7th > December > 2004 Archive

'Clicks and bricks' trick tempts window shoppers

A posh stationers in London's Covent Garden has unveiled an "interactive shop window" (ISW) which lets window shoppers see what's on offer before going into the store. Described as a "merging of 'clicks and bricks'", this latest shopping gimmick to hit the Bureau stationery shop is a "blend of the on and offline shopping experience". The ISW broadcasts images onto a shop window. And since the window is also coated with tiny touch-sensitive sensors, it acts as a giant computer screen, letting shoppers browse products by touching the window - as if they were online. The window also has motion sensors which trigger a speaker to blurb out "Welcome to Bureau, please touch me to begin" to passing customers. Honest, we're not making it up. Anyhow, the system doesn't go as far an allowing shoppers to purchase anything: they have to walk into the shop for that. According to those in the know, This is "retail theatre", a way of attracting shoppers to stop at your store and, with any luck, get them to go in and spend some cash. Said Mark Fitzgibbon, MD of Bureau: "With limited in-store capacity for stock-volume and product ranges, we are very excited about the potential offered by the Interactive Shop Window solution. Further, as piece of retail theatre we are confident it will create a huge buzz amongst existing customers and will help attract many new ones. "However, beyond just a gimmick, we see the ISW as a truly innovative marketing channel to exploit and we are confident it will increase sales, footfall and enhance our reputation as a cutting-edge and sophisticated retailer." But will ISW stand up to the rigours of everyday street life - such as drunks trying to pee up the window or some vandal chucking a dustbin through the glass? A spokeswoman says: "It's a problem all retailers have." ® Related stories M&S site falls over Europeans ditch TV for PC Ecommerce to rocket in 2005 Complacent UK corporates 'easy meat' for crooks
Tim Richardson, 07 Dec 2004

Energis appoints new CFO

Energis has a new chief financial officer after Eamonn O'Hare decided to quit the UK telco and "move on to his next challenge". An Energis board member since 2002, O'Hare joined the company three months after a consortium of banks bought the ailing telco which had debts of almost £700m. Since then he's helped steer the company into slightly less choppy waters with the telco running up its first operating profit in 2003/04 of £10m. O'Hare is to be replaced by Steve Cooke, who joined Energis last year from DIY chain B&Q. In response to recent downbeat reports about Energis performance, CEO John Pluthero said: "I wear my hat at a jaunty angle; with £500 million of contract wins over the last three months and over 20 per cent growth in corporate business - why shouldn't I?" Pluthero has a fondness for hat-related idioms to get his message across. In 2001, when he was boss of Freeserve (now Wanadoo UK), he said at the launch of the ISP's unmetered dial-up service: "By offering internet users the best deals around on Internet call charges supported by dedicated network and customer service, not for the first time Freeserve competitors have been knocked into a cocked hat." As Reg readers are well aware, this 200-year-old saying means to give someone a good beating. Pluthero, spotted on Friday sporting a Trilby, is understood to be already working on his next hat-related quote. ® Related stories Le Freeswerve says bonjour to flat-rate Net access LLU is 'uneconomic', says Energis Energis dials up first profit Energis reborn as 'Chelys,' but still called Energis Banks seal Energis takeover
Tim Richardson, 07 Dec 2004

Last call for US pre-Xmas orders

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion This Thursday, 9 December, is the last date on which readers in the US, Canada, Japan and Eastern Europe can order Cash'n'Carrion goodies for pre-Christmas delivery. Get those orders in by then and we'll ship your top-notch kit for enjoyment before the turkey hits the dinner table. Enjoy. Here's the full list of last Christmas order dates: Japan, USA, Canada, Eastern Europe - Thursday 9 December Western Europe - Sunday 12 December UK - Wednesday 15th December If you're not on the list, then any orders placed now will arrive in the New Year. Happy Christmas. Cash'n'Carrion newsletter Sign up here for our monthly merchandising email and receive advance notification of all new products which will be pre-offered exclusively to subscribers at a discounted rate. You'll also get a headstart on drastic end-of-line reductions and special offers.
Cash'n'Carrion, 07 Dec 2004

The return of the atomic keyring

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion It appears that our report of the demise of the tritium-powered atomic keyring was somewhat premature, since nuclear-powered torch outfit Nite has decided to resurrect this classic piece of kit. Here's the blurb: Nite claim their new Glowring is stronger, slicker and cooler than ever and challenge anyone not to find a use for them. Ingenious and essential, the Glowring can be attached to anything from handbags to hound dogs - kit bags to keys and can be easily located from as far away as 50ft in the dark. This incredible product will glow continuously for ten years without batteries or the need to be recharged. Available in blue, green and pink. Yes indeed, the Glowring is back with a bang. You can order right now, right here for: singles at £9.49 inc VAT, 3 packs at £26.99 inc VAT and 5 packs at £39.99 inc VAT. And you can't say fairer than that. Remember, however that we can only ship the Glowring to the UK - sorry to all our radiation-starved international customers. ® Cash'n'Carrion newsletter Sign up here for our monthly merchandising email and receive advance notification of all new products which will be pre-offered exclusively to subscribers at a discounted rate. You'll also get a headstart on drastic end-of-line reductions and special offers.
Cash'n'Carrion, 07 Dec 2004

Motorola free to sue Telsim owners in UK

Handset maker Motorola yesterday won the right to pursue the Uzan family for money it claims was obtained fraudulently. Members of the Uzan family used to control Turkish mobile operator Telsim. They are accused by Motorola and Nokia of making fraudulent use of vendor financing arrangements. The decision by the High Court effectively "domesticates" judgment from US courts last year which concluded that the family had committed fraud and awarded Motorola and Nokia more than $2bn, according to the Financial Times. The UK case gives the companies the chance to seize London assets of the family, including two properties, one in Belgravia and several million pounds held here. The firms are likely to try and extend the decision, or domesticate it again, in other countries where the family is known to have assets. ® Related stories US court rules Telsim owners guilty of fraud Geneva court dismisses Motorola fraud appeal Motorola axes (another) 7,000
John Oates, 07 Dec 2004
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iSuppli cuts 2005 chip sales growth target

iSuppli, the bullish semiconductor market watcher, yesterday slashed forecasts for 2005 sales, cutting the level of expected growth by almost half. The research firm now estimates the chip market will grow 4.7 per cent in 2005, from 2004's $226.6bn-$237.1bn. Last September, iSuppli pegged growth at 9.6 per cent, a forecast it reiterated as recently as November. Once again, inventory correction is to blame, iSuppli said, as is a fall in the level of "electronic equipment production" growth, down from 10.1 per cent this year to 6.2 per cent in '05.. "The semiconductor industry in early 2005 will continue to contend with the excess inventories that flared up in the third quarter of 2004," iSuppli said. "This will depress semiconductor average selling prices (ASPs) and restrain growth in 2005." Even growth of 4.7 per cent is bullish compared to other forecasts. Research company IDC last week said it expects 2005's sales to fall two per cent compared with 2004's anticipated total. Even the usually optimistic Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) trade body believes growth will be flat next year. The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organisation is a little more optimistic: it expects 1.2 per cent growth next year, although this is down from its previous prediction of 8.5 per cent. ® Related stories World chip sales to fall next year - analyst World chip sales edge up in October Intel bumps Q4 forecast higher Chips are down for Taiwan foundry giants Q3 chip production up despite downturn Intel to retain top chip maker title on 04... Intel CEO touts 'much improved' H1 '05 growth Intel's Barrett looks for chip sales growth in '05 Chip trade body revises 2004 sales downward TSMC, UMC fab utilisation to plummet in Q4
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2004
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Samsung maps huge chip biz expansion

Samsung is to spend KRW25tr ($24.07bn) expanding its semiconductor production capacity over the next six years, the South Korean giant said this week. The investment programme, which comes as the world's chipmakers continue to feel the effects of excessive semiconductor purchasing during the first half of the year, will create 10,000 jobs in Asia-Pacific. Thanks to high levels of customer activity in the early part of the year, Samsung expects 2004 to break sales records. "Sales are expected to be a record-high this year after jumping some 60 per cent from 2003," Samsung Electronics' chip business chief, Hwang Chang-Gyu, said. Last year, it recorded chip sales of KRW43.58tr ($42.95bn). But where other firms are less confident about the market going into 2005, Samsung is expecting a good year. In particular, it reckons DRAM sales will rise 44 per cent during 2005, although prices will fall by a "modest" 30 per cent, Joong Ang Daily reports. This is a smaller fall than other market watchers are anticipating. Samsung clearly believes that it's better to invest now and be ready for the next upturn than wait for high-level growth to return before boosting capacity to cope. "Pre-emptive investment is critical to success in the chip industry," said Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-Hee. This year, the company will have spent KRW4.97 ($4.78bn) on new plant, less than the KRW5.77tr ($5.56bn) it had budgeted for, Samsung said. ® Related stories Optimist cuts 2005 chip sales growth target World chip sales to fall next year - analyst Q3 chip production up despite downturn Intel to retain top chip maker title on 04... Hynix, Micron neck-and-neck in Q3 Samsung phones outsell Motorola's Americas lead booming mobile phone biz
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2004

IBM to take 5% of Lenovo to seal PC biz deal - report

Lenovo looks set to pay $1.5bn in cash and shares for IBM's Personal Systems Group (PSG) in a deal that would see IBM gain a five per cent share in the Chinese company. With an announcement coming potentially as early as tomorrow - discussions between the two companies seem to be as an "advanced" stage, as the Financial Times puts it today. Certainly, Lenovo will make some kind of announcement. Trading in its shares,on the Hong Kong exchange was suspended yesterday at HKD2.675 ($0.34). That would value a possible five per cent stake in the business at HKD1bn ($128.7m). While reports coming out of Asia-Pacific point to some kind of JV between the two companies, in the West the emphasis continues to centre on Lenovo's acquisition of PSG and with it the famous 'Think' brand and usage of the IBM name. However, talk of a full-scale buyout appears to be mellowing in favour of a sale that would leave IBM with a stake in the purchaser. Crucially, this would enable IBM to claim it is maintaining an interest in the PC industry with which it has been inextricably linked. Meanwhile, a number of US buy-out operations have been rumoured to be taking a look at PSG. ® Related stories IBM, Lenovo to announce JV 'this week' Apple of IBM's eye? IBM said to be in PC divison sell-off talks IBM, Lenovo ponder world desktop PC JV IBM to Power China Dell drops out of China's low-end PC market AMD bags Chinese giant
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2004

NetApp's storage virtualisation evolves

Product development in the storage management market shows no signs of slowing down. Within this large domain, storage virtualisation continues to hold its position at the leading edge of advancement. Last month saw one of the leading suppliers of storage solutions, Network Appliance (NetApp), give details of its vision of the Storage Grid when it released details of its Data ONTAP 7G software. Data ONTAP 7G can be thought of as the sophisticated software glue that holds NetApp systems together and delivers the virtualisation features and management capabilities sought by storage administrators. NetApp likes to position the software as a "dynamic virtualisation engine" that aggregates physical arrays into self-optimising storage pools. The Data ONTAP 7G software permits storage volumes to be automatically expanded or reduced without any administrator intervention and, crucially, without any disruption to services accessing the datasets. The central new features of Data ONTAP 7G are supplied via improvements to NetApp's gFiler software along with two new tools, FlexVol and FlexClone. The FlexVol software breaks the physical connection between volumes and the underlying storage arrays. FlexVol removes the requirement that storage volumes be statically tied to physical or logical disks. The storage container approach makes it possible to dynamically resize volumes and provides capabilities to migrate volumes between supported storage platforms without necessitating any service interruption. In this way it becomes possible to associate applications and data with FlexVol containers that can be placed on the most appropriate storage platform available, dependent on user requirements that may vary with time. Managing "data" not "disks" moves closer to being an every day experience. The second feature, FlexClone, makes it possible to create multiple, independently writeable images of FlexVol datasets. The initial data remains unaffected as the clones are manipulated. On the surface this sounds like conventional "Snap Shot" functionality. However, the FlexClone differs in that whilst Snap shots take a physical copy of the original data, and consumes the same amount of physical storage, the FlexClone only writes changes to the cloned data to disk. To all intents and purposes FlexClone delivers a writeable, near instantaneous, snapshot that consumes little, if any, additional storage at the time of cloning. FlexClone only creates copied data when changes to cloned data occur. The software can allow up to 200 "copies" to be built in the time it takes to do a single Clone in an extremely disk-efficient manner. Such capabilities could make many areas of testing economically feasible for the first time. In addition, NetApp gFiler software has now added Fibre Channel connectivity to its existing capabilities. As a consequence, NetApp gFiler is now certified to support access to NetApp storage platforms, HP StorageWorks XP arrays and IBM TotalStorage DS4000 arrays in addition to existing support for HDS, Sun StorEdge 9900 and IBM ESS arrays. It is certain that the new facilities provided by the NetApp Data ONTAP 7G offerings will be of interest to many enterprises. However, the market is moving swiftly on and whilst NetApp has aggressive plans for the rapid further development of its virtualisation tools, it is to be expected that many of the other major players in the space, such as IBM, EMC, HP and StorageTek, will react swiftly. In addition it will be interesting to see how other suppliers, including ONStor and 3PAR, react. Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com Related stories Sun's finishing of the year with a storage run NetApp says gFiler is its Trojan horse Sun, MS just thrilled to be together
Tony Lock, 07 Dec 2004

Orange 3G arrives

L'Orange is launching consumer 3G services in the UK and France. It is claiming the most comprehensive range of handsets - four are available immediately and two more on the way soon. Tariffs start at £30 a month including mobile internet access and video calling. The mobile operator says its 3G network covers 70 per cent of the UK population and tis integrated with the 2G network, so subscribers won't lose connections. Bernard Ghillebaert, executive vice president at Orange UK, said: "This is just the start of the 3G evolution. Throughout 2004 we have been making sure that the building blocks are in place so that 2005 opens up a new world of mobility for our customers." There are four handsets available immediately - LG U8150, Samsung Z107, Sanyo S750 and Sony Ericsson Z1010. The Nokia 6630 and Motorola C975 will be available soon. For £30 a month punters get 50 MB of data downloads, 60 minutes of video calling and 200 minutes of cross network talk minutes. Subscribers can also access 3G services in Austria, Finland, France, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Spain. 2,000 consumers have been trialling the service since July 2004 and 10,000 people have expressed an interest in 3G services. More here. ® Related stories Orange readies a 3G Christmas Don't waste money on 3G - Which? Sanyo makes UK 3G debut with Orange tie-in
John Oates, 07 Dec 2004

Tapwave offers Zodiac Wi-Fi pack to UK users

Tapwave's newly announced Wi-Fi package for its Zodiac handheld games consoles will be coming to the UK, The Register can confirm. Launched into the US market earlier this week, the bundle comprises drivers for Wi-Fi SD card adaptors from PalmOne and SanDisk, along with an email application, PalmSource's Mail 5.2. Tapwave already bundles web browsing software with the consoles, which to date have had to connect to a mobile phone via Bluetooth or infrared wireless links in order to provide Internet connectivity. The absence of bundled email software has been something of a weakness for a device otherwise well-suited to Internet use. Indeed, the Zodiac's 480 x 320, 3.8in, 16-bit colour display is a fine platform for web browsing. Adding Wi-Fi support, with the WLAN technology's higher data bandwidth, will improve that experience significantly. Both the Wi-Fi card drivers and the email software are available from Tapwave's UK site here (drivers) and here (email). The downloads are offered free of charge. The Zodiac itself is available in the UK exclusively through Dixons Store Group outlets, including PC World and Dixons shops. The 32MB Zodiac 1 retails for £250, the 128MB Zodiac 2 for £300. ® Related reviews Tapwave Zodiac 2 Danger Hiptop 2 PalmOne Wi-Fi SD Card Related stories Tapwave Zodiac to ship 22 October Nokia aims to dominate mobile email Smart phone predicts owner's behaviour PalmOne to give Treo 650 users 128MB SD cards E-pass defeats HP, MS' case dismissal demand Global smart phone sales soar RIM rises as PalmOne slides in Euro device market
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2004
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IBM CICS legacy at the heart of SOA

As I mentioned in a recent article IBM is to make a series of software announcements that will bring z/series to the heart of SOA (service oriented architecture). The first announcement included CICS Transaction Server V3.1 and CICS Transaction Gateway V6.0. They include several significant enhancements that show that IBM intends that CICS will not just be a passive legacy system but will be driving new applications and users into the web services world. The previous release of CICS TS had support for SOAP but only as a service provider. This meant that new web services applications could request services from existing CICS applications; this wrapping of CICS gave the impression that IBM expected all new applications to be non-CICS web services solutions and that the CICS applications would, over time, be phased out and replaced by modern solutions. However the client experience of CICS SOAP was very positive; it was easy to implement and reliable. So much so that many customers implemented it without any assistance from IBM and therefore without IBM being aware of this use. These customers then came to IBM to say that they needed more function and in particular the ability to develop CICS applications that were requesters of web services. Most of these applications were modifications of existing systems but some were new solutions. Developing an application that is a requester is an indication that there are no plans to phase the application out. This means that CICS users see a long term future for CICS on the mainframe and IBM has extended the functions on that basis. The new versions have a variety of improvements but the most important are: Support of CICS as a service requester with full support for WSDL and SOAP. Enhancements to the interface for CICS as a service provider. Removal of the 32K limit on messages between services. This also applies to the size of the COMMAREA used to communicate between CICS transactions. Improved support for C and C+ giving better performance. Improved documentation and training for new users, an essential feature for new footprints as well as for the long term viability of existing systems. Provision of all system management through a browser interface, rather than TSO, this provides a more effective interface for the operations department and also better integrate CICS system management with other operations functions. Enhanced security using standard SSL facilities. As an addition to this portfolio of products, IBM also announced CICS Batch Application Control for z/OS V1.1, allowing easier management of batch processes that must co-exist and share resources with one or more CICS online transaction systems. It simplifies tasks of operators and system programmers, reducing the time required for batch processing and moving CICS applications closer to a 24x7 operation. CICS recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. Back in the late 1970s CICS looked like an exciting area for new blood to enter, with lots of expansion and an assured future. It would seem that this is still true in the early 2000s; I would recommend that new recruits look seriously at CICS as a career path as it is still providing excitement, growth and an assured future. The lessons that can be learnt in helping support a large legacy solution are also relevant to the development and implementation of allegedly trendy new environments. Most of the problems of reliability, scalability, manageability, security and performance that will be faced by distributed solutions have already been faced by the mainframe and resolved. Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com Related stories The mainframe is back IBM gives in to call for Liberty services for all IBM software vendors feel the love
Peter Abrahams, 07 Dec 2004

Aged entrepreneur seeks Italian telco

A veteran Italian businessmen is considering an offer for Wind, the Italian telco. Wind is the third largest mobile operator in Italy, with a 16 per cent market share, and the country's largest Internet Service Provider. Cesare Romiti, former chief executive of Fiat, heads a consortium which is interested in buying the firm. The 81 year-old will make his move next week, according to the Financial Times. He says is interested in buying the whole group but will also discuss possible partnerships. Wind is owned by utility group Enel, which last month rejected a bid by Romiti. At the time Enel said the undisclosed offer - thought to be around €5bn - was unacceptable. Enel is known to be interested in getting out of the telco market either by selling Wind or floating it on the stock market. Deutsche Telecom and France Telecom helped Enel set up the firm in 1997, but both subsequently sold their stakes. The Italian telco market is already undergoing a shakeup with Telecom Italia's decision this week to buy out the remaining shares in its mobile division. ® Related stories Telecom Italia to mop up mobile minorities Europeans ditch TV for PC Italian Senate in gay porn worm attack outrage
John Oates, 07 Dec 2004

Cambridge wireless network to close

Mesh Broadband is pulling the plug on its Cambridge wireless broadband network on December 15. It took over the running of the Cambridge network when it acquired wireless broadband operator Invisible Networks (IN) last year after the operator went titsup. Mesh said it has decided to ditch the "old" network because it wasn't up to the job and was never going to make any money for the firm. Instead, Mesh is looking to build a new wireless network in the area targeting ADSL black spots. For although the accelerated roll-out of ADSL has helped increase broadband availability in the area, there are still areas with no high-speed net access. It is these areas - which include business parks - that Mesh intends to target. Around 120 users still left on the old IN network were told last month that the service would be terminated. One insider, disappointed at the demise of the old IN network and the strong community that had built up around it, said: "We're losing all the innovation and expertise that has been developed thanks to this pioneering community." ® Related stories Microcomm Systems buys Invisible Networks Invisible Networks goes titsup Invisible Networks confirms restructuring Radiant Networks flogged
Tim Richardson, 07 Dec 2004
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Nvidia nabs PS3 graphics contract

ATI may have wrested the Xbox 2 graphics contract away from Nvidia, but its arch-rival today revealed an alternative console design win: Sony's PlayStation 3. It's not called that, of course - we should refer to it instead as Sony's "next-generation computer entertainment systems featuring the 'Cell' processor". Financial terms for the "broad, multi-year, royalty-bearing agreement" signed by Nvidia and Sony were not made public, but given the way each new generation of PlayStation has significantly outsold the previous one, PS3 should be a nice little money spinner for the graphics chip maker, and one that potentially will do more for its bottom line than the Xbox 2/Next contract would have. Unlike the original deal with Microsoft, Nvidia's partnership with Sony extends only as far as the graphics chip, not to system logic too. Nvidia will design for Sony a "custom... next-generation GeForce" chip for 3D graphics and image processing. "Our collaboration includes not only the chip development but also a variety of graphics development tools and middleware, essential for efficient content creation," said Sony bigwig Ken Kutaragi in a statement. Apparently, Nvidia has been working on the chip for the last two years, according to company CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. That would put the start of company's involvement in PS3 development at least eight months before ATI confirmed its Xbox 2 design win. Then, it was suggested that Nvidia and Microsoft had fallen out over how much the latter owed the former for its graphics technology, and that led to the decision to adopt ATI chippery. That may still be the case, but Nvidia's relationship with Sony certainly casts a new light on the affair. Would MS have had an issue with its erstwhile partner supplying such a key component to its console rival? Possibly, though it doesn't seem to be too bothered that IBM is supplying CPU technology to both Xbox 2 and PS3 - and quite possibly Nintendo's upcoming 'Revolution' console, too. Nvidia's custom GeForce chip will be fabbed not through its usual foundry partners, TSMC and IBM, but by Sony itself, using the Group's Nagasaki fab and the OTSS plant it runs in conjunction with Cell manufacturing partner Toshiba. Sony's roadmap calls for its next-generation console to be formally unveiled during Q1 2005, though the machine itself is not expected to ship until 2006. ® Related stories Sony points to 2006 PS3 ship date IBM, Sony to detail 'Cell' PS3 CPU February 2005 Cell chip development 'almost done' - Toshiba Sony to unveil PlayStation 3 early '05 ATI confirms Xbox 2 win Nvidia source confirms ATI Xbox 2 design win - report Microsoft books ATI for Xbox 2 chipset gig
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2004

Apple 'readies' 5GB iPod Mini

Apple may announce a 5GB iPod Mini next month, alongside the anticipated Flash iPod, reports on the web suggested this week. It's certainly an obvious upgrade, given that's the capacity offered by almost all Mini rivals on the market today, such as Creative's Zen Micro. Most of the alternatives to the Apple player are based on Seagate's 5GB, 1in hard drive, with a lesser number of vendors opting for a Toshiba product of comparable spec. The iPod Mini is currently based on a 4GB, 1in drive from Hitachi, it is believed. Whether the Mini update should be read as a capacity improvement on Hitachi's part, or Apple has turned to another supplier, is not clear. Apple sources regular iPod and iPod Photo drives from Toshiba. That Apple is preparing such an update comes from "reliable sources" cited by AppleInsider. The report also points to suggestions of new colour casings, though it admits such rumours remain unconfirmed. That also goes for the talk of an iPod with integrated satellite radio to be found over on MP3newswire. It claims Apple may be planning to release a device that can receive signals from the US-based Sirius satellite radio service. Either way, the updated Mini is said to be lined up for an early 2005 introduction, the same timeframe previously forecast for the Flash iPod. ® Related stories Apple iPod Flash said to ship January Apple iTunes adds Band Aid 20 - for 79p iPod gains ghettoblaster accessory 'iPod Flash chip partner' hikes Q4 sales forecast Merrill Lynch looks to 'killer' Apple home media server Olympus unrobes m:robe Sony extends native MP3 support to Vaio Pocket Creative unveils 'smallest' MuVo MP3 player Creative declares 'war' on Apple's iPod
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2004

Musicians 'unconcerned' about file sharing

A survey of artists and musicians in the US has revealed that a large majority have embraced the internet and consider it to be a helpful tool to their careers. The survey, conducted by The Pew Internet & American Life Project, shows that artists and musicians recognise the advantages of the internet and have used it to their benefit. Some 66 per cent of musicians surveyed said that the internet is "very important" in helping them to create and distribute their music. Additionally, 90 per cent of all respondents use the internet to seek out inspiration. While the survey revealed that musicians agree that file-sharing should be illegal, they do not seem to be overly concerned about it, with 66 per cent of musicians citing it as just a minor threat or no threat at all. In response to the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) pursuit of music file-swappers, two-thirds of all artists surveyed said that the people who run the file-sharing services should be held responsible for the piracy while 37 per cent of musicians believe that both those running the file-sharing programmes and the individuals sharing the files should be held jointly accountable. Interestingly, 60 per cent of all musicians surveyed said the RIAA actions will not benefit them in any way. There is general agreement amongst artists and musicians on the issue of what is permissible and what is not in terms of copying digital music or material. Selling material without the creator's permission is broadly regarded as wrong while copying material for private use is seen as acceptable. In general, the artists and musicians surveyed appear to have a balanced perspective on the subject of file-sharing and the internet. The responses indicate that they believe they have gained more from the internet than they have lost. Around 83 per cent offer free samples of their work online and a large number have reported benefits from the practice such as higher CD sales, larger concert attendance, and more radio play; 72 per cent of musicians said the internet has helped them to make more money from their music and 69 per cent sell their music somewhere online. In contrast, a mere 3 per cent of artists say the internet has had a negative effect on their ability to protect their work. In 2003 the RIAA began using civil lawsuits to target people who were illegally sharing music files through P2P networks and has sued in excess of 3,000 people to date. In light of thiss, Shawn Fanning, the creator of Napster, has launched Snocap, a new company that he hopes will bridge the divide between record labels and P2P networks. This has developed technology that will identify digital music tracks shared across the internet and create a system to collect royalties on behalf of copyright owners. If Snocap catches on it could be the happy medium for the industry and artists alike. Copyright © 2004, ENN Related stories Shawn Fanning's Snocap touts vision of P2P heaven Europe pauses Microsoft DRM probe Kazaa challenged over child porn control policy
Deirdre McArdle, 07 Dec 2004

V Two One told to pull 'UK's cheapest ISP' claim

V Two One, the Surrey-based ISP, has been asked to ditch an advertising slogan after a punter complained it was misleading. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) wrote to V Two One at the end of last month requesting an "assurance to remove [its] claim: "The UK's cheapest ISP - Guaranteed." The matter will be resolved on an informal basis if the ISP complies, the ad watchdog says. However, V Two One stands by its claim and has written to the ASA saying that, at the time of going to press, its claim was accurate. V Two One is still waiting to hear back from the ASA. In September, V Two One announced that it was switching around 4,000 broadband subscribers onto Telefonica UK's DSL platform to reduce costs and improve service. Despite assurances that any disruption to the service would be "absolutely minimal", V Two One has admitted that the move did not go smoothly. The problems are now understood to be almost resolved. ® Related stories V Two One ditches BT UK Internet awards nominees named Wanadoo comes a cropper for 'full speed' broadband ad BT coughs to broadband ad blunder
Tim Richardson, 07 Dec 2004

Mystery bidder snaps up Commerce One patents

A mystery bidder, representing the equally mysterious JGR Acquistions, has paid $15.5m for software patents owned by Commerce One. The lawyer, representing JGR, left court without answering any questions as to the ownership of JGR or what it plans to do with the patents. Commerce One was a poster child for dotcom mania - it floated for $69m in 1999. Originally a B2B exchange like Ariba and i2 it subsequently reinvented itself as an integration specialist. The firm's assets were auctioned on Monday by the United States Bankruptcy Court. The patents cover protocols relating to web services widely used in the industry, according to CNet. Several Silicon Valley giants including Google, IBM, Oracle and Sun met last month to discuss a joint defence should JGR try to enforce the patents. The firms also considered pooling resources to buy the patents but this was rejected. The firms are concerned that JGR will seek royalty payments for protocols which are now widely used. There were seven other bidders for the patents, including two who remained anonymous. More at CNET. ® Related stories RIP the online exchange Commerce One fights for survival i2 Technologies: time to sell up?
John Oates, 07 Dec 2004
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3Com issues profit warning

3Com yesterday warned that Q2 earnings will come in below expectations. For the quarter ending November 26, the networking firm expects sales of $149m - $153m, compared to earlier forecasts of $170m - $180m. Increased competition from Cisco at the telco end of 3Com's product range and Dell at the lower end is having an adverse effect on its business. 3Com's gross margins are expected to be about 35 per cent, compared to prior guidance of around 38 per cent. Reduced revenues will result in a net loss of between $0.12 to $0.14 per share. That works out at losses of between approximately $44m and $54m. 3Com will announce results for Q205 after the market closes on December 16. ® Related stories Enterprise routing market as flat as a pancake 3Com plugs in its fastest LAN switch Huawei-3Com tie-up approved 3Com losses grow 3Com's staff keeps shrinking
John Leyden, 07 Dec 2004
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Is IBM PC sell off preparation for a Power chip attack?

OpinionOpinion Faultline would like to put forward another explanation of why IBM's PC business is suddenly up for sale, one that we haven't yet seen proffered in the various publications that have covered the news in the last few days. IBM is effectively clearing out its unprofitable PC business, so that it can go into the PC chip business with its Power 5 chips. It can hardly sign up Hewlett-Packard and Dell as Power 5 customers while it competes head on with one of their primary businesses, and by selling off its PC division it takes away much of the friction with these two organizations. There is no rule that says that the next generation of Linux desktops need to be powered by an Intel chip, and given the performance of the Power architecture, accelerating gently ahead of Intel's single core chip capability, it is a natural contender for the de facto chip to power Linux, not just on servers, where it plays right now, nor just on Supercomputers, but down also on Workstations, PCs, and under the power of CE Linux, on consumer electronics devices, cheap internet access devices and even mobile phones. In fact Intel is the last chip base that a fresh market, like China, would want to embrace, given that any devices made using Intel chips can also be used to run copies of Windows, legal or otherwise, and China wants to steer a wide course around Windows, and instead develop its own architectures. It is then perhaps no coincidence that IBM announced the creation this week of Power.Org from an event in China, and that it is a Chinese company Lenovo that is leading the charge to buy IBM's PC operations for some $2bn or so. Perhaps the quid pro quo is that IBM's Power chipset becomes the future Chinese server standard. The story behind PowerPC has always been one of keeping sales of the chip healthy with a captive customer base, so that IBM could stay comfortably in the chip business (unlike, for instance, Sun). By convincing Apple to use its chips all those years ago and by getting Motorola to second source and by using the same chip architecture in its servers, IBM has stayed in the race, but by using multiple cores on the same chip first, and promoting parallelism and inter core rapid communication, IBM has gone one better and is getting ready to steal Intel's crown. Also by adding Sony and Toshiba to its fan base with the Cell chip, as well as Nintendo and Microsoft on their games platforms, it has further guaranteed future sales for its Power based chips. The shift threatens to completely re-write ownership of the control of the technology industry. In the process, in one fell swoop IBM may have grabbed all digital media device makers and given them a viable architecture for the future to compete with one dominated by Microsoft. Since its early attempts a uniting a force behind its chipset, IBM has been waiting for a discontinuity in the progress of Intel and thinks it has finally found it in the switch to 64-bit computing, a shift that has so far eluded Intel. First AMD offered its Opteron that was a hybrid, offering both 32-bit and 64-bit operations, as opposed to Intel's 64-bit only choice on Itanium. Secondly Intel was late into the game for multi-processor cores, something that it only committed to this year and will deliver next. IBM said openly at its Power.Org launch that an architecture that needs to run on everything from a low priced, low battery draining mobile device right up through workstations, servers and its hugely powerful BlueGene supercomputing, it would always have to both come in on-chip clusters and it would also need to be possible for multiple chips to co-operate. "The ARM chip and the Intel chips were fine for what they did and they were ok for the mobile and PC world, but for a world which requires lots of floating point calculations and handling of video from its chips, you are going to need a multiprocessor with a 64-bit architecture," "The traditional ways of making chips are reaching natural barriers and now integration is the problem to solve," said Nigel Beck of IBM at the launch. Now through Power.Org IBM is making its play to open up the Power Architecture and take it into new verticals. Its announcement came with just 15 new members, none of them hugely influential on a global scale, and with Motorola and Apple, IBM's prior partners on the Power architecture, missing from the mix. But the outing had a distinctly Chinese flavor, with Chinese chip maker Shanghai Belling promising to license the core, Culturecom building a tax organizer on Linux Power for China, Peking University offering remote access to test your Linux on Power applications, and IBM promising to add another 150 engineers to its Power Architecture Technology Center in Shanghai. IBM also revealed that it has "cracked" wet immersion lithography, a faster process for making chips and also added new low-power "synthesizable" cores to its Power offerings. Other members all announcing commitment to the Power Architecture included AMCC, Bull, Cadence Design Systems, Chartered Semiconductor, Jabil Circuit, Novell, Red Hat, Sony, Synopsys, Thales, Tundra Semiconductor and Wistron. When asked why Motorola and Apple were not among the new disciples of Power.org Beck said, "Freescale (the part of Motorola that makes chips) Apple, Cisco and Xilinx are not announcing their support today for various reasons. "Some of our partners just want to sit and wait until the rules and regulations of membership are worked out, others just may choose not the join. "But they are all aware of the organization and we would expect statements from some of them in the near future." Power.Org will take on the standards around the Power processors range, operating very much in the same vein as the Java Community Process. IBM wants to keep control of the core instruction set, but then again it hopes to put some silicon items outside this such as accelerators, so that the chips can become highly customizable without losing their shape. "For instance one of our licensees has added Chinese language processing at the chip level," said Beck. The diagram above is how IBM sees Power.Org being influenced and who it will work for as it tries to put in an ecosystem as fast as it can, while it still has Intel at a power disadvantage. The first two standards that Power.org members will be asked to define are bus architecture and a reference specification for high volume servers. The bus architecture will enable different components on the same "system on a chip" to work together. Standardizing the bus architecture eases the integration of technology from multiple vendors. After this, and once the first meeting of Power.Org happens, the organization will set its own agenda, with IBM only able to rule on the central choice of the chip instruction set. IBM may adopt a standards group, such as the IEEE to overseer the standards process later, but wants to ensure that the "rules and regulations" of the group are first established so that the standards process cannot be hijacked. IBM in March this year already set up its PowerEverywhere initiative that led to a developer portal for Power and the recruitment of 1,500 developer members that were working on the Power architecture. It now intends to open this up and advertise if further afield. Copyright © 2004, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories IBM to take 5% of Lenovo to seal PC biz deal - report The post-PC era is upon us Apple of IBM's eye? IBM, Lenovo to announce JV 'this week' IBM said to be in PC divison sell-off talks IBM to Power China IBM, Lenovo ponder world desktop PC JV Dell drops out of China's low-end PC market
Faultline, 07 Dec 2004

Good Tech touts over-the-air PDA set-up

Good Technology is to push further into Europe, the company said this week, with the creation of sales and support channels in six countries. The mobile data specialist also announced the expansion of its North American channel. The drive to boost the reach of its sales arm came as Good announced the latest version of its push email and data system, GoodLink. GoodLink 4.0 will provide IT managers with secure over-the-air device configuration, provisioning and updates, not only for Good's own code, but third-party applications too, company marketing chief Sue Forbes told The Register. The connection is protected by end-to-end AES encryption, she said. By allowing users to activate the initial device set-up and loading process, she said, would lead to "large TCO savings". Good's Secure OTA system also supports the distribution and management of corporate security policies, and can be used not only to erase devices remotely, but to restore supported applications and data. GoodLink currently connects Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino servers to devices based on the Palm and Windows Mobile for Pocket PC operating systems. On the client side, Good said it has tweaked the wireless code to boost OTA synchronisation speeds by 300 per cent, boosting device battery life. The client software can now take advantage of the host OS' multitasking capabilities - or at least emulate it, in the case of Palm OS 5. Good has also improved its code to work better across multiple network carriers. GoodLink 4.0's Global Connect system - which will be pitched primarily at multi-national companies, said Forbes - allows firms to buy devices in countries where Good does not yet operate, safe in the knowledge that compatible PDAs and smart phones can be set-up over the air. Founded on GoodLink 4.0's Secure OTA system, Global Connect also effectively eliminated the need for networks to support push technology. Good is nevertheless expanding its geographical coverage, opening sales and support operations in Mexico, France and Germany, the latter two running subsidiary operations in Italy, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. In the US, the company said it was bringing distributor Ingram Micro on board to help its own sales team broaden its reseller customer base. The distributor will bundle GoodLink with the PalmOne Treo 600 and 650 smart phones. The deal marks the point at which Good's potential customer base has expanded beyond the scope of the company's own, enterprise-oriented sales force. Good also launched a hosted version of its software. Pitched at VARs and ASPs who maintain Exchange servers on behalf of small- to medium-sized enterprises, GoodLink Hosted Edition allows reseller partners to offer GoodLink without the need to run the enterprise-class software itself - Good will handle that side of the equation, said Forbes. GoodLink 4.0 will ship mid-Q1 2005, and will ship in the US, Canada and the UK, as well as the seven countries Good moved into this week. ® Related stories Nokia to bring Good push email to business phones Nokia aims to dominate mobile email RIM ships Blackberry Enterprise Server 4.0 RIM takes active-user total to 2m RIM signs BT to sell Blackberry World phone shipments to slip in Q4 - analyst
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2004

Leadtek WinFast PX6600TD GeForce 6600 card

ReviewReview This may come as a surprise, but according to id Software you shouldn't play Doom 3 with the Leadtek WinFast PX6600TD. As you'll see on the Doom 3 system requirements here: a GeForce 4 MX graphics card is fine, and so is a GeForce 6800, but the GeForce 6600 doesn't get a look-in. This is nonsense of course, as the Leadtek plays Doom 3 amazingly well, especially since we can't help but think of the Leadtek as a budget graphics card, writes Leo Waldock.
Trusted Reviews, 07 Dec 2004

Massive game advertising startup to aid desperate brands

AnalysisAnalysis Advertisers are desperate, says Katherine Hays, Chief Operating Officer of Massive, the US company that has just come out of stealth mode to lay claim to the world's first advertising network for multiple games on multiple gaming platforms.
Faultline, 07 Dec 2004

Free books up for grabs

Site OfferSite Offer If you think you've missed your opportunity to take advantage of hot titles at exclusive discounts....you'd be wrong. We've gone crazy with an exclusive offer, which is available for just two weeks. We’ve compiled a list of the titles which have been bestsellers throughout 2004 at The Register Bookshop - these are the books YOUR peers have rated THE BEST. This week the best sellers from SQL, Web Programming and Business are featured below but don't forget that you can get books covering everything from A+ Certification to Zero Administration Kit's For Windows and Access 2000 to XPath Kick Start! Free books up for grabs But that's not all! We’re also giving away - yes, completely FREE of charge, your choice of ONE of THREE titles from The Register bestseller list, but only to the first 25 people this week to spend more than £35.00 at the Register Bookshop. Next week, we'll have another 25 books to give away. We'll contact the first 25 lucky customers by email, and offer you your choice from any of the following three bestselling titles: Advanced UNIX Programming - RRP £34.99 MySQL Language Reference - RRP £28.99 PHP and MySQL Web Development - RRP £36.50 The Register bestsellers of 2004 The complete set of definitive guides from MySQL Press RRP £116.50 - Reg price - £75.73 - Saving £40.77 (35%) The ONLY complete guide to learning, teaching and using MySQL, the most popular open-source database in the world, from MySQL Press. First Look at SQL Server 2005 for Developers, A RRP £34.99 - Reg price - £24.49 - Saving £10.50 (30%) Supported by Microsoft's SQL Server team, this book is an authoritative first look at the most anticipated version of SQL Server to date. PHP and MySQL Web Development RRP £36.50 - Reg price - £25.55 - Saving £10.95 (30%) The definitive best-selling book on combining these two open source tools to create dynamic Web sites - updated for PHP 5 and MySQL 5. Core PHP Programming RRP £35.99 - Reg price - £25.19 - Saving £10.80 (30%) The authoritative guide to PHP 5!Master PHP 5, the easy, high-performance solution for enterprise-class Web development! Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes RRP £10.99 - Reg price - £7.69 - Saving £3.30 (30%) Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes has established itself as the gold standard for introductory SQL books, offering a fast-paced accessible tutorial to the major themes and techniques involved in applying the SQL language. Sams Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL and Apache All in One RRP £21.99 - Reg price - £15.39 - Saving £6.60 (30%) A new edition of the best selling book that covers three popular open-source tools in one complete Starter Kit package. PHP 5 Power Programming RRP £28.99 - Reg price - £20.29 - Saving £8.70 (30%) Written by the authors of the actual PHP code! The authoritative developer's guide to mastering advanced PHP 5 techniques. ASP.NET v. 2.0-The Beta Version RRP £30.99 - Reg price - £21.69 - Saving £9.30 (30%) Fully supported by Microsoft's ASP.NET team, this is an authoritative and practical look at the new version of ASP.NET Sams Teach Yourself PHP in 24 Hours RRP £17.99 - Reg price - £12.59 - Saving £5.40 (30%) A quick, easy-to-understand introduction to creating dynamic Web sites with PHP 5, the latest version of this popular programming language. PHP for the World Wide Web RRP £16.99 - Reg price - £11.89 - Saving £5.10 (30%) The most popular beginner's guide to the most popular Web development tool -- completely updated to cover PHP 5! How to Be Brilliant RRP £9.99 - Reg price - £6.99 - Saving £3.00 (30%) This book will give you tools to find out what point you are at now, understand where it is you want to get to and develop strategies and powerful methods to get you there. How to Handle Tough Situations at Work RRP £9.99 - Reg price - £9.09 - Saving £0.90 (30%) How to Handle Tough Situations tackles difficult situations at work head-on. Karaoke Capitalism RRP £19.99 - Reg price - £13.29 - Saving £6.70 (30%) Karaoke Capitalism shows that expressing your individuality, being different, lies at the heart of the modern enterprise and modern life. The Beermat Entrepreneur RRP £12.99 - Reg price - £9.09 - Saving £3.90 (30%) The Beermat Entrepreneur is a practical guide to starting and building a business. Coming next week More of the best from 2004, covering Programming, Hacking, Open Source and Networking books. The Reg Bestsellers Last week at The Reg Great new releases This weeks book bag
Team Register, 07 Dec 2004

Fake Lycos screensaver harbours Trojan

Virus writers have begun distributing their wares in emails that pose as Lycos's abandoned "Make love not spam" screensaver. The fake screensaver emails contain an attachment with a RAR SFX archive that has embedded key logger Trojan inside, antivirus firm Sophos warns. Infected emails come in emails with subject lines such as "Be the first to fight spam with Lycos screen" and an attachment called "Lycos screensaver to fight spam.zip". Upon successful installation, the key logging Trojan (Mdropper-IT) sends a message to an Indonesian email address confirming its status. The screensaver file, rather than displaying the Lycos screensaver, displays a blank screen. "Make Love Not Spam" was designed to bombard spam websites with requests, so increasing their bandwidth charges without - in theory - shutting them down. Security firms criticised Lycos's use of "vigilante tactics" especially when two of the targeted websites became unavailable. Several major internet backbone providers and ISP blocked access to Lycos' www.makelovenotspam.com website over concerns over its questionable legality. Lycos denied it was doing anything wrong, much less creating a DDoS attack platform, but it suspended screensaver downloads after spammers began redirected traffic back to makelovenotspam.com. This won't necessarily stop people falling for the VX ruse, unfortunately; fake Lycos screensavers will likely become a staple of social engineering tricks for weeks to come. ® Related stories Lycos antispam site taken offline Hackers noble Lycos anti-spam plan Lycos screensaver to blitz spam servers
John Leyden, 07 Dec 2004

Asia-Pacific piracy still rampant

Piracy, especially optical disc piracy, is big business in the Asia-Pacific. The Motion Picture Association (MPA) estimates that Asia-Pacific piracy costs the US motion picture industry over $718m a year in potential revenue. This does not include the impact piracy has on employment and the cost imposed on countries in terms of lost tax revenues and missed investment opportunities. A number of factors are driving piracy in the region. The increased influence of organised criminal gangs with global manufacturing and distribution networks, the reduced cost of entry into piracy via easily available disc burners, the increasing penetration of broadband and peer-to-peer networks and a lack of adequate and effective copyright protection have all helped to turn piracy into a multi-million dollar industry. As the DVD and VCD industries mature, the pirates' methods of operating have evolved. Illegal factories producing millions of counterfeit discs have been replaced by networks of small producers that each contribute thousands of discs to an organisation. This has made anti-piracy operations more difficult as authorities must now target many different locations rather than a few large-scale production sites. In the first half of 2004, the MPA investigated over 10,660 cases of piracy - up 42 per cent compared with a year earlier - and assisted law enforcement officials in conducting nearly 4,000 raids in the Asia-Pacific region. These activities resulted in the seizure of around 11.8m illegal optical discs and the initiation of over 2,000 criminal legal actions. The top three Asia-Pacific markets for seizures of pirated VCD and DVD product were mainland China, Hong Kong and Malaysia whilst Australia and South Korea accounted for around 80 per cent of the recordable discs (DVD-Rs) seized in the region. In the second half of 2004 an increasing number of successful raids were sparked off by information received from members of the public. This followed the launch by the MPA of an anti-piracy rewards programme in the Asia-Pacific region during March 2003. The association claims the rewards programme - which offers financial incentives to potential informers - resulted in 20 raids and 30 arrests, as well as the seizure of 410 burners and 125,050 pirated optical discs, between the end of June and the end of August 2004. This is not the only way in which the MPA is involving members of the public in its latest Asia-Pacific anti-piracy strategies. A number of public education initiatives have recently been carried out to inform people of laws protecting copyright, raise awareness of piracy and ultimately encourage people to reject pirated product. One such initiative during the first half of 2004 was the release of an anti-piracy theatrical trailer in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia that delivered the message Movie Piracy: It's a Crime. Copyright © 2004, Screen Digest Screen Digest the Newsletter is the international media business's leading news & market research journal. It has been published for more than 30 years and is read in over 40 countries. Subscription details here. It is published by Screen Digest, a research company which produces a rapidly growing number of major business reports on media markets. Related stories Musicians 'unconcerned' about file sharing Shawn Fanning's Snocap touts vision of P2P heaven Police cuff 28 in £10m counterfeit haul
Screen Digest, 07 Dec 2004

Jambo OpenOffice released

Jambo OpenOffice, the Swahili version of OpenOffice, has been released, the Open Swahili Localization Project (Kilinux), announced on Saturday. According to the press release, "Swahili is the most spoken of the Bantu languages and conservative estimates indicate that is the first language spoken by more than 70m people, chiefly in Kenya, Tanzania, Congo (Kinshasa), and Uganda. As the chief trade language of East Africa, it is understood by an additional 25m." Dr. Hashim Twaakyondo, overall project coordinator said that the project aimed to localize all Linux components into Swahili. Before starting the localization of the 18.000 strings of OpenOffice, the team developed and released a Swahili IT Glossary. The first version of the glossary was released in October, and contained over seven hundred computer related terms in English and their Swahili equivalents. OpenOffice is a leading international effort to provide a free and open source office suite based on open standards and capable of running on all major computer platforms. The next official release of Jambo OpenOffice will be in February 2005. ® Related stories Novell rolls out Linux Desktop 9 Novell aims Linux at corporate desktops Open Source ready for prime time in UK.gov, says OGC
Robin Lettice, 07 Dec 2004

Tiscali denies France sell-off reports

Tiscali denies it is prepping the sale of Liberty Surf, its French operation, to France Telecom. According to Italian press reports, the European ISP has already hired a bank to handle the sale. But a Tiscali spokesman told Reuters: "We deny that we are in talks with France Telecom about a sale of our French unit which remains a core asset for us. No mandate has been given to a bank." The speculation comes as Tiscali is looking to raise cash to pay off a €250m (£173m) loan due next July. Last week Italian website AGI reported that Tiscali chairman, Vittorio Serafino, was confident that there would be news by the end of the year concerning the bond repayment, adding that more than half of the loan would be paid by the disposal of company assets. Indeed, the company has already taken this path over the last year as it retreated from non-core countries. During Q3 it raised €81.3m (£56m) by flogging its businesses in Austria, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and South Africa. The company has 7.7m active subscribers in Europe. No one at Tiscali was available for comment at the time of writing. ® Related stories Tiscali eyes profit in 2005 Tiscali chops off Swiss arm Lycos Europe buys Tiscali Sweden Tiscali to squeeze overheads as losses swell Tiscali to flog four country ops
Tim Richardson, 07 Dec 2004

'White collar' virus writers make cash from chaos

Virus writing has changed from a cottage industry to a commercial enterprise, according to Sophos, the anti-virus firm Sophos. It reports a 51.8 per cent increase in new viruses in 2004. Many of the 10,724 new viruses (up from 7,064 in 2003) surrendered control of infected PCs to virus writers, for use in distributing spam or launching DDoS attacks. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said “Virus writing has become more about trying to generate money than creating mass mailing worms”. The increased prevalence of rogue dialler Trojans, which change victim’s net settings to dial expensive premium rate accounts, and the use of keylogging Trojans in phishing scams are examples of how virus writers can make money. Sophos estimates 40 per cent of spam comes from infected computers, another way for malware authors to cash in. According to Sophos, this new breed of commercially motivated virus writers may be new to the scene. “They are less likely to brag about their exploits but police have the possibility of finding them by tracing the money trail from other cybercriminals,” Cluley says. This year saw an upsurge in arrests of virus writers, most notably Sven Jaschan, the self-confessed author of the infamous NetSky and Sasser worms. The German teenager wrote his malware in a misguided attempt to remove spam-friendly viruses such as MyDoom from infected PCs. Instead he created a monster. NetSky-P accounted for almost a quarter of virus incidents reported to Sophos, topping its annual chart. Five NetSky variants made it into Sophos’s top 10. So Sven Jaschan was responsible for more than 50 per cent of all virus incidents reported to Sophos in 2004. All of the top 2004 viruses only infect Windows PCs and most are causing problems months after their initial discovery. Concerns about smartphone viruses are overhyped, says Cluley, who warnes that virus writers are likely to continue targeting Windows PC in 2005 and beyond. Sophos calculates there are now 97,535 viruses in existence. ® Top ten viruses in 2004, according to Sophos NetSky-P Zafi-B Sasser NetSky-B NetSky-D NetSky-Z MyDoom-A Sober-I NetSky-C Bagle-AA Related stories Sasser kid blamed for viral plague NetSky tops virus charts by a country mile Zafi-b speaks in many tongues Who would you like to attack today? Gadzooks! My PC has the pox (virus cleanup workshop)
John Leyden, 07 Dec 2004
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TSG buys Scottish dealer

Technology Services Group (TSG) has bought a ESCO, small Scottish networking reseller based in Cumbernauld, its third acquisition in as many weeks. Terms are undisclosed. All 17 ESCO staff are moving to TSG offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh. TSG now employs 100 staff across the border, serving 2,200 customers. TSG is the brainchild of Graham Wylie, Sage co-founder, who set up the business in 2003 to supply IT services to SMEs. This is a highly fragmented sector. The big guys are not interested in supplying a full service for such customers, and the historic incumbents are too small and too undercapitalised to grow by acquisition. Money has not been a problem for many years for Wylie, one of the UK's richest men thanks to his Sage shareholding. The Newcastle-based company has bought 10 resellers in the North and In Scotland in the last year, favouring accountancy software dealers in particular. It claims a leading position in reselling Sage, Exchequer and Pegasus software. Last week, the company made its move into the Midlands, with the acquisition of Systems Advantage, an accountancy software specialist based in Broom, Warks and Basingstoke. Forty One, a reseller based in Warrington. TSG now employs over 350 staff, claims an annualised turnover of £34 million and 8,500 customers. ® Related stories Sage co-founder goes to Glasgow Sage founder buys Nordic Data Sage founder buys computer reseller
Drew Cullen, 07 Dec 2004

Rat brain flies jet

Florida scientists have grown a brain in a petri dish and taught it to fly a fighter plane. Scientists at the university of Florida taught the 'brain', which was grown from 25,000 neural cells extracted from a rat embryo, to pilot an F-22 jet simulator. It was taught to control the flight path, even in mock hurricane-strength winds. "When we first hooked them up, the plane 'crashed' all the time," Dr Thomas DeMarse, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida, said. "But over time, the neural network slowly adapts as the brain learns to control the pitch and roll of the aircraft. After a while, it produces a nice straight and level trajectory." The brain-in-a-dish was DeMarse' idea. To produce it, 25,000 rat neurones were suspended in a specialised liquid to keep them alive and then laid across a grid of 60 electrodes in a small glass dish. The cells at first looked like grains of sand under the microscope, but soon began to connect to form what scientists call a "live computation device" (a brain). Electrodes monitor and stimulate neural activity in this network, allowing researchers to study how the brain processes and transfers information. The scientists hope that their research will lead to hybrid computers with organic components, allowing more flexible and varied means of solving problems. One potential application is to install living computers in unmanned aircraft for missions too dangerous for humans. It is also hoped that further advances will help in the search for cures for conditions such as epilepsy, The Age reports. "The algorithms that living computers use are also extremely fault-tolerant," Dr DeMarse said. "A few neurons die off every day in humans without any noticeable drop in performance, and yet if the same were to happen in a traditional silicon-based computer the results would be catastrophic." The US National Science Foundation has awarded the team a $500,000 grant to produce a mathematical model of how the neurons compute. ® Related stories US science alliance eyes artificial retina Monkey mindpower manipulates robotic arm Brain scans show difference between truth and lies
Robin Lettice, 07 Dec 2004

Hitachi disk drive biz closed for the holidays

The vast majority of staffers at Hitachi's US disk drive center have been told to take an extended vacation whether they like it or not. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies issued a memo this week to workers, telling them that a required vacation will take place between Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. Only 900 of the US facility's 3,300 staffers will remain onsite. Companies typically use these types of forced closers to save a bit of cash during slow business periods. "We are gaining some cost-savings as a result," said a company spokeswoman. "This time of the year is typically very slow." Hitachi GST was formed in 2003 when IBM sold off its hard disk drive business to the Japanese firm. The company now operates as a joint venture between Hitachi and IBM with Hitachi owning a majority stake. Some 1,500 IBMers will still be working during the holidays as their Hitachi counterparts drink egg nog and take a rest for the hard drive rat race. We assume the old IBM contracts require the Big Blue staffers to remain onsite. In October, Hitachi GST laid off close to 400 workers, trying to trim its bottom line. The spokeswoman, however, insisted that cost-savings are not the primary driver of the holiday closure. In fact, Hitachi will be performing some much needed electrical maintenance on its US facility, the spokeswoman said. "It's not really a shutdown," she added. An internal memo begs to differ. "All employees, including contractor/vendor employees, are not expected to work during the shutdown," the memo said. "No employees - whether regular, supplemental or contractor/vendor - will be granted access to any of our US sites." ® Related stories Hitachi readies notebook Serial ATA hard drives Hitachi production ramp-up = cheaper storage Hitachi to boost 1in HDD output Hitachi blows its own 300GB trumpet
Ashlee Vance, 07 Dec 2004

Security bugs take a bite out of Apple

Apple has posted security updates to fix 16 security vulnerabilities in its Mac OS X operating system. Both client and server versions of the software need patching. The bugs stem from flaws Apache web server software, QuickTime Streaming Server and Apple's Safari web browser, for example. Security firm Secunia describes the patches as "highly critical". Left unfixed, crackers could theoretically run amok with vulnerable systems. Even though the vulnerabilities are not been actively exploited they still merit attention. One vulnerability affects at least 25,000 web servers running the Apple Mac OS, according to managed security firm NetSec, which discovered the security bug in Apple's HFS+ filesystem. Secunia has produced a comprehensive overview of the security bugs, with links to Apple's patches, here. ® Related stories Mac OS X rootkit surfaces McAfee app raids Mac users' inboxes Apple updates Mac OS X to 10.3.5 iPods are the latest security risk
John Leyden, 07 Dec 2004
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AMD ships 90nm Opterons

AMD will today begin shipping the 90nm incarnations of its Opteron 1xx, 2xx and 8xx processor lines, The Register has learned. The availability of the chips, confirmed by an AMD spokesman, means the company has made good its promise to ship the processors by the end of 2004 - though it only has around three weeks to make that happen. The news comes a day after AMD announced it intends to incorporate its PowerNow! power preservation system into upcoming Opteron chips. Those chips are due to ship during H1 2005, the company said, so it's clear they represent a second generation of 90nm Opteron rather than the ones being made available today. In what quantities the 90nm Opterons are shipping is now known. AMD's roadmap dubs the new chips 'Venus', 'Troy' and 'Athens', for the 1xx, 2xx and 8xx series, respectively. ® Related stories AMD pitches PowerNow! at servers AMD took bigger slice of x86 server market in Q3 AMD roadmap drops Athlon XP AMD ships Mobile Sempron 3000+ AMD's Opteron loses ground where it kind of counts AMD updates roadmap Dell 'to add' AMD CPUs to product line - CEO AMD signs foundry for 64-bit CPU production AMD turns profit on strong 64-bit chip sales AMD dual-core Opterons gain SSE 3 support
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2004