7th > June > 2004 Archive

Microsoft appeals record-breaking fine

Microsoft will this week appeal the anti-trust decision, and record breaking fine, imposed on the company by Mario Monti and his Competition Commission G-men. Microsoft will file in the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg this week. It says the ruling would hamper its ability to innovate. Back in March the Competition Commission hit the software giant with a €497m fine and ordered it to offer a version of Windows without Media Player. The ruling also ordered Microsoft to open up interfaces for its server software. Monti found that Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems (OS) onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players". As well as appealing the decision Microsoft will also be asking the court to stop such punishments until after the appeal is heard. This could delay effective action for years. In April Microsoft settled privately with one of its leading critics, Sun Microsystems, for almost $2bn. ® Related stories Sun settles with MS for $2bn (ish) EC MS ruling: simply the end of the beginning MS gets EU fine, orders for server info and WMP-free Windows Microsoft faces one per cent fine
John Oates, 07 Jun 2004

PlusNet to float on AIM

Sheffield-based ISP PlusNet is to float on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) as part of plans to cash in on the growth in broadband. The ISP - 95 per cent owned by US IT outfit Insight Enterprises Inc - intends to use the cash to help fuel its growth in the UK's broadband sector and to buy other broadband ISPs. PlusNet has already made a name for itself in the UK by punting affordable broadband and innovative new products. Only recently, it cut the price of its entry-level broadband service to £14.99 a month and introduced a new service to enable punters to pick-and-choose which tariffs and features they want from their ADSL service. If all goes to plan, PlusNet's spin-off from Insight could hit the Stock Market within the next couple of months valuing the company at between £30m - £35m. The company has 60,000 broadband punters out of a total customer base of 165,000. For the year ended 31 December 2003, PlusNet generated revenues of £17.4m and an operating profit of £1.8m. As demand for broadband continues to generate huge growth, it's forecast the ISP could double profits this year as turnover soars to an estimated £29m. Said chief exe Lee Strafford: "The proposed flotation will further raise our profile with our partners and customers and within the industry, and assist us in developing our business as we look to become the broadband provider of choice for the experienced Internet user in the UK." "With industry experts predicting that Broadband in the UK is set to double in the next four years, PlusNet finds itself in an ideal position to continue rapid profitable growth." With its HQ in Sheffield, PlusNet was set up in 1996 as an off-shoot of UK computer reseller, Choice Peripherals. Two years later, US IT outfit Insight Enterprises Inc acquired Choice Peripherals and a 95 per cent stake in PlusNet. ® Related stories Ofcom must act on £50 broadband 'barrier' PlusNet offers 'full-fat' broadband PlusNet cuts price of entry-level DSL
Tim Richardson, 07 Jun 2004

US gov and Oracle in court

Oracle will be in court later today to defend itself against claims by the Department of Justice that its proposed acquisition of PeopleSoft would damage competition. The DoJ filed an anti-trust suit in San Francisco on the basis that the merger "lessens competition in an important market." The DoJ wants to block the deal which it sees as a serious threat to the enterprise software market. The Department fears that the merger will effectively leave only two serious players in the market: Oracle and SAP. They could work together against the interests of users. Oracle is expected to defend itself by talking up its vulnerability to competition from Microsoft and IBM and from smaller rivals like Lawson Software. It will seek to convince the judge that MS and IBM offer a challenge to Oracle's position in the enterprise software market. Neither company is targetting such customers at the moment but Oracle is expected to claim they will in future. Its other strategy would be to persuade the court that the DoJ has defined the market too narrowly. Many observers are predicting a government win in court. The case will look at what impact the deal would have in the next two years making it harder for Oracle to introduce evidence of future competition. The case is expected to last about a month. The European Commission is conducting a separate, but broadly similar, investigation into the deal. ® Related stories Oracle slashes PeopleSoft offer EC Oracle probe faces further delay DoJ goes after Oracle's hidden secrets
John Oates, 07 Jun 2004

Tory caught with panties down

UpdatedUpdated A Tory candidate hoping to win a seat on Worcester city council in Thursday’s elections has been dragged before local party supremos to explain why exactly his wife posed topless on a website selling "used" women's underwear - and why the url was registered in his name. According to a top piece of investigative journalism by The Sun, wannabe politico Jonathon Cunningham registered www.pantopia.biz (don't bother, the site's been "decommissioned") as "personal interest to which my wife was a party". And boy, does wife Delene know how to party. The Sun reports that she "posed provocatively on the site with women friends". The site blurb tempted punters with "panties and special feminine items from a real woman like myself, who knows how to please... I love sharing personal items. I really do get off on my sexual openness. All the girls including my horny, sexy self are real amateurs that get their sexual kicks from getting their t***s out." All pretty harmless, really. However, Cunningham should have known better when he registered the URL - as The Sun notes: "Mr Cunningham used a credit card when he opened the site in 2002 and gave the same address as the one listed in Tory election literature. He is described in election documents as an IT/Web designer and administrator." Sadly, the attentions of the UK's tabloid media mean that www.pantopia.biz is no more. As for Mr Cunningham, he looks like he's got away with it - Worcestershire Conservative Association said: "Mr Cunningham has provided an explanation about a private and personal matter. He remains a Tory candidate." Ownership of www.pantopia.biz, meanwhile, has been transferred. ® Update We're obliged to all those readers who have emailed noting that various cached versions of www.pantopia.biz are available for our viewing pleasure, if that's the word. However, there is no way that we are going to link to explicit photos of the lovely Delene, so you will just have to do your own "research". Bootnote We're pretty certain that www.pantopia.biz is not related in any way to www.pantopia.com - something to do with "marketing design and technology". Well, it seems unlikely. Related stories Tory councillor resigns over kinky photo email Enter the Tory leadership race online
Lester Haines, 07 Jun 2004

Napster ups UK track count ahead of Sony, Apple launches

Napster UK has upped the number of songs available from its online music service from 500,000 to 700,000. The company said as much at its launch last month, but today's announcement puts its track catalogue well ahead of competing UK-based music services. Napster UK has all the major labels in its bag, along with many of the UK's leading independent labels, courtesy of its tie-in with indie trade body the Association of Independent Music (AIM). Napster's UK site went online on 20 May, followed a week later by its Canadian service. The company won't say specifically how successful it's been at signing up British music fans, either for one-off downloads or for its £9.95 ($18.32) subscription package. However, UK communications director Adam Howorth told The Register that the company was "very pleased" with the figures to date. Napster faces two key challenges this month: the launch of Sony's Connect service and - more importantly - the arrival of Apple's iTunes Music Store, which is believed to debut in just over a week's time, on 15 June. ® Related stories Napster UK goes live Napster opens Canadian outpost UK indies sign to Napster... UK legal downloads hit half a million Apple Euro music licence win signals mid-June launch? Oxfam enters music download biz Italy approves 'jail for P2P users' law
Tony Smith, 07 Jun 2004

Apple picks 15 June for iTunes launch?

The launch date for the European version of Apple's iTunes Music Store (ITMS) has been narrowed down to 15 June. Certainly the company is expected to make a "major" announcement on that day, if invites sent out today to national newspapers are anything to go by. Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicks off on 28 June. It is expected to mark the announcement of new Mac hardware and the presentation of the next major release of Mac OS X, 'Tiger'. So it seems unlikely that the 15 June announcement centres on Apple's computing technology. More likely, given the talk we've heard of a 14 June or 23 June ITMS launch, the mid-June announcement centres on Apple's music service. Late last month, Reuters claimed music industry sources had told it that Apple's licensing negotiations had reached the point where a mid-June ITMS launch was possible. German newssite Heise Online notes that 15 June is the date for the German ITMS launch, suggesting that unlike Napster, Apple plans to roll-out the service across Europe - or at least in the continent's major markets. It's also worth bearing in mind that, back in March, Apple admitted that worldwide shipments of its iPod Mini portable music player had been delayed. Apple pegged availability for some time in July, but it remains possible that Hitachi's attempts to boost production of its 1in, 4GB hard drive may also have allowed Apple to bring European availability ahead and allow it to launch the new player sooner. ® Related stories Apple Euro music licence win signals mid-June launch? Apple creates separate iPod business unit UK legal downloads hit half a million Napster UK goes live Sony US music service an 'embarrassment' Music biz waves axe at goose that laid golden egg Apple: iTunes prices not rising Music biz fears play Apple a compliment DRM 'will be cracked' says iTunes hacker EU probes music licensing
Tony Smith, 07 Jun 2004

Nelson Mandela is IT mandala

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... There's plenty of controversy surrounding e-voting these days. Ireland recently abandoned plans for electronic ballots, while in the US the saga seems set to run and run. In contrast, the UK seems quite taken on the idea. Back in 1999, South Africa was already taking bold steps towards an electronic future. It was quite a project, as our in-depth coverage proved (extract shown below - click on headline for the full, unexpurgated version): Nelson Mandela is IT mandala By Kathy Gibson in Capetown Published Monday 7th June 1999 21:39 GMT South Africa may sit at the bottom end of the Dark Continent, but when its citizens went to the polls last week (2 June) in the country's second fully-democratic election, technology helped to make the process as painless as possible. Memories are still fresh of the two and three-day queues that voters endured to make their mark in the 1994 election and the Independent Election Commission (IEC) - the body charged with ensuring a free and fair election - was determined that this shouldn't happen again. Howard Sackstein, chief director: delimitation & planning at the IEC, comments: "We realised that disparities could either be perpetuated or wiped out through technology." The first challenge the organisation needed to overcome was that of basic information. "We didn't know where people live," says Sackstein. "So the first process was to create a map of the country." With technology partner Andersen Consulting - which developed and co-ordinated the entire technology effort of the election systems - the IEC created an electoral map of South Africa using a geographical information system (GIS). The Surveyor-General supplied maps of South Africa and these were overlaid with data from last year's census, telecommunications infrastructure supplied by Telkom and even information on the location of schools from the Department of Education. To produce the 75 000 maps created using GIS technology, the IEC set up the largest print centre in the world, deploying 10 large-format Hewlett-Packard plotters. More significantly, setting up the entire GIS system and producing workable and informative maps of the country took just 13 months - a task that could more realistically be expected to have taken three to five years. The next challenge was to create a technology infrastructure in the field. "We embarked on a study of what technology we could use to communicate with 435 electoral offices in the field - many of them in rural areas," says Sackstein. Because of the lack of existing basic infrastructure in many areas the IEC decided to leapfrog ahead into the satellite era. Telkom therefore installed satellite dishes and wide area networking capabilities to all the offices. Together with Telkom, IT reseller and system integrator Datacentrix installed a Gigabit Ethernet WAN infrastructure running on Cabletron equipment. With a total of 1500 computers to be placed in the 435 local electoral offices, many of them in outlying areas, training and education became the next real issue... The rest of this article - and there's plenty in it for those of a technical bent - can be found here
Team Register, 07 Jun 2004

Satellite photos pinpoint 'Atlantis'

In news that has stunned the world, a scientist announced this weekend that he had found the lost city of Atlantis. Dr. Rainer Kuehne says that satellite images of southern Spain show the remains of a city clearly matching Plato's description of Atlantis. Break out the champagne and party on the streets. Lobby Parliament to name today 'Atlantis Day' and declare it a public holiday. The roots of our civilisation have been found. Or maybe not. Actually, Atlantis has been found quite often. In 2003 a research thought he'd found it off the coast of France, sunk to the bottom of the sea during the geological upheaval at the end of the Ice Age. Other theories hold that Antarctica is in fact Atlantis. In 2001, the Straits of Gibraltar were named as a likely site. And so it goes on. The satellite images, pictures of a salt marsh near Cadiz, show two features that if you squint at them a bit, look sort of rectangular, and something that could be part of a ring running around the structures, if you were not being fussy about it being especially circular. But the picture is a really good match for the description. Honest. Plato describes an island, or nesos, five stades (an ancient unit of measurement, thought to be around a tenth of a mile) in diameter that was surrounded by concentric rings, and an circular outer wall 100 stades in diameter. "We have in the photos concentric rings just as Plato described," Dr Kuehne told BBC News Online. Atlantis also had a huge temple, built for "Poseidon himself, a stade in length, three hundred feet wide, and proportionate in height, though somewhat outlandish in appearance," according to Plato's text. Kuehne suggests that the rectangular structures are the remains of the temple of Poseidon and another built to Cleito and Poseidon. But isn't Atlantis supposed to be an island? The myth of the island grew up from a mistranslation of the Greek word nesos, Kuehne says. Atlantis was actually a coastal region in Spain that was destroyed by a flood between 800 BC and 500 BC. Hold on, the concentric rings in the pictures are bigger than Plato suggested. This, Kuehne says, is either because Plato was underplaying the size of the city, or because the stade is bigger than scientists think, in which case it fits perfectly. We'd like to offer a third suggestion. This is not Atlantis. Our theory has some solid backing from a chap called Tony Wilkinson, an expert in the use of remote sensing in archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. He told the BBC "A lot of the problems come with interpretations. I can see something there and I could imagine that one could interpret it in various ways. But you've got several leaps of faith here." Kuehne says that he'd like to excavate the site, and is hoping to attract enough scientific interest to mount an expedition. We wish him the best of luck. ® Related stories Black helicopters hover over Martian surface Area 51 hackers dig up trouble First smileys date back to time of Plato, apparently Related link The BBC story, with pictures
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Jun 2004

Former CA boss Kumar exits stage left

Sanjay Kumar, Computer Associates' (CA) former boss, decided to leave the company on Friday. He hung around for just six weeks after stepping down as chief executive officer to become chief software architect. He stayed around just long enough to put in a reassuring appearance at last month's CA World conference in Las Vegas. After four years at the top, Kumar was forced to step down as chairman and chief exec as an indirect consequence of a marathon investigation into the software vendor's finances. He was replaced by interim CEO Ken Cron. A Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into financial irregularities at CA concluded with a threat to sue the company. Last year, CA's own audit committee concluded that the company had booked forward bookings as current revenue in a bid to inflate its results for fiscal 2000. CA says it has cleaned up its act, with the adoption of a new business model in October that year. The company settled with investors over the accountancy wheeze in August 2003. Three former finance executives, including Ira Zar, CA's former chief financial officer, pleaded guilty to fraud or obstruction of justice charges in April. Investigations may result in further charges or earnings restatements by CA, the company says. Kumar is not accused of any wrongdoing but he has paid the price for misdeeds that occurred on his watch. Kumar said: "It has become increasingly clear to me in the past few days that my continued role at CA is not helping the company's efforts to move forward. I understood that my stepping down as chairman and CEO represented a break with the past, but I have reluctantly concluded that as long as I hold any position, focus on past issues and my current role will continue. "While I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from customers, employees and shareholders, I believe my decision to leave at this time is the right one. It hopefully will permit CA to move forward." CA chairman Lewis Ranieri said: "The Board wishes Sanjay and his family well. The Board is committed to reaching a settlement of the government's investigation into the Company's past accounting practices as quickly as possible. We are working hard to take the remedial steps necessary to put this entire matter behind CA. Sanjay's decision to leave CA was made in that spirit." ® Related stories Man overboard! CA chief Kumar walks plank... CA makes nine workers remedial CA faces SEC action CA founder Wang retires
John Leyden, 07 Jun 2004

AMD Athlon 64 Socket 939

ReviewReview It's finally here: the long-awaited Socket 939 Athlon 64 platform. But what does it bring with it and does it live up to the hype? So far there has been much speculation about the support of unbuffered dual-channel memory, which should boost the performance of the Athlon 64 close to the level of the high-end FX range of processors and possibly beyond, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.
Trusted Reviews, 07 Jun 2004

Barclays to cut IT staff

Barclays is likely to lay off IT staff as part of its restructuring. The bank is looking to cut the number of middle level managers and increase staff at branches. Barclays wants to reduce its headcount by about 800. A spokeswoman stressed that this would not all be redundancies - some staff will be redeployed and some posts will not be refilled. The bank has brought together three separate businesses, business banking, personal banking and premier banking into one division. This means there is some duplication for departments like HR and IT. A spokeswoman for Barclays said: "There is inevitably some duplication now we have three departments merging into one. We have talked to the unions and we're now talking to staff. This process will take some time and is ongoing." A spokesman for union Unifi said job losses would hit all back office areas, not just IT. Separately, Barclays is talking to Accenture about a project to outsource IT development or "build services". If the deal goes ahead it would mean about 1,000 people in centres in Cheshire, Dorset and Kent moving to Accenture. ® Related stories Barclays: Internet scam victim Email fraudsters target Barclays Barclays BACS system crashes
John Oates, 07 Jun 2004

US wardriver pleads guilty to Wi-Fi hacks

In a rare wireless hacking conviction, a Michigan man entered a guilty plea last Friday in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina for his role in a scheme to steal credit card numbers from the Lowe's chain of home improvement stores by taking advantage of an unsecured Wi-Fi network at a store in suburban Detroit. Brian Salcedo, 21, faces an a unusually harsh 12 to 15 year prison term under federal sentencing guidelines, based largely on a stipulation that the potential losses in the scheme exceeded $2.5m. But Salcedo has agreed to cooperate with the government in the prosecution of one or more other suspects, making him eligible for a sentence below the guideline range. One of Salcedo's two codefendants, 20-year-old Adam Botbyl, is scheduled to plead guilty Monday, assistant U.S. attorney Matthew Martins confirmed. Botbyl faces 41 to 51 months in prison, but also has a cooperation deal with the prosecutors, according to court filings. The remaining defendant, 23-year-old Paul Timmins, is scheduled for arraignment on 28 June. In 2000, as a juvenile, Salcedo was one of the first to be charged under Michigan's state computer crime law, for allegedly hacking a local ISP. According to statements provided by Timmins and Botbyl following their arrest, as recounted in an FBI affidavit filed in the case, the pair first stumbled across an unsecured wireless network at the Southfield, Michigan Lowe's last spring, while "driving around with laptop computers looking for wireless Internet connections," i.e., wardriving. The two said they did nothing malicious with the network at that time. It was six months later that Botbyl and his friend Salcedo hatched a plan to use the network to steal credit card numbers from the hardware chain, according to the affidavit. FBI Stakeout The hackers used the wireless network to route through Lowe's corporate data center in North Carolina and connect to the local networks at stores in Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Dakota, Florida, and two stores in California. At two of the stores - in Long Beach, California and Gainseville, Florida - they modified a proprietary piece of software called "tcpcredit" that Lowe's uses to process credit card transactions, building in a virtual wiretap that would store customer's credit card numbers where the hackers could retrieve them later. At some point, Lowe's network administrators and security personnel detected and began monitoring the intrusions, and called in the FBI. In November, a Bureau surveillance team staked out the Southfield Lowe's parking lot, and spotted a white Grand Prix with suspicious antennas and two young men sitting inside, one of them typing on a laptop from the passenger seat, according to court documents. The car was registered to Botbyl. After 20 minutes, the pair quit for the night, and the FBI followed them to a Little Ceasar's pizza restaurant, then to a local multiplex. While the hackers took in a film, Lowe's network security team poured over log files and found the bugged program, which had collected only six credit card numbers. FBI agents initially identified Timmins as Botbyl's as the passenger in the car, apparently mistakenly, and both men were arrested on 10 November. Under questioning, Botbyl and Timmins pointed the finger at Salcedo. Timmins had allegedly provided the two hackers with an 802.11b card, and had knowledge of what his associates were up to. Botbyl and Timmins, known online as "noweb4u" and "itszer0" respectively, are part of the Michigan 2600 hacker scene - an informal collection of technology aficionados. The Lowe's Wi-Fi system was installed to allow scanners and telephones to connect to the store's network without the burden of cables, according to the indictment. Copyright © 2004, Related stories Michigan Wi-Fi hackers try to steal credit card details Wireless hacking bust in Michigan Wi-Fi hacker caught downloading child porn
Kevin Poulsen, 07 Jun 2004

BT to block child pornography

BT is to begin technology trials within the next couple of weeks to block its Internet users from accessing illegal images of child abuse. Details of exactly how BT intends to censor the sites remains sketchy. However, in a statement BT said the trial has the backing and support of the Home Office and will block access to several thousand Web sites on a blacklist compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The IWF blacklist contains sites from around the world which contain images of child sexual abuse that are "illegal to view" in the UK, under the 1978 Child Protection Act. According to BT, the list is "selected by the IWF on strictly legal grounds and is not based on any moral or subjective criteria. It covers only images of child sexual abuse. BT does not have any role in compiling the blacklist." BT is also prepared to make its technology available to other ISPs on a wholesale basis and claims to be already is discussion with others service providers. "BT does not pretend that this trial will offer a total solution to this problem, or that BT alone could provide such a solution, but we believe it is an important step in the right direction," the company said. However, some sceptics were unsure about the effectiveness of the technology. One insider said: "No sooner is a site blacklisted it then it changes its host or URL and re-appears somewhere else." Related stories Scottish police target Net paedos Ireland to build register of 3G phone users ISPA: users should report dodgy content...
Tim Richardson, 07 Jun 2004

Freescale touts 1Gbps UWB chip roadmap

Motorola's soon-to-be-spun-off chip division, Freescale, has said it will take ultra-wideband (UWB) connections to speeds of up to 1Gbps during the next 12 months. The arrival of the 1Gbps UWB chipset will be preceded by a 480Mbps version and a 220Mbps part, the latter in Q4 2004, when it will be made available in sample quantities. The company already offers a 114Mbps UWB chipset, branded XtremeSpectrum, which is currently sampling ahead of volume production next quarter. The three higher speeds do n0t represent an attempt to evolve the technology to support faster data exchange per se, but to offer a range of speeds, each for different applications. Which chipset customers choose will largely depend on the power requirements of the devices into which they will fit the silicon. Slower chipsets will be pitched at mobile, power-sensitive devices; faster products will go into fixed, mains-powered units. Freescale believes its product line will be sufficient to meet the consumer electronics industry's needs for "the next three years". Freescale's chips use the Direct Sequence UWB (DS-UWB) technique. This approach is incompatible with the technique touted by the Multiband OFDM Alliance, which believes UWB should be delivered using Multiband Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (MB-OFDM) technology. The MBOA is backed by a number of computing and communications industry heavyweights, including Intel and Texas Instruments. The promotion of two strong contenders by some of the biggest names in the business has prevented the IEEE from being able to ratify one or the other as a global standard, 802.15.3a. Indeed, the MBOA said this past February that it was bypassing the IEEE and pushing ahead with the development of its own UWB spec. in order to break the deadlock. The MBOA is backed by the Wireless USB Promoter Group, and by the WiMedia Alliance (WMA), an organisation that hopes to turn UWB into the next home consumer electronics interconnectivity standard. It is spearheading work on running FireWire/1394/iLink over a UWB link. The Wireless USB spec. is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and require a 480Mbps connection. Both wireless USB 2.0 and FireWire will sit on top of a 'convergence layer' being developed by the WMA. This layer sits on top of the MBOA's technology. ® Related stories Intel pours VC cash into Digital Home WiMedia directors back MBOA UWB spec Motorola and MBOA split on UWB Artimi demos working UWB chips Future rosy for UltraWideBand UWB group dumps IEEE to speed wireless USB, 1394 UWB standard delay likely for a year (or more)
Tony Smith, 07 Jun 2004

3 ties up Sky Sports content deal

3 has signed a video content partnership deal with Sky Sports, the operator announced today. Subscribers will be able to access specially edited sports bulletins, up to two minutes long, as well as Sky's weekly Soccer AM TV show. The agreement also covers text and information from Sky offering coverage of Football Club news for both the English and Scottish Leagues, with exclusive video match highlights, previews, archive footage and Premiership match round-ups. It also includes golf news from the European Tour. The operator says the deal "builds on 3's success with the Barclaycard FA Premier League highlights which have been so popular with customers". However, 3 won't release the relevant subscriber numbers so it is hard to know how popular it actually is, or to get a feel for the impact this deal with Sky will make. We suspect that if the numbers were really that impressive, they'd be shouting them from the rooftops. Silence, in this case, may be quite informative. Operators can take some comfort, however, from the European Commission's decision earlier this year to launch an inquiry into the sale of sports rights to 3G operators. It said that sport, especially football, was a powerful driver of pay-TV subscriptions and that it expected it would be the same on phones. Mario Monti, competition commissioner, said at the time that the "success of the service weighs heavily on the operators' ability to deliver attractive audiovisual content". ® Related stories EC probes mobile sports right sales BT streams videos over GPRS Playmate of the Month coming to handsets RSN
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Jun 2004

Apple stamps on next-gen Power Mac pics

Details of Apple's next major Power Mac G5 revision appear to have leaked out through the manuals the company provides to service engineers. The manuals, sent out in May, contain photos of the new model, which is externally indistinguishable from the old one but features a very different interior layout. Mac-watching web site AppleInsider published the pictures late last week but Apple's legal department demanded their removal - a move that goes a long way to confirming the pictures' veracity. AppleInsider has complied with Apple's request. The pictures showed a G5 with a single, large CPU heatsink module, suggesting that the company will at last offer the new G5 as an entirely dual-processor line-up. The photos also show a smaller motherboard with four, vertically mounted DDR SDRAM slots. AppleInsider speculates that the extra space could be used to boost the G5's storage capacity, but the apparent absence of a front-mounted inflow cooling fan suggests that that might not be the case. Either way, it is believed that the machines will be equipped with IBM's 90nm G5 chip, the PowerPC 970FX. The new Power Macs are expected to be unveiled at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, which kicks off on 28 June. ® Related stories Apple picks 15 June for iTunes launch? IBM's PowerPC 975 - verified or vapour? Apple creates separate iPod business unit Mac OS X update fails to fix vulnerability Apple posts Mac OS X update Apple patches critical Mac OS X hole Apple to slow annual OS X update rate MS ships Mac Office 2004
Tony Smith, 07 Jun 2004

Manchester honours Alan Turing

The city of Manchester this morning honoured Alan Turing - the brilliant mathemetician and codebreaker who committed suicide 50 years ago today. Manchester University is behind the ceremony which sees a blue plaque dedicated to Turing unveiled on the house in Adlington Road, Wilmslow, where - on 7 June 1954 - Turing ate a cyanide-laced apple. Turing will be best remembered for his work on the German Enigma codes during his time at Bletchley Park, in addition to the thorny "Fish" cypher. Fish was eventually broken with the aid of Colossus in 1944. Turing was fascinated by artificial intelligence and the concept of the programmable single machine capable of handling any task, and by applying his intelligence to this concept he greatly contributed to the development of Bletchley's codebreaking machines and ultimately, the development of the modern computer concept. In his personal life, Turing was less assured. At Bletchley he was known as "Prof" - an anarchic and socially-awkward man who eventually proposed marriage to colleague Joan Clarke, only to later retract the offer and admit to Clarke his homosexuality. The post-war years saw Turing at Manchester University continuing his work - albeit sporadically - on machine code programming and related subjects. Sadly, he was never truly able to see his brilliant vision become a concrete reality, as the US moved apace towards the "modern" computer as we now know it. In 1952, he was arrested and tried for a homosexual relationship with a young man from Manchester. Turing avoided prison by agreeing to have yearly oestrogen injections to control his libido - a savage punishment at a time that male homosexuality was illegal in Britain. In fact, Turing's homosexuality had already cost him a secret post with with Bletchley's successor - GCHQ. In the chilly Cold War climate of 1948, his sexual orientation resulted in the loss of his security clearance. Left out in the cold, he bitterly resented his treatment at the hands of the security services, who continued to harrass him sporadically. In 1953, he was visited by police apparently looking for a Norwegian who had visited him - an incident widely believed to have been state-security inspired. On 8 June, 1954, Turing's cleaner found him dead in his bed. He had died the day before from eating an apple laced with cyanide. Some have attempted to build a conspiracy around the tragedy, although the coroner's verdict of "suicide" seems plausible. Turing's legacy as one of the founders of computer science cannot be overestimated. For more on the man and his astonishing work, we recommend this site as a starting point. ® Related stories Statue of Turing spurned by US IT giants Germans claim first programmable computer Codebreaking Colossus returns to Bletchley Park Codebreaker II Our winner reveals all
Lester Haines, 07 Jun 2004

AMD readies low-cost Sempron CPUs

UpdateUpdate AMD has decided what it's going to call its upcoming value-market microprocessors: Sempron. Both desktop and notebook parts will be offered under the new brand name and shipments will commence sometime during the second half of the year, AMD said today. It will also provide details of Sempron internal workings and pricing around the same time. If earlier reports of the addition of a value line of processors to AMD's internal roadmap are anything to go by, the first Semprons should launch sometime next quarter. The new CPU line is said to feature a new model numbering scheme that will replace the XP's performance ratings with a three-digit code starting with 2xx. Interestingly, the Socket 754 and 939 parts begin at 3xx, allowing them to be placed alongside Intel's new Celeron 3xx model numbers. AMD says such reports were "inaccurate". The company would not be drawn on what the model numbers - or otherwise - will be. In essence, Sempron replaces AMD's Duron brand. Athlon 64 will continue to be AMD's performance line, underpinned by the mainstream-oriented Athlon XP, with Sempron sitting below that. The Athlon XP line is expected to transition to AMD's Athlon 64 architecture during the second half of the year, but it's not yet clear whether Sempron will do the same. AMD's statement suggests Sempron will, like Athlon XP, only support 32-bit processing. The next generation of the XP, the 130nm Paris, is believed to be an Athlon 64 core with AMD64 support disabled and backed by just 256KB of L2 cache. Whatever, Sempron is likely to be a major part of AMD's attempts to pitch its processors at emerging geographical markets, such as Latin America, China and Eastern Europe, rather than Western buyers. Bootnote Detail wonks may be interested to learn that AMD filed its Sempron trademark application on 12 May, and that it's the phrase 'AMD Sempron' that is trademarked, rather than the processor's name per se. The reason: there already is a Sempron out there - it's a pharamaceutical research company. AMD also filed to protect the brand names 'Forton', 'Adepton', 'Cerus' and 'Tegron'. Whether these are real products - or simply names to fool would-be brand-name hunters - isn't clear. It's possible they were all names considered by AMD and filed just in case they were chosen. Similar names were registered - but have since lapsed - for the then-as-yet-unlaunched Opteron: Forton, Metaron, Multeon and Vanton. Alereon appears to have been a possible alternative to Athlon. ® Related stories AMD preps revitalised value CPU line AMD unveils Socket 939 processors AMD targets low-end Athlon 64s at new markets AMD pitches Athlon 64 at Media Center PC makers Tyan aims four-way Opteron board at supercomp makers Itanium and Opteron show spotty sales AMD brings performance ratings to Geode line
Tony Smith, 07 Jun 2004

China goes large for mobile phones

One in four people in China will have a mobile phone by the end of the year, according to State sources. Xinhuanet reports that one in five people in China currently has a cellphone, but that this is set to rise to one in four by the end of the year. In the first four months of this year, the number of mobile phone users rose by 27m to 296m, said the Ministry of Information Industry. Mobile phone usage accounts for almost a half of all revenues in China's telecoms industry, it said. Although phone users in China are latching on to SMS and wireless Internet, they're also starting to get into mobile games too. Which is nice. ® Related stories N. Korea bans mobile phones Chinese government censors online games China shuts 8,600 cybercafes
Tim Richardson, 07 Jun 2004

Virus writers deploy bulk mail software

Hackers have used spamming software to distribute thousands of copies of a new Trojan. Email filtering firm MessageLabs alone has intercepted more than 4,000 copies of the Demonize-T Trojan over the last 24 hours. Demonize-T is a multi-stage Trojan that uses an object data exploit in Internet Explorer (patch here) to download and execute an encoded visual basic script from a website. The Trojan then creates an executable file which appears to download a malicious program from the same website as the original script. Early analysis suggests Demonize-T is similar to previous attacks where malicious code has been used to install key loggers and password stealers. Spammers are increasingly using infected as a platform to distribute spam and this technique has come full circle with virus writers using spam to infect machines in the first place. Alex Shipp, senior anti-virus technologist at MessageLabs, said hackers are increasingly adopting the tactics of spammers in their attempts to seize control of as many machines as possible. MessageLabs typically block four or five bulk mail batches of Trojans a day. Mostly less than 20 messages are involved so the new attack - with more than 4,000 messages blocked in the space of only 24 hours - is far more intense. MessageLabs detected Demonize-T proactively, using its Skeptic predictive heuristics technology. "Some parts of these Trojans are new but some code is old. Using old code is a funny tactic for virus writers to use because you can almost guarantee malware will be caught," Shipp commented. ® Related stories Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs Trojans as spam robots: the evidence Italian charged in porn dialler virus scam
John Leyden, 07 Jun 2004

Final appeal in RIM's US Blackberry battle

Research in Motion will make its last stand today (Monday) in the battle for the Blackberry, specifically for the right to sell the Blackberry in the US. It is appealing an injunction issued against it preventing it from selling or servicing the device in the US. The injunction was granted in August last year when the court found RIM had infringed upon several patents held by IP holding company, NTP, but was stayed pending an appeal. It will present its arguments at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, the New York Times reports. In a written submission filed with the court RIM says the ruling is "fraught with error". As well as the injunction, the District Court for the Eastern District, in Richmond, ordered the company to pay NTP, $53.7m in damages. With legal fees and interest added to this figure, the bill RIM faces is closer to $100m, lawyers for NTP said. NTP originally sued RIM for infringement, but now RIM contends that the patents are invalid. The patent office is reexamining all five patents, although it is not hearing evidence from RIM in four of the five cases. The patents concerned are numbers 5,625,670; 5,631,946; 5,819,172; 6,067,451 and 6,317,592. They cover a variety of systems for radio email transfer. Although lawyers for NTP are bullish, describing the RIM's challenge as "bet your company litigation", the injunction award is unlikely to be their ideal outcome. After all, RIM won't have to pay royalties on products is it not allowed to sell. Last year, the district court ordered the two sides to negotiate a royalties settlement, but so far there has been no agreement. ® Related stories Good Technology settles with Lawsuits in Motion RIM makes mobile gains while Palm, Sony and Dell falter SonyEricsson follows Palm in RIM deal RIM faces fresh lawsuit Lawsuits in Motion to pay $53m
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Jun 2004

Parental Internet fears put kids at risk

Parental fears about the Internet mean that children are not being given the information they need to behave safely and sensibly online. Unfounded fears that children are meeting murderers online and that chatrooms lead to sexual abuse mean that real and more frequent dangers of Web use are ignored. Blanket restrictions on internet use leave children unprepared and unable to protect themselves. Research from London University's Institute of Education shows that children who haven't had Internet training worry about "urban myths" such as bomb-making information and hackers taking control of their computers. After lessons based on the Educaunet programme children had a more realistic view of the risks they are likely to face. Questioned after the lessons they were more aware of "rational risks" like piracy, plagiarism and false advertising. Educaunet is a European Union-funded programme to teach children how to assess and reduce the risks of Internet use. It aims to help children understand the benefits of the Internet and browse safely. It teaches kids to take a critical view of what they see online as they are taught to do when reading books or watching films. Adopted in schools in Belgium and France, Educanet uses games, role playing and online activities to teach kids the rudiments of responsible Web use. It teaches a critical approach to information on the Web, to supposed shopping offers, safety rules for chatrooms and ways to uncover hoaxes and false information. For more on Educaunet see here. ® Related stories Games too complex, Nintendo chief warns Parents worried about 3G phones 102 UK kids saved from paedos EC seeks to stamp out Net child porn, racism and spam
John Oates, 07 Jun 2004

Mobile phones drive us mental: official

Mobile phones, email and text are becoming far too intrusive in people's lives and adding to workplace stress, according to some blindingly obvious research from the University of Surrey. Boffins found that the incessant demand for instant communication heightens stress in the workplace, makes people angry and can prove to be an annoying distraction. Those who took part in the survey, which was commissioned by Siemens Communications, were hacked off with mobiles ringing during meetings or people talking on their phones in public. One of those who took part admitted that they'd spent four hours on the phone on the train and accepted that those next to him "were quite rightly irritated" at his constant jabbering. While another said: "If you're in a meeting…and someone's phone goes off, it's tut-tutted. It just shouldn’t happen." And on the matter of phones ringing and bleeping all the time, one worker said: "There's one guy…it's constantly an interruption…it's becoming a disciplinary issue…it's just not acceptable." Snag is, while people are quite rightly hacked off by annoying distraction of modern communications, many office workers also get frustrated, stressed and annoyed when they can't reach somebody immediately. "I'm afraid the research survey shows that we all want to have our cake and eat it," said Professor Michael Warren of the University of Surrey. "We become stressed and impatient when we can't reach someone, and we expect instant responses from co-workers and business contacts. And yet we become annoyed when our own meetings or discussions are, for example, interrupted by a mobile phone." Instead, the Prof said that new workplace rules need to be developed to provide workers with guidelines about what is acceptable business etiquette. ® Related stories Two thirds of emails now spam: official UK firms must monitor staff IMs UK IT directors are unproductive workaholics
Tim Richardson, 07 Jun 2004

Dell makes room for midrange Itanium system

Despite the lackluster sales that still haunt Intel's Itanium processor, Dell has decided to up its commitment to the chip, rolling out a new four processor 64-bit server. The PowerEdge 7250 is the second Itanium box to join Dell's server line. The four processor box stands as the big brother to the two processor PowerEdge 3250 released many moons ago. Dell tends to be unenthusiastic about anything larger than a two-way, so it's not surprising to see the company wait so long to roll out a midrange Itanium box. In a statement, Dell pegged the starting price of the PowerEdge 7250 at $12,499. Dell's web site, however, tells a different story with the introductory price coming in at $21,416, including some support. That price includes two 1.3GHz Itanium chips, 2GB of memory and a 36GB hard drive. It's hard to imagine a more stripped down server, so one can only guess what the $12,499 box is missing. A four processor system with the faster 1.5GHz chips, 12GB of memory and three 36GB hard drives will cost $52,364. That's closer to the average selling price of an Itanium box. In the first quarter, just 6,281 Itanium servers were sold for a total of $282m, putting the average price at $45,000, according to Gartner. Dell picked an interesting canned quotation to explain the release of what is certainly not a volume server in the PowerEdge 7250. "The PowerEdge 7250 is the highest-performing server in our portfolio," said Paul Gottsegen, vice president of worldwide marketing in Dell's Product Group. "It's specifically designed for customers that require the ultimate performance and scalability -- and these customers know better than to pay the price of proprietary platforms." The only flaw with this logic being that a Sun V440 with four 1.28GHz UltraSPARC IIIi processors, 16GB of memory and four 73GB hard drives starts at $26,395 - half the price of Dell's system. ® Related stories Server vendors work hard for their money in Q1 Can Sun mature from Xeon boy to x86 man? CommVault codes its way onto Dell storage Dell beat itself in the first quarter
Ashlee Vance, 07 Jun 2004

BT's modest plan to clean up the Net

AnalysisAnalysis BT has begun fleshing out its plans to block its Internet users from accessing websites containing illegal images of child abuse. The system, called Cleanfeed, will censor access to several thousand websites on a blacklist compiled by UK Internet trade body, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The blacklist features sites contain images of child sexual abuse that are "illegal to view" in the UK, under the 1978 Child Protection Act. Conventional wisdom has it that applying censorship to control access to paedophile material online is beyond the scope of existing technologies and plagued by practical difficulties. However BT reckons it has come up with a workable - if still only partial - response to the problem. Mike Galvin, director of Internet operations BT Retail, explained that Cleanfeed will only filter website traffic and will have no effect on material transmitted through P2P networks or via email. "Cleanfeed only looks at port 80 traffic. It's not a complete solution," he told El Reg. How it works Cleanfeed uses a two-stage filtering process. Firstly an access control list on a bank of Cisco routers re-directs BT customers who make a request to access suspect websites to an array of caches. Other traffic passes through virtually unimpeded. The array of Network Appliance caches is programmed to serve an error page, stored in the cache, whenever a request to access am IWF blacklisted website is made. Galvin said: "If the URL of not on list, Cleanfeed won't stop it. This is designed to block casual access to child abuse material on the Net. It won't stop a hardened paedophile and we're not saying that. One of the things we want to cut down on is unintentional access to this kind of material. We're aimed this technology at Web access because this is the most universal means of accessing this kind of content." BT is testing the system and plans to introduce it with its own BT Retail customers in a matter of weeks, a debut which has been accelerated by a weekend report in The Observer about the scheme. Voluntary introduction The monster telco is also prepared to make its technology available to other ISPs on a wholesale basis. It claims to be already is discussion with others service providers. The Cleanfeed trial has the backing and support of the Home Office but BT said it thought of the idea itself and pushed forward the idea as a means of becoming a more responsible corporate citizen. "This is a voluntary act by BT. I've no idea if anyone will follow," said Galvin. "If this kind of technology was made mandatory there would have to be changes in the law." The US state of Pennsylvania has been forcing ISPs to block access to child abuse websites for some time but this is very much the exception rather than the rule. Blacklist watch Concerns about the system have focused on the accuracy on the blacklist. Already doubts have been expressed that no sooner has a site been blacklisted before it changes its host or URL and re-appears somewhere else. BT does not have a role in compiling the blacklist, and Galvin referred our questions on this over to the IWF. Peter Robbins, chief exec of the Internet Watch Foundation, said the blacklist it compiled was dynamic and updated every week with around 60 new sites. Between 3,000 - 3,500 sites hosting illegal child abuse content are on its list. Paedophiles have been known to hack into websites to host illegal content, an incident that might potentially leave a company or university server blocked for months after illegal content is purged. Robbins acknowledged that hijacking happens but says this is rare. Organisations who find themselves unfairly blocked can go through an established appeals procedure, he added. Industry reaction BT's initiative is been closely watched by the Internet industry as a whole. The Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) said it is nothing new for it and its members have a zero tolerance of illegal child abuse content. ISPA is clean to play down any perception that ISPs need only follow BT's lead in order to curtail the availability of child abuse images on the Net. ISPA said: "Each ISP has a different infrastructure. This means that there is no 'one size fits' all technical solution to preventing access to websites offering illegal images in territories outside of the UK. As with any technical solution, care must be taken to ensure blocking websites offering illegal images does not cause collateral damage. Any such technical measures installed by ISPs must be evaluated over time to judge their success. "The Cleanfeed solution now under trial by BT will only prevent 'casual' browsing of known websites. It will not hinder organised distribution of such images. It will not prevent access to new websites offering illegal content, nor will it prevent children being abused," it added. ® Related stories BT to block child pornography ISPA: users should report dodgy content... 102 UK kids saved from paedos UK Net paedo crackdown bags 600 Typical child porn user is white male IT pro
John Leyden, 07 Jun 2004

Democracy and the software patenting debate

OpinionOpinion The next session of the European Parliament will be vital for the tech industry, as the directive on computer implemented inventions is due to get its second reading. This Thursday, Europeans will exercise their democratic muscles and vote for those who will sit in the European Parliament, and in turn vote on the fate of the directive. At 24 per cent in 1999, voter turnout in the UK is lower than any other member state, and has been since 1979. This may be embarassing, but it does mean that if you can motivate yourself to vote, it will count for a lot. Software patentability is just one of many questions the parliament must deal with in the next sitting and as one MEP told El Reg: "Its not exactly a doorstep issue." Nevertheless, we thought it would be interesting to find out just where all the main parties stand, so that you can make an informed choice when you go to the polls on Thursday. The directive is highly controversial in its current form, for several reasons. In brief, the wording is such that it allows a very broad interpretation of what is patentable. There are three points that are particularly contentious: interoperability, lack of definition of technical effect and how patents would affect end users. Broadly speaking, no one except the Labour party is even remotely happy with the current form of the directive. Even the Tories, whose natural position is on the side of big business, have their doubts. Labour's position is a matter of public record, as Jacqui Smith, MP, sat in the Council of Ministers' meeting on 18 May, and gave Labour's backing to the current form of the directive. She said: "The Directive does appear to meet the needs of innovators and users of software and computer-implemented inventions; it's obviously important that we keep this area as straightforward as possible. I was reassured to hear the comments of Commissioner Bolkestein making clear that companies who did abuse their position could be dealt with using competition law." Individual Labour MEP candidates may have a different view, of course, so it is worth getting in touch with those standing for election in your area. More information on that can be found here. Malcom Harbour, MEP for the Conservative Party explained the Tory position. "We need to find a formulation that clarifies patentability, but my concern is that people think this is entirely new legislation. The problem with the parliamentary amendments was that they introduced new concepts of patentability which would have made the directive even more confusing and unworkable. We need a formulation that will exclude business methods, but will still protect inventors." He thinks that having a new parliament sitting for the directive's second reading could be a positive thing. "Normally in a second reading, you are very limited in the amendments you can introduce," he says. With new MEPs sitting, he argues, there might be a little more flexibility. The UK Independence party, riding mainly on anti-Europe feeling, and is gaining support from many traditional Tory voters, is (unsurprisingly) against the directive. MEP candidate Damian Hockney commented: "We believe that software patents are a barrier to competition, freedom of expression and economic development. The party also believes that such changes should not be forced on member states." The Green party's voting record puts the party firmly against the current form of the directive. After withstanding some heckling from a restless audience at Richard Stallman's presentation in London last fortnight, MEP candidate Dr Shahrar Ali said: "The position of the Green MEPs is very clear. I am not currently a Green MEP, I am a candidate. I'm gravitating towards the position of the MEPs against the current regulatory initiatives. They voted for amendments which would keep those regulations closer to the current situation as contained in the European Patent Convention of 1973." The Liberal Democrats are very clearly against the directive as it stands. In a statement, Richard Allen MP said that a wide definition of patentability in the field of software development is not in the public interest. "We believe that an EU Directive in this area may be helpful only if it clearly instructs all member states to implement a narrow definition of patentability in this field. We remain very concerned that the wording of the current draft Directive can be interpreted as allowing a wider definition of patentability than we would wish to see permitted. However, it says that people need to recognise that the final say is likely to rest with the Council of Ministers. Allen encourages people to lobby UK Ministers: "If we can persuade national governments that the public interest of their citizens requires them to improve the draft Directive then this is most likely to bring about the necessary changes." That is how the land lies. The rest is up to us. ® Related stories Not just free software under threat Online dating firm patents cupid's arrow Free software guru speaks on patents EU software patents: how the vote was won
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Jun 2004

McAfee founder returns with 'legal p2p radio'

A former McAfee CEO appears to have found a way around the legal minefield hindering anyone attempting to enter the music sharing market: by a licence to webcast content. Mercora is a P2P - "person to person", is how it defines the term - network that allows users to share songs without actually downloading them. It's an approach the company dubs "P2P radio". The software allows users to share and catalogue digital photos, and provides instant messaging functionality too. But it's focus is sharing music. Essentially, it streams the music files on a user's hard drive out onto the Net. Other Mercora users can tune in and listen. The company's reckons it's safe to do so because it has acquired a non-interactive digital audio webcasting licence as mandated by the notorious Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). "This license pertains to the digital performance rights of sound recordings and the associated reporting and royalty payments to SoundExchange (the independent non-profit organization that represents over 500 record companies and associated labels)," Mercora says. "We have also obtained all US (and in some cases international) musical composition performance rights through our licenses with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC." The upshot, it believes, is that "you (the end user) do not have to worry about... the reporting and royalty payments that are due to these various organizations". Next, the software "ensures that any webcasts you make satisfy various rules governing the statutory licence for non-interactive webcasting". That includes "conforming to the sound recording performance complement, minimum duration for looped programming, identification of song, artist, and album," etc. This clearly involves a level of randomisation, since one of the company's rules is that users aren't allowed to tell anyone what they're webcasting, or respond to requests for specific songs to be webcast. It's that level of uncertainty in the programming that makes it possible to get away with all this using said "non-interactive" licence. Mercora's terms and conditions also insist that users may only include songs they've ripped from CDs they own or have acquired by downloading from a legal site. It all sounds feasible enough, but despite the company's insistence that what it (and its users) are doing its legitimate, it seems oddly unwilling to reveal who's behind it beyond mention of the "executive and technical team that previously was instrumental in building companies such as Netscape and McAfee.com". There's a contact-by-email form, but nothing more concrete. Looking up mercora.com's domain ownership, we discovered the site is registered to one Srivats Sampath, who founded McAfee and was at one time the anti-virus company's president and CEO. He handled the company's 1999 IPO and its 2002 merger with Network Associates. Before McAfee, he was head of marketing at Netscape. Sampath's service promises "no ad-ware, spy-ware, or other slimy gimmicks from us". Yet it's unclear where the money's coming from. We calculate Mercora will have paid at least $500 for a year's webcasting license, if it counts as a non-commercial webcaster. The fee rises if it becomes a "small" commercial webcaster or even a commercial organisation. Where does the money come from? Not the users - the software is free and so, it seems, is using it. With no ads, the cash can't be coming from there. However that question is answered, Mercora is at least a novel take on the P2P music world brought into being by the original Napster. We have always argued the benefit Napster - in its first incarnation - provided as a way of getting more music to the ears of more people: essentially a college radio for the 21st Century. Had the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) exhibited a more sensible, less knee-jerk reaction to the P2P phenomenon, it's possible Napster might have converted into something not unlike Mercora, funded like so much commercial radio, by advertising yet provided free to the listener. But perhaps not. In any case, Mercora sounds like it is delivering that concept. Time will tell whether the litigious RIAA will allow it to continue, or what revenue streams will maintain it. ® Related stories Apple picks 15 June for iTunes launch? Napster ups UK track count ahead of Sony, Apple launches RIAA targets 493 more unnamed file-sharers Italy approves 'jail for P2P users' law Apple Euro music licence win signals mid-June launch? Napster opens Canadian outpost Oxfam enters music download biz Napster UK goes live
Tony Smith, 07 Jun 2004

Apple builds wireless hi-fi bridge with pocket router

Apple has released a small device which will go a long way to bridging home stereo systems and the personal computer. The pocket-sized WiFi base station is designed to stream music through a home hi-fi amplifier. Priced at $129, Airport Express is an 802.11g router with an analog audio connector and Apple's new AirTunes software. Apple said that in addition to punters who want to play their iTunes music collections through a real hi-fi system, it's pitching Airport Express at mobile users who want to create an ad hoc WLAN network at say, a hotel room. Apple positions this as complementary to the $249 Airport Extreme base station. Both have similar range, but Extreme handles more users - 50 - as opposed to ten with Express. But like its big brother, the Express router features a USB port for sharing a printer. Of the two, only Extreme offers a LAN out port, and at the very high-end model, power over Ethernet, and the capacity to extend the range with an external antenna. The device requires the next version of iTunes, 4.6, but PC users will be able to use Windows computers to take advantage of its features. Apple's US store was quoting a ship date of mid-July for the product today. The upside for Apple? If it works as promised, Airport Express may encourage people to view their PC as the central store for their music collections, driving up demand for computers and remote controls: some of these could be Macintosh computers and iPods. The downsides? Perhaps we'll begin to realize how crummy our MP3s really sound on a good Hi-Fi. Either way, this understated and well-priced gadget puts the onus on the real consumer manufacturers to do one better. Once again Apple has made a task which has confounded the CE industry, and Wintel, look like a walk in the park. ® Related stories SlimDevices Squeezebox Firms prep Wi-Fi Internet radio tuners Promiscuous BluePod file swapping - coming to a PDA near you Roadtesting the wireless home
Andrew Orlowski, 07 Jun 2004

Oops! Firm accidentally eBays customer database

A customer database and the current access codes to the supposedly secure Intranet of one of Europe's largest financial services group was left on a hard disk offered for sale on eBay. The disk was subsequently purchased for just £5 by mobile security outfit Pointsec Mobile Technologies. According to Pointsec, one of the hard disks contained "highly sensitive information from one of Europe's largest financial services groups with pension plans, customer databases, financial information, payroll records, personnel details, login codes, and admin passwords for their secure Intranet site. There were 77 Microsoft Excel documents of customers email addresses, dates of birth, their home addresses, telephone numbers and other highly confidential information, which if exposed publicly could cause irrevocable damage to the company." Pointsec isn't prepared to name the careless company. In 2000, Sir Paul McCartney's banking details were discovered on a second-hand computer discarded by merchant bankers Morgan Grenfell Asset Management. The PC was released into the second-user market without first being wiped clean of data. Pointsec purchased 100 hard disks over auction site as part of its research into the "lifecycle of a lost laptop". It was able to read seven out of 10 hard-drives bought over the Internet at auctions such as eBay ,despite the fact all of had "supposedly" been "wiped-clean" or "re-formatted". T The company said the exercise illustrates how easy it is for identity thieves or opportunists to access highly sensitive and valuable company information from lost laptops and hard-drives. All the 100 hard drives and laptops purchased as part of Pointsec's research will be destroyed. Lost in transit The researchers also wanted to find out how easy it is to purchase and access information on laptops that are lost in transit at an airport Gatwick or handed into the Police. In all cases they found the laptops and all the information residing on them, were put up for auction if they were not reclaimed after three months. Pointsec visited one of the auctions used by Gatwick Airport, near Chertsey, and found that before even purchasing the laptops, the researchers were able to start up the laptops to inspect if they worked. Using password recovery software they accessed the information on one in three of these laptops. The exercise was repeated in Sweden, the US and Germany. In Sweden the first laptop Pointsec purchased at auction contained sensitive information from a large food manufacturer. The info recovered included four Microsoft Access databases containing company and customer- related information and 15 Microsoft PowerPoint presentations containing highly sensitive company information. Tony Neate, tactical and technical industry liaison at the UK National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, said: "Pointsec's research demonstrates just how easy it is to access information which is not adequately protected. Encryption and other security measures are vital to ensure that security is not compromised - something as simple as a hard disk drive password can deter the opportunist." ® Related stories Paul McCartney account details leaked on second user PC Datawiping works (true) Datawiping doesn't work PDA security slackers, the lot of you 62,000 mobiles lost in London's black cabs
John Leyden, 07 Jun 2004

HP must create separate printer biz - analyst

One of Merrill Lynch's top analysts stunned the computing industry this morning by calling for HP to split into two companies. None other than Steve Milunovich, a first vice president at Merrill Lynch, has come up with a drastic plan for reworking HP's structure. The analyst, in a research note, called on HP to either divide into separate printer and computer-focused companies or to split along consumer and enterprise lines. This advice comes the day before HP is set to meet with financial analysts to discuss its performance. Original thought has never been Miloonovich's forte, making his case for a standalone HP printer company totally expected. It's about two years since HP closed its buy of Compaq, giving Miloonovich ample time to process the deal and come up with a conclusion. Like myriad industry observers before him, Milunovich has noted that HP's printing and imaging division performs much better than the company as a whole. Breaking out the printer business would let HP focus on its strength, move quickly and possibly make better use of its strong brand, Milunovich said. "Our strong intuition is that shareholders will benefit by HP eventually breaking up," Milunovich wrote. "Unlike IBM, HP has distinct businesses. . . HP is the Campbell Soup of printing - it owns the category so its main challenge is not share but growing the category. HP has done an admirable job of creating new printing markets and points out that it still doesn't address 95 percent of the potential opportunity, including books, magazines, newspapers, etc." So a separate printer company would have a much larger potential upside than the current behemoth. Taking the other consumer company route, HP could link the printing group with consumer PCs, digital cameras, TVs and the upcoming iPod products - all more interesting than close to break-even enterprise computing products. "HP has become a surprisingly strong consumer company, the leading consumer IT franchise," Milunovich wrote. The analyst does note the difficulty of HP still being committed to consumer PCs in his scenario, but quickly glosses over this, saying one part of HP could manufacture the PCs and then sell consumer kit to the new consumer part of the company. That sounds easy enough. Why didn't Fiorina think of that. What about the enterprise company? Well, Miloonovich thinks the enterprise side of the house is looking better these days now that the Compaq parts have made their way through the organization. Before the Compaq buy, HP had massive holes in its Intel server business and storage. Problem solved. From here on out, HP should forget about Dell and focus a separate enterprise computing company on fighting IBM, Milunovich said. "CIOs want an alternative to IBM - there's always room for a strong #2 such as Pepsi or Avis - and Dell is not yet an enterprise player on par with the big two. IBM admits that HP also sees the business process outsourcing opportunity coming. To execute on it likely requires HP to boost its services capabilities, especially in industry expertise." The Merrill analyst goes on to say the enterprise HP could buy Sun Microsystems, BearingPoint, Unisys and a host of other software and services companies. Then, it should chuck the HP brand. Yeah, why not! And when it's done acquiring companies, the new new HP could pay out some of its $15bn in cash to investors. If it can't be different from Dell in product, maybe it can do so in its fiscal policies. "HP could differentiate its story to investors by aggressively returning cash to investors," Milunovich wrote. A no brainer again. "We think breaking up HP makes financial as well as business and urge the board to show courage and creativity," Milunovich closed. Miloonovich - known here fondly as "The Loon" - has a real knack for timing his recommendations to companies at points when they will generate plenty of personal press. You might recall a certain open letter issued to Sun's CEO Scott McNealy in which The Loon suggested Sun abandon its SPARC server business - presumably so Sun could receive a later letter about how it had no way to differentiate against other Itanium server vendors. Now, the day before HP's analyst meeting, The Loon vomits up a few bullet points on how HP could split into separate companies and expects to be taken seriously. "Breaking up an $80bn company is a complicated problem that we only briefly cover here," he admitted at one point in the research note. You could say that again, Steve. You might even suggest a research note is the not best place to lay out such a plan in the first place. How Merrill Lynch clients benefit from The Loon's extensive day dreams is beyond us. ® Related stories Fiorina touts HP advances Who sank Itanic? HP failed Fortune test on purpose - memo The new HP is ready for its next test Analyst sees St. Fister in Itanium wafer Sun shares jump on Youngjohns
Ashlee Vance, 07 Jun 2004