24th > March > 2004 Archive

Wal-Mart and Sun share Linux desktop lust

Wal-Mart has added to an already extensive lineup of Linux operating systems by signing on to sell Sun Microsystems' Java Desktop System. At present, the new Sun Java OS gear is a bit hard to find. Wal-Mart has tucked the kit away on its Microtel PCs page. With SuSE, Lindows, Lycoris and Sun Java OS computers now all available, Wal-Mart is the clear leader in the Linux desktop market. It's a minor claim to fame at present but could pay off in the long run should more consumers take a risk on the open source operating system. Some tech journalists have a nasty habit of performing searches before the vendors are ready, and we suspect that's what happened in the case of the Sun Java OS. Neither Sun nor Wal-Mart would let a deal between the two companies pass without a press release or some better billing on the Wal-Mart Web site. So expect some marketing material in the near future. Sun appears to have convinced Wal-Mart to go along with the Java naming scheme. Sun likes to call its package of StarOffice, GAIM, Mozilla, Evolution and SuSE the Java Desktop System. And Wal-Mart has obliged Sun by creating a new OS category - the "Java operating system" - instead of placing the OS with the herd in the Linux operating system category. The Microtel boxes running the Sun OS range in price from $289 up to $698 for a 3.0GHz Pentium 4 PC. In the past, Sun executives have speculated that other retailers such as Office Depot or Best Buy might start selling PCs with the Java Desktop System as well. Sun is clearly looking to push Microsoft off the desktop where possible in the hopes that this may clear a path for more lucrative server sales. Sun sells the Java Desktop System for $50 per employee to large companies. For its part, Wal-Mart is trying to crack the white box market by selling cheap systems and offering kit with Linux or without an operating system. Large OEMs with strong relationships to Microsoft have appeared unwilling to make similar moves. Funny that. ®
Ashlee Vance, 24 Mar 2004

TSMC files ‘verification’ of SMIC spy claim

TSMC has beefed up its industrial espionage action against fellow chip foundry SMIC with what it claims are eyewitness accounts of its rival's alleged attempts to steal its trade secrets. The world's largest chip foundry filed "eyewitness affidavits and new technical verification of trade secret misappropriation by SMIC" with the US District Court of Northern California this week. TSMC began its legal battle with SMIC last December, when it filed a complaint with the California court claiming its rival attempted to persuade employees to spill the beans on the company's 180nm process technologies. It alleges SMIC tried to do the same thing with staff it had hired away from TSMC. SMIC has poached staff from Taiwanese foundries, in order to grow its own skills-base. Claims that such staff have brought more with them than their individual chip-making expertise are not uncommon in the region. TSMC and its arch-rival, UMC, have both made such allegations about each other in the past. SMIC has hired staff from both companies. SMIC denies TSMC's claim. Last month it asked the court to dismiss TSMC's action. TSMC's latest filing is a direct response to that request, and it certainly sounds damning. The affidavits include testimony from "former SMIC engineers who personally witnessed SMIC's misconduct", TSMC says, adding: "One witness estimated that 90 per cent of SMIC's 180nm logic process was copied from TSMC. "Other witnesses declared that SMIC attempted to disguise the origin of the information by internally referring to TSMC and its technology by the code name 'BKM1', referring to 'Best Known Method 1'. Still another sworn statement reveals that SMIC's use of TSMC technologies was 'no secret' and was openly discussed by SMIC engineers," TSMC claims. "The most recent filing also states that TSMC verified SMIC's use of stolen trade secrets through forensic examination of an SMIC manufactured device bought on the open market," the foundry continues. "That chip contains features that are strikingly similar to TSMC's, but bearing little similarity to comparable features in a chip made by Chartered Semiconductor, SMIC's only reported licensor of 180nm logic processes." ® Related Story TSMC sues rival, alleging industrial espionage
Tony Smith, 24 Mar 2004

PC-hungry girls love science – true

Europe in BriefEurope in Brief A recent study from Norway among 600 tenth graders reveals an interesting gender split: among youngsters who use PCs intensively, girls see their study results steadily improve, while those of boys slip. Researchers believe that for boys the PC is more of an escape from reality. The study also shows that girls who use PCs more frequently often develop an interest in science and technology, while those that use the PC less do not. Germany: O2 and E-Plus to launch 3G networks Two more German mobile phone operators have set dates to launch their much-anticipated 3G services. They will follow Vodafone, whose UMTS network went live earlier this year. O2, the German operation of Britain's MMO2, starts next month, while E-Plus, part of KPN, is set for a June kick-off. Because there are no 3G handsets yet, both companies will initially offer just data communications for laptop and palmtop computers equipped with special wireless cards. Switzerland: antispam law pending Moves are underway in Switzerland to ban all spam, Swissinfo reports. Microsoft joined forces with Swiss politicians to draft legislation which has already been rpesented to the Swiss parliament. The new law would make it illegal for Swiss companies to send unsolicited messages to individuals unless they are a customer, or have given their permission. The law will not only target those who are sending the spam, but also the companies benefiting from the mail. The Swiss federal administration says it spends SFr2m blocking and eliminating spam every year. Germany: shut off idle computers please The German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) warns that idle PCs and other electronic equipment like loudspeakers with built-in amplifiers consume a considerable amount of enenrgy - no less than €3.5bn each year in Germany alone. The steady trend in CPU power supplies over the past decade has been towards using lower voltages, but the UBA says a significant amount of energy can be saved if users turn off their computers during long periods of idleness. ®
Jan Libbenga, 24 Mar 2004

BT simplifies tariffs

BT is scrapping its standard rate tariff for nine million phone punters in a move to simplify call charges. The UK's dominant fixed-line telco reckons it will make BT cheaper for most UK calls than rival cablecos NTL and Telewest. It also says the move will make it more competitive compared to other telco providers such as One.Tel, The Carphone Warehouse and Tesco. However, the company has admitted that some of the 9m people who are to be moved from the £9.50 a month standard rate to BT Together Option 1 (£10.50 a month) could end up paying more. Despite this, BT insists that most people will make savings and enable them to compare BT's tariffs with those from rival operators. Said Gavin Patterson, group managing director, BT Consumer and Ventures: "These changes are the latest developments in our strategy to deliver more simplicity and value for our customers. "They mean that arguments by other operators about how their prices compare with BT become virtually irrelevant. By driving down prices and making them simpler to understand, it will be much easier for customers to see how BT offers great value when compared to its main competitors. "Now it will be far easier for customers to compare like-with-like when making decisions about their fixed-line phone services. "The changes will also make BT highly competitive against the majority of its rivals for UK calls and within a whisker of most of those offering lower rates," he said. Yesterday, an influential group of MPs said that UK punters are paying over the odds for their phone services because tariffs are too confusing. In a stinging report by the Public Accounts Committee, MPs said that more should be done to help consumers switch telco providers. BT was singled out with MPs reporting that its continued dominance of the UK market was "unacceptable". While BT says that today's announcement will help consumers, it is also a move to help protect its core telephony business from ever increasing competition. "We are determined to fight hard but fair to retain and even grow our share of the fixed-line market, Said Mr Patterson. "These changes demonstrate our intention to meet head-on the twin challenges of carrier pre-selection and wholesale line rental, and overcome them." One of those challenges is expected to become clearer tomorrow when The Carphone Warehouse announces details of its new phone tariffs, including US-style free local calls. ® Related stories BT dominance 'unacceptable', say MPs MPs accuse Oftel of failure to help consumers Carphone Warehouse in free call offer
Tim Richardson, 24 Mar 2004

DVD Forum denies ‘AAC for DVD Audio’ approval

The DVD Forum yesterday denied that its members had approved the use of the Apple iTunes Music Store-backed AAC audio format as a future DVD Audio technology. But the web site that originally reported that the Forum had indeed made such an approval was last night sticking to its guns: the choice may not have been approved, but it soon will be. According to the minutes of the Forum's 25th Steering Committee Meeting, posted on the organisation's web site, Motion 15, calling for the "Adoption of the mandatory audio codec 'MPEG-4 HE AAC' for the Optional Specifications for DVD-Audio (ROM zone)", was "not approved". However, as we reported yesterday, High Fidelity Review, a site that focuses on the high-end audio world, reported that "the DVD Forum has chosen AAC for the DVD-ROM zone of DVD-Audio discs". A close look at the Forum's web site reveals that the minutes page had been corrected, and a search on the web shows other sites than HFR had reported on the AAC approval. A DVD Forum spokesman admitted that a mistake had been made. "Unfortunately, the article on the Forum website was incorrect when first posted in the early morning. It was corrected in the evening of 28 February," he told The Register. "We apologise to all related parties for our mistake," he said. He also said that the use of AAC had not been approved by at the 25th Steering Committee Meeting. Not that HFR actually said it had been. It reported that the appropriate Forum Working Group had selected the format in preference to MP3, Windows Media 9 and Sony's ATRAC. The reason: "it sounds better", an unnamed Forum member told the site. And just because AAC's use was not approved at the most recent meeting doesn't mean that the motion has been rejected entirely. HFR told The Register that its information was sourced from "a number of contacts within the Working Group and DVD Forum who were happy to supply information regarding the selection of AAC". It is believed that the use of AAC was not approved at the Steering Committee Meeting because negotiations between license holders, developers and the Forum are still underway. Such talks are said to continue until a "favorable outcome" is achieved. HFR said its sources believe the selection of AAC to be "a done deal" - the time taken to reach a licensing agreement will not affect the decision to use AAC. In short, expect the adoption of AAC to be approved by the Steering Committee in due course. The DVD Audio's DVD-ROM zone is an optional area on the disc that content creators can use to store compressed audio files that can be played back on a computer, to prevent the main DVD Audio content from being ripped. A number of CDs on the market today use a similar technique in a bid to foil piracy. AAC was selected ahead of rival technologies for its ability to support DRM and multi-channel sound, as well as its superior sound quality. ® Related Story DVD Forum chooses Apple music format for DVD Audio Related Link High Fidelity Review: AAC Chosen for DVD-ROM Zone of DVD-Audio Discs
Tony Smith, 24 Mar 2004

RIAA sues lots more students

The American music industry has fired off another fusillade of lawsuits against alleged music downloaders, this time snaring 532 people. Included are 89 John Doe suits, intended to winkle out the names of people using networks at 21 US universities. The University of Michigan is the only institution named in the suits. The move on students marks a new line of attack for The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in its crusade to destroy unauthorised music swapping over the Internet. It has targeted students before, but serious uploaders only. The John Does in this round of lawsuits are accused merely of swapping music. ®
Drew Cullen, 24 Mar 2004

Dutch Internet blackmailer gets 10 years

A 46-year-old Dutch chip programmer who tried to blackmail dairy giant Campina using the most up-to-date Internet technologies, has been jailed for 10 years by a Dutch court on blackmail charges and five counts of attempted murder. The blackmailer put agricultural poison in Campina Stracciatella desserts in a bid to extort €200,000. To conceal his tracks he used a US anonymity service that allows users to visit web sites without leaving a trail. In this case, however, it didn’t quite work out like that. The man was convinced he was going to commit the perfect crime. He forced Campina to open a bank account and asked them to deposit € 200,000. Campina was issued with a credit card for the account which the blackmailer intended to use to withdraw the cash. But not the original card. To avoid breaking cover, he asked Campina to buy a credit card reader and extract the information from the card's magnetic stripe. The output, together with the card's pin code, was sent to him electronically via steganography - a technology for encoding information into pictures. Campina received an envelope containing a floppy with a stego program and some instructions. The company then had to encode the credit card data into a picture of a VW Golf in an online advertisement for used cars. The blackmailer downloaded the picture, decoded the information it contained, created his own copy of the card, and finally went to withdraw the cash. To download the online picture, he used the Surfola service (and not Anonymizer.com as we mistakenly wrote in our initial report - apologies to all concerned - Ed), believing the company’s privacy policy would protect him. Not so. Dutch police worked closely with the US company and the FBI to track him down. He was caught red-handed last year when he withdrew the money from a cash machine using his copy of the credit card. Which just goes to show that even criminal masterminds can make simple mistakes. The error, experts say, could have been easily avoided if the blackmailer had visited an internet café to download the encoded picture, rather than using his own PC. What's more, he paid for the anonymity service through Paypal, giving his personal email address. ®
Jan Libbenga, 24 Mar 2004

IBM unleashes Jurassic predator on Japan

What's two metres tall, contains 16Gb of operating memory and shares its name with the Jurassic's top predator? Well, a quick tour of IBM's North Dublin manufacturing facility on Tuesday brought the press face to face with the beast known as the T-Rex z990 series server. This monster contains 20 times the computing power - in one twentieth of the space - than an equivalent machine from 12 years ago. Destined for Japan, this particular machine is from the new flagship line launched last year by IBM, as it moved towards custom-built mainframe servers that run on Linux or Unix. The z series offers high-end clients such as financial institutions and insurance companies a huge amount of temporary capacity on demand, according to IBM campus Vice President Fernand Sanchez. "These built-to-order z series servers never have to be rebooted," Sanchez told ElectricNews.Net during the tour. "Statistically, one fails every 50 years but generally it would be modified with new parts within three to four years." "We look at the whole business and then suggest a machine that is optimised for the user," he added. "In terms of manufacturing, no day is the same here, because each order is tailored to customer requirements." IBM's Dublin facility produces the company's Z, I and P series servers, and the 40th anniversary of IBM's original flagship mainframe - the System/360 - gave the company a good excuse to show the press around. Four decades ago, the behemoth System/360 was unveiled and later used by NASA to launch the Gemini and Apollo series of spacecraft and to put astronauts on the moon. At the time the beast was unleashed, former IBM chairman and chief executive officer Tom Watson Jr. - who led the company from the age of typewriters into the computer era - called the new family of mainframes the "most important product announcement in the company's history". Described by Fortune magazine at the time as IBM's "$5bn gamble", the successful System/360 was one of the first general-purpose computers not designed for any particular application such as storage or communications. IBM established its Irish presence in 1956 and now employs 3,700 people from 60 different countries. Besides its 24-hour server manufacturing operations, IBM also has a software, telesales, marketing and corporate finance centres in Ireland. The company, which employs 319,000 worldwide, reported revenues of $89bn for the year ending 31 December 2003. Footnote During our tour Michael Coyle, P-Series and Storage Systems sales, told us that Deep Blue, the IBM supercomputer which won a historic victory over world chess champion Garry Kasparov, will never play again. Deep Blue has already proved its point, Coyle said. "[Deep Blue] could only have got better since the victory," he added. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 24 Mar 2004
SGI logo hardware close-up

IBM moots BPEL-Java fusion

BEA and IBM have just published a jointly-authored whitepaper on a suggested extension of Business Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS or BPEL for short), writes Bloor Research analyst Peter Abrahams. The introduction has a good explanation of the rationale for BPELJ - a fusion of BPEL with Java - so I am quoting it verbatim: "The Web Services Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) is a programming language for specifying business processes that involve Web services. BPEL is especially good at supporting long-running conversations with business partners. Even before the standard is formally released it is becoming clear that BPEL will be the most widely adopted standard for business processes involving Web services. BPEL is geared towards 'programming in the large', which supports the logic of business processes. These business processes are self-contained applications that use Web services as activities that implement business functions. BPEL does not try to be a general-purpose programming language. Instead, it is assumed that BPEL will be combined with other languages, which are used to implement business functions ('programming in the small'). "This white paper proposes a combination of BPEL with Java, named BPELJ, that allows these two programming languages to be used together to build complete business process applications. By enabling BPEL and Java to work together, BPELJ allows each language to do what it does best." On the surface, this looks like a good idea. It is obvious that there is no clear boundary between programming in the large and in the small. Therefore having two completely different languages and styles supporting them will lead to artificial constructs and awkward implementations. BPELJ with its blurring of the boundary so that Java and J2EE can be seamlessly incorporated into the BPEL XML should be a good thing. The problem is that the Java /.net divided rears its head again. One of the good things about BPEL4WS is that it is sits above these two environments and we are seeing implementations of it by Microsoft, IBM, BEA and others. This ability to share across the divide means that solutions can be built that are agnostic. BPELJ is obviously not agnostic and so implementers, especially ISVs, will have to decide which side they want to join. Given the reasons for BPELJ are laudable it would seem that BPEL.net (or maybe it should be called BPELC#) will be developed probably with a slightly different construct. If this happens then most people will use BPELJ or BPELC#, rather than just the base BPEL. Without the benefit of being able to share code the benefit of a shared BPEL will disappear and the two camps will diverge once more. Maybe what is needed is to generalise the concept of BPELJ to support any suitable language. So that the BPEL would remain standard and C# or Java, or another language could be included, or generated, in the relevant place. This sort of extensibility of BPEL could also be useful in the rules engine environment. Business rules are an example of a concept that works both in the large and in the small so it should be easy to include the rules either in the BPEL orchestration level or at the algorithmic language level. Even with these concerns, I generally welcome BPELJ and hope it generates lots of debate about programming models and artificial boundaries.
IT-Analysis, 24 Mar 2004

Starbucks brings Wi-Fi to 154 UK stores

Over 150 Starbucks UK coffee shops now provide wireless Internet access, the company proudly announced yesterday. But the ongoing deal with T-Mobile still leaves the java joints' customers paying a premium for the service. Starbucks' most recent roll-out is its largest to date, adding hotspots to 98 sites, bringing the total to 154. Locations to gain WLANs in this latest expansion programme include shops in Canterbury, Inverness, Lincoln and Reading, the company said. A full list is available from Starbucks' web site, which fell over when we tried to use it this morning. Whoops. The new sites have been added over the last few months, a T-Mobile spokesman said. Starbucks began offering Wi-Fi hotspots in August 2002, not long after the British government opened up the 2.4GHz spectrum for commercial exploitation. A second roll-out in June 2003, took the total to 56 stores. T-Mobile recently "simplified" its pricing strategy and introduced a new scheme to add Wi-Fi access costs to T-Mobile mobile phone customers' monthly bills. UK pricing for the company's time-limited passes are now £5, £10 and £16.50 for one, three and 24 hours' access time, respectively. The mobile phone link bills access a rate of £1.50 per 15 minutes, which can work out to be considerably more expensive than the passes. ® Related Stories T-Mobile to charge Wi-Fi access to phone bills T-Mobile to offer 'seamless' 3G, Wi-Fi data service T-Mobile signs roaming deal with ... itself Wi-Fi in the real world - pt. 2 Wi-Fi in the real world - pt. 1 Related Products Check out Wi-Fi products in The Reg mobile store
Tony Smith, 24 Mar 2004

Who ate my text messages?

Most mobile phone users do not realise that they cannot send text messages to people in the US. Research from AT&T has revealed that two thirds did not know that most US mobile subscribers are unable to receive international SMS messages. The survey was commissioned for AT&T's extension of its reciprocal texting service to the UK. Subscribers to 71 operators in 25 European countries can now send and receive text messages from AT&T subscribers. The telco believes a majority of the world's subscribers can now text AT&T customers - worldwide it has agreements with 130 operators in 50 countries. The survey also found 60 per cent of subscribers would be more likely to send text messages to people in the US if they were confident they would receive them. On New Year's Day 2004 111m text messages were sent in the UK alone - the highest figure for a single day, according to the Mobile Data Association. The survey, based on 585 respondents, was carried out by KRC Research. ® Related stories AT&T Wireless users balk at 'compulsory downgrade' Vodafone loses AT&T Wireless battle Cingular eyes AT&T Wireless for mobile mega merger
John Oates, 24 Mar 2004

AOL mulls major restructuring

There's yet more speculation about the future of AOL following a report which suggests that the giant Internet outfit is mulling plans for major restructuring. According to the FT, AOL is planning to split its reporting lines within the business in a move that would make the company's operation more transparent. This would single out, for example, AOL's declining narrowband business compared to its broadband operation. There's even talk that AOL's international operations could also be more clearly defined. At the moment, for example, AOL doesn't break down European operation by country, so there's no way of telling how its individual businesses are performing, except for what snippets the company is prepared to divulge. But according to the FT all that could change. Question is, though, why? Well, one explanation is that this greater transparency would give analysts and shareholders a better view of how the businesses are performing. More interestingly, it could also be prelude for flogging or spinning off parts of the business. For if the different businesses are clearly separated it would be easier for potential buyers/investors to see what's what. Anyhow, there's been a flurry of speculation about the future of AOL recently. Earlier this month one report suggested that Time Warner's banker, Goldman Sachs, was working on a series of proposals concerning the future of AOL. Options included flogging the business, floating it or engaging in a "significant restructuring". This was followed by speculation that AOL has been talking to Microsoft about a possible sale, something denied by both parties. ® Related Stories TW, MS deny AOL buyout dialogue AOL future uncertain - report AOL warns of falling revs as punters flee service
Tim Richardson, 24 Mar 2004

Fire-breathing buses threaten London

UpdatedUpdated We're beginning to suspect that London mayor "Red Ken" Livingstone may be nothing more than an agent for the killer cyberloos and murderous domestic appliances which threaten the very existence of humanity. What other explanation is there for three recent incidents in which London bendy buses spontaneously combusted, forcing screaming commuters to flee for their lives? Of course, some Londoners may assert that this is the normal method of egress from all forms of public transport in the capital. A fair point - anyone who has ever travelled more than three stops on the Northern Line will more than likely have run hysterical from the station in search of the nearest pub. But make no mistake, this is something far, far more sinister. In the last few weeks, three Citaro bendy buses - articulated single-deckers championed by Livingstone and built by Mercedes subsidiary Evo Bus - have caught fire without apparent reason. The first two incidents were at Edgware Road and Camberwell. The third targeted exclusive Park Lane on Saturday. Mercifully, there have been no casualties, so far. Transport for London has, as the authority charged with quelling this omnibuscular uprising, said it will fit fire-suppression equipment on the buses and that they will be checked before leaving the depot. This is woefully inadequate - the authorities in Canneto di Caronia, Sicily, cut off the mains electricity supply to the village when domestic appliances began to catch fire. Despite this, the carnage continued until the residents legged it en masse. We suggest, nay demand, an immediate return to the beloved, benevolent and - most importantly - low-tech Routemaster double-decker on all London routes before the city's population is reduced to clambering to work over the smouldering remains of its transport infrastructure. ® Update Terrifyingly, it may already be too late to stop London's public transport from razing the capital to the ground, as this recent BBC update to the bendy bus combustion story notes: "At about 0645 GMT on Wednesday a number 19 Routemaster bus caught fire on St John's Road in Angel, north London. No-one was injured." Be afraid... The Rise of the Machines Cyberappliances attack Italian village Spanish cyberkiosks claim second victim Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent Hi-tech toilet swallows woman
Lester Haines, 24 Mar 2004

MS gets EU fine, orders for server info and WMP-free Windows

As expected, Microsoft was today hit with a record-breaking fine by the European Commission. But although Microsoft is complaining mightily about it, the sum involved will make a negligible impact on Redmond's coffers. Nor, of itself, is the Commission's insistence that Microsoft must offer a version of Windows free of Windows Media Player to PC companies - the effectiveness of the Commission's remedies will lie in the success or otherwise of its requirements on interface disclosure, and of its strictures against "using any commercial, technological or contractual terms" to cripple the stripped-down version of Windows. In a statement issued today, the Commission concluded that Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems (OS) onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players." It has therefore punished Microsoft via the fine, and made a number of orders regarding the company's future conduct. Within 120 days Microsoft is required "to disclose complete and accurate interface documentation which would allow non-Microsoft work group servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers. This will enable rival vendors to develop products that can compete on a level playing field in the work group server operating system market. The disclosed information will have to be updated each time Microsoft brings to the market new versions of its relevant products." This is at least in theory a pretty absolute requirement; Microsoft has to publish whatever it takes in order for rival vendors' servers "to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers, and it must provide updates where necessary. This is clearly wider-ranging than simply being required to license relevant technology and/or disclosing what Microsoft says might be adequate information. There is clearly plenty of scope for argument about what is and is not sufficient and what does and does not work, and there are clear questions about how it will be policed. But it seems likely that the Commission will be receptive to representations from, say, Sun and Samba on this front. The Commission at the moment has not made it clear to whom this disclosure should be made, whether to named competitors or to the world in general. It does however concede that if "any of this interface information might be protected by intellectual property in the European Economic Area, Microsoft would be entitled to reasonable remuneration." So more scope for argument there. It specifically states that the disclosure order does not cover Windows source code. This will presumably continue to be obtainable from the usual warez sites. The insistence that Microsoft offer a version of Windows free of Media Player within 90 days means that PC manufacturers will have an option of bundling alternatives. This, the Commission hopefully observes, means that "the configuration of such bundles will reflect what consumers want, and not what Microsoft imposes." Gartner takes the view that this will have little impact, and in the near term it's probably right. As the Commission says: "Available data already show a clear trend in favour of WMP and Windows Media technology. Absent intervention from the Commission, the tying of WMP with Windows is likely to make the market "tip" definitively in Microsoft's favour. This would allow Microsoft to control related markets in the digital media sector, such as encoding technology, software for broadcasting of music over the Internet and digital rights management etc." At the moment, the simple existence of an alternative is unlikely to be enough to reverse this "clear trend." The interesting part of the remedy therefore has to be the requirement to "refrain from using any commercial, technological or contractual terms that would have the effect of rendering the unbundled version of Windows less attractive or performing." If aggressively policed this could have the effect of taking the teeth out of any Microsoft efforts to use WMP as leverage via special discounts, 'joint marketing' deals and technological speed-bumps. This is certainly the Commission's intent; it says: "More generally, the Commission is concerned that Microsoft's tying of WMP is an example of a more general business model which, given Microsoft's virtual monopoly in PC operating systems, deters innovation and reduces consumer choice in any technologies which Microsoft could conceivably take interest in and tie with Windows in the future." That reference to a "more general business model" indicates that the Commission by no means thinks that the Microsoft matter can now be deemed 'sorted.' It has a couple more investigations in the works, and its intent to keep its sights trained on the broader of Microsoft's business practices seems clear. So Microsoft has a problem, and it's nothing to do with the fine. At time of writing, Microsoft was due to kick off the first of two press calls today on the subject. The company intends to appeal, and will push for a stay of execution pending this. ® Related link and stories Commission statement Microsoft faces 'one per cent' fine Windows ruling is biggest IP heist in EU history, claims MS Sun welcomes EC Microsoft ruling
John Lettice, 24 Mar 2004

Disgruntled ex-employee arrested for keystroke caper

A Californian insurance claims manager was yesterday charged with planting an electronic bug on a computer owned by his former employers. Larry Lee Ropp, 46, was indicted on a single wiretapping charge yesterday over an allegation that he planted a keystroke logger on a PC used by a secretary to senior executives at Bristol West Insurance Group. Police arrested Ropp after he allegedly asked a former colleague to remove the bug, following his earlier dismissal by the insurance group. The motive for the alleged bugging remains uncertain but Reuters reports that an affidavit filed with the indictment alleges that Ropp hoped to feed information to lawyers leading a class action suit against Bristol West. US investigators describe the case as the first of its kind to invoke federal wiretapping laws. Its not the first time the US courts had dealt with a case involving misuse of keystroke logging technology, however. Ropp, who faces up to five years' imprisonment if convicted, was released on bail pending committal proceedings, scheduled for 5 April.® Related stories Guilty plea in Kinko's keystroke caper Mafia trial to test FBI spying tactics Student charged with massive ID fraud
John Leyden, 24 Mar 2004

Apple delays dualie Xserve G5 to April

Apple will now not ship dual-CPU Xserve G5 servers until April, two months later than the company originally promised, it admitted this week. However, the Mac maker has now begun shipping the 1U rack-mount server's single-processor version. Both versions were launch early last January with availability pegged for some time in February. IBM was due to launch the 90nm version of the PowerPC 970 - the chip Apple calls the G5 - during that month, so presumably server shipments were set to follow the launch. Yet after the PowerPC 970FX was formally unveiled, Xserve G5s continued to be available for pre-order only. The first machines to roll off the production line may well have found their way to Virginia Tech, which is replacing its 1100-node dual-2GHz Power Mac G5 cluster, System X, with an equivalent number of Xserve G5 dualies. System X is Apple's showcase G5 cluster. Apple this week said that the US Centre for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behaviour at Princeton University had also decided to build an dualie Xserve G5-based cluster, this time a 64-node job. The G5-based rig was selected over a similar configuration of AMD-based boxes, Jonathan Cohen, the Centre's director, said in a statement. Alongside that announcement, Apple launched Apple Workgroup Cluster for Bioinformatics, which it claims requires "little or no IT support". It includes iNquiry, The BioTeam's bioinformatics package, which provides 200 ready-to-use bioinformatics applications optimised the Xserve G5. ®
Tony Smith, 24 Mar 2004

HP puts Linux on the desktop

HP is recruiting Novell to help it get Linux running on corporate desktop and laptop computers. HP will offer business customers support and testing. Linux has made good progress in the server and data market but has had a harder job of getting onto desktop machines. The backing of such a major vendor will be a big boost. Microsoft, today facing a record fine from the EC, will be less pleased. Martin Fink, vice president of Linux at HP, was quoted in the Times of India as saying: "Does Microsoft like the fact we do Linux stuff?. Absolutely not. But they understand we deliver Linux." HP said the deal was an extension of a previous agreement to use Novell server software. HP said last week it wanted to offer a Linux-based PC in Asia. IBM will offer servers preloaded with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. The agreement will see IBM ship or preload SUSE across all its server lines. Jack Messman, chairman and CEO of Novell, said the deal marks a "critical step in making Linux mainstream in the corporate data center". According to IBM, the preloads offer customers more choice and "lower costs, greater stability and increased security". Novell also said yesterday it had finalised a $50m investment from IBM. This was agreed in November 2003. It sees IBM pick up Novell convertible shares which can be converted into 8 million shares of Novell common stock. Red Hat yesterday announced that it had secured pre-load status for IBM POWER servers. Sales of servers running Linux reached $743m in the fourth quarter of last year according to IDC. This was an increase of 49 per cent on the same period the year before. ® Related stories HP deploys Linux desktops in Asia
John Oates, 24 Mar 2004
SGI logo hardware close-up

Red Hat revenues up

Things are looking rosy for Linux outfit Red Hat, which made a profit of $5m on turnover of $37m in the fourth quarter ended 29 February, 2004. That is an 11 per cent increase on the previous quarter and a year-on-year increase of 43 per cent. Red Hat gained 87,000 new subscriptions - of these 61,000 went to what the company describes as "the enterprise IT market". Renewal rates are still 90 per cent. For the fiscal year ended February 29, 2004, the company reported revenues of $126.1m, an increase of 39 per cent as compared to fiscal 2003 revenues of 90.9m. Kevin Thompson, CFO at Red Hat, said in a statement: "For Red Hat, fiscal 2004 was a year marked by great execution, as we delivered strong growth in revenues, cash flows, and profitablity. The growth rates in the adoption of Red Hat Enterprise Linux has exceeded our expectations to date and we are positive in our outlook for fiscal 2005." For all the figures click here. ® Related stories Red Hat wins pre-load slot on IBM POWER servers Red Hat intros software warranty Red Hat sweetens Q3 with Sistina buy
John Oates, 24 Mar 2004

Aussie boffins discover fifth form of carbon

Boffins at Australia’s National University in Canberra have made a new - and magnetic - form of carbon which they have dubbed nanofoam. Because of its unique magnetic properties, it could have important medical applications, the team says. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society in Montreal, Canada, John Giapintzakis of the University of Crete said he has studied the foam using an electron microscope, and had determined that it was a fifth form of carbon. He also discovered its magnetic properties. Carbon assumes this new foam-like structure when subjected to high-energy laser light. When the carbon reached around 10,000°C, it shaped itself into a lattice, or web of carbon nanotubes, according to a report on Nature. Although the foam loses its magnetism after a few hours at room temperature, even this short amount of time opens up several possible applications, according to Giapintzakis. It could make it possible to use magnetic resonance imaging to observe blood-flow, for example. Nature also suggests that it could be used to treat tumours, because it is bad at transferring heat: David Tománek of Michigan State University said that the foam could be injected into tumours and then heated. The foam would absorb the heat, and kill the tumour as the temperature rose. ® Those other four forms of carbon in full: Diamond: Hardest substance known to man, good for transmitting light, too. Particularly favoured by J'Lo, especially in its slightly pink form. Graphite: Remember pencils? The old timers used them to write stuff before computers were invented. That's carbon too. The layers in graphite slip over each other very easily, which makes it great for writing with, and a useful industrial lubricant. Bucky Balls, aka Buckminsterfullerines: These are the roundest and most symmetrical large molecule we know of. They are formed from 60 atoms of carbon bonded together in a combination of pentagons and hexagons to form a ball, just like a soccer ball. Not yet sponsored by Nike. Nanotubes: Nanotubes are very strong cylinders of carbon just one nanometre across, and up to tens of nanometres long. They might be used to strengthen polymers, and could be thought of as prototypes for a one-dimensional quantum wire.
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Mar 2004

Sun welcomes EC Microsoft ruling

Sun Microsystems has applauded the decision by the European Commission to impose a record fine on Microsoft. A statement from Lee Patch, vice president legal affairs at Sun, welcomed the ruling and described it as important and precedent-setting. Patch believes that forcing Microsoft to make disclosures to improve interoperability will "create a level playing field in the work group server marketplace, enabling competitors to deliver work group servers that can fully interoperate and therefore compete on the merits. This is enormously significant for consumers and for the industry." The company thinks the ruling will help set the principles of open competition "not just for today, but for the future of a vibrant and vital worldwide IT industry". The full statement is here. ® Related stories MS gets EU fine, orders for server info and WMP-free Windows version Windows ruling is biggest IP heist in EU history, claims MS Microsoft, Sun, IBM and the war for government desktops Commission statement Sun Java site running sluggish on decaf
John Oates, 24 Mar 2004

Windows ruling is biggest IP heist in EU history, claims MS

The European Commission's decision to force the removal of Media Player from Windows is against the interests of consumers, chills innovation and breaks applications and web sites, claimed Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith in a news conference today. But yes, he would say that (and much, much more), wouldn't he? Setting the bluster aside for the moment, it's what he had to say on how Microsoft proposes to fight the decision and its chances of success that are most important. If the Commission's demands have to be implemented in the near future, then as we explained earlier Microsoft has a serious problem. Its ability to leverage share from servers and WMP in the current product generation is seriously impeded, and it will likely have the Commission as the monkey on the back of its business practice/development model (with Microsoft, we'd argue, these two tend to be pretty much the same thing). Which amounts to a serious challenge in Europe to what Microsoft describes as its right to innovate, and other people describe as something rather different. In Europe, note, not in the US - there are massive implications to this, but we can leave these for another day. Microsoft, now, has to knock the wheels off the Commission's remedies, and kick the matter into legal delay land, whence it will be free to emerge many years in the future, when none of it matters any longer. According to Smith, Microsoft has 70 days to file its appeal with the European court of first instance, and is likely to ask for a stay in the Commission's remedies at about the same time. The Commission's remedies, he claims, are a "broad compulsory licensing of our copyrights," interfere with Microsoft's rights to "create adaptations and derivatives" under European copyright law, and are the "broadest compulsory licensing of intellectual property rights since the foundation of the European Union." They also violate Europe's international treaty obligations with reference to the World Trade Organisation and trade aspects of intellectual property rights, he claims. Smith is is going for the full-on deployment of Microsoft's extensive claims regarding Windows trademarks and copyrights we've seen before in the US case. Under this interpretation the WMP-free version of Windows "is not Windows" (i.e. not WindowsTM). "Windows today is a state of the art operating system for state of the art PCs", and Windows lite will be an inferior version foisted on Microsoft and the world by the interfering Commission. But we're creeping back to the bluster here - you can read that anywhere. Smith says that "you can't license out intellectual property then pull it back if the company wins on appeal." Microsoft intends to argue that both the server disclosures and the WMP changes amount to forced licensing, and that the court of first instance must therefore stay the Commission's order pending the resolution of the case. This contention is by no means doomed - Microsoft may have trouble getting a court to accept that all of the things it claims as theft of IP by shotgun really are this, but if it can get it to consider that some of them might be, then it could disrupt the Commission order a tad. Smith didn't have a great deal to say about the potential for the matter blowing up into a transatlantic trade battle, aside from the WTO reference, and is currently positioning Microsoft as a good European citizen. "We will respect and fully comply with European law and orders of the European court of first instance," he said (actually, they said this twice, so this is the Current Corporate Line). But as you've seen already, this niceness and good citizenry doesn't interfere with the company's ability to argue about absolutely everything, for as long as it possibly can. Smith, anticipating the possibility of a stay of the order pending legal resolution, suggests that there could be a return to talks, where Microsoft's generous offers, the ones that were rejected last week, can return to the table. Under these three whole competing media players would have shipped with every Windows PC worldwide, immediately, while under today's order European consumers will only get one, in 2009 (his estimation of when the legal process will finish). He says the order only applies to Europe, but doesn't say if the rest of the world is still going to get three - we suppose you could try asking. With what was presumably a straight face he put forward the US process as a good example of what ought to happen in Europe. There, there were talks which broke down, then a legal case where bad things were ordered for Microsoft, then these were overturned, talks resumed, the authorities opted for a deal rather than legal wrangles till hell froze, and now everybody's happy. Which we suppose is one way to look at it. It's fascinating to see how things look from a Microsoft lawyer's perspective. As regards Longhorn, Smith says "we've had our lawyers working with the product development teams", which are proceeding with innovations as usual with the benefit of "careful legal advice." Fortunately, Microsoft is certain that "the kind of innovations we have planned [for Longhorn] pass muster under European law." That is, off course, what they always say, and there's almost always a big argument about it, too. ® Related link and stories Commission statement Windows ruling is biggest IP heist in EU history, claims MS Sun welcomes EC Microsoft ruling Microsoft faces 'one per cent' fine
John Lettice, 24 Mar 2004
server room

Eutelsat denies rogue diallers accusation

Angry victims of rogue diallers which ring expensive satellite numbers are blaming the wrong company, Eutelsat says. The satellite telephone provider blames the confusion on billing software which mistakenly names it as the origin of the calls. Rogue diallers are installed secretly on PCs by fraudsters. They call premium rate numbers, and the crooks collect the cash, minus the telco's take, of course. Satellite phone numbers are as premium rate as they come - Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times derring do foreign reporter, racked up a bill of £27,000 after forgetting to switch off a call on her satphone made from Iraq, the Standard reported yesterday. Victims in several European countries have contacted Eutelsat with questions about charges for calls purporting to be to Eutelsat numbers. Last year the German site Dialerschutz (Dialer Protection) discovered that some rogue dialers make calls to Eutelsat's maritime communications service. Eutelsat offers satellite services known commercially as Emsat, a registered service mark of the satellite operator Telespazio in Italy. Emsat provides telephone, fax, data, messaging and positioning to small, mobile satellite terminals operating in the L-band (frequency band 1.5-1.6GHz), installed mostly on fishing boats. Technically, Eutelsat relies on Telespazio to operate the Emsat earth station in Italy. For this reason, Telespazio has obtained a virtual "country code", starting with the digits 88213. Any one of Emsat's 2,000 mobile satellite phones can be called in a country where the "88213" service has been implemented. But there are many other possible numbers in the virtual "88213" space, at least 100,000, which are not controlled by Eutelsat, the company says. They do not reach Eutelsat mobiles, nor bring any revenues to Eutelsat. What seems to happen is that long distance phone company billing software incorrectly adds the word "Emsat" to a phone number when it recognises a call to the code "88213". Eutelsat says the remainder of the number is the important part. Eutelsat-assigned terminal numbers should be exactly six digits long (for instance: 00 88213 461731 or 00 88213 850243) and follow a particular pattern, explained in detail at the company’s web page. The confusion over the numbers is what the fraudsters must have anticipated. While angry customers grumble at Eutelsat, they rake in the money. So, next time you spot a Emsat number on your phone bill, ask Telespazio who you are really dealing with. ®
Jan Libbenga, 24 Mar 2004
DVD it in many colours

MS bigs up Windows XP SP2

Microsoft released Windows XP SP2 as a public beta last week, paving the way for a summer debut of Redmond's most ambitious attempt yet to improve the basic security of Windows PCs. Windows XP SP2 Release Candidate 1 was released to Microsoft customers through a new TechNet portal last Friday. The update features far reaching changes designed to help improve the ability of Windows XP-based computers to withstand malicious attacks from hackers, viruses and worms. In many respects, Redmond is applying the security philosophy (secure by default etc.) it introduced with Windows Server 2003 to its three year-old client OS. Principal additions with Windows XP SP2 include: Windows Security Centre; automatically turning on Windows Firewall; and browsing enhancements to Internet Explorer (providing far more control of ActiveX controls, for example). Security Centre will let users check the status of their firewall, third-party anti-virus protection and manage automatic software updates from a single point. Automatic Update, in its first iteration, will cover Windows and IE patches only. Office security fixes will have to be applied separately, even with SP2. Lock down Less mentioned so far, but arguably more important, is revamped memory protection to prevent buffer overruns, the perennial source of so many security problems. AMD became the first hardware supplier to support this technology with the announcement of its 2.4GHz FX-53 Athlon 64 processor last week. Intel is also committed to supporting the technology in its 32Bit and 64Bit processors from autumn this year onwards. The Service Pack will also add a pop-up ad blocker to Internet Explorer - the most requested feature according to Rebecca Norlander, Microsoft's group manager for XP SP2 - and a download manager. Norlander said that pop-ups are increasingly used to "dribble" spy ware onto users' machines. Giving users granular control over whether they accept pop-up or ActiveX controls from particular sites is therefore a significant security improvement to IE. Modification to Outlook Express mean users will get warnings when they click on dangerous attachment types (such as .scr and .pif). OE will no longer download graphics in HTML mail by default, a tactic designed to prevent spammers tracking users who open junk emails. Shield’s up Matt Pilla, senior Windows product manager, said that the development focus of Service Pack 2 was to make Windows "more resilient and more manageable". Microsoft is making security "more visible" while adding improved "shield" technology to protect users from malicious threats. "The focus is on security but SP2 is also a conventional service pack," he added. Windows XP SP2 weighs in at a hefty 273MB or more than twice the size of Service Pack 1a (which comes at the hardly slim line size of 125MB). By Microsoft's own calculations, Service Pack 2 would take 11 hours 30 minutes to download on a dial-up connection. Microsoft has - not before time - realised long download times are one of the main reasons consumers fail to apply security patches. To address the problem, Microsoft has plans to make CDs featuring the service pack widely available both through its Web site and (possibly) computer resellers. Application glitches Windows XP SP2 is scheduled for release by the end of June. Judging by feedback on the eleven newsgroups Microsoft has established to discuss the service pack there's plenty of work needed before then. Testers have reported bugs including the failure of Windows Security Centre to recognise AV packages or an inability to install to install the popular Zone Alarm personal firewall after applying SP2. Glitches with Outlook Express and IE and some third party apps have also been reported. Ironing out such problems is exactly why Microsoft released SP2 as a public beta, of course, so users should be grateful to the brave souls who try out the software at this stage of its development. As significant as what will come with SP2 is what remains absent. Microsoft is still unwillingly to say anything about its plans for GeCAD Software, the anti-virus software vendor it bought last June. Bundling AV software with Windows might raise anti-competition concerns but making use of the technology might make home users less susceptible to worms like Blaster. ® Related stories Gates parades Windows security advances Beefed-up firewall, new version of Update for XP SP2 Vendors wary of MS Windows Firewall Microsoft enters AV market Blaster clean-up tool was stellar success - MS
John Leyden, 24 Mar 2004

Ofcom to examine BT tariff change

Communications watchdog Ofcom is to launch an investigation into BT's decision today to axe is standard rate tariff, according to sources. It's understood the regulator is concerned that BT might be acting anti-competitively by squeezing the margins of rival telcos. A senior spokesman for Ofcom declined to comment on BT's announcement today except to say: "We are considering a full investigation." BT has hailed today's news as a measure that simplifies its tariff structure and make its service even better value for money for its customers. However, rivals have been quick to point out that by scrapping its standard rate, the UK's 2.5m carrier pre-selection (CPS) customers will see their bills rise by £12 a year. CPS enables punters with a BT phone line to switch providers by receiving two separate bills - one from BT for line rental and one for calls from their new phone provider such as Centrica, Carphone Warehouse or Tele2. Now that the cost of the minimum line rental has risen by £1 a month, CPS customers are being faced with an immediate extra charge. There are also concerns that new call tariffs imposed by BT could also be squeezing the CPS market. Centrica - the company behind the One.Tel branded telco - has already lodged a formal complaint with Ofcom. It says that BT's move "undermines competition and has an impact on the CPS market". Ian El-Mokadem, MD of Centrica Telecommunications, said the move penalises the nine million people currently signed up to BT's standard rate. "If BT is permitted to do this, customers who want to exercise a choice and use another supplier will also be penalised by having to move to a more expensive line rental charge. From a regulatory perspective it appears to be an overtly anti-competitive move in the absence of a viable Wholesale Line Rental product. This has to be subject to Ofcom approval. Ofcom need to act." Andy Dewhurst, chief exec of CPS outfit Tesco Telecom, said: "This announcement is all smoke and mirrors. It is designed to inhibit competition, which is bad for customers and increasing their line rental is not what we would call a price cut. "BT are denying nine million people the chance to be on their standard rate and forcing them onto a subscription based tariff with higher line rental. "We will continue to offer customers our standard rate as we know how popular it is and we are committed to giving real choice, value and the transparency," he said. uSwitch.com - which provides independent comparative advice for people looking to switch providers - said that today's move would lead to cheaper bills for many existing BT customers, with average users seeing a reduction of around £24 a year. "However on the down side, these changes will have a detrimental impact on 2.5 million carrier pre-selection (CPS) customers, who are billed by BT for their line rental but pay another provider for their calls; these customers will see annual bills rise by £12 a year," said Jon Miller, director at uSwitch.com. "It's disappointing to see that BT's changes will have a negative effect on some customers, and we fully expect the CPS suppliers to react strongly, with further price reductions anticipated in the coming weeks. "Whilst the cost of calling may be coming down, the fact remains that consumers will still be charged a minimum £31.50 a quarter before they've even made a call. BT is still not the cheapest supplier in the market, switching is easy and you can make significant savings by shopping around." BT said that today's move would lead to more expensive bills for CPS customers. A spokesman insisted that the telco's announcement had been cleared by Ofcom and was surprised to hear that the regulator was considering an investigation. ® Related Stories BT simplifies tariffs BT dominance 'unacceptable', say MPs MPs accuse Oftel of failure to help consumers Carphone Warehouse in free call offer
Tim Richardson, 24 Mar 2004

Five University of Northern Colorado students caught in RIAA John Doe suits

Five students from the University of Northern Colorado have been caught up in the American music industry's sweep against music file swappers. In a letter to university president Kay Norton, Recording Industries Association of America president Cary Sherman said it was merely targeting the "particular individuals on your network who have offered to give away hundreds of copyrighted music files to millions of anonymous strangers". Sherman, among other things, thanks Norton for her understanding and support, which seems somewhat presumptuous. We reproduce his letter, released by the University to the student body in full, except for the telephone number, below. The RIAA yesterday escalated legal actions to stamp out illegal music file swapping over the Internet with 532 new lawsuits. For the first time the RIAA is sueing ordinary students for downloading music, as opposed to its previous strategy of targeting only students who were active uploaders, who made available many music files for trading over the Net. Yesterday it issued 89 John Doe suits (i.e. it doesn't know their names but intends to find out) to 21 universities in 12 states. Only the University of Michigan was named yesterday by the RIAA. ® Dear President Norton: I am President of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). I wanted to give you a personal "heads up" that tomorrow, Tuesday, March 23rd, several of the RIAA's member companies will file a John Doe lawsuit against 5 users of your university network. These actions are part of a well-publicized enforcement program we launched last year to address the pervasive problem of music copyright infringement over peer-to-peer networks. I want to assure you that this lawsuit is not in any way focused on the University of Northern Colorado, or on the operation of its network. Rather, it is focused on the conduct of the particular individuals on your network who have offered to give away hundreds of copyrighted music files to millions of anonymous strangers. This is an issue of individuals being responsible for their illegal actions, and not an issue with the university. In fact, the defendants in the lawsuits will include users on a variety of networks, including other university and commercial ISP networks. I intend to make all this clear in any public comments I may have. As you know, the whole point of this program is to protect the rights of copyright owners against rampant online piracy and to foster an environment where legal online music services can flourish. Enforcement is only one component of that campaign, but it is an essential one. We are also extraordinarily grateful for the proactive steps undertaken by the university community to address the epidemic of illegal file sharing. The partnership that we have forged has been enormously productive for both the music and higher education communities, and we look forward to continuing that collaborative relationship. Please feel free to contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you have any questions or you would like to discuss this matter. If you are unable to reach me, you may also contact Barry Robinson or Stanley Pierre-Louis at the same telephone number. Thank you for your understanding and your support. Cary H. Sherman President
Drew Cullen, 24 Mar 2004

Boffins grow breasts on mice

Researchers have managed to grow human breast tissue on mice as part of an investigation into how breast cancer develops in humans. Genetically-modified mice are often used in cancer research, but breast cancer works differently in mice than in humans. The hope is that by studying the transplanted tissue, researchers will get an insight into the early stages of the disease. First reported in the medical journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this particular research sounds very plausible. Previous attempts to grow human breasts on mice have only used epithelial cells. According to Nature these cells line the milk ducts, and are where breast cancers start. In this experiment, two types of cell are transplanted: the epithelial cells and fibroblasts, or support cells. The fibroblasts are blasted with X-Rays before being transplanted. The research team. led by Weinberg of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Boston, used cells from women who had had breast reduction surgery. Weinberg thinks the irradiated fibroblasts help the epithelial cells to survive, but isn’t quite sure how. If the fibroblasts were made to produce a protein present in tumours, the epithelial cells became cancerous. This, the researchers say, suggests that latent mutations emerge, or are switched on by the protein. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Mar 2004

60k AOL UK punters hit by billing cock-up

Some 60,000 AOL UK punters have been wrongly billed for their Internet service following a cock-up at the company. It seems a "technical problem" hit the company's billing run last Friday resulting in punters being billed three times for their March subscription. In an email to consumers AOL said: "Due to a temporary problem with our billing system that affected a small number of AOL members, we have regrettably billed your March 2004 charge three times." AOL UK - which has more than two million users - said: "Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this matter may have caused. The temporary problem is now resolved and we are taking steps to try to ensure that this does not happen again." A spokesman for the ISP said that AOL had already refunded the monies for a vast majority of its punters and that it was now working hard to correct the problem for a "very small" number of people. "We're extremely sorry," said an AOL UK spokesman. ®
Tim Richardson, 24 Mar 2004
cable

Gnome emerges unscathed from hack attack

Developers of the Gnome open source desktop environment have downplayed the significance of an intrusion by hackers discovered yesterday. Although crackers broke into the organisation's website, a subsequent investigation has shown that "gnome sources and the gnome source code repository are unaffected", according to Owen Taylor of Red Hat, the company that hosts the servers. In an update today, Owen reported that little damage had been caused by the attack. His statement helped allay fears that the security breach might cause a delay in the release of Gnome 2.6. The Gnome Project has already put its FTP servers back online, after taking them down as a precaution yesterday. Websites including Gnome.org, and developer.gnome.org are back up, albeit with limited service. The Gnome Project hopes to restore general access to Bugzilla within the next 24 hours. ® Related Stories Does open source software enhance security? Unholy trinity of Open SSL vulns GNOME, KDE get their kicks from XFree86 OpenSSH trojaned!
John Leyden, 24 Mar 2004

BT engineer denies deflowering lesbian

BT is investigating claims that one of its engineers had sex with a lesbian student who auctioned her virginity for £8,400. Weekend press reports said that a 44-year-old BT engineer from South London paid for sex with Rosie Reid, 18, following her online auction. Ms Reid is to use the cash to pay for university tuition fees. A spokesman for the monster telco told The Register that while an employee had come forward, he has denied any involvement. He has told his employers, though, that he is being hounded by the press. A spokesman for the telco said: "BT is looking into the matter to see whether any conditions of employment have been breached. "At the moment, we're more concerned about the welfare of our employee," he said. ® Related Story Internet virgin faces police probe
Tim Richardson, 24 Mar 2004

Have fun with Wi-Fi in a rucksack

Now here’s an idea. A wireless access point (802.11b) with its own power supply, a PowerBook G4, blogging software, Apache server, GPS and PDA - all built into a rucksack you can walk around with. The Wifi.Bedouin is the brainchild of electrical engineer Julian Bleecker, and he swears it works, even if he is fond of the kind of mindless tautology that over-earnest students and marketing men succumb. As such, not only will you be walking around with a node on your back, you will also be challenging conventional assumptions, expanding the possible meaning and metaphors about access as well as reconsidering and questioning notions of virtuality, materiality, displacement, proximity and community. Aren’t you lucky? There is only one problem - it doesn’t actually connect to the Internet, so surfing the Web and downloading your emails are right out. While this may appear to be a tad disadvantageous, it is part of the plan, according to Bleecker. And, the funny thing is, once you think it over, it’s not as mad as it first seems. Bleecker will have you view the Bedouin as creating its own Web - and of course realising that the virtual and physical worlds are a much more entangled hybrid space, whatever that is supposed to mean. However, when you consider some scenarios put forward and what it can actually allow you to do, things get more interesting. Bleecker suggests taking the Bedouin to a public place where people will expect to find a wireless access and, indeed, are looking for one. The rucksack would, of course, pop up on available networks and people could connect to it. However, once there, they won’t find Net access but rather be logged onto whatever kind of Web the Bedouin’s server has been set up to create. As such, common websites can appear as anything the owner likes. Chatroom software and blogging software can mean anyone connected to the network - and only people in the immediate area - can talk to one another. Or they can share music or other files. Or, he suggests, a backpack could be used in the middle of a protest or emergency to enable everyone in the area to immediately communicate with one another. We can see several situations where a moveable, location-specific network could be very useful, especially as wireless chips become installed in everything from mobiles to laptops. We will of course ignore the potential for criminal activity and scams, and prefer to reflect instead on the pranks you could play on people using your own wireless Web. There is one other problem, though. Bleecker only appears to have one at the moment and his website doesn’t make any mention of Bedouins up for sale, so its impact is likely to be localised around wherever on the east coast of the States, Bleecker currently is. If only he could come up with a way of selling hundreds of thousands of these and then getting them to communicate with one another. Now that would be really useful. ® Related link The Bedouin Web in a backpack
Kieren McCarthy, 24 Mar 2004

Cretinous hacks in Cretaceous – Jurassic outrage

LettersLetters Time is a funny thing. Arrive five minutes late for a meeting, and no one really minds. Skip 80 million years of evolution and its just moan, moan, moan, moan, moan. You may want to give electricnews a bit of a slap for feeding you duff info, Tyrannosaurus Rex lived in the late Cretaceous period, not the Jurassic. Spielberg lied. In defence of our colleagues over at electricnews, we have to confess that it was entirely our fault. The Jurassic reference was introduced, according to international headline troubleshooter Lester Haines, to give the story more, er, bite. Ahem. Hello The Register, The dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Rex did not live during the Jurassic period, it's fossilized remains are found in rocks from the Cretaceous period. He’d also like to point out that he does know that the Tyrannosaur lived in the late cretaceous. But, as he points out: “There's a reason why the book and film were called Jurassic Park rather than Cretaceous Park”. Basically, dear reader, Jurassic fitted in the headline better than Cretaceous. What's more: "Has anyone asked why they've named a bloody server after a frigging dinosaur?” asks an enraged Lester. His roars perhaps reminiscent of a T-Rex, although without time travel or some boffins opening a real-world Cretaceous Park, we’ll never know, of course. (All you pendants happy with that? Good.) Time for one more? Lovely: Just to be pedantic, but the Tyrannosaurus rex did not actually exist in the Jurassic period, but evolved instead in the Cretaceous, several tens of millions of years later. It also doesn't seem to have been a top predator, either; it was not the biggest meat eater about at the time (some South American Allosaurids were bigger) and it doesn't seem to have been primarily a predator, either; it was more likely mostly a scavenger most of the time, only killing those dinosaurs too sick or injured or sleepy to escape it. The top predator in the Jurassic on land was the Allosaur, BTW. Please at least try to check your facts before publishing; I know this goes against all tradition in IT journalism, but you would look so much more professional if you tried it. We do try, but find our efforts hindered sometimes. Lager can cause problems, as can a good joke. Anyone who wants to find out more about the giant reptiles should have a look here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Mar 2004

Red Hat powers ahead of Novell?

Red Hat has got one over on Linux distribution rival Novell by inking a deal with IBM to market its Red Hat Enterprise Linux alongside IBM's 64-bit Power processor-based hardware. But Red Hat shouldn't go overboard with its celebrations - IBM has yet to announce the shipment specifics and Novell may soon have caught up. IBM currently supports both Red Hat's Enterprise Linux and Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server on its Power processor-based eServer i- and pSeries lines but is planning to ramp up sales of Linux on these servers in 2004. "The next enabler we're expecting to happen is Linux on a wide variety of hardware," Adam Jollans, IBM worldwide Linux marketing strategy manager, told ComputerWire in February. "If you're looking at total system scalability you need the operating system and the hardware to scale as well. In terms of the pSeries we're starting to see customers who want more power for Linux applications." That and other similar statements from IBM appeared to provide a boost specifically to Novell and its recently acquired SuSE Linux business unit. IBM invested $50m in Novell as part of the acquisition to ensure that SuSE's previous support for IBM's processors continued. SuSE's historically close relationship with IBM has been key to it gaining ground on Red Hat in enterprise accounts, especially on the mainframe, and while it may be small in comparison to the number of Intel servers shipped with Linux, the installed base of IBM i- p- and mainframe zSeries servers is a lucrative one that cannot be ignored. Hence Red Hat's long-running plan to get its Red Hat Enterprise Linux variant up and running across the range of IBM hardware. That plan was first announced in September 2002 and reached fruition with the release of Enterprise Linux 3 for IBM's entire server line in December 2003. Red Hat was behind SuSE in terms of support for the i-, p-, and zSeries servers by some margin so is enjoying getting its nose in front of SuSE with the first agreement to have Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 ship with IBM Power-based servers. The advantage may turn out to be merely symbolic, however, given that IBM is yet to announce specific shipment plans and Novell/SuSE is sure to be not too far behind. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related research: Datamonitor, "The Linux & Open Source Outlook" (RBTC0064)
Datamonitor, 24 Mar 2004

Opera browser to recognise speech

Opera Software is to include IBM's embedded speech recognition technology ViaVoice in the next version of its Web browser. Web users will be able to navigate, request information and complete Web forms by speaking, which should offer added convenience as more users access the Web on smaller, mobile devices, Opera said. "Voice is the most natural and effective way we communicate. In the years to come it will greatly facilitate how we interact with technology," said Christen Krogh, Opera's vice president of engineering. "By making this technology available today for the Wider Web audience, the serious work of voice-enabling the Web can commence." According to Opera, Web developers can add voice input and output to traditional HTML-based pages by using the XHTML+Voice (X+V) markup language. In a swipe at Microsoft, Opera said the technology could even let users replace PowerPoint: using the Opera Show presentation tool, users could create a multi-page presentation which they could show one page at a time using the voice command "page down," without approaching the computer. Igor Jablokov, director of embedded speech at IBM and chairman of the Voice XML Forum, tthe technology can help Web users start interacting with content in a more natural way, combining speech with other input- output tools. Opera bills its browser as faster, smaller and more standards-compliant than its rivals. The Norwegian firm recently debuted on the Oslo stock exchange and sold around 25 per cent of its share base for $35m. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 24 Mar 2004

CNET developer site offshores to India

In an ironic counterpart to the trend of offshoring programmer jobs to India, the business of writing about programming is also on the move. In a memo leaked to NewsForge's Robin 'roblimo' Miller, a senior editor at CNET's Builder.com explains to freelancers that the company is embarking on a two-month trial contract with an Indian company to produce the content. Miller notes: "Builder.com is the first major content-reliant Web site we've heard of that is offshoring writing work instead of outsourcing some of it." Rex Baldazo, senior editor at CNET. explains that the time difference is an advantage, and it could bring a fresh perspective. "We're not just saving money," he told Miller. "We're getting a better interface with producers of the content." Deli belly Technical writing departments have suffered badly in the aftermath of the dotcom crash. Authors once worked closely with development teams, although this is a rarity now. You can find a tale of two former technical authors, one at Microsoft and one at Boeing makes for a grim read. Both are now working in a deli. "The irony is that while Indian workers make $12 an hour (the equivalent, an Indian tech worker tells me, to about $40 US dollars) and considers that a living wage, Gary and I make only $8 an hour and are struggling to make ends meet," writes David Beckman. "Often customers who wear the infamous T-shirt or jacket brandishing a Microsoft logo come in to purchase sandwich meat and cheese or fried chicken and a salad — something easy to prepare for a late dinner. I once told one such customer that I had also worked at Microsoft. He just shot me an odd look for a moment, and then he grasped the pound of roast beef I had just sliced for him and hurried off in the direction of the grocery department." ® External link Builder.com outsourcing content production to India Related Stories El Reg moots Bangalore hack outsource plan 'One in six' Silicon Valley tech jobs ripe for offshoring IBM to outsource thousands of euphemisms NY Times in 'My job went to India' shirt outrage In praise of outsourcing German chancellor attacks 'unpatriotic' offshoring Ebookers chief defends offshoring Indian call centers: cracks begin to show Bush backtracks on offshore czar post 'Fear and Loathing at HP' - say internal docs
Andrew Orlowski, 24 Mar 2004