16th > November > 2004 Archive

Consumers shun PCs for gizmos

Global PC shipments will hit an estimated total of 51.9 million in Q4 2004, a 10.1 per cent increase from the same period last year. Strong sales to business are offsetting weak consumer demand to produce a positive outlook for the market, according to analysts Gartner. It reckons increased competition from digital entertainment products is hitting sales into the home. "Aside from mobility, there is conspicuous lack of 'must have' new features for home PC users, and this is noticeably impacting home sales, especially replacements purchases," said George Shiffler, principal analyst for Gartner’s client platforms research. Gartner reckons more and more homes are splashing out on flat panel TVs and similar gizmos rather than PCs. The quiet consumer market in pulling Gartner's projected sales down a notch. The analyst reckons worldwide PC shipments will hit 182.7m this year, still up 11.4 per cent from last year but less than the 13 per cent growth previously predicted. Looking further ahead, Gartner expects the market to grow by 9.6 per cent next year, with weak consumer sales continuing to pull back overall growth. More information is available in the Gartner Alert 4Q04 Update: Global PC Forecast Scenarios, 2004-2005 here. ® Related stories Dell sued for alleged global sales patent abuse Chip capex set to fall in 2005 - analyst Weak US drags down PC sales growth Linux, the pirate's friend, says Gartner Gartner lowers PC forecasts Replacement kit dominates world PC sales
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2004

Grizzled blade server vet shows 64-bit kit

Here we are about to close out 2004, and RLX Technologies has just announced its sixth generation blade server. RLX makes you think blade servers have been around for ages - mostly because the company is associated with inventing the compact systems that have swept the server industry. The little, Texan company doesn't have the same flair as it once did before the likes of IBM and HP began to dominate the blade market, but it does have the most experience with the form factor, and that's worth something. So what's new at RLX after four years in the blade game? 64-bit processors, friends. The new SB6400 blade server can hold two of Intel's x86-64-bit Xeon chips. The box also supports up to 12GB of memory per server - up from 8GB on previous systems. Along with the SB6400, RLX also released the RM1400 and RM1100 standard 1U servers. The RM1400 is a lower-end 64-bit box that holds two processors, 4 SCSI disk drives and supports up to 8GB of memory. The RM1100 is a much lower-end system that runs on either Pentium 4 or Celeron processors, holds 2 SATA disk drives and supports up to 4GB of memory. RLX has positioned the RM1100 as a choice option for customers looking for as many low-cost boxes as possible for their clusters. All of the systems are available now and can be configured here. The servers all run RLX's highly regarded Control Tower 6G management software. RLX's history is worthy of a short novel (one that we'll get to eventually). The company was able to poach executives from Compaq and Dell in its early days, but has largely been run by venture capitalists ever since. It has pulled in well over $100m in funding in its relatively brief history and enjoyed periods of decent success. Of late, however, RLX has lost tremendous ground to the big boys and seems to be fighting for its niche as the little blade server that could. ® Related stories Dell reenters the blade-o-sphere IBM touts poor man's blade server box Orion delivers first 'personal cluster' workstation Egenera and its amazing technicolor IPO
Ashlee Vance, 16 Nov 2004

Vodafone dividend doubled, shares up

Vodafone, the Big Daddy of cellcos, increased revenue by six per cent for the six months ended 30 September 2004. Group turnover was £16.8bn, an organic growth of six per cent. The firm gained 7.4m customers in the period giving it 146.7m customers in total. It has sold 323,000 datacards to date. Group operating profit for the period, excluding exceptional items, was £5.7bn or five per cent organic growth at constant exchange rates. Including goodwill amortisation and exceptional items Vodafone Group lost £1.6bn. Vodafone is increasing the size of its share buyback programme from £3bn to £4bn. It is doubling the size of its annual dividend to 1.91p per share. Weak performance in Japan continues to drag down results. Vodafone increased its stake in its Japan subsidiary from 28.5 per cent to 98.2 per cent at a cost of £2.4bn. Vodafone sold 83.7bn minutes of mobile voice time in the period. Non-voice revenues made up 16.4 per cent of total service revenues. Arun Sarin, Vodafone's chief executive, said: "We have recently launched a compelling set of new services on our 3G platform in 13 markets with a wide range of industry leading new handsets. With new and attractive pricing for both data and voice services, Vodafone is delivering on its promise to delight the customer... "We expect 3G to deliver a material benefit to our business over time and are targeting more than 10 million Vodafone live! with 3G customers in our controlled operations by the end of March 2006." Looking forward, Vodafone expects organic growth of around ten per cent in average proportionate mobile customers, giving high single digit growth in mobile revenue compared to last year. Declining interconnect rates and 3G investments mean mobile margins will decline slightly. More information at Vodafone. ® Related stories Giving voice to the mobile workforce Vodafone leads charge in 3G offensive Vodafone to splurge £100m on 3G launch
John Oates, 16 Nov 2004

Novell's MS complaint: we wuz robbed

AnalysisAnalysis If the antitrust lawsuit that Novell filed against Microsoft comes to court, it will reopen long-forgotten battles over technologies that most of us will even have trouble remembering. One of the few to survive is WordPerfect itself, the software at the core of the claim. A new version turned up on the shelves of CompUSA a few weeks ago, although it's many years since it earned its owner money. So, is it sour grapes from Novell; or is the company owed its due after some of the nastiest, and most childish tactics the software business has ever seen? Microsoft's reward from winning the desktop franchise has run into many tens of billions of dollars. Novell evidently thinks it is. Lawyers representing the companies had talked for over a year and had settled on everything but the WordPerfect Suite issue by last Monday. A week ago Microsoft agreed to pay Novell over half a billion dollars for, in effect, killing its NetWare for NT product. But in the document filed in a Utah court, Novell's allegations fall into two main categories: that Microsoft withheld technical information that it used to its own advantage, and that it unfairly leveraged its commercial relationship with PC makers to make Novell's offerings far less attractive. In the context of the larger conflict between the two - Microsoft's baby-faced Bugsy Malone actors had already targeted Novell for a splurge gun shooting - the office affair was brief. The Utah company picked up the WordPerfect Corporation and the rights to Borland's Quattro Pro in the space of a year, for $840m, to add to Unixware and DR DOS. But by the end of 1996 Novell had called it quits, selling the office products to Corel, Unix to SCO, and retiring DR DOS with its Caldera spin off. What happened? "Microsoft literally paid its distributors to stop doing business with competitors such as Novell," the suit claims. OEMs at the time received strong financial inducements for promising not to bundle or sell rival's software products. Microsoft's notorious per-processor licensing conditions for Windows earned OEMs an extra discount. OEMs were required to pay royalties upfront into a pot and if they failed to meet the agreed quota, Microsoft kept hold of the money. Many OEMs ran up several of these bookie bills - which a wireless operator would call a "prepay account" - running at any one time, some in credit, some in deficit. Novell also includes direct sales as one of the channels in which it was thwarted, but doesn't explain how Microsoft prevented Novell or its distributors from selling its own software directly. It leaves us to infer that its channel partners couldn't then find an OEM who could ship a box to a customer because of the OEM's exclusive commitments to Microsoft - but that's a story that hasn't been told yet. Many more of the allegations are purely technical. Novell says that WordPerfect for Windows was running late to begin with, because the company had been repeatedly told by Microsoft that OS/2 was its preferred successor to DOS. But as 1990 dawned, it was the industry's worst kept secret that Microsoft had renewed its focus on Windows 3.0. (IBM and Microsoft had come to an awkward positioning agreement in September 1989 but divorce, and the all-out OS/2 vs Windows war didn't really begin until 1991). Windows 3.0 betas had been circulating for months before its splashy launch in summer 1990, by which time work on WordPerfect for Windows was underway. Few people used Windows then except, perhaps, as a run time environment for PageMaker. In terms of functionality, with no scalable fonts and hardly any printer drivers, Windows 3.0 wasn't much better: but it was better received in recession-stricken IT departments than it was in the press. A smaller developer would have more right to be aggrieved, but the market leader WordPerfect was already running on several different platforms and so at the very least, an insurance policy would have prudent for the company. This isn't the strongest part of Novell's suit, and they don't dwell too long here. What's up, OpenDoc? Novell also alleges that its investment in the OpenDoc component technology was scuttled by exclusory technical conduct and certification requirements Microsoft created for its own OLE. It's doubtful if anything has useful remains from the OLE vs OpenDoc war at all. Novell is correct to point out that Microsoft's behemoth was ungainly, inferior and vastly over-engineered causing many a hard disk to expire before its time. OLE required an EMACs-sized commitment from the developer, but delivered only edlin-sized benefits. But it's stretching the imagination to claim, as Novell does, that OpenDoc would have been the de facto API for the Internet and, well, everywhere: "If OpenDoc is adopted by the Internet, it will be a de facto standard on all major OS platforms, and execute a brilliant end-run around Microsoft's strangehold on Windows," reckons a Component Integration Labs marketing plan from 9 February, 1995. But CIL never really tried, and even Microsoft had a hard time getting its component technology - rebranded as ActiveX - taken seriously. However there's little to quibble with the long list of technical frustrations that Novell suffered. Other desktop application competitors, not yet marked for death and their churches for destruction, didn't suffer as uniquely. Microsoft denied Novell developers documentation for features as basic as the clipboard, prevented Novell's file manager from taking over the desktop by retracting documentation, hid help APIs and obfuscated the Rich Text file format. Windows system DLLs, on which all developers depended, were changed frequently without the changes being documented. There's little point to having a well documented public API when circumventing its limitations offer such great competitive advantages. Microsoft had already vowed, during the FTC investigation, to maintain "Chinese walls". But whispers kept getting through. For example, Novell developers found that Windows' 64kb resource heaps for menus and dialog boxes in WordPerfect were quickly exhausted - while Microsoft's Office applications had no such problems. They discovered that Microsoft was calling an undocumented API, the Dialog Box Manager, which Microsoft ensured stayed undocumented. Gradually the ability of Novell to keep up with, let alone differentiate itself from, Microsoft Office, diminished. "Because the standards were lifted directly from Microsoft's own applications, those applications, by definition, were always 'compatible' with the standards," says Novell. So hard luck, or hard cheese? Ten years on, Microsoft's Office business is a money-printing machine, with profits of around 90 per cent even when the cost of employing so many layers of bloggers and other marketing types has been taken into account. Novell clearly feels its a case worth pursuing. Other software developers were able to thrive for a while with high quality Windows software (Borland, before it was targeted for destruction), but none was singled out for such special treatment as Novell, and all missed the windfall profits that resulted in losing out on the desktop franchise. Novell bought an already profitable business, which needed to undertake a critical port smoothly. Its case is much stronger than Netscape's later case was, or at least, the potential damages could be much higher. It's a shame that District Court judges simply assume that the advance of technology brings with it progress, and don't take aesthetic or even utilitarian considerations into account. We were going to conclude with a cheap gag about WordPerfect for Windows' button bar. Novell's antitrust filing makes a reference to WordPerfect's "more widely admired 'button bar'" being unfairly thwarted by Microsoft's toolbar. Your reporter remembered a promotional event for WordPerfect for Windows in 1991 where the company gave out a piece of tasteless chocolate called, you got it - the Button Bar - which was fairly inedible. If you're running Microsoft Word for Windows 2003, right click to bring up the Customize dialog box, got to Options, check the 'Large Icons' tickbox and click OK. See how much tastier toolbars have gotten since? ® Related stories That's enough peace - Novell sues MS just one more time Why MS paid Novell half a billion bucks today EC erects toll booth for Microsoft's open source rivals
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Nov 2004

Motorola 'recalls' MPx220 smart phone

Motorola has reportedly pulled all MPx220 Windows Mobile 2003 smart phones off Best Buy's shelves just a month after the handset went on sale in a bid to nip a firmware glitch in the bud. According to a Mobile Gadget News forum posting which reproduces a page allegedly taken from the retail giant's internal web site, all MPx220s, currently offered exclusively with a Cingular connection, must be "pulled from the sales floor and put back in warehouse". Separately, InfoSync World notes that the MPx220's withdrawal centres on a firmware issue which affects the handset's audio volume. Best Buy's page points to "earpiece issues". Motorola is said to have finalised a replacement version of the firmware code. Handsets shipping from this past Friday (12 November) should contain the updated software. Best Buy's news posting points to an orange box sticker which indicates there's an updated machine inside. Motorola, meanwhile, has asked MPx220 users to contact it for a replacement, with new handsets being shipped within two business days, according to the Best Buy page. At this stage, Motorola's own site does not yet refer to the alleged audio problem, nor does it ask MPx220 buyers to get in touch in order to obtain a replacement. The MPx220 is due to arrive in the UK next month. The handset features a 2in, 176 x 220, 270,000-colour display and an integrated 1.23 megapixel digicam with a 3x digital zoom and flash. It supports Bluetooth, and includes 64MB of Flash ROM and 32MB of SDRAM. There's a Mini SD card slot capable of taking a 512MB memory card. The unit weighs 113g and measures 8.9 x 4.8 x 2.7cm. It provides quad-band support - 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz - GSM/GPRS connectivity. ® Related stories Motorola MPx220 to hit UK in December Best Buy sells Motorola MPx220 smart phone Motorola delays MPx220 MS smart phone Motorola smart phone to offer 1.3Mp cam, Bluetooth Motorola widens Microsoft smart phone line
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2004

Dual-core IBM PowerPC 'to ship in single-core form'

IBM's dual-core G5-class PowerPC processor, codenamed 'Antares', is to ship alongside a single-core version, if sources cited by Think Secret are to be believed. The PowerPC 970GX - aka 'Antares SP' - will essentially succeed today's single-core part, the 970FX, the sources claim, but will provide double that chip's on-die L2 cache to 1MB. Like the dual-core Antares - likely to ship as the 970MP - the 970GX will clock at frequencies of up to 3GHz. At this stage it's not clear whether the 970GX is a true single-core implementation of the 970MP - or simply IBM's way of selling 970MPs that contain a dud core. Think Secret's sources point to a Q1/Q2 2005 introduction - which would mean the chip would debut a year after the 970FX's introduction. The 970MP has been given a similar timeframe for entering volume production. Meanwhile, erstwhile Motorola chip division Freescale is continuing work on the G4-class MPC7448, its first 90nm PowerPC chip. Launched last October, the chip contains 1MB of L2 cache, clocks at 1.5GHz and up, and is said by the company to consume significantly less power than its 130nm predecessors. Apple last updated its PowerBook laptop line in April. The 7448 is due to sample H1 2005, according to Freescale's official timeline, but the word on the grapevine is that the part will appear next year sooner rather than later, possibly in time to refresh the PowerBook line next Spring. ® Related stories IBM 'readying dual-core G5' Freescale to launch 90nm PowerPC G4 today Freescale to detail dual-core PowerPC G4 Apple to bundle Wi-Fi with all PowerBooks
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2004

Selling surveillance - has Blunkett got a deal for you

AnalysisAnalysis Although run by Great Communicator David Blunkett the Home Office, as you may have noticed, seems utterly incapable of getting across a coherent message on what it will actually charge people for ID cards. Last month's non-concession announcement was no exception; prices made it into the papers on the morning of 28th October, and by 2nd November there was David Blunkett clarifying the "misleading statements that were made last week." Somewhat tortuously. There's a reason for this. The Home Office's objective for the ID scheme doesn't actually have a great deal to do with the kinds of ID card and passport you either want or will get, and rather more to do with what it thinks you'll put up with paying. The money extracted goes towards what they really want - the National Identity Register (NIR). The primary goal of the scheme is to collect biometric and personal data on the entire population of the UK in order to build the NIR, and to use this together with your biometrics as a security and validation system. Cards and passports are merely a recruiting mechanism for this system, the most obvious and immediate example being passports, where you're going to have to co-operate sooner or later if you ever want to leave the country. It is therefore convenient from the Home Office's point of view that all your biometrics, rather than just the ones needed for passports, are collected when you apply for your new passport, because it's the quickest and surest way to get them all. The real requirements Note that the Home Office doesn't need to do that, and that the National Identity Register doesn't need to be built as a consequence of what the Home Office does have to do. The ICAO international passport standard which will shortly be essential for travel to the US simply requires a biometric facial image, while new European standards whose introduction the Home Office itself supported will also require fingerprints on passports within the next few years. But the NIR is not a requirement. A chipped passport will be much harder to forge, while a biometric passport can be tied relatively easily to the bearer via a local check - no network or NIR required. That's the intent, and that's pretty much what more sensible countries will be doing. You could even throw away the biometrics after you'd put them in the passport, and you'd still have a pretty solid validation system for ports of entry. This, which we repeat is what the Home Office is obliged to do as opposed to what the Home Office is doing, is potentially pretty cheap. People running biometric schemes in other countries (for example Hong Kong, where the card is free, with a $20 charge for a replacement) laugh out loud when they hear the insane prices being quoted for the UK, and read the complex justifications for them. Which is where we came in - back, then, to young David's latest financial explanation. Juggling the budget In response to a question from David Winnick MP of the Home Affairs Committee, Blunkett stated: "The biometrics will be part of the development of the passport system over the next three years. That development of secure passports which is essential now for travel, not least to the United States where otherwise it will cost an individual $100 a time to obtain a visa and six weeks of considerable wait to do so, will enable us to be able to demonstrate the taking and the use of the biometric and the cost of the passport and then the cost of the ID card which will go alongside it." Note the absence of an actual technical justification for the cost of the passport here. Instead, it is apparently a bargain because it will cost less than the US would charge you for a visa if you didn't have a biometric passport. Now, the other bit: "The cost of the ID card element will be the database and the ability, as again recommended by the Committee, of people to be able to monitor the access to that database and to check their own details and question with the Commission - that we have also agreed to expand as recommended by you - to be able to determine what is being accessed on that database and by whom. The cost of that therefore will run something like this: 415 million, we estimate, by 2008/9 for the development and delivery of the whole of the cost of the biometric passport and 85 million for the annual cost of running the card system alongside it." Note first that he's categorising the ID card as being the part of the scheme that has to support the NIR, and second how eagerly he leaps on the opportunity to blame the Home Affairs Committee for increases in cost to the scheme. Home Affairs wanted better facilities for people to monitor their details and a stronger Commissioner to oversee the ID scheme, so it can now take responsibility for upward revisions to the cost. Note also that there is no obvious way that the numbers he's quoting here can be added up to the fabled £3bn total cost of the scheme. But as the passport isn't the bit that's bearing the NIR, then you'd think the passport would cost less than the ID card, right? Or even that the extra cost of a biometric passport over a current one would be less than the cost of an ID card. A passport currently costs £42, while Blunkett envisages "around £70 for the biometric passport and £15 for the card combined together." The artificial nature of the entire exercise is pretty clear, and can perhaps be rationalised as follows. The biometrics need too be developed for ICAO passports, therefore their cost is loaded onto the passport entirely. The biometric element of the ID card can therefore be counted as 'free' (which would be a funny way to allocate costs in proper business), and the £15 therefore has to cover the NIR plus all of the costs associated with administration, distribution and policing of the system. Even taking into account the fact that Blunkett is busily loading the rollout costs in terms of readers and infrastructure onto other departments (e.g. piggybacking on the NHS' NPfIT, which he revealed at an earlier Home Affairs hearing), £15 is way, way too low. Previous Home Office suggestions have ranged up to £35 for the ID card, but note Blunkett uses the wording "combined together", i.e. the £70+£15 is actually a special offer only applicable if you buy them both at the same time and "we have yet to determine what the cost should be of a separate card where people do not require a passport and whether we should put the two together so that if you had a passport you would get a card automatically, but do you automatically get a passport if you get a card? I want to come back to that when we publish the Bill." What a tangled web we weave... You can see just from this how Home Office pricing goes completely wacko. Blunkett is leaving scope for charging more for the separate items, and also lobbing in a completely different notion of forcing a passport on you when you find yourself compelled to get an ID card (which we're sure will happen during the "voluntary" phase - consider, for example, whether you'd be willing to volunteer yourself out of healthcare). Compare and contrast the current version of the desperate pricing thrashing with the pitch Blunkett made on Breakfast with Frost in April (where among things he said: "I mean it's a meaningless sum." Indeed). Then, he suggested that the passport development would bear the cost of the database and " because we're building on that the cost of actually issuing the card as opposed to placing the biometric on the database linking it to the passport and the card, will only be £4 over a ten-year period." Pressed further on the cost of the card, he said: "The actual card cost will [build up?], over ten years, and we've built in a very substantial leeway here because obviously we don't want to be accused of having made up a figure that doesn't stand up to scrutiny [sic], will be an extra £35. £31 of that over the ten-year period would be required to bring up to date, to make secure, that passport and visa regime with biometrics." Which suggests that the cost of the database is actually being shared between the passport and ID card, and again you're wondering how come the sheets of paper cost so much. "In other words, we're being transparent about it. We could easily without a card simply have increased year on year the price of a passport." Which they might well still do, depending on whether the card costs £4, £15, £35, or something else entirely. We'll insert a personal finance tip at this point, in the hope that it may make the Home Office's financial chicanery even trickier. Provided the Home Office doesn't specifically hobble the ID card so that you're not allowed to use it for travel (if it does, we can maybe call the ID card 'Passport XP Home Edition'), then so long as you only want to travel within the EU or anywhere else that will recognise it, you don't need a new passport. So try to renew your passport just before biometric passports come in, then don't renew it ever again. With a bit of luck, the Home Office will price the ID card low in order to avoid general public outcry, so if the sums pan out you could actually save money, albeit at the cost of being lumbered with the database. So probably best go for the outcry anyway, whatever the price. What are you really getting? The essential pottiness of it all becomes more obvious when you consider what it is you're getting when you get a passport or an ID card, and the extent to which they differ. The Home Office hasn't yet publicly stated which biometrics will be used on either, but the passport needs to have facial image and fingerprint according to the new European rules, and the UK has been lobbying for iris scan also to be incorporated in the European passport standard. There is currently no European standard for ID card, but as the UK is likely to be collecting all three biometrics at time of passport application, it seems likely that at least in its ideal scenario all three biometrics would be on both, or that there would be room in the designs for all three. And the convenience of having the same biometrics on passport and ID card will surely be compelling to the Home Office. What are the two documents? In essence, they're tokens which can be used to validate themselves (i.e. not forged) and the bearer (biometrics match token). They can also be used in conjunction with external data (which could be a network or just a watch list) to determine broader access privileges for the bearer. The bearer is the bearer, the access privileges are the access privileges, essentially the documents are the same, interchangeable. Or, as the Home Office has told us with reference to the ID version, because the validation can be checked via your biometrics you do not necessarily need the token in the first place (N.B. do not try this at border control). This sameness is made more obvious by the fact that you could use the passport to identify yourself in an ID card situation, because you can already do this today, and you could use the ID card as a travel document, as is already the case with other EU countries. The differences between the two documents will therefore be physical, and semi-arbitrary differences introduced by what the Home Office might or might not decide to store on them. Passports will be a different shape in order to accommodate visa stamps etc, and possibly also because of the reader technology used, so they probably won't fit in whatever reader an ID card fits into, but they'll be the same things in different packages, and in this sense £30-40 seems a lot extra for a few sheets of paper. The Home Office's angsting over whether or not people who get ID cards should get passports at the same time just makes this sameness clearer; if you get a passport then you get an ID card because they're just two different packagings of the same thing, and if you get an ID card you should get a passport, for the same reason. Apart from the money thing. Blunkett clearly can't pitch the truth to the public, because the truth is that he wants the entire population to give the Government money so the Government can keep files on them all. Logically, if you are your ID (which the Home Office says you are), then the token is just a worthless, non-essential thing that should come free with the control and surveillance system, which is what you're really paying for. All of this ridiculous fannying around over cost arises precisely because Blunkett can't say that, can't just order the whole population to report to their nearest 'pod' to hand in their pass law data, and therefore he has to assign arbitrary and ever-changing costs to items which the population might, grudgingly, accept that they have no choice but to pay for. Watch out for more fannying in a couple of weeks, however, when the Home Office's death-defying bean-counters will no doubt attempt to justify the cost of the standalone ID card. Or the card plus passport special offer you can't refuse. Blunkettwatch: The Register's surveillance of David Blunkett's parliamentary performances over the past few weeks lead us towards the conclusion that here we have a man who should consider the dangers inherent for him in stringing two sentences together. Or alternatively, examine the quality of the string he's using. Here, for example, he responds to a suggestion by Marsha Singh MP that the arrest rate of under one per cent for those stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act might lead one to believe that the police were "using their powers under the Terrorism Act to go on fishing expeditions". Blunkett protests that a working group exists to make sure police are not engaged in "some sort of fishing trip or trawl which is just deliberately intended to disrupt the community." So no fishing trips, right? Then he adds: "Where that engagement with the community has been effective, for instance, in south London, it has also engaged the cooperation of the community itself. It is fair to say that the statistics that come out need to be measured by the number of charges of activity under other Acts, not just the Terrorism Act. Therefore, half the arrests have led to charges under other measures." So you stop people under the TA, then nick them for something else you discover because you stopped them. But that's not a fishing trip - brilliant. Blunkett's standard defence of TA stop and search, which he has now mounted several times in answer to parliamentary questions, leans heavily on the 'charged for other stuff' justification. This helps him peddle the myth that the law is useful, despite TA conviction numbers perilously close to zero (example). And in the House in response to Lynne Jones MP earlier this month, we have the following wondrous piece of reasoning on why Government stats on vehicle TA stop and searches don't match up. Blunkett: "The Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2003 report is concerned with detailing stop-searches by ethnicity, therefore, the number of stop-searches carried out on vehicles and not the occupants is omitted. The Home Office Statistical Bulletin, the source for the answer of 27 January, includes instances where the police have stop-searched just the vehicle and not any of the occupants." So as vehicles themselves do not have ethnicity as such, the Met doesn't record ethnicity unless it searches the contents too. We accept David probably didn't come up with this wondrous piece of reasoning all by himself. And if the Met does see an empty car driving along the public highway, we agree it makes sense to stop it and have a close look. ® Related stories Blunkett sets out store on compulsory ID cards Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card Blunkett poised to open ID scheme offensive tomorrow Home Office seeks spin doctor to sell cuddly ID card brand UK ID cards to be issued with first biometric passports Biometric gear to be deployed in hospitals and GPs' surgeries UK gov pilots passenger tracking in fight against terror Tag, track, watch, analyse - UK goes mad on crime and terror IT
John Lettice, 16 Nov 2004
globalisation

IBM, Lenovo ponder world desktop PC JV

IBM and Chinese PC maker Lenovo are discussing ways the two might co-operate to boost their share of the desktop market in China and around the world, reports in the Far Eastern press suggest. According to separate reports in the Chinese-language Commercial Times and Economic Daily News, the two PC makers are in talks centring on the foundation of a dual-brand joint-venture. Details of the plan remain scarce, but CT suggests the following scenario: Lenovo buys the share China's Great Wall Computer holds in International Information Products Company, an existing JV with IBM. After the acquisition, IIPC becomes 'Lenovo-IBM', 'IBM-Lenovo' or some such. According to IDC, IBM and Lenovo command 4.4 per cent and 3.4 per cent, respectively, of the never more commoditised world desktop PC market, well behind Dell and HP. Bringing their businesses together would still leave them with roughly half of HP's market share - 14.9 per cent - but would lift the JV above the heads of other rivals. In China, Lenovo has led the field for some time, beating down all the well-known Western PC vendor names. But over the last few years the rapidly growing Chinese PC market has encouraged plenty of home-grown competition, resulting in very fierce price wars. In August, Dell - which knows the low-end PC business better than anyone - was forced to cut its losses and escape that segment of the Chinese market to focus on high-end kit such as servers. A deal with IBM might bring Lenovo the kudos it may believe it needs to pitch for that higher-level business. ® Related story Dell drops out of China's low-end PC market AMD bags Chinese giant Dell re-enters the blade-o-sphere Dell 'to add' AMD CPUs to product line - CEO IBM puts Blue Genes up for sale
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2004

Tektrol's worst case scenario

The fine print in an insurance policy becomes an issue when a bizarre chain of IT disasters leaves a company without a single copy of the source code to its flagship product. A series of booklets by Joshua Priven describe how to survive a series of "Worst Case Scenarios." These include telling readers how to escape from quicksand, survive a bear attack, land a plane, or perform an emergency tracheotomy. A recent case in the Queens Bench in London illustrates the need for just such a handbook for the IT security environment, particularly as it applies to insurance policies that are supposed to protect you from loss of electronic information. The case, decided November 3rd, involved a UK company, Tektrol, Ltd., which manufactured a device called the "PowerMiser" that reportedly saved its clients money by saving energy. The source code for the PowerMiser was apparently the company's most valuable asset -- so valuable in fact, that they kept five independent copies of it. Two copies were kept on separate computers at their headquarters, one on the managing director's laptop and another on a computer at a remote site operated by an independent company. A final hard copy print-out was kept at the headquarters. Then the worst case scenario hit. In December 2001, the company was infected by a computer worm disguised as a Christmas card from a law firm (note to self, don't trust greetings from lawyers) which destroyed the source code from the managing director's laptop when he opened the Noel greeting. The managing director then accessed the computer at the offsite to reload the source code and -- you guessed it -- infected the offsite, and destroyed their copy of the source code. Two weeks later, the Tektrol offices were broken into, and the burglars stole both the desktop machines and the sole remaining paper copy of the source code, nicely completing the disaster. Fortunately for Tektrol, they had business interruption insurance. Unfortunately, they either didn't read the policy very carefully or never anticipated the events of Christmas 2001. The policy covered any direct or incidental losses and business interruption in which "any ... property used by the Insured at the Premises for the purpose of the Business [is] accidentally lost destroyed or damaged." Tektrol argued that the virus' destruction of the source code was "accidental" under the policy, as the virus was not targeted at or intended to harm Tektrol. The insurer naturally argued that the loss was not accidental. Moreover, the policy went on to specifically exclude from coverage "erasure loss distortion or corruption of information on computer systems or other records programs or software caused deliberately by ... malicious persons" or "other erasure loss distortion or corruption of information on computer systems or other records programs or software." However, the policy did cover consequential damages relating "to computers or data processing equipment ... resulting from theft or attempted theft involving breaking into or out of the buildings of the premises by forcible and violent means." Burgled and Burned The language of the policy is, like all insurance policies, hopelessly convoluted, and I claim no special expertise in reading such policies. However, it's clear that if Tektrol's losses were the result of a deliberate act by malicious persons (other than burglary), they were not covered. If their losses were the result of a burglary and "are not otherwise excluded" they could recover. The task of sorting this all out fell upon the Hon. Mr. Justice Langley of the Royal High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, Commercial Court. The problem was that there were really two independent causes of the "loss" -- neither of which alone would have caused an interruption of Tektrol's business. If the virus had hit, and there had been no burglary, the company would have been able to restore the source code. Had the burglary occurred and no virus destroyed the remaining copies, again the source code would have been available. Justice Langley concluded therefore that if either of these independent causes of the business interruption were excluded from the coverage of the policy, then the insured could not recover. As he explained, "In my judgment, whether as a matter of 'instinct' or on the basis of an increased risk of loss, in the context of this policy both the virus and the burglary are properly to be described as causes of the consequential loss (business interruption) claimed by Tektrol." He went on to explain, "if the consequences of either the virus or the burglary are excluded from cover[age], insurers succeed." Because the losses from the virus were excluded from the policy, Tektrol loses. It is this portion of the case that is clearly mistaken. The court's use of a "but-for" analysis -- but for the virus, the burglary would not have resulted in business interruption -- is clearly backwards. Before the break-in, Tektrol could not have even filed a claim for "business interruption," as no business had been interrupted. The "losses" to Tektrol did not mature until the burglary occurred two weeks later, and were a direct result of the break-in. Indeed, Tektrol never was required to have made the backup copies destroyed by the virus. If the case was decided poorly, at least it gives us the first survival tip for a cyber Worst Case Scenarios handbook: Any comprehensive risk assessment must include a complete review not only of security policies and procedures, but also of the insurance policies designed to mitigate risks in a worse case scenario. It also reminds us that Murphy's Law still holds sway: everything that can go wrong, will, and at the worst possible moment. 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 Source code loss excluded from insurance, says court Q: What does risk mean to you? Defendant: Microsoft source code sale was a setup
Mark Rasch, 16 Nov 2004

Symbian and Entrust score civil servants

Symbian has appointed a senior ex-government official as its new chairman. Sir Peter Gershon, Symbian's new chairman, was chief executive of the Office of Government Commerce. Gershon previously worked for Marconi and BAE Systems before joining the Office of Government Commerce, which oversees the wisdom of government procurement. Gershon told the FT: "It's an exciting company and it's got some challenges ahead of it," he said. "The company has been very successful to date but you can never rest on your laurels." The mobile operating system firm is owned by various handset makers including Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. Gershon will need to balance their desire for a cheap operating system with maintaining Symbian's revenues. In other civil servant news - Andrew Pinder, ex-e-Envoy, is joining the board of Entrust, a secure sign-on and secure messaging firm. Pinder was the man charged with getting the UK online by 2005, he left his post in August this year. Bill Conner, chairman, president and chief executive of Entrust welcomed the appointment. He said: "Andrew has served both at the core and at the cutting edge of IT security and e-government innovation, and is well suited to help us implement Entrust's strategic plan. We look forward to his involvement in helping us match our growing technology and services portfolio with the evolving security issues now being faced by governments and businesses throughout the world." ® Related stories E-minister urged to intervene in Yorkshire broadband spat UK gov's IT CIO is dumb idea, says likely appointee NHS IT a wonderful thing NHS e-Envoy prepares to log off
John Oates, 16 Nov 2004
cable

ADIC pools disk and tape

Stop arguing about the place of disks in backup and get on with using it, says ADIC. The company has updated its Pathlight VX disk backup box - like the original, version 2 includes an EMC Clariion disk array, but it also connects to an ADIC or StorageTek tape library and merges both disk and tape into a single virtual library. "It unifies disk and tape as one pool that looks like a library to the software," says Steve Mackey, the ADIC exec in charge of European product marketing. "It starts at 3.8TB of disk, you can then add disk and tape capacity, trading storage cost versus service level." To a certain extent, the result is a tape library with a disk cache for faster backups and restores. Several companies can already build this type of thing, but Mackey claims most still require some sort of user intervention to move data between media. He says that Pathlight v2's advantage is its policy-based data management software. This resembles ILM and automatically migrates data off disk and into the tape library, or onto tapes for export. This isn't new of course - StorageTek has had virtual libraries including both disk and tape for some time. However, ADIC claims it is the first to fully integrate them for the midrange market. These techniques are essential for fast tape drives such as LTO-3, because servers alone cannot feed them fast enough, Mackey says: "Virtual libraries can be driven at any speed, and then the back end is optimised to run tape drives very efficiently." He adds that Pathlight v2 will be available from December and will start at around $160,000 complete with a small tape library. According to Quantum product marketing manager Graham Hunt, the important thing will be how transparently ADIC has managed the integration. "The aim has always been to keep the backup software and the management the same as before," he says. "There's also a lot of merit in keeping disk and tape separate - they are different backup devices." However, Mackey reckons that ADIC is simply doing the inevitable. "As the cost comes down, disk can add value," he says. "Give it two years and just about every backup system will have disk." ® Related stories Tape drives are fast enough, says Quantum LTO-3 bounces in ahead of schedule Software carries EMC to bumper Q2
Bryan Betts, 16 Nov 2004

Peruvians to enjoy Windows in Quechua

The estimated three million Peruvian speakers of Quechua will soon be enjoying Microsoft products in their native tongue, according to a report (in Spanish) on Terra.com. MS Peru and the Peruvian Ministry of Education have inked a deal to develop Windows products in the ancient language of the Incas. The programmes will be distributed free to teachers and students as part of a nation-wide scheme to promote the language, and will also be installed in internet cafes. Peru's education minister, Javier Sota Nadal, said: "We're going to promote the use of the Quechua language, as well as contribute to its spread as a part of Peruvian culture... Quechua speakers have the right to learn their own language." MS Peru supremo Lieneke Schol added: "This programme offers the opportunity to give access to technology in native tongues with the end result that more people can work with computers in their own language and realise their full potential." Pre-conquest Quechua had no written form (messages were relayed using a system of knotted string, the exact nature of which remains uncertain), but was later transcribed by the Spanish into the Latin alphabet. This will greatly facilitate the efforts of linguists at the Universidad Nacional San Antonio in Cuzco and Universidad Nacional San Cristobal de Huamanga in Ayachucho who are assisting in the translation process. The nuts-and-bolts work will be carried out using MS's "Language Interface Pack Kit" and is expected to yield results by May 2005. ® Related stories Windows for Welsh speakers Windows comes to Nynorsk Beware Greeks bearing Greeklish
Lester Haines, 16 Nov 2004

Grieving Arafat widow seeks business partner

Readers are invited to spare a moment this morning to consider the plight of the tearful widow of Yasser Arafat - recently departed for the great intifada in the sky. It seems she's having a bit of a trouble in the "getting my wedge out of Palestine" department. Maybe you can help? From: SUHA ARAFAT [mailto:suhafat@netscape.net] Sent: Sunday, November 14, 2004 5:00 AM To: ----- Subject: I NEED YOUR ASSISTANCE; SUHA ARAFAT Importance: High Dear Friend, This mail may not be surprising to you if you have been following current events in the international media with reference to the Middle East and Palestine in particular. I am Mrs. SUHA ARAFAT, the wife of YASSER ARAFAT, the Palestinian leader who died recently in Paris. Since his death and even prior to the announcement, I have been thrown into a state of antagonism, confusion, humiliation, frustration and hopelessness by the present leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the new Prime Minister. I have even been subjected to physical and psychological torture. As a widow that is so traumatized, I have lost confidence with everybody in the country at the moment. You must have heard over the media reports and the Internet on the discovery of some fund in my husband secret bank account and companies and the allegations of some huge sums of money deposited by my husband in my name of which I have refuses to disclose or give up to the corrupt Palestine Government. In fact the total sum allegedly discovered by the Government so far is in the tune of about $6.5 Billion Dollars. And they are not relenting on their effort to make me poor for life. As you know, the Moslem community has no regards for woman, hence my desire for a foreign assistance. I have deposited the sum of 20 million dollars with a security firm abroad whose name is withheld for now until we open communication. I shall be grateful if you could receive this fund into your bank account for safe keeping and any Investment opportunity. This arrangement is known to you and my personal Attorney. He might be dealing with you directly for security reasons as the case may be. In view of the above, if you are willing to assist for our mutual benefits, we will have to negotiate on your Percentage share of the $20,000,000 that will be kept in your position for a while and invested in your name for my trust pending when my Daughter, Zahwa, will come off age and take full responsibility of her Family Estate/inheritance. Please note that this is a golden opportunity that comes once in life time and more so, if you are hornet, I am going to entrust more funds in your care as this is one of the legacy we keep for our children. In case you don't accept please do not let me out to the security and international media as I am giving you this information in total trust and confidence I will greatly appreciate if you accept my proposal in good faith. Please expedite action. Yours sincerely, Suha Arafat Well, we're going to award this 419 solicitation a respectable six out of ten for effort, since it's not often that the Lads from Lagos take such pains to elaborate their emails with ostensibly plausible background. Anyone who's been following the Suha Arafat saga will know that she is alleged to have been paid in excess of $20m to reveal the whereabouts of her former hubby's vast (and real) wealth - suitably secreted in various offshore bank accounts. So far so good, but where our scamming friends' tale of woe fall down is in the concept of Mrs Arafat as simpering victim. Suha has been making a proper nuisance of herself for years - in between bouts of shopping for designer clothes - and once got into a verbal punch-up with Hillary Clinton during which she rounded on Israel, much to the embarrassment of just about everyone except herself. Our advice? Give this one a miss and await the call from a less inflammatory widow, such as the former missus of Liberia's Charles Taylor. According to recent email updates, she is still sitting in Ivory Coast, bless her, with a suitcase bulging with illicit funds just waiting for Mr Right to come along and offer his assistance. ® Bootnote Cheers to Gary Hinson for taking a close interest in Palestinian financial shenanigans. Related stories 419ers recruit asylum-seeking mortician Anatomy of a 419 scam 419ers enjoy a five-finger shuffle 419ers morph into Murder Incorporated 419er sells herself into sexual slavery 419ers make guest appearance in Doom 3 419ers launch online educational facility
Lester Haines, 16 Nov 2004

PlusNet gets tough with broadband hogs

PlusNet is getting tough with its heavy broadband users who, it claims, are hoovering up too much capacity and making life unbearable for the rest of its punters. Around 250 PlusNet customers received an email yesterday evening warning them that they will be all shunted onto one platform to share it with other broadband hogs. Said the email: "It has been identified that a small proportion of our Broadband customers (less than 0.3 per cent) are using a significant amount of the available capacity (around 10 per cent). You are within the 0.3 per cent of customers identified above, which means that so far, the platform's configuration has allowed you to use a disproportionate amount of the available capacity. "We will be making changes to our Broadband platform that will take effect in 14 days' time, at which point you will be sharing platform capacity with other Broadband customers who have similar usage patterns to you." One reader who received the email told The Register: "Ever since this email was sent to us heavy users, the user forum of PlusNet has been flooded with complaints of this. The users are really outraged. I don't really know what the true impact will be, but if all of us heavy users are stuck to one line, then I can only really expect terrible speeds." A spokesman for the Sheffield-based ISP - which has more than 77,650 broadband users - explained that the move was fair for the majority of its customers. Last week, PlusNet scooped a gong for the best consumer ISP at the Future Publishing internet awards. ® Related stories Chinese Government nets 'Internet Villain' gong Punters flock to PlusNet cut-price ADSL PlusNet takes AIM at stock market
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2004

US Navy blows $375m hole in EDS accounts

EDS has reached agreement with its auditors on the size of the hole in its accounts left by the exploding contract with the US Navy. The computer services giant has had to delay posting results twice while it negotiates with KPMG as to how much it should write off. The assets related to the Navy contract were originally valued at $520m but now EDS has agreed to reduce that by $375m. The firm is also restating results for every quarter of 2003 following disagreement with its auditors about how it accounted for revenue. This included a transaction of $9m in the third quarter of 2003 which was recognised as revenue: "based on managment's judgement regarding the ultimate outcome of ongoing settlement discussion with a client". KPMG advised that such revenue should not be included in accounts until agreement was actually signed. The firm made a loss of $153m in the third quarter of 2004, compared to a restated loss of $16m for the same period last year. Mike Jordan, chairman and CEO at EDS, said: "Our third quarter results reflect a company that is operationally solid and delivering for its clients....We moved quickly to deal with our auditor's questions and believe these issues are behind us. Now we can focus on building our business." The Navy Marine Corps Intranet is valued at $8bn but has already cost EDS $500m in written-off assets. The reduction in asset value relates to "a more conservative timeline for meeting modified performance service levels, a deceleration in customer satisfaction improvement rates, delays in signing certain contract modifications and additions, and the failure to meet seat cutover schedules during the quarter", according to an EDS statement. EDS took a further $27m charge related to its deal with US Airways which is in Chapter 11 bankrupcy protection. The firm's Audit Committee has finished investigating quarterly bonus payments made in 2003 and 2004 and found "no improper activities". More details at EDS. ® Related stories EDS delays results for third time EDS polishes 9,000 gold watches EDS suffers US Navy broadside
John Oates, 16 Nov 2004
cloud

Comtec goes titsup

Comtec Education PLC and Comtec Business Services, government certified technology suppliers to the UK education sector, have gone into receivership, leaving customers uncertain about the future of their contracts. The Register understands that there is a disagreement between the administrators and some of Comtec's customers over whether the hardware supplied as part of Comtec's contracts was leased or sold. If the hardware was merely leased, then the company will be worth far more to creditors, but the customers will be left without the services they paid for. Keith Morgan, joint administrator at Pannell Kerr Foster (PKF), the accountancy firm handling the administraion said he was aware of the dispute, but was unable to comment further at this stage. Administrators at PKF don't yet know the extent of the debt, but told us that the creditors' meeting was held last week, and that PKF is in the process of concluding its investigations into the monies owed. PKF is not looking to sell the companies on as going concerns. "The exit route will be liquidation, "Mr. Morgan said." We will ascertain the level of the creditors claims and expect the liquidation to be complete within three to four weeks." The company had only one member of staff left when the administration order was filed, just "a handful" prior to that, according to PKF. ® Related stories Paradise Computers goes titsup Rural broadband outfit goes bust Two UK telco resellers go titsup
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2004

Cisco fixes 'decoy attack' in security software

Cisco has discovered a security flaw in its Cisco Security Agent software (CSA. This could be exploited by attackers to circumvent the security provided by the host-based intrusion prevention product. The network giant has issued a patch to fix the vulnerability. A flaw in the function that detect buffer overflow attacks means the second of two closely spaced attacks might avoid detection. The system under attack must contain an unpatched underlying vulnerability in system software that CSA is configured to protect. This is a subtle attack that is probably beyond the scope of most s'kiddies. But it poses a real danger: the vulnerability has been discussed in underground hacker forums, according to Cisco. It advises users of potentially vulnerable systems to upgrade to version 4.0.3.728 or later of CSA, as explained here. As a workaround, customers can disable user interaction in CSA. ® Related stories Cisco beefs up IOS security Cisco combats network worms Cisco buys behaviour blocker
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2004

Indymedia seizure ok by us, say readers

LettersLetters We've had an interesting, and no doubt provocative, couple of letters about the seizure of Indymedia's servers. Then they came for the tree-huggers and squatters. Then they came for the PC support staff... Why are you giving such concern to seizures of indymedia's hard drives. I've just had a quick look at some of the sites they host and they are all run by the kind of people this country should be ashamed of. Tree loving swampy types, you know the kind of people I mean, soap dodging, drinking a can of special brew, roll up fag in mouth with emaciated dog on a lead, willing to protest at there own shadow but never done a days work in there lives but happy to sponge income support from the likes of you and me. So what if the FBI has seized their hard drives, they haven't seized mine because I do not go smashing up MacDonald's at the weekend or fighting with police on an anti globalization demonstration. Don't give these social bloodsucking miscreants the keyboard time they don't deserve, I certainly don't want my frigging time wasted by reading this crap. What really pissed me off was one of indymedia's websites http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/09/297978.html Gives a run down of local events, fair enough I suppose, let the soap dodgers advertise a tea and coffee morning maybe to raise some money for there next spliff but then I see a note titled another eviction. This is eviction happens to be in my neighbourhood in Birmingham. According to the site Birmingham city council are in the process of evicting a bunch of loser hippies from a disused nursery. Most decent people would applaud this however the web site is campaigning against this and organising a demo against this eviction order. I sorry but such social deviants cant just squat down anywhere you feel, I may go down there tonight and give them a good kicking. Fucking tree huggers make me mad. Take the hard drives, send them to the FBI or CIA don't expect any sympathy from me if you squat in my neighbourhood. Mike Bailey angry and pissed off. Plausible Deniability: If nothing was taken, there's no reason anyone should know about it. Or, if that doesn't tickle your fancy, what about Lex Rex? We live in a democracy, in a place that is supposed to be tolerant of all people, but we're afraid of those with a natural tan because of a man on dialysis understands that it is cheaper to blow someone up than it is to protect against such an action. "Death is cheap; life is expensive. " -Me This means, in brief, that we, as Americans, are not as free as we think we are. We're under the guise of freedom, but indeed our freedoms must be taken from us in order to protect us. We whine about the time it takes to go through airport security, and I've also heard that there's a complaint against Logan Airport for "profiling" against people display attitudes that make them suspicious. Tell me, what are we supposed to do? The only thing the Iraqis had to fear was their dictator. We have to fear the freedoms we're giving up to protect us from those that would take our lives. We're stuck between Iraq and a hard place. Yes, bad pun, but it has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Matthew John Lettice writes: A very small letter, but important. A government with the backing of enough electors like this one can run as many Auschwitzes as it wants: PLEASE STOP THE WHINING !!! The FBI don't just grab PC's cause they have nothing to do. Time for The Rag to Get REAL !!! Randy We are bracing ourselves for more on this one... Lexmark came under fire this week for a piece of software that monitors its customers' printing activity and reports back to HQ. The crafty piece of code also identifies which cartridges are installed, an important piece of information in the event of a warranty dispute: This sort of thing is why I tell my customers "NEVER register any commercial software. If it won't run without registration, return it to the vendor and demand a refund, or replacement with equivalent software that will run without registration." Of course, demanding an open source alternative instead of buying closed-source stuff is smarter anyhow. A quarter-million programmers performing peer review will produce products superior to two thousand programmers who are all trying to keep their source code as secret as possible. Morely It seems, from your letters, that you were as terrified as we were by the news that robotic, laser-toting cockroaches are to be deployed throughout the land. But there are even more sinister cyber-goings-on, er, going on: I have followed The Register's brave (so I thought) reportage of the growing robot menace. The portable toilet that I purchased as Y2K survival gear is proving very useful for avoiding murdrous, lurking cyberloos. What about the robots with shotguns? Are you trying to suppress this story? See link one, link two, link three and link four. I understand that robot cockroaches should be of deep concern to us all, but what about FRICKIN' ROBOTS WITH FRICKIN' SHOTGUNS? Robots, may I add, that are made by the same people putting cute, harmless Roombas in every home? What lurks behind the mask of Lester Haines? Could it be a PackBot EOD with smoking shotgun module, treads crushing Lester's blasted corpse as it stretches its OmniReach manipulator toward the keyboard? Paul "Boffins Unleash Robotic Cockroach"? Personally, I think the incredible part in this tale is not the story of micromechanical engineering, but the fact that you can get a collar and leash on any cockroach to begin with. Ok now everyone, let's summon our inner Barbara Woodhouse, and using the ever-so-proper tones and accent say out loud: "Come on, Scuttles. Walkies!!!" Ian We liked this letter, in response to the Pentagon's $20m war internet: Reading your article, "Pentagon's $20bn war internet will 'cure world hunger'" I was reminded of a documentary I watched a while back called "Future War" - if I remember correctly. They were reporting on a global battlefield view system (or some such) that enabled generals to move their troops around like an RTS strategy game. Basically, as they moved the pieces orders were sent out to the troops - how this was achieved wasn't mentioned. The scenario was that Green Beret detachment played the role of some insurgents attacking a smallish group of marines. The commentator asked the insurgents' leaders, "are you worried about this new technology?" and he replied, "No, we've never lost in this scenario - and we've done this lots of times." So the wargames continued. After a while all of the insurgents were "dead" with the notable axception of the leader. After a while the commanders running the wargame started to get reports that they were receiving artillery fire and that units were being killed off. Eventually the wargame was abandoned with the insurgents declared the winners. It turned out that, while the commanders were busy worrying about the insurgents regular attacks, the insurgent commander had sneaked into the office where the new technology was housed. He had taken up a position on the flue above the 'war room' and was using a pair of binooculars and a mobile phone to pin point the defenders' vehicles and troops and was calling in artillery fire. The moral of the story was that; lots of technology doesn't make a good army, good soldiering does. The green berets were extremely dismissive of this new technology and pointed out that all that the defenders had to do was search the building. Basic stuff. Cheers Gav Someone whose friends evidently have an encyclopaedic knowledge of bars, restaurants, plumbers, florists and window cleaners, writes in response to the launch of Microsoft's google killing search engine: In answer to your question on how to find a pub, restaurant, or any other business in your proximity, Google and friends are like swatting flies with mallets. The best tool for the job in my opinion is Yahoo Yellow Pages (yp.yahoo.com), after which I'd place asking nearby people. Sam Suggestions that Einstein might have copied someone else's homework when he put the last pieces of the General Theory of Relativity together, have been received with a yah, a boo, and a sucks: Hi Lucy, Based on what I know, I'm not sure what the fuss here is about. Abraham Pais's biography of Einstein, for one, makes clear that Einstein was actively seeking help with the mathematics he needed to finish general relativity - including help from Hilbert. Einstein was thought to have worked alone for his three 1905 papers, but I've never seen that claim for GR. Hilbert willingly gave Einstein priority for the theory, saying that the grand scheme was clearly the result of Einstein's vision. Pais's biography is one of the best scientific biographies I've read: it doesn't shy away from showing the actual mathematical progression in Einstein's work, rather than simply using narrative. Bruce Re: Einstein vs Hilbert Perhaps in those long lost days of yore, two or three bright people were cooperating, trying together to figure out how the world works, in a time before priority determined future funding and pension rights. Walter This last little gem came to us, not in response to any particular story (although we can probably all guess which one might have had something to do with it), but aproposof nothing at all. Seems the writer felt we ought to know: Apparently your site is heavily biased politically! Regards, LFM Good to know. Come back on Friday for more of the same. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2004

UK Online unveils unbundled 8Mb broadband

UK Online, the consumer ISP of business-focused broadband outfit EasyNet, is rolling out 8Mb broadband for the metropolitan masses. Priced at £39.99 a month, the service brings "groundbreaking speed at a groundbreaking price and makes the digital home a reality", apparently. The super-fast service is to rolled out to 230 BT exchanges across the UK by the beginning of next year - exchanges in which EasyNet has installed its own kit in a process known as local loop unbundling (LLU). It means EasyNet is able to provide high-speed services direct to home and businesses. UK Online - which has "several hundred thousand" customers - also plans to add voice, TV and Video on Demand during 2005, the ISP said today. Said UK Online general manager Chris Stening: "UK Online Broadband 8000 redefines broadband - breaking through speed restrictions with a breathtaking, unrivalled, unbeatable performance. It propels the internet to unchartered territory for home users, providing groundbreaking speed at a groundbreaking price." That may be the case, but the service is only available in those areas where exchanges have been unbundled. While 4.4m people might be able to hook up to the service, the rest of the country will not. And while LLU does open up the opportunity to offer faster and more innovative services, critics maintain it can also lead to a new digital divide with people outside of urban highly populated urban areas left behind. A spokesman for Easynet said there was no reason why BT couldn't roll-out 8Mb broadband - if that's what it wanted to do. Last week Energis that it would not be investing in LLU because it is "uneconomic for national roll-out". ® Related stories LLU is 'uneconomic', says Energis BT cool on board rift speculation NTL tunes in to video-on-demand BT cuts LLU costs Bulldog takes on BT with broadband - voice combo
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2004

Pulse~Link wants partners in radio revolution

UltraWideBand start up Pulse~Link was showing us its latest chip set this week, which takes it one step closer to its goal of having the first Cognitive Software Defined Radio on a single chip. This is on track for the first quarter of 2006. Right now all of the function it says it needs for UWB communication reside in seven separate chips.
Faultline, 16 Nov 2004
Broken CD with wrench

Skype hits the charts in China

VoIP specialist Skype has done a deal with Chinese portal Tom Online. Tom Online will help localise Skype services and promote the telco. Tom will also release a pop song to promote Skype phones The deal follows similar agreements in Japan with Livedoor and in Taiwan with Home Online, according to the FT. Skype claims 14m registered users and an extra 100,000 sign up for services each day. Its first task in China will be to increase users. Tom and Skype began working together last month when they launched a co-branded instant messenger service. Niklas Zennstrom, chief executive at Skype, said: "The more people using Skype, the more valuable it is...the second step is to provide value-add services.", according to the FT. He said the two companies would also look at extra revenue-generating services like downloadable ringtones. Tom Online is talking to four big Chinese telcos about cooperating with Skype, according to the paper. A friendly telco could make it easier for Skype to charge for its services. Skype recently did a deal with Siemens to create a wireless VoIP handset. The Gigaset DECT cordless phone gives users access to free, or very cheap, phone calls using VoIP. It works along with an adapter which plugs into a PC's USB port. The firm is also publishing the Application Programme Interface for its software to attract more developers to write applications for its service. ® Related stories VoIP heads for the big time Open-source IP Telephony slashes costs Skype launches Pocket PC software
John Oates, 16 Nov 2004

First deadline passes for Supreme Court Grokster case

Lobbying has started in earnest to the US Supreme Court, which has one last chance to overturn its 20 year-old principles over P2P, and ban it despite its still relevant logic that has it that any technology with material, non-infringing uses is legal. Since the day that decision was made in regard to Betamax tapes, anything which copies, such as a photocopier or fax, or VHS tapes, have been deemed to be legal, with positive societal consequences, which have, in the long run, also benefited the entertainment industry despite itself. Without that ruling DVDs would never have become the biggest selling source of film revenue, but the film industry worked hard to stop it. This week it is the turn of copyright owners, artists and members of the legal profession to all make their points in print and in letter writing to the powers that be, while the rich entertainment industry bemoans loss of US jobs and prosperity if the decisions made in lower courts are not reversed. The court have received these submissions as 'friend of the court briefs,' supporting one side or the other, which were due in by the end of last week. The P2P networks are arguing in their contributions that the Supreme Court shouldn't interfere because Congress is considering the same subject. But that won't cut any ice with the Court and it will take its decisions based on existing law, while Congress has the power to create new laws. There are similarities with the past 'betamax' decision and differences, in that when Sony introduced video recording technology, it had not yet impinged on revenues for the film studios and the slight was more imagined than real. Piracy via P2P has virtually destroyed the profits of the music industry and are set to repeat that process with film. The thing to remember with the Supreme Court is that it is about seeing the intent of the law carried out. It is not constrained, as lower courts are, to translating the spirit of previous decisions into new decisions. Given the persistence of the P2P software suppliers, and the massive scale of piracy, we would not be at all surprised to see some form of compromise emerge from the Supreme Court, whereby it places some fresh onus on the P2P network operators to commit to some kind of anti-piracy best practice. Napster was bankrupted out of business because a lower court felt that it deliberately encouraged content theft. Morpheus and Grokster, the focus of this complaint, have had no need to mention piracy, since everyone knew, from Napster, what P2P networks were for. But there is an alarming technological trend among new P2P software, which is, in effect, a technological war against the blocking software used by the studios and record companies. Dummy files have been put up that are imperfect copies of a film, and these used to fool downloaders into downloading a sub-standard or incomplete version of a file. The P2P networks have countered with identification software and the storage of comments and recommendations from users, which are solely there to tell the next downloader which file is a proper copy and while one is a fake. It might be argued that they are in place purely to indicate which pirated copies are accurate. In other words, these systems are specifically there to stop active copy protection systems from working, and there is an argument that this is already illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. On the other hand it is not Grokster and Morpheus that have innovated here, but new P2P networks. We would not expect the Supreme Court to do nothing, but instead it will examine what is going on, take a look at existing law and perhaps lay down a legal interpretation that leads to more balance in the situation between file sharing and the content industries. Its biggest decision and a way that it can pre-empt the decision in favor of Congress, is to decide when it hears the case, and it won't communicate even that decision until very late in 2004. 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 the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories Grokster touts 'legal, licensed' p2p music share system UK group preps public digital music 'ATMs' Stealing movies: Why the MPAA can afford to relax
Faultline, 16 Nov 2004

Programming experience up for grabs

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Team Register, 16 Nov 2004

Blunkett explains your terror nightmares - be very afraid

On Saturday David Blunkett cast himself in the unlikely role of a Home Secretary who was offering hope based on security, as opposed to one engaged in a a 'fear auction' where the electoral prizes go to the politicians who can conjure up the most terrifying visions of what might happen. As Blunkett has been piling draconian security measure on draconian security measure this is a tricky one. But it's possibly a back-handed compliment to the recent BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares (good enough to justify theft if it isn't out on DVD soon) which argues precisely that. Blunkett's speech was made to the New Labour group Progress, but bullet points on the lines of "Labour 'must avoid fear campaign'" were widely-trailed to the press beforehand. Prior to delivering the speech Blunkett himself had a go at a little contextualisation on Radio 4's Today programme and this, insofar as what he had to say was understandable at all, suggested that Blunkett was campaigning on fear, and that some of the things he has in mind are positively terrifying. You can hear a rerun of the interview here, but an annotated transcription produced by Spyblog allows you to see it in all its glorious discontinuity. Blunkett kicks off by denying that the raft of measures he's brought and is bringing in is draconian, saying: "They're sensible, pre-emptive measures. Pre-emptive in the sense that we live now in a rapidly changing world, where people's fears are greater, not just in terms of terrorism, but fear in their own neighbourhood and community, and we've been able to establish stability and security in terms of the economy, and people's economic family life, we need to be able to do that in their immediate environment, and internationally, and in dealing with terrorism." If anything Blunkett is here describing the process of fear-driven government. He is presenting his measures as a reaction to people's fears, but simply reacting to fear, without conducting any kind of assessment of whether or not that fear is justified, stokes it. And the description of the measures as pre-emptive simply reinforces this - he is acting not to deal with properly assessed threats, but with things that might happen. This is exactly the case Adam Curtis argues in The Power of Nightmares - that fear is driven by the most extreme possible imaginations of what might happen. So not a good start. Blunkett then goes on to explain that the people's fear is increased by the press and the 24 x 7 society, i.e. people think there's more to be afraid of than there actually is (we presume this is the logic) but that he needs to react to this false level of fear anyway. No, we don't know why either: "It it's greater because of rapid economic and social change, including globalisation... it's greater because we see things now, across the world, because of instant, er, satellite. er, television, that we never did immediately before. We have seven day week, twenty four hour, instant communication, all of this underpinned by a changing culture, a lack of respect, the inability of parents to parent properly, the binge drinking that is a phenomenon... [he's clearly starting to lose it big-time here - is he describing the huge pile of things the people fear, ones he fears, or both?] ...Well people do not open their hearts, and minds, and hear messages, particularly Progressive messages if, underpinning that, subliminally, is a fear of what's happening around them, and if they're more insecure when they go out, and they walk on the street, if they fear, because of the eleventh of September, and its aftermath, what is happening in terms of the, er, the new forms of threat, from outside, then we have to provide that stability and security, if they're going to be able to the messages about opening your hearts and minds to other, about reducing the fear of difference, about being able to create a civilised and caring and compassionate society." And of course the solution to this bizarre, ragbag collection of fears is the "verifiable identity, rather than someone being able to steal, and multiply your identity so, instead of a muddled system which can be, er, easily, er, flawed, and can be easily duplicated, we're creating something where we'll know who's in the country, who's entitled to draw down on, what are the only free services of their type in the world, including the NHS, er, we'll be able to ensure that those who are here, can work legitimately, legally, pay taxes..." The link between the miscellaneous collection of terrors and the ID scheme magic bullet panacea is, as usual, entirely unclear, but somewhere inside the mind of David Blunkett it presumably makes sense that possession of an ID card will improve your parenting standards and induce you to drink more sensibly. His introduction of a link between the ID scheme and anti-social behaviour however indicates that he sees the potential uses of the scheme as very wide-ranging. Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are being pushed by Blunkett as a cure for "noisy neighbours, abandoned cars, vandalism, graffiti, litter and youth nuisance", and the only thing we can deduce here is that he envisages the ID scheme being used in order to enforce such orders - via police ID checks? He then weirdly seems to associate Liberal Party leader Charles Kennedy and Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten with "those who would actually destroy [liberty and freedom] from within" (check the Spyblog transcript yourself - it's just about possible to guess what he might have meant, but it's tough). then launches into an interesting explanation of why Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, should be ignored: "I met him, on Thursday, he says the same about my measures on Anti-Social Behavior and last night I attended two Community Meetings, in which people were asking for even greater power. and were rejoicing in the powers we had given the Police, so, he has a particular view, but we have a view from a situation where we want to prevent and protect our people, from any incident that would change the political climate". This says a great deal about the way policy is decided in Blunkett's Home Office and on a wider scale by the Blair Government. In this specific instance Blunkett is putting forward the views of "two Community Meetings" as being of sufficient importance for him to ignore the views of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, and is taking no account of the fact that the views of these groups will have been skewed because of local factors. What they feel is good for them is not necessarily going to be good either for the country as a whole or for human rights in general, and one of the prime responsibilities of a Home Secretary ought to be to balance the needs of local communities with those of society as whole, and to assess the viability of proposed measures, as opposed to just turning up the heat in response to what Blunkett sees as 'what the people want.' More broadly, the stakeholder culture as deployed by the Home Office is perverting and undermining democracy. The recent ID scheme "consultation" document discounted the actual consultation response on the basis that the people who respond are the ones most likely to object (which is like saying you lost an election because the people who agreed with you didn't vote), but introduced skewed surveys and focus groups as the mechanism for uncovering what the public 'really' thinks. Blunkett's use of the Progress conference allowed him to show his wares to another 'stakeholder' group, while the consultation document itself listed other key stakeholders who had been blessed with keynotes and explanations from David himself and from Katherine Courtney, director of the Home Office's ID card programme. A swift Google of Katherine Courtney + Home Office + keynote should give you a fair picture of the kind of things the Home Office has been up to recently in terms of selling the ID scheme. Note how many interested vendors get talked to. You'll find quite a lot of paid-for industry conferences where vested interests can be 'consulted and informed', but you won't find a lot of talking to the electorate. They're the ones who turn out not to know anything about the ID scheme when you survey them or put them in a focus group. And there's another such event tomorrow (17th November). This, as explained here, is a closed, paid-for event where Blunkett can conduct the debate on his own terms, before a collection of wonks. No2ID will be mounting a demonstration to coincide with Blunkett's arrival at the conference, anticipated as being around 9.30am at the Royal Society, Carlton House Terrace, London SW1. ® Related stories Selling surveillance - has Blunkett got a deal for you The Great 'standalone' ID card Swindle Blunkett sets out store on compulsory ID cards Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card Blunkett poised to open ID scheme offensive tomorrow Home Office seeks spin doctor to sell cuddly ID card brand UK ID cards to be issued with first biometric passports Biometric gear to be deployed in hospitals and GPs' surgeries UK gov pilots passenger tracking in fight against terror Tag, track, watch, analyse - UK goes mad on crime and terror IT
John Lettice, 16 Nov 2004

Half Life 2 released

Half-Life 2, the much hyped sequel to Half-Life, which won over 50 game of the year awards and was named 'best PC game ever' by PC Gamer Magazine, was released today. Developed by Valve, this first-person shooter is one of the most widely anticipated games of all time. It has been repeatedly delayed beyond the projected release date of September 30, 2003, not least because of a leak of source code last year. Half-Life 2 requires players to activate their copy of the game through Valve's authentication servers, in an effort to prevent piracy and leakage. Half-Life's servers have been overwhelmed in the stampede to complete the authentication process, a necessary step before owners of retail copies can play. So patience is advised. Half-Life 2's official website. ® Related stories Half Life 2 leak means no launch for Christmas Halo 2 leaked onto the net
Robin Lettice, 16 Nov 2004

Xmas comes early for phone ad girl

It's fair to say that the battle-hardened hacks at El Reg are not easily shocked or offended. Nevertheless, we feel that we must express our dismay at a Vodfone Live! advert which appeared in some of today's UK national papers. On the surface, it seems plausible enough - a free video messaging phone with all the usual gratis bits and bobs. However, it's not entirely clear what message Vodafone was intending to convey with the rather startling image accompanying the ad. By the shocked look on the poor girl's face, she has inadvertently picked an inopportune moment to wander onto the set of some hideous Swedish smut production, and has paid the price. If Voda was intending to create a bit of pre-Xmas mobile excitement with the snap, then we reckon it's missed a trick. After all, the full strapline should clearly read: "Free video messaging phone: because Santa comes just once a year". ® Bootnote A very happy Xmas indeed to Sean McGinty and all those other readers who alerted us to this bit of Yuletide fun. Related stories Cyber sex sandwich sizzler Photos expose cellphone biz's steamy underbelly Hubby's sex site revenge backfires
Lester Haines, 16 Nov 2004

Ofcom's review of telecoms due this week

AnalysisAnalysis The UK's monster communications regulator, Ofcom, is due to publish its review of the UK's telecommunications industry on Thursday. For many, the report can't come soon enough since it should provide some certainty to an industry dominated by BT and a former telecoms watchdog (Oftel) that lacked the muscle to regulate effectively the former monopoly. While the review itself is looking at the broad scope of the industry, much of the interest has focused on broadband. In a nutshell, the UK's telecoms industry wants Ofcom to curb BT's market dominance and introduce regulatory measures that would lead to greater competition. Suspicious of BT's cosy relationship between its retail and wholesale divisions, the industry wants equal access to BT's products. The latest buzzword is "equivalence" which means that all operators would have access to BT Wholesale products at prices and terms "equivalent" to BT Retail. Others want to go further and are demanding more favourable terms to give them room to invest and carve out a viable alternative to BT. Indeed, concern that Ofcom might give local loop unbundling (LLU) some advantage over broadband products direct from BT has prompted ta curious side-show in recent weeks. Witness the apparent rift at the very top of BT, with the head of its consumer division suggesting he might install kit in BT exchanges to compete with rivals instead of sourcing products from BT Wholesale. This has been played down by BT. Instead, it is likely that the principle of "equivalence" is to be explored in the review. But should "equivalence" ever fail to liberate the sector, then there are those who point to the nuclear option and the physical separation of BT into a network group and a services company. Indeed, Ofcom's review asked specifically whether there was a need for BT's wholesale and retail operations to be split. But such a measure would be devilishly difficult and complex to carry out. Furthermore, there appears to be little appetite for a BT carve-up, right now. Earlier this year UK telecoms trade group UKCTA - comprising a host of telcos including Cable & Wireless, Colt, Energis, NTL and Thus - said it didn't "strongly support full ownership separation of BT". But that's not to say that Ofcom will kill the idea dead. Keeping the threat of separation within easy reach so that it could be brought out if necessary would pose a useful threat to BT if it fails to comply with the new regulatory envirnomnent. BT, meanwhile, has been gradually winding up the volume on its bid to convince the world that excessive regulation against the UK's dominant fixed line telco could seriously jeopardise the future prosperity of the UK. But it has also sought to paint a picture of optimistic progress. The UK is now the G7 leader in broadband availability, notes BT, and by next summer DSL broadband will be available to more than 99 per cent of the UK - making it more widely available than terrestrial TV. The cost of phone calls and net access has plummeted over the last 20 years and there are scores of companies providing voice and broadband services. BT also points to the continuing erosion of its own market share as proof that the UK's telecoms sector is competitive. If this fails to do the job, then BT adopts a more menacing demeanour. Change the regulatory environment and Oftel could open up the industry to a rush of fly-by-night companies that promise much and deliver little, it warns. Even the current favour for LLU comes with its own risks. Sure, rival operators could install their own kit in BT's exchanges to provide a genuine alternative for companies looking to offer broadband services. But, these operators are only ever likely to invest in highly populated urban areas where they can generate a return on their investment. Critics warn that LLU will merely create a new digital divide in the UK where vast tracts of the UK are deemed uneconomic for major investment. And here's the killer. If BT is penalised, it may have to think twice about investing in its new all singing, all dancing 21st Century Network which is currently being rolled out nationwide. Said the company: "Our NGN [next generation network] is central to BT's future, and is a prerequisite for future strategies, both for BT and the UK economy. It is also a very large and risky investment. BT is a private company and our shareholders will not support investments such as the NGN unless they can be confident it will not be hampered by over-regulation, and they will earn appropriate returns if their investment is successful. The new regulatory framework needs to recognise this reality if the UK is to sustain the level of investment we need to be a successful modern economy." Only last week, BT boss Ben Verwaayen said that the UK needed sustained investment in its national broadband network to ensure that the "entrepreneurial new world that runs on digital knowledge and information" can thrive. And he warned that investment would be hit if regulator Ofcom did not enable sufficient reward from such investment when it publishes its review. He told business leader at the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) conference in Birmingham: "At this moment Ofcom is the most powerful and significant organisation in the UK, as we wait for the next phase of the Telecommunications Strategic Review. What it decides will be profound for your businesses and organisations. If it gets it right, we will see investment in this area accelerated. Get it wrong - even if unintentionally - and the impact will be clear to see in a year or so's time, with investment cut back and the UK missing out on a leadership position." Which touches on another tactic employed by BT - blame the regulator. For an organisation that hasn't even celebrated its first anniversary yet, Ofcom has been saddled with a difficult job. Unless it gets this review absolutely spot on, it's going to be the target for stinging criticism from either from the industry or BT. ® Related stories Broadband - BT's new wave saviour BT: Nation's broadband investment in Ofcom's hands LLU is 'uneconomic', says Energis UK crawls up Euro BB league table BT 'unlikely' to be broken up Make BT more transparent, say rival telcos Unions say 'no' to BT break-up Ofcom confirms BT break-up review Broadband Industry Group demands more competition MPs accuse Oftel of failure to help consumers BT dominance unacceptable , say MPs UK held back by lack of broadband competition UK needs greater wholesale broadband competition Ofcom to probe UK telecom sector
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2004

Evesham Axis Xcelsior Athlon 64 4000+ PC

ReviewReview A few weeks back AMD launched its latest and greatest processors, the Athlon 64 4000+ and the FX-55. Evesham has supplied its first PC based on these new processors: the Evesham Axis Xcelsior. The Axis Xcelsior is based on the Athlon 64 4000+, but you can change the CPU to an FX-55 for an additional £117.50, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.
Trusted Reviews, 16 Nov 2004

SMART-1 makes lunar orbit

The SMART-1 probe has entered its lunar orbit, and the history books as the first European mission to have done so. Professor David Southwood, director of science for the European Space Agency (ESA), said: "Europe has arrived at the Moon, we're in lunar orbit." The craft arrived at its destination thirteen months after launching from Earth. Although the moon is only 380,000km away in a straight line, SMART-1 orbited the Earth more than 300 times, and travelled 84m km. In fact, its journey comparable in length to an interplanetary cruise: at its closest, Venus is just 40m km away from us, and Mars is 35m km. SMART-1 slotted into orbit at an altitude of 5000km, and will settle into its final orbit over the next few months. Its ion-propulsion engine will fire continuously for the next four days to help it stabilise. By January, it should be in an elliptical orbit, passing the moon at a distance of 300km over the South pole, and 3000km over the North pole. On its journey it carried deep-space communication tests including a study of feasibility of pointing a laser beam from Earth at a moving, distant, spacecraft. It is now the first electrically powered craft to complete gravity assist manoeuvres, the ESA says. SMART-1 also tried out new techniques for allowing a spacecraft autonomous control of its flight. The OBAN experiment tested how well navigation software on ground computers could calculate the position and velocity of the spacecraft using images of celestial objects taken by the AMIE camera on SMART-1 as references. Once its orbit is finalised, SMART-1 will scan the lunar surface for resources, particularly water, for future, manned, missions. Astronomers hope the data it sends back to Earth will shed light on the formation of Earth's only satellite. ® Bootnote: Some readers were upset by our whimsical suggestion that a mini could drive to the moon in less time, given a suitable motorway. For you, then, we offer the following statistical meanderings: SMART-1 clocked up 332 orbits around Earth, so that the distance it travelled was rather further than the 380,000 linear km to the moon. It fired its engine 289 times during the cruise phase, operating for a total of about 3700 hours, and it actually only used 59 kilograms of its xenon propellant. Related stories Mars Express sends postcard from Phobos ESA's lunar probe closes on target Boeing and Northrop Grumman forge space alliance
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2004

Confusion reigns after FTC spam summit

A key conference on the use of email authentication to fight spam concluded in Washington last week without any clear conclusions on which approach will gain market acceptance. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Email Authentication Summit took place on Tuesday and Wednesday last week and coincided with an Internet Engineering Task Force Meeting, also in Washington. During the FTC’s summit various proposals for email authentication were outlined. Sender Policy Framework and Sender ID are both designed to verify the domain from which email has been sent and therefore minimise spoofing. Both involve checking the IP address of a server originating email against a list of servers a domain owner allows to send email. Sender ID is Microsoft's approach to spam-busting protocols, which dropped the idea of embedding XML in DNS records from its earlier Caller ID proposal. Microsoft's restrictions on sublicensing Sender ID led the IETF to rebuff the proposal last month. However many anti-spam firms are supporting the technology, so Sender ID is sill important to the market - despite the reservation of the net's technical governing body. "There's been a lot of infighting in the IETF between SPF and Microsoft supporters," said Matt Sergeant, senior anti-spam technologist at email filtering firm MessageLabs. "Open source advocates, and others, don't want to see Bill Gates becoming the 800lb gorilla that controls the technology for blocking junk mail." Other proposals discussed last week incorporate the use of digital signature technology. DomainKeys involves the use of digital signatures in email messages. These digital signatures allow recipients of email to verify that messages were sent from the claimed email address and to verify that messages have not been tampered with. Yahoo!, which developed the technology, began using the technique within its email service yesterday. Another approach to fighting spam and phishing using cryptographic techniques comes via Cisco's Identified Internet Mail technology. Cisco, supported by other vendors and end users, reckon path-based and signature-based approaches in the fight against spam are complementary but the many different proposals under discussion all contribute to a somewhat confusing picture. Emerging identity standards, including DomainKeys, Sender ID and SPF, are welcome additions to the arsenal of weapons in the fight against spam, but they are not a "silver bullet", anti-spam firm Habeas says. From next year on businesses that want to get their email reliably delivered will need to adopt these standards as part of their email practices, it says. But which approach should users embrace? It is unclear which of the many proposals for email authentication will become dominant. The FTC Summit had done little to clarify this, MessageLabs' Sergeant notes. "At the moment the industry is in a holding pattern. Email authentication is a large undertaking, still at the experimental stage, and I reckon it'll be at least six months before a clear direction emerges. It could be that Sender ID and SPF will split into two rival camps," he said. ® Related stories US giants move to can spammers MS anti-spam proposal returned to sender Spammers embrace email authentication Sender authentication is coming
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2004

Telewest upgrades network

Telewest is to upgrade the last remaining analogue part of its network in the North West of England when it brings broadband and digital TV to 132,000 homes in Chorley, Preston and Liverpool. Work is due to start this month and is expected to be done street-by-street until next summer. It unlikely to cause much disruption since it does not require extensive construction works along public highways, said the company. Once complete, the only part of Telewest's network that will still be analogue will be in parts of West London and Kent. Last week Telewest followed in NTL's footsteps by announcing plans to increase the speeds of its broadband services while not increasing prices. The permanent bandwidth upgrades will be rolled-out from December and should be completed by January 2005. The cableco reckons it will "step up the pressure on slower internet providers using BT's network to deliver services", although this was said before UK Online unveiled its 8Mb ADSL service. Telewest's 3Mb service will ramp up to 4Mb, the 1.5Mb service will step up to 2Mb while the 750k package becomes 1Mb. Telewest's entry-level 256k service remains unchanged by the announcement. Said Telewest boss Eric Tveter: "This will be the second time this year we have increased the speed of our blueyonder broadband services, doubling the original bandwidth with no increased costs and no introduction of caps. This isn't a short-term offer and there are no catches - we're simply giving broadband users what they want, thanks to our advanced cable network." ® Related stories NTL supercharges broadband UK Online unveils unbundled 8Mb broadband NTL to supercharge broadband speed Telewest boosts broadband speeds
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2004

Microsoft goes after Netware

Microsoft is targeting Novell Netware customers with a bundle of reasons to dump the software and switch to Microsoft Windows Server products. Apart from technical help and migration tools users in the US also get $600 services discount for every license bought with 50 client access licenses. They also get online training vouchers and unlimited technical support via newsgroups. Martin Taylor, Microsoft's general manager of Platform Strategy, said: "Customers have increasingly told us that they are looking for ways to make the move to Microsoft's reliable server platform and road map, but are concerned about migration issues. These offerings are designed to help address customers' concerns..." Paul Gardner, chairman of the Novell Users Group UK, told The Register: "I don't think this will be a compelling reason for people to change. Now is not the time - if you'd needed to do it you would have already moved, if you haven't there must be a good reason for staying with Netware." Novell and Microsoft have never been chummy but it looked briefly like legal hostilities were ceasing when MS paid Novell $536m earlier this month. Novell lawyers took four days off to count the money before filing another anti-trust suit relating to WordPerfect. More details of the offer here on Microsoft's site. ® Related stories Novell's MS complaint: we wuz robbed That's enough peace - Novell sues MS just one more time Why MS paid Novell half a billion bucks today
John Oates, 16 Nov 2004

How scammers run rings round eBay

Everyone knows that buying and selling on eBay is precarious. Even eBay admits this and gives basic advice on its site that it believes helps eliminate most fraud. But there appears to be a basic weakness in eBay's system that fraudsters and petty thieves are exploiting. It occurs when buyers pay sellers direct into the sellers' bank account by cheque or cash. The following is a real example that occurred in September this year (names withheld for legal reasons). Let's call the buyer Tom and the seller Harry. Tom won the bid for a mobile phone and agreed to pay Harry (who lives 80 miles away from Tom) £185 plus £6 insurance using cash at a branch of Harry's bank. A few days later a box arrived. It contained a battery charger and an earplug, but no phone. Tom informed Harry who said that he believed someone at the post office must have stolen the phone and that he would look into it. Days passed and Tom then asked Harry to claim on the insurance. Harry said he had lost the insurance slip and would instead refund 50 per cent of the £185. A week passed and Tom called Harry to say no payment had been received and that he was losing his patience and would report the matter to eBay. Harry made more excuses and stopped answering his mobile phone. Over the next few weeks they spoke occasionally but Harry refused to send any money and blamed Tom for his removal from eBay (subsequent to Tom informing eBay of his loss). Tom contacted Harry's bank but the bank refused to provide Harry's address. Tom only knows Harry's mobile phone number and Hotmail email address. In summary, Tom spent £196 on a phone that never arrived and he is not alone. As a result of basic research for this story we have been contacted by five people who have experienced similar scams (their stories, in emails, are copied below). The fact is it appears far too easy for this scam to be perpetrated. Pattern of fraud The pattern is all too predictable. Buyers and sellers agree not to go through the more secure PayPal system because it costs more to do so. So buyers take the risk of sending the money to the seller who either doesn't send the goods or sends shoddy or fake goods. The sellers protect themselves against prosecution by claiming loss, or disputing the buyer's version of events. The amounts involved - though not insignificant to the buyer - are too small for eBay to want to take the matter further. There is one other common factor in all these stories. Though the buyers report the matter to eBay they are invariably frustrated at standard email responses and being steered towards a mediation system which costs the buyer £15 and even then may or may not lead to resolution. Alternatively, sellers can claim compensation through eBay and may get a maximum of £105 - if they claim between 30 and 90 days after the event and meet the criteria for payment. In our example above Tom made a claim last month and is still waiting. A common refrain is: "Should I report this to the police? eBay are not replying to my emails about this and I don't know if the police are aware or not. What should I do?" eBay declined an interview in relation to this story but instead issued a statement: "eBay takes the issue of fraud very seriously and investigates every case of fraud reported to it. eBay currently has over 1,000 people worldwide with backgrounds in law enforcement, customer support, advanced computer engineering and analysis dedicated to making eBay one of the safest places to trade online and, in the UK, employs an ex-Scotland Yard officer as liaison point for law enforcement agencies. "The majority of transactions on the eBay site are completely secure and without incident. Approximately 0.01 per cent of transactions end in a confirmed case of fraud." This means that for every million transactions, 100 are 'confirmed' fraudulent, though the criteria for this confirmation are not available. Any security consultant will say that is an acceptable level of risk and way below fraud levels on credit cards. Not surprisingly, eBay therefore does not advise people specifically not to pay by cheque or cash payment into a seller's bank account. Top tips On the eBay website its 'top tips' state that sellers should ideally use secure payment systems like PayPal (which offers greater levels of protection, though still limited if the seller has little or no track record) and should NOT use money transfer services "like Western Union". But aside from telling buyers to be wary it does not tell buyers NOT to send cheques or pay directly into sellers' bank accounts (either by money transfer or using cash at a bank branch). Clearly it believes that most such transactions are safe and therefore if the buyer assesses the risk as low, then why not? Many eBay users may agree - it's 'caveat emptor' applied to the world of online car boot sales. But when Steve Gold, a security consultant, celebrity ex-hacker (he co-hacked the Duke of Edinburgh's Prestel mailbox), and former accountant also gets hit by such a scam you begin to wonder how the mass of eBay's users are avoiding getting stung and whether the 0.01 per cent figure is an accurate reflection of the amount fraud occurring. Gold, an experienced eBay user, reports that he bought a hard drive for £63 from a man who never sent the item. After weeks of the usual hassle he used 192.com to track the man down to confront him. The seller - somewhat shocked to see his 'victim' - pleaded poverty and illness and apologized profusely. Gold admitted defeat safe in the knowledge that at least he had confronted his fraudster and learnt a useful - if painful - lesson. Pants down He now says he uses a mixture of web tools to check out sellers. He pays 192.com £25 per 100 enquiries to get addresses from phone numbers; he uses maporama.com to check out locations of sellers; and he admits he is more cautious than ever. "eBay is caught with its pants down," he says. "They are neglecting their customers; they should make a shed load of information available to help people to avoid this." Like others Gold says he hit a brick wall when he tried to get other bodies involved: "I went to trading standards - they weren't interested. I even compiled a dossier on the seller and sent it to his local police force. Subsequently they told me they were aware of eBay fraud but don't deal with it." Gold believes the level of fraud on eBay is higher than the 0.01 per cent figure given: "But how can we tell? eBay won't reveal the real figures so we have no way of knowing." He has a point. Credit card fraud has been reduced over the years by greater public awareness over the levels and types of fraud occurring. eBay is relying on sellers to be 'careful' but the question for the regulatory authorities remains: Is eBay doing enough to protect its users? Those who lose out as a result of this type of scam certainly think not. Clearly eBay cannot be held responsible for dishonesty among sellers but perhaps it could do a lot more to warn people how easy it is for petty criminals to exploit our desire for a bargain. Maybe it is time for an independent body to track complaints against the system so that buyers can get a better picture of the types and frequency of frauds occurring. ® Below are a selection of emails from others defrauded via eBay. Names have been omitted for legal reasons: I was cheated out of £200 when I tried to buy an ipod. I corresponded with the seller, who seemed friendly until I sent my money and he clammed up. I got emails from another apparent victim, who also was a bit shy of giving out his contact details. I suspect the second person was the first in disguise. Top cap it all, the seller gave a bank account for me to deposit the money, which I did, but it turned out that his identity was totally fake - in fact it was someone else's ID. So he had used a real ID (not his own), to open not one but three accounts at Nationwide to use for fake eBay transactions. I contacted the police but the trail went cold. I did manage to get Nationwide to close the accounts down They said he had been taking money out as soon as it hit the account. I tried to contact eBay with the details, saying the guy wasn't returning my emails, they responded with an email saying "why don't you try our arbitration service." I emailed them asking how I could do that if the guy won't respond to me. They replied saying they were sorry about that but maybe I should try their arbitration service. I then asked how I could claim on their insurance policy to reimburse defrauded customers, and they simply replied advising me to try their arbitration service. I bought a couple of Tiffany items - from different sellers - for my niece last Christmas. One item was fine - the other was a fake. The girl who sold it handled it perfectly. She was very chatty (by email) and was 'touched' when I told her the thing was intended as a gift for my niece etc..... Anyway, when my niece received the item, it was obviously a fake. We did consult Tiffany, who confirmed that they hadn't ever manufactured a piece in that style. I got back on to her and her response was something not so far short of f off - but without the swear words. I was furious. I contemplated forms of retribution. I did, however, go thru the Safe Harbour system but with no success. I later made a claim from eBay but it was such a long-winded process that i kind of forgot to finish it off. So I just lost the money. From my experience I'd suggest eBay needs to sort out its claims policy. It's such a hassle that it really is off-putting. I still use eBay but without the same enthusiasm. I have a reseller friend who was a victim of an eBay scam, and to add insult to injury not only did they steal his card details on a non-existent transaction, they sent him a brick through the post to rub salt into that wound. Related stories Watch out, there's a scammer about PayPal hit by coding glitch Teen eBay fraudster pleads guilty to £45k scam eBay 'second chance' fraud reaches UK
Ken Young, 16 Nov 2004

Reg hack in daring Gambia charity dash

On 16 December Reg hack John Oates will leave Blighty and travel to distant Gambia in a 20 quid Citroen van - and its all for charity. Yup, it's time again for the annual Plymouth-Banjul rally - just the like the Paris-Dakar event "but for poorer, more stupid, people", as John himself puts it. Once the vehicles limp into Banjul, they're auctioned for charity, and last year the organisers raised £27K for worthy Gambian causes. Here's some background from our intrepid expeditionist and his co-driver Alexei Boltho: The rally was started by a guy called Julian Nowill who wanted to do the Paris-Dakar rally but thought £22 grand was a bit expensive. I got involved after accidentally belittling a friend's chances of success... The rules are simple: cars must cost less than £100; preparations must cost less than £15; competitors get no assistance from organisers; all vehicles must be auctioned for charity in Gambia; all vehicles must be left-hand drive. We found a left-hand drive C15 Citroen van in Totnes, Devon. A nice man called Jeff let us have the car for £20 - we doubled the value of the car by filling it up with petrol. It was a little damp and rather mossy having been left under a tree for a year and a half but the engine ran ok. With the help of our sponsors at classiccarstorage.co.uk we managed to get her through an MOT. It was at this point i realised there was some danger of us actually going. Around forty cars are leaving on December 16 - one of four leaving dates for the rally. Our group includes a 1964 Bedford Fire engine and a Volkswagen Beetle. We go through France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia. Difficulties include the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara, a small minefield on the Mauritanian border... We hope to make it in about three weeks. Once there all the cars and kit are auctioned for local charities. Any additional sponsorship we get will go to Mine Action Group who clear landmines around the world. Any useful kit would be welcome as would any technology we could borrow and use during the rally. So there you have it. John says he's looking for camping stuff, a satellite phone and sundry automotive accessories including some internal lights for the vehicle. For more details or to offer your support email him (not me) direct here.®
Lester Haines, 16 Nov 2004

Force phonecam voyeurs to flash, says PI

Ordinarily reliable privacy watchdog Privacy International has come up with a weird wheeze that would surely have been appropriate coming from some deranged MP, and/or David Blunkett. Flash, argues Simon Davies of PI, should be compulsory on all new phone cameras in order to "counter the growing problem of intrusive use of mobile phone cameras." The essential battiness of this notion seems to have escaped PI. Yes, the fact that a lot of new mobile phones are shipping with built in cameras does indeed raise privacy issues, but they're not ones that can be dealt with this way. Digital cameras are small, cheap and unobtrusive, and are just as capable of taking sneaky pictures in changing rooms, so by PI's reasoning they should have compulsory flash as well. Alongside that we have the essential impossibility of outlawing mobile phone cameras that don't have compulsory flash - if you can't outlaw them globally then you're crippling the mobile industry wherever you do outlaw them, and if you do outlaw them you need to figure out how to stop people disabling the flash 'protection' on their phones. (Within minutes of this piece's publication, Reg readers were volunteering gaffer tape as the fix for the fix. So there you go.) It's kind of like the sort of world the RIAA would like to exist, where your rights to your own hardware are specifically broken to stop you infringing other people's rights, whether you were going to or not. And in the interest of equity it would seem to us logical for Privacy International, if it's going to join the control-freaks, to demand that CCTV cameras flash when they're taking your picture as well. In the UK that'd probably microwave the lot of us within a couple of days. PI argues, equally unconvincingly, that flash will become a necessity as phone cameras get smaller anyway: "In its newsletter, Nikkei Electronics Asia commented on the inevitability of flash technology in the new technological environment. 'Electronic flashes are necessary to counter the steady deterioration in camera module signal/noise (S/N) ratio caused by the steadily-decreasing pitch.'" This is, we submit, grasping at straws, and ain't necessarily so. Cameras which don't allow you to make adjustments for lighting conditions are not, in our view, cameras anyway, and phones that suck their batteries dry are not the sort of thing likely to endear privacy lobbyists to the general populace. Sober up people, and when it comes to mobile phone camera snooping, concentrate on stopping our regulators coming up with daft and unworkable schemes; that's their job, not yours. ®
John Lettice, 16 Nov 2004

Sweden's rail stations to roll out Wi-Fi

Sweden's railway stations are to gain public Wi-Fi hotspots, with the first 55 sites coming on line by the end of January 2005, it emerged today. All 178 stations are to be equipped with WLANs by UK WISP The Cloud, which also announced today the formation of its first continental subsidiary, The Cloud Nordic, and re-iterated plans to expand into other European states during the next 12 months. The Swedish enterprise is the result of a deal signed with Jernhusen, the state-owned company which manages real estate associated with the country's rail infrastructure, including its stations. The deal marks the latest step in an increasing interest in railway travellers exhibited by wireless ISPs. With airborne Wi-Fi pretty much owned by Boeing's Connexion and Tenzing, UK WISPs have turned to rail as a the next key transport mode for business travellers of the kind who might not only make long or frequent journeys but have the desire to access corporate email and the Internet while they're on the move. The Cloud's rival WISP, Broadreach Networks, for example, has already installed access points at a number of Network Rail-run stations here in the UK, along with Virgin Trains First Class Lounges. It is also working with Virgin and other train operating companies to put Wi-Fi into carriages. The Cloud will initially roll out hotspots at 55 stations by the end of January 2005. No timetable was given for extending the service to the remaining 123 sites in Jernhusen's care. The APs will be sited on station concourses, though the deal calls for the WLAN coverage zone to be extended to platforms, parking areas and adjacent retail sites. Again, no deadline for this stage of the project was made public. Customer access to hotspots will be delivered through local service providers, The Cloud said. ® Related stories UK WISP offers two weeks' free Wi-Fi access UK WISP moots IPO UK train firm rolls out Wi-Fi to all travellers Paris Metro firm to run Wi-Fi buses GNER to roll out ten Wi-Fi locos Eurostar preps Wi-Fi train trial Wi-Fi providers target train travellers
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2004

British Library tunes into Wi-Fi

The British Library - the UK's answer to the Library of Congress - has equipped its St. Pancras, London repository with Wi-Fi access. While the service will be primarily pitched at researchers and readers, the Library isn't unaware of the lucrative potential of its public WLAN, and so was quick to point out how useful the service will be to business travellers visiting London via Eurostar and its new rail terminal at King's Cross, just a few hundred yards from the Library. Alas, since Eurostar is itself exploring the possibilities Wi-Fi offers to attract travellers, the Library may be out of luck, but with 3000-odd visitors a day - 86 per cent of whom bring laptops into the building, a Library survey reveals - it should still find plenty of folk willing to shell out for pay-as-you-go access. The Library charges £4.50 for an hour's access; £3 for 30 minutes' connection. Unused airtime can be retained for use later. BT Openzone and The Cloud customers can also access the zone through their own accounts. The Library's Wi-Fi zone covers all 11 reading rooms, the facility's 225-seat auditorium, its café and restaurant, not to mention the seating outside the building. The Wi-Fi infrastructure itself comes courtesy of UK WISP The Cloud, which recently also announced it has signed a deal to equip Sweden's railway stations with public WLANs. The British Library public WLAN has been on trial since May 2004. ® Related stories Sweden's rail stations to roll out Wi-Fi Major telcos tout Wi-Fi roaming pact Intel to add Wi-Fi to Pentium 4 chipsets - again BT dangles Wi-Fi for a quid Hospital networks Wi-Fi patients Wi-Fi Alliance certifies first converged kit
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2004

Home PCs sought in hunt for cancer cure

Computer users are being asked to donate their unused processor power to help solve social and environmental research problems. The IBM-backed project, called World Community Grid, aims to put the untapped processing power of millions of unused computers into use; crunching numbers for scientists working to understand diseases like HIV, Alzheimer's and cancer, to improve forecasting of natural disasters and to support environmental studies. The first project that will benefit is the Human Proteome Folding Project. This is working to identify the components of the Human Proteome, a key step in developing cures for diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. Like the Seti@Home project which inspired it, volunteers on the World Community Grid will download software to their computer to tackle these computationally intensive research problems. According to reports, IBM has lent the project its backing to provide a measure of respectability, and allay corporate concerns about the security of downloading such software. Linda Sanford, an IBM executive vice president, told Reuters: "We are looking for the individual, not the institution, per se, to contribute. (Companies) will let their employees know when they can participate." She said that the project gave people an opportunity to contribute to a good cause without having to fork over hard-earned cash, adding: "Not everyone can contribute with dollars." The project has been designed to handle around 10m volunteer machines. IBM has donated hardware, software, and tech support services to the project. For details of how to sign up, go here. ® Related stories Man sacked for hunting ET at work SETI has not found ET: official Earth to disappear from alien radar
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2004

Security incidents and cybercrime on the up

Security events recorded between July and September this year are up 150 per cent on those recorded by security company VeriSign in the same period last year. VeriSign's Internet Security Intelligence Briefing, published today, concludes that increased financial rewards and the greater sophistication of the computer underworld and making the internet a more dangerous environment. In particular the firm warns on the growth of hybrid attacks - such as computer worms that use a variety of techniques in attempts to compromise user systems or attacks that use system exploits in order to steal sensitive information through secondary assaults. On the other hand, VeriSign also reports that security incidents in Q3 2004 are down on those recorded in the first two quarters of this year - so it's not all bad. VeriSign's figures come via its security monitoring services business. This division handles more than 250 million daily security events from firewall, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and endpoint systems on behalf of VeriSign's various clients. Spam tsunami, phishing flood VeriSign's Payment Services currently process more than 35 per cent of North American ecommerce transaction. From this data, VeriSign estimates ecommerce spending in Q3 2004 is up 25 per cent from Q3 2003. The volume of SSL certs in use increased 19 per cent over the same period. According to VeriSign, fraud losses grew faster than could be explained by the growth in ecommerce alone. The US topped the ranking for countries with the highest volume of fraudulent transactions in Q3 2004, followed by Vietnam and Indonesia. The UK came fourth in this roll-call of shame. VeriSign doesn't quote raw figures on financial losses in making this comparison. Spam is a major enabler for the rise in cybercrime, according to VeriSign. "Spam continues to be the primary vector for internet crimes, including advance fee fraud, phishing ploys and work-at-home carding schemes. Networks of captured machines or "botnets" are now routinely used to deliver spam, which can help seed virus distributions and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks," it notes. "During the past 12 months, Internet crime has become more organized and directed toward achieving financial reward. Spam solicitations have become increasingly aggressive to combat more effective filtering solutions that limit the number of victims they can reach." ® Related stories Rise of the Botnets Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs RSA cosies up to AOL as VeriSign enters token market Big.biz struggles against security threats
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2004

It's do or die time for Sun and Solaris x86

AnalysisAnalysis Sun Microsystems just had the most important product launch in its history, and the company didn't even tell you about the urgency of the event. For two and a half hours, we sat through the Solaris 10 marketing barrage. CEO Scott McNealy and President Jonathan Schwartz showed up, a customer - FedEx - appeared, and a hired engineer fiddled with the operating system during the presentation to show off its new features. Sun, however, never brought up the fact that it may be a shriveled shell if this Solaris 10 x86 thing doesn't pay off - big time. By most accounts, we're probably three years late with our Sun is dead story. You've all read how shattered the company is from a variety of news sources and heard that it's the next SGI from competitors - again and again. Sticking with Sun through the rough times has earned your reporter the dubious distinction of being a Sun apologist. Some people even prefer to exchange apologist with shill. Thanks for the letters. To all of you who have complained, here's your Sun might be toast story. The next SGI but with sales If, in two years time, Sun does not have a vibrant, swollen, hungry Solaris x86 customer base, it will not be at all irrelevant, as some have charged, but rather uninteresting. It will be a bigger, richer version of SGI. Sun has for many years garnered more than its fair share of attention and power for one reason and one reason only - Solaris. There are more Solaris customers on this planet than IBM, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Dell care to remember. If HP came to you and said there are only three important operating systems on the planet - Windows, Linux and HP-UX - you would laugh. If IBM did the same with AIX, you would laugh again. When Sun pulls this trick with Solairs, the thesis flexes a bit of muscle. Solaris is the first port for most of the major ISVs out there. It has helped keep large software makers such as BEA and Veritas alive. Think about it, as Schwartz would say. Sun rode an impressive line of RISC servers to incredible heights and has created an awesome operating system franchise. Without this franchise, Sun is a pioneering research and development powerhouse, a fiscally well run firm and a solid server vendor, but not all that interesting of a company to cover. Solaris separates Sun from the herd, giving it reach and significance. Sun's major objective over the next two years should be to extend the Solaris franchise to the x86 server market. Management obviously realizes this since they based most of the Solaris 10 launch on x86 strategies. But, we dare say, they didn't stress their point enough - something Sun is rarely accused of. Sun's RISC server business is shrinking. Everyone's RISC server business is shrinking. The only high-end business that isn't shrinking is HP's Itanium store, and it's growing as fast as one of the Olsen twin's waist lines. Sun is pulling in between $1.5bn and $2.0bn in RISC server sales per quarter, and you can expect that to continue for years to come. "We're an $11B company trying to become a $50B company," Schwartz writes on his glob. The road to Interest Well, the only way Sun will ever reach something near the $50bn level is if Solairs x86 takes off like a pair of Tenderloin junkies when the cops flash their lights. It won't be enough for Sun to move loads of x86 boxes. Yes, the company will be tapping a new, large segment of the market and may well make millions in the process, but it won't really be on its way to $50bn unless Solaris x86 ships on almost every box. Sun can move loads of Linux kit. It can move loads of gear that ends up running Windows. What, however, it really wants and needs is an Opteron sales army addicting the world to Solaris. Sun must distinguish itself via Solaris from Dell, HP and IBM in the x86 space. The other companies all have other elements of their business to rely on be it sheer size, variety of kit, brand awareness or manufacturing prowess. Solaris makes Sun different. There are reasons to believe Sun can pull this off. Its Solaris engineering team is arguably the best operating system design group on the planet. Sun pours billions into the operating system and has countless features that neither Windows or Linux can match. It's secure, scales incredibly well and now, Sun claims, fast. Beyond all of this, Sun faces no real Unix competition from a big player in the x86 market. It's Sun's segment to win. Should Sun carve out a large chunk of the x86 market and have Solaris running on the systems, the rest of its business will likely thrive. Sun will sell more of its enterprise software - another growth area - and sell more storage. A thriving x86 business even legitimizes much of Sun's Linux desktop play, which opens another avenue for growth. Sun has a lot of interesting RISC technology on the way such as its multicore processors, high-end file systems and virtualization technology. This will keep its current customer base happy and might even help Sun regain some lost ground in the high-end market. No matter how well this business performs though it will not carry Sun to the $50bn mark. Sun's other bets such as making more money off of Java, thin clients and renting out computing power may pay off in the long run. They won't, however, pay off like a massive Solaris x86 server business. That's where the billions in upside are. It's surprising that Sun didn't see this sooner. It made a huge mistake by backing away from Solaris x86 a couple of years back. It now has to win back the trust of customers and partners. This hasn't proved easy to do. Should Sun's new line of Opteron servers take the market by storm and maintain a high Solaris x86 attach rate, reporters everywhere will be writing about the rebirth of the company. If not, Sun will need to look for another way to reinvent itself. It will still make plenty of money and have great talent, but it won't be as important without the Solaris x86 franchise. "My guess is the adoption of Solaris 10 will be the fastest in the history of Sun (for a new rev of Solaris)," Schwartz said. "We've made a lot of big bets over the years, and they have worked out and paid off quite well," McNealy said. Here's hoping. ® Related stories Sun stares down Red Hat with Solaris 10 Sun's Linux wins right to be considered in Japan Sun: MS truce clears way to open source Solaris
Ashlee Vance, 16 Nov 2004

Patriotic bloggers finish Segway across America trek

Like sloths moving through the rainforest canopy, the Merry Bloggers have made it from Washington to Massachusetts on their Segways and accomplished their dream. It took 100 days, 409 battery changes and 3,988 miles to get Josh Caldwell from the West Coast to the East Coast at 10 mph. Caldwell and several coconspirators are the first people to travel across the US on a Segway scooter, as far as we know, making them modern day dynamos beyond compare. Amazing! Awesome! Brave! Inane! Imagine a twenty-something coasting along back roads on his Segway with iPod and cellphone in hand. An SUV follows behind him filled with a cache of batteries and people who say things like "content production" instead of filming or writing. That's team Merry Blogger, and it's no more impressive now than it was back in August. Over the past three months, the Merry Bloggers have been peppered with press - almost all of which they owe to The Register for drawing attention to them in the first place. Apparently, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle all find standing up on a scooter for 1,000 hours to be a really impressive feat. Sure, the Merry Bloggers collected video along their route, met some interesting people and blogged like there was no tomorrow. Content production at its finest in this desperate age. The team, however, wasn't worthy of such prodigious press coverage. Maybe if they had committed mass murders along the way. That would have been something - a nationwide police chase at 10 mph. Instead, we're left with much of nothing. Just a few humpbacked globbers on wheels begging for attention. In related news, Horrified Observers of Pedestrian Entertainment or HOPE is offering to dole out real albums from the likes of Elvis Costello and The Ramones to people who will turn in their Ashlee Simpson albums. Elsewhere, a new cellphone smashing fetish appears to be gaining steam. ® Related stories Segway LLC imagines futuristic four-wheeled vehicle Attack of the Segway-riding Finnish Penguin bloggers Mac-addled Segway users crush the American Dream The Merry Bloggers set out on 'Segway across America' trek The Segway: glorified scooter or democracy on wheels? Segway owners beat each other with homemade mallets Segways banned from happiest place on Earth Could Segways replace soldiers as hired killers? Toddler wounded in Segway hit-and-run Police grab Wang in covert Segway opp
Ashlee Vance, 16 Nov 2004