13th > April > 2004 Archive

Cat 5 cable

Veritas and BEA vow to love Java together

Veritas and BEA Systems have awakened to the reality around them and decided to tackle the likes of IBM, Oracle and Sun Microsystems as a united front. The two software makers today announced plans to develop, sell and market their products together. Veritas will toss in its software for managing server-side applications and for building clusters. These products will be combined with BEA's Weblogic application server and Tuxedo transaction processing engine. Together, the products make a stack similar to what IBM, Oracle and Sun offer as a complete package. Veritas and BEA, however, maintain that as ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) their products are inherently more open than products from their larger rivals. "Until now, deploying an integrated applications platform built on a utility computing infrastructure required a single vendor, hardware and software lock-in," said William Hurley, a senior analyst at the Enterprise Application Group, in the vendors' statement. "This alliance will provide a compelling alternative for customers by allowing existing heterogeneous hardware and software investments to form the foundation of a fully integrated utility computing infrastructure." Doesn't that sound wonderful? Veritas would seem to gain the most immediate benefit from the deal. Veritas, a dominant player in storage software, has been trying to carve out a place for itself on the server. What better way to push its OpForce, Indepth and ClusterServer products along than to hitch a ride on the back of BEA's popular WebLogic Server? At present, the two companies have mapped out three distinct bundles. The first is an "application performance" offering that includes Veritas' Indepth software and BEA's WebLogic Server. The Indepth product gathers a variety of performance metrics from the application server and can show users how to speed up software performance. The second bundle combines Veritas' Cluster Server with WebLogic Server. The idea here is to create an "always up" application server configuration. Instead of running WebLogic on a pricey multiprocessor Unix box, customers could, for example, run it on a cluster of cheap Linux servers. The last pairing combines Veritas' OpForce software, once again, with WebLogic. The OpForce product, which Veritas acquired in its Jareva buy, is designed to automate parts of the software deployment and management process. Using the product in tandem with WebLogic, administrators should be able to roll out a new application server at a much quicker clip than in the past. So far, only the Cluster Server/WebLogic Server bundle is actually available, starting at $2,995. The OpForce/WebLogic pairing will go on sale in the second half of 2004. And, for the time being, Veritas is selling the Indepth product on its own for $4,000, adding that certain features have been tightly integrated with WebLogic. Overall, these Java-centered products would have worked together pretty well already. Veritas and BEA, however, are signaling that they plan to try and combine sales where possible and that they hope to link their products together as much as possible. This is good news for the customer as it should lead to better, cheaper code. The two companies do face some tough competition though. The big boys - IBM, Oracle and Sun - can combine their products in-house and adjust pricing as they see fit. Sun, for example, sells its entire enterprise software stack for $100 per employee to large companies. But Veritas and BEA do have that whole openess thing going for them. Which, as Carl Spackler would say, is nice. We've always thought a Veritas/BEA merger would be a smart move, especially in this era of consolidation where no ISV appears safe. Better to have BEA fighting the good fight than sitting in Larry's clutches, right? ® Related stories Investors scamper from Veritas shares Veritas intros midmarket backup software Veritas overperforms in Q4 Veritas salutes SuSE and VMware BEA tools up for apps security HP's old Bluestone team found off New Jersey Turnpike Sun: Rave on over to the other side
Ashlee Vance, 13 Apr 2004

Intel salutes Itanium with speed bump

Intel has done its part to take care of the "sweet spot" of the Itanium market by releasing two new processors for two-way servers. At IDF Taiwan, Intel unveiled a 1.4GHz Itanium 2 chip with 3MB of cache and a 1.6GHz chip with 3MB of cache. Intel expects the 1.4GHz product to be popular with customers looking to build server clusters and for the 1.6GHz product to make its way into general purpose dual-processor machines. Intel has been selling a 1.4GHz chip with 1.5MB of cache for clusters and up to a 1.5GHz product for general purpose systems. Itanic continues to have its struggles in the high-end processor market, although 2003 sales were a vast improvement over Intel's previous efforts. The dual-processor server market is the hottest area for Itanium, so the speed bumps should be appreciated by the small Itanic user base. Along with the new chips, Intel worked to remind the public that Itanium will become cheaper over the next few years. By 2007, Intel expects Itanium to have better price/performance than Xeon. 2007 will be the year that Intel rolls out a common chipset for both Itanic and Xeon. Intel is also expected to bring out new low voltage Itanium processors later this year. Chris Kraeuter at CBS MarketWatch had a pretty stunning account of Intel's latest Itanium chips. He noted that Intel rolled out new "dual processor chips," which must be like a four-processor four-way server. He also revealed that, "Intel has announced no plans to make Itaniums backward-compatible with 32-bit applications." This comes as a shock since Itaniums already are backward-compatible with 32-bit software, albeit not very impressively. And, lastly, Kraeuter quoted a mysterious man named Mike Pfister - the head of Intel's faucet division. We've always found Intel's server processor chief St. Fister more compelling. You can read the world-class CBS report here. And, if you think Kraefuter is new to the chip beat, think again. Just remember, Chris, "There are no excuses for errors, regardless of how little time you have to write your stories." ® Related stories Intel to pay $225m to settle Itanic patent clash Analysts cheer AMD, Dell and Microsoft as x86-64-bit winners IBM prepares Opteron workstation charge Russian Itanium slayer samples first 130nm processor Intel's Xeon Extender promises to enlarge your memory size
Ashlee Vance, 13 Apr 2004

Intel to merge Xeon, Itanium chipsets

Intel is to align its Xeon and Itanium chipsets to allow vendors to build servers and workstations that can take either processor family by 2007. Speaking at last week's ClusterWorld event, Intel Software and Solutions Group executive David Kuck said the chip giant will create a "common platform so that Itanium and Xeon processors are interchangeable at a socket level". Today, Xeon MP processors are plugged into mPGA603 sockets, while Itanium 2 chips go into mPGA700 sockets. The company's plan is to have such a 'common platform' in place by 2007, a spokesman said, according to InfoWorld. The reasoning behind the move is an attempt to cut costs, primarily of complete Itanium-based systems. Since Intel is pitching Itanium as an alternative to high-end Unix iron, the goal is not so much to allow vendors room to compete more effectively on price, but to make it cheaper for them to offer Itanium systems and thus encourage them to do so. Buyers of big iron tend to be less price-sensitive that purchasers of low-end servers, but hardware vendors are always keen to shave what they can off costs. Intel's move primarily favours single and dual-processor rigs, which of all Itanium systems reach down the furthest toward Xeon territory. Just as Xeon territory is expanding upwards, of course, courtesy of Intel's AMD64-like 64-bit x86 extensions - as indeed is AMD's Opteron line. Reducing the cost of Itanium systems may help reduce the number of sales cannibalised by adding 64-bit technology to Xeon. ® Related stories Intel salutes Itanium with speed bump Intel cribbed x86-64 tech 'from AMD documents' Sun shelves UltraSPARC V in favor of the great unknown
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2004

Sega Dreamcast spawned Intel PDA graphics tech

Imagination Technologies has confirmed what Intel has - so far - not: that the 2700G mobile graphics accelerator chip the chip giant launched yesterday is based on its PowerVR MBX core. "The Intel 2700G multimedia accelerator incorporates a PowerVR MBX graphics core and PowerVR video acceleration and display processing cores from Imagination Technologies," the UK-based technology developer said today. The 2700G operates alongside Intel's XScale PXA27x series of chips, also formally launched yesterday. Codenamed 'Marathon', the 2700G can play back 640 x 480 video at 30fps from Windows Media, MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 sources. It also supports full-speed MPEG 2 playback at 720 x 480. Accelerating both 2D and 3D graphics, the chip can process 150 million pixels per second in 2D mode and 944,000 polygons per second in 3D apps. Intel licensed Imagination's PowerVR MBX technology in 2002. A year ago, Texas Instruments licensed it too, and in February this year committed itself to building the core into its ARM-based OMAP 2 processor family. Samsung, Sharp and Hitachi have also licensed PowerVR MBX. Intel's 2700G is sampling now, and will be available in volume later this year for $17 a chip in batches of 10,000. TI's OMAP 2 line is expected to become available in sample quantities by July. ® Related stories Intel launches Bulverde, Marathon Philips licenses PowerVR MBX core Intel to run with Marathon mobile graphics chip TI builds graphics hardware into mobile chip Texas Instruments licenses PowerVR for PDA, cellphone CPUs Samsung licenses PowerVR MBX
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2004

Vonage goes to Canada

VoIP upstart Vonage is opening shop in Canada - its first foray outside the US. Canadian customers will be billed in Canadian dollars and can choose local telephone numbers. VoIP, or broadband phone service as Vonage styles it, uses DSL web connections to route phone calls at much cheaper prices than thos of the traditional telco. The service uses Motorola VT1005v handsets. Jeffrey Citron, chief executive at Vonage, said that Canadian consumers had been asking for the service: "Vonage has once again responded to strong demand for choice." Fees start at $C19.99 for 500 minutes a month. For $C45.99 subscribers get unlimited calls in Canada and the US. International rates are also low with most countries costing less than 20c a minute. Services in the US start at $14.99. Vonage is planning a European launch at the end of the year, kicking off with the UK and Switzerland. In the US, the company has early-mover advantage, but in Europe, the incumbents are set to have this slot. Vonage also faces a left-field challenge from Skype, which has gained millions of users in a few short months, thanks to the distribution of software which enables users to make free P2P calls using their broadband connections. VoIP services will take a big slice of revenue from the traditional telcos, once the regulatory issues are sorted. But who will be the winners? The incumbents are not going to let upstart start-ups destroy their businesses. In the UK last month, BT set up VoIP packages for consumers; and in the US, AT&T, QWest and Level 3 are promoting their own residential VoIP services. Vonage is suing AT&T, accusing the telco giant of brand confusion over its service CallVantage. ® Related stories Vonage sues AT&T Level 3 launches residential VoIP US Internet homes aware of VoIP and want it now BT spreads VoIP love across Europe Skype secures ?11m funding The Death Star storms into consumer Net phones Qwest to sell VoiP to Harry Homeowner Numbers don't add up for Telcos
John Oates, 13 Apr 2004

Time Warner invests in ContentGuard

ContentGuard, the company that has almost single-handedly driven DRM interoperability work at ISO, MPEG and at the Content Reference Forum, has taken on board investment from Time Warner and more money from existing investor Microsoft. Time Warner, Microsoft and ContentGuard have purchased substantially all of the ownership that was held by Xerox which was the source of ContentGuard's original technology. Xerox will retain a small equity interest in the company. With buddies like Time Warner and Microsoft, the company is politically well positioned to continue to lead in the DRM standards process. Faultline has speculated in the past that DRM interoperability is the best way around the impasse between Consumer Electronics (CE) manufacturers reluctance to pay homage to Microsoft owned technology. Now they can write their own DRM systems to arms length public standards and have no complaint about co-existing in a DRM regime shared with Microsoft technology. Michael Miron, CEO of ContentGuard said: "Together with Microsoft and Time Warner's input into our company's direction, we can accelerate the pace of development for the new standards and technologies that we champion." It will be lost on few scholars of digital media that the Microsoft Time Warner axis now has colossal influence over standards in DRM but also in codecs and digital media players. Recently Time Warner was voted a vice-chairmanship seat at the DVD Forum which is driving the future standard for high density Blue Laser DVDs, just as the Forum passed a vote to include the Microsoft codec in the Blue Laser standard. Even if Microsoft can't convince CE makers to play ball with this "arms length" DRM relationship, it will be able to use the move to say that at least it's tried, and get the studios onside to force the CE companies' arms. ContentGuard's portfolio of DRM patents originated at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Technologies developed by ContentGuard include XrML (eXtensible rights Markup Language), which is now the basis of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved MPEG REL, the standard rights expression language for assigning usage rights and conditions to any digital object. The amount of investment made and the extent of shareholding held by Time Warner and Microsoft has not been revealed but one statement suggested that apart form a management holding, the two giants effectively own the company. © Copyright 2004 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories Microsoft squares Intertrust DRM suit for $440m Philips leaks Intertrust 'open' DRM details
Faultline, 13 Apr 2004

Hynix rejects bid for its non-memory biz

Hynix has rejected the latest offer US banking combine Citigroup has made for its non-memory business as "unacceptable", the South Korean manufacturer said today. Negotiations between Citigroup Venture Capital (CVC), the bank's seed-investment division, and Hynix began last September after CVC submitted a letter of intent. Non-memory products are believed to account for around 20 per cent of Hynix' 2002 sales and were worth $600 million. "We have been engaged in talks for long to sell our non-memory operations to CVC, but we have decided to suspend the negotiations as our creditors have concluded that the terms, including the price, offered by CVC are unacceptable," Hynix said in a statement. Instead, the company will consider other options, such as spinning the non-memory business off, or presumably finding an alternative buyer. CVC may yet come back with a revised offer, but the stark terms of Hynix' statement suggests that discussions between the two companies have gone as far as they can. ® Related story Citigroup wants to buy Hynix' non-memory biz
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2004

Broadcom acquires Sand Video

The acquisition this week of Sand Video by Broadcom is just about as logical as you can get in the M&A business. Sand Video had a lead, albeit only a small one, in the silicon for the video encoding market, and Broadcom operates as market leader or close in every other broadband and communications chip market. The price of just $77.5m, most of it in Broadcom shares and $7.4m in cash, is a steal, and yet the shareholders of Sand Video seem to be getting their money's worth given that it has had only a little venture capital funding. Faultline named Sand Video as one of its top 50 start-ups back in August last year after it launched the first silicon for the H.264 compression standard that is expected, with Windows Media 9, to drive next generation video compression. But it is likely that new entrants, including larger firms such as Texas Instruments, LSI Logic and specialists such as Equator Technologies, will soon be snapping at Sand's heels and it may well need the protection of a larger parent organisation. Sand supports H.264 - also known as MPEG 4 Part 10 Advanced Video Coding - on its SV-IP01 chip and the chip core design is sold either in chip form or as a piece of intellectual property for others to drop into a chip they are building which includes other functions. Sand Video was funded by an $8m equity investment in November 2002, led by Baker Capital, which included Navigator Technology Ventures and a number of private investors from the CommonAngels of Boston. The Broadcom range post merger will mean potential one-stop shopping for chips for digital TVs, cable, satellite and IP set-top boxes, digital video recorders (DVRs), high definition DVD recorders and players, and video conferencing. The Sand Video team with be merged into the existing Broadcom global digital video team. Broadcom will pay roughly $70.1m in the form of 1.666m of its shares plus and $7.4m in cash. Broadcom says that it expects to record a one-time charge for purchased in-process research and development expenses related to the acquisition, in its second fiscal quarter, ending 30 June. Broadcom is already strong in other broadband chip areas such as digital cable, set-top boxes, HDTV, DSL modems and residential gateways, high-speed transmission chips for local, metropolitan, wide area and storage networking, home and wireless networking, cellular and terrestrial wireless communications and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) gateways. The Broadcom move is almost certain to create a land-grab for video compression companies, many of which are under-funded and private and which would welcome an approach. One company, Conexant, which has just acquired its way to the same proportions as Broadcom acquiring Globespan Virata just after it had taken on Wi-Fi market leader, Intersil, may well feel compelled to cover such a move and make its own acquisition. © Copyright 2004 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories Chip start-up boosts Wi-Fi rate by '10-20 times' Can AMD's Alchemy turn Wi-Fi into gold? Broadcom bags Cirrus storage patents Broadcom jumping the gun with pre-standard 802.11n? Broadcom bites back against Intel-Mobilian, Atheros
Faultline, 13 Apr 2004

MS and Micro Focus target mainframe movers

Micro Focus is working with Microsoft to migrate users and applications from legacy mainframe systems onto Windows-based servers. The Cobol specialist claims costs can be cut by as much as fifty per cent by moving applications from ageing mainframes to Intel-based servers. It says customers have also reported better performance from the move. Micro Focus Enterprise Server allows migration of CICS/COBOL applications to be shifted to a Windows environment. Once moved applications can be extended more easily through .NET, SQL Server, XML and Web services, according to the company. Gary Barnett, IT research director at Ovum, said companies increasingly want to re-use existing mainframe applications. He said the MS-Microfocus alliance will help enterprise users take a "more cost-effective and reliable approach to the task of migrating applications to the Windows platform than the expensive and risk-prone 'rip-and-replace' approach that was the vogue in the late 1990s". ® Related stories Peregrine gets $50m loan, sells e-commerce ops Is Monterey Unix's revenge? In brief: Name change for Micro Focus
John Oates, 13 Apr 2004

Nokia N-Gage 2 debuts on web

Nokia's N-Gage 2 has apparently surfaced on the Web, and the images clearly indicate how the mobile phone giant has solved the first version's notorious telephonic user-unfriendliness: it has made the device oval-shaped. You can see the (blurry) pics of the console's front and back here. They certainly show a sleeker, more compact, more curvaceous design than that sported by the N-Gage of old. The new model - described as being smaller and thinner than the original - also features a game slot that's rather more readily accessible than its predecessor's. It's on the console's underside - you can see an arrow on the first, rear-facing pic. Interestingly, the front shot shows a camera menu, but there's no sign of said device on the back, unless it's hidden under that bit of grey paper on the right. The pictures suggest that famous game coder John Romero had indeed seen a prototype of the device, a claim he blabbed to a Russian computing website earlier this year, and which he subsequently denied in an email sent to this reporter. We understand the new version will be based on Texas Instruments' OMAP 2 processor, which are due later this year. OMAP 2 uses Imagination Technologies' PowerVR MBX core, as does Intel's 2700G mobile graphics chip. The Intel part was launched yesterday. We've heard talk that N-Gage 2 will be announced later this week, possible tomorrow. ® Related stories Nokia to fix sidetalking, swapping with Son of N-Gage Doom developer 'confirms' N-Gage 2 Nokia 'fesses up to poor N-Gage sales Sega Dreamcast spawned Intel PDA graphics tech
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2004
server room

Iomega ships 35GB 'son of Jaz'

Iomega has begun selling its 'son of Jaz' removable hard drive, Rev. Pitched as an alternative to tape back-up rigs, Rev provides 35GB of uncompressed storage capacity per 2.5in removable disk. The disk is mounted inside a 10 x 8 x 8cm cartridge, and yields a 25MBps transfer rate - eight times faster than DDS-4 tape, Iomega claims. Each disk contains its own read/write head assembly and drive motor, allowing the unit to be sealed as tightly as a regular hard drive. That, reckons Iomega, will eliminate the data corruption problems past removable hard drive formats have suffered over time. According to the company, Rev disks offer "an error rate three orders of magnitude better than that of today's sealed hard drives". "Iomega Rev disks are engineered to provide an extremely durable and reliable shelf life, estimated to exceed 30 years," it added. Of course, it makes the disk more expensive than might otherwise be the case. Iomega said it will charge $60 a disk (or four for $200) - $10 more than it said it would when it announced Rev last November. The drives cost $400 for an external USB 2.0 unit and $380 for an internal ATAPI drive. Both ship with a bundled disk. Iomega is also bundling its auto back-up software along with Symantec's Norton Ghost hard drive mirroring code. Iomega said it will ship software to allow punters to boot up off their Rev drive "until the failed hard drive can be replaced". ® Related stories Iomega revs removable HDD challenge to tape Iomega to re-enter removable hard drive biz 'Universal' hard drive system to ship this month
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2004

IBM throws weight behind BPEL

IBM has joined Microsoft - which announced BizTalk 2004 last month - in implementing Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS) for the first time, writes Bloor Research analyst Peter Abrahams. WebSphere products incorporating the technology will make its way into the public from the middle of this year. The development and server environments are packaged separately but are very closely aligned. This announcement is a significant step forward for IBM to provide a fully-integrated Service Oriented Architecture. More announcements this year should extend the support for modelling and monitoring to provide complete lifecycle support. IBM's WebSphere is a large and complicated family. Below I have tried to position all the parts that are directly related to this announcement. WBISF, WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation, is the new version of WebSphere Application Server Enterprise, and is IBM's top of the range server product. It includes the function of Application Server Express, Application Server, Application Server Network Deployment, MQ, and MQ Event Broker. On top of that it adds process choreographer (the code that implements BPEL) and business rule beans (WRBeans). WRBeans is a framework that supports the implementation of business rules externally to the application and choreographies that make up a business process. The naming of the top of the range product 'foundation' is because it is used as the foundation for IBM's range of industry solutions. However it should not be confused with WebSphere Integration Server 4.2.2 which is different. WSADIE V5.1, or WebSphere Studio Application Developer Integration Edition v5.1, is the replacement for WSADIE V5.0, and is the top of the range application development environment that is needed to develop all the functions incorporated in WBISF. It incorporates all the functions in WebSphere Application Developer V5.1.1. WSADIE is built using Eclipse and has a consistent and powerful set of visual editors to define the process flow, message transformation and business rules. It also incorporates all the application development tools so giving a single environment for application development and application integration. These announcements apply at present only to Windows and Linux. BPEL rules the rules BEA has also committed to BPEL (Business Process Execution Language), as this XML-based markup language is also known in the Web services trade. Many important companies are supporters of BPEL - and also happen to sit on the Technical Committee of OASIS, the Web services standards body. So it would appear that BPEL is to be the Web services standard for specifying how software is integrated and the way in which business processes are managed. BPML, or Business Process Markup Language, a rival specification, does not enjoy BPEL's industry support and is sufficiently similar that migrating from it to BPEL will not be a major issue. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories IBM moots BPEL-Java fusion Web standards move forward The integration market: survival of the fittest
IT-Analysis, 13 Apr 2004

Brocade and McDATA's Spring offensive

As technologies mature over time the leading suppliers often end entrenched in positions that have evolved over the course of their marketing battles, writes Bloor analyst Tony Lock. However, when it comes to the still comparatively youthful world of storage networking things have yet to reach a state of affairs where the major vendors of fabric switch technology are happy with their respective positions. The last few weeks have seen two of the major forces, Brocade Communications Systems and McDATA Corporation, launch new offerings for the next round of battle. First into the affray was Brocade when it announced the OEM availability of two new SAN switches, the SilkWorm 3250 and SilkWorm 3850, built specifically with the needs of Small and Medium-sized Businesses in mind. The new offerings were designed to provide fabric switches that have low entry cost, yet without having to forfeit the capabilities, performance and reliability delivered by the company's well known enterprise-class switches. It is worthwhile to note that the new 8-port and 16-port devices offer feature a shared system architecture and full code compatibility with all Brocade SAN platforms. In this way the two new Brocade switches will allow customers to start by building small SAN fabrics that may be simply, and non-disruptively, upgraded to support larger fabrics making use of advanced features - typically trunking, performance monitoring and fabric security capabilities - all enabled via simple software license keys. Shortly afterwards, the company announced the general availability of the Brocade Open Fabric Management Services for the Brocade Silkworm family of high performance fabric switches and Directors. The software is Brocade's first production release of an external management agent for Brocade switches compliant with the version 1.0.2 of the SNIA Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S). SMI-S is a storage industry-wide initiative targeted to help organisations manage heterogeneous storage infrastructures In between these announcements, McDATA released news of its advanced switch-on-a-chip technology that will be integrated into its current line of four to 24-port Sphereon 4000-series switches during 2004. The SOC technology is a result of the relationship established between McDATA and IBM to produce solutions to lower the total cost of ownership for entry-level and enterprise-class storage networking customers. McDATA has confirmed that the new products will provide the same capabilities already found in its offerings, including non-disruptive upgrades, forward and backward compatibility and make use of the company’s FlexPort technology. McDATA and Brocade will continue to slug it out head-to-head in the increasingly important world of storage networking switches. It will be fascinating to watch this battle develop - both vendors' offerings are technically vsound and the two companies are committed to pushing their respective solutions forward as quickly as possible. We look forward with interest to see how the balance of power between these two market leaders evolves, especially as Cisco, the wild card recent entrant this market, builds its solution and partner line-up. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Brocade's cheaper entry level switches McData and Brocade puff patent peace pipe
IT-Analysis, 13 Apr 2004

'Universal' hard drive system to ship this month

Japan's IO Data will this month ship the first removable hard drive based on the Information Versatile Disk for Removable (IVDR) specification. IVDR is a cartridge-based format that encapsulates a standard hard drive and interconnect electronics, designed as a way of making it easier to transfer very large files not only between computers but between in-car entertianment systems, hi-fis and TVs. The format was also intended to be capable of sustaining its own life as storage capacities and data transfer speeds increase, and disk sizes decrease. The cartridge slots into an adaptor that hooks up to the host via a USB 2.0 port, from which it draws its power. The device will work across a USB 1.1 bus, but you'll need to use the bundled AC power adaptor, IO Data said. IO Data's version provides 20GB of unformatted storage capacity, courtesy of a 1.8in hard drive. The 70.9g, 8 x 6.7cm cartridge is about the same size as a MiniDisc. The 120g adaptor it's slotted into measures 13.5 x 8.8 x 2.2cm. IO Data said it will support Windows XP, 2k, Me and 98SE, along with Mac OS 9 and X. The adaptor and disk together cost ¥34,000 ($323), IO Data said, with disks along retailing for around ¥24,000 ($229). IVDR was formulated by 38 companies, led by Japanese giants Fujitsu, Pioneer, Hitachi, Sanyo, Sharp and JVC, but backed by storage specialists like LaCie, Seagate and Maxtor. Originally touted with 2.5in drives, last year the group showed the IVDR Mini, based on 1.8in drives. This week, the consortium announced it would incorporate 1in drives in the specification, a format dubbed IVDR Micro. The group also announced this week IVDR Secure, an encryption system intended to protect content stored on the drive, thus paving the way for legally downloaded material to be archived on IVDR disks and even for the Micro format to be used as a sales medium. ® Related story Iomega ships 35GB 'son of Jaz'
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2004

Virgin Mobile float is go

Virgin Mobile is lining up advisers to help it make an Initial Public Offering (IPO) later this summer. So far three banks have been chosen: Investec, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, and a fourth adviser will be appointed shortly before the flotation, according to Reuters. 28 June is the rumoured date for the stock market sale. The sell-off could raise more than £1.3bn. Branson is believed to be using the money to fund expansion of his US airline. But the company is not putting all its eggs in one basket - it is has bankers looking at debt restructuring plans if for any reason the flotation is impossible. Virgin execs are believed to be meeting in the next few weeks to make a final decision. The market for telco IPOs seems to be improving - both Belgacom and Eircom have made the jump this year. Virgin operates as a virtual network - T Mobile provides all the network and technology in the UK. In the US it works with Sprint. It has 1.75m subscribers in the US and 3.2m worldwide. Related stories Virgin Mobile goes to Canada Virgin Mobile 'preps £1.3bn float' T-Mobile and Virgin settle long-running dispute Vodafone tops 130m customers
John Oates, 13 Apr 2004

Browser-based attacks on the up

Browser-based attacks are becoming more of a threat to corporate IT security. A survey of nearly 900 organizations found that 36.8 per cent were plagued by one or more browser-based attacks over the last six months. The figure is up from 25 per cent in last year’s survey by CompTIA , the Computing Technology Industry Association. Typically browser-based attacks take place when a surfer visits a website containing malicious code. Spam is a typical conduit for such attacks. The result of such attacks may be as simple as a crashed browser; or as serious as the theft of personal information or the loss of confidential proprietary data. Computer viruses and worm attacks, though still the biggest threat to IT security, are significantly less common than they were a year ago, according to the CompTIA survey. The number of organisations identifying viruses as their most common security threat dropped from 80 per cent last year to 68.6 per cent this year. Network intrusion problems also dropped (from 65.1 per cent last year to 39.9 per cent this year). Organisations also reported significant declines in problems caused by remote access, such as virtual private networks and dial-up (41.7 per cent, down from 49.9 per cent); and social engineering (17.9 per cent, down from 21.9 per cent). Earlier findings from the CompTIA pointed the finger at human error for the majority of security problems. The CompTIA survey also looked at the use of security technologies and services. The vast majority (95.5 per cent) of organisations use some form of anti-virus protection. Nine in 10 (90.8 per cent) of shops use firewalls. Security audits and penetration testing were also used by the majority of IT pros surveyed (61 per cent of respondents, up from 53 per cent last year). ® Related stories Worms spread faster, blended threats grow IE hopelessly bug ridden IE bugs keep coming Human error blamed for most security breaches UK.biz leaves door open to hackers
John Leyden, 13 Apr 2004

French ISPs to carry the can for dodgy content

The French government is being urged to change legislation which would make ISPs legally responsible for any content they carry. Activists including Reporters Without Borders, the Union of Judges and the Odebi League have written to Nicolas Sarkozy, the minister of economy, finance and industry urging him to reconsider. As it stands, ISPs would be responsible for censoring Internet content. The dispute relates to the Bill to Promote Confidence in the Digital Economy, known as the LEN. The LEN makes Internet hosts legally responsible for all content. French legislators say the law is required to bring the country into line with the European Union directive on ecommerce. Opponents point out that Italy and Spain made a "competent body" responsible for censorship - and Belguim granted these powers to the state prosecutor. They claim the law has been "massively rejected by Internet users and all those who defend individual freedoms. We have unfortunately found until now that, while account has often been taken of private sector grievances, civil society has not been sufficiently involved". Reporters Without Borders wants to meet the minister to set its their objections and offer recomendations to resolve the issue. Sarkozy is described by MEDEF, the French CBI, as "the Zidane of Finance". ® Related stories Porn and the handset EC seeks to stamp out Net child porn, racism and spam ISPs welcome UK Net libel review It's bloody hard to run a forum (in Sweden) Demon successfully challenges Bulger injunction
John Oates, 13 Apr 2004

SlimDevices Squeezebox

Reg ReviewReg Review I have a dream, ladies and gentlemen, of listening to music of my choosing that has been pumped through the ether as if from nowhere. There are no discs to change, no turntables, drives or tape mechanisms to disturb the concentration, just pure audio, accessible on whim and a player.
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2004

Man pays $1.1m for mobe number

A Chinese man has paid the equivalent of $1.1m for a mobile phone number. The unnamed buyer shelled out a whopping nine million yuan for 135 8585 8585, which is apparently pronounced as "let me be rich, be rich, be rich, be rich" in Chinese. He beat off around 70 other bidders on EachNet.com, where the sale of "lucky" numbers has boomed. EachNet PR representative Tang Lei said it was believed to be "the highest price ever paid for a phone number online". Let's hope that 135 8585 8585 proves as auspicious for its new owner as he clearly believes it to be. Otherwise, he'll soon be back on the pay-as-you-go with his friends dialling "oh God I'm so skint, skint, skint" when they want a chat. ®
Lester Haines, 13 Apr 2004

Libya disappears from the Internet

Libya has disappeared from the Internet and no one seems to be able to explain why. Late on Friday, all .ly domains stopped working and they're still not up now. The administrative and technical contact for the country's Internet presence have not answered phone calls or emails at their Tripoli office. However, one intriguing clue has come from company Lydomains.com - the company charged with selling all .ly domains and which, oddly enough, is based in Macclesfield in the UK. Lydomains.com put out an email on Friday which read: "It is with regret that we have to inform you, that due to unilateral action by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (http://www.iana.org), the Domain Name Servers that host the zone files for the ccTLD .ly have been disabled. "The ccTLD .ly has made repeated official requests to the above authority to relocate the Name Servers to an independent environment, to ensure the continued operation of the .ly zone. Unfortunately, these requests, so far, have been declined by IANA. "Despite our best efforts to maintain the continued operation of the .ly zone, its failure today is totally outside our control... Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience that may be caused. We will endeavour to keep you informed of any future developments." This is backed up by a quick check over the Net. Libya's top-level domain doesn't appear to point anywhere at all. It should have primary and secondary name servers where all the details of .ly domains are contained. But nothing. In short, .ly has ceased to exist. IANA is the California-based organisation that decides how Internet domains all over the world are allocated. Its role was, and is, supposed to still be, completely technical and non-political, although over the past few years, the Internet overseeing organisation ICANN has used the "IANA function" to move country domains or restrict changes being made to them in order to persuade people to sign up to a contract that would recognise ICANN as the ultimate authority in Internet matters. Has IANA again be used to attempt to force people into behaving how it wants? If so, in this case, it has caused an entire country to be taken off the Internet - something that someone will surely have to explain. If that is the case, it has set an extremely dangerous precedent and would appear to confirm many people's fears over how an American organisation can hold the rest of the world to ransom. Unfortunately, it has so far been impossible to verify what is going on. Lydomain.com is not answering its phone or email. IANA has failed to make any mention of any dispute with Libyan domains or, in fact, make any reference to it at all. ICANN equally has no suggestion as to what is going on. And the Libyans themselves are not answering their phones and, presumably, do not have any email. Not a very nice way to treat what is apparently a friend of the West again. ® Related stories Internet governance: who will take the helm?< Internet fool s gold sparks Nigerian fiasco Niue is dead! Long live .nu!
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Apr 2004

Sun's Java chief finds greener pasture at Cassatt

Former Sun Microsystems' Java chief Rich Green has found a new home at stealth software start-up Cassatt. Green's April 13 start date beats our prediction by two days, but the end result is the same. Cassatt named Green as EVP in charge of product development. This is Green's first job outside of Sun in 14 years. At Cassatt, Green reunites with another former Sun executive - Bill Coleman, who is serving as the company's CEO. Coleman also co-founded and ran BEA. "I have known Rich since our days together at Sun and I have followed his many successes," said Coleman. "He brings a wealth of world-class expertise in software development for the enterprise that is crucial to helping our customers get the most value out of their technology infrastructure investment. We're excited to have him as part of our team." Green's departure from Sun, following its settlement with Microsoft, caused quite a stir largely due to our charges that the executive was upset over the Beastly agreement. A number of Sun executives denied this was the case, saying instead that Green could not be happier to put the court battle over Java behind him. Cassatt has managed to pull a number of Sun workers to its side. Last year, it was revealed that 19 Sun staffers had joined the start-up. Cassatt is still holding onto its stealth status. It is, however, clear that the company is one of many working on virtualization software - a cryptic name for a new form of hardware management applications. Cassatt's products also appear to be Java-based, so who better than the great Java defender - Green - to oversee their development. ® Related stories Green red-faced over Sun exit charges Register 'too kind' to The Beast? 'What do we stand for now?' ask Sun staff Sun's Java prince refuses Redmond relocation
Ashlee Vance, 13 Apr 2004

EU braces for software patent demo

Campaigners are mobilising tomorrow (14 April) in opposition to plans to establish US-style software patents in Europe. This month the Irish Presidency of the EU referred back the controversial EU Directive on software patents to a committee of politicians from member states. The proposed draft text rejects all amendments made by the European Parliament last September and instead pushes for direct patentability of computer programs. A demo will take place in Brussels tomorrow morning, culminating in a rally, speeches, performances and the release of balloons outside the European Council building. The rally begins at 11.30am at Luxemburg Square. Participants will wear t-shirts with the slogan: "No Software Patents - Power to the Parliament". A similar demonstration last August attracted 400 protestors and is credited with demonstrating the unpopularity of software patent to MEPs. In a parallel protest, the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is organising an online demo in which websites will post protest pages or banners expressing their opposition to software patents. More than 1100 sites have signed up for this protest. James Heald, FFII's UK co-ordinator, condemned the "back-room stitch up" that led to the proposed draft text now under debate. "All of the important amendments passed by the European Parliament in September are completely ignored. The draft text is deliberately blind to all of the problems which the Parliament tried to address," he said. A last-ditch attempt by the Luxembourg delegation to ensure interoperability with patented standards was rejected. Campaigners are opposed by representatives from large companies, including Nokia, which the FFII reports is engaged in energetic Pro-Patent Lobbying Efforts. Nokia argues that software patents "provide incentives to undertake research and development in Europe, and to promote licensing and technology transfer". FFII says many IT companies, including Opera Software which provides browser software for Nokia phones, oppose this position. Essentially, the current draft is proposing to override the current European patent rules, which explicitly state that "mathematical methods, schemes and rules for mental activity, methods of doing business and programs for computers are not patentable inventions". These would be replaced with a set of regulations which will make it very difficult for national courts to reject patents for algorithms and business methods such as Amazon One Click Shopping patent. Open Source opponents argue this change in the rules would stifle innovation and tilt power even further to big multi-national corporations. Some economists also criticise the notion that software patents promote business growth. Member states are scheduled to agree a position in time for a Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on 17-18 May, where an agreement is due to be signed off. ® Related stories Open source prepares to kiss EU patent ass goodbye Protesters to march against EU software law European Parliament castrates software patent regs EC IP enforcement threatens more SCO-style attacks
John Leyden, 13 Apr 2004

Irish gov to seize control of .ie

Control of Ireland's national Internet domain, .ie, looks set to be wrenched from the hands of the company set up to administer it. Minister for Communications Dermot Ahern, TD, said on Tuesday that officials within his department were drafting legislation that will see control of the .ie domain registry shifted to Ireland's communications regulator, ComReg. Currently the .ie Domain Registry (IEDR) Ltd, a non-profit company, runs the domain which claims some 40,000 Web sites. Last November, it emerged that the government was seeking to give ComReg the power to regulate the registry under the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill. But these new measures go a step further by completely taking control of the .ie registration out of IEDR Ltd's hands. Along with transfer of control, the bill will include authorisation for ComReg to impose a levy on .ie registrars to fund expenses. Additionally, the bill will allow for fines of up to €2,000 daily for non-compliance with regulations laid down with the operation of the registry. "The .ie name is Ireland's Web site address. As such, it is in a sense a national resource. I want to ensure that Ireland's national domain name registry is in a position to thrive and benefit business and consumers alike," Ahern said. "I believe the transfer of responsibility to an organisation such as ComReg will immeasurably strengthen the operations of the registry." A spokesperson for the IEDR said that the organisation would issue its response to the minister's comments later on Tuesday. The announcement of the impending regime change comes as no great surprise after several years of complaints about apparent instability at the registry filed with government departments. Much of the concern surrounded a lack of transparency at the company and an apparent unwillingness to communicate with the businesses that rely on the IEDR monopoly War of words Indeed, the .ie domain has been a hotbed of dissent and rumour in Ireland for several years, with the industry, the IEDR and disgruntled IEDR executives waging a war of words. And the stakes in the battle were high because the IEDR's role means it has tremendous power - think of the registry as the Internet equivalent of a planning authority, with absolute discretion to decide who gets what Web site name, and to set the charges for registration. Though the organisation's problems date back to the spin-off of the IEDR from UCD, problems with the company exploded in the autumn of 2002 when then-CEO Mike Fagan was suspended by IEDR chairman Prof. Sean Scanlan. During the subsequent 13-month legal battle between Fagan and the company, several requests were made by individuals and industry organisations asking the government to step in to ensure that the domain did not collapse and to stop the damage that was being inflicted upon the reputation of Ireland's Internet community. Even the Tanaiste, Mary Harney, weighed in on the issue more than a year ago, officially requesting that Minister Ahern's office do something to stop the apparent rot at the company. By November 2003, shortly after a settlement was reached with Fagan, the situation looked calmer: the IEDR said that after substantial losses in 2002, it had made a profit in the first six months of 2003. It also cut the price of .ie domains by 10 per cent to €112 (plus VAT) and in January 2004 it named financial controller David Curtin as its new CEO. © ENN Related stories Ireland domain registry CEO resigns Blogger forces Irish domain registry into sunlight
ElectricNews.net, 13 Apr 2004

Asteroid apocalypse: the online guide

If the newspapers and grant-seeking boffins are to be believed, it's only a matter of time before an enormous lump of rock comes hurtling out of the heavens and puts a serious downer on everbody's day. Not satisfied with having wiped out the dinosaurs, asteroids are apparently hungry to inflict more terrestrial mayhem - and next time humanity itself could be on the menu. We're obliged, therefore, to the Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona which has developed a handy programme to calculate to what extent said apocalypse will immediately effect you, the innocent bystander. The Impact Effects programme allows you to enter parameters such as your distance from impact, size of asteroid, etc. You then get told what happens next. Intrigued, we decided let the "impactometer" calculate the effect of a 50m ball of rock falling on not-too-distant Shenfield (a commuter town in Essex's commuter hinterland in need of "redevelopment" - asteroids take note): Distance from impact: 50km Projectile diameter: 50m Projectile density: 3000kg/m3 (dense rock) Impact velocity: 17 km/s (average for an asteroid, apparently) Impact angle: 15 Target density: 1500kg/m3 (porous rock) The programme then offered us the following: Energy: 2.84 x 1016 Joules = 6.78 MegaTons TNT The average interval between impacts of this size somewhere on Earth is 480.1 years Crater Size: Transient Crater Diameter: 867 m = 2845 ft Final Crater Diameter: 1353 m = 4438 ft The crater formed is a simple crater Thermal Radiation: Time for maximum radiation: 0.04 seconds after impact Visible fireball radius: 0.4 km = 0.3 miles The fireball appears 1.9 times larger than the sun Thermal Exposure: 3.24 x 102 Joules/m2 Duration of Irradiation: 1 seconds Radiant flux (relative to the sun): 0.4 Seismic Effects: The major seismic shaking will arrive at approximately 10.0 seconds. Richter Scale Magnitude: 5.2 Mercalli Scale Intensity at a distance of 50 km: VI. Felt by all. Many frightened and run outdoors. Persons walk unsteadily. Windows, dishes, glassware broken. Knickknacks, books, etc., off shelves. Pictures off walls. Furniture moved or overturned. Weak plaster and masonry D cracked. Small bells ring (church, school). Trees, bushes shaken (visibly, or heard to rustle). VII. Difficult to stand. Noticed by drivers of motor cars. Hanging objects quiver. Furniture broken. Damage to masonry D, including cracks. Weak chimneys broken at roof line. Fall of plaster, loose bricks, stones, tiles, cornices (also unbraced parapets and architectural ornaments). Some cracks in masonry C. Waves on ponds; water turbid with mud. Small slides and caving in along sand or gravel banks. Large bells ring. Concrete irrigation ditches damaged. Masonry C. Ordinary workmanship and mortar; no extreme weaknesses like failing to tie in at corners, but neither reinforced nor designed against horizontal forces. Masonry D. Weak materials, such as adobe; poor mortar; low standards of workmanship; weak horizontally. Ejecta: Most ejecta is blocked by Earth's atmosphere Air Blast: The air blast will arrive at approximately 166.7 seconds. Peak Overpressure: 4362.3 Pa = 0.0436 bars = 0.6194 psi Max wind velocity: 9.2 m/s = 20.5 mph Sound Intensity: 73 dB (Loud as heavy traffic) Blimey. A blast equivalent to 6.78 MegaTons of TNT making a 867 metre crater? That's Shenfield permanently off the map, make no mistake. Interesting stuff, although we can't help feeling that those of us who have studied the asteroid threat in depth should be allowed a further input option: Deploy Bruce Willis? Y/N? Pressing "Y" would, of course, would be an end to the matter. ®
Lester Haines, 13 Apr 2004

NetScreen touts firewall brawn

Firewall vendor NetScreen yesterday announced a brawny security appliance that it hopes will eventually take the place of separate intrusion prevention and firewall devices in corporate and telecoms networks. The ISG 2000 integrated security gateway, available now at prices from $38,000, is positioned by NetScreen as a platform for firewall consolidation in much the same way high-performance servers provide a means to consolidate run disparate software applications on a smaller number of boxes. Firewall consolidation makes security appliances cheaper to buy and operate, according to NetScreen. The NetScreen ISG 2000 is capable of 2Gbps firewall and 1Gbps IPSec VPN (virtual private network) performance, thanks to the introduction of a next generation of Application Specific Integrated Circuit processors, the GigaScreen3. The GigaScreen3 is twice as powerful as its previous processors, NetScreen boasts. The architecture of the ISG 2000 has been modified from earlier NetScreen appliance designs to offload processor intensive tasks, such as intrusion prevention, onto separate hardware modules. The NetScreen IDP security module, expected 2H 2004, will be able to combat around 1,500 types of application-level attacks and protocol deviations. This compares to defence against around 250 types of attack possible with NetScreen's current Deep Inspection technology. Building more advanced traffic inspection features into firewalls to detect application-level attacks and provide increased defences for Nimda-like worms has been an important project for NetScreen and much of the firewall industry for the last 18 months or so. ® Related stories Juniper buys Netscreen for $3.4 billion NetScreen firms firewalls against app attacks Don't put app protection on your firewall, Mr Jones
John Leyden, 13 Apr 2004

American Airlines data used to test passenger snoop system

A third US airline, American, has admitted handing over passenger data to the Transport Security Administration, and this time it has emerged that the TSA promptly shared the information with four private contractors. American had previously denied passing records on, while the TSA had previously told Wired that it hadn't provided records to its contractors, nor had it used passenger records for testing CAPPS II. So straight zeroes for knowing which way is up. CAPPS II is the US system being developed with the goal of identifying security risks on US flights, and will require large amounts of raw data, quantities of which cannot currently be used without breaching the US Privacy Act. Presumably the TSA must be aware that privacy legislation will require some adjusting prior to CAPPS II going live, and that the use of data in testing prior to this is therefore questionable, but apparently not. The US has actually been using European passenger data for testing of CAPPS II for some time, although we accept that as this doesn't cover US citizens it doesn't count under US privacy legislation. US negotiators were sufficiently concerned about support for CAPPS II that provision was made for this testing in the deal struck by the European Commission last year, and the Commission itself has committed to "rapid negotiations" over the live version of the system. So currently data from Europe, where legislation is allegedly tougher, is being used in the US in circumstances which would be illegal under US law, and the Commission describes the safeguards over its use as adequate. According to the Commission the agreement prohibits the US from passing this data on to third parties, so the the Commission may now wish to ask the TSA, given that it was unaware that it was passing on American Airlines passenger data to third party CAPPS II contractors, whether it was similarly unaware that it was doing so with EU passenger data. Given the difficulties inherent in being an independent CAPPS contractor without access to large quantities of test data, one does rather suspect. Amusingly, the American Airlines press release confessing that it had "recently learned" that it had been handing out the data comes with a legal disclaimer popup which tells us that "information contained in the release may have changed. If you plan to use the information contained herein for any purpose, verification of its continued accuracy is your responsibility." So if we understand that correctly, information contained in the release may not now actually be information at all, and although the statement may have been a statement at time of stating, any it may not be now. Whenever "now" is. We'd have called them up and asked them if it still worked, but then they'd probably have said it was only guaranteed to work at the precise moment they were talking to us. So you're all just going to have to call them yourselves. ® Related links The wrong stuff: what it takes to be a TSA terror suspect EFF CAPPS II information EPIC Data on 10m Northwest fliers handed to NASA for 'testing' US using EU airline data to 'test' CAPPS II snoop system
John Lettice, 13 Apr 2004

Stock spam scams ramping up

Spam messages promoting bogus financial tips are on the rise. Financial spam rose from 10.8 per cent to 26 cent last month, according to mail filtering outfit ClearSwift. The increase is due largely to bogus stock tips, it says. By implying that recipients of spam emails are in possession of privileged information - such as news of an acquisition before a general announcement - spammers seek to persuade the gullible into purchasing particular stocks. If a significant enough number of easily-led individuals invest in the touted stock, a spammer can ramp up the share price so that existing shareholders can sell their shares at a profit. Alyn Hockey, ClearSwift's director of research, said: "It is hard to believe that spammers can influence stock market prices but they wouldn't be sending these emails unless there was something it for them." Financial spam pegged out at second place in ClearSwift's March spam chart. Healthcare spam (57 per cent) was the most common form of unsolicited email. Pornographic emails comprised 8.2 per cent of the total, making this category the third most common nuisance in ClearSwift's spam chart. ® Related stories The economics of spam EC draws line in spam sand
John Leyden, 13 Apr 2004

California Senator seeks Google Gmail ban

A California state senator is planning to introduce legislation to block Google's Gmail service. Liz Figueroa says that the 'free' email service, which users pay for by tolerating advertisements injected into their correspondence, violates the assumption that emails are private. Figueroa introduced Do Not Call legislation into the state Senate and said she was concerned by Google's data retention policies and has asked the company to "rethink the whole product". Many view regulation as inevitable for search engines, as they provide such a powerful public gateway to information. In the United States the Federal Communications Commission regulates radio and TV, and the Federal Trade Commission regulates telemarketing; and critics wonder how else a dominant search engine can be asked to fulfil its obligations of transparency and accountability. But few can have expected that the first significant attempt to regulate Google would focus on one of its ancillary services. The Electronic Frontier Foundation last week recommended that users delete their Google cookie on a regular basis. Google brushed aside a fierce internal debate about privacy concerns to announce the service with a jokey press release on 1 April. A poorly-worded privacy rider warned users that email would linger on the servers even after a user had closed the account. Accident-prone co-founder Larry Page then poured oil on the fire by refusing to rule out cross-linking a user's search history with the email. Ironically, Google may have brought the legislation upon itself with its cavalier attitude to the democratically-elected representative for Fremont. Senator Figueroa said she wrote to the company on 8 April and didn't receive a reply. Google prefers its own definition of the word: touting the "uniquely democratic nature" of the Web. ® Related stories Germans garotte Google Gmail over privacy Google's Gmail hits trademark problem Big Brother nominated for Google Award Google mail is evil privacy advocates Google launches email, takes the Bill Gates defense Avoid Friendster and its clones, warns security expert Google revives discredited Microsoft privacy policy for Friendster clone Security bugs floor Google's Friendster-clone
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Apr 2004

Google values its own privacy. How does it value yours?

AnalysisAnalysis It's absurd to suggest that Google doesn't appreciate the value of privacy. When it comes to its own privacy, the company takes it very seriously indeed. Let's recap some of the ways. Sometimes Google is so obsessively private that it gets into trouble when it shouldn't. The company's finances are formally a black hole, although great hopes rest on the imminent IPO reviving the tech sector. The company also sets new standards of secrecy when it comes to publishing research. Google is a paradise for researchers in every way but one. Staff are allowed twenty per cent of their time for "self-directed research" - which gives them plenty of hours in the week to make ships in bottles, if they so wish. It's one of the least product-orientated policies in Silicon Valley, and explains why Google continues to recruit top grade talent from its Valley neighbors. But there's one catch: Google doesn't publish any of its research, giving it the reputation of a lousy corporate citizen. Instead Google publishes lists of PhDs, but this isn't the same thing. So Google's R&D department is a black hole, too. It does however allow staff to publish the daily Googleplex menu. On this day last year you could have chosen between Joaquin's Potato Salad - steamed fingerling potatoes, with red onion, English peas, basil, parsley and a lemon aioli - and Portabella Mushroom Pizza - Roasted portabella mushrooms topped with a roasted tomato sauce, kalamata olives, pepperonchinis and parmesan. All quite delicious, but it's hard to see how it advances the field of computer science. Because nothing gets published, peer review works only if the peers are other Google employees: a disturbing trend which could lead to a company monoculture. In one example well known to Register readers, Google refused to publish a formal inclusion policy for its News site. Google News is the fifth largest web destination in the world, and can be considered as one of the largest disseminators of News on the planet. Although it privately informs news outlets why they have been rejected, it won't publish a policy. As a conequence, when Google began to include corporate and lobby group press releases on the site, it led to some agonizing contortions. Take this remarkable statement by Google News creator Krishna Bharat and see if you can work out whether or not Google includes press releases as news (emphasis added):- Press releases we don't consider to be a news source, that's for sure. … I don't want to go and police all the news out there. I've seen lots of articles where the press release appears verbatim. Do we wait for that to show up hours late, or do we allow people to use it and act on it -- especially when it's a business item? There are no press releases on the browsable pages or news pages. We have a higher editorial responsibility on those because we're telling you where you should look. On the news pages, we do not intend to use press releases. … Making a press release available as part of the search results gives the full facts that were available to the reporter when they wrote it. Confused? Let's translate: "Google News doesn't consider press releases to be news. We don't want to be selective. But we are selective, and we consider press releases to be news, especially when it represents a commercial interest. In any case, we have news pages where we don't want to use press releases. Except there we do, because it's good for you." Perhaps confusion was the intention. We only quote this at length here because that exchange six months ago was echoed with the confused reaction to the privacy outcry last week. How to boil a frog 'I keep asking for a product called Serendipity,' said Eric Schmidt recently. USA Today reported that "this product would have access to everything ever written or recorded, know everything the user ever worked on and saved to his or her personal hard drive, and know a whole lot about the user's tastes, friends and predilections." Google is already close to this goal, and if it isn't Google itself that attempts to introduce such a product, we can be sure that someone else will think it's a good idea. Privacy is a lot more subtle than it's often portrayed. But it comes down to trust, and an organization is as good as it is trustworthy. The events of the past week are alarming not so much for Gmail itself, but Google's reaction to the controversy. And that tells us a lot. Google sees privacy asymmetrically: privacy is good for Google, but it can't understand why anyone else would be concerned. Schmidt's Serendipity, along with Larry Page's recent boob about wishing to have a Google brain implant, show that Google's technical ambitions far outpace its sense of social responsibility. The flippant April 1 Gmail press release was ill-advised, and signaled that the company didn't expect any controversy. In waded Larry Page who refused to rule out cross-linking personal searches and email, in reports published on April 2: "Larry Page wouldn't say whether Google planned to link Gmail users to their Web search queries. 'It might be really useful for us to know that information" to make search results better, he said. 'I'd hate to rule anything like that out,'" reported the Los Angeles Times. Four days later, with Larry wisely hidden out of harm's way under the stairs, Google VP of Engineering Wayne Rosing faced the fire. "Rosing said there will be an information firewall separating Google's search engine from Gmail," AP reported on April 6. "'We don't use the data collected on one service, ' he said, 'to enhance another,'". Two days later in the New York Times Rosing was less emphatic: "We have no immediate plans to do so in the future," he said. So Google had four statements on whether or not it cross-linked search queries and email in a week. Unlike the News controversy, this time people noticed. On April 8 the company also clarified its data retention policy in its privacy statement, making clear that mail may be retained on backups, removing the implication that you couldn't remove your mail files from a closed account even if you wanted to. Much of the controversy was therefore avoidable. As a measure of how much damage the episode has done to Google, the final firebreak has been reached in defense of the email service. This is the classic libertarian argument that shoppers need not use it if they so wish, or as we call it here, "The Shrug". But this fatalistic line of argument vacates any moral responsibility, throwing it instead onto the "market", which can be relied on to deliver the best of all possible worlds, as we all know. A more honest answer would be simply to profess not to care about privacy. The erosion of privacy and the intrusion of commercial spam in our lives is subtle. Like boiling a frog alive, we rarely notice how much we've lost until its too late. Unless we draw a line now, reminding companies like Google - which exhibit a kind of corporate Asperger's Syndrome when it comes to privacy - of exactly what we value, then in ten years time it will be too late. "It's ironic," writes one reader, "for a company that says Do No Evil - they don't know the definition." After Gmail, what price Serendipity? ®
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Apr 2004