9th > September > 2003 Archive

PWLAN: hotspots finally heating up

The number of PWLAN 'hotspots' in the world is set to quadruple within the next three years. Asia Pacific is currently the leading region in terms of PWLAN locations, but North America and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) are ready to catch up and surpass it in terms of overall numbers. Factors such as lowering prices, greater penetration of WLAN-enabled laptops and perhaps most importantly serious investment from leading telecommunications operators should serve to stimulate demand. PWLAN locations have been and continue to be secured at a rapid pace by service providers, large and small, anxious to acquire what they consider to be premium locations for laptop-carrying business people and consumers. By year-end 2003, an estimated 31,580 will be in operation globally. This figure is set to grow strongly, approaching 135,000 by year-end 2006. The number of people using 'hotspots'/PWLAN services is ready to increase from just 1.53 million to 23.31 million globally between 2002 and 2006. The Asia Pacific region currently leads the way in terms of hotspot users. Indeed by year-end 2003 it is estimated that South Korea will have approaching 1 million users. In Western Europe the roll-out of PWLAN services was initially impacted by regulatory restrictions. However, over the course of 2002, restrictions on the use of the 2.4GHz spectrum band to provide public services were largely removed by several national governments. Up to now Scandinavia has been the major source of growth in the European market, with Sweden in particular rolling out the largest number of hotspots. In the coming months, however, the larger European countries such as the UK and Germany should surpass the Nordic markets in terms of overall PWLAN location numbers, especially given significant investment from incumbent European operators such as British Telecom and Swisscom. The investment that is currently being made in PWLANs in North America suggests that this region will grow to be market leader over the course of 2004. A number of operators and consortia, such as T-Mobile, Toshiba, Boingo and Cometa Networks, have particularly ambitious roll-out plans. Although not all of these plans are likely to be achieved in the envisaged timescales, they signify the clear trend towards a marked increase in PWLAN location numbers in North America. Recommended research: Datamonitor, "Public wireless LANs: hotspots - finally heating up" (DMTC0921)
Datamonitor, 09 Sep 2003

AMD unwraps faster Opteron 100, 800 CPUs

AMD rolled out two new Opteron processors, one each for its 100 and 800 series of chips. Both the Opteron 146 and 846 had been widely anticipated. The former is aimed at single-processor systems, the 846 for four- and eight-way machines. Both are clocked at 2GHz, like the Opteron 246 release a month or so back. The Opteron 200 series, developed for two-way systems, remains AMD's flagship workstation and server chip. Now that the 100 and 800 series have caught up with the 200 series' highest rated chip, AMD will soon release the 248 at 2.2GHz, later this month or early October. In the meantime, the Opteron 146 and 846 are available now, the former on a general basis, the latter through AMD's Validated Server Programme. The two chips cost $669 and $3199, respectively, in 1000-unit batches. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Sep 2003

IBM boffins boost chip performance by 65%

IBM scientists today claimed they have merged two key manufacturing techniques - strained silicon and silicon-on-insulator (SOI)- allowing them to create chips that deliver the performance improvements provided by the former without the implementation headaches the technology has so far caused. The company also said it had developed a technique it claims will deliver a 40-65 per cent performance improvement for standard CMOS chips. It expects both approaches to be implemented commercially in just a few years' time. The strained silicon technique - currently being used by Intel to make its upcoming 90nm processors, Prescott and Dothan - improves the electrical efficiency of on-chip circuits by stretching a layer of silicon over a layer of silicon germanium (SiGe). The top layer's silicon atoms align themselves with those in the SiGe layer's wider-spaced crystal lattice, stretching them apart. This improves the flow of electrons through the 'strained' silicon layer. That, in turn, yields a 20-30 per cent improvement in circuit performance, said IBM, but adding the SiGe layer means the circuits are harder to make and tricky to integrate into existing fabrication processes. That's probably why Intel waited until moving to 90nm before implementing the technique. To avoid the implementation issues, IBM tried using its established SOI technology in place of SiGe. IBM uses an SiGe layer to strain the silicon lattice, but removes it before fabrication, after applying the strained silicon onto the insulator. The upshot: it gains benefits of strained silicon using what is essentially its standard SOI process. By removing the SiGe layer, it doesn't have to integrate that material into the chip fabrication process per se. It calls the new technique, Strained Silicon Directly on Insulator (SSDOI). IBM said it had confirmed that removing the SiGe layer leaves the silicon strained by measuring the electron mobility enhancement through a specially constructed sub-60nm field effect transistor (FET) fabricated using SSDOI. While SSDOI improves the mobility of electrons through a device, the second process, dubbed Hybrid Orientation Technique (HOT), improves the mobility of positive charges, or 'holes', in the other direction. HOT more than doubles hole mobility by combining two substrates on the same wafer, each with different surface orientations, essentially allowing it to combine the benefits of the two key CMOS FET types, positive and negative. The upshot, says IBM, is a 40-65 per cent performance improvement on a 90nm CMOS device. Like SSDOI, HOT is "relatively simple" to implement using standard wafer processing techniques, IBM Research's VP for science and technology, Dr. T C Chen, in a statement. "Implementing either could provide the industry with higher performing and lower power chips; combining the techniques could generate even higher performance and lower power." IBM will detail both techniques at the International Electron Devices Meeting, to be held in Washington DC early next December. ® Related Stories AMD and Intel scientists outline future chip tech AMD 'super' SOI to boost chip speeds by 30%
Tony Smith, 09 Sep 2003

SiS details Pentium M support

Having yesterday announced that it has licensed Intel's Pentium M, chipset maker SiS today unveiled a pair of products that will support the mobile microprocessor. The SiS648MX and SiS661MX are discrete and integrated parts, respectively. Both work with the company's SiS162 802.11b chipset. The 648MX provides a 400MHz effective bit rate frontside bus, 266-400MHz DDR SDRAM support and an AGP 8x connection to a separate graphics chipset. The chipset's South Bridge, the SiS964, reads more like a desktop part than a mobile-oriented device, offering a dual-channel ATA-133 bus; two independent Serial ATA buses; RAID 0, 1 and JBOD; support for up to eight USB 2.0 ports; 56Kbps modem and 10/100Mbps Ethernet; and Dolby 5.1-compatible surround sound. The 661MX also support 266-400MHz DDR, but integrates SiS' Real256E graphics engine, using part of the main memory for graphics buffers, but at full DDR speed rather than AGP 8x. The graphics component also drives LCD, CRT or TV (any two of which can operate simultaneously) at up to 1600 x 1200. The chipset's SiS963 South Bridge provides two parallel ATA buses, support for up to six USB 2.0 ports, a 1394 connector (unlike the SiS648MX's South Bridge), 56Kbps modem and 10/100Mbps Ethernet. SiS said both chipsets will go into volume production in Q4, with products based on them shipping early next year. That's around the time that Intel's next-generation Pentium M, codenamed 'Dothan', is due to ship in volume, and corporates are expected to begin replacing pre-Y2K systems, say analysts. In addition to upgrading old notebooks, a good proportion of desktops are likely to be superseded with mobile machines, it is thought. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Sep 2003

What do we want? System Developers! When do we want them? Now!

System developers are the most sought after IT contractors in the UK, according to somewhat dated stats from the CWJobs UK Quarterly IT Skills Index. There were more than 3,000 vacancies advertised for system developer contractors in both Q1 and Q2 of this year - accounting for one in four of the total number of contract vacancies advertised. Demand for test analysts and project managers also jumped with the number of vacancies increasing 18 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, compared to the first three months of the year. Those looking to read the runes of economic recovery might also be interested to know that those sectors most in need of IT staff were the media industry, finance and public sector, while vacancies advertised by software houses accounted for four in ten of all contract jobs. At the other end of the scale, demand for contract positions fell by more than 10 per cent from Q1 to Q2 2003 in the manufacturing and retail sectors Oh, and the top five contract skills demanded in Q2 2003 were SQL, Oracle, Unix, Windows NT and MS Office. This latest info - only just released - relates back to a survey carried out in the first half of the year. In July, CWJobs' Q2 report found that there was evidence of a tentative recovery in the UK's IT jobs market with the number of contract openings on the up while permanent position are on the slide. At the time Shobhan Gajjar, Web site director at CWJobs, said the stats provided scope for "cautious optimism". ® Related Story 'Cautious optimism' for UK IT jobs recovery
Tim Richardson, 09 Sep 2003

80 per cent of UK homes can now get ADSL

Eight in ten homes in the UK can now get ADSL broadband, according to telecoms giant BT. Once lambasted for being broadband laggard, BT claims that the increase in ADSL reach has come two years ahead of schedule. BT says it is now "committed" to bring ADSL broadband nine out of ten homes in the UK. Speaking at the World Broadband Forum in London today BT Wholesale chief executive Paul Reynolds said: "We have now brought broadband services to exchanges serving 80 per cent of UK homes. "This month we'll have as many people connected to exchanges offering broadband as can switch on their mains gas cooker to make the supper," he sad. Last summer two thirds of UK were connected to an ADSL-enabled exchange. Since then, though, BT Wholesale's pre-registration system that maps demand for broadband has helped bring high-speed Net access to areas previously thought commercially unviable. Separately, BT also announced that it is extending the reach of its ADSL service so that properties with around 6km of line to the exchange can now get broadband. The increased reach, due to take effect from September 24, should mean that an extra 600,000 homes will be within reach of a broadband enabled telephone exchange. The extended reach - subject to line test - means that the proportion of people who can receive broadband in enabled areas has increased from around 94 per cent to 97 per cent. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Sep 2003

NY Times hacker set to surrender

Hacker Adrian Lamo has agreed to walk into a federal courthouse in Sacramento, California, Tuesday morning and turn himself in to law enforcement officials, Lamo and his attorney said Monday. In exchange, the government will release him on bail within hours, and allow him to transport himself to New York to face charges stemming from his penetration of the New York Times last year, said deputy federal public defender Mary French. "I have an investigator who's going to be with him, and I think he'll physically be there at the courthouse at 9:00 a.m.," French said. If all goes according to plan, Lamo will be taken into custody and booked, then make an appearance before a magistrate judge at 2:00 p.m., when he'll be released on a signature bond. His parents have also agreed to put up their house to guarantee his appearance, said French. French said she's confirmed with prosecutors that Lamo faces a two-count federal complaint charging him with illegally accessing the New York Times internal network last year. One count charges Lamo with computer intrusion; a second with possession of access devices, specifically passwords for the LexisNexis database service allegedly obtained from the Times network. The 22-year-old Lamo has become famous for publicly exposing gaping security holes at large corporations, then volunteering to help the companies fix the vulnerabilities he exploited -- sometimes visiting their offices or signing non-disclosure agreements in the process. Until now, his cooperation and transparency have kept him from being prosecuted. Monday night, Lamo said he had no regrets. "My views may change as this goes on, but I still think this has somehow all been worthwhile," said the hacker in a telephone interview. "There's no action that I've ever taken that I'm not willing to accept the consequences for." FBI agents armed with an arrest warrant visited Lamo's parents on Thursday. By Monday, the hacker's supporters had erected a website at FreeLamo.com to support him "and his fight for freedom." An official at the Sacramento courthouse confirmed that Lamo is expected. "We are aware that Adrian is supposed to surrender here in this building," said courthouse security officer Warren Eggar. "He would come into the front lobby, and we'd take him from there. Copyright © 2003,
Kevin Poulsen, 09 Sep 2003

Scary WiFi TV launch by Sharp – spectrum congestion looms?

At first thought, you might ask yourself what's so clever about "wireless TV"? - hasn't TV been broadcast for decades? Yes - but this one is a WiFi wireless TV, from Sharp... and you can bet it will swamp the channels. The new product is just an LCD 15-inch screen, with a WiFi radio in it. It uses standard 802.11b LAN technology to link the battery-powered display to what is, effectively, a digital sender - but where most digital senders use the 2.4 GHz frequency band on a broadband link, this one uses standard WLAN technology. The set uses Sharp's SmartLink wireless digital audio video transmission system, which operates on the 802.11b wireless standard. It allows users to connect the transmitter to a video source, such as a DVD player, and watch their favourite movie or TV show in any room of the house. Some will probably be pleased to see digital sending move from broad spectrum coverage to a WiFi channel, leaving the other channels open for data; but the reality is that streaming video over one channel will pretty much halve the data capacity of the access point. The new Wireless AQUOS Television is the model LC-15L1U-S and it has a rechargeable battery "with enough power to watch up to three hours of TV without interruption." It's a lovely design, but that design doesn't come cheap: priced (US) at $1,799.00 ..."if Sir has to ask the price, Sir probably can't afford it" seems to be the rule. And it doesn't ship till next January. You can read more about "the new, sleek, silver design" and so on, on the press release on the corporate web site for the US division. No news yet about European launch plans. © NewsWireless.Net Some recent articles on NewsWirelss.Net Samsung's next phone will have Magic MMS embedded A Bluetooth phone headset? or a mini PMG?
Guy Kewney, 09 Sep 2003

Nokia pumps up the handset volumes

Nokia today reported strong shipments of mobile phones, with sales volumes up more than 10 per cent year-on-year, in its mid-quarter update for Q3. But dollar depreciation means the company will pull in slightly lower revenues from its mobile phones division than the same quarter last year. As for profits, Nokia says that EPS will be at the “high end or slightly above” previous Q3 guidance of &euro.014 - €016 per share. Restructuring at Nokia Networks is “going to plan” with the division approaching operating break-even, Nokia says. Q3 sales are expected to fall 15-20 per cent year on year, as previously forecast. ®
Drew Cullen, 09 Sep 2003

Outsourcing: does it reward theft?

OpinionOpinion Simon Galbraith is co-founder and marketing director for Red Gate Software, a supplier of tools for software developers and testers. As I was walking down the street last week I saw a young man loitering around a rich-looking tourist couple sitting down at a café enjoying a coffee - coats on the back of their chairs. There was a commotion and the young man picked up an expensive leather jacket from the back of the man's chair while he was distracted. The young man sauntered off across the square wearing the jacket as if it had always been his. As I stood waiting for a bus yesterday a young woman approached me asking if I was interested in a leather jacket. She was attractive, flirtatious and a little bit desperate. I said "sure - why not"? I tried it on, it fit, and the girl told me it looked good on me. I'm not 100 per cent certain but I'm pretty sure that it was the same high-quality jacket I saw being 'lifted' last week at the café. Anyway it was a damn fine jacket. We haggled for a while over the price and settled on $50. It was a bargain; the jacket would retail for at least $600. When I'm not negotiating for possibly stolen goods, I work as an executive of a small software company with a very simple business model: 1. We write simple software tools that developers and DBAs who use Microsoft technologies find extremely useful (comparing SQL databases, code profiling etc). 2. We market them. 3. Developers and DBAs who use Microsoft technologies respond to our marketing and visit our website. Some download a fully functional trial version of our software. 4. They try it out during the 14 days that the trial lasts. 5. Some of them buy it. 6. We use the money that comes from this to pay our costs and invest in further product development and improvement. 7. We continually try to get better at steps 1-6. Since we started in 1999 we have had over 4000 customers. Our evaluators are from all over the software-producing world. Around 15 per cent of them are people based in India, China, Malaysia and other countries that have become global centres for IT outsourcing. Many large companies have decided to outsource some of their software development to these countries, citing the cost advantage as a key reason to make the switch. Of the 15 per cent of our evaluations that have originated in these global outsourcing regions, we have made only one sale. Given our normal strike rate we'd have managed several hundred sales. I'm all for accepting a bit of statistical variation without getting anxious, but there is only one rational explanation - theft. (FYI - the one sale we made was to a British company's newly outsourced operation; the company insisted on licensing compliance from its suppliers.) To put it plainly, a much greater percentage of corporate users in the developing world hack our licensing systems than do those in the more developed parts of the world. Incidentally, this doesn't apply to expats of these countries who when based in the USA and UK are stalwart customers of ours - we've sold many more licenses to Indian expats living in Alaska, for example, than we have to the entire sub-continent. There are two logical reasons behind all of this - either it is the refusal of company management in developing countries to give people the tools to do their job properly and turning a blind eye to theft or, more seriously, the official management encouragement of the hacking. Although losing 15% of our income to theft is annoying, imagine how much worse it is for software tool companies in these developing countries. Their home market is closed to them, which probably explains why so few decent vendors have sprung up despite their apparent abundant pool of talent. What really gets my goat is the gleeful quotes about outsourcing that appear in the business press. "Bob Jones from Multinational Inc. predicts that his company will achieve savings of $23M over the next 3 years on development costs." These stories always make me wonder: Are these companies saving costs by using stolen software and generally shafting other people's intellectual property? If I sent around a company-wide email boasting about how I had managed to lower my jacket costs for the next two years by purchasing a stolen one, you would consider it right and proper if my colleagues avoided me for a while and peed in my coke when I wasn't looking. When the CTO of a multinational corporation announces a new outsourcing deal, however, there are bonuses and accolades for 'saving' lots of money. If you are a CTO reading this, you might be thinking: "What problem is it of mine that some whining tool supplier is getting shafted by the company I'm outsourcing to?" Well, consider this: There are some aspects of what you supply to your customers that boil down to intellectual property and some portion of what your company earns relies on that. Let's imagine that Multinational Inc. takes Tiddly Ltd. to court to contest an alleged IP violation. Multinational might face a novel but very effective technique on the part of the defence: Multinational Inc. has no respect for IP in its own operations; in fact, the company is happy to use outsourcing as a vehicle to avoid it. Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the legal argument, Multinational is going to find it hard for any judge or jury to rule significantly in its favour. Multinational might win, but it will probably only get a dollar and no costs. If you fail to insist on compliance from companies that you are outsourcing to, then how can you argue for compliance in your own IP? If a company wishes to be avoid this legal and ethical issue, it must put explicit terms in its outsourcing contract that suppliers will use no stolen or hacked software in the work under contract. As you might have surmised, I decided not to buy that mythical jacket. The reason I didn't should be the same as the motivation behind integrity in outsourcing: people do business with me and my company because we have integrity. Companies that lose their integrity lose their business. No-one thought that being dishonest at Enron was a problem until it was too late. ®
Simon Galbraith, 09 Sep 2003

Virgin.net in charitable broadband giveaway

Virgin.net is prepared to go that little bit further to secure punters for its broadband service. Earlier this summer the ISP - a JV between the Virgin Group and cableco NTL - teamed up with local campaigners in Eccleston, Lancashire, who were working towards getting their exchanges upgraded to ADSL as part of BT Wholesale's pre-registration system. If enough people register, then BT will upgrade the exchange. Eccleston campaigner Steve Merry decided to contacted some 18 ISPs to ask them if they could offer any additional incentives to stimulate demand in his village. Virgin.net and One.tel were the only two to offer something just for the folk in Eccleston. In the case of Virgin.net, it offered to donate £10 to charity for each punter who eventually signs up to Virgin.net. It's also made available other offers - such as a year's free broadband for one lucky winner - all of which helped generate additional interest for broadband in the village. Steve told The Register: "These ISPs have been fantastic - so supportive. ISPs need to be more proactive." Eccleston is due to have its exchange converted to broadband next month. A spokesman for BT Wholesale added: "Any innovative approach to increasing overall demand has got to be welcome." ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Sep 2003

Bill Joy leaves Sun

Bill Joy, Sun Microsystems chief scientist and co-founder, is leaving the company, moving on to "different challenges". No, he's not saying yet what those different challenges are. Greg Papadopoulos, CTO, will take over Joy's responsibilities. Sun wheeled out another co-founder, Scott McNealy, for the valedictory press release. And he has very nice things to say about his soon-to-be former colleague, while at the same time saying very nice things about Sun. "Bill will continue to be an inspiration to all innovators. Bill's many contributions, including those to Java technology, SPARC and Solaris Operating System, have helped define Sun as one of the most innovative and inspired places on the planet. We thank Bill for the strong legacy of innovation that he leaves in the hearts and souls of every Sun employee. He leaves behind an incredibly strong team of innovators." Every Sun employee? Truly, this is a remarkable achievement. To be fair though, Joy does leave quite a legacy as Sun. He is most often cited as the main designer of the Berkeley version of Unix (BSD), the inventor of the NFS (Network File System) protocol and for his work on both Java and the UltraSPARC processor design. For these achievements, Fortune once dubbed Joy "The Edison of the Internet." Joy is also know for striking fear in the hearts of Wired readers when he pronounced that nanotechnology may lead to the world being covered in "gray goo." More recently, Joy has been lurking in the backwoods of Colorado working on whatever he feels like. Joy managed to come up with the JXTA project for peer-to-peer networking as one of his last major contributions to Sun. Sources say that Joy and McNealy have been at odds over the last couple of years. Joy went through a messy divorce and has been working on a book instead of keeping a close eye on Sun's future technology directions. McNealy reportedly offered Joy a nice options package to try and keep him focused, but this deal apparently failed. Joy's departure comes at a difficult time for Sun. The company has already plotted out its software and hardware roadmaps for the next couple of years, but Joy was often touted as one of the guys that could come up "with the next big thing." Sun has relied on the next big thing principle to keep it ahead of the pack. ®
Ashlee Vance, 09 Sep 2003

UK Gov's response to child abuse – unique IDs for all

The British Government yesterday announced that it would be issuing unique ID numbers for all the country's children, and that local databases of all children would be set up in order to facilitate information sharing between child- (and not so child-) related agencies. The objective, depending on which Government songsheet you happen to be listening to, is either to provide child-centred services better, helping children to "develop their full potential" (Margaret Hodge) or to tackle child abuse more effectively in the wake of the "tragic death of Victoria Climbié" (Charles Clarke). The second at least provides the jumping-off point for the Government's Every Child Matters Green Paper, whose introduction (Tony Blair) says that in response to the Climbié enquiry "we are proposing here a range of measures to reform and improve children's care." But it's a jumping-off point that provides an excuse for a characteristic piece of busybodying, with barcoding the lot of them the necessary side-effect. Victoria Climbié died in February 2000, and her carers were later convicted of murder (a timeline of her case can be found here). Her's was the latest in a series of cases of child abuse which have exposed the weaknesses of the UK's social services departments, and communications failures between the agencies involved. Climbié's injuries prompted a hospital to alert Haringey social services and the police, who between July 1999 and February 2000 failed to take any effective action. During approximately a year in the UK (she came from the Ivory Coast, via France, on a false passport) Climbié did not attend school, a matter which seems not to have been addressed by the authorities involved either. That reprise of Climbié's short and unhappy life in the UK illustrates the mismatch between the problem and the solution proposed. Climbié was not initially known to Haringey, the relevant local authority, and would not have had an ID number, had they existed at the time. The authority was alerted after the first detection of injuries, within a few months of her arrival in the country, and her subsequent death was caused by that authority's failure to act in any meaningful way. Communications failures between agencies have been a factor in other child deaths in the UK, but in Climbié's case the failures seem more ones of competence. And there is a long-term Government failure to tackle both competence and inter-agency communication, so we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that there are very real problems to be tackled here, nor of the likelihood that centralisation of records and systems and the broadening of access to them might go some way towards fixing these problems. The Government, however, is going way beyond simply applying IT to the "at risk" register and ensuring that swift and decisive action is taken when alerts occur. Young People and Families Minister Margaret Hodge, who presided over her very own social services disaster while running Haringey's next door neighbour, Islington, in the 1990s, does not believe child protection can be improved by focussing tightly on it in this way. "Child protection cannot be separated from policies to improve children's lives more widely. We want to reform children's services to best protect children from risk of harm. At the same time, we want to shift the balance to prevention by providing greater support to all families.... We want all children to have safe and secure childhoods in which they can develop their full potential. We want to see fewer children suffering from educational failure, experiencing substance misuse, committing crime and anti-social behaviour, or becoming teenage parents. That means giving greater support to vulnerable children and those in care and raising education standards for all pupils." And to be fair, there's some argument to support some of this. Multiple agencies keep multiple lists of children at risk and/or disadvantaged for multiple reasons, so there probably is something to be gained via the interchange of information on them. It is however a pretty substantial step simply to merge all of these lists, without going to the lengths of producing lists of all children, and giving broad access to those lists to multiple agencies whose job it is to place ticks in the relevant boxes. If, for example, your child has special needs - linguistic, perhaps, or learning difficulties - how do you feel about having their file looked over by social services or the Metropolitan Police? How do you feel about having their whereabouts logged when you move? Essentially, the Government's response to the Climbié enquiry has grown into a vast exercise in child auditing, a sort of Department of Toyland Security. The mechanics are summarised as follows (page 13 of the Green Paper). The Government will prevent any children "slipping through the net" by: "Improving information sharing between agencies to ensure all local authorities have a list of children in their area, the services each child has had contact with, and the contact details of the relevant professionals who work with them. The Government will remove the legislative barriers to better information sharing, and the technical barriers to electronic information sharing through developing a single unique identity number, and common data standards on the recording of information... We will expect every local authority to identify a lead official with responsibility for ensuring information is collected and shared across services for children, covering special educational needs, Connexions [a sort of truancy register], Youth Offending Teams, health and social services. The aim is for basic information to follow the child to reduce duplication." You'll note from this that we're neither making it up nor exaggerating - all children will have a file full of all sorts of information on them that follows them around, and starting from the best of possible motives the Government will have instituted a massive exercise in social control and monitoring. Which will be extended. As an example of this, take a look at this document from the Metropolitan Police, produced (also from the best of possible motives) in conjunction with the Climbié enquiry: "Immigration can play a pivotal role. They should check the status of the person with the child or children and reason for entry. Details of the composition of the family should be accurately recorded and should include where the family intends to stay. This intelligence should be linked to national/regional database... Closer links between Immigration, Health and DSS would identify if any benefits  are being claimed, in particular child and housing allowances.  Information given to obtain benefit or allowances could be checked against data collected at the point of entry into the UK for irregularities. Such irregularities should initiate enquiries with social service departments. This would provide a proactive response to tracing families from both an immigration and social services perspective. There is a need to identify the hidden population within a community... Issue of new 'smart' I/D card will assist, including issue of a National Insurance Number to individuals regardless of age..." And so on. How much of that stems from an honest attempt to address the problem of child protection, and how much from the broader agenda of the originating organisation? There's at least some of the latter there, clearly. But it would appear to be exceedingly difficult for the current Government to address any major problem without the production of central registers, the issuing of unique IDs and the linking of databases. The Register does not however think this is because they deliberately use every opportunity as camouflage behind which to construct the giant Database of Everyone and Everything of their dreams. We think it's because they're busybodying control freaks who can't stop themselves. Whatever, it amounts to the same thing in the end - time to build a register of unique ID schemes* before it's too late... ® * On which matter - about two headlines down from the Green Paper on last night's PM on Radio 4, we were told that "senior police officers" wanted a "DNA Sample from everyone in Britain held on a central database." A police spokesman later denied the programme's suggestion that this would make everyone "suspect from the moment they were born." Related Links BBC report Government announcement Green Paper and related documents
John Lettice, 09 Sep 2003

The RIAA sees the face of evil, and it's a 12-year-old girl

The RIAA has nailed one of the most prolific file-traders in the U.S., filing a lawsuit against 12-year-old Brianna LaHara. When not at the playground with her friends, "Biggie Brianna" is trading music files from her home in New York. The little girl received one of the 261 lawsuits filed by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) on Monday, according to the New York Post. She may look like a sweet and innocent child, but the RIAA says it's only going after major copyright violators at the moment. So you make the call. "I got really scared. My stomach is all turning," Brianna told the Post. "I thought it was OK to download music because my mom paid a service fee for it. Out of all people, why did they pick me?" It turns out that Brianna's mum paid a $29.99 service charge to KaZaA for the company's music service. Brianna, however, thought this meant she could download songs at will. How naive! When reporters charged into Brianna's home, she was helping her brother with some homework. She is an honors student at St. Gregory the Great school. Brianna could face charges of up to $150,000 per infringed song, but we have a feeling this might be a tad unrealistic. We suggest the RIAA take all of her toys instead. "Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation," RIAA president Cary Sherman said in a statement. "But when your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take appropriate action." Go get her, Cary. ® Related Link NY Post story
Ashlee Vance, 09 Sep 2003

A different kind of Mono culture

Mono, the open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET Web services platform, can dramatically improve developer productivity, according to the leading light of the project. Miguel de Icaza, CTO and co-founder of open source firm Ximian, which was acquired by Novell last month, took centre stage at the company's BrainShare onference in Barcelona today. de Icaza told delegates a "large and growing developer community", including 150 external contributors, is working on Mono, which remains on track for a 1.0 release by the end of the year. Mono enables Unix and Linux interoperability for emerging .NET applications and environments while allowing developers to write in more higher level, richer programming languages. According to de Icaza, Mono is stable: four ISVs have already developed applications based on Mono - a sign of the growing maturity of the platform, he says. The Mono types are application server developer OpenLink Software, the Tipic instant messaging app, Winprofessor's Jabber Software Development Kit and SourceGear. Ximian forms a cornerstone of Novell's strategy to re-invent itself as a champion of open source development. Chris Stone, Novell's strategy guru-in-chief, said that "Novell had bought a culture as much as it bought a company" when it acquired Ximian last month. The combined companies plan to take the Ximian desktop and add Novell networking services (file, print, software distribution and ID management) that will make the environment more attractive for enterprises. ®
John Leyden, 09 Sep 2003

Micro Warehouse flogs North American ops

Micro Warehouse, the mail order reseller, is selling its North American business to CDW for $22m. This is a knockdown price. Micro Warehouse's US customer base generates annual sales of more than $900m, while Canada brings another $40m, and inventory is valued at about $14m, according to CDW, which will become a $5bn t/o business post-acquisition. It's an asset sale - CDW is not taking on the receivables or the liabilities. Instead, it will act as a debt collector for Micro Warehouse, levying a five per cent handling fee on all money collected owing to the old regime. The takeover is prompting concern among US competitors, which fear even greater pressure on margins, US channel magazine CRN reports. CDW's press statement is here. ®
Drew Cullen, 09 Sep 2003

Websites that crash

Nine out of ten people have been forced to abandon an online transaction because the application failed before completion. As a result more than half of those dumped midway through their transaction either had to waste more time contacting the company concerned - or have given up and gone to a rival firm. According to network traffic management outfit, CatchFIRE Systems, two thirds of those transactions - such as booking flights or buying consumer goods - were valued at more than £200. The most serious complaint among those quizzed detailed Web sites that crashed at the end of a transaction or while the payment was processing - forcing consumers into repeating the operation, or making time-consuming calls to check if the purchase was successfully completed. One of those surveyed Bethan Gray, 28, a furniture designer from London, said: "The site crashed when I was buying flights on-line and I lost the whole form which I spent ages filling in. Then I was really worried that I had bought the flights twice so wasted 15 minutes calling the company up to check even though I hadn't." Barrister, David Griffiths, 29, said: "I was booking a holiday when the site crashed six times after my credit details having being inputted - so I just gave up." In a statement CatchFIRE Systems (Europe) marketing director, Nigel Thomas, said: "Poor web site performance is still plaguing the on-line industry. "Consumers being kicked off Web sites during purchases is like someone being thrown out of a restaurant in the middle of a meal - it is inexcusable. "Our research shows that on-line consumers have zero tolerance for delays. They don't think twice about abandoning transactions if they are kept waiting," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Sep 2003

MS' Linux obsession – time to call in the shrinks

This week's 'Windows is cheaper than Linux' story comes to us courtesy of Giga Research, which with the aid of Microsoft funding has produced a study indicating that it is cheaper to create a portal using Windows and Microsoft development tools than using Linux and Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) tools. The study is apparently to be used by Microsoft's new kinder, gentler and more fact-based GM for platform strategy Martin Taylor in his campaign to convince customers that nine out of ten cats who expressed a preference reckoned that Linux is pooh. And in this campaign, he has the best facts money can buy. We accept that was unfair, but submit that it was eminently called for. At time of writing the latest study had not yet graced Microsoft's large and growing pile of proof that Windows is better than Linux (example, sample), and we accept that it's perfectly possible that under some circumstances Windows development might work out cheaper than Linux development, but Microsoft's current obsession with 'proving' its product is better, over and over again, is both futile and unhealthy. Microsoft paying for the stuff is a problem in itself. When analysts come up with reports, in general people assume somebody must have paid, but in many cases they don't ask too hard. In the case of reports favourable to Microsoft, however, there is a general presumption (which generally turns out to be true) that Microsoft must have paid for it. And then, in light of the company's history of serial duplicity and ham-fisted sponsoring subterfuge, they assume it must be rubbish. So we really can't see why Microsoft should bother. But there's a deeper problem. After confining itself to abuse for several years, Microsoft decided, rather noisily, that it would switch over to "facts". The company thinks, now it's done that, that the new approach should be much more credible with the world, and a year or two down the line will no doubt emerge baffled that the world has stubbornly refused to agree 'tis so. These days, when an exec mentions Linux, you get "facts", some of them quite fact-like, others, ones we have some considerable doubt about. These, really, are a bit like the old-style abuse, except they're sort of fact-like. Clearly, the "facts" spun by the execs have been pre-selected and honed to cast Windows in the best possible light versus Linux. So they're kind of like the facts in the Iraq dossier - propaganda really, and as with the Iraq dossier getting real people to believe them, even if they're true, is quite hard. And trying is pretty pointless, if you ask us. Problem number three is one that will also be familiar to politicians. Microsoft thinks the problem is getting the message across. Microsoft thinks Windows "wins against Linux every time" (although it appears unwilling to share that particular case study outside its reseller community), whereas large swathes of customers think Windows is expensive and Linux much cheaper. Microsoft is therefore convinced that if it continues to place "the facts" in front of these sad, deluded people they will ultimately accept that Microsoft is right, and Windows will triumph. But this is advanced stupidity. The people installing Linux systems are not dunces, and (particularly if they're installing them on what Microsoft regards as it's own turf) they'll have gone into the costings pretty damn thoroughly. They're not going ahead with Linux because they don't know any better, they've got their own "facts", based on their own research and experience. If Microsoft products really are, or become, more cost-effective then customers' experiences and perceptions will change in Microsoft's favour. As politicians all know, really, when you say it's a matter of getting the message across you really mean that the customers have figured out the product stinks. So once they've kicked you out you stop whining about the message and get down to fixing the product. And finally, this obsession with Linux is deeply unhealthy. If we were talking about a person, successful and perfectly normal apart from a compulsion to prove they're better than another, particular, person then we'd regard it as a case for analysis, right? If you're that secure in your success then you're confident, cool about rivals, you don't go on about them like that. Basically, this Linux stuff shows that Microsoft is going corporately nuts. But we knew that, already. ®
John Lettice, 09 Sep 2003

Fireworks cancelled: Be, Microsoft settle

The settlement between Microsoft and Be on Friday has deprived the public of some spectacular allegations. A month after its liquidation auction, held on a chilly January day last year, Be filed suit, alleging anti-competitive behavior by Microsoft. The settlement pays Be $23.5 million, most of which will find its way to shareholders. Be burned its way through more than $90 million of capital in its ten year history, initially as a workstation vendor, then offering alternative operating systems on first the Macintosh, then x86 hardware, before ending its life as an information appliance vendor. Between 1998 and 2000, Be marketed its BeOS operating system to PC OEMs with some subtlety, but little success. The company had pitched BeOS as a complementary operating system to OEMs' Windows images, allowing users to reboot from the Windows desktop. But Hitachi, one of the few OEMs to bite, discovered that it wasn't permitted to do so by its Windows licensing agreement. When running Windows on dual-boot Hitachi PCs, the user had no indication that another operating system was even present. However, the lawyers had a rich source of additional material on which to draw. The proceedings would have been enlivened by controversy surrounding the re-pricing of Be stock shortly before the 1999 IPO, and the timing of visits by Microsoft executives to OEMs and the subsequent cancellation of Be appliances by OEMs. It isn't the first time Microsoft executives killed hardware initiatives by its software licensees that it felt threatened the PC. Intervention was blamed for the termination of the promising Shark network computer by Digital Equipment Corporation. It's hard to say if these allegations will now ever be made public. Privately, Be had already given up on the desktop OS business before the IPO in the summer of 1999. Earlier that year it demonstrated its "kitchen appliance" to venture capitalists, and the appliance strategy gave the company an additional two years of life. True to form, in the settlement Microsoft admits no wrongdoing. Earlier this year Microsoft settled anti-competitive litigation filed by AOL, with the latter agreeing to use Microsoft browser technology for a further seven years, and endorse Microsoft's media formats. ® Related Stories Be sues Microsoft Jean-Louis Gassee on the antitrust dog that never barked A Silicon Valley funeral for Be Compaq developing 'BeOS Lite'-based Net appliances Be preps BeOS-in-Windows 'Trojan Horse' Be to offer BeOS 5.0 for free
Andrew Orlowski, 09 Sep 2003

BT OKs commercial SDSL roll-out

BT Wholesale has given the green light for the commercial roll-out of its SDSL broadband product. Ten ISPs took part in trials for the SDSL service, which began at some 20 exchanges in London last year. Since then around 100 exchanges have been enabled for SDSL (a symmetric DSL product that offers the same rate upstream as downstream) covering metropolitan areas in London, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Scotland. BT also plans to extend the rollout of SDSL to a further 50 exchanges by January 2004. Details of which exchanges are to be fingered should be confirmed by the end of October. The broadband service is geared specifically for SMEs and other organisations who need to send and receive monster files. In a statement, Bruce Stanford, director BT Wholesale products, said: "Demand is expected to be strong as SMEs can gain real competitive advantage from using this broadband capability, in addition to the range of ADSL services that have been in the market for several years." ® Related Stories BT to trial 2Mbps SDSL, rollout next year BT to upgrade 180 exchanges to SDSL - report
Tim Richardson, 09 Sep 2003