5th > October > 2004 Archive

Feds hold E-Rate funds hostage

The Feds have clamped down on distributing funds intended to equip schools and libraries with Internet connections, as they scramble to correct a long corrupt program. Word dropped this week that the US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has applied tighter accounting policies to the E-Rate program. More than $1bn in funds have been held hostage as a result of this move. This means that schools and libraries already suffering from a series of government and private industry cock-ups will have to wait on Internet and telecommunications technology needed to bring them into the 21st century. The E-Rate program started in the mid-1990s under the Clinton administration. It takes money raised from taxing consumer phone lines and puts it toward public communications upgrades. Cities apply for E-Rate grants and then have a specific window of time in which to spend the money. The FCC is now asking Universal Service Administrative Co. - the nonprofit that oversees E-Rate - not to make any additional grants until it has free cash. This will require the firm to wait for monthly fees from telcos to roll in before new projects can be launched. Universal's cash pile of $3bn is already assigned to current projects. Waiting on the monthly fees could seriously slow how cities plan for different technology rollouts. The accounting changes come as the Feds try to pause the distribution of funds for what has been a grossly mismanaged fund. A string of no-bid contracts were discovered here in Chicago, along with failures in using E-Rate funds that could see the city forfeit $50m. In addition, IBM and other firms have been blamed for offering kickbacks to schools in exchange for E-Rate contracts. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will be looking into E-Rate tomorrow during a hearing. ® Related stories IBM and others blamed in E-rate scandal hearing Chicago schools hurt by web project gone wrong US boffins charged with parity violations
Ashlee Vance, 05 Oct 2004

Yahoo! can! get! stuffed!

OpinionOpinion I now have a Danger Hiptop, or Sidekick II, which does Yahoo! instant messaging. I also have a Palm Treo 600, which has Verichat - which does Yahoo! instant messaging. I think the time has come to kick Yahoo! messenger into the bin. The last straw, for me, is not the insistence on launching a browser every time I start the PC, so as to inform me of the latest banalities of "Yahoo! Insider" and which rock star has fondled whose big tits in public, and what she was wearing beforehand. Nor is it the absurd arrogance of Yahoo!, or any other of these instant messaging systems which all think they are big enough to rule the world. No, the final enraging trigger is Yahoo!'s discovery that I'm using an American version of the Messenger. They want me to download a UK version, so they can sell phone services jointly with BT. And so, every time I start Yahoo! Messenger, they tell me I have to upgrade. There is no way of saying: "Don't show me this message again." They don't give me the option of saying: "I like my old version, and I have reasons for using it." Just this wretched, repetitive, nagging, badgering nuisance, trying to bludgeon me into submission. I get the same absurd time-wasting internet browser window from AIM, of course. And, as with Yahoo, I can see all my AIM contacts quite happily from my Sidekick II or my Treo. And if I must have MSN messages, I can pull my Orange SPV out; it logs onto that quite effectively. No, it can't talk to anything else - that's Not The Microsoft Way. And The Bollywood News from "MSN Today" is of no more interest than any other of these intrusive advert platforms. But until today, I was prepared to put up with Yahoo!, because it does have some redeeming features. MSN Messenger, of course, has none. It brings Hotmail in its wake. Nothing can redeem Hotmail. Its only known purpose is that of spam-tank - use it to sign on to software registration sites, secure in the knowledge that Microsoft will throw away the spam that follows, unread, once you've downloaded the registration key for the software you've just downloaded. Hotmail itself is unusable. Not only does MSN give you a pathetically small storage limit in an age when Google will give you a gigabyte and even Yahoo! mail will give you 100 meg, but it doesn't even work. Sign on to several web subscriptions, and you'll get your password sent by mail - with special instructions to cope with the fact that Hotmail will prevent the embedded URLs from working properly. It doesn't open up a browser, when you click on a URL in a Hotmail message: it opens up a walled MSN garden, and opens the browser in that. Try to copy a short-cut with a right click, and you'll get meaningless garbage. Enough; a list of all its faults would waste even more time than the faults have wasted already. The same for Yahoo!'s redeeming features. As of this week, it is enough to note: my MSN using friends who want to chat to me, will have to wait till I use the SPV, or leave the chat un-chatted. My AIM friends will have to wait till I have switched on the HipTop/Sidekick. And my Yahoo! friends, similarly. For the time being, I'll still be Skypable as gkewney, but just let them try their newest stunt: telling me that if I don't spend the €10 I fed into the SkypeOut meter, before 25 December, it "expires". My money does not expire, guys, and if I don't get it back, you'll hear from my lawyer. And Yahoo!, go nail yourself. Or if you can't find a nail, try some other stock item from screwfix direct, on which to impale yourself. Copyright © Newswireless.net Related stories New Yahoo! Messenger piles on the pounds Hello Ogo : IM a-go-go Yahoo! IM! in! flaw! flap! MS opens Hotmail to bulk mailers Skype: putting the hype in VoIP
Guy Kewney, 05 Oct 2004

AMD issues revenue warning

Weak demand for flash memory will drag down AMD sales for Q3. But net income will be up a little on Q2's $32m, reflecting the higher margins from sales of microprocessors, the chipmaker warned yesterday. Previously, it expected sales to increase moderately from Q2's sales of $1.1262bn. Now for a quote for Robert Rivet, AMD's CFO: “Our gross margin and net income are expected to improve sequentially from the second quarter of 2004, largely due to significantly higher sales and stronger ASPs in our processor business. Although third quarter sales are anticipated to be lower than projected due to softness in our profitable Flash memory business, sales in our microprocessor business remained strong driven by increased demand for AMD64 processors.” ® Related stories IDC ups '04 PC sales forecast AMD and IBM spread the love Intel Q3 sales to barely meet guidance - report AMD rides memory sales to solid Q2
Drew Cullen, 05 Oct 2004

UK call centre jobs on the up

The number of people employed in UK call centres continues to rise, despite fears that many UK jobs are being exported overseas. Six in ten companies reported an increase in call centre employment over the past year, with a majority expecting their workforce to grow in 2005. Telecoms, financial services, utilities and the public sector are among those sectors which will experience the most growth in UK jobs, according to a survey by Incomes Data Services (IDS). Its report Pay and Condition in Call Centres 2004 quizzed 107 operations which together employ around 92,000 call centre staff. The findings show that a clear majority of companies have hired more people in the UK in the past year, with most expecting to create yet more jobs over the next 12 months. And while companies still reporting that one of the toughest tasks is retaining staff, IDS reports that the average salary for a customer adviser is up 3.5 per cent on last year to £15,000, while the average starting pay is up almost 5 per cent. Said Sarah Miller, assistant editor at IDS: "These findings show that, despite all the worries about work being moved to India, the call centre sector is very much alive in the UK. What's more, we found that most employers in our survey are taking active steps to improve the retention of call centre staff, for example, building in opportunities for career progression and making the working environment more pleasant." ® Related stories 250 'jobs-from-India' earmarked for Belfast Call centres are a nightmare Information Commissioner to rule on Lloyds TSB's jobs-to-India Siemens faces outsource protest strike BT replaces 'red bill' with Indian call centre nag
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2004

Biometric IBM ThinkPad T42

ReviewReview Last week I attended an IBM briefing, held at The Clink Museum near London Bridge. The Clink was an old Prison and the museum is full of gruesome memorabilia relating to the bad old days of sadistic incarceration. The reason that IBM chose this particular venue is because the theme of the evening was security, and what better place to talk about security than in a prison?
Trusted Reviews, 05 Oct 2004

Judge defangs Patriot Act

A New York judge did the right thing last week when he threw out a USA-PATRIOT Act provision that forced ISPs to secretly co-operate with the FBI, and gave them no obvious avenue for appeal. It is "under the pressing exigencies of crisis that there is the greatest temptation to dispense with fundamental constitutional guarantees which, it is feared, will inhibit government action." So stated United States District Judge Victor Marrero last week when he quoted a 1962 Supreme Court case in striking down the U.S. government's use of "National Security Letters" (NSLs) to force ISPs to give the FBI information about their subscribers. In essence, the court objected to the USA-PATRIOT Act's thesis that the enemy of the US government was a bunch of old men in robes. No, not the Taliban; the federal judiciary. There are many ways for the government to get your ISP information. They can simply ask for it, and in many cases, ISPs have been more than willing to pony it up. If there is a criminal investigation, they can get a search warrant from a magistrate. They can issue a subpoena in the name of a federal or state grand jury. For foreign espionage and related cases, they can get a warrant from a special "FISA" court without having to show that there was a crime committed. In civil cases (say, your average defamation case, or copyright infringement) they can just issue a subpoena duces tecum to the ISP. Finally, many government agencies have the authority to - on their own, and without the courts - issue what are called "administrative subpoenas", which don't require a judge's approval in advance, but still can't be enforced without going to court. So the old guys in the black robes can eventually get involved in all of these methods of getting your ISP information. In the wake of the horrific acts of 11 September 2001, Congress passed the USA-PATRIOT Act, one provision of which allowed the FBI, upon a certification that the information was "relevant" to a terrorism investigation, to issue NSLs to ISPs. The statute said that the ISP "shall comply with a request for subscriber information and toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional records", and that no ISP or its officers, employees or agents may "disclose to any person that the FBI has sought or obtained access to [the] information or records". In other words, if the FBI certifies that the records are relevant, the ISP must produce them, and may not ever tell anyone about the request. Let's face it, terrorism investigations are a special breed, and disclosure of their existence and direction can imperil not only the investigation itself but also the lives of government agents, sources, cooperating witnesses, and potentially thousands of innocent potential victims of future terrorist attacks. Courts may not always appreciate the sensitivity of individual pieces of information, and certainly ISPs are unlikely to be able to discern what information should be secret, and what information may safely be revealed. Thus, there is an understandable justification for the government's desire to protect these sensitive investigations. Judges? We don't need no stinking judges But the statute Congress passed completely bypassed the federal judiciary. The courts had essentially no role in the process. They were precluded from determining if the government's claim that there was a terrorism investigation was supported by any evidence at all. The government also had to certify that the investigation was not solely of activities protected under the First Amendment. Without being able to review the NSL's and their basis (even in the utmost secrecy, as the FISA court does) there is no way to know if the government's interpretation of activities protected under the First Amendment is a fair and reasonable one - and there are no sanctions if the government is wrong or deceptive. Worse than that, the ISP is between a rock and a hard place. The anonymous ISP plaintiff in the New York case technically violated the language of the law to bring it to the ACLU in the first place. Technically, it could not even consult with its own lawyers. If the ISP ignored the NSL, it would be in direct violation of the law, which mandates production. If it went to court to quash the NSL, it would be in direct violation of the non-disclosure provision. The only thing the ISP could do is to produce the demanded records. Even then, as the federal judge points out, they would not even know what records to produce. The statute permits the government to issue an NSL for subscriber information - name, address, telephone number, credit card number, etc - of your Internet account. The ISP could also be forced to produce records of, for example, when you logged on and off, how long your were logged on for, presumably the location from which you logged on (or the modem you dialed to), and - the statute does not define this term - "electronic communication transactional records". In the New York case, the FBI had issued an NSL demanding any data the ISP considered to be transactional records - forcing the ISP to determine not only the scope of the demand, but the definition of the statute. As the court noted, this could include source and destination email addresses, header information, routing information, IP address information, number, size and type of packets and a whole host of other information, including - the court noted - records of the websites and message boards visited and posted to. It's not that the government can't get this information without USA-PATRIOT, but the courts have some kind of oversight in the process. By taking the courts completely out of the loop, Congress went too far. Secret history Courts are routinely entrusted with protecting secrets - even national security secrets. In arguing for USA PATRIOT's constitutionality, the FBI even suggested that ISPs can ignore the NSLs and force the FBI to go to court to have them enforced. This procedure is nowhere stated or implied in the statute, and it is absurd to think that this is what Congress intended in its battle against terrorism. No, what Congress intended was for ISPs, like everyone else, to routinely co-operate and trust that the government was acting in everyone's interest. Congress can and likely will correct these problems. Several bills pending in Congress, including HR 3179, HR 3037 and S. 2555 would provide for judicial review and enforcement of terrorism related demands for ISP information. The Court suggested that these bills might correct the problem and allow the FBI to continue to issue NSLs to ISPs. Congress should go further and finally settle the debate over what information is and should be available under NSLs, and what information, like the content of Internet communications, demands stricter scrutiny. I for one think and hope that every single NSL ever issued was for crucial anti-terrorism information essential to prevent another attack. I also believe that federal courts, faced with this evidence, will almost universally accede to the FBI's demand for records, and for secrecy. It is because of my faith in the FBI's ability to convince the courts of the propriety and efficacy of its actions that I applaud Judge Marrero for striking down these unprecedented powers. The same day the court acted, I was attending a briefing about the methods used to crack secret German codes during World War II, efforts that were themselves initially classified. As the New York court pointed out, the obligations of secrecy imposed under the NSLs are perpetual. Future generations will be unable to evaluate this period of American history and make their own decisions about whether we acted properly. Any democracy will wither when it is not exposed to light. Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus columnist Mark D. Rasch, J.D., is a former head of the Justice Department's computer crime unit, and now serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Security Counsel at Solutionary Inc. Related stories Senator calls for Patriot Act scale-back Senators propose Patriot Act limitations FBI bypasses First Amendment to nail a hacker
Mark Rasch, 05 Oct 2004

Reg writer receives right royal rogering

FoTWFoTW We at El Reg have a general rule regarding flames that they should be completely incoherent outbursts of rage acccompanied by steam venting from ears. In this case, however, the correspondent seems to have gone to some trouble to present a sarky critique of the piece in question - Sex toy creates Oz airport pandemonium. Naturally, this being a flame, it thereafter degenerates into steam-driven apoplexy. A truly class offering: A rampant presumption in The Register caused pandemonium after readers noticed crap written in a suspicous manner, Phil Clarke reports. Phil said: "It was rather disconcerting when the crap was put to the web. We called the pedant brigade and next minute everybody was being evacuated while they checked it out." It was only after an hour (or several) that journalists declared the offending item nothing more than a "piece of sloppy writing gone mad". It is not reported whether the sub-editors attempted to apprehend the person responsible for wreaking havoc with readers' schedules. Presumably, they simply had to look for a smug and sanctimonious-looking journalist among the screaming, terrorised readers. -- Seriously, though: what unadulterated bollocks. Fair enough, I see, you took journalistic liberties here (and there) but why the fuck you do have to bring your rampant homo-phobic tendancies to the general readership? "Presumably" you think that only women like sex toys. "Presumably" everyone who uses a sex toy does so so that they have a fucking great big obvious-to-everyone-smile on their (evidently female-looking) face. "Presumably" you're a raving faggot who likes to shove vibrating things up your accommodating arse, but then, "presumably" you're a "journalist" of the highest integrity and one who doesn't want your readers to be discouraged by the fact that there's nothing better you like that taking a black mamba nine inches up the old rectum. After all, there's never been a case of sensentionalism surrounding someone in your office who likes to get dressed up in fairy-godmother outift whilst licking whipped cream off a shaved canine belly, has there? Next time, please don't sink to the writing level of news.bbc.com. Phil Clarke
Lester Haines, 05 Oct 2004

Sita flogs WEEE ops to Oz recycling giant

Waste management firm Sita has sold its computer recycling business, MIREC, to Sims Group. Terms were undisclosed. Through the purchase, Sims Group, a publicly quoted Australian materials recycler, extends its reach from the UK to mainland Europe, where Eindhoven-based Mirec has operations or partnerships in 11 countries. The company can now offer a plausible global recycling presence for multinational electrical equipment manufacturers - it also operates in North America, Australia and East Asia. In the UK, the enlarged group now has 600 employees operating from 32 sites. Sims UK numbers Canon and Brother as customers. According to Sims, MIREC is Europe's leading Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycler. This European directive is translated into UK law next year and has already gone live in some countries. The directive places emphasis on re-use of equipment as well as recycling; MIREC has developed expertise in asset management and data destruction - both necessary, if organisations with big PC fleets are to participate willingly in re-use schemes. But at some point, PCs and sundry electronics equipment must be recycled for re-use of materials, some of which - such as the mercury and lead used in cathode ray tubes - are poisonous. MIREC has a CRT disposal plant, which fits in nicely with Simms' speciality. The group turns over a billion euros a year, recycling everything from fridges to cars to plastics. Sims Group press release. ® Related stories Dell jumps on UK recycling bandwagon Old PCs are goldmine for data thieves How to make hard cash from old IT Brace your IT budget for green impact Dell and HP have a green moment Microsoft charity licence gets lukewarm welcome Toxic PCs destroy life as we know it PC disposal: recycle or build for durability?
Drew Cullen, 05 Oct 2004

Kodak blames digital cameras for jobs cull

Kodak is axing 600 jobs in the UK and 270 in France because people prefer digital cameras. Some 250 jobs will be lost in Harrow, which will remain a major centre for the production of colour photographic paper and become the company's new UK HQ. Around 350 jobs will go at the company's Annesley photographic film plant in Nottinghamshire which will close in September 2005. Said Etienne Bourgeois, head of Kodak in Europe, Africa and Middle Eastern: "Such actions are essential for Kodak to reinforce its leading position in digital imaging products and services, while sustaining and extending its worldwide leadership in traditional photographic products," In January this year Kodak embarked on a three-year programme to reduce its global headcount by between 12,000 and 15,000. The move was part of its strategy to cope with declining demand for its traditional photographic products and services. ® Related stories Kodak to drop 35mm cameras in Europe, US Kodak sues Sony over digital camera patents Sony sues Kodak in digicam patents clash Boots deploys digital print kiosks Fuji gives photographers the two-finger salute
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2004

Game upbeat amid downbeat interims

A lack of major new titles and no hardware launches has hit the performance of UK computer games retailer Game. Turnover for the six months ended July 31 slipped to £213m from £231m last year while pre-tax loss mushroomed from £800,000 to £5.9m. However, today's interims came as no surprise since the company had already warned shareholders that "the first half of the year would be challenging due to the lack of major new titles and no hardware launches". Despite this, Game remains upbeat since trading leading up to Christmas accounts for a massive slice of the company's income. Said chairman Peter Lewis: "As we prepare for the crucial Christmas trading period, we believe we have our best ever offering. The group has shown its ability to trade well in an increasingly competitive arena and there is a very strong software release schedule in the second half. "We continue to expect a satisfactory trading outcome for the year as a whole." Gam has accelerated its store-opening programme in the UK and Ireland and expects some 400 outlets to be trading in time for Christmas. ® Related stories Australia bans Manhunt Nintendo aims high with low-cost console Blair reveals some games 'unsuitable' for kids Lara Croft more popular than Jordan
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2004

Put on your Red Hat and dance

Site OfferSite Offer Red Hat Fedora 2 Unleashed is the most trusted and comprehensive guide to the latest version of Red Hat's open-community Fedora Linux distribution... Fedora Core 2. Incorporating an advanced approach, the information presented aims to provide you with the best and latest information about installation, configuration, system administration, server operations and security. Updated discussions of the architecture of several Linux issues as well as material on new application, peripherals and Web development are also included. Make sure you get the most out of the latest Fedora Linux distribution with Red Hat Fedora 2 Unleashed. Reg readers can get this comprehensive guide for £25.55, a saving of £10.95 (30 per cent), with free delivery for all UK and European orders. Visit the Reg Bookshop here. Practical Guide to Red Hat® Linux® - RRP £39.99 - Reg price - £27.99 Linux Programming by Example - RRP £31.99 - Reg price - £22.39 Sams Teach Yourself Red Hat Linux Fedora in 24 Hours - RRP £21.99 - Reg price - £15.39 Web Search Garage - RRP £15.99 - Reg price - £11.19 Adobe Audition 1.5 Classroom in a Book - RRP £33.99 - Reg price - £23.79# CCNP Exam Cram 2 Bundle - RRP £77.99 - Reg price - £54.59 Biometric Authentication - RRP £91.99 - Reg price - £64.39 IBM WebSphere and Lotus - RRP £47.99 - Reg price - £33.59 The Road to IP Telephony - RRP £27.50 - Reg price - £19.25 The Entrepreneur's Book of Checklists - RRP £12.99 - Reg price - £9.09 From Acorns... - RRP £9.99 - Reg price - £6.99 The Beermat Entrepreneur - RRP £12.99 - Reg price - £9.09 Smart Luck - RRP £9.99 - Reg price - £6.99 To browse or buy the other great discounted titles available to Reg readers, simply click on any of the links below: The Reg Bestsellers Last week at The Reg Great new releases This weeks book bag
Team Register, 05 Oct 2004

Romanian villagers flee disco-dancing aliens

Any reader who has enjoyed sci-fi flick War of the Worlds will doubtless sympathise with the inhabitants of the Romanian village who legged it en masse when confronted with multicoloured lights in the night sky. Every man, woman and child from the eastern hamlet of Cristinesti took to the hills after convincing themselves that they were about to be invaded by aliens. Local Costel Roman told Romanian daily Adevarul: "Everybody was out on the streets and wondering what to do if the aliens landed. We believed we were seeing UFOs and some old legends from around here about clocks stopping, animals going crazy and a previous UFO landing in the area suddenly came to our minds. We were terrified." Mercifully, the authorities decided to do a quick police investigation before deploying a flying wing bearing nuclear weapons. This proved a good move, since the lights were quickly identified as disco illuminations from the nearby town of Herta. The officers eventually persuaded villagers that the greatest threat they faced was from dodgy eastern European drum'n'bass and that they should return to their homes. Costel Roman summed up the general feeling of relief when he said: "We were so happy when we heard we had escaped an alien invasion." ® Related stories SETI has not found ET: official Earth to disappear from alien radar Area 51 hackers dig up trouble
Lester Haines, 05 Oct 2004

Empress of eBay dethrones Queen Carly

Carly Fiorina of HP has been toppled from the top of Fortune magazine's "most powerful woman in corporate America" list for the first time since it began in 1998. Fiorina's throne is now occupied by eBay supremo Meg Whitman whose company has rapidly grown into a plump cash cow expected to post operating profits of $1bn this year. As Fortune puts it: "2004 belongs to Meg Whitman. Here's just one reason: The $60bn market value of eBay, the company she runs, has surged past that of HP." The top five US power women are: Meg Whitman - eBay Carly Fiorina - HP Andrea Jung - Avon Products Anne Mulcahy - Xerox Marjorie Magner - Citigroup British women, meanwhile, battle it out on a separate listing for the rest of the world. Top UK-based exec is Pearson's Marjorie Scardino in third place, having been knocked off top spot by Anne Lauvergeon of France's state-owned nuclear power company, Areva. Kate Swann of WH Smith is 10th, while Burberry's Rose-Marie Bravo pulls on her green wellies at 13th. ® Related stories Microsoft's Gates dethroned as world's richest person by cheap furniture magnate HP failed Fortune test on purpose - memo Carly Fiorina most powerful woman in business (2001)
Lester Haines, 05 Oct 2004

Peoplesoft, Siebel predict rosy Q3

Peoplesoft and Siebel Systems have both raised their third quarter revenue guidance, based on an increase in sales of corporate licences. Siebel now reckons on beating its original revenue forecast of $306m for the quarter by just over 3.5 per cent, while Peoplesoft upped its guidance by 6.2 per cent, forecasting income of between $680m-$695m. The news will disappoint the spin doctors at Lawson Software. Last week, the enterprise software maker issued a revenue warning, blaming "lower business activity, longer customer decision cycles, and contract deferrals" for poorer than expected performance. The company promptly announced a re-org, in which 100 jobs in the US and the UK were to be axed. Evidently, market conditions have been kinder to Peoplesoft, even though it is the subject of a hostile takeover bid. Along with Siebel, Peoplesoft attributed its better fortunes to an increased willingness among corporate customers to sign new licences. Siebel's licence revenues will be up 10 per cent on last quarter, accounting for $104m of their total income. The share price rose around 14 per cent to $9.41on the news, and at the time of writing, has settled back to $9.34. Peoplesoft expects revenues of between $155m-$165m from licenses, and has signed 34 million-dollar plus deals already, as compared to 23 in Q2. It also reported an increase in average contract value: that figure stands at $454,000, as compared to $346,000 last quarter. Peoplesoft stock remained relatively calm at $22.20, but there is still plenty of uncertainty about the firm's future. Oracle $7.7bn hostile takeover bid is still in the offing, and a green light decision from the European Commission is expected soon. Oracle is in court in the US trying to remove barriers to the bid, such as money back guarantees issued to customers, erected by Craig Conway, who was fired last week. The board said it had lost confidence in his ability to lead the company. He is scheduled to appear as a witness in the Delaware Chancery Court this Wednesday. ® Related stories Oracle asks court to remove PeopleSoft poison pills Peoplesoft sacks Craig Conway EU to approve Oracle takeover - reports
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Oct 2004

eBay 'second chance' fraud reaches UK

Scammers are impersonating eBay sellers in an attempt to hoodwink users of the online auction site into handing over payment for non-existent goods. If the person who wins an auction on the site doesn't pay up, the second highest bidder of an auction may be offered the option to purchase goods at his offer price. These "second chance offers" are the focus of the fraudulent scams. Steve Rawlinson, managing director of UK ISP ClaraNet, received a number of "second chance" offers for high value auction items he had bid on. At first he was pleased to receive the "offer" but on closer inspection realised the emails were bogus. He pulled out before sending any payment. "I had several which I realised were fraudulent without going through with a purchase. The eBay user name on the emails was not the name of original seller. That could be because a seller had more than one user name but the names in this case were in different parts of world," Rawlinson explained. "The sellers in the bogus email requested to correspond through third email address, which further aroused my suspicions." He tracked some of the bogus emails to a source IP address in Germany. Although Rawlinson lost nothing through the attempted scam, a few less technically-savvy net users have lost out through the ruse. The scam - still rare, at least for now - is more sophisticated than typical phishing frauds because it is targeted and based on knowledge of a user's bidding history. "The seller will have no idea anything amiss is going on," Rawlinson added. Knowledge of a user's bidding history is publicly available on eBay but how are fraudsters able to send email to the correct people? An eBay spokesman explained that it was possible to email someone through the site without knowing their private email address. This facility is used to allow bidders to pose questions about an auction items, for example. Trading using this facility is banned by eBay. Users can also opt-out of the contact facility that allows other members to send them email. The function also comes with various 'health warnings' about safe trading. Nonetheless it seems that emails sent through this facility are good enough to be mistaken as genuine second chance offers. Rawlinson said that even though eBay systems may not be vulnerable its security policy about how emails can be sent through the site ought to be reviewed. ® Related stories Phishers suspected of eBay Germany domain hijack eBay domain hijacker arrested eBay denies South Africa 419 hacking report Teenager gets three years for eBay scam eBay scammer gets stung UK banks launch anti-phishing website
John Leyden, 05 Oct 2004

InterActive Corp walks away from ebookers

InterActive Corp today said it did not intend to buy ebookers, resulting in a fall in the UK travel business's share price. In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, IAC said: "In light of recent speculation, IAC/ InterActiveCorp announces that it has decided not to participate in discussions relating to a possible offer for ebookers and does not currently intend to make an offer for ebookers." IAC is the world's biggest online travel agent, owning Expedia and Hotels.com. The US dotcom conglomerate was considered the most likely buyer for ebookers, which came into takeover play following a profits warning in July. Last month ebookers said it was in talks concerning a possible takeover. So are there other possible bidders in the wings? ebookers is not saying. Both ebookers and Lastminute.com, its closest UK rival, are in heavy cost-cutting mode, with ebookers axing at least 200 jobs this year, and Lastminute set to cut 350. Both companies have been highly acquisitive, so there are some integration savings to be made. But margins in the travel sector are down, and there is little slack for error. This week Brett Hoberman, Lastminute CEO, noted "challenging trading conditions in the industry during the summer quarter". ebooker's shares this afternoon are down 4.7 per cent from 216.50p to 195p. ® Related stories Lastminute seeks £13m savings Cendant offers $1bn for Orbitz Potential buyers sniff Ebookers Ebookers ups revs, narrows losses Lastminute buys German doppelganger Amadeus takes control of Opodo Ebookers sales up but jobs down
Drew Cullen, 05 Oct 2004

Intel, Symbian to define 3G smart phone 'standard'

Intel's attempt to conquer the mobile phone chip market took a mighty step forward today when the chip maker announced a partnership with leading smart phone OS maker Symbian and leading smart phone manufacturer Nokia to co-operate on the development of 3G handsets. The deal will see the trio create 3G reference platforms powered by Intel's ARM-based XScale chip family running Symbian's OS and Nokia's Series 60 user interface. Intel's approach neatly mirror's Symbian's own. Both want their respective hardware and software platforms to become de facto standards, and with the momentum building behind the shift to 3G, now is a good time to make it easy for handset vendors to break into the market, primarily by offering a ready-made handset platform. Perfect: the vendors are saved millions in R&D expenses, and Symbian and Intel are guaranteed a customer base. If it's big enough, the gravitational pull will warp the paths of other vendors toward the de facto standard. Certainly, Intel is some way behind rival ARM-based chip maker Texas Instruments in the 2G/2.5G Symbian smart phone market. TI today claimed more than 85 per cent of the 5m-odd Symbian phones shipped in the first half of 2004 were based on its OMAP platform. Nokia is perhaps less keen on establishing Series 60 as a smart phone standard, since it has to compete with the very companies it's licensing the UI to. But with its big market share lead and the prospect of all those licence fees, it no doubt feels it's in a winning position no matter what. Enter the horizontal integration of the smart phone market. Just as the personal computer market was once a collection of companies developing or sourcing their own components to build unique solutions, but now, thanks to Wintel, they're all the same, so too 3G will mark just such a shift in the smart phone market, if Intel and co. have anything to do about it. Hence the statement from Sam Arditi, Intel's Cellular and Handheld Group general manager, that "the next generation of handsets for 3G networks will require a platform approach". Having learned from its relationship with Microsoft, Intel is less concerned with the overall composition of the platform, so long as its chips sit at the 3G reference's heart. Today's announcement is pro-Symbian, but Intel's just as happy being considered the chip maker of choice for Palm OS- and Windows Mobile-based smart phones. It can afford now to be OS agnostic. ® Related stories Intel preps chip to link 3G, Wi-Fi networks PalmSource unveils Cobalt OS PalmSource reboots Cobalt, but no phones until 2005 Why did Sendo bury the hatchet with MS? MS, Apple pitch music at mobile phone makers Nokia walks tightrope with Metrowerks acquisition Handset makers tout Wi-Fi, GSM roaming spec
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2004

BT blocks 1,000 rogue dialler numbers

BT is once again writing to its 1.8m dial-up internet users warning them to be on their guard against rogue diallers. In the last three months the UK's dominant fixed line telco has blocked 1,000 numbers which it reckons are being used to run premium-rate dialler scams. In July, BT said it would take action against rogue dialler companies which defraud consumers by secretly changing their computer settings so they call a premium rate phone line instead of their usual ISP number. Despite taking this "block first, ask questions later" approach, BT has now dealt with 45,000 cases where customers have run up inflated phone bills because of rogue diallers. Another 9,500 cases are waiting to be resolved. As a result, BT is once again writing to its punters to remind them how to prevent becoming victims of these scams. Said BT bigwig Gavin Patterson: "BT is doing everything in its power to stop this menace. We have taken the decision to block numbers suspected of being associated with diallers as soon as we are alerted to a problem. "We will be emailing all of our dial-up customers again to give them advice on how to avoid falling victim to a dialler, because customers need to take action as well to protect themselves, as we believe many cases aren’t fraud but are due to a lack of awareness from customers." ® Related stores BT cuts off dialler scammers UK premium rate phone complaints rocket Swiss telco fined £50K for UK rogue dialling action Ofcom to crack down on premium rate scamsters British Gas warns punters about rogue diallers
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2004

ARM to add media booster to next-gen chips

ARM this week added a SIMD engine to its ARMv7 ISA in a bid to improve the platform's ability to process multimedia and network datastreams. The new technology, dubbed 'Neon', equips future ARMv7 chips with extra registers to store 64- or 128-bit chunks of information in fixed or floating point form. Like Intel's Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) series of x86 additions, AMD's 3DNow! and Freescale/IBM's AltiVec (called 'Velocity Engine' by Apple), Neon essentially allows a single instruction to be applied to more than one data elements. Hence SIMD - Single Instruction, Multiple Data. In each case, the SIMD engine is used to accelerate the processing of time-dependent datastreams which require the same algorithm to be applied throughout. Typical applications are TCP/IP data processing, 3D graphics and video compression and decompression. As we've seen with PC chips, add-on processing for intensive tasks like 3D rendering haven't been superseded by SIMD, so Neon is unlikely to eliminate the need for external graphics processors in mobile phones and other handhelds. However, ARM's move should improve its platform's ability to handle audio and video data, and indeed, that appears to be the company's pitch for the new technology. When Neon will surface isn't yet known - ARM simply talked about future processors. However, a likely timeframe for Neon availability is mid-2005, with final silicon shipping in a timeframe that makes it possible for vendors to commercialise products based on the new technology in 2007-2008. ® Related stories Intel, Symbian to define 3G smart phone 'standard' Shares fall on Arm takeover ARM Q2 profits swell
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2004

'Black box' software probes app crashes

Application troubleshooting outfit Identify Software claims that deployment of its "black box" recorder software can reduce the time needed to resolve software problems by as much as 80 per cent. Most support desks currently run an inefficient manual process to tackle software headaches; this means that customers end up with extended (and expensive) periods of downtime. Identify Software's AppSight minimises downtime caused by application problems, by making it easier to pick out what caused the software problem in the first place, the company said Appsight captures a log of the status of a system up to and around the time of system problems. "It [AppSight] captures the 'scene of crime' where a problem occurred," Aren Modai, VP of European operations for Identify, said. This log can be shared between developers to greatly speed the process of problem resolution. "You don't have to replicate problems because you have a record. Developers spend half their time resolving probs, so AppSight is of great benefit. Our technology doesn't give developers a fix for problems but it does speed root cause analysis. AppSight is far more effective than in-house tools or brainstorming," Modai said. The technology won't identify problems that are caused by either network or hardware problems - separate tools are required. But AppSight can help pinpoint software problems, which often prove the most difficult to isolate and resolve. It enables developers to follow transactions giving them a "visibility into applications", according to the company. Although described as a "black box recorder" for software applications, Identify's AppSight technology is most often put into play on applications that are already known to be problematic. Few organisations use it to record all the states of a healthy system. Identify's customers are split evenly between banks, whoichtypically use its technology to speed application problem resolution on bespoke ebanking apps, and independent software vendors. AppSight is available for either Microsoft (including .NET) or J2EE software development environments and require minimal configuration in either case, according to Identify. Modai said the biggest problem facing Identify Software is that there's "very little recognition" for application support as an issue so organisations aren't budgeting for technology that addresses one of the greatest headaches developers face. "People are used to working the way they are. But by investing in problem resolution technology they can reduce the time it takes to solve problems, saving money and freeing up developer time to create better applications," he said. Identify Software is a privately-held Israeli company ,with US headquarters in North Carolina. It currently employs 130 people. Many of its senior executives come from Mercury Interactive. ® Related stories Linux, the pirate's friend, says Gartner Busy month for JBoss On Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005 Jump start your ASP.NET 2.0 development BEA eases Java development
John Leyden, 05 Oct 2004

Valiant Reg readers save internet

LettersLetters Much scepticism this week, following news of the imminent demise of the internet as predicted by BT's futurologist, Graham Whitehead. You thought he might not be quite, altogether, 100 per cent on the money on this one. It is possible he was specifically referring to El Reg's own connection, which, of late, has been as flaky as filo pastry. If so, then he has displayed remarkable prescience as it did indeed kick the bucket this morning. However, we suspect he was speaking more generally than that. Yeah, well, he would say that, wouldn't he. He's selling BT's ideas using the usual British politician's method of rubbishing the opposition before presenting a lightweight policy that has the distinct possibility of aviating porcines. John Web "guru" forcasts end of internet, eh? Graham Whitehead, to quote his own write up is actually not a "web guru" but a "fuuturologist", who: "delivers more than 300 presentations every year, and has produced a series of video tapes." Goo-oody! So we can safely say he's never configured a BIND 9 daemon, then can we, and probably doesn't know a great deal about Spam Assasin? I fear that Graham Whitehead hails from the well-known and well-loved 'Scott McNulty school of stream-of-conciousness pronocement making'. Whitehead has taken the fast track, compared to McNulty, however, since he didn't even bother with all that tedious hanging around with people who build computers for a quarter of a century, like silly old Scott did, before he decided he was qualifierd to comment on them. He comments that "the relatively low rate of broadband uptake in the UK" was evidence that people didn't want it. Surelly the relative unwillingness of people to live within six kilometers of a broadband-enabled exchange had something to do with it, too, until very recently, didn't it? Readers should perhaps take a look at the available housing opportunities within a six mile radius of their own local BT exchange, before deciding whether Whitehead and his BT chums are right in declaring that its 'your fault you couldn't get broadband'. Here's a story for you: The Register, 29th September 1764 Lord Major of Chesterfield Proposes Privately Owned Chesterfield to London Tunnel Roads guru, the Lord High Mayor of Chesterfield has suggested that, owing to the rise in highwaymen and robbers throughout this Great Island, the only option is to build a privately owned tunnel between the town of Chesterfield and London. "The public roads are doomed," he declared. "The recent notable discovery of cozenage, now daily practiced by sundry lewd persons upon the humble traveller, means that in the future, no one will go anywhere above the ground at all, but instead, will use an interconnected, seamless end-to-end subterranian transport solution based on brick-lined sealed horizontal convayances," the world famous Dolomite Solutionist, brick manuufacturer, and Futurologist proclaimed... Whatever 'bonks yer button', I suppose. Daniel I found BT Exact's principal consultant mind-numbing conclusion that the internet is about to die completely deluded and extremely insulting. In particular the comment where he states: "..that the relatively low rate of broadband uptake in the UK, where there are 3 million DSL and 1.5 million cable broadband subscribers, is due to the fact that people don't see a need for broadband in their daily lives." Perhaps if BT got a move on and sorted out the supply of dsl in the UK there might be more of an interest. I live in the suburbs of a medium sized city that is fully dsl enabled, yet I am STILL waiting for the upgrade on my exchange. Sure there are petitions and subscriber lists but no one wants to waste their time adding themselves as it clearly has no affect on the dsl supply. The given date for our upgrade is June 2005, Im almost certain adding my name to a list isnt going to make a blind bit of difference. In fact I have every intention of moving. And to add even further insult. Here I am on my 56k modem, 15.99 a month, 3.5kb/s download speeds and 2hour cutoffs. I can now pick up a radio and tune in to the, let me emphasise, **WORST** quality digital radio, which is broadcasting at 96kb/s! Its an utter outrage that BT can go around moaning about lack of interest when they dont even supply the facilities to those that DO want it. Sure I can own at quake or sof2 with a ping of 400, but thats not the point. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH B*ST*RDS! Thx Biomech Why not give every individual bean it's own IPv6 address? Tijl Why not indeed, Tijl. We think this is an excellent idea, and will begin a letter writing campaign immediately. A passing thought on the anti-trusting treatment of Microsoft: Microsoft's argument that "this was the first time in history that a company had been ordered to deliver its "secret technology" to its competitors" is certainly wrong. The EEC as it was then ordered IBM to handover the specs of it's disk interfaces to third party manufactures way back in the early 80s, to allow them to continue to make disks that could be connected to the new generation of mainframes. Ken IT directors reckon we'll all be signing in to work with our thumbprints and iris scans. You say: bring it on! I like the idea of being locked out of the building by mistake. Go home and get paid for sitting there. For some obscure reason it reminds me of when some of my colleagues did some consultancy work at [car manufacturer] (Coventry I think) and they were not allowed in the gate because they weren't driving [car manufacturer's] cars and only [car manufacturer's] cars were allowed in the car park. Ten consultants at at least a grand a day each because some jobsworth didn't like the badges on their cars. We still charged them. So, let the good times roll, I'm looking forward to spending a lot more time at home and still making money. I'm not cynical, honest. Regards Francis Fish The day they start iris scanning, I'll fail to get in and the IT helpdesk will insist it's problem with my eyeball and the SLA on a new eyeball is 10 working days. Sean Next, we'll take a quick diversion around the last letters bag: I've just been reading this [last] week's letters ('Reg Readers hail NTL abusive message'); In the last letter, 'Dave' says: "Checking facts before spouting sh*t is always a good idea." This, of course, is the written equivalent of running around shouting "Kick me! Kick me!". Dave - Magee didn't use a "very accurate long delay device" supplied by Libyans; he used a VCR timer (Secret History, Channel 4). I suppose it might have been supplied by a Libyan branch of Radio Rentals or something. The Libyans, in fact, don't 'do' very sophisticated timing devices; it was testified at the Lockerbie trial in the Hague that they had to buy timers from a Swiss firm, Mebo Telecommunications. regards, Adam. For the record, no one at The Reg knows much about explosions, Libyan or otherwise, so we are not really in a position to speculate. As for introducing mobile phones on aircraft, we are at something of a loss to explain how this idea is compatible with reducing incidences of air rage. Enquiring minds want to know, and all that. And while we're talking about outburts of uncontrolled anger produced by mobile phones, we'd like to remind readers of the tale of a woman being knocked to the ground by security officers as they arrested her for talking too loudly on her mobile. "Overkill, much?" we thought to ourselves, in our best MTV-generation accent. And that is even before you factor in that she was pregnant at the time... Hi John, I just wanted to write in support of the Transit Authority security staff. The articles I've read about the pregnant woman seem to intimate that the security guard was over-zealous, but there articles are clearly written from the perspective of someone who has not ridden the metro for the last 5 years as I have. The behaviour of the riders I'm with for 2 hours each day is generally acceptable, but there are several people who simply do not think the rules apply to them. They have the music playing so loud through their headphones that they may as well not be using headphones at all. They try to force the train doors open if they missed the departure time. And yes, they argue and swear loudly, perhaps on their cell phones, perhaps with other passengers. Those who misbehave are few and far between, but when encountered, need to be dealt with harshly. They simply will not respond to any other treatment. The woman who claims to have given "a little lip" to the security officer probably launched an all-out verbal assault on the man. Is this the kind of person that you would like sitting next to you on the tube? Wouldn't you rather see her detained for several hours while she reconsiders her behaviour, possibly coming out as a better citizen? Sincerely, Jimmy K. Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. Wake up... Someone's brewing coffee in the next room... Out in Texas, however, things would have been different. (But then, everything in Texas is different, right?) Your story is very informative, however maybe it's time you encourage people to stand up to police opression & demand justice. I'm pretty sure the woman in your story could bring a sucessful suit based on police brutality. I'm not sure what people are like in New York, but if the officer did the same thing here in Texas without good cause, he would be risking being shot by passers by, or brought up on charges to say the least. James More letters, later in the week. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Oct 2004

VIA announces 64-bit x86 processor

VIA today announced its upcoming 'Isaiah' core, its pitch at the emerging 64-bit x86 CPU market founded by AMD. While AMD is targeting more mainstream computing applications, VIA's 64-bit part will be pitched at digital media processing roles. Typically, VIA was vague about what will make Isaiah particularly suitable for such applications, beyond the usual faster front-side bus, more cache, faster floating-point maths, out-of-order processing and a superscalar design, all of which could be applied to plenty of existing processors, x86-compatible or otherwise. However, Isaiah will see improvements made to VIA's PadLock hardware-based security engine, and with apps like "decrypting a digital media stream while simultaneously displaying its contents in an ultra-high resolution format on an HDTV" in mind, PadLock is likely to play a key role in the new chip. Isaiah will also continue VIA's focus on low-power processors, the better to sell them to set-top box and other consumer electronics kit makers than into PCs. The Isaiah core is expected to be available H1 2006. In the meantime, the company is set to ship its 'Esther' processor - officially branded the C7 - sometime during H1 2005, in mobile and desktop forms. C7 is VIA's first 90nm CPU. The company didn't specify Isaiah's fabrication process. ® Related stories VIA's 90nm CPU to be branded C7 VIA offers hard disk data scrub code IBM to fab next-gen VIA CPU VIA takes Eden CPU to 1GHz VIA to unveil world's smallest x86 chip S3 ramps GammaChrome 3D production
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2004

One in three IT workers is Bill's

An IDC study commissioned by Microsoft for its European Executive Partner event in Lisbon reveals the impact of the software industry on European economies. In the 19 countries surveyed nine million people are employed in the IT industry, generating $200bn in tax revenue. Of these jobs, just over one third are Microsoft-related. IDC believes that over the next four years a further two million new jobs will be created and an extra $160bn in tax revenues will be collected. Software makes up only 19.6 per cent of total spending, but represents more than half of all jobs and tax revenue created. IDC estimates total spending in the region is $275bn. By 2008 there will be 5.2m software-related jobs in Western Europe. Thomas Vavra, software and consulting manager at IDC, said: "We are in the midst of an IT rebound. After the downturn of 2001 and 2002 we are now seeing a healthy return to growth - a trend we expect to see continuing." In both Hungary and Turkey about 36,000 people are employed in Microsoft-related jobs. In the UK 535,000 people are employed in Microsoft-related jobs or 34 per cent of total IT jobs. In Germany 654,000 people have a Microsoft-related job. France has the lowest percentage of Microsoft-related jobs with 31 per cent while Estonia and Russia top the league with 54 per cent and 55 per cent respectively. The study is the third update to IDC's "Economic Impact Model" looking at the IT industry's impact on national economies. The 19 countries surveyed were: Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey and the UK. The survey defined IT employment as people working for hardware, software, services or channel firms and those managing IT infrastructure in user organisations. Web designers, venture capitalists and trade mag hacks were excluded. ® Related stories IDC ups '04 PC sales forecast Storage vendors capitalize on their own software hype IBM Eclipses Linux
John Oates, 05 Oct 2004

Big guns board Intertrust DRM bandwagon

Intertrust, Philips and Sony have added more top consumer electronics, content and technology heavyweights to their attempt to create an open interoperable Digital Rights Management environment. The system promised at the turn of the year in interview with Philips has taken a step closer to becoming a reality today with a new DRM clustering of companies calling itself the Coral Consortium. Lining up with the expected triumvirate of Intertrust and its two owners Philips and Sony, are more powerful names in the form of Panasonic, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and the News Corp controlled film company Twentieth Century Fox. Coral describes itself as a cross-industry group to promote interoperability between digital rights management (DRM) technologies used in the consumer media market and it is expected to put its weight behind the Nemo technology emerging from Intertrust. Nemo will act as a bridge between varying DRM systems, including Intertrust’s partners systems and Microsoft Windows Media DRM. In Nemo there are defined a set of roles such as client, authorizer, gateway and orchestrator, and it assumes that they talk to each other over an IP network, and work is allocated to each of them such as authorization, peer discovery, notification, services discovery, provisioning, licensing and membership creation. The client simply uses the services of the other three peers, the authorizer decides if the requesting client should have access to a particular piece of content; the gateway takes on the role of a helper that will provide more processing power to negotiate a bridge to another architecture and the orchestrator is a special form of gateway that handles non-trivial co-ordination such as committing a transaction. The Consortium says its aim is to end up with an open technology framework offering a simple and consistent experience to consumers. Most DRM systems, such as Apple’s Fairplay used in its iTunes service and on the iPod, prevent consumers from playing content packaged and distributed using one DRM technology on a device that supports a different DRM technology. Coral’s answer is to separate content interoperability from choice of DRM technology by developing and standardizing a set of specifications focused on interoperability between different DRM technologies rather than specifying DRM technologies. Interoperability The resulting interoperability layer supports the coexistence of multiple different DRM technologies and permits devices to find appropriately formatted content in the time it takes to press the play button, without consumer awareness of any disparity in format or DRM . In a recent interview with Faultline, Ruud Peters, the chief executive of Philips's intellectual property and standards unit told us: “We cannot force Microsoft to join. This whole thing has to be done on a voluntary basis, but if Microsoft systems means that there are devices which cannot play content, and if that content can play on all other devices, then it is Microsoft that will be seen as not friendly.” He also explained that when moving a piece of content from under the control of one piece of DRM software to another, if it was to involve a Trust Authority deciphering the content using an authorized key, and then re-encrypting using another key, then there is never any need to “break” the encryption system in a competing DRM standard. Coral says it will provide interoperability for secure content distribution over web and home network-based devices and services but has yet to say anything in detail about the technology it will be using. More details will emerge at www.coral-interop.org. This grouping speaks for over half the Hollywood feature films on the planet, around 25 per cent of all popular recorded music and substantially more of the branded consumer electronics goods, and probably has the strength to hold a standoff with Microsoft’s PC based DRM. Twentieth Century Fox is also reported this week to have agreed to adopt the Blu-ray disc standard for next-generation DVD players. Not surprising, considering who its new DRM friends are. With Sony, its recently acquired MGM Studios and Fox backing the Blu-ray standard, it’s almost a slam dunk for the Sony, Philips, Panasonic standard over the DVD Forum’s HD DVD competing standard, which is still not ready. Copyright © 2004, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories Sony Japan dumps lock-down CDs EC launches Microsoft DRM probe Intertrust ready for DRM role Philips leaks Intertrust 'open' DRM details Intertrust 'universal' DRM scheme coming in six months
Faultline, 05 Oct 2004

Microsoft seeks 'competent' resellers

Speaking at Microsoft's Executive Partner event in Lisbon, Microsoft's worldwide partner sales and marketing boss Allison Watson said she was happy with the European rollout of Microsoft's updated channel programme. The programme was Launched in April and is scheduled for completion by July next year. Watson said the programme aimed to provide better information on existing sales partners as well as find new partners: "In the first year I'd expect 70 per cent of those certified to be existing and 30 per cent will be new partners. There are whole categories of partners in areas like security who work with our products but don't necessarily speak to us." She said all Gold partners have already joined the new programme although this figure was just 20 per cent for certified partners because it is a "harder hurdle" for less experienced resellers. The programme asks partners to choose from 11 "competencies" - areas in which they are experts such as advanced infrastructure and business intelligence. Microsoft has estimated the size of potential market opportunity according to these competencies. The average partner is competent in two areas. The firm is also looking at geographical spread of these partners. Laurent Delaporte, vice presidnet of small and midmarket solutions and partner group, said: "16m SME customers in Europe need to find the right partner, not the right product. We found small businesses want a partner within 50km of their offices so we're looking at our partners and matching them to business opportunities. Surprisingly, given that it's a good place to live, we found a shortfall in the south of France." Delaporte also said the firm was helping partners and SMEs to take advantage of European Commission funds available to help businesses use more technology. This has started in Spain and will expand across Europe in November.® Related stories Novell channel man speaks Huge Windows XP sales save the world MS moves to head off Linux desktop threat
John Oates, 05 Oct 2004

AT&T Wireless launches mobile music store

US mobile phone network AT&T Wireless today hopped onto the digital music bandwagon, launching an online music store accessed from customers' handsets, the first of its kind in the US. What's really interesting about mMode Music Store, however, is that it's not intended as a mobile service, at least not yet. The service's 750,000-odd songs - available as 99c tracks or $10 and up albums - are intended to be downloaded to a PC, not a phone. AT&T Wireless will tout the store as a way of making impulse purchases. Users hear a song while they're out and about, decide they like it and can then use mMode to buy it straight away, either as a Windows Media Audio download or as a ringtone for their handset. If punters don't recognise a pleasing tune, they can use AT&T Wireless' Shazam-style music recognition service to find out what the track is called before visiting mMode and buying it. "Now, consumers no longer have to scribble down the names of songs they've discovered and wait until they get home to download them onto their computers," said Sam Hall, AT&T Wireless' mMode VP, in a statement. "The convenience and immediacy of our mobile digital music store lets users remotely explore and buy digital music while on the move." It's a canny ploy on AT&T Wireless' part, since it not only provides revenue from ringtones - not to mention the GPRS packets used to access the Music Store and order tracks from it - but doesn't risk annoying users with lengthy song downloads to phones that lack the capacity to store more than a few of them at a time. Of course, the company has its eye on a future where considerably more capacious, possibly even hard drive-equipped handsets and fast 3G connections will enable straight-to-mobile downloads. In that sense, it's a victory for Microsoft over MPEG 4/AAC, currently being touted as the key format for mobile music. The cost of songs purchased through mMode are added to the customer's regular monthly invoice. Downloaded tracks can be burned to CD or transferred to a WMA 9 DRM-compatible device. mMode Music Store is delivered by digital music distributor Loudeye which in June acquired the Peter Gabriel-backed On-Demand Distribution (OD2). ® Related stories T-Mobile to battle iPod with music smart phone 3G chiefs choose AAC for mobile music delivery MS, Apple pitch music at mobile phone makers Nokia moves to counter Apple-Moto music alliance Apple licenses iTunes to Motorola Peter Gabriel sells digital music firm Most songs on iPods 'stolen' - Microsoft CEO Virgin launches digital music service
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2004

IBM in attack mode with 'budget' Power kit

IBM is attacking every rival system it can think of with a new line of low-cost Unix servers aimed at mid-sized customers. The p5-520 and p5-550 fit in IBM's Express line of "budget" hardware be they servers or storage systems. These particular servers are targeted at IBM's AIX customer base. They ship with many of the high-end components found in more expensive gear but start at $4,000 and $7,000, respectively. The p5-520 runs on two of IBM's 1.65GHz Power5 chips, and the four-way p5-550 ships with either 1.5GHz or 1.65GHz chips. In its marketing material for the new boxes IBM managed to take a swipe at all of its major rivals - albeit it a niche attack on floating point performance. The new systems outperform Sun Microsystems' Opteron-based V40z and HP's Itanium-based rx4640 and PA RISC-based rp3440 servers, according to IBM. Stunningly, IBM took shoots at three different instruction sets - x86-64-bit, EPIC and RISC - with that claim. IBM has steadily been building out its product portfolio around the relatively new Power5 chip. This probably isn't good news for the competition, which has seen IBM gain gobs of Unix market share over the past couple of years. ® Related stories Sun Thumper server plans excavated by The Reg Azul reveals supersonic Java machine Memo to Carly - HP customers need help! HP knifes Itanium, cans IA-64 workstations IBM and HP take shots at Sun
Ashlee Vance, 05 Oct 2004
SGI logo hardware close-up

Cray comes to market with XD1

Cray yesterday announced the general availability of the new family of AMD Opteron-based supercomputers. Cray XD1 mini-supercomputer systems are priced from under $100,000 to about $2m (US list price), placing them in the mid-range system category. XD1s run Linux but are capable of outperforming similarly priced Linux clusters, thanks to "superior parallel-processing architecture", Cray says. The XD1, based on technology acquired by Cray when it bought start-up OctigaBay, is designed to help Cray compete at the lower end of the super-computer market against companies such as IBM and HP. Cray pitches the system as suitable for a wide range of high-performance computing (HPC) applications. Early customers include the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Germany's Helmut Schmidt University and the SAHA Institute of Nuclear Physics (Calcutta, India) and the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service. The Forestry Service, for example, will use the number-crunching power of the XD1 to work out the chemical composition of smoke plumes. Supercomputer innards The Cray XD1 features a "direct connect processor (DCP) architecture, which removes PCI bottlenecks and memory contention to deliver superior sustained performance". According to HPC Challenge benchmarks, the Cray XD1 has the lowest latency of any HPC system, with MPI latency of 1.8 microseconds and random ring latency of 1.3 microseconds. Tests conducted by the Ohio Supercomputer Center show that the Cray XD1 ships messages with four times lower MPI latency than common cluster interconnects such as Infiniband and 30 times lower than Gigabit Ethernet as used in lowest-cost clusters. The Cray XD1's interconnect delivers twice the bandwidth of 4X Infiniband for messages up to 1 KB and 60 percent higher throughput for very large messages. The Linux/Opteron system runs x86 32/64 bit codes. Field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are available to accelerate applications. System chassis can house up to 12 processors delivering 58 peak gigaflops, 96 GB/second aggregate switching capacity, 1.8-microsecond MPI interprocessor latency, 84 GB maximum memory and 1.5 TB maximum disk storage. A 12-chassis rack provides 144 compute processors, 691 peak gigaflops, 1TB/second aggregate switching capacity, two microsecond MPI interprocessor latency, 922 GB/second aggregate memory bandwidth, 1 TB maximum memory and 18 TB maximum disk storage. ® Related stories Cray pours Red Drizzle over anxious investors Cray's Q2 revenue gigaflops Cray to buy AMD cluster maker Cray preps new Opteron-based product line
John Leyden, 05 Oct 2004

Sun hypes new UltraSPARC and Siebel love

Sun Microsystems today took aim at two core pieces of its server strategy, announcing a new generation of UltraSPARC processors and a key software win for Solaris x86. On the processor front, Sun revealed the UltraSPARC IV+ that will replace today's plain, old UltraSPARC IV. Sun should begin trickling the IV+ chip into servers next year, starting out with a 1.8GHz part. The dual-core processor will be built on a 90 nanometer process by TI and include expanded caches, better branch prediction and improved prefetching techniques. Of particular note is a new 2MB Level 2 cache and a monstrous 32MB off-chip Level 3 cache. Overall, the IV+ processor should provide at least twice the performance of current UltraSPARC IVs. The speed boost is much needed with Sun trying to keep customers happy, as it prepares the multicore Niagara chip for 2006 and new SPARC processor in its partnership with Fujitsu. Elsewhere, Sun signed a fairly major deal with Siebel Systems to bring its business software over to Solaris x86. Siebel will port its CRM Enterprise Edition to Solaris x86. Sun has been working to bring key ISVs over to its version of Solaris for Intel and AMD processors. Thus far, companies such as Oracle and CA have backed Sun's efforts. Sun needs a broad ISV lineup if it is to make Solaris x86 a serious contender against Windows, Linux and other versions of Unix. ® Related stories IBM in attack mode with 'budget' Power kit Sun signs Interface for Opteron dealer push Sun Thumper server plans excavated by The Reg
Ashlee Vance, 05 Oct 2004

Click here to become infected (Part 2)

New spam emails can turn vulnerable PCs into spam-spreading 'zombies'. The spam has a link which purports to allow users to opt out of future emails. However, MessageLabs, an e-mail filtering company, warns that these links are part of a scam and, if clicked on, will turn a victim's PC into a conduit for the distribution of further spam. The bug uses a drag-and-drop JavaScript exploit in Internet Explorer to download a nasty .EXE file. Messagelabs, which issued a similar warning about the problem more than a week ago, said today that it is still analysing the .EXE file, which is hosted on a suspicious website, but says users should know that the spammers behind the scam could change to a new site at any time by uploading a new Trojan. The site initially implicated in the spam was www. xcelent.biz (space inserted intentionally), which is no longer available. "Users should already know that it is never a good idea to press the 'click here to remove' link on spam emails as it confirms to spammers that the email address is real," said Alex Shipp, MessageLabs' senior anti-virus technologist. "This latest spam attack, however, presents a double whammy: it not only opens up the floodgates to endless amounts of spam as the address is sold to other spammers, but it allows a compromised machine to be used to host their next spam run, while spammers are busy in the background stealing confidential data." Indeed, the firm warns that users on infected PCs could have their passwords or other confidential information stolen. © ENN Related stories Click here to become infected US credit card firm fights DDoS attack P-cube goes hunting for zombie PCs Click here to become infected Rise of the Botnets Telenor takes down 'massive' botnet
ElectricNews.net, 05 Oct 2004