17th > November > 2003 Archive
Dell has forced its customary hard terms on Brocade Communications in return for a very important channel to the low-end SAN market, according to sources. Brocade will need to pick up a significant amount of business from the deal to protect profit margins. The deal, which sources say was influenced by EMC, will see Dell bundle an 8-port low-end Brocade switch with the Dell-EMC-badged CX200 mid-range Clariion disk array, and a yet-to-be announced CX-100 array. Dell already OEMs the same 8-port switch from Brocade and sells it as an individual item, but the bundles are certain to increase Brocade's sales into the growing low-end of the storage networking market. These are mostly sales to greenfield-sites that have yet to be locked into any one switch vendor's customer base. As part of the forthcoming bundles, the 8-port switch will carry a street price of around $500 to $700 per port - well below the current $800 to $1,000 from other Brocade outlets, or from Brocade's low-end SAN rivals QLogic and McData. Although the deal represents a good opportunity for Brocade to boost its sales, the boost will have to be large in order to protect the company's profit margin. The cost of making SAN switches is related to the amount of integration of the silicon inside the devices, and Brocade is widely perceived to be one step behind its rivals in this area. The company is already facing serious low-end pricing pressure from rivals McData and QLogic. Dell has a reputation for forcing narrow margins on its suppliers, but the news is the latest demonstration that pricing has become a key issue in the SAN market. Last week McData admitted that because of protracted pricing negotiations with its largest OEM partner EMC, it will miss its third quarter revenue by a significant margin. Brocade was competing with QLogic and McData for the bundling deal, for which the sources said Dell had initially demanded prices equivalent to between $350 and $500 per port on the street - prices that no supplier could match in the short term. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Related Research The Storage Outlook: Managing to maintain growth
The Government's big idea to digitise essential public sector services looks to be falling out of favour as local councils decide to wait and see before spending taxpayers' money on e-government projects such as online procurement and e-voting initiatives. It seems local authorities are reluctant to commit to major IT initiatives until such schemes have been carried out elsewhere and are proven to work. Worse still, a number of council IT departments are either "indifferent" or "sceptical" about some of the technologies currently being touted by central Government and the IT industry, according to analysis by eGov monitor. Areas singled out include interactive digital television services, smartcard systems, e-democracy tools and Whitehall's own flagship e-government project, the Government Gateway. This downbeat assessment of e-government in the UK - which throws further doubt on the Government's target of e-enabling all services by 2005 - follows analysis of 100 submissions made by local authorities. Said Joe Organ, of eGov monitor: "Our analysis possibly shows that for the UK at least, a one-size-fits-all 'blanket approach' to the task of implementing e-government at local level is distinctly unsuitable." This month a United Nations' report questioned the effectiveness of e-government claiming that its growth had "not gone entirely smoothly". The report warned that a "too-grandiose approach" to e-government could result in failure or "white elephants" that cost tax payers dearly. ® Related Story UN warns of e-gov 'white elephants'
Dresden will be chosen for AMD's next chip plant on the back of a €700 million ($825 million) loan guarantee and a further €100 million or more in grants, all from local and national German government. So said Reuters this weekend, citing an unnamed "industry source" - undoubtedly AMD staffers given their use of the word 'we' in reference to the company gaining the approval of the local administration. According to the source, AMD is waiting on approval for €336 million of that €700 million cash injection. If the deal goes through as planned, the chip maker could announce the decision to build its plant in Dresden at the end of the week. Essentially, the federal and state administrations will lend AMD money to build its multi-billion dollar 300mm wafer fab in order to guarantee the jobs the construction and subsequent operation of the plant will require. Reuters notes that unemployment in the area stands at 13 per cent, so it's no wonder government is keen to encourage AMD to expand in Dresden if it means more jobs. AMD already employs around 2000 people. Last week, it emerged that AMD was choosing between expanding its existing, 200mm fab in Dresden or building a plant - almost certainly in partnership with IBM - in East Fishkill, New York State. East Fishkill is site of IBM's most up-to-date US plant and home of the giant's advanced semiconductor research facility, where the two firms are already co-developing 65mn and 45nm process technologies. ® Related Stories Does AMD want out of the chip making game? Silicon on insulator key to AMD 90nm success - analyst AMD to ship 1GHz FSB Athlon 64 FX Q1 '04 - SiS
Security researchers have uncovered a serious flaw in the authentication and data transfer mechanisms in some Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones. Data including a user's entire phonebook and calendar could be nicked from a range of Nokia and Ericsson phones using what researchers Adam and Ben Laurie of A.L. Digital describe as a "SNARF" attack. They have written a paper warning how confidential data could be stolen from some Bluetooth enabled mobile phones. "It is possible, on some makes of device, to connect to the device without alerting the owner of the target device of the request, and gain access to restricted portions of the stored data therein, including the entire phonebook," the paper states. "This is normally only possible if the device is in 'discoverable' or 'visible' mode, but there are tools available on the Internet that allows even this safety net to be bypassed." Ericsson T68s, T68is and T610s, along with Nokia 6310is and 7650s are vulnerable to the exploit whilst in 'visible' mode, according to A.L. Digital's preliminary research. Look out for that backdoor! Nokia 3610is are vulnerable to a second, even more invasive attack. The memory on this phone (and some other models) can be accessed by a previously trusted ("paired") device that has since been removed from the trusted list. By exploiting this vulnerability an attacker is able to copy all the information on a targeted device, including media files such as pictures and text messages. This backdoor attack could also permit phreakers to access Internet or GRPS services without a user's knowledge or consent, A.L. Digital warns. The media spotlight has recently fallen on bluejacking: the technique of anonymously sending messages to users of other Bluetooth-enabled devices who have switched on the technology and made their handset 'visible' to other users in the immediate vicinity. Bluejacking creates a means to send unexpected, unsolicited messages to users even in areas where there is no network coverage. This can all be innocent fun but A.L. Digital warns that bluejacking may also be used by attackers as a means to trick users into pairing with an attacker, exposing users to further (more serious) attacks. Wake up call In the interests of full disclosure, A.L. Digital has published a paper on the security shortcomings of bluetooth without waiting for manufacturers to develop security fixes. A.L. Digital said it did this because it believes that it is more important to "alert the general public to the fact that the problem exists, and to give them the information required to adequately defend themselves". A.L. Digital advises users to set their device to "invisible" or can simply shut off Bluetooth when not using it. "To permanently remove a pairing, and protect against future backdoor attacks, it seems you must perform a factory reset, but this will, of course, erase all your personal data," it adds. In order to validate its research, A.L. Digital has developed a number of proof of concept tools which it is prepared to share with manufacturers - but not with the Internet community at large. ® External Links Serious flaws in bluetooth security lead to disclosure of personal data, paper by A.L. Digital Related Stories Bluetooth boom spawns 'bluejacking' Verizon text tapping bug run to ground SMS phone crash exploit a risk for older Nokias How to crash a phone by SMS Mobile phone Java risks 'minimal' In the event of nuclear attack, your data is safe (story about A.L. Digital’s ‘Bunker’ storage facility) Related Products Get all your Bluetooth gear from The Reg mobile store
Light at end of the tunnel glows for network equipment vendors But it's not burning bright The enterprise and carrier networking sectors are at last heading for an upturn. But so very slowly, according to two new Gartnerr studies Worldwide Ethernet switch port shipments, according to the market watcher's preliminary number crunching, totalled 43.5 million units in the third quarter of 2003 - 10 per cent up on Q3, 2002. But before Cisco et al start popping the champagne corks, the same stats show that global Ethernet switch vendor revenue declined 10 per cent from a year ago to $2.6 billion. "Viewed in context with other factors, these results suggest overall market conditions are improving," said Rachna Ahlawat, principal analyst for Gartner's Enterprise Networking and Communications Worldwide group. "However, it remains to be seen if the increase in revenue is just seasonal. The networking market is dependent on economic conditions and their effect on the business cycle." Unsurprisingly, Cisco Systems dominated the market in Q3, claiming 73.6 per cent of worldwide Ethernet switching revenue and 37.4 per cent of port shipments. Nortel, 3Com, Foundry and HP lined up (in that order) to complete the top five rankings. Overall ranking of the vendors shifted slightly since the last quarter, with Extreme Networks dropping out of the top five. Foundry Networks had a good quarter with 15.5 per cent growth that propelled it up two spots to fourth place. Results over the last eight quarters show signs of market consolidation, with the top seven vendors' market share increasing to 92 per cent in Q3, from 85 percent in Q4, 2001. In the carrier space Gartner found that global service provider router (SPR) sales totalled $541 million in Q3, 2003, 19 per cent up on the previous quarter. This is the second consecutive quarter of positive growth since the beginning of 2002 - which bodes well for next year. "This extended upturn has increased optimism that the SPR market will enjoy sustained growth in 2004," said Jennifer Liscom, Gartner analyst. "Cisco experienced another strong quarter as orders from service providers were stronger than expected in the United States. Juniper also showed solid results buoyed by strong sales in the core." Cisco Systems kept its lead in the worldwide SPR market in Q3, claiming 55.2 per cent of worldwide revenue and 51.4 percent of shipments. Juniper, Nortel and Redback came in second, third and fourth respectively, with Nortel solidifying its position after enjoying very healthy 39 per cent sales growth. ®
"Totally unfounded," Deutsche Telekom hotshot Kai-Uwe Ricke last week said of rumors that online daughter T-Online was to buy a 70 per cent stake in the struggling online giant AOL. But there may be more truth to this story than he is willing to admit. On Friday, The New York Times cited two anonymous AOL company executives who confirmed that Richard Parsons, the CEO of Time Warner, held preliminary discussions with T-Online about a possible merger or joint venture involving AOL. Apparently, the talks ended without a deal. Earlier, the Suddeutsche Zeitung (for those who read German, here's the link to the original article) wrote that Parsons and Thomas Holtrop from T-Online were introduced to each other by Thomas Middelhoff, the former Bertelsmann CEO who in the past worked with AOL in AOL Europe and is now employed by Investcorp in London. Bertelsmann ended its relationship with AOL when in 2000 America Online purchased Time Warner for... (Dr. Evil pinkie finger to mouth trepidation)... $112 billion. According to the German paper, Darmstadt-based T-Online offered $1 billion for a 70 per cent stake in AOL. Time Warner was to keep 30 per cent. It's no secret that Time Warner would like to discard its struggling Internet arm, even though Edward Adler, a spokesman for Time Warner, told The New York Times that "America Online delivers over $1 billion in free cash flow to Time Warner each year and that AOL Europe is on a path to profitability in ’04 as promised". T-Online, on the other hand, is still flourishing: it has 12 million customers, mostly in Germany, but also in Spain, France, Portugal and Austria. Not only does T-Online wants to expand internationally, it also has cash reserves of €4 billion. Which makes you wonder: if it can’t get AOL, who will it buy next? ®
Top500 released its latest list of the world's five hundred most powerful supercomputing rigs, yesterday. Naturally enough, Intel was quick to spin the announcement of the 22nd edition of the Top500 as a thumbs up for its own high-performance computing endeavours. So, 189 of the 500 systems listed are based on Intel processors, it said. That compares to 115 based on "the closest competing architecture", whatever that is. It still leaves Intel in the minority, of course, but with the number of Intel-based systems on the list growing from 56 a year ago, that could change if the company maintains its growth rate. Almost 17 per cent of Intel-based systems were constructed out if Itanium chips, with the vast majority based on IA-32 Xeon processors. Intel took two of the top five slots, but failed to break into the top three. Leading the list with gigaflop maximum and peak scores of 35860 and 40960, respectively, was the Japanese Earth Simulator Center's NEC-built 5120-CPU supercomputer. Next was the Los Alamos National Laboratory's 8192-chip AlphaServer-based ASCI-Q with scores of 13880 and 20480. And straight in at number three came the Virginia Tech's X, comprising 1100 dual 2GHz Apple Power Mac G5s, and scoring 10280 and 17600. NCSA's Tungsten scored 9819 and 15300, putting it in fourth place. Tungsten comprises 1250 dual 3.06GHz Xeon-based PowerEdge 1750s. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's 1936-chip 1.5GHz Itanium 2-based MPP2 system came in fifth place thanks to gigaflop scores of 9819 and 15300. The highest-scoring AMD-based rig comprised 2816 2GHz Opterons and scored 8051 and 11264. Called Lighting, it resides in the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and rated sixth on the list. You can read the full list of the top 500 supercomputers here. Having missed the top three, Intel is already gunning for the leadership slot on the next list, due to be announced in June 2004. It will equip the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with a 4000-processer Itanium 2 rig. And it's spending $36 million and donating engineering resources to get more IA-32 and IA-64 systems on the list (surely "to bolster R&D and investment in future HPC designs and solutions"? - Ed). ® Related Stories G5 cluster secures elite spot for Apple, IBM Super fast Linux supercomputer goes online AMD strikes two cluster deal with Los Alamos AMD Opterons to power Great Supercomp of China
Blanket coverage of affordable broadband in the UK could happen by 2005, BT says. The UK's dominant fixed line telco is to extend its demand registration scheme for ADSL by setting triggers for a further 2300 exchanges, serving some two million homes and businesses. The scheme enables BT to map demand for broadband in areas currently not served by ADSL. If enough people register their interest, then BT will convert the exchange. Previously, these exchanges had no trigger level leaving ADSL wanna-haves in a state of limbo, simply not knowing if their local exchange was likely to be commercially viable for broadband or not. If - and it's a big 'if' - all these exchanges are converted to broadband, then 99 per cent of the UK would have access to an ADSL-enabled exchange. Despite today's announcement, it still means that 600 of the "very smallest exchanges" are without a trigger level. BT claims that these exchanges - serving around 100,000 households in total - will require different "partnership investment approaches" if they are to receive broadband. BT also acknowledged that it would also have to look at the problem of the "small percentage" of people who live in DSL-enabled areas but who cannot get it, because of such issues as line quality. In a statement BT said that "100 per cent broadband coverage of every UK community is achievable by 2005 if industry and government pull together". Its words echo that of e-minister Stephen Timms, who (now here's a coincidence) only last week called for the UK to "take the next major step and deliver broadband availability to every community by the end of 2005". In a statement BT chief exec Ben Verwaayen admitted that there was still much to do and called on further public/private sector partnerships to get things moving. "Setting triggers does not by itself deliver broadband, and we should all be impatient to speed the process up. Partnerships will do this and ensure that the UK leads the world’s large economies in becoming 100 per cent broadband-enabled with rapid take-up of broadband by citizens and business," he said. ® Related Story UK govt calls for 100% broadband coverage by 2005
AMD today rolled out Opteron 148, 248 and 848 processors, as anticipated. The three chips - for one-way, two-way and four- to eight-way systems, respectively - cost $733, $913 and $3199 a pop, when ordered in batches of 1000 processors. The 148 and 248 have come in higher than we'd heard might be the case. We'd been expecting the 148 to be priced at $669, the prices of the 146 before AMD reduced it to $438 on 27 October. The 848's price was on the mark. AMD also confirmed today that the new chips support 400MHz DDR SDRAM memory, and added that new Opteron 146, 246 and 846 chips will soon be released that support PC3200 DIMMs too. Those three and previous Opterons currently only support 333MHz PC2700 DDR DIMMs. As yet, only the 248 is available - both the 148 and 848 will ship next month, AMD said. ®
Microsoft's information-by-radio Spot watch technology will now not hit the market until early next year rather than this week. And some of the software giant's hardware partners may not even ship product then. Citizen, for one, may decided not to offer a Spot-compatible watch after all, ExtremeTech reports, citing company executives. Spot ('Smart Personal Object Technology') was announced by Microsoft last January, backed by watchmakers Citizen and Fossil. The MSN-branded system uses FM radio signals to broadcast weather, traffic and other information to $10-a-month subscribers' watches. The signals are broadcast from sites in 100 US and Canadian cities and can reach 80 per cent of the North America, Microsoft has said. A month or so back, we heard that the Fossil Spot watch had been delayed. That setback has now been confirmed. A third Spot supporter, Suunto, is also believed to have rescheduled its product launch too. Citizen has also rescheduled, potentially indefinitely. If Citizen does abandon Spot, that leaves Suunto and Fossil as the only companies keen to commercialise the technology. Officially, Citizen has made no decision as to whether it will continue with the Spot project, Stuart Zuckerman, senior VP of merchandising for Citizen USA, told ExtremeTech. However, Microsoft separately said that only Suunto and Fossil Spot watches will be shown on its Comdex stand this week. As for the cause of the delay, the finger appears to be pointing at the radio infrastructure, which may be too weakly powered to allow subscribers to get up-to-date information exactly when they want it. The delay has been instigated to provide time for further testing and tweaking, it is believed. For Fossil, the delay comes after a sequence of set-backs for its other hi-tech timepiece, the Palm OS-based Wrist PDA. Launched one year ago this week, the Wrist PDA was due to have shipped last June. Despite denying claims from company insiders that the product had been put back to Q1 2004, Fossil has nevertheless been forced to put back the product's release four times since June. The company's release target is now... er... Q4 2003/Q1 2004. ® Related Stories Fossil blames Flextronics for Wrist PDA delay Amazon.com drops Fossil Wrist PDA Fossil Wrist PDA delayed to 30 Sept. Fossil delays US Wrist PDA shipment Fossil says Wrist PDA will ship in the US this month after all Fossil puts back Palm Wrist PDA launch to 2004
'Dothan', Intel's 90nm update of its Pentium M processor, will officially launch on 4 February, say moles from within the Taiwanese notebook industry - the source of almost all of the world's branded and unbranded mobile computers. And in addition to the anticipated 1.8GHz model, Intel will offer 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz part, according to report at DigiTimes. Such a move mirrors what Intel appears to be doing with its other 90nm processor, the desktop oriented 'Prescott'. Originally intended to sit above the current Pentium 4 line-up, in terms of clock frequency, low-end Prescotts will now overlap the previous generation with 2.8GHz and 3GHz versions. The motivation behind the move is to begin commercialising 90nm products as soon as possible, allowing Intel to start making money on the project while it attempts to solve the problems of rising power consumption at higher clock speeds. Offering both Prescott and Dothan at the same clock frequencies as existing Pentium 4 and Pentium M parts will encourage buyers to opt for the former rather than the latter, the chip giant hopes. The three Dothans will be priced at $326 (1.6GHz), $455 (1.7GHz) and $637 (1.8GHz). The 1.6 and 1.7GHz varieties of Pentium M currently cost $294 and $423, respectively, so Intel will charge only a nominal premium for the extra 1MB of L2 cache Dothan offers over Banias. Intel is expected to offer a 1.3GHz Low-voltage and 1GHz Ultra-low Voltage Dothans next quarter - the latter at $262. DigiTimes cites sources at Intel's Taiwan operation as claiming 90nm yields on 300mm wafers now at least match those of 130nm, 200mm wafers. What's not clear is if 'yield' refers to the number of working processors being produced or the percentage of good to bad chips per wafer. Given the higher number of 90nm chips that can be punched out of a 300mm wafer, we hope it's the latter. ® Related Stories Dothan notebooks to ship Jan/Feb 2004 Intel i855GME to pave way for 'Centrino 2' next year Intel Centrino 2 to offer 533MHz FSB - report Intel to shrink Celeron to 90nm
Microsoft is porting its anti-spam technology to the latest version of its Exchange messaging platform. Early versions of Microsoft's SmartScreen spam-filtering technology have already been introduced in Outlook 2003, MSN 8 and Hotmail. The technology will be available as an Exchange Server 2003 add-on, called Microsoft Exchange Intelligent Message Filter, in the first half of next year. The anti-spam product announcement was made yesterday by Bill Gates during his Comdex Fall keynote. The Microsoft chairman spoke of the technology as a means to "shift the tide" in the war against spam. Microsoft defines its SmartScreen technology as a "patented technology based on a machine-learning approach, where decisions regarding whether email would be considered spam are made by email customers themselves and then incorporated into a feedback loop to train the filter to know what to look for". "Hundreds of thousands of Hotmail subscribers have volunteered to classify millions of email messages as legitimate or as spam", it adds. So all that spam you received in your Hotmail account wasn't a pointless waste of time, after all. Extend, embrace and complement Microsoft says there is no single answer to the spam problem but it is committed to a "broad spectrum of approaches to help put spammers out of business". It is positioning its SmartScreen spam filtering technology as complementary to other filtering technologies. Sophos, which recently entered into the anti-spam market with the acquisition of specialist vendor ActiveState, welcomed Microsoft’s entry into the anti-spam market while raising questions about aspects of the software giant’s approach. According to Graham Cluley, Sophos's senior technology consultant, Microsoft is talking about monthly updates to its anti-spam definitions. He asks if this is frequent enough to deal with rapidly-changing spamming techniques and suggests that Redmond may have to introduce more frequent updates. Microsoft proposes to block spam when it reaches an Exchange Server. But many companies are more interested in filtering out spam before it gets that far into their network, Cluley says. Also he questions how easy it might be for sysadmins to adapt Microsoft’s technology to the needs of individual organisations. SmartScreen Support for safe and block sender lists, domain spoofing and a range of other spam-blocking and filtering techniques are built into the core Exchange 2003 product. SmartScreen extends this with a form of heuristic (automatic) spam detection. On a broader scale, Microsoft will take a "coordinated approach that includes advanced technology, industry self-regulation, consumer education, effective legislation and targeted enforcement against illegal spammers to solve the spam problem". Microsoft is of course working with America Online, Yahoo! and EarthLink to develop a so-called "Trusted Sender" programme. The project, set up in April this year, will allow "legitimate senders of emails to distinguish themselves from spammers," according to Harry Katz, a Microsoft program manager, as quoted in the Washington Post. The aim of the Trusted Sender schemes is to adapt email systems so that they recognise "good unsolicited bulk email" from fraudulent spam and discard only the latter. Now Microsoft defines spam as "unsolicited bulk or unsolicited commercial e-mail". Maybe this is only the view of Redmond's Anti-Spam Technology and Strategy group - Microsoft's marketing gurus may have a different view - but it's a definition against which we can measure Microsoft's future anti-spam policy pronouncements. ® External Links Microsoft declares war on spam Web giants to declare war on spam The conspiracy against our in-boxes Trust me, I'm a spam message! We hate Spam (email your friends) US anti-spam laws 'will legalise spam' UK Govt fouls up anti-spam plans, say experts MP unleashes brilliant anti-spam plan
The Government has launched a radio advertising campaign warning drivers that, from December 1, they face a £30 fine if caught holding a mobile phone while driving. Those nabbed holding a phone face a £30 fixed penalty fine, which can be upped to £1000 if the matter goes to court. Drivers of vans, lorries, buses and coaches face a fine of £2,500. The Government also has plans to increase the fixed penalty fine from £30 to £60 and slap drivers with three penalty points as well although it's unclear when that might be introduced. Said road safety minister David Jamieson: "Driving whilst using a mobile phone is dangerous - you are risking your own life and those of other road users. "By making it an offence to hold a mobile phone when driving - we will make the roads safer for us all. I urge drivers to remember: missing a call won't kill you - an accident quite possibly could." Research published earlier this month revealed that there was widespread ignorance concerning the new legislation with half of UK drivers unaware of the law change. ® Related Story Drivers ignorant about mobile phone law Related Products Search for phone headsets in The Reg mobile store
A meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards body this week is likely to clear the way to create a standard based on the Lightweight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP), a technology backed by wireless switchmakers and NTT DoCoMo but in opposition to Cisco’s view of the wireless LAN. The LWAPP creates a standard way for WLAN switches to communicate with ‘thin’ access points, enabling different brands of switches and APs to be combined on one network. Discovery and provisioning of APs would be automated and there would be a framework for configuring and upgrading large numbers of APs and managing sessions from a central point, all secured by IEEE 802.1x authentication. Various technical concerns have been raised by the IETF, but the vendors are sure they have addressed these and that the body will now set up a working group to create a formal document, to be voted on in 12-18 months’ time. This is likely to rename the protocol as Control and Provisioning of Wireless Access Points (CAPWAP). A standard of this type would be a major boost for the central switch/thin AP approach, which, despite huge hype this year, has not gained great traction outside the small and medium enterprise space, partly because of the dominance of Cisco, with its fat AP architecture, in large companies. A standard would reduce the perceived risk of adopting products from start-ups in a market that will certainly undergo shake-out in the coming year, although with a timescale of over a year, by the time it is a reality, that shake-out will already have happened, and Cisco will have come out with its own new benefits. The LWAPP initiative is seen as an attempt to counteract Cisco’s effort to establish its own WLAN technologies as de facto standards by virtue of its enterprise market share; and to give companies a risk-free alternative if they are starting to chafe under Cisco’s high prices and often dictatorial approach. The strongest argument that Cisco always has for its moves to establish de facto standards – and therefore its own control of its key customers – is that it can move more quickly to provide the facilities that enterprises really need. It claims that the industry bodies governing WLANs, the IEEE, IETF and the Wi-Fi Alliance, do not focus specifically on enterprise needs, nor do they move rapidly enough for corporations that are looking to adapt their business models quickly to cope with new business. It has sought to establish its WLan technologies as a tickbox requirement in large sites through its CCX Extensions program. This certifies compatibility of devices with its Aironet range, the argument being that companies can easily assemble an interoperable wireless system with common management and security frameworks – provided these are based on Cisco’s technology, which brings with it Leap, the heavy AP approach and Cisco QoS mechanisms. The LWAPP group aims to bring all the smaller players together behind a united front against Cisco, rather than leaving them to try to chip away at the giant single handed. By making APs from a host of vendors – from the fairly large players like Proxim and Symbol to the small start-ups – interoperable, this model could alter the component design and deployment business models, making systems cheaper and lowering barriers to entry, argue its supporters. Like any multivendor process, there will be complex politics and technological debate along the way, and this one even involves multiple standards bodies. Standards like this, that concern Layers 1 and 2 of the network model, are usually the domain of the IEEE but the two bodies have worked together unusually closely on LWAPP, according to Airespace, one of a host of wireless switch start-ups, and one of the primary authors of the protocol. Including Layer 3 components – the domain of the IETF – gives LWAPP greater flexibility, allowing APs and switches to use any network, provided it supports IP, according to supporters. But this does not alter the fact that there is considerable potential overlap and conflict with the IEEE, particularly its 802.11k work in progress, which defines many resource management functions that are also central to LWAPP. A critical decision is how to split functions such as security between the AP and the central switch or router, a split that impacts latency, a crucial measurement for time sensitive applications such as voice over IP. These functions are part of the media access control (MAC) layer, and so affect the designs of the WLAN chipmakers. But not only do most of these chipmakers support Cisco CCX, their standards are also governed by the IEEE. A long drawn out process or too many instances of in-fighting could play into Cisco’s hands and its arguments that it provides the most reliable platform for enterprise WLANs, and ensure the success of its would-be de facto standards. © Copyright 2003 Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
Microsoft’s Windows Mobile had mixed fortunes last week, losing its top executive, but gaining a Samsung handset launch and strong predictions from Gartner Group. But while Gartner talked about OS features, what Microsoft really needs is to get its phones on to the A list at major operators - something that still seems far away. Vodafone will be critical, and it flexed its muscles in the phone market again last week, increasing its estrangement from Nokia with plans to rely on Asian manufacturers for its 3G launch. Such politics make Gartner Group’s assessment of Windows versus Symbian look as if it has missed the point. It argues that Microsoft will succeed in the market in the way that it always does – with a couple of poor early releases, but a strong product on version 3.0 – while Symbian, it says, it hampered by its committee status from improving its OS rapidly. This ignores the politics and the particular decision-making process of the mobile phone industry, which is very different from that of Microsoft’s traditional Windows markets. The launch of Samsung’s first Windows Mobile handset, the SCH-i600, which is being offered by Verizon Wireless, is marketed on these traditional Microsoft terms, as offering a familiar PC-style interface and good synchronization with PCs. Valuable in some enterprise situations, but hardly an argument to win over the mass consumer market, which moved on from PC interfaces long ago. There is no sign that the SCH-i600 will be one of Verizon’s primary offerings, but rather a niche handset to boost the US carrier’s enterprise ambitions. It is a good move for Windows Mobile, but hardly decisive. A closer relationship with Samsung, which has been ambivalent about the Microsoft OS in recent months, would be highly valuable however, given that many operators are now looking to the Japanese and Korean vendors to lead the way in handset design. Vodafone sources told the UK’s Sunday Telegraph that Nokia’s current 3G devices do not meet its requirements and it is looking to Japanese vendors. Vodafone, like other European operators, has cited lack of suitable handsets as one reason for the delay in roll-out of W-CDMA services, and the operator turned to Sharp for its first Live! handset. It has indicated in the past that it will spearhead its 3G launch with Samsung and Sanyo phones. How much this is down to technical considerations and how much is politics is unclear. The Japanese vendors are well known for their innovativeness, but Vodafone is equally well known for wanting to reduce its dependence on Nokia and work with vendors over which it has greater control. Vodafone wants to emulate Japan’s NTT DoCoMo and create a brand not just for its carrier service but for its whole user experience, closing down the operating system, heavily customizing the handsets and applications, influencing the future developments in cellphones and operating systems. In short, a range of influence that no carrier outside Japan has dreamed of before, but which is now the goal of all the international majors. A happy by-product for Vodafone and the other operators would be to reduce dependence on the big handset makers, which have always held the upper hand in the relationship. This has led to the rise of the white label phone makers, which manufacture operator-branded devices to the carrier’s specifications. There are several problems in achieving this dream. One is that the handset makers currently have stronger brands than the operators, at least in Europe – well over half of the customers of the Carphone Warehouse retail chain specify a Nokia phone, regardless of whether it has the most advanced features, and Nokia, in particular, is throwing as many dollars and brains as Vodafone at enhancing this asset and transforming itself into a consumer electronics brand à la Sony. This is why, although Vodafone may score points over Nokia through closer ties with Sharp, Sanyo and Samsung, it is in no position to ignore the Finnish giant altogether. The second problem is that, if operators turn to white label manufacturers directly, they will find companies that almost certainly lag the market in terms of innovation and technological expertise. These companies’ skills lie in efficient manufacturing, leaving the burden of design and engineering with the customer. A handset customer will provide this with no problem – and most cellphone makers outsource at least some of their production – but operators have no track record in these areas. So while smaller carriers may turn to the ODMs (original design manufacturers), you won’t catch Vodafone doing that for any critical models. Instead, it has lighted on handset makers that have significant design capabilities, but are sufficiently weak in market share terms against Nokia to be prepared to submit to the wishes of the world’s largest mobile operator, sacrificing their own brand for snatching some business from the Finns. The Asian manufacturers are particularly susceptible as, in Japan, the operators tend to specify designs, while in Europe the phonemakers design the models first and then offer them to the networks. The third problem for the operators seeking to bypass the handset maker is that they have no experience of or talent for selling mass market goods. They are service providers and have no reason to be excellent at the mundane but critical factors that make a phonemaker successful – inventory control, channel management, supply chain integration. So the best route is the one that Vodafone has the clout to take – taking the upper hand in a relationship with a handset maker that is expert at all these things. This may be a challenge for Nokia, but it is certainly no comfort to Microsoft either. Although it has tied up with Vodafone on mobile web services recently, this is a partnership, once again, targeted at the enterprise, not the mainstream. On other occasions, Vodafone has said it will not adopt a Windows Mobile phone. If it wants to wriggle out of the stranglehold of Nokia, it certainly will not want to become reliant on Microsoft. The smartphone market will be all about user interfaces such as Series 60/90 for Symbian and the interface for Vodafone’s own Live!. In this market, the benefits of the PC-style interface will not cut the mustard. Note: Juha Christensen, founder of Microsoft’s Mobile division, has resigned to set up his own company in Silicon Valley, apparently concerned with mobile web services. The Dane’s move to Microsoft in 1999 was seen as a great coup, since he had previously led operating systems development at Symbian. © Copyright 2003 Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related Products The latest PDA phones in The Reg mobile store
A federal judge in Illinois this week ruled that the maker of a universal garage door remote didn't violate the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, in a closely watched case that offers hope to critics of the controversial copyright law. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer dismissed part of a civil suite brought by the Chamberlain Group, a leading maker of automatic garage door openers, against Skylink Technologies, Inc., a competitor that markets a universal replacement for lost garage door remotes. "I think this is another classic case of the DMCA being used in an anti-competitive fashion," says Gwen Hinze, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which closely tracked the case. "Clearly, Congress didn't intend on the DMCA being used to prevent interoperable consumer products." At issue was a clever technique the Skylink remote employed to bypass Chamberlain's implementation of "rolling code" technology, which is detailed in court transcripts from the case. Older garage door openers relied on a unique I.D. number programmed into each remote and the receiver sold with it. If the remote sends the right I.D. to the receiver, the receiver opens the garage door. Rolling code technology, introduced in the early 1990's, added another layer of security by ensuring that a garage door opener never transmits the same sequence twice. As implemented by Chamberlain in its Liftmaster Security+ line of garage door openers, the remote and the receiver keep internal counters that begin in synch, and are incremented by a constant value (three) each time the door is opened. When the user presses the button on the remote, the remote transmits the current value of the counter, along with the static I.D. number. The receiver will only open the garage door if both numbers are correct. Except, of course, that the user might press the remote outside the presence of the garage door receiver, perhaps more than once, putting the counters out of synch. Chamberlain's solution to this quandary is to allow the receiver to accept incorrect counter values, as long as they're no more than 4,096 above the expected value -- allowing for over 1,300 stray button-pushes in the lifetime of the remote. But even if the user surpasses that number, the system has a reset mechanism that keeps the remote from turning into a paperweight. If the receiver gets a counter value outside of the "forward window," it waits for a second button push. If it sees that the counter was incremented by the correct amount (still three), and the I.D. number is right, it assumes the remote was subject to good deal of jostling, but is nevertheless the right remote. The receiver simply synchronizes its counter to the value transmitted by the remote, and opens the garage door. "Code Grabbing" Fears Skylink figured out that this last feature makes the whole rolling code song and dance unnecessary. With each button press, Skylink's Model 39 universal garage door opener sends the same sequence of three counter values: the first transmission sends an arbitrary value; the second sends a value that falls outside the forward window (and a similar "rear window") established by the first; the third just adds three to that. And the door opens. The I.D. number must still match, which makes the Model 39 something less than a burglar tool. But that didn't deter Chamberlain from claiming that the Model 39 is an illegal circumvention device under the DMCA. In a hearing last June, Chamberlain attorney Karl Fink argued that the device compromises the security of the Chamberlain garage door openers by transmitting the same sequence each time. Now a tech-equipped garage burglar can sniff the sequence out of the airwaves and replay them later, "and that will be the same thing as if the Model 39 itself transmitted the codes," said Fink. "The very feature of the rolling code was to defeat the code grabber," the lawyer argued. "That's exactly what's being defeated by the Model 39 because now the code grabber situation is back in play again. You might as well not have a rolling code system because you have now defeated it." The argument that it was Skylink's remote and not Chamberlain's reset mechanism that made the rolling code implementation useless is exactly the sort of logic that judges have often accepted in interpreting the DMCA. But in her ruling on Thursday, Pallmeyer dodged the question, and found that consumers have a right to replace a lost remote with a competing product without violating federal law. "In addition, a homeowner has a legitimate expectation that he or she will be able to access the garage even if the original transmitter is misplaced or malfunctions." The ruling hinged on the fact that Chamberlain's product packaging and website didn't prohibit consumers from using other manufacturer's remotes. If it had, the court's reasoning could have produced a different decision. That troubles EFF's Hinze, who worries that vendors will begin imposing explicit restrictions on what compatible products a consumer can use with something they've bought. "Whether that would be enforceable is a good question," says Hinze. Copyright ©
IBM has its finger in every next-generation home console pie: Sony, Microsoft and now Nintendo. Sony earlier this year confirmed that IBM-developed product will make it into Sony's Playstation 3, when it said that the 'Cell' processor being co-developed by the two firms, along with Toshiba, will be used as the basis for the next Playstation. This month Microsoft signed IBM to produce the chip that will be used to power Xbox 2. And now we have Nintendo. IBM developed the chip for the GameCube, a PowerPC 400 series based processor codenamed 'Gekko', so it was always a logical choice for future Nintendo consoles. But speaking last week at the unveiling of a TV-sized supercomputer based on 1000 specially designed PowerPC chips, IBM vice president of technology and strategy Irving Wladawsky-Berger said the platform will be the foundation for next-generation consoles from Nintendo and Sony, according to a throwaway line in a Reuters report at the weekend. So there you have it: IBM will be involved in the development and/or production of processors for future consoles from all three of the major market players. Of course, the possibility exists that Wladawsky-Berger inadvertently mentioned Nintendo when he should have referred to Microsoft, or that Reuters got it wrong. Nintendo is working on future successors to the GameCube and the GameBoy Advance. It is expected to announce the former next May at the E3 show. Curiously, with GameCube development partners IBM and ATI now confirmed as Xbox 2 developers, speculation is mounting that the new Nintendo and Xbox 2 may be one and the same thing, with the two firms essentially offering two, individual products both derived from a common platform. Indeed, ATI has already been named by Nintendo as its future graphics partner - despite being signed by Microsoft, nominally Nintendo's rival. It's hard to imagine to competitors being happy to share one key component supplier, let alone two, such is the risk that commercially sensitive information might be exposed to a rival. No, the only way they would happily allow this situation to exist is if they are working on the same console platform. That the two might co-operate against Sony has been the subject of rumour for some time. It may even herald an attempt to create a licensable platform on which both companies build a high-margin software business while others commoditise the hardware. ® Related Stories Microsoft picks IBM as Xbox 2 processor partner ATI confirms Xbox 2 win Nintendo to announce 'new game product' in spring ATI confirms Nintendo gig (we think)
ReviewReview The uptake of Intel's Centrino mobile technology is gaining pace. You only have to look at the increasing number of Centrino-based notebooks arriving through our doors to realise that. It's clear why too, as notebook manufacturers had been waiting for a mobile solution like this for some time, writes Jalal Werfalli. A couple of years back I developed a small battery rundown script and remember being highly impressed when a notebook could keep that going for a couple of hours. With Centrino I have seen battery life extended up to five hours and more, so working on the go is now becoming a practical reality. Quick to jump on the Centrino bandwagon is Rock, which here has submitted one of its latest notebooks named after the mythological winged horse. As you would expect, the CTS features a Pentium M processor, in this case running at 1.6GHz. Of course, with Intel's Enhanced SpeedStep technology this can vary from 600MHz right up to the full 1.6GHz in multiple steps depending on the power scheme you have selected in Windows XP and whether or not you have the mains plugged in. This is done by dynamically switching the core voltage and bus frequency depending on CPU demand, and results in lower power consumption. That said, in MobileMark 2002 tests we found the CTS to be a little more power hungry than other Centrino notebooks we've seen. A glance at the results shows a battery life of just over three hours with the Windows power scheme set for a portable/laptop. Battery life was only 14 minutes better when I repeated the test with both the 802.11b wireless antenna and built-in webcam deactivated from within the BIOS. I'll come to the webcam later, but considering that Rock quotes a battery life of 4.5 hours I was a little disappointed that I could not manage a similar result. You can get a 12-cell battery option for an extra £175 but this is not provided as standard and, unfortunately, I was unable to test this. However, Rock claims up to eight hours of usage with this battery. Moving on to the rest of the spec, inside is a board sporting Intel's 855GM chipset. This comes complete with onboard graphics in the shape of Intel's Extreme Graphics 2 engine, which dynamically grabs anything from 8MB to 64MB from the 512MB of DDR system memory in order to process graphical data. Although this offers a tidy and more economical setup, the offshoot is weaker 3D performance especially when compared to a dedicated graphics processor. A 3DMark 2001 score of 1893 is a testament to this, but is nonetheless a typical result for a Centrino-based machine with integrated graphics. It's also worth noting that the CTS is not designed for intensive gaming, but rather for working on spreadsheets and other office applications. To this effect, Rock includes a copy of Ability Office, although whether you will find this useful is debatable. As for 2D performance, I wasn't that amazed. The overall SYSmark 2002 score was down on the disclosed result put in by the Acer TravelMate 661LMi, and that utilised a 1.4GHz processor. However, a respectable score for SYSmarks' Internet Content Creation test was achieved. For PCmark 2002, the results were good, but you have to bear in mind that this is based on theoretical tests rather than real world applications as in SYSmark. The rest of the specification is rather good. For storage, you get a capacious 40GB hard drive and, as mentioned earlier, a webcam is ingeniously integrated into the top part of the bezel that surrounds the bright and sharp 14.1in TFT screen. This worked rather well, with smooth motion and enough definition to distinguish the whiskers in my beard. The picture was on the dark side, but for a cam with dimensions as small as this you cannot expect much better. This CTS model also comes with a Sony DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive housed along the right side of the chassis, next to the microphone, headphone and audio out (S/P DIF) jacks. Interestingly the rest of the ports can all be found on the left side, as none exist around the back. While this does place them all within easy reach, I would personally prefer to see the D-SUB refitted to the back so that a chunky D-SUB signal cable doesn't stick out from the side when I want to use an external monitor for a dual display setup. The remaining connections include two USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire port, and an S-video connector. One RJ45 socket for a 10/100Mbps LAN, plus an RJ11 for the Internal 56Kbps internal modem top off the rest of the connectors. In terms of usability, the keyboard does feature a normally shaped Return key, but it and the Backspace key are a little too narrow for my liking. There is a slight hint of keyboard bounce, but all the keys are responsive and have enough travel to make typing a positive process. The touchpad operated very smoothly although I found the space between it and the space bar too small. In fact, it was very easy to accidentally touch the pad while typing, in effect triggering a double click, or inadvertently selecting text, and/or moving the cursor. The two shiny black buttons below the pad behave the same way as left and right mouse buttons, and are intersected by a scroll key. The three chrome-coloured buttons mounted on the front are used as shortcut keys to activate the wireless antenna, for launching your Internet browser and Email program. To be frank, I don't think they are well placed as I managed to accidentally trigger all three functions at one stage or another during testing. Speakers are typically tinny too but that's pretty much the norm these days. The CTS measures 312 x 273 x 27mm, and tips the scales at 2.5kg. It's reasonably sturdy, but the styling is a bit bland. However, carrying it around is not an arduous task and Rock gets you started by providing you with a case. The CTS is available in a number of configurations, but this version will set you back £1197.33 and that includes £20 for carriage too. MS Windows XP Home Edition is preinstalled, and it is another £58.75 to go Pro. Verdict The Rock CTS does what it says on the tin, although the tin in this case is a little bland. The most notable feature is the integrated webcam, and for a notebook built on Centrino technology, I expected more battery life. The CTS isn't a bad notebook, but you can get a better machine elsewhere for the same price. Copyright ©2003, Trusted Reviews Rock Pegasus CTS Rating 70% Price £1177 More info The Rock web site
Nvidia today began shipping its latest mobile graphics chip, the GeForce FX Go 5700, to notebook manufacturers, who expect to offer product based on the part to punters early next year. The 130nm 5700 builds on previous GeForce FX Gos by offering technology only available to date from Nvidia's top-end desktop graphics chips, such as the GeForce FX 5900 and 7500. They include the second-generation CineFX engine, Intellisample HCT anti-aliasing system and the Ultrashadow hardware-based shadow-casting technology. The chip can process up to four pixels per clock and apply up to 16 textures per pass. It also includes the latest version of the company's PowerMizer power consumption reduction technology. PowerMizer 4.0 improves the overall power profile of chip components, and adds SmartDimmer, which controls the power consumption of the LCD panel which the chip is ultimately connected to. Intel is working on a similar technology for incorporation into future mobile chipsets. Its 'Alviso' chipset, due during the second half of 2004, controls a notebook's backlight on the fly to reduce the backlight brightness - and thus its power consumption - based on what's displayed on the screen. Intel claims its Display Power Saving Technology (DPST) can cut screen power from Centrino's 5W to an average of 3W. The 5700 features Nvidia's Video Processing Engine (VPE) 3.0, which adds support for high-definition component video for HDTV-out. The new chip supports up to 128MB of DDR graphics memory across a 128-bit memory interface. It uses a 400MHz RAMDAC and supports AGP 8x. ®
Broadcom last week fired a broadside against Wi-Fi chipset maker Atheros, alleging the latter's proprietary performance and range-boosting Super G technology slows down nearby standards-based wireless networks. According to Broadcom, Super G, which doubles 802.11g's 54Mbps raw data rate (but only if you have two products containing Atheros chipsets at either end of the link), interferes with nearby networks, sometimes dragging data rates down to 1Mbps - even when they operate on a different channel. Broadcom said it would detail its research this week, to allow independent verification of its findings. Atheros reckons no one will be able to do so. It denies the claim, saying its system causes no more network degradation than any other Wi-Fi product. D-Link, which makes WLAN kit based on Atheros technology follows the chipmaker's line, PC World reports. At issue is Super G's Turbo mode, which simultaneously runs data across channels five and six of the 11 22MHz-wide segments into which the Wi-Fi specification subdivides the 2.4GHz band. Because all but three channels overlap there is inevitably some interference with adjacent channels, but this is an issue with almost all Wi-Fi products. By choosing channels five and six, says Atheros, it has ensured that channels one and 11 remain clear. Not so, alleges Broadcom. It says Turbo cross-channel interference stretches further than the IEEE standard 'allows', causing problems with networks that have flipped to channel one or 11. As a result, Wi-Fi networks utilising these bands slow down by dropping their data rate in order to reduce the number of errors induced by the interference. This sort of thing has happened before, particularly with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi getting in each other's way, though Bluetooth's ability to hop around the 79 1MHz channels it splits the 2.4GHz band into generally ensures that interference is kept to a minimum. That hasn't stopped Broadcom, for one, touting proprietary co-existence technology. Today it unveiled InConcert, which allows Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to "intelligently share" the 2.4GHz band - but again, only if you have Broadcom Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chips in all the relevant clients and access points. Essentially, InConcert forces both radios to synchronise their transmissions to avoid interference. ® Related Stories Intel blasts proprietary Wi-Fi tweaks Atheros triples Wi-Fi range to 1km Proxim doubles 802.11a wirefree bandwidth to 108Mbps
It was several months ago that we asked readers to think up a snappy new name for our Mobile, Wireless and PDA Store. At the time we said we'd draw up a shortlist and put it to a vote. Sadly, circumstances have conspired to drive this ambitious plan onto the rocks. Firstly, the Reg Strategy Boutique failed even to agree on a shortlist - despite more than a dozen power brunches dedicated to the matter. Secondly, the Vulture Central propellorheads estimated the cost of the back-end coding required for such a mammoth undertaking at around €150,000 plus VAT, pizza and sundry expenses. We're sorry to further report that none of the entries were considered suitable for adoption. Apparently, it has been decided to run with monday: or Braxton or somesuch thrusting rebranding moniker. This sorry state of affairs does, however, allow the small, unelected commitee nominated to decide the winners to make its choices purely on merit, rather than commercial viability. To recap: five runners-up get a Reg t-shirt of some description, while the overall champion secures a cool £100 to spend in the shop plus a Reg goodie bag. Read on in awe and wonder: Now, it's no surprise that more than 50 entries nominated The RegiStore. Not enough of the old lateral thinking going on there, we feel. Of course, there were plenty of other variations on the El Reg theme. Regi Steady Shop (submitted by Hesham) carried the distinctly unsavoury prospect of Ainsley Harriet fussing around the store in a pinny, while Reg-E-Mental! (Paul Fairhurst) will be filed away for use when we open an extreme sports centre in Cumbria. Likewise, any foray into the anger management business may well end up known as Seeing Reg (Maryse). Very good. Others tried a play on Cash'n'Carrion, such as Greg Clarke with Carrion Anywhere, or Jonathan Cowie's airCraft Carrion. Then you've got the acronyms, including Wayne Klapwyk's snappy Real Electronic Gadgets, Intelligent Systems, Technology Excites Reality. Geddit? This is a little shorter: TRASH: The Register's Alternative Shopping Haven (Philip Rolling), although obviously there are going to be no t-shirts for that cheeky monkey. Neither will Steven Walker, Miles Gaynor nor Ross McNaughton be keeping out the winter chill wrapped in Reg apparel, offering as they did 801B Cups, Bandwagoneers.com! and expansys.com, respectively. There's no need for that, is there? Equally unrewarded are Adrain Evans's RegWare Phonehouse and Nicolas Ouedraogo's RegLess WireHouse, entries which laugh in the face of the legal airstrike which would undoubtedly follow their adoption. Enough of this trademark-busting madness and on to the rather more poetic. Consider if you will Aetherium (PNT), Prometheus Unwired (Michael Major) and the deliciously obscure etherchattel by Kevin. Lovely. Not lovely enough, though, for our elite panel of adjudicators, who have decided to award runner-up prizes to the following: The Cash Register - Robert Killington, James Kaye, and also Victor Markwart. Short, sweet and to the point. The Roamin' Empire - Jonathan Cozens. Very, very good indeed. Pedo's Wireless Gadgeteria of Love - Tom. We're not entirely sure what it means, and are a little concerned about the possible overtones. However, it sounds a lot more inviting than "Mobile, Wireless and PDA Store". And the winner is... ... Paul May, whose name comes out of the gold envelope for Ether Tigers, a magnificent anagram of The Register, no less. So, congratulations to Mr May, and thanks to all those many readers who took part. Winners will be notified by email shortly. Bootnote No we really don't know what they're going to rename the store, so please don't ask. There will be a breathless fanfare of trumpets on El Reg when the time comes.
England's Rugby World Cup team is screening team hotel rooms and dressing rooms for electronic bugs. The Australian media have pointed to the security measure as a sign of England' supposed "paranoia". England's security stance is more Austin Powers than James Bond, according to the Ozzies. But England coach Clive Woodward said the procedure was a sensible security precaution necessary to exclude any risk of the team's game-plan falling into opposition hands. "We have a machine that anyone can buy in the shops that checks for bugs," Woodward told sports site Planet Rugby. "We have this little device and it is no bigger than a matchbox and Tony Biscombe, who is our IT man, goes round the hotel rooms and the team rooms and makes sure there are no devices." The Sun-Herald reports that the England had to ask for mobile phone relay equipment to be turned off because it sent anti-bugging equipment haywire. Woodward said the England team has been checking for bugs for two years following concern that the British Lions may have been spied on during a 2001 tour Down Under. Following victories in semi-final fixtures last weekend, England face Australia in the final of the competition this Saturday in Sydney. In other tangentially-related IT/sports news, IT company QinetiQ has devised a formulae to explain the kicking prowess of Jonny Wilkinson, England's star player. Yes the reason England have reached their second World Cup final is: KP = CSP - (EnC(s+w+r+yⁿ) + PsS( cr+sc+mt+xⁿ) + PhS(c x t x w) No we're not doing the explaining. Go to QinetiQ. Now if only QinetiQ had as much ingenuity in keeping up the 1901 Census site. Just an idea. ® Related Stories Media, people blamed for 1901 census site cock-up 1901 Census farce runs and runs All the (football) World Cup news that's not fit to print
PM Tony Blair has welcomed BT's bid to bring affordable broadband to the UK. Addressing the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) at its conference in Birmingham today the PM explained how the last six years has seen a "dramatic increase in the use of the Internet". He went on: "Broadband is a key driver in the increase in productivity that we are striving for. To quote from your own [the CBI's] recent report on the subject it has 'become integral to improving supply chains throughout the UK'. "We have made great strides in this area. Broadband is now available to over 80 per cent of the population - up from 67 per cent a year ago. Last year I announced that the Government would spend £1 billion on broadband for its own purposes. "I welcome Ben Verwaayen's announcement this morning that BT is eager to work with us and local communities to broaden access. I share with him the vision of achieving 100 per cent national coverage by 2005," he said. In fact, it's not just Mr Blair who is chuffed to bits with the news. Telecoms regulator, David Edmonds, said it was "excellent news" adding that "100 per cent broadband coverage for the UK by 2005 is now within sight". But he added: "Delivering the final few percent will still require considerable effort from all those involved." ® Related Story Broadband-for-all possible by 2005 - BT
ICANN has won the first round of its legal battle over the introduction of a controversial “wait list service” run by VeriSign. On Wednesday, District Court Judge John F Walter denied a preliminary injunction by registrars Dotster, Go Daddy and eNOM over the WLS. The registrars had argued that the service broke ICANN rules over building consensus and damaged competition in the Internet market. It asked the court to put a stop to the service until a court case in December. The judge’s decision to deny the motion came in two parts. One demonstrated just how cleverly ICANN’s bylaws have been written by deciding that ICANN wasn’t in fact accountable to registrars in its decision- making, so long as it doesn’t “compel registrar action”. The judge argued that although the WLS will see VeriSign gain control of all lapsed domains, it doesn’t actually compel other registrars to do anything and so ICANN is free to decide as it chooses. The second part - which is far more damaging to the Dotster case - denied that the WLS will damage competition. Instead, the judge argued, the service would open up the market for all registrars to offer a domain reservation service. His judgement read: “It would appear that because all of the approximately 170 registrars would be able to offer WLS to consumers, as opposed to the approximately 50 that currently offer their own wait-listing services now, the options available to consumers of Internet domain names could greatly increase. Accordingly, it appears that the implementation of WLS has the potential to benefit registries, registrars who do not currently offer wait-listing services, and, most importantly, the public.” All is not lost This does not bode well for the case. However, it is still going to court and the judge had earlier got ICANN's word that the service would not go live before the court case (otherwise the judgement would have read very differently) so the injunction denial is far from fatal. Plus, there are several other strong arguments that can still be used to stop the service and it may be that Dotster’s lawyers simply chose the wrong legal approach. The strongest argument is that by approving the WLS unchanged the public will in fact be worse off, despite the apparent increase in competition. VeriSign will be granted a monopoly over all expiring .com and .net domains if the service goes ahead. It has come up with a per-domain cost of $35 for the service - an extremely high figure which it has consistently failed to explain. The same service is currently offered by competitors at a fraction of the cost. The terms of the deal will also automatically make VeriSign the dominant player in the market. The cost of registering and renewing a domain is currently $6. Under the WLS, VeriSign will give other registrars a “discount” of $7 for the first 250,000 subscribers, meaning they pay VeriSign $28 for the service, plus the $6 to renew the service - a total of $34. Therefore, with VeriSign offering the service to the public at $35, registrars will make only $1 per domain. Since VeriSign seems to think that the cost of setting up such a service (with a reasonable profit) will cost it $31, it is inconceivable that other registrars will manage to do it for $1. Hence, just to compete with VeriSign, they will have to run at a heavy loss. Once the 250,000 initial subscribers are dealt with and VeriSign has taken the lead in the market, the discount will be increased to $11. This gives everyone else an extra $4 to play with and will probably just cover the costs of the service. So we have a situation where VeriSign makes money hand-over-fist while squeezing the rest of the market. Even if other registrars take the plunge, advertise aggressively and steal some of the market, VeriSign still makes a whopping profit every time. How this can be seen to increase competition or be in the public’s interest is anybody’s guess. The profitable raffle The other extremely potent argument is that the new service is actually worse for all concerned. The existing market for expiring domains is haphazard but it has been settling down and a variety of different schemes are available. Some charge a non-returnable fee which lets you decide which domain you want if/when it becomes available. If you don’t get it, you are able to chose another domain without having to pay extra. Others offer the fairer service that you only pay the agreed fee if you manage to actually get the domain. The proposed WLS imposes a worse system than both of these on the entire market. It will also be more expensive. Subscribers will be required to pay the fee even if they don’t actually get the domain. Rather than be offered a professional service, customers will find they are simply buying a raffle ticket for their chosen domain. It is hard to think of a worse way to make expired domains available. But don’t take our word for it. The most remarkable thing about the whole WLS controversy has been that every single body asked to look at it has come out against it. The whole thing started in December 2001 when VeriSign decided it would be nice if it reasserted its complete control over the .com and .net domains by being giving exclusive ownership of all domains that expire. It released its proposals in January 2002 to widespread criticism. Later that month, it released a “revised” version which was exactly the same as the original except the cost per domain had been reduced by $5 to $35. Again, it was widely criticised. In response to this, a fortnight later VeriSign released a justification document which failed in every respect to answer pertinent questions, stating only that the service would be a failure “if costs exceed revenue”. Verisign claimed registrars would most benefit from the WLS, so its case was somewhat undermined when the Registrars Constituency put out an unprecedented resolution opposing it. VeriSign countered this by released a letter in which 18 registrars said they supported the plan. Five of these were owned by VeriSign, two of them are very closely tied with the company that VeriSign would have given the monopoly to and at least two denied they had actually signed the letter. VeriSign continued with its misinformation campaign by releasing an “analysis” in March in which it claims 57.5 per cent of registrars favoured WLS. Close inspection revealed it to be no more than a statistical manipulation and hopelessly inaccurate. That famed decision-making process In April, ICANN farmed the question out to a “task force” to look at the proposal. Two months later, the task force gave it a unanimous thumbs-down. As often happens with ICANN when it wants something passed, just a week after the task force’s report came out, a second report mysteriously appeared in front of the ICANN Board giving broad approval to the plan. A second report from the DNSO - which can usually be relied upon to give the right answer - was then commissioned. Perhaps surprisingly, it came down heavily against VeriSign’s WLS with a 6-1 vote against. So with two reports from within ICANN highly critical of the WLS and with the body representing those supposedly due to benefit making a public statement denouncing it, what did the ICANN Board do? Approved it. This is what immediately led to the Dotster lawsuit, quickly joined by other registrars. Within a few weeks, two Congressmen proposed a review of ICANN’s decision-making processes quoting the WLS saga as the main driver. But, so far, ICANN has again managed to avoid allowing transparency and accountability into its secret and elitist decision making. There is some movement under new CEO Paul Twomey and the fact that ICANN has posted all the case documents on its site is certainly a positive step forward. With a judge effectively agreeing with ICANN’s self-written carte blanche when it comes to making decisions, it has come out of another tussle stronger. While there is little chance it will back down in face of the court case because it cannot afford to lose face, it should use this boost in its authority to force VeriSign into heavily reducing its proposed costs in return for handing it an unjustifiable monopoly. That way it shows its strength, keeps VeriSign happy, and builds confidence in its new structure. If it doesn’t do that, this issue is certain explode in its face in the not-too-distant future. ® Related links All the court dcouments Judge denies preliminary injunction Related stories VeriSign: profiting from name dropping Congressmen turn on ICANN ICANN moves against VeriSign retired domain land grab Internet monopoly alert!
Media giant Time Warner appears to be censoring subscribers to its Road Runner Net access service by corrupting newsgroup messages it fears contain pirated material. (Update: Here is TW's explanation) For the past fortnight, users of the $44.95 a month service have been complaining that the vast majority of newsgroups messages are “incomplete”, making them unreadable. While, due to the nature of newsgroups, a certain percentage of incompletes are unavoidable, in a well-run system they usually account for less than 10 per cent. Road Runner customers have been faced with over 90 per cent incompletes and the problem appeared overnight, we have learned. Since the rest of the Road Runner system appears to be functioning as normal and Time Warner has not reported any technical difficulties, it is reasonable to infer that the company is actively filtering messages in a bid to prevent the exchange of unprotected media files. Such a move would fit in with Time Warner’s approach to the Internet. It is a leading advocate of controlled and rights-managed content on the Web - unsurprising perhaps since it is the world’s largest media company and owns large chunks of the film, music, TV and book market. And, of course, AOL. Recently, it has signed deals with and been heavily pushing content-controlled services on Road Runner. Rhapsody from Listen.com (owned by RealNetworks) is Road Runner’s preferred music software. It costs $9.95 a month and offers only streamed music. You can burn tracks onto a CD for an extra 79 cents per track. Movielink is Road Runner’s answer to the video and film market. Films can be downloaded for between $2.95 and $4.99. The film is playable for 30 days and, once opened, for 24 hours, after which it corrupts itself. Road Runner has made downloading movies from newsgroups impossible by introducing a 10Mb limit on all messages. Even with modern linking computer files such as Par2, it would take an enormous number of 10Mb files to piece together to make a whole movie. Reducing that limit to 2Mb in order to remove most MP3 audio files would unduly restrict the service from serving legitimate files. For that reason, it is believed Time Warner has introduced an automated filter to weed out MP3 files. It is not working properly however and has had the effect of wiping out the majority of messages posted. While it could be argued that such restrictions are almost inevitable in an Internet service from Time Warner, the company gives no warning of the fact and states in its FAQ on newsgroups that Road Runner “provides an uncensored newsfeed. As such, Road Runner does not control the content of the newsgroups available to you.” It admits to filtering binaries from non-binary groups and HTML from all groups except Microsoft and also filters for spam. However, this still leaves a large number of files unaccounted for. Road Runner is a cable service run in the US with three million customers. Vice president of Communications at Time Warner Cable, Mark Harrad, Has not replied to our questions on the matter. ®
Three senior former Gateway executives charged with fraud by the US Securities and Exchange Commission last week have denied any wrongdoing. Last Thursday, the SEC filed a civil action law suit against Gateway's former chief financial officer John Todd as well as former chief exec Jeffrey Weitzen and controller Robert Manza. The three are charged with masterminding a scheme to illegally manipulate company earnings to meet analyst expectations three years ago and for lying about the state of Gateway's PC business at the time. The SEC wants the courts to fine the trio and pass an order preventing them from becoming company directors ever again. But Todd this week hit back with a statement through his lawyers denying the charges. "This suit is wrong and should never have been authorised," said attorney Robert Rose of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton in a statement on behalf of Todd. Both Todd and Weitzen say they expect to be exonerated in court, IDG reports. The three accused executives departed Gateway in early 2001 during a shakeout of its top management ranks. Gateway has since restated its results over the period (Q2 and Q3 2000) over when the alleged fraud took place. Late last year, Gateway settled shareholder litigation related to the alleged misstatement of company earnings. The SEC last week said it had ended its near three-year investigation into the company’s accounting practices. Gateway has "neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing" but agreed to the entry of an administrative order prohibiting any future violations of US securities laws (i.e. it's on probation). After satisfying itself that Gateway has put its house in order, the SEC has agreed not to fine the company. ®
UpdateUpdate As previously reported by The Register, Sun and AMD have formed a relationship around the Opteron processor and Solaris x86 and are teaming to lure software partners such as Oracle onto their systems. Over the next year, Sun will roll out two and four processor Opteron servers. The systems will be available with Linux and Sun's own Solaris x86 operating system in both 32bit and 64bit flavors. Sun also intends to work with AMD on larger SMP designs in the future. Developers will have access to the Sun servers by the end of this year. A generally available 64bit version of Solaris x86 will be ready by the middle of next year. Sun plans to offer its Java Desktop System - a Linux OS - on Opteron workstations. This will serve primarily as an application development system. The company, however, will not comment on when the workstations will arrive. Sun's CEO Scott McNealy made this announcement at the Comdex trade show, as El Reg first predicted. AMD's CEO Hector Ruiz joined McNealy on stage. Ruiz's appearance should come as no surprise given the magnitude of this deal for AMD. Up to this point, IBM was the only major server vendor to back Opteron - doing so with a system aimed at high performance computing and little else. Sun's Opteron ambitions appear to stretch much wider with the company talking about rolling out an "entire line" of Opteron kit. Sun has brought AMD into its iForce partner program for testing applications and porting software onto Solaris x86. One of the key partners here is Oracle, which plans to run its database on Opteron systems for both Linux and Solaris. A 64bit version of Oracle for Linux is due out by year end, but the company would not comment on when similar software will be ready for 64bit Solaris x86. Merrill Lynch server guru Steve Milunovich was quick to chime in on Sun's news. "Sun might get lucky in that Itanium could prove disappointing," he wrote in a research note. "CEO McNealy has long held it's difficult to introduce a new instruction set into the computing arena. Analyst Joe Osha recently suggested that Intel may emphasize Yamhill, its 32-bit extension processor, over Itanium. If Itanium drops the ball, Opteron is poised to pick it up and run." The pressure of being Sun's biggest critic must be getting to "The Loon." Last we checked, Intel had a stranglehold on the 32bit chip market. Most industry experts are looking for the Yamhill extensions to be 64bit, making chips based on the technology competitive against Opteron. But, hey, Miloonovich has an unparalleled reputation in the industry and a heck of a cheerleading outfit collection, so maybe he's onto something the rest of us aren't privy to. Sun's move toward Opteron gives the company a natural extension to both its workstation and server lines. Sun has seen its share of the workstation market dwindle by sticking with RISC-only systems but now gets one of the top performing x86 chips in the industry. On the server side, Sun is expanding its lines of x86 servers, placing the Opteron boxes alongside its Xeon and Athlon systems. In addition, Sun opens a new channel for 64-bit computing. This gives Sparc customers an alternative should they want one and puts pressure on Intel's flagging 64bit Itanium processor. The move also helps address criticism Sun has received for being too tied to its Sparc architecture. Illuminata's Gordon Haff summed this up well in a research note issued Monday. "Sun is doing bold again - something that it does well, though it may be trying too many bold things at once. It is certainly setting itself some tough development and support challenges at a time when financial analysts are calling on it to cut costs and save money. But, anyone who has been around the computer industry for a decade or more can tick off the names of many, many companies - including most of the Route 128 minicomputer makers - that did not go bold when they should have, choosing instead to continue conducting business as usual until there wasn't any more business to conduct. Sun, if nothing else, is working hard to change its pace and place in the game." Along with the Opteron systems, Sun announced a big win for its Java Desktop System. The Chinese government will roll out 500,000 to one million PCs with the software over the next year. "This, I believe makes us the number one Linux desktop player on the planet," McNealy said. "The goal is to reach the Chinese government's goal of 500 million alternative desktops, and you can decide what alternative means." Sun's software chief Jonathan Schwartz forecasted this move last week in an exclusive interview here. The deal brings Sun's desktop business into the black even though it sold the Java Desktop System at well under the $50 per desktop gong rate. ®