16th > December > 2003 Archive

‘Gouging’ memo leaves Diebold red-faced

The archive of internal correspondence from the politically-connected ATM giant Diebold - which is bidding for many electronic voting contracts across the US - is a gift that keeps on giving. Diebold has its own answer to critics who want a verifiable paper trail. Incredibly, the e-voting terminals don't leave behind such information. It plans to make the modifications so expensive that city and state officials balk at the cost. Steven Dennis at the Maryland Gazette last week unearthed correspondence from a Diebold engineer who advised that "any after-sale changes should be prohibitively expensive." Diebold had told the Gazette that printers - required for the paper trail - would cost between $1,000 and $1,200 per machine. Given that printers can be found at Best Buy for as little as $50, voters are justified in questioning what makes a Diebold-approved printer quite so expensive. Explains support technician 'Ken': "There is an important point that seems to be missed by all these articles: they already bought the system," he wrote: "At this point they are just closing the barn door. Let’s just hope that as a company we are smart enough to charge out the yin if they try to change the rules now and legislate voter receipts." Ken later explains what 'yin' means. The State of California recently mandated that its electronic voting machines produce an auditable paper trail, although not before 2006. Although paranoia is rife, comments by Diebold CEO Wally O'Dell have done little to allay public confidence. O'Dell is a top tier fundraiser for the GOP, and eleven of the top Diebold executives have also made Republican donations. Earlier this year, O'Dell wrote: "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." Diebold recently used the DMCA in attempt to oblige ISPs to take down the archive of internal correspondence, which surfaced this year after it was left on a public ftp server. ® Related Stories Electronic Voting Debacle [start here] E-voting vendor sued for DMCA takedown Diebold gives up e-vote clampdown California mandates e-voting paper trails Fraud potential found in e-voting systems Black Box Voting Author replies Computer ballot outfit perverts Senate race, theorist says
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Dec 2003

The Internet's ‘background radiation’ – who pays?

LettersLetters We published some interesting statistics recently in our story Watching the Net's background radiation. OK, this is more curio than crisis, but we asked "Who pays?" And you had plenty of suggestions. Who pays? Well, the best way to motivate people to clean up their traffic is to bill them for it… There's a problem though. My friend in Australia is on a metered broadband connection (he pays per byte after a monthly threshold is reached)... when he was hit with a virus, it generated a lot of outbound traffic, and that blew his quota and landed him with a big bill. If providers got serious about cost recovery (and ultimately, they will have to demand that users pay for that they use) users might find themselves paying for security vulnerabilities as well. This in turn will lead to litigation against Microsoft (being the ultimate source of many users' vulnerabilities) ... and an acceleration towards *nix. If users are billed for what they use then inefficiencies in the system are uncovered and ironed out. Anything less propagates these inefficiencies, while lowering the quality of service provision, increasing the price consumers ultimately pay, and failing to encourage vendors to innovate. Stuart Udall Send the bill for the background radiation to Bill Gates. He deserves it, particularly if "the theory that a lot of the Internet's static is generated by business computers, which are running Microsoft Windows" is true. Erik Pearson. As to who pays , bill the polluters - those who send needless traffic, and those who leave their thrumming networks idling. Spammers should be first against the wall, and the idlers should be 'billed' with proteins to fold, aliens to find or some such appropriate community service... Pete Harvey "And who do we send the bill to, at the end of the day?" Answer: the billable will get billed. Precedents: - the Poll Tax - the Child Support Agency - undergraduate "top up" fees - Equitable Life - pensions We are dealing with bureaucrats, utilities (ISPs and telcos) and other semi-public bodies in this topic. Manufacturers don't come into it. So expect the "big fat target" theory to apply. - the underclass can't pay - the fast/rich won't pay (will negotiate exceptions, etc) - Joe Cable-Modem and John Broadband will have some incremental hikes - SMEs will get baited-and-switched (like on energy bills) - the military/industrial/academic complex will get a hike - eGovt will suffer reducing QoS (i.e. their clients will pay) Oh, walled gardens will have less litter. But you knew that. This might make them a viable business model (for the 5th time of trying....) PC Without a doubt the bill should go to Microsoft. Having recently installed a broadband connection through my Linux box with a view to using the firewalling features of the OS I noticed a few things. Having turned on packet logging and watching my log files grow at an alarming rate I decided to do some investigation. The majority (approx 80%) of the packets rejected by the firewall as being unsolicited are NetBIOS broadcast packets. Even using a TCP/IP only stack on windows does not prevent windows from attempting to build master browser lists etc. With the explosion of the broadband market many more computers are now connected to the internet for much longer periods than recently. Many of these machines due to the Microsoft gestalt on the market will be windows based. Not having corporate firewalls (or any kind of firewall for that matter) to filter out this traffic, it is dumped onto the internet backbone. Along with the increase in the home market for broadband are the smaller businesses up to 20 or so staff who are also finding it feasible to have a broadband connection to the internet instead of the mail spooling and dial on demand setups they had before. These are also the sort of businesses to run MS only shops with little or no fire walling preventing this "noise" getting onto the Internet. It is a simple matter of economics and skills. These smaller businesses have no skills themselves and at hourly rates are not prepared to pay an external consultant to spend the time necessary to put the necessary tools in place. Being one of these consultants I can say from experience that SOHO type organisations do not have the budget to concern themselves with this type of problem. As more and more people and smaller organisations take advantage of the broadband offering this noise is only going to increase. The real problem is that windows is first and foremost a peer to peer network and as Microsoft strives to make the operation of the machine more transparent to the user it will always employ this type of architecture to hide the complexities of networking from the user. Linux machines have to have the facility specifically enabled and is possible to hide this traffic from the Internet (Samba) as part of the configuration. While I can't speak authoritatively for other non MS OS's I have it in the back of my mind that this a similar concept in that any peer to peer discoveries have to be specifically enabled as opposed to being an integral part of the OS like Windows. Hence if you want the root cause of the noise to foot the bill I suggest sending it to Microsoft Bruce Lauf The last IETF had a presentation from the IAB, done by Microsoft's Bernard Aboba. Ironic that he presented a similar graph, but it was about virii/spam. In that case, it is TCP connections which are being completed. You are likely right on the ball about it being owned Windows boxes. What to do? Get rid of Outlook. The virii problem is a direct result of intentional features put there by Microsoft. They ignored the IETF's careful and very long security considerations section of the MIME specification. A decade later, they still won't admit it was a serious mistake. Michael Richardson I'd be more worried about the 2w 2.5Ghz transmitter sitting INSIDE my den for wireless internet or my cel phone before giving a crap about historic radiation coming from space, but that's just me. Luke Morgan Thanks for an excellent discussion starter. Two issues spring to mind 1) Volume taxation...should any form of taxation be introduced based on volume of data moving through an account would there be a "base line" that would have to be passed before applying - i.e. your 10mb of data per annum is free etc. and who is taxed... 2) Polluter Pays - this common theme in environmental economics is the concept that sprang to mind. Who is the polluter - the end user or the software manufacturer or even the IP owner? Could this mean that the writer of the software (or IP owner) that causes the noise e.g.Microsoft, SCO, Sun, HP could all end up with a hefty bill. This could turn into an "Asbestos Problem" for the software industry... However, on the lighter side, one thing does spring to mind. Imagine if fear of a huge, eagerly chased after tax bill brought writing viruses to halt! Now there is a thought, something good from taxation! Richard Cosgrave There is a fairly easy solution and it's already available, thanks to the evolution of billing systems for mobile data. While it's contentious, charging per bit transmitted onto the network has its advantages: - ISPs have a new incentive to increase their users' available bandwidth, since their revenue will increase at least marginally with each capacity increase. - If you set the cost just right, you can make it flat out un-economic to spam (or allow your relay to be exploited: it will cost you $$$s). How to make this stick across borders? Cross-charge, another commonality with mobile billing. If they don't pay, don't accept their packets. - If there are particular problems you're hoping to tackle, set the costs on a per-port, or steadily increasing marginal rate with increasing data -- this way you don't punish innocent bystanders. - A compromised host now starts to be expensive, and people better start paying attention to the amount of junk their machine is spewing. - Push the positive angle too: redistribute some of the revenue billed from junk traffic to sites that are well-managed (e.g. the lower quartile of junk spewers), by reducing monthly fees. Not sure what a suitable rate would be, but it would probably best be governed by reference to relevant metrics. So ideally, initiating a connection to the SMTP port costs just enough to make current spam response rates uneconomic. A million exercises for the reader. Thomas Lakofski "Watching the Net's background radiation" Good article, albeit rather over-cutsie. I noticed that you mis-reported and failed to comment on something rather interesting. The fall-off is not exactly on the weekends: it's Sunday and Monday. Maybed that's the weekend in S.F., but not most places. In fact, given PST's advanced (or, more exactly, retarded) position in the Time Zone scheme, traffic rising again Tuesday is actually almost Wednesday for most of the world. It's all very strange! Brian Hall Pynchon gags on The Register? What a WASTE. Ian Batten Thanks, all. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Dec 2003

Oracle coasts in Q2

Oracle posted a modest revenue increase in its second quarter with license updates and product support driving the gains. Oracle churned out $2.5 billion in revenue for the period - an eight percent rise over the same quarter last year. The company showed a more dramatic increase in net income, which rose 15 percent year-on-year to $617 million. Earnings per share were up two cents from $0.10 last year to $0.12 in this most recent quarter. "We are extremely pleased with the strong performance we saw this quarter. Solid execution in the field, a strengthening competitive position, and an improving economy contributed to results that were above expectations," said Oracle CFO Jeff Henley. New software sales jumped 13 percent to account for $849 million in revenue. But the software license updates and product support paved the way for Oracle, rising 17 percent year-on-year to $1.1 billion. Operating margin was 37 percent - a 300 basis point increase over last year. As has become a tradition of late, Oracle Chief Larry Ellison used an announcement to take a shot at acquisition target PeopleSoft. "Our applications growth of 27 percent exceeded the growth rates of many of our competitors, including SAP, PeopleSoft, Lawson, and Siebel, in their most recently reported quarters." Ellison said. "For example, new license sales at the combined PeopleSoft and JD Edwards company declined 18 percent as compared to their results when they were operating as separate companies. But the very fastest growing part of our applications business is outsourcing, which increased 82 percent in the quarter." Almost makes you wonder why Oracle would want PeopleSoft. ®
Ashlee Vance, 16 Dec 2003

PortalPlayer Photo Edition paves way for Picture iPod

PortalPlayer, the company behind the hardware, software and processor technology that powers Apple's iPod, will soon launch a upgraded version of its chip/firmware combo that paves the way for a Photo iPod. PortalPlayer Photo Edition will support synchronising digital photos between portable devices and host PCs, along with on-device playback, according to CEO Gary Johnson, interviewed by EE Times. The Photo Edition comprises new, 180nm system-on-a-chip silicon based on two 80MHz ARM cores, plus a real-time OS updated with photo handling code that supports the JPEG and Motion JPEG picture formats. The device's software package supports picture manipulation features like editing, rotating, cropping and red-eye correction. It can also allow users to add music to slide-shows. All these features handily replicate functionality provided on the desktop by Apple's iPhoto. The platform supports TV output, USB 2.0, Firewire and Ethernet, along with high-resolution colour LCDs. In addition to small form-factor hard drives, it can use Cornice's new 1in micro drive system. PortalPlayer has also incorporated support for a two- to three-megapixel digicam into the unit. Interestingly, PortalPlayer has support for multiple Digital Rights Management (DRM) regimes, enabling device manufacturers to support a variety of online music services. It's unlikely that Apple, as a provider of such a service, would add that feature to future iPods, but it paves the way for iTunes Music Service support in non-Apple devices. Speculation the Apple is working on a video iPod has been a constant topic on Mac fan forums, but one CEO Steve Jobs has dismissed a couple of times this year. But if the time isn't right for a portable video player - it can be done, but do punters really want to watch movies on a tiny screen when notebooks provide a far better portable playback experience? - the boom in digicams suggests that a portable photo library is a logical follow-on for the iPod line. With its PDA-style calendar and contact book functionality (courtesy of Apple's iCal and Address Book software), adding photo support would broaden the iPod's appeal as a portable personal data carrier. It also helps to continue to differentiate the Apple product from the horde of music-only clones the compact, hard drive-based machine has spawned. As for PortalPlayer, the company needs to work quickly. Microsoft's attempt to muscle in on the sector, the Portable Media Center platform, is due for release during the second half of 2004, with devices available next Christmas. Based on Windows CE .NET, PMC offers photo library functionality, TiVO-style TV recording and video playback, as well as music. Microsoft has already won the commitment of Creative, Viewsonic, iRiver, Sanyo, Samsung and Tatung. PortalPlayer has the advantage of a more tightly integrated software and hardware system, but just as Apple's vertical integration has led to advantages and big disadvantages as the computer market has evolved, Microsoft's horizontal approach may cause PortalPlayer problems. The real loser, however, will be the likes of PalmSource and PalmOne. All these technologies will, we reckon, define the 21st Century PDA - a portable personal data archive, kept fed from a computer but allowing individuals to take all their most precious information with them wherever they go. Even without direct data entry, these devices will provide a powerful alternative to today's PDAs, already under threat from smartphones. And both Microsoft and Apple have powerful handheld data entry technologies they can add to their respective offerings. Many people want single devices, but quite a few don't. But the number of handhelds they are willing to carry around isn't large. A phone, certainly, and probably one other device. Increasingly that second unit will be a hard disk-based machine that holds not just PIM data, but music, photos and probably video too. And a lot of it. ® Related Stories MS 'Windows for iPod' delayed but still marks death of PDA Gateway reveals iPod clone Sony unveils 'video iPod' Sony to offer $60 iPod? Not likely Dell debuts iPod killer, music store 'Social Hardware' nears with Bluetooth iPod
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2003
Broken CD with wrench

Business Objects completes Crystal Decisions purchase

Business Objects' acquisition of Crystal Decisions, for a total of $1.2 billion, has created one of the largest business intelligence companies around. While the merger does look like a sound pairing on paper, as always, careful integration will be required on product, sales and indeed cultural levels. Few could have predicted French-American business intelligence vendor Business Objects' move for Crystal Decisions, a Canadian enterprise reporting vendor. Not only did the two companies appear to be bitter rivals, but Crystal also announced in May that it had filed for a $172.5 million IPO, which has now been cancelled. As Crystal Decisions was a privately held concern, it was relatively unknown on Wall Street and the investment community at large. But based on its publicly declared figures, Crystal appeared to be financially sound. The company achieved eleven consecutive quarters of steady growth, and had a net margin of 14%, much higher than Business Objects' margin of 9%. Last year, Crystal's revenues totaled $271 million, versus Business Objects' $466 million. The completion of the merger has created one of the biggest business intelligence (BI) companies with over $736 million in combined revenue, 3,800 employees and over 24,000 customers. It has propelled Business Objects above arch-rival Cognos, which reported $551 million in revenue in 2002, and which had consistently topped several industry analyst BI charts as the largest vendor by market share. Specifically, the deal will strengthen Business Objects' foothold in the enterprise reporting market; a segment of the BI market that Crystal dominated with its Crystal Reports authoring tool and Crystal Enterprise platform products, which have amassed over 14 million licenses worldwide. According to Bernard Liautaud, chairman and chief executive officer, "the combination of Business Objects and Crystal Decisions is extremely complementary, and delivers strength across the board." Mr Liautaud added that the company now has the standard reporting product and the market's leading interactive query and analysis solution. Yet while the merger looks good on paper, there will need to be some careful integration at product, sales and cultural levels. The signs are encouraging however, as Business Objects did a sterling job of assimilating Acta's technology, sales team and developers into its fold. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Related Research Business Objects and Crystal Decisions
Datamonitor, 16 Dec 2003

US student seeks J-Loesque posterior

Jennifer Lopez certainly is an inspiration to millions of Latin and black American women. After all, who wouldn't want a successful entertainment career, Ben Affleck as a beau and an arse the size of a Zeppelin? Casting as it does a shadow over lesser behinds, Lopez's prodigious posterior has become the yardstick by which female buttocks are measured - and if you can't have the Hollywood lifestyle and celebrity fiancé, you can at least have the backside that goes with them. That's the motivation driving 26-year-old US student Nicole, who has launched www.givebooty.com. You guessed it: Nicole's booty is woefully inadequate and she's looking to raise $6,000 to give her buns a boost. We've been here before. Anyone with an interest in the quest for physical perfection will recall college girl Michelle and her underdeveloped frontage. Michel needed $4,500 for a boob job and, in April this year, finally attained her mam-swelling target. Those with a purely scientific interest in her new assets can can enjoy them here. Sadly, human skeleton Nicole has to date raised a paltry $155. As a result, her buttocks still resemble those of Geri Halliwell after six months on the Atkins Diet. We pass no judgement on Nicole's arse, nor on her lust for the ultimate gluteus maximus, but rather allow her own FAQ to to answer the obvious question: Q15: Aren't you just a pathetic copy of Michel from giveboobs.com? A15: Michel wanted breast implants. I want a big butt. Michel has a cat. I have a dog named, Nikky. Michel has boots to sell on eBay. I don't. Michel is Asian. I am African-American. Although I love Asian men. Nicole, love, you're missing a trick here. Boots on eBay=booty=bigger booty. And if that doesn't work, try dating Puff Daddy. That man is loaded. ®
Lester Haines, 16 Dec 2003

AMD ships Athlon 64 3000+ – officially

It's official. AMD yesterday added the desktop-oriented Athlon 64 3000+ to its price list, just days after the part began to appear in a variety of Far Eastern processor emporia. The desktop Athlon 64 3000+ comes in at $218 in batches of 1000 processors, the same price as the notebook-oriented Athlon 64 3000+. As we've noted before, AMD's mobile Athlon 64s are essentially the same chips as the desktop breed, with the latter's Quiet 'n' Cool power-conservation technology simply re-branded with the former as PowerNow. Or maybe vice versa. However, the desktop 3000+ contains three differences over the mobile 3000+. First, it has half the L2 cache, 512KB rather than 1MB, as per AMD's top-end 32-bit Athlon XP chips, codenamed 'Barton'. Second, it's clocked to 2GHz rather than 1.8GHz. Third, its on-chip memory controller supports 400MHz DDR SDRAM. AMD's public roadmap features a chip due to ship sometime in the first six months of 2004, codenamed 'Newcastle'. Internal roadmaps suggest it's a 512KB L2 part, with 400MHz DDR support. Consequently, it's hard not to conclude that the new 3000+ is the first Newcastle part to ship. Why reduce the cache? Most likely to reduce the cost, but increasing the number of dies per wafer and thus the potential yield. That ought to benefit AMD's bottom line and make it easier to get more Athlon 64s into mainstream PCs ahead of the arrival of 64-bit Windows XP. ® Related Story AMD updates public roadmap
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2003

Dutch web host aided porno typosquatter

Dutch web hosting company PGW Internet Solutions aided cyber scammer John Zuccarini in directing children looking for Disneyland, Harry Potter or Bob the Builder to explicit porn sites instead. The Register discovered that thousands of Zuccarini’s websites - including adaptac.com, gorgewbush.com and Bobthebiulder.com - were hosted from the Netherlands by PGW and its adult hosting company XXXextreme.nl. PGW owner Arjan van Jaaren, who was grilled by US federal agents about Zuccarini, says that for a long time he didn't know what was going on, "because he (Zuccarini) had direct access to dedicated servers...When we discovered that he lured children to porn sites, we tried to shut him down, but every time he had a different excuse." Van Jaaren blames a former partner for contracting Zuccarini, who was PGW's biggest and best paying customer ever, but already earning notoriety as a typosquatter. In September US federal agents arrested John Zuccarini (53) at a motel in Hollywood, Florida. Last week he pleaded guilty to 49 charges under a newly enacted federal law that makes it a crime to entice children onto X-rated Web sites. He will be sentenced in February. Zuccarini registered thousands of popular web addresses, but with omitted or transposed letters to entice users to the seediest corners of the Internet. At one time Zuccarini employed more than 5,500 copycat Web addresses. In 2000 the cybersquatter claimed he was earning $1 million per year, much of it from porn sites that paid him when he sent web users their way. Zucccarini got a referral fee of between 10 to 25 cents per user. After the US government issued a court order effectively shutting down two thousand of his domains due to legal conflicts, Zuccarini re-registered many of the domains in the Netherlands, often using the postal address of PGW in the Whois database. Some of these domains directly targeted children. Recent picks included Teltubbies.com and Bobthebiulder.com, variations on popular animated tv shows. Zuccarini registered 15 variations of the popular children's cartoon site www.cartoonnetwork.com, and 41 variations on the name of teen pop star Britney Spears. Those who typed in the addresses often got redirected to a garish porn site called Hanky Panky College, also hosted by PGW Internet Solutions. Van Jaaren once was one of the top three adult providers in the Netherlands, according to this report, but because of the Zuccarini case Van Jaaren says he has left the adult business behind him. However, Van Jaaren admits he still runs the XXXextreme.nl site. "I won't turn down a good adult customer down," Van Jaaren told The Register. "But I won't be hosting them any longer myself." ®
Jan Libbenga, 16 Dec 2003

UK needs greater wholesale broadband competition

BT faces a new challenge in the New Year after the UK's new communications watchdog - Ofcom - said it wants to see more competition in the wholesale broadband access market after deciding that the UK's monster telco is too dominant. In a consultation document published today, Ofcom found that the UK's broadband market has developed in the last couple of years with different technologies and operators providing high-speed Net access. "However, it is also clear that at this point in time there is a national and distinct market in wholesale broadband services, and that BT is the dominant provider of those services," said Ofcom. As a result, Ofcom wants to use its regulatory muscle to open-up the wholesale market. In particular, it wants to see a greater margin between two key BT wholesale broadband products - IPStream and Datastream. BT's wholesale IPStream product provides an end-to-end ADSL service solely using BT's network and resold by many ISPs. Datastream products, on the other hand, enable operators to use competing national networks from alternative rival carriers to provide services. In short, Ofcom wants to see a greater cost margin between the two products to allow rival operators to offer competitive services using their own networks. Said Ofcom in a statement: "BT should be required to provide its Datastream products on a retail minus basis. A requirement to offer Datastream at a retail minus price means in particular that BT must allow sufficient margin between the price it charges for its IPStream products and the price charged for the Datastream products." Ofcom chief exec Stephen Carter said: "Broadband Britain needs broadband competition at the wholesale level as well as the retail level. Ofcom believes that these proposals will create the right balance of certainty, alternative supply and incentives to invest." A spokesman for BT told The Register that the UK already has one of the most competitive broadband markets in the world and that it will defend its corner "very strongly". Rival operators have long called for greater competition. Only last month, broadband industry lobby group, BIG, said that greater wholesale competition within the UK's broadband market would give the UK economy a £22 billion shot in the arm. At the time, Energis boss John Pluthero said: "If we want an innovative, dynamic broadband market delivering huge economic benefit to the UK, genuine wholesale competition is needed. ® Related Story Competitive broadband could add £22bn to UK economy
Tim Richardson, 16 Dec 2003

Motorola widens Microsoft smartphone line

Motorola will next year add three more handsets based on Microsoft's Smartphone OS. So claims Taiwan's Chinese-language newspaper, the Commercial Times. And it says local manufacturers Compal and Chi Mei have been awarded the production contracts. Chi Mei currently produces Motorola's MPx200 Microsoft-based smartphone, launched last autumn. The contract manufacturer will now work on the MPx220, which adds a digicam and Bluetooth wireless networking to the original model - both notable absences from the MPx200. Compal will churn out the MPx100 and MPx300, though specifications were not given. ® Related Story A brand at last! Motorola rolla Microsoft smartphone
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2003

BT tests wireless broadband

BT today named four rural areas in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland as guinea pigs for a three month trial of wireless broadband. If successful, the telco will roll out a radio broadband service to rural areas currently deemed commercially or technically unviable for ADSL installation. These include households which are more than 6km from an enabled exchange, as well as the smallest 600 exchanges where demand trigger levels have not yet been set. A wireless broadband roll-out would help BT meet the government's target of delivering broadband coverage for all by 2005, but it brings into question the future of satellite broadband, certainly for the home, and also the sundry start-ups which are building rural wireless broadband networks. BT has selected 105 locals and businesses in Ballingry, Fife, Scotland, Pwllheli in Wales, Porthleven in Cornwall and Campsie in Northern Ireland to participate as their Radio Broadband guinea pigs. A small diamond-shaped antenna will be fitted to the sides of their properties. This receives the signal from a BT base station. Triallists will be able to surf at speeds comparable to BT's existing ADSL service, BT says. Now for a canned statement from Pierre Danon, BT Retail's chief executive. “BT is absolutely committed to our goal of 100 per cent broadband coverage for every UK community by 2005. We want to make broadband services available to everyone in the UK – whether they live in town centres or rural communities should be irrelevant. The benefits of broadband are extensive and we are working hard to make this target a reality." &Reg;
Drew Cullen, 16 Dec 2003

Toshiba preps sub-1in HDD

UpdateUpdate Toshiba has developed a 0.85in hard disk platter and will begin sampling drives based on the tiny unit to mobile phone and PDA manufacturers next summer. The 2-3GB drives will go into mass production early 2005, company insiders claim in a Nihon Keizai Shimbun report yesterday. Image courtesy of MobileMag.com Pricing has yet to be set, but the sources suggested the drive will ship for around ¥30,000 ($279). Mass production will push that down to ¥10,000 ($93) after a few years on the market, they claimed. Such drives have the potential to bring high storage capacities to handheld devices like mobile phones - a key target market for Toshiba's 0.85in drive - by offering a sufficiently low power consumption profile (not to mention physical size). ®
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2003
Cat 5 cable

Europe's big biz starts buying telco kit again

EMEA enterprise telephony market bucks downturn After a spell in the market doldrums the EMEA enterprise telephony sector has returned to positive sales growth, with year-on-year increases in the third quarter of 2003 reaching almost 5 per cent. According to Canalys, EMEA beat the global average which saw slightly more modest growth of 4.3 per cent over the same period. Siemens remains the European leader with 20.1 per cent share while Alcatel came in a second with 15.5 per cent. However, third-placed Nortel and fifth-placed Avaya showed the highest per centage growth while Ericsson, in fourth position, lost ground. The dominant technology driving sales was hybrid-IP systems, which offer customers investment protection for legacy equipment plus a migration path to a converged IP-based telephony environment. Although Canalys said that these devices have dominated the EMEA market for some time, the study indicated that they continued to grow as a proportion in Q3, to around 70 per cent of all line shipments. Alessandra Fitzpatrick, Canalys director and senior analyst, said the pure-IP segment, though still in its very early stages, is also growing at a "tremendous" rate. "While pure-IP still represents just over 3 per cent of all lines shipped, this is growing at over 60 per cent year-on-year. It is true that the vast majority of lines shipped on hybrid systems are not IP-enabled today, but the fact that the capability is there lying dormant will make it difficult for companies such as Cisco to make inroads into the established vendors' existing customer base." The research also indicates that Cisco, though still some way from appearing on the leader board in EMEA, is growing at a "healthy rate", with shipments up more than 150 per cent on the same quarter one year ago. Canalys' analysts predicted that Cisco's next big IP telephony push would be towards the small and medium-sized business sector. "The introduction of Cisco's CallManager Express provides it with an offering for smaller and branch offices. This broadening of its telephony solutions range into the sub-100 line segment will help Cisco continue to gain momentum, and we expect this to have an effect from Q1 next year," Fitzpatrick added. The analyst company estimates that sub-100 line systems accounted for over two-fifths of all enterprise telephony line shipments in Q3 2003.
Robert Jaques, 16 Dec 2003

Intertrust ‘universal’ DRM scheme coming in six months

DRM specialist Intertrust will release its would-be standard generic digital media copy-protection system within six months, a senior Philips executive says. Intertrust was acquired by Philips and Sony jfor $453 million just over a year ago. The two joint developers of the original CD audio specification bought the company to enable them to define a standard scheme for protecting digital content. Intertrust owns a significant portfolio of DRM patents which it had largely failed to capitalise upon as an independent entity, despite a pre-acquisition $28.5 million licensing deal with Sony. That effort is apparently coming to fruition. "We hope to have an interoperable system between now and six months," Ruud Peters, chief executive of Philips' intellectual property operation, told Reuters. The key word is 'interoperable'. Sony and Philips want a DRM system that can be supported by content creators, software developers and hardware manufacturers safe in the knowledge that the technology isn't owned by one company. With the new system, it will be possible to acquire content can be acquired from any (legal) source and play it back on any hardware, Philips claims. That's certainly not the case today. Peters said the Sony/Philips subsidiary had already signed up a large number of consumer electronics companies and content providers who will support the technology. "When we launch we want to give guarantees that it will be sufficiently supported," he said. Intertrust plans to make its system reasonably accessible to licensees. That should boost support for the system. However, with their headstart, Microsoft, Apple and all the other companies using their own DRM technologies will relegate the Intertrust system to one more among many, rather than the de facto standard. If Intertrust is to become more than Sony and Philips' in-house DRM provider, it will need some big names in that field to rally to its cause. Alas, the best known players, Apple and Microsoft, both have strong vested interests in the status quo. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2003

iPass aggregates T-Mobile US hotspots

T-Mobile's US Wi-Fi operation has opened its network it iPass, allowing the remote access specialist's corporate and individual customers to connect to the Internet via T-Mobile hotspots. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal follows an earlier agreement between iPass and Swisscom to add the latter's European hotspots to the aggregator's broad network of access points. T-Mobile operates over 3900 hotspots throughout the US, which will more than double iPass' global virtual network of 3000 Wi-Fi locations and allow it to match and possibly exceed arch rival Gric's tally of international hotspots. In October, Gric had 3000 hotspots on its books, but thanks to deals with a number of European Wi-Fi providers, including the UK's The Cloud, it is taking that figure to 5200. More will be added as The Cloud, for one, rapidly expands its installed base of access points to 3000 sites and beyond. Both Gric and iPass also offer a number of fixed-line Ethernet access sites, not to mention a raft of dial-up numbers across the world. ® Related Stories iPass aggregates Swisscom hotspots Gric expands Euro Wi-Fi coverage
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2003

PSX rolls out in Japan, but analysts disappointed

PSX, Sony's integrated games console, DVD recorder and digital video recorder, has arrived in Japan, but analysts now seem unconvinced by the machine following the company's decision to scale back its specifications. Speaking to the Associated Press, analyst Kazumasa Kubota of Okasan Securities described the system as a "publicity stunt" and predicted that it would "sell well for a month or two, but the momentum isn't likely to hold up after that". His sentiments were echoed by Kazuya Yamamoto of UFJ Tsubasa, who claimed that "lowering the specifications of the PSX hurt Sony's image", and stated the belief that the system has failed to deliver on its promise to be a "superior machine as a DVD recorder". Strong words indeed, but it's not entirely clear where the hostility towards Sony's new system arises from. Even without the features deprecated (which include MP3 playback, display of certain image file formats and the ability to read CD-R and certain rewriteable DVD formats), Sony's PSX offering is still more feature-rich than any rival DVD recorder - and crucially, is also significantly cheaper. To top it off, it's now emerged that many of the features which have been removed from the specification will be added to the system using software updates over the Internet in the coming months - with MP3 playback and support for all the image formats, among other things, expected to be reinstated shortly, while other features which weren't even in the original specification may appear over time. Comments from other divisions of Sony have indicated that by the time the PSX arrives in territories outside Japan, the full original spec will have been restored. Given the attractive design, comprehensive feature set and low price of the Sony system, it's hard to believe that the buying public in Japan - who were apparently so taken with the PSX at its public unveiling this autumn - will be entirely put off by the temporary removal of some minor functions. Copyright © 2003, GamesIndustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 16 Dec 2003

Check Point buys Zone Labs

Check Point is boosting its consumer portfolio with through the takeover of Zone Labs, the vendor best known for the Zone Alarm firewall software. Check Point is shelling out $205m upfront - approx $113m in cash and approx $92 mmillion in shares. It is also assuming Zone Lab employee stock options, which could convert to 2.9 million Check Point shares. Post-acquisition, Zone Labs will operate as a division of Check Point. It claims 25 million desktops for Zone Alarm, and 1,100 enterprise customers for its Zone Labs Integrity suite. ®
Drew Cullen, 16 Dec 2003

Some points missed in Return of the ‘free’ PC

LetterLetter The Return of the free PC From Richard Lloyd, Liverpool Did you calculate how many CDs Metronomy would have to send out to users if all 200,000 PCs were snapped up and kept for the full three years? Yep, 7.2 MILLION CDs - one wonders why at least broadband users couldn't download the ads off the Net rather than from CD. Talking of Net access, it's not clear to me if you have to sign up with *only* the ISPs on their recommended list. Metronomy's Terms and Conditions rather stupidly state "you must maintain an ISP dial-up account throughout the term of the agreement." (doesn't say it has to be a particular ISP though) whereas elsewhere, I've read that you can use either dial-up or broadband. Why not run a virtual desktop on XP and have the ads in desktop 1 whilst you do your work in desktop 2 ? Also, how long is going to take before someone reverse engineers the "phone home" protocol and fakes it to make it look like the user's seen a bunch of ads and has been logged on for 30 hours (that's quite a lot of time for newbie users to spend online) during the month? My personal opinion is that the PC sells at 411 quid on IBM's site (plus the cost of a monitor, let's round it up to 500 quid...somewhat short of the 800 quid the press releases have been saying) and if a user can't afford a 500 quid setup, then they're not going to be buying anything remotely expensive that's advertised to them. Conclusion: Metronomy's scheme is doomed and is very unlikely to last the full three years. PCs are just too cheap now (I got my last white box one - minus monitor - for 219 quid) for this scheme to ever work again - not that it did the first time around. ®
Drew Cullen, 16 Dec 2003

UK movie biz strikes again at DVD copying software maker

Warner Home Video UK's legal battle with DVD copying software developer 321 Studios escalated last week when the UK content distributor filed a new High Court lawsuit with the aim of banning the sale of 321's products, DVD X Copy and DVD X Copy Xpress. WHV took on 321's UK division last summer with a Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA)-backed lawsuit alleging that DVD X Copy was in violation of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988. This law forbids the duplication of copyright material without the permission of the copyright holder. Unlike US copyright legislation, UK law regards even copies made for personal use as unlawful. Tape a CD you legally own so you can play it in the car, or burn that CD to MP3 and transfer it to your iPod and, here in the UK, you're breaking the law. Fair use provision does not extend to these actions, unenforceable though this aspect of the CDPA is. Crucially, that restriction does not extend to systems that make such illegal actions possible, which is why Sony and Amstrad defeated Universal's attempts to block the sale of video recorders and tape-to-tape cassette decks, respectively, in the 1980s. So 321 can argue that its products are legal under the CDPA. Hence the new suit, which challenges the software developer under the new Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003, which became law on 31 October. The UK implementation of the controversial so-called European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD), more formally known as the Directive 2001/29/EC, which seeks to unify European nations' various copyright laws but which also criminalises the circumvention of copy protection systems. And since DVDs contain a copy protection mechanism, 321's software is arguably in violation of the CRRR. In the US, 321 has sued nine major motion picture studios in the Northern District Court of California for "clarification of the vague and confusing language that makes up the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)". Last month, Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount Pictures sued 321 under that same law, which, like the EUCD, makes bypassing a copyright protection system illegal. 321 maintains that US copyright law's 'fair use' provision - which allows copying content for personal use without permission - overrules the DMCA. With no such 'fair use' enshrined in UK law, its case here will be harder to argue. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2003
Cat 5 cable

On the Inland Revenue EDS sacking

LettersLetters Inland Revenue sacks EDS First the EDS pros (some literally): Having worked for EDS on the account for four years in role that involved dealing with the customer on project- related issues on a daily basis, you have given a true indication of the EDS side of events but have failed to divulge exactly how the relationship between EDS and the IR is run. Without wanting to sound as if I'm having a rant and rave, but from my experience the Revenue rules what EDS does with a 'Iron Rod' and is as much or if not even more to blame than EDS for the fiasco of the Tax Credits Scheme. In the past they have dictated what and where things should done on a micromanaged level, they think they can deliver IT better than any service provider. But why in 1994 did they have to outsource????? Probably because it is their people who are incompetent and don't know how to deliver IT. So EDS is used as a scapegoat to cover-up the shortcomings! But let’s bring some other things in perspective, a lot of the staff including senior management on the account to date are ex Revenue employees. So is there going to be an article on how the Inland Revenue are incompetent themselves? Name and address supplied As a one-time member of EDS who still knows a lot of people in the IR division there are more losers to this affair than you note. The general public loses out because many of the stresses on the projects that contributed to delays can be laid at the door or political timing from the government forcing suicidely short timescales onto both IR and EDS staff. They also lose out to the tune of £60 million that the changeover will cost - or in other words a quid from each and every one of us. Lets hope that the upheaval doesn't do more damage to the services provided to us the general public, and that that £60 million is recouped very, very quickly... Charles Oldham, Application Development Engineer As the Inland Revenue (IR) are busy "naming and shaming" by sacking EDS, do you chaps know anyone (likely to get the chop) at EDS who would be willing to name and shame a few Civil Servants (politicians would do nicely too) who couldn't keep a spec still for more than 30 seconds... Whilst there appears to have been some almighty cock-ups by EDS I have a feeling that some major "spec drift" was being kept hidden from the public by a loyal (and probably, contractually silenced) contractor. I cannot believe that you can sack a contractor the size of EDS without having taking out a few of the senior civil servants at the IR too: or has there been a string of very quiet "promotions" and "reassignments" over the last ten years? Ah, politics..... Richard Cosgrave I was outsourced myself this year - to none of EDS, Cap Gemini, or Fujitsu. As a citizen and taxpayer, I'm very worried that this is how the public sector expects to deal with the private sector. And as an outsourced employee, I feel for the staff who have pulled out the stops to deliver for this. A lot of these used to be civil servants who, I'm guessing, would have found outsourcing to be a very bad experience, and may only know be starting to appreciate the benefits. Yes, the tax credit thing was a fiasco. But outsourcing the IT doesn't absolve the government of all responsibility. Public sector IT has a history of failing, and EDS' side of the story tends to suggest that nothing has changed. While the government may be content with kicking around contracts assuming that only private sector bottom-lines will be hit (and this is a bit contract; that could do a lot of damage to EDS) they're missing the key point here. Its a key point that the Revenue and EDS together would have made when outsourcing their staff - without the staff, there is no IT. This is going to be a massive hit to morale, be a huge personal distruption (new Ts&Cs, new payroll, new conditions, new management structure, new career structures etc). And if the Government has lost this much confidence in EDS, thats a big chunk of potential PPP supplier thrown out with the dishwater. Finally, its going to be at least six to twelve months for the new company to get its feet under the table, and in the mean time, there'll be all sorts of difficulties in getting things done. Its not going to deliver, and it'll be the staff who have to work long hours to clean up the mess. The government has to accept that this is a partnership, and it can't just go around beheading its partners when it has an argument. Ben Prescott And now for the antis. Interesting memo from Mr Thomas, but quite unoriginal. Little more than recycled excuses, in fact. And no, I don't and never have worked for EDS, but I think I'm entitled to be pissed off at seeing more taxpayers money thrown down the drain on a failed IT project. I've been a software QA engineer for far too long to believe this tripe: …much of our testing window was lost as a consequence of the late issue of business requirements Christ, if I had a fiver for every time I've heard or read that particular excuse I'd be as rich as Bill Gates. The fact that EDS allowed testing to be cut by 75 per cent speaks volumes about the importance they attached to it. If the EDS project management team had any balls at all, they'd have made it clear up front that late issue of business requirements = late delivery of software. Period. End of story. Instead, they must have made a contractual commitment to releasing the software by a given date, with little or no comeback in the event of failure of the customer to meet their obligations. You would think that a company with EDS' track record would have hoisted in the need to test software properly by now. "Testing window". Duh. It's not something that you can just chop from a project plan to meet a release date if you give a shit about quality. Mike Smith I am pleased to see that EDS is likely to be punished for the awful mess that surrounded the introduction of the new tax credit system, by losing the contract to manage the Inland Revenue’s systems. However the fact remains that EDS earned £168M in revenues for this almighty cock-up. I am fed up with these large outsourcing companies taking their customers, and often the general public, for a ride. Whenever I deal with these organisations I am usually struck by how inept they are, and I have often found myself wondering why, despite all the high profile failures, they continue to win extremely large outsourcing deals. I note that Dawn Primarolo, the Paymaster General,, has bizarrely hailed the project a 'huge success', despite all the hardship endured by those who were affected. I see that Cap Gemini are set to benefit if EDS do lose the IR deal, but is this just robbing Peter to pay Paul? It’s time that we challenged the received wisdom that large IT operations must be outsourced. David Tyrrell Oh big surprise, considering that EDS was the Tories consultant lackey. They've been losing more and more business as time passes by, now we can have CGEY overcharge the government and the taxpayer and they'll have the privilege of blaming 'legacy systems from poor suppliers' which will allow them to totally replace something that almost been finally made to work at an exorbitant cost. Then Tony Bleeuuurgh will quit to spend more time with his family, but not before the economy has been allowed to sink into a quagmire of high taxation and worthless public spending (on consultants like CGEY), house price collapse and rising unemployment. At which point the nation will vote in Michael Howard, and the whole wheel can start turning again. During which time EDS will have changed it's name to DPS (a centralised Public/Private Partnership for all Digital Public Services) so no-one will notice the contract being handed back to the good ole boys from Texas. It is no more unusual for big government outsourcing contracts to change hands than it is for governments to change parties. All it takes is an election. You read it here first. Alan Drew Erm… I think we’ll leave it there for now. ®
Drew Cullen, 16 Dec 2003

European RIAA-style anti-file swap lawsuits ‘inevitable’

The European music industry plans to take the fight against Internet piracy right to the doors of file sharers with individually targeted lawsuits, the head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) sayes. And the subpoenas could start flying next year. Writing in the IFPI in-house magazine, organisation chairman and CEO Jay Berman says: "Lawsuits on a large scale have so far been restricted to the US; this 'fight back' will almost inevitably have to take place internationally as well." Berman's piece outlines the industry's global Internet strategy for 2004, suggesting that the organisation has next year in mind for its legal assault. Certainly 2004 is expected to see the European debut of Apple's iTunes Music Store and other legitimate music download services alongside OD2, currently Europe's only legal song supplier with major label back catalogue on offer. "The success of Apple iTunes in the USA, now joined by Rhapsody, Napster and others, is pointing the way for the rest of the world," says Berman. "I confidently expect Apple iTunes, Amazon, Napster and others to launch their own services in Europe in the first half of 2004." In the US, the Recording Industry Ass. of America's legal action against individual file sharers began in June, a month after the launch of Apple's service. Since then, Nielsen/NetRatings figures cited by The Guardian newspaper suggest that US users visiting the Kazaa peer-to-peer network has almost halved from 16 million in March to 8.2 million in October. Nielsen/NetRatings reckons that 9.4 million Europeans used the network that month. It is not clear if the RIAA's tactics or the arrival of Napster, BuyMusic, MusicMatch and others alongside Apple have led to the decline. Kazaa's own policy of stamping on Kazaa Lite can't have helped. But it is clear that Berman reckons both "resorting to law" and the arrival of legitimate services have paved the way for a reduction in illegal activity. With those services now coming to Europe, if he's right, then so must the legal action. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2003

Motorola taps former Sun prez Zander as new chief

Motorola has tapped Ed Zander, the fast-talking former President of Sun Microsystems, as its new Chairman and CEO. As of Jan 5., Zander will realize his dream of heading a major company with Motorola's Mike Zafirovski remaining President and Chief Operating Officer. Zafirovski has been seen as a potential candidate for the CEO job. Zander replaces Chris Galvin who decided to retire from his role as CEO. The Galvin family had ruled Motorola for three generations. "This is a big company, and there is a lot of work to get done here," Zander said, during a conference call to announce the move. As President of Sun, Zander served as Scott McNealy's right hand man. He has a reputation for taking a used car salesman type approach to selling technology, talking big, talking fast and cracking jokes. At Sun, Zander helped drive tremendous growth during the dot-com boom. The executive then left Sun during the downturn - about a year and half ago - to take a position at investment firm Silver Lake Partners. Zander, once considered for the HP CEO job, has long pined for a job atop a major company. He was also interviewed for the WorldCom CEO job that ended up in the hands of Mike Capellas. Zander was quick to start cracking jokes about how he will get to know Zafirovski in the coming months. "We'll go to charm school together and sit in the hot tub like we do in California and get to know each other," he said. Motorola is far from Zander's roots in the server business. The company has moved to offload a struggling chip making business and is trying to regain share in the handset market. In addition, Motorola has a wide range of businesses, including automotive engine test software and homologation engineering and test services - whatever that is. In recent years, Motorola has cut tens of thousands of jobs. ®
Ashlee Vance, 16 Dec 2003

Roxio first target as CD-R patent owner threatens industry

CD burning software developer Optima Technology has sued rival Roxio and threatened any other company that allows users to record information onto a CD-R. Optima's claim centres on a patent the company filed by the company in 1995 and granted two years later. The patent, number 5,666,531, details a "recordable CD-ROM accessing system". Essentially, it describes the technique used by many CD burning apps and utilities of creating an image of the disc in memory or on the hard drive which appears to the user as a CD. The virtual CD's contents can be updated at will, until the user is ready to burn the contents onto the disc, at which point the information can no longer be changed. Software released by Optima in 1995 utilised this technique, which it says ended the need to pre-plan how and where to burn data directly to the CD. We're sure prior art must exist in this case. Back in the 1993 we were burning CDs by copying data to a separate hard drive partition, manipulating it there, and only when we were satisfied everything was present and correct did we burn the CD, using Toast, then owned by Adaptec, which later spun off its CD software division as Roxio. Whatever. Optima believes it owns the technique and wants Roxio to cough up damages, unpaid royalties and lawyers fees, Reuters reports. Optima offered to license its intellectual property to Roxio, but its rival refused. And not just Roxio. "Optima believes most every company in the CD burner industry may be infringing," the company's attorney, Robert Lyon, a partner at Holland & Knight, told the news agency. Optima claims that the patent is infringed by now standard ways of burning CDs as laid down by the CD-R and CD-RW technology guarding, the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA). Roxio is an OSTA member, as is Sony, HP, Imation, Microsoft, Pioneer, Ricoh, Toshiba and Verbatim. Associate members include Apple, Eastman Kodak, Epson, Fujitsu, Iomega, JVC, Plasmon and many more of the CD-R industry's leading lights. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2003

Beat the Winter blues with hot shirts from NTK

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion Taking a well-earned break from their polyamorous exploits, the boys at NTK have applied their not inconsiderable talents to a couple of new t-shirts. Naturally, you can have either shirt in any colour you like as long as it's black, and NTK's own blurb outlines the bangs you get for your bucks: NTK Japanese It's like one of those cool t-shirts with loads of Japanese writing on it (plus weird slogans like "Computer hobby tap-tap machine" and "Is grooved? Yes grooved!") - but with a twist! And the twist is: it's got one of those annoying Internet Explorer popups in the middle of it saying "To display this shirt correctly you need to download... Japanese Text Display Support, Download time: 23 mins", and so on. NTK Hi-Scores You won't see anyone wearing this round Ikea on a Saturday afternoon - because the only furniture they'd be interested in is... high-score tables! Yes, it's an authentic old-skool "Hall of Fame" which actually glows in the dark, all written in a genuine arcade game font and everything. Who said the art of snappy copywriting was dead? Suitably impressed, you'll now want to get yourself one of these new offerings and you can do so right here. Both NTK Japanese and Hi-Score sell at £10.21 (£12.00 inc VAT) and are available in M/XL/XXL plus women's skinny-fit M/L and M/XL/XXL, respectively. Punters currently enjoying the splendid December weather here in Blighty can get either in time for Xmas, since the last order date for pre-Yule deliveries to the UK is Thursday 18 December. And that, dear reader, concludes this plug. ®
Cash'n'Carrion, 16 Dec 2003

Warning: lack of technology may harm your prospects

A London conference today organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) addresses the issue of the increasing marginalisation of those without access to technology. The first e-Quality festival featured Ivan Lewis, minister for young people and adult skills, who was keen to blow the government's trumpet on this issues. He noted that New Labour has "made a significant commitment to developing ICT access, both through learndirect and through UK online centres with £396m invested in UK online centres since 1999 and over £300m in learndirect. This investment is now beginning to pay off. "The second UK online centres evaluation study, due to be published this month, makes clear that nearly three quarters of centre users had previously not used the Internet due to lack of access or skills, and over 60 per cent were from socially excluded groups," he concluded. Ian Kearns, associate director of ippr, was a little more circumspect : "It is important to acknowledge that progress has been made in this area. However, it is still the case that access to IT equipment and the internet is far more prevalent among the wealthy than it is among poorer sections of society." Indeed, as is access to fast cars, big houses and heated swimming pools. Kerans' glaringly obvious statement underlines the general feeling that you're better off if you own a computer and on the slippery slope to oblivion if you don't. This particular conference premise pre-supposes that access to technology is a desirable and immediately life-enhancing experience. In fact, those at the bottom of the pyramid often have more pressing needs - it's all very well enthusing about wireless broadband access for every African village when what the punters really want is an effective treatment to malaria. It's arguable that technology - and particularly the Internet - does little or nothing to increase one's standard of living, happiness or prospects. The world is not a better or worse place for the invention of the personal computer, just different. Every benefit (ease of communication, access to information, building virtual communities) has a balancing downside (paedophile pornography, Nigerian 419ers, credit card phishers). As the old saying goes, you get owt for nowt. In the end, Britain is a First-World nation. Pretty well anyone who really wants to get access to technology can find it. And if those who are genuinely impoverished have an overwhelming need to bridge the digital divide, they can always employ the tried-and-trusted low-cost method: stealing a laptop. ®
Lester Haines, 16 Dec 2003

MS moves into ‘get Longhorn on the road’ mode

If Windows didn't exist, Microsoft would be a far poorer and more obscure company - if, that is, it still existed at all, because most of its contemporaries from the 70s don't. So, what is wrong with this sentence: '[Microsoft has formed a new division, the Windows Core Operating System division, to focus closely on Windows OS technologies and to drive Longhorn development.'? Yes, you're quite right. The correct answer is, 'Er, shouldn't it have one of these already?' Indeed it should, and indeed in some senses it did have, but the reasons why Microsoft feels the need to conduct a reorganisation now speak volumes about the way the company develops software. Although Windows is key, from a revenue and business development point of view leveraging market share in other areas is more important for the company and its bean counters. Some years ago when Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were inventing the .NET vision Ballmer said that Microsoft intended to make the leap from a product company to a services one, and while subsequently this flip has not exactly been visibly successful, it's been an imperative that has had a major effect on overall development. Microsoft in general has a need for all sorts of miscellaneous stuff to be part of the grand vision of the Windows Platform (whatever we might be choosing to call it today), so the Windows Platform becomes an ever-shifting, ever-expanding pile of stuff, and it becomes ever more impossible to build and ship new revs. (It occurs to us that the previous sentence could perhaps be worked up into a viable definition of .NET for dummies, but we'll skip that for now) Some of the most interesting exchanges of email that were subpoenaed during the antitrust trial had on the one hand Bill Gates' vision of convergent operating systems (remember, there were two mainstream lines until fairly recently) and integration, and on the other Brad Silverberg complaining (pissy emails from billg) and Jim Allchin as the struggling ringmaster striving in the face of adversity to get the darn product finished. So at the time of Win98 development you had a tension between commercial imperatives (as seen from Redmond, of course) and technical ones, and we'd hazard a guess that not much has changed in the interim. Now, the Windows Core Operating System division is being headed up by Brian Valentine, a veteran of Microsoft OS development and known as a tough, no-nonsense customer who gets stuff done. Bob Muglia takes charge of server, while Will Poole remains at Windows client, with Valentine, Poole and Muglia going on the newly-formed Windows Leadership Team. This will likely be similar in operation to the Business Leadership Team, which now has so many members it's probably functionally useless, but these things tend to start out well, and there's a new Windows Engineering Leadership Team too. So what's happening, we think, is that Microsoft has now reached that stage in Longhorn development where it looks at what it's got, looks at the target dates and decides it needs to call in the usual gunslingers in order to get the thing done. Valentine was of course doing it already prior to the latest announcement, but you could maybe read a certain amount of empowerment into the move - the closer the deadline gets, then the better chance the development pros have of calling the shots. Having to do this kind of thing every timer it needs to ship a new OS is nevertheless a peculiar way to run a company that should really be focusing on the core competence (we use the term advisedly) all the time, but that's how it is. Continual reinvention, or a chronic inability to learn from experience? Call it whichever way you like. ® Related link Mary-Jo Foley reads the reorg runes
John Lettice, 16 Dec 2003

Gov.uk touts Net access for all by 2008

Trade and Industry Secretary, E-Minister and all-round cyberbabe Patricia Hewitt is pleased to report today that the UK is one of the "best connected economies" in the world. This will come as a great surprise as those living out in the elephant grass and still surviving on Third-World dial-up connections and the promise of broadband by 2010-ish, but it's apparently the case that "96% of Britain's population are aware of a place where they can readily access the Internet whether at home, at work, through mobile technology, or at a public access point". What's more, the UK "remains one of the best environments in the world for e-commerce. E-commerce transactions across the internet exceeded £23 billion in 2002." Terrific. To ensure that the UK retains its lead at the cutting edge of the expanding envelope of e-freedom, Hewitt says that the government will support a "Digital Inclusion Panel (to provide) advice to Government and industry about how to ensure a digitally United Kingdom". Among the panel's specific tasks will be to identify those most at risk of digital exclusion, a fact which will doubtless cheer up participants at today's Institute for Public Policy Research e-Quality conference, where concerned souls agonised about Britain's digital divide. Well, it seems there's no need to worry after all. And if you aren't already connected, fear not: "The Digital Inclusion Panel will play a key role in helping us ensure that every home in the UK should have a connection to online services through a digital network by 2008 - whether through a personal computer, DTV, mobile phone or other device," boasts Hewitt. We'll be back to report on progress in five years' time, at which point every Tom, Dick and Harry across this great connected nation will be able to read our conclusions. Watch this space. ®
Lester Haines, 16 Dec 2003

Friends of Aimster back Supreme Court bid

Aimster has formed a new buddy list ahead of a potential showdown with the U.S. Supreme Court with three advocates of the peer-to-peer service handing in "friends of the court" briefs. The American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), Privacy Innovations Inc., and online author and librarian Eric Flint have all voiced their support for the Aimster/Madster peer-to-peer service, which is currently in limbo after a lower court shut it down. John Deep, Aimster's creator, is awaiting word from the Supreme Court as to whether or not it will hear the case and examine whether the injunction should be repealed. In their letters to the court, the Aimster backers argue that shutting down an encrypted peer-to-peer file swapping service impedes free speech rights and damages the potential of a new technology before it has time to play out. The Register has obtained all three briefs and the documents raise compelling points. The Aimster fans argue that the technology provides a new means for transferring information securely and a potential boost to the tech industry. Shutting down this form of communication because of a few rogue music file-traders is a rash decision, they argue. Deep made similar points in his plea to the Supreme Court to hear the case. The court will decide whether the case is up to snuff on Jan. 9. It isn't all that likely that the Supreme Court will pick up the Aimster versus the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) case, but there are some that think the judges may be tempted. One of the most often cited cases in the music copyright wars is the 1984 Sony v. Universal City Studios decision in which the Supreme Court allowed Sony to keep selling Betamax recorders. Justice John Paul Stevens handed down the opinion in a tight 5-4 vote and could want to revisit the issue in its modern form. "The Sony opinion is especially poignant because it was so forward looking - the court was faced with the same issue as it is now with file-sharing," said Amanda MacDonald, a law student at Northwestern University who is researching the Aimster case. "An old, established, well connected and politically charged organization (the Motion Picture Association of America) was threatened by a new and potentially costly technology, and Congress failed to take a serious stab at the problem, so the court was left with the job of blending VCR technology with copyright law. "Justice Stevens' opinion was a strong reminder to the industry that copyright law is not meant to be a barrier to technology." When the court gave Sony the go ahead to keep selling VCRs, a new movie rental industry was born. The Aimster advocates say a similar process could occur if only the RIAA will let peer-to-peer technology evolve without lawsuit shackles. "This case is not simply about college students who believe that they should not have to pay for music when they can simply download it from the Internet," writes Eric Flint in his pro-Aimster brief. "Rather, at stake in this case is the fundamental issue of whether citizens can be denied valuable technological tools for sharing information and ideas simply because some may use those tools for improper purposes. Amicus urges this Court to recognize that the law must not be allowed unduly to impede the non-infringing, socially and commercially valuable uses of new powerful technologies." The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a non-profit group in a favor of limiting government interference in free markets, takes a slightly different tact. "In particular, AAPS is concerned that the suppression of Web sites like Aimster merely for referring internet users to other information or other users is unjustified. The injunction by the court below, if upheld, will likely have a profound chilling effect on the dissemination of important therapeutic medical information to users over the Internet." AAPS points to Aimster's ability to send encrypted messages between users as one of the key advantages of the technology. This allowed users to share private documents and funnel information without prying eyes peeking at the files. In this case, AAPS argues that the injunction against Aimster infringes on First Amendment free speech rights. "Political activists, dissidents, physicians, patients, lawyers and clients alike are injured by the wholesale removal of petitioner's system for encrypted communications. The potential of 100,000 encrypted messages per minute, made possible by petitioner's Aimster software and network, is enormously positive for the United States and particularly for foreign countries lacking in free speech." Both Flint and AAPS are urging the court to look past the Napster explosion and decide whether it's best to encourage a technology that may serve the public good or to look out for the music labels' royalty concerns. In addition, Charles Mudd, President of Privacy Innovations, notes that lower court decisions in the Aimster matter could have severe consequences on our precious IT industry. Weighing infringing uses of technology versus non-infringing uses is a tricky matter to be sure. "This rule, if adopted nationwide, could cripple the IT industry," Mudd writes, not mincing words. "In order to avoid copyright liability, a company that marketed a product would have to constantly assess: 1) whether the infringing uses were substantial; and 2) if they were substantial, whether the infringements could be reduced or eliminated in a manner that would not be disproportionately costly. (The lower court) did not define how substantial the infringing uses would have to be, nor how disproportionate the costs of avoiding the infringement." "Since virtually all IT products have some infringing uses, manufacturers and service providers would operate in a perpetual state of uncertainty and confront unending litigation as copyright owners and courts second guessed every engineering decision the manufacturers made." Doesn't that sound encouraging? ®
Ashlee Vance, 16 Dec 2003

Windows-style security hell stalks Mac OS X? Yeah, you wish…

Since Apple released Mac OS X, even the PC industry trade publications have raved about its quality, design, and features.  PC Magazine even gave Mac OS X "Panther" a 5-star rating in October 2003. Perhaps it was because Macs could now seamlessly fit into the Windows- dominated marketplace and satisfy Mac users refusing to relinquish their trusty systems and corporate IT staffs wanting to cut down on tech support calls. Whatever the reason, Mac OS X has proven itself as a worthy operating system for both consumers and business alike. Of course, as with all operating systems, Mac OS X has had its share of technical problems and even a few major security vulnerabilities. Nearly all were quickly resolved by Apple via a downloaded patch or OS update.  But in general, Mac OS X is solid, secure, and perhaps the most trustworthy mainstream computing environment available today. As a result, Mac users are generally immune to the incessant security problems plaguing their Windows counterparts, and that somehow bothers PC Magazine columnist Lance Ulanoff. In a December 11 column [1] that epitomizes the concept of yellow journalism, he's "happy" that Mac OS X is vulnerable to a new and quite significant security vulnerability. The article was based on a security advisory by researcher William Carrel regarding a DHCP vulnerability in Mac OS X. Carrel reported the vulnerability to Apple in mid-October and, through responsible disclosure practices, waited for a prolonged period before releasing the exploit information publicly since Apple was slow in responding to Carrel's report (a common problem with all big software vendors.)  Accordingly, Lance took this as a green light to launch into a snide tirade about how  "Mac OS is just as vulnerable as Microsoft Windows" while penning paragraph after paragraph saying "I told you so" and calling anyone who disagrees with him a "Mac zealot." In other words, you're either with him or with the "zealots."  Where have we seen this narrow-minded extremist view before?   More to the point, his article is replete with factual errors. Had he done his homework instead of rushing to smear the Mac security community and fuel his Windows-based envy, he'd have known that not only did Apple tell Carrel on November 19 that a technical fix for the problem would be released in its December Mac OS X update, but that Apple released easy-to-read guidance (complete with screenshots) for users to mitigate this problem on November 26.  Somehow he missed that. Since he's obviously neither a technologist (despite writing for a technology magazine) nor a security expert, let's examine a few differences between Mac and Windows to see why Macintosh systems are, despite his crowing, whining, and wishing, inherently more secure than Windows systems. The real security wisdom of Mac OS lies in its internal architecture and how the operating system works and interacts with applications. It’s also something Microsoft unfortunately can’t accomplish without a complete re-write of the Windows software -- starting with ripping out the bug-riddled Internet Explorer that serves as the Windows version of "Finder."  (That alone would seriously improve Windows security, methinks.) At the very least, from the all-important network perspective, unlike Windows, Mac OS X ships with nearly all internet services turned off by default. Place an out-of-the-box Mac OS X installation on a network, and an attacker doesn’t have much to target in trying to compromise your system. A default installation of Windows, on the other hand, shows up like a big red bulls-eye on a network with numerous network services enabled and running.* And, unlike Windows, with Mac OS X, there’s no hard-to-disable (for average users afraid to tweak things unfamiliar to them, that is)  "Messaging Services" that results in spam-like advertisements coming into the system by way of Windows-based pop-up message boxes. And, the Unix-based Mac OS X system firewall – simple enough protection for most users -- is enabled by default (in Mac OSX Server) and easy to find and configure in Mac OS X Client software (not that there's much that users need to worry about out-of-the-box anyway) -- something that Microsoft only recently realized was a good idea and acknowledged should be done in Windows clients as well.  I guess Lance didn't hear about that, either. Then there's the stuff contributing to what I call "truly trustworthy computing." When I install an application, such as a word processor, I want to know with certainty that it will not modify my system internals. Similarly, when I remove the application, I want to know that when I remove it (by either the uninstaller or manually) it’s gone, and nothing of it remains on or has modified my system. Applications installed on Mac OS X don’t  modify the system internals – the Mac version of the Windows/System directory stays pretty intact. However, install nearly any program in Windows, and chances are it will (for example) place a different .DLL file in the Windows/System directory or even replace existing ones with its own version in what system administrators of earlier Windows versions grudgingly called "DLL Hell."  Want to remove the application? You’ve got two choices: completely remove the application (going beyond the software uninstaller to manually remove things like a power user) and risk breaking Windows or remove the application (via the software uninstaller) and let whatever it added or modified in Windows/System to remain, thus presenting you a newly-but-unofficially patched version of your operating system that may cause problems down the road. To make matters worse, Windows patches or updates often re-enable something you’ve previously turned off or deleted (such as VBScript or Internet Explorer) or reconfigures parts of your system (such as network shares) without your knowledge and potentially places you at risk of other security problems or future downtime. Apparently, Lance doesn't see this as a major security concern. Further, as seen in recent years, Microsoft used the guise of a critical security fix for its Media Player to forcibly inject controversial Digital Rights Management (DRM) into customer systems.[2] Users were free to not run the patch and avoid DRM on their systems, but if they wanted to be secure, they had to accept monopoly-enforcing DRM technologies and allow Microsoft to update such systems at any time in the future.  How can we trust that our systems are secure and configured the way we expect them to be (enterprise change management comes to mind) with such subtle vendor trickery being forced upon us? Sounds like blackmail to me.  (Incidentally, Lance believes the ability of a user to "hack" their own system to circumvent the Apple iTunes DRM makes the Macintosh a bigger "hack target" for the purposes of his article.... apparently, he's not familiar with the many nuances of the terms "hack" and "hackers" or knows that power-users often "hack" their own systems for fun.)  Were Apple to do such a thing, Mac users would likely revolt, and Apple's credibility would be seriously damaged. What does that say about trusting an operating system's ability to perform in a stable and secure manner? Windows users should wonder who’s really in control of their systems these days. But Lance is oblivious to this, and happy to exist in such an untrustworthy computing environment. On the matter of malicious code, Lance reports being "driven crazy" when Mac users grin at not falling victim to another Windows virus or malicious code attack. He's free to rebuild his machine after each new attack if he wants, and needs to know that Mac users are grinning at not having to worry about such things getting in the way of being productive.  You see, because of how Mac OS X was originally designed, the chance of a user suffering from a malicious code attack - such as those nasty e-mail worms - is extremely low. Granted, Mac users may transmit copies of a Word Macro Virus if they receive an infected file (and use Microsoft Word) but it’s not likely that – again, due to Mac OS X's internal design – a piece of malicious code could wreak the same kind of havoc that it does repeatedly on Windows. Applications and the operating system just don’t have the same level of trusted interdependencies in Mac OS X that they do on Windows, making it much more difficult for most forms of malicious code to work against a Macintosh. Unlike Windows, Mac OS X requires an administrator password to change certain configurations, run the system updater, and when installing new software.  From a security perspective, this is another example of how Apple takes a proactive approach to system-level security. If a virus, remote hacker, or co-worker tries to install or reconfigure something on the system, they’re stymied without knowing the administrator’s password stored in the hardened System Keychain. (Incidentally, this password is not the same as the Unix 'root' account password of the system's FreeBSD foundation, something that further enhances security.)  In some ways, this can be seen as Mac OS X protecting a careless user from themself as well as others. Lance also fails to recognize that Windows and Mac OS are different not just by vendor and market share, but by the fundamental way that they're designed, developed, tested, and supported. By integrating Internet Explorer, Media Player, and any number of other 'extras' (such as VB Script and ActiveX) into the operating system to lock out competitors, Microsoft knowingly inflicts many of its security vulnerabilities onto itself.  As a result, its desire to achieve marketplace dominance over all facets of a user's system has created a situation that's anything but trustworthy or conducive to stable, secure computing.  Mac users are free to use whatever browser, e-mail client, or media player they want, and the system accepts (and more importantly, remembers!) their choice. Contrary to his article, the small market segment held by Apple doesn't automatically make the Mac OS less vulnerable to attack or exploitation. Any competent security professional will tell you that "security through obscurity" - what Lance is referring to toward the end of his article - doesn't work. In other words, if, as he suggests, Mac OS was the dominant operating system, its users would still enjoy an inherently more secure and trustworthy computing environment even if the number of attacks against it increased.  That's because unlike Windows, Mac OS was designed from the ground up with security in mind.  Is it totally secure? Nothing will ever be totally secure. But  when compared to Windows, Mac OS is proving to be a significantly more reliable and (exponentially) more secure computing environment for today's users, including this security professional. If Lance is sleeping well believing that he's on an equal level with the Mac regarding system security, he can crow about not being overly embarrassed while working on the only mainstream operating system that, among other high-profile incidents over the years, facilitated remote system exploitation through a word processor's clip art function! [3] Trustworthy computing must be more than a catchy marketing phrase. Ironically, despite a few hiccups along the way, it's becoming clear that Mac OS, not Windows, epitomizes Microsoft's new mantra of "secure by design, default, and deployment." Who's crowing now? [1] Eureka! Macs Are Not Invulnerable [2] Microsoft Makes An Offer You Can't Refuse [3] Buffer Overflow in Clipart Gallery (MS00-015) © 2003 by Author. All Rights Reserved. Permission granted to redistribute this article in its entirety with credit to author. Richard Forno is a security technologist, author, and the former Chief Security Officer at Network Solutions (now owned by VeriSign.) His home in cyberspace is infowarrior.org. * Shortly after Richard Forno wrote this piece, Microsoft issued a bulletin warning consumers what they should do before connecting their new PC to the Internet. So there - Reg editors
Richard Forno, 16 Dec 2003

Intel's release of Itanium replacement is imminent – analyst

A few gallons of rancid egg nog were poured this week all over the "Year of Itanium" celebration underway at Intel, as an analyst firm predicted Intel will not only give in and ship a x86-64bit chip but also that the product will be woefully behind in the market. Rick Whittington at American Technology Research must have been cut off from Intel President Paul Otellini's holiday greeting list. Otellini has been telling all of his real friends that 2003 is "The Year of the Itanic," and has billed the chip as an undisputed success. The anlalyst, however, seems to have missed out on this holiday cheer because he predicts an x86-64-bit processor will "soon" arrive from Intel - a move that is sure to undermine the meager market Itanium has carved out. "Our research suggests Itanium is in for a rough ride," Whittington writes in a recent research note. "Intel is now saying it will "go with the market" on 64-bit x86, thus is destined to unveil one when they think the market will ripen, which we judge as mid-2004 for volume delivery in 2005. "This fateful step will necessarily consign Itanium to low volume, high end computing solutions as a mainstream, high volume x86 horse-race develops between Intel and long-time rival AMD that will push 64-bit x86 performance well into the low-mid range server territory for which low power Itanium was slated." That's a fine how-do-you-do. It was just last week that Intel was toasting Itanium's success. Sure, it chose the unusual celebratory tactic of giving Itanium servers away to show how strong sales have been, but, hey, who is to deny the Itanium ramp. Intel is edging close to breaking the 5,000 servers shipped per quarter barrier. With robust sales right around the corner, why would Intel introduce an Itanic competitor now? Well, it so happens that AMD is already moving more than 10,000 Opteron boxes a quarter. That's more than the total number of Itanium boxes shipped all year. If this x86-64-bit thing is taking off, Intel really would prefer not to be left too far behind. Add to that Sun Microsystems' recent entrance into the Opteron market along with IBM's support, and things start to seem a bit worrying. "While Itanium can execute x86-32 in an emulation mode, the performance is not competitive," Whittington writes. "P4 and Xeon have been portrayed by Intel, until most recently, as the last answers in the x86-32 world and then the customer is forced to Itanium for 64-bit solutions - if they choose to stay with Intel! This is potentially a huge mistake because it opens the Intel customer to other non-86 competitors (IBM, SUN)." Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. And how long will it take Intel to build up a real "ecosystem" of supporting products to go with its x86-64-bit chips? "It will take Intel close to one full year to build a support infrastructure of motherboards, chipsets and graphics accelerators, leaving the 2004 playing field wide open for Advanced Micro Devices. For 2004, Intel will largely sell 32-bit x86 Prescott, Dothan and Xeon server processors with AMD steadily transitioning to 64-bits." It is, however, actually a bit harsh to give Intel such a rough ride over Itanium. In the end, HP is the company that will likely suffer most if Intel does turn on 64-bits in its x86 chips. The folks at HP bought their own sales pitch and have been left backing the slowest selling 64-bit chip in the market only to find Intel may start coasting on its support for the product. After more than a decade of watching billions be poured into the Itanic project, could it be the case that the chip has the power to sink parts of two companies at once? Somebody get Leo on the horn. ® Related Stories Intel toasts Itanium's success by giving servers away Intel's Otellini promises 'Year of Itanium' Choice is king in the promised land of 64-bit computing
Ashlee Vance, 16 Dec 2003