11th > May > 2004 Archive

US.biz practicing Homeland inSecurity

US businesses are failing to support safe computing advice from the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Protection Centre (NIPC) issued Seven Simple Computer Security Tips in 2002. Two years on, a survey of 111 enterprise IT managers commissioned by Secure Computing found that half the companies quizzed had failed to apply at least three of the tips. The biggest problem areas were using easy-to-guess passwords (37 per cent of the surveyed organisations came a cropper on this score) and failure to back-up data systematically (31 per cent failed to verify the integrity of archived information at least once a month, as recommended by the NIPC). On the bright side, nearly all respondents ensure that servers and workstations have functioning anti-virus software, and 90 per cent update virus signatures at least daily, or "when-available". This is good practice, but it doesn't provide complete protection against Internet worms, as illustrated by last week's Sasser outbreak. Seasoned security watchers will be unsurprised by the findings - which mirror the results of a UK government-commissioned study published last month. It all goes to show that end user are as good at turning a deaf ear to government advice as they are at ignoring safe computing tips from security vendors. Vast reserves of patience will be required to turn this around. ® Related stories Hackers cost UK.biz billions Brits are crap at password security UK firms flop in the data back-up department Homeland insecurity starts at home
John Leyden, 11 May 2004

Europe space shuttle passes first test

The European Space Agency (ESA) has succesfully landed its prototype unmanned shuttle, Phoenix. The ESA hopes Phoenix will halve the cost of commercial satellite launches, and prove a useful money spinner for the agency. The test flight took place in Sweden this Saturday. Phoenix, seven metres long and with a wingspan of four metres, was dropped from a helicopter from a height of 2,400m for its 90-second glide to the landing runway. More test flights are to come, with new and tricky challenges for Phoenix, such as changing direction, and getting dropped at funny angles. Phoenix is a test vehicle for landing without humans: it uses a combination of radar, GPS data, and laser altimeters to navigate, as well sensors checking pressure and speed. Phoenix is one of a raft of proposals for a reusable launch vehicle (RLV), New Scientist reports. The only one currently in operation is NASA's Space Shuttle, an expensive old bird, and set for the scrap heap in just six years. Shuttle is also no good for satellite launches, and it is this gap in the market that Phoenix could fill. Current launch costs stand at a not-to-be-sniffed-at $15,000 per kg of payload. Imagine the excess luggage bill. Phoenix's designers at EADS Space Transportation reckon on halving the price, if all goes well. The grown-up, fully operational version of Phoenix, tentatively named Hopper, would fly to a height of 130km before firing its payload into orbit on an expendable rocket. But first it will have to make it through the tests. The next target is dropping the craft from 25km. The ESA aims to do this within three years. ® Related stories Beagle 2 was 'poorly managed' Rosetta space-bound at third attempt Galileo satellite project under threat?
Lucy Sherriff, 11 May 2004

Sun saves $315m by not expensing options

Sun Microsystems has long opposed expensing stock options and a recent regulatory filing shows one reason why. Sun's third quarter loss of $670m would have been 26 per cent wider if it had expensed options given to employees, according to a quarterly filing with the US SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). Sun puts its third quarter loss at $985m with the options included as an expense. It's not surprising to see a research and development-focused company such as Sun fight the trend toward expensing options. The company must hold on to key talent in order to stay competitive. Sun, more than most, owes much of its reputation to brains walking through Santa Clara halls. Still, other technology companies such as Amazon.com and CA have agreed to count their options as an expense. Those in favor of expensing options tend to argue that options count as a real cost and should be counted to give an accurate picture of a company's performance. Sun's filing also revealed that it coughed up 20m shares of stock to purchase Opteron server maker Kealia. Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim ran Kealia and is now back at Sun. ® Related stories Sun must replace hot air with firm chip detail - Gartner Sun's Opteron box defies European power supply standards Sun rallies J2EE faithful Sun makes servers Windows-ready
Ashlee Vance, 11 May 2004

Intel smiles on Dothan

The first iteration of the Centrino processor will continue to be manufactured and supported, Intel said at the launch of its speed-bumped successor Dothan in San Francisco today. The company expects Banias to be phased out by early next year. However Intel has made the transition to Dothan as painless as possible: the three replacement processors are less power-hungry and a little faster than the current Banias range, while remaining pin compatible. Dothan packs twice as many transistors into the package, thanks to the move to a 90 nanometer process. Intel's accountants will be happiest of all, however. Dothan will cost Intel less to manufacture because all of its chips will use 300 mm wafers, rather than 200 mm. Or as Anand Chandrasekhar, VP and general manager of Intel's mobile division put it modestly, "it will be very cost effective for us to make in large quantities." (For full speeds and prices of Dothan, see our comprehensive earlier report. "Son of Centrino", or Sonoma, will be launched in the second half of this year with support for a faster front-side bus and memory, an audio subsystem, and better I/O.) But not everyone will be a Centrino user. Chandrasekhar predicted that it would be some time before the processor hit even half of Intel's notebook PC sales. That's because so many users prefer notebooks based on derivatives of the Mobile Pentium desktop processor. These machines are bulkier and much less power-efficient, but they're also cheap, and might accurately be described as luggables that rarely need to be untethered, in practice. Not Yet Broken Representatives of Big Box Retail helped corroborate the trend. A CompuUSA executive said that he saw Centrino sell through at around 20 per cent of notebook sales, although he expects that to be higher for the back-to-school season (30 to 35 per cent). Retailers like the shift from low margin desktops to higher margin notebooks and the opportunity to up-sell more mobility-related peripherals. Notebooks don't last as long and need more insurance, too: a fact that any shopper at CompUSA will wearily note - the upselling continues into Car Park. There are exceptions: one Intel staffer who must not be named told The Register, as we admired the resilience of IBM kit, that he was looking forward to a new Thinkpad, only his six year-old Thinkpad was unfortunately Not Yet Broken. The dark side of Dothan also reared its head, briefly. When asked why Intel was introducing a new naming scheme for Centrino, Chandrasekhar replied that the numbers represented more of "goodness measure" and reflected features that were not necessarily "performance enhancing", such as Le Grande. Le Grande is Intel's contribution to TCPA-compliant lock-down computing, and allows large media companies to impair the user's ability to exchange media files, such as their favorite songs. So you can see why Le Grande isn't "performance enhancing", and quite the reverse. In fact it might be very difficult indeed to sell a computer with Le Grande capabilities, once Microsoft completes its side of the Faustian bargain. But that project is slipping and Doomesday may not coincide with the release of Windows Longhorn. When we asked Anand what he might have done differently last year with Centrino, he said he would have probably wanted to start the consumer promotion a little earlier. He didn't give any indication that Intel would integrate Bluetooth into the Centrino chipset anytime soon: because most people don't use it, the integration isn't cost-effective, he said. This will be met with relief by Bluetooth chip manufacturers, no doubt. Many of the Dothan notebooks we saw displayed at the launch did in fact have Bluetooth capabilities, but all these come from third parties, of course. When we approached Anand. he was explaining to a financial analyst who Must Not Be Named how it wasn't yet possible to get email on a mobile phone, and Anand took out his AT&T GSM Nokia phone (we believe it was a 6310) to emphasize the point. Alas, he declined our offer to demonstrate how well email could be handled on your reporter's AT&T GSM Nokia phone, and the conversation moved on. It's funny what you overhear. Perhaps this explains why Intel has felt it necessary to invent this amazing gadget. ® Related stories Intel launches Dothan with Pentium M price cuts Intel to debut Dothan on Monday Intel's deskbook CPU platform merger plan Intel confirms Pentium model numbers Intel Dothan to be called Pentium M 700 Intel to kill off Mobile Pentium 4 around Q1 2005 90nm Dothan to lead consumer Centrino drive Centrino 2 to launch next Autumn Intel's Dothan successor to consume 45W at 65nm report
Andrew Orlowski, 11 May 2004

China snubs US with 3G phone 'wonderchip'

When China signed an agreement with the US Trade Department to drop two important home-grown wireless technologies last month, cynics wondered how long the agreement would last. Now we have an answer: about two weeks. The PRC had bowed to intense lobbying pressure and agreed not to develop its WAPI 802.11 encryption, and a 3G technology called TD-SCDMA: a rival to the CDMA 2000 systems developed by Qualcomm and W-CDMA, which forms the basis of all European and most of Asia's 3G networks. A statement issued by the US Department of Commerce said that China had agreed to "support technology neutrality with respect to the adoption of 3G," implying that China's mobile networks would be free to choose between W-CDMA and CDMA 2000 and that TD-SCDMA which costs them less, had been kicked into the long grass. But last week the Xinhuanet news agency proudly heralded the arrival of a new processor for mobile phones from Spreadtrum, which claims to be a "breakthrough" single processor integrating analog baseband and power management as well as radio onto the silicon. The chip has the backing of the Chinese IT and science ministries. "The development of the new chip will help push forward the industrialization of the TD-SCDMA, an original communications standard of China for third-generation mobile telecommunication, in the country," we learn from Jiang Shoulei, head of the Shanghai Integrated Circuit Industry Association. The report points out that China spent $10bn to import phone chips last year. US manufacturers have complained for years about Chinese protectionism, but "protectionism" is something that only other countries do, never one's own. The US Commerce Department was protecting its own manufacturers from home-grown Chinese technologies which, it could be argued, were cheaper and more attractive, and benefited the national interest: $10bn spent internally, rather than in Stockholm or San Diego represents a significant boost to the Chinese economy. Ironically, Spreadtrum's breakthrough should benefit both. The fabless design company was started by Chinese entrepreneurs in 2001 with headquarters in Sunnyvale, California: its second product, a TD-SCDMA chipset is due to appear in phones by the end of the year. ® Related stories US trade pressure kills China's home-grown tech China agrees to drop WAPI wireless sec spec Trade Wars II: China shuns Qualcomm – no CDMA tax! EU frets over China's 3G plan Gang of Four set W-CDMA royalty cap Patent fees weigh down 3G uptake
Andrew Orlowski, 11 May 2004

Infineon hires CEO from tyre maker

Infineon has confirmed that it has chosen one Wolfgang Ziebart to run the company in place of ex-CEO Ulrich Schumacher, who quit the memory maker abruptly last March. Ziebart is currently deputy chairman at tyre maker Continental, but he does have some connections with the chip business courtesy of his work with the company's Teves and Temic subsidiaries. The former develops electronic braking and stability systems, the latter driver assistance technology. The new CEO will take up his position by 1 September, Infineon said. Until he does, company chairman Max Dietrich Kley will stay on as interim CEO. Kley took over from Schumacher following the latter's abrupt resignation at the end of March. Schumacher had been with the company for 18 years, but that wasn't enough to prevent a serious falling-out with the memory maker's board of directors. During Infineon's most recently completed quarter, its second of the current fiscal year, it reported revenues €1.67bn ($1.98bn), up three per cent on the previous quarter and 13 per cent on Q2 2003. Net income totaled €39m ($46m), up 14.7 per cent on Q1's €34m ($40m) and rather better than the €328m ($388m) the company lost in Q2 2003. ® Related stories Infineon shortlists two CEO candidates Schumacher quits Infineon Rambus sues for $1bn EC approves Infineon state aid package
Tony Smith, 11 May 2004

AMD sneaks out 90nm core in 130nm chip

AMD's 'Odessa' chip, originally planned to be the company's first 90nm mobile part, has come to market early, it has emerged. But AMD watchers hoping for an early release of the chip maker's next-generation fabrication technology will be disappointed: Odessa is now a 130nm part. AMD's public roadmap currently calls for Odessa to appear sometime during H2 2004. However, the low-power Mobile Athlon 64s released last week, the 2700+ and 2800+, are actually Odessa parts but fabbed at 130nm, a company spokesman revealed, according to a Silicon Strategies report. AMD's roadmap also lists a new 130nm Mobile Athlon 64 for H1 2004 release, but that's believed to be the 'mainstream' 2800+, 3000+ and 3200+ AMD put out earlier this year. The new part contain 512KB of L2 cache and are available in Socket 754 lidless packaging. Both 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. All this is not to say that the 90nm Odessa is dead - "it will have a different name in our updated roadmap", an AMD spokesman said. As it stands, AMD's public roadmap lists Odessa's successor as the 90nm 'Oakville', due during H1 2005, but the spokesman also noted that the company was in the process of rewriting this document. During the next half of the year, AMD is also set to ship 'Dublin' a version of the 130nm mobile chips shipped under the Athlon XP-M brand. ® Related stories AMD delivers on low-power Athlon 64 pledge AMD to parade Socket 939 at Computex AMD slashes Opteron prices
Tony Smith, 11 May 2004

European Council snubs software patent vote

The EU software patents directive is back, with all of the parliamentary amendments stripped out, provoking speculation that Europe will soon find itself in a US-style patenting arms race. The document which emerged after months of deliberation behind closed doors has drawn harsh criticism from lobby groups who see software patents as threats to innovation and to ability of smaller companies to compete against the bigger players. The version passed by the European Parliament in September last year limited the scope of what could be patented to software that supported new physical processes, such as steel-making, or a new anti-lock braking system. However, the draft now allows for direct software patentability of computer programs, data structures and process descriptions. These are areas the MEPs had voted off the agenda, and which activists fear will pave the way for the dreaded business-method patents that have plagued America. Beyond the ideological debate, there are three main sticking points with the legislation as it stands, according to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII). To be considered patentable, computer-implemented invention must involve an inventive step. To qualify as inventive, it must make a technical contribution, i.e., a contribution to the state of the art that is not obvious. However, the directive does not define technical. This absence could, the FFII argues, lead to a sliding scale of patentability culminating in even specific lines of code being covered as a patent. There has been no clarification on the issue of interoperability. The latest draft makes no requirement of patent holders to make an all-comers general license available to parties who want to write software that inter operates with the patented process. Program claims will be allowed under the terms of this draft. This means supplying patented code will also be an infringement of the patent, rather than just running it on a computer. FFII warns that this will severely restrict development, as it will become impossible to post sections of code on websites: a practice vital to developer communities. James Heald, a spokesman for FFII, warns that the consequences for small businesses and open source developers could be severe. "In a maturing market, there is a change in the state of mind of many companies. They don't have that heady dotcom feeling of a pot of gold being just over the horizon, so they want to make the most of their existing assets, and hold on to what they have. Patents go from being a thing you file and forget about, to being assets you can use to generate revenue. Small players especially will lose out, because unless you have the money to fight a patent infringement claim - anything up to $2m in the US - or you are very lucky, you have to fold, and pay the license fee." So what was the Council of Ministers thinking? It all goes back to the original purpose of the directive, which is to clarify the law across Europe. The European Patent Office (EPO) was widely perceived as being very fluid in its interpretation of the European Patents Convention (EPC) of 1973. This document, signed by many EU member states, imposed a blanket prohibition on software patents "as such". However, in 1986, the EPO's board of technical appeal ruled: Generally speaking, an invention which would be patentable in accordance with conventional patentability criteria should not be excluded from protection by the mere fact that for its implementation modern technical means in the form of a computer program are used. Decisive is what technical contribution the invention as defined in the claim when considered as a whole makes to the known art. Since then, its definition of what is or is not patentable has been erratic, according to those in the know. In October 2002, Intellect, the UK IT trade body, cautioned: "Without the clear stake in the ground this directive would create, there is at least a danger the EPO case-law, and with it that of member states, might drift in the direction of allowing patents for non-technical subject-matters such as business methods. We think such a development would be wholly undesirable." The Directive was conceived as a way to pin down, once and for all, what counted as patentable ,without substantially changing the implementation of the European Patents Convention. According to Jeremy Philpott, a spokesman for the UK Patent Office, this explains why the amendments have been abandoned. "If the directive had gone through with all the proposed amendments," he says, "there would have been plenty of patents that would no longer have been valid. I cannot stress this enough: there will be no change to UK law. The whole point was that what is patentable today, will be patentable tomorrow, and what is not patentable today will still not be patentable tomorrow." He also argues that while the copy of the directive does not define technical, this is largely irrelevant. "There is a substantial body of legal precedents which speak about the requirement for a "technical effect" to confer patentability on a software invention. Its meaning in a patent context is well understood by those to whom it matters, that is, patent examiners, patent litigators and judges." Despite this, many people have serious concerns about the way the amendments have been dropped. Most concede that harmonisation across Europe is necessary, but the debate is over the direction of that harmonisation. Officially, all the states that signed up to the EPC in 1973 have agreed to align their national patent laws with the EPC, and the EPC defines the criteria to which the EPO works. In theory, everyone is working to the same rulebook, and has been for years. In practice, it is a little different: Denmark, Germany and Finland have all been much more reluctant to grant software patents than the UK, for example. "It may maintain the status quo in the UK," says Heald, "But the implications for the rest of Europe are much more significant." The Directive will now go before a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 17 May. It has been provisionally agreed and will be waved through with no further discussion, unless one or more member states changes its stance. Then it goes back to the European Parliament for a second reading. Making further changes at this stage requires a majority of all MEPs to be in favour - including those who are absent from the chamber. If after the second reading the Council and the Parliament are still at loggerheads, they have six weeks to find a compromise or the bill will be dropped. The FFII says the only realist way to stop the Directive is to break consensus of the member states before the 17 May meeting. Heald concludes: "Our chances of doing that are very thin". ® Related links The European Patents Convention Related stories EU braces for software patent demo No US patent for the patently obvious EU patents vote delayed European Parliament castrates software patent regs EU patent legislation will destroy small business EU delays software patents vote
Lucy Sherriff, 11 May 2004

EA and MS deal for online gaming

Microsoft and Electronic Arts are patching up their differences through a deal which will see EA games played online through the XBox Live service. The service launched in November 2002 but EA had doubts about the revenue-sharing model. The service also had to be run on Microsoft-controlled servers and EA appears to have had doubts about giving a competitor so much access to how people played its games. Microsoft now allows third parties to run servers. Financial terms of the deal were not released. EA will offer about 15 games including sports titles Madden NFL, NBA Live 2005, FIFA Soccer 2005. Battlefield, Burnout3 and Time Splitters will also be available. The decision, announced at the games jamboree E3 in Los Angeles, may have been influenced by Microsoft's decision to withdraw from sports games. MS announced in March that it would not update its football, hockey and basketball games. XBox Live claims 750,000 subscribers in 24 countries. By getting EA on board. MS may well achieve its target of 1m subscribers by June. ® Related stories Spanish judge rules X-Box mods 'legal' Xbox 2 innards laid bare on web Grey stage set for UK PS2 price war
John Oates, 11 May 2004

Lottery scams new flavour of the month

Lottery scam emails are increasing at an alarming rate, according to Fraudwatch International, the Australian website that protects consumers from identify theft. Last month FraudWatch International received over 1000 variations, double the number of phishing email scams. Consumers are paying big dollars to have their bogus winnings released to them. "If it wasn’t working, the number of emails wouldn’t be increasing," FraudWatch managing director Trent Youl said. "Victims are contacting us every day asking for assistance to recover their lost money. The bottom line is, once the fraudsters have it, recovery is unlikely." The scam usually begins with an email claiming the recipient has won a lottery. They are to contact a claims agent to collect their winnings, typically at a free email address. The claims agent sends his victims a claim form, and asks for copies of their passport and driver’s license to verify their true identity. This is where the scam begins. The fraudsters now have enough information to duplicate the consumer’s identity. The responding consumer receives an email with three options of how to collect their winnings. They can have the money wired to their bank account, they can open an account with a specified bank (bogus), or they can pick up their winnings personally. In most cases, they need to pay an advance fee. If victims do not want to pay upfront fees, they can open an (online) account with a specified bank, whose "policy" requires a deposit of around $3,000. This bank, however, is fake. Alternatively, victims are able to pick up their money personally by travelling to places such as Amsterdam, where they are required to pay a release fee in cash, and receive their winnings in counterfeit currency. Last year, most lottery scams emails originated from the Netherlands; lately the majority of the emails come from Madrid, Spain. ® Related stories Telefónica fights 419 lottery tsunami UK probes too good to be true Internet offers UK, US and Canada crack down on Net scams
Jan Libbenga, 11 May 2004

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Team Register, 11 May 2004

Nvidia brings hardware firewall to Athlon XP rigs

Nvidia has upgraded its AMD Athlon XP-oriented chipset, the nForce 2, to add a Gigabit Ethernet interface to the product, RAID and a TCP/IP packet processing core the company is pitching as a "hardware-optimised firewall security solution". The new chipset, the nForce 2 Ultra 400Gb, now features its own, on-board Gigabit Ethernet port, which Nvidia claims yields 200 per cent more network bandwidth than a Gigabit board hooked up to a PCI bus can manage. Nvidia's big pitch, however, is the security component, which is claims is "the industry's first and only hardware-optimised firewall solution". Nvidia Firewall software hooks into the chipset's TCP/IP packet processing ability, and has been certified by security specialist ICSA Labs, the company said. Incoming packets can be analysed 'at source' to check whether they should be allowed into the computer. That, argues Nvidia, not only improves performance - the host CPU is freed from the task of running a software-only firewall - but enhances the degree of protection offered. Expect Nvidia to make more of this kind of thing. Nvidia recently acquired the technology assets of networking and storage processor developer iReady, which specialised in systems that offload processing from a machine's CPU. In particular, it developed TCP/IP processing chips, geared toward high-end servers, it was also working on iSCSI processing chips for storage area networks. Nvidia also released the nForce 2 Ultra 400R, a less shouted-about product that essentially combines the features of two existing nForce 2 South Bridge parts - the Gigabit MCP and the RAID MCP. Nvidia calls is South Bridge chips Media and Communications Processors (MCPs). The Ultra 400R provides Gigabit Ethernet and Serial ATA with RAID. Nvidia said its new MCPs will work with existing nForce2 400 series North Bridge parts that can operate with AMD Athlon XP processors with 266MHz, 333MHz and 400MHz frontside bus speeds. Pricing was not disclosed. ® Related stories Nvidia acquires network processor maker Nvidia extends nForce 3 Go family to ultra portables Nvidia unveils nForce 3 for mobile, desktop Athlon 64 Nvidia preps mid-range GeForce 6800 part Nvidia green lights Quadro FX 4000 chip Nvidia rolls out GeForce 6800
Tony Smith, 11 May 2004

Rambus offers DDR controller cores

Rambus yesterday began shipping a series of DDR SDRAM memory controller designs pitched a chip designers who want to build the technology into their own processor cores. In addition to DDR, the Rambus "interface and physical layer cells" support DDR 2 up to 800MHz, along with GDDR 1, 2 and 3 at up to 1.6GHz. Crucially, the technology also works with Rambus' own would-be next-generation memory standard, XDR DRAM, courtesy of "an optional performance mode". So by buying Rambus IP now, chip designers are inherently paving the way to support the next major standard - if Rambus gets its way, of course. Rambus said its DDR interface circuits are designed for a wide variety of standard CMOS processes, including 90nm, 130nm and 180nm nodes. The company can ship you designs today if you're a customer of TSMC's 130nm process. Rambus DDR memory controller interfaces for consumer and graphics applications are available now, the company said, while those for main memory applications will be available "soon". ® Related stories Rambus sues for $1bn FTC outlines appeal against Rambus ruling FTC appeals against Rambus ruling Judge throws out FTC case against Rambus Europe to revoke Rambus memory patent SiS unveils 16GB quad-channel Rambus chipset Rambus renames Yellowstone as XDR DRAM
Tony Smith, 11 May 2004

Vodafone looks beyond 3G

Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarin has called on the mobile industry to come together and build standards to take it beyond 3G. He warned that competing technologies would slow network growth, increase costs and damage the industry. The comments come as Vodafone rolls out its 3G network in Japan. The company is using W-CDMA and is struggling to challenge DoCoMo and KDDI which have 3m and 17m 3G subscribers. Vodafone recently announced that it is testing technology from Flarion Technologies to boost wireless data speeds to 3Mbps. Sarin said: "For us 3G is not a big bang; it is an evolution. We are careful in deploying 3G in areas where we think we can get a return. As we go from 25 to 50 to 75 per cent, at some point we are going to say that is enough. The last 25 per cent may not need 3G, as there may be another technology that comes along." According to the Financial Times, Sarin also said there was still room for growth in voice use on mobile phones. Related stories Flarion's Tokyo wireless adventure Vodafone brings 3G to Europe Brussels to charge Vodafone and O2 over roaming
John Oates, 11 May 2004

Openwave buys Magic4

Mobile data company Openwave has acquired UK messaging specialist Magic4 for $82.6m. The company will buy all outstanding shares in the private business and integrate its product into its client software. The price will be paid in a mixture of shares and cash, the exact mix to be decided by Openwave before the deal closes. If regulators approve, the deal should go through in July and Openwave expects Magic4 to contribute between $9m and $11m in revenue in the second half of 2004. Don Listwin, president and CEO at Openwave, said: "With Magic4, Openwave will become the number one open standards based software provider for data phone manufacturers. Browsing and messaging are the core engines that power advanced mobile data services today." Simon Wilkinson, CEO at Magic4, said the deal was good news for Magic4 customers. Openwave software has shipped on 500m phones and claims 51 per cent of the global mobile browser market. ® Related stories Opera moves into phone content integration business Openwave's big hello to mobile data services Openwave offers disruptive browser suite
John Oates, 11 May 2004

MCI to axe 7,500 jobs

MCI - formerly known as WorldCom - is to axe 7,500 jobs as it struggles to make its way in an "adverse industry environment". This latest round of job losses comes just six weeks after the global communications outfit revealed plans to erase 4,000 jobs from its operation. News of the job losses came as the company reported its first quarter (Q1) results - the first since it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month after spending the last two years clearing up the mess left behind from a damaging accounting scandal. MCI's revenue during the first three months of the year fell to $6.3bn (£3.6bn) compared to $7.2bn (£4bn) a year earlier. The company also ran up an operating loss of $205m (£116m) for the first quarter, compared to an operating profit of $634m (£359m) during the same period last year. It made a net loss of $388m (£220m) in Q1 '04, compared to net income of $52m (£29m) in 2003. MCI blamed this loss on declining revenue, "caused in part by industry pricing", which reflected the "adverse industry environment, as excess capacity and new technology adoption continue to pressure pricing". The job cuts earmarked for the next three months are just one way MCI reckons it can cut costs and return to profitability in the second half of the year. Said boss Michael Capellas: "Although we made significant strides in restructuring the company during the past year, overall industry conditions and an unfavorable regulatory environment affected our first quarter results. In response we are accelerating our cost reduction program, ramping new product introductions and optimizing our network wherever possible." ® Related stories MCI breaks free from Chapter 11 MCI to axe 4,000 US jobs WorldCom gets sums wrong by $74bn AT&T threatens MCI with price war
Tim Richardson, 11 May 2004

Sage results solid

Newcastle-based accounts giant Sage increased profits by 17 per cent in the first half of the year. Pre-tax profits were £86.7m for the six months ended 31 March, up from £51.2m for the same period last year. Turnover grew by 23 per cent from £270m to £332.5m. Sage added 146,000 new customers in the period and gained another 900,000 by acquisition. This gives it a total of 4.3m accounting customers. The company bought Timberline, Grupo SP and Softline in Autumn 2003. In January 2004 it acquired Australian and South African accounts company ACCPAC from Computer Associates for $110m. Sage chairman Michael Jackson welcomed the results: "They demonstrate the value of our key asset, our large and growing customer base of over 4 million SMEs, to which we are successfully selling our extensive range of products and services. They also show the early contribution from our four recent acquisitions where integration into the Group is proceeding swiftly and effectively." Jackson added that market conditions were "substantially unchanged" but remained confident for the year ahead. Related stories Sage interim profits jump Sage buys ACCPAC for $110m Sage acquires Timberline
John Oates, 11 May 2004
server room

NHS rolls out digital X-rays

NHS staff will soon be able to email patient scans and X-rays between departments and institutions. As part of the £6bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT), the NHS is rolling out a digital picture archiving and communications system (PACS). The goal is to cut waiting time between scans and diagnosis, helping medical staff treat patients more quickly. The Department of Health has named the companies that will supply the technology: GE Medical Systems is the big winner, in partnership with Accenture, picking up three of the five regional deals. BT and Phillips, and Fujitsu and Kodak also picked up regional contracts. Richard Granger, director general of NHS IT, said his organisation had negotiated a "significant reduction" in the average price of a PACS system. Health minister John Hutton said: "The digital image will follow the patient wherever they go and will be able to be recalled whenever and wherever they need to be accessed by a patient's healthcare professional." This will mean lower costs for hospitals, as they will not have to buy film, and better service for patient, particularly in rural areas, he went on. PACS will be installed in local minor injuries units, as well as hospitals, so people will not have to travel to a hospital to get the diagnosis they need. The PACS system will be rolled out through five local service providers, each responsible for a regional cluster. The Department of Health says national coverage will be completed in three years. ® Related stories Healthcare IT spend on the up-and-up European healthcare 'online by 2008' Bush presses for electronic medical records EDS cuts losses NHS chief mooted as UK's IT 'CIO' NHS IT a wonderful thing NHS
Lucy Sherriff, 11 May 2004

Sasser copycats get busy

Copycat virus authors have released a pair of worms targeted at the same vulnerability in Microsoft's operating system exploited by the infamous Sasser worm. Undeterred by the arrest of Swen Jaschan in Germany last Friday, coders have released a new Sasser variant (Sasser-F) and the first worm in a new strain, Cycle-A. Both worms exploit a hole in Window's Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS) component. Neither is spreading particularly widely and most AV vendors place them low on the peril index. Cycle-A kills processes belonging Blaster and Sasser (A-D) worms on infected machines. In addition, it is programmed to launch a denial of service attacks against the websites of the Islamic Republic News Agency (www.irna.com) after 18 May. If it can't reach IRNA it will try to packet the BBC home page, its secondary target. Sasser-F is a repackaged version of the Sasser-A worm (which never spread widely due to faults in its coding - Sasser-B caused the most problems). Sasser-F shares all of its code and functionality of its predecessor and differs from Sasser-A only in the filename and registry keys it uses. The new variant has a malicious process name of "billgate", probably as a reaction to the aid given to German police by Microsoft in the arrest of Jaschan. "It is definitely a patched version of Sasser-A. Whoever released this had no access to the source code." said Sorin Victor Dudea, Head of Virus Research at Romanian AV outfit BitDefender Labs. The release of two versions of Sasser after Jaschan's arrest on Friday has led to speculation its author may either have distributed the source code or not been alone in creating the malware. Police reckon Jaschan released Sasser-E before his arrest, as a damage limitation exercise. AP reports that source code for Sasser was found on Jaschan's PC. Sasser-F was a copycat version so the police line that Jaschan acted alone in releasing Sasser is holding up. Jaschan is also suspected of writing all 28 versions of NetSky but circumstantial evidence (coding styles, targets of attack, messages in the worm) suggest otherwise. We probably won't get a definitive answer on whether Jaschan acted alone until his trial. Meanwhile for end-users the most pressing issue remains defending systems against the vulnerability exploited by Sasser. Sasser-style worms remain a serious risk despite Jaschan's arrest. ® Related stories New version of Sasser undermines lone coder theory German police arrest Sasser worm suspect Sasser ups cost of Windows - Gartner Sasser creates European pandemonium We've seen worse than Sasser - MS
John Leyden, 11 May 2004

Erkki speaks on mobile regulations

Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, spoke about the European Union's plans for mobile regulation at the IFT World Mobile Communications Conference in London. He pointed out the success of European telecoms and particularly mobile technology compared to the US. Liikanen believes the move to data services and higher speed connections mean regulations need to be updated now. He believes interoperability may be one area where regulation could help preserve Europe's leading position. The new framework is being worked out with National Regulatory Authorities - like Ofcom in the UK. NRAs will then work with the EC to agree a common position. Liikanen said there are four main areas of the mobile market currently being examined by the Commission. The move to 3G: Last October CEOs from the top 14 mobile players in Europe met to discuss 3G at an event labelled "The Mobile Platform". Topics included barriers to entry, interoperability, security and R&D. The 14 will meet again next month following which the EC will publish a Communication to help create a helpful environment for media rich content on mobile phones. Consultation on mobile payments: Liikanen mentioned the public consultation on mobile payments, noting: "I am anxious that regulation of this area should be proportionate and should facilitate the depolyment of innovative services." More spectrum: The Commission is looking at spectrum issues and ensuring more resources become available by 2008. The EC is also discussing secondary trading of spectrum rights. It acknowledges that this is a big and potentially disruptive change. Inquiry into footy rights: The Commission has launched a sector inquiry into the availability of "high value content", sports rights, on 3G networks. The inquiry aims to ensure fair access to sports rights for the mobile sector. Liikanen urged all mobile operators to work with the Commission and national regulators to overcome existing competition problems. He also asked all companies involved in the Mobile Platform to "re-double their efforts to ensure to outline the concrete steps that can be taken to develop the mobile broadband sector". In July Liikanen leaves the commission to become president of the Finnish Central Bank. You can read the whole speech here. Related stories EC opens ears on e-money directive EC tells Europe and ICANN to make peace EU roaming probe delayed
John Oates, 11 May 2004

Gateway loss widens as patent lawsuit fund grows

Legal costs knocked a further $6m off Gateway's bottom line, widening its Q1 loss to $172m (51 cents a share), the PC maker announced today. The company stuck with the preliminary revenue figure it put out at the end of April. It made $868m in the three months to 31 March 2004, less than percentage point down on the $875m it reported for Q4 2003 and up on the $844m it posted this time last year. Gateway was expecting to announce a $166m loss for the quarter, during which it acquired budget PC maker eMachines. That figure included a $104m one-off restructuring charge revolving on the eMachines acquisition and Gateway's plan to close its 188 bricks'n'mortar stores with the loss of 2500 jobs. Early in March, it announced the loss of another 2000 jobs. The $6m addition to the preliminary quarterly loss is due to "an increase in a reserve related to a patent-infringement claim as a result of recent developments in final settlement negotiations". Currently, Gateway is being sued by HP, which claims six of its PC-related patents have been violated by its rival. HP began legal proceedings against Gateway last March after the latter allegedly refused to renew a technology license it had signed with Compaq but which expired in 1999. HP acquired Compaq in 2002. That reference from Gateway to "final settlement negotiations" suggests it is paving the way to cough up cash to HP to end the affair. Clearly it wants it take some of that on the chin now rather than handle it in a future quarter. A more cynical observer than us might suggest that the release of preliminary figures followed by a quick addendum a few weeks later might be seen as a way of disguising the bad news. ® Related stories Gateway axes 2500 jobs, closes US stores Gateway waves goodbye to another 2000 Gateway to buy eMachines HP sues Gateway over patents
Tony Smith, 11 May 2004

Porn scamster jailed for 11 years

The man behind what has been described as the largest Internet fraud ever has finally been sentenced to more than 11 years behind bars. Kenneth Taves, 52 - who ran a porno website - netted a whopping $38m (£21m) in unauthorised credit card charges after "signing up" some 900,000 punters to his XXXX service. The scam only came to light after a number of people complained that they were being billed $19.95 (£11.50) a month for a service to which they had not subscribed. Taves bought a list of credit card details and simply charged subscriptions to them. Although those hit by Taves' scam are unlikely to get all their cash back, it's hoped that they will get a "substantial" amount of what they are owed. Some $13m has already been recovered, according to a report by AP, and US courts are still trying to recoup another $8m stashed away in banks in the South Pacific island of Vanuatu. Taves pleaded guilty to the fraud charges back in 2001. Sentencing was delayed due to the complexity of the case and the fact that Taves changed lawyers several times. ® Related stories Porn site chief in $38m credit card scam Porno Webmasters nailed in $43m credit scam Web porn credit card scam biggest ever
Tim Richardson, 11 May 2004

Infinium to launch $199 Athlon XP console 18 Nov

Infinium Labs will finally launch its long-awaited broadband-based online gaming service on 18 November, the company said today. And it will attempt to attract punters by offering free consoles to anyone who coughs up for a two-year subscription to the service. Both console and service are called Phantom, and many observers had come to wonder whether either would prove little more than a vapourware. Infinium started touting both products early in 2003, but August came and went without the promised launch. A second launch timeframe, Q1 2004, was also missed, and the company couldn't even show a working version of the console at January's Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show. With E3 opening today, Infinium is once again talking up its offering. The console will is based on an AMD Athlon XP 2500+ and contains a 40GB hard drive, 256MB of memory TV output and broadband Internet feed. The graphics come courtesy of an Nvidia GeForce FX 5700 Ultra ship. Nvidia also supplies the nForce 2 400 Ultra chipset on which the console is based. The box, which clearly amounts to little more than a low-end PC, will retail for $199, Infinium said. The Phantom Games Service costs $29.95 a month, and if you sign up for a 24-month period, you'll get your Athlon XP box for free. The service provides downloadable games that can be bought or rented. Software manages the removal of titles after the rental period and if the number of downloaded titles exceeds the drive's capacity. The service will offer "top new games to old standards people want to play again and again", Infinium promised. "Subscribers will receive an initial library of free games, which will be supplemented with new choices each month as a part of their subscription fee," the company added. "Additional titles can be rented or purchased. Premium content packages will also be made available." Infinium is currently fighting a legal battle with hardware site HardOCP over an article that criticised the company's business record. ® Related stories To Infinium and beyond: president Kevin Bachus talks Phantom Ex-Infinium exec sues company... Infinium Labs countersues HardOCP HardOCP takes big stick to Infinium Infinium Labs gets litigious with HardOCP Infinium Labs names key executives Infinium to unwrap Phantom console next month Of Infinium's Phantom US startup plans new console launch
Tony Smith, 11 May 2004

Sony unveils colour 'iPod killer'

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Declaring the barrier between the PC and the AV worlds officially broken, Sony yesterday extended its Vaio brand of computers to include a digital music player. The Vaio Pocket VGF-AP1 contains a 20GB hard drive, and also marks a major shift in Sony's portable music strategy, which to date has centred on solid-state and MiniDisc Walkman products. The ¥53,000 ($465) player sports a 2.2in, 320 _ 256 26,000-colour LCD and can download photography from a digital camera, Sony said. In that respect, it's pitched more at next Christmas' Microsoft Personal Media Center devices than the iPod, but it's clear Sony has its eye on the Apple's device too. It will ship with earphones and a USB 2.0 connection cradle that doubles as its battery recharge unit. Sony claims the Lithium Ion battery will provide 20 hours' playback time. Like Sony's other digital music players, the Pocket will only play songs encoded in the company's own ATRAC 3 format. The device sports Sony's G-Sense interface which maps sectors of the display onto a series of 25 buttons. The handheld unit measures 11.5 x 6.3 x 1.7cm, but the right-hand side rear bulges out to 2.7cm thanks to the battery. The Pocket weighs 195g. Sony yesterday launched a Windows XP-based Centrino handheld that ships without an integrated keyboard. The launch follows an early announcement that it will offer a true electronic book later this month. The Pocket will go on sale in Japan in June. US and European launches appear likely but Sony said it has yet to set a date. ® Related stories Sony unveils tiny wireless pen PC Sony launches true electronic book Sony US music service an 'embarrassment' Sony opens US music download store Review: Bsquare Power Handheld
Tony Smith, 11 May 2004

European workers take to the streets

Traditional office hours are becoming irrelevant, as European execs adopt a more mobile work culture. A study conducted for Intel by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that the vast majority (74 per cent) think the nine-to-five-routine is no longer relevant, and are as productive working outside the office as they are in it. Mike Bonello, Intel's mobile marketing manager, said the results of the study reflect the fundamental shift in the mindset of business workers. This shift has been helped by the wide adoption of mobile technology: 82 per cent of respondants said they already used a laptop, with another 13 per cent planning to switch in the next year. Executives are also happier to be mobile because the roll out of wireless hotspots means they can still be online. Also significant is the changing nature of the working day. The average day is longer, and more fragmented, the survey found. Respondants said they spent up to a third of each day out of the office, and that in the next two years, they expect this proportion will increase. Andrew Palmer of the Economist Intelligence Unit said that the findings reflected a trend to more autonomous working. This, he argued, is dictated by the need to work across time zones and geographies. "In the coming years, we are likely to see even more changes to working habits as companies move towards a more decentralised and flexible work force," he noted. The research shows that this geographical spead means most executives (61 per cent) work as part of a virtual team. Many (37 per cent) say their main contacts at work are remote colleagues. ® Related stories Broadcom simplifies Wi-Fi security set-up Intel to commit to Soho WLAN upgrades Central London Wi-Fi zone gets green light US to embrace Wi-Fi - not 3G - for data Remote-access networks for small.biz
Lucy Sherriff, 11 May 2004

DHS and UK ID card biometric vendor in false ID lawsuit

At San Jose Superior Court today (11 May) biometrics company Identix will seek to have a product liability and slander lawsuit against it and the States of California and Oregon dismissed. Plaintiffs Roger Benson and Miguel Espinoza are seeking restitution for the damage inflicted on them by duplication in police records which gave them other people's criminal records. Benson was wrongfully imprisoned for 43 days for carrying a firearm when a convicted felon, although the felony on his record had been committed by someone else, while Espinoza, had his restaurant business destroyed by a false record of a criminally negligent homicide conviction. The plaintiffs claim that their problems stemmed from Identix's Livescan 10-print, a fingerprint scanner used to enter fingerprint data into police systems. Two months ago Identix was re-confirmed as the winner of a Department of Homeland Security Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) for fingeprint systems, this being worth and estimated $27 million over five years. Identix is also supplying equipment for the UK Passport Service's ID card pilot, so one might reasonably consider that the stakes in San Jose Superior Court will be rather high. The case hinges on the origin of duplicate record ID numbers, but it is the fact that these actually existed that is of the broadest significance. Benson, whose case has been going through the courts longest, stepped into trouble when he was pulled in for a traffic violation and fingerprinted. This process was carried out using a Livescan system, which produced an Electronic Fingerprint Card (EFC). Each EFC is assigned a fingerprint control number, FPN, which is intended to be unique. Previous paper-based systems, which are still widely used in the US, use EFCs preprinted with a unique FPN, but this is not the case with EFCs produced with the Livescan system. Benson's EFC was created on February 6th 1998, and on September 10th 1998 one William Lee Kellog, charged with multiple felonies, was put through the booking process. Kellogg's EFC had the same FPN as Benson's. FPNs are widely used in criminal justice databases, and the duplicate records entered the Oregon Judicial Information Network (OJIN), where Kellogg's convictions were attached to Benson's record. A routine inspection in California the next year uncovered a handgun in Benson's truck, and as his Oregon record said he was a thrice convicted felon, he was arrested for being in violation of the California Penal Code. The plaintiffs' complaint alleges that the defendants have known since 1996 "that Livescan machines had the identified propensity of creating defective EFCs," and that they therefore knew that this was corrupting criminal justice databases and court records. It is not clear from the evidence presented that the blame rests entirely with the Livescan equipment, but it does seem clear that Oregon was aware that duplication incidents were occurring (a list of 97 of these was compiled), and it has certainly taken Benson some considerable time, against considerable opposition, to clear his name. He was, for example, unaware of the biometric technology's influence on his case until 2002, and prior to this had come up with some decidedly paranoid theories to explain why his life was being destroyed because of a traffic violation. As indeed, you might. For the rest of us, the real issue is how fallibility in software and human input can produce extremely serious errors in systems which are intended to provide virtually infallible identification. There is here no dispute that Benson's and Kellogg's biometric records are entirely different (Benson has only nine fingertips, for starters), but the processes operated in such a way that Benson's record got the convictions. These spread from Oregon to California, and Benson's attorney claims that he is still recorded by the FBI as having been arrested as a felon in possession of a firearm. Organisations deploying such systems should of course be extremely concerned that they are not subject to such errors. Aside from the impact on the victims, the creation of false records will damage the integrity of the database they're used in initially, and the sharing of this data will result in the corruption spreading into other systems. The further it gets, the harder it will be to undo the damage. But the more sure the designers are that they've ruled out problems like this, the harder it will be to have errors corrected. If it's impossible, then the people complaining have got to be mad, right? The issue of how you deal with the data is actually far more important than getting the technology to produce a "unique" biometric. ® Related links: Benson's complaint Glitches in ID card kit frustrate Blunkett's pod people
John Lettice, 11 May 2004

Official Nintendo DS console pic appears on Web

Nintendo's new handheld games console will ship in the Autumn, the company will announce today. However, the videogame pioneer couldn't wait to see its new baby in print, so offered the story early to USA Today, which dutifully announced the spec. Don't forget: Sony may launch the PlayStation Portable this week, too. The anticipated clamshell case sports the DS' dual-screen system: a main 3in game display and a secondary unit that's also 3in in size and is touch-sensitive. Alongside the lower screen is the usual Nintendo X-shaped joypad and buttons, but some games will use the touch-screen and a stylus. Like Nokia's N-Gage and upcoming N-Gage QD, the DS uses Bluetooth to maintain device-to-device wireless networks for multi-player gaming. The DS will sport its own game library, but the device contains a second game-card slot to allow it to play today's GameBoy Advance titles. The DS cards are smaller. Nintendo has already said the handheld will be powered by twin ARM-based processors and 128MB of RAM. However, an spec. sheet which appeared in March, allegedly having leaked out of Nintendo, noted that the device will ship with 512MB of RAM. While the document contain the first mention of a touch-screen, it also claimed the DS's wireless capability would be based on Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth as the apparently Nintendo-sanctioned USA Today story suggests. The spec. sheet also mentions an ARM-9 CPU running at 67MHz and an ARM-7 unit running at 33MHz. The two displays operate at 256 x 192, a little better than the GBA's 240 x 160 panel. The DS will possess decent 2D capabilities, but it also has a 3D graphics system which, the spec. claims, is capable of drawing 120,000 polygons per second, representing a fill-rate of 30 million pixels per second. Just how accurate those figures are we should learn later today. ® Related stories Nintendo preps dual-screen portable console Leaked Nintendo DS specs reveal touch screen, Wi-Fi, 3D graphics Sony delays US, Euro PlayStation Portable launch
Tony Smith, 11 May 2004

Nvidia ships TV, PVR cards to US, Europe

Nvidia has launched its latest alternative to arch-rival ATI's All-in-Wonder series of graphics cards, this one based on its GeForce FX 5700 graphics chip. The Personal Cinema FX 5700 essentially combines the usual 3D graphics technology with a software bundle pitched at more video-oriented users than the gamers the company's other products target. The card contains a TV tuner module which links to Nvidia's playback software and its TiVO-style personal video recorder code. There's an FM radio in there too. All of it can be operated using a remote control and bundled USB-connected receiver. Punters who like to create and edit their own televisual treats can do so using bundled video capture and DVD mastering software. The Personal Cinema FX 5700 goes on sale today in the US via Nvidia partner eVGA.com. European and Asian versions are also available, Nvidia said. In the UK, the company said it had begun shipping its NVTV TV tuner card, which provides much of the radio and personal video recorder functionality offered by the Personal Cinema FX 5700. NVTV is offered in both the NTSC and PAL formats. In addition to being sold as a standalone product, NVIDIA NVTV is also available as a certified hardware solution for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004. The product is available from add-in card vendors including Albatron, AOpen, Chaintech, Gainward, Gigabyte, Point of View, PNY, Prolink, Sparkle, and XFX. ® Related stories Nvidia brings hardware firewall to Athlon XP rigs Nvidia acquires network processor maker Nvidia extends nForce 3 Go family to ultra portables Nvidia unveils nForce 3 for mobile, desktop Athlon 64 Nvidia preps mid-range GeForce 6800 part Nvidia green lights Quadro FX 4000 chip Nvidia rolls out GeForce 6800
Tony Smith, 11 May 2004

IT suppliers survey - your votes count

Reg Reader Studies is once again asking for readers' help in taking the pulse of the IT barometer, and this time it's all about suppliers. All you have to do is complete the questionnaire below, and hit the "Submit Survey" button. And don't panic if you're hard-pressed for time: this exercise is considerably shorter (at 19 questions) than the previous half marathon which left hundreds of exhausted partipants sobbing uncontrollably by the roadside. We are, as ever, grateful for your assistance in this matter. Enjoy: 1. Are you employed within the UK IT Channel? (e.g. working for a reseller, VAR, distributor, dealer etc.) Yes No 2. Which IT supplier does your company work with most? 3. What accreditations does you company hold for this supplier? (e.g.: gold, silver, premier, registered etc.) 4. How do you believe that your customers rate the value of the accreditations that you hold? They don't care about them; it is our reputation that matters They give us additional credibility when working with our customers Our customers would not do business with us if we did not have them 5. How do you rate your main supplier's efforts to help you find new business? They regularly pass us high quality leads They pass us leads, but they are not generally that useful They only pass us duff leads We never get leads They try to get leads off of us! 6. How do you regard sharing information about new business opportunities with your main supplier? We trust them at all times and share all information We share some information when we need to We are guarded in case they pass leads elsewhere We keep information to ourselves; we don't trust them in the slightest 7. How good is your main supplier at helping you in sales situations? We work closely together during the sales cycle We do most the selling, but our supplier helps when we ask We don't get much help from our supplier We keep them at arms length They are a liability in front of the customer 8. Which of the following services does your company provide on behalf of your main supplier? Technical support Training courses Consultancy Rentals or leasing Hosting services 9. How good is your main supplier at helping you with these services? They provide pre-packaged services which we deliver We develop service offerings together which we deliver We develop our own service offerings with some help from them We do it all ourselves, they are no help 10. How good is you main supplier at providing 2nd line technical support to your company? Excellent, we can get through to an expert quickly at all times They are generally OK, if it is an urgent issue Our customers are often left in the lurch whilst we wait for help They are as good as useless 11. What statement best matches your company's view on making a profit? We get a good profit the from margin on our main supplier's products Product margins are tight; we rely on services to stay in business We make no profit from the products, but they just help sell services Products are a loss leader for our services 12. Thinking about your customers spending on IT, would you say that over the last 12 months: They have increased spending a lot They have increased spending a bit Their spending has remained about the same They have decreased spending a bit They have decreased spending a lot 13. Thinking about your customers spending on IT, would you expect that over the next 12 months: They will increase spending a lot They will increase spending a bit Their spending will remain about the same They will decrease spending a bit They will decrease spending a lot 14. What is your position? Technical support Technical consultant Sales Owner/Director Business Management Product Management Marketing Purchasing Administration 15. What type of channel organisation do you work for? Value added reseller (VAR) Value added distributor Reseller Distributor Dealer Systems integrator Consultancy System builder Independent software vendor (ISV) Mail order or catalogue reseller 16. Is your organisation an IT generalist or do you specialise in the any of the following areas? We are an IT generalist We specialise in: Security Data (IP) networks Voice networks Converged voice and data networks Storage and backup Office applications Business applications Other 17. What is your personal involvement in selecting products that your company chooses to resell? I am the main decision maker I am one of the main decision makers I am an adviser to the main decision makers I make the odd recommendation Not down to me, I just get on with my job! 18. What type of customer organisations do you target? Home users Small office/home office (1 to 5 employees) Small businesses (5 to 100 employees) Medium business (100 to 1000 employees) Enterprises (1000+ employees) Local government Central government Education Health care Other 19. How many employees work at your company? Over 1000 500-999 250 to 499 100 to 249 50 to 99 25 to 49 10 to 24 1 to 9 Many thanks for your time. Please click the button below to send us your answers.
Team Register, 11 May 2004

Dream Direct warns on profits

Mail-order software firm Dream Direct Group saw its shares fall 18 per cent this morning on news that it will miss profit targets. The company said losses were likely to be £750,000 rather than £450,000 previously predicted. It says it has extended its overdraft until January 2005. Dream Direct sells a wide-range of shrink-wrapped software and accessories from games and education to small office products. The company floated on AIM in May 2002. Pat Huggins, finance director at Dreams Direct, told The Register: "This is the tail-end of an aggressive growth in revenue and customer numbers. We have half a million customers on our database now and we've invested a fair amount in people and systems, and launched a new catalogue, to help that happen. Marketing costs will become more efficent and our response rates are already improving." At the end of last year the company began analysing its customer database and segmenting customers into behavioural and product categories. This has helped improve mailshots and improve churn rates. However, Huggins said the company had suffered because of last November's postal strike. He said it had pre-booked adverts and inserts into newspapers ahead of Christmas, traditionally its busiest time. But the strike led to people delaying or cancelling mail-order purchases because of worries over delivery. Dreams Direct saw response rates fall by as much as 40 per cent during the dispute. Robert Colquhon, chairman of Dream Direct, said he was disappointed to be issuing a profit warning but: "with a database of over half a million customers now achieved, the successful and profitable launch of our second catalogue brand and with a third launch scheduled for the autumn, the business is robust and on a firm footing. “The costs involved to date have been necessary to deliver a critical mass of customers and importantly the Company has now reached a stage where it can fully focus on leveraging its customer database, generating cash and delivering profits, which I am confident will be achieved in the current financial year.” The full Regulatory News Service announcement is here. Dream Direct will issue another trading update in the next few weeks. ® Related stories MS mounts covert anti-piracy op Dixons signs Napster promo exclusive Why shrink wrap software won't die
John Oates, 11 May 2004

Talking capacitors could blab to code breakers

Crypto Boffins - led by Adi Shamir of RSA fame - are investigating whether it might be possible to gain valuable clues about private encryption keys simply by listening to a targeted computer. The sounds made by capacitors on motherboards might, in theory, give attackers code-breaking clues in much the same way electro-magnetic leakage or power fluctuations can be used in so-called "side-channel" attacks on secure systems. These kinds of attacks are well beyond the capability of your average hacker but they do have applications in the design of tamper-resistant systems. The research shows that cryptanalysts are prepared to think of any possible attack vector in their quest to ensure cryptographic systems remain secure. Preliminary work by Adi Shamir and Eran Tromer of the Weizmann Institute in Israel showed that "acoustic emanations from personal computers are a surprisingly rich source of information on CPU activity". For instance the researchers have found that RSA signature/decryption sounds different for different secret keys and that monitoring audio signals can reveal the time of a decryption operation, useful in timing attacks, especially when an attacker can affect that input data of a cryptographic operation. The audio signals of interest are well above the frequency generated by fans and thus easily filtered out. A proof-of-concept presentation on the research can be found here. ® Related stories Twinkle, twinkle little LED (now I know what's in your head) NSA coughs up secret TEMPEST specs Readers' Letters Storm in a TEMPEST? Meet Tempest it stops people knowing what's on your PC screen
John Leyden, 11 May 2004

MS spells it out: pirates can, can't install WinXP Sp2

Fresh from killing off, then swiftly reviving, NGSCB/Palladium, Microsoft appears to be going for the double with an about-face on WinXP SP2 for pirates. Last week the company seemed to be giving the impression that altruism had triumphed over righteous indignation, today, it is denying it. But not, as far as we can see, strongly denying it. The reports are not 'entirely untrue' - they are "not entirely true". Um, right. This actually matches up quite nicely to the initial reports, because they quoted Microsoft group product manager Barry Goffe as saying Microsoft had not "explicitly done anything to SP2 to exclude it from pirated copies", and that: "It was a tough choice, but we finally decided that even if someone has pirated copy of Windows, it is more important to keep him safe than it is to be concerned about the revenue issue... Having these unsecured users means bigger worm and virus outbreaks - which also impacts the Internet and consequently, our legitimate users as well." Not explicitly doing anything is perhaps not quite the same as not doing anything at all, and so it has come to pass. SP2 will check the product ID used by the machine it is being installed on, and if the ID matches Microsoft's list of known pirated IDs, then it won't install. Which means it looks like it's going to do pretty much the same as SP1 did, and that the checking systems Microsoft implemented at Windows Update will at the very least remain in force. As it stands, these are fairly trivial speedbumps for wicked software pirates to surmount. The IDs in Microsoft's little list are well-known, so if the user of a pirated installation wants to update their system, then they can just change the ID they're using. This fairly minor barrier could be the origin of what Goffe was saying, but the way he put it clearly indicates some debate within Microsoft over the stance the company should adopt. The relative mildness of today's denial, however, suggests that the debate might not be entirely over. Microsoft does intend to make a great deal of marketing noise over SP2 when it comes out, and we wouldn't altogether rule out (hell, now we're doing it too) further moves by the forces of righteous indignation to deny the wondrous upgrade to the freeloaders. The current situation certainly doesn't make a great deal of sense, given that the 'barrier' is really only a barrier to those who don't know how easy it is to get over, i.e. the people who're perfect targets to become owners of 'zombie PCs.' So logic seems to suggest either switching it off or turning it up. ®
John Lettice, 11 May 2004

Chinese make beautiful spam music

We are delighted to announce this afternoon that after around four years of trying, we have finally managed to get the word "perlite" onto El Reg - no mean feat, to be sure. Any reader not familiar with perlite is pointed in the direction of the Perlite Institute which has published a handy guide (PDF) fanfaring perlite as "the world's most versatile material". For those of you of a scientific bent, perlite "is not a trade name but a generic term for naturally occurring silicous rock. The distinguishing feature which sets perlite apart from other volcanic glasses is that when heated to a suitable point in its softening range, it expands from four to twenty times it original volume." All well and good, but what on earth do they use it for? To answer this poser, let's look no further than this marvellous bit of spam just in from, er, well it's not quite clear actually - there being no return address, no explanatory blurb, just good, old-fashioned hard-sell under a "Pearlite" (sic) subject banner: It is a pearlite goods factory of Hebei province of China, the main variety that the speciality produces: Pearl mere sands, pearlite( 2. 5 mm-7mm),it regulate explosives densities because pharmaceutical( hate pearlite water), hate water keep pearlites warm board of, The cement pearlite keeps the board warm, the pearlite is helped and strain the pharmaceutical. The price is favourable , welcome old and new customers to consult the business, but process and made according to different needs, Hope to cooperate with you! Beautiful. Absolutely no bloody idea what this is twittering on about, but who can argue with the delicious "hate water keep pearlites warm board of"? Perhaps a reference to perlite's insulatory properties, or maybe a more deeply spiritual investigation in the very nature of being. Who can say? And while you're mulling over the profundity of it all, slip on the whalesong CD and plunge your hand gently into a bag of horticultural perlite - it's as satisfying as popping bubblewrap between index finger and thumb. And... relax. ® Related stories Have sex, save the planet 419ers crack cold fusion Buy pornography, fight psoriasis
Lester Haines, 11 May 2004

EU broadband growth outpaces US

The growth of broadband in Europe is outpacing the take-up of high-speed Net access in the US, according to report out by the EU. In the year to January the number of people and businesses accessing the Internet at high speed grew by more than 80 per cent. And according to Eurocrats, the fastest adoption of broadband has been in those countries where competition has helped increase the number of broadband operators and driven down price. Said Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner for the Information Society and Enterprise Policy: "Wider, faster access to the Internet is essential to deliver the full promise of the Information Society. "We have seen impressive rates of growth, particularly in some of the larger Member States such as France and Italy. But the momentum needs to be maintained, particularly by ensuring competitive markets and the right regulatory conditions for investment." While Mr Liikanen is keen on competition and the private to deliver high-speed services, he accepts that there remains a role for the public sector when markets fail to deliver the necessary investment. As a result, Member States have drawn up their own "National broadband strategies" designed to address issues such as increasing coverage of under-served areas and steps to stimulate demand. ® Related stories EU ministers in broadband powwow Danes love Internet - true EU thundering down information superhighway
Tim Richardson, 11 May 2004
Broken CD with wrench

Brocade burrows into IBM blades

Starting next month, Brocade switches will sit alongside those of Cisco as networking options for IBM's blade servers. Brocade today announced that it will certify a lower-end switch for small and medium-sized business and a higher-end product with IBM's BladeCenter product. IBM made a similar arrangement last month with Cisco, attempting to gives customers pre-packaged networking choices for its blade server chassis. The Brocade and Cisco switches plug right into IBM's hardware, meaning customers do not need to buy separate modules and then deal with cabling. The Brocade Entry and Enterprise SAN (storage area network) modules are basically the equivalent of its Silkworm 3900 product. The low-end product supports up to two switches, while the high-end product supports up to 239 switches in a SAN. Both run on Brocade's Fabric OS and ship with advanced zoning tools. The Brocade hardware slips into I/O slots of the BladeCenter chassis and can connect to the server blades themselves via 14 internal server ports. The Entry product starts at just under $15,000, while the Enterprise product starts just under $19,000. ® Related stories IBM answers need for long distance speed Brocade and McDATA's Spring offensive EMC and Brocade profess their love for standards Brocade's cheaper entry level switches
Ashlee Vance, 11 May 2004

UK gov planning switch to e-voting for 2007?

Despite a fairly wide-ranging 'not ready for prime-time' verdict on electronic voting pilots last year, the UK Government looks set to press ahead with plans for its general introduction in elections from 2007 on. A report over the weekend claimed that e-voting would be part of a "wide-ranging electoral reform bill" to be put forward this autumn, and quotes a Whitehall source as saying "E-voting is a key measure to tackle so-called disengagement among young people. Given the rapidly increasing use of text messages it is crucial that this is properly developed as a method of voting." This is what you might call the Pop Idol theory. If young people will vote in large numbers for this via text messages, then surely similar mechanisms will ignite their interest in the political process. It is not clear what the proponents of this theory propose to do when, as seems likely, Pop Idol proves to be more of a draw than politics, on a level playing field. In the past few years the Government has taken several steps to make it easier for people to vote, unleashing a range of experiments including postal voting, supermarket voting and various permutations of electronic voting. The pilots of the latter last year produced doubts about effectiveness and security from the Electoral Commission, while the Government's own conclusions on the consultation exercise are quite spectacularly indecisive ("The majority of the replies are supportive... although many important and serious issues were raised"). A determination to reverse the declining numbers could however be sufficient to overrule the doubters, and the Sunday Times report indicates that there at at least some people in the Government who intend to press on. The next general election is too close for it to be feasible for e-voting beyond pilots to play a part, and this also means that sufficient parliamentary time is unlikely to be found for a "wide ranging" electoral reform bill. E-voting provisions could however be tacked onto more routine electoral reform measures this autumn, making a 2007 target date possible. The report claims that the move will be accompanied by a reduction in conventional polling booths and the creation of a central national voter registration database. The idea behind dropping polling booths (aside from saving money) is to encourage voters to use electronic mechanisms. From the voter's point of view it will obviously be most convenient to be able to vote from home or work, however this is precisely where the Electoral Commission's report felt most problems would arise. The Commission suggested well-policed kiosks as the most secure way to deal with this, but accepted that limiting the system in this way would represent a "substantial reduction in convenience." From the government's perspective this convenience reduction is probably significant enough to negate the point of the exercise - if it goes ahead, then we will surely be able to vote from home. The central register potentially presents new privacy and security problems. Currently the UK's electoral registration system is decentralised, and although it allows for individual votes to be tracked in order to identify fraud, the system is sufficiently paper-based for this not to present a serious threat to privacy, as it's really not a lot of laughs matching up ballot papers and marks on the register. An electronic system will however still need to have an audit trail available, and by its nature it will be a lot easier to use. And of course there is scope for interaction between the central voter database and the ID card scheme's National Identity Register. MPs have already expressed some puzzlement over the government having not one but two proposed citizen databases, the other being the Office of National Statistics' projected Citizen Information Project. But three? Actually, as the ID card scheme envisages passport and driving licence databases continuing to exist, you could arguably say there will be five. Or, if you count NHS and NIS records as well, seven. Best not tell the MPs. ® Related links: UK e-voting pilots deeply flawed FIPR highlights e-voting risks Evoting consultation report Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility consultation submission
John Lettice, 11 May 2004
cable

Steady Cisco posts strong Q3 results

Cisco Systems enjoyed strong sales across the board in its third quarter, as it churned out a 22 percent year-over-year revenue gain. Cisco posted $5.6bn in revenue for the quarter compared to $4.6bn in the same period a year ago. Net income for this year's third quarter hit $1.2bn - an increase over the $987m reported in 2003. Earnings per share for Cisco reached $0.17 versus $0.14 last year. "We are pleased to have achieved record earnings per share this quarter - marking our eighth consecutive quarter with pro forma net income exceeding $1bn, and the strongest cash flow from operations in the company's history," said John Chambers, president and CEO at Cisco. "This momentum was achieved through sequential order growth across all major product categories and solid progress in our advanced technologies including security, wireless LAN and IP telephony." In its earnings statement, Cisco disclosed the final purchase price for two companies acquired during the third quarter. Cisco paid $36m for Riverhead Networks and $5m for Twingo Systems. Over the past couple of years, Cisco has worked to expand its networking business into new areas such as high-end storage switches, consumer gear and security. The company's third quarter showed that overall product revenue increased to $4.7bn as compared to $3.8bn last year. Services also increased to $890m from $819m. Strong results from Cisco tend to boost optimism in the overall IT market. Investors, however, appeared unmoved in the after-hours markets with shares of Cisco sitting flat at the time of this report. ® Related stories Cisco offers WLAN switching Prison time for cyber stock swindler IBM and Cisco feel the networking love Cisco thwarts WLAN dictionary attack IP telephony and Wi-Fi must tie the knot Cisco buys anti-DDoS firm Cisco retails networked hotel vision Cisco beefs up IOS security Cisco tops 2003 VPN sales league
Ashlee Vance, 11 May 2004

Novell opens GPL bridge to MS Exchange

Novell has open sourced Ximian's Connector product which allows Linux clients to access some features of Microsoft's Exchange Server. Ximian had previously sold the software under a closed, pay-for license. As of Friday, it will be downloadable under the GPL, and Novell says it will integrate the Connector into version 2.0 of its Outlook clone Evolution, out later this year. Novell acquired Ximian in August and added Exchange 2003 support to Connector in November. But switching to a product like Connector doesn't automatically save you money, per se, in the way that a simple OS swap of converting a Windows file and print server to a Samba server does. Microsoft meters access to its server software through a CAL, or Client Access License, and as the name suggests that permits a limited number of connections, with strings attached. Connector requires a CAL. Core KDE developer Kurt Granroth points out that Connector only works if Outlook Web Access is enabled and because Microsoft charges extra for this feature it remains turned off in many cases. For businesses looking for a gradual migration away from Microsoft server software, Connector may be worth the cost, as it lessens the disruption during the switchover period. The software runs on x86 versions of Red Hat, Mandrake and Novell's own SuSE Linux distribution, and Solaris 8 running GNOME version 2.0 or higher. However Sun is likely to take its own path to Exchange, given that future versions of Novell's Outlook clone Evolution will be based on Mono the software libre clone of Microsoft's Java clone, .NET. (We hope you're keeping track of the clones). Sun has its own Java, of course, and recently agreed to license Microsoft's server protocols. Related link Novell Connector Related stories Novell debuts open source toolkit for .NET Novell channel man speaks Novell eats own dog food, moves to Linux on desktop Novell announces SuSE Linux 9.1 Mono and dotGNU: what's the point? Novell marries SuSE to Ximian desktop Novell surrounds Microsoft Exchange Novell bags SuSE for $210m
Andrew Orlowski, 11 May 2004