9th > January > 2004 Archive

A hard drive smaller than an inch

CESCES With solid state memory reaching the gigabyte base line, Toshiba has unveiled a tiny hard disk that's smaller than an inch. The 0.8 inch hard drive - that's about the width and thickness of an MMC or SD card - will come in 2GB and 4GB sizes, spins at 3600 rpm, and will ship in volume this Fall. Who'll want one? It isn't just cost, but power requirements that will see the device pitched at the high end of the handheld market. Toshiba's 1.8 inch drive provides the storage for Apple's iPod, and executives said that its ultra-small minidrives will be pitched at MP3 players, video cameras and high end smartphones. Hard drives will always suffer a power penalty compared to solid state memory. In another announcement that opens the door to future phones being media storage devices, Cornice has announced what it describes as a "Storage Element" - essentially a hard disk but without an ATA interface or cache - for $70 in large quantities. OEMs will need to source their own ATA controller chips. The tiny drive measures only 5mm by 4.2cm x 3.6cm. It's a small world. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 09 Jan 2004

Verizon trumps Wi-Fi with 500 k/bits nationwide

CESCES Stateside CDMA carrier Verizon is breaking open the piggybank to roll out its high speed cellphone service nationwide this year. CEO Ivan Seidenberg made the announcement at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Verizon announced a limited deployment of CDMA EV-DO in Washington DC and San Diego in September, with an all you can eat plan at $79.99 per month and the price is carried forward to the new nationwide service, branded "BroadbandAccess". Verizon claims average throughput of 300 to 500 kbit/s with bursts of 2 Mbits/s. Nortel and Lucent provided the kit for the first two cities, but Verizon won't say which infrastructure providers will gain the spoils of Verizon's nationwide roll-out. (Nortel supplies the VoIP portion).Verizon itself says it will spend $1 billion on the investment. Unlike Hutchison's 3 networks, Verizon is pitching BroadbandAccess firmly at the business user with VPN and backoffice support for customers, and a bundle of intelligent services under the name 'iobi'. And this is where it gets interesting. Verizon's CDMA has always been able to trump the upstart technologies on convenience - if you have a signal, you're in a hotspot, and can now match 802.11b networks for speed. But not, on the face of it, on cost. However, that's before taking account of the fragmentation and lack of roaming agreements between Wi-Fi providers. A closer look, however, shows that a roaming business user can easily rack up these kinds of monthly bills hopping from network to network. Counting features and convenience, Verizon's proposition looks even more attractive. Verizon promises iobi will offer features such as programmable call forwarding, or voice mail showing up as email, for example, or as its users wish, and much closer integration between the different kinds of networks: landline, IP or cellular. All this is as it should be, and such features have been touted as advantages of open IP-based networks, all of which helped fuel the 802.11 hype early last year. While public Wi-Fi providers optimistically scratch around for revenues amongst the coffee shop cookies and cappuccino froth, Verizon's steady $60 a month per user revenues have permitted it to spend $3 billion on combined landline and wireless upgrades, and its the breadth rather than the depth of this investment that allows it to offer service bundles such as iobi. If the promise - and there's much that's attractive - of open IP networks is to be realized, today's rather battered 802.11 service providers need to get their act into shape, and fast. ® Related Story Verizon launches 600 kbit/s 'real 3G' network Ronald McDonald to save Wi-Fi Hotspots - cold turkey or Big Mac? Public Wi-Fi still has look and feel of dead duck
Andrew Orlowski, 09 Jan 2004

Yahoo! and Philips in Streamium TV

CESCES Yahoo! is to provide much of the content of Streamium TV, which was introduced this week by Philips at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Through a broadband connection, Philips allows consumers to access video and audio content, as well as images through a wireless or wired Ethernet connection from a PC or Internet service. The 23-inch diagonal widescreen LCD display TV set can display streaming video in several formats (MPEG1, MPEG4), JPEG images and play MP3 music directly from many content providers. Streamium TV also features a PC Link providing viewers the ability to link wirelessly to a local or home PC. Consumers can enjoy multimedia content available through the web or stored on their PC, wirelessly streamed to their Streamium FlatTV, while comfortably seated in their living room. That in itself is not a new idea. At CES both Sony and Panasonic showed a Location Free Wireless TV, which employs 802.11 a/b/g Wifi standards. But only Philips adds a full service concept to that. Details of Yahoo! content were not supplied. The service will be introduced in the US first. Alongside Visa International Philips also showcased the potential of Contactless Payment and Connectivity. Technologies used here are Near Field Communication (NFC) combined with Visa's Verified by Visa, an authentication service based on the industry standard 3-D Secure, which enables Visa cardholders to safely shop online using a unique password. In one scenario, music fans can download the right to listen to a song to their PDA or their Visa payment card either by holding the PDA near a smart poster of their favorite Universal Music pop star or by holding their contactless Visa card near a store kiosk selling songs. Among the partners working with Philips and Visa International is Universal Music France, which may want to use the technology to give users access to Universal Music France's E-Compil music portal. Mobile phone users can pay for concert or movie tickets at the box office simply by holding their phone next to the payment terminal. The contactless chip in the phone transfers Visa payment data to the terminal and, once payment is confirmed, sends the tickets back to the phone. The phone user can then transfer a ticket using NFC to a friend's mobile phone. ®
Jan Libbenga, 09 Jan 2004

Misco pulls plug on Scotland

Fifty jobs have been lost in Greenock following the closure of the Scottish sales office of Misco. Staff at the reseller were told late Wednesday afternoon of the closure. Misco, which is part of Systemax Europe Ltd, will instead consolidate its sales operation in two locations in Northampton and London. A 70,000 square foot warehouse will continue to operate in Greenock. Systemax Europe CFO Terry Shaw told The Register that the decision had been taken to close the sales office in Greenock as part of a plan to consolidate the company's sales activities from three sites to two. The company employs some 650 people in the UK. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2004

Dell in front line of War on Terror™

We're relieved to report today that al-Qaeda will not be sourcing PDAs online from US websites, well not from Dell at least. Reader Stephen Mills alerted us to the company's stringent security checks which vet potential purchasers. As a result, we can sleep sounder in our beds safe in the knowledge that Osama bin Laden will not have the comfort of reading the new Register Mobile in whichever stinking hole in the ground he is currently occupying. To demonstrate how the thing works, we signed into Dell's e-shop this morning using a fictitious US address and chucked the first PDA we saw in the shopping basket. On proceeding to the checkout, we were asked some probing questions, these included: Being an honest terrorist organisation, we frankly stated that the PDA was for export to Chad (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria being unavailable as options), that the intended use was government/military and that the product would indeed be used in connection with weapons of mass destruction. Having pressed "continue" with some trepidation, we fully expected that, after a suitably dramatic pause, heavily-armed SWAT teams supported by spooks bearing a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay and nuke-laden stealth aircraft would surround the building demanding immediate surrender. But no. Instead we were invited to proceed to the payments page and enter credit card details for immediate shipment. It was at this point that we made our excuses and left the Dell website. Of course, it's likely that Dell's cunning plan involves taking the credit card payment for intelligence-gathering purposes and then sending in the helicopter gunships. Either way, it would clearly take all of the cunning and guile of an evil criminal mastermind to penetrate such online defences. We salute Dell and its constant vigilance. ®
Lester Haines, 09 Jan 2004

Intel takes Centrino to consumer electronics

The main thrust of Intel’s chip push will be focused on the consumer market this year and this week saw president Paul Otellini setting out the chipmaker’s stall in a keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company has set up a $200m venture capital fund within its Intel Capital division to invest in start-ups focused on the digital home. Although PC players have tried before to take over the consumer electronics space, many observers believe they have a better chance this time as technologies such as wireless networking – the spearhead for Intel’s consumer push – span both sectors. Among a series of moves planned this year to reinvent Intel as a supplier of silicon to the consumer electronics sector will be aggressive moves to take its Centrino wireless chipset into digital home devices and, less ambitiously, into consumer-oriented notebooks and PDAs. The theme of Otellini’s presentation was applying the benefits of Moore’s Law to the consumer electronics industry and showing “how the PC and CE industries can work together to eliminate the boundaries between devices that both compute and communicate, and products designed to entertain”, said Intel. Last month, Intel said publicly that it was seeking customers in the CE market for the 802.11g versions of Centrino, as part of the company’s objective to reduce its dependence on its traditional PC base and become the chip platform of choice for any mobile network-enabled device. The first consumer devices to feature Centrino should be set-top boxes, stereos, DVD players and televisions, the company says, supporting applications such as video streaming round the home. This will be just a first step towards Intel’s far broader digital home vision, which will be based on future Centrino platforms supporting, in particular, UltraWideBand, and on multi-protocol iterations of Centrino and the XScale cellphone processors, plus the results of its key R&D project, the adaptive silicon radio. The first step will be to gain market share for Centrino in the consumer PC sector and Intel plans to push its wireless chipset into this market in earnest in 2004 with new advertising campaigns and new products. The company began some consumer-oriented marketing last autumn, having relied on OEMs targeting the business user base for the first six months of its wireless chip bundle’s life. But its consumer efforts were low key and hampered by its failure to ship a version supporting 802.11g, the most popular Wi-Fi variant for home and SoHo users. It will put this right this quarter with a Centrino package that includes Dothan, the upcoming high speed version of the Pentium M processor for mobile PCs, and a dual band b/g radio module. Further into 2004, Centrino may also feature the lower cost Celeron processor, which will reduce the cost of ultralight wireless notebooks to come within home users’ reach. © Copyright 2004 News IS News IS is a weekly newsletter published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. News IS covers the news announcements, business transactions and financial statements of the top 150 or so IT vendors, along with other news of interest to the modern senior IT manager working within data centre technologies. Subscription details here. Related stories MS (nearly) ditches the PC religion with home net plans Intel coughs up for the Digital Home
News IS, 09 Jan 2004

Apple claims storage price lead

Apple this week claimed it has leapfrogged the price performance of storage systems from Sun, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and EMC and is offering its new RAID storage subsystem for Windows and Linux as well as the native Mac Unix OS. The Xserve RAID is a rackmounted system delivering 3.5 terabytes of storage capacity, with throughput of up to 210 MBps, and a price performance measure of $3 per gigabyte. This is the first time Apple has introduced support for Windows and Linux-based computing environments. It also features broad industry support from 11 companies including Microsoft, Veritas, Red Hat, Brocade and QLogic. “For the first time, customers running Windows and Linux can take advantage of Xserve RAID’s incredible price performance and breakthrough technology,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. Prices start at $5,999 and Apple says its pricing takes it to just a fraction of the cost of Sun, HP, Dell or EMC equivalents. The Xserve RAID is designed with 14 independent ATA/100 drive channels, and the dual independent RAID controllers offer sustained throughput of over 200 MBps – Apple reckons this is perfect for uncompressed 10-bit High Definition video editing, using protected RAID level 5. The Apple Xserve RAID has qualified under the Microsoft Designed for Windows Logo Program and runs with Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003. It is also the first time that it has opted for Red Hat Linux certification on an Apple product. The Xserve RAID has also just completed Fabric Aware testing with Brocade fabric switches in multi-vendor SAN environments, and it will also work with the QLogic SANbox2-64 and SANbox 5200 Fibre Channel switches. The Xserve comes with a new version of Apple’s Java-based management and monitoring utility, RAID Admin, which has the traditional Apple ease of use. Certifications include Veritas Volume Manager storage management; Candera SCE 510 network storage controllers; Chapparal RAIDar Provisioning Services; Host Bus Adapter vendors LSI Logic, ATTO Technologies and Emulex. © Copyright 2004 News IS News IS is a weekly newsletter published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. News IS covers the news announcements, business transactions and financial statements of the top 150 or so IT vendors, along with other news of interest to the modern senior IT manager working within data centre technologies. Subscription details here.
News IS, 09 Jan 2004

Motorola shows new spirit of innovation

All eyes will be on Motorola to see whether it can make 2004 a recovery year under its new CEO Ed Zander. Zander himself has been low key so far, keen not to over-inflate expectations of a turnaround that is sure to be prolonged and painful. But the world’s second largest cellphone maker started the year with some interesting moves that, while small in themselves, may point to a new culture of innovation and ideas that is badly needed. One of the greatest criticisms of Motorola under the leadership of departing CEO Chris Galvin was that it had turned its back on a history of leading innovation and was repeatedly missing key cellphone trends, making it seem fatally out of touch with market requirements. Notable among these was its failure to recognize the importance of the cameraphone, compounded, once it did design such a device, by delivery delays that meant it largely missed the Christmas season. So it was symbolic that, after a disappointing holiday season, largely caused by this factor, the company finally shipped its camera model in bulk. It also announced the much delayed V600 worldphone, which supports voice services in 125 countries and data services in 30, via AT&T Wireless. Critics complained that these models would have been exciting if delivered on time, but were now coming out too late for the major buying period of the year. But other announcements in Motorola’s new year blitz were more forward looking. For instance, it said it would use smart antennas from start-up Motia to extend the range of its Wi-Fi and broadband wireless gear, and hinted that these could also be incorporated into forthcoming Wi-Fi/cellular handsets to increase signal strength. This would give Motorola, which is already leading the market in dual-mode phone plans, a significant headstart over rivals. On the enterprise side, Motorola will bundle VPN software for the first time, emulating similar moves from Nokia which its Finnish rival cites as critical in the business sector. It will provide Certicom’s MovianVPN software in its A760 smartphone. For consumers, its 2004 roadmap includes two gaming phones, the T725 and A835, which feature large color screens and fast downloading capabilities and target the 18-24 age group, one that falls behind other sectors of the US population in cellphone usage. The A835 also has video, camera and MP3 support. And Motorola will also release the E380, which can be heavily personalized by the user in terms of shape and faceplates, and a range that is optimized for photomessaging. With the exception of dual-mode, none of these plans show Motorola doing anything radical, but they do show the company finally tapping into the key trends that will drive increased sales and margins in handsets – secure enterprise communications, gaming and multimedia phones that are specialized around one consumer application. And it is showing new willingness to experiment with leading edge technologies too. As well as the adoption of Motia antennas, this week it announced that it would be the prime partner for Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s latest venture, WOZ (Wheels of Zeus), which is developing a system for tracking children, pets or belongings using short range wireless, GPS and smart tag technologies. And it has taken an investment in the UK’s Magic4, whose multimedia instant messaging platform it has already started to use. None of these is earth shattering, but the PR activity put behind them by Motorola indicates a new faith in trying out less than conventional technical approaches in a quest for differentiation. But Nokia has got to all these markets ahead of its rival and has gone as far as to break up its Mobile Phones division into three units, effective from January 1, with specific focus on multimedia and enterprise platforms and a rich roadmap to match. Just days after Motorola stated that it would increase its current global market share of around 15% to 25% “over the long term” on the back of its new product plans, Nokia upstaged it in PR terms by upgrading its profit forecast for the fourth quarter following stronger than expected sales of mobile phones and network infrastructure. Nokia’s shares leapt by 13% to €16.06 on the news, taking other mobile-related European stocks such as Infineon and Siemens up with them. The Finnish colossus said its sales for Q4 totaled €8.8bn, about the same as a year earlier, and it raised its earnings prediction from 20-22 eurocents to 24-25 eurocents per share. Sales of handsets were up by 4% year-on-year to around €7bn, representing 55.3m units. Even allowing for Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila’s tendency to be cautious and then outperform expectations, this was excellent news for Nokia investors. The company had expected a fall in handset sales in Q4 and its share price had been depressed by pessimistic analyst forecasts. "The strong seasonal development in both Nokia Mobile Phones and Nokia Networks exceeded even our own expectations," said Ollila in a statement. "High volumes and an excellent mix in Nokia Mobile Phones delivered healthy sales and an average selling price that was up sequentially.” As the year begins, these contrasting statements from the two cellphone giants illustrate Motorola’s plight – Nokia has the market share and the product line now, and is reaping the rewards even in a market where it is consistently underrated; while Motorola has to look to the future and win confidence that it can deliver on rather vague promises. Its handset roadmap and its new willingness to take on slightly quirky technologies to gain differentiation are highly encouraging, but – as the company learned painfully with cameraphones – delivery is all. If it does deliver on its promises this year, Nokia will have a far less easy ride in 2005. © Copyright 2004 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.
Wireless Watch, 09 Jan 2004

Gov.uk fails to communicate with e-citizens

The Government's big idea to deliver its services digitally has once again taken a thumping after a report found that many of the Government's Web sites are muddled and confusing. The problem is so bad that six in ten of the Government's 31 "flagship" sites are in need of "immediate attention in one area or another". And despite the Government's keenness to improve dialogue with voters, it appears that some departments are reluctant for citizens to get in touch, while others can't be bothered to string together a half-decent reply to a simple enquiry. A report assessing the usability of Government sites from Web development agency Interactive Bureau (IAB), London, discovered, for example, that the Deputy Prime Minister's department failed to provide a general email enquiry point on its site. While departments such as The Inland Revenue, Customs & Excise, and Immigration & Nationality Directorate, refused to answer a simple enquiry because they demanded "personal details and/or case numbers to be provided in order to generate a response". Said report author Adrian Porter: "This seems to represent a backward step. While we appreciate the resource implications the advent of email must have had on the Government, surely this is a significant area where the Government can connect with the people, and the people can feel that the Government is listening to them." Highlighting the (lack of) communication problem that afflicts Government departments, Porter said: "We sent an email to the Foreign Office from its Web site, asking for information, and they replied with an email containing nothing more than a link to their Web site Home Page. We found this amusing, but it was hardly courteous." Last year, research from IAB concluded that the UK Government's Web sites are a shambles and in urgent need of an overhaul. It found that the Prime Minister's own site was so bad it was described as a "mess". IAB has recently published a list of the best - and worst - of the UK's top corporate Web sites concluding that, despite some improvements, too many sites "still do not get it" with companies showing "little ambition to get it right". The Second Annual Report Into Key Government Web Sites is available from iablondon.com. ® Related Stories UK corporate Web sites show 'little ambition' UK Govt slammed for duff Web sites
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2004

Broadcom jumping the gun with pre-standard 802.11n?

Broadcom looks set to release pre-standard silicon based on the emerging 802.11n fast Wi-Fi standard, aiming to repeat its successful gamble on early release of 802.11g products last year. Meanwhile, GlobespanVirata (GSV) is the latest Wi-Fi chipmaker to pre-empt 802.11n by releasing ‘standards-plus’ products that turbocharge 54Mbps 802.11g to achieve higher data rates. Atheros already does this with its 100Mbps Super G technology as does Broadcom itself, though Intel steadfastly refuses to go off standard and has criticized such solutions for limiting interoperability and fragmenting the market. Now GSV – soon to be part of Conexant – has achieved theoretical speeds even higher than those of ‘n’ through its Intersil unit’s Prism Nitro platform, which can now reach 140Mbps – although in the real world, performance will be closer to 70Mbps. Although widely criticized for releasing 802.11g chips before the standard was fully ratified – raising risks for early adopters that their kit would be incompatible with the final specifications – Broadcom reaped the rewards in the consumer market, which proved eager to adopt even pre-standard ‘g’. Its early move enabled it to steal a significant march on rivals such as Atheros, which was more focused on the other 54Mbps Wi-Fi variant, 802.11a, and Intel, which has made a policy of waiting for full standards in the WLAN market. Now Broadcom seems intent on repeating its success in 802.11n, the 108Mbps version of the standard, which is unlikely to be ratified until late 2005 at the earliest. Company officials have said that they will sample chips based on drafts of ‘n’ later this year, which could point to product release about a year ahead of ratification. The company appeared to step back from this position after Stuart Kerry, chair of the IEEE 802.11 working group, wrote in a pre-Christmas letter to group members that “it is improper to claim compliance with a standard or any amendment that has not yet been approved”. Broadcom responded this week with official statements saying it had “no plans to preemptively launch products that could possibly undermine the strong standards-based industry that we've helped build”. But this was a little late, given that Thomas Lagatta, group vice president of the chipmaker’s enterprise computing division, had already told US journalists that: “We're not going to slow down for the standard”. The situation is different in several ways from the ‘g’ dilemma of early 2003. The standard is further out – pre-standard ‘g’ silicon anticipated the final specification by only a few months – and so the risk to early adopters could be higher. This will undoubtedly deter the enterprise market, which is only just moving to 54Mbps Wi-Fi, held back by, among other factors, nervousness about incompatible kit. Cisco, Broadcom’s key customer, said its enterprise customers are asking about 802.11n but not yet demanding it. However, in the consumer market standards are less important and there seems to be a limitless demand for increased speed, especially in the US. Vendors underestimated this in the shift to 54Mbps, assuming that users would be happy with 11Mbps 802.11b for a year or more to come, and they are determined not to make the same mistake again. This has seen companies already releasing proprietary products that achieve ‘n’ levels of performance – up to 108Mbps. Broadcom and TI have both taken this route, but notable among the fast Wi-Fi chip vendors has been Atheros, which missed the 802.11g boat in the early days, but has been the most aggressive in launching turbocharged or ‘standards-plus’ 802.11g chips. In November, Broadcom engaged in a war of words with Atheros, claiming that the latter’s Super G technology – used by D-Link and Netgear, among others - degrades the performance of neighbouring Wi-Fi links (something Atheros denies). Now these players are joined by GSV. Its Prism Nitro XM Xtreme Multimedia is an upgrade for its 802.11g, 802.11a and 802.11a/g chips, used by Netgear, D-Link and SMC. With these vendors increasingly targeting the home Wi-Fi market, for applications such as wireless video streaming around the house, the pressure is on to maximize data rates. The key to the new speed is a technology called DirectLink, which automatically creates a link between clients – or from a client to a media source – without going through the access point. The client will still use the AP’s security features, but data will not pass through the AP, instead using a ‘side session’, which doubles the data rate of the Nitro chipsets. Performance is further enhanced through the use of more commonplace packet bursting and file compression techniques. Compressed audio and video will be transmitted at the highest rate, but content such as encrypted data will not. GSV claims that networks based on its new chips remain compatible with standard ‘g’ and ‘a’ clients – operating at their normal speeds - and do not interfere with other WLANs, the two main criticisms levelled at ‘standards-plus’. Interference is avoided, the company says, by adopting a single-channel solution. Nitro MX operates in just one Wi-Fi channel so that it does not collide with networks using adjacent channels. The 2.4GHz band used by 802.11g has 11 channels in the US, but only three are non-overlapping. Turbo products like Nitro MX are putting pressure on the IEEE to accelerate development of 802.11n and making it more critical for Broadcom to create pre-standard products. The success of products based on Super G show that there is already a market for 108Mbps Wi-Fi and, having slipped behind Atheros in souped-up 802.11g, the logical way to bite back is to support ‘n’, which even in a pre-standard form will have greater claims to interoperability than proprietary implementations of ‘g’. The 802.11n specification is currently at the project authorization phase. Key to its appeal is that it promises to deliver real world rates far closer to its theoretical maximum than current Wi-Fi variants, by addressing throughput at the MAC layer rather than as a signalling bit rate in the physical layer modulation scheme. It will operate in the 5GHz range along with 802.11a and so will have some of the same compatibility problems that exist between ‘a’ and 2.4GHz ‘b’ or ‘g’ radios. "WLANs having throughputs of 100 Mbps were considered impossible just a few years ago," said the IEEE’s Kerry. "But the success of IEEE 802.11 WLANs and a number of technology improvements have made far greater throughput feasible. These improvements include higher performing radio frequency and analog chips based on advanced CMOS technology and the integration of entire WLan adapters onto a single chip." The IEEE will also investigate the use of smart antenna technologies to increase the range of 802.11n and future 802.11x standards, and is looking forward to a next generation after ‘n’ that will deliver up to 320Mbps by 2007. © Copyright 2004 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.
Wireless Watch, 09 Jan 2004

CAN-SPAM means we can spam

A miniscule proportion of unsolicited commercial email complies with US Federal anti-spam laws introduced this month, according to a survey published yesterday. Email security firm MX Logic found that of a random sample of over 1,000 unsolicited commercial emails received during the first week this year only THREE of the messages complied with the CAN-SPAM Act. The CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act went into effect on January 1. "Calling this a high rate of non-compliance would be a gross understatement," said Scott Chasin, MX Logic’s chief technology officer. "It is no surprise that rogue spammers would fail to comply, but the non-compliant messages we saw appeared to be from all types of companies. “There appears to be an unstated, unofficial grace period for companies to comply, but if this high level of illegal spam continues, I think it will be interesting to see how enforcement of the new legislation will unfold." MX Logic notes that companies have had little time to digest the new law, signed onto the statute book by President Bush on December 16, let alone bring their marketing practices in line with the new legislation. That's a more forgiving line than other critics such as anti-spam group Spamhaus which argues that the US laws will make the spam problem even worse. The CAN-SPAM Act set up an opt-out regime for the regulation of commercial email. The Act contains the following provisions: Permissions for certain forms of unsolicited commercial email as long as it is clearly marked as an advertisement and allows consumers to unsubscribe from future unsolicited commercial email from the sender. Prohibition of sending commercial email containing sexually oriented material unless labelled as such. The Outlawing of the use of false email headers or the use of a mail server or open relay to deceive recipients about the origin of a commercial email message. Allows the FTC, state attorneys general and Internet providers (but not the public) to sue companies who violate the law. Provision for the establishment by the FTC of a "Do-Not-SPAM" registry. More than fifty per cent of Internet email is spam creating problems of lost productivity, communication bandwidth consumption, increased storage costs, IT resource drain and increased corporate liability. Legislation needs to be supplemented with robust technology, industry cooperation and consumer education if the spam tsunami is to be stopped, the MX says. ® Related Stories Spammers not deterred by Can Spam Act US anti-spam laws 'will legalise spam' UK anti-spam law goes live UK Govt fouls up anti-spam plans, say experts Microsoft aims to 'shift the tide' in war on spam The economics of spam
John Leyden, 09 Jan 2004

Lamo pleads guilty to NY Times hack

Hacker Adrian Lamo plead guilty Thursday to federal computer crime charges arising from his 2002 intrusion into the New York Time internal network, and faces a likely six to twelve months in custody when he's sentenced in April. In a plea deal with prosecutors, Lamo, 22, admitted to cracking the Times network and recklessly causing damage exceeding $5,000. Both sides agreed on the six to twelve month sentencing range which, under federal guidelines, could permit Lamo to serve his sentence under house arrest or confined to a halfway house, at the court's discretion. The judge is not bound by the sentencing recommendation, and could technically sentence Lamo to as much as five years in custody-- though it's unlikely. The hacker also potentially faces $15,000 to $20,000 in fines, and could be ordered to pay financial restitution. Clad, uncharacteristically, in a sports coat and loafers, Lamo answered federal judge Naomi Buchwald in a calm and clear voice Thursday as she meticulously reviewed his rights as a defendant, and asked if he wished to waive his right to a jury trial. Lamo told Buchwald that he regretted causing the Times financial harm. "I knew that I crossed the line," said Lamo. "I am genuinely remorseful." "He has always indicated that he's willing to accept responsibility for what he did," said Lamo's defense attorney, federal public defender Sean Hecker, after the appearance. In a statement, Times spokesperson Christine Mohan said Lamo's intrusion "was a serious offense, and we appreciate that it was treated as such by the authorities." The federal case against Lamo began in February, 2002, when, according to court documents, FBI agent Christine Howard read about the New York Times hack on SecurityFocus, which first reported on the incident. Lamo said at the time that he penetrated the Times after a two-minute scan turned up seven misconfigured proxy servers acting as doorways between the public Internet and the Times private intranet, making the latter accessible to anyone capable of properly configuring their Web browser. Once inside, Lamo exploited weaknesses in the Times password policies to broaden his access, eventually browsing such disparate information as the names and Social Security numbers of the paper's employees, logs of home delivery customers' stop and start orders, instructions and computer dial-ups for stringers to file stories, lists of contacts used by the Metro and Business desks, and the "WireWatch" keywords particular reporters had selected for monitoring wire services. He also added his real name, phone number and e-mail address to a database of 3,000 contributors to the Times op-ed page, where he listed himself as an expert in "Computer hacking, national security, communications intelligence." Financial losses disputed Prosecutors charged Lamo with the intrusion last September, and in an affidavit Mohan accused the hacker of racking up $300,000 in charges by conducting 3000 searches on the Lexis-Nexis news and legal databases service under the Times' corporate account. Lamo said at the time that the figure had "no basis in fact", and Thursday's plea suggests that it was at least exaggerated: both sides stipulated that the hacker caused between $30,000 and $70,000 in losses through a combination of his unauthorized Lexis-Nexis use, and his access to an unprotected Microsoft customer service database. (The Microsoft incident, which took place in 2001, was unrelated to the Times intrusion, but was included in the plea as "relevant conduct" for sentencing purposes) Thursday's guilty plea caps an aggressive FBI investigation that generated controversy last September when the Bureau notified a dozen journalists who had covered the hacker's antics that it intended to subpoena reporters' notes-- a threat that was later withdrawn as inconsistent with Justice Department policy. In the months that followed, the probe saw FBI agents contacting a Who's Who of figures in the computer security and hacking community, some with no obvious connection to Lamo, like @stake's Chris Wysopal, and Tsutomu Shimomura, the researcher who helped the FBI track then-fugitive hacker Kevin Mitnick in 1995. Field agents also interviewed the nomadic hacker's friends and associates around the country, toting a list of questions that covered everything from Lamo's motives as a hacker, to queries about his social life. "They kind of tried to make me feel like I did something," said Lamo friend Matt Griffiths. "They asked if I was a hacker, if I ever hacked anything, what kind of programs I used." The FBI didn't return a phone call on the case. Lamo has become something a tech-media darling for his rootless, wandering lifestyle -- Wired News dubbed him the "Homeless Hacker" -- combined with his habit of publicly exposing security holes at large corporations, then voluntarily helping the companies fix the vulnerabilities he exploited, sometimes visiting their offices or signing non-disclosure agreements in the process. Until the Times hack, Lamo's cooperation and transparency kept him from being prosecuted, even after hacking Excite@Home, Yahoo, Blogger, and other companies, usually using nothing more than an ordinary Web browser. Some companies even professed gratitude for his efforts: In December, 2001, Lamo was praised by communications giant WorldCom after he discovered then helped close security holes in their intranet. Lamo said after the court appearance Thursday that his plea agreement does not preclude the government charging him for some of his other intrusions, but, "there's sort of an understanding, which may or may not hold." The hacker also says he's through committing computer crimes. He remains free on bail, obliged by court order to live with his parents and either work or attend school. He's now a student at a community college in Sacramento, California, where he's studying journalism. Copyright © 2004,
Kevin Poulsen, 09 Jan 2004

So why did Pervasive acquire Data Junction?

Pervasive last month acquired Data Junction. The question is: why (asks Phil Howard of Bloor Research)?. Pervasive, like Hewlett-Packard, started life in a garage, though in the case of Pervasive it was in the 1980's. It eventually (albeit under another name) became well-known as the developer of Btrieve, before it was acquired by Novell. Then it was spun out as Btrieve Technologies and, most recently, changed its name to Pervasive and its product's name to Pervasive.SQL. Despite the name change, most of us who have been around for any length of time will still tend to think of the product as Btrieve but, whatever you call it, the product is still widely used as an embedded database, particularly for applications going into smaller and medium sized organisations. Data Junction on the other hand, initially came to fame (if that is the right word) as an ETL (extract, transform and load) vendor. However, the truth is that it never became one of the major players in this space. More recently, it turned its attention to the enterprise application integration space. So, where is the synergy between the two companies? Well, both are profitable, they do not compete with one another, and they are approximately the same size. If nothing else, there should be economies of scale. But that hardly seems to be the whole answer. It is quite a leap from databases to application integration though, no doubt, a database will be required for the latter for storing metadata. So perhaps it is more reasonable to think in terms of Data Junction's ETL capabilities. Microsoft has built ETL capabilities (DTS) into SQL Server, Oracle has Oracle Warehouse Builder and even IBM has some ETL capabilities so there is a clear trend towards including such capabilities in database products. However, I don't know any other database vendors that are doing this. The reason why Microsoft et al are providing ETL facilities is that they expect their products to be used for data warehouses purposes and it obviously makes like easier to load data is you have your facilities. But it seems unlikely that Pervasive expects to be used as a data warehousing platform. The other good reason for wanting an integrated ETL tool is because you expect to pick up business from your competitors and you want to make it as easy as possible for customers to make that decision. This is a plausible explanation but it is difficult to see which users Pervasive will be targeting if, indeed, this is its aim. Another conceivable possibility is that Pervasive is eyeing GoldenGate's market. GoldenGate markets what is effectively a combined ETL and replication tool, and it has proved quite successful at the mainframe level. Pervasive has an extension to Pervasive.SQL that provides replication and perhaps it sees this as a possibility. The bottom line is that I don't why Pervasive is buying Data Junction. There doesn't seem to be any particularly obvious motive. I could, of course, ask the company. Indeed, I will do so. But I find that initial ruminations on subjects such as these are more interesting without reference to the vendor since, in any case, you may not get to here the whole truth. If I learn more from the company I'll let you know. © IT-Analysis.com Phil Howard is an analyst at Bloor Research who specialises in database technology. His biog is here.
IT-Analysis, 09 Jan 2004

T-Mobile waives £8,000 stolen mobile bill

News of the British couple who had their mobile phone stolen on holiday, and subsequently faced a phone bill for GBP8,000, highlights the risk to both mobile phone users and operators associated with mobile roaming. But more could be done to avert the risk posed by phone fraudsters. The latest mobile fraud news throws up a number of important issues in the mobile space. While most if not all mobile operators employ fraud detection software to try to prevent this kind of fraudulent use of a phone when it is lost or stolen, it is not foolproof, nor can it detect a fraud instantaneously. Fraud detection software trawls through call records looking for anomalies or unusual behavior patterns that might be the result of a fraud. But for the software to work, it needs to analyze the latest call detail records (CDRs) to establish unusual behavior. When a mobile user is roaming outside of their own country these CDRs are not generated by their home operator but by partner operators. It can take several days for these records to be passed back to the home operator, during which time many thousands of pounds can be defrauded. But there is something operators can do to protect themselves and their customers. One such system is called Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange (NRTDE), developed by a little-known German company called OpTel Informatik. According to the company, instead of passing data slowly via the usual billing routes from one partner back to the home operator, NRTDE offers direct transfer via a centralized data exchange platform, using Internet Protocol. It supports the common CDR standards, and because it can use Internet Protocol to transmit the data, it should be relatively inexpensive, according to OpTel Informatik. Because the information is passed in near real-time to a central exchange, fraud detection is much faster and risks are reduced. Meanwhile, until similar systems become widely adopted, the risk of fraudulent use of "roaming" mobile phones will be ever-present. Another issue is that while the fraudulent use of a phone to make a call may cost either the owner of the phone or the operator several dollars per minute, with the move towards the use of mobile phones to handle more complex and higher value transactions, the potential damage wreaked by fraud could escalate. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Related Research Mobile Consumer Update; data data data Enterprise Mobile Devices Wireless Watch The emerging market for mobile web-services: a proposition in many guises
Datamonitor, 09 Jan 2004

Woman gets ‘tits out’ online for charity

A Somerset woman is getting her "tits out" to raise money for a multiple sclerosis (MS) charity. "Vix", who suffers from the illness, decided to go topless after earning a tenner for flashing her breasts in a local pub. Now, she's set up a Web site called Tits Out For Multiple Sclerosis in a bid to "raise awareness of this illness…and have a little fun in doing so". The site also details her own frank account of her fight against the disease. She's also hoping that people will donate cash to her charity - the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre (MSRC). When Ananova covered the story earlier today Vix had raised £35 for her efforts. At the time of writing the total had doubled to £70. Helen Yates, managing executive at Colchester-based MSRC, told The Register that the topless site was "one of the most unusual fundraising" schemes the charity had come across so far. But she welcomed it wholeheartedly explaining: "This is a woman who epitomises a 'can-do' approach. She's proving a point, proving that people with MS can get on with their lives." ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2004

Park and pay by mobile comes to London

Drivers in the south London area of Putney will soon be able to pay their parking fees by mobile phone. The cash-free service, which uses technology from London-based developer Parkmobile, is aimed at people who make regular trips to Putney in their car. It’s believed to be only the second such scheme in the UK. A similar scheme launched in Edinburgh last October has proved popular with motorists in the Scottish capital. Some 1,400 people have already registered to use the technology, The Scotsman reports. The Edinburgh project uses technolgy from Irish company Itsmobile. London calling It’s hoped the London scheme will take some of the pain out of parking. Instead of feeding coins into a pay and display machine drivers will be able to make two short phone calls on their mobile - one when they arrive at the parking space and the other when they depart - to pay the relevant fee. During the initial call, punters will be prompted to key in a three-digit code corresponding to the section of road where they are parking. The two calls should cost no more than 10p. The scheme does away with the need to find the right change or problems sometimes caused in locating a working pay-and-display machine. However the option of using pay-and-display machines will still be available after the mobile scheme begins on February 2. The cash-free approach is touted as more flexible because drivers will only pay for the time they are parked, so there's no need to rush back to a car when a fee is about to expire. Drivers can order a special transponder card, which costs £1 a month in addition to parking fees, direct from Parkmobile. The company will then set up a secure payment arrangement. Motorists would leave a Parkmobile card is fixed in their windscreen when they park. This information allows parking attendants to electronically check whether parking permission has been purchased. For more information visit Wandsworth Council’s micros-site here. The service is already operating successfully in eight European cities in The Netherlands and Germany. It will be launched initially within the Putney controlled parking zone on February 2 and could be extended to other parts of Wandsworth providing the scheme is a success. Parkmobile hopes to launch similar schemes in other parts of London later in the year. ® External Links Pay-by-phone parking first for Putney Related Stories m-Payments for Edinburgh parking meters
John Leyden, 09 Jan 2004

UK.gov claws deeper discounts from Oracle

The British government's Oracle bill should come down, following the renegotiation of licence terms with the enterprise database vendor. The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) which reworked the Oracle Ts&Cs was pleased enough with its labours to issue a press release on the matter, but why publish it on December 29, guys, a time when even fewer tech journalists are at work than civil servants. Under the new pricing regime, individual departments can elect to buy licences on a per processor basis. Previously, the tally was based on named individuals, so this gives an obvious opportunity for earlier price breaks. The volume discounts now kick in at 500 processors. Also Oracle has agreed to a reduction in the minimum number of users required for an Enterprise License Agreement. In the previous memorandum of understanding signed by the OGC and Oracle in February 2003 - and meant to last three years - Oracle ceded to the UK the same level of discounts as it did the much larger US federal marketplace. This should have secured price cuts averaging 11 per cent for the UK public sector, according to last year's bumf, but we have no idea if this panned out in practice. Prior to last year's agreement, individual public sector organisations negotiated separately with Oracle, obtaining different prices. In a statement at the time, Oracle said the deal would deliver "significant value" for the company. With all government Oracle procurement negotiations now pooled under the OGC, it is difficult to see how "significant value" translates into anything but "less money". Precise terms are, as is the way with such things, confidential. But how unlike the swashbuckling Oracle of yore. Not so long ago the company would robustly defend itself against accusations from analysts of overcharging. But the company lost most its swagger, following the furore in 2002 over a licensing deal with the state of California. The terms were based on unfeasibly high volume protections and could have gouged tens of million dollars from state coffers. Also the company is now facing a serious competitor for database spend - in the guise of IBM and DB2 - in years. Nothing concentrates the mind of a corporation so much as the prospect of losing a monopoly. Heck, it's even time to be nice to dollar-pinching customers. Where Next? The OGC is now flexing its purchasing power muscle at Microsoft. The UK government is thought to spend around £100m a year on Microsoft licences and it is mustard keen to reduce this by a substantial amount. In recent months, the OGC has funded programmes to investigate the feasibility of open source software, including - gasp! - on the desktop. Few seriously expect UK.gov to conduct a wholesale switch from Microsoft, but it will do negotiations little harm for the OGC to buff up an alternative technology supplier or ten. Nothing concentrates the mind of a corporation so much etc. etc. ® Related stories Oracle cleans up pricing act Newham ditches IBM OSS trial, but goes to extra time with MS price talks UK govt pitches Sun as OSS challenger for 500k desktops Open source not ready for desktop, IBM told UK government UK gov aims for 'level playing field' with open source pilots
Drew Cullen, 09 Jan 2004

And now we are One. Many unhappy returns to SoBig

Today is the first anniverary of Sobig, the worm family which produced such misery for email users last year. Sobig-A, like its successors, featured a combination of spamming and virus-writing techniques. As well as infecting hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide, Sobig-A installed open proxies on compromised machines, creating an ideal platform for the anonymous dissemination of spam. To date, email filtering firm MessageLabs has intercepted 737,125 copies in 183 countries; and the worm continues to spread. Despite a built-in expiry date, some infected PCs have incorrectly set system clocks. These machines therefore continue to spew out fresh copies of the malicious code. Sobig-A's 'success' motivated its unknown author(s) into creating subsequent versions. These 'efforts' led the creation of Sobig-F, the most prolific virus to date. MessageLabs has blocked a staggering 32,899,165 copies of Sobig-F. The Sobig family has also served as the model for other viruses using convergence techniques, such as the Fizzer worm. Sobig has altered the viral landscape, acording to Mark Sunner, CTO at MessageLabs. "Sobig-A and its successors represent one of the most significant shifts in virus writing techniques to date. While the line between virus writers and spammers was once drawn clearly, this new generation of viruses is fast eroding that distinction," he said. "The success of Sobig has served as an inspiration to cyber criminals, and demonstrates what can be achieved when they work together," he added. ® Related Stories Sobig-F is fastest growing virus ever - official Dangerous Mimail variant knocks over anti-spam sites Phishing and viral tech combines in new menace Telia blocks spam-sending Zombie PCs Sobig-F blamed for massive increase in spam Mafia recruiting spammers, crackers, AV chief warns
John Leyden, 09 Jan 2004

Real and IBM form media software link

CESCES Real Networks and IBM have decided to combine parts of their software lines to make it easier for customers to deliver digital content to a variety of devices. The deal between the two companies will see Real ship its RealPlayer/Audio/Video products, Helix DRM (digital rights management) and Helix Universal Server with IBM's middleware stack. The products from IBM include WebSphere Media Enabler, WebSphere Commerce and DB2 Content Manager. By creating a unfied package with all of these products the two companies claim customers will have an easier time rolling out content delivery services of their own. "We are pleased to announce this relationship with IBM today," said Rob Glaser, CEO, RealNetworks, Inc. "Together we will enable our global customers to quickly offer secure and high-quality media services to their consumers whenever they want it and wherever they want it -- at their TV, their PC, in their car, or with their phone." Real has been buzzing this week with the release of its Real 10 line of products. Real has more than 1.3 million subscribers to its various services, including the RealPlayer Music Store. Real and IBM will likely include their software as part of a larger package that includes servers and storage. In total, they would be able to manage every aspect of content delivery from creation to billing. The companies plan to start selling the combined products sometime during the first half of this year. This is obviously a major win for Real, which faces ever increasing pressure from longtime rival Microsoft. ®
Ashlee Vance, 09 Jan 2004

Pocket-sized PC has PowerBook pedigree

CESCES It's almost two years since we wrote about OQO's pocket-sized PC. In the twenty months that have elapsed since it 'debuted' at The Register, the OQO was a no show. But in the meantime the 'Ultra Personal' - now slated to appear later this year - has morphed into something much more usable. OQO boasts a design team that includes former members of the Titanium Powerbook project, and shares the same elegant finish and space scrimping design. The pocket-sized PC is not so much intended as a notebook replacement, but as a desktop and notebook replacement. Much like the Tiqit, it's intended to be plugged into whatever display or keyboard comes to hand, so you shuttle it between home and the office. It has a display: 800 x 420 that's borderline usable, pen input, and a keyboard that looks better than it feels, which slides down from behind the LCD display. An unusual feature is the coil stylus input, which drags the cursor around the screen without the stylus actually making contact with the screen. Overall, it's a small design marvel. UQO haven't skimped on features: it sports FireWire and WiFi, although the 1Ghz Crusoe processor doesn't exactly feel nippy. Since the OQO was first shown at 2002 WinHEC, the Tablet PC has been launched with much publicity, but little impact on the market. The success of this device depends on how many people want to sacrifice a little performance for convenience and portability. How many that adds up to is anyone's guess, but allow yourselves a peek here. ® Related Story Ex-Apple staff debut palm-sized PC
Andrew Orlowski, 09 Jan 2004