19th > November > 2004 Archive

Microsoft offshores patent war - so goes the WTO?

Microsoft's decision to offshore its war against the free software movement to the World Trade Organization may save it some domestic embarrassment, but it may ultimately cause more problems for the WTO than it will for software libre. By adopting the WTO as its intellectual property enforcement proxy, Redmond believes it has a tactic that allows it to prevail without filing a single lawsuit. This has many advantages for Microsoft, as we'll see. But without filing a lawsuit, it's going to prove extremely difficult to convince anyone that the GPL poses a risk to their way of doing business: so many people now depend on it. Let's outline the big picture. Microsoft's dilemma is that in the long run it can't compete with free (as in beer) software without a severe impact on its margins, and this problem is most acute in the developing world, where it doesn't have a paid-up legal installed base. We need to remind ourselves just how slim these margins already are. In China, Linux is considered more expensive than Windows (a pirate copy of Windows, of course) because Linux comes on three CDs rather than one. For Microsoft to compete effectively in a fair market competition against Dragon Linux, it's going to have to produce a version of Windows much cheaper than the $26 cut down version offered in Thailand. It'll have to cut this by an order of ten, or fifty. So it's in Microsoft's long-term strategic interests to make writing GPL software and using it illegal. Microsoft has already indicated that it can build up its IP patent stream without opening fire. In an interview published last week, Microsoft's director of licensing David Kaefer noted that Microsoft could no longer "look the other way" when companies used its IP, [here] But Kaefer also "... noted that [Marshall] Phelps built IBM's intellectual property business without filing a single lawsuit." [our emphasis] Phelps is the IBM attorney who built up its patent revenues from zero to a billion dollar business in the 1980s. He joined Microsoft last summer. So how can Microsoft win a patent war without suing anyone? It's hard to conclude that it can, but perhaps that's not the goal. We can certainly see how hard the company wants to avoid a legal fight over the GPL. Tacking the GPL's validity head on in court carries lots of dangers. For a start, there's the negative publicity. It would quite dramatically draw attention to the fact that Microsoft wanted to kill free software, and no one likes a bully. Fewer ordinary people now use Linux than were using Netscape or Java in the last round of DoJ-backed antitrust litigation, and fewer people understand what software libre is than understood what a browser did. But attacking a social movement is quite different to two corporations fighting, or a government suing a successful business, and Microsoft would clearly be perceived to be the aggressor, rather than the plucky, set-upon entrepreneur. Secondly, Microsoft could take the GPL to court and quite possibly lose, as Eben Moglen has pointed out here. Far from being an IP-eating virus, the GPL is entirely founded on the courts upholding the rights holder's privilege to do exactly what he wants with his intellectual property. The GPL doesn't do lots of things people suspect it does: it doesn't stop you making money, it isn't designed to torpedo capitalism, and of course, it's no guarantee that the software is any good. But it does exactly what it says on the tin: which is to prevent developers hoarding code. Let's remember too that many software patents are thrown out by the judge. Microsoft's first foray into patent licensing was thrown out by the USPTO itself, when its right to the FAT patents was nullified on the basis of prior art. The explosion of patent filing activity at Microsoft doesn't necessarily indicate an explosion of creativity; and many may be even more fatuous than the FAT patent. For example today (thanks TheoDP) Microsoft has applied to patent the IS NOT operator. And in any case, as Dan Ravicher noted here, the winner doesn't keep all. "It's rare for a patent holder to get an injunction, especially against a smaller competitor, just because of anti competitive terms." Thirdly, a frontal assault would likely generate huge retaliation from IBM, which needs Linux - a nice earner for its consultancy and integration services division. IBM has deep pockets and an even deeper patent portfolio, which Microsoft's Marshall Phelps knows very well. Microsoft this week offered its customers "protection" against such retaliatory suits in the form of an indemnification program. So like Mutually Assured Destruction, the true value of Microsoft's patent arsenal lies in the threat of their use, not their actual use. In any case, what Microsoft seems to be counting on is that the momentum behind the GPL will falter as companies become wary of deploying it. WTO as IP enforcer The option of dragooning the World Trade Organization into the proceedings gives Microsoft extra muscle. Here's what rights' holders can do, and here's the section on patents, according to the TRIPS. But if Microsoft can convince the TRIPS enforcers that massive patent infringement is taking place, it doesn't need to convince a court. There's much irony to this. The anti-globalization movement arrived in the United States with the extraordinary Seattle protests at the height of the dot.com boom. Panglossian dot com sages huffed and puffed and did their best to ignore it: after all, politics was dead: entrepreneurs were the revolutionaries, and any lessons that conventional economics could tell us were useless in the New Economy. Both markets, and the internet itself, they believed, were "self-correcting". But the protesters weren't so much against trade, as they were for fair trade, and against a Washington Consensus that sees financial capital ride over the interests of labor everywhere, and developing economies in particular. This is the logic that reduces technically skilled white collar workers in the first world to the state of indentured coolies, and orders developing countries to institute "cost recovery" programs where poor parents must pay for their kids' education. (Former Nobel Prize Winner, and chief economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz describes how Uganda rebelled against this imposition, with the result that a generation of daughters received an education for the first time, rather than being forced to work on the land as child labor). So Microsoft's adoption of the WTO as its enforcer may be the moment when the technical community realizes that everything is political, perhaps encouraging them to send their Ayn Rand novels down the crapper. Which leaves us with the issue of when and where Microsoft will choose to apply pressure. It's much more likely to target weaker economies, as they have less bargaining power. Look out, Nepal! Microsoft would be foolish to force the issue in China, the largest holder of US dollars. If China were to retaliate, the dollar would be a junk currency and US shoppers could be looking at empty shelves. Er, Steve - you ought to think this one through. So Microsoft's patent 'war' may amount to no more than a psyops exercise designed to exploit the abundant paranoia in the open source community. But it could also serve another useful purpose. Microsoft has plenty of time and money to diversify beyond its Windows franchise, just as IBM diversified beyond its original typewriter franchise. But it isn't too prudent to tell the shareholders this until one if its current diversifications scores a hit. ® Related stories HP feared MS open source patent offensive 2004 the year Microsoft's prices bend, buckle or break? Microsoft aiming IBM-scale patent program at Linux? The GPL will win, claims law prof. MS extends IP protection to hoi polloi
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Nov 2004

'Primary vendor' turns screw on Computacenter

Computacenter's UK profits are likely to fall by £9m over the next 12 months, following a renegotiation of terms and conditions with its "primary vendor", the reseller warned yesterday. Shares fell 49p, down 15 per cent, to £2.72 on the news yesterday. The supplier is unnamed but is almost certainly HP, which must keep a tight lid on prices, to compete with arch-rival Dell. At the same time, it needs to start making more money from its PC, server and storage businesses. There is not that much margin in the channel, but it is an obvious place to start looking to make cuts. Computacenter is Europe's biggest reseller, so the outcome of these annual negotiations shows how much the tier-one product vendors hold the whip hand. Computacenter is not in a strong position to switch-sell: its corporate customers specify the brands and are not going to move to, say, IBM, simply because their dealer is getting nailed on margins. We assume too, that Computacenter's UK distribution arm, which flogs hardware to smaller resellers, will also be hit by the new contract, although here, there is even less margin to play with. Computacenter has been building a biggish services arm on the back of its core product supply business. Yesterday's outcome will bolster its determination to ramp up this higher-margin business even more quickly. ® Related stories HP wraps up Synstar purchase Compel trims losses EC waves through HP Synstar deal Computacenter pulled down by France and Germany
Drew Cullen, 19 Nov 2004

PlusNet sponsors Sheffield Wednesday

PlusNet is forking out a six-figure sum to sponsor Sheffield Wednesday football club. From next June the PlusNet name will be plastered on the front of players' shirts in a two-year deal between the Sheffield-based ISP and the division League One football club. Financial details were not released but the companies say that the tie-up brings together "two significant Sheffield businesses which have achieved success at a national level". PlusNet boss Lee Strafford said it has been an "exciting year" for the ISP which floated on AIM in July and now boasts more than 80,000 broadband punters. "This is the icing on the cake," he said. Separately, PlusNet has unveiled a business broadband range aimed at SMEs and teleworkers. Prices start at £19.99 a month (ex VAT). This week PlusNet launched a crackdown on some 250 broadband hogs it reckons are abusing its service. It told punters in an 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."® Related stories PlusNet gets tough with broadband hogs Chinese Government nets 'Internet Villain' gong Punters flock to PlusNet cut-price ADSL
Tim Richardson, 19 Nov 2004

Apple eyes Bluewater, Kent for third UK retail site

Apple has confirmed its third UK retail location: the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, just outside London's M25 orbital freeway. The announcement came from the Mac maker's retail chief, Ron Johnson, in London yesterday to officially launch its Regent Street store, which will open to the public tomorrow. Apple is already known to be gearing up to open its second UK store, in Birmingham's rebuilt Bull Ring mall. The Bluewater outlet is site number three. Both are expected to open "sometime in 2005", Johnson said, Macworld UK reports. "We want to open as soon as possible," Johnson said. Apple is also preparing to open stores on continental Europe, he added. There are a number of Apple-branded stores around Europe, but the London location is the first to be owned and operated by Apple itself, rather than members of its reseller channel. ® Bootnote The Register was not, as usual, invited to the Regent Street store launch. We're persona non grata: something about not toeing the party line and writing the kind of stories Apple thinks we should write, company insiders have told us. Related stories Apple London store doors to open 20 November Apple eyes Birmingham for next UK store Creative declares 'war' on Apple's iPod UK group preps public digital music 'ATMs' Apple profits leap as iPod sales rocket Apple iTunes tops 150m downloads
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 2004

EMI looks to digital as download sales quadruple

The world's third largest music label, EMI, saw its revenues from digital music increase by more than 300 per cent in the six months to 30 September, the company said today. Digital's contribution to EMI Music - one half of the group; the other is EMI Music Publishing - was up almost 500 per cent in the first half of the Group's fiscal year. During that time, Apple expanded its iTunes Music Store from the US to the UK, Germany and France, and Napster opened a UK store. EMI's digital sales totalled £12.2m. That's just over two per cent of the music and movie group's total turnover, £851m, down 11.4 per cent on the year-ago half. EMI made a pre-tax half-yearly profit of £36.9m, down from the £39.8m it announced this time last year. The company noted that with a release schedule heavily biased toward the second-half of the year - and more so this year than has been the case in the past - the weaker H1 was not entirely unexpected. Early numbers for October and November showed a significant improvement over last year's monthly figures, it said. EMI calculates that the global recorded music market fell 1.3 per cent during its first half, down from a ten per cent decline a year ago. The US market showed strength, Japan appeared to be stabilising, the UK was flat but the rest of Europe still "experiencing significant declines during the period". Don't necessarily look to the rise of digital music as driver of resurgence, though the growth in digital revenues is impressive. EMI bosses attributed the turnaround more to the aggressive legal action brought by the likes of the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) against file-sharers than to the burgeoning digital market per se. The lawsuits were having an "educational and deterrent" effect on music consumers, the company said. "It's certainly had a significant impact on Germany," said EMI Music Chairman, Alain Levy. "There's no doubt that in Christian music, for example, when the lawsuits started, the legal downloads started to go up immediately." "The legitimate digital music market continues to expand rapidly and we remain confident that digital represents a key driver for future industry growth," said EMI Chairman Eric Nicolli. ® Related stories Sony talks to Grokster First deadline passes for Supreme Court Grokster case UK group preps public digital music 'ATMs' Grokster touts 'legal, licensed' p2p music share system France rules Apple's DRM denial not anti-competition P2Pers ask Supreme Court to reject RIAA ban request Tesco opens digital music store Music biz in unauthorised downloads shock Spitzer the Blitzer goes after music label payola Robbie Williams: crooning soon on a phone near you How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved Woolworths to take on Apple iTunes store
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 2004

Stop picking on BT, says rival

Publicity hungry telcoms companies should stop picking on BT and get on with running their businesses. So says Updata Infrastructure (UK) Ltd, an independently owned company that engages in local loop unbundling for the public sector. Updata - which has installed its kit in 20 exchanges so far and unbundled around 1,000 lines - believes the ongoing targeting of BT is a "publicity stunt" by rival operators. It reckons BT has "conducted an open and helpful relationship with us" and that the LLU operator is managing to "prosper perfectly well in the current environment". Commenting in the wake of Ofcom's review of the telecoms sector, Victor Baldorino, director of Updata, said: "We can only conclude that the continuing debate in the UK broadband marketplace is a conscious attempt by an anti-BT lobby to create a publicity storm for themselves. "While we welcome Ofcom's intentions to better level the playing field, commentators should recognise the economic reality that large organisations have high overheads, while smaller more entrepreneurial operators can and do deliver substantially more flexible and cost-effective services." ® Related stories Ofcom review 'misses golden opportunity' Ofcom tells BT: shape up, or split up Telecoms review? What telecoms review? Ofcom's review of telecoms due this week BT: Nation's broadband investment in Ofcom's hands
Tim Richardson, 19 Nov 2004

Intel CEO touts 'much improved' H1 '05 growth

Departing Intel CEO Craig Barrett has said he expects H1 2005 to yield better global sales figures that the first half of this year did, a forecast at odds with some market analysts. Earlier this month, Barrett said he viewed the Semiconductor Industry Association's prediction that 2005 will see negligible growth or a slight decline over 2004 "with a pinch of salt". This week he re-iterated that viewpoint during a visit to India. "I'm looking for our performance to be much improved in the first half of 2005 over what it was in the first half of 2004," he said, the Dow Jones Newswire reports. H1 2004 saw the delayed release of Intel's 90nm Pentium 4 chip, 'Prescott', and, later in the half-year, the arrival of the 90nm Pentium M, 'Dothan'. H1 2005 will certainly see the arrival of 'Sonoma', the second generation of Intel's Centrino platform, not to mention the Pentium 4 6xx series, along with the first 90nm P4 Extreme Edition. If all these arrive as planned, Intel's H1 2005 will have a far better product portfolio than it did in H1 2004. Indeed, according to Intel's head of mobile products, Anand Chandrasekher, speaking to The Register yesterday, the company is expecting more than 125 design wins to be announced alongside the Sonoma launch next quarter. Sources suggest the Sonoma launch will come sooner rather than later, with 17 January 2005 being offered for the platform's debut. ® Related stories Intel dauphin Otellini becomes king Intel's Barrett looks for chip sales growth in '05 Intel 3.8GHz P4 570J slips out Intel poo-poos 65nm delay claim Intel doubles down on dividend Intel puts back 90nm P4EE to Q1 '05 - report Intel said to have set 'Sonoma' launch at 17 Jan '05 Intel talks dual Pentium Ms
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 2004

Complacent UK corporates 'easy meat' for crooks

British businesses are too complacent over IT security and risk becoming easy targets for fraudsters and other would-be cyber criminals, the British Computer Society warns. The organisation says uk.plc needs to get its act together on security or risk growing cybercrime losses. The society, which seeks to raise IT standards and promote best practice, highlights risks such as corporate data being lost from company laptops in its BCS Review 2005. The publication offers six 'golden rules' for mobile security. Tips include: not allowing employers to use their own mobile device to store company information; recording the serial numbers of all PDAs and similar devices (including memory cards) and making use of access control and encryption technology mandatory. The BCS Review 2005 features various case studies, best practice guidelines and an analysis of various topical issues in IT. Biometric identification, offshore outsourcing, ecommerce and IT training and education are all discussed at length. But its primary focus is IT security. Although the threat of external cyber-criminals looms high in the public perception, the BCS warns that internal miscreants pose a greater security threat. The review draws particular attention to workers that have access to sensitive data such as salary databases, takeover plans, product research and development information and the like. Sensitive information should be protected using "simple security measures, such as encryption". Public Key Infrastructure is a technology that never took off as expected but the BCS reckons that "encryption is now more easily and economically enforceable with the overheads of complexity and time delays previously associated with the technology now reduced. Using a 'vault' concept to store encryption keys, vaults can be stored off-line on smart cards or convenient USB key ring devices. This approach also offers protection even for a stolen laptop," it adds. ® Related stories BCS offers members proof of professionalism NHS PKI project in sick bay Hackers cost UK.biz billions Security is our biggest ever challenge Gates
John Leyden, 19 Nov 2004

Ecommerce getting cheaper and easier

UK web designers are increasingly required to include ecommerce functionality in the sites they build for small business clients. According to research, published by software company Actinic, shows that etween 2003 and 2004, the percentage of sites built by web designers that included ecommerce functionality rose from 17 per cent to 23 per cent, According to research, published by software company Actinic. In the same period, the average price charged by a web designer to build an online store for a client fell from £3825 in 2003, to £2293 in 2004. This downward pressure on pricing may be related to a move towards in-house development on the part of medium-sized companies, with smaller businesses becoming increasingly important to web designers. Chris Barling, Actinic's CEO, said: "The proportion of websites enabled for online selling has really shot up compared with last year. As the market both gets bigger and more competitive, it is important for designers to keep costs down and deployment speed up." The research also shows that, overall, web designers agree that ecommerce packages allow you to develop online stores faster and easier. Chris Lamle, of Northstar Design, said: "With the growing pressure on web designers to deliver more for less I foresee continued growth in the use of packaged solutions, in order to maximise time and cost efficiencies." Copyright © 2004, Related stories UK data protection laws are 'chaotic' UK.biz in the dark over broadband jargon UK.biz likes buying online
Startups.co.uk, 19 Nov 2004

Elpida offers 800MHz 1Gb DDR 2 chip

Elpida has created what it claims is the world's first 800MHz DDR 2 SDRAM chip with a 1Gb capacity. The Japanese memory maker - which this month IPO'd on the Tokyo stock exchange - admits that the market is "not ready for such advanced products in applications today", but nonetheless if anyone wants 800MHz DDR 2 parts, it's your man: "Elpida has the ability to offer DDR2-800 devices based on market demand," it claimed. The chip itself is fabbed at 100nm and sports a circuit layout that "reduces bottlenecks on the signal and data paths in the memory array and peripherals" - the keys, apparently, to getting the clock frequency up to 800MHz in such a dense device. Of course, 800MHz DDR 2 is not a formal standard yet. JEDEC, the memory industry's standards-setting body, is still in the process of approving 667MHz DDR 2. ® Related stories Elpida IPO raises $967m Hynix, Micron neck-and-neck in Q3 Rambus sales, earnings rise on royalties Renesas seeks Nanya DRAM ban Infineon pleads guilty to memory price-fixing Rambus stock falls 13% on appeal failure Samsung targets DDR 2 with 90nm process Japan to probe Hynix DRAM dealings
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 2004

Intel prepares to kill off last few 130nm P4s

So farewell, Northwood. Yes, Intel has formally announced its intention to discontinue production of its top-specification 130nm desktop Pentium 4 processors, according to documents seen by The Register. Come 19 March 2005, and OEMS, system builders and end-users will have missed by a single day their chance to order 2.8, 3.0, 3.2 and 3.4GHz 130nm Pentium 4 chips, each of which supports 800MHz frontside bus clocks and HyperThreading. Anyone who gets their order in by 18 March 2005, can expect delivery by 19 May 2005 for tray-packed processors and 17 June 2005 for boxed parts, Intel notes. The news comes as Taiwanese mobo makers complain of a shortage of Socket 478 chipsets from Intel. That the chip giant might want to limit the availability of 865 and 845 chipsets in favour of the 775-pin 915 and 925 series, which favour 90nm processors, would come as no surprise. And, indeed, that's what the motherboard company sources are claiming, according to a DigiTimes report. This, they say, is annoying, since 845- and 865-based mobos account for the vast majority of our sales. Which is, of course, why Intel might need to give the market a little push... It is also expected to trim 915 series chipset prices next month to encourage their adoption even further. ® Related stories Intel 3.8GHz P4 570J slips out Intel readies 'East Fork' digital home PC platform Intel to add Wi-Fi to Pentium 4 chipsets - again Intel 'plans' December Grantsdale price cuts Intel lost 6.7% chipset market share in Q3 Intel 1066MHz FSB chipset slips out
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 2004

Callserve WLTM partner with VoIP, GSOH etc.

UK-based internet telephony outfit - Callserve Communications - is on the hunt for other VoIP companies it can snap up in a bid to swell its operation. The company - which has cash of its own and the financial backing of independent investors - says it is keen to snap up other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) businesses that have a "complementary technology". Alternatively, it would be just as happy to hook up with another VoIP outfit. Callserve currently does most of its business in Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe, and is looking to launch a VoIP product in the UK early next year. Said Callserve chief exec Ajaz Ahmed: "With the increased uptake of broadband in the UK, the time is right to bolster our offering in the UK market for Internet telephony and we have plans to transform the market next year with some great new services. "We are also looking to either acquire or partner with companies in the VoIP space that offer complementary and unique technologies. "Acquisition is a proven and effective way to reach scale rapidly and push technology boundaries. We are eager to roll out our new services as soon as possible and this strategy supports our roadmap going forward," he said. ® Related stories Former Freeserve duo dial in to VoIP Gossiptel touts cheapo flat fees for overseas calls BT in VoIP giveaway VoIP heads for the big time
Tim Richardson, 19 Nov 2004

Greenpeace blockades HP with great wall of PCs

Greenpeace Netherlands this morning blocked the entrance to the Dutch office of Hewlett Packard in Utrecht with a wall of over a thousand old HP computers. The campaigning organisation says HP still uses flame-retardant TBBA (aka tetrabromobisphenol-A), in printed circuit boards and covers for components. While other companies such as Samsung, Puma and H&M have reportedly removed all hazardous materials from their products, HP so far hasn’t been willing to do so. Although there are many environmentally friendly flame retardants available, HP PCs still contains up to twenty per cent of TBBA, according to Greenpeace. In the event of a fire, TBBA releases fewer toxic gases than other chemicals, but Greenpeace says it is still only a half-hearted alternative. The blockade followed breakdown of negotiations with HP over the TBBA issue, Greenpeace says. ® Related stories Toxic dust found lurking in tech kit Toxic PCs destroy life as we know it PC disposal: recycle or build for durability? Recycling activists condemn US PC makers China junks toxic US PC junk How green is your PC (disposal policy)?
Jan Libbenga, 19 Nov 2004

From Indymedia to the Moon: your musings in full

LettersLetters It is Friday, so we'll kick off with a little more about the Indymedia server seizures, then get gradually dafter as the page progresses. Earlier this week, we ran some correspondence from readers complaining that we were taking the whole thing too seriously, and should have more faith in the judgement of the FBI. Today's emails provide a counterpoint to that tune: I read some of the letters you have received about the indymedia hard drive seizures. I must say that I am as dismayed as you are about the attitude people have regarding governmental abuse of power. They always seem to come in two flavors. The ones who think that anyone who doesn't think exactly like they do deserve anything they get and the ones who think that even though the government may have overstepped its bounds this time, they won't do it again. The former are the cheerleaders for dictatorship as long as they are part of the group in power. The latter are always surprised when the next governmental abuse of power surfaces. And the next. And the next. Like you at El Reg, I realize how important it is to stand up for the rights of every person even when those people spout things that are distasteful. The government must be shown that the people will not allow the rights of anyone to be trampled no matter what the reason. If we allow the rights of the people who own indymedia to be abrogated without due process and without regard to the history of common law, all of us are threatened. A note to those who cheer when someone they personally dislike gets abused by government. Though they need you now to get what they want, history has not been kind to the common man who betrays his fellow man to curry favor with those in power. Eventually, you too will be come a liability. Just ask those people who helped Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot or Castro. Robin The seizure of Indymedia servers is not at all OK with me. Boo-hiss to FBI for this. While I hope they catch their man, given the very open nature of IMC files, I don't believe wholly seizing the server was necessary. But they're not ones for subtlety, are they? From my perspectives as a media activist who got his start with the Indymedia cell in Madison, Wisconsin (that hotbed of librul love), as a civil liberarian, and as a newspaper publisher ("The Wisconsinite" took pages from both IMC and El Reg!), this action was not good on any count. For one, the FBI craning its neck overseas or generally anywhere means something foul is afoot. While it is not wholly surprising for the FBI to come knocking and seizing a server on grounds as hollow as many they've used recently, it's very disquieting. The old saying of course goes, "And when they came to seize my server, there was no one left to speak." I do wonder if that might not happen to me some day. I can rest a bit knowing my lawyers will be ready to bring it on. Best, Jason Haas Madison, Wisc., USA (Canada South) Sticking with the issue of political trust, Blunkett's most recent attempt to convince the UK that we need ID cards hinged on the notion that we should trust the nice government people. They are looking out for our best interests, see? And that nasty Immanuel Kant is to blame for all the horrible cynicism in the press: Who is this Kant fellow? Somebody should seize his servers! Rev Al Hi, Forget Kant and a (long) history of doubting governments intentions. Recent actions don't exactly inspire trust - WMD anyone? If Blunkett wants the British public to trust him about ID cards, he and the government should have started with not misleading to us about other things. Erik. Regarding the attempt at reassurance by Mr.Blunkett, I submit the following. The British government is untrustworthy. Before getting your knickers in a knot over the statements of some "bloody foreigner", I'm an American, who years ago, lived for a time in London, the government of my own country, be it Democratic or Republican is no more worthy of ones trust. It's simply the nature of governments, and re this, I'm given to reconsider something offered by the late Lyndon Johnson, who during the Vietnam era, or part thereof, was President of The United States. On the subject of legislation or laws, Johnson offered the following. Any proposal must be viewed as follows. Do not pay overly much attention to the benefits that might be delivered were the law in question to be properly enforced, rather one needs to consider the harm done by the improper enforcement of this particular piece of legislation, whatever it might be. Alan "We need these because otherwise going to America would mean having to pay for a $100 visa per person per trip, which is inconvenient, and expensive" ? I have never had any desire to go to America either now or in the future. Can I use this as a reason to not have an ID card or bio passport. Bob H The, by now, self-sustaining debate over employment of known virus writers in the security sector: Hi I have numerous previous convictions for organised car theft. Perhaps Erik Piper would like to employ me as a car parking valet at his company's headquarters. With my in depth knowledge of car theft I am sure I will be able to bring a fresh dimension to the role. Graeme "But how do Zoner's hosting clients know they are safe from the possibility that Benny might create a backdoor in systems? Zoner's Piper said that Benny was well aware that if he tried anything like this not only would he lose his job but he'd be unlikely to be employed in the Czech IT sector ever again." I am a security professional and I do not worry that security companies employ people with histories. What worries me is when a software company either does not have, or does not understand the value of, QA. If they did the answer would be that they have "an established QA process that performs extensive code review and testing independently of the developer that would discover such things and that established controls protect the integrity of the code once it has been QAd." Any body, not just known VXers, could add malicious code. If there is not proper QA or controls any code could be compromised at any point in the development process. After all someone managed to get a whole 3D flight simulator into Excel in one of the MS Office releases and backdoors tend to be slightly smaller than that. Chris The World Trade Organisation recently ruled that the US laws banning cross-border gambling break international trade rules. A reader says, so what? You completely missed the story on the WTO judgment of the American-Antiguan dispute about online gambling. I have researched this issue myself, and so I see behind the misrepresentations that you are making. You should have talked about the actual treaty language at issue, whether America negotiated away its right to restrict international trade in gambling. By failing to address the actual issue of the dispute, you have disserved your readers. The real story, which you _should_ know, is that the treaty wording speaks very generally, in terms of opening up "recreation" to international trade. It says nothing about gambling specifically. Considering the historic practice of gambling restrictions in America, usually left to the states, and in most cases outlawed, it is absolutely ridiculous that the WTO ruled against America. The other major issue you completely missed was how America will respond to the WTO's "judicial activism," i.e. failure to comply with the letter and spirit of the international law which was supposed to be instituted. America will not change its gambling laws. Therefore, any attempt by a bunch of French fried eurocrats in Geneva to corrupt America are impotent. In which case, the WTO has overstepped its bounds, and is bound to suffer for it. America certainly won't. John Next up, the rather unexpected, but much welcomed news that Poland has withdrawn its support for the current form of the EU software patents directive. Apart from one email saaying that we should have used "scuttle" instead of "scupper" in our headline, the general feedback has been along these lines: That's great news, and much better than what the UK's two faced elected representative have archived. Can you give me the address of the polish minister for technology (or whatever) so I can send some fan mail. Thanks. David I don't speak any Polish, but could you find someone who does and get them to send an email to the Polish government, saying 'bloody marvellous'. Thanks, Phil More trouble for the headline writers, now, about the news that a naval medic convicted of child porn offenses will be allowed to keep his job: Re: Child porn navy doctor keeps job I can't believe you missed the opportunity to put "Steer clear of the buoys" Robin A shocking lapse. Our headline monkeys will be whipped. Or possibly tasered. Speaking of tasering, how many kids have you zapped this week? This refers of course, to the tale of a six year old tasered by Miami police when he threatened to cut his own leg with broken glass, and another youngster who was tasered just as she ran on to a main road. Two schools of thought on this story: 1) what a great idea, lets herd the little buggers off to be tasered, and 2) the cops probably had some justification for their actions: Obviously the parent in question thinks her little darling would not hurt a fly... these people need to wake up and smell the coffee. most kids in my area could use a good tasering, they are quite happy to throw stones at your car or burn down trees then stick fingers up at you and run away. Thats after some of the worst language i've herd in a long time and I'm an engineer. most parents dont care and the kids need sorting out. PlanetCox 'Hey, here's a piece of candy, hey, here's a toy. Let the glass go." As someone who's had some experience with "problem" children I wanted to point out that this sounds perfectly reasonable. Problem is, this kid is most likely not in a "reasonable" state of mind and his behaviour is probably going to be driven more by impulse than reason. Projecting a rational, adult mind on a child in an irrational mental state can be the worst thing anyone could do and can be tragic. Its very possible using the taser was the best thing to do under the circumstances. Having said that, I wasn't there and I don't know the kid (then neither did the police), so I'm going to reserve making any judgements. Michael Wow! You can safely Taser children? I bet the little s**ts hanging about the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow would be a lot less lippy to the currently unarmed cops with the threat of a 50,000 volt zinging. I think we'd all be amazed how frequently the Taser product "accidentally discharges" in the presence of Burberry caps and shell suits. Nick You're not a parent are you ? I've had kids jump away from me near busy roads, and it is bloody scary. Even my 3 year old can out accelerate me over a 5 metre distance, and some years back my 6 y.o old nephew got hit by a car when he got away from me. He wasn't seriously hurt, but if I'd had a taser, I'd have used it. The cop had a hard call, but are you seriously suggesting he should have let the 12 y.o run into traffic ? Can you run so fast that you can snatch a fleeing 12 yo before being hit by traffic ? Do you have a S on your chest ? The 6 y.o with glass is a bit more tricky. Sure sweets might work, but I'm not aware that US police have these as standard issue. I imagine you'd have been happy to slag them off with a headline "cops go to sweetshop whilst child dies", if that approach had gone wrong. Also look at the context, the situation was bad enough that the police had been called, this obviously is not where a child finds a bit of glass on the floor and plays with it, obviously it was a high tension situation. Again as a parent I've seen kids do the most amazingly stupid things, even whilst I tell to stop, and I have the advantage of knowing them, a stranger would stand even less chance. Tasering anyone carries a risk, but fast cars and glass shards aren't safe either. Have you ever had to make a real time judgement on a child's safety ? Doesn't sound like it. Dominic Seems we've been misleading you most egregiously. A story about a time bomb has offended one reader in particular: Re your article "Say hello to the 'time bomb' exploit". I think it's a disgrace that you're allowed to use such misleading headlines and you should be "struck off" (in a professional manner, not a lewd one) immediately. I was shocked to find the article held no details of the adventures of talking devices capable of freezing time and passing the Turing Test. Needless to say, I shan't be reading any of your "articles" again. Regards, Miffed of Salisbury A sceptical response to a survey promising good times ahead for security professionals: I find this kind of self-congratulatory survey appalling. They never reflect reality, and are the first things brought up in graduate level business stats courses as examples of biased statistics. And I suppose all of these $120,000/year security professionals have even made a dent in the SPAM, viruses, or software vulnerabilities that we have to tolerate in the world today? No wonder business has a hard time investing in security - it doesn't pay back. Actually, the salaries are probably much lower level than reported, as are the responsibiliites that these professionals actually have. As for a boom time ahead, I'll believe it when some of the security problems get solved, instead of just patched. Keith More of that despicable Kantian cynicism about government IT projects, this time, the payroll service: "The project cost £3.3m and after nine years never delivered a workable system." That sounds like one of the greatest IT triumphs ever achieved by a Government IT project. Name one that lasted nine years and did not piss ten times that against the wall. Steve Half Life 2's authentication procedure has not won it many fans. There might be more on this one, later: Half-Life 2 requires "activation" ? You mean, like Windows XP ? So what happens in 10 years from now, when I decide to reinstall it on my ultra-modern mega-gigaflop PC, just for old sakes ? What if Valve is not there anymore, and has no more servers to authenticate me ? Strike that, what happens when my hard disk bites the platter and I have to reinstall everything ? Do I get to re-authenticate, or do I have to actually buy another copy ? This is madness. Valve : drop the authentication. I bet that in less than two days, pirates will have cracked it anyway. A waste of time for a useless bit of programming. Pascal. All this talk of war gaming seems to have confused some readers: So what the US government is looking to implement is a dedicated command and conquer network. The moustichioed, buzz-cut, generals will be able guide their combined forces about the battlefield with a simple graphical interface, not doubt it will include a digitized voice telling them that they have selected 10 light-infantry cannon-fodder raw recruits. Cool. When is it coming out for X-Box? Might get a little bit slow when the network crashes and they have to use the disaster recovery mechanism of good 'ol 56K (well actually 26K) modem. Will splinter cell be included? Nick Quoth Andrew: Muzzies? On generals? This isn't Village People, y'know! And finally, in our coverage of the SMART-1 launch we describe the Moon as Earth's only satellite. Not so! BUt the others are only temporary moons. A bit like occasional furniture, perhaps? Apologies for the pedantry, but the earth actually has 5 moons. The second moon (Cruithne) is 3 miles across and has a 770 year horseshoe orbit. It was discovered to be a moon in 1997. Since then 3 other smaller moons have been discovered, with much duller names - 2002XYZ, or some such. My thanks for this interesting factlet go to the Stephen Fry and the BBC, more specifically their quicky program, QI (Quite Interesting). Cheers (and sorry about the pedantry again!) Mark Here is a link about Cruithne! Enjoy the weekend. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Nov 2004

The Register is band full of s**t

FoTWFoTW The question of whether software companies ought to hire known virus writers is a contentious one at best. When they specifically hire them to write anti-virus software, it is at the very least legitimate to question the decision. Or so we thought, anyway. Others clearly disagree, but since the writer seems to think we are a musical grouping, we are not sure how seriously we ought to take him: Hi arsehole! You are very VERY stupid, because Zoner is NOT AV company. And ZAV does not a Zoner Antivirus. Zoner is not develop anythink like antivirus. The Register is band of full of shit. Vit Lovely. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Nov 2004

Digital music download coin-op to offer 'all formats, all DRMs'

AnalysisAnalysis Inspired Broadcast Networks (IBN) CEO Norman Crowley has pledged to support all DRM-protected music formats, including Apple's FairPlay, when his company rolls out its fleet of pound-a-download digital music vending machines. However, he admitted that it may take some time before the company is able to sell songs to passing punters. While licensing negotiations are underway, IBN has yet to sign up a single music label to its Urban Digital Vending (UDV) service. Formally launched in London this week, IBN's UDV roll-out will see coin-operated vending machines sited shortly in the capital's King's Cross and Waterloo railway stations. Crowley told The Register a further eight machines may appear in the city before Christmas ahead of a more aggressive 2005 roll-out that is set see up to 20,000 music delivery boxes installed throughout the country. IBN's parent company is Leisure Link, one of the UK's biggest gaming machine and jukebox providers, so there's little doubt that it can deliver a significant number of vending machines to suitable locations during the roll-out phase. According to Crowley, IBN has already won the backing of hospitality company Welcome Break and fashion retailer NewLook, and hopes to sign Coffee Rupublic shortly. Woolworth's Group subsidiary MVC is already using compatible machines as in-store listening posts. IBN also has Coca-Cola's support, and the drinks manufacturer will be co-branding a number of the vending machines, which will also serve up said beverage. Lastminute.com's upcoming ticket sales machines will likewise be able to offer downloads. Initially, however, many of these machines will not sell songs. While IBN has licensed over 2m songs for playback through it's The Music digital jukeboxes - which are rapidly replacing Leisure Link's CD-based players - its public performance licences don't cover digital downloads. Crowley said IBN is in talks not only with the major labels but key independents too, all with the aim of delivering that 2m-track database to download customers. Right now, even iTunes doesn't offer that many songs in the US, let alone the UK, and it's ahead of all the other digital music providers in the market today. To be fair, Crowley's taking a longer view, out to a year or so down the line when the vending machines are in place and initial label signings have already allowed IBN to begin offering downloads. In 12 months' time, it's possible that the UDV network will be able to offer significantly more songs than iTunes or Napster do today. But by that time, so will they. IBN's negotiations are likely to be made more tricky not only because Crowley is adamant that the service supports iPods - given the Apple player's market share, he'd be daft not to want to include it - but the anonymous nature of cash-purchased downloads. With no explicit link to a form if ID - typically a credit card, and at the very least an account with the music provider - getting the DRM right will be harder to achieve, and the music industry will need to be persuaded that IBN can get it right before signing on the dotted line. Apple's refusal to date to license FairPlay isn't going to help, but Crowley's keenness on supporting all such systems, means he's going to have to take Sony's MagicGate and Windows Media DRM too. It also means supporting Apple's preferred format, AAC, plus Sony's ATRAC and its derivatives, and Windows Media Audio. Putting in place content delivery licences to cover all these bases will be no mean feat. Asked what technlogical innovation he'd most like to see coming to the digital music industry over the next 12 months, and Crowley puts a universal DRM system at the top of his list. Phones matter more than MP3 players Help may come not from the usual digital music suspects but by way of the mobile phone vendors. No handsets yet support DRM in the UK, though it's starting to happen in the US, courtesy of Microsoft's Windows Media Player 10 for Windows Mobile 2003 smart phones. However, other handset makers are expected to roll-out DRM enabled player software during 2005. Given the mobile phone market's general preference for standards - MPEG 4 for video, for example - it's likely to lead the way with better cross-vendor format and DRM support. That plays into IBN's hand not only by reducing the range of technologies it will need to support, but also because of Crowley's belief that it's mobile phone users who will be more attracted to UDV systems than iPod or Zen Micro owners. The drive to buy on impulse that Crowley is hoping to tap into, particularly purchasing with cash, is likely to appeal to punters who see music as being more disposable, less a part of a collection, and that's generally not how you'd profile the owner of an expensive, high-capacity digital music device. More and more phones have memory card support, and as 512MB and 1GB cards come down in price, plenty of folk will, in a year's time, have handsets capable of storing a decent number of tracks, says Crowley. Quite a few will have Bluetooth, too, and while IBN's vending machines sport slots for all the key memory card formats - not to mention USB and Firewire - many will allow tracks to be transferred across and ad hoc Bluetooth link. And thanks to IBN offshoot The Cloud's move to equip Leisure Link systems with Wi-Fi access, in order to build its hotspot business, users will also eventually be able to download tracks using 802.11 wireless technology, Crowley says. And Wi-Fi, he adds, offers the potential for fast, 3G-beating download speeds. When the full network of 20,000 vending machines is up and rumning, it can even challenge the near-broadband mobile phone system for availability, he believes. But technology is of little value if you don't have the content, and that's what UDV's future hinges upon. Crowley called upon broadband connectivity partner BT Retail and its CEO, Pierre Danon, to give UDV his thumbs-up. The strength of partners like BT, Coca-Cola and Woolworths will, he hopes, help persuade not only the music industry but the DRM owners that they need to work with IBN. Launching the service before the download content is in place is a risky opening gambit, but probably one that needs to be made, Crowley feels, to get the licensing negotiation game going. Will it win the licenses it needs? That depends on the changing landscape of the digital music market over the next year or so, as Apple's lead in music players and online music sales is challeged by more sophisticated Windows Media-based devices, and how aggressively it pursues the mobile phone market. Given the growth seen in legal downloads, it's hard to see content providers being unwilling to come to an agreement with IBN, particuarly while it's a content seller's market. ® Related stories UK group preps public digital music 'ATMs' EMI looks to digital as download sales quadruple Sony talks to Grokster Creative declares 'war' on Apple's iPod First deadline passes for Supreme Court Grokster case Windows Media Player sound files 'edited with warez' France rules Apple's DRM denial not anti-competition Pirated U2 album leaked online
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 2004

RAF fighters intercept 'silent' Jumbo

Two RAF fighters last Friday intercepted a Manchester-bound Boeing 747 after it failed to respond to air traffic controllers, the BBC reports. Pakistan Airlines flight PK 709 - carrying 81 passengers plus crew - should have made contact with controllers as it entered UK airspace. Air traffic controllers in Maastricht lost touch with the aircraft as it left Northern Europe. The fighters escorted the plane from the Lincolnshire coast until it got to within 40 miles of Manchester, at which point the pilot checked in and subsequently landed 20 minutes later. The crew were reportedly unaware of the security alert they had sparked, and claimed that they were unable to contact Manchester and therefore spoke to London controllers instead. National Air Traffic Services (NATS) denies this, adding that the RAF flyboys would not have been put in the air had this been the case. Pakistan Airlines is investigating the matter, and NATS has reported the incident to the Civil Aviation Authority. A spokesman for the RAF declined to go into specifics of the case, but noted that the RAF responded with "well practised defence measures" designed to deal with any airborne threat "believed to be about to launch an attack such as those seen on September 11 2001". There seems little doubt, therefore, that had the pilot not contacted air traffic control when he did, his aircraft would shortly thereafter have been shot down. The final call on whether or not to destroy an airliner rests with unnamed senior officials. The spokesman told The Register that such "assessments and decisions would be made at the highest level". ® Related stories Sex toy creates Oz airport pandemonium Novelty farting dog sparks US terror alert Flight Sim enquiry raises terror alert
Lester Haines, 19 Nov 2004

MS predicts stampede for Hotmail.co.uk

MSN Hotmail today announced the lauch of Hotmail.co.uk, which will for the the first time allow hotmail addresses ending with '.co.uk'. The new email addresses will be compatible with Microsoft's MSN Messenger, and Microsoft expects demand to be huge. Jason Keane of MSN Hotmail enthused: "People have wanted a Hotmail.co.uk address for some time and now they can get the perfect Hotmail.co.uk name that is personal to them." MSN Hotmail has donated over 50 of the most desirable new email addresses, such as princess@hotmail.co.uk, jamesbond@hotmail.co.uk, superman@hotmail.co.uk and many others to the NSPCC. These will be auctioned off here as part of Microsoft and MSN's Decade of Difference appeal, marking 10 years of partnership with the NSPCC, which has raised £15m for the charity. Hotmail is the world's biggest free web-based email service, with 187m active accounts worldwide, and provides 250MB of free storage space, as well as letting users send 10MB attachments. It increased the storage space available to free account holders from 2MB to 250MB in June, in response to the launch of Google's Gmail, a web-based email service offering 1GB of free space. In May Yahoo also increased the free storage space available to its email customers, from 4MB to 100MB.® Related stories Google blocks Gmail exploit Beware of Yahoo! spam scam Microsoft ends free Hotmail access from Outlook
Robin Lettice, 19 Nov 2004

UK looks at 'integrating' ID card with health care

The question of whether or not the UK national ID card will be required for access to health care is a fascinating one because, although the answer is almost certainly yes, nobody in government is prepared to say so at this juncture and risk general outcry. Instead we have a drip, drip of hints, suggestions and signals that will (they hope) lead us to a point where the ID card somehow, sort of, becomes the obvious and inevitable answer to everybody's healthcare problems. The process, whereby the Home Office's cunning plan for a universal ID system efficacious in every way slowly subverts every other form of ID, could be thought of as a sort of Invasion of the ID Snatchers. Health Minister John Hutton MP dripped some more in Parliament earlier this week, in answer to a query about any assessment the Department of Health had done of how the EU health access card might be integrated with "other proposed UK entitlement and identity cards." He answered that the Department was working in three areas, EU card, NHS card and national ID card, and was "considering how in the medium term this work programme can best be integrated, so as to maximise the benefits for patients and frontline services." The timescales are important here, most so for the EU card which needs to be in place by the end of next year. In the longer term this card is seen by Europe as having smart card possibilities, but initially it need be no more than a piece of plastic with stuff written on it. As a matter of fact, it needs to have all of the stuff written on it, because it's intended to give EU citizens access to health services in any EU country, and there's no guarantee that anything machine read is going to be universally readable at this juncture. Brussels even suggests that roll out of the new cards could be eased simply by issuing a sticker that people could stick onto an existing card, where one exists. But an EU card of some sort is definitely something the NHS needs to have issued by 31st December 2005, because otherwise UK citizens won't be able to get access to treatment in other countries. The NHS will also have to be geared up to recognise other countries' cards by then. The NHS card is on the contrary a considerably fuzzier matter. The NHS has been considering smart card access to services for quite some time now, but seems reluctant to share any conclusions of such consideration it might have come to. The NHS plan, which was put before Parliament in June of this year, said the Department was "considering the development of an NHS Card, which could support smart access to personal data and speed confirmation of access to appropriate care", but that's all it said. More recently it indicated that the EU card and the NHS card "could" be the same thing, while this week Hutton simply parroted the reference from the Plan. The Department of Health is however very keen to eliminate the 'problem' (it thinks there is one, it has no credible data on the subject) of health tourism, and according to the Home Office (in its response to the Home Affairs Committee) is "developing a culture of checking identity and entitlement as a matter of routine practice." The Home Office has also said that national ID card reading capabilities are being built into NHS systems as part of the NHS IT programme, and has floated the notion of the ID card as NHS gatekeeper on numerous occasions. So, you've got an EU card that has to go out next year to replace the old E111 form, but this won't provide any kind of smartcard validation. You've got an NHS Card under consideration, but possibly not being considered very hard, and you've got card readers going into the NHS which will read a national ID Card, but nothing else that the Department of Health has so far publicly committed to. The national ID card however cannot be used directly to make access to health care conditional until such time as the Government is prepared to say so, and if it did that before the end of the 'voluntary' phase of the ID scheme, the voluntary nature would look even more threadbare than it does now. In addition, Europe complicates matters because, although the national ID card could be used for access to multiple services in the UK, it couldn't be used for access in the EU. The situation with driving licences is similar, and conforming to EU harmonised standards essentially compels the UK to have its 'universal' ID system and individual cards for practically all services as well. So the case for evolving the EU card into an NHS Card, and syncing the validation and technology in with the UK ID card, begins to look attractive. An NHS Card could also, possibly, provide the Home Office with a useful for getting ID cards out. At the moment it has the theoretical notion of a standalone ID card which you could buy if you didn't want a passport but did want an ID card, but it's difficult to see many people figuring out why on earth they'd do this before the law forces them to. So to get ID cards seeded in areas other than passport renewal, the Home Office has to ID snatch other services. Driving is the option most often talked of, but what about making the NHS the third option, sign up for your new combination NHS/Euro Card, get an ID card thrown in? ® It's probably just about possible for you to sign No2ID's online petition against the ID card. The deadline is today, sign here.
John Lettice, 19 Nov 2004

3G battle centres on consumers

The phoney war is over and the battle for 3G supremacy in Europe will begin in earnest next year as consumers adopt the technology in wider numbers. Analyst group Gartner predicts that European consumers will be spoilt for choice as operators vie with rivals to build market share. Until now existing third-generation mobile networks (such as 3UK) have competed against second-generation GSM networks. As more 3G networks are launched these networks will compete against each other as well as older services. The battle between rival operators could last several years and will focus on the consumer - rather than business - marketplace, Gartner analyst Nick Jones, co-author of a snappily-titled new Gartner report What to Expect From the Struggle for 3G Supremacy in Europe, told El Reg. Road warriors (travelling sales execs and the like) might each spend a lot of money on their mobile phone bill every month, but there are simply to few of them for operators to recoup the huge licensing fees and capital costs incurred in establishing 3G networks. So 3G operators need to attract consumers. But the Western Europe telecoms market is already saturated. So, 3G operators will have try to lure customers away from rivals - or else encourage people to own more than one handset. For consumers that means the widespread availability of subsidised packages. But people searching for better deals or that latest phones may switch operators to get cheaper upgrades. For operators this means the likelihood of increased customer churn, alongside the possibility the 3G operators will face competition from "rivals with deeper pockets, who may subsidize consumer offerings for longer", Gartner forecasts. Given this tough competition, it thinks consolidation between operators, so that countries are left with three operators (two pan-European and one local) - is a likely scenario. Jones said: "We believe some operators will merge. Three operators makes sense. Why build four networks in the same country?" Services - not technology - hold the key Gartner reckons large operators that own both 2G and 3G networks — such as Vodafone and Orange — will advertise 3G offerings mainly as opportunities for users to get new kinds of service, rather than as new technology. So consumers will get their hands on 3G handsets even if they didn't request access to high-speed mobile networks. Starting in late 2004, a wider range pf 3G handsets will become available, so hardware supply won't be too much of a problem. "3G is driving innovation in handsets - which will soon have hard disks and be more like iPod. With increased video capability they could even be a competitor to video cameras," Jones said. Gartner reckons operators will have an uphill task convincing consumers to become big consumers of data. Excluding text messaging and ring tones, the majority of operators get only a tiny fraction of their revenue from data services. Services that exploit the higher bandwidth available with 3G have to be marketed to consumers. Jones is sceptical that video alone is a strong enough incentive for consumers to switch to 3G. "My daughter wouldn't make a video call without putting her make up on. People would just as soon make voice calls. I'm very pessimistic about mobile video, there's no evidence they'll be a great take-up," he said. Other services such as video messaging, media streaming, adult content and downloading of music and video have also been suggested. But Jones reckons the market is yet to identify a range of killer applications that will be a compelling proposition for consumers. Up to now operators have concentrated on offerings, such as gaming, likely to appeal most to teenagers. More attention needs to be paid to more mature consumers, according to Jones. Only if operators find a wide range of partners (such as content providers and application developers) and show the courage to experiment will result in the rapid introduction of compelling services. By outsourcing development in this way and creating a mobile environment akin to the formative years of the internet will spur innovation. Gartner reckons this approach as well as been more creative could cut development costs for operators. Jones said: "Up to now the mobile world has been separate from the internet. Bridges need to be built. Operators need to create an ecosystem. Environments like the Vodafone like portal are not open enough. Ecosystems - like Japan's DoCoMo - are better model," he added. Words up - cheap 3G voice calls on the way Meanwhile, voice telephony will remain the most important mobile service. Gartner predicts that the increased capacity of 3G networks will enable operators to change the way they sell voice services, for example offering large bundles of voice minutes, so that calls are, in effect, priced at a flat rate. Free calls for subscribers phoning other people on the same network might also be introduced. Consumers might be offered low price for voice calls on 3G networks to encourage them to upgrade from GSM and fixed line services. To help mobile networks compete with fixed line networks upgrades to emerging wireless broadband technology, such as High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), are likely. Gartner reckons that operators without alliances with fixed broadband providers will be at the vanguard of introducing these 3.5G services by 2007. However, these services will be introduced to a limited extent only and to a small number of users. HSDPA will not be much of a money spinner in the short to medium term. Despite this drive to faster and faster networks, Gartner reckons operators with GPRS networks can look forward to at least two years revenue before these systems become obsolete. Operators of 2.5G networks shouldn't panic, because upgrades like Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution (EDGE) will add enough bandwidth to meet short-term demands. ® Related stories UK 3G rollout targets 'too tough' Motorola: 3G handsets selling like hot cakes Vodafone leads charge in 3G offensive 3 UK claims 1.2m subscribers Content is king for 3G. But what content?
John Leyden, 19 Nov 2004
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Gov delays new extended warranty rules

The government's new rules on extended warranties will not become law before Christmas this year. The new rules call for retailers to give consumers better information about the warranty products, but retailers warned the changes had been brought in too fast. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) published plans for the reform of the extended warranties market in July this year. It said that although many retailers had implemented the changes as proposed in July this year, other businesses asked for the necessary legislation to be delayed until after Christmas. Consumer Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: "While it is important to protect consumers, we have no desire to place unnecessary burdens on retailers, especially as many already have the proposed changes in place, which is why we have decided to delay implementation until next year." Consumer groups have argued for a long time that the insurance policies sold by electronics retailers are too expensive. The UK's competition commission also notes that because there is no competition, retailers often charge excessive amounts for the products. An extended warranty can cost as much as a third of the value of the product, and analysts reckon roughly a quarter of Dixons' profits and half of Comet's earnings come from warranty sales. The day before the government announced the revised timeline, Dixons warned that its Christmas trading would not be as buoyant as usual. John Clare, Dixons chief executive, said that the rate of sales growth has slowed: "We are cautious about the outlook for consumer expenditure on high-ticket discretionary purchases across the balance of the year, particularly in the UK." Other government concessions made to the retail industry are detailed here, and the full consultation document is available here.® Related stories Dixons offers Napster UK pre-pay cards Dixons upbeat on trading Dixons seeks 1,000 new recruits
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Nov 2004

BT and O2 finalise divorce

BT' relationship with its former mobile division - O2 - came to an end today after Vodafone took over the job of supplying mobile services to BT's corporate customers. Three years after BT spun off its mobile division to help raise cash to pay off a chunk of it debt mountain, BT has begun a new relationship with one-time rival Vodafone. Now, Voda will supply the network infrastructure for BT's Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) business providing converged communications to the corporate market. BT will look after marketing, branding, billing and customer service, while Vodafone UK will provide the network airtime and services. Voda will also supply airtime for BT's domestic users from early next year when BT ditches T-Mobile as its mobile provider. Once that's been done, Voda will provide the whole kit and caboodle for BT's mobile operation. Said BT in a statement: "The announcement marks the start of building BT's vision for converged services in the business and consumer markets, with plans to introduce a range of future services across fixed and wireless, voice and data networks." It also heralds the countdown to BT launching Project Bluephone - a converged handset that flips between mobile and fixed networks depending on the location of users. BT has around 305,000 mobile customers and has generated an extra 90,000 sign-ups since June. Turnover from mobility services nearly trebled compared to last year, to £49 million, although the company's goal is to generate around £1bn a year from its mobile business in five years. ® Related stories BT, Voda confirm mobile link-up BT & Vodafone: uneasy bedfellows Calling a BT Bluephone could cost you dear RIM signs BT to sell Blackberry
Tim Richardson, 19 Nov 2004

Nvidia signs Intel bus licence deal

Nvidia has finally won a frontside bus licence from Intel, paving the way at long last for the graphics chip specialist to release versions of its nForce chipset family for Pentium 4 processors. Intel's permission comes on the back of a "broad, multi-year patent cross-license agreement spanning multiple product lines and product generations", the two companies announced today. While Nvidia gets to use Intel's frontside bus technology, the chip giant can now make use of elements of the nForce platform and - interestingly - Nvidia's SLI system, which allows two graphics cards to co-operate on the rendering of a single image. Further details of the extent of the intellectual property the two firms have granted each other, and other terms and conditions of the deal were not disclosed. Nvidia has been offering nForce chipsets for AMD processors since 2001, and while rival chipset makers have targeted both Intel and AMD platforms, Nvidia has steadfastly refused to do so until now. It's certainly had access to some Intel bus patents - Microsoft's Xbox console is based on a Pentium III processor connected to an nForce-derived chipset - but presumably that license wasn't sufficient to allow Nvidia to ship a P4-compatible nForce. Maybe it has never wanted to, preferring to focus on the AMD platform where it has a better chance of building market share. Maybe it simply could not get Intel to lower its price. Either way, it now can offer nForce for P4, and will presumably be announcing a compatible version of its nForce 4 PCI Express product shortly. Certainly arch-rival ATI is expected to do just that - launch an Intel-oriented version of its AMD-targeting Radeon Xpress 200 chipset - real soon now. Nvidia may also have been prompted by Intel's falling share of the chipset market - the chip giant lost 6.7 percentage points of its lead to rivals VIA, SiS and ATI. ® Related stories Nvidia beats Street with Q3 sales hike Nvidia details nForce 4 ATI unveils integrated, discrete Radeon Xpress chipsets Intel prepares to kill off last few 130nm P4s Intel readies 'East Fork' digital home PC platform Intel lost 6.7% chipset market share in Q3 Intel 1066MHz FSB chipset slips out
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 2004

Operators wake up to mobile enterprise needs

AnalysisAnalysis Cellular operators have been notoriously poor at packaging and marketing their services in an attractive manner for enterprises. This has left them largely outside the inner circle of corporate communications decision making, providing the bit pipe for wireless traffic while integrators and device makers create the systems and gain the ear of the chief information officer. Vodafone and other major players are desperate to redress this balance and take advantage of the growing trend towards the mobile enterprise to increase their influence, revenues and margins in the business sector. Increasingly, the operators are touting comprehensiveness as their chief appeal to large companies, creating service packages that support mobile workforces by incorporating multiple networks, and multiple territories, in one tariff. Wi-Fi shifted the goalposts, and raised enterprise expectations of simply accessed wireless data on the move. The Wi-Fi community has certainly not created a perfect system yet, but it has raised users' hopes, with a knock-on increase in expectations of cellular data services and pricing. Operators realize that one way to boost ARPU and enterprise loyalty is to bundle Wi-Fi and cellular services - and in future, others such as WiMAX - into one tariff and, increasingly, one device. T-Mobile has been a trailblazer and others are following suit, aiming to drive a new breed of data-intensive applications within companies that will compensate for the depressing effect that Wi-Fi has had on unit prices for wireless data. More recently, Finland's TeliaSonera has made a similar move to increase its sales from enterprises, and its strategic position in key customers' decision processes. It will offer a corporate services package that combines all its cellular networks - GPRS, EDGE, 3G and HSCSD - and Wi-Fi into a single plan based on a single laptop card. Customers also get unlimited use of TeliaSonera's HomeRun hotspot network and about 300Mb of data transmissions on the cellular systems. All this will be for one flat price, which will be consistent across all territories where the company operates (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden). WBA hotspot roaming While international roaming between Wi-Fi networks is still at an early stage, progress has been, so far, more rapid and less painful than the path to roaming between cellular operators in different regions. A major breakthrough came last week, the biggest ever for roaming deals among hotspot operators in different countries. Five companies in the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) , including BT and T-Mobile, announced a practical scheme, while T-Mobile, once hostile to the concept of roaming, has now signed up additional new partners. Over a year after its launch, the WBA, an association of telcos that have set up hotspot units, is announcing a series of roaming agreements among its members. Last week, BT said that subscribers to its Openzone service can now access 20,000 hotspots in 11 countries, run by some of the other WBA members. The other four WBA companies that have joined this round of roaming deals are StarHub of Singapore, Telstra of Australia, Telecom Italia and T-Mobile, which runs public WLans in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, the UK and the US). This adds to a roaming deal already signed at the start of the month with T-Mobile, and to existing arrangements with The Cloud in the UK, Telia Homerun in Sweden, Sonera Homerun in Finland and the US' Airpath. Over at T-Mobile, the US' largest hotspot provider has signed deals that enable its subscribers to access 11,500 hotspots worldwide, doubling the number of countries where its HotSpot subscriptions can be used. In addition to the WBA tie-ups, T-Mobile has also signed up with Malaysia's Maxis Communications and Japan's NTT DoCoMo. Non-US T-Mobile units and its parent Deutsche Telekom of Germany have 4,000 hotspots, while T-Mobile USA has almost 5,000. WBA users will not be charged extra for the international hotspots for the rest of this year but pricing for international roaming beyond the turn of the year is yet to be determined and is likely to be a thorny issue for the WBA members, and other international hotspot partners, particularly those that operate very different tariffs. European hotspot providers generally charge significantly more than counterparts elsewhere, which could cause problems in roaming tariffs. Pete Thompson, T-Mobile HotSpot's director of marketing, said in an interview that the WBA has been developing the technical infrastructure to handle worldwide, cross-system roaming, which is made more complex by the right for members to charge their own retail roaming rates. However, he expects operators within a region to set a uniform rate, but for tariffs to vary in different world regions. T-Mobile USA says international roaming has been a top request in their customer surveys and that, while the average subscriber leaves the US three times a year, there is a substantial group that makes the journey once a month. Other areas on which WBA members will need to create uniform policy include security. T-Mobile recently pledged to support 802.1x authentication in all its locations but this is not a requirement for WBA participants, although T-Mobile is encouraging others to adopt this technology. Chris Clark, chief executive of BT Wireless Broadband, said: "It is critical, for the future of Wi-Fi, that major operators join forces to promote and drive awareness of the benefits of using hotspots. This agreement across members of the WBA will help break down the barrier of hotspot locations being linked to particular providers and ensure customers benefit from the geographical strengths of all five operating companies." StarMap Alliance While the WBA moves are just a start, and have severe limitations in terms of transparent pricing and multilateral agreements, they do point to the importance of supporting the business traveller if the large enterprise is to be won over. The cellcos are forming alliances for this purpose too, notably the Freemove grouping of T-Mobile, Telefonica, Telecom Italia Mobile and Orange; and the MMO2- led StarMap Alliance. The latter has taken one of its first real steps in leveraging its multinational status by saying it will sell member services to corporate customers on an alliance level, rather than on a country by country basis. This means that companies with operations, in, for instance, Spain, the Czech Republic and Germany, could negotiate a single deal covering their employees in those three countries, rather than a separate contract with a carrier in each one. This could significantly simplify administration for large companies and give them a more powerful negotiating position on pricing and service delivery. Starmap will offer roaming across GPRS data, voicemail and SMS/MMS messaging to help travellers. It will offer discounts to customers that purchase services in four or more countries, and billing management software for clients to track and analyze spending. Such practical schemes should enhance the reputation of the cellcos in large companies and held the Starmap members to compete more effectively with the ability of Vodafone to deliver cross-border enterprise deals. Simplified purchasing, pricing and usage tracking will be key advantages to large companies moving towards high mobility. In turn, this will accelerate the formation of international alliances between carriers targeting an enterprise base, whether these revolve around cellcos, hotspot providers or - increasingly - multi-network offerings. The upshot will be the creation of an even greater gulf between tier one and tier two operators, with single-country cellcos that fail to get into one of the clubs thrown back on the domestic consumer base with its ever more pressurized margins. Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related Digital music download coin-op to offer 'all formats, all DRMs' People want to pay by phone Virgin Mobile ups customers, drops profits
Wireless Watch, 19 Nov 2004

Sigourney Weaver books flight with Virgin Galactic

Sigourney Weaver has asked Virgin supremo Richard Branson if she can be one of the first passengers aboard his Virgin Galactic space tourism jaunts, UK tabloid the Sun reports. Weaver, 55, told aides to contact the company and book her a £115,000 seat on Virgin's "VSS Enterprise" craft, based on Burt Rutan's X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne. A Virgin spokesperson confirmed that first contact had been made, and added: "We’d be delighted to take Sigourney back to visit the Aliens." We sincerely hope that Hollywood is taking a close interest in all this. Quite how the film of the trip will turn out is anyone's guess, although we suspect the finale will involve Ripley - dressed in little more than knickers and vest - blasting Branson out of the airlock and thereby thwarting his dreams of galactic domination. ® Related stories Amazon supremo joins space race Virgin space tourists will blast off to Bowie SpaceShipOne claims X-Prize Virgin to offer space flights
Lester Haines, 19 Nov 2004

Gigabit Wi-Fi looms large

Among the factors that have held back enterprise uptake of wireless LANs outside greenfield sites have been security fears and lack of performance compared to wireline Ethernet. The past week has brought little reassurance on the first point, but has highlighted developments pointing to the creation of Gigabit Wi-Fi. A few days after experts exposed vulnerabilities in the WPA WLAN security standard, more question marks were raised over Wi-Fi's openness to attack. Lack of WLAN security Two surveys predicted dire consequences if UK corporations do not take a stricter approach to wireless security, while a study by Federal Computer Week found that US government civilian and defense systems are "exceedingly vulnerable" to hacking since they introduce wireless networking, since much data on these links is unencrypted or access points are inadequately protected. All this is creating something of a resurgence of the security panics that plagued corporate WLAN adoption last year, and which equipment makers had hoped would be lulled by the appearance of the WPA interim security standard from the Wi-Fi Alliance, and the recent ratification of the full blown IEEE 802.11i specification, which supports features such as AES authentication. Of course, the security specialists benefit from renewed fears about Wi-Fi's vulnerability, and two of them, SonicWall and Red-M, are behind the new surveys of UK companies. The SonicWall report found that 70 per cent of UK organizations are using wireless connectivity or planning to do so soon, but one-third of these admitted that they would have no way of detecting a security breach on their WLANs. The study involved interviews with directors and senior IT managers at more than 400 businesses, half of them with more than 1,000 PCs and the rest in the small to medium sector. Around half had already deployed WLANs while a further 20 per cent were considering implementing it in the coming 12 months. Drivers for adoption were flexibility (64 per cent). Security remains the single biggest fear factor. More than three quarters (77 per cent) of firms cited it as a key concern, along with network management (30 per cent) and cost (24 per cent). Only 16 per cent failed to see any benefit from wireless, compared with more than 30 per cent in a similar survey published a year ago. About 70 per cent of firms have deployed their WLAN in a secure firewall zone but are still using the old WEP protocol, which does not protect the application layer effectively, so better encryption is urgently needed. More than 80 per cent of those with WLANs said they enforced security policies governing usage yet less than half (44 per cent) had ever had their wireless networks audited. When asked how they would know if they was a breach of security on the WLAN just 16 per cent could answer the question and 38 per cent of those said they would have no idea. In a survey of 81 large companies, Red-M found that 68 per cent of them demonstrated "an alarming lack of urgency in securing computer networks against wireless risks". CEO Karl Feilder said: "I'm beginning to believe that it will take a few catastrophic events to jolt business leaders into action. Because they can't physically see the threat they believe it doesn't exist, yet the threat is much bigger than most companies realize." Of the companies surveyed, 45 per cent mistakenly believed that their existing security measures would protect them against wireless intrusion, while 23 per cent of them believed that simply declaring their offices wireless-free zones was effective. "That's like saying that because stealing is a crime we don't need to lock our buildings at night," said Feilder. US federal systems Over the Atlantic, Federal Computer Week has pointed to many points of vulnerability in US government systems. As well as common failings such as unencrypted data, use of WEP instead of WPA or 802.11i, and access points that are allowed to broadcast signals widely, the study identifies contractors on civilian and defense projects as the weakest link. Systems integrators such as Computer Sciences (CSC), which has a huge contract with the National Security Agency, were found by the investigation to operate systems with "significant and troubling security vulnerabilities" that do not comply with the guidelines issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in November 2002. The FCW team was able to detect network traffic on the Pentagon's private WLLAN from a range of more than 1,000 yards from highways on three sides of the Pentagon building. And at CSC's federal division's base in Virginia, FCW reporters discovered five rogue wireless access points, and said the whole system could have been crippled with a denial of service attack within minutes. Extricom All this throws fresh doubts over enterprise WLANs just when some pioneers are seeking to boost their data rates to match those of Ethernet. Fresh from raising new funding, Israeli start-up Extricom is one of those promising a 1Gbps Wi-Fi. The company claims that its Interference Free Architecture triples the available channels and the bandwidth of 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g taking 'b' to 99Mbps and the others to 1Gbps. CEO Gideon Rottem says the key to achieving these speeds is solving the problem of co-channel interference. It is focusing on the enterprise market, as are other proponents of superfast Wi-Fi (or Gi-Fi, as it is inevitably being labelled). Extricom says its architecture, backed by 10 patents, eliminates coverage and capacity limitations (and the need for expensive cell planning and site surveys) through use of per-packet adaptive techniques and channel re-use. The per-packet adaptive architecture adapts to its RF environment for each packet sent across the wireless network, enabling frequency reuse of each 802.11 channel, multiplying the aggregate capacity by up to 60 times. The company has developed a switch and access point with specialized software algorithms, which will be available in the first quarter of 2005. The APs are ultra-thin, with no radio or processor, and can be deployed in very dense configurations to boost throughput and to support zero hand-off time between APs. This is an approach that is also being studied by switchmakers such as Aruba. Although they will work with third party switches, they have to be combined with the Extricom switch to achieve the maximum speeds. A common complaint against Wi-Fi hardware makers is that, while technically conforming to 802.11 standards in terms of interoperability, they create -standards-plus' features that lock users into their systems. In the case of 1Gbps Wi-Fi, this lock-in could be permanent, since there are no firm plans for the IEEE to develop a standard for this speed. Rather than taking Cisco on head-to-head, Extricom is pitching itself as an OEM offering for vendors already in the market and looking to make superior RF performance a core feature of their next-generation products. This has certainly been a key focus for switchmakers recently, with experiments with wireless grid (Aruba), MIMO smart antennas (Airespace) and advanced routing algorithms (Chantry) among the approaches. There will be more start-ups too - Stellaris Networks, also from Israel, is working on technology similar to Extricom's, although it remains in stealth mode for now. NewLans Another start-up targeting this space is NewLans, details of whose approach are as hazy as those of Extricom's. NewLans was set up by serial entrepreneur Dev Gupta, who has already presented his technology to the IEEE and hopes for a standards taskgroup to be set up soon. Two trends are making talk of Gigabit Wi-Fi - also known as Gi-Fi or Wireless Gigabit to the Desktop (wGTTD) - more than just interesting speculation. First, WLan companies claim that enterprises are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of replacing wired Lans with wireless, rather than just supplementing them, but they will demand that Wi-Fi keeps pace with Ethernet speed advances. Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop is starting to be widely adopted. Second, in the US, the Federal Communications Commission has decided to open up the 56GHz band for possible high speed WLAN usage, which will stimulate adoption of wireless for intensive applications such as video. Only with such infrastructure options will an entirely wireless enterprise become a possibility. Gupta himself is mainly looking to the enterprise for Gi-Fi uptake and told US journalists that he hoped to market the idea to Cisco customers. Given that several of his past ventures have been acquired by the networking giant, he may also be hoping to market his company to Cisco itself. Certainly, Gi-Fi is the type of technology that could attract the market leader, whose real power lies in enterprise backbones and whose business in that area could be cannibalized by a major shift to wireless. For now, there are very few technical details revealed about how speeds of 1-2Gbps will be achieved over Wi-Fi at a time when most vendors believe that the protocol is being stretched to its limit by the current 802.11n project to achieve 108Mbps. Such suppliers are looking to WiMAX to provide the throughput and reliability upgrades as customers start to demand faster wireless. Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories Operators wake up to mobile enterprise needs Digital music download coin-op to offer 'all formats, all DRMs' British Library tunes into Wi-Fi
Wireless Watch, 19 Nov 2004

Voq Pro smart phone

Reg reviewReg review It's the $64m question for smart-phone designers: where do you put the keyboard? Some, like Nokia, have dispensed with it altogether, falling back on the standard texting-centric numeric pad - or fitted it laterally inside the casing, a la the Communicator. Others have stretched their devices to accommodate a larger QWERTY pad, Blackberry-fashion.
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 2004
Cat 5 cable

AMD's Opteron loses ground where it kind of counts

The last couple of weeks have been full of AMD buzz. Analysts have upped their price targets for the company's share price. Executives have bragged about better than expected future performance. The rumors about Dell picking up Opteron have kicked into full gear once again. Despite all this glory, AMD recently fell well short of expectations in one of the more public battles in the processor kingdom. It gained hardly any ground as the processor supplier of choice among high performance computing customers, as measured by the most recent Top 500 supercomputer list. By gained hardly any ground, we actually mean AMD and its Opteron processor lost ground. This is a dismal state of affairs for a young chip meant to be gaining steady market share. The number of supercomputer installations using AMD's chips fell from 34 sites in June of 2004 to 31 sites in November. Meanwhile, Intel, which barely registered on this list three years ago, moved from 285 sites to 318. Before the letters start rushing in, let's make a couple of things clear. First off, Intel has two chips to play with on this list - Xeon and Itanium versus Opteron (Athlon is negligible) for AMD. Secondly, Intel has far more resources than AMD to put toward "encouraging" labs and researchers to pay attention to its products. Intel's willingness to sweeten deals that block the purchase of Opterons has become legendary over the past year. In addition, much of the Top500 list is dominated by fairly well-established high-end processors that have loads of software already prepared for them and large server vendors helping out the cause of their respective chips. It, however, must be noted that AMD, simply put, failed its backers over the past year in the high performance computing realm. AMD last year used major wins at the Shanghai Supercomputer Center and Los Alamos National Laboratory to drum up massive amounts of press around Opteron. It claimed that Opteron would storm through the Top500 ranks and put the lowly 32-bit Xeon to shame. This clearly never happened. The Top500 list is a pretty arbitrary measure of much of anything. For all its flaws though, it does give an indication of the direction the labs are taking with their systems. And high performance computing customers are often ahead of the curve, picking up gear that will later be used by enterprise customers. With that in mind, the lack of interest in Opteron clusters must be disheartening for AMD. Opteron is a class chip, but if AMD is to gain serious ground against Intel it needs as much marketing and customer win help as it can get. Losing the supercomputing wars just as Intel begins to fight on the x86-64-bit front, doesn't bode well for the little processor maker that could. You can have a look at the vendors' Top500 performance with this November breakdown and this one from June.® Related stories AMD updates roadmap Dell, AMD make Friday bull run Dell 'to add' AMD CPUs to product line - CEO Intel nuances Itanium; Microsoft ignores it
Ashlee Vance, 19 Nov 2004

UK boffins sniff for Higgs boson

Particle physicists in the UK have finished building a key component of ATLAS, one of the four major experiments that will run on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The kit in question is the first barrel of a semi conductor tracker, or SCT, and it is the eyes of the ATLAS experiment. The Large Hadron Collider will recreate the conditions that existed mere moments after the big bang. ATLAS is designed to see what happens next. The LHC will accelerate two proton beams, directed at each other, to energies seven times higher than have been achieved so far. When these beams meet head on, they will create a new generation of particles, which in turn bump into each other. The SCT will track and measure the momentum and direction of charged particles spinning off from these collisions. The scientists hope the resulting data will help them understand how and why the universe is the way it is. Dr Tony Weidberg from the University of Oxford explains: "The SCT will track charged particles as they move through silicon wafers to an accuracy of better than 20 microns - that's less than the diameter of a human hair - over the diameter of 1 metre. This will allow us to calculate their momentum, providing part of the picture of what happens when protons are collided at high energy." Other parts of the detector will pick up different particle properties, allowing the scientists to reconstruct the collisions, much like accident investigators would do after a car crash. Particle physicists get very excitable about this project because of the fundamental questions they're hoping to answer. ATLAS will be involved in the hunt for the Higgs boson, a theoretical particle currently used to explain why matter has mass. Dr. Weidberg goes on: "There are very strong indications that the exploration of this completely new energy regime will lead to the discovery of new physics, such as Supersymmetry which would imply the existence of exotic partners to all the previously discovered particles. The new physics might be even more exotic and involve extra spatial dimensions and the production of mini black holes." ® Bootnote We are far from experts in this area, so we'll leave a description of the device to the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council: The entire SCT detector consists of 60 square metres of silicon detectors in the form of four concentric barrels and two end-caps. The first completed barrel has been populated with 384 silicon modules and each of the three outer barrels will carry progressively more modules with the fourth and final barrel having 672 silicon modules. The SCT overall is divided into 6 million channels and every channel has its own amplifier and data buffer. All four barrels of the SCT will be assembled in the UK using components from a world-wide collaboration of 37 Institutes. Related stories CERN turns 50 in style Brits to demo world's largest computing grid Global particle accelerator gets the big chill
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Nov 2004

Sober worm speaks with forked tongue

A new variant of the Sober email worm is spreading rapidly across the internet today. Sober-I (AKA Sober-J) worm is mass mailing worm which sends itself to email addresses harvested from an infected computer. It uses variety of subject lines, message bodies and file attachment names, both in English and in German. There are 150 variants the most common of which are explained here. Opening unsolicited on a Windows PC results in infection. Mac and Linux boxes are immune. Sober-I is the latest in a series of email worms dating back to Autumn 2003 but the Windows community remains as vulnerable as ever to this kind of attack. Anti-virus firm McAfee reports that it has received approximately 100 reports of the virus being stopped or infecting users from the field, from both the virus itself as well as customer submissions. Most of these reports have arrived from Europe, with a majority coming from Germany. Security firms generally rate Sober as a medium risk nuisance. Standard defence precautions against viral attacks apply: corporates should consider blocking executables at the gateway and update anti-virus signature definition files to detect the virus. Home users should also update anti-virus tools and resist the temptation to open suspicious-looking emails. ® Related stories Beware sober worm bearing gifts Sober email worm gives Windows users the DTs Workshop: Gadzooks! My PC has the pox
John Leyden, 19 Nov 2004
Cat 5 cable

Linux set for ERP ascendency

Linux will continue to increase its share of the valuable Enterprise Resource Planning market at the expense of both Microsoft and other Unix vendors, according to a Peerstone Research study. Peerstone's probe, promoted by IBM, estimates the global installed base for the big three vendors - SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle - is between 700,000 and 800,000 servers. A typical set-up might include some high volume transactional database servers, middle tier servers running applications for payroll, accounts or human resources, web servers providing the pages which act as an interface for most systems and servers running portal and integration applications to get data from various systems and combine it in useful ways. A really big organisation could have several versions of such a system for different geographies or business lines. The survey found as of mid-2004 two thirds of the installed base is traditional vendor Unix, such as Solaris, AIX, HP-UX on RISC. Thirty per cent of the installed base run on x86 architecture like Intel's Xeon, AMD Opteron or Itanium (EPIC) - 28 per cent of these run Windows Server and just two per cent on Linux. But they predict Windows Server growth to fall from 12 to 15 per cent this year to between two and five per cent in 2005. Peerstone attributes the current slowdown in ERP growth to two reasons. First, Oracle, PeopleSoft and Siebel were "very, very late in the lifecycles of the software versions they are selling". SAP is still seeing revenue growth, and is in the middle of moving to new products. Second, researchers believe the enterprise computing market as a whole is undergoing fundamental change. The move from a "webified client-server architecture" to service orientated architectures will allow more flexible business process applications - but they aren't available yet, so aren't being bought. Despite this, Peerstone estimates that as much as 25 per cent of the installed base will be replaced this year - approximately 200,000 server units and OS licenses. Peerstone believes both Microsoft and Unix vendors, especially Sun, will suffer in future. One in five Unix houses expect to change operating system in the next three years. Four out of five of these expect to move to Linux. There are four reasons for the shift: Linux has hit technological parity with Windows Server and Unix; it runs on cheaper hardware than Unix and is cheaper to acquire than Windows; it is more secure than Windows Server; and it enjoys the support of Oracle and IBM. Peerstone found two main barriers to widespread adoption of Linux: concerns of a higher total cost of ownership because of the high cost of Linux administrators; and fears raised by SCO's attempted "legal assault on Linux intellectual property". Peerstone believe labour costs will fall as more people get trained in Linux. It adds: "As for SCO's court case, we believe it has little if any substance, and will sooner or later succumb to IBM's vast legal resources and "hang tough" strategy. ® Related stories It's do or die time for Sun and Solaris x86 Intel nuances Itanium; Microsoft ignores it IBM advances in storage arms race
John Oates, 19 Nov 2004

Oracle moves to quarterly patch cycle

Oracle yesterday announced plans to adopt a quarterly security patch cycle. The enterprise software giant says that adopting a fixed delivery schedule will make it easier for customers to plan updates and thereby help them reduce costs. The updates are scheduled to be issued to customers simultaneously via Oracle's support Web site, MetaLink, next year on 18 January, 12 April, 12 July and 18 October. Products to be covered under the new patching regime include Oracle Application Server, Oracle Database, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Enterprise Manager and Oracle Collaboration Suite. Oracle previously said it would issue patches monthly, like Microsoft, it's now come round to the view that once every three months is frequent enough. Oracle said that releasing security updates as a "single, well-integrated and well-tested patch that fixes multiple, high-priority vulnerabilities" will help to reduce the costs of applying patches. "Organizations prefer regular, planned schedules for patching their information technology systems," said Mary Ann Davidson, Oracle's chief security officer. "After surveying customers across a variety of industries it became evident that a quarterly process would best meet our customers' needs. The quarterly schedule strikes a balance between issuing patches often enough to protect customers from serious vulnerabilities while making it easier for customers to manage the maintenance process." The software giant argues that reacting to unscheduled "surprise" patch alerts makes this difficult for customers. Whilst there's some truth in this Oracle ought to consider the impact of having an unfixed security bug across its customer base for months on end. Oracle's public pronouncement doesn't give much room for manoeuvre but we hope database giant has the good sense to issue an emergency fix in circumstances where a security flaw is been actively exploited. ® Related stories Oracle joins the monthly patch bandwagon Oracle's first monthly patch batch fails to placate critics Oracle 'sitting on security fixes' Ballmer's new MS security fix same patches, but nicer MS debuts 'forthcoming attractions' pre-alert alert
John Leyden, 19 Nov 2004

Introducing the big, bad BOFH polo shirt

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion Those BOFH fans who have long admired our BOFH logo t-shirt - but rather wished that there was a piece of apparel with a slightly more discreet logo - can now avail themselves of the latest apparel for the marauding sysadmins: the all-new BOFH logo polo shirt. As you'd expect, this is a top-quality, 100 per cent cotton shirt which features said logo embroidered on the left breast, Reg url embroidered on the sleeve and comes in sizes ranging from medium to XXL. It goes out for a comfortable £16.16 (£18.99 inc VAT), and is available right now, right here. In fact, there's a veritable conucopia of BOFH goodies down at Cash'n'Carrion, and since there are only so many shopping days left to Xmas in which to fill your stocking - less than 400 in fact for the sensible consumer who is already planning his or her Christmas 2005 buying strategy - we advise immediate deployment of the plastic to avoid tearful disappointment. And speaking of Yule e-commerce, here's a bit of important related info: Last Cash'n'Carrion Xmas posting dates The last posting dates for pre-Xmas delivery of Cash'n'Carrion goodies are as follows: South & Central America, Caribbean, Africa. Middle East, New Zealand, Australia - Sunday 5 December Japan, USA, Canada, Eastern Europe - Thursday 9 December Western Europe - Sunday 12 December UK - Wednesday 15th December Yup, those are the last dates on which you can order kit for delivery before Xmas. Happy shopping. ®
Cash'n'Carrion, 19 Nov 2004

Business leaders respect Gates (true)

Microsoft again came second only to General Electric as the world's most respected company among chief executives. Bill Gates is considered the world's most respected business leader, for the third year, among business leaders surveyed in the latest edition of the Financial Times/PricewaterhouseCoopers World's Most Respected Companies study. IT and consumer electronics companies feature heavily in the list with 11 entries in the top 50 most admired corporations. HP made major strides up the "most respected" table, up 19 places to number 10. Meanwhile Carly Fiorina was the only woman to make the list, slotting in at number eight behind Gates and Michael Dell (number five). Fiorina is credited for successfully integrating Compaq into HP. Microsoft's command of the IT market was respected by many of the 915 chief execs in 25 countries quizzed as part of the survey. "They [Microsoft] are so dominant and successful," one awe struck respondent said. The tactics that allowed Microsoft to dominate the software industry might be criticised elsewhere but not by business leaders, some of whom openly declared their admiration for Microsoft's "monopoly" status. Apart from HP and Microsoft other IT companies to make the list included: IBM (4), Dell (6), Sony Ericsson (21), Siemens (23), Canon (25), Nokia (26), Intel (38), Samsung (32) and Apple (42). For the first time since 2001, US-based multinationals, whose reputations were tarnished by the corporate scandals in 2001/2, are climbing back up the rankings. Nine of the top ten companies on the list are US-based. Germany got six companies on the list of 50 most respected corporate stars. Japanese companies made it onto the honour list five times, while the UK scored three mentions (or five if you include Anglo Dutch corporates Unilever and Shell). The meek won't inherit the boardroom This year, for the first time, CEOs were asked to choose "fantasy" board members. Among the leading contenders were Winston Churchill, Jesus Christ, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, Julius Caesar, Leonardo Da Vinci and John F. Kennedy. These notables made it onto the list because of qualities such as "vision, innovation, leadership, charisma and pioneering genius". Oddly Gates (2nd) outscored Jesus Christ (5th) as the person most requested on a firm's financial board behind top choice former GE chairman Jack Welch. We'll leave it to theologians and economists to define any deeper meaning (if any) in that one. Chief execs and fund managers were also asked to identify the most innovative companies. Both groups voted Microsoft number one. Dell, Nokia, Apple, Sony Ericsson, General Electric and IBM rated in the top 10 for innovation among both groups. ® Related stories Microsoft is world's second most-respected company Microsoft world's number one IT brand Which is the most ethical IT company?
John Leyden, 19 Nov 2004

Intel is killing Itanium one comment at a time

Intel's erstwhile high-volume enterprise chip - Itanium - is now being positioned for the lowest-volume market of them all - the mainframe. In one of his first public interviews since being tapped as Intel's next CEO, Paul Otellini shafted the multi-billion dollar baby by declaring that Itanic's future lies with the dinosaurs. It's a revealing comment from Otellini, who only a year ago was touting the "year of Itanium." Now, as CEO, he may well be the one that finally pulls the plug on the chip. "Long term, the architecture Itanium needs to aim at is [IBM's] Power line," Otellini told BusinessWeek. "We have nothing in our existing 32-bit line capability that can compete with Power. It's a very high performance line requiring liquid-cooling capabilities. The mainframe isn't dead. That's where I'd like to push Itanium over time." Has it really come to this - the mainframe isn't dead? To his credit, Otellini may be doing all he can just to keep the thought of Itanium alive by being realistic. In September, HP killed off its line of Itanium workstations - the products key for software development on the EPIC architecture. Now we learn that Itanium is not competitive for low-end servers either. "For a while, we had ambitions to drive it down to two-way servers and workstations," Otellini told BusinessWeek. "It just doesn't work in terms of the economics of the low end of the industry." Why not? Intel has never managed to make Itanium affordable. An HP source explains - "Intel never dropped the price for Itanium," said a high-ranking HP insider. "This was a really rotten deal from the HP side of things. You just couldn't get it to volume or be competitive with that strategy." But have the OEMs received the memo on this new positioning? If the economics don't support it, why in the world is Intel making not only standard versions of Itanium for two-way servers but also low-voltage versions of the chip for rack mount boxes and blades? Whatever fluff Intel was once handing out about the 64-bit versions of Xeon not eating into Itanium sales can now safely be ignored. Intel has firmly relegated the chip to the high-end of the server market. Customers and investors are to understand that the "twenty-year" architecture that Intel and HP spent billions on has been condemned to the role of mainframe contender. Intel and its OEMs will take on IBM in a market where it enjoys something pretty close to a monopoly. Intel and its OEMs will do this as software makers - little companies like Microsoft - pull away from the processor. At this point, you have to wonder if Itanium will even work as a simple PA-RISC replacement. The messaging around Itanium has, just in this year, gone from "all is well" to "its future lies on the mainframe." And Intel only has itself to blame for Itanic's fate. It tossed a mediocre first-generation product on the market, and big name vendors like IBM and Dell quickly pulled away from the chip. It made up some ground with the third-generation Madison, but now customers will have to wait until 2006 for a dual-core, fourth-generation chip. Meanwhile, IBM and Sun Microsystems are pumping out dual-core products that double the processor count of their servers with ease. Think about what this means as software makers inevitably start adjusting their licensing models to count dual-core chips as one processor. Beyond these failings, OEMs - namely HP - have every right to despise what Intel has done with Itanium. Intel and HP did try to woo customers with steep, as in free, discounts on Itanium systems, but this strategy only gained some big name customer wins. You can't give away product to everyone. Intel needed to lower Itanium's price and take some financial hits in order to generate volume for the famed "Itanic ecosystem." Intel has now made matters even worse by upping its focus on the 64-bit Xeon product, pulling engineers off of other efforts (Itanium included?). This can't be welcome news at HP where the management decided to bet the company's server future on Itanium. HP will surely move more Xeon-powered servers than any other vendor, but it's looking less and less competitive at the high-end where the real money is. Canceling Itanium would be little more than a pride swallowing exercise for Intel. It would be a total disaster for HP. You can't help but think Otellini's willingness to turn so publicly on the chip only adds to the notion that Intel is and has been Itanium's worst enemy. ® Related link BusinessWeek story Related stories AMD's Opteron loses ground where it kind of counts IBM benchmark leaves server rivals breathless HP redeems pride with strong Q4 Intel nuances Itanium; Microsoft ignores it Intel relaunches Itanic
Ashlee Vance, 19 Nov 2004