14th > October > 2003 Archive

BT ‘clarifies’ broadband definition

BT has taken a swipe at ISPs who market sub-500k services as "broadband". In a press release today announcing the news that it is now flogging router modems specifically for gamers to wire up their Xbox or Playstation 2 consoles for broadband, BT threw in this mischievous comment. "For clarity, BT's definition of broadband is a connection of 500kbps or more. Some other providers are currently claiming mid-band connections as broadband and these are not able to provide the same internet experience for customers." Only last week Tiscali UK announced it was introducing a 150Kbps "broadband" package for £15.99 a month. And it didn't take long for BT and AOL to condemn the claim that a 150k service is broadband. ® Related Story Tiscali to unveil 150k 'broadband' service
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2003

Israel slams the door on Microsoft

ExclusiveExclusive In a bold assertion of independence, Israel has thrown the full weight of its antitrust legislation at Microsoft. The Israeli Ministry of Commerce has suspended all governmental contracts with Microsoft, and indicated that the ban will last throughout 2004. The de facto suspension means no upgrades for the duration, at a time when Microsoft is looking to roll out its Office 2003 upgrade; and the Ministry is said to be examining OpenOffice as an alternative. It's a consequence of a much-anticipated legal verdict: Israeli Antitrust Authority director general Dror Strum has finally acknowledged that Microsoft is a monopoly. Register readers play no small part in this remarkable story. Apple users in and beyond Israel have long called for an alternative to the Microsoft monopoly that supports Hebrew. Although Apple has provided operating system-level support for Arabic, Hebrew, Urdu and other right to left languages since the release of Mac OS X 10.2 last year, Apple's largest software vendor has declined to provide support in its applications. Frustrated by lack of movement from either Microsoft or Apple to redress the balance, Apple users in Israel have threatened to sue Israel's antitrust department for failing to enforce its own laws. As a result of the outcry, The Register was the first to report on the brewing antitrust actions. Several groups have lobbied for Microsoft to be subjected to Israel's strict antitrust legislation. But the issue was forced by the Online Freedom Foundation lobby group, whose head Oded Lavi has fought the legal battle that brings to light a hitherto unpublished agreement between Microsoft and Israel's former Antitrust Authority director David Tadmor, signed in 1999. The agreement specified that any restrictions imposed as a consequence of the US Department of Justice's antitrust action against Microsoft would be applied in Israel. They weren't enforced, until now. A statement issued by the State Prosecutor added that Tadmor had signed the 1999 agreement in haste, failing to consider all the options. After weathering complaints that he had procrastinated Strum was left with no option but to enforce Israel's antitrust provisions. The decision will almost certainly focus Microsoft's attentions on supporting Urdu, Hebrew and Arabic on non-Windows platforms. ® Related Stories Apple Israel chief calls for 'Save Hebrew' write-in Microsoft's Mac Hebrew snub prompts Israeli AntiTrust complaint Mac users to MS: your Right to Left defence is Upside Down Antitrust trouble brewing for Microsoft in Israel Google - the only archive we'll ever need?
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Oct 2003

E-skills upbeat about tech sector

There's further evidence that the worst of the downturn experienced by the tech sector in the UK may be over. The latest bulletin from industry group e-skills predicts that the sector is set to remain flat until the end of the year before seeing a much-welcomed, if modest, up-turn in 2004. Its survey of surveys - effectively pooling research from a whole host of different sources including the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and other market data - is cautiously upbeat. While e-skills doesn't stick its neck out, it does say that this quarter's collection of stats "appears to show that the market has at least bottomed out". "A quick preview of the data …shows a definitive improvement in the stock market for ICT shares and a stable if not declining incidence of company closures amongst ICT firms. "At the same time, ICT exports are up and private sector investment remains pretty much unchanged since the previous quarter," chirped the bulletin. All in all, what with stable economic conditions and a following wind, things is looking up. Fingers crossed. Elsewhere IT industry group Intellect has released a video encouraging women to enter the tech sector. The Government-backed film, called You can do IT too! covers the careers of five women in the "vibrant" IT sector. Each case study explores how these highly individual women have utilised different aspects of IT to develop flourishing careers, apparently. Said the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Minister for Women, Patricia Hewitt: "There are still too few women at the top of UK IT businesses; indeed they are leaving the IT sector faster than they can be recruited. "This film's ultimate aim is to act as a catalyst to influence and encourage girls and women to think about IT as a career option, as well as targeting employers to acknowledge the importance of creating a business environment that allows them to retain their top talent. "The women in this film show that IT can offer a rewarding and exciting career. I hope that the campaign makes more women realise that IT isn't just a nerdy career choice, and that they can do IT too," she said. "Nerdy career choice", Hmmm? The film can be viewed here. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2003

Real talks to itself about Rhapsody billing

It's not every day that you get to watch a company talk to itself firsthand, but Real Networks has a special on this month in which it treats customers to this experience. If the good Dr. Freud were still around, he would chop up a bit of Bolivian Bang, sit Real down on a couch and have a good, long chat. "I hear zat you are having acquisition issues," Dr. Freud would say. "You bought Listen.com and are struggling to integrate its billing system with yours. Somehow or another, you are charging customers for services they have, in fact, cancelled, which causes them great angst. And the only way you can solve ze problem is by having one division of your company pretend to be a customer to another division. Zis is absurd. Please take me back to the beginning of ze problem, and tell me, does Rob Glaser ever say peculiar things about his mother?" If Real were a sentient being, it would start to twitch at this point and reach for the Bolivian Bang. But since it has neither a conscience or a mouth, we'll walk you through its problems, leaving out the bits about Glaser's mother. After acquiring Listen.com's Rhapsody music service, Real sent out the following notice - on July 19 - to its paying customers. "On July 22, your RealOne MusicPass (as part of SuperPass Gold) will switch over to RealOne RHAPSODY. RealOne RHAPSODY is critically acclaimed as the best online music experience. Play over 325,000 songs (no limit!), build custom radio stations, choose between 60 ad-free stations, and burn tracks for 79 cents! All for just $9.95 a month! The same price you're paying now for your music subscription." For most customers, this note probably served as a helpful heads-up as to what would come. Real was just changing its music service around. If that's fine with you, then no action needed. But pretend for a minute that this helpful reminder triggered something in your brain. You did not want the Rhapsody service at all, so you call Real customer service and cancel this option. This puts you back with just the plain, vanilla Real One Superpass service, which comes in at $9.95 per month. The customer service rep assures you that all is taken care of - no more $19.95 charges. You trust the rep and a couple of months roll by. Then you check your credit card statement and realize that you're being charged for Rhapsody after all. A clerical error, of course. You go off and call Real's customer service again to ask what has happened, and that's when the fun begins. It turns out that some customers are being charged for Rhapsody even after canceling the service but Real can't do anything about it. They are not yet connected into Rhapsody's billing system and have no idea how much you are being charged and can't stop it on their own. Real must write to Rhapsody - part of Real. This is when Real starts hearing voices and Glaser begins running through the halls, wearing pantyhose on his head. A Real customer service rep takes up the customer's case. In fact, the Real rep takes on the customer's persona and sends an e-mail to Rhapsody, pretending to be the customer that reads as follows: "Please cancel my account and give me a refund. I wanted to cancel everything when I called to cancel my superpass.... I don't even know what this RHAPSODY thing is." Then a Rhapsody rep writes back to its owner Real. "Dear xxxx, Thank you for contacting RHAPSODY Support at Listen.com. We have received your request to cancel your All Access subscription, and are disappointed to see you go. We have gone ahead and terminated your account. We have also issued a $29.85 credit to your credit card because we were not able to cancel your subscription prior to your latest billing date. Please allow 24-48 hours for this credit to post to your account. Your confirmation for this incident is: xxxxxxxx Thank you for subscribing and we hope to see you back in the future. Regards, RHAPSODY Support" So polite to itself that Real. How touching. After Real is done talking to Rhapsody, a transcript of the exchange is sent to the customer. Who knew you could be so chatty and effective without actually saying a thing? The weirdest bit of all is that Real even bothers to send this transcript to the customer, since it doesn't make a lot of sense. You hadn't asked to cancel "everything" months ago. You only wanted to cancel Rhapsody. If you had cancelled everything a refund twice the size would be due, and Real itself would be involved. Then the Rhapsody rep replies that they are issuing a $29.85 refund because the company was "not able to cancel your subscription prior to your latest billing date." But Rhapsody had, in fact, missed three billing dates and beyond that seems to be giving in a bit easily. All in all, it seems Real sent the customer a transcript of a fake exchange between itself and Rhapsody. "Yah, zis is very interesting," says Dr. Freud. "Perhaps you should schedule another appointment. I need to know more about zis Glaser. Has he ever worked at Microsoft? Alzo, what do you know about zis Fiorina person. I hear she has much bigger issues?" Real gets up off the couch, takes a look at the diminished pile of Bolivian Bang and shudders. Acquisitions can be such introspective experiences. ® Related Stories Napster 2.0 public beta to go live next week RealNetworks drops MusicNet for Listen.com Real to acquire Listen.com
Ashlee Vance, 14 Oct 2003

Motorola chip biz narrows loss

Motorola's soon to be spun off Semiconductor Products Sector (SPS) saw sales dip four per cent year on year during the group's third quarter. SPS posted a $76 million operating loss, as a result. This time last year, it reported operating income totalling $13 million. Ignore the effect of one-off items and the Q3 2003 loss falls to $55 million - bad enough - while the year-ago quarter saw earnings of $12 million. Sequentially, the Q3 results are an improvement. Last quarter, SPS lost $134 million on sales of $1.1 billion. Orders slipped 25 per cent to $1 billion. The dip in sales was blamed on weak demand for wireless and networking products, thanks in part to budgetary restrictions in the telecoms arena. However, SPS reported that orders were up eight per cent, to $1.4 billion. Motorola as a whole reported Q3 sales of $6.8 billion - up five per cent on the same period last year, and up on last quarter's $6.2 billion - and net income of $116 million (five cents a share), up a similar percentage on last year's $111 million earnings, but down sequentially from $119 million. Looking ahead, the company said it expects group sales of $7.5-7.8 billion, with earnings of eight to 12 cents a share - 11-15 cents a share, when special items are ignored. ® Related Stories Motorola to IPO chip division Motorola Q2 chip sales slide
Tony Smith, 14 Oct 2003
Broken CD with wrench

Sun's UltraSparc IV approacheth

Sun Microsystems continues to plod away with the UltraSparc line of processors, disclosing some fresh details this week at the Microprocessor Forum on its fourth generation chip. Most of the details of UltraSparc IV are already quite well known, but like any competent vendor Sun likes to keep touting product whenever possible, leaking out a spot of new information every so often. The exact release date of UltraSparc IV is no clearer - Sun says first half of 2004 - but the chip's speed has been disclosed. The dual core chip will start at 1.2GHz and be built on a 130 nanometer process. Since the UltraSparc IV puts two UltraSparc III processor cores on the same chip, Sun is saying the new processor will preform about 1.6 to 2 times as fast as its predecessor. Come 2005, Sun will ship a version of the UltraSparc IV built on a 90 nanometer process that doubles the performance yet again. These improvements are needed like never before. In 2001, Sun's UltraSparc III chip won the Microprocessor Forum's award for best server/workstation chip but much has changed since then. IBM paved the way among large vendors with the first high-end dual core chip - Power 4, and Intel finally got this 64bit thing working with the third generation Itanium processor - Madison. Ever since Power4 and the revamped Itanium 2 arrived, Sun's UltraSparc III has not garnered much praise at all. Sun still has an edge from the systems company angle in that its chips can work in huge SMPs, but in raw performance the UltraSparc III is long in the tooth. To help pick up the pace, Sun is offering a relatively painless upgrade to its customers. The UltraSparc IV boards will plug right into existing UltraSparc III slots. Customers can even keep the servers up and running while changing out the kit. Since UltraSparc IV is a dual core chip, you more or less get two processors for every one you had before. Add into this Sun's strengths in handling multithreaded software, and customers have a sweet upgrade indeed. Like its predecessor, the UltraSparc IV is aimed at Sun's four processor and above servers. Sun has the UltraSparc IIIi and upcoming multicore Gemini/Niagra chips for lower end kit. Being able to upgrade to UltraSparc IV without buying new server hardware should keep Sun customers on board for awhile longer. Why move away from UltraSparc right when the whole investment protection bit comes into play? This is, after all, an incredibly smooth transition when compared to what HP is asking Itanic customers to endure. Sun is a bit vague about what happens after UltraSparc IV. The UltraSparc V chip is to be a whole new design and should arrive sometime in 2006. Sun says it has some interesting things planned for the chip but won't hint at what they might be. For those interested in a more technical look at UltraSparc IV, Ace's Hardware has a pretty nice overview here. Along with UltraSparc IV, Sun and TI are celebrating 15 years of partnership bliss. TI helps reduce some of the cost burdens Sun faces by designing and building its own processors. TI plans to use a few tricks to help speed the UltraSparcs down the line. The company is touting its strained silicon technology and a solid 90 nanometer process as major strengths. ® Related Stories TI dribbles out UltraSPARC IV details Sun to blast off Gemini in 2004 Sun chip engineers talk multicore, SPARC delays
Ashlee Vance, 14 Oct 2003

Intel joins 45nm process research team

Intel has joined IMEC, a collaborative research group developing a 45nm chip fabrication process techniques using 300mm wafers, in a bid to minimise its own costs and to help limit the problems it may face in transitioning from its own 65nm process. Samsung has also joined the group, which was formed by European chip makers Infineon, Philips and STMicroelectronics, EE Times reports. IMEC's work centres on a number of elements of chip production, including interconnect solutions, advanced lithography, substrate research, and fab contamination control. Intel will be able to influence the direction these and other research projects take, as will the other members. Techniques IMEC expects to investigate for its 45nm work include strained silicon, silicon on insulator, high-k gate stacks and FinFETs. The IMEC research won't yield a complete 45nm solution for Intel - "It is not the goal of this program to produce a fully working 45nm CMOS process," said Luc Van den hove, IMEC's VP of silicon process and device technology - but the various projects should speed the development of key elements of its own 45nm process. IMEC would not say what membership costs, but the work it undertakes is not cheap. However, for the participant companies, the cost of membership is likely to be much less than going it alone. Chip makers are increasingly turning to collaborative projects to help reduce the growing cost of developing future generations of process technology. Earlier this year, AMD and IBM partnered to devise 65nm and 45nm processes that will be used by both companies. ®
Tony Smith, 14 Oct 2003

Blog noise achieves Google KO

"All weblogs have their useful side it's the men who write the weblog software I can't abide." - Bertolt Brecht [*] The humble weblog has finally achieved dominance over Google, the world's most-used search engine. Originally intended as a tool that allowed people to publish their personal diaries, weblog software has swiftly evolved, accreting several "innovations" that have had catastrophic consequences for Google. If you've never heard of the "Trackback", or ever wanted to know, then we have bad news: you're about to become acquainted, whether you like it or not, dear Google user. A "Trackback" is an auto-citation feature that allows solitary webloggers to feel as if they are part of a community. It's a cunning trick that allows the reader to indicate that they've read a weblog entry, or as the official description from MovableType has it: "Using TrackBack, the other weblogger can automatically send a ping to your weblog, indicating that he has written an entry referencing your original post." The original blog then sprouts a list of "trackback" entries from other webloggers who have read, and linked to the original article. Kinda neat, huh? Except for one unforeseen technical consequence: the Trackback generates an empty page, and Google - being too dumb to tell an empty page from the context that surrounds it - gives it a very high value when it calculates its search results. So Google's search results are littered with empty pages. Try this for size: it's a Google query for OS X Panther discussion. In what must be a record, Google is - at time of writing - returning empty Trackback pages as No.1, No.2, No.3 and No.4 positions. No.5 gets you to a real web page - an Apple Insider bulletin board. Then it's back to empty Trackback pages for results No.6, No.7 and No.10. In short, Google returns blog-infested blanks for seven of the top entries. So who's to blame? Well, let's assume that Google in good faith simply wants to give us good search results. Not because it's more good, or any less corrupt than any other secretive California corporation, but because it knows that useless searches - as the one we have just described - will repel users. As one reader pointed out: blog noise means life or death for Google. So suspicions fall on the weblog tools vendors, who have unleashed such a potent toxin that it renders the world's leading search engine a dud. Who are they, exactly? One reader uncharitably points to a class of 'wiki-wankers' - a term possibly too rude by far for us - meaning the now-unemployed generation of dotcom-era HTML coders who have undoubted skill at producing whizzy, haiku-length hacks, but who can't see the ecological consequences of their own actions. We're pretty sure that "Fill Google with empty pages" wasn't on the Trott's to-do list. But off they went, and here we are. When the old longhair database people, now barely remembered, went off and designed information systems, they thought of values such as data integrity and resilience. This created a rigorous and unforgiving peer-review culture, but the values survived. Lacking such peer review, today's wiki-fiddlers can create such catastrophes as Trackbacks with apparent impunity. In fact publisher Tim O'Reilly cited the Trackback as the greatest innovation of the "Emerging Technology" conference of 2002, before going on to advocate the use of Cascading Style Sheets as a transmission protocol in the aftermath of this year's conference. In such circumstances, you have to conclude that no-one is minding the wiki-fiddlers' playpen. In the face of concerted attacks to undermine its integrity from link farms and webloggers Google has taken drastic remedial action: abandoning PageRank™ and instating some brutal emergency filters. Time will tell if it can succeed. ® [*] Very nearly: "All vices have their useful side - it's the men who practice them I can't abide" - Baal
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Oct 2003

Jordan does CDMA?

In newly conquered Iraq, the cellular licenses have fallen into the hands of three local GSM bidders, against the wishes of some corporate lobbyists in the United States. But is the rest of the Middle East being reshaped to Washington's lines? It's too early to tell. But neighboring Jordan, which already boasts two GSM networks has opened the bidding to allow Qualcomm's CDMA a fighting chance, the Saudi Gazette reports. The Jordanian Telecommunications Regulatory Commission says a "technology neutral" license is up for grabs on the 1900Mhz band. This is music to the ears of lobbyists in San Diego. Despite boasting superior technology, Qualcomm's CDMA arrived too late to stop the global GSM standard becoming the air interface of choice in developing countries.. Qualcomm can boast two US carriers, the nation of South Korea, and one Chinese licensee as reward for its troubles, although it has a negotiated a cut of royalties (vs Nokia and Ericsson) for the latter. GSM's time division technology was, as Qualcomm stockholders correctly point out, quite inferior- but what's the point of a telephone call if there's no one to talk to at the other end? As a late arrival - over-promising and underdelivering- Qualcomm's fate as also-ran was baked in from the start. However CDMA's reliance on the US satellite network - it's used to synchronize the base stations - does give the United States a vested interest in seeing that the technology succeeds. This satellite network is overseen by the United States' Department of Defense: prop. one Mr. Donald Rumsfeld. The Middle East, like much of the world, has so far proved a barren ground for CDMA. We can be sure that Qualcomm and friends will be lobbying hard for this win. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Oct 2003

VIA to unveil world's smallest x86 chip

VIA will today take the wraps off a more compact version of its Eden embedded processor, the Eden-N, which it claims is the world's smallest x86 chip. Built into a "nanoBGA" package, the processor measures just 1.5 x 1.5cm. Like VIA's 130nm C3 line of desktop and notebook processors, the Eden-N is based on the company's Nehemiah x86 core. The new chip features an updated version of that architecture which adds a second hardware random number generator and adds an AES acceleration engine which VIA claims encrypts data at up to 12.5Gbps at 1GHz - more than eight times faster than the "best" software-based AES encoder for the 3GHz Pentium 4. Both components are bundled into VIA's PadLock security technology, which uses on-chip electrical noise as the basis for its random number seed. The Nehemiah core is based on a 16-stage pipeline and includes a full-speed floating-point unit and support for Intel's SSE instructions. It contains 64KB of on-die L2 cache. The Eden-N will ship clocked to 533MHz, 800MHz and 1GHz, with typical power consumption ratings of 4W, 6W and 7W, respectively. That's comparable to both Transmeta's TM5800 and Intel's Ultra-low Voltage Pentium. The VIA Eden-N processor is sampling now and is expected to start appearing in products during Q1 2004. ®
Tony Smith, 14 Oct 2003

Opera moves into phone content integration business

Opera is moving further into the mobile phone arena with the announcement of the Opera Platform for network operators and handset manufacturers. The Platform uses the Opera browser to integrate local applications, the browser itself and online content and services from the network operator, which in summary means that the company is pitching for the 'tailored user experience' market being pursued by the likes of OpenWave. Although curiously, the company doesn't consider that's it's going into competition with OpenWave. Nor, when we talked to OpenWave a few months back, did that company consider Opera to be a competitor. There are certainly differences between the offerings. OpenWave pitches complete suites that manufacturers and network operators can use to make the handset look entirely their own, as opposed to the more rigorously-policed user experience available from the more self-important handset manufacturers. This is attractive to both the networks, who wish to differentiate their products, and to challengers in the handset market, and the Vodafone Live/Sharp double-up is a good example of this in action. Opera's bid, meanwhile, is more a case of viewing the browser as 'where you live' and then using it as the framework in which you view the output of continually updating local and remote services. So it's a potentially narrower approach, although its narrowness is obviously variable depending on the nature and quantity of the stuff you're going to be putting through the browser. Opera doesn't view OpenWave as being in the smartphone market "at all", which in our estimation is a somewhat outdated perception. OpenWave certainly targets low- to mid-range, high volume, but that's a moving target. Says Opera: "Our impression is that they have neglected their browser client development for too long, therefore falling behind now that full Web access is becoming a requirement for Smartphones. They are instead focusing on their server business and the new v7 suite. They might be successful in providing a platform for mid- to low-end devices, but then they are not really competing with us at the moment." So competition here depends on where you draw the mass-market/smartphone boundary, and on the differences in approach. Opera isn't offering a complete end-to-end experience (including server end), so it could conceivably co-exist, and adding the Opera Platform to an OpenWave-based solution might even turn out to be a rational route for some networks to take. In any event, Opera is currently in demo mode, with the statutory 'interested' potential customers, but no actual signings, so given lead times the earliest we can expect shipping products is next year. And if like us you thought the Opera Platform sounded just a little bit like Symbian's Magpie, which Opera is also allegedly involved in, here's what Opera says is the difference: "The Magpie concept is primarily about integrating online content in local apps, e.g. having a teaser for todays weather forecast at top of each calendar day. When you click on it the full story would open in the browser application.... But the main difference is that the browser is extended so that information from local applications can be included in the same screen, e.g. phone status, new messages, calendar appointments etc." OK? ®
John Lettice, 14 Oct 2003

SiS ships dual-channel Pentium 4 chipset

SiS has begun shipping its SiS655FX dual-channel DDR SDRAM chipset for Pentium processors running over an 800MHz effective bit rate frontside bus. Announced last May, the SiS655FX supports 266-400MHz DDR memory. Users can add use different ratings of DDR and still benefit from dual-channel operation, SiS claimed. Motherboards with an odd number of DIMM slots will still run in dual-channel mode even when a third or fifth slot is populated, the company added. Not that any of the initial batch of boards do, mind you. Dual-channel can be implemented on four-layer boards, said SiS. The chipset also supports AGP 8x and 4x with Fast Write. The SiS655FX North Bridge connects to the SiS964 South Bridge over a 1GBps multi-threaded link. The South Bridge provides one USB 2.0 and three USB 1.1 controllers, a dual ATA-133 controller, Serial ATA controller, AC'97 audio support and an Ethernet MAC. Mobo makers AOpen, Asus, Elitegroup and Gigabyte are already offering a range of SiS655FX-based boards: the AX45F-4D Max, P4S800D Deluxe, SP1 and GA-8S655FX, respectively. ®
Tony Smith, 14 Oct 2003

Demon punters suffer email outage

Hacked-off Demon punters are fuming after enduring yet more delayed email over the weekend. One reader, who asked not to be named, told The Register that Demon's service ground to a halt over 48 hours last week creating a backlog of emails. "A few backlogged mails trickled in over the weekend, but today (Monday) it seems like we're back to no mail - no wanted mail, no spam mail," he told us. According to Demon, last week's downtime was "a result of maintenance carried out on our mail platform [and the] inadvertent misconfiguration of part of the mail server application". So what about the problems over the weekend? A statement published yesterday on the ISP's site reads: "The backlog of email and delivery delays were significantly reduced over the weekend. All mail sent before Sunday afternoon should now be available to customers. Some mail sent after this may be slightly delayed. "The volume of email traffic on the Internet worldwide is continuing to increase beyond expectation and as a result we have brought forward our plans to increase the capacity of the email servers. "We carried out some preparatory work required for the addition of this extra capacity on Sunday afternoon, as this is a normally quiet time for our systems. This should have only resulted in a short period when email services were unavailable and a resulting backlog for that period." No one from Demon was available for comment at the time of writing. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2003

Komplett brands punters ‘criminals’ after pricing cock-up

Computer components etailer Komplett.co.uk has sparked a customer revolt after hurling insults at its punters. One gobsmacked customer told The Register that Komplett has "branded me a criminal for taking them up on their offer to sell me a [graphics] card for £130 on their web site". The argy-bargy started last week when Komplett advertised a Sapphire Radeon 9800pro 256Mb graphics card on its Web site for £130 (plus VAT). The product was also reportedly advertised at that price in a computer magazine. Around 100 people jumped at the offer only to be told by Komplett that it was a mistake and should have cost nearer £400. But instead of apologising for the mistake, Komplett emailed those concerned and said: "Due to unforeseen circumstance…or unsurpassed incompetence...a graphics card was shown on our website priced at £130 which should have actually been around the £400 mark. "We are EXTREMELY proud of the genuine people who emailed and called informing us of the mistake and who gave us the invaluable advice that we might want to rethink the price. Our hats go off to you people, you know who you are! "Unfortunately we also have those in society who like to take advantage of others' mistakes or misfortunes. "The orders placed (and not shipped) for this card will not be honoured as this human mistake was an obvious one and we are sorry for any inconvenience Komplett caused by removing these orders," it said. Another punter offended by Komplett's comments told us: "The email claimed that the price was a mistake, and that it was 'obvious'. It also contained an insult to the people who ordered the card. Apart from being very unprofessional, this was downright rude, and irritated those of us who had bought the card thinking it was a genuine offer." No one at Komplett was available for comment at the time of writing. However, it's understood that a second email is due out soon, although there is no indication of what it might say or what new insults it might contain for all those who have dare speak up. Funnily enough, this isn't the first time Komplett's communication skills have been highlighted. Eighteen months ago Komplett.co.uk cocked up the pricing of DRAM blaming it on "gross human error". Declining to honour that transaction either, the company explained: "The person responsible has been hung, drawn and well and truly quartered. His parking space has been given over to the lunch lady and pension distributed among our warehouse staff." ® Related Story DRAM price hash makes Komplett famous in UK Online dealer makes a Komplett hash of DRAM offer
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2003

CCIA Report is Bad Medicine

OpinionOpinion The proposed cure for the Internet's security woes might help Microsoft competitors, but it would only make our security problems worse, writes SecurityFocus columnist Tim Mullen. A recently published report from the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) claims that "Microsoft's monopoly of the desktop operating system market is a threat to our national security." The paper has understandably created quite a bit of fuss -- so much, in fact, that Daniel Geer, former CTO of @Stake, reportedly received the aforementioned designation of "former" as a result of his co-authoring the paper. While I do not dispute the individual talents of Geer and the other authors of the paper (folks like Bruce Schneier and Charles Pfleeger), I do dispute some of the conclusions they arrived at -- basically, because I think they are wrong. It is not too hard to agree with some of the economic implications of the paper -- after all, Microsoft's market share and the legal issues that stem from it are, for the most part, obvious. And it is no secret that Microsoft has used its business and legal muscle to bully competitors on more than one occasion. I certainly would not want to be on the south-end of a north-bound Microsoft Law Mule. But economics is not network security. The boiled-down argument is that all the desktops run Microsoft software, so they all share the same vulnerabilities. The End is Neigh. The solution is to break Microsoft up into individual companies for each application like Excel or Outlook, force them to support a Linux-based version of Office, and to have government regulations in place that would "require that no operating system be more than 50% of the installed base in a critical industry or in a government." Yes, there is indeed a security problem with having an ever-growing number of computer systems connecting to a global network. But this is not the solution. Invisible Jet Syndrome A bit after the creator of Wonder Woman died, DC Comics decided that Princess Diana needed a boost to solve the problem of comic sales being lost to more popular characters. Part of the solution was to outfit her with new, cool stuff, including an Invisible Jet (originally it was a prop plane, for the fans out there.) It seemed like a good idea at the time: it was cool, flashy, unique, and it gave her a way to get around. As we all know, there are problems with an Invisible Jet. What about the fuel? Can't you see the fuel? Or does that have to be invisible too? How would you work on the thing? What if you dropped a bolt-- how would you find it? But the biggest problem was during production. When it came time for DC to implement the Invisible Jet -- to actually put it in the comic -- what did they do? They drew little white outlines around it. So we could see it. The Invisible Jet. "Look, that must be the invisible jet." The CCIA's proposed fixes to our security problems are like drawing outlines around an invisible jet -- the solutions defeat themselves when it comes time to implement them. If 50% of the installed OS base in government and infrastructure was suddenly mandated to be, say, Linux, a flood of third-party applications would emerge, ready to take full advantage of the tremendous marketing opportunity to provide users with solutions "just like they had on Windows." From an economic standpoint, this might actually be good. But from a security standpoint, it would be a nightmare. Entire classes of vulnerabilities would be introduced, and managing systems, software, patches, and configurations would become a Herculean task for the already overworked and underpaid administrators who would inherit the job. Maintaining data compatibility between heterogeneous systems would require a new level of middle-tier bloatware to be lodged in between systems, and redeveloping applications for legacy compatibility would have department heads screaming like sausage frying in a dime-store pan. And everything will still be insecure. Why? New shiny box, new shiny software, new shiny manuals-- same old dumb user. The same guy who insists on opening attachments in Outlook will open attachments in whatever newly-developed Just-Like-Outlook software they'll be using on Linux. The same guy who runs as Administrator will run as "root." The same guy who doesn't use IPSec won't use IPChains. And the same guy who doesn't patch now, won't patch then. This would not reduce the vulnerability landscape by half; it would double it. In each and every example used in the paper (and you will notice that no other OS vulnerabilities were even mentioned), the vulnerabilities discussed had long since been fixed. Inaction caused the vectors to exist. Those who did not act on their Microsoft systems will not act on their Linux systems -- and the same is true for all of the exploitation being done on the other side: those who don't keep up to date with Linux patches won't do so when they are forced to roll out Windows to half the base. Bruce said it right in his new book Beyond Fear: "The average computer user has no idea about the relative risks of giving a credit card number to a website, sending an unencrypted e-mail, leaving file sharing enabled, or doing any of the dozens of things he does ever day on the Internet." Put a bad driver behind the wheel of a different make car, and you'll still have a bad driver. And while some cars protect the driver better than others in a wreck, that does not do you too much good if you're the pedestrian who gets hit. And I've got to tell you-- thinking about having government mandated operating systems scares the pants off of me. Let's look at the government track record when it came to dealing with computer and security issues: The Patriot Act; The Hollings Bill; Berman and the RIAA. And of course, the DMCA. What do you think they would do in this case? Some good points are raised in the paper. Things like user lock-in and the potential dangers of Palladium are valid concerns. But the solutions it proposes would create a security problem bigger than the one it sets out to solve. That is what ultimately reduces the report to just another agenda piece. If the membership of the CCIA does not like the fact that user perception and successful (even if unfair) marketing has their products selling to a minority, then be honest and say that. But don't try to force-feed me a meal of sour grapes by coating it with a glaze of national security. Copyright © 2003, Timothy M. Mullen is CIO and Chief Software Architect for AnchorIS.Com, a developer of secure, enterprise-based accounting software. AnchorIS.Com also provides security consulting services for a variety of companies, including Microsoft Corporation.
Tim Mullen, 14 Oct 2003

France to roll out Wi-Fi on high-speed train lines

French national rail company SNCF will from Friday offer passengers Wi-Fi access on two major 300kmph services in a year-long trial of the technology. Wireless Internet access will be provided on SNCF's Paris-Bordeaux and Bordeaux-Pau TGV (Train à Grand Vitesse) high-speed rail links. The service will commence on 17 October. Travellers without Wi-Fi enabled PDAs or laptops will be able to rent kit from SNCF during their journey. SNCF hasn't said how much it will charge for notebook rentals ahead of the launch on Friday. Nor has it said how much it will charge for access to its WLAN, or how the service will be billed - per trip, per hour or some other timespan. However, it is known that the service will be accompanied by pay-per-view access to eight online media channels provided by French news aggregation service Makkina. Channels will focus on French and international news, sport, business, and local information about the train's destination. The wireless infrastructure has been put in place by IBM. The trial will be used to determine demand for the service and get a feel for what kinds of information users will want to access. In April, SNCF began offering Wi-Fi at Gare du Nord station in Paris. ® Related Stories Silicon Valley to get US' first Wi-Fi train GNER to spend £1m on Wi-Fi trains Wi-Fi gets on the right track
Tony Smith, 14 Oct 2003

Think tank recommends satellite road charging for UK

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) today released a report recommending the introduction of a national road-charging system for the UK, most likely using satellite technology. Ministers have in the past indicated that they view GPS road charging as a likely way forward for transport policy, but as the IPPR is closely aligned to Labour, its report provides indications of how and why such a charge would be implemented, and possibly also brings implementation closer. From the motorist's perspective the most important bottom line is possibly that the outfit recommends a tax increase, rather than a neutral substitution of road pricing for current transport revenue sources. The reasoning underlying this is that the trend for road use is upwards, aided by factors such as falling vehicle costs and decline in real fuel prices, so taxation should be increased in some way to counteract this. Simply switching to road pricing on a revenue-neutral basis would therefore not work, although it would have an obvious redistributive effect by charging depending on level of use. The report notes that the introduction "is likely to be politically challenging and the Government will need to identify ways of making it more publicly aceptable." Indeed. However, the abolition of Vehicle Excise Duty is a logical sweetener, and as fuel tax rises have in recent years also proved "politically challenging", pricing could possibly turn out to be no more so. But as and when it goes ahead, look for much argument as to whether or not it is a tax rise. And remember that a tax rise is precisely what the think tank said it should be. The report's focus is almost entirely on the control of traffic levels and CO2 emissions, with little on the actual mechanisms and costings of scheme implementations. These will however come into the foreground as and when the government gives charging the green light. The London congestion charge provides some lessons for a nationwide scheme, but can't be seen as a uniformly positive blueprint. As the IPPR notes, it is accepted by the majority of Londoners and has reduced traffic levels in central London, but it's now becoming apparent that it has technical problems, and that it's falling substantially short of achieving its revenue-raising targets, making it less feasible to implement the improvementsa in public transport it was supposed to fund. In addition, it's a free-standing system which if anything interferes with the implementation of a wider-ranging integrated policy. Aside from the London scheme, which uses number plate recognition, there are schemes elsewhere in the world using satellite and/or transponders for pricing. But these tend to be small, on relatively easily policed stretches of road, and may prove difficult to translate into a national scheme. Until such time as ID systems are fitted in vehicles as standard, it will be necessary to retro-fit, to have back-up systems for charging vehicles that don't have them, and to catch evaders. This is fairly straightforward in a small area or on a single stretch of highway, but considerably more complicated for a whole country. Singapore, for example, uses cameras to snap vehicles that don't register, and it's generally not a smart idea to get on the wrong side of the Singapore authorities anyway. Clearly, that doesn't work for the whole of the UK. And while GPS is frequently seen as the most logical and straightforward technology to use in pricing schemes, recent experiences in Germany raise questions about implementation. Here, a charging scheme has been postponed, with E730 million already spent, but with no clear indication yet of what has been going wrong with it. The onboard units have been presenting problems, and there have been reports of trucks being charged when on non-toll roads, and not charged when on toll roads. As the German scheme is also intended to be wide-ranging, it could be seen as a cautionary tale for those who view a nationwide scheme as a simple, 'magic bullet.' (More details in English at Risks Digest, and in German here. ®
John Lettice, 14 Oct 2003
cable

AMD brings white box servers to Europe

AMD has extended its Validated Server Programme to Europe, expanding contract manufacturer Celestica's contract to build white-box Opteron-based servers that European system builders, VARs and system integrators can rebadge and sell. The programme centres on offering two- and four-way machines built around Opteron 200 and 800 series CPUs, respectively. Essentially, the programme allows system suppliers to offer Opteron-based equipment without having to go to all the hassle of designing, building and testing it themselves. While firms like these might go to Far Eastern contract manufacturers for off-the-shelf unbranded desktop and notebooks PCs, server customers often require kit with a more detailed provenance, ensuring that all the components are guaranteed to work together. Intel has been doing this kind of thing for years, and in the past has built quite a profitable business out of it. AMD is sharing the business with Celestica, rather than trying to build machines and fulfil orders itself, but the principle's the same. And while support for Opteron among system suppliers remains limited, it makes sense for AMD to offer pre-configured and barebones systems backed by maintenance and support options to make it easier for them to adopt its technology. Suppliers can focus on differentiating their offerings through software and service rather than hardware. "European system builders will be free from manufacturing, shipping and supporting systems and can now offer AMD Opteron processor-based servers while focusing their energy on the value added services they bring to end users through systems customised to their market. The program with Celestica and its partners will also help deliver a full array of after-sale services," said AMD Europe's director of business development, Gianluca Degliesposti, almost but not quite repeating verbatim the words of Marty Seyer, VP and general manager of AMD's Microprocessor Business Unit, in a statement put out when the company launched the programme in the US last June. The programme will initially offer two servers in both barebones and fixed configurations: a four-way capable rack-server, the 4U/4P A8440 based on the Opteron 800 series, and a two-way capable rack-server, the 1U/2P A2210 based on the Opteron 200 series. Both products are immediately available in Europe via distributor Avnet. ®
Tony Smith, 14 Oct 2003

AOL Europe preps music download service

AOL plans to be the second music download service backbone launched in Europe, with an online radio station launching now and a downloading service with per track pricing akin to Apple iTunes, to be launched in the second quarter of 2004. The plans were revealed in an interview with Reuters, and the service would be the first that does not rely on the backbone delivery network run by OD2 which drives the EMI, Microsoft and all other services launched so far. That network has the rights to about 200,000 songs and AOL plans to have rights to a similar number by launch and is negotiating with record labels and collections bodies now. Previously European music providers have been loathe to offer their songs through online delivery, stubbornly resisting online services due to concerns about illegal downloading. But EMI broke the logjam when it launched its own service through about 20 etailers, with delivery and digital rights managed by OD2. As a lead up to the online music service, AOL launched Radio@AOL Broadband yesterday as a free radio service.
Faultline, 14 Oct 2003

FCC must treat cable firms the same as telcos

Why is it that all the Telco DSL providers in the US work hand in glove with ISP’s, but so few of the cable TV companies deliver their services through ISPs? Much of it has to do with the FCC having made a ruling that said that the cable firms are a completely different kettle of fish and are not categorized as communications companies, but as information providers. Although there is no mandate forcing Telcos to offer open access to ISPs, history has taught them that failure to do so would probably result in them being ordered to. As a result the US Telcos have enlisted the help of ISPs to up their market penetration. Cable firms have been able to ignore ISPs because of their previously privileged status, more or less outside of the FCC remit. A US court has now called that decision into question in the Court of Appeals, potentially handing a victory to the ISPs after their legal actions have brought the matter to light. The only stumbling block is that the FCC plans to appeal the decision, strangely suggesting that this decision in some way interferes with its aim to develop a national policy on highspeed Internet services. Surely the opposite is true. When two vested interests offer the same service, it makes sense that they are encumbered with the same rules, but the US cable TV companies have often enjoyed better treatment at the hands of the FCC than their now arch-rivals, the local telephone operators. The court decision was not definitive, but it re-ranked cable broadband in the same category as DSL delivered broadband and the FCC must treat it in the same way when making new rules. The FCC had cable TV down as information providers which are subject to far less stringent regulation. The FCC will now have to decide how to treat both telephone operators and cable firms and may now need to open up access to ISPs and other competitors, to their networks. At the moment the FCC stance is that it will use any carrot to get network operators to upgrade their networks and offer more advanced services. It feels that cable operators have made the shift to digital networks, and that Telcos have dragged their heels. © Copyright 2003 Rethink Research But the only reason that cable operators have made expensive upgrades is due to the reward of being able to offer three services over them, TV, local phone connections and high speed internet lines, not because they are in accord with the FCC’s aim to upgrade US networks. Some cable companies have seen the decision coming and have begun to invite participation into their networks anyway, with Comcast opening its doors to America Online and Earthlink, as well as local ISPs.
Faultline, 14 Oct 2003

nthellworld.com disappears

There's fevered speculation that NTL could be about to pull the plug on its nthellworld.com whinge site after it disappeared either sometime last night or earlier this morning. A message on the site says: "This site is currently unavailable. ntl:home apologise for any inconvenience caused. If you are looking for help or assistance on our services, please visit the links below." Asked to comment on the speculation, a spokesman for NTL said it was just a temporary problem with the server and that the site would be back up again in a "few hours". In June, NTL angers users after it announced that its nthellworld.com site would only deal with "off-topic" discussions. Instead, the cableco wanted a new "NTL Community" site to become the new "definitive source of product advice, news and technical support". Many NTL watchers believe that the site might undergo a makeover to strip out any of the criticisms posted by unhappy customers of the cableco. ® Related Stories Fresh twist in nthellworld protest site saga NTL axes nthellworld.com feedback forums
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2003

Sharp ships notebook with 3D screen

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch PDA Palm OS licensee AlphaSmart has released a UK version of its lightweight Dana wireless Internet terminal. Dana Wireless weighs just 0.9kg (2lbs) and measures 31.4 x 23.5 x 4.8cm (12.6 x 9.4 x 1.9in) yet packs in a full-size keyboard, 802.11b Wi-Fi adaptor and a 560 x 160 backlit LCD. Memory is limited to 16MB, alas, and it only runs Palm OS 4.1.2 - though it uses Graffiti 2, we notice. Alphasmart is touting Dana Wireless as a highly portable laptop alternative. The company includes its own DanaWeb browser, Mark/Space Mail and VeriChat, an AOL, Yahoo and MSN-compatible instant messaging app. Data Viz' Documents to Go 6.0 is bundled too, to provide native Microsoft Office file creation, editing and viewing, along with AlphaWord, the company's own word processor. That's in addition to the standard Palm PIM applications. The machine's USP, however, is its battery life: up to 30 hours on a set of three AA batteries, though to that's presumably with the Wi-Fi radio turned off. Alphasmart bundles a rechargeable battery, which can be powered up via the bundled adaptor or from a PC's USB port. Dana Wireless will be available from the middle of the month to UK buyers direct from Alphasmart for £309 (plus £10 P&P) excluding sales tax. A non-wireless version is also available, for £279 exc. VAT. Notebook Sharp has begun shipping its Mebius RD3D notebook in the US under the Actius brand name. The laptop, announced in September, incorporates two 15in LCD panels, one mounted behind the other, to create a true 3D display system. Between the two 1024 x 768 screens sits what's called a 'parallax barrier', which essentially makes one display show an image for the left eye, and the other an image for the right. The two images are slightly different, but the observer's brain stitches them together into a single 3D image field. No special glasses are needed. The electronics controlling the parallax barrier can switch 3D mode off, allowing the screen to operate as a standard 2D monitor. The screens are driven by an Nvidia GeForce 4 440 Go graphics chip with 64MB of memory. The notebook packs in a 2.8GHz desktop Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of DDR SDRAM and a 60GB hard drive. Optical storage is provided by a DVD-R/-RW/RAM unit that also offers CD-RW support. Connecting the Actius with the outside world is just a matter of hooking it up to a phone line via the built-in 56Kbps modem or to a LAN using the 10/100Mbps Ethernet port. It also offers four USB 2.0 ports and a 1394 connector, along with Memory Stick, SD card, SmartMedia and CompactFlash slots. If you don't care for watch movies on the LCD, the notebook has analog RGB, mini D-sub 15-pin, and S-video outputs. Movie soundtracks can be played using the Actius' 5.1 channel virtual surround sound system. The RD3D come complete with a software bundle to support its 3D and multimedia capability, including Sharp's own Smart Stereo Photo Editor/Slide Show, Dynamic Digital Depth's TriDef Movie Player and Personal CAChe for Windows, a chemical molecular modeling application from CAChe Group. Sharp has also included collection of 3D movie trailers. Apparently, you can buy the feature-length versions on DVD-ROM, offered in Dynamic Digital Depth's proprietary 2D Compatible 3D TriDef format. But don't expect any major-league titles - certainly Sharp nor DDD can list any. Available immediately, the Actius RD3D sells for around $3299. ®
Tony Smith, 14 Oct 2003

Infonet picks Boingo to host corporate Wi-Fi services

US Wi-Fi hotspot aggregator Boingo today followed up its tie-in with UK-based WLAN provider The Cloud with two further partnerships. Dutch WLAN company PicoPoint has added its 75 hotspots in Europe, Middle East and Africa to Boingo's aggregated network. The number is small - particularly compared to The Cloud's contribution of 2000-odd hotspots - but is still helps Boingo extend its reach into continental Europe and beyond. The second deal is more significant. Managed network provider Infonet will add Boingo's network to its own, providing its multinational customers with international Wi-Fi access. In return, Infonet has taken a minority stake in Boingo. The extent of that investment was not made public. Both companies will develop client-side software to provide secure access to corporate LANs via any Boingo-backed hotspot, no matter which provider actually owns the Wi-Fi zone. Interestingly, Infonet has a licensing deal with Togewanet, which offers WeRoam, a software product that allows mobile phone network operators to link Wi-Fi usage with their customers by using subscribers' phone SIM cards for network authentication and access. The Cloud yesterday said that it has licensed the Togewanet product too. Boingo will provide Infonet with back-end billing systems - which presumably operate alongside the WeRoam functionality built into Infonet's MobileXpress system - so it can seek appropriate recompense from its enterprise customers when employees utilise Boingo hotspots. ® Related Story The Cloud drifts into Europe with Wi-Fi deals
Tony Smith, 14 Oct 2003

eDonkey rides like the wind in P2P protocol races

FastTrack-based file sharing applications such as KaZaA rule in America but Europeans are increasingly turning to alternatives. Researchers from network management company Sandvine found FastTrack-based applications still generate more than 76 per cent of all P2P traffic in North America. But in Europe, end-user preferences tend to vary country-by-country, with FastTrack often playing second fiddle to newer applications like eDonkey, which is particularly popular for trading videos. In Germany, for instance, eDonkey accounts for more than 52 per cent of file sharing traffic against 44 per cent for FastTrack. Sandvine said its study "debunks" the presumed dominance of FastTrack across the globe. "The file sharing 'marketplace' is really only a few years old, but it's changing rapidly and we're now seeing measurable divergences along geographic, even national lines." said Chris Colman, EMEA managing director of Sandvine Limited. "In the beginning there was only Napster. Today's file sharing environment is much more fragmented, with a varying proportional mix of current and emerging P2P applications dominating in each region." The study threw up a number of surprises - not least the "near elimination" of Gnutella-based applications from the P2P file sharing landscape. "If a wildly popular application like Gnutella can emerge and all but disappear in less than three years, it's certainly possible that FastTrack, too, could one day be headed for history's technology dustbin," says Colman. And the opposite can also happen. Pioneering file swapping service Napster is making a legal return to business this month. However, while this may be good news for music fans, it is not such a welcome return for Internet Service Providers. Network management firm P-Cube warns that legal P2P sites too can be a "major headache for service providers". The effects of P2P traffic force service providers to increase network capacity, and expensive transit links, to prevent network congestion and performance degradation for key applications such as browsing and streaming, according to P-Cube. P-Cube, like Sandvine, markets technology which helps broadband service providers manage P2P file sharing activity for greater operational efficiencies. It estimates that 60-70 per cent of European Operators' Bandwidth is consumed by P2P traffic - so it's just as well Napster will launch as a US-only service, at least from the point of view of service providers. Music fans may beg to differ. "Most, if not all, of the new 'pay per track' music websites are solely for the US / Canada market and not for us Brits," writes Reg reader Mike Huxley. "And they wonder why piracy is such an issue," he adds. ® External Links Regional characteristics, P2P as a multi-protocol, multinational phenomenon, by Sandvine (registration required) Related Stories Napster 2.0 public beta to go live next week P2P swamps broadband networks
John Leyden, 14 Oct 2003
DVD it in many colours

MCI/Worldcom gets ‘ethics’ chief

MCI/WorldCom, the company behind the biggest fraud in US corporate history - has appointed someone in charge of - get this -"ethics". Nancy Higgins, formerly of Lockheed Martin, has been named as executive VP of Ethics and Business Conduct and Chief Ethics Officer reporting to Chairman and CEO Michael Capellas. Among other things she'll look after ethics training for MCI/WorldCom's 55,000 US-based employees and contractors. And, no doubt, she'll keep a beady-eye on the company's "Zero-Tolerance Policy" on corporate shenanigans. Oh, and she'll also have to keep her ear to the ground as employees now have the freedom to call a confidential "Ethics Hotline" that allows whistleblowers to raise their concerns about what's what. In a statement WorldCom boss, Michael Capellas, said: "MCI strives to be a model of good corporate governance with best-in-class ethics compliance." If only it had always been that way. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2003

EMC plunks down $1.7bn for Documentum

EMC has snatched up yet another software company, bidding $1.7 billion for Documentum. EMC wants to expand its software portfolio away from simply managing boxes and toward managing data. Documentum fits in well with this goal as the company has a suite of software centered around content management. The stock-for-stock swap is expected to close in the first quarter of 2004 - standard regulatory and shareholder approvals apply. EMC has been on a bit of a buying binge. In July, the hardware giant grabbed Legato for $1.3 billion, and before that it bought SRM (storage resource management) specialist Astrum Software. These moves fit in with EMC's strategy to make software sales a bigger chunk of overall revenue. Documentum's products come in a little further down the stack than either Legato or Astrum. Based out of Pleasanton, California, Documentum does not deal in hardware management but instead stays true to its name, managing documents. It helps customers keep track of things such as Web pages, spreadsheets, medical records and audio/video files. EMC has teamed with Documentum in the past with its Centera system. This product stores large volumes of fixed files or content that does not change very often. EMC hopes to make Documentum's software available on other platforms as part of its information lifecycle management program. EMC plans to have Documentum operate as a software division within the company and keep its California headquarters. Dave DeWalt, current Documentum CEO, will continue to lead the company. ® Related Stories EMC to buy Legato EMC grabs Astrum Software
Ashlee Vance, 14 Oct 2003

UK teen in ‘elite’ hacking group

The British teenager accused of an electronic attack on a major US port was a member of a "hacker's alliance", a court heard yesterday. Aaron Caffrey, 19, told Southwark Crown Court that he was a member of group called Allied Haxor Elite, the Daily Mirror reports. However he added that he only "hacked into computer's legally... but never illegally". Caffrey denies unauthorised computer modifications connected with an attack on the Internet systems of the Port of Houston in September 2001. Last week, prosecutor Paul Addison told the court that a misdirected DDoS attack by Caffrey against an IRC user slowed important information systems at the port to a crawl. Computer logs from the Port of Houston enabled police to trace the attack back to a computer in Caffrey’s Dorset home. He was arrested by UK police in January 2002. Caffrey yesterday testified that evidence against him was planted on his machine by attackers (named by him as "Dry Ice and Friction") who used an unspecified Trojan to gain control of his PC and launch the assault. Neil Barrett, an expert witness for the prosecution, testified last week that Caffrey's computer contained no trace of the tell tale signs that would be left by such an attack. The case continues. ®
John Leyden, 14 Oct 2003

Quantum shows heart-pounding tape drive

Looking to bolster tape sales, Quantum has rolled out one of its highest performing drives to date - the SDLT 600. Quantum has done its best to try and make a tape drive seem sexy. Described as having "heart-pounding performance," the SDLT 600 boasts a 72MB/s compressed transfer rate and 600 GB of compressed storage. By comparison, Quantum's older SDLT 320 comes in with a 32MB/s transfer rate and a 320GB capacity. "Brace yourself for the fastest super drive in the world!," Quantum's SDLT 600 Web site says. Quantum could use a tape drive boost. The company last week lowered its second quarter earnings forecast due, in part, to lower than expected tape sales. Nothing like some high-end kit to give margins a nudge. The new product does have impressive speed and plenty of capacity, making the perfect option for backup operations in a SAN (storage area network), Quantum reckons. The drive ships with a suite of diagnostic and management tools to make sure backups are completed without error. The system is also backwards compatible with the SDLT 320, SDLT 220 and DLT VS160 drives.®
Ashlee Vance, 14 Oct 2003

Man denies RIAA charges of Latin music love

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has come to the aid of one Ross Plank - a man the recording industry accuses of having an unhealthy love for Latin music. Plank, of Playa Del Rey, California, is one of the 261 alleged file-traders to face a lawsuit from the RIAA's (Recording Industry Association of America) legal arm. The music labels claim that he made hundreds of Latin song available via the KaZaA service. The problem, however, is that Plank does not have a love for the Latin groove. "Plank does not speak Spanish and does not listen to Latin music," the EFF said in a statement. "More importantly, his computer did not even have KaZaA installed during the period when the investigation occurred." Plank would not be the first victim of a RIAA legal misfire. The pigopolists last month withdrew their lawsuit against a 66-year-old woman after discovering that she uses a Mac and cannot run KaZaA. A self-employed Web consultant, Plank is a tad hacked off at the RIAA's threaten now and check the facts later legal strategy. "I need my computer and Internet connection to run my business," he said. "I shouldn't have to feel my business and future are at risk because the RIAA has somehow linked my name to a set of Latin songs." The EFF along with US Senator Norm Coleman are calling for new legislation that would cut the amount of damages the RIAA can seek against file-traders and call for a judge - a not a clerk - to review subpoenas seeking individual's information. ® Related Stories Anti-RIAA group calls for CD boycott Senator calls for end to excessive fines against file-traders US cableco seeks to quash RIAA subpoenas P2P software suppliers team to fight RIAA and piracy My 12-year-old nephew is going to rob your house RIAA keeps 12-year-old quiet with $2,000 bill Music lobby frightens Congress with P2P kiddie-porn nightmares
Ashlee Vance, 14 Oct 2003

Intel's income leaps in Q3

Driven by strong processor sales, Intel delivered an impressive set of third quarter results, prompting executives to say the global economy appears on the mend. Intel posted third quarter revenue of $7.8 billion - a 20 percent year-on-year rise. This was the best year-on-year compare Intel has seen since 1996. A 26 percent surge in Intel's processor business was the main factor in the strong period. Over the past year, Intel has trimmed its workforce while experiencing an uptick in revenue, which has helped its bottom line. The company reported net income of $1.7 billion for the third quarter - a 142 percent year-on-year gain. Earnings per share also jumped 150 percent from last year's Q3 to $0.25 per share. "The third quarter turned out to be one of the better quarters we have seen," said Intel's CFO Andy Bryant. The worldwide economy is not booming by any means, but Intel is seeing positive signs of a large scale recovery, Bryant said. "Clearly, the third quarter is more than you could ever call seasonality," he said. "It's more than just (that). We are not looking at the US and saying, 'My god. The good times are here.' . . . There are signs; there are bits of evidence, but there is certainly no overwhelming rush to increase IT budgets that we have seen." A few regions performed particularly well in the quarter, including China, Taiwan, India and Australia - all of which set revenue records. The Intel Architecture Business churned out $6.84 billion in revenue for Q3 compared to $5.41 billion in the same period last year. But while microprocessor sales were strong, Intel continued to see weakness in its communications/flash memory business. The Wireless Communications group saw sales drop from from $586 million last Q3 to $450 million this quarter. Overall, strong notebook sales and Xeon server sales helped Intel out in the quarter. The company expects revenue between $8.1 billion and $8.7 billion for the fourth quarter. ®
Ashlee Vance, 14 Oct 2003

Brokerage hack teen charged

The Securities and Exchange Commission last week began civil and criminal proceedings against a teenager who allegedly broke into someone else's brokerage account to dump his falling stock options. Van Dinh, 19, of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, is accused of disguising a key logger program (called The Beast) as a new stock-charting tool, which he promoted in chatroom for investors. The program enabled him to monitor the computer activity of anyone who ran the malware. Using this trick, Dinh allegedly obtained the login and password of a TD Waterhouse broker and placed orders for 7,200 soon-to-be worthless Cisco stock option contracts. According to the SEC’s civil complaint, Dinh avoided a potential $37,000 loss on the Cisco options using the ruse. The investor (whose home PC was compromised) contacted the authorities when he found his account had been cleaned out to pay for worthless stock options. Dinh, despite using a variety of tricks in an attempt to cover his tracks, was located within a few days. The SEC has joined the US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts in bringing criminal charges of identity theft, computer hacking, securities, mail and wire fraud against Dinh. He could face up to 20 years' imprisonment on the fraud and 10 years for the computer crime offences, according to US reports. ®
John Leyden, 14 Oct 2003