15th > December > 2004 Archive

It came from the vaults! Google seeks to open the library

In what could be a historic move in the history of the internet, Google has announced arrangements with Harvard University, and a handful of public libraries, to digitize parts of their valuable collections and make them available over the public web. Yahoo!, Grokker and Microsoft are working on similar ventures. Google Print Library, as it's called, will take many years to complete its first phase, and like the others, faces tremendous hurdles. Copyright and licensing issues remain a huge obstacle; the ontological expertise remains the domain of information professionals; and as a monopoly gateway to the world's information, no private corporation can expect to evade regulatory concerns. And lazy governments, both central and local, could find use it as an excuse to axe what commitments they have to making high quality information available. Any of these issues could hobble the venture, providing a service that's as useful as the fake cardboard book-props one can buy by the yard to fill an empty study bookcase. But as a statement of intent, such ventures deserve to be taken seriously. Google will co-operate in scanning and digitizing works with major academic libraries and make them searchable. The results will be displayed using Google Print - which uses DRM to restrict the viewing and printing of copyright material - and display links to either commercial booksellers such as Amazon.com or, using Open Worldcat metadata, provide information where to find it at your local library. Initial partners include Harvard, with 15 million books, Oxford's Bodleian Library, Stanford and Michigan University, where the scanning of seven million books is expected to take six years. Google won't at first offer advertisements on Print Library, although there's plenty of scope for this to change. For example: Do you want fries with your burgher?. At ResourceShelf, Gary Price has a roundup of other digitization projects, and librarian Steve Cohen offers a few notes of caution. Google will need to improve on the brute force text search algorithms it uses today, he notes, and "libraries should be pushing their own materials through their websites rather than having to 'rely' on Google to do so". The promise of universal access to data repeated over a decade of internet hype has not been fulfilled, and the role of librarians as information professionals has been consistently undervalued - something, we suspect, to do with the adolescent hostility to expertise that characterizes so much internet evangelism. Which in turn, probably has a lot to do with the internet's libertarian backgrounds. Whether the private sector succeeds after a decade of failure in overcoming copyright interests remains to be seen, and whether it can be trusted to do so is another question. We'll certain need the librarians, to keep the Microsofts and Googles both honest and effective. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 15 Dec 2004

RIM infringed NTP patents, appeal court rules

The US Court of Appeals has ruled that Lawsuits in Motion - aka Research in Motion - did indeed violate patents owned by intellectual property holding company NTP. However, the court nevertheless overturned a District Court ban on violating products, pending the District Court's re-appraisal of its original verdict. That ruling allows RIM to continue selling Blackberry products until the case is finally decided. In its ruling, the Court of Appeals said: "The judgment and the injunction are vacated, and the case is remanded to the district court for further proceedings. We also conclude that the District Court correctly found infringement." The injunction was granted against RIM by the US District Court of Eastern Richmond, Virginia in November 2002 after a jury decided that the Canadian company had infringed a number of patents covering the transmission of email over a radio network, all held by NTP. The injunction, which covers the US, was temporarily suspended in August 2003 when RIM appealed against the verdict. RIM's appeal went to court in June 2004. RIM has always maintained that some of NTP's patents are invalid, and an investigation of its claims by the US Patents and Trademarks Office its currently underway. That probe is separate from the legal action. But with only five of 16 patents at the heart of NTP's allegations being re-evaluated, RIM is still left facing charges - acknowledged by the Court of Appeals - that it violated 11 of NTP's patents. If the District Court finds that no errors of law prompted the previous verdict, it is likely to re-impose the injunction. RIM would not comment on this week's ruling, presumably while it weighs up its options. It may await the outcome of the future District Court ruling or, more likely, it may choose to seek a settlement. Either way, at least the Court of Appeals has allowed it to stay in business in its largest market in the meantime. NTP first notified RIM of the alleged infringement in 2000. In November 2002 a court ruled against RIM, and ordered it to pay $23m. Straight away NTP claimed RIM had wilfully violated the patent. That led to a second award, of $53.7m, to be awarded in August 2003. ® Related stories RIM ships Blackberry Enterprise Server 4.0 RIM takes active-user total to 2m RIM signs BT to sell Blackberry RIM rises as PalmOne slides in Euro device market Final appeal in RIM's US Blackberry battle RIM faces fresh lawsuit Lawsuits in Motion to pay $53m Lawsuits In Motion files suit against Xerox
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2004

Free data-wipe tools for *nix systems

We offer several free tools to make data hygiene more convenient on Unix and Unix-like systems. Download them here. The archive you'll want is called LinuxWipeTools.tar.gz. (But note that there are numerous other free security tools and resources for *nix and Windows systems listed on the page.) The purpose here is to simplify regular maintenance. These tools are not intended as substitutes for the "wipe" and "shred" utilities, which should always be used on sensitive individual files. What we have here are backup tools that will easily and securely wipe large areas of the disk that might contain data traces you've neglected, or failed to eliminate properly. The scripts are meant to clean large disk areas safely and conveniently while you work with your system. They're intended for basic, regular maintenance: i.e., to eliminate duplicate data traces in obscure areas of the disk, and the remnants of files that have merely been deleted. There is nothing here that you couldn't do from the command line: the idea is to make it convenient so that you will do it. Often. The WipeSwap script will automatically detect your swap device, stop it, wipe it securely, and re-create it. This usually takes only 20-30 minutes. The swap partition is a great accumulator of unforeseen and/or forgotten data, and should be wiped regularly. This makes it easy and safe. The WipeFree scripts will securely wipe un-allocated disk space, where the remnants of deleted files may remain. Again, this merely simplifies the process. Thanks to the courage of numerous volunteers, we can say that the scripts appear safe and effective on a variety of Unix, BSD and Linux systems. Many thanks to Conrad Wood and David C. Niemi for improvements they contributed, and to Jim Knopf for an important fix and several excellent suggestions. ® Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and Small Office, a comprehensive guide to system hardening, malware protection, online anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux. Related stories Bestselling programming guides, going cheap Jambo OpenOffice released Linux and the job market
Thomas C Greene, 15 Dec 2004

Apple iPod out of tune with Real's Harmony

Apple has made good its pledge to prevent iPods from playing songs downloaded from Real Networks' Rhapsody online music store. But the discovery, reported on a variety of online news sites, has left users puzzled: just when did Apple make the change? Real introduced its Harmony DRM conversion technology last July, drawing immediate criticism from Apple. In addition to converting rules encoded Real's own DRM system, Helix, into a form compatible with Microsoft's Windows Media DRM technology, it also converts to FairPlay, Apple's DRM system. The upshot is that AAC-encoded songs downloaded from Rhapsody can be tweaked to play on the iPod without stripping out the usage rules originally embossed on each file. Real claimed it reverse engineered FairPlay, following Apple's refusal to license the technology. That approach, along with the maintenance of all DRM rules, has thus far prevented Apple from challenging Real in court. But Apple did warn anyone purchasing songs from Rhapsody with the intention of playing them on an iPod that it reserved the right to tweak its code to prevent Harmony from working. And that's what it appears to have done, reports suggest, modifying its music player's firmware. Apple last issued an iPod update on 15 November, but only changed the firmware on two models: the latest, fourth-generation iPod and the iPod Mini. Older models were previously updated on 20 October, just ahead of the release of iTunes 4.7. That would seem the most likely time at which Apple introduced its 'disharmony' code. That's bad news for Real - partly because the move limits the company's ability to sell to iPod owners, but mostly because no one has noticed until now, almost a month and a half later. That suggests that Real's iPod-owning customer base is rather smaller than it would like. Real said its remains "fully committed to providing consumers with the freedom to use the music libraries they purchase from us on different portable audio devices they acquire, both now and in the future", so the prospect remains that it will modify its own code to cope with Apple's changes if possible. ® Related stories Shawn Fanning's Snocap touts vision of P2P heaven France rules Apple's DRM denial not anti-competition Real '49c a song' promo pushes downloads to 3m Real anti-Apple poll swamped by pro-Apple posters Real halves music prices, widens loss Virgin demands Apple license iTunes DRM Real fires back at Apple in DRM dogfight Apple blasts Real DRM translator Real to 'free' iPod from iTunes Music Store
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2004

Five important fixes in MS December patch batch

Microsoft's regular monthly patch delivery slipped into port yesterday carrying five new patches, each described by Redmond as "important". First up there's a flaw (MS04-041) in WordPad that potentially allows malicious code to be executed. All flavours of Windows (XP, 2000, 2003 and NT) need patching. A vulnerability (MS04-043) in the HyperTerminal component of Windows similarly affects all versions of Windows. But a security bug in DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) that might allow remote code execution and denial of service affects only Windows NT (MS04-042). Next up we have Vulnerabilities in Windows Kernel and Local Security Authority Subsystem (LSASS) which create a means for hackers to elevate their privileges (MS04-044). Again all flavours of Windows are affected. Lastly, there a vulnerability in Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS) that could allow remote code execution (MS04-045). Buffer overflow bugs are the culprit for almost all of these vulnerabilities. Microsoft's most important December patch came earlier this month when it broke with its normal cycle to release a fix for the IFRAME vulnerability in IE, infamously exploited by the Bofra worm. Unsurprisingly this fix (MS04-040) is a "critical" update for all versions of Windows bar Win XP SP2 and Windows 2003. ® Related stories MS quashes infamous Bofra bug MS debuts 'forthcoming attractions' pre-alert alert Oracle moves to quarterly patch cycle Seven critical in MS October patch batch
John Leyden, 15 Dec 2004

BT faces £4.5m NHS claim over broadband delays

BT is facing a bill for £4.5m amid reports that it has failed to deliver high speed broadband links to a key NHS project on time. According to the Financial Times, BT is set to miss key targets set for April next year and, as a result, is being hit by the contract penalties. Even though the National Health Service (NHS) and BT are working on an "agreed settlement", the compensation claim comes less than a year since BT won the contract to wire-up the NHS. In April, the UK's dominant fixed line telco won the £530m contract to provide and manage a broadband network to link all NHS organisations in England. The deal is set to run for seven years and was the first significant public sector investment in broadband. The network is due to serve all 18,000 NHS locations and sites - the current NHSnet contract only reaches 10,000. Dubbed 'N3', the New National Network means faster transfer of all clinical data between NHS organisations. It should support electronic booking and the NHS Care Records Service, and let doctors exchange visual data – such as video and x-rays - much more quickly. BT said the broadband deal had "started more slowly than we intended [but is] now back on track". ® Related stories BT wins NHS broadband megadeal NHS rolls out digital X-rays European healthcare 'online by 2008'
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 2004

Intel 'to cut' Celeron D, Grantsdale prices

Intel will prune the prices of its Celeron D processors and 915-class chipsets next year, reports coming out of Taiwan claim. The Celeron D cuts will take place on Sunday, 20 February 2005, and see up to 13.6 per cent. The cuts target the 325, 330, 335, 340 and 345 chips, in both their regular forms and the 'J" variants with Execute Disable Bit support. The price of the 345 will fall from $127 to $117, the 340 from $117 to $103, the 335 from $103 to $89, the 330 from $83 to $79, and the 325 from $79 to 73, the reports say. Later, on Sunday, 3 April 2005, Intel will cut 'Grantsdale' prices by a couple of dollars to between $30 and $38, bringing the chipset family's prices even closer to those of the older, 478-pin 865 family. The cuts are expected to come after an already reported round of cuts at the end of this month, and ahead of the introduction of 'Lakeport' and 'Glenwood', in Q2 ahead of the arrival of 'Smithfield', Intel's first dual-core desktop processor early in Q3. ® Related stories Intel confirms dual-core desktop 'Smithfield' AMD battles Intel over F1 number crunching Intel demos 65nm dual-core mobile CPU Intel prepares to kill off last few 130nm P4s Intel 'plans' December Grantsdale price cuts Intel puts back 90nm P4EE to Q1 '05 - report Intel said to have set 'Sonoma' launch at 17 Jan '05
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2004
server room

Cryptography Research wants piracy speed bump on HD DVDs

AnalysisAnalysis Just about a year from today, if not sooner, if we believe the outpourings of both the DVD Forum and the Blu-Ray Disc Association, we will be able to go out to the shops and buy blue laser, high definition, high density DVDs in two completely different designs. We will also be able to buy the players and recorders by then, as well as studio content from virtually every major studio in the world, on one or the other system.
Faultline, 15 Dec 2004

Mainframe Catalogs: the untold story

On a Windows PC everything goes through the Registry: whenever you want to run an application the registry has to be referenced. This is, in simple terms, exactly what a catalog does under MVS or z/OS: all datasets are accessed via an ICF catalog. However, there are two big differences between a catalog and the Windows registry. The first is that mainframes are supposed to support high availability 24x7 environments, while PCs are not. The second thing is that you can have multiple catalogs on a mainframe. But there is one more similarity between a registry and a catalog: they both get damaged and they both break. Worse, catalogs are breaking more and more often. And, even worse than this, most companies are not even aware of the problem - very few companies consider catalogs when they build disaster recovery plans, for example, and they are leaving themselves exposed to very serious potential consequences if they do not. There are several underlying reasons for this problem. The first is that you cannot, using IBM's native facilities, re-distribute datasets across catalogs without taking the original catalog down for a prolonged period, which most companies cannot afford to do. Moreover, though IBM does provide the ability to split catalogs, it can only do this if the catalogs are clean. But, in order to ensure that catalogs are clean you need a diagnostics facility that will generate fixes for you. The result of all this is that it is very rare for companies to create new catalogs and, even when they do, the majority of datasets still go through the first of those catalogs. Indeed, it is typical for tens and even hundreds of thousands of datasets to be going through a single catalog. This creates problems of its own: a greater and greater strain is placed on the catalog, particularly for shared access requirements, control blocks and so on, which are being accessed by more and more applications. Further, performance is suffering (IBM never designed catalogs for these sorts of volumes) and IBM has been forced to introduce new code to enhance catalog performance, which is a threat in its own right. Now, as I have stated, many companies are not even aware that this is a problem and, potentially, a very serious one. However, there are tools that are available that allow you to do on-line dataset re-distribution, split catalogs, diagnose and fix catalogs, and analyse the structural content of catalogs (which you need in order to help decide dataset re-distribution) and advanced back-up and recovery (IBM provides basic forward recovery capability). The leading vendor in this space today is Mainstar, with its Catalog RecoveryPlus product. This has some 200 users world-wide and Ron Ferguson, the company's CEO, is the co-author of IBM's Red Book on this subject. However, you probably haven't heard of Mainstar because they haven't been big on marketing (at least outside the US). However, the company now feels that it really needs to be bring attention to the problem of catalog breakage to the wider market, as it poses such a threat to all mainframe-based high availability systems. Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com Related stories Symantec eyeing Veritas for $13bn - report IBM CICS legacy at the heart of SOA CA intros usage pricing for mainframes
Philip Howard, 15 Dec 2004
homeless man with sign

Q3 chip stockpile bigger than thought - researcher

The value of all the unsold semiconductors sitting in the electronics supply chain during Q3 proved higher than expected, market watcher iSuppli said yesterday. The result: chip makers are cutting the number of wafers they put on their production lines and are reviewing capital expenditure plans going forward, the researcher added. In October, iSuppli forecast that the excess inventory in the channel in Q3 would total $1.1bn. Two months on, and with more accurate data at its disposal, the company upped its final figure to $1.6bn, up 103 per cent from Q2's $800m total. Almost 90 per cent of that stockpile was to found sitting in chip manufacturers' warehouses. The rest was held by product manufacturers and distributors. It's the latter two groups' attempts to reduce their own inventories that have caused the world's chip makers such trouble during Q3 and Q4 this year. iSuppli estimates Q4's excess stock value to total $1.5bn, down just 6.3 per cent on the previous quarter and the second-highest inventory value since Q2 2002, when inventory ballooned to $2.5bn, dwarfing even Q3's figure. "In order to counteract inventory build-ups and collapsing lead times, suppliers are pulling back on production," iSuppli said. Orders for new chip-making equipment and wafer-starts will decrease this quarter, the company forecast, and fall further in 2005. "Utilisation at the major foundries also will plunge over the next two quarters," it warned. Earlier this month, iSuppli downgraded its forecast for world chip sales in 2005, with growth over 2004's total falling from its previous prediction of 9.6 per cent to 4.7 per cent. Less bullish researchers, like IDC, are forecasting a decline in sales next year, as the inventory correction continues to depress demand for new semiconductors. How long the correction will last remains unclear, with some forecasters looking to improvements by the end of Q1 2005 and others not anticipating an upturn until Q3. ® Related stories iSuppli cuts 2005 chip sales growth target World chip sales to fall next year - analyst World chip sales edge up in October Intel's Barrett looks for chip sales growth in '05 Chip biz slowdown to stretch through Q1 '05 Chip makers' efforts fail to cut excess inventory
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2004

Europe kicks UK out of biometric passport club

Europe's Council of Ministers has given the green light to mandatory biometrics on passports but, strangely enough, has refused to let biometric-mad Britain join in. This leaves the country that's keenest to tag the whole of its population as one of the few members of the EU that won't have to fingerprint all its citizens from 2008. Theoretically. Refused leave to opt in to the measures, the UK issued a tetchy unilateral statement saying: "The United Kingdom recalls that, under the Protocols on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland and on integrating the Schengen acquis into the framework of the European Union, it has the right to take part in the adoption of this measure. It regrets that it has been denied that right. "The adoption of this measure is without prejudice to the United Kingdom's legal position, and its right to take such steps in accordance with that position as it considers necessary." The position as of the Council decision on Monday is that the EU now has a standard for security features and biometrics in passports, with a couple of exceptions, notably the UK, Ireland and Denmark. The European standards are being brought in in 18 months time for facial biometric, and three years fingerprint, and the participating countries will cooperate on the development and implementation of these standards. The UK meanwhile is set to collect more biometrics than the EU requires, facial, fingerprint and iris, on more people (the whole population, rather than just passport, although the EU is planning standards for ID cards). But the UK passport could conceivably diverge from the EU one in terms of standards, and the UK could even be vulnerable to legal challenges from Brussels, both on how it proposes to deal with registration other EU citizens, and on the database aspects of the ID scheme. The weird scenario of Europe declining to force the UK, despite the UK's express wishes, to fingerprint everybody appears to arise because of the UK's special position regarding the Schengen Treaty, which was intended in part to progressively dismantle internal border controls. The UK and Ireland participate in the law enforcement and judicial cooperation aspects of Schengen, but not in those relating to frontiers. And security and biometrics of passports relate to frontiers. Legal considerations probably underpin the Council's decision to exclude the UK. A Statewatch legal analysis recently suggested that the passports regulation exceeds the EU's powers, while an open letter to the European Parliament from Privacy International, European Digital Rights and Statewatch called for Parliament to oppose the creation of a Europe-wide database, to reject mandatory fingerprinting and to reserve the right to question the legality of the measure. The Council pressured Parliament to accept the regulation, but as adopted by the Council it states that the biometric features should only be used to verify the authenticity of the document and "the identity of the holder by means of directly available comparable features when the passport or other travel documents are required to be produced by law." This is not as tough as the Parliament would have wanted, but still - at least for now - rules out the network check the UK Government intends to use for the ID scheme. Even in the case of identity cards, the UK may find itself out on a limb when the EU starts to define standards. Again, there is significant opposition to links to databases here, and the UK's views on privacy and data protection could easily diverge from any consensus Europe arrives at. On the way into the ID scheme David Blunkett boasted that the UK would be in the lead (more than a little reckless, considering how good we aren't at implementing bleeding edge systems), but at the moment it looks rather more like the UK is moving out onto a limb. It may be possible to negotiate some kind of deal that gets the UK back into the EU passport mainstream, but the divergence now serves to indicate that the Blair Government's view of Brussels as some kind of legislative pick and mix where we can take the stuff we like and leave the rest, is unsustainable. The UK Government's explanation of the way forward to the UK Parliament, should it have one, will prove interesting. ® Related links: Blunkett, Blair and the wonderful world of EU opt ins Privacy International Statewatch European Digital Rights
John Lettice, 15 Dec 2004

Sony PSP takes off on schedule

Although Sony's PlayStation Portable will sell this year in such small numbers, expected to be around 500,000 in total, and as such could have no real effect on Sony's numbers for 2004, the PSP still had the potential to adversely affect the company's share price. If no one had wanted the device in its native Japan, Sony would have been staring at a 2005 devoid of a big profit maker. Instead, when shops selling the device opened in Japan his week, there were long queues, and inside a day the first production run of 200,000 was more or less sold out. This still doesn't give us a clue about whether or not Sony has displaced Nintendo as the favorite handheld games device, and it would be unfair to expect that to be clear one way or another until well into the second half of 2005 when they are no longer manufacturing-constrained. But Sony has avoided its first banana skin in a new market. It is more than likely that Sony will hit its 3m device sales in the first quarter that it is aiming for and Nintendo DS will hit its 5m sales by the same timeframe, having come out slightly earlier. But there is already chat on Internet sites which suggests that gamers like the PSP more than the DS, so anything could happen. The PSP supports MP3 playback for music, video playback using tiny DVD-style disks, USB and Wi-Fi links and gaming close to the quality of a PS2, all for around $180. 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 Sony selects 25 March 05 for Euro PSP launch Nintendo lauds 500,000 first-week DS sales Sony coughs to PS2 shortage
Faultline, 15 Dec 2004

Polyglot virus is Xmas party pooper

An email worm which poses as a Christmas greeting began spreading widely yesterday. Zafi-D comes as an infectious attachment to emails written in a variety of different languages, including English, Spanish, Russian, Swedish and Hungarian. Anti-virus firms believe the worm was created in Hungary. Typically infected emails have subject lines such as 'FW: Merry Christmas', 'Happy HollyDays!' and 'Feliz Navidad!'. Embedded inside each email is a crude animated GIF graphic of two 'smiley' faces. The attachment name is made up of the word "postcard" in the respective language, random numbers and the extension .pif, .cmd, .bat, or .com. Windows users who open the attached file get infected. Zafi-D harvests email addresses from compromised machines and uses its own SMTP engine to spread. It also attempts to spread through P2P networks. It attempts to terminate firewall and anti-virus apps on infected machines. Several Windows tools, like Task Manager and Registry Editor, are disabled when the worm is active. Even worse, Zafi-D has also a back door that listens on port 8181. Crackers can upload and execute files using this backdoor, which turns infected machines into zombies. Anti-virus firm MessageLabs has blocked over 25,000 copies of Zafi-D. The multilingual nature of Zafi-D (the original Zafi used only Hungarian text) helps to explain its relative success in spreading. Most anti-virus firms rate Zafi-D as a medium to high risk threat. Standard defensive precautions apply: avoid opening unsolicited attachments, even when they appear to come from people you trust; update AV tools to detect the worm. If you think your PCs might be infected by Zafi or another virus then our guide to cleaning up PCs may come in handy. ® Related stories Zafi-b speaks in many tongues Virus 'talks' to victims Slack users blamed for virus longevity The strange death of the mass mailing virus
John Leyden, 15 Dec 2004

Businesses failing to recognise cybercrime dangers

Small businesses are still failing to recognise the dangers of cybercrime, according to new research. A report, by Bibby Financial Services, reveals that small business owners are leaving themselves exposed to computer viruses and hackers, and risking major disruption to their daily operations. Despite the fact that small businesses are willing to embrace new technologies (78 per cent now have Internet access), 12 per cent of respondents still have no anti-virus software in place to protect valuable data. This is in spite of the fact that 43 per cent of the country's small firms have been affected by a computer virus at some time. Increasing cases of cybercrime costs European business £14.7bn to clean up and recover, while virus outbreaks can cost businesses an average of 5000 to resolve. David Robertson, chief executive at Bibby, said: "It is disappointing that while small firms are willing to invest in new technology, a significant minority are still unaware of how vulnerable access to the internet can leave them. "This year has seen more viruses than ever before and they are becoming increasingly severe. Purchasing the latest state-of-the-art laptop or connecting to broadband is not enough, business owners and managers need to put IT security at the top of their business agenda." Copyright © 2004, Related stories Tektrol's worst case scenario Online extortion works Gimme clean bandwidth
Startups.co.uk, 15 Dec 2004

Dutch raid eDonkey sites, seize servers

Dutch anti-piracy organisation BREIN, along with FIOD-ECD (Economic Inspection Service of the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service), has raided two popular sites in the Netherlands that offered links to allegedly copyright-infringing content. FIOD-ECD has arrested eight people and seized eleven servers. The two sites, ShareConnector and Releases4u, offered thousands of movies, games and music files to 50,000 registered users. However, they only contained links to PCs hosted by users of the popular P2P service eDonkey and not any content themselves. BREIN says it had talks with the people behind the sites for some time, but they refused to take them down. "We simply ran out of patience," Tim Kuik, director of BREIN, said. BREIN will not only press charges against the owners of the sites and also against Dutch hosting provider Mindlab, which according to Kuik didn't want to co-operate, either. The Dutch raids coincide with actions of the Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA) against server operators of BitTorrent, eDonkey and DirectConnect sites in Finland and France. ® Related stories SuprNova.org ends, not with a bang but a whimper The BitTorrent P2P file-sharing system - in-depth academic study MPAA to serve lawsuits on BitTorrent servers Finnish police raid BitTorrent site, arrest 34 Cryptography Research wants piracy speed bump on HD DVDs German police to take 16,000 warez buyers to court The Supremes prep for P2P battle royal
Jan Libbenga, 15 Dec 2004

Dell UK stung by bungled server sale

Dell UK is facing stinging criticism from customers after they accused the giant PC maker of bungling the sale of a heavily discounted server last week. Punters are angry that the giant PC outfit failed to keep them informed about the sale even when it was clear that it had been over-subscribed. Some buyers have told The Register that customer care told them repeatedly that their order was being processed - only to be informed later that the sale would not go ahead. Others are angry that Dell took almost a week to tell them that their orders had been rejected while some claim that Dell's ordering system and customer support was in chaos. Last week, the giant PC maker offered a Dell PowerEdge 1600 SC server for £99 and was flooded with orders. Unconfirmed reports suggest as many as 4000 orders were placed in just a few hours as punters latched on to the discount offer. While many received "Internet receipts" acknowledging their orders, people became concerned when they failed to receive order confirmations. Said one enraged customer: "Last week a number of us placed an order on an offer that appeared on the Dell web site. This offer was valid until the 15th or when stocks ran out, and limited to two servers per order. Orders were placed and we received emails from Dell giving us our internet receipt numbers. "Unfortunately, after a few days of our Internet receipt numbers not working we got impatient and so rang Dell. The reply on this was that there was a pricing error and that all the orders made have been cancelled, although some people are being told that there is no problem and they should receive their confirmation soon. "No one at Dell seems to know what's going on, and after handing over card details and receiving official Dell emails with no true answer to what is going on, our confidence in Dell's online ordering system is very rocky. We all seem to have been left in the dark by Dell, without even an email to say 'sorry there was an error and the orders have been cancelled, and that the card details that I provided will not be charged to'." The story is the same elsewhere. Another disgruntled customer told us that a lot of people have been "let down" by the company: "Dell got great publicity last week for having a stock of servers which they sold off very cheap. Our orders got cancelled as they were out of stock. We had to contact them before we discovered our order was cancelled - it wasn't them who had the decency to contact us." Another said: "I am one of the 'lucky' people who managed to place an order for the £99 Dell servers last Thursday - for which I received an Internet receipt. This morning [Tuesday, 15 December], after being given the run-around by Dell it transpires that my order has either been cancelled/never existed/refused by my credit card. This has left me feeling very cross. "If Dell had just written to me saying 'We oversold - sorry' I would have [accepted it was] just luck of the draw, but they didn't contact me at all and then actively lied to me when I finally got in touch with them." Today, in an email to would-be buyers, Dell finally explained that "due to unprecedented demand on the day the offer was launched we have sold out of this product and will not be accepting or further processing your request to purchase this product. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused". However, this explanation and apology came too late for many. And The Register is still waiting to hear back from Dell to find out how many orders were placed, how many PowerEdge servers were on offer, how many people have been let down - and why it took Dell so long to resolve this cock-up. ® Related stories Dell eclipses Sun in server sales Consumers shun PCs for gizmos Dell booms in record Q3 Dell to build second factory in Europe
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 2004
Broken CD with wrench

Wireless broadband comes to South Korea

South Korea this week launched a trial run of WiBro, a locally developed wireless technology standard with transmission speeds of around 1Mbps - several times faster than current wireless technologies. More importantly, mobile reception is possible at 60kph in the range of 2.3GHz frequency bandwidth, so passengers can watch TV or surf the Net while on the road. The state-owned Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) showcased the system and several prototype terminals in Daejeon on Monday. However, commercial launch isn't expected until 2006 as the development of mobile terminals hasn't been completed yet. The Ministry of Information and Communication is to issue three licences next February, most likely to SK Telecom, KT and Hanaro Telecom, who participate in the trials, along with Samsung. The Ministry believes the new high-speed wireless broadband service will attract 9.3m subscribers over six years. Meanwhile, Intel agreed to secure compatibility between WiBro and WiMAX. The chip company is leading the next-generation wireless Internet protocol, described as "Wi-Fi on steroids". CEO Craig Barrett met with LG Electronics vice chairman Kim Ssang-soo Monday to discuss co-operation in wireless Internet business. ® Related stories The post-PC era is upon us T-Mobile widens UK airport Wi-Fi cover Tunable surfaces prevent Wi-Fi leaks WiMAX to steal 3G and DSL market share Libera shifts from 28GHz to WiMAX Gigabit Wi-Fi looms large
Jan Libbenga, 15 Dec 2004

Ratty pilots worry sci-fi fans

LettersLetters If volume of letters is a reliable guide (and we are not saying it is) then the most important story of the last two week was the discovery that neural cells from a rat could fly a fighter jet. Naturally this news has alarmed many of you. Judgment Day is upon us, and it has whiskers: Eh....hello....."Battlestar Galactica" anyone?? Am I the ONLY one who sees where this research is going?? I say we ban the proto-cylons now before it's too late!! Alun Oh great! As if we didn't have problems enough with machines (cyberloo's, talking trash bins, Italian villages going up in smoke), now they are hooking up rat brains to flight simulators. Next they'll have them flying Predator drones armed with missles. Just what I want in my neighborhood. Time to get the shotgun.... Cheers, John Others were more worried by the zoological confusion that evidently overcame our picture desk: Greetings, Yes, I still appreciate The Register's high standards in journalism. This is just a bit of a nitpick. On your front page today, beside the leader for the story about the rat brain/jet simulator, is a tiny picture of a rodent. But looking closely (it's hard to tell with a 48x48 image...), it appears to be a Syrian hamster, not a rat. And a cute hamster, at that :). If, in future, you need a photo of a rat, let me know -- I've got a site full of them :). Cheers, Charles WRT your article "Rat brain flies jet", although the prospect of a rat one day flying aircraft instead of humans fills me with wonder and awe, i believe that you may have mistaken one rodent for another... In case you ever have a problem identifying rodents again, hamsters are cute and stuff food into their cheeks. Whereas rats are evil and viscious (and if cornered will go for your neck if my father is to believed). Nick Further to this very interesting field of research, I wonder if Reg readers could build a list of 'brain to job type' that the researchers may find useful in furthering their scientific study. I'm sure these obvious and perhaps cliche' starters may help to set the ball rolling: Accountant - weasel or stoat brain Human resources personal - dung beetle Manager - hmm amoeba proteus?? Steve ¿Robin, por qué usted puso el animal incorrecto en el cuadro? No es una rata, él es un hámster. Respeto, Gary Conventional synthetic neural networks `train' responses to stimuli by back propagating errors (adjustments to weighted values for each individual neuron) by a mathmetical computation known as the back propagation of errors. Its filling in the gaps, mathematically, for a process we do biologically that we refer to as trial and error or learning. Our learning is the result of continued activity along neural pathways via the senses. I am intrigued how a mass of cells with no sensory input (or did I miss something) managed to translate binary code into ionic impuses along a neural network that trained resistance and flow for certain stimuli - perhaps you could fill in the gaps and athe whole issue of biologicla and artifical connectismn. If you can I'll put the nobel prize in the post Michael There's always one, isn't there... This should have them quaking in the Departmant of Homeland Paranoia. With the breakdown of basic services in Iraq, there must be an endless stream of rats ready to be signed up by Al Qaeda. You can see the headlines coming: "Dead Rat flies jet into White House". Buy shares in warfarin... Nick We discovered last week that wifi broadband can be terminally disrupted by the wrong kind of tinsel. Much seasonal laughter ensued. Further to your excellent Brighton wireless report Each time my office florescent overhead lamp is turned on/off the Apple airport USB Canon printer resets and frequently our Mac losses printer capability. Curiously as you report. Remedy is to remove and reinsert the USB connector from the printer. Corrects the problem. Thanks to you and The Register - my daily read in frozen but warm people - Canada. Happy tinsel time ;-) (But is it the reason for the season?) GrandpaChris I had spent all morning on the 'phone to BT and Plusnet. Other than increasing my bloodpressure not much was achieved in resolving my ADSL problem where, for the last two days, it had been going up and down more rapidly that a Government minister's bottom. The only thing they could agree on was that it was the other parties fault! Having read your article I called my wife to try switching off the lights as a last resort - within 20 seconds all was working perfectly and has remained that way. So I have learnt two things: 1) Believe everything you read on the Register 2) I am a cheapskate and only buy cheap decorations. Duane Dibley "It has come to BT's attention that an extremely small percentage of seasonal lighting, which can be used both internally and externally..." Mmmm. Kinky. Guy Ooo, behave... You are a cynical lot you are. Microsoft's plans to deal with Nimda-style outbreaks have not impressed: I wonder what NAP's default behavior is going to be when sniffing around the network it comes across a non-MS OS to talk to. Oooh, say Linux perhaps. The Microsoft of old would have used this 'opportunity' to do more than a little mischief. "Sorry Mr Customer, but NAP only talks to secure Operating Systems running NAP, and we don't consider Linux to be one of those. How about we offer you a free copy of Windows to replace it with? For your security and peace of mind, of cause." John >> allows admins to restrict access to networks to machines without >> up-to-date OS patches << So it'll stop EDS trying to update Win2k machines with XP as well, will it ? Regards, Mike Suggestion to Microsoft : Adding supplier support to Yet Another OS scheme is about as useful as putting bullet-proof windows and forgetting to replace the wooden latch on the door. No amount of security measures will have any possible positive impact if Outlook continues to run any script from any source whatsoever without restraint, or if IE continues to accept any and all commands to do whatever just happens to be the attack flavor of the day. I dare say you'd have less to do to secure the OS if you simply locked down Outlook and IE. Make it impossible to read the address book from external code, or to execute local code, and make it impossible for ActiveX to read/write the disk, and security will suddenly become a lot more real. Such a simple thing to do, yet it will probably never be done. Oh well, continue piling the sandbags, Microsoft. It is not a total loss - at least you're giving work to thousands of anti-virus people. Pascal. More statistical griping, this time prompted by the survey that revealed women are more likely to keep one PIN for all their cards: Hmmm 500 people, so 250 men & 250 women. Hardly to be called a statistical representative group. Unless Britons are more uniform than the Dutch. I guess that when you make the split between people who are by their daily business more aware of security, you'll see the woman involved in the research are more likely to be in the unaware group. Like about double compared to men. That would explain the difference. From my practice I've seen sys admins - who should be security minded if anyone - write down password and PINs and stick them in trivial places like the bottom of a keyboard or their wallet. And most sys admins are male. Ed As a man I am loath to give women credit over men but is it possible that women are the one who have worked out how to change their pin numbers and men just accept the numbers given to them? Chris When I saw the title "Women are crap with PIN numbers," I clicked the link to expecting to see something to confirm that women were lesser than us. Instead, I find you saying that "Two thirds of the women questioned used the same PIN for all their cards. Only one in three men adopted the same practice." This is extremely disturbing because you see I do the same too. When you put a sexist title for an article please take care. Chauvinists like me deserve better. One-third is a significant majority. Many heads of state have been elected to position with less. Moral Volcano Is there any chance of organising a campaign to have all people who use the odious phrase 'PIN Number' taken outside, stripped naked, sprayed with ice-cold water and repeatedly beaten with a rubber hose until they get it through their heads that PIN means Personal Identification Number? Nick The OFT's plans to look into allegations of overcharging by British supermarkets did not go down well with one reader: I have to scratch a bit of a personal itch here, as the 'items close to their sell-by date' rang a little bell in my head. I worked in a supermarket for several years and the most irritating customers, bar none, are the sods who go to the milk section, drag out all the bottles of milk at the front, dump them all over the cabinet, and take one at the back because it's got a later sell-by date. There's a bloody good reason the ones at the front have an earlier sell-by date, and it's called 'stock rotation'. If everyone did the same thing supermarkets would either a) never sell half their stock of milk and the price would shoot up, or b) they'd only put out batches with the same date on, which is a pain to manage and means the shelves would be empty half the time (cue sarcastic-voiced complaints from the same bloody customers). I hate to burst the bubbles of whichever picky gits are complaining, but a sell-by date is a sell-by date. So long as it's not arrived yet, they've got no grounds to complain. If the sell-by date is 10 December and they get it on the 9th, then guess what? That's fine. Unofficial motto of supermarket workers the nation over - the customer's never bloody right. Adam W Well, Adam, there is no point buying milk today just for it to turn into cheese tomorrow. And please don't scratch in public. We don't want to see that... A US survey found that musicians are rather less worried about illegal filesharing than their record company masters: Is there any reason to look at musicians or record labels or governments concerning the future of music? Besided farfetched ideas like taxing everyone for authors rights, or technically blocking filesharing, or a major government crackdown on filesharing, the story is basically dead as a dodo. So instead of reporting another round of lawsuits, or another opinion or bundling of opinions, why not report on the consequenses? Christmas is coming, and I want to see suffering recently-fired record company employees. I want to see CEO's jumping off rooftops. I want to see starving musicians peddling their ass for designer drugs. Show me the internal memos. Show me the audits. show me the pain. Cause the industry that gave us the spice girls deserves to bleed Paul The article states: "Selling material without the creator's permission is broadly regarded as wrong ..." I believe that there is a typographical error in that quote. The quote should probably read as "Selling material without The Creator's permission ... ". The record labels and the RIAA surely would not accept the authority of any lesser power. If The Creator is willing to spend some time doing pro bono work in this field then this could be good news for mystics and psychic channelers. We might have a problem getting The Creator to show up in court when requested, though. Kevin Lastly, a kind of thought for the day: I noticed the following minor typo in today's John Leyden article, - I guess the following should read 'used extensively by'. 'have been used by extensively cyber-criminals this year' Please don't think I'm in the habit of emailing people to point this kind of thing out. It just struck me that 'The Register. Extensively cyber' would go rather well on t-shirts. Regards, Tim We're not in the habit of running letters about typos, Tim, but we liked the idea of being extensively cyber, too. Not sure about the T-Shirts, but you never know. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Dec 2004

Business PCs riddled with porn

Workplace porn in the UK is rife. More than 70 per cent of firms have disciplined staff in the last two years as a result of workers viewing pornographic images on company PCs, a survey published this week reveals. The study by computer image detection firm PixAlert in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also found more than half (54 per cent) of UK managers were unaware of legal responsibilities over illegal and inappropriate images in the workplace. Two in three of the companies surveyed failed to keep their 'Computer Acceptable Usage Policy' up to date, exposing them to potential criminal or civil claims. A majority of companies used at least some URL blocking or censorware apps, but nearly 70 per cent have not installed technology capable of identifying improper images. Imogen Haslam, CIPD Professional Adviser, said: "Many people may view some inappropriate computer images as a bit of harmless fun. But this is not just about sparing blushes. A culture where some dodgy pictures are tolerated can all too easily create the environment where far more offensive or even illegal images can find their way into an organisation – by accident or otherwise." She said that human resource departments needs to work closely with IT to make sure that the systems are in place to monitor and enforce policies. "Employers need to have clear, consistent policies that leave no room for doubt in the minds of employees and keep up to date with the rapidly advancing array of technology that can make it easy for unwanted images to slip into the workplace unnoticed. This should not be left to the IT department alone. It’s not computers that bring inappropriate or illegal images to work, it is people," she added. The PixAlert/CIPD Annual Survey assembled the responses of IT and human resource directors at over 200 medium to large-sized UK organisations from both the public and private sectors. ® Related stories Looked at porn? The boss can't just fire you (if you're Dutch) P45s for Porn Surfers Net misuse costs corporate America $2,000 per second HP confirms 150 suspended in email porn probe Merseyside council suspends five in porn probe Porn probe at Ford plant Porn site chief in $38m credit card scam
John Leyden, 15 Dec 2004

Excite rises again like a turkey from the ashes

Remember Excite? With the logo where the X looks like a dancing bloke? Well, it is trying again, for the third time, to recapture its dotcom boom glory - this time with a Webmail service. "Get your old Excite-address back or register a new address with Inbox Excite," is Excite UK's fresh pitch. Excite Europe's business development manager Dr Bernhard Berger told us more: "We finally wanted to offer to our users the possibility to register their favourite Excite usernames - which are in many cases those usernames they had lost when Excite@Home terminated its operations. "There have been around 1,000,000 Excite Inbox users then," he continued, "and we are glad to provide a chance for everyone who once had an Excite account to get it back now." Unfortunately "have been" are very much the key words here. Excite has had a torrid time since its first inception and despite constant efforts to revive the "brand" (after all, Excite is a good name for a Net company), this looks like not so much a phoenix but a Christmas turkey rising from the ashes. Dr Berger is quite honest about its modest aims. "We are just at the beginning - so please judge the product for what it is: a solid and basic beta, with a regularly sized storage (10MB) and a clear focus on core functionality. For now, the task was to provide a robust and user-friendly web-mail client. During the next months we are going to add numerous features, and we are convinced that our users are going to appreciate all the things we have got in our production pipeline for them." But with the kind of bad luck that only such a troubled company can muster, Excite has launched a limited Webmail service right in the middle of a Webmail revolution sparked by Google's decision to turn the entire market on its head by offering 1GB of free storage on Gmail. Microsoft is responding heavily, as is Yahoo and just about every other big Internet name. Excite has come running out of the trenches, rifle in hand, ready to get stuck back in just as the tanks have arrived. We wish it all the best, but Excite has missed the boat and it needs to stop reliving its glory days and come up with a radically different approach to selling the Excite name. A brief history of Excite's woes Excite@Home was formed by three US cable companies - Tele-Communications, Cox and Comcast just as the Internet was taking off. It worked well until AT&T got hold of Tele-Communications' share and started using the company for its own ends. Numerous boardrooms battles broke out, with AT&T inevitably winning out and taking control of the company before running it into the ground and taking all the parts of it that it wanted. The dotcom boom frontrunner filed bankruptcy in October 2001. In the UK, the parent Excite company had joined with BT's ISP arm BT Openworld to create Excite UK. But as soon as Excite@Home went into bankruptcy, BT decided it would go its own route. The company died. But was then reborn eight months later in July 2002 when ruthless aggregator Tiscali relaunched it as a portal. Since then, Tiscali has put almost no investment into the company with the net result that it has all but disappeared off the radar screen. Tiscali still owns 100 per cent of Excite UK but Dr Berger assures us it operates quite independently. Without significant investment and some radical innovative ideas though, such independence is worthless. ® Related stories Google blocks Gmail exploit Tiscali to launch Excite across Europe Excite to exit UK unless buyer found
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2004

NASA throws Deep Impact spacecraft at comet

NASA has is to send a probe on a collision course with a comet's nucleus to find out more about the composition and history of the bodies. The mission, dubbed "Deep Impact", launches from Florida on 12 January and will arrive at its destination, the comet Tempel 1, six months later, on 4 July. It will then deploy a probe - a 360kg, metre-long, cylindrical projectile - that will collide with the comet at around 37,000 kph. Scientists hope that the space craft will create a crater in the surface of the comet, and so allow them a glimpse of the interior. It is possible, however, that the probe will merely be destroyed on impact (it is designed to be) without damaging the comet at all. The probe will carry a camera to capture images of the comet's surface as it approaches, but the mothership will be nearby, recording events. "We will be capturing the whole thing on the most powerful camera to fly in deep space," said Dr. Michael A'Hearn, Deep Impact's principal investigator and astronomy professor at the University of Maryland. "We know so little about the structure of cometary nuclei that we need exceptional equipment to ensure that we capture the event, whatever the details of the impact turn out to be." Deep Impact follows the launch of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. This mission aims to land on the surface of a comet and conduct a number of experiments, including analysis of the composition of the comet, and the interaction of the comet with the solar wind. NASA's mission was originally scheduled to launch this month, but an equipment review found some faults that needed correction. It is schedule to depart on 12 January, but the launch window lasts a bit longer, and the mission will be able to go ahead up until 28 January. ® Related stories Burt Rutan takes a V2-powered wander down memory lane Ariane 5 powers satellite into orbit Mysterious Phoebe: Cassini's next fly-by Comet chasers seek secret of life
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Dec 2004

Atheros unveils 'world first' Wi-Fi access-point-on-a-chip

Access points for 802.11g wireless networks should become even cheaper next year after WLAN chip maker Atheros begins full-scale production of what it claims is the world's first 'base-station on a chip' product. The AR5006AP-G is pitched a both home- and enterprise-oriented wireless access points and gateways. It contains the MAC, PHY and baseband and network processing components usually implemented on at least two separate chips. That, claimed Atheros, will reduce access point makers bill-of-materials by "almost" 20 per cent. The product also makes it more practical and cost-effective to incorporate WLAN support into a range of other devices, the company said, such as media and print servers, and hard-drive storage devices. The AR5006AP-G supports standard 802.11g Wi-Fi, along with the WPA and WPA 2 (ie. IEEE 802.11i) security standards, though it has yet to receive formal certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance for WPA. The product also incorporates the draft 802.11e quality of service specification. It also supports Atheros' Super G speed and XR range proprietary enhancements to the 802.11g standard. The new part is Atheros' third single-chip product introduction. Earlier this year, it unveiled the world's first 802.11g and 802.11a/g one-chip offerings. Atheros is currently sampling the AR5006AP-G, with volume production expected in Q1 2005. List price for the AR5006AP-G is below $13 in 10,000-unit quantities. ® Related stories Atheros unveils 'world first' 802.11a/b/g chip IEEE approves Japanese Wi-Fi spec Wi-Fi group says 'no' to pre-standard 802.11n kit Wi-Fi Alliance unveils media streaming quality tech Wi-Fi group updates security system Wi-Fi Alliance acts on dodgy wireless kit Atheros updates Wi-Fi speed booster tech
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2004

iRiver N10 512MB Flash MP3 player

ReviewReview With so many MP3 players available on the market, manufacturers now need to come up with ever more ingenious ways to entice you into choosing their players over the competition. For some, the temptation to be too wacky has become irresistible. An example: iRiver with the N10. But wackiness aside, does the player make the grade? asks Stuart Miles. While we are more concerned with the product than the packaging, in the case of the N10 it has to be taken into account. Styled to look like the latest bottle of perfume from a French fashion house, the N10 tries to set the mood from the beginning. Take it out of the box and the first thing you'll notice is that you are encouraged to wear this device like a necklace around your neck. Headphones are built into a rubber necklace with the MP3 player the pendant. At 6.2 x 2.7 x 1.3cm and 24g, it's small and light enough. The idea is a novel one, but are we really expected to wear our music players like they were jewellery? But the euro-pop image doesn't stop there - included in the box is a strange sweatband bracelet we still can't work out how to use. Not that we want to use it - it's at least 20 years out of fashion and hasn't come back in again. Of course, for the more sensible among us, the player comes with a replacement cap that means the unit can be pocketed. Style-wise, the device manages to carry it off and the display is hidden behind a mirrored screen glowing turquoise. The screen offers all the usual data: song title, time, battery life and so on. Get past the styling and the unit offers MP3 and WMA support. Transferring songs to and from the player to a PC is done through a USB connection, though annoyingly you have to do this via the iRiver music software. The CD, in keeping with the fashion-setting box and player, is business card-shaped and this incompatible with slot-loading drives. Luckily, the software is downloadable. The player itself comes in 128MB, 256MB and 512MB versions, and according to iRiver, has a 12-hour battery life. Our tests revealed this to be an accurate claim. IRiver says its secret is because the backlit LCD doesn't require much power, either way it means that it should last you a week of commuting to work five days a week. Verdict At the outset, the N10 is a player for the fashion-conscious and unfortunately the price reflects this. Why you would pay more money than a 5GB MP3 player for a 512MB MP3 player is beyond us. Yes, it's cute, but let's be serious about it, are you really going to waltz down the High Street wearing £200 of player around your neck? We doubt it very much.   iRiver N10   Rating 70%   Pros — Small and discreet.   Cons — Very European in its fashion sense.   Price £200   More info The iRiver N10 site Related Reviews Creative Zen Micro 5GB music player Kodak EasyShare DX7590 ATI Radeon Xpress 200G reference board Nokia 6670 smart phone Leadtek WinFast PX6600TD GeForce 6600 card Sony Vaio U70P Wi-Fi micro PC ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition Sony Cyber-shot DSC P150 Sapphire Hybrid X700 Pro graphics card
Pocket Lint, 15 Dec 2004

NEC licenses Honeywell LCD tech

Honeywell's legal action against 34 electronics and computing companies for allegedly infringing one of its LCD patents has yielded its first public licensing agreement. NEC's LCD division this week said it had acquired the right to use technology outlined in US patent number 5,280,371, which Honeywell filed in 1992. The financial terms underpinning the deal were not disclosed. The patent covers a LCD's "directional diffuser" - the filter used in many LCDs to increase the angles at which the screen can be viewed. It's a technique used throughout the LCD world, across a range of devices, such as notebook PCs, LCD monitors and TVs, PDAs, mobile phones, digital cameras and so on. Not surprisingly, given the wide use of diffraction systems, Honeywell has already licensed its IP to major LCD manufacturers, including Samsung and LG Philips Honeywell launched its legal action in October, targeting 34 companies, including Dell, Apple, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Fujitsu, Sony and Toshiba. ® Related stories 34 tech firms sued for alleged LCD patent theft RIM infringed NTP patents, appeal court rules Sony, Samsung agree to share toys E-pass defeats HP, MS' case dismissal demand Toshiba takes Hynix to task in patent clash Graphics patent holder sues Sony, MS, Nintendo Dell sued for alleged global sales patent abuse LG, Matsushita trade lawsuits in PDP patent clash Nvidia accused of patent violation
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2004

Nvidia apes ATI to revive mid-1990s AGP feature

Nvidia today introduced its first graphics chip with TurboCache - the company's answer to ATI's HyperMemory technology, itself little more than feature taken from the original mid-1990s AGP specification. Nvidia's new chip is a version of its existing mainstream GeForce 6200 PCI Express chip that incorporates TurboCash. The 110nm part supports DDR SDRAM across a 128-bit memory bus and like other GeForce 6-class GPUs provides DirectX 9 Shader Model 3.0 programmability. TurboCash allows the GPU to use the host PC's main memory as graphics RAM, sparing the need to connect the chip to local a SDRAM buffers. Like ATI's HyperMemory, TurboCash essentially brings to PCI Express an option provided by the AGP specification. Touted as one of AGP's key strengths over the original PCI bus, the ability to use system RAM was rarely used at the time. According to Nvidia, the result is a 60 per cent increase in performance as measured using 3DMark03. Interestingly, it doesn't compare the 6200 TC with the regular 6200, but runs it against an ATI Radeon X300 SE, so it's impossible to see what benefit TurboCash provides exactly. One benefit has nothing to do with benchmarks: makers of entry-level PCs can save money by omitting dedicated VRAM from their designs. We're not at all sure how that ensures "TurboCache will deliver the award-winning feature set found on current-generation high-end GPUs to the value segment of the PC market", as one Nvidia marketing mouth puts it. TurboCash aside, the 6200 TC has the same feature set as the regular 6200 - or is Nvidia saying TurboCash gives a performance boost to match all the extra pixel pipelines the 6200 lacks? We don't think so... GeForce 6200 GPUs with TurboCash are shipping now and graphics cards are anticipated to be available from leading add-in card manufacturers and in systems from leading PC OEMs in January 2005. ® Related stories Nvidia to unveil 'nForce for Intel' Q1 05 Nvidia beats Street with Q3 sales hike Nvidia pushes GeForce 6200 at value end Samsung samples 512Mb GDDR 3 part Nvidia pushes GeForce 6200 at value end ATI trounces Nvidia in desktop, mobile, integrated markets ATI rolls out X300, X800 mobile GPUs ATI HyperMemory revives little-used AGP 2x feature
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2004

Nintendo preps DS media module

Nintendo's DS looks certain to outsell Sony's PlayStation Portable, but Nintendo is clearly so worried about its rival that it is already announcing an upgrade that will bring PSP-style music and movie features to its own handheld console. Next February, Nintendo will ship an add-on module that provides music and video playback, the company said today. The ¥5000 ($48) adaptor will work with any MPEG 4 video and MP3 audio files stored on a DS memory card. Sony always touted the PSP as a mobile media unit as well as a games console, whereas Nintendo, as you'd expect from its previous efforts in the handheld gaming arena, has always focused on portable play. Interestingly, the addition of the new adaptor will not only bring to the DS the kind of media support the PSP enjoys, but will up its effective price to that of the PSP. In Japan the DS retails for around ¥15,000, the PSP for ¥19,800. Nintendo launched the DS in Japan on 2 December - ten days before Sony's PSP went on sale in that country. The DS is already on sale in the US, though the PSP is unlikely to ship officially over there much before the end of Q1 2005. That's the anticipated timeframe for both consoles' European debuts. ® Related stories Sony PSP takes off on schedule Nvidia nabs PS3 graphics contract Sony selects 25 March 05 for Euro PSP launch Nintendo lauds 500,000 first-week DS sales Nintendo to spill Euro DS plans in January Nintendo aims high with low-cost console Infinium chases further funding for Phantom Graphics patent holder sues Sony, MS, Nintendo
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2004

Microsoft halted in phonetic domain crusade

Microsoft has been knocked back in its increasingly bizarre domain name grab by Spanish company Mocosoft. Domain arbitrator WIPO, meeting in Spain, has decided that Microsoft is not entitled to the domain "mocosoft.com" despite the fact that some of the same letters appear in both companies' names. The site hosts a long list of downloadable applications. The decision comes on the back off a year-long crusade by Microsoft to take ownership of all and any domains that even sound like its own name. Most famously, Microsoft lawyers descended on 17-year-old student Mike Rowe in January insisting he hand over his domain "mikerowesoft.com". The claim was clearly ludicrous but following heavy press interest, Microsoft went into PR mode and Mike Rowe was dazzled into handing over the domain by a plethora of gifts. At the time, and despite Microsoft claims otherwise, we reported that the software giant was following the same tactics with a number of other domains. Incredibly, one such person who stood up to Microsoft, Mike Rushton, subsequently had his domain given to Microsoft by WIPO. "Mikerosoft.net" was too close to Microsoft's trademark and so had clearly been registered in bad faith, the sole panellist Nels T. Lippert decided in April this year. It was just the latest flawed decision in a system virtually designed to provide corporate friendly decisions with little or no justification. That decision was largely built on a previous decision which, while we have issues with some aspects of it, is far clearer. Tarek Ahmed was forced to hand over "microsof.com" in July 2000. The WIPO sole panellist Frederick M. Abbott gave a lengthy and considered response to the opposing claims and decided in Microsoft favour. However, that decision was then used (wrongly in our opinion) to justify handing over "Mikerosoft.net" to Microsoft. And in turn the mikerosoft.net decision was then used in an effort to get hold of "mocosoft.com". But in this case, the WIPO panel - a three-person panel that it cost Mocosoft to introduce comprising Roberto Bianchi, Gabriela Paiva Hantke and Angel Garcia Vidal - did not join the cumulative justification rollercoaster. It decided that "moco" just wasn't phonetically close enough to "micro" to use the "precedent" set by mikerosoft.net. Mocosoft, naturally, is delighted. But it should never have ended up in this position anyway. Incidentally, the situation is due to get worse. WIPO's efforts to introduce an expanded definition of what it is allowed to hold as trademarked in relation to Internet domains will soon get through the ICANN process. It has been held up for over a year because large numbers of people refuse to accept WIPO's extensions. ICANN ruled at a Board meeting earlier this month that it needed to set up a temporary committee to break the deadlock. In the meantime, it is fair to assume that anyone with a domain even remotely similar to "Microsoft" will have its lawyers knocking at their doors. There is at least one case that can put a stop to some of them. ® Related links Mocosoft WIPO's Mocosoft.com decision [in Spanish] WIPO's Mikerosoft.net decision WIPO's Microsof.com decision Related stories Mike Rowe goes soft, hands over PR victory Microsoft prepares Mike Rowe legal exit Microsoft lawyers threaten Mike Rowe (17)
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2004

Don't use Google desktop search in your business, warns Gartner

Gartner has warned that companies shouldn't use the new Google Desktop Search tool because of security concerns and a lack of features. In a three-page research document, the authors - Whit Andrews, Maurene Grey and David Smith - say the tool that was released in beta in October is "not the proper search tool for businesses right now". Instead they reiterate concerns put forward by the CEO of Google rival Copernic, David Burns, two months ago: "Google's 'Consent to Collect Nonpersonal Information' states that GDS collects non-personal data; however, the policy is a one-sided contract in that the user must trust that Google will make the right decisions as to what it will collect." However, it also doesn't offer enough features and for it to recommend Google it would want to see "greater customisation of interface, flexibility for visualisation of results, groupwide administration and index load-balancing". Which is all very well, but we say whoah there, hold your horses, Gartner. Google's Desktop Search is barely two months old, it's still in beta and the company has made no pretence that it is ready for commercial roll-outs. It will no doubt do what it did with its world-beating search engine and that is put it out there, get it tested by millions of everyday users, fix any holes, tack on some security and then sell a finished, secure product direct to businesses. Which is exactly what Gartner wants. It could be said that they are being just a little impatient and churlish. If average Joe can have it, why can't I as Monster Plc? I want, I want, I want. To its credit, Gartner does acknowledge that Google "is working on extended security features that will grant administrators greater control over where and how it may be installed." But then it shoots itself in the foot. "Because of the lack of functions and the security risk, discourage the use of Desktop Search within your business. Instead, deploy a business-ready, supportable, secure personal search engine." Okay, great, except it doesn't actually tell you where these products are and who makes them. Quite possibly because no one does. [A few are listed here - ed]It suggests that you run pilot programs and include Google's desktop search in it "so that if it is judged superior, its risks may be fairly measured against its benefits". So, the clear message is: "Don't use Google's desktop search because of security concerns. Instead, use an alternative. But since they don't exist, use Google." You can buy the report from Gartner's site here. ® Related stories It came from the vaults! Google seeks to open the library The new world's A to Z, courtesy of Google Yahoo! gives! away! free! desktop! search! Google News' chief robot speaks out Yahoo! - the thinking corporate's email solution
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Dec 2004

Nextel Sprints into mega merger

Sprint and Nextel confirmed that they'll merge today in a deal worth $35bn, scotching rumours of a last-minute bid by Verizon to take over its CDMA rival. Pending regulatory approval, the merger of equals will boast around 35m subscribers. The big three (including Cingular) boast nearly 130m customers between them, leaving T-Mobile a distant fourth with just over eight per cent of the US market. Sprint will spin off its local landline business, and the two companies will merge their backhaul infrastructures. Both parties have common roots in transportation: the older of the two, Sprint, spun off from the Southern Pacific Railroad (which gave it its name: Southern Pacific Railroad Information Network) and joined forces with venerable Bell rival United Utilities in 1986. Nextel began life in 1987 as FleetCall, providing radio to the trucking business. Nextel has long been regarded as the wallflower of carriers, always dating but never wed, but it's been able to teach many pundits and marketing rivals a thing or two. While the tech press tends to focus on speeds, feeds and other acronym-heavy features (guilty as charged, your honour), Nextel has quietly pioneered one of the most attractive low-tech innovations in the past few years: its push-to-talk walkie-talkie service. (Nextel was also the first stateside carrier to scrap roaming charges). And Nextel has focused its marketing on ordinary folk with a very demanding critique of technology: NASCAR families and urban kids - groups where it has an enviably high satisfaction rating. Nextel also boasts the highest ARPU (average revenue per subscriber) of any US mobile network, and the lowest churn: 1.5 per cent compared to an industry average of 2.5 per cent. But Nextel's platform for innovation has also been its burden. The carrier opted for Motorola's iDEN technology, as opposed to the more ubiquitous global standard GSM, and the more efficient CDMA. So iDEN has never been able to enjoy the economies of scale of its rivals, and was designated a legacy technology - effectively a dead-end - by Motorola some time ago. Analysts are already drawing up lists of winners and losers. One obvious casualty will be Motorola, as Nextel is its biggest customer. The decision to drop iDEN for CDMA will hand the number one spot in the US handset market straight to Samsung. Flarion has long been courting Nextel, hoping that the carrier would be a greenfield win for its OFDM technology. A merger of rivals is never easy, but the largest challenge for the combined company in this fast-turnover business, as Cingular is discovering, is keeping the customer base it thinks it has. ® Related stories Cellular Nation looks perky again Nextel vexes Verizon with $5bn spectrum swap Nextel debuts wireless broadband in North Carolina Sprint spends $3bn on 3G Sprint to shed another 700 jobs Sprint to axe 1,100 jobs
Andrew Orlowski, 15 Dec 2004
SGI logo hardware close-up

HP sends Itanic boat people to Intel

HP once celebrated the unique contributions it could make to the Itanium processor architecture. Such days will soon be over with HP trading its Itanium design team to Intel, sources tell us. The companies are expected to announce tomorrow that "hundreds" of HP's Itanium engineers located in Colorado will become Intel chattel. This will leave Intel as the sole caretaker of the chip it co-invented with HP. In addition, HP is expected to announce that it will put even more money behind Itanic. In a face saving gesture, the company will pledge to back up the struggling chip with billions in investments - an interesting move given that HP just cancelled its line of Itanium workstations. HP has long enjoyed the top position in the Itanium ecosystem. As co-designer of the processor, it gained insight into the chip's direction unavailable to other OEMs. In fact, the story goes that Intel and HP traded off work on each generation of the chip. Intel blundered Merced - the first version - and HP came to the rescue with McKinley - the second Itanium chip. Most of the work being done on future Itanium designs is currently being handled by former DEC Alpha processor engineers now working for Intel. HP traded these engineers to Intel when it purchased Compaq. It seems Intel will now take on all the rest of HP's chip experts as well. This move has to be seen as yet another cost-cutting exercise by HP. The company has sent numerous server staffers packing since it acquired Compaq. HP also halted its work on PA-RISC and Alpha (thanks to Compaq), deciding on Itanium for its high-end servers. Most recently, HP gave up on spending money to develop its Tru64 Unix software, picking up Veritas' code instead. What's most interesting about HP's engineer offload is the timing of the move. Intel's CEO-to-be Paul Otellini recently said Itanium has no place in workstations or low-end servers. This comment, according to an HP insider, came as quite the shock at HP where low-end Itanium shipments are key. In HP's fourth quarter, a whopping 88 percent of Integrity server sales were low end systems with 10 percent in the midrange and just 2 percent on high-end systems, according to internal figures obtained by The Register. In addition, other HP insiders have noted that Intel has always kept the cost of Itanium chips too high to really get much widespread market penetration. So why not make Intel deal with the struggling beast on its own? We expect to bring you more details on the arrangement tomorrow, when it's officially announced. ® Related stories Dell turns on too pricey Red Hat HP must open source Tru64 goodies - users Itanium inventor bobs to surface as chip's savior? Dell eclipses Sun in server sales How MS will end the Dell - Intel love-in
Ashlee Vance, 15 Dec 2004

Blunkett hands in cards after prints found on visa

David Blunkett, UK Home Secretary and prime mover behind the British ID card scheme, resigned this evening after further revelations concerning the residency application of his lover's nanny. Emails seen by Sir Alan Budd's enquiry made it clear that - contrary to Home Office denials - the letter to the nanny warning of a possible 12 month delay had been dealt with by his office. This was critical to Blunkett's defence. He had claimed that he merely checked over the initial application, and when over the weekend it was claimed that he had produced the letter from the immigration service in a meeting with senior civil servants, a Home Office spokesman insisted that he had had "no contact with the letter at all, at any stage." In a statement tonight, Blunkett concedes that Budd's enquiry has identified "a fax and an exchange of emails between my office and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate" based on the letter that he had had "no contact" with. He says that he was "always aware"of this letter, "but did not remember holding a copy. I have no recollection of dealing with this in any way... I have no recollection of issuing instructions to deal with the application, but only to continuing the elimination of the backlog in general". The email is reported to have said "no favours but slightly quicker." We at The Register feel that we would have trouble figuring out how that works even if we were sober. Which we are not entirely; but, since you ask, this evening's Privacy International Christmas bash went rather better than one could possibly have expected. Education Secretary Charles Clarke wins the ID scheme poisoned chalice. He commented that there would be continuity between his approach and Blunkett's; the immigration status of any paramours which Clarke may or may not have is not known at time of press. ®
John Lettice, 15 Dec 2004
DVD it in many colours

Sun must acquire Red Hat or Novell - analyst

AnalysisAnalysis The sage analysts at Merrill Lynch are at it again. This time, they're demanding that Sun Microsystems acquire either Red Hat or Novell. Without such a buy, Sun will never be taken seriously in the Linux server market, and with Red Hat or Novell on its side, Sun could really take the Opteron server market by storm, they argue.
Ashlee Vance, 15 Dec 2004