11th > February > 2004 Archive

Sun puts co-founder back to work

Sun Microsystems acquired one of its co-founders in a deal structured around a ham sandwich. Andy Bechtolsheim - employee #1 and the man who hired Scott McNealy - and his start-up Kealia will now become part of Sun, the companies announced Tuesday. Scott McNealy said the idea for an acquisition came up during a recent lunch with Bechtolsheim and other co-founders Bill Joy and Vinod Khosla. Financial terms, other than the sandwich, were not released. A giddy McNealy introduced Bechtolsheim during a Sun conference here. Kealia has been working on Opteron server designs, primarily thin 1U and 2U systems. The idea is to use the Kealia kit to quickly build out Sun's fledgling Opteron server line. Sun's first ever Opteron box - the dual-processor V20z - was unveiled today. Sun plans to release Opteron workstations, a 4 processor box and larger SMP systems over time. Bechtolsheim's hiring conjured up an uncomfortable nostalgia among Sun employees. During a cocktail hour with Sun folk, we were told that e-mail servers all around the Sun nation would be humming once news of the stealth deal hit. One Sun staffer was also heard to remark that Bechtolsheim would "actually do some work, unlike that Joy guy." It is believed that Joy was asked to do an Opteron server design, only the "Edison of the Internet" presented a diagram of two strangely insectoid turtles copulating, surrounded by masses of grey goo. This left the Sun boardroom stunned and confused, but confirmed Joy's genius. Out-of-control nanomatter was not, we understand, considered a design constraint by Bechtolsheim's team. Aside from the acquisition news, Sun also kicked off a new promotion for its Opteron kit. Sun launched an installment plan pricing model for the V20z in which developers can pay $1,499 a year for three years and receive the server and Sun's entire developer and enterprise software stacks. "The beauty is . . . you pay less cash than you would for the software alone, and you get the hardware at no extra charge," McNealy said. "Let's see Microsoft do that . . . or let's see Dell do that." Sun also cut the price of its N1 product line in half from $2,000 to $1,000 for an average-sized customer. ® Related Stories Bill Joy leaves Sun Bill Joy's greatest gift to man - the vi editor Bill Joy spurned job at 'out of control' Google
Ashlee Vance, 11 Feb 2004

Check Point in Firewall-1 security flap

Check Point has plugged a serious security vulnerability affecting several versions of its flagship security platform, Firewall-1. The problem stems from a flaw in the Application Intelligence (AI) component of Firewall-1, which is meant to detect application level attacks, but is itself vulnerable to format string or heap buffer overflow attacks. Earlier versions of Firewall-1 include the HTTP Security Server, which provides similar functionality, are similarly vulnerable. Flaws in Firewall-1 are uncommon are this one is far worse than most because it strikes at commonly deployed subsets of Check Point's technology not problems with in obscure configurations or settings. Various versions of Check Point Firewall-1 NG and Check Point Firewall-1 NG with Application Intelligence are affected by the problem, which could be exploited to launch DoS attacks on the affected firewalls. Worse still the vulnerability could be used by a skilled attacker to run arbitrary code and thereby to take control of the firewall and the server it runs on. An advisory by US-CERT explains the issue in greater depth. The problem was discovered by researchers at security tools vendor ISS Check Point has released an advisory here. ®
John Leyden, 11 Feb 2004

UK held back by ‘lack of broadband competition’

The UK lacks effective wholesale broadband competition and needs regulatory intervention to restore confidence to the industry, according to an influential group of MPs. This key finding from the Trade and Industry Select Committee (TISC) has already been applauded by those in the industry who have campaigned long and hard against what they say is BT's dominance of the UK's broadband market. And it adds even more spice to the much awaited market review by communications regulator Ofcom, as part of its wholesale market review. Key to yesterday's UK Broadband Market report is the committee's view that rival telcos are unable to provide wholesale broadband products that can compete effectively with BT. It seems that the committee has sided with those in the industry who said there wasn't enough margin between DataStream (a wholesale broadband product that allows telcos to use their own networks to deliver DSL) and IPStream (BT's end-to-end wholesale product). Said the report: "As yet, DataStream has failed to deliver the competition in the wholesale broadband market, and, in turn, in the retail broadband market, that had been hoped of it. "…with DataStream manifestly failing to deliver the outcomes that it as designed to achieve, clearly a careful review of the wholesale regulatory regime is required." With the immediate future of the UK's competitive broadband market set to be decided by the regulator, MPs suggested that Ofcom use the review to instil confidence in regulatory procedure. In what appears to be a clear poke in the eye for the now defunct telecom regulator Oftel, the report said: "It is imperative that those looking to invest in the market have confidence in the robustness of the regulatory regime. Without wishing to anticipate the detail of the ultimate outcome of the reviews, it is vital that the matter is resolved. It may be that that the advent of Ofcom gives the opportunity to re-establish confidence in the regulatory regime where currently it is lacking." Responding to the report, AOL UK said: "We share the Committee’s belief that competition at the wholesale level is critical if content providers are to have the confidence to make the investment required to deliver the benefits of broadband to the broadest possible audience in the UK. "AOL UK believes the broadband market in the UK is being held back by a lack of genuine wholesale competition on a national basis. AOL UK therefore applauds today’s Trade and Industry Broadband Market report for highlighting the problems caused by the lack of competition in the wholesale broadband market and for supporting the concept that “a careful review of the wholesale regulatory regime is required.” Freeserve said it gave its backing for "new regulatory and market initiatives to accelerate adoption of broadband". Tiscali UK boss Mary Turner said she was "pleased to see that the Committee has recognised the lack of competition in wholesale broadband. It has now placed the responsibility on Ofcom to ensure a competitive market and that an enhanced and sustainable margin is established between wholesale IPStream and DataStream. "We are however disappointed that the Committee has failed to address, as a matter of urgency, the high activation fee of £50, a major barrier to mass adoption of broadband." The Broadband Industry group, a lobby group including Cable & Wireless, Centrica and Energis, said the Committee's report "sets out some plain truths about the broadband market". "The report confirms what the industry already knows - that the current regime has not delivered, and competition in the wholesale broadband market does not yet exist." "Ofcom now has a unique opportunity to create a level playing field where true competition is possible, and where businesses and consumers can benefit from the full potential of broadband. Without decisive action a true mass market in broadband will remain beyond our grasp." While the rest of the industry concentrated on the issue of competition, BT decided to focus on another conclusion of the report - namely, that MPs decided there were no grounds for the break-up of BT. Calling the report a "well-balanced and constructive contribution to the broadband debate" BT "particularly welcomed the committee's view that it is not desirable for BT to be broken up and that the regulatory regime currently being developed needs to encourage further investment." Asked about the crucial points raised about lack of genuine competition, questioned as to whether the margin between IPStream and DataStream was sufficient to enable rival operators to offer competitive broadband services, a spokesman for the UK's dominant telco insisted: "DataStream provides enough scope for competition." ® Related Stories BT clashes with MPs in broadband inquiry Define broadband please - CA MPs prepare for broadband inquiry Competitive broadband could add £22bn to UK economy
Tim Richardson, 11 Feb 2004

Obituary – Lynne Thomas

The Register is saddened to announce the death of Lynne Thomas, PR par excellance and a good friend to many UK technology and telecomms writers, on this site and throughout the journalistic community. Lynne passed away on 29 January. She suffered a brain haemorrhage two weeks earlier when in Ireland on business. On investigation, doctors discovered an aneurysm, a congenital condition which would have been with her since birth. Despite an initial positive prognosis, there were complications and Lynne never left hospital. Highly respected by PR professionals and journalists alike, Lynne was a dedicated communications professional who lived life to the full. Lynne spent 18 years in technology and telecommunications marketing and public relations. Her career started in 1983 at UK technology publisher EMAP. After this internship, she joined Telemap, a joint venture between BT and EMAP, where was responsible for marketing the Micronet service on Prestel. She never forgot her roots with the tech journalist community and maintained close friendships as well as strong working relationships with many in the journalist community. She used to tell tales of keeping a soldering iron in her handbag to mend PCs and programming in Linux. Her first proper PR consultancy role was with The Rowland Company, and then with WBNP Group. For ten years, she ran her own PR agency, Lexicon Communications, specialising in tech and telecoms, which she then rolled into Lexis Public Relations to help them expand their tech capabilities. In December 2002, after Lexis decided to disband its technology practice, she joined what was then The Weber Group and was a key member of the management team behind the merger with Golin/Harris in 2003. Lynne's funeral will take place in her native Wales tomorrow, followed by a memorial service which will take place in London next week. Full details will be posted on lynnethomas.co.uk. The site is experiencing heavy traffic, so please be patient. Lynne leaves behind two children: Freddie, 8, and Hannah, 14, to whom, along with all her family, we offer our deepest sympathies. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004
SGI logo hardware close-up

Juniper security push

Network equipment maker Juniper Networks is paying $3.5 billion for firewall supplier NetScreen Technologies. The move could trigger a wave of acquisitions as the big equipment makers seek to get their hands on top security vendors to ease the fears of their customers about network intrusion. The benefits of Juniper's acquisition of NetScreen will be largely psychological, through allowing it to offer both networking equipment and security in-house. Big vendors like Cisco already do this while the rest of the industry relies on partnerships. While NetScreen stock has jumped 35.9% to $35.89, Juniper shares have fallen 11.1% to $26.20 on fears that it is paying too hefty a price and that the expensive addition of a much smaller company such as NetScreen could dent its recent impressive growth record. Now that carriers have started spending again, Juniper is on a roll. Last month it reported Q4 net income up 74.3% at $14.7 million on revenue 33.3% higher at $206.9 million. For the year, net income was $39.1 million, up from a loss of $119.6 million on revenue 28.2% higher at $701.4 million. NetScreen is showing even more impressive growth and in Q1 it almost doubled net income to $6.4 million on revenue 58.6% higher at $81 million. The question now is how market leader Cisco will respond to the deal. While NetScreen competitors such as CyberGuard Corp and Check Point Software will hope to benefit by selling to carriers served by Juniper's competitors, the fact that security is uppermost in the minds of those buying networking equipment could prompt other acquisitions in the sector. A big advantage of the Juniper/NetScreen deal is that the companies are near neighbors in Sunnyvale, California. The purchase of NetScreen boost Juniper's 1,600-strong payroll by a further 900 employees to Juniper's staff and while there is some opportunity for cost savings, Juniper says this is not a motivation for the deal. There are also cross-selling opportunities as Juniper's main customer base is among the carriers, while NetScreen does about three-quarters of its business with large companies. NetScreen CEO Robert Thomas said the combined company would be able to reach customers that neither had in the past. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related Research Beyond the Perimeter Firewall
Datamonitor, 11 Feb 2004

Vodafone's AT&T interest confirmed

The world's largest mobile operator Vodafone Group has given its strongest hint yet that it is poised to launch a $30 billion-plus offer for troubled US rival AT&T Wireless. A bid would be extremely expensive, but it would provide an opportunity for Vodafone to build its own brand presence in the US. In an announcement on Monday, Vodafone said it "continues to monitor developments in the US market, and is exploring whether a potential transaction with AT&T Wireless is in the interests of its shareholders." On the whole, Vodafone's shareholders remain skeptical, and there is concern that Vodafone will dilute shareholder value by issuing new shares. One way to convince reluctant shareholders would be to acquire AT&T Wireless by issuing new shares, but return some of the cash it would make by selling Verizon Wireless, the leading US mobile operator in which it holds a 45% stake. Getting a good "exit price" for Vodafone's Verizon stake would be essential for the management to reassure shareholders of the sense of giving up a sizeable stake in a market leader, and downgrading to a fourth-placed operator. Vodafone's Verizon stake is thought to be worth between $20 billion and $23 billion. Vodafone shareholders do accept that some time in the future Vodafone needs to gain 100% control of a mobile operator in the US, but they question whether it should be AT&T Wireless. The network of AT&T Wireless would take a lot of investment to match the standard expected by Vodafone. However, it would allow Vodafone to extend its brand name to the US. Both companies have similar technology - they both operate the GSM network. This is in marked contrast to Verizon Wireless, which operates the CDMA standard. There is some speculation that this is all a double bluff on Vodafone's part to start a bidding war that would force rival bidders such as Cingular and NTT DoCoMo to pay more for the operator. Other suggest that Vodafone should use its financial and market muscle and attempt to gain full control of Verizon Wireless. The US market is ripe for consolidation, and most analysts agree that six operators is simply too many for the market. If Cingular were to win control of AT&T Wireless, it would be able to merge both its networks and would be able to deliver significant cost savings. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor
Datamonitor, 11 Feb 2004

Novell turns the screws on SCO

Novell has launched another foray at the heart of The SCO Group's case against IBM, the 1995 contract in which SCO says Novell gave it the rights to UNIX™ and derivative works. Without the contract, SCO is simply another UNIX™ licensee and has no grounds to pursue its case against IBM, and by extension, Linux users everywhere. SCO is already retreating from its claims to ownership of AT&T's System V, some rights to which subsequently fell into Novell's hands, but which SCO insists fall under the 1995 agreement. This, SCO says, gives it the rights to control derivative works. But as a sub-sub-licensee, says Novell, SCO is hardly in a position to bully anyone. Who's right? In a letter last week, published today, Novell reminds SCO that AT&T retains crucial ownership rights. SCO says that section 2.01 of the 1995 contract with SCO, gives it the "right to use includes the right to modify such SOFTWARE PRODUCT and to prepare derivative works based on such SOFTWARE PRODUCT, provided the resulting materials are treated hereunder as part of the original SOFTWARE PRODUCT." "In fact, SCO's interpretation of section 2.01 is plainly contrary to the position taken by AT&T, as author of and party to the SVRX licenses," says Novell. It points to an addition to the section by AT&T made in 1985, to mollify potential licensees of its "official" Death Star UNIX™ which was threatened by the freely-distributable Berkeley flavor, then growing in popularity beyond its academic niche. AT&T added a sentence explaining that the company "claims no ownership interest in any portion of such a modification or derivative work that is not part of a SOFTWARE PRODUCT." In other words, it couldn't stake a claim on licensees' code. At around this time, an Oregon start-up called Sequent had the bright idea of licensing UNIX™ on the then hopelessly unfashionable Intel microprocessor architecture to create large multi-processor systems. Which it did with great success, and was eventually acquired by IBM in 1999. Novell cited two copies of AT&T's newsletter $echo from 1985 which reassured licensees that it wouldn't try and claw back their enhancements. "For these reasons, and the reasons stated in our October 7, 2003 letter to you about IBM-developed code, SCO's position on Sequent Code is unsupportable," says Novell. It's given SCO until noon today to give up any claims that Sequent's code is really confidential SCO code. That leaves a large part of SCO's case against IBM holed below the waterline. The parallel, and far murkier case of "Project Monterey" - the deliberate co-mingling of SCO's UnixWare, IBM's AIX and Sequent's Dynix which the parties all agreed to co-mingle back in 1998 - is another matter. But with its claims to System V disappearing rapidly, that might yet be the best SCO can hope for. It's not over yet. ® Related Stories SCO abandons trade secret attack on IBM US markets warm to Linux makers over SCO Open Source thieves stealing my American code - SCO boss SCO sues Novell - retaliation expected SCO surrenders claims to System V? The SCO IP license: now it's Europe's turn SCO sort of thinks there are Linux IP violations, but isn't quite sure SCO targets Novell, steps into new legal trouble SCO pesters Fortune 1000 for money (again) IBM draws first blood in SCO Linux battle Don't say nothing to the SCO cops, Gartner advises Linux users We reveal major UNIX™ IP violations SCO admits: Linux jihad is destroying our business SCO says GPL unenforceable, unconstitutional and void Against SCO’s GPL jihad: one size doesn't fit all The GPL will win, claims law prof. SCO blinks - bill us when you can SCO: irrevocable doesn't mean forever SCO set to take SGI's Unix licence away HP hides its secret SCO shame SCO still offers 'infringing' Linux source code IBM sues SCO for selling Linux SCO ready to clean out Linux users for $1399 per CPU SCO and Linux: this one will run and run SCO not playing by Aussie Rules SCO says it's time for Linux users to pay up SCO pulls AIX licence, calls for permanent ban SCO's Second Amendment rebuffs Novell Unix claim Novell torpedoes SCO's Unix IP claim Come and get your Linux: SCO opens door to suing self? MS blesses SCO, licenses Unix SCO invokes RIAA in Linux jihad SCO sues IBM for $1 billion for 'devaluing Unix'
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Feb 2004

'It was all Craig Conway's idea, anyway' -Oracle

Oracle has responded to the DoJ staff's recommendation that its acquisition of Peoplesoft should be blocked, by claiming that the whole merger was Craig Conway's idea in the first place. In a statement released to the media today, Jim Finn, an Oracle spokesman, said: "The initial proposal to merge PeopleSoft's applications business with Oracle's applications business came from PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway, who proposed that he was the best person to run the combined companies' applications business and never mentioned any antitrust concerns." He goes on to outline how, once the bid was in place, Conway said that he wouldn't sell at any price. Next he "began a long and intensive lobbying effort aimed at persuading the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to block the deal," which according to Oracle has complicated and prolonged the Justice Department review of the merger. Meanwhile, the legal team attempted to downplay the importance of the recommendation, in contrast to The Wall Steet Journal's view that this represents the last nail in the coffin. James Rill of Howrey, Simon, Arnold & White, Counsel for Oracle, said the decision would be made sby the Assistant Attorney General, not his staff. He also noted tthe AAG's decision differed from the recommendation of the staff in many previous cases. "This process simply is not complete," he argued. Peoplesoft said it expects a final decision no later than March 2nd. ® Related stories Peoplesoft spurns Oracle's final final offer Oracle hikes Peoplesoft bid to $9.4bn
Lucy Sherriff, 11 Feb 2004

BSA ‘software detox’ scheme targets illegal software

Piracy watchdog the Business Software Alliance (BSA) today asked British businesses to go into "software detox". The organisation has sent out Software Audit Return forms to businesses nationwide to help them uncover illegal copies of software running on their IT systems. The programme is designed to raise awareness of the importance of good software asset management in keeping UK businesses on the right side of the law. Last year, more than 4500 businesses completed SARs, which the BSA (somewhat erroneously) describes as a "tax return for your software". Unlike tax returns the BSA's scheme isn't mandatory. That aside, the BSA argues that by taking a cleansing themselves of illegal software and the associated risks - corrupt or substandard software is more susceptible to viruses, it claims - firms are on the road to maintaining a more efficient software environment. The BSA reckons that one in three has failed to establish an adequate software compliance regime. An online version of the SAR form, which enables businesses to review the software in use and the licences purchased, can be found here. A UK advice site, called Just Ask SAM, provides more detailed information on establishing a software asset management regime. ® Related Stories BSA piracy audit deadline looms for business Law firm urges caution over BSA piracy forms IT firms top UK software piracy roll of shame SMEs slammed for unlicensed software use
John Leyden, 11 Feb 2004

KnowledgePool finds buyer

KnowledgePool Limited - the IT training company that recently went titsup - has been sold to private investment outfit Root Capital. The new company will continue to use the trading name KnowledgePool and work with the existing management team. Financial details were not disclosed. Those behind the buyout say it has ensured that the business stays intact while saving a "majority of jobs". But at this stage it's not clear whether this means there will be further redundancies, following the 30 or so announced recently. No one from the company was available for comment at the time of writing. While some at KnowledgePool will welcome the news in the hope that it brings some certainty to the organisation, others are less convinced. One insider told The Register that following KnowledePool's slide into administration key staff have been lost in once profitable areas of the company. Others claim that morale is at rock-bottom with a number of employees looking for a swift exit as fears still remain over the future of some of KnowledePool's offices. Said one insider: "Time will tell if [the new management] can make KnowledgePool succeed." ® Related Stories KnowledgePool axes 30 jobs KnowledgePool UK goes titsup
Tim Richardson, 11 Feb 2004

Motorola preps European ‘push to talk’ phone

Motorola today launched its first handset aimed at global mobile phone networks keen to offer US-style 'push-to-talk' instant communications services. The V400p is quad-band GSM camera phone with an integrated 640 x 480 digicam complete with 4x zoom. It contains 5MB of user-accessible memory to store messages, pictures, contact details and emails. Alongside the V400p's walkie-talkie push-to-talk facility, the handset can operate as a speakerphone. It also supports MP3, MIDI and WAV ringtones. The handset is expected to ship during Q2, Motorola said, noting that the handset is already being trialled by "numerous operators around the world". Orange has already announced it will offer a push-to-talk service, Talk Now, in the UK and France next quarter, initially using PalmOne's Treo 600 smartphone. It will roll out the service in eight more countries by the end of the year, adding other push-to-talk handsets as it goes. Motorola also introduced two CDMA push-to-talk handsets, today: the V65p and the rugged T300p. ® Related Stories Orange punts mobile walkie-talkie service Phone4U brings 'push to talk' to UK Visit The Reg Mobile Store for all your phone, PDA and wireless needs
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004

Dutch Railways trials tickets by SMS

Europe in BriefEurope in Brief Dutch Railways has started experiments with SMS tickets. For a railway trip from the Netherlands to Cologne, Frankfurt or Dusseldorf, customers can order their tickets online. But instead of getting a ticket, they will receive a SMS message with a unique number. No, it is not a world's first. Dutch company NoordNed Public Transport, running diesel lines from Groningen to Leeuwarden and vice versa, has been testing a similar system since 2002. Passengers in those trains can already use their mobile telephones as m-tickets. Ticket inspection is carried out with wireless hand-held terminals that receive and store the ticket’s validation number. When Dutch Railways are going to introduce SMS ticketing nationally is not known yet. The technology is supplied by LogicaCMG. Hungary: Euroweb buys Elender Nasdaq-listed Euroweb International is likely to acquire 100 per cent of Elender Business Communications Rt, Budapest Business Journal reports. With the aquisition, Euroweb will be the largest independent ISP in Hungary. Euroweb already owns operations in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia. Elender, with $22.5 million in revenue in 2003, has its strength in the corporate and public sector. However, on its own, it couldn't compete with dominant ISP Axelero Internet Rt, a subsidiary of market-leading telecom Matáv Rt. Germany: first profit for AOL Germany AOL Germany made a profit of €2 million in 2003, Die Welt reports. The US-led company lost money ever since its launch in 1996. In January, 2002, Time Warner bought out Bertelsmann's stake in AOL Europe, which at the time was losing $600 million a year. Without Bertelsmann, AOL seems to be doing much better. An expansion into high speed broadband services in Britain, France and Germany have pushed the company into the black again. In 2004 AOL Germany expects profits of €20m - 40m. Netherlands: ADSL outnumbers cable The number of cable broadband connections in the Netherlands increased with 23.7 percent last year, Telecom.paper reports. However, the number of ADSL subscriptions doubled in 2003, outnumbering the number of cable subscriptions. KPN reported an ADSL installed base of 746,000 at the end of 2003 and with Tiscali, Versatel, and bbned adding more ADSL subscribers on their own network, the ADSL network now has 951,000 connections, while cable has 940,000. Chello remains the largest broadband provider in the Netherlands. ®
Jan Libbenga, 11 Feb 2004

Lindows can use its trademark (for now)

The US District Court in Seattle has ruled in favour of Lindows.com on key legal issues in the company's dispute with Microsoft. Lindows.com will be able to keep its trademark until the final decision in the case is made. At stake is the legal status of the trademark of the Windows operating system. Microsoft says the name Lindows infringes on its trademark, while Lindows argues that Windows is a generic term which can’t be legally trademarked. The Court flatly rejected Microsoft's arguments that the jury should consider the meaning of the term "windows" in its current usage, ruling instead that the jury should focus on the time prior to the release of Microsoft's Windows products. More importantly, the Court ruled that once a word is declared generic it continues to be generic, informing Microsoft that no amount of marketing around a generic word changes the generic status of the word. "Essentially, the Court's ruling confirms that a company, no matter how much money it spends, cannot buy a word out of the English language," said Daniel Harris, Lindows.com's lead trial counsel, in a statement yesterday. With this ruling, the trial that was scheduled on March 1, 2004 will not go forward. Instead, Microsoft will appeal the Court's ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The company still believes it has a case against Lindows. "Microsoft understands the strength in our case, which is why they don't want to go to trial on March 1, and are again using delay tactics," said Michael Robertson, chief executive officer of Lindows.com. "Our users have helped us collect a mountain of evidence that Microsoft is afraid to confront." The delay won’t help resellers of Lindows in the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden. Judges there have sided with Microsoft and barred the company from using the Lindows name. ®
Jan Libbenga, 11 Feb 2004

Mono and dotGNU: what's the point?

OpinionOpinion Neil Davidson is technical director of Red Gate Software. He can be reached at neil.Davidson@red-gate.com Opinion Two open-source projects, Mono and dotGNU, are aimed at providing alternatives to Microsoft’s .NET framework and developer tools. While providing freedom of choice might be reason enough to justify a project, practical programmers could be asking: What’s the point? Sure, these projects might be of theoretical or academic use, but only ideologues are going to use them for real work. Microsoft already provides the compilers and the .NET framework for free; you can download them from www.microsoft.com/net. According to SD Times, one of the goals of dotGNU in 2004 is to “have System.Windows.Forms under XWindows.” Great. Microsoft is working on adding edit-and-continue to VB.NET, generics to C#, embedding the CLR into the next version of SQL Server, and making a stack of improvements to managed C++. In similar timescales, dotGNU will let you put a button on a form. Last year, Novell bought Ximian, creator of the Mono project. Mono’s roadmap is to implement about five of the Microsoft namespaces in 2004. At a generous estimate, that’s under half of the system class libraries. There will be no remoting; no side-by-side existence of assemblies in the GAC; no code signing of assemblies; and no code access security – despite this being a fundamental piece of the .NET framework. By the time Mono is anywhere near 90 percent of the current functionality of .NET, Microsoft will have released Whidbey, Yukon and probably Longhorn. Stopping a monopoly? DotGNU’s motivations include stopping Microsoft from achieving monopolistic control of web services. Getting people to adopt C# probably isn’t a good way of accomplishing this. Every Java devotee that dotGNU converts to the C# cause is actually increasing Microsoft’s stronghold. Even if Mono or dotGNU gets 99 percent of the way there, that’s not enough. It’s the extra 1 percent that matters. It’s the boring stuff like adding serialization capabilities to classes, implementing good security, and documenting class libraries that makes C# and .NET viable. Mono has its own C# compiler, written using Microsoft’s C# compiler. I’m familiar with bootstrapping, but this I just don’t get. You take a fully functional C# compiler and use it to create a lower-spec C# compiler. Actually, one of the few applications that Mono claims it can run is its own C# compiler. The major achievement of this project appears to be using somebody else’s compiler to build a compiler that will compile the compiler. People involved in these projects seem to be convinced that they are working to break Microsoft’s perceived monopoly. But how is porting a Microsoft platform to Linux going to achieve this? How is making C# a standard on Windows and Linux going to hurt Microsoft? Far from being alarmed, Microsoft execs encourage this activity, making a lot of the .NET source code available under the ROTOR program. Their enemies are now working, for free, to extend Microsoft’s monopoly onto new platforms. Testifying for Microsoft If, in Microsoft’s wildest dreams, C# on Linux kills Java, and Sun or IBM accuses Microsoft of abusing a monopoly position, all Microsoft will need to do is point at Mono (and hence Novell) and dotGNU. Can you imagine it? Novell executives testifying for Microsoft in some hypothetical anti-trust case? If the open source versions of .NET start to struggle, then Microsoft will probably just bail Novell out with $150 million or so like it did Apple. Of course, Microsoft can enforce its patents any time if it ever feels really threatened. Competition is good for the software industry, good for Microsoft in particular (as Adam Smith pointed out, monopoly is a great enemy to good management), and most importantly, good for consumers. It is great for everyone when the open-source movement provides credible competition. At times, however, I do wish that all that passion, energy and skill went into something, well, a bit more useful. Mono and dotGNU are interesting projects for people who are interested in computer languages, compiler construction and other fairly esoteric, hard-core areas of software engineering. But they have no practical use, and exist only with the patronage of Microsoft. ®
Neil Davidson, 11 Feb 2004

MS releases double-plus critical security fix

Microsoft's monthly patch train got back on track yesterday with the release of a fix for a potentially devastating security vulnerability involving a core component of Windows. The buffer overrun bug with Microsoft's Abstract Syntax Notation 1 (ASN.1) library could be exploited to seize control of vulnerable systems. "An attacker who successfully exploited this buffer overflow vulnerability could execute code with system privileges on an affected system. The attacker could then take any action on the system, including installing programs, viewing data, changing data, deleting data, or creating new accounts with full privileges," Microsoft warns. Windows 2000/XP/2003 are all affected by the vulnerability, which was discovered by security researchers at eEye six months ago. Since then Microsoft has been working on a fix, which was finally released yesterday. Redmond has described the fix as "critical" - its highest security rating - and is urging users to apply its patch immediately. This - if anything - is understating things since this vulnerability is probably the worst to surface since the RPC subsystem flaws (which are exploited by worms such as Blaster). The latest flaw could have allowed crackers to break into their vulnerable computers to perform any manner of mischief over the last six months. However neither eEye nor Microsoft are aware of malicious exploitation of the vuln. And another thing... As part as its monthly patch cycle, Microsoft also released fixes for two less serious security problems (both described by Redmond as "important"). These are: a flaw in the Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS) that could allow hostile code to be injected into vulnerable systems; and a flaw in Virtual PC for Mac, which might allow privilege elevation. Microsoft's latest batch of security patches follows a cumulative fix for IE released earlier this month outside the normal patch cycle. This fix dropped support for a common Web authentication method to fix a flaw which made it easier to lure IE users to malicious constructed or fraudulent sites. None of these fixes has anything to do with the ongoing spread of MyDoom, which is due to cease tomorrow. ®
John Leyden, 11 Feb 2004

15in notebook display prices to fall next month

15in notebook display panels will become cheaper to buy next month despite tightness in the supply of same-sized panels built for LCD monitors, market watcher DisplaySearch has claimed. The report, cited by Chinese-language newspaper the Economic Daily News, notes that while the prices of 15in and 15.4in notebook panels will fall slightly next month, 14in notebook panels will remain in tight supply. So too will 15in and 19in monitor-oriented panels, suggesting that prices may rise. DisplaySearch reckons there are sufficient 17in monitor panels to meet demand - a sign that prices should stay stable. DisplaySearch has said before that it expects overall TFT LCD supply to exceed demand by only 5.5 per cent this year, indicating that supply will be tight. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004

Apple facing five iPod battery lawsuits

Apple is facing rather a lot of lawsuits alleging the company misrepresented the battery life of the latest generation of its iPod digital music player. According to the company's latest Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, form 10-Q, it is currently facing five class-action suits, all filed in the District of Northern California, specifically Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco and Alameda County. All of them allege that Apple violated local laws regarding unfair competition, false advertising, fraudulent concealment and breach of warranty. The claims follow the launch of the slimline second-generation iPod last April. Since then, numerous owners have complained that their player's battery capacity has shrunk over time. Last autumn, Apple began offering $59 extended warranties to cover iPod batteries during a second year of operation. It also offered a $99 battery replacement service. Apple's 10-Q says it is "investigating" the claims made in the five lawsuits. ® Related Products Check out iPod prices at The Reg mobile store
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004

Strategy Boutique redefines the t-shirt paradigm

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion If you're thinking of re-energising your company's brand frontage, then we strongly advise that you do not attend any joss-stick scented rebranding power brunch without first donning our official Strategy Boutique t-shirt. While world-weary hacks at El Reg might consider corporate makeovers a futile exercise in profligacy - equivalent to using a fifty pound note to light a Cuban cigar, then stubbing the cigar out on a rare 15th-century tapestry, then ripping the precious artwork into squares and using them to clean the toilets - we at Cash'n'Carrion believe those who stand in the front line of image realignment, armed with nothing more than Powerpoint and bottled spring water with a hint of guava, deserve recognition for their contribution to the advancement of Western civilisation: Indeed, readers should note that more than 3,000 hours of brainstorming flip-chart sessions went into The Strategy Boutique's inspirational slogan alone: "Moving forward in pushing back the envelope of the corporate paradigm". But for your £12.76 (£14.99 inc VAT) you also get the Boutique's hypnotic mantra: "Thrust", "Synergy", "Evolution", "Profit" and the promise that it will deliver "Innovative e-solutions to the sound of whalesong". Outstanding. If you are yourself currently engaged in a brand revitalisation, or know someone else practising the alchemy of turning base metal into fool's gold, then you will understand that this 100 per cent black cotton t-shirt is the must-have apparel for today's thrusting, synergistic, evolutionary, whalesong-driven executive. To see a larger representation of the artwork, click here. Alternatively, if you want to immediately set about redirecting your core business mission statement into project-critical client service penetration, click here. Let the vital energy flow. ®
Cash'n'Carrion, 11 Feb 2004

Big spending small firms lead IT recovery

Small companies are the driving force behind a large increase in spending on business IT equipment over the last quarter, a new report has revealed. The research, conducted by Computer Weekly and Kew Associates, found that IT spending rose by 5.2 per cent in the last three months of 2003, up from 3.9 per cent in the previous quarter. Small firms were particularly keen to splash out of new technology, with start-ups increasing their spending on IT equipment by 7.5 per cent over the last quarter, compared with a rise of just 3.9 per cent in larger companies. The report attributs the rise in spending, the best growth in 18 months to increased optimism over the economy. Firms in the services sector experienced the largest rise in IT spending, with a increase of 5.5 per cent in new equipment, while the production industry, buoyed by the recovery in the manufacturing sector, saw an increase of 3.3 per cent. The increase in IT activity suggests that the downturn in the industry, the worst of its kind in 10 years, could be nearing an end. Kris Wicka, director at Kew Associates, said: “Small firms are still playing catch-up with larger firms when it comes to IT expenditure, so the difference in spending may continue in the future.”
Startups.co.uk, 11 Feb 2004

Wanadoo UK loses €30m

Wanadoo UK (Freeserve) lost around €30 million last year as cost-cutting measures designed to eat away at last year's loss began to bite. Last year Wanadoo UK, as Freeserve's parent company insists on calling it and thus fuelling speculation that the company is planning to ditch its Freeserve brand, lost €92 million. This year, that figure has fallen to a deficit of somewhere around €30 million. Despite this, Wanadoo UK is displaying a certain joie de vivre after reporting that it broke even in the second half of the year. Said Wanadoo in a statement: "Wanadoo UK (Freeserve) cut its full-year loss in operating income before amortization and depreciation to less than a third of its previous level, while breaking even in the second half of 2003." It prompted Olivier Sichel, chairman and CEO of Wanadoo, to say: "Wanadoo Spain and Wanadoo Netherlands broke even in operating income before amortization and depreciation, while Wanadoo UK exceeded its target, cutting its loss in operating income before amortization and depreciation by over two thirds." Overall, Wanadoo reported an operating income of €250 million in 2003, compared to an operating loss of €6 million in 2002. Revenue for the group topped €2.6 billion in 2003. Today's figures were widely trailed last week when Wanadoo UK revealed that it has 158,000 broadband users - an increase of 35,000 in the three months to the end of the year. A senior Wanadoo UK spokesman explained that the ISP was planning to make a big push for broadband this year. "This is the year for broadband for us - we're going for it," he said. ® Related Story Freeserve gears up for major broadband push
Tim Richardson, 11 Feb 2004

Siemens launches big-screen multimedia phone

Siemens today unveiled its first "next-generation" multimedia phone, the CX65, alongside a new 'mass market' clamshell handset the CF62. Geared toward picture and video messaging, the handset features not only a 640 x 480 video camera, but an "extra large" 16-bit colour display. The phone contains 11MB of user-accessible memory for content storage, and Siemens said it will offer a plug-on flash with integrated red-eye reduction. And with an eye on the commercial possibilities of add-on services, the handset features "an animated download assistant", to encourage owners to acquire new ringtones, logos and Java games. Aimed at GSM/GPRS networks, the CX65 is a tri-band handset. Its battery offers five hours' talk time and 250 hours' standby time, Siemens said. Siemens also launched its latest clamshell, the CF62. A tri-band GSM device, the phone features dual 16-bit displays and polyphonic ringtone support. Like the CX65, the CF62 supports multimedia messaging, but to take pictures you'll need the optional plug-on QuickPic camera. The 85g handset features a loop-like antenna that doubles up as a carry handle. The handset provides five hours' talk time and 220 hours of standby time, Siemens said. Pricing was not disclosed - network operators will set their own, in any case - but the CF62 will ship in Europe next April, and in North America and Asia Pacific later in Q2. The CX65 will ship in all three regions sometime in Q2, too. ® Related Story Motorola preps European 'push to talk' phone Related Products Find for your next phone in The Reg mobile store
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004

Ex-Intel engineer jailed for trying to aid the Taliban

A former Intel engineer who was caught attempting to get into Afghanistan after the US-led invasion was finally sentenced to seven years in jail this week. At his trial last August, Mayer "Mike" Mofeid Hawash, 38, pleaded guilty to travelling to Afghanistan with the intention of aiding the Taliban. However, he did not accept two other charges: that he conspired to "levy war against the United States" and that he conspired to "provide material support and resources to Al-Qaida". Hawash was caught with five others in 2001 after they were denied visas to cross Pakistan in order to enter Afghanistan. However, he was not arrested until March 2003, and not charged until April that year. Following his guilty plea, Hawash had to wait until his five fellow defendants were brought to trial. That process over, he was back in court in Portland, Oregon on Monday to hear his sentence. US District Court Judge Robert Jones sentenced Hawash to seven years in prison, the minimum term for the charge to which he had pleaded guilty. Judge Jones also sentenced fellow defendants Ahmed Bilal and Muhammad Bilal to ten years and eight years, respectively. Hawash's guilty plea also invokes a $250,000 fine. Hawash was born in 1964 as a Jordanian but later became a naturalised US citizen. At Intel, he was lead software engineer on the company's MMX design efforts. Hawash lived in Hillsboro, Oregon, with his wife and three children. ® Related Story Ex-Intel staffer admits trying to aid Taliban
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004

US chip industry to take on Beijing

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) will today present evidence to back its claim that Chinese chip makers are receiving state subsidies outlawed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission will hear allegations that tax breaks offered by the Chinese government to domestic chip manufacturers are putting US exports under threat, The Times newspaper reports. Chip sales are taxed at 17 per cent in China, but local manufacturers can claim up to 14 per cent of the levy back. That rebate, introduced in 2000, is tantamount to illegal state aid, the SIA believes. The rebates are distorting the market against overseas suppliers keen to operate in what is the world's third biggest chip market, the organisation claims. The upshot is a trend to build fabs in the area rather than in the US, Europe or elsewhere in the Far East. It fears that the imbalance could tip the industry into recession. The global chip business is only now coming out of a downturn that has lasted since 2001. The SIA alleges that since 2000 at least eight fabs have been built in China to avoid the rebate. A further 11 plants are currently under construction. The SIA's case is being presented to the USCESRC by the US Trade Representative, and may well end in the first major challenge to China since it joined the WTO more than two years ago. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004

Infineon preps €120m R&D fab expansion plan

Infineon said today it plans to expand its Dresden Memory Development Centre (MDC), creating 120 new jobs. The MDC focuses on DRAM and Flash fabrication process R&D. The expansion programme will involve the construction of an additional facility at the site, adding 2300m² of cleanroom dedicated to work on 300mm wafers. The new complex will be sited alongside Infineon's existing fab, and is expected to be completed early next year. The project is projected to cost the company €120 million - which very tidily works out at €1 million per job created. Infineon's development centre and production fabs already employ 5,400 people, though the workforce will rise to 5,800 by the end of the company's 2004 fiscal year, which will come to a close on 30 September. Infineon's plant is just down the road from AMD's Dresden Fab 30. ® Related Story EU approves _545m grants for AMD 300mm fab
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004

ATI licenses ‘dynamic logic’ tech for faster, cheaper chips

ATI has licensed Intrinsity's Fast 14 'dynamic logic' chip design technology to help it create "future consumer products" - possibly even the graphics accelerator it is designed for the Xbox 2 - aka Xbox Next. We first wrote about Intrinsity back in 2001, after it had demonstrated a 2.2GHz chip - back than, way faster than anything Intel, AMD, IBM or Motorola had come up with. This year it began sampling a 130nm DSP chip, FastMath, that runs at 2GHz, operating at 1V. Aimed at the wireless infrastructure market, FastMath is being fabbed by TSMC, ATI's own foundry partner. Intrinsity's technology is based on Dynamic Logic, an old-style design methodology now relegated to a few, highly performance-sensitive circuits thanks to the arrival in the 1980s of automated design software and the CMOS manufacturing process that helped make it possible. Today's Static Logic methodology - essentially chip-building by numbers - makes for slower, less efficient processors (by between 50 and 80 per cent, Intrinsity says) but ones that could be designed, tested and put into manufacturing for more quickly and cheaply than DL-designed parts. To do DL properly has always required very highly skilled staff - and plenty of them. No wonder, then, it quickly became uneconomic to use the technique for all but a few on-chip units. Intrinsity claims Fast 14 puts DL design on a par with SL. The company admits DL remains harder to do, but the cost of the extra work is much lower than it once was and the premium is justified by the extra performance it yields. Fast 14 comprises enhancements to the basic building blocks of a DL processor that not only make automated DL design tools effective but have the knock-on effect of reducing circuit noise - a major barrier to higher clock speeds - and increasing gate speeds. ATI, at any rate, is impressed. Company engineering VP Bob Feldstein believes Fast 14 can "deliver up to four times the performance per silicon dollar when compared with standard design approaches". Related Story Intrinsity to sample Intel-beating CPU late 2002
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004

VIA takes Eden CPU to 1GHz

VIA today extended its low-power Eden ESP processor family to 800MHz and 1GHz. Hardly likely to challenge the x86 mainstream, that. But VIA is aiming the part at small form-factor PCs and PC-derived consumer electronics kit - almost all of which specify fanless operation. At 1GHz, the 130nm Eden consumes as little as 7W, VIA said. The new Edens are based on VIA's Nehemiah core - also the foundation for its C3 desktop line and Antaur mobile processor. The chips sport dual hardware random number generators for improved security. Already available at 733MHz - as the Eden ESP7000 - the new ESP8000 and ESP10000 chips are prices at $85 and $100, respectively. The new versions are pin-compatible with other Nehemiah-based CPUs, and operate within the same thermal envelope as the older ESP7000. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Feb 2004

Chinese teenagers find Net just too damned attractive

Increasing numbers of teenagers in China are being admitted to hospital, suffering from what doctors call ‘Internet Syndrome’. Symptoms include delirium, paranoia and psychosis. Dr. Yu Haiting, the vice president of the No. 8 People’s Hospital in Zhengzhou, says he sees one or two cases per week. Dr. Yu told Xinhauanet He cites the case of a 19-year old who, after surfing the next for five to six hours everyday for five years who had come to believe that “invisible pairs of eyes in cyber-space were peeping at him and examining him all the time”. Yu explains that sufferers are typically having difficulties with social interaction in the real world, and turn to the Net to avoid conflict with friends and family. “To start with, they turn to the virtual world for comfort and gradually become more reluctant to face life," he said. Dr. Yu advises that teenagers restrict time online to no more than 3 hours per day and that parents spend time talking with their children to encourage them to engage with the real world. Addictionary In 2000 the CIA hosted a workshop to discuss the phenomenon of Net addiction, and in the same year, the first global conference on Net Addiction was held in Zurich. According to US-based organisation Net Addiction, Internet Addiction is a broad term, covering a wide-variety of behaviours and impulse-control problems. It suggests that the comfort of anonymity may be one of the main attractions of life online. Research indicates that most people are less inhibited and more risk-taking if they lack accountability for their actions. But given the Chinese government's suspicous approach to the Internet, it is impossible to say for certain that this is not being used as another thread in its efforts to discourage Net use. In 2003, laws in China were changed to restrict access to Internet cafes to over 18's. This followed the closure of nearly half such establishments in 2002 and 2003. According to Amnesty International, 2003 saw a 60 per cent increase in the number of detentions for 'Internet related offenses'. For example, several people have been arrested and detained for posting information online about SARS. Read more about the freedom on the Chinese Net, or lack of it here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 11 Feb 2004

419ers get God, distribute millions, then do lunch

Blimey, it's quite a life being an advance fee fraudster. One minute you're dying of cancer, then you've recovered sufficently to run a lottery, and no sooner have you distributed millions to lucky winners, then it's time for a swift lunch with the president of Nigeria. Of course, strong Christian faith is a comfort in such arduous times. Cue the first of a selection of new lines of attack from the hard-working boys from Lagos: From: Mrs Lora Harry PLEASE ENDEAVOUR TO USE IT FOR THE CHILDREN OF GOD. I am the above named person from Kuwait. I am married to Mr. Paul Harry who worked with Kuwait embassy in Ivory Coast for nine years before he died in the year 2001. We were married for eleven years without a child. He died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days. Before his death we were both born again Christians. When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of $5.6Million (Five Million six hundred thousand U.S. Dollars) with Bank/Security Company in Europe and a branch in South Africa. Presently, this money is still with the Security Company. Recently, my Doctor told me that I would not last for the next three months due to cancer problem. Though what disturbs me most is my stroke. Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to church or better still a christian individual that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct here in. I want a church that will use this fund to fund churches, orphanages, Research centers and widows propagating the word of God and to ensure that the house of God is maintained. The Bible made us to understand that Blessed is the hand that giveth. I took this decision because I dont have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are not Christians and I dont want my husbands hard earned money to be misused by unbelievers. I dont want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly manner. Hence the reason for taking this bold decision. I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going. I know that I am going to be in the bossom of the Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14 says that the lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace. I dont need any telephone communication in this regard because of my health because of the presence of my husbands relatives around me always. I dont want them to know about this development. With God all things are possible. As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the bank/Security Company. I will also issue you a letter of authority that will empower you as the new beneficiary of this fund. I want you and the church to always pray for me because the lord is my shephard. My happiness is that I lived a life of a worthy Christian. Whoever that wants to serve the Lord must serve him in spirit and truth. Please always be prayerful all through your life. Any delay in your reply will give me room in sourcing for a church or christian individual for this same purpose. Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I stated herein. Hoping to hearing from you. Remain blessed in the name of the Lord. Yours in Christ, Mrs Lora Harry It fair breaks your heart, it really does. Lora can rest assured we're always prayerful down here at Vulture Central, and indeed are reminded of John 10:10: "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy". Amen. This above solicitation is one of many variants on the Christian philanthropy theme currently doing the rounds. Here's how another good soul wishing to leave his wedge to the needy introduces himself: email address: la_mo65@katamail.com Dear Friend, This letter may come to you as a surprise due to the fact that we have not yet met. I have to say that I have no intentions of causing you any pains so i decided to contact you through this medium. As you read this, I don't want you to feel sorry for me, because, I believe everyone will die someday. My name is Larry Moore, a merchant in Dubai, in the U.A.E. I have been diagnosed with prostate and esophageal Cancer that was discovered very late due to my laxity in caring for my health. It has defiled all form of medicine and right now, I have only about a few months to live according to medical experts. Defiled? You don't need a Bible, mate, you need a bloody dictionary. Still, you probably wouldn't have enough time to benefit from it, what with the terminal prostate and esophageal cancer. Mind you, you're still sharp enough to suspect that everyone will die someday. And, since you only live once - unless you're James Bond, of course - what could be better than an enormous and entirely unexpected windfall to facilitate a bit of good living?: A.A.S Lottery Headquarters: Customer Service 580 N. Tenth Street Sacramento, CA 85914 Euro - Afro Asian Sweepstake Lottery an Affiliate of Foundmoney International Arena Complex Km 18 Route de Rufisque I.P.P Award Dept. johannesburg, south africa. Ref: EAASL/941OYI/03 Batch: 03/06/MA34 WINNING NOTIFICATION: We happily announce to you the draw of the Euro - Afro Asian Sweepstake Lottery International programs held on the 1st of NOVEMENBER 2003 in Dakar Senegal. Your e-mail address attached to ticket number: 56475600545 188 with Serial number 5388/02 drew the lucky numbers: 31-6-26-13-35-7, which subsequently won you the lottery in the 2nd category. You have therefore been approved to claim a total sum of US$2,500,000.00 (Two million,Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) in cash credited to file KPC/9080118308/03.This is from a total cash prize of US $ 25 Million dollars, shared amongst the first Fifty (10) lucky winners in this category. Please note that your lucky winning number falls within our European booklet representative office in Europe as indicated in your play coupon. In view of this, your US$2,500,000.00 (Two million,Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) would be released to you by our security firm in Europe. Our European agent will immediately commence the process to facilitate the release of your funds as soon as you contact him. All participants were selected randomly from World Wide Web site through computer draw system and extracted from over 100,000 companies. This promotion takes place annually. To begin your lottery claims, please contact your claims agent,MISS SARAH JONES (sarahjones01@fsmail.net) For security reasons, you are advised to keep your winning information confidential till your claims is processed and your money remitted to you in whatever manner you deem fit to claim your prize. This is part of our precautionary measure to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by some unscrupulous elements. Please be warned. To avoid unnecessary delays and complications, please quote your reference/batch numbers in any correspondences with us or our designated agent. Congratulations once more from all members and staffs of this program. Thank you for being part of our promotional lottery program. You are to contact our Fiduciary agent as quickly as possible. We await your response urgently so that we can furnish you with the relevant details of our agent. Sincerely, SIR H.J.PONFA AFRO-ASIAN Zonal Coordinator. A pretty good effort, this one, and plausible enough to reel in anyone struck suddenly with the sort of blind greed which disables that part of the brain normally asking "but why on earth are they giving this money away?", and "but this is too good to be true..." What really is too good to be true is our final offering - an invitation from the deliciously-named James Van-Haul: Dear sir, my name is James Van-Haul. a computer analyst based in an African country called Nigeria for the main time.i have been directed to invite you to the 3rd International Conference on Information technology solutions. thie is the 3rd time we will be organising this conference. the first was held in the United Arab Emirates while the second took place Ghana. The third has been billed to take place Again in Africa for the rate at which the communication industry is fast growing. as you can see, if the re are no investment in communication both computer and tele comm services, most firms would never exist. The conference will be a 5 days thing with a opening ceremony chaired by the His Excellency, the President of the federal Republic of Nigeria and the closing ceremony chaired by the Hon. minister for Science and Technology and als the Minister for Communication. the fee for the Conference is $2,600 which covers the accomodation,dinner with the Mr President and his cabinet members,cocktail and also sight seeing to the newly launched satelite in the country. please let us know if you are interested in the conference so we can make arrangement for you as participant(s). hoping to hear from you soon. JAMES VAN-HAUL. MEMBER ORGANISING COMMITTEE 3RD CONFERENCE ON IT SOLUTIONS. rocajigga2001@yahoo.co.uk 234-802-831-7802 A trip to see a newly-launched satellite for only $2,600? That represents truly fantastic value, given that the Russians are charging millions for a jaunt to the International Space Station. Yup, we'd love a zero-grav chin-wag with Nigeria's Great and Good. Put us down for ten tickets. ® Bootnote Thanks to readers Daan Strebe, Geoffrey McCaleb, Dan Lynch and Peter Rogers for the above. They each win US$10,00,000.00 (TEN MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS) from the Vulture Central Internet lottery, a trip to outer space and a copy of the Bible for their trouble. Naturally, we will require a $10,000 handling fee, paid in advance, to facilitate the release of the prizes. We wonder, btw, if Mr James Van-Haul is by any chance related to Mr "Heafrow" Van-Haul who organised the famous Brinks-Mat gold heist some years back? Just a thought, but it would explain where all the unrecovered loot ended up. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Feb 2004
Broken CD with wrench

Sirocom launches IP VPN service for UK

Virtual network operator Sirocom today launched a UK-wide service to provide IP connectivity over Ethernet. Enterprise VPN100 is scalable from two to 100 Mbps and is available immediately from over 118 access points around the UK. The service is aimed at enterprises seeking an economic means to upgrade network access speeds or to revamp their network infrastructure architecture. This should help customers accommodate trends such as multi-site server consolidation or introduce storage area networking. According to the Sirocom pitch, companies get the flexibility and cost benefits of using IP VPN networks, but without compromising on security. Metro Ethernet services are all the rage in the telcoms market. Sirocom's offering will compete against services from Fibernet, Colt and others for a share of the next-generation networking services market in the UK. David Macfarlane, Sirocom's CTO, said: "This 'burstable' service is very flexible, fast and a fraction of the cost of traditional service types like ATM and frame relay." Sirocom's Enterprise VPN100 service is underpinned by network capacity obtained from BT. The company claims 300 customers for its VPN services. ® Related stories IP VPN migration 'inevitable' IP VPN: compelling savings - compelling performance? BT and Cisco team up for IP services push
John Leyden, 11 Feb 2004
Click here for the full BOFH range

BOFH 2003: Year Book

I'm a Bastard Operator, Get Me Out of Here! Episode 1 Intranet Survivor The Bastard Guide to Recycling Episode 2 Haphazard Arrangement of Still Life BOFH and the Pay Rise Episode 3 Managing expectations The Bastard Interviewer from Hell Episode 4 Above board and politically correct The Bastard wants to know - How's your interviewing style? Episode 5 Quiz time Bastard's got a Brand New Laptop Episode 6 Heavyweight BOFH, The Boss and Operational Euphemisms Episode 7 Dirty business, this computer game The Bastard goes 24/7 Episode 8 Pizza alert! BOFH and the Interruptible Power System Episode 9 Like moths to a lamp BOFH cops a virus Episode 10 Bring the tranquiliser gun BOFH and the Bad Junket Episode 11 Pens won't cut it The Bastard School of Argument Episode 12 Devil makes work for idle hands BOFH and The Engineer Episode 13 Call out beyond sense of duty BOFH and The Conference Episode 14 Gimme some Pens! BOFH and The Boss's Porn Episode 15 I said Water skiing! 802.11bofh Episode 16 The golden age of wireless BOFH and the Boss's PA Episode 17 I was that soldier A Bastard of a late night call-out Episode 18 But I need help now... Resumé writing - BOFH style Episode 19 CV or not CV? That is the question... BOFH beats the Boss Episode 20 He's become a liability BOFH and the Auditor Episode 21 Expenses fraud? What expenses fraud? The BOFH mobile comms quiz Episode 22 How sad is your workplace? BOFH makes a hardware call Episode 23 Bloody maintenance companies Health, Safety and... BOFH Episode 24 Who put that extinguisher there? Megalomania™ - the board game for BOFHs Episode 25 Monopolistic behaviour BOFH and the government contract Episode 26 The name's Bofh. James Bofh... BOFH on the pull Episode 27 Coo er gosh, I luv gurls Yes, it's the BOFH quiz! Episode 28 Do you know your Computing Personalities? BOFH, the Boss and printing p0rn Episode 29 That's not my credit card. Er... is it? BOFH's Xmas Xperience Episode 30 Bonuses, bosses and... BOOZE The BOFH-father: Part One Episode 31 Ah may 'im an uffer 'e cudden refoose... BOFH and the Boss' space problems Episode 32 Put the tape safe WHERE? BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2004, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 11 Feb 2004

MS tears swastika from roof of Office

Microsoft today released a critical update to remove "unacceptable symbols" from Bookshelf Symbol 7 font. Just 58-odd years after the Red Army hoisted its standard on the roof of the Reichstag on 30 April 1945, effectively ending the European war, MS has finally flushed the swastika from its last hiding place - an otherwise innocent font shipped with Office 2003. This has hardly been a Blitzkrieg on Microsoft's part. The company has been aware of the presence of the Mark of the Beast since December. At the time it promised an immediate utility to remove the characters. It also passed the buck onto the hapless Japanese (from whose happy land the font apparently originated), and launched a damage-prevention campaign by contacting Jewish organisations before the whole thing got out of hand. Which is interesting, because the update has taken the airbrush of history to another well-known character: What does it mean? Well, we leave it to the black helicopter brigade to construct a conspiracy theory around this one. In any case, it would be a bit rich for El Reg (Motto: We put the "typO" in "typographical") to get sniffy about font outrages. Older readers may recall the scandal which saw us spread profanity and filth across cyberspace by using Wingdings in a headline to spell out our opinion on conspiracy theorists in a plug for a new Cash'n'Carrion t-shirt. What we didn't know, however, was that the font would not render in some browsers, thereby displaying the original word in all its glory to millions of innocent women and children. Suffice it to say the reaction was similar to that caused by Janet Jackson's nipple jewellery on prime-time TV. Mind you, our t-shirt sales went through the roof, so some good came of the fiasco. We hope Microsoft can gain something equally positive from its gaffe. Still, it's all fixed now, and ten weeks is precious little time for white supremacists to exploit Bookshelf Symbol 7 for the promulgation of neo-Nazi ideology. Pity the poor old Buddhists, though. How in future will they represent the footsteps of the Buddha if not with Microsoft's help? Suggestions on a postcard please to Sir Bill Gates of all the Microsofts. Bootnote Big up respect to reader James Wilkinson for the screen grabs shown above.
Lester Haines, 11 Feb 2004

BOFH and the coffee machine

Episode 4Episode 4 BOFH 2004: Episode 4 "I... I... I'm not sure I'm up to work today," the PFY sighs sadly, staring vacantly in restrained grief. "Oh for Pete's sake, pull yourself together, man!" the Boss snaps. "We can get past this!" "I don't think we can..." "Course we can. It'll be difficult for a while, but you'll get back into the swing of things. Think of the doors that are now open for you to explore new things!" "I don't want to explore new things!" the PFY sniffs. "Why couldn't you have been more careful?" "It was an accident," the Boss confesses, "a tragic accident. The sooner we put it behind us and move on, things will stand a chance of getting back to normal!" "It won't be the same," the PFY sniffles. "It'll never be the same. It's all ruined now. You don't just replace the love and respect of a long working relationship!" "Get a grip!" the Boss snaps. "It's not like you lost a family member!" "May as well have..." "Don't be ridiculous! Family bonds are much stronger than those in a workplace - everyone knows that!" "You just don't understand..." the PFY sobs. "You're right, I don't understand," the Boss blurts callously. "It's just a f***ing coffee machine!" "What's 'just a f***ing coffee machine'?" I ask, entering the break room. "That is," the PFY responds, pointing at the smoking mess that was a cafe-quality high volume three group espresso machine. "Well, was..." "What happened?!?" I gasp. "He broke it!" the PFY sniffles. "How?!?" "I don't know, it just stopped working!" the Boss snaps irritably. "It's a cafe-issue machine - they don't just stop working!" "That one did." "Right, I'd better call the bloke!" the PFY says. "Tell him it's urgent!" I add. . . . Three hours later . . . "TWO THOUSAND QUID!" the Boss gasps. "That's ridiculous. You could buy a new machine for that!" "Not a high volume one like this," the coffee bloke replies. "That's a work of art. Apart from the stuffed pump, dodgy pressure switch and half blocked lines that is." "I haven't got budget for that!" the Boss blurts. "Sure you do. It's a small price to pay for a happy energetic workers," I chip in. "You can switch to instant like the rest of them!" Even the coffee bloke is stunned by the blasphemy. "I'm NOT paying 2000 quid to get a coffee machine fixed!" the Boss repeats. "He's right in a way," the coffee bloke adds unhelpfully. "Most big machines like this are treated well and last forever - well, outside of accidents. But I could line you up with a single group one for about 500." "A home model?" I snap "That's not even plumbed in! I'd rather use a plunger! What's a new one of these worth?" "These babies?" the coffee bloke replies, as the car salesman in him takes over. "Anything from four to ten kay, depending on the features you want with them. You can get them with computers in now." "Really?" the PFY asks, interested. "Yeah, for those cafes where the waiters use portable computers to take your order. They tap the info in by the time they get to the counter the coffee's ground, poured and ready!" "I'm not buying one!" the Boss says firmly. "Could we buy a base model and upgrade?" the PFY asks. "The computer-controlled model is built on the mid-level three group unit," the coffee bloke chirps, "which is around six kay. The extras are relay controlled valves, conveyor and interface computer." "So if we built our own interface and just got the valves and conveyor off you..." "It'd cost around seven and a half." "With trade in?" I ask. "Well... it's a bit of a dinosaur, isn't it?" "Dinosaur? You just said it was a work of art!" "Yeah, and like most works of art it's old. Seven kay, and I'm doing you a favour!" "Done!" I blurt. "I'm not paying seven grand for a coffee machine!" the Boss snaps. "No, I will. And I'll give the company a grand for the old one!" "Done!" the Boss chortles. "But it's only worth 500 as a trade-in!" the PFY snaps. "Yeah, but I'll buy it under my private company, depreciate it at 30 per cent, then claim it's stuffed, claim tax back on it as a loss, buy the new one, claim THAT as a business expense, get you to whack the computer control on it, build a web front end and charge the hordes a quid a time for coffee which they can order from their desktop and collect from the machine." I scratch out a cheque and hand it over to the Boss, who takes but a moment to scratch out a receipt before dashing off to get the cheque banked before I can cancel it. "You're going to do all that?" "The web coffee thing? Yeah!" "And the depreciation thing?" "Nah, it's too much hassle," I say, nabbing the coffee bloke's screwdriver. "How long would it take to source the base model?" >tweak< >tweak< >tweak<

"Couple of days," the coffee bloke responds as we exit and I lock the break room door, snapping the key off in the process. "Best get that ordered now then!" "Running all the way," he responds, doing just that. "What's going on?" the PFY asks, watching me wheel a large trolley in front of the door. "Oh nothing. Fancy a couple of pints?" . . . Four days and one explosion later. "So it all worked out in the end," the PFY burbles. "Yes, the insurance company accepted the claim - apparently the coffee bloke found that the safety release valve didn't operate and the temperature sensor wasn't working, resulting in--" "The creation of this very convenient servery hole in the wall," the PFY guestures, "and the replacement of your company's computer-controlled espresso machine." "Indeed. Righto then" >click< >click< "One cappucino, charged" >clickety< "to the Boss' credit card, as Adult Entertainment Expenses?" "Don't mind if I do!" >Grind< >Grind< >Whirrrrrrrrrr< >CCCCCCsssssssssss< >Rumble<

BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2004, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.

Simon Travaglia, 11 Feb 2004

MP's broadband report – the choice cuts

Yesterday's Parliamentary report into the UK's broadband market supported the assertion of many in the industry that there is no such thing as effective wholesale competition. But the report by the Trade and Industry Select Committee (TISC) also takes a wider view of the market, benchmarking it against the Government's own expressed aim "to create the most extensive (or widely available) and competitive broadband market in the G7 by 2005". Although the issue of competition - or the lack of it - was a key finding of the report, there were a number of other areas that were scrutinised. Here's a selection... Defining Broadband When the Consumers' Association (CA) gave its evidence to the committee in November last year it told MPs that UK consumers needed a clear definition of broadband to prevent them from being misled. The consumer watchdog was concerned that there was "widespread confusion about the term 'broadband'" and argued that different definitions (especially over service speeds) only served to confuse consumers who found it difficult to compare different products and providers. In its report, the TISC found that there is "disagreement about what actually constitutes broadband". And in a blow for those operators which insist on calling "midband" services "broadband" the report said: "...the received industry definition, and that which consumers evidently seem to expect from broadband, is always on and 512 kb p/s speeds; though with the increasing availability of 1mb p/s products, this will inevitably be revised." Competition in the UK Broadband Market Although there are estimated to be more than 200 ISPs offering broadband to end users, the TISC isn't convinced this necessarily constitutes a competitive market. "If judged by the number of internet service providers (ISPs) operating in the broadband retail market, the UK can clearly be considered competitive. It is important to note, however, that competition should be judged not only by the number of suppliers, but also by the degree of product differentiation in the market; and in this area, we were told, there is far less choice, as the ISPs are constrained in what they can offer by the limited wholesale market." It went on: "DataStream [a product that allows rival telcos to use their own networks to provide broadband] has failed to have the competitive impact that had been hoped for. Its failure to do so was attributed to the different regulatory regimes that IPStream and DataStream are subject to, and the potential for BT to exploit this and thus retain customers on its end-to-end product." "It is our concern that the lack of a sufficient commercial margin will make it impossible for BT's rivals to price competitively against IPStream [BT's wholesale end-to-end product]". "As yet DataStream has failed to deliver the competition in the wholesale broadband market, and, in turn, in the retail broadband market, that had been hoped of it. There is evidently a demand for DataStream - from our evidence, it is clear that ISPs would like the freedom to purchase wholesale broadband from a range of suppliers and to reduce their reliance on BT. However, they lack the confidence that, under current conditions, it can provide a commercially viable alternative to IPStream. The danger of this is that, because of a lack of confidence rather than a lack of demand, there is insufficient uptake of DataStream and it is ultimately allowed to wither." Local Loop Unbundling In the late 1990s LLU was perceived as the future for telecoms competition in the UK, however, its progress has been, "disappointing". Of the 40 or so companies that initially expressed an interest in opening up BT's exchanges, few remain in the market and the percentage of unbundled exchanges is low. "However, BT has clearly been less than co-operative in the past and an OECD report concluded that it 'has found practical ways to resist policy'. This corroborates NTL's argument that 'BT managed to inject enough delay into the process [of LLU] to prevent entry ahead of its own broadband product launch'. The committee also heard evidence from a number of potential entrants who said they were put off LLU because of the high cost and uncertainty about future prices. "Contrary to Oftel's comments that LLU charges are not 'wildly out of line' with those in similar countries, BT, it seems, charges substantially more for allowing its exchanges to be unbundled than other incumbent telecoms companies," said the report. Break-Up of BT "We agree that the potential gains from an enforced separation between BT's wholesale and retail activities do not justify the upheaval involved. Such a split might satisfy rival ISPs that they were being treated fairly but a sufficiently robust regulatory system and a successful DataStream product would also achieve this, with less disruption." Broadband Roll-Out and Take-Up The report noted that ADSL is now available to 80 per cent of UK households and is predicted to rise to 90 per cent within a year or so. But this still means that some areas are missing out and, as a result, some people are taking matters into their own hands by setting up community broadband schemes. But such go-it-alone initiatives don't always get an easy ride. Said the report: "It was also suggested to us that BT has had a tendency to 'miraculously' reconsider its decision to rule a particular exchange as unviable and has set or lowered trigger levels where these initiatives show signs of being successful. Whilst this ultimately means that the community receives its broadband connection, this behaviour undermines the commercial prospects of companies who are prepared to investigate ways of bringing broadband to more remote communities and, if deliberate by BT, displays a cynical manipulation of the market." And finally... "For take-up of broadband to rise in the UK, potential users need to be convinced of the benefits that they can gain from it. This will require a continued increase in the quality of information, services and products that can be accessed via it. "Content cannot be entirely separated from infrastructure matters and to ensure that this content continues to develop, the speeds that constitute broadband and are widely available will have to steadily improve as well. As yet, it is not clear that the market will deliver this: while companies are developing higher speed products, much of the growth has been in the cheaper, lower speed products. "However we are not advocating the type of public investment in high speed infrastructure seen elsewhere in the world. "The Government's role is to facilitate the roll-out of broadband so that it is available to those who can benefit and to make certain that the regulatory framework ensures that commercial decisions by private companies are aligned with the wider economic and social needs of the country." ® Related Stories UK held back by 'lack of broadband competition' Define broadband please - CA
Tim Richardson, 11 Feb 2004

Beyond Fear A security primer for troubled minds

Book reviewBook review It's a rare security book that can raise awareness without resorting to sensationalism, but Bruce Schneier's recent title Beyond Fear is one of them. It covers the theory behind both good and bad security practices, though it's not a manual. It does not explain how to make whatever you wish to defend more secure, but it will help you to think clearly about how to do that. The book clearly defines the essential concepts and basic practices behind security in all areas of life. Indeed, computers and networks hardly come up. It's the universal principles that Schneier is concerned with here, and he illustrates them with numerous everyday examples from the airport to the ATM to the local supermarket. The author writes a good deal about the limitations of security protocols, and the trade-offs between good security and other desirable things. It is not unusual for security practices to cause more trouble than they're worth, he frequently points out. He talks about how security systems fail, and why, and how to anticipate and mitigate failure, though again, in general terms with plenty of everyday illustrations. He does a particularly good job of helping readers assess risks, and shows how we all tend to exaggerate them, especially when we don't fully understand them. And he brings the media to task for exaggerating odd events. The media love the unusual, and always give sensational stories a great deal of play. Unfortunately, the man in the street ends up with a lopsided understanding of risk, as he naturally associates the amount of media attention with a story's significance. Schneier also does a good job of separating and defining concepts and jargonish phrases that are often used interchangeably. He breaks things down so that, for example, the popular trio identification, authentication, and authorization are explained distinctly. Not only do they need to be understood separately, they also need to be implemented separately, he points out. Occasionally, the author forgets that his reader may be a novice, and uses jargon without enough care. For example, after correctly defining the difference between threat and risk on page 20 (i.e., a threat is a bad thing that can happen; a risk is the relative likelihood that a bad thing will happen), he later uses them interchangeably. For example, on page 130 he writes about the trade offs in allowing government to keep security information from the public: "What are the risks to those assets? Terrorism: specifically, the risk is that terrorists will use information to launch terrorist attacks more easily, or more effectively," he says. I do think he meant threat, not risk. Later on page 130 he writes about vulnerability disclosure: "The risk, of course, is that attackers learn about the vulnerabilities and exploit them." Again, it looks to me like he's talking about the thing that can happen, not the likelihood that it might. Of course he could really mean risk, but his phrasing gives false scent to the reader. I don't think the author is confused about this, but some readers might be. In chapter 9 he talks about the concepts fail safe and fail secure. I've read the section several times, and I'm still not sure what he thinks the difference actually is. So, occasionally, Schneier forgets his novice reader and uses jargon without as much care and consistency as he could. And there is an irritating mannerism, in which he uses the feminine personal pronoun in place of the indefinite pronoun, that gradually wore on my nerves. But on balance, Beyond Fear is a well-written volume that will explain the black art of security to anyone who finds the subject intriguing. It's easy enough reading for the novice, yet it contains plenty of smart observations for the advanced reader and even the security professional. I recommend it strongly. ® ISBN 0-387-02620-7 Copernicus Books Hardcover - 296 pages Sep 2003 - $25.00
Thomas C Greene, 11 Feb 2004

Why wireless will end ‘piracy’ and doom DRM and TCPA – Jim Griffin

Don't worry about DRM and lock-down computing, says Jim Griffin. Historically they're doomed to fail. The former director of Geffen's technology group believes that wireless networks such as 3G, 4G and WiFi will provide the tipping point at which the entertainment industries come to the table to cut a deal - before political pressure forces a deal upon them. The deal will involve one of the flat-fee models, such as 2002's Blur/Banff proposals [PDF, 473kb] or the model Harvard's Professor Fisher summarized here. Both of these envisage a pot of compensation money and a mechanism for divvying it up, permitting the free exchange of artistic goods. And with 'piracy' abolished, there's no need for DRM. At a time when 12-year old girls are being arrested for harboring an MP3 file of their favorite TV show's theme tune, and the RIAA dons paramilitary outfits to terrorize street vendors, this seems to be an unfashionably optimistic view. But as Griffin explained in a lengthy interview with us, flat fee pricing will eventually prevail, forcing the industry to the table. Why? Because the pigopolists will realize that they'll make more money out of a flat fee model than by trying to force the world - particularly developing countries - to buy expensive content under lock and key. He shuns the word 'tax'; partly because he believes that such a model won't penalize anyone who doesn't participate, and also because Griffin wants to minimize the role of Government, relegating it to the role it plays in business of Antitrust watchdog. But Griffin's optimism is founded on the belief that where the marginal cost is zero consumers have historically opted for bundles rather than onerous one at a time pricing. "Can you think of a single model where we haven't had a pool of money then split it up?" he asks. "Since the 1920s we've had public address systems, radio, TV, and cable - and all of those are monetized with a pool. You simply can't find an example to the contrary." By promising to play nice, and building DRM and TCPA technologies, the computer industry is simply making come-hither noises that the rights holders want to hear. "When I was 14, I told girls I loved them to sleep with them too. It was a fiction. Steve Jobs just leaves a little money on the table," he says. "These theoretical notions of control run headlong into the real historical experience." High bandwidth wireless networks will tip the balance, thinks Griffin, because not only do they allow people to build new peer-to-peer networks to distribute content and exasperate the RIAA - an unstoppable trend, he believes - but because they offer the rights holders the chance to make more money. So much for the executive summary. Now for the detail, with Jim in bold. - What's your starting point for the flat fee model? We have to start with the a priori notion that we must democratize access to art and knowledge. That's a baseline notion of a civilized society. We have libraries that will get you any movie, and any song, and any book; and price or money should not stop you hearing those songs. Museums go even further, with the idea that great art should be able to travel, to come to you, and feel free. For anyone who doesn't start with that notion, you have to ask who they're working for. - But don't we have the problem of a new fee, which may cost most people less, but which will still be regarded as a new fee? Society is afraid of new taxes and rightfully so. I really object to even the partial notion that art or any other human creativity should be priced by a government commission; when we do, we slide so quickly into a place that is a huge mistake. But we don't have to go there. You just have to look how we dealt with similar circumstances in history. Now go back to the 1920s, which was a time of much greater change than now. The move from acoustic to electric was much more savage than electric becoming digital. Before then, artists were accustomed to controlling their output completely, with their feet. Then artists lost control. After loudspeakers came broadcasting, and the audience could see or hear you across the ocean, even without your permission. That had no real precedent. So ASCAP and BMI came along with a model that embraced performance, and this continues to grow, while sound revenue continues to fall. It's a model that has survived the times and grown, while the sound recording model has really only existed for a blip in history. Now we're re-living what happened in the 1920s: it's just a matter of gradations stronger, but it's not revolutionary. Locks and keys are probably the one thing people find more antithetical than having the Government involved. But we do need people to make money. - You're so certain that DRM will not succeed, but the temptations for the industry are so great - one-time party CDs - that surely it's too tempting for them not to try? Theoretically what you're saying makes some seductive logic. But it's obvious that not only should it not happen, it's not going to happen. The flow of information once digitized, this anarchy of art and knowledge and creativity, can't be controlled. We've designed our societies around the anarchy. For example, we've been emphatic about the notion that we can't control speech. We may send out the secret police and have all manner of efforts of control; but basically we don't believe in it. So we're left with two paths here. Will we try and end the anarchy of art, or will we try and monetize it? Art and knowledge and creativity are fascinating to us because they make our lives better when they're not controlled. And we've monetized it successfully throughout history. - For example? Broadcasting started out as a pirate technology. But as rights holders we'd rather not have bar owners and radio stations ringing us up and asking us for permission each time they wanted to play a song, because it would cost us more to answer than phone than it would gain us in revenue. So the US broadcast industry went to rights holders and created this bundled price with bundled choice, a sort of 'theme park admission fee' for content that allowed that cable operator, or satellite operator, or radio station, or bar to use the content without seeking permission. That monetization is simplicity itself. You have a pool of money and a way to split it up. Actuarial analysis is getting quite sophisticated now, and can overcome these disconnects. Let me give you an example. The model really goes back to the 1600s and 1700s and the idea that there were things we couldn't control, like death! Let's picture a London coffee shop back then. There was a potential for an active market for selling rum to the New World, that had been shut out because the King had picked one or two suppliers. These other rum suppliers are talking about how to get it there. But it's risky - the ship might sink. At the next table a group of bankers overhears this conversation and says, 'here's a pot of money that insures the ship'. That group of bankers becomes Lloyds of London. Now if you fast forward to modern times you can find a situation far more adversarial than copyright. Automobiles kill a million people every worldwide, but we allow them to proceed with a safety system that's five feet wide and just a white line. So we create risk, but that actuarial system will tolerate death. Now if that model works for transportation, it can work for copyright. The risks are quite small - no one is dying because of copyright infringement. We have models that let us get over the hump of technological change. We can make cars faster than we can stop them. But we do not require that cars be controlled, we only require we monetize them. So the very same people who resist this for sound recordings are embracing it for performance. When the record company wants to pay the songwriter, they use a fee set by the government [the US Library of Congress Copyright Office]. Why? It's purely to preserve for a few more years this resistance against the onslaught. - So why can't the rights holders see this coming? The war is over. I call it Tarzan economics. They think they have to cling to a vine of revenue because it's the vine they're used to, and if they let go they fall to the jungle floor. You very quickly grab the next vine, but until it's there for you, you cling to the one you've got. It's a question of timing - when that vine will appear. We live in a time of transition. They need to make the fundamental realization that control is not going to come to their rescue. We in the arts like to believe in the deus ex machina - this machine that in the third act of the opera that comes down and rescues the heroine from the flames. But there is no deus ex machina. Lawyers and technologists continue to sell this snake oil of control, whether it's from the court and the police [RIAA legal jihad], or whether it's coming from technology [DRM]. Bill Gates for one has worked hard to convince people that the fat lady is going to be rescued by the machine. Once you reach the realization that it isn't going to solve our problems, then you begin to embrace the alternatives. The publishing people know this, and they're quick to realize this. They were quick to recognize Napster. So we're left with a group of sound recording owners that's looking for a few more years of this resistance against the onslaught. But the war is over. - But we keep reading how iTunes Music Store is the 'sensible' third-way That depends on who you're reading! - Surely it's true that the computer industry - Apple and Microsoft are encouraging them in the belief that DRM or TCPA will protect them? No. iTunes itself I would not call a successful model. It's a model for selling iPods. Very few songs are being sold, and there's just one price of 99 cents. Its lack of interoperability is almost a statement against DRM itself. I would call iTunes the sort of leaky bucket we've always been used to; remember that iTunes ships with its own circumvention. It costs $20,000 to fill an iPod from iTunes Music Store. Quite simply, no one looks at a 40 GB iPod and thinks, "it will cost me $20,000 to fill it". It's a polite fiction. It's a looking the other way. We pretend there's monetization, but there isn't. Look where the money goes. It's a good model for credit card companies but a bad one for artists. - Well, Apple did remove the claim that iTunes Music Store was 'good for artists' I like the idea of payment, we both do: create a pool of money and split it up. But I don't think the government should set it and nor should there be one price set by Steve Jobs. One disconnect the iTunes model has with reality is that what works for IP is a bundled price, and what doesn't work is granularity, historically. Do you think Edgar Allan Poe could have made money if he sold The Raven separately from 30 other poems? Newspapers have always known that if they sold the sports section separately, they could finance the rest of the paper. We know when we get cable TV that we have to buy the channels we don't want to get the ones we do. Not many cellphones are sold now without a bundled price. We've seen that transition in ways. For intellectual property we almost always thrive better with bundles. 99 cents is both too high a price and too low. It's too low to pay for the burden of a developing artist, and it's too high to fill an iPod. What the sweet spot is, is the recognition of the low or non-existent cost of delivering digits. But even more that that, I would point to the positive economic consequence of using art. There are negative consequences. Let me give you an example. If there's a band called 'Andrew and the All-Stars' and you go out to a concert and buy a CD, then that's a $10 to $20 tax on your adventurousness. But if you pay the flat fee for your content then listening to 'Andrew and the All-Stars' is a positive decision. You're getting more for the money you've already paid. Now consider there's a pool of compensation money for music. The new incentive is the same as the old one, to get people to listen to it. The more it moves the more money I get. That's how radio works. Artists get paid more the more people listen. We in the arts business are in the position of a librarian that quietens 14-year olds by pointing a finger at them and shushing them. But we aren't very good at shushing them. It’s not what we do well; we haven't done well hiring those people. - What is the fate of retail, of the record stores, when music is free at the point of delivery? They'll do well. Music throughout history has been a way to draw a crowd, and we use the crowd to sell them other things. Music in stores is a way to sell a microwave oven. There has never been much margin in selling music - Tower went bankrupt this week and we'll see other retailers go bankrupt too - but if you can attract a crowd you can sell high margin items around the music. This is where the arrival of high-bandwidth wireless is so important. Well, I've done some figures. The most people spent on music before digital delivery, before the anarchy that for the RIAA represents hell, the high point, was $4.02 per capita per month. That figure was exaggerated because it represents all the records shipped, not sold; and it represents them by their retail not selling price. But let's say we need to replace ten per cent of that. You can a spread a fee of forty cents around, and scale the amount of payment up. A form of negotiation, not a tax, can produce an appropriate amount of money over time. With copyright owners it's difficult to monetize things after the fact. In wireless, we live in 1992, at 14.4 kbits/s, which is shortly before the troubles began! With the wired Internet we convinced people to move from 14.4 kbits/s to 384 kbits/s and faster; now we have to convince them to pay for it and build a market around it. The 3G networks are going in and they're wondering how to get people to use them, because if they don't use them for data, people can use 2G networks for voice. But before high bandwidth wireless takes off we still have the opportunity to do this for copyright holders, before the fact. But how can the wireless industry get there? Only this week we saw a DRM standard for cellular announced? When I was 14, I told girls I loved them to sleep with them too. It was a fiction. Steve Jobs just leaves a little money on the table. We see Jobs and Gates making promises to the content industry that they have no intention of keeping. It's the promise you make to move forward. The content owner wants to hear it. If we're honest we'd say to the content owners, "we're not going to succeed from what we can tell. The cars we build are more powerful than the brakes we build, and we won't control it. The ways to make it friction-free are more powerful than the friction we build. The audience sees no value in friction. They don't pay for it." But we don't say it. We'll say what we need to say to get it. Is the BBC a good analogy? We have our license fee in the UK. And people always grumble but that's about all. Yes, people will sort of grumble. Or [not] pay the license fee and wait for the guy to knock at the door. And we get extraordinary high quality programming without the commercialization, and it's a fair trade-off. The alternative is to sell people a package under lock and key. Do you think we will build rational markets in India or China or the Russian Republics based on locked disks priced at $20? On the other hand we can go to each economy and negotiate a pool and a way of splitting it up. - But Europeans have a longer history of socializing these costs No, this is not socialization. We reward more popular artists with more checks. I don't think we'll be successful by advocating art priced by government. We'll be more successful by negotiation. Putting the levy on equipment is an enormous mistake. Levying disk devices just proves that government doesn't do pricing well. But we're very good at making things feel free that aren't free. People will insist to me that radio is free, or Internet is free, or cable TV is free. You pay for advertising every time you pay for something - it's bundled in the price. Newspapers and magazines sell for less than the marginal cost of delivery. Google feels free to everyone, but we know we're paying more for Google upfront by visiting each advertiser's website. Government has an after the fact role, as it does with Antitrust legislation. The arguments should be voluntary. And this happens in Cable TV. - I'm not convinced you can get the RIAA to come to the table voluntarily The bottom line is politicians will not deny their constituents their mind candy. Mind candy is a narcotic for the masses; there's a role for government and, yes, it will be involved. If you recall the DirectTV versus the networks dispute, DirectTV carried PBS, FOX, ABC and NBC on their satellite without their permission, and got sued. And lost every step of the way. But they wouldn't take them off the satellites. IT was about to be decided by the Court when Congress intervened and said they don't need to pay, and gave them a compulsory license. When a million people wrote to their Congressman and said "Help, I love my satellite!", Congress sat down and said "we'll make them give it to you". So I have a distaste for that, and voluntary is the most expedient course of action. But fundamentally politicians will - it's the classic case for involvement. If you resist too long, you'll be a sinner in the hands of an angry people who'll take it for a price you don't agree to. "Hey! You've made a couple of Tarzan passes too many … " - You don't think objections to gaming the system should cause concerns? Actuarial analysis takes care of a lot of things. People cheat by not having car insurance. Does that mean we shut down the automobile industry? No, we work out the risk. Most people are astonished how cheap flat fee access could be. Barely more than an iPod song a week for broadband users. And suddenly it transforms culture, and civic spaces The war is over. The public has won. The only question left is how we ought to be paying for it. iTunes and Napster 2 will go to flat fee systems. Steve Jobs has already said every dime you pay goes to the RIAA. He just wants to sell iPods. Let's say the average person spent $4 a month, which I'd say is very high. And if you charged $10 month, you'd make your money. People feel it in their belly, this zero marginal cost. If you look at the pricing of goods you can't control, price equalizes at marginal cost. Can you think of a single model for uncontrolled goods where we haven't had a pool of money then split it up? We'll give a 41-year old pub-owner a license to pay music for people drinking liquor, and he'll never have to negotiate for a song again. We deny that license to a 14 year old. You simply can't find an example to the contrary. As ever, your comments are very welcome. ® Related Stories Music biz should shift to flat-fee, P2P model - exec Free legal downloads for $6 a month. DRM free. The artists get paid. We explain how Is the mood changing towards the legitimate use of P2P networks? P2P file swapping back on the increase Crypto plan to anonymise P2P, thwart RIAA iTunes DRM cracked wide open for GNU/Linux. Seriously Related: Alternative Compensation Systems Blur/Banff 2002 (Love, Byfield, Toner) [PDF, 473kb] Promises To Keep - draft 2003 (Fisher) [PDF, 513kb] Related Products Visit the Wireless, 802.11 & WiFi Department of The Reg mobile store
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Feb 2004

Cyberappliances attack Italian village

The small village of Canneto di Caronia in Sicily has become the front line in the war of annihilation between humanity and Terminator-style roboappliances. For three weeks terrified residents have battled for their very survival against spontaneously-combusting TVs, fridges and cookers which have damaged twelve houses and provoked a full-scale evacuation of the hamlet. Mobile phones have mysteriously burst into flames, and even furniture - not previously noted for malevolent intent, except in the form of particluarly vicious sofabed mechanisms - has joined the struggle to purge mankind from the face of the planet. Experts are baffled, particularly so since the fires continue unabated even when the power is disconnected. The shaken mayor of Canneto di Caronia, Pedro Spinnato, says: "This all began three weeks ago and we can discover no explanation. We cannot risk a tragedy through these fires so I have no other option to evacuate. "We have had engineers in to examine cables and wires but they can find nothing wrong. Twelve houses have been severely damaged after various domestic appliances burst into flames." Civil protection chief Tullio Martella adds: "What is going on here is like a scene from some paranormal film. The fires continued even when we cut power to the village to see if that was a possible cause For the time being there is no scientific explanation and I have never heard of anything like this before." That's because Martella has never been to Newcastle-upon-Tyne or Madrid where locals are fully aware of what's behind this kind of technological uprising. And while the former residents of Canneto di Caronia are calling for an exorcism to purge their homes of evil, we at Vulture Central know there is only one real solution which can contain murderous robofridges and self-immolating kitchen furniture - stealth aircraft bearing nukes, and plenty of 'em. ® Related stories Hi-tech toilet swallows woman Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent Bootnote Good work by reader Michael Bailey who spotted this one. Stay vigilant.
Lester Haines, 11 Feb 2004

Er… MS UK sponsors open source deployment workshop

A tooth-jarring juxtaposition leaps out from the London Connects site: "Open Source Software - Practical deployment", it says, then leaps straight into "Sponsored by Microsoft" (big type, corporate logo, TM). Microsoft has indeed been starting to show up at Linux events claiming to have become kinder and gentler, but by bankrolling a workshop intended to provide guidance on OSS deployment its surely veering into excess of philanthropy territory.* And, as you'll see from the bottom of the page, it's exhibiting too, while fellow exhibitor Red Hat seems not to have stumped up sponsorship. Tightwads? Maybe they're counter-sponsoring PDC 2004. London Connects is the agency responsible for delivering e-government in London, and has been looking at OSS for a while now. London mayor Ken Livingstone also showed signs of being smitten by OSS in his recent Connecting the Capital vision statement, and has told London Connects to investigate its deployment. Mayor Ken reckons "there is a strong case for businesses, Government and the community sector to consider using Open Source software," and has London Connects developing "good practice relating to the costs, benefits and risks relating to the adoption of Open Source software by organisations and individuals in London." This is quite something for someone responsible for the Congestion Charge, whose IT system was claimed as being the largest, erm, .NET deployment so far. But perhaps the charge delivering less than a third of projected revenues in its first year, leaving London's transportation system in some considerable financial embarrassment, has drawn Ken's eyeballs - somewhat belatedly - towards the bottom line. You should however be able to grasp the exceeding weirdness of Microsoft's workshop sponsorship from this. And a read through the programme leaves one wondering what, apart from jumping up and down shouting "NOOO!!! It's all LIES!!!" the MS reps will find to do there. The keynote is from OSS promotion body OpenForum Europe, then it's swiftly on to a day largely consisting of how-tos. Not a single why-you-shouldn't-do or you'll-be-sorry-if-you-do-do, as far as we can see. We suppose it's possible they could major on interoperability advice for organisations migrating from Windows to open source, and the use of browser-based applications and thin client systems as an alternative to expensive XP upgrades, but apart from that... ® * The curse of Reg: Not 24 hours after this story appeared, the Microsoft sponsorship tag vanished. Anyone else needing an OSS event unsponsored by Microsoft should let us know. We're still working on how to get them to stop exhibiting at things as well...
John Lettice, 11 Feb 2004
cable

Sun says HP customers are ‘ripe’ for change

Playing on the doubts surrounding HP's future server plans, Sun Microsystems this week launched a verbal assault against its rival. HP has long been the biggest backer of Intel's high-end Itanium processor, but industry rumors say it could announce a line of servers based on AMD's Opteron processor as early as this month. This shift in server strategy has Sun salivating and pushing the impression that HP will leave its customers in a state of utter confusion. "The rumored news about an Opteron product line is particularly interesting to say the least!," wrote Sun senior vice president Larry Singer in an internal memo obtained by The Register. "We can only wonder if HP really knows where it is going considering this latest shift in its strategy. The only people more confused than HP must be its customers. And I'm sure Intel must be feeling a little uncomfortable right now, as well." "What we're seeing from HP is a product roadmap that has more twists and turns then a roller coaster; not particularly comforting if you're a customer considering long-term, strategic, IT investments. By contrast, Sun's commitment to binary compatibility and a clear roadmap has held strong over the last 20 years." The tone of this memo is a pretty clear indication that is was meant to find its way into our grubby hands. But while the marketing language is a bit heavy, it does point a strategy Sun seems to be fairly serious about. "We think the HP install base is very ripe," said Sun's CEO Scott McNealy, during a speech here today. "I just think that the Itanium, HP-UX, Windows, printer story is quite confusing and disconcerting for a long term enterprise player . . . We are out head hunting." Sun's bluster is impressive given two to three years of serious struggles in the server business. But, of all Sun's rivals, HP does make the easiest target. HP has been trying to move PA-RISC and Alpha server customers onto the Itanium processor. Both Intel and HP - co-developers of Itanic - have spent millions on marketing and software porting aid to help this transition along. HP surely intends to keep the Itanium migration in place, but the introduction of Opteron servers would complicate matters. Itanium was once seen as a Xeon replacement from the low to high-end. Now, it looks more as if HP will promote Opteron as the Xeon replacement and leave Itanium to fend off its own RISC chips and those from IBM and Sun. Feeling a bit of pressure, HP has decided to launch its "most ambitious" advertising campaign of all time to convince large businesses that change is good. "We asked hundreds of CIOs and IT executives what keeps them awake at night. The universal response was 'change," said Allison Johnson, senior vice president of Global Brand and Communications at HP. "With this campaign, we hope to help companies see the benefits of embracing change." HP is using 'change' in this context to talk about its utility computing types of technology. The company means to help customers react to spikes in demand or a changing business model with a bit more ease. We, however, doubt that application provisioning keeps too many CIOs awake at night. More likely, they fear a major overhaul of their data center toward an unproven architecture - Itanium/EPIC. But just as Sun claims to have HP on the run, HP says it has won over numerous Solaris customers with its Linux server line. HP is on the attack from below. This is an effective push given the rather slow sales of Sun's Linux servers to date. Over the next few months, you can expect to see some pretty heavy positioning among the major server vendors. Opteron's momentum appears on the rise, and Intel is set to unveil its x86-64-bit answer to AMD's chip. All of the big boys are trying to line up their strategies around either one or both of these chips and it should make for a good show. ®
Ashlee Vance, 11 Feb 2004

Doomjuice variant ups the ante in MS attack

A new version of the Doomjuice worm has been released into the wild in an apparent effort by hackers to modify an attack against Microsoft's Web site. Doomjuice-B attacks www.microsoft.com, much like its predecessor Doomjuice-A, but now it sets random HTTP headers to make it more difficult to filter out the attack traffic. Its assault begins tomorrow. TDoomJuice-B is smaller in size than DoomJuice-A because it does not drop the source code of MyDoom-A. AV vendor F-Secure reckons DoomJuice-B is slightly more virulent than its predecessor. Netcraft estimates the scope of the "zombie" network potentially commanded by DoomJuice-B is likely to be smaller than the original pool of MyDoom-compromised machines which has kept www.sco.com offline with a DDoS attack since the start of February. Both variants of Doomjuice use a backdoor left open by MyDoom-A to spread, instead of propagating through email or P2P file-sharing networks. Neither versions attacks SCO's Web site. MyDoom infected anything between 400,000 and one million PCs, according to sundry estimates. Yesterday more than 65,000 IP addresses were actively scanning to and from port 3127, the backdoor left open by MyDoom_A, according to he SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center. This suggests that many users have cleaned up their act. Netcraft has published a chart showing the performance of all the sites involved in the MyDoom/DoomJuice DDoS attacks here. ® Related Stories Latest Email worm (MyDoom) has SCO-facing payload SCO posts $250,000 worm bounty MyDoom assault forces SCO.com off the net MyDoom variant attacks Microsoft.com Worms pour through MyDoom back door
John Leyden, 11 Feb 2004

Psion looks past Windows to Linux

Ignore the comments about the value of Psion shares: concentrate on what Psion is going to do with all the money it got from selling its interest in Symbian. The answer is probably: "Linux portables" but we'll find out later this year for sure. The problem with Symbian, for Psion, is very simple: wireless. Too much of it. Symbian is the property of Nokia - and (to a lesser extent) three other phone makers, Panasonic, Siemens, and Sony Ericsson - and Psion thinks there's more to life than phones. Exactly how much more, is something for which there are only clues right now. But the clues are pretty clear. First, we know what Psion Teklogix is actually doing already. And second, we know what Psion founder, Dr David Potter, is enthusiastic about. "We weren't in control of Symbian," Potter told me. "But it is true in business, you have to focus; and Symbian's focus was wireless. We didn't control Symbian: we had a major stake, we had been powerful in directing the conduct of the company." The question is, where would Psion want Symbian to go in future? Look at Teklogix. It makes a portable notebook PC. Nobody actually seems capable of believing it; but this PC runs Windows, not EPOC. EPOC, famously explained as "Eat Plenty Of Carrots" (with a straight face!) by Potter when it was first launched on the Series 5 hand-held, was a real-time OS which gave rise to Symbian. Has Potter given up on Symbian? Not at all! - he has a huge stake in its success. But he has given up on taking it into computing. And instead, he's dreaming of Linux. This isn't a secret. The hint is hidden in plain sight in today's official statement: "Future strategy: Broadening markets using existing products," it says. And it goes on: "Psion Teklogix can leverage its global sales and support capability to expand into complementary markets such as field service and the mobile professional worker segment. The Netbook Pro with Windows CE, aimed at corporate users, was launched last August, and many units have been shipped for pilot trials from which feedback is encouraging. Additionally, there are positive results from a viability study of Netbook with Linux for professional users with specialist applications." Potter: "We have some interesting developments and projects, which have filled out in terms of the research we've been doing. We believe there is an opportunity there! - we see it as going way beyond Microsoft, being much wider than that. We see Linux as being very interesting, not only in terms of technology, but also in market dynamics; lots of companies want to move in that sort of area when they buy equipment these days." The key to Psion's involvement in Windows CE, is simply that it's a much more compact, responsive, and more mobile environment than Windows XP. And Linux, they think, is even more so. The irony, of course, is that when Motorola pulled out of Symbian late last year one of the reasons it gave was its desire to launch a Linux phone. But Psion won't - actually, can't - compete with Symbian in phones. Instead, it sees the value of Linux as giving the world a smaller, more reliable and more portable personal computer. The handheld market right now is in the doldrums. "When Microsoft first said they'd blow us out of the water was 1990," reminisced Potter. "It's gone through many morphings, with Winpads and so on; but they haven't really understood the market a hundred percent. Even today, they don't understand that the cellphone industry is predominantly a consumer market." Potter reckons the typical corporate executives - buyers of PDAs, of course - account for 5-6 per cent of the world market. "That's why Microsoft haven't had traction. They're learning, and may be they will learn what it's about, but it's amazing how long they've been working on this, without getting it." The smart phone business, generically, is in the hands of Nokia. Psion CFO Bill Jessup jibbed at the suggestion that Nokia had "taken over" Symbian, but when a shareholder moves from having 30-odd per cent of the stock to having 63 per cent, that's what it is usually called. In a year's time, in any case, all phones will be, essentially, "smart" and it will be a marketing decision, not a technology issue, about how much of that smartness is visible to the user. And most of the Symbian phone/computer hybrids will be Nokia, either directly, or as licensees of the Series 60 version - like the Sendo X, for example, which is due to launch this month. Sony Ericsson is plugging on with its own version, for now; but Sony itself has close links with PalmSource (through the Palm-based Clie series) and Samsung and Siemens are both playing footsie with Microsoft. Officially, Motorola still has a licence, but nobody is expecting a significant Motorola presence with Symbian phones. If that's hand-helds and phones either dead in the water or owned by Nokia, where can Psion go? That's what worried Potter and his colleagues. The risk, as they saw it, was getting high. "We've seen a concentration of power in the marketplace," said Potter. He's not decrying what Nokia has done. "To their credit, Nokia has invested heavily in Symbian; they are the major customer, with a dominant position. But the key underlying issue is: 'will this company be independent, or publicly owned, or a trade company?' and that is the issue for Psion - the risks in there are substantial! - and we felt that we could not see the future of how that might evolve." Symbian, Potter thinks, could have got into other opportunities; "For example, they could expand into providing middleware and glueing together the software in the motor-car of the future," he suggested. "Those car manufacturers - more and more of them have more and more stuff they have to handle; they need middleware to bring it all together; want plugins, and a common standard. The need is clear." Psion may not be able to get into the auto market, but it can move in that direction, and one foot in the water is to start selling systems software on a mobile platform. "I agree fully with what you said about the excess power in the modern desktop; that's where Linux is so important. Essentially, where people want something small and speedy, you're putting great big tractors on people's desks; they become very complex and fragile. I think Linux is the way that's going to be taken forward, with a whole variety of products and offerings." The share price? It's dismissed as irrelevant by insiders. "The announcement indicates that most other Symbian licensees are using the O/S just for niche products, rather than core & strategic parts of their product line," summarised Disruptive Analysis founder Dean Bubley. "This is particularly true of other licensees of Series 60," he observed. Another consultant said that the shares were held by "the wrong sort of people." Comms expert Hank Maus remarked: "People who are saying that it's not a great price are not understanding the context. They were expecting higher numbers - but where did the higher numbers come from? We think from those consultants who held shares, and who wanted an IPO!" Maus thinks the IPO was - and remains - unlikely, and he compared the value of the shares when Motorola sold them -worth around £300 million by that estimate - to the £450 million implied by this sale. And he added: "Most people who invested in Psion, were in because of Symbian. That's why the shakeout; they don't know what's left, don't know what it's worth." We'll have to wait till after the March 2nd announcement by Psion of its year-end financial figures, before the company feels free to start predicting the future. It has hinted broadly at the idea that it would use the money - cash - to start taking over key firms in its chosen area to add to the Teklogix portfolio; it has also admitted that it wants to fund Teklogix out of cash flow, but may want to increase spending on R&D there. But we do know that there are, already, new product plans from the Canadian branch. Potter may speak modestly of his approaching retirement and dismiss descriptions of him as a technological whizz-kid, but he will remain an important influence on the corporate direction. And if he's keen on Linux and compact computers, it's hard to see Psion going in a different direction; and if he likes "mobile middleware" as a concept, you should probably start looking for likely targets in that sector. © NewsWireless.Net Related stories Nokia bags Psion's Symbian stake Nokia - dooming Psion's legacy to obscurity? Visto snaps up Psion Software Related Products Browse the Psion & Symbian Department of The Reg mobile store
Guy Kewney, 11 Feb 2004

HP says first quarter results will be just fine

HP moved Wednesday to reassure investors about its performance in the first quarter. HP took the unusual move of releasing its first quarter revenue forecast just ahead of the planned Feb. 19 official announcement of its results. HP expects to report revenue of $19.5 billion for the quarter - a total "consistent with the guidance the company provided at the beginning of the quarter." A revenue total of $19.5 billion would put HP a the high-end of previous guidance and bit higher than current analyst expectations of $19.4 billion in revenue. HP tends to be very concerned about the public's perception of its performance and admitted it was responding to nasty rumors with the earnings forecast. "In light of recent speculation about our performance in this quarter, we elected to end that speculation by updating the markets as soon as possible," HP told a number of outlets. ®
Ashlee Vance, 11 Feb 2004

PC disposal: recycle or build for durability?

Substantial recent coverage of yet two further EU Directives, this time on disposal of computer waste, draws attention to the amount of noxious materials, metals and plastics, which constitute the inner workings of PCs. The directives come into operation in 2005, writes Bob McDowall of Bloor Research Briefly, one of the directives, the so-called Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment Directive (affectionately known as WEEE) places the burden for disposal or recycling PCs sold before the implementation deadline of mid 2005 on the manufacturer. After that date the responsibility for disposal will rest with the purchaser and manufacturer. This will entail manufacturers maintaining a central register of all equipment sold. They will seemingly pay for disposal based on market share. Disposal of this hazardous waste will probably be conducted by public and private waste disposal organisations. They will collect and dispose on behalf of the manufacturers. The second directive, Restriction of Hazardous Substance Directive (RoHS), prohibits new electrical and electronic equipment containing more than a maximum level of specified chemicals. This comes into effect in 2006. Clearly compliance with these directives will increase the costs of PCs and other technology hardware whose constituent parts are covered by the directives. There is now an understandable interest in environmental interests by manufacturers. Professional commentators predict upsurge in purchase of equipment before the directive deadlines; the consequence of extending the life cycle of PCs; more effective cannibalising of parts. Logistics focused on registration, management and disposal of equipment will become a growth business. How likely is it that PC manufactures will seek to actively encourage extension of the lifecycles of PCs? Making upgrading easier and cost effective, less frequent introduction of new models, introduction of less noxious plastic coatings and casing to the machines would be a practical step. Creating better central markets in the constituent replacement parts and parts for upgrade and encouraging distribution channels to do the same through economic incentives would be effective longer term steps to discourage disposal and recycling. Research plays a part in finding more ideal solutions. Effective compression technology will reduce the volume of the problem as well as helping to extend life cycles of PCs. Commercial introduction of synthetic non-toxic substitutes for hazardous chemical and metal constituents of the working parts would provide the ideal solution to render the Directives unnecessary. © IT-Analysis
IT-Analysis, 11 Feb 2004
server room

From Whitehall to Zanzibar

Public sector procurement is set for a major revolution when a new end-to-end e-trading hub launches next year. The Whitehall project, currently being developing under the working title of 'Zanzibar', will give suppliers a single point of access to the government marketplace, regardless of their size or sector. Within three years, the service is expected to generate over £70 million of financial savings for government, shaving up to £41 off the cost of each fully automated transaction. By then, the Treasury's Office of Government Commerce (OGC) forecasts that some government departments could be placing on average 40 per cent of their total spend through Zanzibar. The service is tentatively expected to be ready to implement in government departments and agencies from March 2005. While the focus at this stage is on central civil government, the OGC may consider making the service available to the wider public sector. The virtual marketplace will incorporate a Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) electronic procurement and trading environment offering buyers access to suppliers and their catalogues online. Departments will use Zanzibar via a central web portal, or the eProcurement modules of their Enterprise Resource Planning Systems. It will also integrate or interface with their back-office finance systems. Also central to the project will be a data warehouse, collecting management information on goods and services bought through Zanzibar, including supplier details, prices paid, by whom and when, government-wide. As well as benchmarking prices and supplier performance, it's hoped this will help the government to identify opportunities for savings through collaborative procurement, rather than using one-off contracts. Departments wishing to use Zanzibar are likely to have to pay a one-off joining fee followed by a fixed, annual fee, but this will not be transaction-based. Suppliers may pay a nominal set-up charge for using Zanzibar, with those not yet fully e-enabled having the option to have their catalogues hosted on the hub, if they have a supply contract with a participating government department or agency. To help suppliers in trading online with public sector buyers, Zanzibar will use common standards for electronic purchasing data, which will help suppliers' IT systems communicate with those of government, and also significantly reduce procurement costs. "We're very enthusiastic about Zanzibar and the benefits available to the public sector as well as suppliers", said Peter Court, the OGC's eCommerce programme director. "The Government procurement community recognise that Zanzibar can help them to realise these benefits and many departments and agencies are already seeking to sign up to this project. We hope even more will want to join over the following months." More on Zanzibar here. © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
Ian Cuddy, 11 Feb 2004

No storage vendor is braver than Sun

For the fourth year in a row, Sun Microsystems has identified storage as a major revenue opportunity, promising it will actually capitalize on the market this year. We've come to call this the annual "brave face" speech. It's the one where Sun explains why EMC and others manage to beat it to storage sales. It's also the speech where Sun tries to avoid the incessant questions about why its storage attach rate is so low. You sell tons of Solaris servers - why aren't the storage systems following them to the data center? "They are. They are." With few positives to fall back on, Sun pointed to the sloth-like growth it has experienced in storage attach rates. In 2001, Sun had a 21 per cent attach rate, in 2002 it hit 23 per cent and in 2003 it reached 25 per cent. The first two quarters of this year put the attach rate "somewhere north of that," according to Sun's storage chief Mark Canepa. "Attach rates have shown improvement," he said. See what we mean about the brave face? Sun places storage on the short list of businesses where it can drive revenue growth over the next few years. The others being desktop software, enterprise software, services and utility computing. Sun executives noted that only a couple of these bets have to pay off for Sun to move ahead of traditional revenue totals. Don't bet on the storage side of the house leading the way there. From what we hear, Sun's low-end boxes are selling well, but the high-end is still a problem, despite a partnership with Hitachi. Maybe four years from now we'll be proved wrong. Or maybe Sun will still be putting on a brave face. ®
Ashlee Vance, 11 Feb 2004