1st > October > 2003 Archive

Love me Tender – bidding for Iraqi cellular

Iraq is up for sale, but not everyone is entitled to bid. A study by the George Soros-backed Open Society Initiative sheds some light on the current auction for Iraq's cellular telephony infrastructure, a market that it is estimated to be worth $6 billion by 2008. And it concludes that the bidding process - subject to several amendments already - has been geared to exclude local talent. It's not, as first suspected, a no-bid stitch up. But Iraq Revenue Watch has noted that restrictions prevent nationalized telecoms companies from bidding, which excludes some of the largest European and Asian carriers, and more pertinently, local Arab carriers including the company which has already activated a network in Iraq. And there's no requirement that bidders employ local talent. (This conflicts with the Q&A helpfully provided by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to the press which states "There is no restriction on who can apply". The new strings were attached after the initial bidding round closed, on August 8.) The Coalition Provisional Authority's stipulation that no carrier in which more than a 10 per cent stake is owned by a national government rules out Bahrain's Batelco, the Emirates' Etisalat and Kuwaiti MTC-Vodafone, as well as Orange (now owned by France Telecom) and Deutsche Telecom-owned T-Mobile, amongst others. Showing admirable entrepreneurial zeal, Batelco activated a stealth GSM network in June, but was asked to stop after two days. The bidding also requires that carriers demonstrate five successful implementations. Rather harshly, Iraq Revenue Watch views this as a strike against national carriers. But this cuts both ways, and equally, it can be said to penalize inexperienced cellular networks such as MCI, which had no experience of building a mobile network when given the job of implementing the emergency network for occupation forces in a no-bid award back in May. More damagingly, says the report, the telecoms bidding process gives lie to the claim that Iraqi infrastructure will be left to the Iraqis. The state telecoms company ITPC is excluded from bidding, although we note that the Request for Proposals allows bidders to use the 350 towers that the ITPC erected. And there's no requirement to employ local contractors - even though local knowledge could prevent the contractors from being shot. The reason for this is that such a stipulation would deter foreign investors. It's true that the bids for the networks are unusually short - two years a piece. But as perhaps the one place on earth with a wireless infrastructure more primitive than the United States, the huge potential of the Iraqi market is surely enough not to deter an investors, especially once they have a foot in the door. And Batelco's success in starting a GSM network without the occupation even noticing shows the value of local knowledge. "If US companies dominate in telecommunications services, this will lend credence to Iraqi cynicism regarding the economic motives for US intervention in Iraq." The OSI report touches on the thorny question of air interface standards. The Middle East is a GSM stronghold, and a poorly-informed Senator Darrell Issa (CDMA, San Diego) was mistaken in asserting that US companies would lose out if the GSM standard was adopted. Nortel and Lucent, to name two, would beg to differ. However the CPA bid document requests that CDMA suppliers provide an alternative costing for a mixed CDMA/GSM network, and makes the same request of GSM suppliers. Now why would it want to do that? If you're involved in the process, let us know - discretion is assured. ® (Thanks JB, whose email could use a bit of reconstruction itself). Related Links Iraq's Reconstruction Contracts: Telecommunications [PDF, 43kb] CPA - Mobile Licenses Competition Related Stories Unexpected GSM mobile phone network found in Baghdad Those ghostly Iraqi mobile networks in full Iraq's mobile network - Qualcomm to follow the tanks? Drp yr WMDs now plse! - debunking Iraqi text psyops
Andrew Orlowski, 01 Oct 2003

Half of UK homes has Net access

Half of all UK homes have access to the Net, according tothe Office of National Statistics (ONS). Some 12 million homes have Net access, compared with just one in ten (2.2 million) homes in 1998. Of those Net users quizzed, eight out of ten said they used the Net to search for information and for email. Four in ten said they had received too many junk emails over the last year and considered this to be a security problem. Three in ten said they had been infected with a computer virus, while two in ten said they had received "offensive e-mails". A third of punters said they had not experienced any problems at all. Earlier today Nielsen/NetRatings reported that the UK has the highest number of kids online of any European nation with some 4.5 million youngsters accessing the Net. ® Related Story Kids flock online
Tim Richardson, 01 Oct 2003

Data will save mobile operators – report

Mobile operators around the world will be spared from declining revenues thanks to increased use of data services, says the Yankee Group. Over the next four years, the number of mobile phone subscribers globally will grow almost nine per cent, exceeding 1.75 billion, the analyst firm estimates. But since the new customers are likely to use their phones far less than existing subscribers, ARPU (average revenue per user) will fall, argues Yankee analyst Wally Swain. In fact, overall voice revenues could plunge as well, despite the increased number of users, partly due to competitive pressures that will force the cost of calls down, he says. But revenues from data services -- such as SMS, MMS, e-mail, remote corporate access, Internet access and games --will buoy ARPU and overall mobile operator revenues, the Yankee Group says in its report, Data ARPUs Save the Day for Wireless Operators. Global wireless service revenue will grow nine per cent, on average, to 2007. However, growth will vary from region to region and will be lowest in North America, where revenues will climb only five per cent. In the EMEA region there will be a mere seven per cent lift over the next four years. Latin American growth should be over 10 per cent, however, behind the Asia Pacific region, which will record near 15 per cent growth in mobile operator service revenues. That region's growth will be fuelled by China, which should see a 20 per cent hike in revenues over the period. Such assertions are sure to warm the hearts of the CEOs running mobile telecoms, who for years have insisted that data services are the big growth area as voice revenues stagnate. In Ireland, for example, such trends are already afoot, with mobile operator O2 Ireland claiming to derive more tha 16 per cent of its service revenue from data. Group-wide, the company brings in about 19 per cent of revenue from data, only slightly behind its target of 25 per cent by the end of 2004. The higher data spend is credited with boosting O2 Ireland's ARPU in its most recent quarter to €545 per year, up from €537 in the same quarter a year earlier. Vodafone Ireland, which is somewhat more tight-lipped about where its revenues come from, said that its ARPU is now at €565, up from €523 last year. Swain said that the popularity of data services tends to grow with the launch of 2.5G (GPRS) networks, which often come with new applications for all types of subscribers. "Not only will business use of wireless data for enterprise applications increase, but consumers also will find new sources of entertainment and information," Swain said. In Ireland, O2 and Vodafone launched their GPRS services in early 2002. © ENN Related research Mobile Consumer Update; data data data" (Datamonitor)
ElectricNews.net, 01 Oct 2003

mmO2: Competition Commission squeezes profits

mmO2, the former mobile arm of BT Group, is on track to meet H1 financial targets after adding more than half a million new customers, and reporting an increase in the amount they are spending on mobile services. However, regulatory moves could hamper H2 growth in the highly competitive UK marketplace. mmO2 operates in three main European markets, namely the UK, Germany, and Ireland and it has reportedly gained an additional 500,000 customers in Q2. In the first half of the year, O2 UK is expected to report revenue growth in the mid-teen region, driven by strong growth of its customer base and higher average revenue per user (ARPU). The EBITDA margin in the first half is also expected to demonstrate steady progress to its full-year target of 30 per cent. However, it also warned that revenue growth will "slow significantly" in the second half of the year, after the UK government imposed cuts to mobile phone charges. The Competition Commission ruled that termination charges (the prices mobile phone operators charge other operators for access to their networks) must be lowered by 15 per cent each year for three years. mmO2's loss-making German arm showed a strong performance. It expects to report strong customer and ARPU growth, which is expected to continue into the second half of the year. It now has more than five million customers, giving it an eight per cent market share. The remaining marketplace, Ireland, is expected to report further steady growth of service revenue and EBITDA during the first half. In May this year, mmO2 reported record losses of £10.2 billion for the year to March 31. The majority of this loss was due to a write-down in assets after massively overpaying for third-generation licenses at the height of the telecoms boom. Whilst H1 has proved to be positive overall, mmO2 is confronting a number of challenges going forward. Like all other UK mobile operators, it will have to reduce termination charges, but it is facing increasing competition from the 3G mobile operator "3", owned by Hutchison Whampoa. While it seems to have held its own for the time being, the effects from "3"'s highly aggressive price cuts and summer promotional campaign have yet to be seen. Additionally, the decision by BT Group to offer a virtual mobile service, possibly using the T-Mobile network, will increase the pressure on the operator. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Related research Mobile Consumer Update; data data data" (Datamonitor)
Datamonitor, 01 Oct 2003

Entrepreneurs destroyed by lack of IT credit

Britain is being robbed of its next generation of businesses as entrepreneurs report their planned ventures are being "delayed or destroyed" by the difficulties they face raising capital or credit to purchase essential IT kit, recent research claims. Almost two-thirds of the 500 UK entrepreneurs questioned in the poll (some 61 per cent) blamed raising credit funding as the greatest threat to innovation. More than a third (38 per cent) of respondents reported that funding difficulties are preventing them from obtaining essential business IT infrastructure, and so preventing them acquiring a vital "reputation driver" for their businesses. According to the poll, entrepreneurs said customers expected that they would have IT systems and an online presence at a minimum. They also claimed that a lack of IT equipment would severely curtail their ability to run their business and attract customers. This compared with only 21 per cent who said that the biggest issues caused by lack of funding were failure to secure premises (21 per cent) and those who said support staff were the top priority(19 per cent). So far, so good, or apparently not so good for Britain's budding entrepreneurs. However, we note that this survey was commissioned by none other than PC World, the computing arm of Dixons Group. Simon Turner, group managing director, PC World said: "During the dot.com boom, it was possible to secure early-stage funding from many sources virtually on a whim. Nowadays, even getting base level financing for IT equipment is a tortuous process that may be robbing the British economy of exciting new enterprises." So what, we hear you cry, can possibly be the answer to the funding crisis facing budding startups wanting to get IT kit on tick? You've guessed it - credit from those nice altruistic people at PC World, who have signed an agreement with Australian business finance outfit RentSmart and the Bank of Scotland. Under the deal, start-ups will be able to get "immediate access to up to £3,000 worth of leased IT equipment". However, the small print is not altogether clear about who will be eligible for this line of credit - specific individuals or the actual company - as PC World states that funding will be made available after a credit check on one company director. Details of rates and specific financial terms were not included in PC World's announcement. The PC superstore says the leasing deal will be available "without the onerous requirement to demonstrate a trading history or business plan". While it's true that trading histories can be hard to come by for start-ups, we can't help wondering if a business plan is an onerous requirement - or a jolly good idea. ®
Robert Jaques, 01 Oct 2003

Brits pound OpenSSL bugs

Research by the U.K. government into a once-overlooked class of software vulnerability has surfaced three new security holes in the ubiquitous OpenSSL software package, according to advisories released Tuesday. All versions of OpenSSL up to and including 0.9.6j and 0.9.7b, and all versions of SSLeay, are open to the attacks: two of the holes can crash the software; a third could lead to an attacker gaining control over vulnerable machines, although the latter scenario remains undemonstrated, according to an advisory from the OpenSSL Project, the collaborative effort that maintains the open-source package. The vulnerabilities are in the way OpenSSL processes a data format called Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1) -- an internationally recognized standard for coding and transmitting complex data structures, and a building block of the digital certificates that make SSL work. ASN.1 security commanded high-level U.S. government interest last year after researchers at the Oulu University Secure Programming Group in Finland exploited the format in a novel attack technique that proved effective against dozens of implementations of the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) -- the Internet's standard language for monitoring and controlling routers, switches and other devices. The research forced nearly two hundred companies to evaluate, and in some cases patch, products that used SNMP. The Oulu research involved systematically flinging a wide variety of intentionally-malformed data at the servers, deliberately violating the rules of ASN.1 in a number of ways that programmers hadn't anticipated: lying about the amount of data being transmitted in a particular field, for example. Where coders didn't plan for illegally-formatted messages, the vulnerable system would crash, or in some cases allow an attacker to overflow an internal buffer and execute malicious instructions on the target machine. "It's sort of the Monte Carlo approach, because that's the easiest way to deal with ASN.1," says Bruce Schneier, CTO at Counterpane Internet Security Inc. "You really can't look at it systematically because it's so opaque." U.S. government and industry officials became gravely concerned that the same attack method might be equally effective against other networks and protocols relying on ASN.1, a long list of "critical infrastructures" that includes telephone switching networks, parcel delivery tracking systems, credit card verification networks, and electric utility SCADA systems. A government working group was formed to tackle the problem, and then-cybersecurity czar Richard Clarke, and his deputy Howard Schmidt, personally briefed President Bush on the issue, Clarke said at the time. But Tuesday it was a parallel effort by the U.K. government's National Infrastructure Security Coordination Center (NISCC) that bore fruit. Building on the Oulu University's work, the center's been performing and funding its own research into ASN.1 vulnerabilities that could affect critical infrastructures. In the process, NISCC researchers developed a customized test suite that they provided to the OpenSSL Project -- primarily based in the U.K. and Germany -- which used it to find the three holes, according to advisories from both groups. The only thing surprising is that there haven't been more ASN.1 implementation holes made public in other programs, says Schneier. "I've always thought there should be more, but my guess is that they're just hard to find." The OpenSSL holes are triggered by delivering malformed ASN.1 data to the vulnerable server through a client certificate-- but another bug in the package makes it effective even against SSL/TLS servers that haven't enabled client authentication. New versions of the software are available that close the holes. Copyright © 2003,
Kevin Poulsen, 01 Oct 2003

Palm launches Tungsten, Zire trio

Palm today unveiled the consumer-oriented Zire 21, and enterprise-friendly Tungsten T3 and Tungsten E PDAs today, as expected. The $99 Zire 21 effectively replaces the original Zire, upping the device's memory from 2MB to 8MB (7.2MB of which is available to the user) and building in a 126MHz Texas Instruments OMAP processor. Such an ARM-based chip is essential to run Palm OS 5 - the Zire 21 ships with version 5.2.1, which sports a tweaked UI and enhanced PIM apps. Palm has also expanded the software bundle slightly, with games, an e-book reader and one or two other items. The T3, meanwhile, is confirmed as sporting the features we've previously noted: a virtual Graffiti text-entry area, 16-bit 320 x 480 transflective LCD that can be set to operate in landscape mode at the push of a button, integrated Bluetooth, 400MHz Intel XScale processor and 64MB of memory (52MB available to the user). It's fractionally lighter than the Tungsten T2 - by 3g - and shorter and thinner, but slightly wider. In the main, it's a darn sight faster thanks to that 400MHz clock frequency. Like the T3 and the Zire 21, the entry-level Tungsten E is based on Palm OS 5.2.1, this time running on the same 126MHz OMAP CPU as the consumer product. It sports a 320 x 329 16-bit transflective LCD - it has a fixed Graffiti area - and 32MB of memory (29.5MB available to the user). Both Tungstens ship with an extensive software bundle featuring Documents to Go 6, which provides native Microsoft Office file reading and editing. Also thrown in are RealOne Mobile Player for MP3s, Kinoma Player for movies, Palm Photo for pictures, Acrobat Reader, Palm's own e-book reader, plus Web Pro and VersaMail for Internet access. The T3 costs $399/£345, the E costs $199/£145. The Zire 21 is as yet unavailable in the UK. ® Related Stories Palm UK web site lets Tungsten details slip New Palm Tungstens debut on Web Palm OS: the right balance Related Products Buy Palm's Tungsten E and T3 from The Register's PDA store
Tony Smith, 01 Oct 2003

3G in new health scare

There are fears over the safety of next generation phone services today after research found that signals from 3G base stations can cause tingling, nausea and headaches. The Dutch Government, which carried out the study, said further investigations needed to be carried to out to confirm the results. However, it is already planning to discuss the matter with the European Commission. Explaining what happened to those who took part in the study, a Government spokeswoman told Reuters: "If the test group was exposed to third generation base stations there was a significant impact. They felt tingling sensations, got headaches and felt nauseous." On the flip side, the research also found that the signals can improve memory and response times making people more alert. In a statement the GSM Association said: "The authors of the Dutch study report small statistically-significant effects on exposure to 3G signals but no effects from GSM signals. "As the effects are small it is unclear whether they have any health significance. As acknowledged by the researchers, the unique design of this experiment needs to be peer reviewed and replicated by other investigators before any conclusions can be drawn. "The GSM Association has committed about €6 million for co-funded independent research projects that will contribute to on-going health risk assessments by the World Health Organization," it said. In June, a report published in an Institute of Physics journal found that signals from GSM phones could interfere with heart pacemakers. The study found that some pacemakers confuse the signals from mobile phones for the heart's own electrical signals, causing the pacemaker to go on the blink. The report's authors claim newer pacemakers fitted with a ceramic filter are immune to the problem and called on all pacemaker makers to use these filters. ® Related Story Change that pacemaker. Now!
Tim Richardson, 01 Oct 2003

Worms spread faster, blended threats grow

Virus writers are increasingly targeting more recent security vulnerabilities in their attempts to spread malicious code. The latest bi-annual Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec found that 64 per cent of all new attacks targeted vulnerabilities less than one year old. The Blaster worm, for example, appeared only 26 days after the vulnerability it exploited was announced. Some 66 per cent of all attacks documented in the first half of 2003 exploited vulnerabilities categorised as highly severe. Symantec's study paints a picture of a rise in more sophisticated and faster spreading worms, and the increased use by virus writers of new vectors for infection (such as P2P networks and IM applications). Symantec reports that the increasing prevalence of blended threats, which use a combination of malicious code and vulnerabilities to launch a cyber attack, remains one of the most significant security issues companies face this year. Blended threats accounted for 60 per cent of malicious code submissions in the first half of 2003, and the number of blended threats increased by 20 per cent. Looking ahead, Symantec expects to see greater worm propagation resulting in overloads to network hardware, crippling network traffic, and seriously preventing both individuals and businesses from using the Internet. A gloomy forecast then. Symantec's report includes analysis of data from Symantec Managed Security Services customers as well as information obtained from the firm's firewall and IDS users. The report covers network-based attacks, a review of vulnerabilities discovered and exploited, and highlights of malicious code trends. Key attack and vulnerability trends picked up by the survey include: The overall rate of attack activity rose by 19 per cent. Companies experienced approximately 38 attacks per company per week in the first half of 2003 compared to 32 attacks during the same period in 2002. Attacks are increasingly leveraging worms to carry exploits of known vulnerabilities as a means of creating exposures or security holes on a large number of systems. Attackers are then installing backdoor Trojans on those compromised systems to create large networks of controlled systems (zombie nets) that could be used to launch future attacks. Submissions of malicious code with backdoors to Symantec rose from 11 in 1H2002 to 17 in 1H2003. Symantec documented 1,432 new vulnerabilities, a 12 per cent increase over the number found in the same period the previous year. However, the rate of discovery during the first half of 2003 was significantly slower than the 82 per cent increase noted in 2002. More than 994 new Windows viruses and worms were documented in the first half of 2003, more than double the 445 documented in the first half of 2002. Worryingly, Symantec reports that 70 per cent of the vulnerabilities found in the first half of 2003 could be easily exploited, due to the fact that no exploit was required or an exploit was readily available. This represents an increase of 10 per cent over vulnerabilities discovered during the first half of 2002. Virus writers are increasingly leveraging instant message and P2P networks as a means of spreading malicious code. Of the top 50 malicious code submissions documented over the first half of 2003, 19 used peer-to-peer and instant messaging applications - a fivefold increase over the course of only a year. Symantec encourages users and administrators to adhere to the following best security practices: Turn off and remove unneeded services. Keep patch levels up-to-date, especially on computers that host public services and are accessible through the firewall, such as HTTP, FTP, mail, and DNS services. Enforce a password policy. Configure email servers to block or remove email that contains file attachments commonly used to spread viruses, such as .vbs, .bat, .exe, .pif and .scr files. Isolate infected computers quickly, perform a forensic analysis and restore computers using trusted media. Train employees not to open attachments unless they are expecting them (D'oh). ® Related Stories Blaster rewrites Windows worm rules Panel probes the half-life of bugs The trouble with anti-virus Why Sobig is bad for privacy and AV vendors
John Leyden, 01 Oct 2003

Toshiba, HP unveil Media Center 2004 notebooks

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Notebooks Toshiba today launched what it claims is the world's first notebook running Windows XP Media Centre Edition: an updated version of its 17in Satellite P20 machine. The OS is the new release: MCE 2004. Based on a desktop 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor backed by 525MB of DDR SDRAM, 80GB hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Go graphics chip, the P20 is a true desktop replacement machine - it weighs 4.5kg (9.9lbs) for starters. The notebook's screen is a 16:10 ratio, 1440 x 900 job, and the machine features integrated Harmon Kardon speakers and a multi-format DVD/CD writer. Adding XP MCE to the equation brings TiVo-style telly recording to the notebook, and offers better content creation and filing tools than vanilla Windows XP, Microsoft claims. It also ties in more closely to the hardware's multimedia features. The 3.2GHz P20 is available through Toshiba's retail channel for around £2299 including UK sales tax. Toshiba's P20 may be the first Media Center notebook in the UK, but in the US it's sharing the accolade with HP, which has launched a Media Center portable of its own, the zd7000 series. The series' two models both sport a 17in screen, 512MB of DDR SDRAM and Pentium 4 processors clocked at up to 3.06GHz. The zd7010 ships with a 60GB hard drive, combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW unit, and Nvidia GeForce 4 440 Go graphics. The zd7001 improves on those specs. with an 80GB HDD, multi-format DVD/CD writer and GeForce FX 5600 Go graphics. The two machines cost $1899 and $2299 but bundle $100 mail-in rebate coupons. Desktop HP has also unveiled a line of MCE 2004 desktops, the m300 series. The BTO systems can be configured with Pentium 4 processors clocked at between 2.4GHz and 3.2GHz, 80-250GB of hard disk storage, 512MB to 1.5GB of DDR SDRAM, either PC2700 or PC3200, and a combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive or DVD+RW/+R unit. Buyers can add a 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5600 graphics card and a Creative Audigy 2 sound card to the basic set-up. All machines feature a seven-in-one memory card reader. Prices start at $999 without a monitor. HP and Toshiba are old Media Center hands, but Dell yesterday joined the Media Center crew for the first time. It's offering three Dimension desktops - the 4600, the slimline 4600C and 8300 - with the upgraded OS as an option. Prices start at $999, but that's a basic system without DVD or CD writing. Maxing out the spec - 2GB DDR SDRAM, 3.2GHz P4, multi-format DVD/CD writer, Audigy 2 sound card - takes the price of the 4600 to over $2200, for example. Gateway has upgraded its 610 all-in-one Media Center desktop to include the OS' 2004 release. Three models - the 610S, 610X and 610XL - sport P4s clocked at 2.4, 2.6 and 3.06GHz, respectively. The 610S ships with 256MB of DDR SDRAM, an 80GB HDD and a combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. The 610X ups the memory to 512MB and the hard drive to 120GB. The 610XL has a 250GB hard drive, 512MB of 400MHz DDR and a DVD-RW/CD-RW optical unit. All three all-in-one models feature a 17in LCD screen with integrated speakers. Their prices are $1500, $1700 and $2000, respectively, minus a single cent. ®
Tony Smith, 01 Oct 2003

Symbian on wheels? Auto makers moot ‘open’ architecture

The auto industry goes open standards? This is possibly more earth-shattering than it would be if Bill Gates admitted he was wrong and gave all his money to Linus Torvalds. Because the auto industry could teach the PC business a few things about achieving lock-in via proprietary IT, and given the amount of IT that's been going into vehicles over the past few years, it's looked like it's getting worse, not better. The AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) partnership is perhaps something we shouldn't get too excited about yet. It appears to be a commitment to open standards up to a point, with these standards initially being devised by a core group of companies, which at the moment consists of the major German players. Rationally, we can't expect the auto industry to open up to the extent that just anybody could play (there's the safety issue, for starters), and although the founders carry a lot of weight, quite a few more companies will have to join before you could call it an industry-wide initiative. But the motivation behind the group is interesting, because here we have major companies who are very well positioned to play the proprietary, incompatible cards saying that it doesn't work any more. AUTOSAR has been established "in response to the increasing complexity of E/E [electrical/electronic] systems which, in turn, has been driven by innovative vehicle applications such as driver information and driver assistance systems and increased passenger and legal requirements." The mission statement continues: "Standardization has resulted in many positive effects, such as reuse and product compatibility, throughout and beyond the automotive industry. AUTOSAR will provide similar benefits for OEMs and suppliers as well as for tool providers and new market entrants. From an OEM's perspective, increasing the penetration of standard software modules will free up valuable resources to focus on the realization of innovative functions. By reusing software modules across product lines and customers, suppliers will be able to reduce their development effort and risk and minimize the levels of product proliferation. The shift from proprietary to standardized interfaces and the resulting increase in transparency will greatly benefit both tool providers and new market entrants." Which all sounds quite positive, as do some of the objectives: - Fulfillment of future vehicle requirements, such as availability and safety, SW upgrades/ updates and maintainability - Increased scalability and flexibility to integrate and transfer functions - Higher penetration of "Commercial off the Shelf" SW and HW components across product lines - Improved containment of product and process complexity and risk - Cost optimization of scalable systems Note however that the founders intend to devise an open architectural framework within which they'll still be able to compete via innovation, and that they specifically don't want to get into operating systems: "The standardization of automotive operating systems is not regarded as an AUTOSAR goal but existing standards and products such as OSEK, VxWorks, Windows CE for automotive and their derivatives will be taken into consideration and used in AUTOSAR." So if you take them at face value they're not directly threatening the growing number of companies making plays in in-car multimedia and telematics; by opening up interfaces they could even make it easier for small hardware and software vendors to get into the market. But there's surely a 'stake in ground' aspect to it as well. Symbian with wheels on? Perhaps. The explanation of the AUTOSAR runtime environment (RTE) is maybe significant here. "At system design level the AUTOSAR runtime environment (RTE) acts as a communication center for inter- and intra- electronic control unit information exchange between architectural elements of layers connected to the AUTOSAR RTE. All communication between AUTOSAR components has to be compliant to the standardized AUTOSAR interface definitions. All other architectural elements have to provide standardized interfaces that are based primarily on already existing standards." So they're envisaging a structure that third parties can plug into, according to the rules. We'll have to wait for completion before we can judge how much of this is enabling a nascent industry and how much is plain old circling the wagons. This is targeted for August 2006, which is a long time in computer years, but pretty close by auto design standards. ® Related links AUTOSAR press release Information pack PDF (allegedly - we're experiencing some difficulty in getting it to download properly)
John Lettice, 01 Oct 2003

Band goes ahead with Webcast suicide

Members of a Florida-based rock band are to Webcast the suicide of a terminally ill friend during a secret concert on Saturday despite moves to outlaw the gig. Hell on Earth had planned to stage the event at a venue in St. Petersburg, Florida, but city officials sought an injunction banning the event. Even though officials have not ruled out the idea that the suicide bid is a publicity stunt for the band, they still decided to go-ahead with the ban. However, the band remains defiant and insists it will go ahead with the show. A statement on Hell on Earth's Web site reads: "Due to the overwhelming response and in accordance with an oath, bandleader, BillY Tourtelot gave to his terminally ill friend, the show scheduled for October 4th will indeed take place at an undisclosed location in St. Petersburg City limits. "It will be broadcast live over the Internet on www.hellonearth.net. The show will include a live suicide by a terminally ill Euthanasia Society member." According to the band's Web site: "Past band performances have included sodomizing skinned calves and blending dead rats then having fans drink the concoction." ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Oct 2003

IBM ‘poisoning workers’ case goes to trial

Two former IBM workers who claim that exposure to hazardous chemicals at IBM manufacturing facilities caused them to suffer from cancer will get their day in court. Judge Robert Baines, of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, yesterday allowed lawsuits brought on behalf of former IBM employees James Moore and Alida Hernandez to proceed to jury trial. Jury selection in the cases is due to begin on October 14. But the judge dismissed similar lawsuits brought by two other plaintiffs, Maria Santiago and the family of the deceased Suzanne Rubio, after ruling that neither case was sufficiently strong to put before a jury. The individual cases put before the judge are examples of cases brought by 250 former IT workers and their families, from across the US, who have sued IBM for allegedly exposing its workforce to carcinogenic substances despite knowing of the health risks its working practices posed to human health. IBM strenuously denies these claims. Lawyers for IBM and the plaintiffs were each asked to select two of 40 cases filed in San Jose to put before Judge Baines. Both cases selected by the plaintiffs will go to trial while neither of the cases selected by IBM lawyers got through, leaving both sides claiming victory. Richard Alexander, lead counsel for the workers, said Hernandez and Moore "were regularly soaked with chemicals and now that story can be told in court, where everyone can hear the truth", Reuters reports. But David DiMeglio, a lawyer representing IBM, told the news agency that the judge's ruling "guts the entire theory on which plaintiffs were proceeding on all their cases." Poisoned chalice The plaintiffs (former and current IBM employees or their families) allege that the computing giant did nothing to safeguard the safety of workers handling chemicals known to be hazardous to people since the mid-1980s, until ten years later - well into the 90s. In that ten-year period, IBM workers were subject to various forms of cancer or their children were born with birth defects at a higher frequency than the general population, the lawsuits allege. The allegedly dangerous chemicals, such as benzene and arsenic, IBM workers were exposed to were used in semiconductor and disk drive manufacturing in its San Jose plant and in other manufacturing facilities across the US. The San Jose plant was acquired by Hitachi last year as part of the sale of IBM's disk-drive business. Companies that supplied chemicals to IBM (including Union Carbide, Shell Oil and Fisher Scientific) are also named as defendants in the suits. The legal actions, which began five years ago in 1998, seek unspecified damages from IBM. Reuters reports that the case rests on whether IBM's management knew if "workers' skin rashes, runny noses, and other ailments were signs of systemic poisoning caused by chemicals in the plant, and - if that is established - whether the company refused to tell the workers what it knew". The plaintiffs will argue that IBM must have known workers' health complaints were symptoms of more severe, and life threatening, diseases. IBM denies the claims, which it says are without scientific foundation. It also contends that workers compensation law prevents it from being sued for damages in the case. The IT giant dismisses an analysis which suggests IBM's manufacturing workers were more likely than the general population to suffer from cancer as "litigation-driven junk science". The lawsuits are being closely watched by the wider semiconductor industry, whose safety record has been spotlighted by the case. The outcome of the San Jose cases is likely to set a precedent for the outcome of similar cases across the US. ® Related Stories IBM accused of poisoning workers
John Leyden, 01 Oct 2003

US BB take-up hampered by cost, content

High monthly fees and lack of "compelling" broadband content are still being blamed for lack of strong demand for high speed Net access in the US, according to research by Current Analysis. This assessment comes despite the fact that one in five homes in US now has broadband. According to figures published by Current Analysis, there were 22.1 million subscribers in the US at the end of June - an 8 per cent increase from the end of the first quarter. Although it has lost ground to DSL, cable continues to dominate the industry, accounting for almost two thirds of broadband subscribers. On numbers alone, the US' situation might seem reasonably healthy. However, analysts claim that after years of hype, the broadband industry is only finally approaching a critical mass of penetration into US households. "It is clear that the industry has reached a point where slower than expected adoption rates have become a problem of demand rather than one of supply," said Current Analysis. And it goes on to explain that the main obstacles to broadband becoming mass market are high costs and lack of content. That said, it notes that prices are falling with DSL now actually less expensive than cable after years of being much more pricey. What's more, broadband operators are increasingly offering promos - such as discounts and free kit - to entice punters to sign up. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Oct 2003

Sendo wins round one of MS smartphone secrets lawsuit

Sendo has largely won the first stage of its lawsuit against Microsoft, which yesterday failed to have the suit dismissed, or moved from Texas to Washington state. Sendo is suing former smartphone partner Microsoft for a range of alleged sins, the central claim being that the company swiped Sendo's expertise and technology and handed it over to rival, low-cost manufacturers. It kept Sendo thinking it was going to get first crack at the MS Smartphone market until it had the technology and the contacts, then dumped it, claims Sendo. According to Sendo communications director Marijke van Hooren, practically all of the company's claims can now go forward. The judge declined to allow a claim for punitive damages at this stage, although van Hooren says that such claims can still be pursued should Sendo win. Microsoft may lodge an appeal, but otherwise the case now moves into the discovery phase, with a trial expected towards the end of next year. ® Related stories Microsoft's Tanager phone breaches patent too - Sendo IMS goes on attack in Sendo case Microsoft's masterplan to screw phone partner - full details
John Lettice, 01 Oct 2003

European mobile networks ally for added clout

O2 has locked arms with a phalanx of other independent mobile operators to give them more clout in the marketplace - especially against the likes of Vodafone. Amena (Spain), O2 (Germany, UK and Ireland), One (Austria), Pannon GSM (Hungary), Sunrise (Switzerland), Telenor Mobil (Norway) and Wind (Italy signed the formal agreement in Munich yesterday. The alliance means that the companies will be better placed for bulk-buying of mobile kit and handsets. What's more, those companies within the alliance will also be able to share the cost of developing new products and services. For punters, it means they will be able to get all the services they usually get - such as simple access to home services including voice-mail and customer service using familiar short-codes - even when they're out of their home country. In all, the alliance spans a huge chunk of Europe and covers more than 40 million phone users. In a statement, mmO2 director, Rudi Gröger, said: "The creation of this alliance will be excellent news for our customers as we will be able to offer an outstanding range of pan-European services far greater than the members could alone. "Key to the success of this alliance is an agreement to have only one representative per country, which eliminates the complexities that can arise with multiple in-country members. This, we believe, will enable us to be agile and far quicker to market with new and innovative services," he said. In June, Orange joined T-Mobile, Telefonica Moviles and TIM in an alliance to deliver an "enhanced customer experience through seamless voice, data and mobile internet services across multiple markets". Much like today's announcement, Europe's mobile network operators decided to gang up against the might of Vodafone. ® Related Story Orange joins anti-Voda alliance
Tim Richardson, 01 Oct 2003

EMC beefs up midrange NAS

EMC is continuing its NAS (network attached storage) march with the release of new systems that add some high-end features in midrange kit. EMC is rolling out three new NAS systems under the Celerra NS600 series brand. In addition, EMC has started shipping the NetWin 200 product that runs on Microsoft's latest storage operating system - Windows Storage Server 2003. Overall, the gear is an attempt to keep pressure on main rival Network Appliance, which also recently rolled out fresh product. EMC has released a pair of NAS gateways called the NS600G and NS600GS. These products are designed to serve as NAS front ends that link into existing Clariion CX600 and CX400 storage systems. The idea is to give customers both NAS and SAN (storage area network) functions in the same system. The NS600GS is a single data mover box, while the NS600G is offered in a dual-data mover configuration. The NS600G starts at $97,000, and the NS600GS comes in at $63,000. The NS600S is the new entry-level box for the NS600 series. EMC claims this system has far better price/performance than Network Appliance's F825, FAS940 and FAS960 products. It starts at $114,000 for a 1TB configuration. Prices for all the Celerra kit include CIFS protocol, SnapSure software, Web Manager and a two-year hardware warranty. EMC will also offer ATA disk drives on both the Celerra NS600 and NS600G systems, giving customers a lower-cost disk option. Along with the Celerra kit, EMC is rolling out the NetWin 200 system to give customers a much lower-end NAS option. The box starts at $32,000 for a 500GB configuration. EMC is looking to bring the cost of its midrange kit down with these new systems. The company's original NS600 product announced last year came in a starting price of $167,000. The new products along with the low-end Windows system should put more pressure on NetApp in the lucrative NAS market. EMC and NetApp tied for NAS sales in the second quarter, according to IDC, with both companies taking 37 percent market share. ® Related Stories IBM, Dell make the best of a down storage market NetApp soups up low-end NAS kit
Ashlee Vance, 01 Oct 2003
SGI logo hardware close-up

Sun makes rare move to place Lintel kit ahead of Sparc/Solaris

A relatively small announcement out of Sun Microsystems to partner with VoiceGenie for speech software points to a large shift at the company to place Lintel servers ahead of Sparc/Solaris systems when the move makes sense. Sun is working to tune the VoiceGenie Voice XML Gateway software for its Sun Fire V60x and V65x Intel Xeon-based servers. The VoiceGenie software is targeted at carriers, service providers and large companies trying to roll out speech services that can potentially save money for call center operations. From the standpoint of Sun, however, the interesting part of the announcement is not only that the software will run on Intel-based kit first but also that it will run on Linux ahead of Solaris. Sun's SPARC/Solaris business boomed from telco and service provider spending in the late 1990s. The Unix/RISC combination was the platform of choice for companies looking to build out large scale operations. This market has soured for Sun in recent years, along with reduced spending form other once lucrative areas such as financial services. The slowdown in spending along with tepid Unix server interest prompted Sun to start shipping Lintel kit this year. But even though Sun agreed to offer rival processors and operating systems alongside its homemade Sparc/Solaris gear, the company has been reluctant, to say the least, to ship any Lintel product ahead of comparable in-house systems. Sun makes sure that software arrives first for Sparc/Solaris gear and then later for the Lintel bastard children lurking in the produce line. With VoiceGenie this trend has been altered, opening a new era at Sun. The first combo VoiceGenie/Sun products will arrive for Linux by the end of 2003 with version of the speech software on Solaris x86 and Solaris for SPARC not due until 2004. In addition, the press release detailing the move does not even mention what Sparc-based server the software would potentially run on. This is unheard of in the land of the Sun. This rather minor announcement holds much larger implications for Sun. There is no question that the company would prefer customers buy Solaris for Sparc and then Solaris x86 ahead of Linux. But Sun has now indicated it's prepared to go out first with Lintel server products, if the shoe fits. The big question is whether or not this is a one off affair or a sign that similar actions will follow. ®
Ashlee Vance, 01 Oct 2003

Cisco halts Huawei piracy suit

Cisco Systems today agreed to suspend its patent infringement lawsuit against Huawei after the Chinese equipment manufacturer signed an agreement to modify some of its products. Huawei will continue to abide by the terms of the preliminary injunction order made by a district court in Texas in June. This injunction served notice on Huawei to stop its alleged use of Cisco router code. Addressing Cisco's concerns about alleged piracy, Huawei has voluntarily made changes to some routers and switches. The two companies have agreed on a process for reviewing these changes. Provided the review confirms that the agreed changes have been made, the two sides will draw a line under the dispute. All other terms of the agreement are confidential - so we don’t get to know how much (if any) money changed hands. The case began in January when Cisco filed a lawsuit alleging that Huawei "unlawfully copied and misappropriated Cisco's IOS software... and infringed numerous Cisco patents." Cisco's accusations against Huawei are unusually detailed. It alleged the operating system used by Huawei's Quidway routers and switches "contains a number of text strings, file names, and bugs that are identical to those found in Cisco's IOS source code". Huawei’s joint venture partner, 3Com, which intervened in the lawsuit back in July, says it will back the settlement. The dispute between Cisco and Huawei has become one of the most closely watched legal fights in the networking sector in recent memory. The case was given added prominence by Huawei’s move into the US and Europe and alliance with 3Com. Many have tried – and failed - to undercut Cisco in its core routing and switching market before but this time around the challenge comes from Asia, where different business practices have changed the nature of the game. ® Related Stories 3Com-Huawei wins US, UK export licenses 3Com welcome to join Cisco-Huawei dispute 3Com stokes Cisco Huawei fire 3Com teams up with Huawei UK distie fights Cisco injunction Cisco sues Huawei over IP 'theft'
John Leyden, 01 Oct 2003