29th > April > 2004 Archive

Microsoft irks ISVs with XP SP2 delay

Microsoft has delayed the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 until late summer, and the software might not be officially released until the Fall. The delay has major implications for OEMs and third party software developers, who because of underlying security changes in the code, have been warned to test their software for compatibility. SP2 was originally due to be released "later in 2003". The major release not only rolls up service patches but adds new firewall and wireless features. XP currently ships with a software firewall (ICF), but for the first time users will be strongly persuaded to turn this on. Microsoft's neglected web browser Internet Explorer finally gains a pop-up blocker (but not tabbed browsing, as we suggested earlier). And where supported, hardware-based memory protection (NX, or "Execution protection") will prevent code execution from data pages - although only Opteron and Itanium are the only Windows-ready architectures that support this to date. A beta was released in December and customers were led to believe that the code would ship sometime in the first half of 2004. The delay affects summer promotions by OEMs based around shipping PCs with XP SP2 pre-loaded. It hits TabletPC vendors hardest, because OEMs and resellers with an eye on the educational channel had been waiting for "Lonestar", or TabletPC 2005 Edition. Lonestar was delayed pending the inclusion of SP2 fixes. A delay into late summer will mean resellers miss the traditional midsummer buying season. A Microsoft spokesman said it will be ready when it's ready, and wouldn't name a date. ® Related link Microsoft XP SP2 spec Related stories MS bigs up Windows XP SP2 Vendors wary of MS Windows Firewall Gates parades Windows security advances MS to intro hardware-linked security for AMD64, Itanium, future CPUs Beefed-up firewall, new version of Update for XP SP2 Windows XP SP2 knocked back to 2004 Microsoft: May expectations for Longhorn No Windows XP SE as Longhorn jettisons features MS delays Yukon
Andrew Orlowski, 29 Apr 2004

Sweetener Quattrone gets Google IPO sweetener

While you may have cheered on Google Inc. for many years, the chances of you being rewarded in its anticipated IPO are very slim indeed. Although the company has been urged to experiment with a more "democratic" mechanism of share placement, some things never change. Gary Rivlin, in a New York Times piece entitled Google Goes Public? The Rich Gets Richer, explains that investors already rewarded with stock include Arnold Schwarzenegger and Henry Kissinger. We're told that the trickle-down effect of this largesse will "energize" a depressed Silicon Valley, although it's unclear whether this will benefit many outside the yacht industry. However the "Who's Who of Silicon Valley insiders" offered sweeteners also includes one stand-out name: Frank Quattrone. Quattrone is currently on trial under charges of obstruction of justice and destroying evidence. An earlier trial collapsed after the jury couldn't agree a verdict, Quattrone received a mild-slap from NASD, the securities industry's (self-) regulator. Quattrone had helped take Amazon.com public, and at the height of his popularity at Credit Suisse First Boston, Quattrone ensured that CSFB's payola analyst coverage - the ratings given to companies - was sweetened by the companies' loyalty to CSFB's banking business. An essential part of this was "spinning": the allocation of hot IPO shares to his tech CEO chums. Once again, Quattrone who emerged from the largest loss of wealth in human history with a $120 million fortune, is pleading innocent. He has expressed no word that the business he was involved in was unethical or misled ordinary investors, many of whom lost significant savings. Coincidentally, Google Inc. this week appointed Quattrone's old firm of Credit Suisse First Boston as underwriters. His trial continues. ® Related stories Tech bubble banker slapped on wrist Will he bomb? Kissinger keynotes CA World SEC rules drag reluctant Google to market
Andrew Orlowski, 29 Apr 2004

Wanadoo UK racks up 192k broadband punters

Wanadoo UK (formerly Le Freeswerve) added 34,000 new ADSL punters in the first three months of the year, increasing the total number of broadband customers to 192,000. This growth means that broadband customers account for 7.4 per cent of its total subscriber base at the end of March, up from 6.1 per cent at the end of December. The figures have yet to reflect demand for Wanadoo UK's new £17.99 a month broadband offer unveiled this week. However, Wanadoo UK's split between narrowband and broadband punters is way off the pace compared to the whole of the Wanadoo group. For Wanadoo - a subsidiary of France Telecom and a key player in Europe's ISP sector with more than 9.3m Net access users - had 2.87m broadband subscribers in Europe at the end of March, accounting for 31 per cent of its entire customer base. This continued growth in broadband numbers helped Wanadoo increase revenues 15 per cent year on year for the first quarter (Q1) as income rose from €567m £380m) to €636m (£426m). Olivier Sichel, chairman and CEO of Wanadoo, said the performance was in line with targets to gain a million broadband customers in 2004. "Dynamic growth is expected to continue in the coming months in France and in all our European markets, energised by a host of fresh initiatives, including unbundling of the local loop in Spain and the adoption of the Wanadoo brand in the U.K." Yesterday, France Telecom confirmed that it had bought back enough Wanadoo shares to re-integrate its Wanadoo ISP operation into the FT business. It wants to acquire the outstanding shares in its ISP division in a bid to cash-in fully on future revenues from the growth in broadband. ® Related stories Freeserve morphs into Wanadoo Wanadoo UK to unveil £17.99 broadband Freeserve confirms Wanadoo makeover France Telecom cleared to buy back Wanadoo France Telecom bids for outstanding Wanadoo shares
Tim Richardson, 29 Apr 2004

Roadtesting the wireless home

ReviewReview I heard a funny story a couple of months ago. A colleague of mine went to a presentation about a new piece of automation kit that enabled the remote control of various pieces of household equipment. "What's really great," enthused the presenter, "is that you can turn off the kitchen light when you are upstairs!" My friend couldn't resist the opportunity to ask the obvious, yet all-too-infrequent question. "Excuse me," he said. "Why exactly would anyone want to do that?" In the pause that followed, it became obvious that the presenter had not rehearsed an answer. What also became obvious was, if he needed to rehearse an answer, he already had a problem. There have been plenty of examples over the last few years of techno-whiz devices that are going to change peoples' lives. Indeed, these things go way back - we chortle over the adverts for convenience products that came out in the 1950s, and guffaw at Morecambe and Wise's automated house where the armchairs move around on rails, all the time ignoring the fact that we are all still suckers for such gadgetry. Like a lottery winner or a pop star, every now and then one such device really does have a major impact - the mobile phone, say, or the MP3 player, but none have thus far succeeded in changing the way we spend our lives at home. It was thus with a troubled mind that I accepted the challenge of road testing the Linksys wireless media adaptor. Troubled, not least because I had been wooed by its capabilities and gadget value, without really asking myself, "why exactly would anyone want to do that?" When the box arrived some six months ago, I resolved to find out. What's this all about then? The WM11B is one of Linksys' product offerings for home networking. To make use of it, you first need to have a wireless home network. You'll also need to be the kind of person who has ripped all of your CDs to your computer hard drive. Given this starting point, you may have experienced that slight twinge of resentment when you actually have to open a jewel case and get out a CD to play it in your stereo. If so, according to the literature, the WMA11B is for you. Simple concept The Linksys product is very simple in concept. It plugs into your TV and stereo equipment, and makes a wireless connection to your home computer. Once configured, you can browse your hard drive for music using your TV screen, and you can play it using the stereo. At the same time, the device can hunt for still images, and display them on the TV screen as a slideshow. Simple, and effective. But does it work, and is it useful? I confess to having had a few configuration difficulties with the WMA11B. This wasn't helped by the fact I already have a Buffalo wireless hub. When I configured the Linksys device with a network cable, everything worked perfectly, but I just could not get the wireless connection to play. I even resorted to calling the helpline number, which achieved only a "Sorry, we haven't tested that configuration response from the technical support person". How fortunate that I had other routes into Linksys, and the problem was resolved - it was an SSID incompatibility, for anyone out there that cares. Once up and running, the device did exactly what it said on the box. The user interface was indeed effective, but a little too simple in places - it was screen-based, a bit like a website, but also it relied on a remote control for access so complex operations were slow or nonexistent. There may be playlist functionality, but I really wouldn't want to face the challenge! Similarly, the slideshows were dependent on the folder structure on the computer, which was not necessarily how I'd choose to display them. Operation via the TV screen caused the occasional glitch - I got lost in the menus and wasn't able to reset my location without a "hard reset", that is, turning the whole thing off and on again. Things went particularly wrong when trying to change the slideshow settings at the same time as playing music, but then how often would you want to do that? Performance-wise, things worked remarkably well. The audio quality was perfectly acceptable to my uncultured ears, but I get the feeling that a surround sound home theatre setup might be a little excessive for MP3's played over a wireless connection through a small box. The images on the TV screen were a bonus - I wonder if this isn't the killer app for people who hate the idea of a blank TV screen. Also, there were some unexpected benefits, for example the front room became instantly tidier without the pile of CD's haphazardly stacked next to the stereo. One fundamental question There remains one question to be answered, and you know what it is: "Why exactly would anyone want to do that?" To be absolutely honest, the jury is still out. There are certain scenarios in which I could see the Linksys box making a lot of sense, but to have it as a separate device seems to be more of a short-term expedient than a longer term reality. There are a number of other ways to achieve the same thing - for example, iPod users can plug their hallowed devices directly into the stereo, job done - as can laptop users for that matter. From an industry perspective there does seem to be a place for converged technologies such as the WMA11B, but the fact is, however, nobody has the monopoly on how exactly these things will look, or how they will work together. Device integration is the norm from the hardware manufacturers, indeed, the chances are a company such as Linksys is about to launch a home DVD/CD/MP3 player with integrated wireless reception, and in the future this will probably come with a built-in screen. In this way one of the major hurdles will already be overcome: namely, getting the different devices to work together. The failure of Linksys technical support was a symptom of a wider problem, namely how impossible it is to guarantee the compatibility of wireless devices. Clearly, gadgets like this need to work out of the box or they won't be accepted at all, and nor should they be. Wireless networking, despite its promise and potential, is still at the early adopter phase in the home. Manufacturers face a difficult choice, as they have to test products in an immature market, without knowing exactly what people will find the most useful. In the meantime the continued integration of hardware platforms suggests a time when people buy an all-in-one device and use the features they need. Maybe by then, we'll be able to get by with a few less remote controls. Related stories ADSL virgin seeks warm, friendly... Coming soon: the Wi-Fi PSP and PS2 Wi-Fi devices not talking
Jon Collins, 29 Apr 2004

Hackers? What about rising damp?

Infosecurity Europe 2004Infosecurity Europe 2004 A water leak or a failure in temperature control are just as likely to cause computer downtime as malicious attackers. But such so-called environmental issues are neglected until disaster strikes. Dave Watkins, managing director of monitoring appliance firm NetBotz, reckons firms worried about hackers should be even more concerned about physical threat management. Recent studies by the firm reveal that almost half of all mission critical failures could have been prevented if adequate environmental sensors had been deployed to detect water vapour, smoke, electrical failure or extreme temperature variance. Other research by the company reveals two-thirds of all security breaches are perpetrated by people with a level of authorised access to businesses premises or IT infrastructure. The issues NetBotz raises are somewhat self-serving - it a leading supplier of kit which monitor the physical conditions of remote sites over the Web. However, the message that companies may have more to fear from rising damp than zero-day exploits stands out among the dire warning about computer virus peril flooding this week’s Infosecurity Europe show in London. NetBotz markets a range of devices to monitor physical locations with video, sound, motion detection and environment sensing. Each solid state appliance provides real-time reporting and alerts sent over any IP network including Wireless (GSM / GPRS) and SMS alerts. The company competes with German manufacturer Rittil in the emerging market of IP-based physical security hardware. These devices can be managed over secure SSL links, saving companies the trouble of sending people on-site to check on equipment. NetBotz’s devices can be integrated with environmental controls to reduce temperature in a monitored area, for example, should the need arise. ® Related stories The world's most dangerous server rooms Lightning knocks out Halifax IT system Gameplay still flooded IT Failures In The Great US Blackout IBM buys disaster recovery biz
John Leyden, 29 Apr 2004

Parking your car the wireless way

For those drivers who find parking enough of a drag without having to schlep to the ticket machine in the rain, wireless technology can now take some of the pain out of the process. It's a neat concept - pay for your slot from the comfort of your vehicle - but there is a divergence between the Wi-Fi and cellular approaches to parking spaces I discovered in a small UK market town last week. A garage forecourt had a parking space marked out for 'Wi-Fi' and hotspot advertising signs up, which seemed a cool idea. But the local train station now allows drivers to pay for parking from their mobile phone. Not only cool, but cost effective. The high-tech station parking system is offered by Parkmobile, which has already had some successes with local government authority usage for parking permits and charges. This deployment is initially two medium-sized stations operated as part of the South West passenger services in the UK, with an intention to roll out to larger stations after a short trial period. Both stations are very busy at half-hourly intervals with regular and ad hoc passengers hurrying to commute into London, and the last thing most passengers want is a delay while queuing at ticket machines in the rush to catch a train. That's where paying by mobile comes in. Drivers can park their car, run for the train and then make the phone call while catching their breath on the train. The system is based around an RFID transponder card that is displayed permanently in the car like a permit. It also has visible barcode, to allow for parking services using a barcode reader, but for preference an RFID tag reader reads the card. The barcode is almost like the legacy fallback of raised letters and digits on credit card for zip-zap machines. The identity on barcode and tag is tied to the car registration and the driver's mobile phone number. Driver not present The parking period is initiated by a call from a mobile phone. This takes about 30 seconds. The bill is paid by the method that was set up when the transponder card was first applied for. This can be credit/debit card or direct debit with a weekly or monthly itemised invoice, which can be viewed online. Sadly, there is currently no way to have the charge added to the phone bill, but that could be a problem if a driver parks, heads for a train and then has insufficient funds on a pre-paid phone card. Not so much 'cardholder not present' as 'driver not present'. The parking period is terminated by further phone call. If the user forgets to terminate the parking, the Parkmobile system usually defaults to the end of the parking period, just as would happen in a pay-and-display car park and lost the ticket. However, for those paying per day at railway stations, the system keeps charging the day rate until terminated. This is good for extended or unanticipated stays, but costs could build for forgetful drivers. As an optional service, the user can be sent a text message every two hours while they're parked. At 20p per message, this is likely to depend on parking charges and the cost of forgetfulness, but it's an indication of where the service might head. Car park attendants read the transponder card using a handheld wireless device, which validates the parking using a GPRS link to a central database, and the attendant knows there and then whether to issue a ticket. This type of system should reduce the prospect of errors, and reduce the costs and time associated with checking tickets, so it's easy to see why those responsible for managing parking would be interested in the system. The future? Parkmobile is looking at alternative payment methods. Pre-paid or at least guaranteed payment is important in this scenario, so Parkmobile is investigating pre-paid parking cards. There's also the potential to link this to other transport-related charging systems. This could be driver vehicle related, such as congestion charging and toll collection, or perhaps even more enticing to for integrated transport policies, linked to public transport smart payment systems, such as London's Oystercard. I always thought technology could address the problem of searching for change for a parking meter, but I didn't expect it to be using a combination of RFID card, SIM card and pre-paid scratch card. And I didn't expect it to let me validate my ticket while moving away from the vehicle, but this does seem a sensible approach, and a pragmatic use of mobile technology. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Texaco pumps Wi-Fi into 100 garages Wi-Fi biz gears up for roaming offensive T-Mobile to charge Wi-Fi access to phone bills Moratorium on RFID chips urged RFID Chips Are Here
Rob Bamforth, 29 Apr 2004

StarOffice: ready for the big time?

StarOffice is already very popular and has become something of a standard on Linux PCs often in the guise of OpenOffice, its open source brother. Sun acquired Star Division GmbH five years ago, with the clear intention of competing directly with Microsoft. It has taken time for Sun to establish a competitive position, though. StarOffice never got strong reviews until version 6, which debuted in early 2002. It is just now in version 7, which is attracting even more attention because of the quality of the release. Version 6 did two things that made a difference. First it removed the StarOffice Desktop which was always an over-ambitious feature, so it now functioned as a collection of applications - word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing - almost like Microsoft Office, except that with StarOffice you get a little more and it's far better integrated. Secondly it began to use XML as default for file storage. However, version 6 was a little buggy and sometimes the Microsoft file conversions didn’t work so well. StarOffice 7 is mature by any reasonable standard. It has the ability to export to PDF (now becoming a necessity for some people, including me) and it can also export to Macromedia Flash. It has a configuration manager for setting up shared work environments and a document recovery capability for damaged files. It also has a whole set of added features, most of which won't matter much to most users simply because office software has been over-featured for years. StarOffice also comes with a copy of the Adabas D relational database, enabled for three users and 100MB of data. I’m not sure why. I never use it. Is it an adequate replacement for Microsoft Office? For most purposes the answer is undoubtedly "yes". So how painful will the transition be? This depends how heavily you use Office. If your usage is limited to Word processing then Star Office translates files with very few problems. Functionally it is arguably better in some areas, such as dictionary and thesaurus. Its styles capability is easier to work with and it has a navigator window which is useful for long documents. I doubt if you'll find transition to StarOffice so easy if you are an advanced spreadsheet user. Complex Excel spreadsheets can be read by Star Office but they may not translate well. If you don’t use Excel in a sophisticated way, you won’t care at all. The same goes for Powerpoint. For large organizations looking to reduce the costs of the desktop significantly, Star Office looks compelling. Siemens did a trial project to test the Ximian/OpenOffice/Linux combination with office staff in Germany last year. (Open Office has some minor differences to StarOffice, such as fewer fonts and graphics) Siemens concluded that changing to Linux and StarOffice was no more expensive than a Windows upgrade - in terms of training. On top of that, it saved 20 to 30 per cent in administration costs, 50 per cent in hardware costs and 80 per cent in licensing costs. Pretty compelling when you think about it. Also you don't have to go to Linux to adopt the product - it works quite happily under Windows. However, I suspect that its future and that of the Linux desktop are inextricably bound together. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories OpenOffice spring cleans with 1.1.1 Sun nails StarOffice win in India Sun finally ships StarOffice for Solaris x86 Sun and AOL form StarOffice pact for cheap desktops
Robin Bloor, 29 Apr 2004

Orange hits 50m subscriber mark

Orange now has more than 50m customers, reaching this milestone in a "strong first quarter". The France Telecom-owned mobile network operator added 1.2m subscribers in the quarter, and reports growing average revenue per user (ARPU) growth in its key markets, France and the UK. It attributes this to a better customer mix, in other words, fewer cheapskate pay-as-you-go punters. Also data revenues are flowing through, with non-voice revenues accounting for 14.7 per cent of Orange network sales in the quarter (Q1 2003: 12.6 per cent). Group Q1 revenues were up 12.1 per cent on a pro-forma basis to €4.678bn (from €4.172bn pro-forma in Q1 2003) and up 9.9 per cent on a reported basis. Orange is keen to tout its multinational spread, even though it has withdrawn or is withdrawing from some countries (Thailand and Sweden spring immediately to mind). Almost a third of customers live outside France and the UK, its two key markets with 20.4m and 13.8m customers, respectively. The rest are scattered across Benelux, Switzerland, Denmark, eastern Europe, Africa, Madagascar and the Dominican Republic. Orange joined Freemove, a new get-Vodafone alliance of leading European mobile operators. The tie-up has already earned it new client wins, it says. Orange is on track to roll out 3G in France and the UK in the second half of the year. This quarter it is launching Talk Now, Europe's first push to talk service, in France and the UK. A full European roll-out is expected by the end of the year. ® Related stories Happy Birthday, Orange Mobile giants deny cartel slur FreeMove mounts its challenge to Vodafone mmO2 recruits Danes for StarMap alliance Orange boss makes the long walk Overture searches for WAP gold Operators tout FreeMove easy roaming alliance France shakes down mobile operators. Customers are safe Orange punts mobile walkie talkie service
Drew Cullen, 29 Apr 2004

Maths boffins topple Certicom crypto

What do you get if you cross 109-bit elliptical curve cryptography with a very determined mathematician? If you have 2600 computers and 17 months and few more maths wizards to throw into the mix, you get a cracked key. Chris Monico, an assistant professor at Texas Tech university, and his team have solved the Certicom Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC)2-109 Challenge. There are three reasons that this is good news: firstly, the algorithm is still sound, as Monico explains below. Secondly the CPU power it took to break the key is equivalent to an Athlon XP 3200+ working nonstop for about 1200 years. Lastly, commercial grade crypto uses 163-bit keys. To solve one of those is around one hundred million times harder. Monico told El Reg: "We used a collision-based version of the well-known Pollard-rho algorithm. While this is much better than brute-force, which would have required about 4.5 quadrillion times as much work, it is still exponential - every two bits added to the keysize make the attack take twice as long." The same team also solved the ECCp-109 challenge in 2002. In this contest, the key was the same length, but was solved over a field of characteristic 2 rather than a prime field. As well as the professional acknowledgement, Monico and his team win $10,000 for cracking the key. But money is not the prime motivator. "I think public-key cryptography based on ECC is what we should and will be moving toward," Monico argued. "And besides, the fact that this is likely the last of the ECC challenges to be solved in the next few years was a big motivator. The only way to get at the 130-bit level challenges are by a combination of Moore's Law (wait around for computers to get faster) and gathering more computers. Personally, I think it's unlikely to happen soon." The Certicom challenge was first issued in 1997, and has three levels, starting with some more basic crypto exersizes. This solution, impressive as it is, is just the first part of Level I. Level I also includes 131-bit challenges; and Level II involves 163-bit, 191-bit and 359-bit challenges. The 131-bit challenges are 2000 times more difficult than the 109 bit challenges, and the level II challenges are considered computationally unfeasible. Bring on the quantum processors... ® Related stories 109-bit Elliptic Curve Cryptography knocked over with brute force IT security to become political battleground Cable modem hackers conquer the co-ax Crypto booster tech for mobile phones
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Apr 2004

UK police arrest copycat phisher

A 21-year-old has been arrested on suspicion on running a phishing scam from his home in Lancashire. The unnamed man allegedly tried to trick users into revealed their bank account details by setting up a fake website, promoted through spam emails. Smile, the Internet banking arm of The Co-Operative Bank, reported the scam to the NHCTU last month. An investigation by officers from Britain’s National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and Lancashire Constabulary led to the arrest of a 21 year-old from Lytham St Anne’s in Lancashire, UK. The man has been arrested and bailed pending further investigation and examination of seized computers. Police believe the man is a copycat, unconnected to the organised crime gangs behind the epidemic of such scams during recent months. Details of how he was tracked down have been witheld for operational reasons. Detective Chief Superintendent Les Hynds, head of Britain’s National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, said: "The message is clear. Do not do this at home, we will find you. Anybody who thinks that they can copy the scam and get away with it is sorely mistaken." Hynds said the NHTCU was working with its counterparts in Eastern Europe to track down the main culprits behind the scam. "The trail to people running phishing scams leads in the same direction as to those running DDoS attacks against gambling sites," he told El Reg. ®
John Leyden, 29 Apr 2004

Ex-Dixons staff 'kicked in the teeth'

There's growing anger among former Dixons workers in a giant Sheffield call centre, following news that Capita is to axe jobs - just weeks after the IT services company took over the running of the site. Staff insist they were given assurances by both companies that the move to outsource the operation would not lead to job cuts. A briefing bulletin seen by The Register appears to support their claims. Published in November last year, the document - produced jointly by Dixons and Capita - details the proposed outsourcing deal between the two companies and what it would mean for employees. Under the title "What changes will Capita make?" they tell staff: "Whilst Capita have plans to improve the efficiency of the Contact Centre, they have no plans to make any compulsory redundancies. As detailed later, it is expected that this change will in fact lead to an increase in job opportunities, as Capita plan to expand their operations on the Nunnery Square site." And under the heading "Job security, will there be redundancies?" it reads: "No - this is not a redundancy situation. Both the Dixons Group and Capita believe that the skills, knowledge and experience of Dixons employees are critical to the success of this Partnership. There are, therefore, no proposals to implement any redundancies." On Monday, though, Capita confirmed that 59 jobs are under threat at its contact centre in Sheffield following a "review of operations". News of the proposed job cuts emerged just a fortnight after Capita took over the site as part of a £18m a year outsourcing contract with electrical retailer The Dixons Group. At the time a spokesman for Capita denied that workers were given any assurances that jobs would be safe. Now angry employees have accused both companies of reneging on assurances given at the time, with one insider claiming that staff have been "kicked in the teeth". Asked to comment on assurances given in the November briefing, Capita said: "The document prepared in November stated quite clearly that Capita had no plans for compulsory redundancies at that time. It also correctly stated that the transfer of this contract to Capita in itself is not a redundancy situation. "What has changed since these statements five months ago is that Capita has had an opportunity to conduct a full review of its operations for Dixons and has taken the view that a minor restructure is essential with a reduction of 30 positions out of a total workforce of 1050. "Capita is endeavouring to redeploy affected personnel within its other operations. The vast majority of staff are unaffected by this minor restructure of operations." ® Related stories 60 face axe at Dixons call centre Dixons, Capita in call centre talks Dixons shutters 106 stores
Tim Richardson, 29 Apr 2004

US develops motorised robobollard

The lizard people are certainly rubbing their scaly claws together with glee today at the news that the US is developing motorised, computer-controlled robobollards. The three-wheeled cybercones are intended for use on roads where they can move quickly to close off carriageways without human operatives risking their necks. This is a sound idea in principle - any hairy-arsed motorway maintenence man attempting to create a 46-mile contraflow on the M1 by offloading plastic cones from the back of a lorry faces the continual threat of being physically assaulted by enraged motorists indulging in the UK national sport of "abuse the cone bloke". Not for long. The new 130cm-high trundling dustbins are directed via sat-nav equipped laptop operated from a specially-designed - and presumably armoured - truck. A camera on the vehicle relays an image of the road to the conemaster, who indicates on the computer screen where he'd like the cones to make themselves at home. Apparently, a spokesman for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln team responsible for the project told the New Scientist: "We're designing the system in such a way that the barrels are very stupid - so that they are very reliable and inexpensive. At that price I believe the savings will mean it will still be affordable if one dies in the line of duty." The fact that the robobollards are as thick as ten short planks comes as a great relief to those of us who are bracing ourselves for the inevitable war against the machines. Chillingly, though, the development scientists admit that the cones will be led by a "shepherd unit" which will guide its "flock" to the desired location. What the University of Nebraska-Lincoln team must ask itself is this: what happens when the shepherd decides that it is no longer willing to risk dying in "the line of duty" for its human masters? Given that a few thousand inanimate PVC cones can reduce Britain's road network to anarchy in a matter of hours, has anyone asked themselves what destruction a vengeful army of millions of rampaging robobollards might wreak on our transport infrastructure? Especially if they form an alliance with fire-breathing bendy buses, murderous cybertoilets and homicidal domestic appliances. Terrifying. ® The Rise of the Machines Killer cyberloo kidnaps kiddie A robot in every home by 2010 Fire-breathing buses threaten London Cyberappliances attack Italian village Spanish cyberkiosks claim second victim Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent Hi-tech toilet swallows woman Bootnote Thanks to reader David Hough for keeping his eyes on the road.
Lester Haines, 29 Apr 2004

AOL UK to offer cut-price broadband

AOL UK is to follow the lead of Tiscali UK, BT, Wanadoo UK and a host of other ISPs to offer its punters an entry-level broadband service. The outfit won't disclose what it's got up its sleeve. But asked whether it will takes its cue from its rivals and offer an entry-level product, a senior spokesman for the company said: "We have plans in the pipeline. It's not something we can talk about at this time." However, he added that whatever AOL UK comes up with, it won't be "all about price but value too". Research carried out by AOL UK - which reckons it is the UK's fourth largest broadband ISP behind BT, Telewest and NTL - suggests that UK punters are confused about the different price offers and caps introduced by rival operators. "We want to introduce some clarity into the market," said the spokesman. Although AOL UK remains tight-lipped about its plans, it seems that a product could be available within the next month or so. AOL UK's broadband service costs from £27.99 a month, while recently a number of sub-£20 a month offers have hit the market. ® Related stories PlusNet cuts price of entry-level DSL Freeserve morphs into Wanadoo Pipex pipes-up with 150k DSL Tiscali is UK's 'fastest-growing' broadband ISP Rival ISPs rubbish BT Broadband Basic BT touts £20 capped broadband
Tim Richardson, 29 Apr 2004

Brit faces Oz extradition over PC store murder

A 42-year-old British man suspected of having murdered a work colleague from Extreme PC in Milton Keynes is to be extradited to the UK from Australia, the Herald Sun reports. Stuart Martin was manager at the store when computer expert Jonathan Dolton, 20, disappeared after leaving a friend's house in 2001. His body has never been found, although his abandoned four-wheel drive car was quickly discovered behind some shops in Heelands, Milton Keynes. Police believe that Dolton had arranged to meet Martin at the spot. Martin subsequently surfaced in Australia. Police there trawled Queensland for him but finally found the suspect in Melbourne in February of this year. He appeared today in Melbourne Magistrates Court for an extradition hearing. It is unclear if he consented to extradition. News.com.au reports that Martin "had not yet decided whether he would consent to surrender to extradition", while the Herald Sun states that he has done so. His lawyer Carmen Randazzo, SC, did say that he was "innocent and was eager to return to defend himself". Martin will be held at at Melbourne Assessment Prison awaiting a further extradition hearing on 29 April. ®
Lester Haines, 29 Apr 2004

Last call for £1 USB memory watch

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion Readers who need a snappy timepiece with flash memory thrown in are advised that we are down to the last wristful on our MeMIX USB2.0 Memory Watch buy-one-get-one-almost-free offer. What's up for grabs is the 256MB model (which normally retails on its own at £80.85, or £94.99 inc VAT), plus the 32MB watch for just £81.69 (£95.98 inc VAT). Which mean that you get the 32MB version for a miniscule 99p. And you can't say fairer than that, can you? Proceed directly to the USB section of Cash'n'Carrion, where our lovely sales assistants are waiting to take your order. ® Tech specs (256MB model) Height: 11mm Diameter: 40mm Weight: 39g Plug & Play on Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Linux2.4 or higher, MacOS 8.6 or higher USB Cable securely integrated in to the watch strap Bootable disk to start the computer system Contains 256MB of Toshiba flash memory LED Status indicator light Password security for file privacy Standard USB 2.0 connectivity, USB 1.1 compatible Extra 1m extension cable supplied Shock proof and anti-static Read speed of 8MB/second Write speed of 6MB/second Japanese Citizen movement with up to a 3yr battery life Related review Our original analysis of the Memix 128MB USB Memory Watch
Cash'n'Carrion, 29 Apr 2004

Monster.com eyes China

InterviewInterview Monster.com, the US jobs site plans to expand its operations in China to cope with growing demand for online job listings, founder Jeff Taylor says. "I'm going to China in July," Taylor told The Register during a visit to Amsterdam. "We already have a presence in Asia with offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and India. Right now, there is only a handful of small players in China, but no established market leader yet." Last week, Monster.com announced plans to acquire German job site Job Pilot for $105m. Job Pilot has an online presence in 11 European countries, including Poland and Austria. Last year the company generated $28 million in revenue. Job Pilot's customers include at least a dozen companies listed in Germany's Dax share index. "So far we have built Monster mostly organically," Taylor said. "Occasionally we will buy a company that adds value to our service, and Job Pilot is definitely one of them. We are bullish on the fact that we are going to see recovery on the job market in Germany, where we are clearly number one now." "Our main competitors are still the newspapers," Taylor said. "It is the place where companies tend to go if they look for jobs listings. It is a 14 billion dollar market, but it has shrunk dramatically because of the recession. It is important for Monster.com to capture some percentage of the recovery by getting these listings online. Newspapers do not like the idea of moving classifieds to the Web. The margins on these ads pay for the ink, the trucks and the union." Monster.com was the first with job listings online. It still leads all other online recruitment sites in the total number of jobs posted in more than half of the top 50 employment markets in the United States, a recent survey showed. However, Monster face its fair share of competitors. Resumealley.com recently declared Monster.com virtually obsolete by introducing a service where job seekers have the opportunity to submit a two-minute audio file to their resume. "That is not going to work," Taylor says. "A written resume is the standard, you're not going to replace that. The other thing about video is that most people are intimidated by a camera. People always tell me that the resume is going to disappear, but we have more than 35 million resumes online. Do you really want to replace them with a video file?" ® Related stories Daily Mail group buys Jobsite for £35m UK firms give online recruitment the boot MSN junks Monster.com for Career Builder AOL junks Monster.com TMP buys Jobs.com URL for $800K Yahoo! wrests HotJobs from Monster.com
Jan Libbenga, 29 Apr 2004

Buy pornography, fight psoriasis

For those of you looking for a rock-solid excuse to stock up on some top-quality pornography, try this from one Mathieu Guitard. Poor old Mathieu, who thoughfully attached a picture to his email, is suffering a bit from a nasty skin condition. He has, however, found the perfect cure: Hi, My name is Mathieu Guitard Today I ask for your attention!!! so please read carefully I guess when teenagers and their parents want to find informative pages on sexuality they are getting lost in an abundance of other dirty pay sites. To improve the situation I brought many new domain names like SexEducated.com, ArtAndScienceOfSex.com, SexAndSmile.co... I wish to develop them into free educational websites. I already found Sexologists interested in providing free online consultation on AskSexDoctor.com Unfortunately I personally live with a skin problem "psoriasis" witch often ruin any activity or works i'm into, by inflicting itching thus scratching then intense pain that consume all my energies. There is a good web site about the Psoriasis disease PsoriasisConnect.com It could be solved simply by going to direct sunlight or by receiving massage therapy (I tried way too many sorts of cream and pills). As I live in Quebec, the weather is cold... so I plan to move to the southern region very soon. If you can't help me with any of the above your money can help. I just found an interesting new way to raise funds. An old well established company "Hustler" To boost payouts on its 4 newest sites give 100$ for every 3$ you put into purchasing (below). I know it may be hard for some to go through the online form as it may induce you to consume pornography. thus Thank You Very Much Thank YOU. That much.. The mind boggles. Of course, there is a link at the bottom of the heartrending missive showing none other than Larry Flynt himself and taking the Good Samaritan to what purports to be a portal for Hustler's latest sites. So, the next time your other half finds a dog-eared copy of Playboy under the bed, forget the old "I only buy it for the interviews" and try the all-new "Actually, I bought it to support cancer research". A guaranteed winner. ®
Lester Haines, 29 Apr 2004

Brussels tables data retention law

The European Council has quietly proposed pan-European data retention laws that will require communications service providers to keep user data for a minimum of a year, and possibly indefinitely. The draft framework will apply to data generated by an exhaustive list of comms architectures and protocols: phone, text, MMS, email, Voice over IP, and Web communications among them. It has been rather hastily published in line with the European Council declaration that followed the bombings in Madrid. In this declaration, the Council said it would bring forward the debate around data retention. The fact that this document surfaced so quickly suggests, some say, that it has been floating around for some time. The draft is very broad in its scope, and very loose in its definitions, which may sound familiar. The stated aim is not to store content, just the data generated by the flow of traffic, and its associated user information. However, as Joe McNamee of lobbying group Political Intelligence points out, at no point does this draft specify exactly what consitutes content, and what constitues traffic data. Broad and loose Consider article 2.3, part(c). This states that service providers will be required to retain FTP logs. Are these content, or traffic data? This question needs to be resolved, especially as (in article 2.4) the draft makes the provision that it will cover all future communications technologies too. It is also noticeably imprecise about how long the information must be kept for: article 4.1 provides a time bracket of between 12 and 36 months, but goes on to say that it may be kept for longer if the member state feel it is neccessary. Draconian, you might think. Bound to get the civil libertarians up in arms? But wait: 4.2 contains the get-out clause. It says that any member state can derogate from 4.1 (i.e. ditch it), should they feel it is unacceptable. "Sometime the most effective thing you can do, politically, is not be rigid," McNamee says. "This clause is very clever. It gives a perfect counter-argument to any criticism without actually backing down: the Council can always argue that it is not forcing the legislation on any of its member states, even though it is extremely unlikely that any will actually take advantage of the option." In the covering letter, the writers explain that although this kind of retention of data may constitute an "interference in the private life of an individual", this doesn't violate European law, provided the interference is "appropriate and strictly proportionate". Is it legal? It is interesting, then, that 18 months ago both Ireland and Sweden said they had no problems (see question five in the link) that would be solved by tighter laws on data retention. This raises a fundamental question about this proposal: is it legal? Is it possible to reconcile the proposed data retention requirements with the fact that two of the countries putting the draft forward say they have no need for such laws? How can legalising interference in a person's private life be judged appropriate or proportionate by either Ireland or Sweden? This isn't just a question of nosy politicians snooping on the citizens they are supposed to be representing. It has implications for businesses too. The costs of complying with any resulting legislation will almost certainly be passed to the service providers, for instance. It is a wide range of data that companies will need to store,and they will need to store it very safely, or they will fall foul of other legislation. In the UK, we are already struggling to implement data protections laws properly, for example. This will certainly add to the confusion, as keeping data you don't need to keep is strictly an abuse under the Data Protection Act (DPA). But not keeping it will mean you violate the data retention laws. But what of those innocent citizens whose digital movements will be tracked? Everything you do online must be recorded: that means that FTP logs about images you download, even in a spam email, are kept on a database somewhere. "If I was Joe Public, I don't think that would make me feel very secure," McNamee concludes. ® Related stories US defends cybercrime treaty French ISPs to carry the can for dodgy content UK firms must monitor staff IMs EC: implement e-privacy directive or else Govt restricts access to snooping powers Net snooping to cost UK taxpayers £100m+. A year
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Apr 2004

Email security survey - help needed

Reg Reader Studies is back with one of its surveys, this time entitled "Email Use and Security". The survey boys have previously called these mass-participation jaunts "barometer studies - checking the pulse of the IT nation". We journalists prefer to rather pedantically flag them as "taking the air pressure of the IT nation", what with them being barometers and all that. But we digress. What we need from you, our beloved readers, is around ten minutes of your precious time. We're reliably informed that this is ten minutes if you're slow about it, or if you get distracted by a colleague forming paperclips into a really, really long chain. So, for just a small bite out of your busy working schedule, you can help us take an air pressure reading on the email security barometer. It costs you nothing, and you'll be doing your bit in the fight against those who would violate our email. To get started, simply complete the registration form below. You will then be forwarded on to the survey proper. If you'd prefer we didn't email to when future studies are ready, just leave your email address blank. Here is our privacy policy. Thanks very much. ® 1. Your Details This section is compulsory. If you’d like to know how we handle the information you supply to us, please read our Privacy Policy. Please tell us your name. Please tell us your email address. Please choose a password. Please confirm your password. 2. Personal Information We’d find it helpful if you could give us a little more information about yourself and your influence on IT spending decisions. If you prefer not to give us this information, don’t worry — you can still take part in the surveys. Please tell us which country you are in. - United Kingdom United States Afghanistan Åland Islands Albania Algeria American Samoa Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote D'Ivoire Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guam Guatemala Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hong Kong Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People's Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Marshall Islands Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Micronesia, Federated States of Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands Netherlands Antilles New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Northern Mariana Islands Norway Oman Pakistan Palau Palestinian Territory, Occupied Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Puerto Rico Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Helena Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia and Montenegro Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan, Province of China Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States United States Minor Outlying Islands Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela Viet Nam Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Please tell us your job function. - Analyst/Programmer Software/App Developer Webmaster/Web Developer Business Analyst Support/Helpdesk IT Manager Senior Management Middle Management CIO/CTO/IT Director/Head of IT FD/CFO/Controller/Treasurer responsible for IT Director responsible for IT MD/CEO/COO/Proprietor Consultant Contractor Other: Please tell us the kind of industry you work in. - Accounting Aerospace Agriculture Automotive Arts Banking and Insurance Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Business Services Chemicals Construction Computer dealer/reseller/VAR/ Defense Design Education and Training Electronics Energy Entertainment Environment Engineering Employment and Work Food and Beverage Government and Public Services Healthcare Internet IT equipment and/or software manufacturer Network integrator/systems integrator Employment and Human Resources Hospitality Investing Industrial Goods and Services Professional Services, Consulting and Legal Manufacturing Marketing and Advertising Media, Printing and Publishing Real Estate Retail Telecommunications and Networking Transportation and Logistics Other: Please tell us the size of your organization in terms of employees. - Less than 10 11 to 25 26 to 50 51 to 100 101 to 250 251 to 500 501 to 1000 More than 1000 What is your job title? What is your company name? Which best describes your involvement in the commitment of IT spend? - I manage or approve all significant IT spend I manage or approve IT spend in my specific department or area I manage or approve IT spend on specific projects or initiatives I make recommendations on significant items IT expenditure My opinion is often sought on on significant items IT expenditure I am rarely/never involved in significant IT spend discussions 3. Email Preferences From time to time, we may wish to send you emails informing you about offers and discounts that you may be interested in. Do you want to receive such emails from us? Yes    No From time to time, our partner organizations may wish to send you emails informing you about offers and discounts that you may be interested in. Do you want to receive such emails from third parties? Yes    No 4. All Done That's it! Just click the button to sign up, and we’ll send an confirmation email to the address you’ve given. Once you follow the link in that email, you should be able to start taking part in our surveys.
Team Register, 29 Apr 2004

Captain Cyborg is back: official

Captain Cyborg is back. That, at least is according to The Guardian's Bad Science section, which notes that the Independent wrote a piece last week citing Kev's latest eye-opener, viz. "watching Richard and Judy on television for half an hour was the best thing to improve IQ test performance, and that reading a book was bad for you". Terrific stuff, and good to see the roving cyberpundit still giving forth on matters of international import. But it's hardly news, is it? The piece then goes on to list Warwick's crimes against technology - all of which are familiar to Reg regulars. The fact is that Warwick is now simply famous for being famous - a bit like Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the woman for whom the words "chocolate" and "teapot" were first put into a well-known phrase. The Guardian concludes that Warwick is "obsessed with media coverage. And we can't get enough of him." Yes we can. Enough. ® And here's the proof that enough is enough: Captain Cyborg issues chilling TV warning Captain Cyborg faces Canadian challenge Kev Warwick cyberkiddie no closer to activation Captain Cyborg returns with Wi-Fi rhubarb! Captain Cyborg is a Media Tart. True Kid-chipper Cap Cyborg reported to police, social services Cap Cyborg to chip 11 year old in wake of UK child killings Captain Cyborg takes the pee on Radio 5 Live Captain Cyborg gets oil-check at BBC Captain Cyborg Lives! Captain Cyborg becomes nutritionist and mind-reader in one day Did Captain Cyborg implant a dog tracking chip? Reg jealous of my success, claims Captain Cyborg Captain Cyborg becomes a film critic Captain Cyborg puts on Cassandra act again Captain Cyborg crops up in Focus magazine Captain Cyborg plans to build a better bionic nose Captain Cyborg infects Ireland Lunatic pulls gun on Captain Cyborg Captain Cyborg goes on a lecture tour Kevin Warwick wanders into Reg territory Captain Cyborg back on the BBC My God! Someone's actually made a cyborg! Captain Cyborg: I'm embarrassed to speak Captain Cyborg's media monkey business back No! No! No! Captain Cyborg is back Paxman vs Warwick: Radio 4 special Captain Cyborg spouts rubbish on CNN Kevin Warwick: a life in pictures Colleague kicks Captain Cyborg in the nuts Captain Cyborg promises never to fake an orgasm again Waking up to Warwick: is the media-obsessed fantasist on the way out? Warwick Watch: SFX, lies and masking tape World's first cyborg: man/machine or pipedream?
Lester Haines, 29 Apr 2004

BT and Microsoft target small.biz

BT has hopped into bed and under the duvet with Microsoft to offer small businesses access to broadband and all sorts of saucy trimmings. The package - BT Connected & Complete - provides small businesses with broadband access, applications, services, support and maintenance, all from a single source and on one bill. From around £50 a month per employee, small businesses can get broadband, Microsoft software and someone to install the gear and make sure it works. "This one-stop shop approach answers the cries of SMEs nationwide who are struggling to take advantage of all the opportunities that IT presents," said BT Openworld MD Duncan Ingram. It will provide much-needed peace of mind with an affordable, predictable monthly charge for a more robust, secure IT infrastructure - and from having a trusted local resource to handle all installation, maintenance, and training issues." Some £17m has been set aside to market and promote this new scheme, which will be available later this year. ® Related stories Anti-spam tsunami hits SMEs UK small.biz blows £1.5bn on useless software Small.biz neglects online presence
Tim Richardson, 29 Apr 2004

Give us back our trigger numbers!

LettersLetters The news that BT is scrapping its pre-registration scheme and is getting on with the business of unbundling the broadband stuff has not met with glowing praise from all quarters. A few of you have written in to complain that the rug has been pulled from under your feet somewhat. BT contacted its Broadband campaigners, outlining their change in strategy. Some of these - who were further than 10 per cent away from reaching their trigger numbers - may have to wait longer than they expected to get their connection up and running: Hello Reg, Got this [the letter from BT - Ed] today from BT, In my capacity as a local BB campaigner. It could be good news for some, or very bad news. We (Badminton exchange) were 29 names from our target, hoping to hit it this weekend (the Horse Trials bring all the locals out into the sunlight), and get BB by Christmas. With this “new plan” (which is how they should have done it from day 1 – we’d be all done by now if they had) we might end up waiting until summer NEXT year. Regards, Mark Studden Mark, you are not alone: Hi Just as we were about to upload over 100 registrants into the Woodbury, Devon BT broadband registration database - BT closed it, without warning! We have worked hard over the last few months to raise the awareness and interest for broadband and had a meeting on Monday evening to collate all the forms. We tried to upload the registrants this morning (Tuesday 27th April) that would have taken us to our trigger level and now we are left in limbo. BT will announce the roll out schedule on 30th June 2004 so we may not even get broadband until summer 2005. Can you image how we feel, having spent all that time an effort to raise the numbers and then find that we can't get it into the system. We seriously think that BT could have given some warning to campaigners, especially as those campaigners are the unpaid sales people for BT. Nova Fisher We raised this with BT, wondering if perhaps there could be a less altruistic reason for the sudden decision. After all, wouldn't it be much easier if it could do the roll out on its own timescale, rather than in dribs and drabs through hamlet, village and town? BT says it is also a case of it being for the greater good. Overall, the roll-out will happen more quickly this way, whatever consolation that may be to those left without the fat pipe of their dreams. Here's what BT had to say: While we recognise everyone’s desire to see their local exchange upgraded as soon as possible, the move to a planned rollout programme will get broadband to more than 1,100 exchanges sooner than would otherwise have been possible. We will be giving service dates to all those exchanges that were within 10 per cent of hitting their trigger. We had to set a cut off point somewhere and felt that 90 per cent was a fair point as these exchanges were likely to hit their target within the next few weeks. All remaining exchanges that had triggers will go into the planned programme. Dates will be issued at the end of June with summer 2005 as the absolute end date. It is therefore too early to speculate as to when particular communities will get broadband. Our aim however is that every community will receive broadband sooner than would otherwise have been the case but there may be some exceptions. We will make every effort to consider those exchanges with high levels of registrations when setting the RFS dates over the next few months. We greatly appreciate everyone's patience on this issue as well as their efforts in raising awareness and demand. If any campaginer would like to discuss their particular exchange in detail then please email us at bb.campaign.groups@bt.com. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Apr 2004

Brits welcome Luvania to EU

Almost one in ten Brits thinks that a country called Luvania will be joining the EU this weekend, according to a survey carried out by telecoms outfit One.Tel. The company invited punters to correctly identify the 10 new member states, and added the fictional nation as a bit of a jape. Eight per cent of the 2,500 who took part picked the sun-kissed republic of Luvania. One.Tel spokeswoman Carol Barnes said: "People aren't generally aware. They're more involved in their day-to-day lives rather than the bigger picture of what is going on in the EU." Which can be taken to read either: "They don't give a tinker's cuss about the EU", or "They're thick". Or both. Still, at least we have not yet read a Daily Mail leader about a flood of one-legged, dole-scrounging Luvanian gypsies amassing at the border ready to descend on Britain in an orgy of benefit stripping. Yet. ® Related sites A list of the real countries joining our happy band on 1 May.
Lester Haines, 29 Apr 2004

Marimba makes its way to BMC for $239m

In much need of a bigger home, software-maker Marimba has made its way into the hands of BMC Software in an acquisition valued at $239m. BMC will pay $8.25 per share in cash for Marimba and expects the net purchase price of the deal to drop to $187m after including Marimba' cash balance of $53m. Marimba started off in the infamous "push technology" market but wisely transitioned into the client and server management space just ahead of the dot-com collapse. The company's products will combine with BMC's own Remedy management product line. "Through BMC Software's strengths in enterprise management, Remedy's powerful capabilities in service desk, change management, and asset management, and Marimba's leadership across both client and server management, this acquisition positions BMC Software to offer a unique set of enterprise solutions that simplify IT operations and extend our leadership position in Business Service Management," said Bob Beauchamp, CEO at BMC. Got that? Marimba was in need of a sugar-daddy after its two main rivals were acquired by larger companies. Symantec last October shelled out $100m for ON Technology, and HP earlier this year plunked down cash for Novadigm. Marimba today reported $8.3m in first quarter revenue, which is a drop from the $10.1m reported in the same quarter a year ago. The company suffered a net loss of $1.2m in this year's Q1. Despite the lackluster results, Marimba will bring an impressive customer list over to BMC. Clients include NASA, Hutchinson 3G, MetLife, Starbucks and Barclays. BMC today reported fourth quarter revenue of $400m, which compares to $381m last year. Net earnings came in at $41m. Both BMC and Marimba are dabbling in the software virtualization market. These products are meant to automate typically time-consuming hardware and software management tasks such as provisioning applications and configuring servers. The acquisition is expected to close in second quarter. ® Related stories BMC cuts 900 jobs EMC and BMC SRM Dance EMC puts a hit out on BMC's Patrol BMC grabs IT Masters Marimba's past Tech recession to bottom-out in a year Marimba CEO Nasa backs project to develop crash-proof computers Marimba Q2 sees 87 per cent growth Marimba: IPO is go
Ashlee Vance, 29 Apr 2004

Time Warner sprints ahead, AOL crawls

Time Warner's cable, film and TV network businesses contributed to an $900m increase in quarterly revenues, while turnover at AOL was flat. In its first quarter to the end of March, the media conglomerate had revenues of $10.1bn, up from $9.2bn for the same quarter of 2003. The company had net income of $961m, or $0.20 per share, more than double the $396m it earned in the same quarter last year, when it had EPS of $0.09. This quarter's earnings blew past analysts' per share expectation of $0.09. AOL's revenues were flat for the quarter, in contrast to the cable and film businesses, where revenues rose 11 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. The TV network business was up five per cent and revenues for its publishing business were down six per cent. AOL accounts for 22 per cent of the conglomerate's revenues, whereas cable accounts for 20 per cent, film 29 per cent and TV networks 22 per cent. "We posted very attractive top-line results, led by spectacular quarters from our film studios and television networks," said Dick Parsons, chairman and chief executive. "These results put us comfortably on track to meet all of our 2004 financial targets." AOL subscription revenues were up one per cent, $21m, driven by its US broadband business, a growing European subscription business and the strength of the euro against the dollar. However, these gains were offset by declines in US narrowband membership and an increase in value-added taxes at AOL Europe. AOL's advertising revenues fell five per cent and other revenues also fell 21 per cent. AOL has 24 million members in the US, down 237,000 for the quarter. AOL Europe has 6.4 million members, up 38,000 for the quarter. The ISP forecasts revenue growth for the full year of "greater than 10 per cent". © ENN Related stories AOL UK blows £20m on ad campaign AOL raffles spammer's seized Porsche TW, MS deny AOL buyout dialogue AOL future uncertain - report AOL warns of falling revs as punters flee service AOL calls for UK broadband competition AOL axes 450 jobs
ElectricNews.net, 29 Apr 2004

Google files Coca Cola jingle with SEC

Google Inc. has filed an application to issue stock to the public with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, today. In a typically idiosyncratic break with tradition, the S1 application starts with a plea from the company fathers to make the world a better place. "We'd like to build the world a home," write co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. "And furnish it with love. Grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow-white turtle doves." The unconventional sentiments will puzzle Wall Street analysts, but delight Google's teenage fans - and children of all ages who make up its most ardent users. "We'd like to teach the world to sing," they plead. "In perfect harmony." We made that up, of course. But the real "Letter from the Founders" that introduces today's 26-page filing borrows as much from The New Seekers as it does from Warren Buffet. "Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one," the Letter From The Founders begins. Under the title "MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE" the founders write: "With our products, Google connects people and information all around the world for free. We are adding other powerful services such as Gmail that provides an efficient one gigabyte Gmail account for free. By releasing services for free, we hope to help bridge the digital divide." Spyware as liberation? Yes, this can only mean the Return of the Hippy Capitalists, so wake up, please Richard Branson - you may be owed a royalty. We'll spare you very much more, because the remainder of the filing is much more interesting. Although such sappy sentiments have been enough to please webloggers and other cybernetic utopians, Google's IPO requires at least nominal scrutiny from grown-ups, and the S1 contains the world's first look at the company's financials. We're in the money The filing states that Google will make $2.7bn worth of stock available to the public. The disclosure paints the picture of a profitable company on a dramatic growth ramp. Google doesn't expect to grow at quite the phenomenal rate it has in recent months, however, and expects that expenses may grow faster than income in 2004, with downward pressure on its operating margin. In the quarter that ended in March, Google grossed $389.6m and reported a profit of $63.9m. In 2003, Google had a net income of $105.6m on earnings of $962m. Google has close to two thousand employees, of which half, or 961, are in sales. And it's recruiting at a clip: Google added 284 staff in the last quarter alone. Ninety-six per cent of income is generated from advertising, and of this, 78 per cent comes from advertisements on Google's own properties and 22 per cent from its role as a brokerage, placing advertisements on third-party sites through the company's Adwords and Adsense programs. The trend reflects the increasing importance of the latter, while the split last year was 91 to 9. Three years ago licensing deals accounted for 22 per cent of income. Now, they're almost an afterthought; the company confidently explains that the Yahoo! deal netted less than three per cent of Google's revenues. International revenues make up a healthy 30 per cent of the company's revenue, and are increasing steadily. Ironically, the company which did more than any other to end Portalitis - Google's fast, focused and ad-spare design contrasted with sprawling, slow and unfocussed portal rivals at the time - now finds itself explaining its approach as a liability: "Microsoft and Yahoo also may have a greater ability to attract and retain users than we do because they operate Internet portals with a broad range of products and services. If Microsoft or Yahoo are successful in providing similar or better web search results compared to ours or leverage their platforms to make their web search services easier to access than ours, we could experience a significant decline in user traffic." In other points to note, Google says that it has a perpetual license to the PageRank™ patent from Stanford University although this becomes non-exclusive in 2011. That's already largely moot, as the algorithm has been so heavily augmented by other techniques to foil gamers that it's largely a marketing tool. And not that experts think it ever was. Former Infoseek technologist Matt Wells, who now runs Gigablast, calls PageRank™ "marketing hype" and attributes Google's success to its "cached Web pages, index size, and search speed" - areas in which is still maintains a lead. Bubble redux? Google will as expected follow the auction route to market. "New investors will fully share in Google’s long term growth but will have less influence over its strategic decisions than they would at most public companies," Google explains. We've warned against making too many dotcom comparisons between the Google flotation and earlier dotcom IPOs. The rhetoric surrounding Google owes much more to the cybernetic visions promised by Artifical Intelligence - the technology industry's longest and most unsuccessful program - than to the Internet bubble. Put simply, Google finally joins eBay, Yahoo! and Amazon.com as a publicly traded company that's a world-renowned Internet business with a sound balance sheet. Very few companies that went public during the Internet gold-rush could make such a claim, of course. Those three are capitalized at $82bn, $57bn and $49bn, respectively, with eBay and Yahoo! trading at price-to-book ratios of 15 and 16 times respectively. If Google's valuation sends it higher, for a prolonged period, you'll know that irrational exuberance has returned. What Google's own turtle doves make of it is anyone's guess. ® Related stories Google back in court over Adwords SEC rules drag reluctant Google to market Feds slap cuffs on Google stock scammer Yahoo! and MSN to dilute Google supremacy Google swallows another competitor
Andrew Orlowski, 29 Apr 2004