2nd > October > 2003 Archive

SCO set to take SGI's Unix licence away

SGI is set to join IBM on SCO's bad list of intellectual property miscreants. In a recent SEC filing, SGI revealed that SCO has threatened to terminate the company's Unix licence due to a breach of contract. The claim mirrors that of one handed to IBM by SCO that the vendor has illegally thrown bits of Unix code into Linux without permission. Come 14 October, SCO plans to revoke SGI's Unix licence, looking to disrupt the vendor's Irix sales. "We believe that the SCO Group's allegations are without merit and that our fully paid licence is nonterminable," SGI said in the filing. "Nonetheless, there can be no assurance that this dispute with SCO Group will not escalate into litigation, which could have a material adverse effect on SGI, or that SCO Group's intellectual property claims will not impair the market acceptance of the Linux operating system." Fear not, Linux fans. The last bits of this statement are standard lawyer-speak required of an SEC filing. SGI must lay out the worst possible scenario even if it, like many, thinks that SCO has long since checked its sanity at the door. Like IBM, SGI will continue shipping Irix kit until a judge says otherwise. With both IBM and SGI taken care of, SCO's major legal obligations have reached their end. Sun Microsystems paid SCO millions for rather broad Unix IP rights, and HP appears to have secured some kind of middle ground with the IP crusader. HP is offering Linux customers legal help against SCO, but also supporting SCO's Unix business at the same time. Dell may make a contribution to Linux here and there, but it's doubtful that SCO would turn its attention to Round Rock. As this saga continues, the witty barbs dolled out by various parties are becoming increasingly blase. How long will these vendors be able to demean in each other in public and still stomach their actions? SCO's threats make the Linux user community scoff, and seem to amuse the targets of its legal attacks as well. This places all the pressure on the IP protectorate in Utah to stand up and alter the situation in one way or another. Who can stand two, three or four more years of this posturing? ®
Ashlee Vance, 02 Oct 2003

ATI pays Cirrus Logic $9m for graphics patents

ATI and Cirrus Logic have settled their legal dispute with a patent cross-licensing agreement - the standard outcome in such cases. ATI will also pay Cirrus $9 million. In return, it gets part of Cirrus' intellectual property portfolio The fight centred on two separate allegations of patent infringement, both made by Cirrus against ATI. One charge related to PC graphics chip patents, and this is essentially what ATI has now bought off Cirrus, which no longer operates in the PC graphics market. Redress for ATI's alleged infringement was sought last May - the other case, relating to an unnamed patent, was initiated in July 1998. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2003

ATI unveils Radeon XT

ATI has launched its latest Radeon graphics chips, the 9800 XT and 9600 XT - essentially higher clocked versions of the current Radeon 9600 Pro and 9800 Pro. The 9800 XT runs at 412MHz with memory clocked to 730MHz. By contrast the 9800 Pro its clocked to 380MHz and 700MHz. The vanilla 9800 runs at 325MHz and 580MHz. The extra clock speed gives the 9800 XT a fill rate of 3.3 billion pixels per second, said ATI, up from the 9800 Pro's 3.04 and the 9800's 2.6. All three chips feature eight pixel processing pipelines. But while the Pro support G-DDR 2 memory, the XT supports regular DDR SDRAM across a 256-bit memory interface. Cards based on the part will offer 256MB of memory, ATI said. The 9600 XT provides just four pixel pipelines, a 128-bit memory interface and supports 128MB of DDR video memory. Its core and memory are clocked at 500MHz and 600MHz, respectively, up from the 9600 Pro's 400MHz and 600MHz, and the 9600 and 9600 SE's 325MHz and 400MHz. The XT offers a fill rate of two billion pixels per second, compared to figures of 1.6 for the Pro and 1.3 for the regular 9600 and the SE. The XT is fabbed using TSMC's low-k dielectric insulation material, and that's presumably what has allowed ATI to get that extra 100MHz of clock speed. There may well be headroom for further clock frequency increases. ATI said boards based on both chips, which support DirectX 9, will ship with Half Life 2, revealing the extent of the company's deal with Valve, the game's creator. Valve said it had chosen to partner with ATI because of its hugely capacious wallet (surely 'superior DirectX 9 performance'? Ed.) Given the very eager anticipation among the gaming community for the Half Life sequel, ATI must be paying Valve quite a bit for the privilege to give the game away. It's a tactic borrowed from Microsoft, which made Bungie an acquisition offer the game developer couldn't refuse in order to offer a top-notch first-person shooter to showcase its Xbox console. ATI's launch also pips Nvidia to the release of a higher clocked version of a top-of-the-range chip. ATI's arch-rival is expected to announce the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra early next month. Codenamed NV38, the chip is essentially a higher clocked GeForce FX 5900. ATI will ship boards based on its new chips next month, as will third-party board makers, including Asustek, Celestica, Connect3D, CP Technology, GeCube, Gigabyte, Hercules, Hightech, Sapphire, VisionTek and Yuan. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2003

Media Center Windows not AMD64 native

AMD announced earlier this week that Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 runs on its AMD64-based processors, such as the Athlon XP. That prompted more than a few AMD fanboys to leapt on the statement as a sign that the Microsoft operating system supports AMD64 technology. Sorry, guys, but it doesn't. MCE 2004 is a 32-bit OS that runs (very happily, we're sure) in the Athlon 64's backward compatibility mode - a point AMD confirmed when we asked it. So, you're not going to get an AMD64-native version of Windows before 64-bit Windows XP ships early next year. It's a nice bit of spinning on AMD's part, associating AMD64 with the updated multimedia-friendly OS, but spin is all it is: "AMD64 technology drives improved digital entertainment experiences all the way from Hollywood to the living room, and coupled with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 provides multi-media, multi-format, anytime entertainment options for users on their home PCs," said Rich Heye, VP and general manager of AMD's Microprocessor Business Unit. All true, but not quite the same thing as saying MCE 2004 utilises AMD64 technology - ie. it uses what used to be known as the x84-64 instruction set. Saying it does would be like claiming old MMX-era games support SSE 2 just because they'll run on a 3.2GHz Pentium 4. In fact, MCE 2004 runs on the good ole 32-bit x86 ISA. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2003

Music industry blames Net for falling sales

The music industry is once again fingering piracy and illegal downloading for an 11 per cent slip in sales for the first half of the year. The problem is getting so bad in some countries that the take-up of illegal music is outstripping genuine sales of CDs. According to the global record industry organisation, IFPI, sales of recorded music fell by 10.9 per cent in the first half of 2003. Global sales for the first six months of the year were down to $12.7 billion compared to $14.2 billion in the same period last year. Even though critics point out that the quality of music being churned these days just isn't what it used to be, the music industry is adamant that it's not to blame. "Unauthorised file-sharing and commercial piracy were major factors in the decline," said the IFPI in a statement. In particular, it claims that Germany, Japan, France and the US suffered "significant declines" as a result of Internet piracy. Worse still, Germany, Japan, the US and Canada have seen the numbers of unauthorised downloads of tracks and copied CDs reach, and in some cases exceed, the levels of legitimate track and CD album sales, said the IFPI. Said IFPI band leader Jay Berman: "Despite some healthy signs that a legitimate online music business is now taking hold, the music industry continues to suffer from the unauthorised file-sharing and commercial piracy. "We are responding to this decisively, however: on the physical piracy front, seizures of discs rose four-fold last year; on the Internet piracy front, the US industry is leading a highly effective global public awareness drive on the legal risks of file-sharing; and on the new business front, a marked change in the landscape is visible as a number of legitimate online music sites take hold," he said. In case you're interested, the best selling albums so far this year include Christina Aguilera's Stripped, Coldplay's A Rush of Blood To The Head and Norah Jones' Come Away With Me. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Oct 2003

Official: crackers have broken into GPRS billing

Some time today, the GPRS world will reveal that it has a security vulnerability which has seen an undisclosed number of its customers ripped off. They've been trapped into connecting to malicious content servers, by hackers penetrating the billing system. The first international phone company to admit that they have installed a solution - one offered by Check Point - will be the German phone provider, E-Plus. The scam is called "the over-billing attack." It works quite simply because of a link from the Internet world - unregulated - to the normally tightly regulated GSM planet. "Network administrators face an exponential onslaught of attacks that to date have traditionally been confined to the world of wire line data," was the summary from Check Point. There are lots of potential issues, but the one which has forced the phone networks to acknowledge that there is a problem, is a scam where a company obtains IP addresses that the GPRS operators own, in the "cellular pool" and start pinging those addresses. When one of them responds, the scam operator knows that a user has been assigned the address. And, unbelievably, there was nothing to stop them simply providing services direct to that IP address - and taking the money out of the GPRS billing system to pay for it. The network, typically, only found out about the attack weeks later, when the angry customer queried the service provided, and insisted that they had not signed up for it. Getting the IP address list costs the crook no more than it takes to log onto the GPRS network with a data call, and getting assigned an address by a perfectly standard DHCP server inside the operator's network. Check Point hasn't revealed specifics of how it blocks this attack, but the solution is based on its Firewall-1 software, which is already installed in most cellular networks. "The problem could be fixed by changing the hardware," said a spokesman for Check Point. "But that would take a year to implement, and would require hardware changes in virtually every network operator's equipment. The alternative is to use the knowledge in the GPRS firewall to implement an action in the IP firewall." The solution does require the operator to run Firewall-1 on its Internet equipment as well as its GPRS servers. Once that is in place, Checkpoint has a single mnagement architecture for all its firewalls. "Our preferred solution is to write a rule that says: 'I have now closed this session on my GPRS side, so tell the IP firewall to look for any IP sessions with this IP address, and close them'," said a Check Point executive. Check Point expects several other announcements from phone network operators in the coming weeks. The problem isn't limited to GPRS. Any mobile network that is internally trusted - and that includes next-level technology like UMTS 3G networks - will face similar threats when linking its internal, trusting network to the free-for-all that is the Internet, and will have to adopt similar solutions, says Check Point. "The vulnerability also applies between data networks. The GPRS Transfer Protocol, GTP, provides no security to protect the communications between GPRS networks," says the company in its sales blurbs. "So the GPRS/UMTS network is at risk, both from its own subscribers, and from its partner networks." Details from Check Point itself. © NewsWireless.Net
Guy Kewney, 02 Oct 2003

GPL will not pass the legal test -SCO

The SCO Group is extending its royalty campaign to encompass Silicon Graphics Inc. The company says it will revoke SGI's Irix license on October 14. It's no surprise, as SCO CEO Darl McBride has explicitly mentioned SGI over a month ago. SGI signed the license with AT&T in 1986. SGI's response is exactly the same as IBM's, when threatened with revocation. The Mountain View systems company says the license is paid for and irrevocable. When SCO revoked IBM's license, IBM countersued and simply carried on selling AIX. Is SCO serious? The news emerged from of a SEC filing by Silicon Graphics. SCO didn't trumpet its intentions in a press release. On Monday, however, SCO responded to IBM's amended case, which explicitly cites SCO's violations of the GPL, the General Public License. SCO's press release with a line which will seem very familiar to Register readers. "The GPL has never faced a full legal test, and SCO believes that it will not stand up in court. We are confident that SCO will win the legal battle that IBM has now started over the GPL." Eben Moglen responded to our concerns on this last month, observing that Richard Stallman - who drafted the GPL - had created a license "more elegant and robust than he could have foreseen." We'll belatedly publish your thoughtful responses to this later today. ® Related Stories GPL goes to court The GPL will win, claims law prof. Against SCO’s GPL jihad: one size doesn't fit all
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Oct 2003
SGI logo hardware close-up

Psion revives Netbook but drops EPOC for WinCE

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Psion Teklogix has dropped the familiar EPOC operating system in favour of Windows CE.NET 4.2 for an updated version of our old mobile computing favourite, the Netbook, once also known as the Psion Series 7. The new release, the Netbook Pro, is at least a significant hardware upgrade. In place of the original 190MHz Intel StrongARM SA-1100 processor, there's a spanking new 400MHz Intel PXA255. The memory's been upped from 32MB to 128MB, too, though its internal expansion capability has been lost. The Netbook's 7.7in 640 x 480 passive matrix display has been replaced with an 800 x 600 TFT model. The sound has been updated from a 12-bit system to the AC'97 codec, backed at long last with microphone and speaker sockets. Psion has installed PC Card, CompactFlash and SD IO slots, and added a mini USB port to the original Netbook's infra-red and serial interfaces. The various card-slots allow users to installed fixed Ethernet, 802.11, Bluetooth and GSM/GPRS connectivity. It also provides a way to increase the device's storage capacity. Psion has retained the Netbook's slimline clamshell case with its full keyboard, adding just a couple of millimetres to the size: 23.5 x 18.4 x 3.5cm. It actually reduced the weight, from 1150g to 1100g. It's these portability characteristics that always made the Netbook a firm Reg favourite. That and its full web and e-mail support, which made it an ideal platform for hacks on the move and filing stories from a variety of locations. Psion Teklogix has more corporate roles envisaged for the Netbook Pro, in particular workforce automation and the dreaded mobile CRM market. That focus drove the operating system change. Since the original Netbook was released, Symbian has pushed it OS firmly down the smartphone route and away from its mobile computing heritage. According to Netbook Pro Product Manager Harvey Roberts, the company looked at a variety OS options, including Linux, before settling on CE for its closer links with enterprise customers' back-end systems. Psion Teklogix separately licensed Insignia's JEM-CE Java Virtual Machine to beef up the product's Java support - a weakness of CE, Roberts conceded. The company also implemented some power management technology of its own, allowing the machine to retain its eight hours plus battery life. Adding in a WLAN card may lower that, but Roberts was adamant that even with comms cards, users should expect a full business day's usage on a single charge. One advantage of the shift to Windows CE is a broader range of apps that tie in more closely with those workers will be used to from their desktops. The old Netbook had a fine set of Office-compatible apps and a full PIM suite, but CE adds better multimedia features. The Netbook Pro will be available in North America and Europe at the end of October from Psion Teklogix' sales offices, distributors and value-added resellers. The company isn't targeting individual buyers, but one-off sales shouldn't be impossible. The list price is £950 in the UK, $1500 in the US. More expensive than a laptop, but for enterprises the gain is a much lower TCO, said Roberts, thanks to its role as a "task-specific business tool". ® Related Products Buy the Psion Teklogix netBook from The Reg mobile store
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2003

Soccer rape allegations cause major Net headache

Those trying to keep the lid on the naming of eight Premiership footballers allegedly involved in the gang-rape of 17-year-old girl at a London hotel over the weekend are facing a new threat. There are concerns that football fans attending matches this weekend might chant the names of those concerned, placing broadcasters at risk should their identities get picked-up by microphones. It's yet another headache for those who've sought to stop the names of those linked with the alleged assault from being named. In a move to protect themselves from possible prosecution, a number of Internet message boards have been shut this week in order to try and stop allegations from spreading. However, despite the closure of a number of bulletin boards - including more than 90 club boards run by Rivals.net - the matter is still being discussed online. And lawyers representing the sportsmen are keeping close tabs on a what's being written. The Guardian reports that lawyers have already started libel proceedings against one office worker who works for a large company amid allegations that he circulated names of players by email. A solicitor told the newspaper that Net users could still face legal action even if they sent emails or posted items on message boards. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Oct 2003

Chip and PIN goes national

Plans for the national rollout of a more secure method of authorising credit and debit card payments were announced today. The Chip and PIN scheme is designed to make credit and debit card purchases more secure by asking the majority of consumers to enter a four digit PIN code instead of signing to verify card transactions by 2005. Confirmation of the rollout and release of the plans follow a successful chip and PIN trial in Northampton this summer. The first chip and PIN cards outside Northampton arrive in the UK this month. The rollout, which is being billed as the biggest UK financial changeover since decimalisation, will happen simultaneously across the country and not region by region. Card companies estimate that one in five cardholders are expected to have chip and PIN enabled cards by Christmas this year. By spring 2004, half of all UK cardholders will have chip and PIN cards and they will be asked to verify one in three transactions using the new system. By the start of 2005, 90 per cent of the UK's 42 million cardholders should be using chip and PIN enabled cards. At that point 440,000 of a total of 550,000 bank-owned tills should have switched over to the new system, according to the co-ordinators of the project. Amanda Miller of the British Retail Consortium commented: “The rollout is a huge task with more than 850,000 shop terminals, 122 million cards and 40,000 cash machines being upgraded and 2.7 million retail staff being trained, so it won’t happen overnight. There are household name retailers in every sector who are committed to making this happen by the end of 2004.” New chip and PIN cards will be issued and tills switched over according to the individual plans of the banks, building societies and retailers. Cardholders do not need to do anything now as card companies will contact them when they are ready to issue new cards. Will smart credit just push fraud onto the Net? Smaller merchants, in particular, have expressed doubts about the cost of the scheme and its effectiveness at combating cardholder-not-present fraud. In May, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called on banks to raise awareness about the scheme and to assist businesses that don't currently rent equipment to upgrade their equipment. There are also concerns among merchants that as chip and PIN takes off, fraudsters will just use the Internet and telephone instead. Some fear that the scheme might shift liability towards consumer in cases of disputed transactions. Backers of the scheme say argue that chip and PIN cards are inherently more secure. They point to favourable consumer feedback from the Northampton trials. Sandra Quinn from the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) said: “We tested chip and PIN earlier this year and there is a real appetite for the new system among consumers. More than eighty per cent of people in the trial said they were in favour." The UK chip and PIN programme is part of an international initiative to tackle plastic card fraud. A similar domestic PIN-based system for debit cards in France has seen an 80 per cent reduction in fraud since its introduction ten years ago. Card fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the UK. A record £424.6 million of fraud was committed on UK cards in 2002, up from £411.5 million in 2001, according to APACS. Counterfeit card fraud is the biggest category, accounting for £148.5 million stolen in 2002, followed by card not present fraud (£110.1 million) and lost and stolen cards at £108.3 million. ® External Links Chip and PIN Programme - "the biggest consumer project since decimalisation" "Annual card fraud figures reach record high", APACS report (PDF) Related Stories Small. biz needs help with chip and PIN Smart credit card scheme kicks off in the UK FSB calls for e-fraud 'liability shift' Chip and PIN: not enough to beat card fraud Smart credit on UK cards. Will it cut fraud? Joe Public blames banks for credit card fraud Credit card firms 'profit from Net fraud' 'Open and helpful community' - of credit card thieves
John Leyden, 02 Oct 2003

Send BOFHs on public speaking courses

Never mind sending sysadmins off to firewall configuration courses, corporate security could be substantially improved by persuading BOFHs to joint debating clubs. While technical skills are relatively easy to measure for IT security staff, managers need to place a greater emphasis on measuring communication skills, META Group advises. The analyst firm argues a significant part of the security jigsaw consists of policies governing the behaviour of individuals. Traditionally, security professionals regard "awareness programmes" as a requirement, but few organisations have proven willing to fund strong communication programmes to help its technical staff get their message across or - we'd add - encourage users to listen. META Group research indicates that more than 75 per cent of organisations identify a lack of user awareness as either "moderately or severely" reducing the effectiveness of their current security programme. In addition, two in three (66 per cent) of those quizzed believe a lack of awareness about risk management at board level in having a similar negative impact on corporate security. "An ideal answer is to establish a well-funded and well-staffed security communication programme. But developing the corporate culture to support that level of investment takes years of effective communication by the existing security staff," said META Group security analyst Tom Scholtz. "In fact, most organisations will fail to successfully secure their technology environment simply because the security staff lacks the communication skills to create this shift in corporate culture." META suggests that annual reviews and initial hiring criteria should not only measure a security staffer's technical capabilities, but also the ability to communicate. Whether disseminating policy to end users or presenting budgets for senior-level executives, communication is a critical skill for most security staff and should therefore be given equal opportunity for review. One area that managers can focus on as a measure of security communication skills is the end user's knowledge of policy and policy awareness, META advises. "Certainly, the ability to configure and maintain security enforcement tools is at the core of the position, but the importance of communicating security policy to end users is critical to obtain their cooperation in security initiatives and therefore should not be given short shrift," said Scholtz. "As security teams focus on policy and audit/compliance, the success of those security initiatives depends on obtaining cooperation from end users, executive management, and IT and business managers." ®
John Leyden, 02 Oct 2003

Music biz slams Oz Net piracy plea bargain

The music industry this week accused Australia's legal system of "watering down" the first criminal Internet piracy case because it believes the three defendants will receive sentences far too lenient for the AUD60 million ($41 million) it is alleged their actions cost the industry. The claim came after three Sydney students - Peter Tran (20), Tommy Le (21) and Charles Ng (20) - pleaded guilty to offering the contents of 390 CDs via a Napster-style online service, Australian IT reports. Australia's Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) organisation claims the three struck a deal to lower their sentence if they agreed to plea guilty. It alleges that Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) officials sought such a plea bargain because its case was deficient. "The case was watered down to nothing," said MIPI spokesman Michael Speck. "We see this as a sophisticated international massive agreement to rip off copyright - the DPP's version of it is a lowly street-level offence." He added: "These guys will be getting away with the biggest rip-off of copy in Australian history, and they will probably get away with a slap on the wrist." MIPI wants the New South Wales court to force the students to pay the "hundreds of thousands of dollars" it claims to have spent during a three-month investigation of the three students' activities. It also wants the trio's computer equipment to be forfeit, as specified under Australia's federal Copyright Act. This week MIPI applied to the court to be heard on behalf of the three students "victims" - ie. the music industry - when it came to sentencing them. Le, Tran and Ng will be sentenced on 10 November. Magistrate John Andrews turned the application down, claiming that it was "totally inappropriate" for an organisation such as MIPI to have a say in sentencing since they are not a disinterested party to the case. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2003

Doubts raised over MPs' anti-spam crusade

A bid by UK politicians to take their anti-spam message to the US later this month is likely to fall on deaf ears. The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) - which includes MPs Derek Wyatt, Brian White and Andrew Miller, and e-Envoy Andrew Pinder - is due to meet with Senators and officials in Washington DC between October 13 and 16 to discuss what can be done about unwanted junk email. The MPs will meet their counterparts on Capitol Hill to seek out ways in which legislation in the EU, UK and US could be used to combat unsolicited emails. In particular, they will be making the case for the US to consider an 'opt in' - rather than their current 'opt out' - approach to unsolicited commercial email. New legislation soon to be adopted by the UK means that commercial operations must get permission from people before sending them emails. However, the US appears to favour an 'opt out' approach by which punters continue to receive spam unless they specifically ask not to be included on the list. But Euro MP Malcolm Harbour has told The Register that the UK delegation can expect a difficult time on Capitol Hill. As an MEP member of the European Internet Foundation, Mr Harbour visited Washington in July to meet Congressmen and discuss the issue of spam. "The view on Capitol Hill as expressed to us is that it has already taken a long time for the problem to be recognised and for the need for legislation to be accepted at all," said Mr Harbour. "However, the move to 'opt in' rather than 'opt out' appeared to have no support, and I was told by one Congressman that it would be quite unrealistic to expect a proposal like this to be approved," he told us. APIG chairman, Derek White, has already acknowledged that the US and EU's view on spam is "philosophically different". ® Related Story MPs head to US on anti spam mission
Tim Richardson, 02 Oct 2003

Apple seeks Wi-Fi hotspot promoter

Apple UK is looking for a presentable, intelligent, pro-active and self-motivated lad or lass to make sure World+Dog doesn't come to believe Wi-Fi is an Intel invention. According to a job description on the Mac maker's web site, Apple is seeking a Hot-spot Evangelist to "raise the profile in the marketplace of AirPort, Apple's wireless networking solution". The successful applicant will achieve this goal by "co-ordinating the opening of Wi-Fi hotspots in high-profile places, which Apple will support". It's a good idea, but Apple comes late to the party. Apple was one of the first - if not the first - consumer computer companies to offer consumers wireless networking systems. But it's largely left the hotspot business to others. The most notable of which is Intel, which has sunk millions of dollars into promoting public wireless Internet access, the better to promote its Centrino mobile platform of which 802.11 networking is a key component. Apple's approach to wireless has centred on doing computer-to-computer networking better rather than touting Net access hotspots per se. That's because it's keen to sell base-stations as well as client WLAN adaptors. But as the computer-using world becomes increasingly mobile, it runs the risk of punters assuming that public wireless Net access is a Windows thing, and not founded upon standards. Apple should want Wi-Fi hungry buyers to consider its products as well as Wintel rivals', particularly now that WLAN access is moving beyond the early adopter phase. The evangelist opening appears to be UK-specific, but we hope it's part of a wider Apple initiative to promote AirPort beyond the company's own customer base. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2003

Napster 2.0 public beta to go live next week

Napster will be reborn next week, when Roxio releases a public beta test version of the online music service. Roxio acquired Napster last November, essentially paying $5 million for the name. It also owns the Pressplay subscription-based music service launched by major labels Universal and Sony, but later offloaded to Roxio. The new service, dubbed Napster 2.0, probably owes more to Apple's iTunes Music Service than the notorious music sharing software of old, long since shut down by the music industry's contributory copyright infringement lawsuit. Roxio's USP the Napster brand name, familiar to millions of music lovers and computer users. Samsung is launching a Napster-branded music player for the online service hoping that the new, legal offering will pull in the punters as well as the old, not-so-legal one did. Napster 2.0 will launch against pay-per-download services Musicmatch and BuyMusic, and subscription-based offerings like Real Networks' Rhapsody and MusicNet's band of retailers. iTunes Music Store will be up and running on Windows by the end of the year, and Dell is expected to launch its music store later this month too. Roxio has already said Napster will offer both one-off downloads and a premium subscription service. It will almost certainly be based on Windows Media 9 technology, not the MP3 format that made its name - particularly since it has a tie-in with Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004, which launched earlier this week. Roxio has long licensed its CD burning technology to Microsoft as the basis of Windows XP's CD-R/RW functionality. The company also claims it will launch with 500,000 songs - more than double what existing services have to offer, though Musicmatch claims it will have that number of tracks for sale by the end of the year. ® Related Stories Musicmatch iTunes-style service goes live Dell is ready to entertain you
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2003

Trading Standards ate my PC

A Scottish man is incensed with the poor condition of computer equipment returned to him after a criminal investigation against him collapsed. Keith Calder, from the Moray region of North East Scotland, complains that his £4000 computer was returned after a year-long probe by police and local council officials looking like "a pile of junk". He is reportedly in talks with his solicitor about suing Moray Council about the alleged damage to his family's computing equipment. The council denies damaging the equipment while in its care. The investigation against Calder began after BT complained the father of three was "fraudulently" accessing the Internet. As a result, his Portgordon house was raided by three CID officers and six uniformed officers on 10 September last year, local paper the Press and Journal reports". But police found no evidence that he was attempting to gain access to the Internet without paying, and the case against him was dropped after prosecutors rejected a report by Trading Standards officers. One of the peculiarities of the case is that, at the time of the raid, Calder states that he was paying £60 a month to access BT's Openworld Broadband Satellite service. "Why would I then want to hack into the Internet when I have this?" he asked. Despite everything that happened, BT is still demanding £1700 in installation and connection charges for the satellite system from the Calder family. Calder is considering legal action against BT. Fallout Calder is, if anything, even more angry with his local council. Even though Calder was cleared of the charges against him, Moray Council's Trading Standards department initially said it intended to destroy the computer anyway. However, after his story appeared in the Press and Journal, council officials relented and agreed to hand over the PC. Calder was left fuming at its allegedly poor state of repair. "My computer was in bits," he said. "The tower had been damaged, the printer was not working and was leaking ink and the satellite modem had not been put back together properly. "When I went to collect the equipment it looked like a pile of junk on the floor. It was definitely not in the same state it was in when it left my house. "I think that Trading Standards officials believed that I was never going to get the computer back again - that it would eventually be destroyed - and so the condition of the equipment would not matter," he added. Trading Standards manager Peter Adamson denies the computer was sent back in a poor condition. "I do not recognise Mr Calder's description of it as a pile of junk," he said. Meanwhile, Trading Standards officers are yet to return the computer's hard drive, pending its re-format, a condition Calder was obliged to accept to get his computer back. ®
John Leyden, 02 Oct 2003

Credit Suisse mulls major outsourcing deal

Investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) could be about to shunt almost 400 IT jobs outside the company as part of a global outsourcing move. Staff were told earlier today of the planned moves. Those affected include the whole range of CSFB's end-user computing function, including deployment and helpdesk support. Staff were told that IBM and HP are the front runners for the outsourcing deal with both companies currently being scrutinised before any final decision is made. It's not known when - or if, come to that - the outsourcing might go ahead. One insider described today's announcement as "unpleasant, but unsurprising news" and raised concerns that the move to a different company might result in the potential loss of CSFB benefits such as pension rights. A spokeswoman for CSFB declined to comment. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Oct 2003

Google shafts blogger, adds gagging clause to Adsense

Google has added a gagging order to its Adsense Terms and Conditions in an attempt to quell a firestorm of controversy over payouts to participants. Erik Thauvin, a well-known figure in the Java community and an Apple alumini [weblog], discovered his AdSense account was suspended this week, with Google owing him two months worth of revenue. Adsense is the version of Google's Adwords classified text ad technology, only geared for larger sites. In an email, the company said that it suspected fraudulent clickthroughs, a claim that Thauvin strongly denies. Google prohibits the use of spiders and robots to bump up the numbers, and even discourages users from soliciting for clicks. "I looked at my logs and didn't see a pattern," Thauvin told us today. Google suspended his account on Tuesday evening, hours before payment was due for two months' worth of ad revenue. "I don't really care how much they owe me," says Thauvin. "What really bugs me is that I really don't know what I was kicked out for. "They're basically saying you can't check it, and we're not responsible for the content either. I can't dispute their claim of invalid clicks, because there's nothing for me to dispute, I have zero info," he says. "And I don't even know how much that is exactly, because I can no longer access my account." After fellow member of the Mobitopia site, Russell Beattie publicized the episode, Google overnight added a new clause to its Adsense Terms and Conditions, forbidding Adsense users from talking about the advertising program. Google shrouds its Adsense business in characteristic secrecy. Users must apply for the program (Thauvin was initially turned down); and users are already forbidden from comparing clickthrough rates. However, the latest gag prevents users from discussing any aspect of the program: "#17 Miscellaneous. Except as required by law, You may not, without Google's prior written consent, issue any press release or make any public statement about the subject matter of this Agreement or use or display any Google logo or trademark in any manner (except as otherwise provided to You by Google as part of an Ad Unit)." Google is engaged in a battle royale with rivals Overture -acquired by Yahoo - and Sprinks for the lucrative classified text ad business. Initially welcomed as the potential savior of small websites, including blogs, Adwords payments have trickled away in recent weeks, webloggers note. With the program shrouded in secrecy, bloggers are finding the payouts as capricious as the approvals process. "Google gets to decide what they pay you for and how much, and they can change these rates at any time," notes Beattie. Different topics get different rates. Thauvin notes that clickthroughs on the same subject fell from over $1 to 5 cents over three months. Thauvin's site received 3.5 million page impressions from 75,000 visitors last month, which puts him under the 20 million per month that Google suggests for Adsense applicants. He thinks it is a "strong possibility that Google is removing smaller sites from the program. "The fact that it happened on the last day of the month kinda makes me think it's an automated thing," he told us. If Google follows its own contract to the letter, we could start seeing mass expulsions from the program as users compare information, or even simply discuss the controversy. And surely that's the one thing Google doesn't want to happen. The giant search engine - increasingly criticized for exercising power without responsibility - had not responded to our request for comment at press time. ® Related Stories Ask Jeeves: Why did you junk Espotting for Google? Google says the VAT Man should exercise, not excise Google brings Adwords to UK Google gives its twist on pay-per-click
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Oct 2003

BenQ opts for Picsel's ‘mobile killer app’

Glasgow-based UI pioneer Picsel has scored a major win, with BenQ opting to put its kit and caboodle on its own P30 smartphone to be launched this year in the Far East. As we've noted, it isn't easy to describe the Picsel suite. The file viewing portion already graces the Sony Clie, but its strength is as a fast and fluid "desktop" for handheld devices, which seamlessly drops you into viewing remote or local documents. The File Viewer can handle PDF files, webpages of Office documents, as well as graphics. This doesn't sound terribly dramatic, but the experience is quite remarkable. It left this reporter wondering why navigating a desktop computer couldn't be as fast or fluid. The P30 is a pen-based Symbian UIQ phone. The software runs on PocketPC, Linux, Palm and Symbian phones, and has been ported to manufacturers' own operating systems. The viewer technology is entirely client-side, although Picsel plans to add a messaging suite, which uses a server tier, to its offerings. A spokesman for the company said that three major deals in China can be expected.® Related Stories Earth to Andreessen: browser innovation is at hand The quest for the killer mobile app - beyond UIs, browsers
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Oct 2003
cable

Curse of Itanic doomed MigraTEC

Not even high profile partners such as AMD, Intel, HP and Microsoft were enough to keep software porting company MigraTEC alive, as the board of directors have ordered the company to close up shop by October 15. MigraTEC is a small company based in Dallas, Texas focused on helping customers move 32 bit applications onto 64 bit processors. In particular, MigraTEC presents itself as the answer for companies looking to adopt Intel's Itanium processor. MigraTEC executives apparently failed to see this Itanic relationship as the curse that it is and held out too much hope that customers were looking for custom solutions in packaged app times. An Oct. 1 SEC filing, shows that MigraTEC is prepared to cease operations by mid-month. The few deals still in the works will not provide enough revenue to let MigraTEC survive. "In view of the above and the fundamental lack of liquidity in the business, the Registrant’s Board of Directors has concluded that the Registrant no longer possesses the ability to continue operations and has directed that operations cease effective on or about October 15, 2003," MigraTEC says in the filing. "As of that date the remaining employees will be terminated and any residual service obligations the Registrant has will be fulfilled by contractors. Additionally, due to the Registrant’s inability to meet its obligations with regard to the space it leased on Luna Road, in Dallas, Texas, effective immediately the offices of the Registrant have been relocated to temporary office space." MigraTEC's demise - insignificant as it may seem - points to some larger trends in the IT industry, according to Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff. "Part of the problem was certainly Itanium's slow adoption - though I'm not at all sure it was the critical factor at the end of the day," Haff said. "The bigger problem is that it's really hard to make money off specialized development tools. A big trend in software is moving away from maintaining and porting lots of in-house, proprietary code and toward packaged and platform-independent applications. More or less stuff like Java." MigraTEC, in many ways, allowed itself to get caught in hype of its own creation. It signed on with HP and Intel to start shifting code C/C++ code from x86 chips onto Itanium. For a couple of years, all three companies held out hope that Itanium would be picked up quickly. Customers were meant to flock to the custom coding tools as Itanic became an industry standard. With but a few thousand Itanium systems actually out in the wild, this dream never really panned out. This forced MigraTEC to turn in other directions. It offered to help customers work on just about any 64bit platform out there. 32bit Unix to 64bit Unix, Unix to 64bit Linux, 32bit Windows to 64bit Windows, Xeon to Opteron; you name it - MigraTEC was there. "They were never able to understand that just because there are billions of lines of C/C++ code out there, that people were not going to migrate it to 64bit," Haff said. "They put great stock in all their "partnerships" with companies like Intel and HP and played them up to the hilt. Unfortunately for them, these sorts of 'partnerships' and $1 (or $5 in the case of Starbucks) will only get you a cup of coffee." In an era with so many 64bit options, it seems odd that MigraTEC could not hang on for a couple more years. In the end, however, the interest in mass 64bit custom coding fizzled before it could take off. As recently as June, MigraTEC was able to raise another million in investment to try and keep the company running a bit longer. In August, it also secured a deal with Toshiba to license the 32Direct product and made a small sale to the IRS for a 32bit to 64bit migration assessment. An unnamed Wall Street firm also purchased a license for its 64Express product. These meager signs of momentum were not enough to keep the migration projects going. At this point and time, what's left of MigraTEC is trying to sell off the company's source code and other assets. Time, however, is running out. "The Registrant failed to make an interest payment due September 30, 2003 to its secured debt holders and has advised the collateral agent for the secured debt holders of its financial condition. While the ultimate success of the Registrant’s sales efforts for non-exclusive source code licenses is unknown at this point, it is probable that the Registrant will not be able to repay the principal amount owed to the secured debt holders. If the Registrant is unable to generate sufficient revenue from source code licenses over the next two weeks to repay the aggregate amount owed to the secured debt holders, management believes that the collateral agent will pursue all of its lawful remedies relating to the secured debt. " If Intel had a heart, it would scoop up the MigraTEC assets and save this Itanic coder from any further humiliation. ®
Ashlee Vance, 02 Oct 2003

EU rejects Sony PS2-is-PC claim

Shock of the week - your games console is, in fact, a games console. The European Union has officially branded the PS2 as a games console rather than a computer, in a move which foils Sony's plans to claim back millions of euros of customs duty by having it reclassified as a PC. Sony has been fighting to have the system recognised as a computer rather than a games machine since its launch in Europe, arguing that it is every bit as sophisticated as any PC and pointing out that PS2s ship with a simple programming language - and can be equipped with a Linux toolkit. However, a European court in Luxembourg ruled that "it is quite clear that it is intended mainly to be used to run video games" - which is actually an interesting ruling, because it raises questions about the customs duty status of PCs which are advertised as gaming machines, such as Alienware's popular range of gaming PCs. Sony will be disappointed with the ruling mostly because it will prevent it from claiming back millions of euros of customs duty which it has already paid on PS2 shipments. The ruling is irrelevant to most future shipments anyway; from January 1st next year, both computers and videogames consoles will be zero-rated for tariffs when entering the European Union. There's been significant confusion over the reporting of the results of the case; it appears that a European Court official originally misreported the court's ruling, causing several media outlets - and Sony itself - to report that the console giant had actually won its legal battle. As we understand it, this is not the case, and the facts stand as we report them here; should we hear otherwise, we'll update this story with any additional information.
gamesindustry.biz, 02 Oct 2003

SMEs slammed for unlicensed software use

Small and medium-sized firms are the worst offenders in Britain when it comes to using unlicensed software, according to the lBusiness Software Alliance. The self-proclaimed software copyright watchdog points to its 2002/3 settlement figures which show nine out of ten UK companies that settled with it over illegal software use during the period had fewer than 200 employees. BSA blames this lamentable state of affairs on the fact that small firms often have no formal software policy or IT function to monitor and audit software deployment. In addition BSA speculates that many firms, struggling to make ends meet during the recent downturn, have "turned a blind eye" to use of unlicensed software. It also identified the increasing availability of illegal software online as a major issue. According to BSA's annual survey, conducted by the International Planning and Research Corporation, more than a quarter of business software in use during 2002 was illegal. The organisation said that, more worryingly, last year was the first time this figure has risen since the survey's inception seven years ago. The most popular pirated software were products from Adobe, Autodesk, Macromedia, Microsoft and Symantec. "SMEs often come unstuck in managing their software assets", said Mark Floisand, chairman of BSA. "The pressure involved in setting up a business and maintaining growth often pushes software licensing down the list of priorities. Unfortunately it is only when businesses get caught that people listen up and address the problem of software piracy within their own organisation." ®
Robert Jaques, 02 Oct 2003

Dell invades Europe with services putsch

Dell is planning to launch a European IT services programme targeting small and medium-sized firms "within weeks". The offering, which represents the direct PC manufacturing giant's first foray into outsourced services in Europe, will see Dell offering its customers packages including IT maintenance and data centre support. In an interview yesterday with Financial Times Deutschland , Kevin Libert, director of enterprise systems at Dell, said the project will kick off in before the end of the month. Dell move to extend its Internet-centric business model to higher margin services appears to be part of a broader strategy of diversification. It comes hot on the heels of Michael Dell's announcement last week that the firm he founded will branch out and begin producing non-PC devices including flat-screen televisions, film projectors and digital media players. ®
Robert Jaques, 02 Oct 2003

OpenOffice signs off v1.1

The latest releases of the popular open source OpenOffice.org office suite were signed off today and posted for immediate download. OpenOffice.org said it was "proud" of its 1.1 versions for Windows (98/ME/NT/2000/XP), Linux (x86 & PowerPC), and Solaris on SPARC. As with its predecessors, there's no licensing small print: the software adheres to the terms of the open source licences (LGPL & SISSL), and free for all to use, improve, modify, and to redistribute to anyone. In addition to the usual word-processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications, the latest release introduces enhancements including a "revolutionary" XML file format, one-click PDF (Adobe Acrobat) export and Macromedia Flash export for presentations and drawings. Also on the table is enhanced MS Office file compatibility, accessibility support and a faster load times. Supported languages include English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese (simplified & traditional), Korean and Japanese. Curtis Sasaki, vice president of desktop solutions at Sun Microsystems, praised the open source community's C++ coding efforts for completing the latest 1.1 release, which forms the core of Sun's StarOffice 7. "We've seen community members work for days on end to create translated versions. This kind of enthusiasm helped to make OpenOffice.org one of the leading open source projects today," he said. Nice. The suite and its source code can be downloaded here. ®
Robert Jaques, 02 Oct 2003