12th > August > 2004 Archive

419er sells herself into sexual slavery

The 419ers have been a bit quiet recently on the innovative marketing front. In fact, every advance fee fraud email that has popped into the Vulture Central mailbox in the last month has been a tired reworking of one or other of the classic themes - deposed dictator, blah, Democratic Republic of Congo, blah blah, distraught widow bearing cash, blah blah blah. We are, however, obliged this morning to Craig Eldershaw for forwarding this rather delicious proposition from one Bless Kiffa. The poor girl's got herself into a bit of a pickle and is looking for the customary foreign partner to liberate almost £16m from Africa. Naturally, said partner receives a negotiable cut of the action - plus a little bit more. Indeed, Bless is an orphaned lass who's literally prepared to bend over backwards to get out of the Ivory Coast: From Miss Bless KIFFA Abidjan Cote D'Ivoire West Africa Hi Lover, please reply to (blesskiffa2000@yahoo.fr ) for security reason. I am the only Daughter of my late parents Mr.and Mrs.BLESSING KIFFA My father was a highly reputable busnness magnet who operated in the capital of Ivory coast during his days.I'm a deaf girl. It is sad to say that he passed away mysteriously in France during one of his business trips abroad year 12th.Febuary 2000.Though his sudden death was linked or rather suspected to have been masterminded by an uncle of his who travelled with him at that time. But God knows the truth! My mother died when I was just 6 years old,and since then my father took me so special. Before his death on Febuary 12 2000 he called the secretary who accompanied him to the hospital and told him that he has the sum of fifteen million,seven hundred thousand United State Dollars.(USD$15.700,000) left in fixed deposit account in one of the leading banks in Africa.He further told him that he deposited the money in my name,and finally issued a written instruction to his lawyer whom he said is in possession of all the necessary but legal documents to this fund and the bank. I am just 21 years old and a university undergraduate and really don't know what to do.Now I want an account overseas where I can transfer this funds and after the transaction i will come and live with you as a lover and i'm ready to do anything of your choice. This is because I have suffered a lot of set backs as a result of incessant political crisis here in Ivory coast.The death of my father actually brought sorrow to my life and i wished to invested under your care please. I am in a sincere desire of your humble assistance in this regards.Your suggestions and ideas will be highly regarded.Now permit me to ask these few questions:- 1. Can you honestly help me as your lover or future wife,that is what i want from you. 2. Can I completely trust you as a lover? . What percentage of the total amount in question will be good for you after the money is in your account while i finalers my education? Please,Consider this and get back to me as soon as possible at (blesskiffa2000@yahoo.fr ) Immedaitely i confirmed you willingness then i will send to you my Picture . your sincere regards, Bless Kiffa It's clear that young Bless it as much of a business magnet as her old man, since we have no doubt that she will be inundated with offers of immediate assistance from cash-strapped and sex-starved western gentlemen. A word of advice to would-be suitors, though: a basic grasp of sign language is probably essential here. After all, you'd be well advised to hammer out a prenup face-to-face before waltzing up the aisle and proceeding thereafter to the marital bed chamber. ® Related stories 419 shirt in ghostly 'Abacha white' 419ers morph into Murder Incorporated Anatomy of a 419 scam Nigeria failing to tackle 419ers 419ers score football lottery winner 419ers open Chinese takeaway 419ers crack cold fusion 419er Struck By American Headline Disorder Cosmic 419er lost in space
Lester Haines, 12 Aug 2004

Commerce One fights for survival

Commerce One still seems unable to get its costs under any semblance of control. It posted a Q2 net loss of $5.1m, only marginally better than its year-ago net loss of $6.1m. Things look gray, but with some new product launches, increased operating environment and platform choices, and new sales and marketing SVPs the company may yet stay afloat. Commerce One, the former e-marketplace software vendor turned Web services integration player, has posted yet another set of horrible figures, announcing Q2 sales of just under $2 million, down from $8.3m in the year-ago quarter and $2.7m in Q1. Chairman and CEO Mark Hoffman, who has presided over both the company's stellar rise to e-commerce stardom since its foundation in 1994, and its fall from grace since, claimed yesterday that, "We have made strides to get costs under control." But total costs and expenses of $8m must be hard to justify when total sales were just $2m. Drill deeper and there is even more to worry about: of the company's $2m total sales, $1.7m was from services. Yet according to the company's figures, the cost of services was $1.6m, so its services operation is not nearly profitable when sales and marketing and administrative and so on are included. There is also the fact that the company's software license fees only came to $309,000, down from $1.7m in the year-ago period. The company was able to raise $5m from investors in January this year, to add to the $10m it raised from BayStar Capital Management in July 2003. But its results show that as of June 30 it had just $4.2m of unencumbered cash and cash equivalents remaining. With the company posting a loss from operations in this latest quarter of $6m, the question of viability must still be asked. Commerce One has come a long way since its IPO in July 1999, which raised the company $69m and saw its shares triple on the first day of trading. Back then hopes were high that Commerce One, Ariba, i2 and others would be able to take a slice of the revenue from every deal signed on their e-marketplaces stretching out across cyberspace. But increased competition from enterprise software vendors like SAP, Oracle and PeopleSoft, and the general decline in popularity of such e-marketplaces stymied that idea by early 2000. Since then those companies - among the darlings of dotcom euphoria - have had to remodel themselves to stay competitive. Ariba has come back as a spend management player with some success, i2 went back to its knitting as a supply chain management software and services vendor, and then there is Commerce One. After a number of twists and turns Commerce One decided the company's future was in integration, specifically integrating web services for service oriented architectures. Its Conductor platform is said to do just that, as well as enable the development of new business processes, and management of those processes and the IT infrastructure at large. This is an area that currently belongs to Tibco, webMethods, SeeBeyond, IBM and others. The company still has its original supplier relationship management (SRM) products, too. But given the fact that Mr Hoffman announced he was selling the SRM products early this year, then subsequently said the company had found "promising synergies" between them and its Conductor platform, few serious enterprise customers are likely to feel confident in the product's future, and judging from the company's total license sales of $309,000 in its latest quarter, many do not. Nevertheless Mr Hoffman is unbowed, saying yesterday that, "We are pleased with the feedback we've been receiving from analysts, prospects, partners, and customers about the trends in the marketplace and the positioning of the Conductor and SRM products." Perhaps it's not all doom and gloom, however: the company announced it won two new Conductor customers in the quarter and a few new SRM customers. It even launched new versions of the SRM products - Procurement, Sourcing, Supplier Order Management, and Auctions. It also put out a new release of Conductor 6.8, including web services security for transactions across businesses, additional connectivity, and a wider choice of operating environments and platforms, including support for Linux, IBM's MQ Series, IBM's WebSphere, as well as the open source JBoss and Tomcat application servers. It's looking for systems integrators to work with too, and was able to add eForce to its SI roster in May. Perhaps the best hope though comes from news that there is a new SVP of sales and new SVP of marketing. It has apparently put together a senior sales team for Conductor and rebuilt the SRM sales team too. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related research: Datamonitor, "MarketWatch: Technology Annual Subscription" Related stories Fear of phishing hits e-commerce Online consumer confidence drops - analyst
Datamonitor, 12 Aug 2004

Leap leaps into fixed-line broadband

Leap Broadband has signed a deal with Eircom which will allow the firm to offer a fixed-line broadband service using Eircom's network. The deal is the first of 50 such agreements that Leap Broadband will sign with Eircom over the next few years. The agreements will provide Leap with access to Eircom's local loops and will enable it to offer Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL) - a next generation upgrade from Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) - to business broadband users. "Unlike ADSL resellers we will now be able to provide products outside of the existing limitations - we will determine the speed, contention rates and prices as the market requires," said Rory Ardagh, director of Leap Broadband in a statement. "Initially we will deploy technology called SDSL, it is the next generation of broadband after ADSL was launched two years ago," he continued. SDSL supports the same data rates for downloading and uploading data whereas ADSL downloading speeds are quicker than upload speeds. Exchanges in Dublin will be the first to be unbundled; the service will be live in around a month's time according to Charlie Ardagh, director of Leap Broadband. The company will then start to unbundle the various local loops around the country targeting areas with high density populations like Cork, Galway and Limerick first. Ardagh estimates that Leap fixed-line broadband will be available in the major cities within the next 18 to 24 months. Leap has its eyes on the high-end business broadband users who typically pay out €2,000 per month for dedicated bandwidth services. Leap aims to offer a similar service through SDSL at a much discounted price of under €1,000 per month, Ardagh told ElectricNews.Net. With this package Leap aims to target Eircom, Esat BT and other broadband providers' customers in addition to recruiting new customers. The company plans to invest €10m over the next three years in this fixed-line broadband service and hopes to achieve between 3 per cent and 4 per cent market penetration in its designated markets. "The market can expect several related important announcements regarding our partnerships, investors, suppliers and services over the summer and into September, said Ardagh in a statement, "right now we are happy to have signed the first of these milestone agreements that we truly believe will shake up the broadband market for the business community." © ENN Related stories NTL Ireland to splash 100m on network Esat BT to launch residential VoIP Ireland gov calls for cheaper broadband
ElectricNews.net, 12 Aug 2004

WinXP SP2: stop moaning and get downloading

OpinionOpinion At long last, Service Pack 2 for XP has arrived. Like many in the security community, I'm excited about this, as it represents real, true progress for Microsoft and their commitment to security. This is not just a Service Pack - it really includes functionality, usability, and core changes in the underlying code extensive enough to be called "XP2". In fact, I think I'll just call it that from here on out. In addition to code changes, XP2 also represents a tangible shift in the way Microsoft is embracing security: they are putting security concerns before functionality, and in some cases, this will actually break existing applications. Though it will make some developers out there continue to work overtime, this too is a very, very good thing. XP2's feature set is a veritable laundry-list of security enhancements, as well as new functionality: Windows Firewall, new IE security features, wireless provisioning, memory protection schemes, and even new peer-to-peer functionality... The list goes on and on. With that in mind, it is important for you to deploy XP2 with a plan. While no one should ever deploy a service pack without planning and testing, some IT folks do it all the time. In the case of XP2, that will probably cause some problems. For instance, in our shop we use Remote Desktop all the time as a secure means of remotely administering clients and troubleshooting issues. By default, Windows Firewall blocks remote desktop (TCP 3389) connections, even if the system was configured to allow remote desktop connections when SP2 was applied. While WF is very easily (and extensively) customizable both through Group Policy and via the Netfw.inf file during install, one should know this type of thing going in. Another example is the difference between the default WF settings on domain members versus workgroup systems: File and Printer Sharing is enabled by default on domain members (allowing TCP 139, TCP 445, UDP 137, and UDP 138 from other IP's in the same subnet), while it is not on non-domain systems belonging to a workgroup. While these options may be intuitive, they are far more intuitive when you know them up front. If you are part of the IT staff, it is highly recommended that you spend time at the XP2 site. If you manage the IT staff, then give your people the time and resources they need to deploy XP2 correctly. You'll be happy you did. More importantly, you'll be really put out if you don't. Everyone's a critic Now, even with these tremendous advancements in XP, some people are going out of there way to find fault with it, as they seem to do with all things Microsoft. In fact, some of this is just downright hypocritical. Security researchers and analysts continually blast Microsoft for security issues, and have done so forever (I've even done it.) But now that the company has responded in a significant way, it gets bad press for releasing a Service Pack that might break ISV applications. The truth here is that if an application breaks, it really did need fixing anyway. And it's not like XP2 snuck up on us, either: most development documentation has been around since last year. Its just that some are waiting until now to get on board. We as a security community have to embrace and support XP2 if we want to continue to make headway in this space. And for heaven's sake, stop with the "Microsoft should backport XP SP2 into SP's for earlier OSes". Even if you still consider Windows 2000 "current," the fact is that it began development over 9 years ago, and there is no way any backport of a Service Pack will ever bring Win2k to the level of XP/2003. People who think it can clearly don't understand the development model or the code base. Fortunately, there is a front-port for Win2k: it's called "XP." If you care about security, and want a powerful platform that is easily to manage while maintaining extremely granular controls from an administrative standpoint, then upgrade to XP. XP2 really makes this the way to go. In an earlier column I identified old software as a contributing factor to security issues, prompting a flood of "Who the hell do you think you are telling me I have to upgrade?" emails. Well, I'm someone who cares about computer security. I'm not telling anyone they "have" to upgrade, but I will say that if you make the choice (or your company does for you) to maintain older, less secure software when you know something far better is out there, then you must take responsibility for your security posture. Not withstanding that rant, XP2 is really worth the upgrade. The firestorm of debate among security professionals over whether Microsoft should withhold XP SP2 from users with pirated copies of XP demonstrates the importance of this upgrade. Regardless of your views of this from a policy standpoint, if we are to accept that the Internet as a whole will be in dire peril from worm and virus attacks launched by systems without SP2, then we must also accept that XP/SP2 is an absolute requirement for everyone else. It's somewhat ironic that the more outspoken against Microsoft on this issue actually ended up making a rather compelling argument for upgrading. But my point here is not to bust on other people. (Did I really say that? I must be getting old.) My point is to bring to your attention the vast improvements that XP2 offers, even in the face of some continued bad press. It really is "all that," and you should take a serious look at what benefits your company can gain from its deployment. Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus columnist Timothy M. Mullen is CIO and Chief Software Architect for AnchorIS.Com, a developer of secure, enterprise-based accounting software. AnchorIS.Com also provides security consulting services for a variety of companies, including Microsoft Corporation. Related stories Microsoft drops WinXP SP2 surprise onto Beta site How to order WinXP SP2 now WinXP Starter Edition - MS spins an ecosystem from crippleware
Tim Mullen, 12 Aug 2004

Blaster teen pleads guilty

A Minnesota teenager pleaded guilty yesterday to unleashing a variant of the Blaster worm last August. Jeffrey Lee Parson, 19, of Hopkins, Minnesota, admitted "intentionally causing damage to a protected computer" before a federal judge in Seattle yesterday as part of a plea bargaining arrangement. He faces between 18 to 37 months in prison for his crime instead of a maximum sentence of ten years in jail. Parson may also be ordered to pay a fine, which could run into millions of dollars, according to Assistant US Attorney Annette Hayes. Parson created the Blaster-B variant of the worm after modifying the original Blaster worm and launching it onto the Internet in early August 2003. Blaster-B launched a distributed denial-of-service attack against a Microsoft's Windows update website from infected computers. The original Blaster worm infected about one million computers last summer, the Seattle Times reports. Parson's variant hit far fewer computers. In his plea agreement, Parson admitted using his variant of Blaster worm to commandeer 50 computers which he then used to launch a broader attack on more than 48,000 computers, Reuters reports. Parson's defence team says the number of infected computers is lower than this. "We need to keep this case in perspective," said Carole Theriault, security consultant at AV firm Sophos. "The Blaster-B variant didn't spread with anything like as much ferocity as the original. Blaster-A's author has yet to be tracked down, despite the bounty on his or her head. It's important that Parson is punished for his wrongdoing, and not be made a scapegoat for the whole Blaster epidemic." Blaster and its variants are Internet worms which spread through exploiting a well-known vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. Blaster-B is functionally equivalent to its predecessor but creates a file called teekids.exe - rather than msblast.exe - in the Windows system folder. Parson's online handle is "teekid" or "t33kid". This and various other clues led the authorities to his door and he was arrested on 29 August 2003. Since his arrest, Parson has been out of jail on $25,000 bail and has been under electronic home monitoring. He initially denied the charges against him but changed his plea yesterday. Parson faces a sentencing hearing before US District Judge Marsha Pechman on 12 November. ® Related stories FBI arrests Blaster suspect Parson not dumbest virus writer ever, shock! Feds sexed up case Blaster suspect MS puts $250k bounty on virus authors' heads Blaster rewrites Windows worm rules Blaster worm variants make mischief Windows Update still standing despite Blaster
John Leyden, 12 Aug 2004

Is enhanced voice the new mobile data?

In all the rush from mobile operators and the rest of the telecoms industry to mobile data services and the mobile Internet, it's possible that a new revenue opportunity has been missed - voice. Ok, you may say it's not that new, but as all good marketing types know, line extension is typically more rewarding than leaping straight into brand new markets and looking for new customers. Sure there's a market at some point for compelling, well-delivered, fairly-priced mobile data services, but for an industry looking for something in the short term to reverse the trend of shrinking average revenue per user, extending the current voice services would seem like a logical step. This is especially true when you consider which customers the mobile industry has most neglected - businesses and enterprises. Whilst the industry has successfully line-extended into one-shot revenue from peripheral services such as ringtones and wallpapers, little has been done to grow the opportunities to gather increased revenue from basic business communication. Even in the highly successful market of text messages, most of the revenues are from consumers. Enterprise mobile communication is a neglected segment. The one exception being mobile email, but that too is still in its pre-chasm market. So what sort of enhancement to voice services? There are several opportunities, and a good place to start is with mobile voicemail. It's become a fundamental service for almost all mobile phone users. For some it might only be a good place to hide, but it also provides someplace to go when the recipient's phone is outside coverage. However, it's not necessarily the easiest of services to navigate. Being told you have ten messages isn't very helpful when it turns out the one you really need to listen and respond to first is number ten. Using some of the other functionality that comes free on today's mobile phones, such as the screenful of graphics, could so easily enhance this. Voicemail systems have been relatively expensive to deploy, partly because the solutions have been proprietary and partly because they are not often regarded as crucial services in their own right. They are more often perceived as a minor add on to the sale, especially when offered as part of the total package by a major infrastructure manufacturer. However, some things are changing, as the open systems approach of the Internet Protocol, IP, worms its way through the telecom infrastructure. Open standards and protocols help drive down prices and increase opportunities for more specialist companies to be involved, adding new value to the services. One company thriving here is Swedish-based, Mobeon. Its approach, from a background of unified messaging, has been to provide a rich voicemail experience and further products encompassing videomail, faxmail and mobile email. This multiple message medium focus is very promising, but a major challenge with any telecom system is scaling, and this is always tougher when IP is involved. Mobeon have worked closely with their channel partners, Fujitsu Siemens, and especially, Ericsson. The combination of a compact, focussed and sales aware company like Mobeon with a large, stable, carrier grade supplier provides a solution that scales to millions of users with the flexibility of open systems. Timing is everything, and the combination of IP, scale and focus is happening at the time when many current voicemail systems are depreciated and ripe for replacement. The impact of open systems has the potential to reduce costs almost by an order of magnitude, and this puts the replacement costs close to those for ongoing maintenance. So reduced voicemail costs is a good thing for enterprise customers as well as consumers, but if Mobeon can continue to drive a smart user experience and voicemail as network service, this could lead to strong growth in usage and increased revenues for operators. The smart user experience would be to make the service available from other mobile devices than mobile phones, such as laptops and even fixed devices like desktop PCs. Unifying the message system is significant part of the value of IP, user choice and flexibility is also key, and who knows, an easy to use unified media-mail service that's accessible from more than one class of device could be just what operators need for the enterprise. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories To talk or not to talk - that is the question Voice has peaked, the future is data Java and DRM key to mobile ambitions
Rob Bamforth, 12 Aug 2004
server room

UK scientists roll out Wi-Fi proof wallpaper

British boffins have developed wallpaper that blocks Wi-Fi traffic but still allows other wireless transmissions to pass through in a bid to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive data via the WLAN. Developed by UK defence company BAE Systems, the wallpaper uses Frequency Selective Surface (FSS) sheeting, a material more commonly found slapped on military aircraft, naval vessels and radar antennae, New Scientist reports. In this case, the FSS material is manufactured to absorb signals in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands used by 802.11a, b and g equipment. Other frequencies, such as the 1800MHz band used by GSM networks, are not blocked. FSS wallpaper isn't the only way of blocking electromagnetic transmissions, but it is the only solution that doesn't hinder every form of wireless communication. Firms employing the technology will still need to replace their windows with radio-absorbing glass. By blocking WLAN coverage outside the building, BAE believes the wallpaper will prevent tapping into the network, particularly if the WLAN is left unsecured in order to provide guest access to a company's network. ® Related stories Michigan wardrivers await sentencing Wi-Fi 'sniper rifle' debuts at DEFCON iPass touts network access policy devolution Wi-Fi Alliance acts on dodgy wireless kit Wi-Fi hopper guilty of cyber-extortion The Wi-Fi explosion: a virus writer's dream US wardriver pleads guilty to Wi-Fi hacks
Tony Smith, 12 Aug 2004

O2 seeks small biz with penchant for Abba

Mobile phone giant O2 is looking for a small business to go back in time to the 70s, while also experiencing the office technology of the future. O2 will build a dual office space in central London this Autumn, and is looking for a small firm to work in both the 70s workplace and the futuristic office. The project is intended to showcase the wireless technology the company is developing, and how these advancements can benefit small businesses. The mobile phone firm is looking for a small business with between five and 10 staff to take part in the project for two weeks in the Autumn. The chosen company will divide their time equally between the 70s office and the "office of tomorrow". All the office space, equipment and IT systems will be provided by O2. O2 hopes that the scheme will generate great publicity for the small business involved. This promises to be an excellent opportunity for a startup business to gain free PR and exposure, so if you're interested in taking part, contact Charlotte Greaves on 020 7331 5352 or email charlotte_greaves@uk.cohnwolfe.com. Copyright © 2004, Related stories Small.biz hub of village life IT company gives workers free beer - wins award Small.biz: hotbed of sexism?
Startups.co.uk, 12 Aug 2004

Broadband costs fall in UK

The cost of broadband in the UK is falling, especially with the surge in interest for entry-level products. However, the UK is still a tad more expensive for faster-speed broadband services, especially when compared with Korea or Japan. That's just one of the fascinating observations contained in a new report by regulator, Ofcom, which provides a snapshot of key trends in the UK's communications sector. For instance, did you know that the total number of broadband subscribers in the UK stood at 4.4m in June 2004 with the number of new punters signing up to ADSL and cable nearing 50,000 a week, up from 40,000 a week six months ago? At these rates, the UK will hit 5m broadband users in mid-Spetember as more than a third of Internet households now have a broadband connection. Elsewhere, Ofcom's Communications Market 2004 report found that people are spending loads more time online, oodles more time gassing on their mobile phones but only a smidgen more watching TV. What's more, the UK is increasingly turning "digital" with the greater adoption of digital services and formats (such as MP3s and DVDs) and increased digital network coverage. Said Ofcom bod, Ed Richards: "The report also reveals the extent to which the UK is becoming a digital nation, with widespread availability of digital networks of all kinds. This is to be welcomed; the advance of digital technology brings increased consumer choice and greater innovation, through broadband access, digital television, music downloads, digital radio and more." Related stories 70 UK ISPs in anti-BT uprising 1,000 exchanges get go-ahead for broadband BT's DSL market share carries on falling
Tim Richardson, 12 Aug 2004

Small.biz loses rag with late payers

Small businesses are losing patience with late payers, with most prepared to sever ties with tardy customers, new research has found. A survey carried out by the Better Payment Practice Group (BPPG) found that over two thirds of bosses said that they would not deal with a late paying customer in the future. This new research indicates that firms are starting to challenge the widely accepted fact that not settling debts on time is an everyday part of business life. Firms have to date been reluctant to use late payment legislation introduced last year, which allowed companies to take debtors to court to claim compensation. But late payment causes thousands of businesses to go bust every year, with most small firms unable to cope with the disruption to cash flow. Worrying research by BACS earlier this week found that a quarter of employers could not pay employee wages if debts were not settled within a month. The BPPG said that small firms should have a clear internal policy on late payment to improve communication and avoid lengthy delays, Rene de Sousa, of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) said that it’s important that small businesses themselves do not fall behind with payments to suppliers: "Businesses need to resist the temptation to lean on suppliers for credit, and recognise instead there are often real financial advantages to paying on time, such as preferential rates or service for prompt payment." Copyright © 2004, Related stories Late payments are putting your wages at risk Small.biz: hotbed of sexism? Brace your IT budget for green impact
Startups.co.uk, 12 Aug 2004

Apple's second Japan store to open 28 August

Apple will open its second Japanese store in Shinsaibashi, Osaka on 28 August, the company has announced, along with the offer of a free T-shirt for the first 1500 visitors. Apple's first Japanese store opened last December in Tokyo's Ginza district. Like the Ginza store, the Shinsaibashi outlet will provide a range of hardware and software-centric training events. The location will also play host to presentations from pro Mac users and getting-started advice sessions for beginners all of which cover a range of computing topics, from games to digital photography. Full details of the store's events schedule can be found here. The Ginza store's timetable is here. Apple's next major store opening is expected to its 20,000sq ft London venue, currently under development on Regent Street. Apple has been hiring staff through the summer in anticipation of an autumn opening. ® Related stories Kyocera offers iPod Mini-matching digicams Apple UK store to open 'Autumn 2004' Apple confirms UK AppleStore opening Apple to open flagship London store this Xmas Apple exporting retail stores
Tony Smith, 12 Aug 2004

Name that antipiracy weasel, BSA asks kids

US schoolchildren, already enrolled into classes on the evils of copyright violation next term, are to be invited to name the Business Software Alliance's new mascot. The BSA explains: "Elementary school students heading back to school in September will be invited to name the 'Play It Safe in Cyber Space' mascot, a 'copyright-crusading' ferret who teaches tech-savvy kids about cyber ethics." To limit the scope for mischief, pre-teens will be limited to voting for one of five ferret pre-approved names (doubtless Weasel, Judas or Piggy will not be on the approved list). The poll will last a month. The BSA's 'copyright-crusading' ferret will appear in a four-page comic book out in January with a storyline designed to "educate children about the importance of protecting and respecting copyrighted works such as software, music, games and movies". The comic book and companion teacher’s guide will be mailed across the US to fourth grade teachers who subscribe to Weekly Reader and will be available for free download at the Play It Cyber Safe website. The BSA wants teachers to incorporate this material in their lesson plans. According to the BSA, its cyber ethics curriculum has reached more than 13m kids, parents and teachers since its initial distribution in 2002. Like the Jesuits, the BSA believes in moulding new minds when they are young. Results of a Harris Interactive poll, commissioned by BSA, show that young people aged between eight and 18 "understand the meaning of copyright, yet still illegally download and copy software and other digital materials". Schoolchildren across the world have enjoyed the adventures of Ratty and Mole in The Wind in the Willows for decades. Perhaps the BSA's ferret is the beginning of a whole new literary eco-system. We look forward to meeting a bulldog that fights against consumer rip-offs in the music biz and an eagle that campaigns for a fair deal for artists, though we fear neither will appear in a comic book approved by the BSA. ® Related stories UK's youth boards pirate ship to bootleg island UK gov moves to bust bootleggers 'Stealing songs is wrong' lessons head for UK schools Software pirates cost $9.7bn in Europe - BSA
John Leyden, 12 Aug 2004

Blu-ray movie disc format unveiled

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) has approved the first full version of its read-only disc specification. The move paves the way for the format's adoption as a content distribution system to rival the next generation of the DVD format, HD-DVD. BD-ROM players are set to ship late next year, with content coming through around the same time, the BDA said. At this stage, Sony is the only major content provider to have publicly confirmed its willingness to offer BD-ROM discs: Sony Pictures Entertainment will offer BD-ROM high-definition movies in Japan. The company's disc manufacturing wing is, however, promoting BD-ROM to studios in the US. Sony Computer Entertainment recently revealed its plans to equip the PlayStation 3 with a BD drive, which is likely to strengthen Blu-ray as a consumer format. With the BD-ROM 1.0 specification now in place, media manufacturers can now licence the technology - for an undisclosed royalty fee - and begin to prepare Blu-ray production lines. The BDA says that Blu-ray disc production costs are no more expensive than that of DVDs. However, manufacturers will need new duplication equipment. By contrast, HD-DVD simply requires a re-tooling of existing production lines, the DVD Forum says. ® Related stories Sony selects Blu-ray for PlayStation 3 Microsoft supporting Blue Laser? What about Blu-Ray? Err, maybe Blu-ray founders rename, open group to new members Japanese boffins perfect paper Blu-ray disc Sony preps 50GB next-gen Blu-Ray video deck DVD Forum punts blue laser HD-DVD DVD Forum approves rewriteable HD-DVD spec Toshiba blue laser tech chosen for HD DVD spec. DVD Forum backs CD/DVD hybrid Forum approves Apple music format for DVD Audio
Tony Smith, 12 Aug 2004

Packard Bell preps iPod Mini clone

UK PC maker Packard Bell will next month extend its line of Flash-based MP3 players with its hard drive unit, a 5GB it hopes will be snapped up by all those folk who can't get hold of an iPod Mini. The Pocket M@estro will play MP3 and WMA files and incorporate an FM radio. Shows can be recorded as MP3 files, and the device can also record voice memos. Songs can be transferred to the player across a standard USB 2.0 link. The player sports an OLED screen. Its rechargeable Lithium Ion battery will run for up to seven hours between charges. So far Packard Bell hasn't disclosed the Pocket M@estro's specifications in detail, but it did say the player was "slightly larger than a credit card", which puts it round about the same size as the iPod Mini. The Pocket M@estro is expected to retail for around £200 in the UK. A 2.5GB model will go on sale at the same time for under £150. Nice price - it's just a shame that the player looks a bit like a Blake's 7 prop... ® Related stories Rio pitches Carbon player at iPod Mini Kyocera offers iPod Mini-matching digicams Consumers go crazy for MP3 players Toshiba takes micro HDDs to 60GB Apple creates separate iPod business unit
Tony Smith, 12 Aug 2004

Charity forces closure of 'bully' website

An Internet message board has been pulled amid allegations it was used by bullies to harass and victimise school children. The site - which claims to be the "largest online teen community" in North London and Hertfordshire - also contained death threats and racist comments, according to anti-bullying charity, Bullying Online. Anti-bullying campaigners were alerted to Mouth2Mouth.tk in May after receiving complaints from children and parents victimised by bullies. Last weekend, charity boss Liz Carnell spent most of the weekend in the chatrooms challenging the bullies in an attempt to end the cycle of abuse and intimidation. After standing firm, those behind the site pulled the forum on Sunday. Liz told us: "The forum was shut down after I sat in it for much of last weekend explaining that the abuse might tip someone over the edge into suicide and that the remarks were cowardly as none of the posters gave their names. Quite a number of those posting expressed the wish to have the forum closed and I'm pleased that Bullying Online was able to do that on their behalf." No one from Mouth2Mouth was available for comment at the time of writing. However, in a statement on the site it said: "I regret to inform you that the Mouth2Mouth message board is officially closed pending further notice. "Before rumours start, this is not due to any Police or Charity involvement but due to the excessive amount of 'bitchin' slander and abuse found on the message board. The M2M Team no longer wishes to be involved and moderate such a forum and us as the owners have decided to take immediate action before it gets out of hand." Details of the alleged abuse have been passed on to Hertfordshire Police. A police spokeswoman told The Register that the matter was under investigation. ® Related stories Email bullying on the rise Children hit by digital bullying Bullies taunt victims with SMS US cyberstalker pleads guilty Stalkers target victims with email
Tim Richardson, 12 Aug 2004

Munich OSS switch to go ahead, patents or no patents

Patent fears will not derail Munich's move to Linux, city mayor Christian Ude has told a press conference. Earlier this month the city put the brakes on its Windows to open source migration while the implications of pending EU patent legislation could be examined, but Ude has now said that the project will go ahead, and that the city administration is merely pausing to consider matters for a few days (Heise.de report, in German). He reiterated that the city of Munich had declared for open source, and although the city has delayed calling for tenders, the migration would commence over the next few months. The patent question in Munich was actually raised by Green Party Councillor and open source supporter Jens Muehlhaus, who drew attention to possible patent issues in a number of areas. This might seem slightly ironic, but Muehlhaus and the other city councillors are no doubt well aware that they risk exposing both the city and themselves to major costs and liabilities if they embark on a major project without due diligence. And comment given to IDG news service by city spokesman Bernd Plank is significant in this context. "Even if we can't say what the impact would be," he said, "that would still be sufficient answer to give the city council." The Register isn't entirely up to speed on duties, responsibilities and legislation covering German administrations, but in the UK what'd be happening here is that once the council was aware of potential liabilities it would then have a duty to consult council officers over their extent. Having consulted, it would then take a decision. And it could, as Plank appears to be saying, go ahead even if the officers' answer was 'don't know', although in that case it might be vulnerable later to queries about the rationality of its decision. Munich appears to be poised to go ahead despite feeling that the EU software patents directive, which was agreed earlier this year and is due to be ratified next month, could expose open source software to infringement lawsuits. The directive is currently being resisted in the European Parliament, but as EU ministers have a long and inglorious record of overruling the elected representatives, there is a very real likelihood that it will indeed go live. Would other administrations take a similar decision, or would they be more likely to take the line of least resistance? It seems rational that the less heroic administrations will be more inclined to hold off until they see how the Munich project goes, and whether anybody sues. ® Related stories: IBM promises no patent assault on Linux Patent fears halt Munich Linux migration MS offers 57% price cut as Paris tilts to open source
John Lettice, 12 Aug 2004

Aussie telco moots payphone Wi-Fi hotzones

Australian telco Telstra wants to offer blanket Wi-Fi coverage in the nation's business zones by installing WLAN kit in its 33,000 public payphones. This month, the company will test out the technology and the public's demand for wireless Internet access by adding Wi-Fi base-stations to 15 payphones, Tibor Schwartz, head of the telco's wireless and mobility division, revealed during an interview with The Australian newspaper. The trial will take place in Central Business Districts across Australia. While the payphones themselves are increasingly standing idle, thanks to growing mobile phone usage, they nevertheless allow Telstra to leverage its network for public high-speed data services. Essentially, Telstra wants to recoup the payphone revenue lost to mobile voice calls by selling wireless Internet access. If the trial goes well, it could result in a wider roll-out to turn CBDs into Wi-Fi zones. In the UK, The Cloud has been slowly rolling out payphone-based access points since September 2003 when it signed a deal with payphone company NWP Spectrum, which operates over 10,000 kiosks across the British Isles. Telstra currently operates some 116 hotspots, mostly in top-end hotels, Qantas airport lounges and McDonald's burger joints. But according Schwartz, it plans to take the total to up to 2000 by the end of 2005. "We are progressing that rollout during 2004 and 2005," he said. "We will be announcing more strategic location partners." ® Related stories Fine Telstra AUS$100m, rival ISP demands Telstra dials up Kaz for $250m Telstra services buy could harm Oz services scene Telstra backs down in BB pricing row Telstra faces court over broadband price cuts Telstra faces fines over broadband price cuts Payphone deal to take Cloud's hotspot tally to 10,000
Tony Smith, 12 Aug 2004

How to boost your Business IQ

Businesses are struggling to cope with growing volumes of data and increasingly stringent corporate legislation. The problem is particularly acute in small business. With volumes of corporate information rising at breakneck speed, market research firm MORI found that one in six of 1,000 workers surveyed currently experiences problems in finding the information they need to do their jobs. Microsoft warns that this “content chaos” impedes productivity and teamwork. And the situation is only getting worse with increased financial and regulatory pressures on businesses as government begins to regulate in real-time. According to Microsoft, businesses that fail to address this grassroots data management issue and opt for basic legal compliance will risk falling foul of government legislation. Businesses need to bolster their basic IT infrastructures to increase their ability to react to compliance issues and work smarter, the software giant advises. Microsoft has come up with a measure of business performance – dubbed Business IQ - determined by an organisation's “ability to store, manage and deliver access to information whenever, wherever and to whomever it is required”. Expect Microsoft consultants to be using this Business IQ concept to sell the company’s business intelligence software as a way of help businesses to improve regulatory reporting and become better organised. Microsoft plans to publish a white paper on Business IQ later this year. But we digress. "Businesses must realise that the right approach to compliance is about more than just dealing with each regulatory issues as it arises - it's about business competence," said Steve Harvey, director of people and culture at Microsoft UK. "Real-time regulation will place far greater pressure on businesses to meet standards. Their current lack of ability to make information available to staff shows that too many just aren't ready.” "They need to make sure that teams and individuals are aware of their responsibilities from a compliance perspective and have the tools to carry them out. This is the basis for Business IQ - a concept that can be used by business to understand how its IT structure is likely to impact its productivity and ability to be respond to regulatory demands," he added. Many companies lack the IT infrastructure to give staff access to information at their fingertips, with the problem particularly acute among smaller businesses. This is affecting the productivity of the UK’s small business sector, The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warns. "The UK has a well-documented and long-standing productivity deficit compared to our leading international competitors," said Matthew Fell, head of small business and enterprise at the CBI. "Overcoming this gap is vital to the UK's long-term global competitiveness. Effective deployment of technology, coupled with information management, is a key part of the package of measures that can help drive up the UK's productivity levels." ® Related stories IT voices drowned in corporate governance rush IT still matters - just not how it used to Shackling the email content beast UK firms must monitor staff IMs McNealy slams Sarbanes-Oxley
John Leyden, 12 Aug 2004

BT cuts cost of calling mobiles

BT is to cut the cost of calling mobiles from its landlines by up to 36 per cent from 1 September following an earlier ruling by regulator Ofcom. Residential punters could see the cost of calling mobiles from land lines fall by up to 36 per cent, while businesses could see some calls to mobiles capped at 30p per hour. Today's announcement follows an earlier ruling by Ofcom in which it ordered the UK's four major operators to cut termination charges. The ruling - which applies to mobile network operators' wholesale charges for connecting incoming calls to their networks - ends a regulatory saga that dragged on for six years. Following a series of investigations Ofcom concluded that direct controls should be imposed on the charges to operators for terminating calls on the 2G mobile networks of Vodafone, O2, Orange and T-Mobile. Now, BT has signalled its intention to pass on those savings to consumers. Said BT exec, Gavin Patterson: "This is great news for our customers. We said we would pass on all these savings to residential and business customers and we are doing so. Ofcom has decided that calling mobiles from landlines was too expensive because of the high charges imposed by mobile operators." ® Related stories Ofcom orders mobile phone charge cut UK.biz hit for £250m in phone bill blunders BT cleared for line rental hike
Tim Richardson, 12 Aug 2004

Nvidia revs GeForce 6600, 6600 GT

Nvidia today launched its much-anticipated mid-range graphics chips, the GeForce 6600 series, just in time to tempt punters whose existing graphics cards aren't up to snuff for Doom 3. The 6600 and 6600 GT are based on the GeForce 6800 but provide just eight pixel processing pipelines. Both support up to 128MB of memory across a 128-bit bus, but while the 6600 uses regular DDR SDRAM, the GT works with GDDR 3 clocked to 1GHz for a memory bandwidth of 16GBps. The GT also supports Nvidia's SLI technology, which allows two cards to co-operatively render a single 3D scene. Both chips provide fill DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 support and connect using PCI Express - there is no AGP 8x option. The 6600 series GPUs are fabbed at 110nm. Nvidia claims the GT offers a 4bn texels per second fill-rate and can process 375m vertices every second. That translates into real-world figures as Doom 3 frame-rate of 42fps at 1600 x 1200 and 32-bit colour. As expected, the 6600s won't ship until next month, appearing in stores in boards from the usual suspects in late September. Expect to pay €229/$199 for the GT, less for the vanilla 6600. ® Related stories Nvidia GeForce 6600GT pics pop up on Web Nvidia unveils Quadro FX 4400 Nvidia Q2 sales, income slide ATI unveils top-end AGP FireGL card ATI unveils top-end mobile Radeon OpenGL 2.0 launched with built-in shader language
Tony Smith, 12 Aug 2004
Broken CD with wrench

Firms tout 'universal' tech for 802.11n

Wi-Fi chip designers Texas Instruments, Broadcom, Conexant, STMicro, Airgo and Bermai have formally told the IEEE what technology they think it should include in the 802.11n standard. The group has come up with what it believes is a working technology foundation for the putative standard that also manages to fit within the world's numerous local spectrum regulations. They call the proposal 'WWiSE', for WorldWide Spectrum Efficiency. To that end, the proposal mandates the use of Wi-Fi's 20MHz channel width, which also ensures backwards compatibility with existing Wi-Fi equipment. WWiSE itself uses the Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) many-antennae technique and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) to boost data throughput rates to a maximum of 540Mbps. Such rates can be achieved with a 4 x 4 aerial array and a 40MHz channel width. In countries where spectrum regulations forbid such a channel width, kit based on WWiSE will fall back to a 2 x 2 array and the 20MHz channel width. The proposal also includes optional advanced forward error-correction coding techniques to boost coverage and range. The firms behind WWiSE to offer their intellectual property under "reasonable and non-discriminatory terms" - which they have to if the IEEE is to accept its incorporation into a standard - and to do so without charging a royalty fee. That may not be enough to placate Canadian technology licensing company Wi-LAN, which claims ownership of key OFDM patents and thus a central portion of the 802.11a, 802.11g and WiMAX standards. Wi-LAN's intellectual property has similar implications for WWiSE. Wi-LAN is aggressively pursuing wireless equipment makers for the royalty payments it believes it's owed. It's attempt to get Cisco to cough up came to nought, and the company has now initiated legal proceedings against the networking giant. Every other Wi-Fi player is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the case, which is likely to focus on the validity of Wi-LAN's patent claim. ® Related stories Airgo to double Wi-Fi bandwidth to 108Mbps Wi-Fi Alliance cracks down on 'standards-plus' kit IEEE groups fight for control of key standards Cisco sued in Wi-Fi patent clash
Tony Smith, 12 Aug 2004

Chinese sales staff sent to beg in streets

Staff at a Chinese Internet company are being sent out onto the streets of Changchun city to beg as part of their training, according to a report by the China News Service by way of Ananova. Although the "begging course" is not compulsory, bosses claim this hard-hearted training technique toughens up sales staff teaching them to be "thick-skinned and less self-conscious". Critics have called this approach "insulting", but the company boss insists it's just the job. "Making the staff kneel on the busiest street is meant to rid them of their shyness so that they can be brave enough to face clients," he said. One "Sales Supremo" at The Register, told us: "We tried it [begging] but found the sales team quickly disappearred from their posts, spent all the money gained on Special Brew and spent their afternoon on a park bench." A TUC spokesman told us: "Dehumanising your staff is hardly the best way to motivate them to perform - or even bother turning up for work the next day." ® Related stories IT company gives workers free beer - wins award IT workers' morale hits rock-bottom 'Frivolous' workers fritter away time online
Tim Richardson, 12 Aug 2004

HP shares tumble on weak Q3

Shares of HP took a nose dive this morning after the company reported disappointing third quarter results and announced it would shake up its server and storage management positions due to poor performance. HP reported a modest 9 percent revenue rise in the third quarter to $18.9bn with a profit of $657m. This overall gain, however, did little to assuage investors who zeroed in on a five per cent revenue decline in HP's server and storage division. Shares of HP were down more than 16 per cent, at the time of this report, to $16.28 - well below HP's 52-week low of $19.10. "Although we are satisfied with our performance in Personal Systems, Imaging and Printing, Software and Services, these solid results were overshadowed by unacceptable execution in Enterprise Servers and Storage," said HP's CEO, Carly Fiorina. "We therefore are making immediate management changes. We are also accelerating our margin improvement plans in this business. With these changes, we expect our server and storage business to return to profitability in the fourth quarter." HP's results came as a bit of surprise to investors who had not expected the Q3 figures to arrive for another week. HP pushed up the announcement to Thursday morning, as opposed to its traditional after-market release next week, as it needed to communicate "material changes" to shareholders. HP plans to announce its executive changes later today. The company said that poor execution by the enterprise group cost it $400m in revenue and $275m in operating profit. Tough pricing was blamed as one reason for these losses along with poor sales of storage systems. Overall, the server and storage group reported $3.4bn in revenue. HP appeared to be punished by old Compaq server customers. Sales of NonStop servers tumbled 25 percent and Alpha server revenue dropped 32 per cent. HP has been phasing out much of the old Compaq line and looking for customers to move onto its Itanium server systems. The Itanium server revenue, however, does not seem to be offsetting the Compaq losses. Word of HP's poor quarter comes just ahead of an earnings report from rival Dell, which rarely disappoints investors. HP's printing and imaging business brought in $5.6bn - an eight per cent year-on-year revenue increase. Services revenue grew 12 per cent to $3.5bn, and software revenue had an usually high jump of 17 per cent to $223m. But the software unit reported an overall loss of $45m due to the numerous acquisitions HP has made in the past year. HP's much maligned PC division reported a 19 per cent rise in revenue to $5.9bn. These gains, however, did little to boost the bottom line with the group reporting a profit of just $25m. Still, this is better than the loss of $56m reported in the same quarter a year ago. HP is looking for Q4 revenue to come in between $21.0bn and $21.5bn. ® Related stories HP's OpenView set for identity showdown Software maker runs screaming from Itanium HP's Fiorina not amused by lack of investor interest HP sets revenue record in Q2
Ashlee Vance, 12 Aug 2004

OECD unveils Spam Task Force

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has set up a task force to tackle spam. The group will look at a host of issues to tackle this global problem including co-ordinating international responses to fight spam and encourage "best practices" in industry and business. It will also promote technical measures to combat spam as well as work to educate users about the problems of spam. Oh, and it will also examine ways in which law enforcement authorities can crackdown on spammers. Although a number of countries have taken their own measures to combat spam, it's hoped a co-ordinated approach can do more to tackle the problem. OECD countries are to hold an international "Workshop on Spam" in Busan, Korea on 8-9 September. This follows an earlier event in Brussels in February this year. ® Related stories Good Spam: Bad Spam EC draws line in spam sand London schoolkids drown in spam tsunami Spamming for Dummies
Tim Richardson, 12 Aug 2004

Los Alamos and the missing discs that never were

The hunt for a missing pair of computer discs said to contain classified information at a key US nuclear weapons research lab has turned into a near farce this week after it emerged the discs may never have existed. The discs' supposed disappearance resulted in an unprecedented shut-down of classified work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico over the last four weeks. This shut down was supposed to facilitate an intensification of a search for what may turn out to be a mirage. After touring Los Alamos on Monday, Republican Senator Pete Domenici put out a statement saying the lab's inventory system was in such a mess it was impossible to say whether the discs were missing or not. Their 'disappearance' could easily be explained by a "false positive" in a failing inventory system. “I will tell you that whether or not the discs were missing, Los Alamos’ system of tracking its classified inventory is clearly a mess if we cannot tell if classified material is missing. The first thing an inventory system has to be able to do is tell what materials we have and what material is missing," said Senator Domenici, the chairman of Senate’s Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee. “It may be that what we have here is a false positive—the system says something is missing when it is not. And just as if it were a medical test, it is better to find out the inventory was wrong than that the discs were actually missing. But this entire situation only reinforces that we need to improve the inventory system." Two anonymous sources told AP that it was likely that the two discs never existed. Two spare labels on a sheet of 20 left over after labelling 18 discs could be responsible for the confusion, AP reports. Neither the Federal Bureau of Investigation nor the Department of Energy are commenting so it’s unclear if the search at Los Alamos, and the suspension of classified work that has accompanied it, will go on much longer. Meanwhile 19 workers in the Los Alamos' Weapons Physics Directorate lab remain under suspension. Pete Stockton, a senior investigator for the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group critical of the management of Los Alamos, questioned why it is taking so long to pin the problem down. "It makes no sense to me. This theory was floated about a week ago, and it didn't stick. It doesn't seem plausible," Stockton told AP. The incident is the latest in a series of security shortcomings at Los Alamos - birthplace of the world's first atomic bomb - that have raised questions about the competence of its management. Keys to a sensitive area went missing for most of a day in June. In May, classified material was reported missing but managers later concluded it was intentionally destroyed. The US government has opened up bids to manage Los Alamos after the University of California's contract expires next year. It's the first time in Los Alamos' 61-year history that this has happened and a sign of Federal discontent over how the facility is currently been run. ® Related stories US nuclear lab suspends secret work Nuke plant worker faces hacking charges Los Alamos lends open source hand to life sciences FBI loses hundreds of laptops and guns UK military bans iPods - some places Your data is at risk - from everything
John Leyden, 12 Aug 2004

AOL, Inc in cheap PC offer

America Online is to flog affordable PCs in the US in a bid to sign up new punters to its Internet service. The "AOL Optimized PC" will cost $299.99 (£165) with punters committed to spend a further $23.90 (£13) a month for 12 months for AOL's Net service. The package is to be made available shortly. With AOL losing punters, it's pinning its hopes on the fact that this package will prove tempting to the 27 per cent of US households that don't have a home computer. Said AOL exec, Kenn Turner: "We're addressing the needs of the millions of Internet intenders who are first-time PC buyers or novice computer users. "They've told us that affordability and an interest in making one simple buying decision for everything they need to use the computer and get online is important to them. We think the complete AOL Optimized PC solution delivers unprecedented value, while maintaining performance and quality." The AOL Optimized PC - which includes an Intel Celeron processor and Windows XP Home Edition - incudes a monitor, printer, speakers, mouse and keyboard. AOL UK has no plans to offer a similar deal, said a spokesman for the ISP. ® Related stories AOL AIMs to fix security flaw AOL: customers down, ad sales up AOL to target Hispanic Net users in ad campaign
Tim Richardson, 12 Aug 2004

Sharp's 3D LCD: how's that work, then?

Human beings, with few exceptions, view the world from two places at once: our eyes. Our eyes are separated by approximately 2.5 inches and each retina can only generate a two-dimensional image. But we live in a three-dimensional world so our brains have evolved to combine the two-dimensional images from each eye into a crisp three-dimensional model of the world around us. A key part of this process is binocular disparity. This refers to the fact that because each eye has a slightly different viewpoint, the two views are slightly displaced from each other. It is central to our ability to judge distances because the amount of displacement between the two images is, after all, a function of how far whatever we are observing is from our eyes. Since our brain is used to taking two 2D images and combining them to make a 3D model for us, it should be easy enough to persuade it to do so with any two images displaying the expected degree of binocular disparity. Mercifully for b-movie film producers and, more recently, LCD display manufacturers, it turns out that it is actually very easy to fool the brain like this. It's pretty simple to present the brain with two "stereoscopic" images, but making sure that each eye sees the relevant image has proved more taxing. The best cinema 3D (if "best" is an appropriate word) uses polarising glasses to filter the two images and create the 3D effect. Sadly, the punters never really took to the idea of wearing the glasses, polarised, green and red or otherwise, mainly because they look so incredibly naff. The problem for computer screen and TV manufacturers, then, was to create a plausible 3D image without using specs or - as with early attempts, two separate screens. Sharp, along with most other display companies, started looking into developing a 3D display some time ago: the company's European lab began its research back in 1992. Dimension Technologies Inc (DTI) meanwhile began its research in the mid 80s and now holds several patents covering technology for switchable 2D/3D screens. Early prototypes consisted of double screen systems but by 1994 Sharp's researchers managed to get it down to one panel. The next trick to crack was a screen that could display both 3D images and 2D images: all but the most frighteningly dedicated gamers would be reluctant to have a set up that meant changing monitors just to check email. So how does it work? Think about that 3D cinema experience: differently polarised images play on screen together. Viewers wear special glasses with lenses that allow opposite polarisations through. In a simple 3D screen, a very fine grating, called a "parallax barrier", is placed in front of the LCD screen. It does the job of the polarising glasses, directing light from each image slightly differently so that at a so-called "sweet spot" about 20 inches in front of the screen the two images are separated just enough that the brain will create a composite 3D image. The downside of this is that since the parallax barrier is a permanent feature of the monitor, then it's always in 3D mode - not much use for day-to-day use, as noted above. In Sharp's screen, the parallax barrier is created by a second LCD screen - known as the "switching" LCD - which is off in normal 2D mode. When this screen is activated, it polarises in stripes so that it is impenetrable to light from the first LCD screen, generating opaque grid lines in front of the normal screen. The following graphic is from Sharp's background to the process: The limiting factor on this method is that you have to have your head in exactly the right spot to see the 3D image, so no peering over shoulders allowed. Multiple viewer screens are not much more complicated to make: the parallax barrier is finer and cross hatched instead of striped. However, making the images for such a screen is much harder, since instead of two pictures, the 3D image is created by combining at least four viewpoints. For the time being, then, gamers will have to make so with single viewer screens, and will have to learn to play Quake without trying to peek round corners. ® Related stories Sharp launches '3D' LCD screen Sharp turns to Symbian Samsung preps 2.6in VGA LCD
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Aug 2004

DVD Jon cracks Airport music streaming

Norwegian programmer Jon Lech Johansen has decrypted and published the key that Apple's wireless hi-fi bridge, Airport Express, uses to protect music streams. He's also released the source code to a small Windows command-line tool he calls JustePort. In essence his crack opens the door for other applications to broadcast music to your hi-fi over a home WLAN network using Express, rather than just iTunes 4.6. For users on Linux machines, or with WMA or OGG format files, this could be a boon, as iTunes supports neither format out of the box. Apple is unlikely to look upon it so charitably. JusteForte is the third in a series of endeavors by the Mac-using Norwegian to enjoy Apple's services. Johansen has stressed that the tools simply restore rights that Apple and the recording industry giants removed when they devised iTunes Music Store. He has consistently warned citizens against accepting DRM music, as it obliges the user to enter into a contract in which the terms may change at any time. The first removed the 'Fairplay' DRM wrapper from locked-music purchased from Apple's iTunes' online music kiosk. The second, FairKeys, allowed users to retrieve their Fairplay keys from Apple's servers, saving people the hassle of authorizing and deauthorizing particular machines. The cumbersome process is required by copyright holders. More derivative software based on JustePort code is likely soon. Johansen's own cross platform command line tool runs on any computer that runs on the Mono framework. Johansen co-authored the DeCSS program which circumvented the DVD encryption scheme. He was acquitted after two trials in Norway earlier this year. ® Related stories Apple DMCA sends iTunes DRM decryptor offshore New workaround for Apple DRM DVD Jon to sue prosecuter iTunes DRM cracked wide open for GNU/Linux. Seriously Norway throws in the towel in DVD Jon case There's a noose in the hoose - iTunes shoppers discover DRM DVD Jon unlocks iTunes' locked music Lock Up DVD Jon - or we all lose our jobs Lock up the copyright cartel - not Johansen
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Aug 2004

IBM shows HP how it's done with hiring binge

Just as HP was alarming investors with a poor third quarter, IBM announced that it has bright prospects for the rest of 2004 and plans to hire 19,000 workers by year end. Earlier in the year, IBM said it looked to add 15,000 staffers but has now upped that total to 18,800. It cited growth in consulting, grid computing and Linux-related businesses as reasons for the move, although a general improvement in IT spending would seem to be the main factor. IBM's optimistic outlook appears in stark contrast to that of HP, which earlier in the day shocked Wall Street with a sub par Q3, a management shakeup and word that its fourth quarter would come in at the low end of expectations. It's safe to assume that IBM timed the hiring announcement to rub a bit of acid in HP's wounds. "We do see growth, unlike some of our competition," IBM spokesman John Bukovinsky told Reuters. Close to one-third of IBM's hirings will take place in North America. The company did not say what other regions would benefit. IBM has been one of the main targets for anti-offshoring campaigners. Workers protested outside of an IBM shareholder meeting in April, complaining about the number of workers IBM has hired outside of the US. IBM has said as many as 2,000 US jobs will be sent overseas this year, although that is down from earlier projections. IBM now expects to exit 2004 with 330,000 workers - its highest total since it employed 344,000 staffers in 1991. Elsewhere in the Big Blue kingdom, IBM agreed to clean up industrial waste in New York. IBM will install a transport system that sends water from wells in Endicott, New York to a treatment facility, according to the New York Times. IBM has admitted no wrongdoing in the matter and is the only business, out of several suspected of polluting, that is helping with the cleanup. ® Related stories Silicon Valley staff 'gloomiest' in US Swansea IT staff to strike over outsourcing deal IBM wins Bradford IT gig IBM denies spiking fab cancer study IBM settles 'poisoned' workers' cancer claims IBM workers call for shareholders to 'Offshore the CEO' Tech worker body count reaches 160,785 Foreign workers dominate Dell IBM to aid American ethos with human capital fund
Ashlee Vance, 12 Aug 2004

HP cans Blackmore in hardware biz shakeup

HP's smooth-talking hardware chief Peter Blackmore has been axed along with two other senior staffers, as the company tries to deal with a poor third quarter. Blackmore had served as HP's EVP in charge of the Customer Solutions Group - a unit meant to manage direct sales to enterprise customers. The executive came to HP in the Compaq acquisition. He worked in a number of high-profile roles for both companies, overseeing their services and hardware businesses. Mike Winkler, another ex-Compaq worker, will replace Blackmore and keep his current role as chief marketing officer. Jim Milton, an SVP in the Customer Solutions Group and managing director of the Americas region, has also been sent packing. He's been replaced by Jack Novia, SVP and GM of HP's Technology Solutions Group. Kasper Rorsted, another SVP and managing director of the EMEA region, will depart and be replaced by Bernard Meric, a SVP in HP's EMEA Imaging and Printing group. "We thank Peter, Jim, and Kasper for their years of service and dedication," CEO Carly Fiorina said in a memo leaked to the press. These moves come after HP missed analysts' third quarter estimates by a long shot and announced that failings in its server and storage businesses had cost the company millions. HP rushed the Q3 earnings announcement out a week ahead of time, as it felt a need to give investors the bad news. Blackmore is by far the biggest head to roll in these layoffs. He stood by Fiorina time and again defending the Compaq acquisition. He also had to endure months of bad press as HP's hardware business struggled to return to profitability. But no matter how bad HP's server business looked at the time, Blackmore always had a comforting phrase for analysts and the press. While charming to some degree, Blackmore's soothing words often failed to address the serious concerns facing HP such as its difficult transition to Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor and struggles competing against IBM and EMC in storage. But, we're sure an industry veteran of his stature will end up somewhere cushy and nice. ® Related stories HP maps growth path HP pulls together Windows, Linux, Unix and a lot more HP shuffles hardware execs HP pulls plug on enterprise software lines HP raps exec for premature middleware death sentence
Ashlee Vance, 12 Aug 2004

Dell dances past the IT sector with strong Q2

While numerous rivals flounder around it, Dell continues to produce solid results with its most recent success coming in the second quarter. Dell today reported $11.7bn in revenue - a company record for the second quarter and a total 20 percent higher than that posted in the same quarter last year. Dell's net income came in at $799m in the period compared to $621m last year. While competitors Cisco and HP also reported recent rises in revenue, both vendors spooked the market with warnings about potential slowdowns in spending. Dell, by contrast, said all is well. "We saw very good corporate (spending)," said Dell's CEO Kevin Rollins. "And it continued pretty steadily throughout the entire quarter . . . We are not seeing some of the same things that others are." Overall, Dell reported that product shipments rose 19 percent in the second quarter. A 44 percent rise in server shipments and 60 percent increase in storage revenue drove this growth. A strong performance in the EMEA and Asia/Pacific regions across most product categories also boosted the bottom line. In the third quarter, Dell is looking for total revenue to come in at $12.5bn, which would be an 18 percent year-over-year increase. It also expects unit shipments to rise 21 percent. Dell expects component costs such as memory to fall in the coming months and plans to pass these reductions on to consumers in the form of cheaper computers. A number of analysts have been concerned about the IT sector after a flood of mediocre earnings reports appeared from large software makers and after rivals such as Cisco and HP frightened the market. Dell, however, insisted that both corporate and government demand for its products remains solid. Dell is often chided for being a banal entity when compared to the likes of HP, Sun Microsystems and IBM. It should, however, receive credit for spectacular consistency. Even during the technology downturn, Dell managed to produce well above average results and now that things have picked up a bit, it is separating itself from competitors. Dell's product are about as sexy as the Wal-Mart clothing line, but it gets the job done for investors. Along that line, Dell repurchased another $900m shares during the second quarter bringing its share repurchase total for the year up to $2bn. This is a major boost for shareholders who suffered as Dell granted a flood of options to employees during the boom. ® Related stories HP shares tumble on weak Q3 Cisco turns revenue switch higher in Q4 Tough times for BEA Intel gets quiet about the competition Cray pours Red Drizzle over anxious investors
Ashlee Vance, 12 Aug 2004