26th > January > 2004 Archive

Bill Gates receives knighthood

Britain is to recognise Bill Gates' contribution to UK enterprise and the fight against poverty worldwide with the sort of honour money just can't buy - a knighthood. Bill, who is reported to be "absolutely delighted", will sadly not be Sir Bill of Seattle but, as a US citizen, may henceforth be addressed by the honorary title of Bill Gates KBE (Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). He joins an illustrious list of fellow Americans previously mounting the British honours podium for their contribution to the advancement of humanity worldwide, including Dubya's peace-loving pa George Bush Senior. Foreign secretary Jack Straw is also "delighted" at Mr Gates' elevation to the pantheon of the Great and the Good, and noted: "He is one of the most important global business leaders of this age." "Microsoft technology has transformed business practices and his company has had a profound impact on the British economy, employing 2,000 people and contributing to the development of the IT sector," Straw added. Gates is honoured not just for illuminating the UK by installing Windows where previously there was darkness and confusion, but also for the work of his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The charitable outfit has ploughed huges sums into various projects including AIDS, public libraries and international development. We at El Reg would like to congratulate Mr Gates on his knighthood, and take the opportunity to remind both him and Microsoft that the honour must be shared with other holders, and that it would be considered poor form to mount an aggressive takeover bid against Saint Bob Geldof KBE. He will be collecting his gong from the Queen at Buckingham Palace at a "mutually convenient" time for him and Her Majesty's Government. ®
Lester Haines, 26 Jan 2004

Euro PDA biz sees first growth since 2000

European PDA shipments reached a record 958,000 units during the last three months of 2003, market watcher IDC said this past Friday. Q4's shipments were significantly higher than past quarters: up 38 per cent over those recorded in Q3 2002 and more than 47 per cent up on the previous quarter's 504,015 units. During 2003, the sector also experienced its first growth year since 2000, IDC said. Annual shipments topped 2.6 million units - 27.5 per more than 2002's two million. IDC pinpoints lower prices and bundle deals as key drivers for the vendors' successes during the quarter. Medion, a German PC vendors, has been a constant feature of the 2003 European PDA charts thanks to its Pocket PC/GPS bundle - the only PDA kit it offers. Almost all of its sales have come through the German retail chain, Aldi - Medion needs to seek new, wider channels if it wants to maintain its impressive momentum, IDC warned. Palm remained 2003's leading vendor, despite falling into second place in Q3 and Q4, behind HP. Naturally, Palm disputes the figures, citing over-the-counter sales stats from market researcher GfK which show it in first place certainly in Q3 and possible in Q4, too. Upcoming Palm-oriented GPS products from satellite navigation specialist Navman may give a boost to the company. According to IDC, however, HP's wide product range, targeting all price points and market segments during the quarter, helped it maintain its lead, playing in its 'high end' brand to win sales at the other end of the market with its low-end product. That's a trick Sony has largely failed to capitalise upon, the researcher said. However, two low-end models released in time for the Christmas sales period accounted for 80 per cent of Sony's PDA sales in the region, which may well persuade to address the low end more forcefully having now established itself in the market's upper reaches. ® IDC Western European Handheld Device Vendor Shares, 4Q03 Rank Vendor 4Q03 % Share 4Q02 % Share Growth 1 HP 353,665 36.9% 135,000 19.5% 162.0% 2 Palm 287,725 30.0% 355,000 51.2% -19.0% 3 Medion 97,000 10.1%   0.0% N/A 4 Sony 76,130 7.9% 78,900 11.4% -3.5% 5 Dell 39,975 4.2%   0.0% N/A   Others 103,555 10.8% 124,150 17.9% -16.6%   Total 958,050   693,050   38.2% Source: IDC, 2004 IDC Western European Handheld Device Vendor Shares, 2003 Rank Vendor 2003 % Share 2002 % Share Growth 1 Palm 825,615 32.3% 858,145 43.0% -3.8% 2 HP 810,315 31.7% 564,445 28.3% 43.6% 3 Medion 202,000 7.9%   0.0% N/A 4 Sony 189,660 7.4% 162,535 8.1% 16.7% 5 Dell 121,900 4.8%   0.0% N/A   Others 407,485 15.9% 412,435 20.6% -1.2%   Total 2,556,975   1,997,560   28.0% Source: IDC, 2004 IDC Western European Handheld Device Operating System Shares, 4Q03 Operating System 4Q03 % Share 4Q02 % Share Growth Windows Mobile 570,670 59.6% 222,835 32.2% 156.1% Palm OS 372,990 38.9% 443,920 64.1% -16.0% Other 14,390 1.5% 26,300 3.8% -45.3% Total 958,050   693,055   38.2% Source: IDC, 2004 IDC Western European Handheld Device Operating System Shares, 2003 Operating System 2003 % Share 2002 % Share Growth Windows Mobile 1,422,765 55.6% 819,330 41.0% 73.6% Palm OS 1,038,590 40.6% 1,086,415 54.4% -4.4% Other 95,620 3.7% 91,815 4.6% 4.1% Total 2,556,975   1,997,560   28.0% Source: IDC, 2004 Related Stories No PDA market growth in Q3 without HP HP knocked Palm off top Euro PDA sales slot during Q3
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 2004

AMD makes ‘substantial’ Euro PC share gain

Some 16.9 per cent of PCs sold by European resellers during the three months to 30 September contained AMD processors, UK-based market watcher Context has calculated. The figure marks a significantly bigger bite for the terrier nipping at Chipzilla's heels. During Q3 2002, AMD's share of the European PC sales through resellers was just 10.6 per cent, Context said. In revenue terms, AMD share of that market has grown from nine per cent in Q3 2002 to 13.6 per cent in Q3 2003. According to Context, both gains resulted from a "substantial rise" in higher margin notebook sales. In that segment of the market alone, AMD's unit shipments share rose from 11.7 per cent to 21.8 per cent year on year, while its share of sales revenue grew from 9.8 per cent to 16.2 per cent. Q3's figures offer sequential gains, too. In Q2 2003, AMD took 13.7 per cent of the market by units shipped and 10.9 per cent by revenue. Its equivalent shares of the notebook segment were 17.6 per cent and 13.1 per cent, respectively. The researcher's figures cover Europe's seven biggest economies: the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands. Context said its Q4 2003 figures look "promising" for AMD, but would not provide details. It is expected to release its fourth-quarter findings later this week. ®
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 2004

Broadband minnow spawns rural service

Wireless outfit FDM Broadband has managed to wire up a Hampshire village with high-speed Net access without too much aggravation from monster telco BT. At the end of last year FDM kicked up a stink after claiming that BT had failed to repair a dedicated circuit needed to connect one of its wireless communities to the Net. FDM also claimed that the BT connection had gone West six times in a fortnight, causing aggravation for the company and its customers. FDM was so frustrated at the way it had been treated it lodged a formal complaint with the regulator. The company also alleged that the incident in Lambourn, Berkshire, was not isolated and that it had experienced similar problems elsewhere as it tried to bring broadband to rural areas in Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire. Now, it seems, that the BT-related issues plaguing FDM appear to have gone away following news that residents in Kingsclere, nestled between Basingstoke and Newbury, have a wireless broadband service. According to a spokesman, Kingsclere is "going just fine" after only being hit by some "minor issues". Villagers offset the cost of installing the wireless service with a £15,000 grant from the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA). Kingsclere was forced down the wireless route after the village was unable to drum up 500 subscribers (out of a population of 3,500) for BT's ADSL service. FDM Broadband MD Karl Crossman said: "The big fixed-line providers have been reluctant to expand their infrastructure into many rural areas and have been very ambivalent in their dealings with rural communities like this one. "If we want to avoid a major digital divide emerging in this country, wireless broadband is going to be essential to bringing broadband to the ten to 20 percent of the population who live in remote rural areas where other infrastructure is unavailable." ® Related Stories BT faces fresh complaint over late BB delivery Broadband minnow takes on BT over 'unacceptable' behaviour
Tim Richardson, 26 Jan 2004

WTO to rule on Hynix import duties

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has put in place the people who will decide if the tariffs imposed separately by the European Union and the US on imports of Hynix DRAM products are lawful, according to wire reports. And now Japan is ready to follow suit with tariffs, following complaints by local manufacturer Elpida. It is to impose "countervailing" duties of 20-40 per cent against Hynix from the summer, Korean newspapers say. The WTO move follows official complaints made to the WTO last year by the South Korean government on Hynix's behalf. Those complaints followed the imposition of a 34.8 per cent import duty on Hynix DRAM goods coming into the EU, and a parallel 44.7 per cent duty on US imports. The tariffs were put in place after European and US commerce bodies ruled that Hynix had been on the receiving end of state aid outlawed by the WTO. Local appeals made by Hynix against the duties failed, leaving it little choice but to ask the South Korean government to raise the matter with the WTO. At the heart of the matter lie cash injections given to Hynix by a number of its creditor banks. Since some of those organisations were then fully or part-owned by South Korea, and Hynix would almost certainly have collapsed without them, rival DRAM makers Infineon and Micron claimed the rescue packages ran contrary to WTO regulations, which forbid member states from propping up uneconomic companies. Hynix has always maintained that not all of the creditors behind the rescue funding were connected to the South Korean government, and of those that were, the government was in the process of yielding overall control. ® Related Stories Hynix appeals against EU DRAM tax South Korea launches Hynix probe South Korea asks WTO to overturn EU Hynix levy Elpida, Nanya demand Hynix DRAM probes Hynix loses US 45% DRAM tax appeal South Korea appeals to WTO over Hynix DRAM tariffs
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 2004

Vodafone preps monthly phone- style PC rentals

European PC maker Fujitsu Siemens (FSC) has partnered with Vodafone to offer what it claims is the world's first mobile phone-style monthly notebook contract. Under the Connect2Air package, the computer costs £99 ($180), on top of which the user signs up to a monthly airtime contract of £89 ($162) or more, depending on the connectivity options selected, including Vodafone's cellular GPRS network and Wi-Fi hotspots. Vodafone is offering a range of FSC notebooks and tablet PCs, all based on Intel's Centrino platform. The prices of the hardware range from £1139 to £1478. Buying via Connect2Air will set you back £2235 ($4077), based on a minimum two-year contract and taking the basic £89 contract. The deal also includes a bundled Vodafone £100 Mobile Connect Card for GPRS network access. That amounts to a mark-up of £41.50 ($75) a month for Net access. This, the partners claim, is an "easier" and "more affordable" way for businesses to buy IT. Certainly it saves buyers from having to make an initial, up-front payment. But then so does a credit card or bank loan. Each option allows a small business to buy a computer without affecting its monthly cash flow. The packages are aimed at businesses that want to take advantage of mobile technology but need to keep a tight rein on costs. Depending on usage, of course, a business could buy the equivalent access and technology for around £1681. Heavy GPRS usage and regular Wi-Fi access would bring the overall two-year cost closer to or beyond the cost of Connect2Air. Connect2Air packages go on sale on 1 March via Carphone Warehouse and online through PC resellers Microwarehouse and Insight. ® Related Products Search for Laptops and tablet PCs from The Reg mobile store
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 2004

419 scammers start working the phones

Nigerian scammers increasingly are calling US companies on the phone, using relay phone services. These are normally free calls made by supposedly deaf people using keyboards which go to a phone company operator, who places a phone call and speaks for them. Companies such as AT&T offer these services at no cost. The scams can take several forms, experts say. Very often, scammers order goods with fraudulently obtained credit cards and have them shipped to Africa. They tell their victims it is a rush job that must be in the hands of the air freight company within hours. The orders have several characteristics. The scammers often type in all caps and their English is poor. They usually want fast shipment (with shipping cost no objection) and most orders are huge in size. Most favourable are commodity item that can be quickly resold. Never trust Internet relay calls unless you actually know the person calling you, a "worn out relay operator" warns. "They will give you a sob story, they will claim they have a business, they will even pretend to be religious leaders.....they are all liars. Chances are your Nigerian friend is multi tasking and placing numerous calls at once." ®
Jan Libbenga, 26 Jan 2004

AMD Athlon FX-53 appears on web

AMD's upcoming Athlon FX-53 processor has surfaced on the web. Apparently. GZeasy has a rather blurry, indistinct photo of a chip, which it claims is the 2.4GHz processor. To back-up its claim, the site has posted a series of BIOS and CPU information software screen shots mentioning the Athlon FX-53 by name. Given how easy it is to fake up these things, we'll leave final judgement on the pics' veracity to you good selves. ®
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 2004

Sir Bill of Seattle settles with Mike Rowe

As predicted last week, Microsoft has settled out of court with teenager Mike Rowe after the young wag established mikerowesoft.com, much to the chagrin of his Imperial Majestyness Sir Bill Gates of all the Microsofts. In return for handing over the offending url, Mike gets expenses, a new site, subscription to MS's Devlopers' Forum and, wait for it, a shiny Xbox. This is a big improvement on the original $10 Microsoft offered the 17-year-old Canadian to desist in his "copyright-busting" shennanigans although we can't help but feel they could have thrown in a few porn site subscriptions and a Segway, too. Still, the whippersnapper can console himself with the further incentives of training for MS product certification and an all-expenses-paid trip to MS's headquarters for himself and his parents. Which will give Baron Bill von Vindows-Seattlehausen the chance to meet the child prodigy described by an MS flunkey as "a bright young man with great potential". So, all well that ends well. This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. ® Related Stories Microsoft prepares Mike Rowe legal exit Microsoft lawyers threaten Mike Rowe (17)
Lester Haines, 26 Jan 2004

400mph cyclists kill opponents with handlebar-mounted guns

It had to happen: a US company has married an indoor cycle training stand to a Playstation2, creating Gamebike. 'Play don't train," says Gamebike about its $139 unit. The device - created by two US doctors - can be linked up to 'chase' games such as Extreme G Racing, where riders can steer and pedal through "25th century towns and landscapes" at 400mph....Killing people, naturally. Gamebike was created by Denver orthopedic surgeons Drs. Ted Parks and Craig Davis to "address the boredom of indoor exercise and the epidemic of childhood obesity." The faster you pedal, the faster you go in the game. The Gamebike unit - made by CatEye of Japan, the LED cycle light manufacturer - is available at www.gamebike.com and needs an add-on cycle trainer to hold the bike. "Gamebike eliminates the monotony of indoor exercise, and provides parents with a healthy alternative to get kids off the couch while they play video games," said Davis. © Copyright 2004 BikeBiz.co.uk
Carlton Reid, 26 Jan 2004

Sony preps PSX update as retailers criticise marketing

The first in a series of free software upgrades for the recently launched PSX media centre is set to arrive in Japan at the beginning of February - but retailers in Japan are reported to be highly critical of the system's performance so far. This first update, which restores much of the functionality that was removed from the original specification before Christmas, will be made available online at the beginning of February, while for those who haven't connected their PSX to the Internet, a version on CD will be available later in the month. Sony will be hoping to address some of the concerns of key electronics retailers with this update, as in a recent survey of retailers carried out by the Nikkei Marketing Journal, the removal of features before Christmas was listed as a major problem with the system. The same survey also revealed that some 40 per cent of retailers were disappointed with sales of the device so far - not a majority, but certainly enough to make Sony uncomfortable. The company's marketing campaign for the PSX was also identified as a key issue, with retailers claiming that it was unclear and failed to convey the strengths and abilities of the system to consumers. Although Sony's marketing blitz for the PSX prior to Christmas was massive, it was a traditional Sony effort in that it focused primarily on brand appeal and contained little information - an approach which doesn't work for devices such as the PSX, claim retailers. The company plans to respond to this criticism by launching a new marketing campaign for PSX in spring. The first step in building confidence over the product, however, is restoring the originally promised specification. Included in the first upgrade is compatibility with TIFF images and MP3 music, as well as a module allowing compatibility with USB keyboards and an increase in the speed at which video can be recorded to DVD to 24x. All of these upgrades are part of the original PSX specification, but were stripped out late last year in order to ensure that the system launched in time for Christmas. At the time, there were howls of protest from media commentators and analysts alike, but Sony has always maintained that the reduction was a temporary one, and it didn't seem to adversely affect sales of the PSX over Christmas. A second update is planned for March, which will restore compatibility with the GIF image format, DVD+RW discs, the Sony Cybershot camera and PlayStation network gaming (the system possesses a network port but currently isn't capable of using it for PS2 online games). A firm launch date for the PSX in Europe has yet to be set, but it's expected to roll out later this year - and will almost certainly include the entire feature set as originally announced when it appears on these shores.
gamesindustry.biz, 26 Jan 2004

Prior consent does not mean opt-in

The UK's so-called anti-spam law, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, came into effect in December 2003. Many have said that this means changing the standard for consumer e-mail marketing in the UK from opt-out to opt-in - but that's not strictly true. Confusion has arisen because legally there is a difference between the term "consent", which is what the law actually requires, and "opt-in," which is what everyone seems to think the law requires. In fact, the rules are not as restrictive as some have suggested. Even consent is not always necessary. If promoting similar products to existing customers, or those consumers whose contact details the marketer obtained when selling or negotiating a sale, consent is not needed provided an opt-out is given on collection of the e-mail addresses and an unsubscribe option is included with each e-mail sent. But if this does not apply - i.e. if the marketer is cold-calling by e-mail - the Regulation that causes concern says that consent is needed from the recipient before sending unsolicited e-mail marketing to individual subscribers (which do not include corporate subscribers). The Information Commissioner, responsible for enforcing the Regulations, has issued guidance on this which confirms that ticking a box is not the only way to get consent. Consent can be obtained, for example, by clicking an icon, sending an e-mail or subscribing to a service. So a business can build a database of e-mail subscribers and legitimately market its products to them without needing to provide an opt-in box, provided it gets its wording correct at the point of subscription. The key points are that there must be some form of positive action by the individual, they must understand that they are consenting and they must understand what they are consenting to. A clear and upfront privacy statement that says something like "if you sign up for this service you will be consenting to receiving e-mail marketing from us unless you tick the opt-out box provided" may, according to the Commissioner, be sufficient to gain consent. That is not much different to what many responsible e-marketers have done in the past. The guidance also makes clear that there is nothing that expressly rules out the provision of consent via a third party. So those that thought either that they could no longer buy or sell lists or that this would no longer be worth it because no-one would opt-in may be relieved to discover that an opt-out box can still be used together with suitable wording - although this will depend on how the information is collected from the individual. Commercially, many organisations may decide to go down the clear opt-in route and this certainly seems to be what consumers are expecting. E-mail marketing that consumers do not want is often seen as spam, even if it is not. However, for those organisations that have been concerned about their marketing databases dwindling, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. © Copyright 2004 OUT-LAW.COM Louise Townsend is a specialist in data protection law with Masons, the firm behind OUT-LAW.COM.
Louise Townsend, 26 Jan 2004

PlusNet rebrands 'no man's land' DSL service

Confusion and misunderstanding has forced Sheffield-based ISP, PlusNet, into a rethink over the branding of its "midband" 150k DSL service. When the ISP announced last month that it was trialling the service, it didn't refer to it as a "broadband" service, but instead positioned it as a "natural stepping-stone from unmetered dial access to the even higher speeds offered by Broadband Internet access". Today, though, the ISP has unveiled the full commercial launch of its "dslConnect" "broadband" service, which offers ADSL at speeds of between 150k and 250k at process starting from £15.99 a month. According to the ISP, it was forced to rethink its position following feedback from customers. A spokesman for the company told The Register: "Customers didn't seem to understand [the differences], they weren't buying into it. They thought it [dslConnect] fell in no man's land between unmetered access and broadband." As a result, dslConnect is now being marketed as a broadband service. While PlusNet may feel that it has cleared up this muddle, others will no doubt argue that it simply adds to the confusion of what does, and does not, constitute "broadband" in the UK. Last year, for example, the UK's consumer watchdog called for a "meaningful" definition to be adopted by the industry because it said there was "widespread confusion about the term 'broadband'". That aside, Marco Potesta, Commercial and Marketing Director at PlusNet, said that dslConnect, represents "great value for people who want the benefits of high-speed Internet access at the same price as they are currently paying for dial access". PlusNet's dslConnect is built on the back of a wholesale Datastream service provided by Tiscali UK. ® Related Stories PlusNet unveils 150k DSL service Define broadband please - CA
Tim Richardson, 26 Jan 2004

Vodafone launches 3G data card trial

Vodafone has begun testing a 3G version of its notebook-oriented Mobile Connect Card, the network said today. The current version of the card provides notebooks with Internet access through dial-up GSM links or always-on GPRS connections. Neither is particularly quick, better for checking email on the move than heavy-duty web browsing. Adding 3G boosts speeds by a fair margin, but not yet up to broadband or Wi-Fi data throughput rates. Coverage is limited too, to the UK's main metropolitan areas and along the M4. Vodafone's 3G service is expected to be launched in the Spring. Vodafone's trial service will be offered to corporate customers, but the company said smaller businesses will be brought in further down the line. ® Related Stories Review: Sony Ericsson GC79 WLAN + GPRS card Related Products Buy PC Card phones in The Reg mobile store
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 2004

Mike Rowe goes soft, hands over PR victory

Microsoft has done it again - looked for all the world like it is going to get a bloody nose, and come out smelling of roses. The software giant has settled with 17-year-old student Mike Rowe over his domain MikeRoweSoft.com and somehow turned it into a PR opportunity. There was certainly a good degree of naivete from Mike Rowe and his parents, as indeed there was on the press’s behalf when they bought Microsoft’s line about it wanting to protect its trademark. But far from Microsoft being hauled over the coals for sending threatening letters to minors over websites it has no legitimate rights to, its lawyers have persuaded the Rowe family to sign over the domain and, we can only assume, put their names to a confidentiality contract which means they won’t talk about the deal. Mike, who was previously very helpful and swift in response to our questions has not replied to queries over the deal, sent three days ago. This confidentiality contract means Microsoft can say anything it wants about the settlement and not risk being contradicted. So, we have it telling us it will help direct traffic from MikeRoweSoft.com to Mike’s new site and that it will pay “out-of-pocket expenses” related to this. That’s all fine and probably true. We doubt very much what these expenses amount to will ever be made public though. And then, apparently as part of the settlement, we have the following PR information: it has invited and will pay all expenses for Mark and his family to go the Microsoft campus in March for the Research Tech Fest. He could meet Bill Gates! But no promises. It will pay for Mike to get Microsoft Certification training! This could mean he come a support technician, or system administrator! It has paid for his subscription to MSDN, Microsoft's developer network site! And, last but not least, it will give Mike a free Xbox with whatever games he wants! And witness this quote from an MS spokesperson: "It is a story of a young, bright kid starting a business, came up with a creative domain, and I think our initial step was maybe perhaps a bit too impersonal. Once we understood the circumstances around it, we wanted to work things out in a way that would be fair to him." Quite why Mike would want to be featured in an ad for the company which had days earlier threatened him and tried to set him up, we are not informed (Money, ego? -Ed ) But you can hardly blame the boy for taking the deal. He has offered to pay people back the money that had been sent to him in an impromptu legal fund, or send it all to a charity - tying up the messy loose ends. Taking the Mike Mike Rowe is far from the only person that has received a similar threat over domains from Microsoft, but the fact he is under-18 made it a more interesting press story. Mikerosoft.net owner Mike Rushton has been in touch to say he’s getting the legal treatment. He bought the domain in 2000 but on 3 December 2003, Microsoft’s lawyers demand he hand over the domain. He replied offering to forward the domain to Microsoft.com but on 10 December this was turned down. He’s waiting to see what happens now. Maybe Microsoft will think it was a little impersonal to him too and give him an Xbox. Or maybe Mr Rushton’s “circumstances” will be seen to be somewhat different, seeing as he hasn’t appeared on any national news programmes. Just before Mike Rowe’s story took off, there were already a few reports regarding Mikerosoft.ca, this time owned by Mike Morris, and Microsoft’s exact same approach. Did it treat this Mike impersonally? Yes, it did. Mike Morris makes clear on his site that he has no affiliation with Microsoft, so what law exactly is Microsoft referring to when it demands ownership? Are Mr Morris' circumstances different? What will be interesting though is to see what the company does now with the Mike Rowe issue in the bag. Especially since, as a result of its action and the press reports, every available phonetic combination domains seems to have been taken. One reader tells us he has bought seven such domains including Microwsoft and Mikecrowsoft. It would be wise of Microsoft to walk away from this one and it probably will. But don’t think for one second that its approach to domains will change. ® Related stories Microsoft prepares Mike Rowe legal exit Microsoft lawyers threaten Mike Rowe (17)
Kieren McCarthy, 26 Jan 2004

Nokia introduces visual radio

Nokia Mobile Phones will showcase its Nokia 7700 Media Device during this weeks MIDEM music trade show in Cannes. It is Nokia's first dedicated media phone, a new type of device with a completely new look, and bursting with properties, Finish daily Helsingin Sanomat reports. The Nokia 7700, already announced last year, is the first mobile phone that can receive digital TV transmissions, using the new DVB-H standard. But Nokia's presence at MIDEM has to do with another service it hopes to introduce to the music industry, called Visual Radio. With Visual Radio the listener will not just receive the FM sound signal, but also images and text on the LCD handset display screen. If a radio station is playing a number by Finnish band The Rasmus, then up on screen there might be an image of the band's singer Lauri Ylönen, and the name of the song or its current chart listing. As part of a pilot network in the Greater Helsinki area researchers are currently examining how well video and audio can be streamed to mobile devices, such as Nokia's newest device. Full test transmissions with video are scheduled to start in the autumn. That venture is a collaboration between Nokia and the commercial TV broadcasters MTV3 and Nelonen, telecoms operators Radiolinja and TeliaSonera, and the Finnish Broadcasting Company. Meanwhile, Kiss FM (part of SBS Broadcasting) has already started testing Visual Radio in Helsinki and its affiliate Radio City (classic rock) may soon follow. In the future, the radio transmissions would still be free, but listeners would have to pay for the visual content. ® Related Products Order the Nokia 770 from The Reg mobile store
Jan Libbenga, 26 Jan 2004

We'll kill spam in two years – Gates

Bill Gates yesterday outlined a three-stage plan to eradicate spam within two years. Microsoft's scheme calls for better filters to weed out spam messages and sender authentication via a form of challenge-response system. Secondly, Microsoft wants to see to a form of tar-pitting so that emails coming from unknown senders are slowed down to a point where bulk mail runs become impractical. Lastly, and most promisingly as far as Gates is concerned, is a digital equivalent of stamps for email, to be paid out only if the recipient considers an email to be spam. Of these ideas only the last offers a radical departure from schemes already on offer. Gates places huge faith in the power of the market to rid the world of junk mail, even offering a hostage to fortune. "Two years from now, spam will be solved," Gates told delegates to a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland last weekend, AP reports. "In the long run, the monetary (method) will be dominant," Microsoft's chief software architect predicted. Doubtless Microsoft will be looking for a slice from this lucrative new revenue stream, so we can see why the world's largest software company is so keen on the idea. Previously Gates has emphasised the important of user education, legislation and enforcement of anti-spam laws in tackling the spam menace. There was little mention of those points last weekend as Gates looked to technology in delivering a spam-free future. Such heady predictions. It must be the mountain air. In fairness, Gates conceded some of his previous predictions - such as predicting Microsoft would trump Google in Internet search - had fallen short of the mark. Google has "kicked our butts", he said. ® Related Stories Microsoft aims to 'shift the tide' in war on spam Microsoft declares war on spam Microsoft takes 15 spammers to court Why spammers lurve the 'Microsoft support' worm Web giants to declare war on spam The conspiracy against our in-boxes Trust me, I'm a spam message! US anti-spam laws 'will legalise spam' UK Govt fouls up anti-spam plans, say experts MP unleashes brilliant anti-spam plan We hate Spam (email your friends) External Links Microsoft's anti-spam project
John Leyden, 26 Jan 2004

Chip and PIN hits 8 million cards

Plans for the UK rollout of a more secure method of authorising credit and debit card payments are progressing steadily, with around eight million next-generation cards issued to date. The Chip and PIN scheme, which began in October 2003, is designed to make credit and debit card purchases more secure by asking the majority of consumers to enter a four digit PIN code instead of signing to verify card transactions by 2005. Newly-issued credit and debit cards will come with smart chips to recognise this PIN number when transactions are processed. Eight million next-generation cards have been issued, which means that an estimated one in six cardholders have received a new, secure chip and PIN card, according to a quarterly update 'barometer' issued today. Meanwhile approximately 100,000 businesses accepting plastic card payments have switched over to Chip and PIN. The rollout of chip and PIN is been backed by the UK’s banking and retail industries. New chip and PIN cards will be issued and tills switched over according to the individual plans of banks, merchants and retailers. Five of the UK’s biggest card issuers had begun issuing chip and PIN-enabled credit and debit cards. And by the beginning of 2004, Safeway, the supermarket chain, which has completed its rollout, was accepting an average of 100,000 successful chip and PIN transactions a week across its 480 British stores. Sandra Quinn, chip and PIN spokesperson, said: “We are pleased with the first weeks of the chip and PIN rollout. Cardholders and retailers across the UK are starting to benefit from this new fraud-busting technology. "Cardholders don’t need to do anything until they receive their new card." The UK Chip and PIN Programme is part of an international initiative to tackle credit and debit card fraud. France has seen an 80 per cent reduction in fraud since the introduction of a similar PIN-based system (restricted to domestic debit cards) ten years ago. Chip and PIN is designed to address losses arising from counterfeit, lost and stolen card transactions. Other types of card fraud, such as identity fraud and card-not-present fraud, are being tackled through separate initiatives. These schemes include programmes to verify a cardholder's address and cross-checking a card's security code to combat fraud made over the phone and internet alongside various education and research initiatives. ® External Links Chip and PIN Programme - "the biggest consumer project since decimalisation" "Annual card fraud figures reach record high", APACS report (PDF) UK plastic card fraud facts and figures Related Stories Chip and PIN goes national Small. biz needs help with chip and PIN Smart credit card scheme kicks off in the UK FSB calls for e-fraud 'liability shift' Chip and PIN: not enough to beat card fraud Smart credit on UK cards. Will it cut fraud? Joe Public blames banks for credit card fraud Credit card firms 'profit from Net fraud' 'Open and helpful community' - of credit card thieves
John Leyden, 26 Jan 2004

One in three Americans hate mobile phones

A third of US adults hate mobile phones. Yet, despite their loathing of this "must have" gadget they also admit that they just can't live without them either. So says the eighth annual Lemelson-MIT Invention Index study, which charts people's attitudes towards gadgets and gizmos. According to the latest study, a quarter of people said they despised alarm clocks while two in ten were turned-of by TV. Other essential - yet unloved - inventions included razors, microwaves, coffee pots, computers and vacuum cleaners. Said Stefan Marti of MIT: "Most people dislike cell phones because they either feel tethered to them or they are annoyed by others who use them in inappropriate public places, such as restaurants or movie theatres." That's why Marti and his colleagues are, as he puts it, "exploring ways to give these devices human-style social intelligence, which means that they would know what we as owners expect them to do, and especially what not to do, without our having to tell them explicitly every time." If you say so. ® Related Products Find your next phone in The Reg mobile store
Tim Richardson, 26 Jan 2004

Smartphones outsell PDAs 2:1

Q4 2003 may have been a boom time for the European PDA market, but it was an even bigger period for smartphones. According to new figures from market researcher Canalys, 2.24 million smartphones shipped in Europe, the Middle East and Africa during the quarter, compared to 1.23 million PDAs. Like IDC before it, Canalys' numbers put Palm in second place behind HP in the PDA market, and ranks them three and two in the overall handheld device market, respectively. Ahead of both sits Nokia, which shipped 1.74 million devices last quarter to HP's 406,420 and Palm's 307,100. The three companies achieved market shares of 50.2 per cent, 11.7 per cent and 8.8 per cent, respectively. Compared to Q4 2002, those shares represent a big gain for Nokia, a small rise for HP but a disappointing dip - unit shipments were down 19 per cent year on year - for Palm. Canalys' Q4 2002 numbers give Nokia 42.4 per cent of the market, Palm 23.8 per cent and HP 9.5 per cent. Palm's decline comes despite a 56 per cent increase in the number of units shipped in Q4 2003 over the same period the year before. HP and Palm were the only PDA specialists to make Canalys' top five device makers' table: they were followed by smartphone vendors Sony Ericsson (216,990 units shipped for a 6.2 per cent share) and Motorola (142,200, 4.1 per cent). All the others took 18.9 per cent of the 3.47 million devices shipped during the quarter. Canalys agrees with IDC's conclusion that bundle deals, particularly of GPS kit, helped boost the sales of PDAs during the Christmas quarter. Indeed, navigation solutions are becoming de rigueur: "Vendors without navigation bundles will find it harder to get shelf space - Palm and Sony have some catching up to do in this area," warned Canalys senior analyst and director Chris Jones. "In some countries - Germany being a prime example - major retailers are now insisting on navigation solutions in preference to standalone handhelds," he added. "It will become more and more difficult to sell such devices purely on the basis of personal information management." Canalys also pointed to renewed enterprise spending - which has favoured HP, in particular - but reckons it won't be long before smartphone vendors start winning corporate business over PDAs. Nokia certainly has its eye on the market, as its 6600 handset shows, as does Sony Ericsson with the much-improved P900. Nokia dominates the smartphone sector, with a 77.9 per cent market share. Both handsets are based on the Symbian OS, which accounted for over two million of the smartphones shipped in the region last quarter, Canalys' numbers show - pretty much all of them, in other words. "The Symbian OS is now reaching the shipment levels needed to make it a contender in the enterprise," said analyst Rachel Lashford. ® Related Story Euro PDA biz sees first growth since 2000 Related Products Find a PDA phone in The Reg mobile store
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 2004

The voodoo that Dumaru doesn’t do too well…

This weekend saw another iteration of email worm Dumaru. Unlike other email worm variants, Dumaru.J spreads itself by way of a zip attachment (rather than the typical executable). Of course, should users open the zipped file, and click the file ‘myphoto.jpg.56 (spaces). exe’ Dumaru does its typically annoying thing. Dumaru is sent as an attached zip in an email with the subject line of 'Important information for you. Read it immediately!'. I f Dumaru.J is executed, it attempts to create a copy of itself in the Windows System directory as both l32x.exe and vxd32v.exe. Dumaru then attempts to save the file rundllx.sys in the Windows directory. Dumaru.J also attempts to save a copy of itself in the Windows Startup directory as dllxw.exe. Dumaru.J creates the file zip.tmp in the Windows Temp directory as a copy of the worm it e-mails to target addresses. The Windows registry is modified to run the Trojan upon Windows start up: HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run load32=C:\WINDOWS SYSTEM DIRECTORY\l32x.exe Dumaru.J may also attempt to create the following registry key: HKLM\Software\SARS Once installed on an infected machine, Dumaru scans the hard drive for email addresses to which it sends itself via its own SMTP engine on port 25. Perhaps the most worrying feature of the worm though, is that it opens and listens on TCP port 10,000 for remote commands, allowing unfettered system access. Although AV vendors rate Dumaru as a low to mid priority threat the fact that it is transmitted as a zip file which many corporates allow, and when installed the worm can be used for remote access are causes for conceqrn. As always, the advice is to update AV signatures. The initial infecting account appears to be the charmingly-titled ‘FUCKENSUICIDE@HOTMAIL.COM’, so it’s probably worth blocking that too…® See below, for a screenshot of the offending email:
Mike Kemp, 26 Jan 2004

CA does what Microsoft wants with BrightStor update

Computer Associates has prepped a new version of the BrightStor ARCserve Backup product for Windows, touting tighter links to Microsoft's latest server operating system and a host of performance improvements with the release. Talking to El Reg, David Liff, vice president of storage marketing at CA, proudly described the joint work between CA and Microsoft for BrightStor ARCserver Backup r11. And with good reason. CA hopes to encroach on Veritas' turf in the backup market - a task made none too easy by Veritas' close relationship with Microsoft. Windows Server 2003 happens to ship with a low-end version of Veritas' back-up software. With that in mind, CA wants to prove it can make the BrightStor product as easy to use as possible, while still delivering some fairly complex features. "We've done a lot with Microsoft for this launch," Liff said. "We implemented a lot of technology in the way that Microsoft likes it implemented." Ah-ha. Exactly what does this mean? Well, first off, CA customers will now be able to tap the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) that is built into Windows Server 2003. This lets users make "on-the-fly" snapshots of open volumes and data sets. CA has additionally tuned BrightStor to play well with Exchange. Admins can now set up a single instance store function on Exchange servers, which ensures only one copy of a shared attachment will be stored. This clearly helps cut down on the amount of storage that must be managed. CA has fine-tuned its user interface for setting up mailbox back-ups as well, giving customers a GUI similar to Internet Explorer. Admins can select a mailbox and then use a host of new filtering tools to, for example, block storing 'sent' and 'trash' items or to block files with particular extensions - MP3s, anyone. There is also a new search function that lets users sort through four years of mail, looking for references to a particular contract or presentation, for example. This tool is meant to keep the Feds happy should they come inquiring about details from past deals. Customers looking to speed up backup times could find a new multiplexing tool helpful. CA has made it possible to write multiple backups to the same tape drive. On average, CA reckons customers will see a 3 to 4 fold speed up. Along with the performance boost, CA has given customers access to more than 30 reports that track when backups have been completed, if there were any errors and how well hardware systems are performing. In total, CA has created a product that matches up well with anything out on the market. Sophisticated users should fine just about everything they need for making sure backups are happening as planned and be able to learn how storage is being consumed within their company. CA has created tighter links between its own product lines as well, especially its laptop and desktop backup software and high-end storage management code. While tuned for Microsoft, BrightStor works with NetWare, Linux, Unix and MAC OS X servers and clihents. It starts at $775. ®
Ashlee Vance, 26 Jan 2004

BT's dial-up service on the mend

BT's dial-up service appears to be on the mend. It has been bugged by an intermittent network problem, causing frustration for thousands of customers. The problems hit email and some Web access (including some secure areas such as banking sites) over the last week or so. Updating The Register this afternoon, a BT spokesman told us: "From Saturday 02.00am, due to measures carried out by our technical staff, the problem being encountered by a small number of our narrowband customers stopped showing up on our network. "We are continuing our efforts to ensure that all our customers receive the level of service they should come expect. We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience caused." Obviously, we're all hoping that BT's dial-up service makes a full recovery. What's clear, though, is that BT has tested the patience of its customers, And it needs to improve its handling of such problems. The following is typical of what readers have been telling us over the weekend: "The worst part of this experience is the way that BT is not responding. I have e-mailed their technical support department only get a message back saying to telephone them, but the telephone number that they are giving constantly rings out. I have had a totally unreliable connection for over a week now, and despite trying day and evening I can't contact their tech support department." Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that despite blowing more than £5 million on plugging its new mobile phone operation, BT has signed up fewer than 20,000 punters. BT announced in the summer that it had teamed up with T-Mobile to offer a new service aimed at families. BT Mobile Home Plan is the telco's first major step back into the mobile mass market since it flogged its mobile arm MMO2 two years ago. The monster telco said that it hoped to sign up a million punters by the end of 2005. ® Related Stories BT's dial-up service dogged by network probs BT flogs bluephones to the masses BT confirms return to mass market mobile
Tim Richardson, 26 Jan 2004

Lycos Communities disbanded

Lycos US is closing its chat services and message boards from next month. The portal is pulling the plug on its "Lycos Communities" (including chat, message boards, clubs and image galleries) from February 1. Terra Lycos is retaining chat etc. at its European sites. Users who store any content on the service, such as digital photos, need to decide what to do - as Lycos ain't saving a thing. It's chucking the lot out. In a statement on its Web site the outfit explained: "After February 1, 2004, Lycos Communities - including Chat, Message Boards, Clubs and Image Galleries - will be discontinued. All text, photos, messages and other content relating to Lycos Communities will be removed from the Lycos Network and will not be saved. It went on: "The decision to close this site was a very difficult one for us and we understand that for many this will be a big disappointment. This change will enable Lycos to provide more and better support to key products and allow us to focus on developing new features and products for the future." A spokesman for the company declined to say what these "new features and products" might be. Community products Lycos US is keeping include Angelfire, Tripod, Blogs and Matchmaker. ®
Tim Richardson, 26 Jan 2004

‘Fear and Loathing at HP’ – say internal docs

ExclusiveExclusive Internal documents disclosed to The Register reveal an HP beset by Fear and Loathing; Fear of the sack, and Loathing of what's perceived as Executive Greed. The revelations of internal strife come as a result of HP's exclusion from Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For list. HP has tapped a consultant to try and rectify what employees see as a lack of credibility with management, according to the docs. When Carly Fiorina took the helm of HP in 1999, the company held the 10th spot on Fortune's annual survey of top corporate cultures. Since 1999, however, HP has slipped down the list every year with the worst setback coming in 2004 as HP failed to make the cut at all. HP appears to have taken the internal criticism to heart by hiring a consultant to review the Fortune results and identify what went wrong. Fear loves this place Internal documents show that HP fell short of the 100 Best Average in a number of categories with management's credibility being the most critical area of concern for workers. Just 44 percent of the 250 employees surveyed said they felt HP management would lay people off only as a last resort. This compares to 84 percent of workers on average at the 100 Best companies. The fear factor at HP is understandable given the tens of thousands of layoffs that have occurred since the Compaq acquisition took place in addition to a recent trend of moving US jobs offshore. HP workers also vented in the 'Respect' portion of the survey. Only 53 percent of HP employees said they enjoyed special and unique benefits compared to 82 percent of employees at the 100 Best companies. HP was also punished in the 'Fairness' category with only 43 percent of workers saying they thought top management was paid fairly in relation to the rest of the organization. This compares to 66 percent at other companies. In total, HP fell below the average in at least 7 categories, ending up a total of 12 percent below the 100 Best average. HP's internal analysis notes that other IT heavyweights ranked quite prominently on Fortune's list. Microsoft took the 25th spot, Cisco grabbed the 28th spot, Intel held 46 and IBM ranked at 72. Microsoft and Cisco often do well in these types of surveys with neither company performing massive acquisitions or massive layoffs. After placing 10th in 1999, HP fell to 43 in 2000 and then 63 in 2001. The company was not eligible in 2002 or 2003 as a result of the Compaq buy. The New HP Way The results are clearly painful for HP - a company once celebrated for the "HP Way." Since its founding in 1939 by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, HP has largely been hailed as a model of American corporate culture. The two founders are said to have originated the idea of creating an open workspace broken up by small cubicles to encourage communication between workers. Hewlett and Packard also tried to give employees "special and unique" benefits where possible. "HP offered groundbreaking perks almost from the start," writes Peter Burrows in Backfire, an account of Fiorina's rule at HP. "As of 1941, the company paid an incentive bonus to every employee. Originally tied to hitting production targets, it later became a profit-sharing plan. . . HP extended the program to cover every employee - and this was just a start." The new HP, however, may be listening to feedback from workers. For example, Fiorina's total pay for 2003 was cut by 38 percent compared to 2002. After missing performance targets in two quarters, Fiorina will have to tough it out on $6.6 million instead of the $10.7 million earned in 2002. HP is also reworking its board with former Boeing CEO Philip Condit, former Vodafone AirTouch Chairman Sam Ginn and Sinvestor Thomas Perkins stepping down. Some industry watchers have called for HP to bring back Walter Hewlett - son of Bill Hewlett - to the board. HP appears to have tapped famed contractor Debbe Kennedy for the "how to get back in Fortune's good graces" consultation. She is listed as the author of the report in the property tags. A voicemail message at Kennedy's number says she is an onsite consultant for HP. The about section of Kennedy's Web site is full of fanciful garble about her consulting work. "Kennedy's work and leadership influence have contributed to communications solutions for senior management across many corporate functions, marketing, professional services, diversity, women's issues, management development, employee development, human resources, strategic planning and implementation. She knows the leader's journey as you do." Whatever that means. Of particular note, is the 1997 HP video by Kennedy called The Best Place: An HP Global Diversity Video. We're told that this was the precursor to next year's HP feel good story Leave No Body Unburied: Brutalizing Your Workforce in a Globalized World. ® Related Stories IBM lays off 15,000, HP 1300 Consolidated Carlyways: the New HP I'm Carly, Fly Me
Ashlee Vance, 26 Jan 2004

HP's Prince of Darkness joins NextIO board

The Register's favorite HP executive, CTO Shane Robison, is to take on additional responsibilities as he joins the board of secretive chip start-up NextIO. The former head of Internet strategy AT&T Labs was the instrumental figure in fomenting the HP-Compaq merger. In contrast to the standard Silicon Valley attire of Banana Republic shirts tucked neatly into regulation Chinos, Robison cuts quite a splendid dash. Rumors that he has been seen in the company of a giant cat have never been corroborated, although he has performed decapitations - most notably of Compaq's world-beating Alpha microprocessor. NextIO draws heavily on management from Banderacom, an Infiniband-focused chip startup, and Broadcom. The company's marketing VP held strategic positions at AMD and Dell, and Dell invested $10 million in NextIO today. ® Related Story Alphacide yesterday, Yamhill tomorrow: HP merger architect talks
Andrew Orlowski, 26 Jan 2004