25th > September > 2003 Archive

PalmSource to build smart phone OS

Even as initial development work on Palm OS 6 draws to a close, PalmSource has said it will continue to work on version 5, with a release geared toward smartphones already in the pipeline. Palm OS 6, aka 'Sahara', will ship before the end of the year, PalmSource told developer conference attendees in Munich this week. The company will offer the core OS to licensees who then have scope to tailor the product for their specific needs and branding. Devices based on the new OS are likely to appear from late Q1 2004 onwards. The new OS will feature multimedia and graphics frameworks drawn from its acquisition of Be. Version 6.0 will feature granular, application-level security and pluggable I/O interfaces. Which means that licensees can swap out the Graffiti input mechanism for an alternative, such as biometrics. Application developers need not concern themselves with the specifics: apps will simply receive an event. Version 6.0 will also feature an extensible PIM architecture, which should breathe some life into the now dating applications suite used every day by Palm owners. And it is expected to be Microsoft .NET compatible. PalmSource also intends to build in APIs for easier roaming - users will be able to move relatively seamlessly from Wi-Fi to GPRS to Bluetooth networks. Palm OS 5 was always considered a transitional operating system, providing support for old Dragonball applications while Palm hardware moved to faster ARM-based CPUs. Palm OS 6 will steer developers towards full ARM compatibility by allowing them to build pure ARM apps. Emulation will still be provided for backward compatibility. Palm OS 5, meanwhile, will evolve into an OS for smartphones, a market that has yet to be fully embraced by Palm hardware developers. Palm itself has long been dismissive of the market, insisting that users prefer to keep phone and PDA separate, but its acquisition of Handspring - which takes the opposite view, that users want just a single device - may have changed its mind. Certainly, buyers do appear to agree with Handspring's way of thinking, if market stats from IDC and others are anything to go by. PalmSource and PalmOne will soon become entirely separate companies, of course, but the former has to respond to the needs of its licensees, and to anticipate the demands of new customers. Smartphone support is likely to be much in demand going forward, and PalmSource needs to have product to compete with not only Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones but Symbian's smartphone-oriented OS too. The version number system will be confusing, though, and we wonder if PalmSource will segment the branding of the two versions, 5 and 6, the way Microsoft has with its PDA OS, now known as Windows Mobile 2003, which ships in smartphone and PocketPC editions. However it's named, the smartphone version of Palm OS 5 won't ship until sometime next year, the only timeframe PalmSource is willing to give at this point. ® Related Products Buy Palm OS kit from The Reg store
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2003

Shift to voice over IP underway

Telcos will see up to 40 percent of their fixed-line traffic leak away to other networks in five to seven years, an IP communications expert has warned. Speaking on Tuesday at the telecoms conference Voice on the Net (VON) in Boston, CEO Jeff Pulver of IP communications company Pulver.com said that technologies like broadband, Wi-Fi and satellite have triggered an inexorable shift of voice traffic to alternative networks. "People are increasingly communicating with other people who are on these networks, so there's less of a need for them to depend on legacy networks," Pulver said. "The traffic is naturally moving." While the 1990s technologies that allowed people to make voice calls over the Net were characterised by choppy quality, the four-day conference is dedicating itself to highlighting that voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) is ready for prime time. Pulver estimated there are at least 100,000 people using voice over a broadband Internet connection today, and the numbers continue to grow. To make calls over the Net, users are either using special software, a microphone and speakers on their PC, or they are using one of the new IP-enabled telephone handsets, an estimated 4.5 million of which were sold in 2002. If the person they're ringing doesn't have the right software or an IP handset, the caller pays a fee to make the call; but if the recipient is equipped with the right gear, the call is free. Services like Free World Dial-up and Vonage provide the downloadable software to let users make the free calls from their PC, and earlier this month the same people who founded the Kazaa file-sharing network made a stir with the unveiling of their own Internet phoning software, Skype, which uses peer-to-peer technology. Already telcos in the US and Europe are prepping themselves to fight back against this leakage of revenues by getting in on the act themselves. Telekom Austria, for example, is readying its first major push into IP communications for next year, according to Richard Stastny, project manager of the Telekom Austria consulting subsidiary Ofeg. Stastny told ElectricNews.Net that by the second quarter of 2004, Telekom Austria DSL subscribers would have the option to rent a special IP handset or terminal adapter from the company. That means customers of Telekom Austria, which is the incumbent in that country, will be able to make free calls over the Internet to anyone else who has the gear to accept an IP phone call; subscribers can also ring friends who don't have IP gear, and the call will be routed out to the normal telephone network as usual. Pricing is still up in the air, but Stastny said users might pay around EUR20 a month in addition to their DSL subscription to avail of the service. The whole initiative may seem like a direct cannibalisation of revenues by the telecom, but Stastny says the company is simply moving with the times: another Austrian telco is already offering voice over IP using DSL, and Stastny says the new service could also help encourage a new wave of DSL subscriptions, which have recently evened off. "In my opinion, if we don't do it, somebody else will," Stastny said. James Enck, European telecom analyst with the Daiwa Institute of Research, said the Telekom Austria initiative is in line with other defensive moves by European telcos, including some of BT's plans for Bluetooth. Enck said telcos, and especially incumbents, who are seeing their revenues drip away to other platforms like mobile have the opportunity to act now to offer interesting IP-based services that will let them hold on to subscribers. "If telcos push the button now [with new services] they can pose it to their customers as a valuable new service rather than look like they're acting out of desperation," Enck said. "It's going to be the same story repeated all across Europe." © ENN Related Products Buy Networking kit from The Reg store
ElectricNews.net, 25 Sep 2003
bofh_sidey

The BOFH mobile comms quiz

Episode 22Episode 22 BOFH 2003: Episode 22 It's mobile, it's comms, it's great - you know it, your geeky users want it. But then people are rarely happy. They want 802.11b and they want it yesterday, and you're the one who's supposed to have installed it. Yesterday. However, as a seasoned computing veteran, before you put your budget where someone's mouth has been, just ask yourself these questions: 1. Mobile comms in your workplace currently consists of: a. Full 802.11b coverage b. Partial 802.11b coverage c. Unadvertised 802.11b coverage in your region the IT Dept d. Anywhere the roll of thinwire cable can get to! 2. You would install 802.11 in your workplace except that: a. You're unsure of the security implications b. The building would have too many dead spots c. The budget would be difficult to justify d. Half the staff would come to work with tinfoil wrapped round their heads 3. Wireless would get most use in meeting rooms to: a. Allow people to take online notes of meeting progress b. Allow people to read their email during slow periods c. Allow people to send sneaky messages to each other d. Keep people 'abreast' of the porn revolution 4. In your opinion your users would judge the throughput of the wireless network in: a. Bytes per second b. Kilobytes per second c. Megabytes per second d. Smutty movie frames per second 5. Using your knowledge of the people concerned, the mobile devices commonly used by your technical staff would most likely be: a. PDA b. Laptop c. Webcam d. Shoecam 6. An anonymous survey to determine the most-requested places to put 802.11b coverage would find most demand for: a. Cafeteria b. Designated smoking areas c. Reception d. The gents' toilets 7. After a lengthy campaign advertising coverage areas, a user complains about a massive dead spot. You know that when you get to their room you're going to find: a. Their PCMCIA card has popped out b. Their PCMCIA aerial has broken off c. They don't have, nor have they ever had, a PCMCIA card d. Their desktop machine on a trolley in the corridor 8. The security of your 802.11b solution is ensured by: a. WEP b. Access restricted to named hardware addresses c. VPN connectivity d. Burying the bodies of the people who try to get around with it 9. An annoying user repeatedly comes to complain about the poor bandwidth in his area. You: a. Add another access point in an effort to double the bandwidth b. Move the access point closer to his area c. Do a site survey d. Do a site survey. Then install a large ungainly microwave dish precariously above his workstation. Set to DEFROST... 10. The best way to encourage uptake in 802.11b at your workplace would be posters: a. Noting 802.11b on site b. Advising of troubleshooting techniques c. Advertising best coverage areas d. Advertising 'Kournokova nude - only on wireless!' Scoring Mostly a: A technical response for a technical workplace. In fantasyland. Mostly b: You mean well, and give your users a lot of credit. Mostly c: A practical response from someone who's seen the highs and lows of the user community. Mostly d: The healthy cynicism we expect from a true professional. ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 Get BOFH Books here BOFH is copyright © 1995-2003, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 25 Sep 2003
cable

Intel pays Micron to boost server RAM output

Intel will slip Micron $450 million to beef up its DDR 2 production, the companies said yesterday, even as the memory maker announced a massive fiscal year loss of $1.27 billion. Publishing its latest quarterly figures, Micron reported a loss of $123 million (20 cents a share) on revenues of $889 million for the three months to 28 August, its fourth quarter. Sales were up 21 per cent on Q3, thanks to a 15 per cent increase in megabit part prices and growing demand for those chips. That demand exceeded production - up eight per cent sequentially - during Q4, allowing Micron to reduce its inventory below last quarter's levels and the previous year's figure. For the year as a whole, the company realised revenues of $3.09 billion, up 19 per cent on the previous year, but not enough to push the company into the black. However, 256Mb DDR prices in particular fell around 30 per cent year on year, Micron said. The Intel investment will see the chip giant take stock rights worth 33.9 million common shares. It's the second time Intel has put money into Micron - in 1998 it invested $500 million in the memory maker. This time, the injection follows the pattern of Intel's other recent memory company activity, in particular the $123 million it invested in Elpida, in two rounds. And like Elpida, Micron will use some of the money for the "deployment of DDR 2 memory". Intel is keen to drive up DDR 2 production in time for the launch of DDR 2 server chipsets next year, followed by more mainstream chipsets which also support the next generation of DDR SDRAM. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2003
Cat 5 cable

Philips and HP to share virtual data centre

Philips Semiconductors and Hewlett Packard will share a fully virtualised data centre that reduces IT costs and enables an infrastructure that responds in real time to market changes in a highly changeable semiconductor industry. The UDC, the first of its kind, is located at Philips Semiconductors' largest site in Nijmegen, near the German border in the Netherlands, and is managed from a single console where server and storage resources can be allocated virtually, within minutes, instead of having to physically re-wire the desired hardware. The centre accommodates both new and existing servers, as well as storage and network equipment, from HP and other vendors. The announcement is significant, as it is the first major 'on demand' UDC deal of HP in Europe. HP outlined its Adaptive Enterprise strategy - which centres around a reference architecture called Darwin - only a couple of months ago. Aiming at companies and chief information officers that demand more out of their IT environments, on demand or utility computing entails that data centres can be allocated to different tasks to increase efficiency. IBM has been pursuing a similar strategy for months, and other companies have jumped on the bandwagon as well, including Computer Associates, which believes HP is too focused on its own proprietary technology. So far, Hewlett-Packard announced only a few services agreements, including a deal worth $3 billion to manage Procter & Gamble's overall IT infrastructure for 10 years, and a outsourcing contract with Ericsson. Dutch retail trade company KBB also implemented an HP demand strategy, but the IT giant undoubtedly needed a more prominent European partner after white goods giant Electrolux this summer outsourced its desktops to IBM in a seven year on demand services deal and beverage giant Diageo (that's Guinness and Grand Met to you and me) was spirited away from HP in another on demand deal. HP and Philips' semiconductor division have a long-standing customer relationship. Two years ago, HP began assisting Philips with the development of blueprints for the management of data centers at minimum cost. The Nijmegen site is just the beginning, sources at HP say. Philips Semiconductors, headquartered in Eindhoven, employs over 32,000 people in over 50 countries. With sales of around $ 4.6 billion in 2002, it is one of the world's top semiconductor suppliers with 14 manufacturing and assembly sites, 20 design centers, four system labs and more than 100 offices. ®
Jan Libbenga, 25 Sep 2003

Linux taking off – and being taken off

"More than two dozen nations are considering proposals to promote or require the use of Linux in government offices" according to Erwin Gillich, deputy head of the city of Vienna's information technology unit, which is likely to choose Linux over Windows on 15,000 desktops. So, who are these nations, asks Robin Bloor of Bloor Research. Well, they include Japan, China and South Korea who are collaborating over a plan to "embrace alternative operating systems" to Microsoft - which means Linux. It includes India which sees Linux as aiding its fast growing software industry to become less dependent on US and European outsourcing and it includes Brazil where President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is finalizing a policy recommending that federal ministries, agencies and state enterprises install open-source software. (The goal is for 80% of government computers bought next year to feature open-source software). As well as Brazil you can add most of South America, including Peru where the government publicly dismissed a claim by Microsoft that governments that back open source were providing an unfair subsidy. In Pakistan 50,000 low cost computers will be installed in schools and colleges all over Pakistan (for less than $100 each) that use GNU/Linux. Pakistan is also considering the use of StarOffice office. Salman Ansari, an advisor to the Ministry of Science and Technology says "Don't be surprised if we become the first country in the world to say that all (government-run) services are going to be GNU/Linux based". In Thailand, the SchoolNet experiment that seeks to provide computer universal access to teachers and students in schools is using GNU/Linux. In Malaysia government bodies are studying the feasibility of developing Linux to become a "national operating system" similar to the Red Flag Linux project in China. Everywhere you look, government interest in Linux is growing. Linux is growing in the commercial market too. IDC is predicting that this year the number of new Linux servers will equal or possibly surpass the number of new Windows 2000 servers. Recent Linux wins include two very significant prizes; Reuters chose to put its Market Data System on Linux (supposedly generating $200 million in sales of services and server hardware in the next 5 years) and Ford moved to Linux with a series of server purchases. This brings me to SCO and its CEO Darl McBride, who proclaimed in his open letter to the Open Source community "If the Open Source community wants its products to be accepted by enterprise companies, the community itself must follow the rules and procedures that govern mainstream society." It may have slipped Darl's notice but Linux already is accepted by a whole swathe of enterprise companies, in a big way. Apropos of which, there is an interesting offering by SCO in its UnixWare 7, which indicates that SCO acknowledges this - a Linux Kernel Personality (LKP). This enables SCO's UnixWare to run Linux applications. In respect of this SCO offering, there is an interesting comment about this in a blow-by-blow response to Darl McBride's open letter (click on http://www.groklaw.com/ for the complete text). It bats the ball firmly into SCO's court by saying: "We particularly wish to check your Linux Kernel Personality (LKP) source code. We suspect that there may be GPL source code taken from the Linux kernel and used in LKP without authorization, and we challenge you to prove this has not happened by showing us your LKP source code, throughout its complete development history to date." Whether or not this is so, we doubt if SCO will make much mileage from its LKP. However we would not be surprised to see other Unix vendors offering something along these lines. As we have already stated, we expect Linux not just to dominate, but to become "the operating system standard". We expect that other Operating Systems will eventually be obliged to run Linux in "virtual mode" if they are to survive. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 25 Sep 2003
SGI logo hardware close-up

Vignette buys Intraspect

After iManage merged with Interwoven and Documentum with eRoom, it almost looked as if Intraspect was going to be the wallflower at the dance. The pace of consolidation in the Smart Enterprise Suite sector was making the position of pure-play vendors ever more shaky. Obviously the logic of consolidation was undeniable and now Vignette has entered into an agreement to acquire Intraspect for $20M. Vignette is cash rich having over $308M cash on December 2002 and the CEO, Tom Hogan, has launched the company on an aggressive growth and acquisition path. Vignette acquired Epicentric a leading business portal solutions vendor, in October 2002. Intraspect is a privately held company with about 180 employees that started trading in Europe in 2000. Intraspect software benefits from years of research at Stanford and elsewhere in knowledge sharing, knowledge acquisition, collaboration and human-computer interaction. Intraspect's 200 customers include the Bank of America, Barclays Global Investors, BearingPoint, Cadence, GE Capital, Hill & Knowlton, J.P. Morgan Chase, LSI Logic, Ogilvy, Sun Microsystems and Reed Elsevier. Intraspect 5, the latest version of Intraspect's collaboration and knowledge management software, has been carefully designed to integrate into the enterprise environment. Good integration tools will help Vignette and Intraspect to create the objective of the merger - a fully integrated Smart Enterprise Suite. Another notable feature of Intraspect is its ability to work with other desktop systems. In particular, a full range of collaboration facilities is accessible via email. This is attractive to high-value information workers who often prefer familiar email tools. Although email has been receiving a lot of criticism recently as a productivity drain, it is still the preferred communication tool for the vast majority of information workers. The acquisition of Intraspect takes Vignette a lot closer to the holy grail of content and collaboration vendors: to create a Smart Enterprise Suite containing an integrated set of content management and collaboration functions. Digital Asset Management is probably the last piece of the puzzle that is still missing but Vignette has a lot of cash left. As in the case of Documentum's acquisition of eRoom, the benefits of the merger will only arrive when the two products are fully integrated to gain the benefits of shared functions. This will be a costly exercise but it is essential if Vignette is to avoid what has been described as a "Frankenstack" architecture that is hard for both customers and the vendor to work with. The leading SES vendors such as Documentum, Interwoven, Open Link and Hyperwave are now all at the starting line for the next stage of the competition to become the Oracle or Microsoft of the next wave of team-based, Information Worker support applications. The developments over the next year are likely to be as interesting as the last one. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 25 Sep 2003

$100m Grand Theft Auto lawsuit threatens to become class action

Publisher Take-Two Interactive may face a class action from purported victims of the Grand Theft Auto games, as the family of a man killed by boys allegedly influenced by the game prepare to file a $100 million lawsuit. As we reported earlier, the case arises from an incident where two boys, aged 16 and 14 years old, opened fire on vehicles on a highway with a .22 rifle, killing one man and injuring another person severely. The family of the dead victim plans to sue Take-Two after the boys said that they were acting out something they had seen in their favourite videogame - Grand Theft Auto 3. Although specifics of the case have yet to be disclosed, reports suggest that the family will seek a massive $100 million in damages from the publisher. The smell of blood - or money - always attracts more lawsuits, and the family's attorney, Jack Thompson, now believes that he has grounds to file a class action suit against the publisher which could include hundreds of other cases. "We want to tell the video game industry that if they're going to continue to market adult-rated games to children with these horrific consequences, then we're going to take their blood money," Thompson thundered in a statement this week. "In the past few days I have been contacted by dozens of other people, and there may be hundreds more cases. This will send a message that they have to stop this practice or there will be other suits on behalf of other people, killed by these games." Strong words, and one can almost hear the law firms salivating at the prospect of being able to prove that there has been a flood of crimes inspired by videogames. Just imagine all those rich media companies who produce videogames, ripe for the picking - and surely if you can sue Take-Two for publishing a game which killed people (note that Thompson is no longer even claiming that the game was just an influence or a factor), it should be possible to sue Best Buy, GameStop or Wal-Mart for selling it to the killer? Interestingly, we've yet to see any sign of Thompson's righteous fury being turned upon the manufacturer of the rifle used in the killing, or indeed upon the parents of the boys - who must have been directly responsible for giving the children access to the M-rated game (the US equivalent of an 18 rating), the rifle and ammunition, and the unsupervised time in which to use them. Then again, gun manufacturers are a sacred cow in American politics and law, while the parents... Well, the parents don't have as much money as Take-Two. Which is what this all boils down to in the end, after all. Copyright © 2003, Gamesinsdustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 25 Sep 2003

VeriSign: illiterate ramblings

VeriSign's [VRSN] controversial Site Finder service, launched last week, has helped VeriSign become one of the top ten websites in terms of user numbers. However, industry estimates of how much revenue it could generate from this service seem to be overly optimistic - unless VeriSign is planning to make some modifications. Millions of Internet users are now redirected to VeriSign's Site Finder when they misspell a .com or .net domain when typing it into their web browser. The service is all about capturing error traffic and trying to turn it into revenue by diverting users to sponsored search engine listings. So how much is the service worth to VeriSign? Estimates of $100-150 million have been circulating. But based on Site Finder as it stands today, it seems that pulling in that kind of revenue would be a tough, if achievable, task. VeriSign is using Overture Services [OVER] as its search partner. VeriSign said that the Site Finder page has been visited 65 million times, and that the search panel page has been used 11 million times in the seven days since the system went live. If VeriSign's sole source of revenue was its cut of paid clicks from Overture's sponsored listings, it would have to convert all 11 million searches into revenue events to even get close to $150 million a year. Overture's average fee per click is $0.40, and its average payout to the affiliate, in this case VeriSign, is 64%, or $0.256 per click. So 11 million clicks a week would create revenue of just over $2.8 million a week, or $146.4 million a year. Overture's affiliates generally do not reveal how many search queries they convert into paid clicks, but it is not 100%. Furthermore, it would be rather hard for VeriSign to grow Site Finder revenue in future - assuming of course the service is not forced off the air by a combination of legal action, government intervention, technical problems and sheer bad karma. Barring a sudden outbreak of illiteracy among Internet users, the company would only be able to grow its user base in step with the overall growth of Internet population and usage. Given relatively fixed user numbers, showing investors pleasing growth would likely require squeezing more revenue from advertising. Given the high number of sponsored results already on the site, graphics or even pop-up ads would likely be the order of the day. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Related Research Reuters Business Insight, "The Web Analytics Outlook"
Datamonitor, 25 Sep 2003

VeriSign slammed for domain renewal scam

VeriSign has been rapped over the knuckles by the FTC for its calculated attempt to steal domains from competitors - a practice called "slamming". However in a ruling by the government arm, VeriSign was found not to have broken the law and so avoided a hefty fine. It has however been barred from suggesting that someone’s domain is about to expire or that what is in fact a transfer is no more than a renewal. It has also been ordered to compensate anyone that was tricked by the underhand tactic. Last year, the registrar that runs the .com and .net domains infuriated other domain registrars and consumers alike when it sent out ambiguous emails informing people their domain was about to expire and they needed to click on a link to renew it. A hard-to-see VeriSign logo was the only indication that the email wasn’t from the company the domain was currently registered with. Thousands “renewed” their domains but in many cases it was months or even years until the domain was due to expire and in each case the individual unwittingly transferred their domain to VeriSign - normally always at a higher price. The emails saw an immediate legal response from the main two registrars affected - GoDaddy and BulkRegister, who swiftly won an injunction - and also saw several class action lawsuits from duped consumers, now settled in their favour. This is not the first time VeriSign has abused its powerful position in the domain market in order to frustrate efforts to turn its once monopoly into a competitive market. Last week, its SiteFinder program directed most non-existent domains to its own webpage, sparking an immediate lawsuit and an angry request by ICANN to switch it off, which it has continued to ignore. As ever though, the company is unrepentant. "This matter relates to a marketing campaign that was discontinued over a year ago," it said in a statement following the ruling. "VeriSign cooperated fully with the FTC and is pleased to have this matter resolved." Plus ca change... ® Related link FTC notice Related stories FTC probes VeriSign over slamming claims Verisign accused of DNS slamming
Kieren McCarthy, 25 Sep 2003

Pervert! You're using the Internet

OpinionOpinion Guy Kewney is probably the UK's best-known computer journalist. He has his own site, our news partner, the marvellous Newswireless.Net. Here's a small coincidence for you. Microsoft is going to charge users for mobile MSN mail, and is going (try to) to charge other Instant Messaging systems a royalty for access to MSN Instant Messenger. And - in unrelated news, of course - Microsoft is closing down its free chatrooms. To protect children, naturally. Is it really anything to do with protecting children? Or is it to do with money? Or is it something else - something far sillier? Like, embarrassment? Many would say that it has, of course, nothing whatever to do with protecting children. Arguably, it will have the opposite effect. MSN was always a blatant example of Microsoft anti-competitive actions. It was launched because Bill Gates came to realise that AOL was a bigger force on the Net than Microsoft, and he "invested" heavily in the Microsoft Network. Say what they like, it was an attempt to crush AOL. It was a successful attempt, insofar as it crushed other major online service providers - who remembers Prodigy, or The Source? - but AOL survived. Now, its purpose either achieved or abandoned, reality dawns on Microsoft. MSN makes no money, and indeed, loses millions every month; and so it's clawback time. One thing Microsoft would like, is a monopoly on instant messaging, and MSN has a messenger service. Trouble is, other people have written software that works on Microsoft IM, and simultaneously on other systems like Yahoo and AOL, and IRC. So can Microsoft stop them? It has been trying, but without much success. So it's trying to charge them. "Running an [IM] network is expensive," says Lisa Gurry, group product manager for MSN at Microsoft. "We can't sustain multiple other-people's businesses, particularly if they charge for certain versions of their software. We're introducing licensing processes for third parties like Trillian..." - report from Joris Evers, of IDG News Service. Yes, it is expensive, but why didn't someone think of that when building up the IM system? What was its purpose - to make money? or to crush AOL Instant Messenger? Rhetorical question, isn't it... and of course, the next step, will be to charge for instant messages. And why not? Microsoft has already announced that mobile Hotmail will cease to be free to mobile users. A small fee, to be sure - maybe less than $30 a year, maybe more. But Microsoft's plans for IM are intimately tied to its plans for smartphones. It provides MSN messenger "out of the box" for the Orange SPV smartphone, for example. As long as you're in range of a GPRS data feed, you can use IM instead of texting; and it's much better than MMs (multimedia messaging) too. How long before Microsoft points out that "it's expensive, running IM, and we're saving our users a lot compared to MMS, and we think it's only right... we can't sustain... "? And what about the kiddies? Well, the facts about child abuse are scary. Most children who are abused, sexually, are abused by close family, however, not by strangers who "groom" them in chat rooms. Closing chat rooms may be a great idea if it stops children being abused - so will it? The evidence of the last two years is that actually, a moderated chat room is a great place to catch predatory paedophiles. You put a moderator online, and they pose as an innocent pre-teen, looking for excitement. And (as we've seen in the occasional headline) the paedophile who is pretending to be a pre-teen kid himself, is taken in, and arranges to meet the policeman - and shows up with a gun. If Microsoft goes ahead and closes down MSN chat rooms, the effect will be that kids stop looking for chat rooms, right? Hardly! - there are too many. And some of them are moderated, of course, but others are not. Microsoft could, if its prime concern was care for the kids, pay moderators to maintain good order in its chatrooms. That, of course, would cost extra money. No doubt Microsoft "can't sustain multiple chatroom moderators..." The sad thing is, I'm not even convinced that this is simply a money issue. Publishers are typically middle-class people, with middle-class friends. They like to boast about what they do for a living. Richard Desmond, who made millions publishing pictures of naked Pakistani girls in "Asian Babes" now wants to be a respectable publisher of the Daily Express in the UK - an "upmarket" newspaper. He's not alone. Here's what MSN's director Gillian Kent told the Daily Mirror. She said she was appalled at the language used on teen chatrooms. She said: "I have a 10-year-old nephew and a four-year-old daughter and I was concerned how best to protect them in the future from such sites." And she added: "It has reached the point where the problem has become too serious to ignore and we have to take action." I think that's the heart of the matter. A middle-class woman, who thinks children under ten shouldn't use words like "f..k" even amongst each other. It's OK, apparently, for Tony Blair's PR man to say it, but this woman can't face her friends over the coffee cups, and admit that she runs the place where little children use four-letter words. A moderated MSN would mean that MSN acknowledged that kids do use strong language, and that MSN would have to justify allowing most of that. So MSN, money or not, can't moderate its chat rooms. It would be too, too humiliating for MSN directors. And if it means that some kid can't go to a moderated MSN site and goes to a rogue freelance chat room instead, and gets abducted? © NewsWireless.Net It's not good to Chat MSN torches chatrooms So why is MSN Israel keeping its chatrooms open? MSN chat stand is 'nothing short of reckless' - Freeserve MSN Chat: It's the child protection lobby wot's to blame - LINX Watch out! There's a chatroom paedophile about Kids charities demand ID parade for pre-paid punters
Guy Kewney, 25 Sep 2003

Intel ships 3.2GHz Mobile P4 with HT tech

Intel has rolled out four Mobile Pentium 4 processor that finally bring its HyperThreading technology to notebook computers, though the chips' frontside bus has yet to exceed an effective bit rate of 533MHz. It also shipped a new Celeron desktop chip, taking the family to 2.7GHz. The release comes just a couple of days after the chips launch had been forecast. The four chips are clocked at 2.66, 2.8, 3.06 and 3.2GHz, dropping to 1.6GHz when Intel's SpeedStep power conservation technology is in full swing. Each chip has a "target" average power consumption of under 3W, but clearly mileage will vary according to use. Full out, their core voltage is set to 1.55V - or 1.2V when SpeedStep knocks it down. In any case, all four processors are aimed at desktop replacement notebooks where long battery life is arguably less of an issue, and most users will be operating their processors at full whack on mains power. HT will provide a small performance boost on multi-threaded applications, including Adobe Premiere, Unreal 2 and Windows XP itself. Intel claims over 100 desktop apps are already multi-threaded and thus ready to take advantage of HT. But there are still plenty that aren't, however. Each chip contains 512KB of on-die L2 cache, and operate across a 533MHz FSB. They are backed by Intel's 852GME and 852PM chipsets. Prices for the parts, in batches of 1000 chips, are $653, $433, $294 and $234, for the 3.2, 3.06, 2.8 and 2.66GHz parts, respectively. However, it's worth remembering these prices are expected to fall in a month's time, on 26 October. The 2.7GHz Celeron costs $103. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2003

Nvidia unveils nForce 3 for mobile, desktop Athlon 64

Nvidia this week expanded its AMD64-targeted nForce 3 chipset line from one part to three, adding mobile and desktop versions to the workstation chip announced in April. Joining the Opteron-oriented nForce 3 Pro 150 is the vanilla nForce 3 150 for the Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX, and the nForce 3 Go 150 for the mobile version of that chip. The two new versions are now in "mass production" and will be available in "the coming weeks", said Nvidia's European marketing chief, Alain Tiquet. Parts numbered 250 will ship later this year, the company added. The chips are fabbed at 150nm. The single-chip solutions hook up to the processor across a HyperTransport link, and provide AGP 8x, Gigabit Ethernet with TCP operation acceleration; Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1 and 0+1; ATA 133; PCI; AC'97 audio; and support for up to eight USB 2.0 ports. For mobile users, the chipsets support ACPI 2.0 and AMD's PowerNow! technology. Nvidia also launched ForceWare, a bundle comprising all its regular universal drivers and a set of utilities and apps that utilise them. Tools include a RAID set-up utility, system management and power management software, a multi-screen set-up utility, and a multimedia playback application which incorporates TiVo-style digital video recording and electronic programme guide features. And to make sure everyone gets the right idea, Nvidia is bundling a Cg tutorial too. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2003

Bust PC builder lands ICM with huge piracy bill

ICM Computer Group has been landed with a huge bill for buying pirated software unwittingly from an unnamed distributor. The disaster recovery specialist has set aside £725,000 to cover its obligations to Microsoft, of which £400,000 has already made its way to the software giant. In a statement accompanying its results yesterday, ICM said it had bought the counterfeit software as part of a routine hardware and software supply agreement from a "large PC manufacturer" between two and five years ago. The vendor had a direct OEM relationship with Microsoft. However counterfeit software produced by a "major" network had found its way into ICM's supplier. ICM said it would have sought redress from the PC maker, except the supplier went bust in October 2002. Doesn't ring any bells with us. any names? Update The reader consensus was Dan Technology even though that well-known firm went bust in July 2002. The name of ICM's supplier was ASI, although how that company qualifies as a "major" PC maker escapes us. ® Related story Court sentences £50m MS piracy ring to 10 years
Drew Cullen, 25 Sep 2003
SGI logo hardware close-up

IT services at work are pants

Two in five workers are dissatisfied with IT services at work, according to a survey out yesterday. According to the study, sponsored by IT services software firm newScale, workers can wait for up to two weeks for a response to routine IT service requests. Other respondents reported that it took several weeks after starting a new job to get the computer equipment they needed to perform their job functions. Of the 1000 Americans quizzed during the study by Internet market research firm TNS, 43 per cent believe computer and network services caused unnecessary delays and poor quality of services impacted their ability to work effectively. Ouch. The study quizzed people on the routine provisioning of employee workplace tools like computers, phones and access to IT systems required to perform day-to-day operations - otherwise known as internal service delivery management. According to a recent report (Service Catalogs: The Heart of Service Delivery Management, September 2003) by Forrester Research, internal service delivery costs are between three and 15 per cent of a company's total revenues. The cost related to poor service delivery represents a tax on the finances and productivity of corporations, according to newScale. newScale claims that companies using management software to organise service delivery can reduce costs by up to 30 per cent. It wants companies to consider using its software as an alternative to outsourcing services or blaming hard pressed BOFHs for lacklustre IT support. ®
John Leyden, 25 Sep 2003

Em@iler set to make a profit

Amserve - the business behind Amstrad's em@iler phone-cum-email device - should make a profit during the financial year, the company said in a statement today. Publishing results for the year ended 30 June, Amstrad explained that it had sold 130,000 em@ilers during the last year bringing the total number of devices to more than 250,000. Although the cost of flogging em@iler hardware is subsidised, the company makes up the cash by charging punters for sending and receiving emails. It also charges them for a number of other services, including SMS, e-greetings cards and downloading old Sinclair Spectrum games. And it claims that ad revenue is looking up, with the likes of AOL and O2 flogging their services on the little telephone machines. All told, Amserve reported that in June it generated around £18,000 a day in revenue from the service. If that carries on for a full year then it can expect to cash in more than £6 million in revenue over the coming year. "We expect that the Amserve business should turn into profit in this current financial year despite our continued policy of subsidising the sale of units to increase the installed base," the company said. Which all sounds fine and dandy, if only the em@iler wasn't such a turkey. Pre-tax profits at Amstrad were up during the year £9.9 million compared to £4.2 million in 2002 even though sales were down slightly (£34.4 million) on last year (£35.4 million). ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Sep 2003

Windows Longhorn to RTM in August 2005?

Longhorn, the next version of Windows, isn't due to ship until 2005; but according to Neowin.net, it's due on August 15 2005. A record-breaking risky prediction? Actually, the site's taking a rather bigger risk than is immediately obvious, because it's citing Microsoft sources claiming that the date will be given to partners and OEMs next month, when it will also appear on Microsoft roadmaps. It's always less stressful to predict things that are going to happen in two years than things happening next month, but this is a next month prediction. Naturally, it's ludicrous to believe that a precise arrival date can be specified for a product that's two years away, but there are good reasons why Microsoft needs to take a shot at it now, and reasons why August 15 is a pretty plausible shot. Microsoft comes under continual pressure from OEMs and major customers to come up with roadmaps that are sufficiently accurate to allow them to plan rollouts, and given that what comes after XP, and when, has been surrounded by considerable murk, the company needs to get more specific about Longhorn. And it's expected to do so at next month's Professional Developers Conference. Microsoft has insisted there's no XP SE release, that Longhorn is definitely the next one, and that Longhorn will ship in 2005. This however is not good enough if you're an experienced Microsoft partner. Early 2005? Mid-2005? Late-2005? 2005, really? ('2005, really' is generally something described as Q4 2005, but RTMing in late December, so nobody tries to sell it then, and it's a long way until holiday season 2006. A product that will have an impact on 2005 sales, on the other hand, will hit the stores with the marketing campaigns all rolling by October. Track back from there to allow for OEM testing and production ramp, and you get the last two weeks in August. So specifying August 15 might be overkill, but it's a perfectly plausible target date for a product Microsoft wishes to ship to customers in 2005. Of course, as major project target dates get closer, Microsoft execs tend to start saying things like 'it'll ship when it's done,' so if we start hearing that in early 2005, we should be starting work on our Plan B holiday season special deal bundles, shouldn't we, OEMs? ®
John Lettice, 25 Sep 2003

NEC boffins create ‘stable’ nanotube fab process

NEC scientists have figured out how to make the basic components of a carbon nanotube (CNT) transistor using a "stable fabrication technology". CNTs are cylinders of carbon atoms just a few nanometres in diameter. The arrangement of the atoms is similar to that found in fullerenes - the near-spherical carbon structures also known as buckyballs. CNTs represent one of the materials chip designers hope to use when today's silicon techniques reach the end of their useful life thanks to ever-shrinking process technology. CNTs are much better able to conduct electricity than silicon structures. In the lingo of transistor design, a CNT-based transistor should offer a higher 'transconductance' - a measure of the performance of a transistor - than silicon transistors. The higher the transconductance, the faster the transistor can switch on and off. That means higher clock frequencies can be supported, and that lower core voltages are necessary. NEC's new process creates CNTs that will provide a transconductance more than ten times greater than today's silicon MOS (Metal Oxide Semiconductor) transistors. The company believes that the same technique can eventually be used to produce CNTs that offer 20 times the conductance of silicon transistors. Don't expect chips based on CNTs any time soon, however. NEC's target is to produce a CNT transistor by 2010. First, it has to develop CNT control technology, work out how to control the CNT's electrical properties and build devices based on them. The fabrication process needs plenty of refinement too. The NEC researchers were able to control the growth of the CNTs on a silicon substrate by placing minute quantities of a catalyst on top of the substrate, providing a level of control over the positioning of the CNT not possible using conventional fabrication techniques. They also developer a way of creating connections between electrodes and the CNT that have much lower resistance than has previously been possible. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2003

Lloyds TSB phishing scam nipped in the bud

Net fraudsters have targeted Lloyds TSB customers in the latest fake email scam. Reg readers report receiving emails this week purporting to be a security check from Lloyds TSB, which are in reality attempts to trick users into handing over sensitive account information to fraudsters. Evidence suggests many copies of the fake email have been blasted out randomly to Net users using spamming software. The scam mail (sample below) invites Lloyds TSB customers to input their debit card details on a bogus site, whose URL has been cunningly disguised to resemble the real thing. At the time of writing the site is down. However, these kinds of so-called 'phishing' scams have a habit of reappearing (often on different hosts), so continual vigilance is recommended. Earlier this month, online customers of Barclays Bank were targeted in a similar scam. In a statement, Lloyds TSB has issued general advice to its customers in response to the circulation of the fraudulent emails, which it advises its clients to ignore. "Lloyds TSB never sends emails that ask for confidential information or security details to be recorded online," the statement said. "If you get such an email, please delete it immediately without responding. "If you are concerned that you may have divulged any details please call our helpline on 0845 3000 116," Lloyds TSB added. ® Dear Customer, Your VISA debit account has been inactive for more than 3 months. In order to confirm your membership with us and avoid account cancellation we will transfer a random amount between 0.25 GBP and 0.99 GBP into your debit card. This is a new security measure put in place by VISA to protect your account against unauthorized charges. To complete this process please, follow the link below: http://www.lloydstsb.co.uk|cgi-bin|imcpprd.dll|cntType=48305873268VISA_BANKING&userid= 53882957215065@1113757291 or Click Here Thank you. Best Regards, Customer Support Related Stories Accused AOL phisher spammed the FBI Barclays: Internet scam victim Email fraudsters target Barclays Email scam aims to swipe PayPal users' credit card details ID theft hits 10m Americans a year MS, eBay, Amazon et al join ID theft busters
John Leyden, 25 Sep 2003

Bulldog gets new COO

Broadband operation Bulldog Communications has appointed a top bod from ISP Nildram as its new chief operating officer. Martin Jowett, who looked after sales, marketing, operations and customer care at Nildram, was selected by Bulldog for his "extensive broadband experience and record for success". Before Nildram, Jowett also did time as business development director for the Internet division of cableco NTL. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Sep 2003

Amazon.com drops Fossil Wrist PDA

UpdateUpdate Watch maker Fossil has delayed the release of its Palm OS-based Wrist PDA - maybe even indefinitely. Unveiled in November 2002, the Wrist PDA was originally due to ship last June. At that time, we were told by Fossil's UK operation that the product had been delayed until early next year. Not all, responded the US parent, the Wrist PDA will ship on 30 June as planned. Shortly before that date, Fossil put the release back to 21 July. As the second date approached, the company's exclusive online partner, Amazon.com, announced that shipment would not take place until 30 September. Shortly afterward, Fossil removed the late July release date from its own web site. Checking Amazon today, we find that the end of September date has been removed, replaced by the words: "This item is not stocked or has been discontinued." Fossil's own web site still contains full product details, but no ship date. Now, it's possible that Amazon has simply decided not to offer the device, but having carried the flag for Fossil's Wrist PDA for so long - and presumably notched up a number of pre-orders - that seems unlikely. A Fossil US representative confirmed that the Wrist PDA will not ship on 30 September but was adamant that it has been delayed not cancelled. However, she could give no indication as to when the product would ship. No international release date was available either. At this rate, the product's various delays will add up to that given to us by Fossil UK back in June. And the reason for the delay? "It's due to production quality," she said. That suggests the company is unhappy with the quality of the product so far, pointing the finger at Fossil's Wrist PDA contract manufacturer, Flextronics. ® Related Stories Fossil Wrist PDA delayed to 30 Sept. Fossil delays US Wrist PDA shipment Fossil says Wrist PDA will ship in the US this month after all Fossil puts back Palm Wrist PDA launch to 2004
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2003

Freeserve to offer ‘friendly’ advice service

Freeserve is banking on "friendly" advice to help boost numbers at the UK's giant ISP. From next month punters will be able to phone up the ISP - free of charge - to find out which Net access package and tariff is best for them. Based on the information provided by punters, Freeserve's "friendly" advisors will be able to direct them to the most suitable Freeserve package - be it broadband, unmetered dial-up or pay-as-you-go. The ISP reckons there is so much conflicting information out there it's best placed to offer much-needed help. A spokeswoman for the ISP denied this was little than a front for a sales pitch. She told us: "We're not trying to sell people the most expensive product, but the product that suits them [the customer] best." With churn still a problem for many ISPs, the theory behind this approach is this if punters are on the right package for them to start with, they are less likely to up-sticks and waddle off somewhere else. Freeserve's new "Package Advice Line" manned by "friendly Freeserve Advisers" goes live next week and will be backed by a TV ad campaign. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Sep 2003

India's Yahoo! Groups ban – update

India's blanket ban of Yahoo! Groups continues. It's not 100 per cent, but most of the largest ISPs have complied, removing access for over 80 per cent of users. The Government's Computer Emergency Response Team - which normally releases security and virus alerts - issued a block on all groups after Yahoo! refused to remove messages in the low-traffic 'kynhun' group. The group carried postings by banned secessionist group the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council. According to readers, these include In2Cable, Bharti's two ISPs Mantra Online and TouchTel India, consumer dialup provider Sify, Hathway and Siticable both cable providers, Caltiger, DDSL and BSNL. However a reader in Pondicherry says that VSNL and Dishnet dialup are permitting access; while one of VSNL's downstream providers is maintaining the blanket block. Siddharth Hegde writes in dismay: "It is truly a shame that a country like India blocks a website. What they do not know is that within a year the most computer illiterate person would have found a five-minute work around. There is no point in try to block websites - people will find work around. "I am a net user and use three ISPs - one Cable and two dial-ups. All three have blocked them. My cable connection (Hathway, VSNL and Satyam). Satyam would be the first one to pull off this as earlier they had blocked all adult websites without authorization from users." ® Related Story India blocks Yahoo! Groups
Andrew Orlowski, 25 Sep 2003

eBay confirms user data giveaway

Unrepentant online auction site eBay has confirmed that it will give personal data to government officials without a subpoena. They only have to ask. eBay users have received the following explanation: Hello, Thank you for your email. I understand your concern with this issue. My name is Christian. I am a representative of eBay Customer Service. I will be glad to assist you. According to Section 4 of the eBay Privacy Policy, ". . .in response to a verified request by law enforcement or other government officials relating to a criminal investigation or alleged illegal activity, we can(and you authorize us to) disclose your name, city, state, telephone number, email address, UserID history, fraud complaints, and bidding and listing history without a subpoena." To view the full text of the eBay Privacy Policy, please go to the following URL: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/privacy-policy.html If you wish to contact our legal department for further information regarding this policy, please send your correspondence to: eBay Inc. Attn: Corporate Counsel 2145 Hamilton Avenue San Jose, CA 95125 I trust this information has been helpful to you. Please feel free to contact us again, at any time, with any further questions. Regards, Christian G. H. eBay Customer Support Very helpful, thank you. But not enough to satisfy eBay user Dennis Veatch, who asks, via email: "So basically anyone with a fax has access to their customer base information. I wonder what they concider an "exceptional case" would be? That's scary, disappointing and disturbing. This guy flat out lets everyone know. It concerns me what the attitude of others that keep their cards closer to their chest. "I initiated the account closing procedures at Ebay for my account, linking to your article." So here's a poser for readers. How much personal data can you extract from the helpful eBay staff? No lawnforcement officers, please. ® Related Story eBay to Feds: come and get what you want
Andrew Orlowski, 25 Sep 2003

Watchdog to target text spammers

Premium-rate phone service watchdog ICSTIS is to clamp down on unscrupulous text spammers after seeing the number of complaints rocket over the last year. In a stern warning to the industry, ICSTIS said it will no longer tolerate misleading and unsolicited text messages that trick people into calling premium rate numbers by stating that they have won a cash 'prize' or 'award'. This type of spam - which fleeces people by tricking them into calling a premium-rate number - is no longer a relatively small-scale concern, claimed the watchdog. Not only is ICSTIS calling time on the spammers, it's also threatening action against a handful of telecoms companies it claims provide the premium-rate numbers while turning a blind eye to how they are being used. ICSTIS has already received more than 5000 complaints this year about such scams, a massive increase on the 1200 it received during the whole of last year. ICSTIS Chairman Sir Peter North said: "There have been, and may well continue to be, certain individuals and companies who deliberately set out to deceive consumers purely for financial gain... the current situation is simply not acceptable and cannot continue. "We are not just focusing our attention on the service providers involved. We are also dealing with those networks that, despite our much publicised concerns, continue to provide numbers to service providers wanting to run these services, so perpetuating the harm caused," he said. Earlier this year, ICSTIS fined a Gibraltar-based outfit a total of £40,000 for sending out an unsolicited text telling UK punters they had been selected to receive a "£400 reward". Punters could only claim their "reward" if they called a premium-rate number. And last year it fined a Leeds-based company £50,000 for a similar offence. ® Related Stories Text spammer fined £40k Watchdog slaps text spam firm with £50k fine
Tim Richardson, 25 Sep 2003

NetApp soups up low-end NAS kit

Network Appliance has stepped up to meet increasing pressure from EMC and Microsoft with the launch of some new kit and software. NetApp has taken the wraps of the FAS200 series of low-end storage appliances. The company has crammed some high-end features into the new products but kept them sized for a workgroup or department by sticking to a 3U form factor. The plan is to give customers a little more bang for their buck than what Microsoft and its partners can offer with its new Windows Storage Server 2003 software. The FAS250 arrives as a multiprotocol box with up to 1TB of storage capacity. The system supports iSCSI, CIFS, NFS and HTTP protocols. Take a step up the product line, and you get the FAS270. This system can work either as a classic NAS (network attached storage) device or in a SAN (storage area network), as it supports IP protocols, iSCSI and Fibre Channel. It will store up to 4TB of data and has higher performance than the FAS250. It also has optional clustering available within the box. Both systems use Broadcom's SB1250 MIPS processor, which has dual 650MHz cores and two on-board 10/100/1000 NICs (Gulp - Ed.). The systems start at $10,000 and $20,000 respectively. They run on the same OS as NetApp's higher-end kit, so customers do have the option of jumping up to the FAS900 series of products by switching out the controller. NetApp is also trying to increase its march into the SAN by adding to the list of operating systems supported with its FibreChannel kits. HP-UX, AIX and Linux will join Solaris and Windows as preferred OSes. NetApp continues to hold a dominant share of the NAS marketing, trying EMC with 37 per cent of sales, according to IDC. Microsoft, which is backed by HP and EMC, has made a strong move on this market in a short period of time. Still, Microsoft tends to be relegated to the low-end while NetApp attracts the enterprise accounts. ®
Ashlee Vance, 25 Sep 2003

Seagate ships most rugged external hard drive

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Hard drive Seagate has begun shipping its first external hard drive, a 160GB beast the company reckons is the most rugged in the consumer market. The drive is encased in an acrylic/polycarbonate shell designed to be mounted vertically or horizontally. The case also features a locking mechanism to make multiple drives easy to stack. Plenty of ventilation grilles allow all that 7200rpm-generated heat to dissipate safely whichever way the drive is oriented. That makes it run much cooler than other external drives, says Seagate. It's quiet, too, the company claims. The drive also hooks into the bundled back-up software, allowing users to copy over the contents of their PC's main drive at the push of a button on the external unit itself. Seagate bundles USB 2.0 and 1394 cables for connection to a PC or a Mac. Available in the US, the drive retails for around $269. A $299 200GB model is due later in the year. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2003

Samba offers NT 4.0 escape route

One small but significant breakthrough from the open source Samba project offers Windows NT shops a low-cost migration option out of the Microsoft world. The new release of the software, which provides file and print services on Windows networks, can serve as a Primary Domain Controller (PDC) on NT 4.0. Samba version 3.0.0 is available for download today. "This is an escape route for people stuck on NT 4," Samba co-lead Jeremy Allison tells us. "Anything you can do on NT 4, we can do." Microsoft once touted the domain model as suitable for all enterprises, before it realized it wasn't, and began promoting Active Directory as a successor. However, there are still plenty of older smaller businesses that run NT4. "Microsoft makes a lot of money from SMEs. With Samba 3 you can set up a small server and provide hundreds of users with authentication, file and print," says Allison. The savings can be substantial: around $25 per user for a client access licence, and hundreds of dollars per server. Samba can't quite deliver the same management functions on Windows 2000, which uses an even more labyrinthine combination of LDAP, Kerberos, DHCP, SMB server and other protocols. This requires collaboration with other open source projects, says Allison. "It will take a while." A feature list for the new release can be found here. Much has been written about how Microsoft makes money where protocols aren't commoditised. In common with several other vendors, Redmond once charged money for its TCP/IP stack. But the trend, already seen on the desktop with the rising popularity of zero-licence equivalents such as OpenOffice and Linux, is likely to increase the pressure on Microsoft to look for alternative revenue streams other than software licensing. Why pay, when the alternative is free? Free as in 'more beer for the IT Department'. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 25 Sep 2003

Palm OS: the right balance

The Palm OS outshines its rivals through its ability to combine application variety with compatibility. Content providers and consumers alike are seeking this level of flexibility in future mobile operating systems, something which Palm's rivals are currently struggling to match. Palm OS represents possibly the most flexible mobile OS available today, combining a (largely) unified set of APIs across devices, considerable display and user interface options and hardware agnosticism (the onus is on licensees to make sure new hardware remains compatible with existing Palm OS applications). The upshot is that where Palm OS devices were once all similar in design, licensees can now create devices with an ever widening range of form factors while still maintaining almost universal application compatibility across them. Of course, specialised APIs will continue to exist on certain devices, such as gaming APIs on Tapwave's forthcoming Zodiac PDA/game console, but platform fragmentation has been kept to a minimum without sacrificing the ability of licensees to innovate. Compare that with the Palm OS' rivals. Symbian CEO David Levin believes that about 80-90 per cent of an application's code written for the UIQ Symbian variant is reusable when porting that application to a Series 60 device, and vice versa. While this figure is better than Symbian imagined, it still represents unnecessary work for developers. Design freedom, in the case of Symbian, has led to a degree of platform fragmentation, a problem that the company is attempting to resolve as quickly as possible. Microsoft, on the other hand, has tended to restrict form factor innovation in an effort to minimise application portability problems, but still finds itself with two essentially separate mobile device platforms, for Pocket PCs and Smartphones. The successful mobile operating systems of the future will be those that best combine design flexibility with application portability, not only to keep licensees and developers happy, but also to gain favor from mobile operators, content providers and consumers, with devices based on software that is easier to cater for, support and understand relative to the alternatives. Right now, Palm OS is showing the way to that future. ® Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Related Research Datamonitor, "Mobile Consumer Update: data, data, data"
Datamonitor, 25 Sep 2003

Sobig linked to DDoS attacks on anti-spam sites

A senior anti-spam activist is calling on law enforcement authorities to track down the perpetrators behind a widespread and sustained attack on anti-spam sites. The call, from Steve Linford of Spamhaus, comes along with fresh evidence that the assaults have been enabled by the infamous Sobig worm. Earlier this week two anti-spam services, Monkeys.com and the Compu.Net "block list", announced their closure due to DDoS attacks, and other attempts by spammers to make their operation as difficult as possible. Their closure follows an earlier decision to discontinue the popular if controversial SPEWS block list (which was run by Osirusoft.com) for similar reasons (see postings to news.admin.net-abuse.email for more info). Linford tells The Reg that Spamhaus has been under constant "extremely heavy" DDoS attack since early July. He believes the attack against his site and others originates from Windows machines infected with the Sobig worm, controlled by spammers over IRC networks. The Sobig worm is known to install Trojan code on infected PCs turning them into "zombies" capable of relaying spam messages or attacking other machines. "Sobig has created a network of tens of thousands of zombie machines that have left a DDoS arsenal in the hands of spammers," Linford said. Linford's theory is backed by a recent study by MessageLabs which shows a strong correlation between the origin of spam messages and the IP addresses of Windows machines infected by the Sobig, Fizzer or BugBear viruses. Matt Sergeant, senior anti-spam technologist at MessageLabs, said 70 per cent of the spam the company blocked came from open proxies. Half of these open proxies were established via Trojan infection with the rest being due to mistakes in setting up machines, he estimates. According to Sergeant, a DDoS attack against anti-spam sites fits the profile of malevolent use for a Sobig-infected network of zombie clients. However, he adds, he has "no hard evidence" to prove this one way or the other. Linford makes no such equivocations. He, like others, is convinced that Sobig was commissioned by spammers and is now been used as part of a sinister plan to force end users to spend more time wading through useless junk mail. "Spammers have thrown this network of spam zombies against whatever stands in their path," he said. According to Linford, Spamhaus has a large distributed network which has thus far been able to "absorb attacks", unlike smaller operations that have been "picked off one by one". Thankfully other anti-spam organisations have picked up the roles of the spam fighters forced to close in recent weeks. Because of this the attacks have failed to have a substantial effect of the absolute quantities of spam going through. But they have had an effect on the morale of anti-spam fighters, Linford concedes. Linford is calling on law enforcements authorities to investigate who is controlling machines infected by the Sobig virus. Surveillance on IRC server channels can be used to identify the "zombie master" behind the criminal DDoS attacks of anti-spam organisations. But only police have the ability and legal powers to carry out such tracking and surveillance operations, Linford argues. "Government makes extensive use of anti-spam services and this network of zombie machines could easily be turned against government. The authorities need to find the people behind these attacks for their own interests, if for no other reason," Linford added. ® Related stories Why spammers lurve the 'Microsoft support' worm (Sobig-A) Why Sobig is bad for privacy and AV vendors Sobig-F is fastest growing virus ever - official Sobig-F is dead Florida spammers sue anti-spam groups Something Awful going on with SPEWS UK Govt fouls up anti-spam plans, say experts
John Leyden, 25 Sep 2003

Dell is ready to entertain you

Dell is charging into some unfamiliar territory, announcing a host of home entertainment products set for launch later this year. The company known best for moving bland PCs and servers with unparalleled efficiency now thinks it's ready to play in a few markets where design and strong UIs count. In the U.S. Dell plans to roll out a digital music player, an online music store, LCD TV and computer screen and a fresh projector -- all arriving by the holiday season. The rest of the world can expect to see similar products sometime next year. Dell has caught on to some sweeping market trends with this ambitious roll out. Sony has long dabbled in both the computer and consumer electronics space. Apple and Gateway are trying to mimic Sony's success with various consumer products of their own. Apple, for example, has the iPod music player and iTunes music service, while Gateway is going the flat-screen TV route. Sony and Apple would seem to have the clear edge in targeting consumers. Both companies know how to make flash, solid gear. They may not be the "low-cost providers," but cheap is not always what consumers are looking for with their gadgets. With something like a printer, Dell has a more natural edge for tapping into new markets. It can play off Lexmark's R&D, rebrand the kit and then use its PC volumes to gain a distribution foothold. Operating a finely tuned and interesting music service is a different matter altogether. Even with the backing of a nice Asian design house, we have our doubts as to how well Dell can compete in the entertainment space. Dell promises to price its music service inline with Apple or Real. Consumers will be able to play the songs on their PCs or Dell's upcoming Digital Jukebox device. With a catchy name like that, you can begin to see the problems. On the LCD TV front, Dell will roll out the 17-inch Dell W1700. Its new projector will be called the Dell 2200MP. In addition, Dell plans to ship a new handheld called the X3, which will be a thinner version of the troubled X5. Analysts say these are natural moves for Dell, and in many ways they are right. Why not apply its muscle a little farther down the food chain? But again, consumer electronics require a certain magic touch that Dell has not proved it can pull off. In any case, it's amusing to see computer makers and software companies barrel onto the music service scene. While the labels are busy suing music buyers, companies such as Apple, Dell and Real are stepping right in to pick up the business. Everyone will be getting a cut of the action, eating into the margins the labels could have once owned outright. With so many services cropping up, users are sure to be scattered across the board. Maybe the RIAA is rethinking its anti-Napster strategy now. Wouldn't it have been nice to have tens of millions of rabid music fans in one place? ®
Ashlee Vance, 25 Sep 2003

Car shoppers' credit details exposed in bulk

At least 1,000 automobile shoppers who submitted online credit applications to any of 150 different automotive dealerships around the U.S. had their personal and financial details exposed on a publicly-accessible website, according to a computer security consultant who stumbled across the privacy gaffe. The exposed site was an administrative page at the Tennessee-based hosting company Dealerskins, a firm that provides turnkey Web solutions to automotive dealerships. The page -- which was not password protected and included no warnings that it was private -- allowed visitors to view, in reverse-chronological order, all of the information that had been typed into Web forms on Dealerskins-hosted sites, like autocentersdirect.com and courtesyflm.com. The URL for the unprotected page could be determined by visiting a Dealerskins-hosted website and viewing the HTML source code -- a simple matter in most browsers. After being contacted by the security consultant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, SecurityFocus verified that the page was accessible and appeared to be what the consultant described, then contacted Dealerskins on Tuesday. Dealerskins immediately shut the page down. But company officials claimed their response was so quick that they didn't have time to confirm to their satisfaction that the page was ever publicly accessible to begin with. "Frankly, taking even 30 seconds to figure out what was going on is more than we want to risk," said company president Gabriel Krajicek. Consequently, the company wouldn't comment on how many records had been at risk, whether anyone prior to the computer security consultant had accessed them, or for how long the data was left exposed on the Internet. On Wednesday, the URL produced a page asking for a username and password. Victims Shocked, Cynical Before it was secured, a menu on the exposed page included a dozen categories of forms, like "Employment Form," and "Body Shop Contact." But the most sensitive was the "Finance Form," which cabined online credit applications that would-be car buyers had filled out at the websites of local dealerships across the country. A sample of ten recent applications provided by the computer security consultant included names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, occupations, employers, previous employers, personal references, bank account descriptions, income, length of residency, rental or mortgage payments, duration of employment, and level of education. Victims of the data spill had differing reactions. "It crossed my mind that maybe I shouldn't put information in there, but not for a reason like that; I hadn't thought that they would broadcast it," said Misty Woods, a 20-year-old manager at the Oakwood, Ill., McDonalds, who last week applied for financing from her local Ford dealer. Woods said her familiarity with the dealer made her more comfortable applying over the Internet than she would be with other websites. "I'm familiar with Courtesy Ford, so I figured that it was legit." Hank Clow, the Internet manager at Courtesy Ford, in Danville, Ill., said on Wednesday that the dealership hadn't been notified of any data exposure by Dealerskins, and therefore could not comment. California bookkeeper Patricia Carr said she expressly selected a particular Honda dealership last weekend because of their Web services. "I knew somebody that actually bought a vehicle at Rock Honda," she said. "What I remember him telling me is, 'This is great, you can apply for it over the Internet and get a quote back, and it made it easy.'" "I'm in shock," added Carr. Rock Honda in Fontana, Calif., confirmed that the dealership received Carr's application through its website, but said it was unaware of the data leak. The site was switched over to Dealerskins hosting early this month, said webmaster Rich Enos, who otherwise declined to comment. Gina Graham, who works at a nursing home in Illinois, said she wasn't surprised that her financial information wound up on a website-- that's what you expect from the Internet, she said. "I'm not thrilled," said Graham, but "if I absolutely didn't want to take a chance of any of it getting online, why would I do it online?" "Mistake happen, but I hope that they would contact us and tell us so," Graham added. Under a recently-enacted California law designed to combat identity theft, companies that collect certain personal information from consumers, including social security numbers, must warn California customers if their "unencrypted personal information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, acquired by an unauthorized person." A similar national bill is under consideration in Congress. The exposure of personal financial information could also put Dealerskins and its customers afoul of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations, says Chris Hoofnagle, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Hoofnagle points to a case earlier this year, when Guess Inc. agreed to a computer security overhaul to settle an FTC investigation into alleged deceptive trade practices, after a California programmer discovered a security hole in the fashion retailer's website that allowed access to customer credit card numbers, despite a promise in the company's privacy policy that such information was stored only in an encrypted form. Financial Privacy Laws Implicated Moreover, auto dealerships that do their own financing may be subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a federal privacy law, also enforced by the FTC, that generally requires financial institutions to take reasonable measures to safeguard customer data. "Security requirements are never absolute... [but] the storage of personal information in an unencrypted format online clearly is not a reasonable security measure," Hoofnagle said. David Dolinar, marketing director at Auto Centers Nissan in Alton, Ill. -- which took Graham's online application for financing -- said he was "appalled" by the leak, but that his dealership launched an extensive privacy and information security program earlier this year, which should be enough to satisfy FTC regulations regardless of a vendor breach. "I have implemented a huge Auto Centers information security program that goes with the FTC privacy rule, that secures the security and confidentiality of dealership information," says Dolinar. "We did a risk assessment with Dealerskins, and they passed our criteria... You try and cover all your bases, but we wouldn't have known that this is one." Dolinar, too, said his dealership hadn't been notified of the breach. The security consultant said he stumbled onto the page early this week while visiting a dealership site to make an appointment to have his car serviced. Out of habit, he examined the HTML source code of a form on the site to see if information submitted was properly secured in transit by SSL. It was. But he noted that form submissions were sent to a "dforms" page on the site, and when he tried surfing to that page in his browser, he was dropped into what turned out to be the administrative interface to Dealerskins' dynamic form management software. In an effort to determine how large the exposure was, the consultant said he accessed and saved 1,000 credit applications that were tagged as coming from nearly 150 different dealerships, before giving up on getting a full count. He said he retained the data to prove that it had been exposed, but he plans on deleting his copy. He went public with the matter to ensure that consumers who were exposed on the site would be warned, and to draw attention to the generally poor state of e-commerce privacy, the consultant said. "That could have been my information." "I think that far too many people are reassured by the fact that their information is sent encrypted over the Internet via SSL, and I see it far too commonly that companies take information that was sent encrypted, and store it in plain text on the server," said the consultant. "Sometimes it's sensitive information" Without acknowledging that the page had been accessed, or was accessible, Dealerskins suggested that it's not the company's fault if it fell prey to a "hacker" capable of reading HTML source code. "Anyone, feasibly, given enough time and enough resources could hack into any system," said CIO Brad Hill. "We're going to be calling the FBI. Definitely." Copyright © 2003,
Kevin Poulsen, 25 Sep 2003

Intel pushes Centrino with One Unwired Day

Those of you in San Francisco, Chicago and New York may have noticed something peculiar today as Intel kicked off a Centrino celebration called One Unwired Day. Users in these fine cities are being treated to 24 hours of free wireless access at various locations, including Intel partner sites such as Starbucks and McDonalds. Intel is also hosting some "special events" where consumers can try out Centrino-powered laptops, see demos and win prizes. It's a regular wireless hoedown. One Unwired Day - something Keith Richards cannot relate to - confirms Intel's aggressive aspirations with its combo mobile/wireless chip technology. The company has backed Centrino with hundreds of millions of dollars and managed to muscle its way in on a market prized by Atheros and others. While Intel remains behind competitors in delivering 802.11a/g kit, it has ties to PC OEMs that competitors can only dream of. Intel is using its near monopoly in PC processors as a sharp business tool to be sure, but this should not come as a real shocker. This is what massive corporations tend to do. Still, there are fragile minds out there that don't appreciate Intel's approach. ZDNet's David Berlind, for example, has become trapped in a self-constructed Centrino debate. His recent Intel attack shows a profound knack for dissecting PowerPoint presentations and little else. The real Centrino debate should center in on the potential victims of Intel's wireless push. It's companies such as Starbucks, T-Mobile, HP and McDonalds that are swallowing the wireless hype whole with no payback in sight. Intel is doing its part to help out, but the per users hotspot revenue just is not there. Intel, however, has come up with some creative ideas about where the true value of a hotspot lies. Here's a handy list of "cool" things to do unwired. In a very anti-PC fashion, Intel did not provide a list of uncool things to do unwired. Whether or not twenty-four hours of free wireless access will be enough to convince anyone of Centrino's value remains to be seen. But you can't blame Intel for giving the proven "first taste is free" business model a try. ®
Ashlee Vance, 25 Sep 2003

Compaq FAQ explains the ‘Any Key’

For anyone out there that doubts the full integration of HP and Compaq's Web sites, we offer up FAQ2859 as evidence that the companies paid extreme attention to detail. Compaq FAQ2859 answers a question often posed by technology-challenged users and hated by admins. "Where do I find the 'Any' key?" "The term 'any key' does not refer to a particular key on the keyboard," a helpful Compaq employee points out. "It simply means to strike any one of the keys on your keyboard or handheld screen." As if the FAQ entry was not amusing enough, it seems that the note was modified in 2002. Here's the original post. In addition to helping out unenlightened users, HP/Compaq has provided a guide for Homer Simpson. Faithful fans of The Simpsons will recall Homer's quest to find the "Any Key." While he failed to locate the fabled key, Homer did manage to order up a TAB soda after looking to the left of his keyboard. ®
Ashlee Vance, 25 Sep 2003