18th > May > 2004 Archive

Motorola taps Big Blue talent for chip biz

Motorola has pinched former IBM executive Michel Mayer to head its Freescale Semiconductor operation. Mayer, the former general manager of IBM Microelectronics, has been tapped as Freescale's chairman and CEO. Freescale is a Motorola chip-making subsidiary that is expected to become a publicly traded company later this year. "After an extensive, global search, we believe that Michel Mayer has a unique combination of operational experience, leadership skills, customer focus and technical expertise to make him the ideal choice to lead Freescale Semiconductor as an independent entity," said Ed Zander, CEO at Motorola. "Michel is widely known and highly regarded in the industry among customers and peers around the world, and his appointment reinforces Freescale's global focus." It's comforting, in a way, to see Motorola nab a 20-year IBM veteran such as Mayer. It shows the company has grown a lot since since it sued AMD's CEO and former Motorola exec Hector Ruiz for poaching in-house talent. Life could be a bit better for Mayer at Freescale than over at Big Blue. IBM's chip business has been struggling as a result of disappointing yields and high fab costs. Freescale, by contrast, saw its first quarter income jump more than fourfold to $107m on revenue of $1.4bn. ® Related stories Motorola makes hay during Q1 Freescale Q1 income soars Motorola chip launch paves way for 1.5GHz PowerBook G4 Motorola renames chip division Freescale Motorola appoints insider as chip unit chief Motorola sues AMD CEO-in-waiting
Ashlee Vance, 18 May 2004

Camera added to USB Flash drive

We've seen MP3 players and Wi-Fi adaptors integrated into USB Flash drives, but now Taiwanese manufacturer Transcend has extended the format with a digicam/storage combo. The JetFlash DSC is a typical 8 x 2.9 x 1.6cm, 26g Flash drive, but there's a 640 x 480 digicam built in there too, along with a tiny rechargeable battery to keep it operational. The lens is a fixed-focus, 45cm to infinity, F2.8 job, and with such a low resolution you can't expect to take great pictures, but it can't be beaten for portability. Or for the ease with which you can copy photos to a host computer. Transcend bundles Photo Explorer 8.0 as an image editor and manager. Transcend isn't overly generous with the storage side of the device. The JetFlash DSC is available with either 128MB or 256MB of memory. And the connector is a slow USB 1.1 affair. It's not the first of its kind: Philips' $99 Camera Key Ring probably has that honour. But the Philips gagdet is less capacious (64MB) and heavier (36g). Both versions of the JetFlash DSC will ship this month. Transcend did not provide pricing or international availability information. ® Related stories The USB dongle: a form factor worth plugging? Creative ships 256MB MuVo TX Laks preps MP3 wristwatch TwinMOS offers USB Wi-Fi adaptor Wi-Fi/Flash combo drives proliferate Review: Auvi SA-100 MP3 Player Review: V-TEC V-Drive Flash Pen
Tony Smith, 18 May 2004

Flying car less likely than flying pig

LettersLetters Flying Cars? Flying pigs are more likely, according to readers of our report Flying Car more economical than SUV. David Barnhart doesn't believe either the economics or the physics. A little research would reveal that Moller has been scamming the press, investors, and the taxpayer for 40 years. Here are some back-of-the envelope calculations I recorded from a conversation with colleagues a few years ago regarding the SkyCar: Moller says the M400 gross weight is 2400 pounds. That means 600 pounds thrust in hover mode from each duct. That is air blasting down in a square 19 inches on each side (my estimate from the photos and drawings). This would require an air velocity of about 320 fps or about 0.3 mach. The power required for that, given a 90 % fan efficiency, is about 387 horsepower each duct. That is about 1550 hp total. That is a bit more that what Moller says (645hp). An internal combustion engine will produce 14-15hp per gallon of fuel per hour (Wankel engines are a little worse, but we'll go with this figure.) Even if we use Moller's 645hp figure, that's 43 gallons per hour. And if we use his max range cruise speed figure of 300mph, that's more like 7 miles per gallon, not 20. And I've only scratched the surface. The only truly amazing thing is that the press seams to swallow his bait every single time he presents it. Dave Barnhart Glendale, AZ You didn't do your homework on Moller. See our comments on this, here.[It's worth reading about the DiscoJet, to be sure - ed] Read his brochure from 1974 ("flying car, real soon now") and the SEC complaint against him (it doesn't work, he sold unregistered securities, made false and misleading statements, raised $5.1 million selling stock illegally on the Internet). John Nagle Downside Well, on a subsequent visit to the stand we did see a video of a tethered SkyCar hovering precariously at an altitude of about 15 feet. Will it go any higher? ® Related Stories Swiss set to unleash flying car Reader flak brings down flying car Indian flying car shot down Israeli rival soars Flights of fantasy Skycar crashes and burns?
Andrew Orlowski, 18 May 2004

BT man coughs to Google share scam

A business development manager for BT faces more than five years in jail after pleading guilty to Google share scam. Dutchman Shamoon Rafiq, 30, told a US court yesterday that he did sell non-existent Google stock prior to the company's impending IPO. He admitted that he told his victims that, due to his "connections", he was able to purchase the stock at a discount, even though Google hadn't confirmed its intention to float the company. In all, Rafiq managed to con almost $3m (£1.7m) from a number of wealthy investors. He splashed the cash on a jet-set lifestyle including trips to strip clubs, expensive gifts and generous tips, according to Reuters. Rafiq, who had been living in New York City since October 2003, was arrested in March. A BT spokesman confirmed that Rafiq used to work for the company but that he has has since been dismissed. ® Related stories Feds slap cuffs on Google stock scammer Google's Ethics Committee revealed Google files Coca Cola jingle with SEC
Tim Richardson, 18 May 2004

One Macromedia Studio fits all

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Team Register, 18 May 2004

UK fraud laws to get millennium facelift

The Home Office today announced plans to bring fraud laws into the 21st Century with a major overhaul in existing legislation. The government reckons the overhaul is necessary because "existing laws do not adequately tackle the wide range of possible fraudulent activity or keep pace with rapidly developing technology". Ministers said they want to use the review to plough a clear path through a thicket of existing, sometimes confusing or contradictory, rules. A consultation paper, launched by Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland yesterday, proposes a general offence of fraud which could be committed in three ways: by false representation, by wrongfully failing to disclose information and by abuse of position. Baroness Scotland said: "Fraud costs the UK economy £14bn a year so it is vital we tackle this problem effectively. But the current laws do not cover the wide range of frauds which can be committed and it is too easy for defendants to escape justice because of legal loopholes. "Modern criminals are also increasingly sophisticated and use technology to commit frauds. For example, buying services over the Internet could be subject to fraud because of a deficiency in the current law." 'Specialist fraud' excluded from consultation The consultation paper seeks views on whether the new law will cover all fraudulent behaviour that needs to be criminalised, without affecting activities that ought to be lawful. It also seeks views on the possible extension of the existing offence of fraudulent trading, and on the creation of a new offence of possessing equipment to commit frauds. The government also wants to canvass view on whether existing conspiracy to defraud offences might be prosecuted under the proposed new law of fraud. The consultation does not cover specialist branches of fraud - such as forgery and counterfeiting, false accounting, tax evasion, insider dealing, misleading market practices, benefit fraud and intellectual property offences - which the government reckons need to be considered separately. The government says it wants to consult widely on its proposals before coming up with a future Fraud Bill. We hope the Home Secretary's faith in ID cards as the 'silver bullet' solution to society's ills doesn't colour what would otherwise promises to be a worthwhile debate. Copies of the consultation document can be found on the Home Office website. The consultation closes on 9 August 2004. ® Related stories Fraudsters prey on apathetic Brits MPs urged to reform cybercrime laws How to fool ID card system - give a false ID, say UK gov Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card Big names line up for major UK ID debate - but will Blunkett?
John Leyden, 18 May 2004

DCC ups profits

Irish distribution company DCC has increased profits for the year by 14 per cent. This reversed losses of more than ten per cent in the first half of the year. It made an operating profit of €120.9m on sales of €2,198m for the year ended 31 March 2004. DCC's IT division accounted for more than a quarter of this profit. Jim Flavin, DCC's chief exec and deputy chairman, said the results had been achieved despite a difficult first half. He said: "It is particularly pleasing to note that constant currency operating profit growth in IT distribution was 15 per cent in the second half compared to a decline of 11.6 per cent in the first half" For the year ended 31 March 2004, DCC's IT distribution division made sales of €859.4m and an operating profit of €31.3m. The company said it managed constant currency profit growth of 15 per cent after a challenging first half which saw big price deflation. It saw good growth in sales of PCs and mult-function office products. Software sales performed satisfactorily despte the lack of major games releases. DCC believes lower prices for games consoles will result in a higher installed base and increased future demand for games. Exceptional items included €4.8m in legal costs related to a dispute with DCC subsidiary Pihsiang Machinery Manufacturing Company Ltd. DCC has been awarded damages and costs of €18.3m against the company but has yet to receive payment. The company is also considering a "range" of acquistions. ® Related stories UK IT hardware sales are weak DCC DCC sings UK distie praise DCC disties hold their own
John Oates, 18 May 2004

IBM, Logica spar for £80m MoD deal

Logica and IBM have been named by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) as the final two contractors in a £1m project to propose an online medical records system for military personnel. At the end of a six-month assesment period, one of them will be awarded the final contract worth a cool £80m over ten years. The snappily entitled Defence Medical Information Capability Programme (DMICP) will be a central register of the records of the 200,000 military staff in the UK, and should allow them to transfer more easily from military hospitals to NHS facilities. The MoD has a five-phase procurement process, designed to make sure it doesn't spend large chunks of small change on things that don't work. A spokeswoman for the MoD said that the final choice still needed to be approved by the Ministry's Investment Approval Board. This takes place at the end of the six-month assesment phase. "In theory, we are under no obligation to buy either system," she said, although it would be extremely unlikely to come to that. Currently, military medical records, like those in civilian life, are mostly paper-based. Given the rather mobile nature of an army, it's easy to see how moving the whole lot into electronic form will help.The idea is that DMICP will be able to interoperate with the new NHS IT systems, as they come into place, and will cover medical, mental, social and dental records. ® Related stories NHS computers prescribe trouble NHS rolls out digital X-rays European healthcare 'online by 2008' Bush presses for electronic medical records
Lucy Sherriff, 18 May 2004

ISPA: users should report dodgy content...

Net users must take a greater role in combating unlawful and illegal online content by reporting dodgy material to watchdogs, according to a study from the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) published yesterday. The study, conducted by ICM Research, highlights widespread public confusion about UK Net governance. More than one in eight respondents (13 per cent) said that they would do nothing if they found something on the Internet that they thought was illegal. Men were more than three times more likely to do nothing about illegal content than women. More than one in five people (21 per cent) said they would show unlawful content to other people. In the case of illegal material this is a serious offence in itself. Nearly half the respondents said they'd report suspicious content to their ISP. ISPs will act on such information, but the ISPA argues its members are not the most appropriate authority since they "are not qualified, sufficiently authorised or resourced to decide on the legal status of all the material on the Internet". Only 29 per cent of respondents correctly recognised the government or judiciary as the legitimate authorities to make decisions about the legal status of online content. Instances of images depicting child abuse, UK hosted material that potentially breaches the Obscene Publications Act and UK hosted criminally racist material should be referred to the Internet Watch Foundation. According to the IWF, less than one per cent of illegal images reported to it were hosted on UK servers. This is a sign of the success of the UK Internet Industry's Self-Regulatory 'Notice and Takedown' Procedure, according to the ISPA. "The majority of illegal content on the Internet originates from the US and Eastern Europe. The Internet industry, law enforcement agencies and governments in these territories should take action similar to the UK to limit access to illegal content," said Jessica Hendrie-Liaño, chair of the ISPA Council. Unlawful content Unlawful content is not just limited to child pornography. It also includes less obvious material such as instances of defamation, infringement of copyright and other intellectual property rights, and criminally racist or sexist content. Working out the legal status or otherwise of such content is very difficult for the Internet industry, ISPA argues. Four years ago, Demon Internet was forced to pay scientist Dr Laurence Godfrey £15,000 after he sued it for failing to remove defamatory postings on newsgroups it hosted. The ISP was obliged to apologise to Dr Godfrey, as well as paying his legal costs. An ISPA spokesman said the case prompted UK ISPs to tighten up "notice and takedown" procedures. UK ISPs are successfully taking responsibility for removing illegal content hosted on their system once they have "actual knowledge" that the materials are illegal, according to the ISPA. ISPA wants clearer government guidance on the issue which it believes UK e-commerce regulations that came into force in August 2002 fail to cover. Hendrie-Liaño said: "The current self-regulatory approach has produced exceptional results when dealing with child pornography. However, cases involving other forms of unlawful content, such as infringements of copyright, are legally complex, less clear-cut and therefore more difficult for ISPs to resolve. ISPA believes that as a matter of priority, the government should assist the UK Internet industry to create a universal procedure for establishing the illegality of material, and the notification of such content to ISPs by a designated authority." ® Related stories Net blamed for massive increase in child porn Complaints? About ISPs? Surely not! ISPs welcome UK Net libel review Demon coughs up damages in Godfrey libel case
John Leyden, 18 May 2004

Bull boss flees

French server and services group Bull has lost its head. Chairman-to-be Didier Pineau-Valencienne resigned yesterday, after only two months in the job. Pineau, who has overseen a debt reduction programme, was widely expected to be made chairman at a shareholders meeting on 25 May. That meeting is also expected to approve Bull's debt restructuring programme. Pineau was appointed by Pierre Bonelli who died in April. Pineau insisted there had been no disagreement and that his work was done. He told AFP: "All the appropriate steps to meet that goal have been taken or will be in the very near future. "Under these conditions I consider that the mission I acceped from Pierre Bonelli... is today accomplished and it is now up to Bull's old and new shareholders to take charge of the company." There have been various rumours about fallings out on the board at Bull. French newspaper Les Echos reported that Pineau had serious disagreements with "certain shareholders - France Telecom has been mentioned - and/or part of the management". Once it has sorted out who is going to be chairman, Bull needs to get European Commission approval for its debt restructuring programme. ® Related stories Bull mourns dead chairman Groupe Bull feels cold steel of EU probe Bull: government subsidies undermine EU dream
John Oates, 18 May 2004
Cat 5 cable

AMD restates dual-core CPU scheme

AMD has re-iterated its plan to ship dual-core Opteron chips next year.
Tony Smith, 18 May 2004

Yahoo! and Google escalate portal wars

The gloves are off in the battle between onetime friends Google and Yahoo!, with each of the companies rolling out upgrades, feature changes and alliances that indicate both firms are fiercely competing for eyeballs. The portal wars that dominated the Web in the late 1990s are back, it seems. Google has approached the point where it can no longer be thought of as simply a search firm, while Yahoo! is striving to become more search-oriented in its strategy. In addition to vanilla Web search, Google already provides news aggregation, image search, product listings, webmail, blog hosting, "social networking" and language translation. Last week, the company made another attack at Yahoo!, launching a beta of Google Groups 2, which looks a bit like Yahoo! Groups. The first Google Groups was merely a web front-end to Usenet, albeit with the largest archive available anywhere. Google is even veering away from its light text-only roots, having decided to let advertisers deliver graphical ads via AdSense, which serves currently text ads to third-party websites. The company will not show the ads on its own site, yet. Yahoo is fighting back with upgrades to its own features. Notably, the company last week upgraded the amount of storage it will give to users of its free Yahoo! Mail service to 100MB, in response to Google's new Gmail, which offers 1GB. Also, possibly another response to Gmail, which places ads next to email, Yahoo! has made a deal with Plaxo that will let it embed Yahoo! Search into Outlook and Outlook Express email client software for the first time. Plaxo provides an Outlook plug-in that helps people manage their contacts books. Version 2.0 of the software, set to ship this month, will contain the Yahoo! search button. Yahoo! will share any search-related revenue with Plaxo. If Google is becoming more like Yahoo!, Yahoo! has for some time been trying to become more like Google. Its Yahoo! Search was revamped last year to appear cleaner and more Google-like, and the firm has repeatedly said search is core to its strategy. Search is core to both company's financials too. Ads triggered by keywords found in search terms account for the majority of both portals' revenue. Yahoo! and Google are not the only two firms vying for these search dollars of course. Ask Jeeves' ask.com site is now the purest search play of the major online brands, although three other newly-acquired sites, including excite.com, are portals. Microsoft, of course, is still in a dominant position with its MSN network of sites. This dominance is only likely to increase, after the company releases its own search technology onto the Web, into the browser, and potentially into Windows. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related research: Datamonitor, "Secure web portals and web services" (BFTC0803) Related stories Search drives US online ad sales Yahoo! shows paid search pays Google and Yahoo! ban gambling ads Google mail is evil privacy advocates Yahoo! and MSN to dilute Google supremacy
Datamonitor, 18 May 2004

Lycos cuts ribbon on 1GB email service

Lycos Europe today unveiled a 1GB email service and cocked a snook at US rivals Yahoo! and Google. According to the PR guff, the Lycos email service will be free of ads and comes protected by anti-spam and anti-virus software. The service costs £3.49 ($6.17) per month. Both Google and Yahoo! have already announced plans for similar beefed-up email services however details of both are still a little vague. Said Alex Kovach, Lycos European VP: "We are delighted to be the first to offer our Lycos email customers and Internet users a 1GB service. We will be interested to see when our competitors can offer the service that we already provide with a sustainable business model to underpin it." The portal business said that the launch of its 1GB mail service was part of a "new strategic direction in the market to expand its Web hosting and registering services and email provision". Which is nice. ® Related stories Yahoo! blasts back at Google Google launches email, takes the Bill Gates defense Lycos UK cans POP3
Tim Richardson, 18 May 2004

ARM unveils multi-core chip design

ARM yesterday announced that it is ready to sign licensees for its first multi-core processor, but it admitted it will be a year before silicon derived from the technology begins to appear. The multi-core design, dubbed the MPCore, was co-developed with NEC to support single-core to four-core processors. Based on the ARMv6 architecture, each core also integrates more recent technology, including ARM's AltiVec/3DNow/SSE-style 'single instruction, multiple data' (SIMD) multimedia processing extensions and the company's Jazelle Java acceleration circuitry. Pitched at mobile applications, MPCore features a power controller that can shutdown unused cores, taking the consumption down to 0.57mW/MHz for a 130nm CPU. That figures excludes power consumed by the chip's L2 caches, which maintain coherency using a "modified" version of the MESI (Modified, Exclusive, Shared, Invalid) protocol, ARM added. The MPCore Energy Manager can reduced power consumption by up to 85 per cent, ARM said. It didn't say from what baseline that reduction is measured - presumably from four separate ARM CPUs. The design supports both symmetric and asymmetric multi-processing, said ARM, with both techniques backed by a variety of operating systems. ARM has begun offering a Linux 2.6-based development system. In addition to developing the MPCore, NEC said it will use the part in hardware products of its own that target the consumer electronics, automotive and mobile markets. ® Related stories AMD restates dual-core CPU scheme Intel's Whitefield goes Banias in 2006 Intel plots 4MB L2, 64-bit desktop CPU First 65nm IBM PowerPC chip to be dual-core First dual-core Itanic to sport 24MB of cache
Tony Smith, 18 May 2004

O2 rings up first profit

Mobile provider mmO2 has rung up its first pre-tax profit and is even talking of paying out a dividend in November. Turnover was up 22 per cent to £5.65bn and profits were £95m, up from losses of £10.2bn last year. mmO2 signed up an extra 2.5m customers last year, giving it a total of 20.7m. The company saw decent customer growth and good Average Earnings Per User (ARPU). In the UK customer numbers grew by ten per cent to 13.26m and ARPU was £272, also a ten per cent growth. Contract churn - the number of contract customers leaving the service - in the UK was 26 per cent, down from 28 per cent last year. In Germany, numbers rose 24 per cent to 5.98m and ARPU was €366. O2 in Ireland saw numbers grow 11 per cent to 1.4m and ARPU increased from €546 in 2003 to €559 in 2004. David Varney, chairman of mmO2, said: "These results reflect the fundamental improvement in performance that mmO2 has achieved... since the demerger in November 2001." Varney also said the company having reported its first profit the company would review its distribution policy in November. ® Related stories BT and Voda to 'tie mobile knot' Networks gang up on Nokia Porn and the handset
John Oates, 18 May 2004
SGI logo hardware close-up

AMD launches x50 Opterons

AMD today launched the top-end Opteron processors that its last round of price-cuts, made earlier this month, had paved the way for. The Opteron 150, 250 and 850 target uni-processor, two-way and four- or eight-way systems, respectively. They are likely to be the last 130nm Opterons before AMD introduces 90nm versions in the second half of the year. While the chips' launch comes earlier than expected, they will still ship in June, as anticipated. However, AMD spins it as "available within 30 days" of today's launch. That refers to the 150 and 850 - the 250, at least, is available straight away. The 150, 250 and 850 are all clocked at 2.4GHz. The three chips are priced at $637, $851 and $1514, respectively, in batches of 1000 processors. ® Related stories AMD slashes Opteron prices AMD Opteron 150, 250, 850 out in June AMD restates dual-core CPU scheme AMD sneaks out 90nm core in 130nm chip HP to upgrade AMD to business class
Tony Smith, 18 May 2004

Congress hears DMCA testimony

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act is under threat from key changes sought by opponents, and a Congressional committee was hearing testimony this week. Faultline has campaigned not only for the re-drafting of key elements of the DCMA, but also for changes to all of the other "photocopy" legislation (using precisely copied wording) that has appeared around the world. There are 179 signatories to the World Copyright Treaty, that either have, or intend to bring in, similar laws to their countries. That legislation owes much of its existence to the fuel-injected lobby power of both the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Pictures Association of America, and both these organisations were in debate at the Congressional Commerce committee called to review a bill that is being called the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act and abbreviated to HR 107 - the number it goes by in Congress. One of the main changes is to decriminalise the bypassing of copy protection as long as it is to support personal use. At the moment bypassing the copy protection, or owning tools that could bypass it, is illegal on a DVD or music CD, regardless of what you do with the copies you make after bypassing the protection. Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA said that HR 107 would allow the sale of hacking tools that would bust through the Digital Rights Management of iTunes and other services if the hacker is using the copies for "non-infringing purposes." His view was that there is no way to assure that any tool is only used for non-infringing purposes and that the only way to make this possible was to impose a tech mandate for copy controls, which HR 107 does not contain. And he went on to say that it is impossible to create a technology that will permit "fair uses" while prohibiting other uses. Which is strange given the evidence of Robert Moore, CEO of 321 Studios, a company that has recently been banned by a judge from selling its DVD backup tools which bypass copy protection. One of his points was precisely that his technology did, indeed, prevent fair use copies being used for copyright infringement. He said, "The real, practical and very pressing question dramatically highlighted by the experience of 321 Studios is simply this - if consumers can make a personal copy of an audio CD they've bought to put on their iPod or play in their car; if consumers can use a VCR or TiVo to make a tape or digital copy of a movie on broadcast or cable TV and if consumers can use conventional and digital photocopiers, and digital scanners, to reproduce pages from a book and if consumers can make a backup copy of a computer program like Windows - then, how can it be that consumers are criminals for making a backup copy of a DVD they've bought and paid for and why is our company, indeed any technology company, criminal for selling them the digital tools that they must have to make their rights real?" Which sums up the issues pretty well. Moore made it clear that anyone trying to use 321 DVD Copy to create copies for piracy must be mad, given that you can only make one DVD copy at a time and this can take over an hour and it retains the same copy protection on the copied disk as it does on the original. Evidence from Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law at Washington College of Law American University told the committee that "In the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, Congress put 200 years of legal, cultural and economic achievement at risk. Rather than promoting long-term security for copyright owners, the DMCA has actually done the opposite. Its enactment has helped to trigger a disastrous decline in the public's respect for copyright on which the success of our system depends. HR 107 would undo this misstep preserving the essential features of Sec. 1201 while correcting its excesses." Section 1201 is the part of the DMCA that bans bypassing copy protection. The likely outcome is not to pass hasty legislation that amends the DMCA, but to take a year or so to come up with compromise amendments which reduce the draconian elements of the Act without overly diluting it. © Copyright 2004 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories DRM 'will be cracked' says iTunes hacker Apple DMCA sends iTunes DRM decryptor offshore 321 Studios to fight ripper injunction Judge bans DVD X Copy software US inspired copyright laws set to sweep the globe - for fun and profit
Faultline, 18 May 2004

Music biz waves axe at goose that laid golden egg

The maths just do not add up. The ungrateful record labels that were so desperate to beat piracy, but which overpriced all their own efforts at online music, are now working behind the scenes to drive up the price of music on Apple iTunes. It is a mistake and it will backfire; and judging by statements that are coming out of Apple, the people at Apple know it and are resisting it as best they can. There have been a number of newspaper exclusives about ongoing negotiations whereby prices are set to rise, and every journalist is telling the same story. The New York Post, for instance, says that the five major record labels - Universal, Sony, BMG, EMI and Warner Music - have already signed new deals with Apple and new pricing is being rolled out now. In effect, the 99 cent pricing that drove Apple iTunes into the limelight and to its subsequent success, will rise to $1.25 per track. In Europe, where Apple iTunes and Napster are keen to launch services similar to the US, Faultline has been told that what's holding the process up is how to find a way to satisfy the powerful royalty collections bodies and that it's all a matter of price. Some clever people at the record companies are unable to look up the international exchange rate and are setting 1 Great British Pound (currently $1.76) as being equivalent in buying power to $1, effectively driving a 76 per cent price differential between US online music services and their European equivalents. Such pricing is pure greed, and it will lead to continued piracy. If the US price goes up to $1.25 there would still be a 50 per cent differential. US coverage reports that Apple is resisting the price upgrades by negotiating fewer burns (CD writes) for songs and for playlists, but has drawn the line at offering only albums, which is what record labels are apparently asking for. Officially no-one is commenting, but what both sides are doing is leaking "information," to the press to push their own case. At 99 cents, Apple is probably not making a lot of money. Some sources suggest that it makes as little as 10 cents, but what it is doing is seeding the market with a new model and it makes its money out of the iPod and Apple Mac sales. Has that model taken hold yet? That's hard to say, but certainly changing it this early, after just one year, is a risk. Most services have copied Apple with one or two dipping below its pricing, and this could leave Apple as the most expensive service on the market, and effectively kill the goose that laid the golden egg - and egg that may save the record companies from further losses and revenue shrinkage. At Faultline we've made it clear that a new business model means a new formula for making money. With devices like iPods, people can hold up to 10,000 songs in their hands. This means that collections are getting bigger and bigger. That's an awful lot more money changing hands through iTunes before taking into account the millions more devices that Apple expects to sell this year, or the raft of iPod competitors that have just hit the market. If people are to get into the habit of owning an awful lot more music, then it is essential that playlists drive the model, not albums. Customers want "type" or "genres" of music to sit together to create mood. They do not want all of a recording artists' work played in one block, and they don't want to be forced to buy it that way either. And what seems ridiculous to us is that all music, regardless of age, should be charged at the same rate. Our US partner G2 in its Online Reporter has been pushing a "variable rate" pricing idea based on how much current demand there is for a given type of music. If we look at the US film industry we see that blockbuster films costs a lot to watch at the cinema, subesuently less in a pay-per-view window, and then you can own a permanent record on DVD. Finally, you can see it for nothing on TV as long as you are prepared to put up with adverts. Music needs its own form of new exploitation model that takes into account that people would like to keep their music in bigger chunks and for longer. If you want to fill an iPod on current prices it's going to cost $10,000. If it was more like $3,000 then more people would fill them. This is a fact that the recording industry will have to digest before it is successful once again, and bullying Apple will just kill any chance the music industry has of arriving at anything like the profitability of its heyday. © Copyright 2004 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories Apple: iTunes prices not rising Major labels 'force 70% price hike' on Apple Music biz fears play Apple a compliment
Faultline, 18 May 2004

US gov helps CSC to profit

CSC brought in revenues of $4bn, up almost 30 per cent, for the fourth quarter ended 2 April 2004. The company made a profit of $190.6m in the period. This contributed to annual revenue of $14.8bn, up 30.2 per cent on 2003, or 25 per cent in constant currency. Profits were $519.4m after the after-tax special charge. 65 per cent of revenue in the fourth quarter came from US government projects following the acquisition of DynCorp. Revenues from federal government jumped 64 per cent to $1.64bn. CSC brought in $988.8m from the Department of Defense during the fourth quarter. CSC chairman and chief exec Van B Honeycutt said:"The strong performance of our U.S. federal government sector and our commercial outsourcing activities resulted in 83% of our annual revenue coming from long-term agreements. The healthy state of the pipeline of opportunities for both commercial outsourcing and the U.S. federal government gives us confidence in the future of this long-term revenue base. "Looking at the next 23 months, our federal pipeline stands at approximately $31 billion, with the majority of these opportunities stemming from the Department of Defense. Approximately $21 billion of that total is scheduled to be awarded during our fiscal 2005. Honeycutt expects revenue growth of between 8 and 10 per cent for 2005.® Related stories FBI anti-terror network scares experts The USA: outsourcing heartland CSC pulls vacations from unproductive workers
John Oates, 18 May 2004

University gets £1m complex systems grant

The University of Bath's maths department has been awarded a £1m grant to fund multidisciplinary research into complex systems. The money is earmarked for a new Institute of Complex Systems, and is the largest ever grant made to a mathematics department. The new Institute will bring together researchers from maths, statistics, engineering, physics and biology, to establish a collaborative approach to modelling complex systems, such as the development of disease, and the behaviour of materials under electrical impulse. Systems like these are governed by the behaviour of their smallest components, on a micro scale. Despite this, when considered as a whole or from a macro scale, many complex systems exhibit similar behavioural patterns. This means that a fundamental discovery about one system can impact many areas of science. Professor Chris Budd, a mathematical scientist, and Professor Giles Hunt, a mechanical engineer will head the institute. They will be able to draw on about 30 university staff and five specially recruited post-doctoral researchers. Professor Budd said that research into complex multi-scale systems had been "an under-represented area of science in the UK compared with other leading scientific nations". The University clearly wants to establish this institute as a long term project. There are plans to host lecturers and scientists from academia and industry, to create a forum for local and international scientists to meet and to exchange ideas. The £1m grant will fund the institute for five years, starting in January 2005. The money comes from the Engineering Physics Scientific Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). After the initial period, the Institute should be self sustaining, funding itself through future projects, grants and contracts for its research work. "The idea is to establish a self-supporting viable research unit which will look into a fundamental and vital aspect of many scientific areas," Professor Budd concluded. ® Related stories Student uncovers US military secrets DNA-based nanobot takes a stroll IBM and Stanford's spintronics revolution
Lucy Sherriff, 18 May 2004

Opera settles legal claims

The techy's favourite browser Opera has settled a legal dispute with an unnamed international company. The settlement sees the anonymous company pay $12.75m to Opera. The statement, on the Oslo Stock Exchange site, gives little else away. It says the other party is not a customer of Opera's and so the settlement will not have an impact on future revenues. It also says the entire amount will be booked in the second quarter accounts. ® Related stories MSN deliberately breaks Opera's browser, claims company Phantom of the Opera Opera, IBM team to build browser for shouting at
John Oates, 18 May 2004

AMD narrows 90nm ship window

AMD will ship 90nm Opterons in Q3. Quoted in the company's announcement of its Opteron 150, 250 and 850 processors today, AMD's Microprocessor Business Unit chief, Marty Seyer, says: "We have already begun initial production of 90nm AMD64 processors, and we are on target to begin shipping 90nm processors for revenue in the third quarter." AMD's 90nm plan originally centred on Q2 2004 volume shipments. Last November, company chief Hector Ruiz admitted that the schedule had suffered a a "two or three-month slip". AMD later claimed Ruiz had been mis-quoted. But since the company has in public always maintained a broad H2 2004 release schedule for its 90nm CPUs, it has plenty of leeway for such a "slip". Last March, CFO Bob Rivet effectively said systems based on the 90nm parts will not be available until late Q3/early Q4. That's broadly in line with Seyer's statement, though the latter suggests the schedule has slipped a little, pushing the availability of systems into Q4. AMD is sampling now and expects to start ramping up production in July. AMD's two 90nm Athlon 64 parts, codenamed 'Winchester' (Athlon 64) and 'San Diego' (Athlon 64-FX) are roadmapped to appear during the second half of the year, as are the 90nm Opterons: 'Athens' (800 series), 'Troy' (200 series) and 'Venus' (100 series). The 90nm mobile part 'Odessa' was recently revealed to have shipped as a 130nm part, in the guise of AMD's new low-power Mobile Athlon 64 2700+ and 2800+. ® Related stories AMD to start 90nm production AMD admits 90nm production slippage AMD launches x50 Opterons AMD restates dual-core CPU scheme AMD sneaks out 90nm core in 130nm chip AMD delivers on low-power Athlon 64 pledge AMD mocks the Street with bumper Q1
Tony Smith, 18 May 2004

BT, Voda confirm mobile link-up

BT has confirmed that it is to hook up with one-time rival Vodafone to offer punters a new phone product that blurs the boundaries between fixed line and services. The UK's dominant fixed line telco hopes the prospect of this converged fixed-mobile service will help it generate £1bn in revenues a year. For BT, the tie-up with Vodafone means an end to its current mobile relationships with mmO2 and T-Mobile. For punters, it means that they won't have to have two separate phones for fixed line and mobile calls. Confirming the launch of Project Bluephone before the end of the year, punters will be able to use a single handset that can switch without interruption between fixed and mobile networks. As a result, customers will just need one phone and one number for their fixed and mobile calls. If they're within range of their home/business phone, the call is carried by BT. If they move outside of the range of their home service, the phone automatically switches to Voda's mobile network. So far 50 people have taken part in Project Bluephone and a "soft launch" of more than 1,000 people has been scheduled for the summer. The full product launch is expected at the end of the year. Said Steve Andrews, BT Group chief of mobility and convergence: "There has been a lot of talk about fixed and mobile convergence but, from later this year, it will be here from BT. We have moved from future vision to reality." BT's re-entry into the mobile market after it spun off its own mobile division, mmO2, has so far been disappointing. It has only managed to recruit 55,000 consumers and 115,000 business punters, although BT insists customer numbers are growing by 20,000 a month. BT doesn't anticipate that the tie-up with Vodafone will stir up any regulatory problems. ® Related stories BT and Voda to 'tie mobile knot' 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, 18 May 2004

Police probe Sasser informant

The informant who led police to the self-confessed author of the infamous Sasser worm is himself under investigation. Marle B. - the man who provided the tip-off to Microsoft that led to the arrest of Sven Jaschan, 18 - has become a suspect in the German police's computer sabotage inquiry. Munich-based weekly Focus reports that a criminal investigation would blight Marle B's chances of a share in the $250,000 reward money from Microsoft's Anti-Virus Reward Program that caused him to come forward in the first place. "If he was involved in Sasser, then he will go away empty-handed," Microsoft spokesman, Thomas Baumgaertner, told Focus. 18-year-old Jaschan was arrested in the village of Waffensen near Rotenburg, in northern Germany, on 7 May in connection with writing and distributing the Sasser worm. He later confessed to police that he was both the author of Sasser and the original author of the NetSky worm. Police are expected to lay computer sabotage charges against Jaschan, who has been released on bail pending further proceedings. Last week German police raided five homes and questioned five further suspects as the inquiry into the release of the NetSky worm widened. The five new suspects are all school-friends of Jaschan, according to local reports. Two of the suspects questioned have admitted receiving the source code of NetSky from Jaschan and one has admitted distributing a version of the noxious NetSky worm. Suspects were questioned but no further arrests were made. Public prosecutor Helmut Trentmann told German news agency DPA that Jaschan's confession has expedited the 18 year-old trial, which could begin in a juvenile court in a matter of weeks. ® Related stories Sasser worm creates havoc Sasser creates European pandemonium German police arrest Sasser worm suspect German police raid five homes in Sasser case Dabber exploits Sasser flaw Sasser suspect fanclub launches appeal
John Leyden, 18 May 2004

Dell readies 624MHz Wi-Fi PocketPC

Dell will today update its Axim PocketPC line with faster Intel processors, Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition and broader wireless support. The new machines, together labelled as the x30 series, are based on Intel's PXA270 processor, aka 'Bulverde', clocked at 312MHz and 624MHz. While the former is numerically lower than the 400MHz PXA255 inside the current x3 line-up, Intel claims the 312MHz part is equivalent to a regular ARM-based CPU running at 520MHz, so users should see a significant speed-up. Intel claims the 624MHz version runs as fast as a PXA255 clocked to 775MHz. PalmOne's recently released Zire 72 is also based on the 312MHz PXA270. Dell currently offers two x3 PDAs and the wireless x3i. The x30 line-up will include two wireless devices, both with Bluetooth and 802.11b Wi-Fi, like the x3i, Brighthand reports. All three x30s will feature the usual 3.5in transflective LCD, which can now operate in both portrait and landscape modes, courtesy of the upgraded OS. The devices use the same casing as the x3 and similarly sport an SD IO slot and 950mAh rechargeable battery. Memory configurations are not yet known. Prices start at $199 for the 312MHz non-wireless version and $279 for the wireless model. The 624MHz wireless x30 will cost $349. ® Related stories Intel launches Bulverde, Marathon Dell adds Bluetooth to Axim X3i Wi-Fi Pocket PC Review: Dell Axim x3i Wi-Fi Pocket PC Review: PalmOne Zire 72 Review: Toshiba e800 Pocket PC
Tony Smith, 18 May 2004

MS Office virus could infect...

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... Remember when viral threats were news - as opposed to simply another stitch in life's rich tapestry? Let's face it, these days you can't even look at an email through a lead shield without running the risk of bringing down the world's entire IT infrastructure. So, happy Russian New Year to you all: MS Office virus could infect without you opening attachment By John Lettice Published Tuesday 18th May 1999 10:21 GMT Israeli security outfit Finjan Software has warned of how a potentially serious Excel-related virus could spread and inflict damage without the recipient opening an email attachment. Finjan says that "All 3.x and 4.x versions of the Microsoft Internet Explorer Browsers and Netscape Navigator browsers 3.x and 4.x (except Navigator 4.5) are vulnerable, as well as all HTML-aware email applications such as Outlook 98." The virus in question is Russian New Year, which uses the Excel CALL function in Office 95 and Office 97. This allows external executables to be started from within a spreadsheet cell, without the user knowing it's happening. Finjan explains how this would work via a browser: "On a Web page, Web developers include services to various file content types from a server to a browser. Suppose the files end with .XLS extensions. Then it is likely that these files will be associated with the Excel program. In this case, the .XLS files transferred to a browser will be passed immediately and processed by the referenced application - in this case, Excel. When Excel is opened, it executes functions in the cells of the spreadsheet. If one of the functions has a maliciously coded CALL function then it is possible that the Excel spreadsheet can be used to copy an executable program to the hard disk and execute it." But that doesn't mean you have to physically open the link yourself. Vulnerable browsers and email programs can execute the CALL function automatically without the email actually being opened, therefore it seems conceivable that the infection could spread without users even noticing it was happening. Freelance writer Deborah Radcliff reported on this a few days ago in Computerworld, and she comes up with some possible consequences. A mass mail could be used to distribute the virus, which could be used for espionage purposes (suck data from your corporate rivals) or for sheer destruction, creating and writing data to the recipients' hard disks. She also suggests the possibility that the Melissa approach, where the virus apparently comes from a colleague or friend, could be used in conjunction with Russian New Year. According to Finjan, the solutions are convoluted, and not particularly attractive for people who use the CALL function frequently. You need to run Office 97 (there's no fix for 95) with service packs 1 and 2 installed and the Microsoft patch to disable the CALL function. If you're using IE 3.x, upgrade to 4.x and set the security level to highest. Navigator users should switch to 4.5. Our thanks to Windows 98 Central, a useful site for monitoring all things Windows-related, for drawing this one to our attention. Windows 98? There's a blast from the past for all of you who can remember when it was all fields around here... Of course, we can all now sleep sounder in our beds thanks to the invulnerable Windows XP and all of its bomb-proof related apps... ®
Team Register, 18 May 2004

Dolphin skin key to subaquatic speed

Dolphin skin will be key in future designs of marine vessels, thanks to Japanese research. Fortunately, this does not spell the end for the sea-going mammals: physicists at the Kyoto Institute of Technology have discovered how the surface of a dolphin's skin reduces drag as it swims, and the findings will help scientists to design more energy-efficient boats and submarines. The research team wanted to find out what role the dolphin's skin played in reducing 'form drag' - the pressure of water against the skin. Dolphins have extremely soft, flaky skin which they shed every two hours. By modelling how the water flows over the flakes, and how they are eventually shed, the research team was able to conclude that the softness of the skin does reduce friction. Professor Yoshimichi Hagiwara and colleagues also discovered that as the skin flakes off, it also helps the dolphin through the water: the flakes break up swirling vortices next to the skin that would otherwise slow the animal down. Professor Hagiwara explains that travelling quickly through water is much more complex than travelling quickly through air. He and his team are now building simulation dolphins to replicate the 'flaking' that allows them to move so fast through water. "This research could help us build boats, ocean liners and submarines using technology based on these natural solutions," he said. The original paper was published in the Institute of Physics journal, Journal of Turbulence. ® Related stories Boffins seek human chimps Boffins isolate 'blogging gene' Boffins grow breasts on mice
Lucy Sherriff, 18 May 2004

Work induces catatonia: official

Online recruitment site Monster asked browsers across Europe if they had ever fallen asleep at work. The results suggest it was an impressive achievement to find 21,000 Europeans awake enough to click on an online survey. British and Irish surfers are the most likely to be dribbling onto their keyboards. Forty per cent of Irish respondents and 35 per cent of Brits admitted to dozing off at work. The best place fora snooze was the desk, preferred by 13 per cent of those polled. Nine per cent of British respondents and eight per cent of Swedes like to have a kip in a meeting. While seven per cent of French workers prefer to take their naps in the toilet, which suggests they have more comfortable toilets or they are really, really tired. Some 84 per cent of Dutch respondents claimed to have never slept at work, despite the temptation. Office life is just as lively in Italy where 82 per cent of workers claimed to have never slept at work. Monster, providing a cunning excuse, says that overqualified employees are more likely to get bored, and therefore doze, than people who find their work challenging. Monster has some top tips for those wishing to avoid sleeping through the afternoon. These include fresh air, a high protein lunch, caffeine drinks and getting more sleep - but not while you're supposed to be working. ® Related stories How to make your PC quiet What do you mean we're in Italy? I've only got pesetas! 101 uses for an illuminated keyboard
John Oates, 18 May 2004

UK terminally unready for Chip and PIN

A quarter of UK retailers are still confused about the benefits of migrating to Chip & PIN only six months before the deadline to embrace the next-generation credit card standard comes into effect. The Chip and PIN scheme, which began in October 2003, is designed to make credit and debit card purchases more secure by asking the majority of consumers to enter a four-digit PIN code instead of signing to verify card transactions by 2005. Newly-issued credit and debit cards will come with smart chips to recognise this PIN number when transactions are processed. More than 20 per cent of retailers have decided to put off the upgrade to Chip and PIN until the next time they replace retail (point of sale) terminals, a joint survey by magazine Retail Bulletin and software firm Retail Logic out today reveals. If retailers follow this course it could be 2010 or even later before all UK retailers can accept the new cards, according to the study. Operations ranging from retailers with fewer than 10 stores to those with more than 250 were quizzed as part of the survey. More than half (56 per cent) of respondents said either the complexity of the accreditation process for Chip and PIN or a lack of clear guidance from the banks were major obstacles to migration. Despite this, more than half the respondents (53 per cent) claimed they would be ready before the 1 January deadline, when retailers are expected to have Chip and PIN terminals up and running. After 1 January the fraud liability will shift from card issuers towards retailers. A further 26 per cent expect to go live no more than six months later, leaving 21 per cent of retailers terminally unprepared even by June 2005. "It's good to see that an increasing number of Tier Two retailers are seeing the benefits to themselves and their customers of moving to Chip & PIN," said Retail Logic marketing director Mark McMurtrie. "A few months ago it looked as if the number of stores continuing to rely on signature verification would be much higher, but it should be remembered that the readiness dates cited by respondents are estimates - our experience shows that without exception, Chip & PIN migration projects always take longer than expected and that six months is by no means exceptional." The survey results can be viewed here. Retail Bulletin and Retail Logic plan to repeat the survey to track UK retailers' progress towards Chip and PIN compliance. ® Related stories Chip and PIN goes national Chip and PIN hits 8 million cards UK credit card fraud down 8% Retailers must embrace Chip and PIN. Or else
John Leyden, 18 May 2004

UK forensic scientists to strike over pay

Unions representing the employees of the UK's Forensic Science Service (FSS) have called a one-day strike in protest over a below inflation rate pay increase. At the end of April 2004, Prospect, the union representing scientists in the FSS balloted members on the industrial action. Today, support staff, represented by Public and Commercial Services Union, backed the scientists and will join them in the walk-out on 2 June. PCS describes the strike as a last resort to raise awareness of the 1.125 per cent pay raise offer. In a statement, the PCS acknowledges that a strike will have an impact both on the finances of the FSS, and on the cases arriving for processing. It also stressed that members will still attend major crime scenes to "preserve and gather forensic evidence". Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said that the increase offered represented a real-terms pay cut for members, and was completely unacceptable particularly in a year when the FSS recorded a surplus of £10.2m. "We have sought a negotiated settlement, but management seem happy rewarding staff for their hard work with a below inflation cost of living increase by pointing the finger of blame at the Treasury," he said. "This further underlines the farce of delegated pay and the need for a return to national pay bargaining for the civil service." The news comes alongside the highly controversial proposed privatisation of the service. This has provoked deep criticism from staff who are gathering this week to discuss how the move might affect the quality of their work, and their contribution to criminal investigations. ® Related stories Computer Forensics conference line-up finalised Suspected paedophile cleared by computer forensics EU develops cyber crime forensics standards Union moots strike over Swansea e-gov plan Union ballots SBC workers on strike action
Lucy Sherriff, 18 May 2004

US rocket pioneers hit 100km

The US Civilian Space eXploration (CSXT) team yesterday became the first private outfit to send a rocket into space. Its 6.5m GoFast missile blasted off from the Nevada desert and is reckoned to have exceeded 100km in altitude - the official boundary of space. Federal Aviation Administration officials witnessed the lift-off from the Black Rock Desert. A 14-second burn was followed by a three-minute ascent into the blue yonder. Reports suggest the vehicle spent several minutes above 100km before the rocket and payload sections returned separately to Earth by parachute. CSXT avionics manager Eric Knight is quoted with offering the highly unscientific: "It just roared off the pad and flew into space." Civilian Space eXploration has a long history of attempting to shake off our earthly shackles. It's backed by a mixed bag of sponsors, including the rather improbable beefjerky.com. If you think that's a little off-the-wall for a rocketry outfit, then be amazed at the revelation that the company's product has a proud space heritage - its "Final Frontier Jerky" has been to Mir aboard space shuttle Atlantis, made another jaunt to the International Space Station and accompanied private astronaut Mark Shuttleworth on his Soyuz flight to the ISS. We will have to wait and see whether or not Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill decides to chew on a bit of Final Frontier Jerky when he makes his eagerly-anticipated attempt to claim the X-prize for the first private manned space flight. It seems to do the trick. ® Related stories US edges closer to private space flight FAA greenlights private spaceship
Lester Haines, 18 May 2004

UK.biz must address broadband

Three out of four SMEs now recognise that broadband is essential for making businesses more efficient. Despite this, decisions about broadband are still being left to IT departments with little or no input from senior management, according to a report by telecoms outfit Telefonica UK. While it welcomed the fact that businesses have now woken up to the benefits of broadband, the report found that nine out of ten bosses admit that they steer clear of meetings dealing with their IT and telecoms management. The report calls on non-IT senior management to get more involved with the "dynamics of communications networks" if they are to capitalise on the benefits of broadband. Said Telefonica UK chief exec, Andrew Peters: "Broadband networks are not a passport to maximising business efficiency without the regular input and interaction of both IT and non-IT senior management. As the survey indicates, the high number of IT departments being left to decide, on their own, what's good for business in some companies is somewhat alarming." Instead, he urged senior management to get more involved and meet with their IT staff more frequently. ® Related stories Broadband worth 52 days a year to UK.biz BT and Microsoft target small.biz Only Danes more 'e-ready' than UK
Tim Richardson, 18 May 2004
Broken CD with wrench

IBM and Cisco team up for VoIP

Cisco and IBM are working together to sell Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones. VoIP offers business the chance to make big savings on long-distance phone calls by routing calls over the Internet rather than through a telco's expensive network. They are being heavily hyped as "the next big thing". The main advantage of the deal is that IBM Global Services will now sell Cisco products. Their combined products will also be offered to independent resellers. Doug Elix, senior VP and group executive in IBM Sales and Distribution, said: "We intend to integrate Cisco's IP Communications with IBM's integrated industry solutions. Converged communications running on intelligent networks is changing the way business is conducted and we expect both companies to be major players in that business transformation." The first products include Cisco Unity integrated with Lotus Domino unified communications, IBM Information Management database software in Cisco CallManager and support for Cisco CallManager on IBM's eServer x345 and x306 servers. IBM has installed 20,000 Cisco IP phones internally. ® More details here Related stories Corporate VoIP to challenge Skype Morpheus company takes a punt on VoIP Vonage goes to Canada
John Oates, 18 May 2004

Microsoft UK plans 'open and honest' Linux debates

The latest stage in Microsoft's quest to establish The Facts regarding open source software is a series of seminars to be held throughout the UK, and tantalisingly billed as "Microsoft Windows and Linux - An open and honest technology discussion." Feedback The Register has received from (admittedly partisan) spies at previous Microsoft attempts to engage the subject suggest that they might perhaps have been just a tad less than open and honest, so it's nice to see that Microsoft UK must have been getting the same message from its own feedback. There are four seminars, kicking off in London on June 10th and rolling through Edinburgh, Manchester and Newport. They're free, aimed at "Technical Decision Makers", and will discuss the "pros and cons of Microsoft's technology platform in relation to Linux and Open Source. We want to share with you the latest information we have, from all sides." Looking at the cast list we do have some small difficulty in identifying the representatives of all of the sides. As far as we can see there's two people from MS UK, a speaker from an ISV partner (we think we can guess whose), and an independent analyst from Meta Group, which we understand has worked for The Beast on the odd occasion. And we should perhaps put Microsoft UK's PR handlers on notice that in the next couple of days we propose to call them up and ask for a list of those "cons of Microsoft's technology platform." Lists of pros we have a-plenty, but we don't recall Microsoft ever giving us a con-list. Get compiling, people, we'll be in touch. You can register for a seminar here, and in the interests of the new Redmond glasnost we strongly urge you to do so. ® Related stories: Microsoft ad push cranks up the ‘get Linux’ volume MS' Linux obsession – time to call in the shrinks Ballmer 'fesses up to Linux/Windows cost FUD
John Lettice, 18 May 2004

Ministers thwart MEPs, OK EU-US airline data deal

In a salutary reminder of how democratic the European Union really is, EU foreign ministers have rubber-stamped the European Commission's deal with the US to hand over airline passenger data (passenger name records, PNR). The Commission had deliberately constructed the deal in a way that allowed it to be implemented without the approval of the European Parliament (which went to court over the issue), so by signing it off the foreign ministers have effectively made it live. Parliament voted last month to refer the deal, which quite clearly breaches EU privacy legislation, to the European Court of Justice. The court was expected to rule shortly, but the intervention of the ministers effectively spikes the case. The Commission's argument in favour of the deal is that it had won major concessions during the negotiations with the US (it had not), and that refusing to agree to US demands would result in chaos in transatlantic flights, with airlines forced to decide whether they preferred being fined by the US or the EU, or simply grounding themselves. And of course there's 'vital in the war on terror' argument. The airline industry meanwhile simply howled about the irresponsibility of the Parliament, whose challenge threatened to unleash that chaos and impact their revenues. This friends, is incidentally a clue as to why it might not be a smart idea to leave privacy to private industry, as happens in the US. And while we're on incidentals, it might be worth pointing out that stand-offs cut both ways, and that in this case Europe was not powerless, it merely (in the shape of the Commission) chose to be so. If our anti-democratic lords and masters would care to take a turn over to the site of the US State Department they will find a recent speech by one Colin Powell covering the subject of tourism, and stressing how important it is to the US Government not to kill the goose that's laying the golden eggs. So go figure. ® Related stories: Europe rebuffs US flight info data grab EU Commission plots global travel surveillance system Data on 10m Northwest fliers handed to NASA for 'testing'
John Lettice, 18 May 2004

London sees red as Orange service goes crash

Orange has apologised to its punters in London after its service went titsup for 12 hours following a software update on its network. Orange mobile phone users in London began experiencing problems from midnight last night. The problems - which led to intermittent problems with making and receiving calls - were sorted by midday today. Said Orange in a statement: "We can confirm that between midnight on Monday 17 May and midday on Tuesday 18 May a number of Orange customers in the London area may have experienced intermittent difficulties making or receiving calls. This was due to a software update on the Orange network. Our engineers established the cause of the fault, and normal service has now been restored." Earlier this month Orange UK was forced to apologise to its punters travelling in Germany after the mobilephoneco was hit by technical problems. ® Related stories Orange UK sorts German roaming snag Orange boss makes the long walk Orange pushes try-before-you-buy
Tim Richardson, 18 May 2004

US, Belgian biometric passports give lie to UK ID scheme

Belgium is to begin issuing biometric passports before the end of the year, while in the US (which could be said to have started all this), the State Department is to begin a trial run this autumn, with full production hoped for next year. Belgium has been reported elsewhere as being the first EU country to roll with biometric passports, but as a Register reader kindly sent us scans of his nice new biometric Netherlands passport recently, we suspect this is not the case. The apparent ease with which these countries appear to be switching passport standards does raise just the odd question about the UK's very own ID card scheme, which proposes to ship its first biometric passports not soon, but in three years. Regular readers will recall that Home Secretary David Blunkett justifies the ID card scheme on the basis that most of the cost is money we'd have to spend anyway, because we need to upgrade our passports to meet US and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) standards, and that by making this investment the UK will be putting itself ahead of the game, technology-wise, and that we shall all therefore be technology leaders and rich (we paraphrase a tad here, we admit). So how come other countries are starting to get in first, and should we worry about losing our lead? We accept that Belgium and the US haven't actually started shipping their passports yet, so it's not all cut and dried, but the UK hasn't started yet either, so ditto. They can ship earlier simply because when David Blunkett tells us that what he is proposing is necessitated almost entirely by the new passport regime, he is simply (as we've pointed out before) not telling the truth. ICAO's requirements are for a biometric machine-readable passport, with the face as the primary biometric, and ICAO is entirely silent on the subject of vast interlocking National Identity Register databases - if you want to implement one of these, that's up to you, it's not compulsory. Similarly, the US wants visitors' passports to be ICAO standard, which is only reasonable, given that the ICAO standard seems to have been devised more or less in accordance with State Department wishes. Once you've done that the US will happily (we fear, very happily) collect personal information on the bearers all by itself - you don't have to do anything, and you never know, they might even share some of it with you. The biometric passport system the US intends to use simply seems to be an addition of the necessary machine readable capabilities to the existing system. Passport applications, including photograph, will still be accepted via mail, and the picture will then be encoded, added to the database and put onto the chip that goes in the passport. As you may note, a picture is in these terms a biometric, while a camera is a biometric reader, which they are. But don't noise it around, or you'll screw the revenues of an awful lot of snake-oil salesmen. Back in the UK, we are of course rather more rigorous in our interpretation of the matter, and the system and its schedule will be priced accordingly. But should we worry about losing our lead? No, not exactly. We should worry about spending a great deal of money on a system which will largely police ourselves, and which - in the event of it actually working - will probably turn out to be a huge white elephant. ® Related stories: Mistaken ID public meeting, London, 19th May Blunkett risks ID card battle with EU Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card
John Lettice, 18 May 2004

UK police lack e-crime savvy officers

A hi-tech skills crisis in law enforcement threatens to set back the wider fight against crime, a report out today warns. e-crime is on the rise and digital evidence is playing a greater and greater role in mainstream criminal investigations. There are around 140,000 police officers in the UK. Barely 1,000 of them have been trained to handle digital evidence at the basic level and fewer than 250 are currently with Computer Crime Units or have higher level forensic skills. Add in the civilian staff of the Forensic Science Service and its contractors and the pool of full-time expertise is still under 400. An e-crime study from lobby group EURIM and think tank IPPR out today warns of a mounting backlog of e-crimes awaiting investigation and a shortage of skilled personnel able to tackle them. Delays of six to 12 months have become common as police resources are tied up with major investigation such as Operation Ore - the prosecution of an estimated 7,000 UK users of a US child porn portal. eVigilante risk "Computer assisted extortion, fraud and impersonation, however great the damage, are on the back burner. Any attempt to change the situation requires change to both the skill levels available and the priorities for deployment," writes David Harrington, author of EURIM's report Supplying the Skills for Justice. The mounting backlog has led to increased reluctance of by local forces to launch new investigations, which could in turn result in public disillusionment with the law enforcement system. The study warns that if nothing is done people might resort to vigilante tactics. “We face a very real risk of seeing the democratically accountable policing of computer-assisted crime replaced by a combination of vigilante action and the covert privatisation of legitimate investigation,” the study warns. The launch of the EURIM/IPPR e-crime study in Westminster today brought together industry representatives, police and politicians to discuss ways of tackling the problem before it gets out of hand. Trusted link Making greater use of an estimated 8,000 security experts in the private sector is seen as crucial for progress. Too few police officers have received the necessary training and there is a confusion of qualifications and standards among the civilians who might be called upon to assist. The report calls for the new Criminal Justice Sector Skills Council – Skills for Justice – to sort out the mess and become the lead agency in certifying training courses. This, together with a formal process for assessing and certifying skill levels and competencies of investigators, is seen as the best way to bring more people in to tackle the problem. UK science and technology company QinetiQ agrees that the criminal justice system needs to exploit private sector expertise to defeat cyber criminals. It argues that because courts need to be sure of the integrity of evidence private sector private sector operatives need to become a "trusted link in the criminal justice chain", working to a robust set of standards. QinetiQ reckons the battle against cybercrime needs to be fought in the boardrooms as well as through the court and criminal justice system. Neil Fisher, QinetiQ’s director of security solutions and vice chair of the UK’s Information Assurance Advisory Council, said: "The issue of forensic readiness is not one to be grasped solely by the criminal justice system. Companies have a duty of care to their shareholders and employees, just as public bodies have a duty to the taxpayer, to take the issue of cyber crime seriously, both in terms of protecting against the threat and also of being in a position to respond in a way that best guarantees a result in the courts once a crime has been committed." ® Related stories E-crime costs UK business billions MPs urged to reform cybercrime laws Small.biz told to swot up on Net security My sysadmin is a special constable UK.gov announces hi-tech elite police squad The rise of the white collar hacker
John Leyden, 18 May 2004

Symbian hands out certificates

Mobile phone OS company Symbian has launched Symbian Signed, an application approval programme under which it will endorse applications and content that meet its best practise guidelines. More than 300 Symbian apps have been retrospectively given this seal of approval. There are several certification schemes out there at the momnet, with operators, handset manufacturers and so on offering a variety of endorsements. Symbian says it hopes to simplify the situation for developers by providing a single alternative. The market seems to approve: handset manufacturers including Nokia, Sendo and Sony Ericsson have said they will migrate their signing programs to Symbian Signed. The OS company worked with various other players in the industry, from handset manufactuerers to system integrators and operators, to develop the programme. It took it through beta testing during 2003 and early 2004. More informaiton on the Symbian Signed scheme can be viewed here. ® Related stories PalmOne pledges to boost Treo shipments Dollar decline stunts Symbian growth Symbian doubles sales
Lucy Sherriff, 18 May 2004

Thus ADSL - the price cuts with a funny echo

There's a funny echo to Demon's broadband price cuts, apparently. Stick with the company and your reward could be not benefiting from them until 12 months after they're implemented. And, they tell me, this is "standard across the industry." I pass this information on in my capacity as occasional Reg mystery shopper. Working (or so I claim) from home a lot, I signed up for Demon ADSL as soon as it became available, reasoning that the £100 a month or thereabouts for Demon Express Plus would save me shedloads on the quite catastrophic tab the kids were racking up on the ISDN line. It did, time passed, price cuts were announced and this fed through on my billing, so the tab went down to £75 a month ex VAT. News of further price cuts came and went, I eyed the monthly bill with idle interest but it obstinately stayed at £75. I wondered, but not sufficiently hard to do anything about it until last week, when I felt the need to sign up for the free fax service, and therefore had two things to ask support about. Support agreed with me that the links to signing up for electronic fax did indeed seem to be broken, and when challenged on the £75 (the advertised price is now £45) agreed that I should be paying this and told me the amount would be reduced immediately, and would show on my next bill. But support didn't automatically offer to refund me oodles of money. 'Tsk,' I thought, my mystery shopper hat now firmly screwed on. 'I shall look into this further.' A swift check of the bulletins confirmed that the cut from £75 to £45 was announced in May 2003, and that the Thus (Demon's parent) PR people therefore at the very least owed me a particularly splendid lunch, with possibly a present included. So I mailed them, explained the situation, asking if I were perhaps an isolated clerical error, and if they'd be so kind as to explain what the price cut policy was. Some days passed, and today the answer came winging back: "THUS provides a number of offers and service packages within its Demon Broadband portfolio and these are based on a twelve month contract. Any offers or price reductions introduced while your annual contract is rolling are applied at the end of the contract, before the next year starts. This is standard across the industry. "With effect from 1st June 2004, when your next annual contract starts, your monthly payments for Demon Express Plus will be reduced to £45 (excl. VAT) to meet the current ADSL tariff." So there you go - a Thus price cut is something you can look forward to, and if you get lucky like me, you can look forward for quite some considerable distance. The annual contract happily renews itself without bothering you to sign anything, too. I went for Demon ADSL incidentally, because I've been a Demon customer since practically before I was born, and I reckoned the company was sufficiently experienced to be able to keep a data network running. Which they've pretty much done to my satisfaction. But I see here a Thus response on the subject of Oftel, and BT price cuts, which goes: "the price cuts announced by BT today appear to be the minimum required..." And I begin to think, hmmm... ® Related stories: BT trims broadband costs Ofcom must act on £50 broadband 'barrier' Thus swells - thanks to ADSL
John Lettice, 18 May 2004

HP sets revenue record in Q2

Solid sales across its major product lines pushed HP to a tidy second quarter. HP pumped out $20.1bn in revenue during the period - a 12 percent year-over-year rise and a record for the company. The second quarter profit came in at $1.1bn, which was a 77 percent rise over the same period last year. In last year's Q2, HP booked $234m in restructuring charges and $126m in acquisition-related charges. "HP delivered a strong quarter with solid revenue gains and continued profitability across the portfolio," said Carly Fiorina, CEO at HP. "We surpassed $20 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time in our history, with record second quarter revenue in PCs, enterprise hardware, software, services and imaging and printing. Cash flow from operations totaled $2.6 billion. These results demonstrate that we are winning and growing across the portfolio in an intensely competitive market." True enough, HP enjoyed year-on-year revenue growth of 17 percent in its personal computing business, 15 percent in services, 11 percent in imaging and printing, 8 percent in servers and storage and 23 percent in software. The gains, however, are less impressive when viewed in constant currency. Total second quarter revenue for all categories only rose 4 percent taking currency adjustments into account. The effect of currency is clear when breaking down HP's performance on a regional basis. HP grew but 4 percent in the Americas during the second quarter. By contrast, HP grew much faster in Europe - 17 percent - and Asia Pacific - 22 percent. The best marker for HPs' health came from its ability to generate a profit in all of its major businesses. This is the third quarter in a row that HP has been able to have its server/storage and PC businesses join printing and imaging in the black. Still, the inkers have Fiorina's heart. "Our imaging and printing business continues to set revenue and profit records . . . even as we become less reliant on (imaging and printing) as the profit driver for the company as a whole," Fiorina said, during a conference call with analysts. HP's Technology Solutions Group, which includes servers, storage, software and services, posted a profit of $400m in the quarter - up $108m from last year's Q2. The personal computing unit managed a profit of $45m - up from $23m last year. Imaging and printing produced a whopping $953m in profit - up from $925m last year. So, while Fiorina paints a pleasant non-printing story, it's really the IPG group that still pays the vast majority of the bills at HP. This may not be a good thing if you consider that IPG revenue rose 11 percent but profits barely moved. HP, however, is confident about the road ahead. It raised second half of 2004 revenue estimates to between $39.7bn and $40.7bn. Analysts had been looking for revenue to come in at the low end of that estimate. ® Related stories HP assuages Canada with $105m HP bags brace of service companies Dell beat itself in the first quarter HP to launch custom gaming rigs
Ashlee Vance, 18 May 2004