6th > May > 2004 Archive

Gavel

Tech bubble banker down by law

At least one Google shareholder may be watching the search engine's forthcoming IPO from behind bars. Frank Quattrone, The dotcom era's most successful banker and one of Silicon Valley's wealthiest denizens, was found guilty of obstruction of justice this week. For Quattrone, it was the cover-up, and not the crime that sealed his fate. For almost a decade, Quattrone was a fund-raiser and deal-maker for technology companies and was instrumental in taking over a hundred start-ups public, with one of the first, Netscape, setting the template. Many more including Amazon.com and Cisco followed. In 2000 he personally earned $120m. Quattrone was head of Credit Suisse First Boston's technology group in Palo Alto when a Federal Grand Jury began to investigate unusually high commissions paid to Quattrone's team by hedge funds. At the height of the bubble, institutional investors clamored for pre-allocations of dotcom companies about to IPO, knowing that such placements could earn a hefty first-day profit. Quattrone denied being involved in the allocation business, insisting that it was CSFB's sales team which decided who got what, a decision only made in the final few days of the IPO process. The regulatory watchdog had every reason to investigate Quattrone, whose "Friends of Frank" club of CEOs was to become emblematic of the era's happy money-go-round. In 15 months between April 1999 and June 2000, the bank allocated hot IPO stock to more than one hundred of its customers, who "funneled" between a third and two thirds back to CSFB as over-the-top commissions. CSFB, in line with several other institutions, linked favorable analyst coverage to loyalty to its banking business. In June 2000, Quattrone had been advised by a CSFB lawyer of the regulator NASD's investigation and instructed to obey the Bank's strict new document retention policy. The instruction specifically related to VA Linux's IPO, and the warnings were repeated multiple times between June and December. That month, with a Federal Grand Jury investigation imminent, Quattrone urged his staff in an email to pay attention to a warning to "catch up on file cleanup" for the holidays. On Monday, the jury at a second trial found him guilty of obstruction of justice. Quattrone had plenty of friends in Silicon Valley. "He offered me competence, not petty bribes," wrote TJ Rodgers, president and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, whose IPO was managed by Quattrone. "He and his team were and are extraordinarily competent, honest and ethical." Incredibly, many of these friends fail to see what Quattrone did wrong. But this week, jury members explained why. "With more power and control come greater responsibility," one, a software entrepreneur, told the San Jose Mercury News. "It was unreasonable for Frank Quattrone not to be fully aware of what he was doing when he sent the email," he added. "He was bobbing, weaving and evading questions expertly." Ironically, Quattrone was not found guilty of deceiving investors, but for his contempt for the regulatory process: a legal safety net that was introduced in the New Deal to prevent ordinary shareholders being fleeced during a speculative bubble. Quattrone's attitude typified that of many in Silicon Valley, for whom securities regulation is an unwelcome intrusion into the pristeen clockwork of the technology market. Alas, such is their contempt for these safeguards, many of Frank's Friends still can't see what sank him. The old boy network continues to reward Quattrone however: he has been blessed with Google stock and his old firm CSFB will handle the search engine's auction. The scofflaw banker, who is on bail until sentencing on September 8, plans to appeal. ® Related stories Sweetener Quattrone gets Google IPO sweetener Tech bubble banker slapped on wrist
Andrew Orlowski, 06 May 2004

Rambus sues for $1bn

Rambus is claiming $1bn in damages from four big chip makers: Infineon, Hynix, Micron Technologies and Siemens AG. The civil anti-trust case accuses the four of working together against Rambus. Rambus' general counsel said: "We believe that these memory manufacturers colluded illegally, thereby limiting consumer choice and depriving our RDRAM products of the opportunity to compete fairly in the marketplace." Specifically, Rambus accuses the four of conspiring to fix prices and restrict output, conspiring to create a monopoly and unfair competition. More details here. The case relies partly on documents unearthed by the Federal Trade Commission during its case against Rambus. The FTC is currently appealing a decision made in February to drop the case. Rambus licenses its chip technology to various manufacturers and has a long history of robust relations with manufacturers. Many chip makers complained Rambus royalty demands were too high. ® Related stories FTC outlines appeal against Rambus ruling Judge throws out FTC case against Rambus Europe to revoke Rambus memory patent
John Oates, 06 May 2004
vote

California preps e-voting ban bill

"Democracy is too important to turn over completely to a machine," according to a Californian state senator who will introduce a bill that would ban electronic voting machines in the November elections. Last week the state's election commissioner decertified $100m worth of machinery, and ordered counties with e-voting terminals to produce a backup system for the November elections. However, Senate Bill (SB.1723) by the Republican senator for Irvine would trump that. The bill states that urgent action is needed after the precedent of the March elections this year when, notes the author the Senator Ross Johnson, "thousands of voters were provided with the incorrect electronic ballots or mistakenly cast electronic ballots before they were finished voting. "This had a direct effect on the outcome of a Democratic County Central Committee contest and possibly other races as well. In Alameda County, encoding machines necessary to operate the voting devices failed in 24 percent of the polling places and an entire race for a Republican County Central Committee seat failed to even appear on the ballot." At least one county has vowed to sue the elections commissioner over last week's decision. ® Related stories California decertifies Diebold bugware Ireland to scrap e-voting plan California set to reject Diebold e-voting machines Judge OKs California e-voting Gouging memo leaves Diebold red-faced Diebold gives up e-vote clampdown Nachi worm infected Diebold ATMs California mandates e-voting paper trails Electronic Voting Debacle
Andrew Orlowski, 06 May 2004

Dixons signs Napster promo exclusive

UK electronics retailer Dixons Group has signed an exclusive deal to promote Napster's British launch later this year with Napster-branded software and hardware, the companies announced today. The terms of the multi-year deal, which emerged earlier this week, were not disclosed. Nor, it seems, did Napster's press release writers remember Dixons' own announcement, made last week, that it is to close ten per cent of the 1100 stores the release mentions. So Napster products are likely to get a little less coverage than the company expects. As anticipated, Dixons will pre-load Napster's Napster 2.0 software on all of its own-brand PCs. The retailer will also sell Napster Premium subscriptions. Napster's logo will be splashed on in-store signage, as well as CD-R packs, CD wallets and CD labelling kits. Expect the music service to be heavily promoted in Dixons stores' portable audio areas. Napster will also get a links on Dixons' various retail websites. Napster president Brad Duea described the deal as an "extremely important" one for the company and indeed it is, giving the service significant exposure to British consumers at the point of purchase. That said, are they the right consumers? The chains in Dixons Group's portfolio - Dixons, PC World, The Link and Currys - are certainly pitched at a lower social demographic than, say, Apple's iPod advertising targets. That could bring Napster into contact with a whole new market - or it could put it in front on an audience that is not a significant music purchasing constituency. Simply, are the kind of folk who shop in Dixons Group stores the sort of people who will actively purchase and download music rather than buy or copy CDs? Dixons can counter that argument by pointing to the success of Freeserve, the free ISP it launched in the late 1990s. Comments from Dixons Group chief executive John Clare about "demystifying" subscriptions suggests that will be the aspect of the Napster service portfolio that the retailer will promote the most, and that may well be more in tune with those consumers who are used to satellite or cable TV subscriptions. ® Related stories Napster to team up with Dixons Dixons shutters 106 stores Napster's music licensing frustration Napster picks former Capital FM song picker to pick songs Napster schedules UK launch
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

New boss of tif calls for software that works

The new chairman of tif, the UK body for enterprise IT users, is calling on the software industry to pull its socks up and improve quality. Denise Plumpton was previously UK IT director for TNT and is soon to start a new job as IT chief for handset maker Sendo. She will continue tif's campaign to encourage software vendors to improve software quality. She said the campaign had been successful in getting the issue talked about, but "we now need to work closely with software developers to produce a plan of action that will address the problem in a way that is commercially viable for them. "This is an ongoing area of concern for tif. members who are comparing information about suppliers and levels of service and are demanding a higher level of professionalism and maturity from them." Plumpton complains that software vendors reliance on patches to secure code is "a costly headache" for users. She said suppliers need to be "called to account for the fact that they produce sub-standard software and because they are shifting the blame to their customers accusing them of pressing for the rapid release of new versions and not allowing them the time to test software, which is just not true. "The constant release of new versions causes a lot of grief for IT professionals and CIOs would much prefer to wait for something that actually works and is not full of bugs." The Corporate IT Forum - tif - represents the views of 3,000 senior IT directors and managers from some of Europe's largest businesses. It has members from half the FTSE100 companies on the LSE who together control £20bn on annual IT spending. ® Related stories A plague on all our networks UK plc hates MS licence terms (true) MS prices will damage UK business
John Oates, 06 May 2004

Mobile spam complaints rocket

Complaints about text message ads have grown by a factor of six in the UK over the last 12 months. The surge in complaints about mobile spam has prompted the introduction of new guidelines from advertising watchdogs. The volume of complaints about text ads grew to the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) grew from 65 in 2002 to 393 last year, the FT reports. ASA recorded only six such complaints in 2001. Henceforth ASA will require marketing firms that to obtain prior consent before sending consumers text messages. Significant conditions for a promotion must be stated in initial text messages and the identity of a marketing firm must be specified to consumers. The boom in complaints about text message and voicemail campaigns including gripes about a marketing promo for Tom Cruise file Minority Report. The ad featured sound clips from the film including heavy breathing and screaming. Some consumers complained that they found the message distressing because they did not realise it was an advert. ® Related stories Carphone Warehouse SMS spam ruling reversed UK Watchdog bites mobile spam scammers EU anti-spam laws are OK Orange takes steps to block mobile spam
John Leyden, 06 May 2004

PCCW launches UK wireless broadband

UK Broadband - the wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong telecoms giant PCCW - has finally launched its wireless broadband service in the UK. The Netvigator service is to be made available in the Thames Valley first, in Aldershot, Maidenhead, Reading, Slough, Windsor and Wokingham. UK Broadband is to announce plans to roll out the service in the UK and Northern Ireland once the initial launch of Netvigator has been completed. Its 512k service costs £18, while the 1Mb service costs £28 a month and there don't appear to be any up-front charges. However, a "customer-requested home service visit fee" could set back punters £50 depending on the nature of the call-out. A replacement modem costs £75. Said UK Broadband chief exec Mike Butcher: "This is truly revolutionary as it allows customers to install their broadband service within minutes and offers dedicated service with very high speed access. "Many people have been reluctant to switch to broadband through the fixed telephone lines because of the cost, delays in getting connected and the frustration with dealing with multiple service providers. Netvigator is different. It is simple to install, and since it is wireless, you don't need an engineer to visit your home." UK Broadband acquired 13 of the 15 3.4GHz licenses auctioned in the UK last year to enable wireless broadband services. It later snapped up the remaining two licences to give them national coverage. ® Related stories PCCW buys Red Spectrum sources PlusNet offers 'full-fat' broadband Ofcom hints at LLU cost cuts Freeserve morphs into Wanadoo
Tim Richardson, 06 May 2004

BT and HP's outsourcing strategy

Hewlett-Packard and BT have announced a $1.5bn strategic alliance to address the integrated information and communications technology (ICT) market. BT has already shown much success in winning large outsourcing deals and HP should be able to use the alliance to improve its own position BT will manage HP's voice and data networks and product support callcentres in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). HP will manage the desktops and helpdesk for all BT's employees as well as the company's mid-range servers and those of its customers. The deal will run for seven years and the approximate revenue generated of $1.5bn is expected to be split 50/50. The two companies have already partnered on contracts with Bank of Ireland, the UK National Health Service and a state education deal in Northern Ireland, and will use the deal as the start of a concerted joint attack on the ICT market. The main target will be European enterprises with a global footprint, though the agreement also covers the UK mid-market, consumer and small and medium size businesses. "Customers clearly need a single point of contact," said Carlo Magistrelli, general manager of HP Services in EMEA. "It can be difficult for customers to tell where the problem is especially if they have mid-range servers spread all over the world - it could be that a server is down, or a problem with the network." He said that the alliance should result in a major European enterprise customer win later this year. BT already has partnerships in place with other IT outsourcing providers which have helped it win several large UK deals in the last year. It is partnered with Capgemini on the $5.1bn deal it won in December last year with the UK Inland Revenue; with Accenture on a $1.6bn deal to provide services to the UK National Health Service; and with Computer Sciences in a $2.4bn deal with the Royal Mail signed in May 2003. HP is also looking to win these types of major outsourcing deals. It will have noticed BT's success in this area over the last 12 months, and the partnership should help it to increase its credibility in the European services market. Source: Datamonitor Related stories Union opposes BT HP job swap plan Telcos muscle in on IT BT Exact: going further offshore
Datamonitor, 06 May 2004

Get ready for Google-footing

There are various anecdotes about how you know when you've made it. Being given drugs, restaurant tables, first-person newspaper mentions or your own dressing room are just a few. But perhaps the surest way to measure a tangible impact on society is when your name becomes part of current parlance. Google has managed it three times and a fourth is on the way. To "Google" someone or thing is widely recognised as inputting their name in the world's leading Internet search engine and seeing what it throws out. Google-bombing is when a site (or webpage) attains a higher-than-justified ranking for a particular term of word through clever linking from other sites. Googlewhacking is when a single, solitary website is found for a particular phrase. No one has yet come up for a good name for the monthly scramble to rewrite websites once Google updates its filters and search results are re-ordered. However, it seems certain that the company's hugely publicised new Gmail online email service will soon provide a new term, and so we venture "Google-footing", since this is a fairly accurate description of what is on the horizon and, well, it has two "o"s too. A brief history of Gmail Google mischeviously revealed on April Fool's Day this year that it intended to branch out from the search engine business and provide a free email service along the lines of established giants Yahoo! and Hotmail. The kick was it would provide - free of charge - a whopping 1GB of memory. "There's no need to file messages in order to find them again," the company said, and at a stroke appeared to undermine the entire free email business model, built up over a decade. Google would fund this vast investment through the addition of targeted ads on your email. You would get and receive email for free but each would come with an ad, and of course, companies would pay dearly to be the person that popped up. Aside from widespread concerns and complaints about privacy policies, millions are itching to get their hands on a Google email service and a select few have been allowed just this in order to beta test the system before it finally goes live at some unspecified date in the future. It is the observations of a few Internet old hands with Gmail accounts though that has raised the likelihood of a new Google-created cottage industry once the service goes live. And with it no doubt a whole slew of other troubles. Karl plays around Karl Auerbach is a Californian lawyer who has been intricately involved with the Internet since its very earliest days. Most famously he won a place on the board of Internet overseeing organisation the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which he later sued and won in court the right to inspect their accounts as a director of the company. He has stumbled on an interesting facet of the new Google service. The way Gmail works is that when someone sends an email to a Gmail account, Google's machines scan the text of the email and use what they pick up as keywords with which to select an ad paid for by another company. That ad then appears in the margin of the sent email when the Gmail user opens it. Karl doesn't like this. In fact, he sees it as "data mining my own personal knowledge and relationship with my correspondents". He gets nothing out of it and he runs the risk of "sending something that triggers an advertisement that really ticks off my correspondent on Gmail". But one person's hassle is another's business opportunity, Karl ponders. Suppose one company pays another - actually pays it - for the priviledge of processing its outgoing email. Then it adds to text, links, graphics etc, etc, to email going to normal ISPs. However for Google email, text is added that is designed to trigger certain adverts in Gmail ads. In this way, that company can sell to others certain words and phrases. If you pay us for this word, we will make sure it pops up in Gmail's users' email. Or even, Karl suggests, we will make sure that your competitors ads don't show up in people's emails by using a certain combination of words. Karl doesn't like the vision he's drawn: "The net result would be yet another step along the road of transforming the once useful system e-mail into nothing but bulk advertising." However, with many companies making significant sums by offering search engine optimisation skills, is it not only a matter or time that company's spending millions on advertising spend a little more on companies that specialise in getting those ads seen? And since Google is already helping you filter email, advertisers are already getting closer to the Holy Grail of specifically targeted advertising for the person they most want to attract. Bret struck by irony At the same time, Bret Fausett is also playing around with his Gmail account and has come across a slightly less useful if more amusing example of Google-footing. Bret is also a Californian lawyer who has also been closely linked with the Internet for many years, in particular with ICANN. He runs a popular ICANN blog and specialises in Internet law. However when he sent himself an email to his Gmail account as a test, complete with his usual law-firm footer, he was dismayed to find that it arrived with an ad for a competing law firm in Los Angeles. Certainly not ideal. But as you can imagine, exciting and horrifying at the same time. How much would you pay to have your ad appear on emails sent from your competitor? And how much more to make sure the same didn't happen to you? With Google's service almost guaranteed to be used extensively by millions of people soon, these ponderings will soon be solid business plans and with it Google-footing (or at least some similar term) will become another part of Net lingo. You heard it here first. ® Related stories Google back in court over Adwords SEC rules drag reluctant Google to market Google values its own privacy. How does it value yours? California Senator seeks Google Gmail ban Germans garotte Google Gmail over privacy Google's Gmail hits trademark problem Google mail is evil privacy advocates Google launches email, takes the Bill Gates defense
Kieren McCarthy, 06 May 2004

Tulip to revive CBM 64 as games console

Dutch PC maker Tulip has quietly revived a system dead for more than a decade: the Commodore 64. However, the upcoming C64 Direct-to-TV - which Tulip considers a "powerful" name, apparently - will no home computer but a "mini game console". Due to ship in Europe and the US for a mere €30 ($37) during the second half of the year, the C64 DTV will launch with 30 titles taken from the C64 software archive pre-programmed into the device. Tulip promises the device will be "the first of a whole series of entertainment products... using the Commodore name and label". Tulip claims the C64 DTV is the "first new incarnation of the Commodore 64 hardware in over a decade", but we don't think it is. Tulip acquired Commodore in 1997 and the following year released the also powerfully named C64 WebIT, essentially a Windows CE-based box with an AMD chip, built-in modem and bundled C64 emulation software. Tulip eventually dropped the $400 product. The C64 DTV sounds like the same kind of gig: a box with integrated C64 emulation. That explains the involvement of Ironstone, the UK company that in July 2003 licensed the Commodore 64 brand-name and the right to offer an 'official' C64 emulator. Tulip admits the C64 DTV is something of a 'me too' product - the decision to offer the box was "prompted by the success of similar products based on the Atari, Namco and Intellivision gaming systems", the company says in a statement. Tulip is perhaps best known outside of C64 circles as the company that sued Dell for $17bn, though it later accepted a mere $50m in an out-of-court settlement. Tulip alleged that Dell had infringed its patent covering how you connect PCI cards to an AT-format motherboard. ® Related stories CBM 64 licence deal heralds emulator clamp down Commodore wannabe don't want to be Commodore no more Amiga developer in talks to buy Commodore name Dell reaches $50 million settlement with Tulip Tulip sues Dell over alleged $17bn patent infringement
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

Resellers question Linux on the desktop

Resellers are enthusiastic about recent moves by Novell and Red Hat to move Linux onto the desktop but warn that fear of the unknown and missing applications are holding progress back. Asked if he thought Linux was ready to grace the desktops of the average business Philip Burgess, sales manager at Sire Technology, said: "Blimey, I've just put the phone down after talking to SUSE Linux - I'm going to see them next week. "People would like to see an option on desktops, SCO set things back a bit but there are serious offerings available now. There is always interest from IT departments but it hits a barrier at board level. It's just fear of the unknown - you've got to be brave to recommend to your board something that isn't Microsoft." Red Hat's desktop strategy was welcomed by Mark Blowers, senior research analyst at Butler Group. He said the announcement of Red Hat's long-term client strategy in London will have "far-reaching significance. At last, Red Hat (and Novell SUSE Linux) are offering the beginnings of a credible, alternative desktop client for long suffering IT managers. Microsoft Windows' 96 per cent share of the market has led to apathy and a lack of innovation... Open source desktop software is now in a position to ask serious questions of the fat client approach." But Michael Trup, managing director at software distributor Interactive Ideas, was more cautious. He said: "Red Hat have been very server-focused, a strategy that has served them well but this is the next logical step. It is a medium-term market though - it won't happen tomorrow. I'd like to see more applications developed - it's a bit chicken and egg - you won't get apps till you get onto desktops but you won't get there without the apps." He thinks the lack of applications is the main barrier to Linux getting onto business desktops right now. "For small and medium businesses the lack of a standard accounts package is a problem now. Sage have been talking about it but nothing has happened yet. We see more people moving just because of security alone - they're fed up with all the virus attacks. And for what most people do - email, web browsing and word processing - it's all there." Peter Dawes-Huish, sales director at reseller LinuxIT, is also cautious. "We made an initial foray into the Linux desktop about eighteen months. Our view is that the market was not ready and the software was not mature enough. But we are seeing increasing demand from customers who are considering putting Linux onto desktops." Local government and call centres are showing the most interest, he says. "You must be clear on the business needs - many people look at Linux after getting a big bill for software licenses but in many cases this is still the best value for their business." ® Related stories Red Hat hits the desktop Open source 'too costly' for Irish e-gov SCO case doesn't slow Linux take-up
John Oates, 06 May 2004

Intel preps power-based 775-pin CPU codes

When it launches 775-pin boxed Pentium and Celeron processors next quarter, Intel will mark each one's box with a code to indicate its power draw. Sources cited by Xbit Labs claim that the boxes in which the chips ship will be stamped with the code 'PCG 04A' or 'PCG 04B' to signify whether they have a power consumption rating of 84W or 115W, respectively. In time, the sources add, the chip giant will print the code directly onto each processor's ceramic packaging. 'PCG' stands for 'Platform Compatibility Guide', and is intended to help chip buyers choose the right mobo for their selected CPU - in short, to make sure they get a board capable of dealing with the intense heat a 115W CPU dissipates. Power consumption and its associated heat dissipation have proved something of a problem for Intel's 90nm generation of P4, aka 'Prescott'. So far, the company has not ramped Prescott's clock speed as fast as it might have done in the past, largely by offering more 90nm parts alongside existing 130nm parts of the same clock speed. Next month, however, it is expected to launch a 3.6GHz Prescott, which is likely to expand the power consumption envelope further. ® Related stories Intel's deskbook CPU platform merger plan Intel to launch 3.6GHz P4 in June LGA775 will not bring 64-bit to desktop P4s yet - Intel Intel bins 'Extreme' graphics name Intel confirms Pentium model numbers
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

Parents worried about 3G phones

Parents are concerned that 3G mobile phones - with built-in cameras and Net access - are a threat to kids' safety. So says children's charity NCH, which found that that more than three-quarters of parents are worried about the technology. According to an NOP poll, that half of all parents "strongly agree" that the phones are a "cause for concern", with eight in ten fearful that the phones will "make it more or less impossible to supervise and support children who use the Internet". Said NCH's Internet advisor, John Carr: "This poll is the first concrete evidence that there is a great deal of anxiety and worry among parents about the arrival of the next generation of telephones with Internet access. NCH believes this throws down a major challenge to the mobile phone operators. If they [mobile operators] want these phones to take off in the youth market they are going to have to convince a lot of parents that they are safe, or can be made safe." In January, six British mobile phone operators - Orange, O2, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and 3 - unveiled a joint code of practice to help prevent youngsters from accessing porn, gaming and other unsuitable content on their mobile phones. ® Related stories No porn for kids, say mobile phone operators Safer Internet Day Net blamed for massive increase in child porn Children hit by digital bullying What is to be done about Cybersafety for Kids?
Tim Richardson, 06 May 2004

Researchers build nano 'trees'

Swedish researchers have managed to grow leaves on nano trees. These branching networks of nanoscale wires have huge potential in solar cells, low energy lighting and sensors, the researchers say. It might even be possible to make the trees mimick photosynthesis. This announcement follows a similar breakthrough in the US: Charles Lieber and his colleagues at Harvard speculate the technology could lead to "three-dimensionally interconnected computing structures analogous to the brain". Both teams of researchers found a way to make grow branches from nanoscale semiconductor wires. Lieber et al repeated the process twice, creating tree-like structures. The Swedish team, led by Professor Lars Samuelson, have managed a third iteration, and have grown tertiary branches which, in keeping with the tree analogy, they call 'leaves'. "This opens the possibility of producing ever more complex structures on the nano scale," Samuelson said. Building a tree is an iterative process. To begin, the researchers use chemical deposition of a vapour of a semiconducting material - silicon, indium arsenide or gallium hosphide, for instance - on catalytic gold seeds. The semiconductor crystals form directly on the gold seeds. The more time the deposition phase gets, the longer the wires will be. To get the branches, just spray the wires with gold dust, and repeat the process. Professor Samuelson suggests a new line of research could be growing branches out of different materials that the trunks. It may be possible that the properties of the trees could be tailored so that they could convert sunlight to electricity. Theresearchers also suggest the trees could be used to make efficient lighting systems. More basic research must be done: certainly the manufacturing process will need to get cheaper if these applications are to have a commercial future. However, the team is confident they can make it happen and have formed a spin off company - QuMat Technologies AB - to investigate the possibilities. ® Related stories The fastest nanotube in the west Xerox moots roll-your-own monitor Nanotech buckyballs kill fish
Lucy Sherriff, 06 May 2004

Ex-Tiny directors face boardroom ban

Two ex-directors of Tiny Computers have been banned from holding directorships for four and five years. Jonathan Harris, of Ashtead, Surrey and Garo Molozian of Lower Sunbury, Middlesex were found guilty of taking "unwarranted risks" with creditors' money. An Insolvency Service report revealed that the two were using payments for warranties to prop up the business and made no attempt to protect the future of those warranties if the company did fail. They are disqualified from being directors for five and four years respectively. The charges date back to before the Tiny brand was taken over by Time Computers in January 2002. Tiny collapsed with debts of £35m in 2002. Tiny Computers, as it now exists, has no connection with Harris and Molozian. Tiny was relaunched by Time in February this year as Tiny.com with the goal of grabbing ten per cent of the home PC market within a year. ® Related stories Tiny transforms into e-business Tiny HQ to shut in May Tiny Computers = big losses
John Oates, 06 May 2004
Bill Gates, screengrab PBS TV

MS Trusted Computing back to drawing board

Microsoft's extravagent silver-bullet to cure piracy, rid the Internet of worms and viruses, and possibly bring about world peace won't now appear in Longhorn, the next version of Windows. Despite their apparently contradictory headlines, both eWeek and CRN corroborate that Microsoft's promised software support for the Trusted Computing initiative is being hauled back into the lab for a rethink.
Andrew Orlowski, 06 May 2004

MS seeks to merge Flash, HDD storage

Here's a question hard drive makers are often asked: when will your products be replaced by Flash storage? So far, Flash has failed to match the price:capacity ratio delivered by the HDD guys, but the question still gets asked. However, if Microsoft has its way, come the arrival of 'Longhorn' - the next major Windows release - both forms of storage will have come together. Essentially, Microsoft wants HDD vendors to build in banks of NAND Flash chips to act as large scale cache memory thus speeding the time data takes to get off the drive and into RAM and - crucially - cutting the need to keep the drive spinning and thus the power it consumes. The power factor is less of an issue for desktops, but it's certainly a matter of concern for notebook users. Longhorn will feature a technology called 'SuperFetch' which essentially does what a modern processor does but on a large scale. SuperFetch predicts what data the OS is going to need next and calls it up ahead of time, storing the received but as-yet-unrequired data in main memory. Main memory is the best place for it, but in a notebook there's the risk that the battery will cut out and the data written to the cache will be lost. Placing the cache in non-volatile Flash memory near to the hard drive solves the problem. Right now, Microsoft staffers emphasise that the scheme is merely an internal research "project", but that hasn't stopped the company approaching hard drive vendors about the idea. So far, it has begun talking to two major vendors, ExtremeTech reports. The story notes that drives with embedded Flash are some years away, but then so, we'd add, is Longhorn... ® Related stories M-Systems ships $40k 90GB Flash drive Toshiba debuts dinky 100GB disk 300GB drive: now it's Fujitsu's turn Hitachi blows its own 300GB trumpet Western Digital to end HDD part code confusion Hitachi to boost 1in HDD output Toshiba preps sub-1in HDD
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

PalmOne Zire 72

Reg ReviewReg Review PalmOne Zire 72
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

Symbian doubles sales

Symbian licensees shipped 2.4m phones in the first three months of this year, double what it managed in the first quarter of 2003. There are now 18 licensed Symbian handsets available. The company signed three new licensees with Arima, a leading Taiwan manufacturer, LG Electronics and Lenovo, formerly known as Legend Group, the largest IT corporation in China. David Levin, chief executive at Symbian, said the company was particularly pleased with progress in Japan which he described as leading the world in the deployment of 3G networks. "The number of Symbian OS phones and phone variants under development continues to expand. At the end of Q1 2004, 30 phones and variants based on Symbian OS were being readied for market by 9 licensees (Q1 2003, 20 phones and variants and 9 licensees)," he added. Symbian turned over £12.9m in the first quarter of 2004, up from £9.2m for the same period last year but down slightly from the last quarter of 2003 when it turned over £15m. Royalty payments make up the bulk of this although consulting services added £3.8m and partnering and other services contributed £0.4m. Symbian receives an average royalty payment of $6.6 per unit - this is up from $6 per unit in the first quarter of 2003. Seven new products were announced in the quarter for various networks and markets. Motorola is making a handset for W-CDMA, Panasonic and Samsung are developing handsets for GSM and GPRS markets and Nokia announced a version of the 9500 Communicator for enterprise clients. Siemens is making a version of its SX1 smart phone for Chinese punters. Psion's proposed sale of its stake in Symbian to Nokia, bitterly opposed by some shareholders, has been approved by Austrian and Finnish authorities. The sale will become unconditional if it is approved by German regulators. ® Related stories Review: Siemens SX1 smart phone Nokia: sales slump caused by inadequate product range Symbian falters in battle with Microsoft
John Oates, 06 May 2004

China shuts 8,600 cybercafes

China has shut down more than 8,600 cybercafes over the last couple of months because of fears that the Net could corrupt the minds of youngsters. This latest crackdown on unlicensed Internet cafes began in February after authorities warned that cybercafes can affect the "mental health of teenagers" while spreading "unhealthy online information". As part of China's bid to protect youngsters, authorities also ruled that Internet cafes are not to operate in residential areas or within 200 metres of primary and high schools. Following a recent operation to close places that provide people with Net access, Xinhuanet quotes Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng as saying: "Some unlicensed Internet cafes, especially in some townships, counties and areas joining town and country, still need to be clamped down on, and some local governments do not impose severe punishment on those cafes who allow the entry of juveniles." "We must take utmost resolutions and make utmost efforts in the clean-up campaign to achieve our anticipated goal, for Internet cafe management has an important bearing on the healthy growing of juveniles." As if to prove a point, Xinhuanet cites the tragic case of two youths who were crushed to death by a train when they fell asleep on a railway track after spending 48 hours in a cybercafe. ® Related stories China cracks down on cybercafes again China bans PC game China pulls plug on blogs
Tim Richardson, 06 May 2004

Napster parent Q4, FY loss widens

Napster parent Roxio saw quarterly and annual losses bloom on declining sales but was able to claim it had beaten its own expectations. For the three months to 31 March, Roxio lost $6.6m (20 cents a share), almost three times the year-ago quarter's $2.3m (12 cents a share) loss. Revenues for the quarter - Roxio's fourth - totalled $33.6m, down fractionally on the $33.8m it reported this time last year. For the full fiscal year, sales reached $99.3m, down 17.5 per cent on 2003's $120.4m. Roxio's annual loss ballooned 348.5 per cent from $9.9m (51 cents a share) in 2003 to $44.4m (162 cents a share) in 2004. The expectation-beating figure comes from Napster. Last March, Roxio forecast it would sell $5.5m worth of music downloads this quarter - in the finally tally it sold $6.1m of songs. Roxio did not say how many songs Napster has sold during the quarter. However, it forecast Q1 revenues from the online service to total $7m, an increase of 14.8 per cent. The company expects Napster to contribute $30-40m during the current fiscal year. Prices vary according to the mix of subscription sales to one-off downloads, and whether those downloads are sold as individual songs or in album-length batches, but very roughly speaking Napster's 2005 revenue contribution requires the sale of 35-45m songs. By contrast, Apple reckons it will sell at least 140m downloads in the 12 months from 28 April 2004, based on weekly sales of 2.7m. Yesterday it announced it had sold 3.3m songs in the first full week since that date. During Q4 2004, Napster lost $9.8m. Roxio's digital media software division recorded revenues of $27.5m and pre-tax income of $4.8m, including restructuring charges of $2.9m. ® Related stories Dixons signs Napster promo exclusive Napster parent increases revenue forecasts Napster schedules UK launch Napster song sales hit 5m
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

Music biz fears play Apple a compliment

AnalysisAnalysis Apple has won an unusual vote of confidence from the European music industry. The major labels are so convinced that the Mac maker's iTunes Music Service will successfully dominate the online music market over here, they are allegedly playing hard to get in Apple's content licensing negotiations. According to a report in the Independent newspaper, industry insiders claim the labels fear giving their songs to Apple for too little. They cite the example of MTV, which grew on the back of the promo videos the industry provided it for next to nothing. "The older record executives don't want that again, where they're over a barrel with one big provider," a source said. Maybe not, but why then are they willing to license content to other suppliers? It's by no means a monopoly, but On Demand Distribution - aka OD2 - is arguably Europe's dominant player thanks to the licensing support it has been given by the major labels. If they're worried about Apple achieving dominance, why were they never to fearful for their relationship with OD2? With OD2 already serving a number of reseller customers, Sony bringing the European version of its Connect on stream in June, Napster launching in the UK "before the end of the summer" and Virgin Digital on its way, the music industry must have some very high expectations of Apple indeed, if it collectively thinks iTMS can trounce such big-name rivals. Napster today announced a partnership with UK high street consumer electronics retailer Dixons to promote its British launch, so it's not like Apple is going to have an easy time of it in any case. In the US Apple claims to command 70 per cent of the music download business, but that's against some less sprightly and marketing-savvy rivals. Its main competitor, Napster, hasn't been going for as long, and key threats from Sony Connect and Virgin Digital have yet to establish themselves. Here in the UK, Napster has also spoken of its "frustration" with the labels over their willingness to come to an agreement on music licensing. Smaller UK player Wippit has so far signed two major labels for its fledgling download service, EMI and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG), but both have put in place very different licensing terms over what Wippit can sell and to whom. No wonder the European Commission is investigating whether the application of different licensing terms for different European countries runs contrary to the terms of the open market for goods and services across the continent. The EC has called for a single licensing regime backed by a unified DRM scheme. The irony here is that the music industry complains about falling sales and increased illegal download activity, yet clearly is so worried about losing control of the retail chain that it's apparently willing to hinder the development of a legitimate download business, if the Independent's source is to be believed. Does it matter if Apple dominates? If you're Napster, Sony or OD2, yes - but not if you're a label. If your business is recording music and selling it through whatever channels are available, it doesn't matter who does so as long as they sell the stuff. Yes, the industry might not want a key player to become too powerful, but with the download market so immature, particularly in Europe, now's not the time to worry about such details. Smart labels will allow download sellers to get in business now and oblige them to negotiate licensing deals further down the road. ® Related stories Dixons signs Napster promo exclusive Napster's music licensing frustration Sony opens US music download store Sony UK music download service to launch in June Apple misses iTunes sales target by 30% Apple iTunes Europe debut 'may be delayed' EU probes music licensing Europe demands open-to-all DRM tech
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

Intel to debut Dothan on Monday

Intel will launch its 90nm Pentium M processor, codenamed 'Dothan' next Monday, 10 May, sources close to the company have confirmed. As yet there's no confirmation of the launch's details. However, Intel is still expected to unveil three 90nm Pentium Ms, clocked at 1.7GHz, 1.8GHz and 2GHz. The chips will carry the model numbers 735, 745 and 755, and be priced at $294, $423 and $637, previous reports have suggested. The launch will necessitate a price cut for the older, 130nm PMs, with the 1.5GHz, 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz parts falling to $209, $241 and $294 from today's $241, $294 and $423, respectively. Those reductions amount to cuts of 13.3 per cent, 18 per cent and 30.5 per cent, respectively. At this stage, it's not clear whether Intel will offer 533MHz frontside bus support or stick with the 400MHz FSB used by today's PMs. Circumstantial evidence from third-parties suggests it might, but the quoted clock speeds point to a 400MHz FSB for now. In June, Intel is expected to release the Pentium M 715 and 725, presumably at 1.5GHz and 1.6GHz, matching 90nm parts to their 130nm predecessors, paving the way for the elimination of the 130nm chips altogether. However, a full-scale revampt of the Centrino platform is not expected until the autumn, when Intel will release 'Sonoma', which comprises Dothan, the 'Calexico 2' tri-mode WLAN card and 'Alviso', the successor to the i855 chipset at the heart of Centrino. Alviso will introduce the 533MHz FSB to Dothan. Dothan will double the current Pentium M cache size to 2MB and feature a number of architectural tweaks. ® Related stories Intel Dothan to debut 10 May Intel's deskbook CPU platform merger plan Intel Dothan to offer 533MHz FSB at launch? Intel Dothan to be called Pentium M 700
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

Sasser boosts AV share prices

OpinionOpinion Shares in leading AV firms have risen strongly on the back of the chaos caused by the Sasser worm this week. Symantec shares stood at $49.04 last night up from $45.00 at close of business on Friday. Network Associates shares closed at $17.00 yesterday up from just under $16 at the start of the week. Like the major worms before it (Blaster and Slammer), and prolific email viruses like SoBig and MyDoom, Sasser can be expected to result in increased sales of AV, hence the rush of investors towards security stocks this week. The sad fact is that the numerous companies hit by the Sasser worm got stung despite having AV scanner software and following recommendations from suppliers on keeping it up to date. The problem is AV firms have no financial incentive to address this problem; in fact the reverse is probably closer to the truth. Put crudely, the worse a virus outbreak is the more AV firms stand to gain financially. The business model of the anti-virus industry - despite the many skilled and hard-working people within it - works against the interest of end-users. So a different approach - rather than more of the same - is needed if the industry is to contain the computer virus problem, still looming large a good 20 years after the Morris Worm. The AV industry is notoriously conservative and has been slow to embrace alternative approaches which promise to offer users breathing space in the face of fast-spreading worms. Host-based intrusion prevention (behaviour blocking) technologies and filtering out bad traffic before it hit the desktop. Even firms who use these techniques still need to patch vulnerable systems to defend against worms like Sasser, but they are in a lot better shape than firms that look to traditional AV scanning technology for protection. There's always going to be a time lag between when a virus is released, when AV vendors receive it and write a signature update and when this update gets distributed and applied. Because of this companies can get hit even if they have the latest signature updates. We can blame Microsoft for releasing vulnerable software and users for failing to apply patches but it's not unreasonable to hold AV vendors to their promise of protecting users against viruses and worms too. ® Related stories Sasser creates European pandemonium Sasser worm creates havoc Blaster rewrites Windows worm rules AV bigwigs weigh in on Sobig debate SecureWave revamps alternative to desktop AV Worms spread faster, blended threats grow The trouble with anti-virus Calls to regulate failing AV industry
John Leyden, 06 May 2004

CA 2003 results delayed

Computer Associates is delaying posting its year end results because of the strain on its finance department which last month had to repost results for 2000 and 2001. CA will post final results a week or two after the expected date of 12 May. Preliminary results for the fourth quarter have been totted up by the weary accountants. Turnover for the fourth quarter ended 31 March was expected to be $850m which would give revenue for the year of $3.28bn, narrowly missing targets of between $3.29bn and $3.31bn. CA is hoping to acheive net income of between $0.04 and $0.06 per share - its first profitable year since 2000. Jeff Clarke, CA's chief operating officer, said: "These preliminary results reflect the solid performance CA enjoyed in the fourth quarter.. bookings(new deferred subscription revenue) increased more than 30 per cent year-over-year." Clarke said sales were good worldwide but especially strong in North America and Europe. He said CA's eTrust, Unicenter, AllFusion and BrightStor all showed good growth in the period. He further explained that the refiling of accounts was an intensive process that absorbed thousands of hours of work. The recount was begun after US regulators found the company was booking revenue into the wrong quarters in order to hit targets. CA used a 35-day month to squeeze sales into quarters which had already ended. The investigation found more than $2bn had been moved in this way but found no evidence of fake sales. Related stories CA puts 35-day month and $2.2bn in revenue behind it Man overboard! CA chief Kumar walks plank... CA makes nine workers remedial
John Oates, 06 May 2004

3 launches diminutive video handset

Video mobile operator 3 today launched its smallest handset to date: the LG U8110. The company clearly hopes it will attract new customers put off by the clunkiness of video handsets, proclaiming that the clamshell phone is small enough to fit in your pocket or handbag. The U8110 is also the first LG video handset on sale in Europe. LG's deal with 3 is to deliver three million handsets to the Huntchison Whampoa group this year. The features are pretty much what you'd expect: the phone measures 95.7mm x 49.5mm x 23.1mm and weighs 126g. The screen is a perfectly respectable 35mm x 44mm, taking up most of the available space. The camera is a built in VGA camera with 2x digital zoom, and has its own light source for photographs or video messages recorded indoors. It also features Quickplay video streaming. The handset is so far only available on 3's VideoTalk pay monthly plans. Prices start at £49. For more details, go to the product information on 3's website. ® Related stories NEC shrinks music, grows phones Punters flock to 3 UK Hutchison picks up 3 UK's tab Three new handsets from 3 Operators blame handsets for 3G delays
Lucy Sherriff, 06 May 2004

BBC shortlists tech division buyers

The BBC has named three companies shortlisted to buy its technology division, the UK broadcaster announced today. Accenture, CSC and Siemens have all made it through to final round of the bidding process to acquire BBC Technology in a deal worth around £2bn. Whichever outfit finally gets the nod to acquire BBC Technology is expected to provide technology support to the Beeb - including broadcast technology services, desktop support, Web hosting etc - for the next ten years. As part of the deal, 1,400 staff will be transferred to the new owner. A spokeswoman for Auntie said there would be no job losses as part of the deal. The BBC reckons the outsourcing deal - with a "partner that will share its technology vision" - would save the broadcaster at least £20-£30m. A final decision on which of the three will be selected to shell out around £2bn for BBC Technology should be made by the autumn, although it will need Government approval. Said the Beeb's CTO, John Varney: "The shortlisted Bidders have shown their ability to invest in technology innovation and enable us to revolutionise the way we make programmes over the next ten years. They have also shown a cultural alignment with the BBC that is one of the most important parts of this contract. I am confident that these three companies meet our requirements in order to progress to the final stage." Although the BBC management has said it will keep staff and union "fully informed" during the bid process, broadcasting union BECTU is known to be against the move. When the BBC announced last November of its plans to flog BBC Technology, the union said it would fight the move, claiming there was no evidence that a private company could save the Beeb any cash. The union also expressed concern about the risk posed to the BBC by handing control of its communication and IT networks over to a private company. "Worse than selling the family silver, they're trying to give away the BBC's entire nervous system," said the union. No-one from BECTU was available for comment today. But in a statement a fortnight ago BECTU said it would "now step up its efforts to keep BBC Technology in house, instead of being sold off a part of a £2bn procurement exercise in which the BBC plans to outsource all its IT, telephony, broadcast infrastructure and technical consulting services." ® Related stories BBC to flog technology division BBC Technology chief sacked for misusing hospitality Shell's IT department off to India
Tim Richardson, 06 May 2004
SGI logo hardware close-up

BT wins big airport contract

BT has signed a £46.6m deal with BAA to wire up Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports. The telco already runs Wi-Fi public access hotspots and payphones at all three sites. BT will provide voice services to 2,000 users, move an existing data network onto an IP infrastructure and set up a helpdesk for BAA staff and airport tenants. It will also deploy managed broadband services to improve flexible working at BAA, and is providing staff with 1,000 Blackberry handheld emailers. But alongside the traditional IT contract is a joint-marketing venture. BAA will sell BT's networking and technology services to tenants at its airports. Shops, airlines and other businesses at the three locations will get access to BT expertise. Colin Mattey, director, Commercial and Brands, BT, said: "This new commercial model demonstrates our focus on the effective use of ICT - in BAA's case to provide a platform to boost their own productivity and efficiency, and open up a new revenue channel." BAA refused to comment on the deal. ® Related stories BT unveils more Wi-Fi hotspots Baa.com domain battle decided but case goes on BAA.com domain battle settled out of court
John Oates, 06 May 2004

Java: the next mobile cash cow?

Mobile Java applications will generate over $15bn in annual revenue for mobile operators by 2008, according to researchers ARC Group. This figure will account for 12.4 per cent of all data revenues. The sales of handsets running Java tripled in 2003, reaching sales of 95.5m, up from 32m in 2002. Even now, there is money to be made from Java aps, even if Europe is not the place to make it. Last year (2003) the Java market earned operators $1.4bn, but the vast majority of this income is generated in Japan and Korea. In Japan, for instance, 50 per cent of all handsets are Java-enabled. This geographical split is not a question of technology availability, but of the willingness of the people to use it. ARC says that in Japan and Korea around 80 per cent of Java handsets sold in 2003 led to active Java users. In Europe, the take up rate is an unenthusiastic 10 per cent. This will change over the next five years, however, as more kinds of applications become available. Malik Saadi, author of the report - Mobile Application Platforms and Operating Systems 2003-2008 - told El Reg: "By 2008, the majority of European users with java-enabled mobile devices will use java services at least once per month." ARC estimates that entertainment accounted for 76 per cent of Java application volumes in 2003, but by 2008, it will be closer to 40 per cent: "The only Java applications widely available at the moment are games, and not every mobile phone consumer is a gamer," Saadi explains. "I think that applications such as Java messaging, infotainment are likely to be widespread by 2008 or soon after." ® Related stories Java to dominate consumer electronics? Siemens launches rugged multimedia mobile Open source punch-up surrounds mobile Java upgrade
Lucy Sherriff, 06 May 2004

Wi-Fi group to update WLAN spec

The Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) is so confident that the IEEE will at long last ratify the 802.11e specification as a standard that it has already come up with a marketing name for the technology. The standard will be branded the Wireless Media Extensions (WME), and the organisation will start certifying WLAN products' ability to interoperate with other 802.11e products in September. WME adds quality of service provisions to Wi-Fi. Essentially it priorities traffic according to the type of data being carried. Network packets carrying video data are sent in preference to those carrying web pages or email in order to ensure the more-time sensitive information gets the bandwidth it needs. The result should be video that doesn't lose picture quality, for example. It might even make Voice over IP (VoIP) commonplace. The 802.11e specification also includes technology the WFA is calling Wi-Fi Scheduled Media (WSM), which dedicates bandwidth segments to specific data types. However, since WSM is going to be less of a necessity for home users, the WFA is focusing its attention on WME. The WFA managed a similar technological split with the 802.11i security specification, also expected to be ratified by the IEEE later this year. Last year, the WFA unveiled Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), which is essentially 802.11i minus the components of the standard that require hardware acceleration. That effectively means the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). The WPA will also begin certifying WLAN kit for 802.11i in September, probably as WPA 2. The new spec. may require new hardware, depending on whether WLAN manufacturers have anticipated the spec. and built in thus-far-unused hardware acceleration. WME and WSM updates are likely to require just a firmware update. Both 802.11e and 802.11i are expected to be officially proclaimed standards by the IEEE this summer. ® Related stories Broadcom simplifies Wi-Fi security set-up Wi-Fi Alliance preps WPA 2 security spec Vendor group aims to boost voice over Wi-Fi Multimedia 802.11e standard speeds up
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

AMD delivers on low-power Athlon 64 pledge

AMD has added two low-power Athlon 64 processors to its mobile line-up. The new chips, rated as 2700+ and 2800+, are pitched at thin-and-light notebooks and deliver on AMD's promise, made at the original Athlon 64 launch in September 2003, to deliver 64-bit chips for such systems by the middle of 2004. The two chips have a power consumption rating of 35W - 44 per cent lower power than previous Mobile AMD Athlon 64 processors, AMD said. They also use a smaller, lidless packaging. The new Athlon 64s operate at 1.2V - previous models run at 1.4V. AMD also noted the chips will support the new Execution Protection feature due to debut with Windows XP Service Pack 2. The technology "uses the CPU itself to enforce the separation of application code and data, preventing an application or Windows component from executing program code that an attacking worm or virus inserted into a portion of memory marked for data only", Microsoft said last autumn. The necessary chip support has actually been there since AMD launched its first AMD64 CPUs in April 2003. The 2700+ and 2800+ are available now for $209 and $241, respectively, sold in batches of 1000 CPUs. AMD said PC maker Acer had already selected the processors for use on the latest in its line of Ferrari-branded Athlon 64-based notebooks, due to ship later this month. Chinese manufacturer Amoi is incorporating the chip in a thin'n'light notebook of its own. Amoi will offer the machine during the second half of the year. ® Related stories AMD Athlon 64 doubles up for desktop, mobile roles MS to intro hardware-linked security for AMD64, Itanium, future CPUs MS bigs up Windows XP SP2 AMD 130/90nm snippets slip onto Web AMD 'Emma' SoC revives Net Appliance concept
Tony Smith, 06 May 2004

MS mounts covert anti-piracy op

Almost 25 per cent of Belgian PC retail shops encourage users to buy illicit software, according to research by Bare Associates. As part of its ongoing effort to stamp out the use of pirated software, Microsoft paid Bare to send secret investigators or "mystery shoppers" to 400 computer retailers in Belgium. About 17 per cent of the retailers encouraged users to purchase such software, while 8 per cent of the resellers provided instructions on where to get it. None of the dealers installed unauthorised versions of software on computers themselves - a practice known as hard-disk loading. Microsoft says that the mystery shoppers will revisit the retailers next month, but warned that this time they could face legal action. Microsoft has deployed mystery shoppers before to monitor resellers suspected of selling or promoting illegal software. Microsoft also sends thousands of warning letters each year to alert computer resellers and equipment builders and get them to stop selling unlicensed or pirated Microsoft software. ® Related stories Microsoft appeals French piracy fine UK distie fingered for selling pirate MS software MS anti-piracy crew puts Suffolk dealer in the stocks
Jan Libbenga, 06 May 2004

DNA-based nanobot takes a stroll

Asimov would have been so proud: New York scientists have created a walking robot, just 10 nanometres long and made out of DNA. Alright, it needs a path made of DNA to walk along, but this is still amazing stuff. The researchers are taking advantage of DNA chains' propensity to pair up. The legs are made of two strands wrapped together in a double helix, but at the end of each leg, there is a single strand they call a foot. By detatching and reattaching themselves to the footpath, the legs can move along. The breakthrough has been hailed as a great step forward. Presumably the pun was intended. In an interview with BBC Online Professor Nadrian Seeman of New York University said: "What we've done is to build a sidewalk to accommodate one step and we've demonstrated quantitatively that [the robot] can take a second step". Most of the DNA path will not be compatible with the single-stranded foot, so by carefully ordering the sequence of base pairs in the DNA path, they are able to determine where each 'foot' would attach. Another strand tells the foot to let go, allowing the robot to take its step. ® Related links The full story is in New Scientist here. Related stories US puts on pair of robotrousers Japanese unveil trumpet-playing robot Humans struggle for supremacy in online robot wars
Lucy Sherriff, 06 May 2004

Everywhere Broadband scrubs UK satellite plan

Everywhere Broadband - which planned to offer high speed Net access to punters who can't get DSL or cable - has ditched plans to roll out a satellite broadband service in the UK. The company - which was to team up with Eutelsat to offer a service with speeds up to 1.5Mbs for £19.95 a month - was due to launch the service at an event next week. However, that press conference has now been cancelled and there are no plans for an alternative date for the event. No-one from Everywhere Broadband was available for comment at the time of writing. The Register understands that a recent decision by BT to speed up the roll-out of its ADSL service to almost all the UK by summer 2005 could be one of the reasons behind Everywhere Broadband's decision not to go ahead with the commercial launch of the service. ® Related stories PlusNet cuts price of entry-level DSL BT moves to 'universal availability' of broadband PCCW launches UK wireless broadband
Tim Richardson, 06 May 2004

Piecemeal security solutions cost firms dearly

A piecemeal approach to information security - added to market confusion - is resulting in companies spending too much for incomplete protection. According to security vendor Aladdin, companies are unwittingly purchasing and managing overlapping security solutions, sending their total cost of ownership sky-high. Aladdin reckons a set of point products to tackle anti-virus, anti-spam, Web filtering, URL blocking and application filtering could be as much as three times as expensive to run as an integrated system. For 1,000 users an integrated approach would cost $48,200 against $178,000 for point products. As a leading supplier of integrated content security appliances, under the eSafe brand, the issue Aladdin raises is a little self-serving. That doesn't mean it’s wrong though – inspecting the same piece of traffic numerous times doesn’t make much sense, as Aladdin points out. But the company draws the line of what needs to be done with a combined approach where the capabilities of its own product stop. Aladdin thinks content security functions should be performed on one device but encryption, intrusion detection and firewall functions should be done elsewhere. "There's a thin line between doing too much and doing it right," Shimon Gruper, eSafe CTO and VP at Aladdin Knowledge Systems, told El Reg. Gruper reckons integrated appliances that do everything have substantial benefits in ease of use but aren't suited to handling more complex networks. Panic spending leads to disintegrated security Protection against Internet worms was a hot topic even before this week's Sasser outbreak reduced many systems to a crawl. In response to the threat posed by earlier worms such as Blaster and Nimda, vendors have developed a number of approaches: these include internal security appliances (Check Point), Web application firewalls (Blue Coat), building intrusion protection functions into firewalls (NetScreen) and variations on the theme of host-based intrusion prevention (Cisco et al). Indeed the capacity of Windows boxes to spread network worms has created a whole sub-category in the security market. Gruper advises companies to take a more considered approach to information security, taking a close look at how they can protect their systems instead of panic buying whatever their reseller or security consultant punts their way. "Companies are not taking a holistic approach to security. Whenever it hurts they are adding more pieces. Because of this they often end up with an unmanageable, unintegrated system with a single point of failure," he said. ® Related stories Sasser creates European pandemonium Better security means lower TCO for Win 2003 MS Open and closed security are roughly equivalent Firm hunts for Nimda-like worms in Web traffic
John Leyden, 06 May 2004

HP rides Hondo to super-sized Itanium servers

HP's Itanium modernization project has neared completion with the company announcing that a new module for doubling the processor count in high-end servers will arrive next month. HP first let the word out on the mx2 module back in 2002 and has delivered on its promise to roll the technology out by mid-2004. The module makes it possible to combine two of Intel's third generation Itanium processors - Madison - into a single package that fits in current servers. This gives customers a fairly painless way to double the processor count of their servers, as the module plugs into existing sockets. The mx2 kit - code-named Hondo - brings Itanium up to par with IBM's Power4/5 and Sun Microsystems' UltraSPARC IV dual core processors. The module is not nearly as elegant as a dual-core chip, but it gets the job done. Intel will be delivering the dual-core Montecito version of Itanium in 2005. Customers using the mx2 module will be abel to scale their Superdome servers up to 128 processors. HP will also make the module available for four processor and above Itanium-based boxes. HP has packed mx2 with 32MB of L4 cache to try and make up for lost performance as a result of not having two processor cores on a single die. Itanium is pitched as an industry-standard chip, but the mx2 product points to HP's advantageous position as co-designer of the processor. Other large systems vendors such as SGI and IBM have not announced similar gear to boost the performance of their Madison boxes. Detailed Itanium plans no doubt helped HP with Hondo. In related hardware news, HP also announced a new storage product aimed at customers looking for a way to track and retrieve data at quick clip. The StorageWorks Reference Information Storage System (RISS) should be of particular interest to financial services and healthcare customers trying to keep up with strict data retention policies. The new box makes use of the software HP gained by acquiring Persist Technologies. The Persist software will help out with indexing information that is meant to be stored over the long haul. HP bills the code as the quickest way to locate and retrieve archived information. ® Related stories Intel and IDC at odds over Itanium's future HP talks scalable for Itanium 2 chipset, dualie module TruLogica proboscis grows out of HP's adaptive enterprise HP grabs two more software makers
Ashlee Vance, 06 May 2004

Prison time for cyber stock swindler

A young investor with more wiles than trading luck was sentenced to 13 months in prison Wednesday for using a Trojan horse program and someone else's online brokerage account to sell thousands of worthless stock options to an unwilling buyer. Van T. Dinh, 20, was the first to be charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with a fraud involving both computer hacking and identity theft, according to the SEC. According to court records, last July, the then-teenaged Dinh was the unhappy owner of $90,000 in "put" options that could have delivered a hefty payoff if Cisco Systems Inc. stock drooped below $15.00 a share, but instead were close to expiring worthless. Rather than eat the loss, Dinh constructed an electronic shell game to offload the contracts on a innocent dupe. Dinh built a list of targets by posting innocuous queries as "Stanley Hirsch" to a public forum on the trading discussion site stockcharts.com, and noting the email addresses of people who responded. The next day, using the alias "Tony T. Riechert," he spammed those addresses with an offer to participate in a beta test of a new stock charting tool. The "stock charting tool" turned out to be a Trojan horse called "the Beast." An unsuspecting Westborough, Massachusetts investor - unnamed in the complaints - ran the program, and sometime thereafter accessed his online brokerage account with TD Waterhouse, while the Beast silently logged every keystroke. Dinh allegedly swept in later and downloaded the logs, obtaining the man's username and password. A few days later, Dinh put his Cisco options up for sale at an inflated price through his own online broker, then used the purloined password to place a series of matching buy orders through the victim's account, "depleting almost all of the account's available cash," according to the SEC - approximately $47,000. With the account drained, Dinh remained stuck with some of the Cisco contracts, which expired worthless on 19 July. But the scheme shaved his losses by $37,000 - the victim's $47,000, minus the broker's commission. Dinh pleaded guilty in a federal court in Massachusetts to unauthorized access to a protected computer and securities fraud last February, and repaid the victim's lost $47,000. At his sentencing hearing Wednesday, prosecutors say they read aloud from an electronic diary purportedly found on Dinh's computer, including an entry dated a month before the crime. "I am so proud of myself for my 'hacking business' - I will never regret what I did," Dinh allegedly wrote. "I am the best of the best Trickster. I laugh often when mom says she worries - what the [expletive] do you have to worry about. Even if I go to jail - big deal - I will learn something there. Hahaha." Phone calls to Dinh's home and his attorney's office were not returned Thursday. Copyright © 2004, Related stories Brokerage hack teen charged Stock spam scams ramping up Teen charged in cyber stock scam Feds slap cuffs on Google stock scammer Hoaxster hacker discovers infinite-wealth algorithm Trainee(!) dishwasher pleads guilty to $80m identity fraud
Kevin Poulsen, 06 May 2004