23rd > August > 2004 Archive

Tapwave Zodiac console to launch in UK next month

Tapwave will begin selling its Zodiac Palm OS-based handheld games console in the UK "in a few months" sources close to the company told The Register late last week. The move was confirmed by David Wenning, Tapwave's VP of global sales, when he told a New England Palm User Group meeting that the console would ship in Europe this Autumn. At the meeting, reported by Tapland, also revealed the imminent arrival of a number of new accessories for the handheld, including a GPS navigation system and a Wi-Fi add-in card. Tapwave representatives will be in the UK next week, appearing at the industry-oriented European Computer Trade Show (ECTS) and the more consumer friendly European Game Network (EGN) event, both being held in London on 1-3 September. The company launched Zodiac just over a year ago, and began shipping the device in the US in November 2003. In May 2004, it began offering the handheld through retail channels, signing CompUSA in June. The European expansion will initially target English-speaking nations, Wenning said, suggesting the company is not yet ready to offer localised product. Unlike the US, Tapwave is taking Zodiac straight to retail when then device launches over here. It's not yet clear what titles will available at launch. At the NEPUG meeting, Wenning revealed that Far Eastern manufacturer C-Guys is preparing a Wi-Fi SD IO card for Zodiac. The product is due to ship in a month's time. He also suggested that Sandisk may also have such a unit in the works. Less tangible is a TomTom GPS receiver and sat nav package, which connects to the Zodiac via a Bluetooth link. Wenning was quick to claim that he was not making a product announcement, but the flier shown on his presentation slides came complete with the text: "Product available in September 2004", suggesting that the product is going to happen and providing further confirmation and a timeframe for Zodiac's European launch. Wenning also revealed PowerPlay, a PlayStation 2-style controller into which the Zodiac is connected and operated. It's due to ship later in the Autumn. ® Related stories Tapwave charts Zodiac handheld release Zodiac Game Boy Advance emulator released Nintendo patents handheld emulation software Tapwave opts for ATI Imageon Palm licenses RIM, spawns games console
Tony Smith, 23 Aug 2004

Rambus stock falls 13% on appeal failure

Rambus must provide Infineon with certain documents it had held close to its corporate chest, the US Court of Appeals ruled last week. The ruling confirms an earlier US District Court of Virginia judgement made in Infineon's favour. Rambus appealed against the initial ruling on the grounds that it believes the documents in question were protected by lawyer-client privilege. Rambus' stock fell $1.87 to $13.32 during Thursday's trading and then down to $13.20 on Friday - $2 below its Wednesday close of $15.20. Trading volumes sky-rocketed on the news of the appeal ruling. Rambus is said to be considering its next move. The case has been rolling on since 2001, when the two companies came to blows over SDRAM royalty payments. Infineon maintains that Rambus committed fraud by hiding intellectual property from Jedec, the standards body that defined SDRAM, and for the use of which Rambus continues to demand royalties. In January 2003, the appeal court overturned a lower court verdict that went Infineon's way. The current action is essentially the latest stage of the retrial. Earlier this year, Rambus won an appeal against a Federal Trade Commission ruling that the memory designer had committed fraud and engaged in anti-trust activity, as Infineon, Micron and others had alleged. The FTC originally sued Rambus in June 2002. Separately, Rambus is suing Infineon, Hynix, Micron and Siemens (as Infineon's former owner) for allegedly colluding to deprive "our RDRAM products of the opportunity to compete fairly in the marketplace". ® Related stories Rambus sues for $1bn FTC outlines appeal against Rambus ruling FTC appeals against Rambus ruling Judge throws out FTC case against Rambus Rambus stuns world+dog with Infineon court victory Rambus offers DDR controller cores Rambus renames Yellowstone as XDR DRAM Samsung licenses Rambus Yellowstone Elpida licenses Rambus Yellowstone Infineon hires CEO from tyre maker
Tony Smith, 23 Aug 2004

TSMC asks US to ban SMIC chip imports

TSMC has accused rival chip foundry SMIC of infringing even more of its patents and has asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban the importation of SMIC product into the States. TSMC's moves were revealed this week in a Taiwan Stock Exchange filing. TSMC first sued SMIC in December 2003. The lawsuit, filed in the US District of Northern California, alleged SMIC had not only infringed TSMC-held patents but had engaged in a programme of industrial espionage, primarily by enticing existing and former TSMC employees - some of them now SMIC workers - to spill the beans on its processes. In March this year, TSMC expanded its action with further claims of trade secret misappropriation, and has now beefed up the patent infringement side of the story with a further three instances of alleged violation. For its part, SMIC denies its rival's claims and instead argues that the world's biggest chip foundry is trying to muscle it out of the market. Calling in the ITC has become a common tactic in patent infringement cases of late, as plaintiffs seek a second line of enquiry into their allegations. Recently, HP has asked the ITC to probe the patent infringment claims it has made against Gateway (and vice versa), and Seagate has asked the organisation to look into similar allegations made against rival hard drive maker Cornice. Ampex has used the same technique in its digicam patent clash with Sony. ® Related stories SMIC accuses TSMC of bullying tactics TSMC files verification of SMIC spy claim TSMC sues rival, alleging industrial espionage Chip foundries post positive Q2 gains TSMC foundry market share dips
Tony Smith, 23 Aug 2004

US punters warned of 'pump and dump' phone scam

Punters in the US are being warned not to be hoodwinked by a dodgy answerphone message that's sweeping the nation. The "breezy, intimate messages" sound as if a woman caller believes she has mistakenly dialled a girlfriend and is confiding inside information she has learned from "that hot stock exchange guy I'm dating". The scam message goes on to say that the stock price of certain small, thinly traded companies will soon shoot up. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has received hundreds of complaints from investors who've been conned by the voicemails. Regulators believe these messages are part of a "pump and dump" stock manipulation scheme, with those behind them chahsing in by driving up the price of their targeted stocks, then selling, and leaving victims with losses. Says the message: "Hey Tracy, it's Debbie. I couldn't find your old number and Tammy says this is the new one. I hope it's the right one. Anyway, remember that hot stock exchange guy that I'm dating? He gave my father that stock tip on the company that went from under a buck to like three bucks in two weeks and you were mad I didn't call you? Well I'm calling you now! This new company is supposed to be like the next really hot clothing thing. And they're making some big news announcement this week. The stock symbol is ... He says buy now. It's at like 50 cents and it's going up to like 5 or 6 bucks this week so get as much as you can. Call me on my cell, I'm still in Orlando. My Dad and I are buying a bunch tomorrow and I already called Kelly and Ron too. Anyway I miss you, give me a call. Bye." If enough gullible investors fall for this scam the price of the stock rises ("pump"). And once the fraudsters sell their shares ("dump") and stop hyping the stock, the price invariably falls and investors lose their money. "Investors should never buy stocks on the basis of 'hot' tips from strangers," said SEC official Susan Wyderko. "We are concerned because the stock prices of companies mentioned in these calls have gone up, presumably as people listen to the messages and buy. But in all 'pump and dump' schemes, as soon as the promoter stops touting a stock, the price plummets and other investors lose their money." ® Related stories DIY phishing kits hit the Net British Gas warns punters about rogue diallers Summer spammers get raunchy Pump and dumper done over down under World's youngest pump and dumper did nothing wrong
Tim Richardson, 23 Aug 2004

Intel takes axe to Pentium 4 prices

Intel yesterday knocked up to 35 per cent of the prices of its Pentium 4 processors, in both their mobile and desktop forms - not to mention the 64-bit versions aimed at workstations and servers - as anticipated. The chip giant also reduced the pricing of some Socket 478 Celeron chips ahead of the anticipated roll-out of 775-pin Socket T versions.   Intel 22 August 2004 Pentium 4 Price Cuts Processor Prev. Price New Price Change Pentium 4 560 - 3.6GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm $637 $417 -34.5% Pentium 4 550 - 3.4GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm $417 $278 -33.3% Pentium 4 540 - 3.2GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm $278 $218 -21.6% Pentium 4 530 - 3GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm $218 $178 -18.4% Pentium 4 520 - 2.8GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm $163 $163   Pentium 4, 3.4GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm, Socket 478 $417 $278 -33.3% Pentium 4, 3.4GHz, 512KB L2, 800MHz FSB, 130nm, Socket 478 $417 $278 -33.3% Pentium 4, 3.2GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm, Socket 478 $278 $218 -21.3% Pentium 4, 3.2GHz, 512KB L2, 800MHz FSB, 130nm, Socket 478 $278 $218 -21.3% Pentium 4, 3GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm, Socket 478 $218 $178 -18.4% Pentium 4, 3GHz, 512KB L2, 800MHz FSB, 130nm, Socket 478 $218 $178 -18.4% Pentium 4, 3.06GHz, 512KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 130nm, Socket 478 $218 $178 -18.4% Pentium 4, 2.8GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm, Socket 478 $178 $178   Pentium 4, 2.8GHz, 512KB L2, 800MHz FSB, 130nm, Socket 478 $178 $178     Pentium 4 3.6F GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm, EM64T $637 $417 -34.5% Pentium 4 3.4F GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm, EM64T $417 $278 -33.3% Pentium 4 3.2F GHz, 1MB L2, 800MHz FSB, 90nm, EM64T $278 $278     Mobile Pentium 4 538 - 3.2GHz, 1MB L2, 533MHz FSB, 90nm $294 $234 -20.4% Mobile Pentium 4 3.2GHz, 512KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 130nm $294 $234 -20.4% Mobile Pentium 4 532 - 3.06GHz, 1MB L2, 533MHz FSB, 90nm $234 $202 -13.7% Mobile Pentium 4 3.06GHz, 512KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 130nm $234 $202 -13.7% Mobile Pentium 4 3.06GHz, 512KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 130nm, no HT $218 $186 -14.7% Mobile Pentium 4 518 - 2.8GHz, 1MB L2, 533MHz FSB, 90nm $186 $186   Mobile Pentium 4 2.8GHz, 512KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 130nm $186 $186   Mobile Pentium 4 2.8GHz, 512KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 130nm, no HT $186 $186     Intel 22 August 2004 Celeron Price Cuts Processor Prev. Price New Price Change Celeron D 335 - 2.8GHz, 256KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 90nm $117 $103 -12% Celeron D 330 - 2.66GHz, 256KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 90nm $89 $83 -6.7% Celeron D 325 - 2.53GHz, 256KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 90nm $79 $79   Celeron D 320 - 2.4GHz, 256KB L2, 533MHz FSB, 90nm $69 $69     Celeron 2.8GHz, 128KB L2, 400MHz FSB, 130nm $117 $103 -12% Celeron 2.7GHz, 128KB L2, 400MHz FSB, 130nm $103 $93 -9.7% Celeron 2.6GHz, 128KB L2, 400MHz FSB, 130nm $89 $83 -6.7% Celeron 2.5GHz, 128KB L2, 400MHz FSB, 130nm $79 $79   Celeron 2.4GHz, 128KB L2, 400MHz FSB, 130nm $69 $69   Celeron 2.3GHz, 128KB L2, 400MHz FSB, 130nm $69 $69   Celeron 2.2GHz, 128KB L2, 400MHz FSB, 130nm $69 $69   Celeron 2.1GHz, 128KB L2, 400MHz FSB, 130nm $69 $69   Related stories Price cuts to boost 'lukewarm' Grantsdale demand - report Intel mobile, desktop chips for the chop Intel debuts speedier low-voltage Centrinos Intel preps autumn Pentium M price cuts Intel forecast to cut P4 price by up to 34% AMD Athlon 64 sales forecast to rise 50% in H2
Tony Smith, 23 Aug 2004
Broken CD with wrench

Intel Itanic prices chopped

Intel's Pentium 4 price cuts, applied yesterday, will probably garner the most headlines, but the chip giant also reduced what it charges for selected Itanium 2 processors. Itantic 2 prices fell by up to 32 per cent. However, the two fastest chips in terms of clock frequency, saw their price-tags remain unchanged.   Intel Itanium 2 22 August Price Cuts Processor Prev. Price New Price Change 1.6GHz, 3MB L3 cache 400MHz FSB, 130nm $2408 $2408   1.4GHz, 6MB L3 cache 400MHz FSB, 130nm $4227 $4227   1.4GHz, 4MB L3 cache 400MHz FSB, 130nm $2247 $1980 -11.9% 1.4GHz, 3MB L3 cache 400MHz FSB, 130nm $1172 $851 -27.4% 1.4GHz, 1.5MB L3 cache 400MHz FSB, 130nm $1172 $851 -27.4% 1.3GHz, 3MB L3 cache 400MHz FSB, 130nm $1338 $910 -32% 1GHz, 1.5MB L3 cache 400MHz FSB, 130nm $744 $530 -28.9% Related stories Motorola plumps for HP Linux-on-Itanium bozes Intel gets quiet about the competition Intel's CEO gets blunt about poor execution Intel: common Xeon, Itanic chipset by 2007 Sun's Solaris shines on Itanium Intel flashes investors with Q2 revenue jump
Tony Smith, 23 Aug 2004

IBM dissects the DNA of spam

IBM is applying ideas developed in sequencing DNA molecules to the detection of spam. Spammers have taken to inserting streams of gobbledegook or deliberately misspelling words in their spam messages in order the throw off anti-spam filters that rely on Bayesian statistical analysis alone. In response, IBM is developing more sophisticated anti-spam filters. Boffins at Big Blue hit on the idea that programs used for looking for recurring patterns in DNA sequences could be applied to look for recurring phrases that often feature in junk mail missives. It developed a program called Chung-Kwei (named after a feng-shui talisman that protects homeowners against evil spirits) and trained it to spot repeated patterns in spam messages. IBM then fed a series of legitimate messages through the program in order to eliminate repeated patterns of messages that were common between both spam and 'ham' (legitimate) messages. New Scientist reports the approach detects nearly 97 per cent of spam messages and has a far lower rate of false positives than conventional techniques (less than one in 1,000). IBM is using the filtering techniques, alongside a variety of other approaches, in developing an anti-spam product called SpamGuru . SpamGuru is shipping as a technology preview in Lotus Workplace 2.0, the next version of IBM's messaging and collaboration application. ® Related stories ISPs gang up on spammer-run websites Spamming for Dummies Spam poetry: transcending the junk mail paradigm IBM brings Instant Messaging to Lotus Notes Lotus Domino goes spam busting
John Leyden, 23 Aug 2004

Global particle accelerator gets the big chill

Scientists at an international symposium in Beijing have recommended that a new global particle accelerator should be based on "cold" or superconducting technology, bringing the construction of the multi-billion dollar facility one step closer to reality. A team of 12 scientists from institutions across the world made the recommendation after nearly a year of investigation and deliberation. The superconducting technology was chosen above x-band technology in part because the component parts are more readily available. Research and development of two separate technologies would have proved prohibitively expensive, the panel concluded. Scientists expect that the new electron-positron collider will take particle physics into new areas, and will provide insights into the weird world of the fundamental particles. The proposed 40km accelerator will be used to investigate questions about dark matter and dark energy, the existence of extra dimensions and the fundamental nature of matter, energy, space and time, the panel said. The International Linear Collider (ILC) is the second such project to get underway in recent years: European scientists are building a Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, scheduled for completion in 2007. Early results from the LHC will inform the construction of the ILC, and the two facilities will share research goals and results. "High energy physics has a long history of using proton and electron machines in a complementary way," said Hirotaka Sugawara, one of the deciding panelists and former director of Japan’s KEK laboratory. He said that concurrent operation presented a "remarkable opportunity" to get the most out of the science. He suggested that the priority for scientists using the ILC would be to better understand the Higgs particle, a theoretical particle which, if it exists, would explain why matter has mass. The ILC will use L-Band radio frequency power (1.3GHz) to accelerate the electron and positron beams. The experimental area will be at the mid point, where the two beams collide. UK scientists are involved in developing the technologies that will focus the beams down to the nanoscale precision required. Professor Ian Halliday, CEO of the UK's Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) said that the decision was an extremely significant milestone. He explained that £21m of PPARC's research budget had been allocated to investigations of both technologies. The recommendation in Beijing means that there is now " a clear and defined route for the future which will enable the world's particle physics community to concentrate resources and unite efforts behind the design of a superconducting technology linear collider," he said. A construction site has not been selected yet, but work is expected to begin in 2010. ® Related stories Scientists explain why stuff is matter US boffins charged with parity violations CERN celebrates 50th birthday
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Aug 2004

Tiscali flogs South African ISP

Tiscali has agreed to flog its South African ISP as part of its strategic plan to downsize its overal operation and focus on its core European businesses. South African ISP, MWEB, has agreed to buy Tiscali's ISP for €40m (£27m) although the all-cash deal still needs the thumbs-up from the South African competition authority. The deal - announced on Friday - does not include the sale of Tiscali's South African cellular business, which is to be sold off seperately before the end of the year for around €5m (£3.4m). Last week, Tiscali flogged its Austrian ISP business for €12m (£8m)in cash to Nextra Telecom GmbH. In May, the ISP confirmed plans to sell off four of its country operations - Switzerland, South Africa, Norway and Sweden - in a bid to concentrate on its core businesses. Two weeks ago, Tiscali's board of directors gave the green light for the disposal of these "non-core assets" for a total value of around €250m (£169m). The ISP reckons this will help reduce operating costs by 15 per cent over the next year. ® Related stories Tiscali to flog four country ops Tiscali is UK's 'fastest-growing' broadband ISP Tiscali mulls sale of some country ops
Tim Richardson, 23 Aug 2004

iPass extends Wi-Fi coverage to stratosphere

Remote access provider iPass is to add Boeing's Connexion in-flight Wi-Fi service to its list of aggregated hotspots, the company said today. Of course, the various airborne hotspots maintained by Connexion will not be added to iPass' network immediately. They will first have to undergo the provider's certification process, which ensures they're equipped with the software compatibility and functionality iPass requires to do its authentication, billing and finally make a connection through to the user's enterprise LAN. Connexion is currently available on Lufthansa flights between Munich and Los Angeles, and the airline's Munich-Tokyo-Munich route. Nippon Airways, China Airlines, Japan Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines and Singapore Airlines have all agreed to implement Connexion on "selected" routes. iPass already has access points in some 121 airports in 21 countries as a result of tie-ins with both wireless and wired network operators. ® Related stories Intel backs in-flight Wi-Fi initiative Korean Air gives nod to Boeing's in-flight broadband Wi-Fi biz gears up for roaming offensive Boeing prices up in-flight Wi-Fi Boeing to offer roaming via in-flight WLANs Wi-Fi takes to the skies British Airways flies high with broadband iPass touts network access policy devolution Report raps Wi-Fi providers for 'location inflation' Wi-Fi biz gears up for roaming offensive iPass aggregates T-Mobile US hotspots
Tony Smith, 23 Aug 2004

Florida researchers promise plastic circuits

Research into how charge is stored in polymer molecule chains could pave the way for "molecular wires" that would replace silicon circuitry. Scientists at the US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and the University of Florida say the results could have particular application in the solar energy industry. Unlike their silicon counterparts, the molecules need a helping hand to move electrons around, so the team used the Brookhaven's Laser-Electron Accelerator Facility (LEAF), to generate high-energy electrons for their experiment. The researchers, led by chemist John Miller, first immersed their molecular wire in an organic fluid and then fired the high-energy electrons through the fluid. The electrons cause the wires to take on an extra positive or negative charge. The scientists can track how the charge diffuses across the wire, helping them to identify good conductors. In conventional solar panels the energy from the sun is excites electrons in a semiconducting material such as silicon, creating the current flow. Replacing the silicon with polymer nanowires would make the solar cell much lighter, and eventually cheaper. The so-called plastic solar cells can be made much bigger and are also more flexible, making them more versatile. Normal solar panels are rigid, expensive and their size is constrained by manufacturing techniques. However, there is still work to do. At the moment it takes a lot of energy for an electron to move from one molecular wire to another. Miller says that the next step is to find a way to eliminate this barrier. But first they need a better understanding of which polymer materials make the best conductors. ® Related stories Nanotech aids green hydrogen production UK gov backs solar power projects Clouds cloud climate modelling
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Aug 2004

Next EC antitrust czar was Bill Gates fan

The successor to Mario Monti as the European Commission's competition commissioner once gave an honorary degree to Bill Gates. As president of of Nijenrode University, Neelie Kroes gave Gates the award in 1996. Once she takes up the post in November, she'll be responsible for enforcing the controversial settlement. On Friday Kroes admitted she wouldn't have given the honorary degree if she hadn't thought Gates was "doing a good job". When the degree was awarded, Microsoft had settled an earlier antitrust investigation with the Federal Trade Commission which alleged that Microsoft had "unlawfully maintained its monopoly of personal computer operating systems and has unreasonably restrained trade". Although Kroes' accession to the post is regarded as a formality, the EC is making a token gesture of accountability by holding hearings vetting her appointment in September. These could be far more interesting than previously expected. The former Dutch transport minister has previously served on the boards of Volvo and Lucent, and has vowed to bring the EC's approach to antitrust issues closer to the United States'. Which, since 2001, has yet to meet a monopoly it didn't like. In June, the DoJ's lead antitrust attorney Hew Pate criticized the EC's decision. "There is a greater emphasis [in the United States] on requiring that dominant firms limit themselves to "gentlemanly" competition," said Pate. In March, the EC ordered Microsoft to pay a fine, and make some bundling and disclosure promises. But the move was criticized by open source advocates who objected to Microsoft being allowed to charge "reasonable remuneration" for access to its protocols. But for now, it's business as usual: the sanctions have been suspended pending an appeal by the software giant. ® Related stories EC mulls MS DRM monopoly trawl EC suspends Microsoft sanctions Microsoft confirms EC appeal US gov questions EC MS ruling Microsoft hopes Sun deal will dazzle EC EC MS ruling: simply the end of the beginning Windows ruling is biggest IP heist in EU history, claims MS MS gets EU fine, orders for server info and WMP-free Windows
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Aug 2004

Macrovision: iPod support for lock-in CDs in Q4

Copy protection provider Macrovision is sufficiently confident that it will be able to incorporate FairPlay support into its CDS-300 copy control that is has begun telling customers that it will add iTunes and iPod support to its software in Q4. According to mailings sent out with the company's CDS-300 version 7 beta release, "support for iPod and iTunes... will be made available in a Q4 update". The blurb claims that support will be enabled "via Apple FairPlay". That suggests that Macrovision has indeed managed to license Apple's DRM technology - or is sufficiently confident of doing so that it can provide a timeframe for the code's adoption. Macrovision called on Apple to license FairPlay earlier this year. Unlike Real Networks, however, it wants the technology to allow it to provide iTunes-ready compressed audio tracks alongside the Windows Media Audio files its CDS-300 copy protection mechanism already offers. Real wanted FairPlay simply so it could open its own online music store to iPod users. The company's Q4 update is also expected to include its RealTime DRM Encoding system, which converts on the fly a disc's Red Book audio source into FairPlay-protected AAC files, ATRAC 3 tracks for Sony portable music players or WMAs, according to a given user's personal preference. Reaching an agreement with Macrovision makes sense for Apple, since it will ensure that copy protected CDs no longer leave iTunes users out in the cold, but encompasses Mac buffs too. If we are going to have to face the mass release of protected discs, then we at least want them to support alternatives to Microsoft's software. It also is another nod toward Apple's importance in the fledgling digital music market, that companies like Macrovision no longer feel all they need do is follow Microsoft. ® Related stories Macrovision preps '99% effective' CD lock-in tech Macrovision and SunnComm court Apple for a seachange in CDs Copy protection to extend to multiple but limited burns Virgin demands Apple license iTunes DRM Real anti-Apple poll swamped by pro-Apple posters Real fires back at Apple in DRM dogfight Apple blasts Real DRM translator Apple licenses iTunes to Motorola Feds OK DVD+R/RW DRM tech Intel, MS and co. to tout copy-friendly DRM tech On the Beastie Boys 'virus' CD Beastie Boys claim no virus on crippled CD Consumers go crazy for MP3 players Lock-down CD scores No.1 hit
Tony Smith, 23 Aug 2004

Swansea IT strikers reject 'sabotage' claim

IT workers striking in Swansea have reacted angrily to a newspaper report that the council's IT systems were "sabotaged" before they walked out last Monday. Claims that some parts of the council's IT department were tampered with follows a statement by the authority which confirmed it had asked external auditors "to investigate the extent of problems that have been uncovered in the council's IT section, as a result of the current strike action". "The Council, on [last] Monday morning, found some cables had been detached from computers and other equipment and cupboards containing important equipment were found locked with keys missing. It also appears that access to critical systems had been blocked and important documentation removed. This meant that the council's ability to support the delivery of IT services was severely jeopardised," it said in a statement. But the 100 IT workers striking "indefinitely" over plans to privatise their jobs as part of a new egovernment scheme reject the allegations and insist that all systems were "left in a secure, operational and running state" when industrial action began last week. They deny that keys were missing and maintain that all systems were left connected. "The council wishes to blacken the character of its ICT staff by these unsubstantiated claims," said Unison, the union backing the IT workers, in a statement. "With regard to the level of security all server equipment was secured at the level recommend by the Governments system security advice notes." And in a new twist that shows just how far relations between the two sides has deteriorated, union officials claim they have evidence that someone using a council PC has tried to hack into the strikers' website. "This is being reported to the appropriate authorities both in the UK and USA as the site is hosted in the US," said workers in a statement. A spokesman for the council said that the hacking allegation was "absolutely not true". Union officials and representatives from Swansea council met this morning in a bid to resolve the dispute. ® Related stories Bin men walk out in support of Swansea IT strike Swansea IT striker speaks out IT staff strike 'indefinitely' in Swansea Swansea IT staff to strike over outsourcing deal Swansea IT jobs are 'safe', says council Swansea Council IT staff threaten strike over outsourcing Union moots strike over Swansea e-gov plan
Tim Richardson, 23 Aug 2004

Meet the Peeping Tom worm

A worm capable of using webcams to spy on users is circulating across the Net. Rbot-GR, the latest variant in the prolific worm series, spreads via network shares, exploiting a number of Microsoft security vulnerabilities to drop a backdoor Trojan horse program on vulnerable machines as it spreads. Once a backdoor program is installed on a victim's PC it's always game over - an attacker can do whatever takes their fancy. But Rbot-GR comes pre-loaded with functionality specifically designed to control webcam and microphones. Other variants of the worm do not come with this "Peeping Tom" routine, according to AV firm Sophos. "If your computer is infected and you have a webcam plugged in, then everything you do in front of the computer can be seen, and everything you say can be recorded," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It would be like having a regular Web cam conversation except you wouldn't know you're taking part in it." Aside from its voyeuristic behaviour, the Trojan component of the worm attempts to steal registration information for games and PayPal passwords from infected machines. It's a thoroughly nasty piece of code; so it comes as some relief that Rbot-GR isn't particularly widespread. Sophos has received only a handful of reports about the worm. Most vendors rate it as a medium-risk threat. As usual, Rbot-GR is a Windows-only menace. ® Related stories Webcam snares toff 'tea leaf' Backdoor program gets backdoored Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs Rise of the Spam Zombies
John Leyden, 23 Aug 2004

Google slammed for corporate sleaze

Google's eleventh hour price adjustment might have saved it some red-faces when it finally floated last week, but it's back to earth with a bump this week. The Securities and Exchange commission has confirmed that it will investigate Google's chaotic allocation of buddy shares in the year preceding the flotation. Google had issued 23.2 million shares and options without declaring them. It had announced its intention to buy them back, but in some cases was offering only cents for stock now worth $108 a piece. More worryingly for the famously secretive company is the fresh glare of public scrutiny. An independent shareholder advisor, ISS, has ranked the newly-public Google Inc in last place for corporate governance out of 500 companies on the Standard and Poors Index. The Corporate Governance Quotient lists factors such as accountability and executive compensation levels. ISS found 21 bad practices at Google, earning it a CGQ of only 0.2, and so placing it last in the S&P 500. The watchdog criticized the two-tier share structure, not enough external directors, insider loans, and stock repricing options. "I'd say those numbers sound pretty darn evil," ISS senior veep Patrick McGurn told the FT. All a little unfair, we think, as it places too little emphasis on what shareholders really want, which is apparently an abundance of pictures of pretty colored balls on the corporate web site, and a rating that evaluates the general cuteness of the founders. We will be writing to the ISS researchers demanding why these important criteria have been excluded. ® Related stories Should Google blame Foot in Mouth disease, or Evil Bankers? Google goes GOOG at $85 a share Google slashes IPO value SEC to examine Playboy for boobs Google! Licenses! Yahoo's! Secret! Sauce! Google IPO 'hangs in the balance' Google must buy back buddy stock Google goes gimpy from MyDoom infection Google sued by Planet Goo Google demotes Coca Cola jingle Google's Ethics Committee revealed Google decides banner ads, skyscrapers are not evil Google files Coca Cola jingle with SEC
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Aug 2004

Tesco Mobile cuts tariffs

Tesco Mobile is cutting the price of cross network calls from tomorrow and is more than doubling the number of handsets it sells as the giant supermrket chain readies itself for the busy Christmas period. From tomorrow, Tesco Mobile punters who nominate three numbers can get those calls and texts at half price. Said Andy Dewhurst, chief exec of Tesco Mobile: "As a new mobile operator we know many of our customers will have friends on other networks, so our new tariff will mean they will benefit whoever they call. "We're determined to keep our tariff simple as customers have told us they love the fact that with Tesco Mobile you know what you are being charged. Offering 5p a text to anyone on any network is great value and we know many people make most of their calls to the same people each day." Tesco Mobile was launched in September 2003 and is a 50:50 joint venture between Tesco and mobile operator O2. By the end of the year it could be facing stiff competotion from new-kid-on-the-block mobile outfit, easyMobile. Two weeks ago entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the boss of the easy group of companies including easyJet, confirmed that he was teaming up with Danish telecoms outfit - TDC - to launch a low-price mobile phone outfit in the UK with the option to roll-out the service in a further 12 European countries. TDC will launch a discount mobile company in the British market using the easy brand later this year. However, confirmation of Stelios' latest venture was overshadowed after Orange warned that any move by easyMobile to use orange - the easy group's corporate colour - could "confuse" punters. However, the threat of damaging legal action appears to have been averted after Stelios met with Orange last Thursday. A spokeswoman for Orange said that meeting had been "constructive" and that both sides were "working to find an amicable solution to the branding issue". ® Related stories Stelios confirms no-frills mobile outfit Stelios preps launch of easyMobile Ryanair, Stelios in telecoms departure Tesco Mobile hits the streets
Tim Richardson, 23 Aug 2004

Record biz hammers 'ostrich' downloaders

The music industry in the US is making great strides in its campaign against people it says have illegally downloaded music, with courts awarding huge settlements in many cases. A man in California was hit with an $11,000 fine, and has had to re-mortgage his house in order to pay it. He explained that the record companies would have been able to garnishee [seize against the settlement sum] his earnings for the rest of his life, had he not done so. Ross Plank, 36, told the Associated Press that he was giving up. "I can't fight this," he said. "They've got all the power in the world". The news comes just days after a landmark ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco that the makers of P2P networks should not be held accountable for their users' actions. The users, however, are fair game. In another case, in Milwaukee, the courts awarded a default judgment against a woman and her ex-boyfriend, ordering each to pay over $4,500. She denies illegally downloading music, but says she couldn't afford a lawyer to fight the case and so ignored legal documents sent to her house. The ostrich approach, illustrated here, clearly has little to recommend it: over 60 such judgements have been issued. There are a few cases where the record companies are having to fight a little harder. In Boston, District Court Judge Gertner has blocked movement on all Massachusetts cases for months. She told AP that this was a totally new situation: "I've never had a situation... where there are powerful plaintiffs and powerful lawyers on one side and then a whole slew of ordinary folks on the other side," she said. In another instance, on the west coast this time, a judge rejected a request from the record company to ban a woman from distributing music illegally in the future. The judge, who had already imposed a $6,200 fine, said that there was no evidence that the woman was still breaking the law, and that putting limits on her future actions could violate her rights. ® Related stories Name that antipiracy weasel, BSA asks kids UK's youth boards pirate ship to bootleg island UK gov moves to bust bootleggers
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Aug 2004

UK music downloads up 200% since 1 June

UK music fans have purchased and downloaded over 2m songs since 1 January, according to the latest figures from the UK's answer to the Recording Industry Ass. of America, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). But contrary to past dire warnings of a P2P-driven market collapse, physical singles and album sales grew in value between Q2 2003 and Q2 2004, the organisations numbers show. During the first five months of 2004, just 0.5m tracks were downloaded from legal digital music services. In less than three months, that figure has risen to 2m, the BPI said today. It's not hard to see why: Napster's UK launch on 20 May followed by ITMS UK's 15 June debut. While around 200 single titles are on sale and being purchased in shops at any given time, according to the BPI, the figure for the online world is 40,000 titles. That's probably more a sign of a shift toward purchasing more individual tracks and fewer complete albums than downloaders seeking out a broader range of singles. Not that such behaviour is hindering the traditional album market. Quite the reverse. Second-quarter vinyl and cassette revenues were significantly down year on year - no great surprise there - but sales of these formats there still were, and CD sales were up. Overall the UK album market grew 3.7 per cent year on year between Q2 2003 and Q2 2004. Single sales were up 6.4 per cent over the same period. Comparing the 12 months to June 2003 with the year to June 2004, album sales were up 3.3 per cent to more than £1.11bn while the music market as a whole was up three per cent to a little over £1.22bn. However, single sales were down 19.4 per cent to £60.5m, but it's worth remembering that major UK High Street retailer WH Smith stopped selling CD singles in February 2004, so availability has fallen. During Q2 2004, £231.94m of recorded music was sold, up 4.1 per cent on Q2 2003's £221.88m. Since album unit prices were lower in Q2 2004 than Q2 2003 - at least according to such barometers as Amazon.co.uk's pricing - all the indications point to the fact that British music fans are actually buying more albums now than they were a year ago. The BPI's Q2 figures do not include the contribution made by downloads, but they should make a healthy contribution to Q3's numbers given the big increase in legal download activity since 1 June. ® Related stories Pixies top UK download chart UK legal downloads hit half a million Legal Net music romps ahead of DVD, vinyl, tape Kazaa and co 'not cause of music biz woes', say Profs 57 cuffed in UK anti-piracy crackdown UK, Oz album sales rise despite Kazaa crisis German fined 8000 for Kazaa uploads BPI threatens uploaders with big stick
Tony Smith, 23 Aug 2004

Hangovers give UK biz a headache

Hangovers cost British businesses an estimated £2.8bn as companies lose out on an estimated 29m days from workers throwing sickies - and throwing up. The research from employment outfit Reed found that ten million working days are lost each year as workers fail to turn up to work because of a hangover. An extra 19m days a year are wiped out in lost productivity by staff pitching up for work worse for wear and not firing on all cylinders. These numbers - which are enough to give anyone a headache - come as half of workers reckon that the introduction of 24-hour pub openings next year could lead to even more people suffering the effects of too much booze. Elsewhere, it seems UK bosses are a miserable bunch with half of them never making a cup of coffee for their staff. According to Macmillan Cancer Relief, which is plugging its annual "World's Biggest Coffee Morning for Macmillan" fundraiser, bosses need to learn to stick the kettle on every now and again. Said Peter Cardy, chief executive of Macmillan: "We want bosses across the UK to find the way to their staff kitchen by 24 September, so they can take part in the World's Biggest Coffee Morning for Macmillan." Macmillan aso found that UK workers are obsessive about their coffee mugs at work, with four in ten refusing to use one belonging to anyone else, while one in ten will email their colleagues if their favourite mug goes missing. ® Related stories PCs throw nine sickies a year Small.biz: hotbed of sexism? Bosses finger workers for virus attacks Chinese sales staff sent to beg in streets IT company gives workers free beer - wins award
Tim Richardson, 23 Aug 2004

BBC Weather goes 3D

The BBC is set to use gaming technology to spice up its weather bulletins. Just in case we poor Brits forget what rain looks like, Auntie Beeb is going to generate rain drops in three dimensions to better illustrate precipitation in its forecasts. The news organisation said it would use a version of 3D software Weatherscape XT to produce the graphics, which we'll be able to enjoy from our armchairs early next year. Colin Tregear, project director at the BBC's Weather Centre explained that the idea is to generate weather graphics that actually look like the weather. It's not just the rain though, delightful as it will be to see it falling as realistically on screen as out the window. The topography of the ground will be more accurate, presenters will have control of the 'camera angle' and clouds will cast shadows on the ground. The BBC says the system will feel "like a 3D flying game". The system will generate its images from information from the Met Office and will generate the images in real time. The current system takes between three and four hours to generate the graphics for a one minute, thirty-second broadcast. And so to the kit list (take a deep breath): Each forecaster will have a graphics PC based on a 2.6GHz P4 and NVidia's FX6800 Ultra 256MB graphics card and 1GB of 333Mhz DDR SDRAM. The weather data will sit on two database servers, which will constantly update the weather graphics servers based in each studio. These are basically (extremely) high end gaming machines, the BBC says. It has them specked up with Dual 3.06GHz Xeon Processors (533MHz FSB / 1MB cache), 2GB of dual channel DDR, 266Mhz ECC SDRAM, the NVidia FX6800 Ultra 256MB graphics card, two 73GB 15,000rpm SCSI hard drives and an Ultra 320/M SCSI controller card. According to the BBC, much of its computer equipment was rather aging, and due for replacement anyway. It likened its current graphics to SuperNintendo gaming: "When Super Nintendo gaming came out, people thought it was really clever," Tregear said. "If you were to make a game like that now, people would ask why when we have the technology of Xboxes and PlayStations." ® Related stories Satellites get smart Met Office bags shiny new supercomputer Tropical storm delays Mercury mission
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Aug 2004

After blog experiment, Illinois village 'vanishes'

Concerns are rising over the fate of a peaceful Mid-West town. Skokie, Illinois numbers around 60,000 residents, but has disappeared from the Internet after an intervention by techno-utopian webloggers. Our thanks go out to old Reg friend Dan Gillmor for alerting us to this. In a posting on his own weblog yesterday, Dan, the author of book about weblogging called "We The Media" described the goskokie community site as "Hyperlocal Media That Works" and a "terrific experiment". The site was set up by six media students at the Medill School of Journalism, and features in the book. The students were proud of their findings, and wrote up the experiment in a 1.6MB PDF file. Alas, when we checked into the virtual village, all we could find was some virtual tumbleweed blowing across the square. The last posting at goskokie dot.com had been made on July 31, when 'Sara' had written "So this morning I succeeded in spending an hour and a half at a Dunkies without ingesting a single donut." (The journalism students had warned us, in their PDF file, that "a lot of what appears on the site and interests people is not considered news by traditional media standards.") But activity hadn't exactly been heavy before that, with barely a hundred postings in all. Alarmed and concerned, we called the Mayor's office in Skokie, Ill. to find out what was going on. Was this just a seasonal thing? Was there anyone still alive in Skokie? "Yes, absolutely. The population is reaching 63,000," a village spokesperson told us. There was no seasonal migration out of the town. Were there any strange happenings, we wondered. Had any UFOs been sighted? "No, no. Absolutely no alien abductions," the Mayor's office told us. The official line - if you can believe it - is rather more prosaic. The goskokie dot.com 'hyperlocal media' site had been "created by some students who left after a couple of weeks," we were told. So the villagers weren't running away from the students, as we first thought: the students were running away from the village. Then the villagers got on with their normal lives. Skokie's very fine official website, we learned, skokie.org, carries most of the hopes poured onto the blogging experiment. "It works like the goskokie site should," a spokesman told us. Once again librarians save the day: skokie.org had been created by Skokie librarians. But can we believe this apparently rational explanation? It could be possible that social relations in Skokie, Ill. are already very healthy, and the citizens aren't interested in becoming guinea pigs in a blogging project. But it's in a book, so this can't be true. And mindful that we can't rule anything out at this stage, we plan to send in our Chicago correspondent for independent corroboration. Meanwhile, if you're a resident of Skokie, and have escaped either abduction by aliens, or a close encounter with a weblogging student, just let us know that you're safe and well. ® Related stories Boffins isolate 'blogging gene' Blogging 'cruelty' allegations rock post-DNC calm Booze blamed for MS staff's 'foggy' blogging hoax Howard Dean's Net architect blasts 'emergent' punditocracy The Merry Bloggers set out on 'Segway across America' trek
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Aug 2004

Interex cowers behind HP omerta

HP's largest user group has decided to withhold key information from reporters and analysts in an effort not to upset the company with the damaging data, The Register has learned. At the HP World conference last week, Interex allowed a small portion of its 7,000 HP customer-strong survey to sneak out during an event session. Luckily, The Register was there to capture bits of the data, which included painful Itanium server migration figures among other things. Since our story first appeared, reporters and analysts have turned to Interex to reveal more information from its study and to back up the figures cited by El Reg. These efforts, however, have failed. "We do not release the data publicly," wrote Debbie Lawson-Kirkwood, Interex's studies chief in an e-mail. Sadly, this claim seems rather inaccurate given that close to 200 people at HP World saw parts of Interex's study during a customer roundtable session. So, we pressed on for a clarification and found out that Interex doesn't release its data when such a release might harm HP. "Our members are heavily invested in HP gear and we help them out by working constructively with HP," Lawson-Kirkwood wrote later. "I saw your article and this does not help us to work constructively with HP." In an effort to be more constructive, it now seems appropriate to present all the Interex data we were able to obtain. This information covers a wide range of topics, including HP users' satisfaction with the company's hardware, software and support plans. First up, there is the Itanium server information discussed last week. It turns out that 50 percent of the HP-UX customers out there have no plans to migrate their software over to Intel's 64-bit processor at all. This could be a huge problem for a company that has bet its high-end server aspirations on making a successful shift from the PA-RISC and Alpha processors. HP-UX customers are not alone in their worries over Itanium with the OpenVMS customers expressing similar fears. Only 9 percent of OpenVMS customers plan to move onto Itanium this year, with 24 percent making the move in the next two years and 15 percent moving in the next five years. Again, 52 percent of the OpenVMS crowd has no intention of moving onto Itanium, according to Interex. Things don't improve much for Tru64 operating system customers either. Only 47 percent of Tru64 users are satisfied with HP's roadmap for the OS. This shouldn't surprise anyone, as HP has decided to kill off Tru64 and move some of its tools into HP-UX at a very slow pace. Overall, however, most customers appear pleased with where HP is heading on other operating systems. The rest of the numbers break out with 68 percent of users approving the Windows roadmap, 65 percent approving Linux plans, 65 percent approving OpenVMS plans, 59 percent approving HP-UX plans and 58 percent approving NonStop plans. HP, however, falters badly on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) front, according to Interex. The old line MPE, OpenVMS and NonStop systems enjoy 70 percent, 65 percent and 63 percent favorable ratings from HP's users. But nearly half of HP's other customers are not pleased with its software TCO. Only 49 percent of OpenView customers, 53 percent of HP-UX customers and 56 percent of Tru64 customers are satisfied. Both Linux and Windows satisfaction hovers right around 60 percent. Last but certainly not least, HP's customers are not pleased with support contracts. "Support contracts is one of the big issue areas," said Diana Bell, HP's VP in charge of Total Customer Experience. "Some companies are ahead of us, and some are behind us, and obviously that is not where we need to be." "A lot of you are very unhappy with our support contract administration," added Bob Floyd, HP's VP in charge of customer services. Only 57 percent of HP's customers said its support contracts are "understandable." Several HP customers backed up this sentiment during the HP World session, as they noted a large drop off in the overall quality of support. HP's Floyd attributed some of the support failings to a steady string of retirements at HP. "Some of our engineers have taken advantage of retirement programs," he said. Most HP watchers realize this is a pleasant way of saying the oldies were gently guided out the door after the Compaq acquisition. HP must now work to bring its desktop support staff "up the value chain" to handle server queries, Floyd said. One HP customer said such a change could not happen soon enough, as HP support staffers are better at making their "self-evaluations come in right" than at taking the "backplane off a server." Why Interex would want to keep this information secret remains a mystery. Its job, of course, is to serve the HP customer base - not to do corporate HP any favors. Funny enough, HP has decided to hold its own "technical conference" within weeks of next year's Interex run HP World. Interex officials have said they plan to boycott the HP led event. "We're disappointed that they felt it necessary to combine some of their events into an event driven by HP, no question about it," Ron Evans, executive director of Interex told InformationWeek. HP has revived its own show in an apparent attempt to massage its message to the user base. One might think Interex would do its best to reach out to the media, analysts and users given this turn of events that will likely see HP World attendance drop. This, however, does not appear to be the case. ® Related stories HP users decry Itanium, SAP issues and bad English HP's Fiorina stood up by Argentina's President HP, Compaq user groups merge
Ashlee Vance, 23 Aug 2004