15th > March > 2004 Archive

EC backs down on MS (a little)

The European Commission is watering down proposals to force Microsoft to behave more competitively. The recomendations from Competition Commissioner Mario Monti are expected to get the green light today, according to reports. The Commission has already decided that Microsoft abused its dominant position in the market. The action hinges on use of the Windows Media Player. Microsoft believes this is a vital, and integral, part of the Windows suite. The Commission argues that bundling the products together is unfair. The Commission originally demanded Microsoft offer consumers the choice of buying Windows without the media player, or even with a rival media player, like RealPlayer, from another company. The Commission now wants MS to offer PC manufacturers the chance to sell machines with or without Media Player. The watered-down proposal has not been welcomed by other companies and is unlikely to be accepted by Microsoft. German newspaper Die Welt claims Microsoft will face a €200m fine as part of any settlement. A final ruling is due on 24 March. ® Related stories EC warms to Microsoft EC probes mobile sports right sales Europe's MS sanctions to be wide-ranging, long-taking
John Oates, 15 Mar 2004

EDS to sell software unit for $2.1bn

EDS is close to selling its data management software business for $2.1bn. The Texas company hopes the sale will help cut debt from $5bn to zero by the end of the year. In a statement released on Sunday the company confirmed it had reached definitive agreement to sell the company to three private equity groups. EDS will sell UGS-PLM to Bain Capital, Silver Lake Partners and Warburg Pincus for $2.05bn. UGS PLM specialises in product lifecycle management, data management and collaboration. EDS CEO Mike Jordan said: "The transaction is another tangible step in the strategic plan we laid out for investors in June 2003. We said our ongoing focus will be strengthening our core information technology and business process outsourcing operations and our balance sheet." In 2003 UGS-PLM turned over $897m and made a profit of $104m. The deal should close within 90 days. The press release is here. ® Related stories IBM - EDS: merger report dismissed EDS to sue NHS over nixed email deal EDS job cuts on the way
John Oates, 15 Mar 2004

Intel ‘to adopt performance ratings’

Intel appears to have conceded at last that a processor's clock frequency isn't the be-all and end-all of chip performance. It is to begin adding performance ratings to its processors, the better to distinguish one model from another. The sound you hear in the background is AMD's workforce dancing for joy. Having been forced to adopt what are essentially AMD's 64-bit extensions to the 32-bit x86 ISA, Intel is now borrowing AMD's scheme for naming chips - or at least something along similar lines. The chip giant hasn't confirmed the move or denied it, preferring not to comment. But CNET, picking up on rumours circulating on the Net late last week, cites a source "familiar" with Intel's plans as admitting that it has performance ratings in its sights. Next quarter's launch of Dothan, the 90nm version of the Pentium M, will see the new scheme debut. Dothan has 2MB of L2 cache, but is unlikely to offer radically higher clock speeds than the current line of 130nm Pentium Ms. Performance ratings would allow Intel to demonstrate the effect of the extra 1MB of cache rather than show a small jump in clock frequency. However, Intel will still tout clock speeds. The move will also help push Prescott, the 90nm Pentium 4. Prescott has proved something of a disappointment, shipping at clock speeds no different from older, 130nm versions of the chip. Again, performance ratings would allow Intel marketeers to stress the advantage of the part's larger cache, updated architecture and frontside bus speed. According to the CNET source, Intel will put the scheme in place this summer. Curiously, the performance metric will be used to compare chips in the same family, not across the board, presumably to leave clear blue water between, say, Xeon and Pentium 4 processors. AMD does the same thing with its Opteron and Athlon 64 processors. Of most use to consumers would be a consistent cross-vendor metric. The result: processors could all be rated using a measure as standard as clock frequency but more relevant to today's superscalar, multi-threading CPUs. Finally, the 'megahertz myth' could be laid to rest. But AMD's attempt to build an industry consensus behind such a metric was quietly dropped last year. The company simply could not find enough chip vendors to back the move. ® Related story AMD quietly drops universal chip speed metric plan
Tony Smith, 15 Mar 2004

Corporate demand drives up DRAM prices

PC vendors are bulk-buying DDR SDRAM to beat anticipated price rises in the near future, market watcher iSuppli reports. It's a typical supply and demand issue, the researcher says. Indications are that big business is once again buying new PCs. DRAM supplies are tight but within the levels required by PC manufacturers. However, rising corporate demand is going to stretch DRAM supply, which in turn will push up prices. The PC makers are simply buying now to take advantage of today's low prices before demand outpaces supply and prices go up. Is the corporate spending increase enough to sustain the price rise? iSuppli acknowledges that growth is still small compared to PC replacement cycles of the past. However, businesscustomers are buying machines with much higher memory capacities than is usually the case - again, taking advantage of today's low prices to eliminate the need for more costly upgrades a little way down the line. iSuppli believes corporate PC buying will accelerate in the second half of the year. Currently PC OEMs pay $32-34 for a 256MB DDR DIMM. iSuppli expects the price to rise in the last half of March and again in the first half of April, with prices nudging past $40. That represents a $17.6 per cent increase, which is a lot when you're equipping a PC with 1GB of memory. Contract DRAM prices - what big PC manufacturers pay - are typically measured over half-month periods. The spot market is seeing price rises too, said iSuppli, as some buyers try to stockpile DRAM ahead of the price curve. Limited supply may hinder their efforts, and that too drives up prices. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Mar 2004
DVD it in many colours

EC objects to Oracle takeover

Oracle's hostile takeover of PeopleSoft suffered another blow late last week - the European Commission has objected to the deal. The database giant said on Friday it had received a statement of objections from the EC. It said it was glad to know what the concerns were and would address them, according to CNN. The US Department of Justice has already raised concerns about the takeover. PeopleSoft welcomed the news. It said the action was consistent with that filed by the DOJ. The company said: "The world's two leading antitrust enforcement agencies have now asserted that the combination of these two companies is anticompetitive. PeopleSoft understands that the European Commission's final decision is expected to be issued on or before May 11, 2004." ® Related stories US DoJ sues to block Oracle's $9.4bn PeopleSoft bid Ellison appeals direct to PeopleSoft shareholders 'It was all Craig Conway's idea, anyway' -Oracle
John Oates, 15 Mar 2004

eBay halts auction of Vietnamese girls

eBay last week pulled the plug on an attempt to sell three Vietnamese women to the highest bidder. The Taiwanese user, who wanted at least TWD180,000 ($5392) for the trio, has had his eBay membership terminated, the company said. The auction opened on 2 March - the day after the unnamed Taiwanese user became an eBay member - and was due to run until this past Friday. eBay knocked the sale on the head last week. The company said the sale ran contrary to its T&Cs, which forbid members from offering people and body parts. The auction gave no indication as to what 'goods' were on offer, stating only that they were made in Vietnam and would be "shipped to Taiwan only". The only indication as to what was being offered were a series of five pictures of three young women, two of whom may be minors. eBay said it had passed what information it has on the seller to the Taiwanese police. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Mar 2004

Chrysalis flogs songs for ringtone lovers

Radio and music specialist Chrysalis is to sell mobile ringtones and other downloads. The group is setting up a separate division - Chrysalis Mobile - headed up by Ian James to target mobile phone users. It will offer monophonic and polyphonic ringtones, real tunes, images and full song downloads. It estimates the European download market was worth over $1bn in 2003. The company reckons the market is at a turning point as demand for simple ringtones evolves into demand for songs that require royalty clearance - an area of expertise for Chrysalis. The first services are likely to be for the company's radio stations Galaxy and Heart. But Chrysalis Mobile will also offer the service on a white label basis to other companies. ® Related stories Sports.com goes titsup.com Chrysalis, 365 knock sports Net ops together Net via radio for schools group overstates its case
John Oates, 15 Mar 2004
DVD it in many colours

WS Reliable Messaging creeps forward

One year after BEA, IBM, Microsoft and Tibco (BIMT) published a draft specification for WS Reliable Messaging - hot on the heels of a rival spec from an Oracle, Sun, Sonic, Fujitsu, Hitachi and NEC consortium - the question is this: has any progress actually been made, asks Bloor Research analyst Peter Abrahams. WS Reliable Messaging describes a protocol that allows messages to be delivered reliably between distributed applications in the presence of software component, system, or network failures. Its rival - WS Reliability - addresses the same problem. The latter was published in January, offered to OASIS in February, and now faces the scrutiny of a new technical committee. This month, BIMT published an updated version of its work. Amendments are based on the feedback from a workshop last July and a further interoperability workshop in October. So, twelve months on, what's new? Unfortunately, it's difficult to say because there is no document that lists the changes. The difference between original and amended specs seems negligible. Some of the terminology has changed: for example in 2003 the original sender of a message was called 'RM Source'; in 2004 it has become 'Sender'. This is hardly earth-shattering, but probably reflects a level of generalisation which will allow different messaging protocols to work together. That aside, the general architecture and message flows seem to be identical. So, has the wait been worth it? Well, the validation was useful and the interoperability testing proved that the specification is robust. However, the fact remains that there are still two competing specifications. The intervening year has simply seen both even more firmly entrenched. The competing specifications are not hugely different. In reality, they share the same provenance, and it would hugely benefit the industry as a whole if they came together. BIMT includes IBM and Microsoft so they have the commercial clout to make their specification the de facto standard. Nevertheless, BIMT have yet to say when, or even if, they will propose the specification to a standards body. It's imperative that BIMT do this as quickly as possible so that a single standard can be agreed. The great strides that have been made because of the base web services standards (SOAP, WSDL, XML and UDDI), show that single standards are good for everyone in the medium term and conflicting standards would be disastrous in the long term. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 15 Mar 2004

Boffins spot planetoid at 8bn miles

NASA-funded astronomers at the California Institute of Technology have discovered the furthest-known body in the solar system - a distant eight billion miles out. It orbits the sun on a highly elliptical path which, even at its perihelion, puts the planetoid more than twice the average distance from the Sun to Pluto. The body is somewhere between 800 and 1,100 miles across, making it the largest object discovered in the solar system since Pluto was first identified in 1930. The Associated Press reports that the rocky body has been named Sedna "after the Inuit Goddess who created the sea creatures". Its orbit takes 10,500 years to complete, and takes it as far as 84 billion miles away from the sun. The research team says it is unlikely that the temparature on Sedna ever rises above 33 degrees Kelvin, or -240 degrees Celcius. Sedna was first sighted in November 2003. Mike Brown (CalTech) and Chad Trujillo, of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, and David Rabinowitz, of Yale University, spotted the worldlette through the 48-inch telescope at Caltech's Palomar Observatory. NASA has scheduled a press briefing today where it will release more information about the discovery. To add to the excitement, AP reports that the team suspects a tiny moon may orbit the planet. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Mar 2004

Security fears tip Spanish election

AnalysisAnalysis The terrorist atrocity in Madrid last week claimed 200 souls, and affected the outcome of a national election held only days later. The conservative Popular Party, a Washington tributary outfit led by Prime Minister José María Aznar, had maintained a slim lead over its Socialist opposition, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, until a group of terrorists struck. The electoral math quickly changed. Voters appear to have blamed the atrocity on Aznar's alliance with the Bush administration, and Spain's official support of the war against Iraq in spite of popular disapproval. Suspicion that Aznar's service to American priorities might have made Spain a target for Islamic jihadists effected a change in electoral momentum. Voter turnout was exceptionally strong at nearly 78 per cent, and the opposition received a clear mandate from the people. With 80 per cent of the vote counted, the Socialists had won 164 seats to the Popular Party's 147. Terrorism has many definitions, but among those most prevalent is: violence directed at civilians to intimidate a government, or intimidate a populace in order to affect government. If we accept that much, then we may have to accept that terrorists have won in Spain. Mass murder by outsiders seems to have yielded political pay dirt - an apparent validation of terrorism as a political weapon. Not so fast Many commentators will decry the symbolic victory of terrorism implicit in the Spanish election. We will be warned that the Spanish result will embolden terrorists to strike just prior to national elections in other parts of the world, looking for a similar result. But a far more fruitful line of inquiry would be to assess the election outcome, not as a product of terrorism, but as a consequence of political maneuvering around the attack. Within hours of the atrocity, the Popular Party struggled to focus the blame on Basque separatist outfit ETA, while the Socialists struggled to pin it on al-Qaeda. The attack quickly spawned a political spin contest, though neither had much factual basis for their assertions. Aznar's message, that ETA had struck, was calculated to garner support for his tough-on-terror stance. Zapatero's message, that al-Qaeda had struck, was calculated to persuade voters that Spain had stupidly picked a fight with people it had no beef with, and was paying the price. To date, the evidence of responsibility is contradictory. Certain aspects point toward ETA, while others point away; some point towards Islamic jihadists, while others point away. It's impossible to predict when we will know who did this awful thing, but it's certain that no one in Spain knew it on election day. Yet it was politicized immediately, so that whatever assumptions voters took to the polls, they were working from speculation and spin, not facts. In the end, the Zapatero spin overtook the Aznar spin, and a government lost its grip. Whether this should ultimately prove to be in Spain's best interests we don't know, but certainly hope. Spin kills But this is no victory for terrorism. It is, rather, a defeat for democracy brought about by the cheap politicization of national security. One candidate promises to keep us safe from mean, angry people; another promises to keep us safe from the ineptitude of the first. National security too often becomes a search for what people wish to hear, followed by a crowd-pleasing performance enacted for political advantage. If there is a lesson here for other countries, it is not that terrorists can affect the course of government, but that politicians can and will exploit a terrorist atrocity, often with unpredictable results. A Tony Blair or a George Bush, splendid in their counterterrorist armor, might be brought low following even a moderate attack if it should be as cleverly timed as the one in Madrid; but if they are brought low, it will not be by the acts of terrorists. It will be by the empty rhetoric of their opponents, suddenly given weight in comparison to the hollowness of their own, abruptly deflated, triumphalism and unrealistic promises. ®
Thomas C Greene, 15 Mar 2004
Cat 5 cable

Skype secures £11m funding

Skype, the London-based Voice over IP firm, has raised £11m($18.8m) in second round funding. Skype offers voice calls over the internet using a free download. It has been downloaded 8.1m times since launch in August 2003. It offers basic telephony and conference calling. The basic service will remain free but the company will start charging for premium services soon. The company was started by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis - the founders of Kazaa. The investment was led by Draper Fisher Jurveston and Index Ventures. Tim Draper of Draper Fisher and Jurvetson said in a statement: "Skype is amazing...The Skype team boasts some of the world's greatest corporate innovators, and is the hottest viral marketing phenomenon since Hotmail." BT and Yahoo! launched a combined VoIP product last week. ® Related stories Skype plays conference calling card VoIP will be US broadband killer app How does Skype get through Firewalls and NAT Routers?
John Oates, 15 Mar 2004

Asus SK8V AMD Athlon FX-51 mobo

ReviewReview I'm fairly sure that a lot of you have glanced at AMD's Athlon 64 FX-51 at one stage or another and wished you could afford one. But it's not only the processor that will set you back a small fortune as you need special memory and a specific type of motherboard for it to work. A cheaper alternative would be to get one of the 14x series of Opteron processors, but again you need the same expensive memory and motherboard, writes Lars-Göran Nilsson. Asus was one of the first motherboard manufacturers to launch a single processor solution for the Socket 940 platform. The SK8V is Asus' latest single-processor Socket 940 board and it's based on the VIA K8T800 chipset. What gives the Socket 940 processors an advantage over the Socket 754 based ones is the ability to use dual-channel DDR memory. This will change later this year, though, when AMD introduces the consumer-level Socket 939 for the Athlon 64. This will use standard DDR memory, instead of the far harder to find and considerably more expensive registered memory that the current Socket 940 platform is using. But let's get on with the subject at hand and take a closer look at the features of the SK8V. Asus has fitted four memory slots to make the most out of the board's dual-channel memory support. There are three IDE connectors and four Serial ATA connectors, but one of the IDE and two of the SATA connectors belong to a Promise RAID controller. You are therefore limited to two separate RAID arrays (one using the Promise controller and one using the RAID controller built into the South Bridge) if you intend to use four SATA drives with the SK8V. Other features include on-board 3Com Gigabit Ethernet, two Firewire ports, eight USB 2.0 ports and 5.1-channel sound, along with optical and coaxial S/PDIF output. The sound is a little better than on most boards, being provided by an Analog Devices AD1985 chipset, which offers better signal to noise ratio than most AC97 solutions. There is also a proprietary Asus Wi-Fi slot on the motherboard to which a wireless network card can be added. General board layout is good and there are no major complaints, but the onboard Firewire header would have been more useful in the front instead of the header for the joystick port. But this is a minor issue and only matters if your case has a front-mounted FireWire port. You'll find a good array of accessories in the box, including a Firewire bracket, a USB bracket with four ports, a bracket with optical and co-axial S/PDIF outputs, SATA data and power cables, as well as three IDE cables and a floppy drive cable. One interesting accessory is the inclusion of a set of stickers for the keyboard which shows what keys to use with the Asus Instant Music BIOS-based CD playback software. There is also a CD supplied with interVideo WinDVD Suite which consists of WinDVD, WinDVD Creator and WinRip. There is very little to wish for apart from the already included features and this makes the SK8V a very good base for a high-end PC. In terms of BIOS and software features Asus has added a few tweaks of its own, including voice diagnostics (yes, the motherboard will tell you what has gone wrong) and automatic fan adjustment. You can even create your own BIOS logo. One of the features that may interest potential buyers is the Instant Play audio CD playback utility that allows you to play music CDs without booting into the operating system. This is a novel feature, but not exclusive to Asus. The performance results are close to what I expected and as we have only tested a couple of FX-51 PCs to date, I'll compare some of the results to faster of the two. The SK8V board is a couple of points slower in SYSmark 2002 than the Evesham Axis FX51 but this could have something to do with the fact that the Evesham system featured a hard drive RAID, which would add some performance advantage. The remaining benchmark scores are actually a step up from the Evesham, but this is harder to explain as the Axis FX51 was fitted with the same motherboard. However, a newer BIOS version was used on this board along with newer device drivers. There were, however, some slight stability issues during some of the benchmarks, but most where solved by applying a patch to the benchmark in question. The only concern here was that SPECviewperf did have problems running on the SK8V but it managed to complete in the end. All in all the SK8V is an impressive board and an excellent platform for anyone looking at building themselves a high-performance PC or entry-level workstation. So what about the price? Well, the SK8V is one of the cheapest FX-51/Opteron boards out there at a very reasonable £145.70. This is not cheap compared to a basic Athlon 64 board, which you can easily find around the £100 mark, but if you want to run the top-performing AMD processor you're going to have to dig a bit deeper. Verdict The SK8V is a top performer with plenty of features at a reasonable price. It may be more expensive than standard Athlon 64 motherboards, but if you've decided on an FX-51 processor, you can probably afford it. The Asus SK8V motherboard was tested using an Athlon 64 FX-51 processor, 1GB of Corsair TwinX registered memory, a Connect3D Radeon 9200, a Crucial Radeon 9800Pro and a Seagate Barracuda ATA V hard drive. Rating 80% Price £145.70 More Info The Asus website Visit The Reg's Review Channel for more hardware coverage
Trusted Reviews, 15 Mar 2004

WorldCom gets sums wrong – by $74bn

The true scale of WorldCom's financial woes has been revealed after the telecoms outfit announced a whopping $74.4bn restatement of income. Back in 2000/01 - while WorldCom was reporting that it was making a profit - the company was actually making a loss. Described as the "largest and most complex financial restatement ever undertaken", WorldCom has completed yet another task on its way to emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It's expected to exit Chapter 11 next month. According to the new figures, WorldCom generated a loss of $48.9 billion in 2000 against revenues of $39.3 billion. In 2001 the company lost $15.6bn against revenues of $37.7bn. In 2002, losses were $9.2 billion against revenues of $32.2bn. Said MCI CFO Bob Blakely: "This filing culminates the largest and most complex financial restatement ever undertaken. While these restatement adjustments are substantial they do not have any impact on our current substantial liquidity position." WorldCom said the restatement process - including the revalidation and correction of accounting records and a review of the accounting for all major acquisitions dating back to 1993 - has "no impact on the company's current operations or liquidity". This month, disgraced former boss Bernie Ebbers was charged with federal criminal offences after his former boardroom colleague turned supergrass. Ebbers is charged with fraud and conspiracy related to the collapse of WorldCom in July 2002. Ex-CFO Scott Sullivan pleaded guilty to similar charges and is co-operating with investigators. Elsewhere, telecoms outfit Global Crossing announced last week that it made a profit of $25bn in Q4 2003 - the largest ever in US corporate history. However, the sum has been described as "meaningless" by one analyst, who explained that the profit was a result of accounting rules, following Global Crossing's exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. ® Related stories Bernie Ebbers faces criminal charges Worldcom allowed once more to bid for Federal contracts MCI/Worldcom gets 'ethics' chief Global Crossing bankruptcy plan approved
Tim Richardson, 15 Mar 2004

Great Wall not visible from space: official

The Chinese authorities have moved swiftly to airbrush from history the popular myth that the Great Wall is visible from space. Schools textbooks face immediate revision after the country's first astronaut confirmed that - after 21 hours in orbit - he had been unable to spot the monumental structure. "The scenery was very beautiful," said Yang Liwei. "But I didn't see the Great Wall." This is not the end of the matter. US astronaut Gene Cernan is quoted in the Singapore's Straits Times as saying that "At Earth orbit of 160km to 320km high, the Great Wall of China is indeed visible to the naked eye". Cernan reckons Yang simply wasn't trying. He said: "If you know where to look and you look hard enough, you can also see the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, where I live." Incredible. You didn't spot any WMDs while you were up there, did you, Gene? ®
Lester Haines, 15 Mar 2004

Malicious code threats celebrate bumper 2003

Malicious code threats to privacy and confidentiality increased rapidly in the final six months of last year - up 148 per cent on the first half of 2003. Virus writers increasingly targeted backdoors left by other attackers and worms in their attempts to spread malicious code, according to the latest edition of Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report. Blended threats - like Blaster, Welchia and SoBig-F - make up 54 per cent of Symantec’s top ten risks for 2H2003. More recently, the Doomjuice and Deadhat blended threats both exploited the backdoor left by MyDoom in January this year. Older threats compromised confidentiality by exporting random documents. More recent viruses and blended threats also extract passwords, decryption keys and logged keystrokes. Symantec chronicled 2,636 new vulnerabilities during 2003 - an average of seven new flaws a day – 70 per cent of which it categorises as easily exploitable. The number of vulnerabilities logged in 2003 is up just two per cent from 2002 compared to a leap of 81 per cent between 2001 and 2002. Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report (published today) reveals that almost one third of all attacking systems targeted the vulnerability exploited by Blaster and its successors. Older worms also continue to spread thanks to the continued availability of unpatched systems needed to sustain them. "Attackers require no specialised knowledge to gain unauthorised access to a network when vulnerabilities are easy to exploit," said Symantec's Technical Services Director, Richard Archdeacon. "And, as the time between disclosure and exploitation of vulnerabilities continues to shrink, zero-day threats that target vulnerabilities before they are known, are expected. Patch management continues to be critical, but companies are struggling to manage it themselves." ® Related stories Blaster beats up British business War of the worms turns into war of words Cyber attacks down, but vulns soar Worms spread faster, blended threats grow
John Leyden, 15 Mar 2004

MS drives Lindows from Benelux

Lindows has pulled out of the Benelux region following robust legal action from Microsoft. MS asked local courts to fine Lindows €100,000 per day for failing to prevent visitors from the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg from reaching its site. Lindows says it has done everything it can to comply with the earlier injunction to make its site "inaccessible to visitors from Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg". It has now suspended trading in the region, pending an appeal. Michael Robertson, Lindows chief executive officer, said that it was impossible to comply with such a broad injunction because visitors to the US website come from international ISPs, proxy servers, anonymizers and other systems, "and Microsoft knows this". "We have completely withdrawn our products from these markets and put notices on every page of our website, yet Microsoft is still asking that the Judge fine us €100,000 per day because non-US visitors can view our US-based website," he said. Robertson argues that this latest legal attack shows that Microsoft is not just protecting a trademark, but is trying to put Lindows out of business. ® Related stories MS legal case: Dash is 'dows, 'dows means Windows, which we own MS moves to purge Lindash from Benelux Lindows now Lindash
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Mar 2004

KPN closes wallet on mmO2 offer

Dutch mobile operator KPN will not increase its offer for mmO2. KPN chief executive Ad Scheepbouwer said the deal was "off the table" and KPN would not increase its bid for mmO2 even if a competing bidder emerges, according to the Financial Times. Scheepbouwer believes the valuation was fair. Reports suggest the offer put mmO2 shares at between 105 and 110p. mmO2 shares were trading slightly down on the news. Scheepbouwer said the deal failed on five issues including sale price, board structure and operational management. "All of these five issues were things that could have been solved in 24 hours if people had put their minds to it." He told the FT. mmO2 wanted to announce that talks were taking place. KPN did not and the deal fell apart. KPN recently began a €500m share buyback scheme which most observers believe makes the takeover less likely. But analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein believe the buyback is meant to increase KPN's share price and boost the takeover. ® Related stories KPN offer stokes mmO2 bid excitement KPN to shed 800 jobs KPN flogs 3G UK share to Hutch
John Oates, 15 Mar 2004

Napster parent increases revenue forecasts

Roxio will sell around $5.5m worth of songs through its Napster online music service during its current fiscal quarter, the company said today. That figure represents a jump of 34.6 per cent over the $3.6m the company recorded for Napster's Q3 revenue. Its fourth quarter comes to an end on 31 March. Of course, Napster contributed just two months' revenue to Q3's total. Had it sold songs for the full three months, you'd expect sales of $5.4m, all things being equal. In that light, Q4's figure seems rather less impressive than it does at first. That figure yields growth of just 1.8 per cent. In Roxio's favour is the fact that this quarter is shorter than the previous one. In any case, the company's money comes from its software division, which sold $15.2m worth of products last quarter and is forecast to sell $26m worth this time round. The increase is largely due to the shipment of Easy Media Creator 7 during the quarter, Roxio said. Last quarter, the company lost $25.6m (92 cents a share), $15.1m of it from the Napster division. The gain in sales may be enough to put the software division into the black - it lost $10.1m last quarter, $4.4m of which was a restructuring charge. ® Related stories Napster schedules UK launch Napster song sales hit 5m
Tony Smith, 15 Mar 2004

Wippit adds 10,000 BMG tracks to catalogue

British-based commercial P2P music company Wippit will begin selling Bertelsmann Music Group's back catalogue through its upcoming pay-per-download digital music service. The BMG deal, struck earlier this year but not made public until today, adds a second major label's repertoire to Wippit's catalogue. Last year it won the support of EMI, which will be contributing 175,000 songs to the download service. Wippit already offers 60,000 songs from independent labels through its DRM-protected P2P file sharing service. The BMG will add over 10,000 songs to the total. Wippit is believed to be on the verge of announcing a deal with a third major label. Indeed, founder and CEO Paul Myers told Reuters today that the company was talking to two of the remaining three 'big five' labels - he wouldn't say which one it isn't in contact with. Sony, however, has to be the likeliest candidate given its stated plan to offer a download service of its own, dubbed Connect and keyed to its MiniDisc players and their ATRAC 3 compressed digital audio format. Indeed, Sony's moves have been linked to the delays experienced by other would-be European music download services who are being forced to wait for Sony to launch before being granted licences. Sony's service is expected to go live in the US and Europe this Spring. The launch of Sony Connect is expected to be considered by the European Commission during its investigation of the music company's proposed merger with BMG. Building up those big name connections will be essential if Wippit's to compete with the likes of Apple and Napster, both due to launch in Europe this year. Apple is believed to be preparing a pan-European roll-out, while Napster is focusing on the UK. To date, the only pan-European legal online music service will support from all the major labels is OD2 which late last year added a download offering to its subscription service. Wippit is some way away from that - while it has a licence to sell EMI tracks throughout Europe, BMG has only granted the company UK and Ireland distribution rights. Most of its indie suppliers have offered worldwide sales licences. ® Related Stories Wippit preps 'EasyJet-style' music download scheme P2P service makes beautiful music with EMI and others Napster schedules UK launch Virgin to open music download service
Tony Smith, 15 Mar 2004

Sony ‘confirms’ 2004 PSX European launch

Sony confirmed today that it is pushing to release PSX in Europe this year, just as the console prepares to make its European debut at CeBIT. "We can confirm that SCEE will be handling the sales and marketing for PSX," a Sony spokesperson told gi.biz this morning. "We are looking to launch it before the end of this year and will have more details soon." While the on-the-record comments shied away from full commitment, insiders privately confirmed that PSX will definitely release in Europe before 2005. A press release is expected on the matter within the next 24 hours, specifically to coincide with PSX's European showing at CeBIT. It's still unclear whether or not SCEE will confirm the 2004 date this week or at E3 in May. Sony was unable to confirm if the PSX to be shown in Germany this Thursday is a European model, or simply the Japanese console which launched at the end of 2003. PSX is a massively glorified PlayStation 2, capable of recording TV on its hard drive and equipped with a DVD writer. No specific details have been made available as yet on the functionality of the PAL machine, although it's widely assumed that it will incorporate all the functions of the NTSC version, as well as the lately released upgrade patch - including MP3 play-back and support for all image formats. Copyright © 2004, GamesIndustry.biz Related stories Sony confirms PSP to PS2 game portability Sony PSX's 90nm CPU is 'not 90nm' Sony preps PSX update as retailers criticise marketing
gamesindustry.biz, 15 Mar 2004

Ten years old: Apple's Power Mac line

Almost ten years to the day, this reporter was in New York listening to then Apple CEO Michael Spindler and hardware chief Jim Gable launch the first Power Macs: the 6100, 7100 and 8100. Quite apart from offering a big performance jump over older, 680x0-based Macs, the new models were going to blast Intel out of the water. Originally due to be launched on 24 January 1994 - the Mac's tenth birthday - Apple's slipped and ended up launching on 14 March. The three machines were based on the first PowerPC chip, the MPC601, a desktop-oriented implementation of IBM's RS/6000 line. PowerPC's Risc architecture and with the development efforts of two key semiconductor players, IBM and Motorola, would be a combination Intel, struggling alone with its x86 Cisc architecture, could never match. Of course, what neither figured out - nor Apple, for that matter - was that Intel would leverage the same ideas. With the 486 to the Pentium and its successors, Intel created chips that decoded complex x86 instructions into a number of simple, Risc-like 'micro-op' instructions. Still, the Power Macs, for a time, were impressive performers, and Apple's clever move of integrating 680x0 emulation software to retain backwards compatibility with older Mac apps proved a signal success that few other IT companies have achieved. Ditto its ability to allow new PowerPC code to co-exist with 680x0 instructions, allowing one program file to contain code for two very different processor types. Not only did old software run on the new machine, but the bulk of the Mac OS remained in 680x0 code, with portions ported over to the new PowerPC instruction set over time. Indeed, Apple sold 145,000 Power Macs in the two weeks following the launch, and went on to sell more personal computers in the US than market leader Compaq during Q3 of that year. Over a million were sold in the platform's first year. In those days Apple was a regular feature of the top five computer suppliers chart, usually in the top three. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Mar 2004

Australia gets tough on Net paedos

Australia has released drafts of proposed Internet laws which will see serious offenders serve up to 15 years in prison. Anyone convicted of accessing, making or transmitting child pornography over the Internet could be sentenced to up to 10 years. Anyone using the Internet to procure children for sex would face 15 years imprisonment. The draft law is meant for public discussion ahead of actual legislation. Justice minister Chris Ellison hopes to see the law would passed by June. "These new offences will provide an avenue to prosecute Internet child pornography offenders Australia-wide under Commonwealth law," he said. Using the Internet to incite or encourage violent protest will also be illegal. Interfering with the unique identity number on a mobile phone will likewise be an offence under the new law. ® Related stories International Net paedos busted MSN torches chatrooms Watch out! There's a chatroom paedophile about
John Oates, 15 Mar 2004

EU shoppers don't trust Web

Lack of trust is stifling the growth of ecommerce across Europe as punters remain reluctant to shop online. Only 16 per cent of people in the EU currently flash their cash online at the moment, while one in four people who don't use ecommerce say they just don't trust it. One way to improve trust in e-shopping could be through Web traders being accredited and awarded with a recognisable trustmark that would help improve confidence. The idea is just one of the initiatives being discussed today in Dublin as part of European Consumer Day. The conference, backed by research into consumers' attitudes to online shopping, is looking at ways to boost consumer confidence in ecommerce. Speaking in Dublin today David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: "Developing a thriving ecommerce sector is vital for the competitiveness of Europe's economy. We cannot do this unless European consumers are prepared to shop on-line. "Consumer confidence has to be addressed. This poll shows that trustmarks, or independent verification of a site as trustworthy, may have an important role to play in supporting consumer protection legislation and increasing confidence in online shopping. I intend to present a policy document on online consumer confidence later this year which will help focus the work in front of us". Still, it's not just trust that's proving to be an obstacle: six in ten don't shop online because they don't have access to the Net while half said they preferred to visit shops. There were also concerns about safeguards in place to protect consumer rights. Research form the European Consumer Centre Network found that two in ten EU citizens reckon they are protected if shopping from Web traders based in their own country. Just one in ten believes they have a high level of protection when shopping from sites based in another EU country. Consumer tests carried out researchers revealed that one in three goods never arrived while a third of goods returned during the cooling-off period were not reimbursed. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Mar 2004

Self-taught geek aces Brain Academy

A 17-year-old self-taught programmer has won Microsoft's Brain Academy competition. Adam Kramer beat 200 other entrants to a £15,000 bursary to study Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London. The competition was held online in three stages. There were maths questions, a written element and a programming assignment. Only six students made it to the final round. The idea was to open computer science to students with the neccessary mathematical and problem-solving skills, regardless of their A-Level subjects. Kramer said his Computer Science knowledge is mostly self-taught. He told the organisers that he wasn't expecting to win, and that he's really pleased to be able to study at Queen Mary. Dr Peter McOwan, from the Department of Computer Science, said the competition gave students a good taste of what university life would be like: "The competition really caught the entrants' imagination, and gave their brains a good workout." The competition will run again this year, with students once more competing for a place at Queen Mary, the fourth largest college within the University of London. Details should be on the university website soon. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Mar 2004

Spooks want more Web-tapping powers

US ISPs will be required to make high-speed networks wiretap-friendly, if regulators approve far-reaching plans to tighten up existing surveillance regimes. The Justice Department, the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to tighten up telecoms regulations. They are fearful that criminals could evade wiretaps using the latest communication technologies such as Voice over IP. Law enforcement agencies want the FCC to widen the scope of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act - which requires telcos to deploy technology that supports lawful interception of communications - to the Internet and mobile data networks. Service providers - not the government - would be asked to pick up the costs of any necessary modifications. The proposals allow ISPs to pass on these expenses to consumers. New services that resisted police eavesdropping would be prohibited and suppliers would have just 15 months to build law enforcement backdoors into existing services. Critics say the proposed regime will complicate Internet product development. There are also concerns about the scope of the proposals (as applied to data networks) and a perceived lack of safeguards against abuse. Stewart Baker, a Washington-based lawyer and former general counsel at the National Security Agency, told AP that the proposal "seeks to erect a brand new and quite extensive regulatory program" that gives law enforcement and telecoms regulators an unprecented role in vetting the designs of new telecoms services. ® Related stories Spooks seek right to snoop on Internet phone calls FBI seeks Internet telephony surveillance IT security to become political battleground
John Leyden, 15 Mar 2004

Hotmail back online

Microsoft has blamed an internal problem for leaving millions of Hotmail users unable to access their email on Friday. The service, along with MSN Messenger, suffered an outage early Friday evening (UK time), although it is now understood that the service is fully up and running again. A spokesman for MSN told The Register that, along users around the world were hit. He ruled out any notion that the email service was the subject of a malicious attack. He also declined to discuss the nature of the internal problem. Although he couldn't say how many people were hit by the problem he described it as "extensive", adding that it hit a majority of Hotmail's 140m users, locking them out of their email accounts. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Mar 2004

The $5 ‘no moving parts’ fluid zoom lens – twice

This week at CeBIT Philips will formally unveil a cheap, no moving parts lens system that could make it feasible for a camera to come as standard with virtually anything electronic. But last month at 3GSM a similar system from French company Varioptic broke surface; the two appear to be unrelated, and as Varioptic has previously claimed to hold "two fundamental patents" covering the technology, one might speculate that a legal clash could be on the cards. Philips's patent application, WO 03/069380, is for "a variable focus lens comprising a first fluid and a second, non-miscible, fluid in contact over a meniscus. A first electrode separated from the fluid bodies by a fluid contact layer, and a second electrode in contact with the first fluid to cause an electrowetting effect whereby the shape of the meniscus is altered." Varioptic, in WO 99/18456, describes "a lens with variable focus comprising a chamber filled with a first liquid, a drop of a second liquid (11) being provided on a first surface zone of the chamber wall, wherein the chamber wall is made of an insulating material, the first liquid is conductive, the second liquid insulating, the first and second liquid are immiscible, with different optical indices and substantially of the same density. Means are provided for positioning said drop in inoperative position on said zone, comprising electrical means for applying a voltage stress between the conductive liquid and an electrode (16) arranged on said wall second surface, and centering means for maintaining the centering and controlling the shape of the drop edge while a voltage is being applied by electrowetting." Cut to the chase, for those of you still with us - the systems both use an electric current to change the shape of a fluid lens, producing something with at least some similarity to the operation of the human eye. In addition to WO/99/18456, Varioptic's Bruno Berge also has WO 00/48763, which describes "A method for centering a drop of liquid on a given point on a surface." Philips' application references both Berge's patent applications, describing such a lens as "complex to manufacture and, particularly in the cylindrical configuration, requires a relatively high voltage in order to alter the lens characteristics of the droplet," and adds that the technique proposed in 58763 means that "manufacture of such a lens remains relatively complex." Philips is therefore clearly aware of Berge's applications, and must be taking the view that they're less impregnable than Varioptic claims. It may also be significant that Varioptic has begun signing up handset manufacturers, meaning that Philips had to break cover before the horse had entirely bolted. A Varioptic spokesman declined to comment on the matter to The Register, but reiterated the company's confidence in the strength of its IP assets. Talks, quite possibly involving m'learned friends, would seem the logical next step. ® Related links Philips sets out its stall Varioptic struts its prior art
John Lettice, 15 Mar 2004

Bagle the 13th spread defies belief

To nobody's great surprise, another Windows-infecting mass mailing worm began spreading over the Net last weekend. Bagle-N is spreading rapidly and most anti-virus firms rate it as medium to high-level risk. Email filtering outfit MessageLabs has intercepted 11,105 copies of the worm since Saturday. The worm normally spreads by email but it also capable of propagation across P2P file sharing networks. Bagle-N arrives in either a password-protected zip or rar file, and the password is either included in the body of the email, or in an image file attached to the email. Apart from the image-file ploy (a minor 'innovation' in virus writing), Bagle is little different from its 13 predecessors - not least in the fact that it infects Windows PCs only. Bagle-N commonly comes in email messages with variable subject and attachment names. The ‘from’ field of the email is spoofed so that it appears to come from a potential victim's sysadmin. Message bodies warn that the user's email account "might be disabled" or suffer some other odious consequence if a user fails to open an attachment. If you open the worm's infectious archive file you may infect your PC. The worm disables many security software packages and includes a backdoor component which listens on TCP port 2556. Bagle-N scours the hard drives of infected computers for email addresses. It then sends copies of itself to these addresses using its own SMTP engine. It is programmed to stop spreading on 31 December 2005, so instead of being around for days this infector will likely to around for months. As usual, users are warned to minimise risk of infection by not clicking on unknown attachments in emails. Updating anti-virus signature definitions is also a sensible step. ® Related stories Say hello to the Bagle Worm Bagle-B clobbers weary Net users Virus writers in malicious code hide-and-seek War of the worms turns into war of words
John Leyden, 15 Mar 2004

KPN prunes Belgian mobile sub

Around 200 jobs are to be axed at Base, the Belgian mobile outfit wholly owned by Dutch telco KPN. Execs want to ensure that Base focuses on its "core activities" so that it can "substantially grow its customer base in the coming years". It also plans to outsource some of the company's non-core activities. However, the cull among the 930 staff is seen as tough measure to help keep the company going. This weekend Base received a €600m from its parent, KPN, to keep it ticking over. In a statement the company said: "Through partnerships and outsourcing with specialist companies, Base intends to reduce its fixed costs, focus on its specific core activities and gain efficiencies through its specialist partners. "The management of Base intends to further implement this strategy and gain efficiencies through its partners, in close dialogue with the workers’ representatives." Based in Brussels, Base has 1.25m punters and 15 per cent market share. Thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign targeting niche groups ,it added 91,000 new punters in Q4, a trend which, it says, has continued during the first months of this year. In a separate announcement, KPN CFO Maarten Henderson is to step down from the company at the end of the year after deciding to "continue his career outside the company". ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Mar 2004

UK Gov's open source ‘mandate’ policy attacked

The UK's proposed policy on the use of open source software within government has come under fire from the Institute for Software Choice, which claims the policy will make it "compulsory for public sector organisations to use Open Source Software as a default in R&D projects." The ISC, which has substantial backing from Microsoft, among other major IT companies, intends to challenge the proposals, which are currently subject to a consultation ending on 11 June. Is the ISC crying wolf? The outfit has mounted a number of high-profile attacks on what it perceives as governments mandating the use of open source, and the UK's proposals are in themselves relatively mild, at least arguably simply establishing a level playing field between proprietary and open source software. Hugo Lueders, Brussels-based European director of public policy for CompTIA (effectively the ISC's parent body), however argues that it is the intent behind such policies that is important. Given that simply outlawing proprietary software would be illegal in both Europe and the US, pro-OSS forces in government are creating the conditions whereby it can be effectively outlawed in all but name. A paranoid fantasy fueled by the paymasters? Up to a point, but he perhaps also has a point. The key areas in the UK's proposed policy are as follows: "UK Government will consider OSS solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT procurements. Contracts will be awarded on a value for money basis. "UK Government will only use products for interoperability that support open standards and specifications in all future IT developments. "UK Government will seek to avoid lock-in to proprietary IT products and services. "UK Government will consider obtaining full rights to bespoke software code or customisations of COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) software it procures wherever this achieves best value for money. "If no commercial or community shared exploitation route is used for publicly funded R&D software an OSS default will apply. Licences compliant with the OSI definition will be used." This clearly does put forward a level playing field in some senses, with that last "OSS default" only coming in where no other possibilities exist. But clearly there is a greater probability that the UK will be able to hold onto its IP via OSS than proprietary, so the policy is a threat of sorts to proprietary companies, and you might reckon that's a jolly good thing too. The preamble to the policy statement however holds far greater terrors for the proprietary world, and provides some justification for Lueders' reading of underlying intent: "OSS is indeed the start of a fundamental change in the software infrastructure marketplace, but it is not a hype bubble that will burst and UK Government must take cognisance of that fact. "The Action Plan (June 2002) for the European Commission’s initiative eEurope 2005: An Information Society for all builds on the previous Action Plan (June 2000) which set the target 'to promote the use of open source software in the public sector and e-Government best practice through exchange of experiences across the Union'. The new plan requires the development of an agreed interoperability framework to support the delivery of pan-European e-Government, based on open standards and encouraging the use of open source software. "The UK Government has supported this EC initiative by mandating open standards and specifications in its e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF) and through the publication and updating of this OSS Policy." Clearly UK.gov is working on the premise that there is a Europe-wide shift towards the use of OSS in government, and clearly there's evidence that this shift exists. And yes, you might reckon that's a jolly good thing too - but you can understand why many of CompTIA's members might not like it. Although the ISC has voiced concern over several government OSS initiatives, Lueders is keen to stress that the opposition is not to OSS as such, more to the use of 'open standards' as a cover for the introduction of OSS. One can of course see how easily these might be confused, given that OSS by its nature will tend to conform more to open industry standards than certain other software one could mention. And given that this other software has all too frequently exhibited a flexible and evolving notion of what the standard might be, and at what level the APIs you can write to might lie. Microsoft's no doubt richly-deserved and self-inflicted discomfiture does not however mean that there is not an issue regarding open standards and their definition here. It is perfectly reasonable and logical for governments to wish to promote open standards, says Lueders, but it's not just OSS that espouses them (hell, even Microsoft claims it does), and at the moment governments are busily espousing without figuring out what they are. Which is a fair point, and a perfectly reasonable tub for Lueders to thump. He'd be able to thump it a lot better if Redmond wasn't there as one of the major paymasters though. ® Related link UK consultation document
John Lettice, 15 Mar 2004

Veritas to restate results after probe

Veritas will restate two years of financial statements after an investigation uncovered a variety of accounting practices not in line with generally accepted methods. The software maker plans to restate statements for fiscal 2001 and 2002 and will delay filing of its annual report for 2003. The new statements should have Veritas lower 2001 revenue by as much as $5m and increase 2002 revenue by as much as $10m. Revenue for 2003 could also be lowered as much as $15m. Veritas ended an internal investigation into its accounting practices on 12 March. "These practices included the incorrect deferral of professional services revenue and the unsubstantiated accrual of certain expenses, which had a positive impact in some periods and a negative impact in others," Veritas said. "In addition, accounts receivables and deferred revenue were overstated by approximately $7m at 30 June, 2002. The expected adjustments for 2003 are primarily a consequence of correcting errors from the prior periods." In 2001 and 2002, Veritas reported close to $1.5bn in revenue. This is not the first time Veritas has restated its results. Last year, Vertias erased $20m in revenue from its 2000 and 2001 statements. The change came after the US Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenaed documents relating to deals between Veritas and AOL. In addition, Veritas fired its CFO Kenneth Lonchar in 2002 after he admitted to lying about academic credentials. Veritas' CEO Gary Bloom said the company has confidence in current CFO Ed Gillis. "While today's announcement is unfortunate, it does not change the fundamental strength of our business, as we drive the company to a target of $2bn in revenue in 2004," Bloom said. Veritas warned that the NASDAQ could delist its shares as a result of delays in filing financial forms for 2003. "The Company expects to remedy its filing deficiency before NASDAQ delists its securities, but there can be no assurance that NASDAQ will grant a request for continued listing," Veritas said. An explanation of the accounting changes is available here. ® Related story Fired! Veritas CFO lies on CV
Ashlee Vance, 15 Mar 2004

Apple notches up 50m music downloads

Apple's iTunes Music Store customers are downloading songs at the rate of 2.5 million a week, a statistic that rather puts Napster's claim to five million downloads in the first four months in the shade. Apple made the claim this evening while announcing its 50 millionth download, not including songs downloaded gratis courtesy of the Pepsi promotion. Based on the estimated 33 cents that Apple takes out of each 99 cent song it sells, that works out at $16.5 million in sales since ITMS opened its doors just under a year ago. Apple's calculated annual run rate of 130 million songs a year equates to $43.9m of revenue per annum. Napster is expected to announce revenues of $9.1m for its first five months of selling downloads. Of course, how much of that ends up on Apple's bottom line is another matter. In any case, that figure has to be put alongside the company's annual revenue of $6.2bn (FY2003) selling computers and associate software, services and peripherals. ITMS might be a high profile activity, but it's certainly not high revenue, relatively speaking. Apple last quoted a download figure three months ago, claiming to have sold 25 million downloads to 15 December 2003. Doubling that figure in three months represents an impressive uptake. Why compare the figure to Napster's? Only that Napster is the only Apple rival to have released a download total, and that it claims to be the leading Windows-only music download service. Since ITMS is effectively the only Windows and Mac service, that puts Napster as its nearest rival. Both companies claim to offer the largest collection of songs, each citing their catalogues of "over 500,000" songs to download. Napster is looking to sub-distribution deals, such as those it's put in place with a number of US universities, to boost its download total. Apple, meanwhile, is undoubtedly expecting big things of its partnership with HP, which saw its first fruits this week. ® Related Stories Your 99c belong to the RIAA - Steve Jobs Wippit adds 10,000 BMG tracks to catalogue Napster parent increases revenue forecasts Apple posts Compaq iTunes as HP music store goes live Starbucks readies music download service Virgin to open music download service Wippit preps 'EasyJet-style' music download scheme Universal builds 20TB digital music archive Napster song sales hit 5m Related Products Buy your 40GB iPod from The Reg Mobile Store
Tony Smith, 15 Mar 2004

Zombie PCs must die!

Comcast, the US cable giant, is threatening to disconnect customers whose infected PCs are being used to relay spam messages. Up to 30 per cent of spam is now spewing from hijacked "zombie" PCs. Spammers use Trojan horses and worms to take over PCs and use them as spam engines, a practice that can severely disrupt the operation of ISPs. Recently, many Comcast customer IP addresses were recently blacklisted because of these spam-spewing zombies. The cableco has sent letters, warning customers who have been found with spam-sending PCs that they risk disconnection unless they clean up their act. Comcast is adopting a line pioneered by Scandinavian ISP TeliaSonera. Last November, TeliaSonera said it would block Internet traffic to and from computers that send junk email or spam. If other ISPs follow suit, this approach could make a big difference in cutting down on the crap flowing across the Net. Of course, ISPs should take care to correctly identify infected users and if they have any customer service ethos, offer assistance in cleaning up the PCs. Comcast could have acted earlier to prevent itself becoming a major spam conduit, of course. Some of Comcast's other attempts to block spam have hit snags. A misapplied spam filter inadvertently stopped Comcast broadband punters from sending email to Russia for several days earlier this month, AP reports. ® Related stories Telia blocks spam-sending Zombie PCs Attack of the Profit-Killer Worms UUNet tops spammer-hosting super league Cable ISP (Comcast) kneecaps heavy users Comcast largest cable firm after AT&T buy
John Leyden, 15 Mar 2004

State Attorney – the MPAA's man – urges P2P ban

The democratic veneer over the business of buying the legislation you want has never looked thinner. California's State Attorney General Bill Lockyer has been caught acting as a public relations front for Hollywood's big money copyright holders, only on the public's dime. Nominally, the role of Attorney General is to act on behalf of all citizens of California, including consumers and recording artists. Lockyer called for a ban on peer-to-peer file sharing software, in a letter issued to other attorneys general, obtained by Wired. But earlier revisions of the Microsoft Word document indicate that the author was "stevensonv". This is believed to be one Vans Stevenson, the Motion Picture Association of America's senior vice president for legislative affairs, and one of its most visible lobbyists. (This isn't the first time residual metadata left in a Word document has embarrassed its author. Two years ago, the UK Treasury accidentally revealed some of the deliberations behind the annual budget by failing to remove redacted portions from the public release. Few people are that Microsoft recently released a tool to remove metadata from Office documents.) The pigopolists have been generous and consistent supporters of Bill Lockyer. His primary fund-raising vehicle, the Lockyer Committee, received four contributions from the MPAA in the 2002 Election Cycle totaling $4,500 and two from the RIAA, totaling $16,000. But these are complemented by corporate and private donations from the major studios, including The Paramount Pictures Group, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Warner Bros PAC, AOL Time Warner. Senior executives, such as Alan Horn and Howard Welinsky, respectively CEO and senior VP at Warner Brothers, have contributed too. (This list is not exhaustive: for example, we haven't counted copyright-friendly affiliates such as law firm Manatt Phelps and Philips, which describes itself thus: "We are litigators, deal makers, lobbyists [our emphasis] and practitioners before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, the U.S. Copyright Office, the FCC and the United States International Trade Commission." Spontaneously, 55 employees of Manatt Phelps and Phillips each decided to make contributions to Lockyer's 2006 campaign. Lockyer has been in trouble over campaign contributions before. He was obliged to return $50,000 to Oracle to remove any impression of impropriety after the database giant was awarded a $95 million no-bid contract. Four officials were sacked as a consequences, but a recent investigation concluded that Lockyer hadn't acted illegally. A Modest Proposal It leaves a nagging question, however. Why not bring some technocratic rigor to the proceedings, and "disintermediate" the public officials and politicians completely? The lobbyists could simply be allowed to create their own legislation through some form of electronic voting; a much simpler and cleaner process that would remove any pretense of acting in the public interest. A few citizens itchy for the mechanical business of exercising choice could simply be wired up to vote in TV reality programs. A win-win for Hollywood, we suggest. reg; External Link "P2P in the Legal Crosshairs" - Wired News Related Stories MPAA seeks P2P Enforcer for antipiracy ops California offical in court over Oracle mega-deal Treasury leaks Word of Budget revisions
Andrew Orlowski, 15 Mar 2004