17th > May > 2004 Archive

Oracle slashes PeopleSoft offer

Oracle cut its bid for PeopleSoft by 20 per cent on Friday, reducing its offer from $26 to $21 per share. The new offer values PeopleSoft at $7.7bn rather than $9.4bn Peoplesoft's board said it considered the previous offer was too low and that continued anti-trust action in Europe and the US meant the deal was unlikely to go through at any price. The board also suggested that the timing of the announcement, just before PeopleSoft's big customer conference, was hardly coincidental. The board will formally evaluate the new offer at its scheduled board meeting later this month. Oracle chairman Jeff Henley said: "Our revised offer reflects changes in market conditions and in PeopleSoft's market valuation. Our new offer represents a premium of 21 per cent over PeopleSoft's closing price today of $17.30." Oracle has also extended the offer which was due to expire 25 June; investors now have until 16 July to make up their minds.® Related stories EC Oracle probe faces further delay Oracle pitches EC over Peoplesoft US DoJ sues to block Oracle's $9.4bn PeopleSoft bid
John Oates, 17 May 2004

BT and Voda to 'tie mobile knot'

BT is to dump its mobile phone partners and hook up with one-time rival Vodafone instead, according to The Daily Telegraph. The tie-up would enable BT to offer its punters fixed and mobile services charged all on the same bill. An announcement is expected this week. A spokeswoman for BT declined to comment, except to say that the telco was on the hunt for a mobile phone partner and that it is working through the tender process. BT has been looking to get a decent slice of the UK's mobile phone market ever since it spun off mm02, its mobile division, to help pay off huge debts. In 2002 it teamed up with O2 to provide mobile phone services for its corporate customers. And last year, BT hopped into bed with T-Mobile to offer a new service aimed at families. BT had hoped the T-Mobile deal would net it around 100,000 punters by the end of 2004 and a million by the end of 2005. But take-up has been disappointing, The Daily Telegraph reports. ® Related stories BT wins interconnect appeal BT Mobile appoints chief exec BT confirms return to mass market mobile BT climbs into bed with T-Mobile
Tim Richardson, 17 May 2004

Start-up touts x86, Wi-Fi as mobile gaming future

Mobile gaming specialist Ministry of Mobile Affairs (Moma) last week launched its bid for a place alongside Sony's PlayStation Portable and Nintendo's DS with a stylish x86-based handheld that plays old PC games. Dubbed 'Eve', the unit looks like one of those old 1980s-era single-game devices redesigned by Apple for the 21st Century. Eve looks mobile but not exactly something that would slip into a pocket. What the pics don't show, however, is the way Eve's screen slides out of the controller unit, which the company claims allows true portable gaming. Eve also provides Wi-Fi for multi-player WLAN bouts and for mobile Internet access. The unit runs the embedded version of Windows XP, so the unit should essentially function like a PC - the experience should be not unlike the one offer by Bsquare's more business-oriented Power Handheld (see our review). Eve will sport a 4in, 640 x 480 LCD. The system's processor spec. is known, however. Eve is based on a 533MHz VIA Eden CPU; a VIA CN400 chipset, which provides 266MHz DDR SDRAM support and the company's six-channel audio sub-system, Vinyl; and a VIA 200MHz S3 UniChrome Pro integrated graphics core that yields a 200m pixel per second fill rate, with two textures per pixel, and a triangle fill rate of 4.5m polygons per second. The graphics core uses shared system memory, of which there will be 128MB. Eve also contains a 20GB hard drive. In addition to 802.11b, the unit offers TV-out, two USB 2.0 ports and a CompactFlash slot for I/O. Gamers will be able to transfer titles to Eve using the GameDweller On-Demand online service, Moma said. Eve owners may also be able to copy over their own PC game libraries via the USB link and Microsoft's ActiveSync, though Moma has not said officially that this option will be available to console owners. Moma's 'games on demand' approach mirrors the one adopted by fellow console developer Infinium, which last week said it would ship its Phantom hardware and online service in November. Eve's own launch date and pricing have yet to be set. ® Related stories Nintendo DS: more communicator than console? Sony shows wireless PlayStation Portable Infinium to launch $199 Athlon XP console 18 Nov Review: Bsquare Power Handheld Tulip to revive CBM 64 as games console
Tony Smith, 17 May 2004

FBI arrest 65 in P2P child porn raids

The FBI arrested 65 people for using peer-to-peer networks to exchange child pornography on Friday (14 May). The FBI went undercover in Operation Peer Pressure and conducted 166 sessions targeting P2P networks. They found 106 individuals with multiple images of child pornography. This led to 103 searches, seven arrests and nine indictements. It also led to the rescue of eight children who had been abused. Operation Peer Pressure combines staff from various agencies including the FBI, the DoJ, Customs and Immigration and the Internet Crimes Against Children task force. FBI director Robert Mueller welcomed the arrests, but said the news was also a warning for parents. "Today's announcement also raises public awareness to the inherent risks associated with file-sharing networks. Parents must know that access to these networks is free and exposure to child pornography is often a frightening reality." ® Related stories Child porn case highlights browser hijack risks Surrey Police raid child porn suspects 102 UK kids saved from paedos
John Oates, 17 May 2004

BT loses 150,000 customers a month - report

Punters are queuing up to leave BT, according to internal documents seen by the Sunday Times. More than 150,000 punters are leaving the UK's dominant fixed line telco each month and this number could accelerate as competition hots up, it reports. Many customers are lured away to rival providers such as Tesco, The Carphone Warehouse, One.Tel and Tele2 - which claim to be able to save people money on their BT phone bill. This exodus appears to jar, somewhat, with BT's current advertising campaign that brags just how many people are "coming back" to BT. For while BT is only too willing to say that 100,000 customers returned to the company last month, it has so far declined a number of requests to say how many people left. This should become clearer on Thursday when BT publishes its latest round of financial figures. Asked to comment on the story, a spokeswoman for the monster telco said BT made no secret that it was losing customers slowly. "Some people are leaving," she said, "some people are coming back." ® Related stories BT cleared for line rental hike One.Tel in free calls offer Carphone Warehouse declares war on BT Tele2 slams BT over switching claims
Tim Richardson, 17 May 2004

Sasser suspect fanclub launches appeal

The German teenager fingered as the author of the Sasser and NetSky worms may not be popular among IT professionals, but fans of the accused miscreant have already sprung to his defense and, apparently, opened their wallets. On Wednesday an anonymous post to the Full Disclosure security mailing list announced a new website dedicated to raising money for 18-year-old Sven Jaschan. Describing Sasser as a "harmless wake-up call", the announcement paints Jaschan as a scapegoat for Microsoft's security failings, and warns that serious criminals could have written a deliberately destructive worm. "Medical systems could be open for tampering, harbor control systems could cause massive oil spills by terrorists and so on," the announcement reads. "Sven did the right thing by making this alarm call." The German-hosted "Support Sasser" website includes similar text, a PayPal button, and an unexplained image of a grotesque reptilian monster. Visitors are encouraged to dig deep, though not, apparently, to raise money for attorney's fees. Instead, the objective of the fundraising is to ensure that Jaschan "has some enjoyable days at least, so he has something to remember with joy in the hard times to come". Police arrested Jaschan last week on information provided to Microsoft by informants hoping to split a $250,000 cash reward. According to police, Jaschan quickly admitted to creating Sasser, which exploited a vulnerability in Windows' Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS). Jaschan is also suspected of launching all 28 versions of the NetSky worm. He's now free on bail. Though some Full Disclosure denizens agreed that Microsoft shared responsibility for Sasser for writing the bug that made the worm possible, most posters didn't see the virus as the work of a good Samaritan. "The only thing Sven Jaschan did was to disrupt the life of people that have better things to do than ensure their system is up-to-date. I'm talking about people like my Mom, or sister," wrote one. Others reacted to vagueness of the purpose to which contributions are earmarked "So we donate money and you use it to buy a new video card? I'll pass." But at least some visitors to the site are apparently willing to give Jaschan and the anonymous fundraisers the benefit of the date. According to a contributors page, by Friday afternoon the appeal had pulled in nearly $100 in donations ranging from one cent to ten dollars. Copyright © 2004, Related stories German police raid five homes in Sasser case New version of Sasser undermines lone coder theory German police arrest Sasser worm suspect
Kevin Poulsen, 17 May 2004

Up-skirt law to destroy mobile phone biz?

How can you sell a 3G phone without mentioning its video-phone capabilities? And can you sell a 3G phone without a video camera? Well, if you sell phones, you may have to. It's always been something of an in joke with those who know the Japanese market for miniature cameras. You know that they are described as "up-skirt" devices, but you always assumed this was a witticism. But no: and now it's going to get the camera phone made illegal in America. The Video Voyeurism Prevention Act has now been approved. It passed the Senate last year, and has now got through the House Judiciary Committee. It, or something like it, will almost certainly become law. According to Reuters, the bill "would prohibit taking covert pictures in locker rooms, bedrooms and other places where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy". The intention of the law is to stop camera-phone snooping. And the problem is, although quite possibly more people want to see phone snooping continue than want to see it banned, none of the snoopers are likely to admit to this covert activity. And so a pro-phone lobby looks unlikely to get started. The habit of banning camera phones simply follows the banning of ordinary cameras in many places. Sports centres, changing rooms, swimming pools and even some beaches have attempted to enact laws prohibiting photography; the problem is, too many people want to take pictures of their family to make these laws enforceable. In the past, the problem was pretty easily dealt with by common sense. A full-size camera with a motor and a big lens is pretty obvious and if you point it at someone, and they don't want to be photographed, they can be pretty explicit about it. But the miniature camera means that you never know for sure whether someone is taking a picture or not. And the camera phone can be used to take pictures "sideways" - that is, you hold it to your ear, and pretend to be taking a call, but actually, press the "capture" button to shoot the subject on your side. It remains to be seen whether such a law can be enforced. If enough people really like having camera phones to simply ignore the law, then obviously not; but the punishment could involve imprisonment. And, as usual, the law is unlikely to catch the professional snoop. Literally hundreds of websites advertise up-skirt pictures, and five seconds with Google (plus a popup blocker!) will persuade most sensible people that these are not "candid" pictures. They're posed by professional models. Nonetheless, enough hysteria could be created by the sheer volume of apparent snoop pictures of this sort that actual prosecutions may follow. The result, in the end, will be that the mobile phone breaks up into modules, along the lines proposed by IXI Mobile - with a central "personal hub" or PMG, linking camera, phone, games platform, and keyboard modules. The camera module will appear not to be part of the phone, but to be an ordinary, if miniature, camera. Attempts to ban miniature cameras are unlikely to be successful. Someone with a personal mobile gateway would be able to mount a perfectly functional megapixel camera in a bluetooth signet ring, with complete digital security and almost indetectable disguise. Our opinion: a genuine fad for true sneak "intimate" photography of ordinary pictures is most unlikely to become widespread. The resulting images are unlikely to be even vaguely erotic, and boredom would set in quickly. But the law prohibiting such devices may rest on many statute books for many years, nonetheless. © Newswireless.net Related stories US to ban up-skirt voyeur photos
Guy Kewney, 17 May 2004

IBM gets hot and spicy

The next release of DB2 Information Integrator has the code name Masala. Quite what this has to do with Chicken Tikka I do not know. I also don't know when the product will be launched or even when it will enter its public beta trials (private beta has been ongoing for some time). However, the latter is likely to be relatively soon and product launch will probably be in late Summer or early Autumn. Masala includes a lot of new features and since I do not have the space here to cover them all, I'll just pick out a few highlights. Some of these features will definitely be in the new release, while there are others that the company hopes to include but may not accomplish in time. For example, the search facilities are being extended and replaced - using the same capabilities as are currently in WebSphere Portal. What IBM has yet to decide is whether these search facilities will extend to the environment provided by Venetica. The company's VeniceBridge provides federated capabilities that span multiple content repositories. IBM is hoping that its federated search capabilities will extend to work through the VeniceBridge environment by launch date, but this remains to be seen. In fact, extended partnerships are a major feature of this release. Two more of these that are noteworthy are those with Unicorn and Sypherlink. Both of these companies provide similar facilities, but I confess to being more familiar with Unicorn. In a nutshell, DB2 II is a view-based product. Some other products in the market base those views on a virtual schema backed up by detailed repository facilities. What Unicorn and Sypherlink do is allow you to use a mediated (virtual) schema in conjunction with DB2 II, together with appropriate metadata and repository capabilities. Another significant new extension is in the product's replication capabilities. It may be worth pointing out that you can license just replication, or replication and federation, as separate DB2 II options. Indeed, there will be a number of new licensing options in the Masala release. This will be a brand-new replication facility that will leverage WebSphere MQ to provide real-time replication. The new architecture and performance adopted by IBM for this is such that it might be worth the company's while to call it something other than replication. Note that this will only be available through DB2 II and for DB2 users that have not implemented DB2 II they will be restricted to conventional replication capabilities. Of course, IBM has a significant advantage with DB2 II as it represents an upgrade for all those users who previously implemented DataJoiner as well as new facilities for new users. Also, the company's clout gives it a substantial advantage when it comes to attracting partners. While I have not seen any published figures my guess would be that, as a result, DB2 II is the leading product in the data federation space. Masala is likely to strengthen that position still further. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories IBM puts new DB2 up for inspection Mainframe DB2 emerges from primordial swamp IBM enhances Linux DB2
Philip Howard, 17 May 2004

Avaya settles Y2K case

Lucent spin-off Avaya has settled a class action suit for damages related to the year 2000. The case relates to the ability of some Avaya products to deal with date functions after 1 January 2000. Members of the class suit who bought certain telecom products between 1990 and 1999 are eligible for credits of up to $110m, or cash alternatives. If they don't want credit for Avaya products they can claim a cash equivalent of 25 per cent the value of their vouchers. Class members can claim 45 per cent off Avaya products or 30 per cent off Avaya services. The agreement ends all Avaya's outstanding Y2K-related lawsuits. The case remains pending in West Virginia and is subject to approval by the state court. Lucent is responsible for paying a percentage of costs above $50m.® Related stories Down's Syndrome screening failures linked to Y2K bug Millennium Bug claims more victims Y2K to blame for Compel profit slump
John Oates, 17 May 2004
Cat 5 cable

Intel renames power tech for desktop world

Listen to the AMD fanboys, and you'd think Intel's plan to introduce power-conservation technology to future desktop, workstation and server chips is yet another instance of the chip giant nicking technology developed by its smaller rival. AMD introduced the Athlon 64 FX gaming-oriented CPU then Intel launched the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. AMD introduced AMD64 64-bit technology then Intel announced its own version, EM64. And now, apparently, Intel will ape AMD's Cool'n'Quiet technology, which helps keep processors cool by dropping the clock speed and core voltage when the processor's workload tails off. What the fanboys forget is that Intel doesn't need to borrow such technology from AMD, it already has it. It's called SpeedStep, and we'd hazard a guess that it's been around a little longer than AMD's chief power technology, PowerNow!. PowerNow! - codenamed 'Gemini', by the way - was announced in November 1999 with AMD's mobile K6-2 and K6-III processors, but didn't ship until Q2 2000; SpeedStep - aka 'Geyserville' was introduced in the same timeframe as the PowerNow! announcement, but appeared in Q1 2000. Not that Cool'n'Quiet is exactly new, either. As we reported last September at the Athlon 64 launch, when CnQ was introduced, this 'new' technology is really just PowerNow! rebranded. Similarly, Intel's AAC is essentially just SpeedStep with another name. AMD came up with the CnQ brand because it uses the same die for both desktop and mobile Athlon 64s. PowerNow! is too readily associated with the mobile arena to be used in a desktop chip, so AMD conjured up an alternative brand. A different name also allows AMD to promote the technology not so much as a power conservation system - though that's still important - but as a way of making computers run more silently. When there's less heat to dissipate, PCs can slow or even stop the CPU cooling fans, hence making them quieter. Intel is simply employing the same tactic with SpeedStep. ® Related stories AMD Athlon 64 doubles up for desktop, mobile roles AMD unveils K6-2 Plus, K6-III Plus mobile CPUs What the Hell is... Geyserville?
Tony Smith, 17 May 2004

Nintendo DS to ship 29 November for $200?

The Nintendo DS will ship on 29 November and carry a $200 price-tag. So claims EBGames' website, although its provides a caveat: "The ship date and retail price have not been confirmed and therefore are subject to change. "If the retail price is decreased you will receive the lower price." EBGames' Ts&Cs note that if the price ends up higher than $200, the company will honour the lower, pre-order price, which suggests that the figure should be viewed as a ceiling rather than an absolute price-point. Indeed, a variety of analysts have speculated that the DS - still only a codename; the handheld may well be branded differently when it ships - will retail in the US for around $150. As for the release date, EBGames' listing of future software releases for the platform contains 16 titles all with a 3 January 2005 launch date and priced at $50. ® Related stories Start-up touts x86, Wi-Fi as mobile gaming future Nintendo DS: more communicator than console? Sony shows wireless PlayStation Portable Infinium to launch $199 Athlon XP console 18 Nov Review: Bsquare Power Handheld Tulip to revive CBM 64 as games console
Tony Smith, 17 May 2004

Mobile phones are a pain in the neck

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... It has come as a great surprise to many that, after years of abusing mobile phones, peoples' heads have not simply dropped off and rolled across the floor like microwave-roasted beef footballs. How can this be? Mobile phones are a pain in the neck By Linda Harrison Published Monday 17th May 1999 17:02 GMT Feeling your ears burning used to mean someone was talking about you. Similarly, a pain in the neck referred to a niggling individual who got on your nerves. Now both mean you have been chatting on the phone for too long. According to a top Nordic survey, 84 per cent of 11,000 mobile users surveyed suffered warmth behind the ear or even burning skin. Memory loss, dizziness, fatigue and headaches were also evident, according to the report in today's Metro newspaper. The year-long study was carried out by three organisations - Sweden's National Institute for Working Life, SINTEF Unimed in Norway and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. It found nearly a quarter of those questioned had memory loss, nearly half reported headaches and almost two-thirds said they felt abnormally drowsy. Around a third had difficulty concentrating during or just after a call. Symptoms were worse in those under 30, or in the heaviest users. Researcher Dr Gunnhild Oftedal said: "There could be a range of factors for this but we can’t exclude anything related to radiation." A separate study has revealed that severe neck pain, or phone neck, is caused by tilting your head and talking into a phone for too long. Boffins from Surrey University found that using a handset - be it in the office or on a mobile rather than headset - increased the risk of muscle stiffening, inflammation of tendons and disc troubles. Hence the advent of earpieces, which can be plugged into mobiles, cutting radiation and leaving the head in the normal position. But if your earpiece is in, and your mobile is in your trouser pocket, where does that mean the radiation is leaking to? Where indeed? Contrary to widespread scaremongering at the time, the mobile phone has failed to kill off large swathes of the population who insist on having the damn thing glued to their ears 24/7. A shame, many would say. The prophets of doom are still alive and kicking too, having turned their attention to the dangers of siting mobile phone masts next to schools. What they're complaining about is anyone's guess. How else are little Janet and John going to SMS each other during "quiet time"? ®
Team Register, 17 May 2004

BT's olive branch to Ofcom

BT has revealed a massive cut in the prices it charges its rivals for using its broadband network, in an effort to avert a possible break-up of its business by Ofcom, the UK telecoms watchdog. The move will result in a short-term dip in revenues, but may well prove profitable in the long run. Last month, Ofcom chief executive Stephen Carter attacked BT for overcharging rival telecoms operators to access the local loop. The local loop is the last mile of copper wire connections linking households to telephone exchanges, and the phone lines are used to supply high-speed broadband. One of the options under consideration was a possible breakup of the wholesale and retail divisions of the former telecoms incumbent in the United Kingdom. BT has responded with the announcement that it will cut by up to 70 per cent the prices it charges rival telecoms groups and ISPs to use its local exchange to reach their customers. It said the initial cuts represent an overall saving of 35 per cent on current prices. From 1 June, it will reduce the monthly rental price for the existing shared local loop unbundling product from £4.42 to £2.26 per line. Connection fees will also drop from £117 to £83.33. Rival telecoms providers have long alleged that BT's prices for providing access to its local loop have hampered broadband competition. France Telecom's ISP, Wanadoo, which also owns the popular Freeserve ISP in the UK, has been at the forefront of the campaign to get BT to reduce its prices. Broadband prices in the UK are still expensive compared to Europe. In France for example, ISP access costs are five times cheaper than in the UK. According to one European Union report, the price of Internet access in the UK is up to £60 more expensive than the European average. The move is bound to hit BT's revenues in the short-term, but in the long run could boost them, especially if Ofcom decides then to slash the amount of regulation surrounding BT. Meanwhile, whether BT's rivals decide to pass on the cuts in access costs to their users remains to be seen. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related stories Video Networks to speed up LLU roll-out Industry warms to BT's LLU price cuts Ofcom hails BT wholesale price cuts BT to slash LLU costs Ofcom must act on £50 broadband 'barrier'
Datamonitor, 17 May 2004

SEC to fine Lucent $25m

Telecoms equipment maker Lucent is expected to be hit with a civil fraud lawsuit for what the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims was the improper recognition of $1bn in revenue. The move, which was reported in Monday's Wall Street Journal, is said to reflect the new "no holds barred" attitude of SEC regulators, who are attacking corporate misdeeds with vigour after years of scandal on Wall Street. According to the newspaper, the SEC will file civil fraud charges against Lucent for improperly recognising $1bn in revenue and will fine the firm $25m for failing to cooperate with investigations. It is also reported that five former Lucent employees will be charged in connection with accounting problems at the company. Those to be charged are Nina Aversano, the company's former head of North American sales; William Plunkett, a former senior vice president of sales; Jay Carter, with global sales; Leslie Dorn, vice president of channel sales; and Vanessa Petrini, director of business development in mobile high-speed data. The $25m fine is the largest ever handed down by the SEC for failing to co-operate with an investigation. At the heart of the SEC's concerns are disputes over Lucent's indemnifying employees under investigation by SEC regulators from some things such as legal fees, fines and penalties, the Wall Street Journal said. Prior to the SEC's investigation of Xerox earlier this decade, SEC rules covering employee indemnification were less clear. But after the Xerox case, the financial watchdog made its policy on the matter plain by insisting that employees not be protected from fines and legal costs in connection with corporate conduct. The new rules were designed to make executives personally vulnerable to loss if they acted improperly, rather than allowing shareholders to pay the price for such deeds. In March, Lucent agreed to pay the widely-expected $25m fine, which should conclude the SEC's investigation. The company has also promised not to engage in any further questionable accounting practices. However, Lucent has yet to offer any specific details on the $1bn revenue misstatement, and the company has indicated that it has no plans to do so. © ENN Related stories Lucent fires 'corrupt' gang of four Lucent posts first Q profit in three years Saudi firm accuses Lucent of bribery
ElectricNews.net, 17 May 2004

Transmeta pledges 'no execute' security support

Transmeta today claimed that its Efficeon chip will be the first "energy-efficient" processor to support the oft-touted 'no execute' NX instruction required by Windows XP Service Pack 2's anti-virus sub-system. So it either missed AMD's low-power Athlon 64 launch t'other week, or it doesn't believe that the mobile 64-bit CPUs are energy-efficient. AMD's 64-bit processors have supported NX since launch. Intel's Itanium chips support the feature, too, as will future 64-bit Pentium and Xeon processors, the chip giant revealed last week - though Intel is calling it 'XD' rather than NX. Transmeta's support for NX will come mid-2004 when it launches "new Efficeon processors scheduled to ship in mid-year 2004". The current version, the 130nm TM8600, was launched last October. A 90nm version of the part - the TM8800 - is due during the second half of the year. It's not clear whether Transmeta's statement that it will support NX with a revised 130nm part or today's statement marks a narrowing of the TM8800's launch window. Either way, adding NX will allow Windows XP SP2 to prevent viruses and worms from executing code stored in areas memory marked for data rather than executables. Of course, doing so is relatively easy for Transmeta, which simply needs to tweak its Code Morphing software to add NX support. Code Morphing translates inbound x86 instructions into the Efficeon's native Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW) instructions at run-time. Transmeta is this month providing Microsoft with advance versions of Efficeon-based systems with NX support for internal evaluation and use, the chip maker said. ® Related stories Transmeta sales rise as Efficeon interest grows Transmeta's 90nm Efficeon to sample January '04 Transmeta plots Efficeon roadmap to 2GHz AMD delivers on low-power Athlon 64 pledge Microsoft irks ISVs with XP SP2 delay
Tony Smith, 17 May 2004

Cisco probes source code theft

Cisco has launched an investigation following reports that portions of its core networking operating system source code have been stolen and distributed online. According to Russian security portal SecurityLab, a hacker boasting he broke into Cisco's internal network and nicked source code for some versions of Cisco's IOS has posted a 2.5MB snippet onto an IRC channel as proof. Around 800MB of code relating to Cisco IOS 12.3 and 12.3t has reportedly been nicked. IOS 12.3 is the latest version of Cisco's software, widely used home office, branch office and enterprise routers. IOS 12.3t is an earlier test version. Access to Cisco's source code might make it easier for hackers to develop exploits. "Cisco is aware that a potential compromise of its proprietary information occurred and was reported on a public Web site just prior to the weekend," Cisco spokesman Jim Brady told C/Net. "The Cisco information security team is looking into this matter and investigating what happened." The leak of proprietary source code would be embarrassing for Cisco given its increased focus on security over recent months but far from unprecedented within the industry. Source code for parts of Windows 2000 and Windows NT were leaked to the Internet back in February prompting a minor security flap. ® Related stories How to hack a network in nine easy steps Cisco IOS DoS exploit released in the wild MS Windows source code escapes onto Internet Windows leak dangers exaggerated Half Life 2 leak means no launch for Christmas
John Leyden, 17 May 2004

Email survey: punters win prizes

Reg Reader StudiesReg Reader Studies Thanks to all those readers who successfully completed our recent email use survey - the online equivalent of pulling yourself up Everest with your teeth. After some positive feeback about that particular ordeal, we've decided to keep these things shorter and sweeter in future. Promise. Talking of promises, we said at the time that we'd award five lucky participants - chosen at random, naturally - some goodies from our Cash'n'Carrion e-emporium. Well, now is the time to cough up. The fistful of fortunates, all of whom completed the course and can now select a Hacker polo shirt and matching cap in either green of white, are: Richard Garner Marek Isalski Conor McMenamin Simon Oke Michael J Good show. And the moral of the story is: punters win prizes with Reg Reader Studies. Keep an eye out for further barometer probings, or sign up as a permanent member of our Reg Reader Studies Survey Panel. ®
Team Register, 17 May 2004

eAccess buys AOL Japan

AOL Japan - a wholly owned subsidiary of America Online (AOL) - has been flogged to Japanese wholesale DSL outfit eAccess. The transfer of all business assets and employees is due to take place on 30 June and will cost eAccess 2.1bn yen ($18.33m), according to Reuters. As part of the deal, the AOL brand will continue to operate in Japan with eAccess receiving content, hosting and other services from America Online. AOL reckons that the tie-up with eAccess and its broadband network gives it a cracking opportunity for continued future growth of its brand in Japan. News of the acquisition coincided with an announcement that the chief exec of BT Wholesale, Paul Reynolds, has been appointed non-exec director of the Japanese broadband company. Said Mr Reynolds: "eAccess is one of the most innovative companies in the broadband communications industry anywhere in the world today. It is focused on customer service and has clear ambitions for growth. I hope my appointment to the board of a Japanese broadband service provider will help the UK and Japanese communications industries share experiences and insights." ® Related stories Time Warner sprints ahead, AOL crawls AOL UK to offer cut-price broadband AOL raffles spammer's seized Porsche
Tim Richardson, 17 May 2004

Phatbot suspect released on bail

The suspected author of the Phatbot Trojan was released on bail last Friday after spending a week in custody. German authorities arrested the 21-year-old coder - named only as Alex G in local reports - from Waldshut in southern Germany on 7 May at the same time as the author of the Sasser worm, 18 year-old Sven Jaschan. Police said the two operations were co-ordinated but unrelated. Emails from the suspect showed he wanted to leave Germany to avoid military service. This, combined with the seriousness of computer sabotage charges he faced, led police to initially oppose bail. Police have now relented after the suspect agreed to surrender his identity papers and report regularly to police. Phatbot is a variant of Agobot, a big family of IRC bots, which can be used to steal personal information or seize control of infected machines. Since debuting in October 2002, source code for the Agobot has been distributed on the Internet and hundreds of versions have been created. ® Related stories Phatbot primed to steal your credit card details German police arrest Sasser worm suspect Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs
John Leyden, 17 May 2004

Alien puppet Linus swiped Linux from SCO, says balanced study

The Washington think tank responsible for 'Linux aids terrorism' claims two years ago is at it again. The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution is now casting doubt on Linus Torvalds' authorship of Linux, and implying that it's a knock-off of Unix. ADTI's latest atrocity appears to be following the pattern of the previous, where highly-spun and contentious pre-publicity preceded the publication of a decidedly rickety report. This time we have only a press release headed "Torvalds claim to 'invent' Linux probably false, says new study," and the promise that the study itself will begin to emerge on 20 May, when it will take the form of a "series of excerpts" from a forthcoming book by AdTI president Kenneth Brown. Microsoft confirmed that it provided funding to AdTI after the 'terror' study (also written by Brown), but it's entirely unclear why anyone at Beast Central might believe that this sort of thing helps. According to the release Brown, producing "one of the few and extensive critical studies on the source of open source code... traces the free software movement... from its romantic but questionable beginnings... [and] directly challenges Linus Torvalds' claim to be the inventor of Linux." According to Gregory Fossedal of the AdTI, the report "raises important questions that all developers and users of open source code must face. "One cannot group all open source programmers together. Many are rigorous and respectful of intellectual property. Others, though, speak of intellectual property rights - at least when it comes to the property of others - with open contempt." Brown, says the release, "suggests the invention of Unix is an integral part of the Linux story. 'People's exceptional interest in the Unix operating system,' he writes, 'made Unix one of the most licensed, imitated, and stolen products in the history of computer science...' "'For almost thirty years, programmers have tried to build a Unix-like system and couldn't. To this day, we have a serious attribution problem in software development because some programmers may have chosen to unscrupulously borrow or imitate Unix.'" It seems pretty clear from the way all that is phrased that the study will not come flat out and claim Linux was originated by Torvalds' evil twin Richard "Skippy" Stallman in furtherance of his secret agenda to overthrow property via the Free Software movement, or that open source is all swiped from Unix anyway. But as we read the AdTI's words, The Register's extensive legal department can distinctly hear the sonorous tones of an English barrister's summing up: 'On reading these words, members of the jury, what might you deduce regarding the author's motives? And what would a reasonable person deduce to be the likely conclusions of the 'extensive 30 years study' it describes?" Jury comes back inside five minutes, judge dons black cap, defendants commence thin chorus of 'You're going home in a Black Maria.' Brrr... We hold no brief for the UK's defamation laws, but in this case it does seem rather difficult not to agree with our hypothetical barrister. The bona fides of Torvalds, of Linux and of open source are quite clearly being questioned in the advance publicity, and if the study itself doesn't turn out to back this up, then the only conclusion one can draw is, surely, that it is a deliberate smear. So we look forward to the study, and indeed to the book, with interest. ® Related links: AdTI release Anti-open source ‘whitepaper’ devastated Open source invites terrorism – study MS-funded think tank propagates open-source lies
John Lettice, 17 May 2004

EU software patent debate continues

The European Council of Ministers will meet tomorrow afternoon to decide the fate of the EU Directive on software patentability, but instead of merely waving the directive through, there is to be a more thorough discussion of the issue. The directive is the penultimate item on the agenda, which means that at least one member state has changed its position and is willing to stick its political neck out to get further debate, according to lobbyists at the FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure). Last week, the Council declared consensus, and the directive was tabled as "A point" to be voted through without any further discussion. However, at a press conference at the European Parliament last week, ministers confirmed that the consensus on the issue was breaking up, and acknowledeged the need for more debate. Germany, Belgium and Luxemborg are known to be unhappy with the revised draft, but the FFII says there has been a lot of activity in France, too. A spokesman for the organisation noted that the combined votes of France and Germany (20) would make a siginificant contribution to the 26 needed to block the draft in its current form. If the Council can reach an agreement tomorrow, the text will be finalised and will be put on the agenda to be passed without further ado at a subsequent Council meeting. If not, it will be referred back to Parliament for a second reading. Although no new amendments may be proposed in a second reading, those originally proposed by Parliament can be re-introduced. In September 2003, the Parliament made significant amendments to the original proposal. It defined a very strict set of circumstances under which software patents could be granted, and of the kinds of software that could be patented. Passing them is difficult, however, as it requires a majority vote from all MEPs, not just those in attendance. ® Bootnote Want to find out more? If you live in London, the following will be of interest. Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project, will be speaking in London this Friday (21 May). Entry is free. The Dangers of Software Patents Friday, 6pm Cruciform Building, Lecture Theatre #1 University College London, Gower Street Related stories European Council snubs software patent vote EU braces for software patent demo EU revises patent licensing rules EU patents vote delayed
Lucy Sherriff, 17 May 2004

Nvidia rolls out mobile graphics add-in card format

Nvidia today rolled out its Mobile PCI Express Module (MXM) specification, a move it hopes will one day see notebook users swapping out old graphics chips for new ones as easily as desktops users do today. MXM details three module formats, each designed to meet the demands and operating envelopes of the key notebook market segments. MXM I is geared toward thin'n'light laptops, MXM II to mainstream machines and MXM III is intended for desktop replacements. Each sub-spec. defines its own power and heat dissipation parameters to allow cards within each category to be swapped out for a similarly specced unit. That contrasts with today's market where notebooks with user-exchangeable graphics do exist but are largely the province of a few, specialist vendors. And upgrades generally apply across a narrow range of graphics chips. Nvidia said it was opening up the MXM spec. to allow other chip vendors and any number of notebook vendors to support the initiative. Beyond the association with Nvidia, it's hard to see why they wouldn't. Notebooks are taking an ever greater share of the PC market, and without MXM or something like it, there's unlikely ever to be much in the way of a mobile graphics after-market. Nvidia said it had already won the backing of Far Eastern ODMs like Quanta, Wistron, FIC, Uniwill, Clevo, AOpen, Tatung, Arima, Asustek and Mitac, all of whom have said they will offer MXM-based notebooks. Since these ten already account for many of the world's name and no-name notebooks, MXM is likely to grow by stealth, becoming a de facto standard. Nvidia will soon be ready with product. It said it will deliver the next generation of its GeForce Go mobile chips, version 6, on MXM add-in cards. ® Related stories Mobile graphics drives chip market growth ATI targets Nvidia's 60% desktop chip share Nvidia ships TV, PVR cards to US, Europe Nvidia preps mid-range GeForce 6800 part Nvidia green lights Quadro FX 4000 chip Nvidia acquires network processor maker
Tony Smith, 17 May 2004

Resellers shun smart phones

Resellers across Europe are sticking to traditional PDAs when sorting out mobile data products for their customers. Research carried out in March found 43 per cent of dealers recommended stand-alone PDAs to their customers. Twenty per cent were installing PDAs with a separate mobile phone and 21.4 per cent chose an integrated device. But only 8.9 per cent of resellers mentioned smart phones. In terms of applications stock control is the most likely reason for customers buying PDAs - 26 per cent of resellers identified it as a driver for handheld technology. Standard PDA functions were mentioned by 24 per cent. While 22 per cent of respondents believed email was the most important reason behind the purchase. Sales support was next with 11 per cent. The application least likely to be mentioned by resellers was GPS with only 4 per cent believing it was a reason behind purchases. The figures come from Context Research which questioned resellers across Europe.® Related stories Phoenix launches reseller reward programme German resellers are calm bunch HP top (channel) dog for PCs
John Oates, 17 May 2004

Softbank customers sue over data leak

Japanese outfit Softbank Corp faces being sued after confidential information regarding 4.6m of its punters leaked out in March, according to the Mainichi Daily News. Softbank - which together with Yahoo! operates broadband outfit "Yahoo! BB" in Japan - was the victim of a massive scam to extort billions of Yen from the company. Although no credit or security information such as credit card numbers, passwords or records was made public, the giant security breach did include personal information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of application and email addresses. In a bid to make amends, senior execs at Softbank in Japan said they would take a pay cut and offered to compensate those affected with a total pay-out of four billion yen (£20m). But that means punters would only get around 500 Yen each - about £2.50. Now, three people have filed a lawsuit at the Osaka District Court and are seeking damages of 100,000 yen (£500) each. ® Related stories Softbank rocked by giant data leak Softbank punters run online protest auctions
Tim Richardson, 17 May 2004

Mandrake 'charges' $13k for $132 membership

Fans and supporters of Mandrake got a shock over the weekend when some people buying, or contributing to, the open source company found their credit cards had been overcharged by a factor of 100. Mandrake asked customers to use PayPal while it sorted the problem out. One open source fan and Register reader claims that a silver membership worth $132.00 was charged to his debit card for a cool $13,200. He says he is still waiting to hear back from the company. In a statement the company admitted there was a problem with payment software from Natexis. The bug in Natexis software treats cents as dollars, or multiplies every amount by 100. In May, 261 Mandrake customers were affected. The system is now up and running properly and Natexis is talking to the banks so anyone who overpaid should get a refund soon. ® Related stories Mandrakesoft exits bankruptcy protection Mandrake Linux ate my CD drive Mandrake supplying Linux on HP desktops
John Oates, 17 May 2004

ESA commissions super spacesuit

The European Space Agency (ESA) today launched a project which it hopes will generate ideas for the next generation of spacesuits. The ultimate goal is to develop a suit that will allow a human being to explore the surface of Mars, while providing real-time monitoring of vital signs and location. The second StarTiger project (Space Technology Advancements by Resourceful, Targeted and Innovative Groups of Experts and Researchers) will be run in Finland at the Tampere University of Technology (TUT). TUT was selected becuase of its many years of research experience in designing so-called "Smart" clothes. The StarTiger2 suit, known as the STAR-suit, will feature a whole range of technologies and functions. As well as all the sensor and commumication technologies it will need to take physiological measurements, the suit is likely to feature flexible printed circuit boards and liquid crystal display materials; as well as advance fabrics and embedded electronics. The ESA explains that the suit will address one of the biggest needs on a space misison: the safety of the astronaut. Space is an extraordinarily harsh environment, and its effects are not wholly understood. Health checks are possible before and after flights, but nothing has yet been able to provide continuous monitoring. "The final objective is to know in real-time and continuously the physiological status of the person being monitored without hindering what he or she has to do," explains Eike Kircher, head of ESA's Basic Technology Research Programme. The bare minimum features list is for the suit to be capable of heart and respiratory rate monitoring, and motion and temperature sensoring. Additional items such as a vascular index and electrocardiogram - as well as a global positioning system - are also being planned. All user interfaces and communication systems will be integrated in the clothing, which, as a final practical consideration, must also be washable. Although the long-term goal may be Mars, STAR-suit's first outing is likely to be to Antarctica's Concordia Science Station. ® Related stories US space tourist set for blast-off Great Wall not visible from space: official Hack NASA and crash a shuttle Nanotechnology may be over-hyped
Lucy Sherriff, 17 May 2004

How to make your PC quiet

PCs are becoming noisier. As components have become faster, the heat they generate has increased. Since that heat is traditionally dissipated using a variety of fans inside the case, the number and size of these fans has grown too, to the extend that they have become the major source of noise within a PC.
Poweroid, 17 May 2004

A380 Airbus suffers Virgin knock-back

Virgin Airlines has said that it will not take delivery of its first Airbus A380 superjumbo until 2007 - a year later than planned. The company says that delays in airports - particularly that of Los Angeles (LAX) - preparing to receive the enormous aircraft are partly behind the decision, as are difficulties in getting kit to customise the interior. A spokesman did, however, insist that the A380 still figured large in Virgin's plans: "We're still absolutely committed to the A380. But we really only want to fly with it in our livery when we're confident we can deliver the onboard service and airport level service which were designed for this aircraft. We want to do a number of innovative things on board... but unfortunately the supplier sector are not able to help us deliver our ambitions within a timeframe of a 2006 delivery." Airbus admitted that modifications to LAX were a problem, but said that talk were ongoing to "ensure the new plane is launched on schedule". The company must hope that it is - Airbus parent company EADS shares dropped 3.67 per cent this morning after the Virgin announcement. ® Related stories Airbus behemoth faces the press Wright Brothers' centenary provokes aviation speculationfest
Lester Haines, 17 May 2004

Opera festival tunes into Wi-Fi

UK-based WISP The Cloud is to equip the Glyndebourne opera festival with "flexible and discreet" wireless Internet access. The posh person's answer to Glastonbury, Reading or the Monsters of Rock festivals opens on Thursday with a rendition of Mozart's Die Zauberflote. It's hard to imagine anyone sneaking off mid-performance for a crafty email check or to catch up with El Reg, but it could prove a hit during the champaign-fuelled interval. Glyndebourne runs through to 29 August and will feature performances of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, Handel's Rodelinda, Bizet's Carmen, Janácek's Jenûfa, and The Miserly Knight and Gianni Schicchi by Rachmaninov and Puccini, respectively. In addition to a Wi-Fi enabled notebook or PDA, attendees will need to bring along "evening dress (black tie/long or short dress)" to meet to festival's strict dress code. Prices range from £10 for a space to stand in, up to £150 for one of the plusher seats. The Cloud has installed access points in the opera house, one near to the Press Office - the service is in part pitched at music hacks attending the event; 'a lap what?' dear boy - and the Jani Room, for more elevated attendees. ® Related stories New flaw takes Wi-Fi off the air Business slow to embrace wireless T-Mobile wins Heathrow hotspot siting Broadcom simplifies Wi-Fi security set-up Central London Wi-Fi zone gets green light
Tony Smith, 17 May 2004

DARPA doubles cash payout for second robot race

Fresh off the failure of the first Grand Challenge robot race, DARPA has decided to double the prize money for a second event to be held next year. DARPA quietly slipped word of the now $2m prize on the Grand Challenge web site. At present, the cash award is the only definite detail for the second running of the robots. DARPA is expected to begin rolling out more information on how long the course will be and how it might differ from the first Grand Challenge in the next few months. The first Grand Challenge, held in March, made much more liberal use of the term "challenge" than "grand." Only a handful of the 15 robot vehicles that made it to the starting line in Barstow, California managed to travel more than one mile. The top distance went to the Red Team from Carnegie Mellon University which travelled a whopping 7.4 miles on the back of $3m in equipment. These results fell well short of the 225 miles the vehicles needed to travel in under ten hours in order to win a $1m prize. The robot warriors use GPS, radar, laser radar and a host of other technologies to move without human aid. Exactly why DARPA would up the prize money for the Grand Challenge is not clear. The contestants tend to fall into two categories - neither of which cares much about the cash prize. One group hopes to earn prestige as a robotics powerhouse and will spend well over what DARPA can offer on their vehicles. The other group how to show off their skills using a budget approach and then cash in later in the corporate world after their technology proves itself in the field. In addition, DARPA already had more entries this year than it cared to deal with, so there is little need to drum up added interest. But, hey, military spending is all the rage these days, so why complain. If you can't wait until next year to get your robot race fix, head over to the Robot City trade show in September. The IRRF (International Robot Racing Federation) will be holding its own $1m race open to competitors from around the globe. ® Related stories Flying Car more economical than SUV Robot wars: One man's story of promotional monks and mechanical friendships DARPA's Grand Challenge proves to be too grand Final robot grunts picked for $1million DARPA race Robot grunts tumble in race for $1m prize $1 million Grand Challenge map leaked on Web DARPA quells robot road rage Could Segways replace soldiers as hired killers? DARPA chisels little guy out of $1 million race DARPA's indecision threatens integrity of $1 million race
Ashlee Vance, 17 May 2004

CommVault codes its way onto Dell storage

Storage software maker CommVault has received a large vote of confidence from Dell with the two companies announcing a tight product partnership. Dell customers will now find a low-end version of CommVault's Galaxy software available for their IP and Fibre Channel storage systems. The software, called GalaxyExpress, lets customers perform basic backup and restore functions at a starting price of $2,495 for up to 25 clients. Users interested in higher-end end tools, and more clients, can pay for add-on modules from CommVault. "This is really about expanding customer choice," said a Dell spokeswoman. Dell commissioned CommVault to tune this software package for its PowerVault NAS (network attached storage) boxes and higher-end Dell/EMC Clariion gear. Like other software from companies such as Veritas or CA, the CommVault application handles data backup for various mail and database packages, including Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server and Oracle. Byte and Switch reports that the Dell deal could boost CommVault's IPO prospects. The software maker already has deals with Hitachi, HP and EMC, but it considers the agreement with Dell to be a major volume play. ® Related stories Dell beat itself in the first quarter Getting connected to online backups Microsoft finds Fibre Channel tool CIM-SAN-2 ready to hit road Brocade lines up partners
Ashlee Vance, 17 May 2004

Google's Ethics Committee revealed

While it carries the imprimatur of objectivity, science doesn't operate in an ethical vacuum. As the late Stephen Jay Gould often pointed out, scientists make value judgments all the time, and science is a reflection of wider social values [*]. At Google, the gatekeeper to a trove of digital information, as everywhere else, it's humans not machines who make value decisions. But perhaps more than any other company Google has strived to convince us that machines not men should take responsibility for these decisions. The Google News page claims, "The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program". But this program didn't program itself, of course, and when pressed for more detail of what constitutes news or a news source, Google's explanations have been tortuous and evasive. In a more recent case, Google issued a response to groups protesting the placement of a vile hate site at the top of a search for "Jew", Google issued an explanation: "The only sites we omit are those we are legally compelled to remove or those maliciously attempting to manipulate our results." However, this doesn't entirely give the full picture: the People's Republic of China has succeeded where the Jewish Anti-Defamation League has failed, and Google censors results for Chinese Internet users. Few take such claims that the machines, or algorithms are solely responsible, at face value. We can argue that Google is right or wrong - but we can't dispute that it's making value judgements. Thanks to a resourceful Israeli journalist, we know a little more about how such decisions are reached. Google has an Ethics Committee, the company's Dr. Eran Gabber revealed yesterday to a group of Israeli students. Google never mentions such details to the press, but Ido Kenan, a reporter for the daily NRG Maariv found himself in a recruitment talk by Dr.Gabber. (A blabbing blogger had spilled the details of Gabber's visit to Tel Aviv University). "We change PageRank™ when we find that spammers are abusing it, but we don't change it often. There's an internal ethics committee in Google," Maariv reports. "Internally, there are people who are concerned about ethics. In Google, there are a lot of people who find ethics important". As well they should. However news of unannounced Ethics Committee is at odds with earlier reports that Google amends search results on the fly, as reported last year. Kenan has tried, without much success, to press Google on what is included in its News site, one of the most popular web destinations. The answers he received from Google News mirrored Krishna Bharat's acrobatics in an interview with a trade publication last autumn, which we discussed here. Passing responsibility onto dumb machines is a ploy that Microsoft founder Bill Gates has tried. When pressed during an Antitrust deposition as to who had written an email from his account, Gates eventually replied, "the machine wrote it." As gatekeepers to information, Microsoft and Google deserve special scrutiny. Wisely, Microsoft has refrained from engaging in trite and sanctimonious Google's "Do No Evil." If it feels unfairly singled out, it should remember that this is a comparison it invited upon itself. ® Bootnotes: [*] science funding offers a good example; the science we see is a reflection of the research considered worth paying for, and that reflects the values of the sponsors. Picture courtesy of Daniel Brandt (Google Watch, Yahoo! Watch.) Related stories Google files Coca Cola jingle with SEC Google values its own privacy. How does it value yours? PR rules, OK? Google ducks promised news policy pledge Google News: press releases are OK – Official Google launches email - takes the Bill Gates defense
Andrew Orlowski, 17 May 2004