of EU directives to liberalise the broadband market, which is now losing much of its monopolistic character in terms of regulation and tariffs." Revenues for the first six months of the year swelled 17 per cent to €429.7 million ($467.34 million) compared to H1 2002. EBITDA (earning before interest etc) hit €33 million - compared to a loss of €8.6 million in the first six months of last year. Looking ahead, Tiscali reckons that revenues are set to grow by more than 20 per cent for the year-end. It has also confirmed that it is on target to make a net profit in 2005. ®
Tim Richardson, 29 Aug 2003

BT unaffected by London power cut

BT reported today that its phone network was unaffected by last night's freak power cut in London. Two simultaneous faults at around 6.30pm last night crippled parts of the capital leaving tens of thousands of commuters stranded and leaving homes and businesses without power. Even though the outage lasted some 40 minutes, BT reported that the power cut had "no impact on its network" after generators at those exchanges affected kicked in. ®
Tim Richardson, 29 Aug 2003

BT's Chairman Bland signs up until 2007

BT's chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, is to stay at the company until 2007, the monster telco confirmed today. The Southampton FC supporter and former BBC man has signed a new contract entitling him to an annual salary of £500,000 ($788,450), although this means that he will not be eligible to receive an annual bonus, the company said in a statement. Bland, 65, became chairman in May 2001 replacing Sir Ian Vallance. During his time at the telco he has overseen debt reduction from almost £30 billion to under £10 billion, managed the demerger of mobile operation MMO2 and the witnessed sale of Yell. "He's overseen a huge period of change at BT," said a BT bod. Last year, Bland revealed that when he took over the job he drew up a "to do" list. In a newspaper interview he revealed that among the items on the list was a Rights Issue, an idea to demerge BT's wireless business, a bid to reshape the Board, and the appointment of a new chief exec to replace the then boss, Sir Peter Bonfield. ® Related Story Bonfield had no BT future
Tim Richardson, 29 Aug 2003

Symantec adds product activation

Symantec is embracing product activation technology with Norton AntiVirus 2004, to "protect users from pirated or counterfeit software". This is the first time the security software giant has introduced product activation. In due course it plans to introduce the technology across its entire consumer product line. Del Smith, senior product manager at Symantec, told The Register that the technology will stem "large scale pirating" of its software. According to Symantec, 3.6 million units of bootleg Symantec software are sold per year. According to Smith this figure does not include loses from software downloads and is a "conservative" estimate. Symantec doesn't say how much this piracy costs the company in lost revenues. "Our primary motivation for introducing product activation is to protect our customers but it's probably true to say that we probably wouldn't have introduced the technology but for the problem we have with large scale counterfeiting," he said. Symantec's product activation process is similar to that of Microsoft Windows XP. The product activation technology is licensed from a third party, which Symantec declines to name for "security reasons". According to the company its product activation process is so simple and unobtrusive that users won't resent it. After installing Norton AntiVirus 2004, users get 15 days grace to activate the product; the program won't work after the deadline unless the activation is completed. A software wizard takes users through the activation process. Users are prompted to enter a software key and the wizard sends this key and the configuration of a PC to Symantec's servers that respond with a code that activates a user's package. To enable hardware upgrades or load the software on new PCs, users can run through the product activation process a maximum of five times. However Smith stresses that the licensing terms of NAV 2004 are not changing with the introduction of product activation. Users are still only permitted to load a copy of Symantec's anti-virus toolkit on one computer or laptop. When Microsoft introduced product activation with Windows XP many expressed fears over privacy implications as well as the ability of the technology to cope with basic changes of configuration in PC hardware. According to Smith, more than 250,000 users had completed the NAV product activation process in trials involving English language downloads of NAV 2003 "without complaints". Symantec keeps data from its product activation process separate from registration information, he added. The company plans to introduce the activation technology across all English-language versions of its 2004 consumer product range, including Norton SystemWorks, Norton Internet Security, and Norton Personal Firewall. Inside the box Norton AntiVirus 2004 is scheduled for wide availability in early September. The upgrade adds protection for consumers against some emerging non-virus threats such as spyware and keystroke logging programs. Norton AntiVirus 2004 will identify and block these threats at the point of entry to the system, detecting the threats during scans of email and instant message attachments, or during scheduled or on-demand system scans. Norton AntiVirus 2004 supplies added protection for Windows 2000/XP against viruses lurking in compressed files of the type exchanged when using peer-to-peer networks or instant messaging. Norton AntiVirus 2004 is also available as a professional edition. This incorporates a data recovery component to restore damaged or accidentally deleted files. Also included is a data-cleaning tool which shreds deliberately deleted files. In addition, Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional will include a two-computer licence. For small businesses, Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional will also be available for purchase in small office 5-packs (at $199.95) and 10-packs. Norton AntiVirus 2004 and Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional will be available for an estimated retail price of $49.95 and $69.95, respectively. Prices include a one-year subscription to Symantec's protection updates. Upgrades from older versions of Norton AntiVirus and competitive antivirus products to NAV 2004 will cost from $29.95. ®
John Leyden, 29 Aug 2003

Feds close in on Blaster suspect

The FBI are poised to arrest an unnamed 18 year-old today in connection with the release of a variant of the notorious Blaster worm. The teen has already been questioned by investigators and put under surveillance, The Seattle Times, citing two U.S. Justice Department sources, reports. He is expected to be arrested later today and charged with releasing a variant of the original Blaster worm. The 18 year-old suspect was reportedly seen by a witness testing his virus, which was based on Blaster-A, the ur-worm More details of the investigation are expected to emerge today from the FBI and US attorney's office in Seattle, the agencies leading the investigation. Investigators believe a separate, as yet unidentified, individual created the original Blaster worm. The Blaster-B variant of the worm was released on August 13, two days after the original worm. Like the original, the Blaster-B worm targeted the same Remote Procedure Call (RPC) DCOM vulnerability in Windows to spread. The Blaster variants created widespread network congestion and infected hundreds of thousands of computers, causing misery for home users and businesses alike. The worm was also used to launch a DDoS attack from infected computers on Windowsupdate.com. This attack failed. ® Related Stories Blaster worm spreading rapidly Blaster worm variants make mischief Blaster rewrites Windows worm rules Windows Update still standing despite Blaster Blaster variant offers 'fix' for pox-ridden PCs
John Leyden, 29 Aug 2003

Affordable 1GB PC2100 DDR modules arrive for PowerBooks

Owners of Apple's 12in PowerBook G4 will at last be able to bust the 640MB memory limit on their machines without breaking the bank. US Mac specialist Trans International today launched a 1GB PC2100 SO-DIMM compatible with the notebook. With the 128MB soldered on to the PowerBook's motherboard, users can now equip themselves with just over 1.1GB of RAM. To date, Apple and major memory vendors have offered only 512MB SO-DIMMs, hence the limit of 640MB. That's not to say that 1GB SO-DIMMs haven't been available. IBM has offered corporates such a part for its ThinkPad notebooks for some time. The trouble is, prices have rarely descended below the $999 mark - almost as much as you pay for your PowerBook. Trans' 1GB SO-DIMM isn't entirely cheap. But at $499, it's a darn sight more affordable than before. That said, a 512MB SO-DIMM costs around $100 - half the capacity for around a fifth of the price - which shows how far further the 1GB part's price can fall. Comparable devices from other suppliers were today listed around the $700 mark. The best UK price we saw was £799. ®
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2003

Microsoft preps IE changes in response to patent ruling

Microsoft may alter its dominant Internet Explorer Web browser following a ruling against it in a Chicago court earlier this month. That is according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an industry standards body, which said on its Web site that the Seattle giant had told the group that changes to the software may be in order. It was in mid August that Microsoft lost a civil case brought against it by Eolas Technologies and was ordered to pay the company $520.6 million for infringing on patents relating to Internet Explorer (IE). "In the near term, Microsoft has indicated to W3C that they will very soon be making changes to its Internet Explorer browser software in response to this ruling," a statement issued by Steven R Bratt, W3C's chief operating officer, said. "These changes may affect a large number of existing Web pages," the statement continued. "W3C does not yet have any indication of what action, if any, other vendors of Web tools might take." Microsoft is a member of the consortium but has not yet publicly said that changes to the software will occur, although Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler told Bloomberg on Thursday that the maker of the Windows operating system "may take precautionary steps in response to the ruling." He also admitted that Microsoft had talked to W3C about the ruling. According to W3C, members of the consortium met in California on 19 August to discuss the consequences of the ruling, which effectively said that Microsoft had used Eolas-patented technology such as plug-ins, applets and scriptlets in Internet Explorer. Were the offending portions of the software to be removed, it would significantly alter the way IE works and countless Web sites would be forced to change their own to accommodate changes in IE. It's understood that Microsoft presented options to W3C members about changes it was considering, although the details of these discussions have not been released to the press. "There was widespread agreement that a solution that minimizes the effects of changes to Web software, Web sites and the user experience was needed," W3C said. From Microsoft's perspective changing some of the code in its browser, which is used by about 96 percent of all Web users, would allow the company to avoid paying royalty fees to Eolas. After the court's decision in the lawsuit was announced, Eolas said it would pursue Microsoft for further payments, which in the next few years could add up to hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 29 Aug 2003

Openwave’s big hello to mobile data services

Mobile data services. How much bandwidth do they need? It depends, writes Rob Bamforth of Bloor Research. If the network can use the data intelligently, the data transmitted can be small and intelligence on the mobile device can be used to render it. That's the essence of the desktop computer web server and browser model, so it's no wonder that one of the first companies to recognise this might be important to data services on mobile devices is the market leader for open WAP servers and browsers, Openwave. In the late 90s there was a movement in the desktop-computing world, headed by Netscape, Oracle, IBM, Sun and others, to shift the desktop computer focus away from operating system and to a browser centric world supporting downloadable services. That this in the end failed, was due more to the market presence of one operating system supplier and the dominance of their application suite, than with the browser client concept itself. It's the simplicity of the browser model that makes it interesting to less technical users. A browser is more a broader content rendering and navigation engine, rather than simply a way to view web pages, so it's understandable that Openwave is more excited about the possibilities of browsers than operating systems on mobile phones. However it's much more than just browsers. In the last six months, the Openwave Phone Tools version 7.0 client software has grown to include a mobile messaging client, Real Networks mobile player and a file and application manager, in addition to the mobile browser. This summer its client software sales reached the 400 million-unit mark with shipments into more than 100 million handsets since late 2002. The number of handset manufacturers using Openwave software now totals forty seven around the world as seven new customers have recently been added in Asia. Openwave's views its client software as embedded middleware on the phone, which it terms 'phoneware'. It's not an operating system for smartphones - more a smart system for operating phones. So why is phoneware middleware? Well, at the 'front' Openwave offers a fully customisable user interface which produces a consistent branded look and feel across the entire handset. This branded look can be themed by operators or handset manufacturers to make it appropriate for different audiences - teen themes, business theme, and so on. No doubt there will be an aftermarket for them too, just like other forms of 'skinning'. At the 'back' they provide support for the major open content types. There is no Openwave application programmer interface (API) to write to, content is accessed through the standards - SMS, EMS, MMS, WAP, XHTML, CSS and Java. They say there is no need for a visible operating system on a mobile phone, only a simple integrated user experience. Even the different messaging types are accessed through a single consistent messaging interface to reduce confusion. The Phone Tools content rendering makes use of advanced graphics techniques for image opacity, transparency, zooming and panning. These techniques while once cute on desktop computers are vital to creating a compelling user experience on a small device. Openwave has applied efficient programming techniques to squeeze maximum rendering performance out of the minimum processing power available on mobile handsets. On a mobile phone, user experience is everything. Bad experiences, system management headaches, application management, in fact most of the things everyone has to put up with on a desktop computer are intolerable on a mobile phone. Openwave's user experience-oriented approach should ensure that phoneware fares well. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 29 Aug 2003

IBM raises smoke alarm over 63,000 monitors

IBM and its Taiwanese supplier LiteOn Technology this week expanded a recall of 15-inch monitors which could catch fire. The risk affects tens of thousands of G51 and G51t computer monitors manufactured by LiteOn and sold by IBM, which were made more than five years ago (so how many are still in use?). The original recall, announced on March 4, involved 56,000 computer monitors. The programme was more than doubled this week with the recall of an additional 63,000 G51 and G51t monitors that were manufactured through September 1998. The monitor's circuit board can overheat and smoke, posing a fire hazard to consumers. Since 2001, IBM and LiteOn have received seven reports of monitors overheating and smoking, including one report of minor property damage and one report of minor smoke inhalation. No-one has been seriously hurt. The recalled IBM monitors include the G51 CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) and G51t Touch Screen CRT models. The G51 and G51t monitors have the following model numbers on a label on the back of the unit: 6541-02N, 6541-02E, 6541-02S, 6541-Q0N, 6541-Q0E, and 6541-Q0S. The label on the back of the recalled G51 models also has a date of manufacture between June 1997 and September 1998. The "IBM" logo can be found on the front of the units. Between 1997 and 1999, a total of approximately 700,000 G51 series monitors were manufactured by LiteOn Technology in Malaysia, China and UK for IBM. Approximately 377,706 monitors that could potentially include the faulty component were shipped worldwide, and about 118,098 were sold in the US. IBM, MicroTouch Systems, and major retail stores across the US, including Best Buy, CompUSA, Office Max, and Radio Shack, sold the monitors from June 1997 through December 1998 for about $370. Consumers should stop using these monitors immediately and contact the IBM Repair Center toll-free at (866) 644-3155 to confirm whether their monitor is covered by the recall. Consumers with a recalled unit will receive a free inspection and repair or a replacement unit. There's more here. A statement from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission on the recall can be found here. ® Related Stories IBM recalls 117,000 dusty old monitors Sony recalls 18,000 Vaios Terminator - the Seagate connection Fujitsu admits 4.9 million (potentially) defective HDDs
John Leyden, 29 Aug 2003
Cat 5 cable

Life support kicks in for server makers in Q2

The worldwide server market is recovering but in the most modest of proportions. In the second quarter, server revenue rose 0.2 percent year-on-year to $10.6 billion, IDC said. This slight gain is significant in that it corrects a nine-quarter worldwide revenue decline. It is, however, hardly enough of an uptick to declare a recovery in the hardware business just yet. Shipments jumped a whopping 17.5 percent in the quarter to more than 1.2 million units, according to IDC. The large rise in units on relatively flat revenue points to an ongoing trend in the market where customers are buying smaller, less-expensive systems. In addition, midrange servers have declined in price over the past two years. IBM outperformed rivals in the second quarter, regaining its position as the number overall server vendor and making a large leap in revenue. IBM now holds 30.4 percent of the market versus HP's 27.7 percent share. Sun Microsystems takes the third spot with 13.5 percent share, followed by Dell at 9.2 percent and Fujitsu Siemens at 2.7 percent. IBM kicked server revenue up to $3.23 billion by growing sales 10.12 percent in the quarter. HP was flat with $2.95 billion in sales. Sun had one of its worst quarters in recent memory, coughing up 3.1 points of market share and seeing revenue decline by 18.69 percent to $1.434 billion. Dell and Fujitsu Siemens both enjoyed ten percent revenue growth. For the first time, x86 servers using Intel and AMD chips outpaced RISC servers in revenue. The x86 market grew 10.7 percent to $4.46 billion versus a 5.2 percent drop in RISC sales to $4.33 billion. HP is the leading Intel server vendor with 33.1 percent of the market. It beat rivals in Windows, Linux and blade server shipments. Sun regained its position as the top Unix vendor, holding 33 percent of the market. HP owns 31.4 percent and IBM follows with 24.6 percent share. IBM, however, showed a large surge in revenue, pointing to a continued recovery in its Unix business. Linux servers far outpaced Windows systems in sales and shipment growth. Linux server revenue jumped 40 percent to $650 million and shipments rose 42 percent. Windows server revenue grew 11.5 percent and shipments rose 21.7 percent. These trends point to a nice amount of diversity in the server market. Unix servers continue to take up most of the enterprise sales, while Windows and Linux boxes split up the Web and application serving markets. Blade servers have also hit a new high at $100 million in revenue, confirming their increased role in the market. It's no longer a battle between Unix and Windows only at the top or between RISC and Intel only. AMD's Opteron chip is coming on with some decent high performance computing wins and should be expected to take up an increasing part of the market. ®
Ashlee Vance, 29 Aug 2003

Making your presence felt in a video

As more and more people become familiar with video conferencing as a way of avoiding travelling to meetings, we are also becoming increasingly aware of its shortcomings, writes Martin Langham of Bloor Research. Unless the connection is of a very high quality, we get a pixelated and jittery picture of the other participants who seem to be as mentally remote as they are physically. Video conferencing problems are worse when you are the only person not physically present in the meeting. However vibrant and dominating your personality you often feel you are just a spectator. A couple of companies have come up with ways of improving the "presence" of people joining a meeting remotely with solutions that seem to have more in common with Star Trek than with conventional video conferencing. The first of these, Teleportec, lets people appear in a remote location live and life-sized within an apparent 3D environment. Duffie White invented this unique technology and founded Teleportec in Manchester in 1999. When using Teleportec, the presenter can appear seated or standing. The remote background is removed with a reverse chroma key so the presenter appears to be in the room. This adds to the feeling of actual presence and reduces the processing load on the codec enabling a quicker refresh rate with less flicker. The presenter sees a large video display of the audience with the same aspect ratio and the same line of sight as if they were in the same room. The presenter can communicate directly with an audience member by making eye contact and gesturing in their direction. The Teleportec Conference System is not confined to just one presenter. It can support larger workspaces and project three to five people around a conference table. Hewlett-Packard's approach to solving the "presence" problem is a little more direct. They have created a Mutually Immersive Mobile Telepresence system called eTravel, a surrrogate that does the travelling for you. eTravel is a mobile cart that can go anywhere a wheelchair can. It has microphones and cameras to give its operator a 360-degree view of the environment. Four flat-panel displays on the cart facing the points of the compass give a 360-degree view of the operator's head. The operator guides the cart with a joystick using the view from its cameras. The 360-degree view and the surround sound from the microphones enable the operator to feel as if they were really there and there is no ignoring the cart when it sits down at a meeting. Like Teleportec, eTravel not only allows eye contact but also preserves gaze. The audience can tell when the operator is looking at his notes or looking at the clock so eTravel offers an approximation of a total immersion environment. Hewlett-Packard has paid close attention to preserving video colours and making sure that the image is life-sized to increase the sense of reality. Perhaps it will be some time before we stumble over our managing director walking the corridors remotely or have them beam down, but these two products show how video conferencing may develop to capture and transmit faithfully all those aspects of our personality that we need in order to participate fully in a remote meeting. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 29 Aug 2003

VeriSign: profiting from name dropping

VeriSign's new domain name service would essentially allow it to charge twice for many premium domain names, despite pending lawsuits and federal legislative action that seeks to prevent it. Competition for already registered domain names is fierce and some customers could inadvertently pay for the rights to a domain name that is not due to expire for years to come. VeriSign's Network Solutions subsidiary (NSI) has announced Next Registration Rights, a retail service that will leverage the Waiting List Service (WSL) wholesale offering that VeriSign plans to begin offering in October. WLS is a method of letting users register an already-registered .com or .net domain name if it becomes available in future. The WLS will be available to all domain name registrars accredited by industry manager the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), but NSI is the first to offer a retail version of it. Essentially, customers are asked to pay an annual subscription fee in excess of the current going rate for a usable domain name (currently $5 to $30 per year) for a rights on a domain that they may or may not ever get the chance to use. Unless the buyer does a bit of research beforehand (by querying publicly available Whois databases) they could find themselves using Next Registration Rights, or another future WLS service from another registrar, to buy a one-year subscription on a domain that is not due to expire for 10 years. WLS may not even go live because some of VeriSign's rivals that offer competing services are suing to block the service, and have also managed to recruit some US Congressmen to propose legislation that would have a similar effect. Many people find already-registered names attractive, as they are likely to have more mnemonic value, and in many cases will already have traffic arriving from links already out there on the web. Indeed, the market for so-called "dropping" domain names is already fiercely competitive. Dozens of firms, for example Dotster Inc and eNom Inc, offer services that leverage the existing .com registry infrastructure to sell deleting names to customers. While the WLS would essentially render most or all of these competing services technically impossible and obsolete, VeriSign says that WLS will level the playing field, offering certainty and efficiency to registrars and registrants. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Recommended research: Datamonitor, "Web Services II:Managing the future" (BFTC0761) © Datamonitor is offering Reg readers some of its technology research FOC. Check it out here.
Datamonitor, 29 Aug 2003

US sponsors Anonymiser – if you live in Iran

A pact between the U.S. government and the electronic privacy company Anonymizer, Inc. is making the Internet a safer place for controversial websites and subversive opinions -- if you're Iranian. This month Anonymizer began providing Iranians with free access to a Web proxy service designed to circumvent their government's online censorship efforts. In May, government ministers issued a blacklist of 15,000 forbidden "immoral" websites that ISPs in the country must block -- reportedly a mix of adult sites and political news and information outlets. An estimated two million Iranians have Internet access. Among the banned sites are the website for the U.S.-funded Voice of America broadcast service, and the site for Radio Farda, another U.S. station that beams Iranian youth a mix of pop music and westernized news. Both stations are run by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), the U.S. government's overseas news and propaganda arm. The U.S. responded to the filtering this month by paying Anonymizer (neither the IBB nor Anonymizer will disclose how much) to create and maintain a special version of the Anonymizer proxy which only accepts connections from Iran's IP address space, and features instructions in Farsi. The deliberately generic-sounding URLs for the service are publicized over Radio Farda broadcasts and through bulk e-mails that Anonymizer sends to addresses in the country. The addresses are provided by human rights groups and other sources, says Anonymizer president Lance Cottrell. "We're providing a system whereby the people in the countries that are suffering Internet censorship can bypass the government filtering and access all the pages that are blocked," says Cottrell. The services' navigation boxes default to Radio Farda or Voice of America, but surfers are invited to put in any address they like, and browse free of the Iranian government's filtering. "Dissident sites, religious sites, the L.L. Bean catalog -- we point them to the Voice of America site, but they can go anywhere," says Ken Berman, program manager for Internet anticensorship at the IBB, "They're free explore the Internet in an unfettered fashion." Mostly unfettered. Like the Iranian filters, the U.S. service blocks porn sites -- "There's a limit to what taxpayers should pay for," says Berman. But the United States' hope is that a freer flow of online information will improve America's image in the Arab world. The service is similar to one Anonymizer provided to Chinese citizens under a previous government contract that ran-out ended earlier this year. Cottrell and Berman agree that it's only a matter of time before the Iranonymity service winds on the official blacklist. But Berman hints that the U.S. is ready for a prolonged electronic shell game with Tehran. "In China we're continually monitoring the state of the proxy, and when we see the traffic drop off, we change the proxy's address, usually within 24 hours," says Berman. "In Iran, we're prepared to change the proxy address every day if necessary." A bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month would create an Office of Global Internet Freedom that would have up to a $50 million annual budget to help citizens of foreign repressive governments skirt Internet censorship. Copyright © 2003,
Kevin Poulsen, 29 Aug 2003
DVD it in many colours

Sun supports Opteron workstation

Out of all the servers sitting in Sun Microsystems' Solaris x86 compatibility list one wee workstation stands out. It's a two processor system from Boxx Technologies, and it runs on Opterons. Sun has gone out of its way to certify servers from Dell, HP and IBM with its version of Solaris that run on Intel and AMD chips. These efforts make a lot of sense. Sun wants Solaris x86 on high volume kit and wants to provide the OS as an option instead of Linux to its rivals' customers. But you have to wonder why Sun rushed to support the Boxx system on July 11. That date places the Boxx box ahead of some systems from Dell and IBM. And unlike systems from RackSaver and PDSi that were certified by those respective OEMs using a new test suite, Sun ran the Boxx compatibility test in-house. Wasn't that helpful? Sun's CEO Scott McNealy told The Reg that his company is serious about supporting Solaris x86 on Opteron, but he assured us that no Opteron-based hardware was in the works. Given the appearance of this Boxx system, however, we must ask, Scott, if you do indeed have an Opteron workstation lined up. Funny thing about the Boxx system. Sun has it running on the latest version of Solaris 9. Most of the other kit is only certified to work with a Solaris release from April. Also, Sun seems to have taken special pains to make sure the nasty Broadcom Ethernet card issues that plagued some other Sun servers have been taken care of. This is quite a bit of special attention for "just another system" in a compatibility list. Going with an Opteron workstation instead of a server would make incredible sense for Sun. The company is reluctant to see another 64bit chip eat away at its lucrative SPARC business. Why give AMD's kit a boost on the low end before it's really necessary? The better idea is a return to Sun's workstation roots. The company owns the RISC workstation market but has been hammered in recent years by Intel vendors. They've gobbled up all the market share, and Sun would like some back. Why not use Opteron to put pressure on the Xeon sellers and have a hoot giving Intel a hard time in the process? We suspect some Boxx employees are busy painting their systems purple at this very moment. ®
Ashlee Vance, 29 Aug 2003