8th > July > 2004 Archive

Google sued by Planet Goo

Google Inc, the search engine whose brand is synonymous with colorful, childlike marketing, has been sued by a real children's site for trademark infringement. Stelor Productions, which has owned the googles.com domain since 1997 says that the lawsuit comes after six years of trying to negotiate with the Mountain View based tech company. Stelor is also trying to revoke Google's trademark at the US Patent and Trademarks Office. Googles.com is a follow-on to a 1991 childrens book about four aliens called "Googles and the Planet Goo". The site was live two months before Google Inc. registered its domain name. The multimedia experience you can see today is more recent. Google declined to comment on the case, but we can bring you an exclusive photograph of co-founder Larry Page today[*], instructing his legal team to fight fire with fire. Earlier this year, Google goofed when it failed to check the trademark for its Gmail service before announcing the service. A British software company had registered the trademark in 2002 in eighty countries, and contests Google's use of the brand. Meanwhile the trademark for Barney Google, a not very lovable hillbilly featured in a long-running but now defunct cartoon strip, is still current. ® Bootnote: the photograph actually dates back to Page's Stanford years, and was until recently available on Sergey Brin's personal page at the University. Access to the photo album was denied, ironically enough, after privacy issues were raised against Google's new Gmail service. We'll be running our own coloring competition to mark the company's IPO. Related stories Google's Gmail hits trademark problem Google heals the sick Google founder wanted phones banned from HQ
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Jul 2004
Cat 5 cable

Rumours of Tape's death exaggerated

Despite long running rumours of the death of tape, solutions of various formats are employed, almost universally, somewhere in the routine, but vitally important, task of the backup or archiving of data. Tape systems continue to evolve; while their position in the data protection chain may be altering, tape technology still has a role to play in all areas of the market. Recently, Colorado-based StorageTek announced the availability of the StorageTek StreamLine SL8500 modular library and the StreamLine SL 500 modular library systems. Both products are designed to integrate with the company’s burgeoning Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) approach to managing data. At the top of the new range sits the SL8500 which scales from 2,048 useable slots and 64 drives to more than 300,000 slots and 2,048 drives of any combination of supported drives. The system is capable of supporting a range of drives including T9840A and T9840B (both 20 GB/cart), T9840C (40 GB/cart), T9940B (200 GB/cart), LTO Ultrium Generation 2 (200 GB/cart) and SDLT 600 (300 GB/cart). It is interesting to note that Sun Microsystems has entered into an agreement with StorageTek to market and sell the SL8500 under the StorEdge branding. These libraries can therefore scale from solutions with raw capacities of around 29 Tb to those reaching up to 90 Pb. The extremely high slot density of the StreamLine SL8500 modular library system is designed to optimise the use of the floor space in data centres and it is claimed that the system supports “all major operating systems”. In the mid-range the StreamLine SL 500 supports only Unix and Windows NT operating systems and typical midrange tape drive formats including LTO Gen-2 and will support SDLT in future releases. The SL 500 offers solutions ranging from 1-18 LTO Ultrium Generation 2 Tape Drives and can scale from 30 to 577 cartridge slots providing a solution storing over 100TB of uncompressed data. This library is designed to bring many of the top end qualities enjoyed by its big brother to the mid-market. As anyone knows, raw hardware does not a solution make and the company has also announced details of its Backup Resource Monitor software to help in the administration of the new StreamLine libraries and its existing L-series systems. Meanwhile in Europe, Tandberg Data has developed new tape solutions targeting the other end of the market. The company has announced details of the first 1U Autoloader utilising DLT VS technology. The modular system combines a DLT VS160 tape drive and eight media cartridges to provide a 1U autoloader (with an installation height of only 4.2 cm) that can store up to 1.2 TB of compressed data. Connection to the server is established over SCSI-Ultra2 Wide and LVD/SE-Interfaces. The DLT VS160 is supplied with web-based remote management as a standard feature allowing maintenance, system monitoring and other commands to be performed remotely through a standard web browser. Administration may also be performed locally through an easy to use and read LCD panel on the autoloader. With developments like these it is clear that there is still great demand for tape based solutions to help manage the flood of data being generated today. Tape may no longer be the only game in town, but it is still in town and shows no signs of leaving any time soon. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories EMC measures ADIC for tape rescue EMC taps FalconStor for tape emulation Brocade's cheaper entry level switches StorageTek runs higher on revenue boost StorageTek gives early look at tape library behemoth StorageTek bulks up tape, trims disk
Tony Lock, 08 Jul 2004

Hynix creditors rethink China DRAM plant plan

Hynix's creditor banks are rethinking their rejection of the memory maker's plan to build a DRAM plant in China, now that there's a chance that STMicroelectronics will come in on the deal. The Korea Development Bank (KDB), is looking at the scheme once again having voted against it last April, South Korean newspaper JoonAng Daily reports. "At first the creditors were negative over the plan since Hynix was in the process of normalisation and the semiconductor market outlook was uncertain," Yoo Ji-chang, KDB's governor, told reporters on Tuesday. "However, the creditors have recently been reconsidering the plan as STMicroelectronics... has proposed a joint investment." STMicro CEO Pasquale Pistorio this week confirmed that his company is in talks with Hynix to form a memory-manufacturing joint venture, and that negotiations could be concluded within six weeks. At the time, it emerged that the head of STMicro's memory business, Carlo Bozotti, had recently visited South Korea. It is believed he went to discuss the proposed JV with Hynix's creditors. Hints that the two memory makers were considering such a JV emerged in March this year. Both memory makers are in talks to fund a $1.5bn plant on mainland China. According to the JoonAng report, Hynix mooted such a move earlier this year only to see it rejected by creditors. It seems they were unhappy with the level of Chinese funding required to realise the project's goals. And if the plant proved unsuccessful, the Chinese would gain a state-of-the-art DRAM facility. ® Related stories STMicro confirms Hynix JV talks Hynix, STMicro plot Chinese DRAM JV Elpida, Micron ask Japan to take Hynix to task Hynix cashes in its chips Hynix leads Q1 DRAM sales charge Chip biz breaks quarterly fab spend record
Tony Smith, 08 Jul 2004

Intel to add NX security to Pentium 4 in Q4

Intel will add support for Microsoft's No Execute (NX) security technology to its P4 CPUs in Q4, reports suggest. Taiwanese motherboard maker sources cited by DigiTimes claim the chip giant will introduce support for NX from the end of Q3. A BIOS update will be all that's required to enable support at the mobo level, they add. The move will take in all of Intel's 90nm desktop CPUs: Pentium 4 and Celeron D. The recently released 'Nocona' 90nm Xeon DP will get it too - though probably sooner, when it ships at the start of August. The sources suggest the 90nm mobile Pentium M and Celeron M will get NX support too, but not for some time - Q1 2005 is the likely timeframe, they claim. So, initially, it will be Socket T processors that gain the technology, when Intel introduces its E-0 core stepping in October. The source say Intel will suffix each chip's model number with J to identify those with NX support. Curiously, the sources don't appear to have mentioned the Mobile Pentium 4, which was upgraded to 90nm in June 2004 and which is also expected to be upgraded to an E-0 core. The MP4 doesn't have a high life expectancy, with the line believed to be scheduled for termination early next year. NX will be brought in at the OS level when Microsoft ships Windows XP Service Pack 2. AMD's Athlon 64 and Opteron processors already provide the basis for NX, as will the upcoming 90nm incarnation of Transmeta's Efficeon x86-compatible CPU. ® Related stories Intel preps i925XE chipset with gigahertz FSB PC maker confirms 775-pin Celeron D Intel to update 90nm Mobile P4 core Intel EOLs 3.06GHz Pentium 4 Intel preps P4 core update Intel to EOL Mobile P4 in Q1 2005 Intel ships mobile Prescott P4s AMD unveils Socket 939 processors Transmeta pledges 'no execute' security support
Tony Smith, 08 Jul 2004

PlusNet takes AIM at stock market

UpdatedUpdated PlusNet, the Sheffield, UK ISP, is joining AIM, London's junior stock market on 14 July. It is flogging 13,910,219 ordinary shares at 90p per share to institutions to raise £12.5m gross and it will have a market capitalisation of £25.1m. The ISP gets to keep £2.2m (gross of expenses) for itself. The rest goes to Insight Enterprises, the US IT reseller, which sees its shareholding reduced to approximately 45 per cent. Ownership was a happy accident. Plusnet was set up in 1996 by a British reseller called Choice Peripherals, which was bought by Insight a couple of years later. PlusNet aims to be a consolidator in the broadband ISP market, but a couple of million quid ain't exactly a big warchest. However, it now has an alternative currency to cash - shares - to offer acquisition targets. And management are no longer constrained by Insight, if they want to dash for growth. Today's announcement is somewhat sketchy on financial details. For the year to 31 December 2003, PlusNet had revenues of £17.4m and operating profit of £1.8m. Last month it forecast sales of £29m for 2004 and doubled profits. As of 31 May, 2004, it had approx. 180,000 customers, of which 64,000 were broadband subscribers. In a press release today, Insight said the investment in PlusNet will be "accounted for under the equity method until the company's ownership is less than 20%". Presumably, Insight will divest itself completely of Plusnet shares in due course. A UK ISP is hardly a core business, and the money will come in handy - its UK reselling operation is not exactly flourishing. But then again, according to Microscope, it may be willing to exit the UK entirely. In January, the UK channel newspaper reported that Insight was taking informal soundings about the viability of a sale. Either the feedback wasn't so good, or it's had a rethink. ® Related story PlusNet to float on AIM
Drew Cullen, 08 Jul 2004

Yahoo! profits double

Yahoo! had a storming quarter in Q2, but Wall Street was not impressed. The company forecasts sales of $2.46bn to $2.54bn for 2004, a little above the $2.41bn - $2.52bn it predicted three months ago. But analysts think the dotcom giant should be doing even better, and the company was hammered in after-hours trading. Last night Yahoo! shares slid 12 per cent from $32.60 to $28.7212. At least the company met the money mens' expectations for Q2. For the quarter ending 30 June, Yahoo! posted revenues of $832m, (Q2 2003: $321.4m). Net income was $113m (Q2 2003: $51m). Marketing services revenue was $691m, A 215 per cent jump on last year (Q2 2003: $219m). Fees revenue rose 49 per cent to $104m and listing sales climbed 17 per cent to $38m. ® Related stories Yahoo! inboxes get 25 times bigger MSN makes its move on search Yahoo! shows paid search pays
John Leyden, 08 Jul 2004

Police keelhaul world's thickest DVD pirate

An Essex man has secured the title of the world's thickest DVD pirate after walking into a Chelmsford Trading Standards office and offering his illicit wares to the gobsmacked staff. The master criminal apparently didn't notice the sign above the door before making his pitch. Trading Standards' officers very naturally expressed a keen interest in the bootlegged movies, at which point the man belatedly realised his error and legged it. He did, however, leave a memento of his visit - his stash of films and £210 in cash. Happily, the fugitive was later reunited with his would-be customers after police slapped the cuffs on him in a local supermarket. Peter Martin, Essex County Council's Trading Standards supremo, said: "It would be great if all pushers of counterfeit goods would come to our offices to try and sell their wares. It would make the life of our dedicated team a great deal easier." Martin also made a prediction that "this incident will become part of Trading Standards folklore". Yup, we reckon that's pretty well a certainty. ® Related stories Raid on Spider Man DVDs piracy factory Trading Standards stomp on pirates Police fence stolen goods online
Lester Haines, 08 Jul 2004

Intel forecast to cut P4 price by up to 34%

Intel will trim its Pentium 4 and Celeron D prices on 22 August, Taiwanese mobo maker sources have claimed, ahead of the anticipated launch of the 3.8GHz Pentium 4 570. The 570 turned up on Intel roadmaps reported last April. While an exact launch date isn't known, the part's positioning in the middle of Q3 points to August. Intel is already believed to be preparing Celeron D price cuts on 22 August, round about the time AMD is expected to launch its budget Sempron range. That it is also gearing up to cut P4 prices at the same time - along with the details of said price cuts - comes courtesy of a report in today's DigiTimes. ® Pentium 4 Price Cuts - 22 August 2004 Processor Prev. Price New Price Change Pentium 4 560 (3.6GHz) $637 $417 -34.5% Pentium 4 550 (3.4GHz) $417 $278 -33.3% Pentium 4 540 (3.2GHz) $278 $218 -21.6% Pentium 4 530 (3GHz) $218 $178 -18.3% Pentium 4 520 (2.8GHz) $178 $163 -8.4% Celeron D 335 (2.8GHz) $117 $103 -12% Celeron D 330 (2.66GHz) $89 $83 -6.7% Related stories Intel to add NX security to Pentium 4 in Q4 Intel to tackle Sempron with 'Celeron price cuts' Intel to launch 3.6GHz P4 in June Intel prunes pre-Grantsdale P4 chipset prices Intel shaves a buck off certain Centrinos Intel Wi-Fi module trims Centrino prices
Tony Smith, 08 Jul 2004

Sony ships lifelike colour X-brite LCD panels

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Sony UK has brought its rather good X-brite Vaio notebook displays to the standalone monitor market in the form of the 17in SDM-HS74P and 19in SDM-HS94P screens. In the UK, the technology is dubbed 'X-black' rather than 'X-brite', but it's the same system. It yields enhanced image contrast, high brightness, very rich and vivid colours, and a screen that really is black when it's powered down rather than dark grey. That's coupled with very fast response times - 12ms in the 19in model's case, 16ms for the 17in screen. X-brite-based screens come closest to delivering CRT image quality in a notebook, we reckon, and now you can connect a desktop PC to one too. Sony's trick is to apply an anti-glare filter to the screen that doesn't scatter light the way other filters do. That scattering weakens colours intensity, leaving images looking washed out. It also reduces the brightness and the sharpness of the focus. In addition to eliminating this effect, X-brite displays also intensify the light coming from the backlight, again enhancing the richness of the colour. Both screens ship with a native resolution of 1280 x 1024, and feature precision sRGB colour control, allowing users to get a high level of colour-matching accuracy when they edit and print photos. The HS74P has a 500:1 contrast ratio and the HS94P has a 450:1 contrast ratio. The screens are offered in either a silver or a black casing. Sony did not disclose pricing, but since the 'P' in the LCDs' model numbers stands for 'Premium', don't expect the screens to be cheap. ® Related stories New liquid crystal promises faster LCDs Sony to ship Wi-Fi LCD TV this autumn Sony unveils HDD Walkman Sony adds HDD to USB Flash drive line-up Sony to ship portable video, MP3 player Sony unveils colour 'iPod killer' Sony unveils tiny wireless pen PC Sony preps slimline 5mp digicam Sony launches true electronic book
Tony Smith, 08 Jul 2004

Orange flogs Danish ops to TeliaSonera

Orange is selling its Danish subsidiary to TeliaSonera for €600m ($742m)cash less net debt. The Nordic telecoms group will combine Orange Denmark with its own slightly smaller Danish mobile network. But with 1.1m subscribers, the enlarged group stills lie in third place behind market leaders TDC and Sonofon. TeliaSonera aims to generate savings mostly from shutting down one of overlapping GSM networks. Also it anticipates modest capital expenditure synergies, i.e., it expects to buy less kit. Now for a quote from Anders Igel, president and CEO of TeliaSonera. "By combining Telia Mobile Denmark and Orange Denmark, we are creating a true and powerful contender to the two dominating players in the Danish market. Combined we will have critical mass and operational scale, sufficient to become the first choice provider of mobile services in Denmark. This combination will benefit the Danish mobile customers. In particular, the increased size will improve our ability to meet the demands of the business customer segments, but it will also enable us to continue improving our successful consumer service offer." The sale marks Orange's departure from Scandinavia. It also used to have an operations in Sweden but fled the country, after balking at the expense of building a 3G network in a fragmented market. The press release is here. ® Related stories Operators beg Sweden for 3G mercy TeliaSonera chairman ousted Orange flogs Swedish 3G licence
Drew Cullen, 08 Jul 2004

Show me the way to go 127.0.0.1

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion Those wags at TechnoDepot have been at it again and have come up with a new t-shirt bearing the witty Show me the way to go 127.0.0.1 As the blurb says: "There's no place like it! It’s wherever I lay my hat." If you're none the wiser, then it's time to stop reading and get back to work. If, however, you're thinking to yourself "very clever - I must have one of those", then proceed directly to the TechnoDepot department of Cash'n'Carrion where you can pick one up in sizes from medium to XXXL for £12.76 (£14.99 inc VAT). And while you're there, check out the full TechnoDepot range. Top kit, to be sure. ®
Cash'n'Carrion, 08 Jul 2004

France lifts MS Imagine Cup

A team of students from France has won the 2004 Microsoft Imagine Cup, and $25,000 in cash after a weekend of intense competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Aymeric Gaurat Apelli, Guillaume Belmas, Francois Beaussier, and Vincent Vergonjeanne from EPITA University developed the winning application: SmartCenter.NET, a home automation platform built on .NET. SmartCentre.Net allows its user to automate functions such as managing energy consumption, watching home security cameras from a Pocket PC or remotely controlling house functions. Beaussier said it felt "wonderful to win the Imagine Cup, especially as last year we came so close. We came together again this year as the same team to create an automation project, and soon hope to set up our own company and work with French software companies to make automation better." The Imagine Cup is an annual programming contest open to students around the world. Students must develop a smart software system/application that could improve the quality of everyday life, based on the .Net platform. The application has to contain a mobile device, a smart component, and create and use at least one Web service. Nearly 150 competitors gathered from 40 countries to fight it out for the top prize. Each team had already won regional and national championships to secure their places in the final, having entered the competition 12 months ago, along with 10,000 other students. The team from Russia took second place and $15,000 with its Inspirational Classroom Environment, a system that introduces role-based games into, err, the classroom environment. In third place, Team Greece took home $10,000 for its SmartEyes application, designed to guide blind and partially sighted users. Team UK claimed a "Top 12" finish. Japan will host next year's finals. ® Related stories British geeks fly the flag at cup final UK students' MS codeathon triumph UK students fancy a trip to Brazil?
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Jul 2004

LA plans cybercafe teen curfew

Los Angeles is to impose a curfew on kids into cybercafes because the venues have become a popular hangout for truants and the focus of serious youth violence in the city. Cybercafes (or PC baangs) with more than five machines will need a police license must install video cameras for security under regulations put forward in Los Angeles City Council yesterday. Children under 18 will be banned from cafes on school days between 08.30am and 13.30pm and after 2200pm Cyber cafe customers will be required to provide identification on request. Council members voted 11-0 in favour of the rules. Twelve votes are needed to pass ordinances so a further vote will be required. But this is seen as simply a formality. To live and die in LA China shut down more than 8,600 cybercafes this spring because of fears that the Net could corrupt the minds of youngsters. LA authorities plan to introduce tighter regulations after cybercafes began to feature in homicide investigations. LA's 30 cybercafes, many of which are in the San Fernando Valley, have become a popular hangout for teenage ne'er do wells who skip school to play PC video games with other truants. In January 2003, City Councilman Dennis Zine called for an investigation into cybercafes after a fight broke out between rival groups who were playing the game 'Counter Strike'. The brawl outside the NetStreet Cafe in Northridge left two people injured. In 2002 a man was followed home from the same cybercafe and killed. Orange County authorities introduced tougher controls on cybercafes in 2002 after a spate of crimes including the murder of two children. "I don't want to end up like Orange County where a number of murders and other serious crimes took place," Zine told the LA Daily News. "We wanted to be ahead of the curve - pro-active - and put in some regulations. We learned that there were virtually no regulations on the cybercafe industry." Councilman Greig Smith said the city wanted to make sure that young people could meet safely around cybercafes, not to shut down the businesses. "Cybercafes are not inherently bad or troublesome, it's the attractive nuisance that they provide to children," he said Cybercafes have raised no objections about the new regulations, which are less severe than proposals put forward two years ago which would have required owners to post security guards outside their businesses. ® Related stories Chinese youths trash Internet café China shuts 8,600 cybercafes China cracks down on cybercafes again Net not to blame for tearaway kids Chinese province issues swipe IDs to Internet cafe users
John Leyden, 08 Jul 2004

How the world is learning to love ICANN

In case you aren't aware, how the Internet is run and will be run for future generations will be decided in the next 26 months. When a three-year "memorandum of understanding" (MoU) between the US government and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) ends on 30 September 2006, who gets to oversee this revolutionary medium will be decided. One way or another.
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Jul 2004

Learn English with Apple - at a price

If you're looking to brush up your language skills, then look no further than the Apple Store UK. For just £24.01, you could soon be benefiting from "Talk Now French", or why not check out "World Talk German" for just £29. If, however, you'd like to improve your English, then be warned that this comes just a little more expensive: Reader Howard Gartside spotted this extravagant bit of pricing after searching for "French" on said e-emporium. He notes: "All I can say is I'm glad I want to improve my French not my English." Mais oui. Bonne chance! ® Related stories Brits fear online shopping Dell UK slashes Dimension to just £53,000 Man pays $1.1m for mobe number
Lester Haines, 08 Jul 2004

Linksys touts Wi-Fi signal boost upgrade

Linksys has begun selling replacement antennae for its 801.11b and 802.11g base-stations in a bid to boost wireless network coverage. The company is offering paired and single high-gain aerials aimed at its twin- and single-antenna access point products. All of them are designed to increase the strength of broadcast signals and raise the access point's sensitivity to incoming signals. The benefits are the ability to work at potentially greater distances from the client (or vice versa) and to shrink dead-zones within the coverage zone. Linksys is offering a pair of TNC antennae and one SMA aerial, all of which connect to their respective access points in place of those already in place - just unscrew the existing antennae. The TNC pack is geared towards Linksys' WRT54GS, WRT54G, WAP54G, BEFW11S4 and WAP11 products. The SMA aerial to the company's WRV54G, WMP54GS, WMP54G and WET54G devices. Interestingly, it's illegal in the US to use a wireless product with an alternative aerial, unless both parts have been certified together by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). According to Wi-Fi Networking News, Linksys went to the trouble of getting the FCC to certify all the antenna-access point combinations, in order to ensure its customers remain on the right side to the law. Linksys itself is safe from prosecution - it's not illegal to sell alternative antennae, only to use them. Not that anyone's ever been nabbed for it, so far as we know. Both packs cost $60, and are available now in the US and Canada. Linksys is also offering a pair of antenna stands for $30 a go. ® Related stories Cisco sued in Wi-Fi patent clash Wireless kit sales on the up-and-up Broadcom simplifies Wi-Fi security set-up Wi-Fi devices not talking Linksys falls off Wi-Fi bridge Deutsche Telekom to unite 'half the world's Wi-Fi hotspots'
Tony Smith, 08 Jul 2004

Judge waves through MS $1.1bn California settlement

Microsoft has secured court approval for the $1.1bn settlement of the California class action, alleging overcharging and abuse of state anti-trust laws. California Superior Court Judge Paul Alvarado said the offer was “fair, reasonable and adequate compensation”. So far, 600,000 Californians have lined up to claim their Microsoft vouchers, redeemable for cash after buying computer kit or software from any manufacturer. But up to 14m are eligible. Did you buy Microsoft software in California between Feb 18, 1995 and December 2001? Then form an orderly line for a claim form. The vouchers are for buyers of desktop apps and operating systems - buyers of server software and Apple software are not eligible. Two thirds of the value of unclaimed vouchers will be doled out to California schools in poor areas. And the class action lawyers? They get fees and expenses of up to $275m. As ever Microsoft denies any wrongdoing. But it has put behind it another class action and the biggest to boot. In recent weeks, the firm has settled class suits with 12 states. ® Related stories Microsoft squares Minnesota class action US court waves through Microsoft DoJ settlement Microsoft makes peace with Massachusetts MS to request stay of EC ruling
Drew Cullen, 08 Jul 2004

Elitegroup preps 'transition' Socket T mobos

Elitegroup (ECS) will begin shipping a pair of AGP-to-PCI Express transition motherboards this coming August, the Taiwanese mobo maker said today. Aimed at users and system builders who want to take advantage of Intel's latest processor and chipset technology, but who also want to bring as much as they can over from older machines, the 915P-A and 915P-A2 provide AGP 8x graphics and DDR SDRAM slots in addition to the PCI Express x16 and DDR 2 support favoured by Intel's 'Grantsdale' chipset. Both boards are based in Intel's i915P chipset. The 915P-A provides two 184-pin DDR slots and two 240-pin slots, allowing up to 2GB to be added to the host system. Alongside the PCI Express x16 slot for graphics and PCI Express x1 for other add-in cards sit an AGP 8x slot and a pair of PCI connectors. The 915P-A2 provides four 184-pin DDR slots enabling support for 4GB of memory, but there's no DDR 2 support. With no AGP 8x either, this mobo is aimed more at users who are shifting to PCI Express but simply don't want to invest in DDR 2. Both boards provide four Serial ATA ports, one IDE connector, four USB 2.0 ports, 10/100Mbps Ethernet and six multi-purpose audio jacks driven by Intel's High Definition Audio sub-system. Both support Socket T LGA-775 Pentium 4 processors. The 915P-A2 will retail for £69, the 915P-A for £75 when they ship in the UK next month. Prices exclude VAT. ® Related stories Tyan to ship Socket T mobos next quarter Intel 'resumes Grantsdale shipments' Intel to debut low-end Grantsdales soon Wi-Fi to come late to Grantsdale party Intel prunes pre-Grantsdale P4 chipset prices Makers tout i925, i915-based mobos ahead of Intel launch Related review ABIT AS8 Socket T mobo with AGP
Tony Smith, 08 Jul 2004

Male teleworkers do it all over the place

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... Ah, the joys of teleworking: released from the burdensome commute to work; unshackled from the desk; and free to roam the wide savannah of mobility. But for those still making the daily trudge to the office, what has actually changed in the last few years?: Male teleworkers do it all over the place By Lucy Sherriff Published Thursday 8th July 1999 14:09 GMT The vast majority of teleworkers are men, according to a study published by the Institute for Employment Studies. Almost 70 per cent of those working away from the office were male professionals in mid career. A teleworker was defined as someone who works from home at least one day a week. The authors of the report were clearly surprised by their findings as they had expected that women with children would account for the greater portion of telecommuters. But not only were men more likely to be taking advantage of comms technology that women, there were gender differences in the way people worked away from the office as well. Men were more likely to work from a variety of locations than women, of whom 41 per cent worked in the home. Those who do telecommute tend to be in the middle of their career, with 60 per cent of the teleworkforce are aged 35 to 47, compared to 47 per cent of the working population as a whole. They are also more than twice as likely to be in professional occupations, and are largely (34 per cent) from the financial and business services sector. It should not be so surprising that men are more likely to telework than women, or that those who do telework are from mid career professional positions. A certain degree of seniority is needed to take the decision to work away from the office, an it is in just these types of positions that women are under represented. Receptionists, traditionally a female dominated job, would be pretty useless working from home. What is more surprising is that people with disabilities are still under-represented. Despite the mobile office being hailed as a great boon for equal opportunities, disabled workers are represented in about the same proportion as in the conventional workforce, roughly nine per cent. The telecommuting phenomenon is more popular and growing faster in the UK than in the rest of Europe. In 1998 it accounted for just five per cent of the workforce, but the study estimates that the number of people regularly working away from the office is growing at about 200,000 per year. A July 2003 report by the Institute for Employment Studies indicated that by early 2002, 1.78 million people - almost six-and-a-half per cent of the UK workforce - were teleworking. Of these, 1,203,844 were men and 576,178 women. The trend towards women working from home and men going walkabout continued: 53 per cent of "telehomeworkers" were women, while men were "more likely to use the new information technologies to support a roving workstyle", and accounted for 79 per cent of "mobile teleworkers". Telehomeworking was a viable option for women with young children, as IES Research Fellow Peter Bates noted: "Whilst 12 per cent of all women in employment have children under five, this rises to 23 per cent among women who are telehomeworkers. But surely telehomeworking also opens up the opportunity for men to become househusbands and share in the childcare?" It does indeed, and the report further states that: "On 6 April 2003, the government introduced an important new legal duty on employers to consider applications for flexible working from parents of young or disabled children." Whether parents avail themselves of this opportunity and whether teleworking as a viable alternative to the traditional office-based work paradigm continues to grow in popularity remains to be seen. In the meantime, this Reg hack must disconnect from the wireless LAN, abandon the sun-dappled patio and attend to a particularly malodorous nappy. ®
Lester Haines, 08 Jul 2004

E-voting security: getting it right

As we noted in our previous story - E-voting security: looking good on paper? - the much-celebrated voter verifiable paper trail is useless as a security measure for Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) election systems, and actually introduces far more problems than it solves. What to fix The chief problems encountered with the machines in real-world use have resulted from myriad sloppy - indeed shady - security practices by the vendors, certification authorities, and election supervisors. For example, there are some DRE machines with the capacity for remote connections, through which vendors have downloaded software patches after the machines have been tested and certified. Connecting printers to these poorly secured machines is fixing the wrong thing. However, there's no shortage of other things that do, in fact, need fixing. For example, there are inadequate physical security protocols, with vendor representatives and service personnel installing software patches and swapping out hardware after certification. The problem with DRE gear is that it's prone to tampering. Thus physical security is crucial, and must therefore be tightened considerably. And the testing and certification authorities themselves are often private companies with financial ties to the vendors. This is intolerable: testing and certification should be handled by a government agency, funded by the vendors, but completely independent of them, in the manner of Las Vegas' many one-armed bandits. Furthermore, certification authorities must be in possession of the complete source code for all approved DRE-system software, including database software and even compilers. How to fix it Nevertheless, the paper trail remains security fool's gold, made popular merely because it's easily grasped. What's needed instead are commonsense security protocols to make e-voting systems resistant to tampering, to make it evident when tampering has occurred, and to make it possible to stage a reliable recount. There are two avenues to mischief that need to be closed off: the individual DRE terminals and their software and hardware components, and the election database. Hacking the terminal Attacks could be mounted against DRE machines by the vendor, or a poll worker, or a group of skilled voters, but these would have to be done after testing and certification, or the glitch would become known at that time and the questionable machines would be pulled. So security here is really a matter of physically protecting the machines after adequate and independent testing and certification has been performed, which is not terribly difficult. This is because an attacker would need unsupervised physical access in order to tamper with the software or the hardware, and such access can easily be prevented with commonsense protocols. Guarding against post-certification tampering would be a simple matter. First, as soon as certification is complete, checksums of all software components, compilers included, would be recorded, and then verified later, on election day before the machines are put to use. Any machine with the wrong checksums would be pulled. Second, fragile seals would be placed so that no hardware component could be disconnected, removed, added, or serviced without breaking a seal. DRE machines without all of their original seals intact would be pulled. Third, protocols would be established so that no one person would have unsupervised access to any machine after certification. The machines would be stored in a secure location with limited access, perhaps with two locks that cannot both be opened by a single person. Motion detectors and video surveillance would provide an extra layer of security. There would also have to be sensible physical security protocols established for election day or the eve, when the machines are delivered to the polling places. However, this should not require much modification of existing schemes. After all, one of the simplest attacks against any sort of equipment would be vandalism or theft, by which means voters in a district favorable to one's opponent could be inconvenienced. So there actually are physical security protocols, although these would have to be reviewed and beefed-up as needed because DRE machines are vulnerable to tampering, whereas a punch-card table is not (you can't rig them to punch the wrong hole - only the voter can do that; but you can destroy or steal them, or steal the ballot cards, etc). The DRE terminals must not have any capacity for remote connections. And they hardly need it: often, removable memory modules record the election results and are later removed and uploaded to a database via a separate device. This is a basically sound design, so long as physical access protocols are observed, and the upload device is also secured, that is, sealed after certification, stored securely, and unsealed only when used. At least two election supervisors should be present when the modules are removed and uploaded, and the chain of custody should be logged scrupulously and later verified. Watchdog Finally, it is crucial that there be an independent testing and certification authority, and that it be in possession of all source code, compilers and firmware, to verify that the equipment works properly, and to guard against vendor backdoors and default admin passwords, etc. Simple protocols such as these would render most attacks after certification quite difficult, requiring the vendor, service personnel, and/or election officials and poll workers to cooperate. An attacker would have to work unobserved, or while observed only by co-conspirators. Technically speaking, an attack is not terribly difficult; but simple, commonsense security protocols and auditing are all that's needed to detect tampering and to make an attack very inconvenient. As for a recount, this might be done using an internal hard drive as a backup medium instead of paper receipts. So long as the machines are tested thoroughly by an independent agency, certified and sealed, and so long as proper security protocols are observed, and the checksums are right and the seals are intact, there is no reason to doubt the hard drive backup if a memory module should fail. It's unlikely, though hardly impossible, that both would fail; but a paper printout provides no advantage in guarding against a recount failure, and introduces many disadvantages. The whole enchilada The elections database is another problem area where vendors and election officials alike have failed to institute adequate security protocols. And this problem is the greater concern. With DRE terminals, if security protocols fail or are violated, the damage will likely be limited to a handful of machines. But a malicious attack against a database could potentially upset millions of votes. Again, security is primarily a matter of common sense. As with the terminals, it is crucial that an independent testing authority be in possession of all database and server source code, to ensure that the system is designed with proper security features and robust access controls, and to ensure that there are no vendor back doors or default admin passwords. The database system should be configured to accept connections only from specific devices, or, if TCP/IP is used, specific IP addresses. All data exchanged must be encrypted. It should use proper access controls and cryptographically robust authentication methods: these vary considerably according to the design of the system so we won't cover them, but a database can be designed and configured for good security, just like any other system. Most importantly, all database activity should be logged, and the access logs and system logs should be audited before an election is certified. An important issue is trust. Someone has got to administer the database, and this person can do a great deal of damage, either intentionally or accidentally, that might be difficult to detect. Thus it's important to limit access strictly, in order to keep the number of potential suspects to a minimum. It would be a good idea for there to be such a thing as a certified elections database administrator (DBA), a person who can demonstrate adequate knowledge of the system, adequate knowledge of security, and who hasn't got a criminal background involving, say, financial crimes or fraud. The 'independent certification authority' that we also need and haven't got could be given the responsibility of certifying elections DBAs, perhaps with a rigorous written examination and a background check. Checklist There is enough political momentum behind touch screen voting to force it on pretty much all of us in the near future. It can't be stopped, so there have got to be standards. At present, there aren't any. The vendors can do whatever they can get away with. The chief problems are the lack of an independent, national certification authority, and the practice of allowing vendors, election officials, and contract service personnel to muck about with the systems after certification. Below is a checklist of what needs to be done to make electronic voting fair, reliable, and secure: A truly independent national certification authority, in possession of the complete source code for all approved software, firmware, compilers, etc., must be established. This authority would be responsible for establishing the necessary security standards, and verifying compliance. No software or firmware for which the certification authority lacks full source code may be certified. All certified software must be cryptographically signed by the authority. Checksums must be verified on election day to expose software or firmware tampering. Any discrepancy, however minor, renders a machine or a database system unusable. Terminals must not be capable of accepting any sort of remote connection. There must be fragile seals, difficult to counterfeit and issued by an independent authority, put in place after testing and certification, to expose hardware tampering. Any failure, however minor, renders a machine unusable. The certification authority must establish protocols for quarantining and auditing a suspect or malfunctioning machine. Terminals should have an internal hard disk drive for tabulating votes, cryptographically protected and designed independent of the memory system, to serve as a backup device for recounts. The terminals must be capable of extensive access and system logging, and logs must be audited when a machine is suspect or malfunctions. A random sample of machines should also be audited thoroughly after every election. Data transferred from one device or component to another device or component, or over a network connection, must be protected cryptographically. There must be no vendor backdoors or default admin passwords to any component or device. There must be robust access controls for the database, full access and system logging and log auditing, supervised by an authority independent of the vendors and their service contractors. No election must be certified until auditing is complete. There must not be any unsupervised or unauthorized access to the machines or the database after certification. Evidence of unsupervised or unauthorized access renders a system unusable, unless it can be fully re-tested and re-certified before the election. If supervised access is necessary for maintenance or repairs, any machine or system affected must be re-tested, re-certified, and re-sealed, and all checksums must be verified. Machines may not be serviced during an election; they should be quarantined and later audited. Any alterations to hardware or software, however minor, after certification, render a machine or a database unusable until full re-testing and re-certification are carried out. Any breaches of physical security protocols or access protocols, however minor, after certification, render a machine or a database unusable until full re-testing and re-certification are carried out. Quality elections don't come cheap It isn't necessary for the vendors to re-design their equipment radically. Indeed, all that's needed is for the public to demand that they do what they do, only the right way. "Good enough" simply isn't good enough; the system has got to be right. Basic security and common sense are all that's required. The DRE systems offer many real advantages in terms of preventing overvoting, minimizing undervoting, clearly recording voter intent, and offering handicapped access. They can improve the accuracy of election results dramatically, and extend voter franchise, so long as they're built right, certified right, and secured properly. At the moment they're not, but they can be. Doing it right will not be difficult, though it will be expensive, and the vendors will whine at demands that they make their systems reasonably secure. However, we shouldn't balk at a system that's expensive and good, considering what's at stake here. At the moment, the systems are expensive and lousy, which forms the basis of the vendors' profits. Under a proper regulatory regime, they will have to earn their money; they will have to work for it. They won't like it very much, but they'll get over it in time. Surely the public deserves to vote on equipment that's at least as reliable as a video poker machine. ® Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and Small Office, a comprehensive guide to system hardening, malware protection, online anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux. Related stories E-voting security: looking good on paper? Dutch e-voting software goes open source E-voting promises US election tragicomedy California preps e-voting ban bill Ireland to scrap e-voting plan California set to reject Diebold e-voting machines UK not ready for e-voting Campaign calls for safe e-voting
Thomas C Greene, 08 Jul 2004

DrinkorDie suspect back in Oz jail

The alleged ringleader of a gang of Internet copyright pirates was back in jail last night after US authorities won the latest round in their battle to extradite him from Australia on multi-million dollar software piracy charges. Hew Raymond Griffiths, 41, of Bateau Bay, New South Wales, returned to Silverwater jail after judge Peter Jacobson ruled magistrate Daniel Reiss was wrong to release him on bail in March. He said that Reiss's reasoning was incorrect in concluding that no extraditable offence had been committed. The judgment is a setback for defence efforts to have Griffiths tried in Australia, but it does not mark a definitive ruling. Griffiths will be back before magistrate Reiss within days. In the mean time, he will await his fate at Silverwood jail, where he spent two months on remand fighting extradition. US investigators says that Griffiths rose through the ranks to become leader of the infamous DrinkorDie piracy group, which released a pirated copy of Windows 95, days before its official release and has been getting up to similar antics with pirated games, music and movies ever since. In March 2003 he was indicted on one count of criminal copyright infringement and one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement in his absence by a Virginia grand jury If convicted in the US, Griffiths could go to jail for up to 10 years and be fined up to $500,000. Under Australian copyright laws, he would face a maximum sentence of only five years. Eleven DrinkOrDie members have already been convicted in the US. Unemployed Griffiths is not accused of profiting financially from his alleged piracy, despite estimates that DrinkOrDie's copyright infringement cost publishers an estimated $50m. His case is the the first time that extradition from Australia has been sought for copyright offences. Griffiths' lawyer, Antony Townsden, questioned the need for expensive and time-consuming extradition proceedings. He said: "A number of people have been charged under British law and have been dealt with in their own country, and Griffiths is the only one where extradition was sought. One has to ask whether we have abrogated our own responsibilities to properly deal with Griffiths under Australian law." ® Related stories Aussie court blocks DrinkorDie extradition Multi-billion-dollar software piracy bust (raids targeting DrinkorDie) Personal Computer Science boss loses Oz extradition battle Software piracy 'kingpin' captured in Bangkok Software pirates cost $9.7bn in Europe - BSA
John Leyden, 08 Jul 2004

Big names dominated UK channel in May

Top-brand vendors increased their share of shipments made through the UK's reseller channel during May at the expense of second-tier players, market watcher Context has revealed. Together HP, Toshiba, Acer, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM, Sony, Dell and Apple shipped 72.6 per cent of the desktops, notebooks and servers sold through the channel in May, up from 64.4 per cent in May 2003. All eight vendors saw market share gains, with Acer experiencing the highest growth, taking its share from 4.5 per cent to 7.1 per cent. Acer is now the number two channel player in Europe's top seven economies with 12.5 per cent of sales. That puts it in third place Toshiba (8.6 per cent, up from 7.9 per cent) and well behind HP. HP's share grew year on year by less than a percentage point, from 34 per cent to 34.7 per cent, but that sill leaves it will four times the market penetration of its closest rival. Context puts the shift toward big-name vendors down to increasing price competition, with the larger players better able to cut prices not only to maintain but to grow sales. The growing demand for notebooks also played a part - which also explains Acer's success. Context says notebook PCs accounted for 40.3 per cent of all PCs sold by resellers in Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and Sweden, up from 37.1 per cent in the same month a year ago. The researcher's data cover shipments through mainstream dealers, corporate resellers and consumer retailers, so total market share figures will be very different once direct shipments have been taken into account. ® May 2004 UK Reseller Channel Shipments By Vendor Vendor May 2003 Share May 2004 Share HP 34% 34.7% Toshiba 7.9% 8.6% Acer 4.5% 7.1% Fujitsu-Siemens 5% 5.9% IBM 3.8% 5.2% Sony 3.1% 4.3% Dell 3.3% 3.5% Apple 2.8% 3.3% Others 35.6% 27.4%   May 2004 UK Reseller Channel Shipments by Type Type May 2003 Share May 2004 Share Desktop 64.8% 58.9% Mobile (inc. Tablets) 32.6% 37.5% x86 Server 2.6% 3.6% Related stories Computacenter hit by PC price tumble IT services vendors bask in sunny quarter AMD 'penetrates' Dell - again Dell denounces desktop Linux dealer
Team Register, 08 Jul 2004
DVD it in many colours

Cisco gobbles up Parc Technologies

Cisco has agreed to pay $9m for Parc Technologies, a small UK business spun out of Imperial College London's (IC) search algorithm research centre. Cisco expects the acquisition to close in the first financial quarter of 2005. The company was founded in 1999 to exploit the technologies researchers were developing at IC. The researchers were working on constraint programming, described by Eugene C. Freuder as "the closest approach computer science has yet made to the Holy Grail of programming". According to Martin Müller, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Alberta, constraint programming is a way of solving computationally hard problems. Parc's solutions use constraint programming to solve otherwise impossible network routing problems. The company has developed a variety of optimisation tools and traffic engineering solutions based on the research. In 2001, Parc managed to secure $23m in additional funding, with a substantial portion of that cash coming from Cisco. Under the terms of this latest deal, Cisco will pay approximately $9m in cash for all outstanding shares. Once the acquisition closes, Parc CEO Gideon Agar will report to Cliff Meltzer, senior vice president of Cisco's Network Management Technology Group. ® Related stories Cisco unveils monster router Cisco buys software backup firm Cisco sued in Wi-Fi patent clash
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Jul 2004

China agrees to drop chip tax rebates

China has bowed to US pressure and agreed to remove a semiconductor sales tax regime said to favour local chip makers over their foreign rivals. Today, China imposes a 17 per cent tax on the sale of all semiconductor products. However, domestic vendors are able to request an 11 per cent rebate, rising to 14 per cent if the products were also developed locally. That, says overseas chip makers, amounts to discrimination and as such runs contrary to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules - even though China didn't join the WTO until December 2001, long after the rebate regime had been put in place. Even so, in March this year, the US submitted a complaint to the WTO, which put in place a period of negotiation, the results of which were announced today. The US complaint was backed by Europe and Japan/ China will end the rebate, but the 17 per cent sales tax will remain, to be applied to all chips sold, irrespective of their country of origin. The country's agreement to drop the rebate, which it claims it had put in place to aid its fledgling chip industry, will be filed with the WTO next week. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), the US chip makers' club, welcomed China's move, which it said "will assure a level playing field for all competitors", and the country's "continued efforts to bring its trade laws and regulations into compliance with WTO rules". The concession announced today marks the second time China has bowed to overseas pressure over rules imposed on overseas technology companies. In April, it agreed to drop a requirement that all wireless networking products sold in China support its Wireless Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI) specification. Until it agreed to do so, Intel for one had said it would not ship its wirless products in China. The SIA calculates that China is already the third-largest country market for semiconductors and is projected to become the second-largest country market before 2010. ® Related stories Japan fires shot at Chinese chip tax Europe backs US protest over China chip tax China agrees to US chip tax talks US asks WTO to rule on China's chip tax US tells China to drop chip sales tax - or else US chip industry to take on Beijing SIA calls on China to dismantle chip VAT rules China agrees to drop WAPI wireless sec spec US chip biz tells China to ditch local WLAN standard
Tony Smith, 08 Jul 2004

Sun delivers Unix shocker with DTrace

AnalysisAnalysis Try to imagine a geeky version of famed salesman Ron Popeil. Keep Popeil's exuberance, keep his pitchman savvy and keep his verbal overflow. Then erase his age, sturdy frame and Ronco Food Dehydrator and replace all this with a young, lanky kernel engineer hawking something called DTrace, and you have Bryan Cantrill. Cantrill is one of three Sun Microsystems Solaris engineers who developed DTrace over the course of several years. As far as we can tell, he is the most energetic member of the bunch. It would be hard to be more energetic. While in China recently, we witnessed what you might call a "Cantrill explosion" take place in front of about 40 Asian server administrators. Using a style that combined vigorous moves between laptop and projection screen with a manic delivery, Cantrill managed to extol the virtues of DTrace - a tool which has revolutionized system instrumentation, so we are told. "It is not the technology that Sun claims," said Jarod Jenson, chief systems architect for Aeysis in Houston. "(Sun) is being far too modest. ... DTrace has completely changed the way I do business." DTrace is one of the key additions being made to Sun's flagship operating system in the upcoming release of Solaris 10. And it's one of those rare items that appears to work as billed. The software gives administrators thousands upon thousands of ways to check on a system's performance and then tweak the box while it's still running. What's unique about DTrace, beyond its ability to be used on production boxes with minimal system impact, is that it can help fix problems from the kernel level on up to the user level. "With the exception of system calls, the tools - such as they exist at all - are ad hoc, and at best designed for developer use," Cantrill said. "For example, there is no tool anywhere that allows for arbitrary dynamic instrumentation of a production operating system kernel. "And the tools that allow for arbitrary user-level instrumentation are largely research systems. And there is nothing - absolutely nothing, research or otherwise - that ties together user-level and kernel-level instrumentation. This is part of the reason that the reaction is so strong among the users you interviewed - DTrace is a quantum leap over previous tools." We interviewed Cantrill and fellow DTrace designer Adam Leventhal. A lack of modesty about their invention is a shared trait, but their attitude comes off more as Popeil-like pride than ego rub. Mike Shapiro is the third brain behind DTrace, but we've yet to have the pleasure of meeting him. (In photo, Shapiro is on the far left, Cantrill in the middle and Leventhal on the right.) The three Solaris engineers are enthused for obvious reasons. By most user accounts, DTrace reduces the time performance analysis takes from days down to hours. It also gives Sun customers a way to hold software vendors accountable for underperforming code. When the Oracle and BEA reps throw their hands in the air, the BoFH can step up with pinpoint performance data, allowing blame to be placed where it belongs. "I really think it is amazing," said Vlad Grama, a sys admin and student at the University Politehnica Bucuresti. "Basically, if you know the OS enough, you can do with DTrace what all other Solaris tools ( vmstat, truss, sar, lsof, process accounting) do and much more. You can get data at high-precision intervals and monitor kstats, system calls and better yet functions in user-processes. Plus you can monitor only the processes or calls you're interested in so that the monitoring impact is insignificant." Or perhaps you prefer a real world confession from Brendan Gregg, a Unix developer in Sydney. I first used DTrace to examine disk I/O, in realtime, in detail. Beforehand, I was using kernel debugging via prex to do this, which was both ugly and had limitations. I was solving the long standing problem of identifying disk I/O by process - we can all spot a process hogging the CPU, but there is no easy way to spot a process hogging the disks. My first programs with DTrace provided a %I/O column to "ps -ef", and a snoop style command for disk I/O events. I've also used DTrace to record a memory event for a program I was developing that had memory usage issues. Beforehand, I had been adding breakpoints to pause the program to examine memory. It was time consuming, and I was worried my breakpoints were not in the best places. Instead, I've used DTrace to print out the memory usage profile, which I then graphed. Rather than a lot of effort to generate a graph of three points, DTrace has given me a graph of a hundred points that leaves nothing to the imagination. It did more than just help my program, it helped me understand memory allocation so that I can become a better programmer. DTrace's inventors say admins need "to have a good relationship with their brains" to use the software best. Although, the users tended to say DTrace can work well for just about any administrator. This is, in part, because DTrace combines old instrumentation tools and invents new ones and then puts them all together in a single package. Users have more places to instrument a box and an easier way to do so. "Actually, I think the learning curve for Dtrace is much nicer than for other tools," said Thomas Nau, director of the infrastructure department at the University of Ulm in Germany. "This is first because it hides a number of details if you don't request them and immediately creates high quality reports (including averages, quantization, ...). The second reason is that from it's programming point it's very C'ish. Obviously, of course, this also means that it helps quite a lot to know C." DTrace elements Sun sees DTrace as a big advantage for Solaris over other versions of Unix and Linux. But a recent uptick in open source Solaris talk makes one wonder how long Sun will keep a tight hold on its Solaris IP. Sun's President Jonathan Schwartz offered an answer on this to The Reg. "We think the early success of DTrace is yet more evidence that customers care about innovation - and that's why we continue to invest in Solaris, on both Intel/AMD and SPARC/SPARC64," he said. Nice plug. "The real question for us isn't whether we'll continue investing - that should be obvious. The question is whether we'll keep innovations like DTrace wed to Solaris, or move the industry forward, as we have with Project Looking Glass, with a more contribution-minded approach." Right. That's the question. "I can't tell you where we'll end up - we're in the midst of working that out with the community." Oh, come on, tell us. "But I can assure you the entirety of Sun Microsystems is returning to its roots, toward an aggressive engagement with the entirety of the open community. Those of us investing in innovation have nothing to fear - those that are simply resellers or repackagers are going to have a hard time keeping up." So there you have it. DTrace may or may not end up in the public domain. Glad that's settled. Sun is backing up the Solaris engineers' promise that DTrace will not take down or hurt a production system in any way. This is good news for customers who might be looking to save costs on test environments. DTrace should cut down on the need to waste time and money creating copies of production systems and trying to force problems on the kit for performance analysis. In total, the software takes customers one step closer to the fabled utility computing. A modern performance analysis tool, working fast on running systems to increase overall compute capacity. Simple. In addition, it helps save on costs by cutting down on test hardware and by making is possible to get ISVs to fix problems with their code. Or as Cantrill would say, It slices, it dices, it spins, it whirls. DTrace is currently available via Sun's Solaris Express early access program. More information is also available here. The tool only works with Solaris 10, which becomes generally available in January of next year. ® Bootnote Here are a couple of last DTrace uses from Aeysis' Jenson. I looked at one customer's application that was absolutetly dependant of getting the best performance possible. Many people for many years had looked at the app using traditional tools. There was one particular function that was very "hot" - meaning that it was called several million times per second. Of course, everyone knew that being able to inline this function would help, but it was so complex that the compilers would refuse to inline. Using DTrace, I instrumented every single assembly instruction in the function. What we found is that 5492 times to 1, there was a short circuit code path that was taken. We created a version of the function that had the short circuit case and then called the "real" function for other cases. This was completely inlinable and resulted in a 47 per cent performance gain. Certainly, one could argue that if you used a debugger or analyzer you may have been able to come to the same conclusion in time. But who would want to sit and step through a function instruction by inctruction 5493 times? With DTrace, this took literally a ten second DTrace invocation, 2 minutes to craft the test case function, and 3 minutes to test. So in slightly over 5 minutes we had a 47 percent increase in performance. Another case was one in which we were able to observe a high cross call rate as the result of running a particular application. Cross calls are essentially one CPU asking another to do something. They may or may not be an issue, but previously in was next to impossible (okay, really impossible) to determine their effecs with anything other than a debug version of the kernel. Being able to correlate the cross call directly to application was even more complex. If you had a room full of kernel engineers, each would have theories and plausible explanations, but no hard quantifiable data on what to do and what the impact to performance would be. Enter DTrace.... With an exceedingly simple command line invocation of DTrace, we were able to quickly identify the line of code, the reason for the cross calls, and the impact on performance. The basic issue was that a very small region of a file was being mmap(2)'d, modified, msync(3C)'d, and then munmap(2)'d. This was basically being done to guarantee that the modified regoin was sync'd to disk. The munmap(2) was the reason for the cross call and the application could get the same semantics by merely opening the file with O_DSYNC. This change was made and performance increased by almost double (not all from the cross calls, but they were the "footprint" that lead us down this path). So we went from an observable anomaly that previously had no means of analysis to a cause and remediation in less that 10 minutes. Related stories Sun launches IGRTN program Sun slams Red Hat Your UNIX application programming guide SCO trumps Sun's open source Solaris bid Sun gets liquored up on own code
Ashlee Vance, 08 Jul 2004