4th > November > 2003 Archive

Court waves through Worldcom bankruptcy plan

US telecoms company WorldCom has won court approval for its reorganisation plan and should emerge from bankruptcy in early 2004. The company, which will officially change its name to MCI after the reorganisation is complete, said that with the plan approved it would be able to turn its attention to driving up revenues and widening its thin profit margins. "This is a great day for MCI. Against all odds, we have reached our confirmation faster than anyone expected," said Michael Capellas, MCI chairman and CEO, in a statement. "Today's (Friday's) ruling is a real tribute to our 55,000 hardworking employees and our loyal customer base of 20 million strong." Though experts presumed that the company would eventually come out of bankruptcy, it was thought by many that the process would take far longer. While most large bankruptcies drag on for years, MCI won approval in just 15 months after filing for Chapter 11 protection. "We have spent the past 10 months building a world-class board of directors, recruiting seven new key executives, including a CFO, a COO, a general counsel and a chief ethics officer, and instituting a standard-setting corporate governance structure," Capellas added. He said that MCI would name three more directors in three week's time, bringing the total to 12 - Capellas and 11 independent outsiders. Several of the company's former executives were investigated following a major accounting scandal that broke in mid-2002 and the company's former CEO, Bernie Ebbers, still faces criminal charges for allegedly coordinating the $9 billion accounting scandal. Capellas, formerly of Compaq, was made CEO following the company's bankruptcy and the appointment was seen as an attempt to restore confidence and trust to the company. Once completed, the firm's reorganisation will largely wipe out the holdings of current MCI shareholders and will see the firm issue new stock and notes to current bondholders and other creditors. Other portions of the complex plan will see the firm repay billions of dollars in claims against it. When the company filed for bankruptcy protection, it reported $107 billion in assets and a stunning $41 billion in debts, making the bankruptcy the largest in history. Though MCI will have just $5.8 billion in long-term debt when it emerges from Chapter 11, industry watchers say that this could be an acquisition target as it begins a slow mark toward wider profit margins. In court filings, the company projected revenue of $24.5 billion and net income of $500 million this year, reaching $25 billion and $D1.2 billion respectively in 2005. © ENN Related stories MCI/Worldcom gets 'ethics' chief WorldCom 'not guilty' on Oklahoma charges Oklahoma AG takes aim at WorldCom, Ebbers MCI 'on track' to exit Chapter 11 SBC claims MCI not paying dues FBI snoops around MCI Church group asks FCC to vet MCI US bars MCI Worldcom from new federal contracts
ElectricNews.net, 04 Nov 2003

E-voting vendor sued for DMCA takedown

Two college students and a non-profit will seek a restraining order tomorrow to prevent electronic voting machine vendor Diebold Systems from using the DMCA to plug a leak. Diebold has threatened several websites with the 1998 Act to prevent them publishing a large number of internal memos from the company's technical support database. The two students hosted the memos at Swarthmore College, PA., which was one of several sites which received a threat from Diebold. Diebold says that the memos reveal copyrighted information and therefore fall under the DMCA. Tomorrow's case is likely to be a prelude for a case which will determines whether a public interest defence can trump copyright. The documents cover some chaotic backroom scenes at the 2000 Presidential Election count involving machines from Global Elections System (now Diebold) One from a Volusia County, Florida employee appeals for help: I need some answers!  Our department is being audited by the County.  I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 when it was uploaded.  Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here "looking dumb".  I would appreciate an explanation on why the memory cards start giving check sum messages. We had this happen in several precincts and one of these precincts managed to get her memory card out of election mode and then back in it, continued to read ballots, not realizing that the 300+ ballots she had read earlier were no longer stored in her memory card .  Needless to say when we did our hand count this was discovered. Any explantations you all can give me will be greatly appreciated. Thanks bunches, Lana [Hires] [More here] The EFF and a Stanford law school are backing the two students and the Online Policy Group, a non profit founded by the EFF's media relations director Will Doherty. "Instead of paying lawyers to threaten its critics," said the EFF's legal director Cindy Cohn in a statement, "Diebold should invest in creating electronic voting machines that include voter-verified paper ballots and other security protections." The EFF hopes that the DMCA's safe harbor provision will apply. This gives ISPs the right to restore material. An educational institution can in some circumstances be exempt from copyright infringement liabilities. ® Related Stories Fraud potential found in e-voting systems Black Box Voting Author replies Computer ballot outfit perverts Senate race, theorist says
Andrew Orlowski, 04 Nov 2003

Sun shares jump on Youngjohns

Sun Microsystems shares shot higher on Monday as one executive pumped up investor confidence while one analyst tried to drain it. Sun's share price rose 11.11 percent to a close of $4.39 per share. This gain outstripped that of rivals such as IBM, Dell, EMC and HP - all of which enjoyed modest rises (less than 2 percent) on the day. As always, the press went searching for answers to explain the sudden jump in Sun's stock and most fingers pointed at Robert Youngjohns, EVP of global sales operations at Sun. (Youngjohns was not a member of Robin Hood's Merry Men, as far as we know.) "In the sectors that matter to us most, which is financial services and telecoms, we are seeing definite signs of increased spending," he told Reuters. "Financial services companies are starting to think longer term about their infrastructure needs, and that's good for Sun, while the telcos industries themselves are seeing growth." Financial services companies and telcos are the bread and butter markets for Sun. An uptick in infrastructure spending from these sectors would surely benefit the Unix server kingpin. But while some took Youngjohns' comments as reason for optimism, one man made sure to cast a negative air over Sun's run. "While careful not to put too much weight on a few data points, we are incrementally more worried about executive attrition," wrote Steve Millunovich, in a research note. "We believe Barbara Gordon, vice president of global software sales, may have left Sun for a job with Microsoft. We also hear that Joe Womack, vice president of Americas partner sales, also left the firm. Sun was unable to confirm these departures. Sun's downturn can become self-reinforcing if too many execs depart." No worries, Steve. We're a little closer to the situation and can confirm the exits. A high-ranking Sun executive dismissed the two departures as standard battle woes, saying two out of seventy isn't all that bad. Miloonovich continued. "Speculation could drive the stock higher leading up to the next quarterly report. Management seems to believe the company is on the cusp of a turn in fundamentals. While we continue to be open minded in our search for confirmation of a turn, we have thus far uncovered no evidence (though it's far too early to call the quarter)." And with that Miloonivich left his note as open-ended as the new signature series Britney Spears g-string he purchased for the next visit to Round Rock. ® Related Stories Sun struggles in Q1 The Loon rides again with attack on Sun's comic value Sun's shares tumble, The Loon grumbles
Ashlee Vance, 04 Nov 2003

MusicMatch issues official support curse for iPod users

San Diego-based MusicMatch Inc. has greeted the arrival of iTunes for Windows with a stark warning to users: delete Apple's software. MusicMatch's popular Jukebox software is bundled with Apple's iPod MP3 player, but it's doubtful for how much longer. In September MusicMatch launched its own online MP3 download service as a rival to Apple's iTunes Music Store. And last month Apple launched iTunes for Windows with a glitzy launch at which Bono - perhaps already thinking of a curl of white smoke rising above the Vatican spelling the words "Yes, you with the Raybans" , only in Latin - compared Steve Jobs to the Dalai Lama. MusicMatch suggestions for peaceful coexistence include the following advice: Disconnect the iPod from your computer if it is still connected Double click on 'My Computer' Double click on 'Control Panel' Open 'Add or Remove Programs' Select and uninstall 'iTunes' And so it goes. MusicMatch asks iPod owners on Windows to then delete MusicMatch before reinstalling it from the CD or from http://www.musicmatch.com/download/free/?OS=pc&OEM=APPLE" target="_blank">here. "If you install iTunes, you will not be given a choice between Musicmatch Jukebox and iTunes - Apple makes this choice for you," adds the note, picking up on the 'choice' theme we've heard from Microsoft and Dell. Apple and MusicMatch are locked in a battle to see who can infect as many personal computers with DRM as quickly as possible. Clearly, this town is only big enough for one MP3 player-stroke-online MP3 download service. ® Related Stories Napster 2.0 goes live Dell debuts iPod killer, music store Apple adds iTunes DRM to one million Windows PCs Microsoft monopoly says Apple monopoly is too restrictive Pepsi, Apple team to lure kids to DRM EMusic buyer to kill off unlimited download offer Musicmatch iTunes-style service goes live
Andrew Orlowski, 04 Nov 2003

IT ads ‘selling impossible dreams’ – Which?

Shoppers are being warned not to be suckered into buying computers and other IT gear just on the back of slick advertising. Computing Which?, published today, claims some advertising for IT products is "selling impossible dreams" with companies "advertising products unable to live up to the claims made in their ads and on their packaging". The consumer mag stops short of accusing firms of deliberately mis-selling gear. Instead, it suggests that punters' lack of IT knowledge can mean that a product's capabilities are "often ambiguous". For instance, one ad flogging Intel's Centrino 'wireless-ready' processor shows an idyllic image of a woman working on a laptop in a remote country setting. Consumers could be easily mislead into thinking that buying a laptop equipped with this chip would enable them to work anywhere and everywhere as easily as they do when plugged in at home, says Computing Which?. It's not until unsuspecting punters read the small print that they discover that they also need a wireless connection to actually make the thing work. Then there's HP's claims that its Photosmart 7550 can print 17 black and white pages a minute. Tests by Computing Which? found that the printer could only manage six pages a minute. Which leads the mag to the following conclusion. It is not enough to give punters just meaningless technical info - even if it is technically correct. For ordinary punters, omissions and ambiguities can be just as misleading as outright inaccuracies, argues the mag. "Until we reach a consensus on how technical terms are defined and used so that they reflect the reality of what a product can actually do, rather than what's merely possible, manufacturers will continue to promote their products in a way that is misleading," said editor Jessica Ross. The advice to punters is simple - pay attention to the small print and ask as many questions as possible before buying new hardware and software ®
Tim Richardson, 04 Nov 2003

Carphone Warehouse to create 1,000 jobs

Carphone Warehouse is to create 1,000 jobs over the next year as it opens more shops and a new call centre in Warrington. News of the extra jobs came as the mobile phone retailer reported a jump in profits amid optimism that the sector is seeing more growth against a backdrop of increased competition The acquisition of Opal Telecom a year ago has "proved a winning move", according to the company, making Carphone Warehouse a "significant, profitable and fast growing player in the business telecoms market". The company also reckons that as competition between operators hots up, and new kit hits the market, punters are even more in need of independent advice from the likes of Carphone Warehouse, to help them decide which package is best for them. As a result, Carphone Warehouse has seen subscriber numbers increase during the last quarter and it says it is looking forward to good trading over Christmas and the new year. Publishing results for the six months to the end of September, the company reported that turnover dipped four per cent from £861 million last year £825 million. Pre-tax profit, though, soared 70 per cent from £12 million to £20.3 million. Said chipper chief exec Charles Dunstone: "As the group enters a phase of strong growth, we need to invest more in recruiting high quality employees and we expect to create a further 1,000 jobs over the next 12 months through new store openings, our new call centre in Warrington, and supporting the business units from the centre." Shares in Carphone Warehouse were up 1.75p (1.35 per cent) at 131.5p in early trading. ®
Tim Richardson, 04 Nov 2003

AMD Athlon FX-53 to counter Intel P4EE?

AMD will hit back against yesterday's release of the Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition with a 2.4GHz Athlon 64 chip, the FX-53. The part will launch before the end of the year. So claim a variety of unnamed sources cited by Xbit Labs. The site also notes that it has heard, whispered on the wind, that AMD will ship an Athlon 64 3400+ part in time for the Christmas sales period. The FX-53, if it exists, will follow the FX-51 launched last September at 2.2GHz. Both 64-bit parts offer on-board dual-channel DDR 400 memory controllers that required registered DIMMs. The 3400+ is a logical successor to the currently shipping 3200+. Certainly past roadmaps have pegged a 3400+ down for a late 2003 release. However, with the delays to the AMD64 version of Windows XP, we wonder what the real value of ramping up the Athlon 64 line just yet would be. Yes, there's SuSE Linux, but for the vast majority end users, Windows is the OS of choice. ®
Tony Smith, 04 Nov 2003

Microsoft looks to SiS for Xbox 2 I/O chips

SiS has joined IBM and ATI as an Xbox 2 chip supplier, a document the company filed with the Taiwan Stock Exchange has revealed. According to the filing, SiS will produce "media I/O technologies" for "future Xbox products and services". Microsoft has confirmed the content of the filing, DigiTimes reports. The SiS announcement follows a similar statement from IBM yesterday which said Microsoft had chosen Big Blue to produce processors the "future Xbox products" - widely believed to be code for Xbox 2. Earlier this year, ATI was announced as the chosen supplier of Xbox 2 graphics chips. In each case, it's not yet known what products the companies will contribute to Xbox 2, but in ATI's case it's likely to be a top-end Radeon and attention has centred on IBM's 64-bit PowerPC 970 - aka the G5. ® Related Story Microsoft picks IBM as Xbox 2 processor partner
Tony Smith, 04 Nov 2003

Elpida samples 2GB DDR 2 module

Elpida has begun sampling 2GB DDR 2 SDRAM registered DIMMs - the first of its kind, the company claims. Aimed at servers and workstations, the modules are expected to go into mass production during Q2 2004, after Intel has released it upcoming DDR 2 chipsets 'Twin Castle' and 'Lindenhurst' for those platforms. To date, Intel has invested over $120 million in Elpida to help it develop its DDR 2 products. The PC2-4300 DIMMs operate at 1.8V, yielding a 50 per cent reduction in power consumption over DDR 400 DIMMs. The 2GB ECC modules have a data transfer rate of 4.3GBps and contain 36 512Mb 533MHz DDR 2 chips fabbed at 110nm. ® Related Stories Elpida punches out 1Gb 533MHz DDR II at 100nm Kingston invests $50m in Elpida Intel invests $23m more in Elpida Intel offers Elpida $100m to drive DDR 2 production
Tony Smith, 04 Nov 2003

Developing mobile apps on Series 90

BriefingBriefing Nokia has continued with its traditional 'developer platform series' with the introduction of the next-generation of the platforms – Series 90. The series commenced with series 40 – for Java-technology enabled phones; Series 60 – for Symbian OS smart phones; and now Series 90 – a developer solution/platform for high-end media, games, and enterprise applications based on the Symbian OS. So why Series 90? Nokia has launched this solution to enable developers to leverage their apps across a range of devices that are tightly focused on specific needs – in this case, playing music, messaging, or playing games. Series 90 is based on the Symbian OS 7.0, incorporating standard technology for application development, browsing, and messaging. The platform incorporates telephony, PIM, browsing, messaging, media playback, and office functionality. Series 90 Supports the following: Native programming language – C++ MIDP 2.0 APIs Bluetooth USB TCP/IP SMS Series 90 developer platform uses a GUI which is very much similar to a web-browser type of interface. Additionally, applications can be accessed via select navigation keys (ie. App key, 4-way cursor, Esc key) which lead to apps, menu items, and other navigation options. Text entry is supported by a “virtual keyboard” or pad area which also supports handwriting recognition. Having tightly integrated voice capability, calls can be initiated from various apps including the telephone app, contacts, and other “click to talk” supported apps. Telephony provides access through GSM, GPRS, and EDGE, supporting such functionality as call history lists, voice dialing, speed dial, messaging, hands-free, conference calling, and even a voice recorder. The unified messaging app. Supports sending, receiving, creating, and editing of SMS and MMS messages and offers full SMS and 3GPP SMIL support; IMAP4 and POP3 email handling; and WAP push and SMART messaging Web Browser is based on Opera 6 (www.opera.com) , 640x320 screen resolution, and many “non supported” websites will be viewable using a “fit to screen” option. The browser supports HTML 4.0, XHTML 1.0 and 1.1, WML 1.3, SSL 3.0/TLS 1.0, ECMAScript, JavaScript, CSS, and WAP CSS. Macromedia Flash Player 5 is also provided. Other Included Apps: Calendar – create, edit, delete events To-Do list – with alarms, due dates, and prioritization Contacts – store contact details in vCard data format (supported by SYNCML v1.1.1) Office – supports common office tasks including a word processor – compatible with MS-Word Sheet – supports creation and editing of spreadsheet workbooks Presentation Viewer – Display MS Powerpoint slides Media – view, create still and video images or record audio Camera – still pictures supported by common OMA and OTA formats/standards Music & Video Player – share streaming video via Bluetooth, MMS and email FM Radio – stereo and mono support Wallet 2.0 – personal information File Manager – file management Control Panel – set config and other preferences Clock Calculator Support for multiple user profiles Language support for 12 European languages including: English, French, Germna, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Greek. Supported Data and content types: Images – GIF, BMP, JPG, PNG, TIFF, ICO, WBMP Java midlets and JAR files Applications stored in native symbian .sis format Audio – MP3, AAC, AMR, WAV, AU, MIDL, RealMedia Video – 3GP, MP4, MPEG-4 Ring tones – MP3, WAV, MIDI, AMR, AAC, Nokia ringtone, polyphonic Developing applications for Series 90 enables developers to create C++ and Java Midlets, browsing services using HTML or XHTML, and other content such as ring tones and wall papers. C++ is the native programming language, however, keep in mind that the standard template library (STL) is not supported. A number of public C++ APIs are available enabling developers to access a number of applications including the photo album and the phone book, or technologies such as the Bluetooth connectivity, or telephony. A number of Java APIs are supported including the Java Bluetooth API, Java Wireless Messaging API, and the Java Mobile Media API. Skin developers will be glad to know that they can easily change backgrounds, wallpapers, widgets, icons, fonts, and sounds. Support for Series 90 will be plentiful at Forum.nokia.com – an SDK is now available for download at http://www.forum.nokia.com/main/1,,010_60,00.html#tools. The SDK includes a phone emulator, Java class libraries, APIs (including the Nokia UI API), and documentation. The SDK replicates the UI of the Nokia 7700 device, including pen input, hardware-key layout, error messages, display and rendering, and menu selection. Developers are encouraged to submit their series 90 applications for consideration to Nokia via www.forum.nokia.com or at Nokia Tradepoint. Suggested Resources for Series 90 Developers: Series 90 Discussion Group Developer Platform 2.0 for Series 90: Introductory White Paper Series 90 MIDP Concept SDK Beta 0.1 Developer Platform 2.0 for Series 90: Frequently Asked Questions © Copyright 2003 Symbiandevzone.com
Glenn Letham, 04 Nov 2003

Red Hat pulls plugs on Red Hat Linux product line

Red Hat yesterday unveiled its answer to the vexed question of what it should do about its consumer line - dump it. This is not quite how CEO Matthew Szulik put it to The Register over lunch yesterday, nor indeed did he say flat out 'oh, by the way, we're shooting the Red Hat Linux distribution when North Carolina wakes up, bye now,' but that is indeed what the company did. Red Hat maintenance and support for Red Hat linux 7.1, 7.2, 7.3 and 8.0 will end as of 31st December 2003, and for Red Hat 9 as of 30th April 2004. "Red Hat does not plan to release another product in the Red Hat Linux line," says the 'you're fired' email sent out to The Register's Red Hat Network account yesterday. Red Hat Linux channels will remain open for six months after the product's end of life date, but no new errata will be posted after EOL, and no Red Hat Network support accounts could be bought or renewed as of yesterday. So it's very dead, very soon, and Red Hat is now about Red Hat Enterprise and... Fedora. The move is a sensible one from the company's point of view because it provides a clear answer to the 'what do we do about the bit that doesn't work' question. It could perhaps have been done a little less brutally, and people who bought RH8 or RH9 both surely have good reason to be sore about how swiftly the support is vapourising (RH8 in particular - a year ago this looked like a product line with a future and a roadmap), but there really was no easy way to do it. A more honest way, probably... What we have now are two lines, which you can term commercial (Enterprise) and developer (Fedora). The strategy for the Enterprise line has been pretty clear for some time now; it's the paid-for line that started with high end products but which has expanded downwards to smaller servers and workstation. It makes money, and 'buy workstation' is what Szulik tells us the people who'd been previously buying RHL should do in the future (although as we suggested earlier on, he didn't make it entirely clear how close that future actually was). To some extent, selling workstation through retail channels provides some justification for claims that Red Hat hasn't got out of consumer or retail, but as it's just killed off a product line it surely must have got out of something. Or not. Red Hat's problem with RHL was that it wasn't associated with a clearly-defined 'something,' whereas Enterprise was and is. Hold onto the fact that Red Hat will be pitching a business focused product into the space vacated though, that this won't take up all of the spaced, and that the company is not proposing to have a product that takes Windows head-on in the general client OS market. There's a possible gap there, one that Red Hat wasn't able to figure out how to address right now, and we'll likely be able to gauge how big it is as we see how hard and how much rival distros try to fill it. SuSE, for example, sees Red Hat's perceived lack of commitment to the enthusiasts as a major vulnerability to be exploited, although it's currently not about to launch a client-based consumer assault on Microsoft either. Fedora is Red Hat's bid to cover this base, but frankly it would look a hell of a lot better and more convincing if RHL could somehow just magically disappear, and never have existed in the first place. By pulling out of RHL Red Hat has given Fedora a major credibility hill to climb. Which is a pity, because you can see how it might work in a parallel universe. Fedora is the free, development strand of the Red Hat offering, "sponsored" by Red Hat but intended to be out there in the community with support almost entirely from the community. It will have a release cycle of two to three a year, and Szulik puts it more bracingly than that still. "Anyone can put a package in so long as they maintain it," and fixes will "just roll forward to the next version," so it'll ship when it's done and keep shipping. It is therefore being pitched as a fast-moving, cutting edge line that's in continued development, and in that sense could be seen as a possible techie heaven. Case for the prosecution though. The support headache is being largely offloaded from Red Hat, and although Szulik says there are plenty Red Hat people involved, it seems fair to us to define their involvement as that of enthusiasts - it is not, in most cases, their day job. Developments from Fedora will go into Enterprise, so to some extent Red Hat will be getting development for free, and is throwing what's left of the old model back into the community while it concentrates on its ROI. The issues here are more complex than that, of course, but we did say this is the case for the prosecution, right? People are going to think and say these things, and it will be something Red Hat will have to deal with. Fedora's development and release cycles and its support mechanisms clearly aren't going to be any kind of answer for people who want to run a business on Linux, whereas Enterprise's more sedate cycles, support model and product lifespan are. This is certainly a convenient piece of ringfencing for Red Hat, but you can't really count it as entirely deliberate. Businesses want long, defined lifecycles, clear roadmaps, support, while enthusiasts want fast development, so the convenience factor is built into the two logical answers Red Hat has come up with. But it could have done it, and put it, better. Might we suggest telling customers, 'Sorry, we made a mistake, this is what we're doing now, this is how we propose to make it up to you' would have been a good place to start? ®
John Lettice, 04 Nov 2003
Broken CD with wrench

Skype won’t make it, says WSJ columnist

A scathing criticism of Skype, the new Voice over IP Peer-to-peer system from the KaZaA founders, was voiced in the Wall Street Journal last week in an article by Lee Gomes, stating that “Skype calls are peppered with frequent voice drop-offs, as well as all manner of clicks and pops and the call often ends for no good reason. A traditional phone call may not be any sort of audiophile dream, but at least it's reliable.” The author said that Skype has no chance of becoming the new global phone network as its creators hope, because it is largely unnecessary with phone bills down to just $40 or so a month and discount international calls coming on the scene. The article went: “Free music. Now that was a great Internet deal. But free phone calls don't have quite the same appeal.” Niklas Zennstrom, Skype founder, immediately hit back at the comments in a communication with Faultline: “Lee is comparing Skype, 8 weeks out of beta launch, with the traditional circuit switched phone companies who have been around since the T-Rexes (well OK for 100 years at least). “I don't know how much people on average were spending on music, but I don't think it was as much as $40 per month as all Americans are spending on calling plans.” His implication is that people who decided to download file sharing music were not even saving $40 a month, but they were happy to make the savings, so why not on phone calls? “I also know there are millions of people who have relatives and friends abroad who would love not to have to pay for those international calls.” “Gartner Group predicts that all calls in Europe will be internet based from the year 2020. I see a clear analogy of the shift from fax to e-mail with the shift from circuit switched phone calls to internet based phone calls. Today the fax is still around but lots of people use the email as their primary text/image communication system, and the fax is used when you want to send a signed document or something.” When asked directly about the call drop offs and the quality problems, Zennstrom said, “We are in beta and the first priority is to deal with scaling and stability, secondly with audio quality. I am sure we will be able to improve the quality even more over time.” The WSJ article did acknowledge that Skype may become the de facto standard for Internet phone calls and that it will no doubt get better in time. In Faultline’s view Lee Gomes of the WSJ fails to understand how disruptive and discontinuous innovation works. The rules that have been observed through history are that you need to offer something half as good, for a tenth of the price. At least they’re the Faultline version of the rules, and Skype seems to fit in quite perfectly. © Copyright 2003 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here
Faultline, 04 Nov 2003

RIAA and DirecTV file more suits

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) legal actions against illegal file sharing activities continue apace, with 80 new suits filed this week and 156 in total, from its first batch of suits and the batch of 204 letters it sent out last week, settling out of court. Originally, 241 legal actions were filed on the first round and since then the RIAA has decided to tread more softly, sending out 204 letters to alleged file sharers in its second round. It is now filing suit against 80 of these. Of the 156 that have settled, 124 came out of this latest batch. The RIAA has also had another 1,000 people apply for amnesty from litigation under its "Clean Slate" program where you destroy illegal tracks and promise not to do it again. On a different note, and probably more seriously, DirecTV has said that it will sue at least 150 residents of Maryland which it claims have been using unauthorized equipment to receive programming. The allegations are part of a nationwide sweep by DirecTV and the company has sent letters to more than 80,000 people asking around $3,500 each to settle. The company has already filed over 15,000 law suits. DirecTV is being lambasted for its heavy-handed approach, with one defender of the actions saying that many of these people don’t even have satellite dishes. The defendants either have to pay the settlement fines or pay a lawyer to defend them and if DirecTV isn’t fully diligent it could find itself paying legal costs on both sides. © Copyright 2003 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here
Faultline, 04 Nov 2003

Telia blocks spam-sending Zombie PCs

TeliaSonera, the leading telecommunications group in the Nordic and Baltic regions, will start to immediately block Internet traffic to and from computers that send junk email or spam, the company announced yesterday. In order to prevent the rapid spread of spam and virus mails, the company will block all Trojan-infected PCs without warning. TeliaSoneria is the first ISP in Europe to take such drastic measures. So far, most ISPs have only blocked Internet traffic to certain PC ports. In the UK NTL last month started blocking port 135 traffic on its Internet service. Port 135 is generally used for connections to Microsoft Exchange servers on corporate networks, but it was also compromised by the Welchia and Blaster worms. A PC that is infected with a Trojan can send more than 100,000 spam messages or viruses in a single day. A time lapse of two weeks between the discovery and blocking of computers that send spam is therefore no longer acceptable, TeliaSoneria says. The company emphasises that it is not blocking computers on a permanent basis. Telia will offer assistance to solve the problem and then remove the blocking procedure afterwards. Whether it will prevent a complete swamping or inundation of viruses remains to be seen. The recent Sobig.F mass-mailing virus carpet-bombed the Internet, causing chaos on corporate networks. Shutting down access to all these computers at the same time may not be possible. TeliaSonera says that the number of customer complaints related to spam and computer viruses has increased ten-fold from 300 to 3,000 every 24 hours, and that something needs to be done. "The Internet is easy to use, but this constant flood of spam that we are now witnessing is creating costs and problems for our customers and we won't accept it,' Marie Ehrling, head of TeliaSonera Sweden, says. John Leyden adds: Telia is taking a bold step but the policy should pay off, so long as the company correctly identifies infected machines and is responsive to customer requests to disinfect their PCs. A free AV tools such as AVG from GRISoft is one of the more straightforward ways to clean-up infected machines. We trust Telia's good sense will prevail in temporarily allowing the infected onto the Net to download updates. Alternatives, which normally involve using RegEdit to delete viral changes to infected PCs, are hazardous. Meanwhile what is Telia doing to put its own house in order? Since March, Telia has used the Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS) to block email from known senders of electronic junk mail. In addition, Telia plans to introduce general protection against viruses in both incoming and outgoing mail, as well as protection against spam in email that is addressed to receivers outside its network. ®
Jan Libbenga, 04 Nov 2003

How to recognise a geek

"My parents just came back from a planet where the dominant life form had no bilateral symmetry, and all I got was this stupid F-Shirt." Laugh, you nearly did? Then you're obviously a geek. Earlier this year a random selection of shoppers on London's Oxford Street were asked to pick out the physicist from a line-up of possible candidates. Guess what: 98 per cent of those asked singled out a white male of around 60 years old, with glasses and facial hair. The obvious stereotype. While this might have been the image of an typical physicist fifty years ago, the reality is very different. Since the 1960s, the number of young women entering physics has doubled and the average age is now 31. During 2003 the Institute of Physics completed a large survey to find out what their members thought about physics and their work. That study revealed that members themselves believe that the typical member is a male in a tweed jacket and that if physicists threw a party there would be sweet white wine, classical music, a selection of cheese and, unquestionably, no dancing. These stereotypes can be damaging to society, some researchers believe. Talented school children might be put off doing physics because they don't see images of people like them on the television, or in magazines. Would the same apply to the classic computer geek, we wondered. They too are often portrayed as poorly dressed, pasty-faced monomaniacs with coke-bottle glasses, who are more likely to be watching Dr Who reruns than attending the prom. Unfortunately, the IT industry doesn't seem to have good role models. The world's foremost techno geek Bill Gates is more admired for his wealth than for his appearance. And although we haven't forgotten about the sleek black hair and the power Armani suits, these days Apple's Steve Jobs reminds us of Catweazle, the legendary ancient television Wizard who found himself trapped in the 20th Century. And should we mention zany bug-eyed Steve Ballmer, whose Monkey Boy video hit the Internet like a tornado? How damaging is this? We don't know. But we can refer you to sundry online tests to determine your nerdity quotient. To see if you fit the description of geek, we recommend this site. ®
Jan Libbenga, 04 Nov 2003

Consumer Linux? Just ask my 90 year old father, says Red Hat CEO

Who drives Red Hat's product strategy? The CEO? What about the CEO's 90 year old father? Well, he certainly seems to have an input. When The Register quizzed him on the consumer market yesterday, Matthew Szulik waxed suddenly passionate: "We know painfully well what happens when my 90 year old father reads about Red Hat Linux, buys a copy and tries to install it." Inexperienced people who buy Linux on the assumption that it will just work and handle all their hardware in the same way as a Windows machine does can often have a jolting experience, the consequences being heavy support costs for the company, and in all likelihood a not very satisfied customer at the end of it. Naturally we cut to the chase. Hang on, we said, this is really, your 90 year old father you're talking about here, right? Not some kind of hypothetical, virtual father for the sake of argument? Szulik confirmed that it was indeed his very own 90 year old father he was talking about, adding that he was a stockholder too. Which quite clearly must have added to the level of pain inflicted by the incident. Industry execs seem to have a habit of citing their relatives in a market research context, perhaps suggesting that they trust their paid-for market research just about as much as we do. You'd think, for example, Steve Ballmer's relations had suffered enough already, but no, he hauls them out as examples regularly. But there's more to Szulik's case than his father, other Red Hat stockholders will be relieved to learn. In order to deal with this market, he says, there's still "a lot of work to be done on behalf of Linux. The worst thing you could do is go out into the consumer market with a me-too product that has to compete on price." Which is fair enough, and Red Hat has already provided an answer in that it is not going to address this market in the foreseeable future. Szulik does not however spell out why Red Hat isn't addressing it, and the fact that Red Hat isn't addressing it doesn't mean that there isn't a market. Red Hat isn't going there because it doesn't see it as a rational place to put its limited resources, which is a fair business decision, but not the only possible business decision. If people (it'll have to be your father, Matthew, mine's busy) go into stores and buy Linux, then clearly there's demand. If they're unhappy afterwards, then the demand is not being properly fulfilled, so the other possible product development decision you could take away is that you should work to fulfill it. Which is harder, more expensive and riskier, but although it's not a valid ROI-led route for Red Hat to take, it's surely bad for Linux in general if nobody takes it, or if nobody but Michael Robertson of Lindows takes it. What are you going to do, leave the franchise to Windows, forever? Or are you just 'waiting until Linux is mature enough'? Well get real, targets move, and if you don't put resources into hitting them now, they'll be even further away in five years time and you'll still be waiting. But it's the choice Red Hat has made. The company is going for business, and if it's broader-based leadership you want you'll have to look elsewhere. As we suggested earlier today, there's a vacancy. The natural, cheap-shot 'have you stopped beating your wife yet' question for Szulik was: 'You're saying all these people who go down to the store looking for an alternative should buy Windows?' So we asked it, largely for the personal entertainment value of watching him desperately swimming for the shore. We certainly didn't intend to use it to construct an entirely unfair hit-magnet Linux-screamer story. Some people, however, are not so particular. Plus they steal other people's questions - watch it, kid. No matter, they could have been writing the real story, which is here. ®
John Lettice, 04 Nov 2003

Panther bitten by second data damaging bug

Mac OS X 10.3's FileVault system, which protects each user's home folder with on-the-fly 128-but AES data encryption, has been found to contain a data-damaging glitch, Apple has admitted. The bug manifests itself as a request to regain lost disk space in the encrypted directory. If the user responds in the affirmative, FileVault's reclamation process damages the user's keychain data. Keychain is the Mac OS' secure password storage system, allowing passwords to be accessed through a single master code. Damaging the data held in the keychain prevents the Safari web browser from automatically signing on to certain web sites, stops Mail logging on to email servers and so on. Many other applications that store passwords in the keychain are likely to be affected too. Apple last night said it was aware of the problem but was not yet recommending that users disable FileVault. Simply refusing to allow the software to reclaim lost disk space keeps the bug at bay. The FileVault problem follows an earlier clash between Panther and version 1.0.3 of Oxford Semiconductor's 800MBps FireWire interface chip. That bug lead to data being damaged on external hard drives connected to the host Mac after Panther had been installed on the host system. Oxford sent out updated firmware in September, but drive vendors have only now started to offer it to their customers. ® Related Story Apple blames Oxford for Firewire data loss bug
Tony Smith, 04 Nov 2003

Security fears over UK 'snooper's charter'

Human rights watchdog Privacy International (PI) will today warn a House of Lords conference that government proposals to stockpile details of all phone calls and Internet access made by the entire population of the UK will create grave dangers for both privacy and security. A number of orders - called 'Statutory Instruments' - currently being considered by Parliament will create a legal basis for comprehensive surveillance of communications and establish a regime for warehousing acquired data - phone numbers and email addresses contacted, web sites visited, locations of mobile phones etc. - about every UK subject. The regulations will allow an extensive list of public authorities access to records of individuals' telephone and Internet usage (under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act). This communications data will be available to government without any judicial oversight. Not only does government want access to this information, but it also intends to oblige companies to keep personal data just in case it may be useful (under provisions of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act). This sensitive information, together with account and financial data, will eventually be available on request to investigation authorities in most other European countries, PI warns. The potential for overseas countries to access this sensitive data comes about through a range of international treaties, such as the recent Council of Europe (CoE) Cybercrime Convention. The convention, signed by 37 countries so far, allows for "minimum standard mutual law enforcement assistance between nations". Albania, Estonia and Croatia have already ratified the treaty, thus bringing it into legal force. The UK has signed the treaty, but no date has yet been set for its incorporation into British law. Russia has been arguing in the G8 for a data retention regime, PI notes. If successful, it too would have access to UK data under the mutual assistance treaties. Privacy International warns that the "low standard of evidence or authentication demanded for these transfers creates exceptional dangers to many ethnic and other groups in the UK". The conditions for sharing this information mean the intelligence could be about offences that are criminal only in the requesting country and not in the UK. "In the G8, the CoE and under other mutual legal assistance agreements, there are no requirements for dual-criminality. In fact, the CoE convention on cybercrime dissuades governments from allowing for dual criminality before data is required to be shared," Privacy International argues. "There are grounds for refusal, but they are limited," it adds. Agents for overseas powers Current procedures in the UK do not require dual-criminality when responding to requests from other countries. In fact, sometimes only very basic information is required to inform the UK officials of the purpose of the data to be transferred. And the situation is set to get worse if plans to compel service providers to keep communications data for at least a year go ahead. Provisions in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Part I, Chapter I, Section 5) allow for the "disclosure of interception and communications data" under mutual assistance agreement or for intelligence purposes. So the passage of the current orders and the implementation of data retention would make data regarding UK subjects available to governments around the world with "little oversight or control", PI warns. "This data will be made available without regard to dual-criminality, and it may in turn be kept by foreign governments as they see fit. Countries such as the US that do not have data retention schemes will benefit from the vast store of information available on UK citizens even when similar stores are not available on their own citizens." PI's Director, Simon Davies, warned: "The governments plan to stockpile this massive amount of sensitive information poses a risk to a great many people. The proposals should be abandoned immediately. "The proposals are ill-considered, unnecessary and unlawful," he added. The government's proposals will be debated at a meeting (Wednesday, 5 November) in the House of Lords, organised by Privacy International and the Foundation for Information Policy Research. ®
John Leyden, 04 Nov 2003

Oftel unlikely to demand broadband cost cuts – report

Telecoms watchdog Oftel is expected to conclude that there is little need for further regulatory interference to force down the wholesale cost of broadband. The regulator is due to publish next month the findings of its latest review into high speed Net access in the UK. However, according to an interview in the Financial Times with Oftel boss David Edmonds, it seems the regulator is happy with current wholesale cost levels and with the state of the broadband landscape in the UK. Oftel, it appears, is concerned that any further cuts to wholesale prices would dissuade the dominant telco from investing further in broadband. And it also believes that further cuts in wholesale charges for ADSL would also make it even more difficult for operators to introduce other technologies - such as satellite or wireless - into the marketplace. The conclusion must be that Oftel is happy with the status quo. Edmonds told the FT: "The UK is the most competitive in terms of price and the range of services in the whole of Europe. I'm thrilled that we're looking at [broadband] prices half the level they were three years ago and that we're looking to have three million broadband connections by the end of the year when there were only 50,000 three years ago." What's more, Edmonds' "hope and expectation" is that four million punters will have broadband by the end of 2004. Snag is, Edmonds' optimism is unlikely to chime with those in the industry who claim BT's stranglehold on ADSL is screwing both rival operators and consumers. Only last week trade body the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) submitted a report to the Trade and Industry Select Committee calling for the cost of broadband to be reduced in order to stimulate demand for broadband. "ISPA believes that regulation will almost certainly be required in a market where a single operator continues to hold a significant market power," said the outfit. And later this month a new broadband industry group - called The Broadband Industry Group (BIG) and made up of the likes of Brightview, Cable & Wireless, Centrica, Energis, Freeserve and Tiscali - will unveil itself as it "speaks with one voice about the need for true competition in broadband". No doubt it will have something to say then about Oftel's decision to pass the buck. Effectively, that's what the regulator has done. Oftel will cease to exist at the end of the year as it is rolled into the new, unified communications regulator, Ofcom. To start a major regulatory battle within weeks of the watchdog being put down wouldn't make much sense. According to one industry insider, Oftel doesn't want to "rock the boat" ahead of the handover. It seems it is just looking to clear its desk, tie up the lose ends and turn off the lights. Until Ofcom carries out its own assessment of the broadband market, it will have to rely on Oftel's soon-to-be-published review for guidance. For those operators calling for cost cuts, the fight goes on. ® Related Stories BIG idea calls for BB competition ISPA submits broadband action plan to parliament
Tim Richardson, 04 Nov 2003

Israeli man charged with hacking Mossad

An Israeli man has been arrested over accusations he hacked into a recruitment web site run by Mossad, Israel's main intelligence agency. The 23-year-old man, who is yet to be identified, has been charged in a Jerusalem court over the alleged attack, Israel Radio reported yesterday. AP reports that the nature of the charges or even the date of the alleged security breech of the Mossad-run site remains unclear. According to radio reports cited by AP, prosecutors claim that the accused deliberately hacked into the recruitment site in a "sophisticated attack" but was "unable to decipher the information he received". Defence lawyers said their client was only checking the security of the site to make sure any information he sent was secure. An expert witness told the court Mossad's web site is under almost constant attack, with the vast majority of assaults originating from outside Israel. Mossad set up its recruitment site last year in the hopes of attracting more potential spies by allowing applicants to submit applications and CVs online. This was a major switch for the agency, which previously never solicited applications to join its ranks, instead admitting recruits by invitation only. ®
John Leyden, 04 Nov 2003

Novell bags SuSE for $210m

Linux company SuSE was today acquired by Novell in a $210 million all-cash deal. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and the winding up of shareholder agreements. Novell expects the transaction to close by the end of its first fiscal quarter (January 2004). Novell said the acquisition would expand its "ability to provide enterprise-class services and support on the Linux platform" by adding the open source expertise of SUSE Linux to its existing networking, security and consultancy portfolio. Today’s acquisition follows Novell's August purchase of Ximian, a developer in Linux server management and desktop products, and further demonstrates Novell's commitment to Linux and the open source development model, the company said. "We chose SuSE Linux because they are a clear market leader in Linux technology for the enterprise," said Jack Messman, chairman and CEO of Novell. "With this acquisition, Novell will be the only billion dollar software company with a Linux distribution and a worldwide ecosystem around it. A worldwide technical staff of over 600 has been trained to support Linux. The acquisition of SuSE Linux completes our technology stack from the desktop to the server." "Novell is bringing our significant resources to bear to help customers adopt Linux with more confidence, giving them the freedom of choice Linux provides without the anxiety over whether an open source solution can truly be relied on for mission-critical functions," he added. Novell also announced today that IBM intends to make a $50 million investment in Novell convertible preferred stock. In addition, "Novell and IBM are negotiating extensions to the current commercial agreements between IBM and SuSE LINUX for the continued support of SuSE Linux on IBM's eServer products and middleware products" and for product and marketing support related to SeSE Linux. Both of these agreements will be effective when the acquisition of SuSE by Novell is completed. ® Related Stories Red Hat pulls plugs on Red Hat Linux product line Novell 'puts entire ecosystem behind Linux' Novell buys Ximian
John Leyden, 04 Nov 2003

Nintendo sales surge on US price cut

Nintendo today claimed a 37 per cent share of the US games console market, and it's all down to price cut it made just over a month ago. Some 35 days after knocking the GameCube's retail price down to $100, Nintendo's share of the market has rise from 19 per cent to 37 per cent, propelling the Japanese company to number two in the market, according to retail-derived stats from NPD. No prizes for guessing the name of the Japanese company that's number one. Of course, for all the mutual backslapping going on right now in Nintendo's US HQ, it's worth noting that the above increase represents year-to-September growth of just two per cent. So without the units sold on the back of the price cut, Nintendo would have seen a significant reduction in its market share over the period. Totalling January to September sales and comparing the resulting figure with 2002's numbers, Xbox sales have fallen three per cent, while Playstation 2 sales are down 17.5 per cent, Nintendo said. PS2's decline undoubtedly arises from the maturity of its sales. Sony has seen a similar slide in Japan and is expected to cut the console's price there to boost sales. Microsoft is expected to cut Japanese Xbox prices too. In the UK, Nintendo's brief jump ahead of Microsoft ended late last month when Xbox sales once again overtook GameCube purchases, despite the same kind of price advantage that the Nintendo machine is experiencing in the US. The Xbox 'revival' took place after the launch of a new European software bundle, which points to one way Microsoft may fight back against Nintendo in the US. ®
Tony Smith, 04 Nov 2003

IBM minimizing ROI – what it means to you

Reader revoltReader revolt re: Minimize your ROI with IBM Last week, we brought you news that IBM had kicked off a new SAP services plan that focuses in on "reducing TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and minimizing ROI (Return on Investment)." It's not often that a vendor touts its ability to minimize an investment, and we decided the IBM slide presented at a TechEd show in Basel must be a mistake. Our firm yet fair readers have chipped in to explain what IBM must have really meant by minimizing ROI. The first reader to posit a guess came from the SCO-hater crowd, which is no surprise. The SCO patrol is on code red alert, looking for chances to take pot shots at SCO CEO Darl "Mr. Clean" McBride. "Personally I think its a typo," writes GeisT. "It's not ROI (Capital letter i), it's a small L. So what does ROL stand for in this case? Reliance on lawyers of course, its IBMs secret imdemnity plan for linux customers. Eat that Darl. :)" The second response? You guessed it. SCO hater. "My first though would be "Really Old Inventory", but looking into the situation reveals the true meaning of IBM's ROI: minimize your Relationship to Open-source IP," writes Brian Jones. "Now give me some candy." These are liberal interpretations of the text to be sure. It took awhile, but the enterprise types began to appear and expressed their dismay with the giant that is IBM. "R.O.I. = Reasonable Operator Initiative," writes Daniel Brown. "Having worked with IBM global services on occasion, this sounds dead-on to me. Contract out to IBM, and you lose any ability to take the initiative." Next came minimizing "Redmond's Overall Income" from Dax Farrer and minimizing "Realizations of Impropriety" from John Krivak. A whole class of readers shall remain nameless for minimizing the term minimizing right out of their responses. They simply attacked the ROI and left out the most tempting bit. Still, their creativity should be recognized. The responses are as follows: "Really Old Inventory, Really Old Ideas, Really Old Interfaces." Anyone seeing a trend here? "Really Old Idiots." Okay, that's enough. "Redundant Organizational Infrastructure, Reign of Ignorance, Return of Impotence, Reap our Income, Ridiculously Overpriced Investments, Rampant Overhead Investment and Route to Incontinence" Another reader chipped in with "Recognition of Irony," but that may have been a shot at us instead of IBM. The winner, however, comes from a chap named Merlin. He made strong use of the PowerPoint slide, showed linguistic excitement and even pitted IBM against itself. "ROI = Reliance On IBM (minimizing this would help reduce TCO too!) Double the fun!" Should Merlin make his whereabouts known, we may be able to treat to him to a beer or a non-alcoholic beverage of his choice and a piece of Carrion kit. ® Related Stories Longhorn RTM - what it means to you
Ashlee Vance, 04 Nov 2003

Sex and the City worms promise illicit thrills

Fans of Sex and the City were today warned to look out for emails claiming to contain a screensaver showing adult out-takes from the raunchy hit TV show. Instead of delivering illicit thrills, the emails carry one of two variants of a new email worm, called Torvil-A and Torvil-B). The infectious email typically travels with a variety of subject lines and message bodies such as: 'Real outtakes from Sex in the City!! Adult content!!! Use with parental advisory =)'. If the attached file is launched, the worm will try to secrete copies of itself on public Internet newsgroups. The worm will also forward itself every time an infected computer sends an email. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, said this spreading mechanism (something of a departure for virus writers) makes infectious emails look more plausible. So it's just as well that neither variant of the worm is particularly harmful, or rapidly spreading. Sophos has received a "handful of reports" of the two Torvil worms variants, making each more of a curiosity than a serious nuisance. As usual, these worms are Windows-only menaces - Linux, Mac, OS/2 and Unix users are immune. "Carrie Bradshaw's [Sarah Jessica Parker's] Apple Mac can't be infected by this particular worm, but PC users should ensure they follow safe computing guidelines and practise safe hex, treating all unsolicited emails with caution," comments Sophos' Cluley. The stars of Sex and the City are the latest in a long line of celebrities who have been used as bait by virus writers to catch unwary computer users. Other female stars exploited by virus writers include Britney Spears, Anna Kournikova, Avril Lavigne, Jennifer Lopez and Kylie Minogue etc. etc. ® Related Stories Telia blocks spam-sending Zombie PCs Dangerous Mimail variant knocks over anti-spam sites 'Kill Bill' Trojan fails to rack up body count The return of the celebrity virus
John Leyden, 04 Nov 2003

WorldPay floored by malicious attack

WorldPay - the Royal Bank of Scotland's Internet payment outfit - appears to have been floored by a malicious attack. The site fell over just before 8.00am this morning and hasn't been seen since. Detail are still sketchy and the full extent of the problem is not yet known. However, the company has just issued the following statement: "There has been today a coordinated effort by a third party to prevent our customers from accessing the WorldPay system. "This was detected automatically within a minute of its occurrence and work was immediately begun to address the issue. "Most regrettably, the consequences of this are that customers have found our services unobtainable and we have also been unable to contact customers via email to inform them of the situation. "We continue to work urgently to rectify these issues. "We apologise for the impact this is clearly having on our customers. We are doing everything we can to restore full service as soon as possible," it said. At the moment WorldPay has no idea when the service will be up and running again. ®
Tim Richardson, 04 Nov 2003

IT contractor wins IR35 case

IT contractor Roger Tilbury is celebrating today after winning his IR35 case against the taxman. The Inland Revenue had tried to prove that Mr Tilbury, from Bedford, was actually an employee of Ford Motor Company. But in his ruling yesterday Mr Stephen Oliver QC found that Mr Tilbury was not a Ford worker since he had a different colour pass to Ford employees, was not allowed to use the company's gym and was paid by the hour. The ruling also found that although Mr Tilbury had worked as a contractor at Ford for nine years, anyone else could have been substituted to do the work if necessary. In a statement Mr Tilbury said: "I'm delighted to have won, and relieved that it's over. It has taken more than two very stressful years to get to this point, during which time I had to put all investment in my business on hold, for fear of tying up funds." He also expressed his gratitude to the Professional Contractors Group (PCG) for its help and support during the case. Gerry McLaughlin of contractor outfit namesfacesplaces.com believes the ruling is important since it concentrated on the differences between Roger and an employee, and not the similarities. "The Inland Revenue's argument that many contractors are disguised employees is becoming more untenable by the minute. If we have a guy who has worked for the same company for nine years and he isn't caught by IR35, then who is?" said Mr McLaughlin. IR35 proved unpopular even before it was formally introduced in April 2000. Under its rules, IR35 extends employee status, and hence more burdensome income tax requirements, to self-employed contractors. ®
Tim Richardson, 04 Nov 2003

IBM marries Opteron and Xeon in cluster

IBM is taking its Opteron-based server to the next level by adding the kit as an option for the pre-packaged Cluster 1350 system. IBM's x325 system will now sit alongside the Xeon-based x335, x345 and x360 servers. These systems can be combined to form up to a 512-processor cluster. The system uses either gigabit Ethernet or the Myrinet-2000 interconnect and is similar to pre-configured clusters offered by the likes of HP and Dell. IBM is also touting improvements for the x345 and x360 systems used in the cluster. The x345 is shipping with the latest Xeon processors and a faster front side bus than previous servers. In addition, the x360 comes with new chips and can fit up to a 4-way system in a 3U slot. IBM is supporting SuSE Enterprise Server 8 (64bit), SuSE Enterprise Server 8 (32-bit), Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS 2.1 and Red Hat 9 (32-bit only) for the clusters. Testing is underway on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 (64-bit). The OS is expected to be available on the cluster by January of next year. IBM also offers the Cluster 1600 product that is centered around its Unix/RISC server line. An IBM insider has indicated that the company was looking into adding 2-processor Opteron blades as another option in its product line. Big Blue, however, has run into hurdles getting this form factor to work. The x325 system is already chock full of components, making squeezing that system into a blade shape tough. ® Related Stories IBM pounds server rivals in Q3 Sun shouts at analysts with customer wins IBM offers buy now pay later server deals HP pads Itanium server line with midrange kit IBM speeds up low-end server line
Ashlee Vance, 04 Nov 2003

Orange outage hits 10,300 punters

Orange has coughed up to a glitch that left more than 10,000 people without access to their mobile phone service. The snag surfaced late last week and affected punters who were upgrading or swapping their SIM cards. For some reason - and we ain't been told - things just didn't seem to click and punters were unable to connect to the service. In all, Orange reckons that some 10,300 punters were hit by the problem, which it says has now been resolved. The company has apologised for the problem and assured us that punters signing up now won't face a problem. The mobileco, however, is still working through the backlog to ensure that those hit by the incident are connected. However, El Reg is aware of at least punter who has been without a phone service since the incident kicked off last week. ®
Tim Richardson, 04 Nov 2003

VeriSign unveils flash new site seal

VeriSign today unveiled a redesign of its ubiquitous Trust Mark seal symbol. Instead of a static GIF image, the new Trust Mark features a Flash-based animated design to make it more recognizable online. By clicking on the new VeriSign Trust Mark, consumers can verify a business's legal name, determine the validity period for the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, and view their place of incorporation. Mike Foley, vice president of VeriSign Security Services, explained that the underlying technology behind the design had changed so that this information could be validated in real time - unlike earlier versions of the seal where information wasn't served dynamically. This also means that VeriSign can strip off the revamped Trust Mark seal from a site when a digital certificate expires, he added. The newly designed VeriSign Trust Mark is positioned as a way for VeriSign's customers to better communicate the authenticity of their site to potential consumers online. The new seal, available to VeriSign's existing US PKI customers from today, will be available to other customers in the run-up to Christmas. In recent months VeriSign has faced increased competition from rivals like Comodo and GeoTrust who offer certificates at a much lower price than the market leader. These firms will doubtless dismiss Verisign's revamp of Trust Mark as window dressing but at least VeriSign has avoided the temptation to resort to purple prose in unveiling its new seal. ® Related Stories VeriSign sells off NetSol VeriSign's Site Finder is undead There's certs and certs - VeriSign badmouths rivals LogoWatch: BT salvages new identity from corporate scrapheap
John Leyden, 04 Nov 2003

G5 cluster secures elite spot for Apple, IBM

With some help from Virginia Tech, Apple has managed to join the ranks of the high-performance computing elite, as the "Big Mac" cluster is set to capture the title of the world's third fastest supercomputer. The cluster made up of 2,200 G5 processors has reached 10.28 teraflops. This places it behind the 5,120 processor Earth Simulator system - 35.9 teraflops - and the 8,160 processor ASCI Q system - 13.8 teraflops. The results for the Mac G5 cluster, which was built at Virginia Tech, are appearing just as the maintainers of the top 500 list prepare to announce their latest high-performance computing results. Some last minute tweaking may occur, but Jack Dongarra, a researcher at the University of Tennessee and top 500 official, said the Big Mac cluster is all but assured third place. The new top 500 list will arrive during the Supercomputer Conference being held Nov. 15-21. Apple has been chided in recent years for falling behind Intel and AMD in PC processor performance. But its new relationship with IBM to use the Power PC 970 - aka G5 - processor has vaulted Apple to superstar status in the technical computing realm. Beyond performance, the Mac-based cluster also comes with a far lower price-tag than other top systems. The Virginia Tech researchers say they paid full price for the new G5s and still managed to build Big Mac for just more than $5 million. The Earth Simulator and ASCI Q systems cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain. An Itanium 2-based system from HP is expected to capture fourth place in the new top 500 list. The computer uses 1,936 1.5GHz chips and a high-speed interconnect from Quadrics. In an interview with Wired, Srinidhi Varadarajan, the lead architect of Big Mac, said he considered Itanic but sent it back to sea for a couple of reasons. "Ironically, they lost the gigahertz game," Varadarajan told Wired, referring to Intel. "(The G5) is extremely faster than the Itanium II, hands down." Itanium was billed to be the floating-point king, but it looks like IBM's design may well end up with the technical computing crown. The Linpack benchmark used to calculate the top 500 list measures a computer's floating-point execution performance. The Big Mac system also points to the success of homegrown supercomputer makers. It's one of the strongest systems to date to come out of a custom shop and shows that many businesses can have incredible computers in their data centers with a fairly low investment. Still, Varadarajan admits that the Big Mac required special attention to cooling and other infrastructure investments that some companies may not be able to afford or have room to build. "The supercomputer needed a cooling system, and its designers worked with Liebert, a division of Emerson Network Power, known for its comprehensive range of protection systems for sensitive electronics. Based on the heat load for the system, normal air conditioning units were insufficient. Liebert was able to provide its new high-density rack mounted cooling system within the budget and time constraints of the project. They also custom designed computer racks along with power distribution equipment," Virginia Tech says on its Web site. Researchers at Los Alamos National Lab have been working on supercomputer class systems than can fit in an average-size closest and operate without special cooling systems. The project is somewhat ironic given that it takes place at the same facility where ASCI Q is cooled by expensive specially designed cooling systems that resemble mini-nuclear reactors. A marriage of Los Alamos' Green Destiny system and Big Mac may be exactly what the business world has been looking for to avoid the Gelsinger co-efficient. ®
Ashlee Vance, 04 Nov 2003