10th > May > 2004 Archive

Intel launches Dothan with Pentium M price cuts

Intel today knocked up to 30.5 per cent off the prices of its 130nm Pentium M processors to make way for the 90nm version of the chip, codenamed 'Dothan'. As anticipated, Dothan was formally launched today and began shipping to notebook vendors worldwide. Intel is offering three new Pentium Ms, sold as the Pentium M 735, 745 and 755. The trio are clocked at 1.7GHz, 1.8GHz and 2GHz, respectively. All three contain 2MB of L2 cache - the original, 'Banias' Pentium Ms have 1MB - yet occupy only fractionally more space. Dothan's die crams in 140m transistors and measures 83.6mm2. Banias' 77m-transistor die measures 82.8mm2. That near-doubling of the transistor count was achieved by the use of a 90nm, strained silicon fabrication process - the same one used to produce the 90nm 'Prescott' Pentium 4. Unlike the new P4s, Dothan's die-shrink actually yields a reduction in heat dissipation: 21W compared to Banias' 24.5W. According to Intel EMEA mobile marketing chief, Andy Greenhalgh, both chips consume the same amount of power. The chips operate at 1.3V. In addition to the enlarged cache, the new Pentium Ms feature a number of architectural tweaks, including an enhanced data pre-fetch system and an improved register access manager. The former makes it more likely that the chip's cache will contain the correct data while the latter "enables more efficient management of CPU registers when a partial length write to a register followed by a full length read. Dothan incorporates enhancements that efficiently handle these conditions without making additional work for the processor", Intel said. Together with the extra cache, these techniques can boost Dothan's performance by around 9.5 per cent compared - when measured with MobileMark 2002 - to a Banias part of the same clock speed, Greenhalgh told The Register. And Dothan will yield a battery life "as good as or better" than Banias, he added. Like their predecessors, the new chips will ship supporting a 400MHz frontside bus - the anticipated 533MHz FSB upgrade will not come until Intel ships the 'Alviso' chipset. Officially, that will happen sometime in H2 2004, but we understand it will not happen until the chip giant unveils its second-generation Centrino platform, currently known by the codename 'Sonoma'. Sonoma is likely to be launched sometime in the autumn, Intel mobile chief Anand Chandrasekher admitted last February. In addition to DDR 2, Alviso brings PCI Express, Serial ATA, Intel's Media Graphics Accelerator (aka Extreme Graphics 3) and Hi-Def Audio to notebooks. The 2GHz Pentium M 755 is priced at $637, followed by the 1.8GHz 745 at $423 and the 1.7GHz 735 at $294. The 130nm 1.7GHz part is now priced at $294, down from $423, a reduction of 30.5 per cent. Intel also cut the price of the 1.6GHz Pentium M from $294 to $241, down 18 per cent, while the 1.5GHz part's price fell 13.3 per cent from $241 to $209. The 1.4GHz and the 1.3GHz chips remain at $209. The new chips are pin-compatible with the old, so expect notebook manufacturers to begin offering Dothan-based systems immediately, Intel said. ® Intel Pentium M Pricing Processor Prev. Price New Price Change Pentium M 755 (90nm, 2MB L2)   $637   Pentium M 745 (90nm, 2MB L2)   $423   Pentium M 735 (90nm, 2MB L2)   $294   Pentium M 1.7GHz (130nm, 1MB L2) $423 $294 -30.5% Pentium M 1.6GHz (130nm, 1MB L2) $294 $241 -18% Pentium M 1.5GHz (130nm, 1MB L2) $241 $209 -13.3% Pentium M 1.4GHz (130nm, 1MB L2) $209 $209   Pentium M 1.3GHz (130nm, 1MB L2) $209 $209   Related stories Centrino 2 to launch next Autumn Intel to combine Wi-Fi, Bluetooth in Centrino 2 Intel to kill off Mobile Pentium 4 around Q1 2005 90nm Dothan to lead consumer Centrino drive Intel bins 'Extreme' graphics name Intel completes hi-def audio spec Intel i855GME to pave way for Centrino 2 next year
Tony Smith, 10 May 2004

German police arrest Sasser worm suspect

UpdatedUpdated An 18-year-old German student has admitted writing the infamous Sasser worm, following his arrest by local police on Friday. The man (since named as Sven Jaschan) from the village of Waffensen, between Bremen and Hamburg, in the northern German state of Lower Saxony is also suspected of releasing all 28 versions of the equally notorious NetSky worm. The investigation which led to his arrest came from a tip-off to Microsoft from unspecified individuals who stand to collect a payout of up to $250,000 under the company's $5m anti-virus reward program. German papers report that Jaschan's own classmates turned him in but this remains unconfirmed. Technical experts from Microsoft were able to verify the information received and German police, helped by investigative support from the FBI, launched an operation which led to a raid on the Jaschan's home - less than a week after Sasser began infecting hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide. Investigators seized computers and disks from his home, which he shares with his parents. His mother, Veronika, and stepfather run a small PC Help business prompting speculation their son may have written the worm in a misguided attempt to drum up business. Jaschan Junior has been released on bail after questioning by police and pending further investigations. Confession Frank Federau, a spokesman for German police in Lower Saxony, told Reuters: "We are absolutely certain that this really is the creator of the Internet worm because Microsoft experts were involved in the inquiry and confirmed our suspicions and because the suspect admitted to it". Police reckon the accused created all four variants of Sasser. The alleged perp faces charges punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted in an adult court. Since he only turned 18 on April 29 he may end up getting tried in a juvenile court, where a much lighter sentence might apply. Jaschan reportedly told police his ultimate goal with NetSky was to develop an anti-virus 'virus', which could automatically remove MyDoom and Bagle. He was encouraged by his class mates - who knew he was working on these programs - to develop the even more aggressive Sasser worm, according to German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Sasser targets a recently announced vulnerability in Windows causing vulnerable machines to shutdown and reboot. The worm has caused widespread disruption affecting the operations of companies ranging from Finnish bank Sampo and Germany's Deutsche Post to the UK Coastguard. Advice on how to deal with infected or vulnerable machines can be found here. Phatbot arrest In a parallel move, police in the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg have arrested a 21-year-old man on suspicion of creating the Agobot and Phatbot Trojans. Investigators are refusing to speculate about links between the two virus writers or alleged connections to larger VX (virus-writing) groups, pointing out that both investigations are at an early stage. ® Related stories Sasser creates European pandemonium We've seen worse than Sasser - MS MS puts $250k bounty on virus authors' heads Feds sexed up case Blaster suspect FBI arrests Blaster suspect Phatbot primed to steal your credit card details Netsky tops virus charts by a country mile War of the worms turns into war of words
John Leyden, 10 May 2004

(Almost) everything may go, as Longhorn rushes to release

If Microsoft had counted on this week's WinHEC hardware conference to raise enthusiasm for the next release on Windows, then the event can certainly be judged a success. The build that found its way into developers' hands isn't the leviathan some feared: it purrs along happily with 512MB and a modest 16MB graphics card, although a 64MB card will be needed to take full advantage of the new compositor. More importantly, eighteen long months of concepts and code snippets are starting to coalesce into a real product that looks like a marked improvement on its predecessors: at least for developers. The Managed APIs, for example, are clearly a quantum leap over the cruft that has dogged Windows since version 1.0, nearly 20 years ago. Microsoft wants developers to write to the new cleaner APIs offered by .NET and XAML, and this is clearly a much better option for green-field developers. Established ISVs don't have this luxury, and that's starting to exert some inertia on the most ambitious Longhorn plans. It emerged this week that not all of the goodies will make their way into the final product. The Trusted Computing portion Longhorn NGSCB, we've independently confirmed, won't be accessible through the Managed APIs. In place of NGSCB, NX and Janus (Microsoft's new DRM scheme) received heavy promotion at WinHEC. Although it's too early for final decisions to have been taken, we understand that two areas are considered essential, while the rest are candidates for severe pruning, if timescales slip. WinFS and the new graphics subsystems are the two technologies viewed as mandatory. The latter is less about eye candy than about removing Windows' constraint on a fixed physical resolution. As the pixel density and size of displays increases at a pace, text will simply be unreadable in a few years, unless the graphics subsystems are modified. And this portion is going to plan. WinFS has been scaled back from the lofty ambitions originally envisaged three years ago, when it was talked about as an entirely new file system with file system plug-ins. It was revised to become an incremental enhancement to NTFS, the file system that debuted with Windows NT eleven years ago. Correspondents reckon that stories, including ours, that WinFS would not have network support is not really news, as product managers have been cagey about making such promises for the client. "WinFS is not the sum of all blog rumors," product manager Toby Whitney pointed out in a talk at last year's Microsoft Professional Developer Conference. The WinFS features useful to enterprises will be in Longhorn Server and haven't been yet been fully revealed. The WinFS feature set for the client still offers a better for sorting and retrieving personal digital media than XP. The problem between now and 2006, with co-ordinated windpower of four hundred bloggers blowing Longhorn down the launchway, is making sure that expectations stay in line with the reality. ® Related stories MS Trusted Computing back to drawing board MS seeks to merge Flash, HDD storage No Windows XP SE as Longhorn jettisons features MS delays Yukon Windows Shorthorn is dead-on-arrival MS moves into get Longhorn on the road mode Windows Longhaul? Longhorn could be 2008, says Gartner
Andrew Orlowski, 10 May 2004

AMD to parade Socket 939 at Computex

AMD looks set to launch its Socket 939 Athlon 64 and 64 FX processors early next month at the Computex show in Taipei. So claim Taiwanese mobo-maker sources cited by DigiTimes today, following speculation around the web that AMD has earmarked the week of 1-5 June for the 939-pin debut. We'd point out that the story talks about AMD "showcasing" its Socket 939 products and mentions that chipset makers will be showing off compatible wares too. Showing products at... er... a show is not surprising, and in this case doesn't preclude the originally anticipated 25 May launch. That said, Computex is such a key event for many of the customers AMD targets, that it may as well wait a week or two and debut the new CPUs at the show. It's also worth bearing mind that the sources for the original May ship date noted that supply would initially be tight, so again AMD has a good reason to wait a few weeks, not only to gain maximum marketing advantage, but to ensure it has some more 939-pin CPUs it can actually sell. ® Related stories AMD Socket 939 chip launch pinned to 25 May AMD sneaks out Athlon 64 2800+ AMD 130/90nm snippets slip onto Web Review: AMD Athlon 64 FX-53
Tony Smith, 10 May 2004

Sony unveils tiny wireless pen PC

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Sony will ship a keyboardless PC in Japan later this month. But it's no Tablet PC - instead, this pen-operated, wireless-enabled Windows XP machine will be pitched at mobile media consumers. The consumer electronics giant is billing the Vaio VGN-U70 as the world's smallest full-function Windows PC. The unit measures 16.7 x 10.8 x 2.6cm and weighs just 550g. Much of the machine's face is taken up by an 800 x 600 transflective colour LCD. The display can also operate at up to 1600 x 1200, but at this stage it's not clear if that's a native resolution. Apparently, there's a button you can press that reformats the display in portrait mode, not unlike the way the PalmOne Tungsten T3's screen works. There are also buttons that operate the cursor. The portrait mode is primarily intended to facilitate the device's use as an electronic book. Sony also bundles stereo earphones with a remote control for private audio and video playback. Indeed, the Sony machine is not unlike Bsquare's wireless Power Handheld, which we reviewed last week. The U70 is operated using a stylus, but the OS is Windows XP Pro rather than Tablet PC Edition. Sony supplies a cradle into which the U50 can be placed and connected to a Palm-style full-size foldaway USB keyboard and have its battery recharged. The U50's stylus is an unusual design Sony calls "fin-shaped", which can be attaches to the machine or kept separate. It ships with Japanese character recognition software. Driving the U70 is a 1GHz Ultra-low Voltage Pentium M and Intel's i855GM integrated chipset - so yes, it's a Centrino machine. And, indeed, we find the machine has an 802.11g Wi-Fi adaptor built in. It also has a 20GB hard drive and 512MB of memory. There's a USB 2.0 port, and CompactFlash and MemoryStick Pro ports for expansion. The unit is powered by a slimline Lithium Polymer battery capable of providing around two-and-a-half hours' operating time. Japanese consumers will be able to up that to 5.5 hours, courtesy of an alternative, 'extended' battery. But it added 145g to the weight. The U70 will ship on 29 May for around ¥210,000 ($1871). Sony will also offer a lower spec. model, the U50, for ¥179,000 ($1595), which contains just 256MB of memory and a 900MHz ULV Celeron processor. It ships with Windows XP Home Edition. In March, Sony launched the Librié 1000-EP, arguably the world's first true electronic book. Based on E-Ink's non-volatile display technology, the device is intended - unlike the U70 - to be solely used as a tool for reading text. ® Related stories Sony launches true electronic book Review: Bsquare Power Handheld Sony opens US music download store Sony pauses PSX production
Tony Smith, 10 May 2004

Sony US music service an 'embarrassment'

Sony's US online music service, Connect, has been slammed as an "embarrassment" by the Washington Post. The review (registration required) criticises the online service - which is coming to Europe on 7 June - for its poor catalogue, its format and hardware limitations and its "bloated, bug-ridden" download software. The WP likes Sony's pricing - 99 cents for most songs; $1.99 for longer ones; $9.99 for albums - and we join it in welcoming the way Connect lets you re-download free of charge songs you've already purchased and downloaded. That's handy if you lose your data at some point. Other services should follow Sony's lead in this respect. The paper also likes Connect's support for ATRAC data CDs. Creating discs containing encoded digital music tracks is not new, but rather more cheap CD players support Sony's digital music format than Apple's choice, AAC, or DRM-protected WMA files. But Sony's choice for format restricts consumers to its own hardware - a complaint the paper also makes about Apple, though at least iTunes does permit you to rip CDs to MP3 for transfer to other brands of player. Sony's SonicStage software does not support MP3 and "it defaults to storing music in an invisible, deeply buried sub-directory", the paper warns. But what songs can you transfer to your ATRAC data discs or "overpriced" Sony digital music players? Not too many from big-name artists, it seems. Connect's catalogue may stretch to 500,000 songs, but the WP reckons its not a great selection. "Connect permits an unlimited number of transfers to portable players - except for songs from Warner Music Group's labels, which are restricted to three transfers. Ever," the paper reveals. "Similar control-freak behaviour ensues when you move purchased songs to the other two PCs you're allotted at any one time: those copies lose all their transfer and CD-burning permissions. Sony says an upcoming software update will restore transfer rights, but not disc burning, to those copies." To sum up: "This service is an embarrassment to the company that gave the world the Walkman... has years of experience selling records, consumer electronics and personal computers - and it's had plenty of time to study earlier digital-music ventures." ® Related stories Sony opens US music download store Sony Euro music service to launch in June Apple: iTunes prices not rising Major labels 'force 70% price hike' on Apple Apple misses iTunes sales target by 30%
Tony Smith, 10 May 2004

PalmOne Zire 31

Reg ReviewReg Review PalmOne Zire 31
Tony Smith, 10 May 2004

Dollar decline stunts Symbian growth

The strength of the pound against the dollar left Symbian's Q1 results looking less impressive than would be justified. However, the company is still losing money and may need to raise more capital. This could prove a crucial point in the company's relationship with leading shareholder Nokia. Symbian said on 6 May that deliveries of its mobile phone operating systems more than doubled to 2.4m in the first quarter of the year. This was however 13 per cent down on the figure during the seasonally buoyant fourth quarter and the company was not helped by the slide in market share of its principal licensee Nokia. CEO David Levin said the company had performed in line with expectations. He was encouraged by Symbian's strengthening position in Japan and said that, at the end of the quarter, 30 phones and variants based on Symbian OS were being readied for market by nine licensees. Symbian is still leaking money and while revenue was 40.2 per cent higher at £8.7m, the operating loss was £5.4m, down from £8.5m. With £16.2m cash left in the bank, the company may need to raise more funds, which helps to explain why Psion sold its 31 per cent stake in Symbian earlier this year to Nokia for £136m. The figures understate the company's progress as its license fees are quoted in dollars and the currency's fall in value hits a company whose accounts are in pounds sterling. Though it currently only has a tiny market share for high-end phones, Symbian is pinning hopes on version 8.0 of its OS, which enables a phone to operate on just one processor. Symbian estimates this will reduce the cost of each handset by $25 to $35, enabling makers to penetrate the mid-market. The big question now is how far other Symbian shareholders are concerned about the prospect of Nokia dominating the company. Once the Psion share sale gets regulatory approval, the other shareholders have the right to buy a pro rata allocation of the shares. If they all do so, Nokia will end up with less than 50 per cent of the company. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related research: Datamonitor: "MarketWatch: Telecoms - April 2004" (BFTC0981) Related stories Symbian doubles sales Former Symbian, Psion boss answers all your questions Symbian falters in battle with Microsoft Sony, Ericsson plan move to block Nokia majority at Symbian UI Wars: Sony loves Symbian, grits teeth Psion gets green light for Symbian sale to Nokia MS, Linux, board battles: Psion boss lists the threats to Symbian
Datamonitor, 10 May 2004

Oops! BT bills man £25,000 for cut cable

BT is looking to recoup more than £25,000 from a Cambridgeshire man after he severed a fibre optic cable while putting up a new fence in his garden. David Brown, 40, told The Sun he was "shocked" when he received the bill for £25,780 ($45,670) at the end of last month. He has just 21 days to cough up. The cable was cut in April last year and as a result, BT was forced to replace 2km of cable. A spokesman said the company telco is "anxious to have a chat with him to work out the best way to resolve this matter". Separately, BT said a "temporary technical problem" was to blame after its website, BT.com, went belly-up at the weekend. The site went offline at 8.30am (BST) on Saturday morning before returning again early afternoon. It also threw a wobbly on Sunday. A spokesman blamed the outage on a processing problem with the database server. ® Related stories Severed cable plunges NTL punters into digital darkness BT cable fire causes extensive damage in Manchester Torpoint tames cruel sea in ADSL hook-up
Tim Richardson, 10 May 2004

Ebookers sales up but jobs down

Ebookers increased sales for the first quarter by 47 per cent and is confident about the year ahead. Despite the positive results the company is cutting 270 jobs, 200 in the UK and 70 in India, as business processes are increasingly automated. The cuts should save ebookers £2.5m this year. Gross sales for the quarter were £160m and the online travel agent made a profit of £1.25m - up from a loss of £4.9m for the same period last year. Margins for its mid and long range flights were just over 9 per cent. Short haul flight margins fell to as low as one per cent. Ebookers has nearly finished its JD Edwards back office integration programme and is beginning mid-office integration. As a result of acquisitions ebookers has four different mid-office systems. It expects good savings from the unified system by the end of this year. ebookers believes its strategy of buying offline travel companies and stripping out costs by converting them to web-based businesses will continue to deliver profits. It bought Travelbag, a big UK agent specialising in longhaul travel, in 2003. Travelbag now takes 54 per cent of its bookings online, up from 16 per cent before acquisition. Ebookers long-term aim is to cut net operating costs to 8.5 per cent of gross sales. ® Related stories BA prepares to flee opodo Axe falls on Ebookers jobs Ebookers chief defends offshoring
John Oates, 10 May 2004
cable

Cisco offers WLAN switching

After a year of talk, Cisco has finally released long awaited wired/wireless switch capabilities and taken a major step towards an integrated enterprise network. A key part of the Structured Wireless Aware Network (Swan) roadmap, the new modules - previously codenamed Screaming Eagle and now called WLAN Services Module (WLSM) - add wireless capabilities to the Cisco Ethernet switch. Layer 3 mobility will be added to the Catalyst 6500 Series and will allow users to roam between access points without losing connection. Screaming Eagle works with the CiscoWorks Wireless LAN Solution Engine (WLSE), a management appliance introduced last year as part of Swan, and the Supervisor 720 module, which includes new Layer 3 mobility management software. Up to 300 access points are supported with up to 16 routing tunnels per AP, and a total of about 6,000 users. This is the first time that Cisco has produced a wireless switch with centralised intelligence, taking on products from a host of start-ups such as Trapeze and Airespace. The integrated system is critical if Cisco is to keep its leadership in corporate voice over IP as these systems increasingly move to a mixture of wired and wireless networks, making fast hand-off and quality of service features essential. Screaming Eagle Screaming Eagle works by setting up a multipoint GRE (general routing encapsulation) tunnel from the Catalyst 6500 to each AP on the network. However, critics question the efficiency of GRE tunnelling, as it forces packets along a roundabout path known as 'tromboning' that passes through the AP and to multiple switches, before getting to the destination. But Cisco is presenting its new addition as the first enterprise quality wireless switch, keen to portray the start-ups as providing products most suitable for small and medium-sized organisations, but lacking the functionality, support and financial stability to be trusted in the large corporate network. And of course, it has its massive wired installed base to rely on, looking to milk more revenue from it with wireless extensions. The product "allows seamless management of what otherwise would be two separate domains", said Larry Birenbaum, senior vice president of Cisco's Ethernet access group. "It is the cap-stone of our Swan announcement a year ago." However, Cisco has not turned its back on its support for 'fat' access points, which house most of the intelligence and security function in the AP rather than the central switch. This contrasts with the highly centralised approach of the switch start-ups, which rely on dumb APs. Screaming Eagle will work with the Cisco 1100 and 1200 fat APs, though not the older 340s and 350s. Support for third party APs is not on the agenda, unsurprisingly, given that Cisco has a dominant position in enterprise WLANs and has no desire to let other players in through interoperability. The switch will cost $18,000 in a basic version supporting up to 150 Aironet access points, or $26,000 for the full 300. The start-ups will now have an even harder job chipping away at Cisco's market share, since their arguments have relied heavily on the giant's lack of centralised management and wired/wireless integration. Their chief remaining argument - apart from technical quibbles over GRE and the possible degradation to hand-off rates - is the lock-in factor resulting from Cisco's refusal to support third party APs. Dumb APs This will put the spotlight back on the IETF standards body's work on a common specification for dumb APs, which would allow all supporting vendors' switches and clients to intercommunicate, thus reducing customers' risk in choosing equipment from a small vendor. However, progress towards this standard slowed earlier this year when the proposed Light Weight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP) was renamed and diverted into a seemingly cumbersome process within the IETF. The LWAPP work was subsumed into a new IETF working group called CAPWAP (Control and Provisioning of Wireless Access Points) and the likely date for completion of a formal document was put back from late this year to mid-2005, giving Cisco more time to solidify its market lead. The delay is because the mandate for the new working group is initially to study WLAN architecture and topology only - where devices sit and what they are called - without touching the protocols, or how they communicate. This architecture work should take about six months and only then will the group focus on the issues that LWAPP had begun to address. A few companies say they will continue to support LWAPP in the hope of making it a de facto standard. Prominent among these is Aruba, though it says it will back any final IETF protocol too. Ironically, Cisco also pLANs to support LWAPP - though not CAPWAP - for any functionality that it builds into its upcoming Swan architecture, which will include some measure of switching. Cisco was one of the original creators of LWAPP, though it backed away from the technology in 2002 as it increasingly set its cap against the thin AP approach. There must be a suspicion that Cisco will seek to hijack LWAPP for its own purposes in order to drive and control standards in this area itself, pre-empting industry body efforts. © Copyright 2004 Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories Cisco thwarts WLAN dictionary attack Intel and Cisco gang up on mesh Cisco Wi-Fi kit in minor security flap
Wireless Watch, 10 May 2004

New version of Sasser undermines lone coder theory

The appearance of a new version of the infamous Sasser worm shortly after the arrest of its admitted author has fuelled speculation that its creator worked with other virus writers. Sasser-E was first spotted three hours and 45 minutes after the arrest of Sven Jaschan, 18, from Rotenburg in northern Germany at 2pm on Friday afternoon (local time). Either earlier sightings of the fast-spreading worm were missed or Sasser-E was released by someone other than Jaschan, who was released from police custody after the new version of the worm arrived onto the scene. Spanish AV firm Panda Software said the appearance of the variant showed there was an "organised group of delinquents" involved in distributing copies of the prolific worm. Finnish AV firm F-Secure is not so sure: "We believe Mr. "SJ" (who has confessed to writing all the Sasser and NetSky variants) had distributed this version shortly before his arrest. He has been released on bail, but this was only after first reports of this new variant were in. The E variant does not appear to be a hack done by someone else." Circumstantial evidence led F-Secure and many in the AV community to suspect that the NetSky series was the work of multiple authors, a conclusion undermined by Jaschan's confession. Sasser-E uses the same Windows vulnerability as previous versions to spread across vulnerable Windows 2000 and XP machines, causing them to become unstable and shutdown. Unlike previous version, Sasser-E gives a warning from the "SkyNet Team" about the vulnerability it exploits. Unlike the first four Sassers but like many NetSky variants, Sasser-E tries to remove the Bagle worm. Advice of protecting computers against Sasser can be found here. ® Related Stories Sasser worm creates havoc We've seen worse than Sasser - MS Sasser creates European pandemonium German police arrest Sasser worm suspect
John Leyden, 10 May 2004

E-voting promises US election tragicomedy

New DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) voting machines came under fire in Washington this week, with expert witnesses giving contradictory testimony to the US Election Assistance Commission on the perennially entertaining and confusing topic of touch screen balloting. The Commission is a tiny outfit charged with the very great task of recommending standards for election gear, protocols and procedures throughout myriad precincts, and encompassing a smorgasbord of balloting kit, of which five or six different models of touch screen system comprise but a fraction. Add to this that the Chairman, DeForest Soaries, expressed delight at news that college students are volunteering as election workers, because, as he observed, "young people understand technology", and you can see that a monumental November cock-up is brewing. The good Election officials, by and large, and with the notable exception of California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, are much enamored of touch-screen, or DRE, systems, for several quite respectable reasons. For one thing, they prevent overvoting: it's simply impossible to choose both 'yes' and 'no' to a referendum question, or to vote for a candidate and his opponent by mistake, a problem that surfaces regularly with paper and punch-card ballots. They also reduce undervoting, as a summary screen is produced before a ballot is finally cast so that voters have a chance to observe that they've neglected to choose a president, say. Undervoting often occurs because one can't endure the sight of either candidate and can't, in good conscience, vote for either one; but more often than not, a confused voter has simply overlooked one or two races. Touch screens help ensure that a citizen has deliberately neglected to vote in a particular race or on a particular referendum question. And they provide better accessibility for handicapped voters, reducing their dependence on poll workers, and give a much clearer indication of voter intent. It's either yes, no, or nothing; there are no hanging chads, pregnant chads, or stray marks and crossing out of previous choices. A DRE machine may reflect a voter's choice inaccurately, certainly. One may well vote for the wrong candidate, but one will do so clearly. Election officials love this. The bad Election fraud is a tradition stretching back to the dawn of civilization. There is no system, whether paper, mechanical, optical, or computerized, that can prevent it. We are clever little apes, and we will muck about with things. However, there are ways of making it evident that fraud or a malfuncion has occurred, and in this respect, touch screen devices are sorely lacking. It's not so much that they're easier to scam than other systems; they're not. In fact, they're more difficult to scam than most. It's just that, as they're currently designed, it's difficult to detect tampering. A box full of paper ballots can be sealed. If the seal is broken before the votes are tallied, it's painfully obvious that something has gone wrong. On the other hand, it takes some skill and planning to attack a DRE system; you don't just open a hatch and shove in a fistful of bogus ballots. But there are numerous points vulnerability; and while it may be more of a challenge to mount an attack, it's considerably easier to get away with one. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that the worst thing about being blind would be the inability to see if there were bugs in your food. This is the essence of the DRE problem: the devices offer a number of potential advantages, and if designed properly, could eliminate or mitigate a slew of serious problems, only the user has no way of knowing if they're crawling with bugs. The ugly The voter verifiable paper record has become the clarion call of DRE skeptics. Their reasoning is simple: if a machine is suspect, the paper printout creates a separate medium for a presumably reliable recount. Only there are two problems: first, many election regulations specify that a recount must be performed in the same manner as the original election. Thus, if the machines are in use, such laws would require that the memory devices be read again, yielding the same, meaningless result ad infinitum. Many devices have storage media as well as memory modules. But it is not known what would happen if the two should record different results, either due to an attack or a malfunction. Which is paramount? And if one should be empty, is the other an acceptable substitute without corroboration from a third source of data? Second, in venues where paper printouts could legally be tallied in lieu of the electronic result, accuracy can only be assured if all voters review their recipts carefully, assuming they recall what they decided on fifty or a hundred questions moments earlier - a significant challenge. Furthermore, there are man-in-the-middle attacks that could potentially record the voter's input correctly on the paper record, but stealthily tweak the electronic results. And let's not forget that the paper output could be manipulated, though presumably, some sharp-eyed voter will notice this. If the two sets of results differ, the question then would be, which is paramount? The paper record is useful only if it is paramount, but as previously noted, there are numerous precincts where it probably won't be, and others where it will. Such uncertainties could entertain the courts for months - far past the deadline for election certification. And the DRE machines are quite hackable at the moment. Johns Hopkins University computer science professor Aviel Rubin testified that "not only have the vendors not implemented the security safeguards that are possible, they have not even correctly implemented the ones that are easy." Witness Neil McClure of vendor Hart Intercivic recommended that DRE manufacturers be required to implement the FIPS 140-2 crypto module standard. This would be "a great first step toward putting DREs on a path to becoming a trusted computing device," he reckoned. No fan of the paper-trail panacea, McClure claimed that "irregularities can be traced to product quality issues," and advocated raising quality requirements and implementing national quality-management systems and testing requirements for all voting devices. Which of course will not happen, at least not between now and November. Spin Diebold Election Systems marketing director Mark Radke begged to differ with the curmudgeons and nay-sayers. His company's equipment is flawless, he implied - so flawless that it makes no sense to test whether or not it really is, because it has to be. Asked to explain the basis for Diebold's claim that its kit is "eight times more accurate than paper balloting", Radke replied: "That would be based on such things as undervoting statistics and so on, against statistical fact, based on the information that we had for those elections." "So when you use the word 'accuracy', you haven't really taken into account the possibility of tampering?" he was asked. "Actually, no," he allowed. "We feel that our system is very secure, so that is not taken into consideration." And there have been no reports of fraud or tampering, he added. When questioned about uncertified software patches given to Georgia officials, Radke explained that these involved merely "a modification to the operating system, not to the tabulation software on our touch screen voting systems. It did not affect the tabulation process at all. "We had a situation where, quite honestly, we had a few strains that we had difficulties on some of the units, and it was affected by the operating system; so since it did not affect the tabulation process at all, and did not affect that software, the operating system was modified. And, after those modifications were done, all the logic and accuracy testing was done, so every touch screen was tested before it was deployed." It remains to be seen if such assurances will satisfy a technology-suspcious electorate when the inevitable tight-race disputes emerge, or if something far worse than Florida in 2000 will result. The public may not be in any position to judge how reliable DREs are in reality, but the constant example of Microsoft and its monthly worm debacles has persuaded many that computers can't be trusted. Unfortunately, voter confidence in DRE currently depends on a Commission with little power and even less understanding, left to issue recommendations for election improvements based on conflicting testimony, and burdened by a September or thereabouts deadline for final certification of all equipment. Ach, Chad, we hardly knew ye. ® Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and Small Office, a complete guide to system hardening, online anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux. Related stories California preps e-voting ban bill California decertifies Diebold bugware Ireland to scrap e-voting plan California set to reject Diebold e-voting machines Judge OKs California e-voting Pentagon cans Internet voting system UK not ready for e-voting
Thomas C Greene, 10 May 2004

Royal Bank of Canada dumps SCO Group shares

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has washed its hands of SCO Group (SCOX), dumping all 30,000 recently-acquired shares into the lap of BayStar Capital. The venture capital firm, which considered walking away last month, is now in a powerful position to influence SCO's future direction. RBC has sold 20,000 Series A-1 stock to BayStar Capital, also a SCO investor holding 20,000 Series A-1 stock in the company. RBC had invested $30 million and held 30,000 shares following a round of investment led by BayStar, which had sunk $20m into SCO. The bank's remaining 10,000 Series A-1 shares were converted into 740,740 shares of common stock. RBC was believed to be unhappy with the level of attention SCO had succeeded in attracting during its Unix Intellectual Property (IP) litigation battle against IBM, Novell and a growing list of businesses running the Linux operating system. A bank spokesperson declined to give reasons for RBC pulling out, saying it would be "inappropriate" to comment. The bank's decision to quit leaves BayStar in an incredibly powerful position to potentially affect SCO's management. BayStar last month asked SCO to return its $20m investment, having gone on the record saying SCO's management lacked the maturity to prosecute the IP actions, and it wished more experienced outsiders to be drafted in. SCO, however, has expressed confidence in its management and unwillingness to return the investment. SCO's position will now be challenged, as BayStar holds the purse strings to a considerable investment. Ultimately it seems BayStar could be positioning itself for a hostile takeover, should SCO's management refuse to fall in line. A BayStar take-over cannot be ruled out, as the decision to buy RBC's stock follows last month's attempt to withdraw its investment. BayStar likes to invest in companies with strong IP capital, and it believes in the merits of SCO's case. It seems, having at first attempted to pullout, BayStar may be digging in deeper in an attempt to turn its investment into a success. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related stories Bigmouth McBride turned us off SCO, says investor Bigmouth McBride turned us off SCO, says investor Investor dumps SCO SCO lifts skirt but investors recoil SCO shares keep on sliding
Datamonitor, 10 May 2004

Sun and Veritas bury the hatchet

Server maker Sun Microsystems and clustered file systems maker Veritas Software have something of a love-hate relationship, but the two buried the hatchet this week. While Sun cannot afford to buy Veritas, attempting to license its technologies may be an idea worth looking into. Veritas and Sun are now working to port the portfolio of Veritas products, which have long since been supported on Sparc-based servers running Solaris, to X86 machines based on Intel Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors. Sun and Veritas have had an alliance for more than a decade, helping each other to sell their products as both moved aggressively into the data centre. This week, the two announced that they have expanded that relationship to cover the non-Sparc platforms and to further allow Sun's sales force to sell Veritas products directly to Solaris customers, whether they are on Sparc or X86 platforms. While Sun is not expected to stop enhancing or selling its own products, the simple fact is that Sun needs Veritas to reinvigorate Solaris sales more than it needs to steal away software revenues from Veritas. With Veritas on track to be a $2bn company (and one that has acquired expertise in utility computing and storage management specifically for the Solaris platform), you might think that Sun's chairman and CEO would have done better to just acquire Veritas. This would be a great idea, if for only one fact: that Veritas may be a $2bn company, but it has a market capitalisation of $13.3bn, which is going to start rising as the company starts seeing profits. Sun is a $10bn company (in terms of revenue) that has software aspirations, and it used to command a market cap of more than $200bn but is now valued at only $12.9bn (in Thursday's stock market). To put it bluntly, not only can Sun not afford to buy Veritas, it also cannot afford to alienate Veritas. But Veritas would sure make an excellent set of building blocks for Sun's N1 aspirations. If Sun cannot buy Veritas, licensing all of its technologies might be a very good idea, if it wants to leap ahead of IBM and Hewlett-Packard in the enterprise server space. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related stories Veritas gratifies itself, users and Sun with new product Veritas retools its past with Storage Foundation 4.0 Sun starts flashing Solaris 10 to chosen few
Datamonitor, 10 May 2004

Nokia quits WiMAX Forum

In a shock move, Nokia has left the WiMAX Forum, indicating a U-turn on the technology it once promoted enthusiastically. Nokia was a founding member of the Forum, before Intel joined and raised 802.16's profile beyond recognition, and during 2003 was bullish about the technology, with development projects surrounding base stations for rural regions and 802.16e handsets. Now, the company has decided not to renew its membership, claiming that its short term priorities are to concentrate on 3G and Wi-Fi. It says it will continue to monitor WiMAX closely and so is likely to take a role again if the technology goes main-stream, but does not see a short term business case. The surprise lies not so much in taking a more cautious approach to WiMAX - Nokia's primary interest always seemed to lie in handsets, which are some years off - but in the drastic step of breaking ties with the Forum. Even if 802.16 no longer forms a central part of the short to medium term product strategy, companies of Nokia's size and R&D clout tend to remain involved in any industry bodies, even if they do not take a highly active role. Therefore, it seems that the defection is meant to convey a statement to the market, although if the intention was to undermine confidence in WiMAX, the Finnish company needed to make rather more noise about its decision than simply removing its name from the membership list. The most likely explanation seems to be that Nokia perceives a real threat from WiMAX equipment to its much-vaunted strategy of creating low cost cellular base stations for developing nations. Its efforts in this direction have progressed rapidly, so perhaps it no longer needs fixed WiMAX as a back-up option - it launched 'budget' cellular systems last year and, with its market share in developed regions slipping, is placing growth in China, India and Russia at the centre of its plans. Although WiMAX could be the basis of such an expansion too, the rapid emergence of commodity silicon will depress prices and make the margins available to Nokia less attractive than on a proprietary cellular system, especially with rivals such as Alcatel and Siemens opting to build kit based on off the shelf Intel chips. The decision of those two giants to deliver WiMAX base stations at an early stage - and in Siemens' case, handsets later on - will have destroyed any hopes Nokia had of gaining a significant head-start in the market. A year ago when Intel first joined the Forum that Nokia had founded, putting massive marketing weight behind the standard, there was very little indication that the big names would get involved, and Nokia could have expected to have the sector to itself for at least a year after the standard was ratified and to build on its closeness to Intel to create a product that was hard to leapfrog. Now that picture has changed, and the attractiveness of the market must have fallen considerably with the looming prospect of a price battle with some major infrastructure competitors. Better to focus on an area where Nokia has taken a strong lead, in cut-price cellular networks and terminals for developing markets. Depression in base station market Nokia will certainly have come to have a certain fear of WiMAX as a technology that could deepen the already serious depression in infrastructure prices. Once it might have dreamed of charging premiums for the speed and spectral efficiency of 802.16 equipment - now it is more likely that WiMAX will increase the pressure on 3G prices, especially as software defined radio and blade technology allow for the simultaneous support of multiple networks within one base station. Even without the WiMAX factor, and despite a cautious revival in telecoms investment, life remains hard for infrastructure suppliers - although Nokia is less exposed to this than other competitors since it derives less than 15 per cent of its revenues from equipment, unlike a highly dependent player like Ericsson. At a UK base station conference this week, vendors complained that they face a triple challenge - increasingly aggressive demands for price cuts from operators; higher R&D expenditure; and new levels of competition, especially with the emergence of low-cost Chinese players. These factors are raising the prospect of the sector's average operating margin falling below 10 per cent for the first time, according to Eiii Aono, director of telecom equity research at Credit Suisse First Boston - and all three of them can be exacerbated by WiMAX. In 2000, the GSM base station market was at its peak and worth $30bn, but when W-CDMA peaks around 2007, it is likely to be worth only two-thirds of that, even though more units will have been shipped than in GSM. The pressure is on for base station makers to use as many standardised modules as possible - as the auto industry does - in order to pool development and reap economies of scale in manufacturing. Currently, R&D spend stands at 17 per cent of sales for major vendors, compared to 13 per cent in 1999, which Nokia calls "unsustainable". Targeting developing nations The pressure to cut costs will be even higher in the developing countries, on which Nokia has pinned a large chunk of its growth plan, picking out India, China, Russia and South America as its main areas of focus. Although major operators in all these countries have shown interest in WiMAX, Nokia has clearly decided to attack with a unique offering and try to mop up market share with its cellular systems, which are widely reported to be ground breaking in price/performance, before WiMAX is sufficiently mobile to be a real competitor. It can live happily alongside fixed wireless WiMAX, which is an alternative mainly to DSL and cable, not to cellular, but it does seem to be leaving the market for mobile 802.16 infrastructure and terminals wide open for a competitor to snatch. Siemens has put itself in a good position with its early move into fixed WiMAX, and the other Nokia rival to watch will be Samsung, which virtually invented HPi, the South Korean mobile broadband wireless technology that is likely to be merged with 802.16e. That will give the Korean vendor a huge headstart when WiMAX itself goes mobile. Even if Nokia believes the WiMAX opportunity will not justify the R&D spend required to be at its forefront, the decision to abandon the Forum still seems extreme - especially as it was not done with sufficient sound and fury to be an effective way deliberately to undermine confidence in 802.16 and turn the floodlight back on to 3G. The genie is out of the bottle now. After many years when OFDM-based broadband wireless specialists complained that the MEN triumvirate (Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia) used their influence over operators to pressurise them not to toy with non-cellular technologies, now the boot is on the other foot. After years of slump in the equipment sector, and with the slow growth of 3G, vendors are in a less strong position to dictate, and operators are desperate for networks that will enable them to offer premium services at low cost and risk. Nokia may turn its back on WiMAX but it is no longer in a position significantly to impede its progress with that decision. © Copyright 2004 Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories Wireline operators flock to WiMAX BT joins WiMAX standards group Navini comes in from the cold Intel, Nokia et al launch WiMax Forum
Wireless Watch, 10 May 2004

BT in broadband free flight promo

BT is giving away free flights as part of time-limited promo to plug its broadband service. Any new punters signing up to BT's consumer broadband products within the next six weeks can get a return flight to a string of destinations in Europe and the US including Barcelona, Boston and New York. The deal runs from today until 20 June. Anyone signing up to the telco's broadband packages will receive a voucher, which can then be exchanged for a free flight. BT Openworld boss, Duncan Ingram, said the strings-attached offer was "yet another example of BT taking the lead in the market to drive broadband uptake and make Broadband Britain a reality". A spokesman for the monster telco denied that the offer was in response to a rash of cut-price broadband offers announced recently. Although the price of BT's broadband products start from £19.99 a month this has been undercut recently by a number of other ISPs. Even AOL UK - which has renamed its current broadband family of products "gold" and "platinum" - has "plans in the pipeline" to offering cheaper "silver" and "bronze" products within the next month or so. A spokesman for BT said: "The flight offer is not in response to recent competitive offerings. We maintain that our basic product is competitively priced," he said. ® Related stories PlusNet offers 'full-fat' broadband AOL UK to offer cut-price broadband Freeserve morphs into Wanadoo Pipex pipes-up with 150k DSL
Tim Richardson, 10 May 2004

FTC fines porn spammers $112k

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled charges with Brian Westby and Dutch citizen Martijn Bevelander, who employed spam that used deceptively bland subject lines, false return addresses, and empty reply-to links to expose unsuspecting consumers, including children, to sexually explicit material. The US agency alleged that Westby and Bevelander used the spam in an attempt to drive business to an adult website called "Married But Lonely". The two spammers used every trick in the book to mislead Internet users. When consumers clicked on a hyperlink in an attempt to get off the mailing list, they would receive an error message, so they could not unsubscribe. The settlement prohibits the use of false subject lines and false header information in e-mails and requires that both men cough up $112,500 of their ill-gotten gains. Westby will pay $87,500 and Bevelander the remaining $25,000. The settlement also stipulates record keeping provisions to allow the FTC to monitor compliance. The FTC settlement - which relates to activities predating the new CAN-SPAM act - has prompted immediate criticism among campaigners who fear that such a low fine will encourage other spammers to simply budget for penalties. Bevelander's career in the Dutch Internet business, however, appears to be virtually over. He is still in his early twenties, and left school at 17 to start his own Internet company, often citing Scrooge as his main inspiration. ® Related stories SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT: FTC labels porno spam EC seeks to stamp out Net child porn, racism and spam UUNet tops spammer-hosting super league Sex, drugs and cans of spam US spammer fined $75k for porn sting
Jan Libbenga, 10 May 2004

Japanese P2P founder arrested

Japanese police have arrested the developer of the popular Winny P2P application for breaking the country's copyright laws. Isamu Kaneko, 33, an assistant researcher at Tokyo University, and brains behind the supposedly anonymous file sharing system, is accused of developing software that aids and abets copyright infringement and piracy. Kaneko is one of the first software developers worldwide to face such allegations. Winny, which offers to shield users behind a "cloak of anonymity", has proved incredibly popular in Japan since the shareware utility was announced in April 2002. The application has become a focus of concern for authorities in Japan this year after investigation records from a Kyoto Prefecture Police officer's computer and military files from Japan's Self-Defence Force were made available across the Winny P2P network. Police said Kaneko was arrested because Winny allowed a 41-year-old man from Takasaki and 19-year-old from Matsuyama to illegally download pirated games and movies from the Internet, Japanese paper Mainichi Daily News reports. Police shut down a website offering the Winny application for download last December. ® Related stories Japanese finger virus for police document leak Anonymous P2P users busted in Japan RIAA withdraws prosecution amnesty
John Leyden, 10 May 2004

Hate websites continue to flourish

A new report from UK-based e-mail filtering company SurfControl says that the number of hate and violence websites has grown by nearly 300 per cent since 2000. The company said that in 2000, it was monitoring about 2,756 websites that were categorised as hate and violence sites. By April 2004, that figure had risen to 10,926. Even more worrying, however, is that since January 2004, the number of sites that SurfControl considers hate and violence sites - or sites that promote hatred against Americans, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals and people of non-European ancestry, as well as graphic violence - have risen by over 25 per cent. During all of 2003, the number of such sites was up by 30 per cent. The firm went on to claim that some existing hate sites have expanded in shocking or curious ways, such as the inclusion of graphic images of dead and mutilated human beings. Another example given by the company was a white supremacy website that included a dating service and a $1,000 scholarship contest for a student that could write the best essay on "actionable, practical solutions" for dealing with anyone who is not white. "We've begun to see a convergence of sites promoting violence and those advocating hate," said Susan Larson, SurfControl's vice president for global content. "We monitor websites, tracking as they go from merely expressing strong opinions to using the language of hate, or as they cross the line from advocating hate to barely veiled threats of violence." Driving the rise of hate sites, according to Larson, are hot political and cultural events such as new and proposed legislation to deal with homosexual marriages. Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has also sparked an online firestorm from groups expressing hatred of non-Christian religious groups. Anti-Semitic sites, anti-Islamic and anti-American sites are also all on the rise in the last number of years. "These sites seem to reflect a growing tolerance for anti-social behaviour and a polarisation of religious and political public opinion that attracts certain elements of the US population who share a fascination with extremist views," Larson said. SurfControl said it announced the results of its research following news last week that the FBI would step up its monitoring of Web hate group sites after the conviction in the US of white supremacist Matthew Hale on charges that he sought to have a federal judge murdered. © ENN Related stories Hate speech: US legislature gets down, dirty and confused Soaraway censorware Internet filtering software damages educational opportunities
ElectricNews.net, 10 May 2004

321 lookalike punts DVD copy software

A new company trading as the ironically-named "123" appears to be doing exactly what 321 Studios has been stopped from doing by the US courts - offering software for making personal copies of DVDs. While 321 Studios tries to duke it out in court, claiming that personal copies are enshrined in US law, so that software for getting around copy protection should be legal, 123 Copy DVD instead is trying to be cute and put people in touch with an offshore piece of software that gets around copy protection. When you go to the 123 site its FAQ sections says: "Why can't I copy a DVD movie? Have you updated 123 Copy DVD by downloading and installing the latest plug-in? If not you can do so here," where the link goes to www.booyakasha.biz. Booyakasha is a made up word from UK comic Ali G, which is supposed to be an anti-white racist remark in a foreign language. The download is an illegal piece of software that unscrambles encrypted DVDs. The 123 Copy DVD software sells for $19.99 but won’t work on copying DVDs without more software to get around DVD protection. 123 Copy DVD says that the site with the decryption software is unaffiliated with the company, but both domains are administered by the same person at the same company with one registered in Gibraltar and the other in Herndon, Virginia, US. Expect it to be hit with multiple lawsuits any time soon, meanwhile 321 Studios is expected to be back in court in mid-June to see through its challenge to the legality of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. © Copyright 2004 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories DVD X Copy re-issued without ripper 321 Studios to fight ripper injunction Judge bans DVD X Copy software
Faultline, 10 May 2004

BBC develops 'alternative' codec

Just when we think that the codec wars are just about over, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has released a codec that works differently from other existing systems. In March it issued it to the open source community through Sourceforge under the name of Dirac, named after the eccentric and brilliant British physicist. This week the BBC said that it has been working on the codec since January last year, and now it is asking for open source help in taking it towards a product. Dirac is different from existing video compression systems, in that it uses wavelet technology. Wavelets are mathematical functions that cut up data into different frequency components, and then study each component with a resolution matched to its scale. In effect the video is not, at first, compressed but converted into a waveform and sent, the compression is carried out on the waveform that has been created. Wavelets were developed independently in the fields of mathematics, quantum physics, electrical engineering, and seismic geology, and they probably owe something to Dirac’s work, hence the name. As these fields have begun working together over the last ten years or so, many new wavelet applications have emerged such as image compression, turbulence prediction and earthquake prediction. The BBC says that already the system gives a two-fold reduction in bit rate over MPEG 2 for high definition video at 1920x1080 pixels and that it will be further optimized for Internet streaming. This type of performance is roughly in line with the Video Codec 9 which Microsoft uses in its Windows Media Player and only slightly less than the H.264 international standard. At the moment the Dirac codec is in the early stages of development, started as a research tool. An experimental version of the code, written in C++, was released under an Open Source license agreement on 11 March. The BBC said: "A lot remains to be done to convert our promising algorithm and experimental implementation into practical useable code. This includes optimization so that it can decode in real time. Algorithmic enhancements are needed to improve the compression performance still further. The resulting codec needs to be integrated with other parts of a compression system such as players, and interfaced using standard IO formats." © Copyright 2004 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories DVD Forum punts blue laser HD-DVD VC-9 essential patent holders, come on down DVD Forum mandates Microsoft for HD disc spec
Faultline, 10 May 2004

Intel pumps VC cash into JBoss

Java application specialist JBoss today received a vote of confidence from Intel - in the shape of a big investment. Intel Capital joined Accel Partners and Matrix Partners in raising $10m venture capital for the firm. The money will go on product development and marketing. JBoss also gets access to Intel hardware and expertise. This should help get J2EE certification on Intel's Itanium and Xeon chips. Marc Fleury, CEO at JBoss, said: "The momentum behind JBoss continues increasing rapidly, and Intel's global presence will further accelerate our opportunities...With J2EE certification progressing smoothly, this new influx of funding, resources and expertise will help us complete that initiative." Intel also becomes a JBoss J2EE Certification Founders Program member, along with Borland Software Corporation, IONA, SchlumbergerSema, Sonic Software, Unisys and webMethods.® Related stories Java: the next mobile cash cow? Veritas gratifies itself, users and Sun with new product Sun rallies J2EE faithful
John Oates, 10 May 2004

IBM bangs drum for client middleware

IBM is banging the drum for a new desktop software bundle, centred around Lotus WorkPlace and OpenOffice. The pitch is simple: it's cheaper and more secure than a Microsoft-only technology, or as IBM puts it: "Customers will no longer have to deal with separate and distinct applications on the Web and their desktop PCs - receiving the benefits of a single model of client computing". IBM is basing its client push upon a component-based software architecture called client middleware, enabling the applications to run on any platform. Central administration is delivered through Tivoli software. Both features are trumpeted as cost savers. The company is betting on people's desire to access corporate information using a variety of devices during the day. Applications and data will be stored on a central server and middleware will allow it to be viewed from a variety of different gadgets. The idea being that staff will access this with different devices at different times of day. The Lotus Workplace Messaging software lets people access calendars, email and web browsing through a central server. The software will work on Linux, Windows, Symbian and unix. Mac OSX will get support later this year. IBM will also offer Open Office applications. Workplace Documents software offers users presentations, spreadsheets and other documents. Users will pay a $2 monthly fee. ® Related stories IBM's Power5 pops up first in new iSeries IBM to assault users with virtualization technology Servers carry IBM to solid Q1
John Oates, 10 May 2004

BT will compensate customers for Manchester blaze

BT has agreed to pay compensation to homes and businesses following an underground fire in March that wiped out more than 130,000 phone lines in Manchester as well as disrupting emergency services. Confirmation that the UK's dominant fixed line telco is prepared to pay out to those left without a phone line for up to a week follows BT's own preliminary investigation into the blaze. The fire, which began early in the morning of 29 March, caused extensive damage to cables and widespread disruption to phone services in Manchester and the surrounding area. According to BT's own enquiry, it appears that the fire started deep in an underground tunnel after electrical kit was damaged following "work being undertaken in the tunnel". Despite its initial findings, BT has made it clear that "is not accepting any blame or responsibility for the fire". Instead, it is prepared to cough up compensation because, as a spokeswoman put it, "we feel it is the right thing to do... BT will honour its contractual commitments to its customers and is processing claims," it said. In a statement the company said: "BT today said that the results of its preliminary investigations into the cause of the Manchester fire were now known. The fire severely affected communications services in and around the city last month. "The initial findings indicate it started as a result of damage to electrical equipment. BT believes that during the course of work being undertaken in the tunnel before the fire, electrical fittings were damaged and this damage may have caused the fire. Investigations are ongoing." ® Related stories Manchester given all-clear after BT fire BT denies cable fire was in A-bomb exchange BT struggles to repair Manchester fire damage BT cable fire causes extensive damage in Manchester
Tim Richardson, 10 May 2004

EC opens ears on e-money directive

The European Commission has opened a consultation period on its controversial "e-money" directive. The EC wants businesses to tell it how the directive could be improved to "avoid unnecessary burdens for industry". Under the directive, providers of e-money will have to provide a way for people to redeem their e-money for real world money. They must also take action to ensure the system is not used for money laundering. At present, the e-money directive could be applied to the purchase and use of pre-pay mobile phone cards. The definition of electronic money is monetary value stored on a chip card or computer memory which is accepted for payment by someone other than the issuer. In interpreting this for use at a national level regulators have disagreed as to how the directive should apply in practice. Some countries have, for instance, decided that pre-pay mobile cards are covered by the new rules. Because of the confusion, the Commission decided last year to seek a common interpretation of the law. That analysis concluded that mobile pre-pay cards do not qualify as e-money if they are used to buy airtime from the company which issued them. But if they are used to buy ringtones, messaging, news, tickets or other products from a third party then they should be considering e-money. Still awake at the back? Good. Since, even by EU standards, this is an early morning snack for a four-legged pet (dog's breakfast). The Commission has decided to clarify exactly when and where the e-money directive should be applied. It is asking for comments and suggestions from those in the mobile or related industries and from ordinary punters. Interested parties have until 20 July 2004 to respond to the proposals and more details are available here, where you can download the whole consultation document as well. ® Related stories When is e-money not e-money? When it stays on your mobile phone UK leads e-Money revolution Sony to launch e-money scheme
John Oates, 10 May 2004

T-Mobile wins Heathrow hotspot siting

BAA, the owner of the UK's key airports, today agreed to let T-Mobile install Wi-Fi hotspots in international departure lounges at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and at Glasgow. At Heathrow, the deal covers Terminals 3 and 4, and includes American Airlines' and United Airlines' business class lounges. Punters accessing the Internet this way can expect to pay T-Mobile's usual tariff: £5 for a hour's online time, rising to £16.50 for a 24-hour period - though we'd hope that no one is delayed that long at Heathrow Terminal 4. T-Mobile mobile phone customers can gain access codes by SMS, billed at a rate of £1.50 for each 15 minutes spent online - which, as we've mentioned before - actually works out more expensive than paying by credit card. ® Related stories Texaco pumps Wi-Fi into 100 garages Wayport wins McDonald's hotspot gig T-Mobile equips US uni with guest Wi-Fi access Boeing prices up in-flight Wi-Fi Starbucks brings Wi-Fi to 154 UK stores T-Mobile to charge Wi-Fi access to phone bills
Tony Smith, 10 May 2004

PalmOne preps Treo 600 code update

PalmOne will align the software it ships with its PDAs and smart phones, the head of the company's wireless division, Ed Colligan, pledged today. Expect the handheld pioneer's data-centric and voice-centric devices to offer the same web browser, email, messaging, media and PIM apps by the end of the year, he told The Register today. He also said PalmOne will offer a major Treo system software upgrade this week. Having been developed under the auspices of two independent companies - Palm and Handspring - it's no surprise that the Treo, Tungsten and Zire lines should contain different apps that do the same thing. While the core PIM functionality comes from PalmSource, Handspring aggressively tweaked the code to add new features. It also developed its own browser, Blazer, and email software. Code created specially for the smart phone included the Treo's Phone and Messaging app, the latter for text and media messaging. Palm also developed a whole heap of code to do much the same thing for its PDAs, some of it, like WebPro and VersaMail, licensed or acquired from third-parties. The Zire 72 consumer PDA, launched two weeks ago, has its own SMS and multimedia messaging app for when it's linked to a mobile phone via a Bluetooth connection. Doubling the number of apps doubles the complexity of maintaining the codebase, and that's something the newly merged PalmOne wants to eliminate. Certainly by next Spring, Colligan said, all new PalmOne devices will share a common application set. Not all will, he noted, implying that older devices still being made available at that time will have been updated with the new apps. While Colligan would not be drawn on rumours - confirmed by an industry analyst - of an upcoming revision to the current Treo, the 600, he did reveal that the company will issue a software update for the smart phone this week. The update, which includes improvements to the handset's GPRS connection code, will be posted on the PalmOne website as a free download. ® Related stories Review: PalmOne Zire 31 Review: PalmOne Zire 72 Review: Treo 600 Analyst 'confirms' impending Treo 610 Why Handspring came home to Palm
Tony Smith, 10 May 2004

Orange UK sorts German roaming snag

Orange UK punters are now able to make and receive calls while travelling in Germany after the mobilephoneco was hit by technical problems over the weekend. The company has confirmed that it hit technical difficulties with three of the four networks it uses in Germany that help relay calls while punters are abroad. One reader - who visited Germany over the weekend - told us how Orange phones just died once they passed the Dutch border into Germany. The phones only started working again once they left Germany. A spokeswoman for Orange UK told us: "We can confirm that Orange customers in Germany this weekend have been experiencing difficulty accessing a network in order to make and receive calls. Orange customers can make and receive calls normally on the E-Plus network [Germany's third largest cell phone provider] but are experiencing difficulty with the other German networks." Engineers have been working to pinpoint the fault in a bid to restore the service and by late afternoon [Monday] Orange UK confirmed that the problem had been sorted. Orange apologised for the problem adding that it "regretted any inconvenience this may cause". ® Related stories Orange hits 50m subscriber mark Orange boss makes the long walk Orange pushes try-before-you-buy
Tim Richardson, 10 May 2004

Topspin hopes to hit winner with VFrame

Topspin Communications has boosted the software part of its product lineup with the release last week of the VFrame suite. Topspin pretty much defines the term virtualization start-up. It's best known for switching products that connect server and storage systems regardless of who makes the hardware. In the past, Topspin offered a basic software package for making this hardware magic happen, but now with VFrame it hopes to offer customers much more complex management tools. "Vframe is basically the fourth building block that we offer to build a utility data center out of whatever servers the customer wants," said Stu Aaron, vice president of marketing at Topspin. The other three "building blocks" include the Infiniband-based switch, software for pairing servers and storage systems and software for rolling out applications and/or operating systems on the servers. With VFrame, customers will now get their hands on a new class of policy-based management software that can work on its own or tie into other management software from vendors such as IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems. An administrator could use VFrame, for example, to deal with a sudden spike in traffic on a Web server. The admin could set up a policy to automatically provision a new Web server if the number of requests passed a certain threshold. "Our software makes it possible to bring up a server with a specific type of CPU and memory and boot it over the network," Aaron said. "Then we can map that server to the network and configure it with the storage network." Similarly, the software could be used to reconfigure servers to handle different tasks, depending on the time of the day. A customer could run payroll at night and serve up applications during the day. A number of companies both large and small claim to be able to similar things with their own fancy, shmancy software. Veritas, for example, presented a compelling roadmap last week for its clustering code. Topspin, however, insists that it does not want to be anything close to a major data center software provider. It simply wants to make sure its switches have the software needed to fit in with more complex management architectures sold by server, storage and software vendors. With that in mind, Topspin has also kicked off a VFrame developers program. This is an effort to encourage ISVs to test and certify their software with Topspin's. Current members of the program include Oracle, VMware/EMC, Opsware and Platform Computing. It's hard to gauge how popular the Topspin gear has been. The company did announce a customer win with the Burlington Coat Factory - a company that seems to pop up in customer win press releases with alarming frequency. In addition, Topspin has teamed with Dell, IBM and Sun on various fronts. If anyone out there has given the Topspin kit a good run, let us know. No, that doesn't include you, Stu. The VFrame software starts at $10,000 for up to 25 servers. ® Related stories IBM and Topspin link Infiniband lust Veritas cluster roadmap raises the ceiling IBM to assault users with virtualization technology
Ashlee Vance, 10 May 2004