16th > December > 2004 Archive

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HP confirms that Itanium is Intel's responsibility

HP and Intel have confirmed earlier reports that located a massive migration of HP Itanium boat people making their way to Intel. True to speculation, Intel has agreed to hire hundreds of HP's Itanium engineers working at a Ft. Collins, Colorado facility. This move puts all of Itanium's future development in Intel's hands and ends a very, very long engineering partnership between the vendors. Intel now has a full set of ex DEC, Compaq and HP staffers to help it focus on making multicore, multithreaded Itanics. HP moved quickly to counter any overachieving reporters who might suggest that it has given up on the disastrous 64-bit chip. It announced a $3bn, three year investment in the processor, and many organs jumped at the chance to bring you word of this remarkable commitment. HP insisted that the money will be used to increase the number of ISVs supporting Itanium, to work on chipset designs and to tune HP's own software for the processor. These, of course, are all tasks HP was already working on with all its might. While the wording of HP's press release makes the $3bn investment seem new, it's not at all. HP has been designing Itanic chipsets for ages, paying software makers to port to the chip and subsidizing server migrations. In fact, one has to wonder what cost-savings HP has enjoyed by abandoning PA-RISC and Alpha in favor of Itanium. It no longer employs any chip engineers. Intel is handling production. And HP is still paying almost as much as IBM and Sun Microsystems do to develop their chips? That's peculiar. Funny enough, HP and Intel portrayed this engineer exchange as being in the best interests of Itanium. The deal could ease other OEMs' concerns about HP receiving early insights into Itanium's future directions. That spin doesn't fit with what HP showed in its statement about the deal. "HP's server design innovation includes work across the breadth of the Integrity server line, with expanded focus on growth in the highly competitive two- to four-processor server market," HP said. Notice the emphasis there at the end of the sentence on the "highly competitive" market for low-end Itanium servers. Last month, Intel's future CEO Paul Otellini said the company has basically given up on pursuing the low-end server market with Itanium. Anyone get the feeling HP is trying to cover for that reality slip up? For those of you curious about what types of Itanium systems customers are buying from HP, we're here to help. The majority - 63 percent - of HP's Itanium server revenue came from HP-UX customers in the fourth quarter. Another 18 percent came from Windows customers, 9 percent came from Linux users and 10 percent of HP's customers picked no OS on their Itanic boxes. HP owns 70 percent of the worldwide Itanium server market in revenue and is damn proud of that fact. Incidentally, today's deal went over really well in the mainstream press. "I think history will record Itanium as a failure," David House, a former Intel exec who once approved the original Itanic project, told the Wall Street Journal. ® Related stories Sun must acquire Red Hat or Novell - analyst HP sends Itanic boat people to Intel AMD battles Intel over F1 number crunching Dell turns on too pricey Red Hat Intel updates price list HP must open source Tru64 goodies - users Intel bumps Q4 forecast higher Itanium inventor bobs to surface as chip's savior? Sun begs partners to sell more Opteron servers
Ashlee Vance, 16 Dec 2004

BT appoints phone Czar

BT has appointed a director of Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) to liaise with the industry and regulator Ofcom concerning the development of a genuine wholesale voice telephony service. At the moment, many rival telephone services such Tele2 One.Tel and Centrica already provide alternative phone services to some 4.5m end users. While these telcos bill customers for the time they spend chatting on the phone, BT still bills these customers for rental of their phone line. WLR lets phone operators rent the line that connects a customer's premises with the local exchange. It enables an operator other than BT to "own" the line and charge punters for calls and line rental in one bill. The appointment of Rob Sanders, who's been with BT for 11 years, as BT's "WLR Czar" is meant to show that the telco is serious about competition. Said Paul Reynolds, BT Wholesale chief exec, in a statement: "Applying the focus of experienced, senior BT managers reflects BT's commitment to a competitive market and will ensure that our...WLR offering is fit for purpose and compelling for industry." Critics claim this is utter tosh. Earlier this week, BT was fingered by the UK's top competition court for using "dirty tricks" to try and hang on to customers who want to leave the telco for another phone operator. And WLR has failed to take off so far because it is too costly for rival operators and plagued by administrative difficulties. The service is not yet automated and relies too heavily on outdated BT manual processes that simply could not cope with the mass market adoption of WLR. As a result, many in the industry remain sceptical that this appointment on its own will have any impact on the WLR market insisting it's just a bit of window dressing by BT. If BT is really serious about its "commitment to a competitive market" then it needs to get its house in order - or be forced to by a regulator prepared to wield a stick. Said one well placed industry insider: "This is just arranging the deckchairs." ® Related stories Competition Tribunal rules against BT 'save' calls BT confirms customer exodus BT faces £4.5m NHS claim over broadband delays BT denies fiddling prices on Advent Calendar sales promo
Tim Richardson, 16 Dec 2004

Websites strain under net traffic load

Internet traffic overload is putting a severe strain on ecommerce websites. A survey of 1,900 global companies published yesterday reveals that 86 per cent of organisations saw an increase in Internet traffic over the last year. Much of the extra traffic came from website transactions. As well as greater website activity (78 per cent of those surveyed), other factors increasing traffic included web services implementations (60 per cent), email (57 per cent) and SSL-encrypted traffic (43 per cent). Websites are operating in an increasingly unforgiving world. Only 19 per cent of companies surveyed were prepared to tolerate downtime, a response mirrored by consumer behaviour in abandoning sites if they become slow or unavailable. The average retail website in the survey takes £1.5m in orders per day –, so any downtime or slow performance will hit retail profits this Christmas, according to net infrastructure firm Zeus Technology, which sponsored the web traffic survey. According to research by Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), 21m Brits will shop online this Christmas, up 63 per cent on last year. Accompanying this is a fall in sales in the high street (down 0.2 per cent in November), according to the British Retail Consortium. "Resilience has always been critical to operating a successful web infrastructure but over the last year the stakes have got a lot higher," said Steve Palmer, VP marketing at Zeus Technology. "This research shows that the combination of massive increases in traffic and zero tolerance of downtime adds up to a major problem for network managers." No surprises for guessing that Zeus sponsored the survey to help plug the next version of its traffic management and security product, Zeus Extensible Traffic Manager v3.0. Version 3.0 includes improved scripting technology and features to provide more granular bandwidth control and centralised management. ® Related stories Zeus throttles app-level DoS attacks Wobbly shopping carts blight UK e-commerce Glastonbury blames BT for ticket sale fiasco
John Leyden, 16 Dec 2004

Clarke takes charge of Blunkett's Fear Agenda

AnalysisAnalysis British Home Secretary David Blunkett's resignation last night casts doubt over his ambitious and controversial plan to implement a compulsory biometric ID card scheme. The plan has been deemed "technologically impossible" by the Government's own IT chief. Blunkett was also viewed as Tony Blair's most senior political ally. He resigned after he could no longer deny giving his nanny preferential immigration treatment. In the highly centralized UK political system, the Home Secretary officially wields power over the police, prisons, immigration and drug crime, a role so broad that clashes with the judiciary are considered part of the job. Like his New Labour predecessor, Blunkett made a virtue out of antagonizing as many civil liberties groups as he could. Last year he oversaw the publication of the Civil Contingencies Bill, which permits politicians, with a handful of Privy Council votes, to bypass the monarch and impose sweeping restrictions on movement, and seizures of property, however they see fit. This year Blunkett has proposed making every offence arrestable, and in turn, giving police the power to make every arrestee submit to a drugs test and DNA sample. So be careful where you park… But it's the expensive ID card plan that has raised the most widespread concern. Although mooted as a voluntary card, it's really compulsory for employers; it's based on unproven technology; even the Home Office can't work out how much it will cost. The list of fields to be stored on the card looks ominously like an open-ended data trawl. Which sensible politician, with an election just months away, wouldn't want to kick this as far away as possible? Well, Blunkett's successor at the home office, Charles Clarke, isn't much more of a civil libertarian. At the Department of Education he welcomed the installation of X-ray machines and police stop and search tactics into schools. But Clarke must decide how much political capital he wants to spend on a scheme that has already been compared to the Poll Tax. ® Related stories Europe kicks UK out of biometric passport club ID checks could have stopped cockler deaths, says Blunkett Think tank survey claims 81% support UK ID cards Need a job? Get a card - arresting ID pitch to business ID cards will hit business, watchdog warns Abuses of the English language, ID cards... Home Office defends ID card plans (again) Populace asked: Do you like ID cards? Visa 'fast track' row threatens to engulf Blunkett ID scheme, IT the key to Blunkett's new terror laws Get yer draconian Blunkett rhetoric here Suicide pigs fly to support Blunkett's War on Terror Blunkett moots 'proof-lite' internet and banking banning orders Register backs Blunkett drive for trust in government ID card doubts - Blunkett blames dead German philosopher Blunkett explains your terror nightmares - be very afraid Blunkett sets out store on compulsory ID cards Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card Blunkett poised to open ID scheme offensive tomorrow Home Office seeks spin doctor to sell cuddly ID card brand UK ID cards to be issued with first biometric passports Biometric gear to be deployed in hospitals and GPs' surgeries UK gov pilots passenger tracking in fight against terror Tag, track, watch, analyse - UK goes mad on crime and terror IT
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Dec 2004

Apple ships Mac OS X update

Apple has released Mac OS X 10.3.7, the latest version of its Panther operating system. The 26MB upgrade to version 10.3.6 is available now via the OS' Software Update control panel and from Apple's support web site. A separate installer, designed to take any previous Panther release up to the new version is also available here. This one weighs in at 97MB. Version 10.3.7 is a relatively small-scale tweak, focusing on resolving a number of issues that emerged with the release of 10.3.6 last month and various security updates that Apple has rolled out recently. Those protective patches are also included in each of the installers listed above. Another area of update activity centres on Apple's Nvidia and ATI OpenGL graphics drivers, which have been tweaked to improve compatibility with a number of recent graphics and games releases, most notably World of Warcraft. Apple also said it had improved the OS' compatibility with external Firewire audio and storage devices. The upgrade is also available for Mac OS X Server, as both a update from 10.3.6 and as a full installer for any version of the OS from 10.3 upwards. Apple also updated its calendar application, iCal, this week, to version 1.5.5. Again, it is available via Software Update or as a download here. ® Related stories Apple iPod out of tune with Real's Harmony Toshiba unveils 80GB 'iPod drive' iTunes now accepts PayPal IBM, AMD, Sony boost chip speeds by 24% Apple 'readies' 5GB iPod Mini Apple threatens iTunes.co.uk owner Apple of IBM's eye?
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2004

US FCC to rethink in-flight mobile phone rules

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not issue a ruling this week that finally permit in-flight Wi-Fi - contrary to hundreds of reports on the Internet and elsewhere. The FCC's ruling covers something altogether different, but that didn't stop a host of non-technical hacks claiming that the organisation's ruling did indeed pave the way for the installation of WLANs on board aircraft. How could it? Boeing's Connexion service has been touting and installing Wi-Fi networks into airliners for over three years. Connexion comprises on-board access points connected to the Internet via a satellite link. So what exactly did the FCC decide yesterday? Crucially, it plans of allow a 4MHz segment of the 800MHz band to be used for air-ground data traffic as well as voice, which is what that part of the spectrum is currently used for. The 4MHz segment will be put up for auction, the FCC said, by splitting into a number of overlapping bands, which will be offered to the highest group-bids for both - one company alone can't bid for both bands. The winners will be able to use the segment for voice and data, but not "ancillary services", whatever they are. The FCC didn't say, but Glenn Fleishmann at Wi-Fi Networking News suggests the organisation has aircraft telemetry and navigation systems in mind. He also has a nice run-down of the stories that got the FCC's ruling arse-over-elbow. What this means is that there will (eventually) be an alternative way of getting data to and from an aircraft to the satellite systems already employed by the likes of Connexion. Indeed, the Boeing subsidiary is likely to be very keen in bidding for that 4MHz segment since satellite connectivity is not cheap. A second element of this week's ruling focuses on mobile phones, and notes that the FCC will now formally consider whether to allow the use of mobile phones during flights by the addition of micro base-stations into aircraft cabins. Again, that requires an air-ground link, either by satellite or by the 4MHz segment of the 800MHz band. ® Related stories Vodafone to offer in-flight Wi-Fi Singapore Airlines plans in-flight live TV via Wi-Fi iPass extends Wi-Fi coverage to stratosphere Intel backs in-flight Wi-Fi initiative Korean Air gives nod to Boeing's in-flight broadband Eurostar brings Wi-Fi to termini Atheros unveils 'world first' Wi-Fi access-point-on-a-chip T-Mobile widens UK airport Wi-Fi cover Tunable surfaces prevent Wi-Fi leaks iPass aggregates BT Openzone hotspots
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2004

US broadband blimp test flight planned next month

Way back in September 1998, we reported on a plan to provide cities with blanket wireless data coverage using base-stations mounted on cheap aeroplane rather than expensive satellites. The company behind the scheme, St. Louis, Missouri-based Angel Technologies, calls the system Halo, and has been quietly developing the system ever since the test flights it made in late 1998. So far it has yet to roll the service out commercially, though the company has managed to break a few world records for high-altitude flight. Now it has a rival. Atlanta, Georgia-based Sanswire Networks will next month launch a base-station suspended beneath an 75m unmanned airship which will float around 20km (13 miles) up in the air, kept in place by ground-control and a GPS fix. Angel's Halo planes will fly at around 16km (10 miles). Again, the idea is to provide users with a variety of mobile data services. Like Angel, Sanswire is pitching the scheme as a way of providing not only a cheaper service than satellite-based alternatives can offer, but one that yields a stronger signal, enabling smaller, lower power end-user equipment. Of course, mast-mounted transmitters are better still on that score, but Angel and Sanswire can offer a much wider coverage from one aircraft than one tower can. They can also reach areas where it may be uneconomical to install masts, whether for geographical reasons, local objections or citing regulations. Sanswire claims its 'stratellite' blimps will provide a coverage area of up to 300,000 square miles, as does Angel. Both companies are also alike in being unwilling to say when they will be able to offer commercial wireless services. To be fair, it could be some way off, and since many similarly grandiose ventures have missed targets and plans, they're probably right to be circumspect for now. Having missed its original January 2004 launch target, UK broadband-by-balloon operation SkyLinc is also keen to keep whatever targets it now has private for the time being. ® Related stories Internet access takes to the skies Whatever happened to broadband by blimp? Broadband by blimp idea floated The balloon goes up on 300km Wi-Fi
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2004

Laptops cause infertility: official

Pretty well every IT news site worth its salt has in the last week reported on the chilling conclusions of a report in the Oxford Journals online into the long-term effects of laptop use on male fertility. To summarise, laptops roast your gonads and that will be an end to your reproductive career unless you take immediate action to rectify the situation. Here is the spine-tingling abstract of the boffins’ testicular probe: Scrotal hyperthermia has been identified as a risk factor for male infertility. Laptop computers (LC) have become part of a contemporary lifestyle and have gained popularity among the younger population of reproductive age. LC are known to reach high internal operating temperatures. We evaluated the thermal effect of LC on the scrotum. METHODS: Right and left scrotal temperature (ScT) was measured in 29 healthy volunteers in two separate 60 min sessions. ScT was recorded from thermocouples on a digital datalogger every 3 min with the working LC in a laptop position and in the same sitting position with approximated thighs without LC. RESULTS: ScT increased significantly on the right and left side in the group with working LC (2.8°C and 2.6°C, respectively; P<0001) and without LC (2.1°C, P<0.0001). However, ScT elevation with working LC was significantly higher (P<0.0001). CONCLUSIONS: Working LC in a laptop position causes significant ScT elevation as a result of heat exposure and posture-related effects. Long-term exposure to LC-related repetitive transient scrotal hyperthermia is a modern lifestyle feature that may have a negative impact upon spermatogenesis, specifically in teenage boys and young men. Further studies of such thermal effects on male reproductive health are warranted. Crikey. Naturally, there is a solution at hand. And it’s not, as you might imagine, putting the computer on a table, because the emissions from these things can apparently penetrate 18ft of lead shielding sandwiched between 4ft of concrete. Chernobyl? Pah! Nope. The real solution is to buy a Lapdesk computer pad by Port Technologies, allegedly guaranteed to keep your sperm motile, eager and ready for conceptive action. We'd give you a pointer in the direction of this technological wonder but there wasn't a link in the press release and after 11 seconds on Google we lost interest in the whole thing. And here's why - what on earth is wrong with infertile laptop users anyway? We can view the whole process as a sort of technogical natural selection whereby self-important IT journalists*, keyboard-hammering suits shouting into mobes aboard trains and pizza-scoffing propellorheads tweaking their Linux OSes would be - over a generation or so - completely eliminated from the face of the earth, thereby leaving the planet's limited natural resources entirely at the disposal of car manufacturers and flatscreen TV developers. Think about it. Bootnote *Myself included, before the flame warriors unsheath their CAPS LOCKS. I've got enough bloody kids anyway. Related stories Computers make you blind: official Computers make you sick: official Mobiles in hospitals now safe: official
Lester Haines, 16 Dec 2004

You can't move for desktop searches out there

Desktop Searches are nothing like buses. Not even buses arrive five at a time. But with Ask Jeeves and Microsoft both launching new desktop searches to rival Google's, and with Yahoo! and AOL running around shouting about how they will have one as well early next year, you have to wonder whether the whole IT industry has gone barking mad. Such is the market-smashing impact of Google. We saw it with Gmail, when Google announced out the blue that it would pull the rug out from under the Webmail market by offering 1GB of storage for free. It's happened again with desktop searches. Microsoft isn't big on irony but even it can see that if Windows' search tools weren't so awful there wouldn't be a desktop search market for Google to dominate. It has broken with tradition and stuck a beta out for public consumption, so concerned it is that Google will have stolen all the customers by the time it gets there. It's not often you get to see Microsoft hitch up its skirt and run, so enjoy it while you can. Microsoft It has produced a slick update to its MSN toolbar that lets you search through most of your files on your hard drives. Microsoft hasn't released a full list of file formats supported, leading some with suspicious minds to conclude it may have missed out various proprietary formats used by competitors. It will however search pdf files by content, which is something Google's doesn't do. Why Google doesn't is a bit of a mystery, especially since it pioneered searching for pdf content online. Maybe it's concerned that businesses will worry about the security implications if company pdfs start becoming swiftly accessible. Oh look, they already are, courtesy of Gartner. Microsoft, as ever, is less worried about security than it is about market control. Anyway, you know about Google's product. Microsoft's does the same thing but it only works with Internet Explorer and Windows. The clever pitch is that it is using its Windows know-how to make a better product. Who knows, people may believe it. But the great advantage to Microsoft of course is that it can plug its desktop search every time someone wants any updates for Explorer, or Windows, or Hotmail, or whatever. Because it is something you have to download and install rather than something which is just there (the browser versus search engine comparison), Microsoft looks certain to grab a good chunk of the market. In fact, desktop searches currently live in a grey area between browsers and search engines since they connect with both. Microsoft uses its software already on your computer to run a search, while Google use its own site. Users will be very familiar with both. Ask Jeeves Which brings us to Ask Jeeves. Ask Jeeves, you would think, would use its website rather than a piece of software on your PC to do the search. In fact, it's gone the other way, using technology it picked up from an acquisition of Tukaroo in June. It can be tied in the site later on though, the company promises, so presumably it is watching to see what happens with Microsoft and Google. What it offers above the other two is sort-of-better security - it lets you define which chunks of your hard drive you do and don't want it to look in. Plus it provides a neat little preview screen of the file you've selected. Although if it's your own hard drive you're searching, you'd think you'd already have a good idea what the file was, because you were searching for it. The truth of it though is that Ask Jeeves is doing it because not to have a desktop search tool will soon mark out a search engine as deficient in some way. People will go to a competitor. Yahoo! As for Yahoo!, well it too has gone for a standalone bit of software. Which, while you don't have to open a browser to get at it, does mean it doesn't tie in as neatly with where it exists in people's minds - on the Internet. It is thought to be faster, but it only works on Windows at the moment, so Google looks set to take complete control of the Mac and Linux users. Yahoo!'s download is also likely to be quite big, which may be another factor that works against it. AOL And finally AOL's desktop search. Not alot is known about it at the moment, save that it has signed a deal with Copernic - which is the real specialist in this area, although because it doesn't have the same massive profile of Google, Microsoft et al, it has been largely forgotten. In fact, you have to feel a little sorry for Copernic, which has had a brilliant desktop search bit of software for ages. Its future however, now that everyone has got in on the act, may be in acting as AOL's supplier. AOL has been talking about a new super browser it is developing and so Copernic could well take a big role in developments. It would be enough to retire on. Who's the best? You will note of course that we haven't actually said how good all these desktop searches are, or attempted to draw any comparison between them. And that is probably because, at the moment and quite possibly in the foreseeable future, it's not really the issue. This is brand territory. It's a new feature for people to have and it will take a while for us to get picky about searching their own hard drives. It's just nice at the moment to be able to do it at all following years of frustrating operating system chugging. Plus, it's all in flux. Features will be pulled in and pulled out with great haste for the next year or so. Then, at the end of it, people will probably proudly state that they use Google's or Microsoft's or whatever. Quality is not the issue here, which is a real shame for Copernic because without a doubt it has the best desktop search out there at the moment. ® Related stories Don't use Google desktop search in your business, warns Gartner Yahoo! gives! away! free! desktop! search! Autonomy offers desktop search
Kieren McCarthy, 16 Dec 2004

Michigan Wi-Fi hacker jailed for nine years

A 21-year-old Michigan man was sentenced to nine years in federal prison yesterday in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina for his role in a failed scheme to steal credit card numbers from the Lowe's chain of home improvement stores by taking advantage of an unsecured Wi-Fi network at a store in suburban Detroit. Brian Salcedo faced a possible sentence of 12 to 15 years under federal sentencing guidelines, but at the government's urging federal judge Lacy Thornburgh gave the hacker credit for helping out his former victim following his guilty plea last June, according to the prosecutor on the case. "He provided assistance to Lowe's," says assistant US attorney Matthew Martens. "He met with the corporation to help them understand the vulnerabilities in their system and how they can improve and protect themselves from hackers in the future." Salcedo's partner in the caper, 21-year-old Adam Botbyl, has also pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing Thursday. He faces 41 to 51 months in prison - a sentence that could also be reduced if he's given credit for co-operating. In an interview last August, Botbyl told SecurityFocus he regretted participating in the scheme. "It's going to take a lot to start to get my reputation back," he said. "This has messed up my entire life for at least 10 or 15 years. It'll be at least 2010 before I can even touch a computer again." It was Botbyl who first stumbled across an unsecured wireless network at the Southfield, Michigan Lowe's in the spring of 2003, while he and a roommate were driving around charting wireless networks with their laptop computers - the geek sport of "wardriving". Six months later, Botbyl and his friend Salcedo - who was on the last month of a three year probation term from a juvenile computer crime conviction - hatched a plan to use the network to steal credit card numbers from the hardware chain, according to court records. Wi-Fi Stakeout The hackers used the wireless network to route through Lowe's corporate data center in North Carolina and connect to the local networks at stores in Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Dakota, Florida, and two stores in California. At two of the stores - in Long Beach, California and Gainseville, Florida - they modified a proprietary piece of software called "tcpcredit" that Lowe's uses to process credit card transactions, building in a virtual wiretap that would store customer's credit card numbers where the hackers could retrieve them later. At some point, Lowe's network administrators and security personnel detected and began monitoring the intrusions, and called in the FBI. In November, 2003 a Bureau surveillance team staked out the Southfield Lowe's parking lot and spotted the two hackers working from Botbyl's Pontiac Grand Prix. After 20 minutes, the pair quit for the night, and the FBI followed them to a Little Ceasar's pizza restaurant, then to a local multiplex. While the hackers took in a film, Lowe's network security team pored over log files and found the bugged program, which had collected only six credit card numbers. The FBI eventually arrested Botbyl, Salcedo, and Botbyl's roommate, Paul Timmins, and charged them as conspirators. Timmins was later exonerated, but plead guilty to a misdemeanor for checking his e-mail over Lowe's network. Even reduced, Salcedo's prison term is unusually harsh for a computer crime. The sentence is based largely on a stipulation in Salcedo's plea agreement with prosecutors that the losses in the abortive caper would have exceeded $2.5m. "The damage that Mr. Salcedo could have caused the consumers if he was successful could have been astounding," says prosecutor Martens. Salcedo's defense attorney, Samuel Winthrop, did not return phone calls. With credit for time served and good behavior, Salcedo will be eligible for release in the fall of 2011. Copyright © 2004, Related stories Michigan wardrivers await sentencing Wi-Fi 'sniper rifle' debuts at DEFCON Wi-Fi hopper guilty of cyber-extortion
Kevin Poulsen, 16 Dec 2004

Revolting customers slam dunk Dell

Following our story yesterday about the way Dell handled the sale of a discounted PowerEdge server we've been inundated with emails from readers completely lacking in any seasonal festive spirit or goodwill for the mega computer corp. Take this for example: We probably spend over £200k a year with Dell and projected to spend double that in 2005. We saw the Dell £99 server while looking to buy a few other bits and bobs. Stuck an order in for two, both with a gig of RAM, upgraded processor etc. These would have been useful servers to train our junior guys on. Less than an hour later our account manager came back saying they had sold them all, but offering us a different model server for nearly four times the cost. To say we are not impressed with Dell is an understatement. Shame on Dell. Or this: I was actually on the phone to Dell as they sold out. Our account manager told me that they had 2400 odd servers and they'd sold out within two hours. I was at the time going through a big order which included two of the servers before the price drop so ended up being told 'it's a discontinued model' and I'd have to price up a different server even though I'd had a quote put together for the 1600 at a much higher price. Oh well I'm sure about 1,000 of them will pop up on eBay. We've had a look on eBay and they're not there just yet...maybe once they start shipping?. Some of the correspondence we've had has been short and not-so-sweet. Like this missive sent to Dell and cc'd to us: So how many 1000s of unhappy customers have you managed to generate with this little stunt? Did you just ship computers to people who upgraded a lot then? Or this, longer email which captures the frustration and angst of the people battling to get any sort of meaningful response. Regarding the Dell UK discounted servers sting, I was also one of the unlucky ones. I placed my order on Thursday lunchtime, and contacted Dell yesterday morning as I had heard nothing. However, the trouble with contacting Dell was probably what annoyed me more than not getting my "too good to be true" servers. I called their Customer Services line, and after selecting the appropriate options, their phone system put me into a loop and eventually hung up my call. I called again, this time I reached a call centre in India, answered by somebody with absolutely no grasp of the English language whatsoever. Had to hang up on them! So I found another number on Dell's website and called again this time reaching a Dell operator, apparently in the UK. This person told me they couldn't help me and put me through to a colleague. This next person also told me they couldn't help me, and told me they'd put me through to somebody else. When I asked who they were putting me through to, he said "I don't know" and immediately put me on hold. I assume it was the hanging up department. So I called again. Again, I was passed from pillar to post to get to the Internet Sales team, and when the operator said they couldn't reinstate the order, I asked to speak to a manager. I was told that managers don't speak to customers. So I asked to speak to the manager's manager, since that was clearly unacceptable that I cannot complain to anybody. I was told that their weren't any, the managers simply report to Personnel. Following this, I called my credit card company and asked them to stop my card, as I was a bit concerned that I (amongst many other people) had offered their credit card details to Dell in good faith expecting to receive these servers. I am certain Dell should not be asking for these details until they know they can fulfil the order - it is almost as if it is a phishing scam! The result? Dell have lost a customer in me, and probably many other customers. I have found their customer services to be entirely unacceptable in the past, and have now vowed to never ever buy from Dell again. However, I am responsible for hardware purchasing decisions - my company is an ISP with hundreds of servers, and also an IT consultancy which supplies hardware to clients. Dell will never again be selected to provide hardware. Dear reader, you certainly have the right to not spend your cash with whoever you choose. Or, like this chap, you could opt for something altogether more deliciously satisfying. I am still awaiting my confirmation. I phoned up Tuesday and was told my order was accepted and I would receive a confirmation today. As far as I am concerned a verbal contract now exists. If I don't get these I think I will pay the £30 for Dell to come and discuss it at my local County Court. It will cost them at least the cost of the servers just to turn up. The more astute readers among you will now have perhaps to begin to spot a pattern here. Items sell out - that's a fact of commercial life - but failing to communicate with your punters will not win any awards for customer care. Talking of communication, El Reg is still waiting to hear back from Dell for an official comment on this episode. In the absence of anything from the Dell UK press office, here's a different take on the whole experience. On your story about the Dell servers for 99 pounds. Sheez. OK so Dell may have goofed up in not keeping folks informed and updated. But then again, you get what you're paying for. Please tell these folks to get over it and quit crying over spilt milk. And a Merry Christmas to you too. ® Related stories Dell UK stung by bungled server sale Dell to build second factory in Europe Dell turns on too pricey Red Hat
Tim Richardson, 16 Dec 2004

The Reg launches downloads site

Site offerSite offer We’re absolutely delighted in the run-up to the Festive Season™ to be able to offer our readers a little something from the Vulture Central “get-something-for-free-pay-nothing-ever” department. Indeed, we’re sure that fans of El Reg will find this a refreshing change from the inexorable “buy-now-pay-2020-at-86%-APR” Yule orgy of capitalism which has so sullied the spirit of Christmas. So, with all temptation to utter "bah humbug" pushed firmly from our minds, we direct you immediately to our all-new downloads service, offering a range of gratis and shareware Windows and Mac goodies, including the highly-regarded Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0, Webroot's Spy Sweeper and VideoLAN's VLC media player. Also, there are plenty of try-before-you buy options. And if that's not enough, we have a new store, the Reg Software Shop to flog a veritable cornucopic selection of top-of-the-range software, packed in boxes. You can find the button for Reg Downloads on the top righthand of our masthead. The Reg Software Shop can be found alongside links to our other merchandising extravaganzas, in the Reg Shops box, nestling under the search box on the top lefthand side of every page. Lovely. Naturally, some poor soul has to graft to provide all of this meaty goodness, and he too will need to put a goose on the table this Christmas to feed his emaciated, sobbing children. So, it is at this point that we introduce with a small squadron of puti blowing trumpets the people behind the Reg Software Shop - 5 Star. No, this is not the same outfit as the 5 StaR fronted by one Silent Killa - "da sickest and one of the hardest rappers from Cali" - but rather, well - let’s allow the blurb to do the talking: 5 Star Network launched its first downloads website, www.5star-shareware.com, in 1997 with the goal of providing high quality shareware, freeware and commercial software for free download to the UK market. Over the intervening years, 5 Star has built up a hand-picked and personally vetted collection of over 5,000 software titles which it continues to add to and update on a daily basis. 5 Star now operates a network of downloads sites for some of the UK's top ISPs and technology websites, retaining the same attention to detail, user friendly service and fast, reliable downloads that has established 5 Star as the UK's premier downloads website. And with that we wish you, our beloved readers, a very happy Christmas and a prosperous and creative new year. ®
Team Register, 16 Dec 2004

PCI Express 2.0 to double bandwidth

The guardian of the PCI Express specification, the PCI Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG), has agreed to increase the bus' single-lane, one-direction data rate to 5Gbps - double its current throughput. The increase will come when the PCI-SIG finalises the next generation of the specification, expected by the end of 2005, though unlikely to appear in products much before 2007. Three speeds were proposed for 'PCI Express 2': 5, 6 and 6.25Gbps, the latter favoured by bandwidth-hungry graphics chip and card vendors. However, the PCI-SIG's board ultimately voted in favour of the slowest of the three speeds. Not surprisingly, the vote was not unanimous, with a number of groups pushing for each speed as the one best suited to their individual technology roadmaps. In the end the 5Gbps target was selected as the "most feasible, highest performance, backward compatible solution within the current PCI Express ecosystem", the organisation said in statement announcing the outcome of the vote. A faster PCI Express will be needed to bring the bus into line with ever increasing Ethernet and storage interconnect speeds - not to mention the requirements of the graphics chips folks. Ethernet is expected to go to 10Gbps soon, while Serial Attached SCSI is pushing for 6Gbps. ® Related stories Nvidia apes ATI to revive mid-1990s AGP feature Nvidia to unveil 'nForce for Intel' Q1 05 ATI unveils Radeon X850 XT PE, X800 XL Intel next-gen Centrino chipset ships ATI rolls out X300, X800 mobile GPUs Nvidia signs Intel bus licence deal ATI unveils integrated, discrete Radeon Xpress chipsets ATI tapes out 90nm R5xx chip Intel 1066MHz FSB chipset slips out
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2004

Google hails adwords victory

A district judge has ruled that Google can continue selling advertising triggered by searches for trademarked brand names. Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that the adwords program does not violate US federal trademark laws. Car insurance company Geico brought the case against the Google, claiming that sponsored links - search results paid for by Geico's competitors - illegally exploited its brand profile. The company said the results confused consumers and diluted its trademark. However, the judge accepted Google's argument that its adwords sales were consistent with other comparative advertising practices in the US. She granted Google's request that the bulk of the case be dismissed, saying: "There is no evidence that that activity alone causes confusion." This is very good news for Google, as it derives a substantial part of its income from these sales. David Drummond, vice president and general counsel at Google said: "This is a clear signal to other litigants that our key-word policy is lawful." However, Judge Brinkema said that Geico could continue with the second part of its case. The insurer wants to prevent competitors using its brand name in their advertisements. Google says such ads violate its policies, and that it already blocks them, on request. ® Related stories Don't use Google desktop search in your business, warns Gartner Google sues website over click fraud Google sued by smut peddler
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Dec 2004

Aussie police get spyware powers

Australian police can use spyware and Trojans to gather evidence under new powers introduced last week. The Surveillance Devices Act authorises Federal and state police to obtain warrants to plant back doors or keylogging on the PCs of suspects, The Age reports. Warrants can be obtained to investigate offences with a maximum sentence of three years or above. Electronic Frontiers Australia, an online rights pressure group, says the law was rushed through without proper scrutiny and gives police too much power. It also warns of potential conflict between the new law parts of the Telecommunications Interception Act, which regulate telecommunications monitoring. An Attorney-General representative denied this, pointing to safeguards in the legislation such as reporting to Parliament and oversight by an Ombudsman, The Age reports. Some critics think the act will likely make Australian criminals more careful about computer security. A more serious objection is that evidence obtained from the technique may not survive legal scrutiny. Any defence lawyer with his salt would argue that if a target PC has been compromised then incriminating evidence might have been planted, too. ® Related stories US court okays malware in hunt for Web paedos Aussie cops and Feds use DIRT FBI Magic Lantern reality check Trojan defence clears man on child porn charges Caffrey acquittal a setback for cybercrime prosecutions
John Leyden, 16 Dec 2004

Ofcom orders BT price cuts for broadband rivals

Communications regulator Ofcom has confirmed a new set of charges today that will form the basis of local loop unbundling (LLU) in the UK. Ending a seven-month consultation into LLU which has seen charges for rival operators come down by as much as 70 per cent, it should pave the way for other operators to invest and provide alternative wholesale services direct to customers. The new charges come into effect from January 1. As well as bringing down price, BT has also been forced to address its own cack-handed internal processes that make LLU so laborious and time-consuming for rival operators. Said BT Wholesale exec Paul Reynolds: "BT has worked productively with the [LLU] Adjudicator and the industry to develop suitable processes. Together with this package of price changes we believe the right climate has been created to develop a market in which those who are willing to innovate and invest can reap appropriate rewards." Which is curious. Four years ago there were a number of companies around prepared to invest in LLU. Except BT dragged its feet, argued the toss for every square inch of ground and refused to budge on its high charges and made life so hellishly difficult. Oftel, Ofcom's predecessor, described the process as being like "trench warfare" before conceding it was "a painful and often miserable process". This year's price reductions have only come about because of meaningful threats from the regulator. And on Reynold's insistence that BT has "worked productively with the [LLU] Adjudicator and the industry to develop suitable processes", the 'LLU Czar' said just three weeks ago: "Significant operational problems remain". That's right, not minor, but "significant operational problems remain". Despite BT's tardiness, some operators are willing to invest in LLU. EasyNet has just unveiled a wholesale unbundled service for telcos and ISPs, while Wanadoo UK has started ordering LLU lines from BT. ® Related stories LLU dogged by 'significant operational problems' LLU is 'uneconomic', says Energis France crowned Europe's LLU Prince Easynet squares up to BT with wholesale broadband Wanadoo UK begins major broadband drive
Tim Richardson, 16 Dec 2004

Toshiba trumpets world's fastest lift

Toshiba Elevator and Building Systems Corporation is today somewhat inadvisedly trumpeting the world's fastest elevator in the world's tallest building - a 60.6km per hour express lift in Taipei 101. The Taiwanese megascraper is now officially the tallest man-made structure anywhere, weighing in at an impressive 508 metres - soaring above Kuala Lumpur's modest 452-metre Petronas Towers. It contains no less than 61 lifts and 50 escalators, including 34 double-deck versions of the latter. Naturally, you can't hope to operate white-knuckle elevators packed with screaming punters without a few technological breakthroughs. According to the press release, these include: The world’s first pressure control system, which adjusts the atmospheric pressure inside a car by using suction and discharge blowers, preventing those riding inside the car experiencing "ear popping". An active control system which cancels vibrations by moving the counter mass in the opposite direction based on the vibration data from a sensor installed in the car. Optimization in the configuration of the streamlined car to reduce the whistling noise produced by a car running at a high speed inside a narrow hoist-way. This is based on pressure analysis of the atmosphere in the hoistway and on the car surface during operation. Impressive stuff. What they fail to mention, however, is how the thing performs when dangling from the side of the building by a single cable in the style of The Towering Inferno. We can't help but feel that the input of Irwin Allen, or at least Fred Astaire might have gone some way to convincing users that a 37.7mph lift inside a 1667-ft skyscraper is a desirable concept. As for us, we'll take the stairs, thanks very much. ® Bootnote Ta very much to all those outraged Canadian readers who have written to say that in fact the CN Tower is the world's tallest structure at 553.33m (1,815 ft, 5 inches). We're staying out of this one, except to say why can't we all just drop this crowing about our enormous erections and just learn to love each other? Related stories BOFH: The hostage's guide to lift imprisonment Taiwan recovers from earthquake Heat brought the towers down
Lester Haines, 16 Dec 2004

The rise of the rat-brain controlled android

There are two further indications today that the inexorable Rise of the Machines™ will certainly lead to the eventual subjugation of humanity. According to a BBC report, Honda's roving roboambassador Asimo has now acquired the ability to run - another step towards it finding "gainful employment in homes and offices", or, as we suspect, chasing screaming carbon-based lifeforms with a plasma rifle in its cold, cybernetic grasp. Giving Asimo the ability to acheive a modest 3kmph was apparently no easy task. The boffins behind the project define running as "having both feet off the ground between strides" - something which involved ensuring that Asimo's feet could absorb the impact of landing without ending up in an ungainly sprawl on the floor. And the point of all this? According to a Honda spokesman: "The aim is to develop a robot that can help people in their daily lives." In which case, we can heartily recommend that Honda speaks to the University of Florida, where scientists have reportedly grown a "brain-in-a-dish" capable of piloting an F-22 from just "25,000 neural cells extracted from a single rat embryo". The scientific community has hailed this breakthrough by Thomas DeMarse, which is ostensibly intended for research into the development of drugs to cure nasties such as epilepsy. Of course, that won't pay the bills, so the first task for the team was to find an application the military can use - in this case a rat-brain sky jockey capable of undertaking missions too hazardous for mere mortals. For those readers curious as to how the University of Florida is precipitating the destruction of mankind, here's how you too can make your own cyborg-controlling rodent intelligence: Take 25,000 rat embryo neurons and one glass dish Suspend neurons in specialised liquid in said dish Lay neurons across grid of of 60 electrodes Wait for cells to form "live computation device", aka "brain" Connect brain to jet simulator Teach brain to fly Bomb Fallujah with squadrons of rat-controlled drone attack aircraft Alternatively, stick rat brain in jogging Japanese robot, teach it to speak English with a heavy Austrian accent and then send it into the past to kill anyone who might eventually prove a threat to its inevitable rise to global dominance. You get the idea. ® Bootnote Thanks to Cameron Walker for alerting us to the chilling "brain-in-a-dish" research project. Stay vigilant. The Rise of the Machines™ Japanese unveil trumpet-playing robot Boffins unleash robotic cockroach Ukrainian teen fights the Rise of the Machines Man in satanic Renault terror ordeal Killer cyberappliances: Satan implicated US develops motorised robobollard Killer cyberloo kidnaps kiddie A robot in every home by 2010 Cyberappliances attack Italian village Fire-breathing buses threaten London Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent Spanish cyberkiosks claim second victim Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager Hi-tech toilet caught on camera Hi-tech toilet swallows woman
Lester Haines, 16 Dec 2004
graph up

Serco splashes £235m on ITNet

Serco Group, the public sector services contractor, is to acquire ITNet, the computer services firm, for £235m in cash and shares. Serco is to pay 320p per share, a premium of 10.9 per cent on ITNET's closing price of 288.5p yesterday. ITNet is probably best known for being sacked by the Cabinet Office this summer, after failing to meet several deadlines in the £83m web hosting project. That news sent its to shares crashing below 160p. In September this year, the company blamed the loss of the deal for its poor financial performance. Serco, which runs services for prisons and the Royal Air Force, says the acquisition will position it well to take advantage of an increase in local authority IT outsourcing. Kevin Beeston, Serco's chairman, described the companies as "a strong fit". His counterpart at ITNet, Oliver Whitehead, commented: "ITNET fits well with Serco and the enlarged group will have a strong presence in the business transformation market." Serco will also spend £113m in cash ot buy US defence contractor, RCI. That deal will mean 12 per cent of Serco's business will be in the US. ® Related stories ITNet makes loss, calls lawyers ITNet in Cabinet contract blow ITNET bags £83m Cabinet Office gig
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Dec 2004

Symantec buys Veritas for $13.5bn stock

Security firm Symantec and storage software firm Veritas have agreed to merge. The all-stock transaction is valued at approximately $13.5bn, based on Symantec’s stock price of $27.38 at market close yesterday. The combined company (to be called Symantec) will be able to do a better job at reducing the complexity of securing and managing information, the two firms said. The transaction is expected to close in the second calendar quarter of 2005 and is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the shareholders of both companies and regulatory approvals. $5bn run rate predicted for Daddy of Data Protection By merging with Veritas, Symantec will expand its combined revenue base and create a company with "greater financial scale and resources". The aggregate revenue of the combined company is expected to be approximately $5bn for FY2006, which begins in April 2005 and ends in March 2006. Three quarters of the revenue of the combo is expected to come from enterprises, with consumer products making up 25 per cent of overall sales. The enlarged company will have approximately $5bn in cash. Symantec specializes in anti-virus and network security applications, while Veritas is a major player in the data backup and storage software markets. Put together the combined firm will be the ‘Daddy of Data Protection’. Veritas has been mentioned as a frequent acquisition target over recent weeks. Companies such as Sun Microsystems, EMC, Hitachi, IBM and Oracle have been named as possible suitors. Oracle has done much to drive consolidation in the software industry by picking up PeopleSoft and threatening to buy more firms. Veritas has long said it can grow at a steady pace on its own but recent accounting problems hammered its share price (from a 52-week high of $40.68 to below $28), making it a more attractive target. Musical chairs Under the agreement, Veritas stock will be converted into Symantec stock at a fixed exchange ratio of 1.1242 shares of Symantec stock for each Veritas share. Upon closing, Symantec shareholders will own approximately 60 per cent and Veritas shareholders approximately 40 per cent of the combined company. John Thompson, chairman and chief executive officer of Symantec, will continue as chairman and CEO of the combined company. Gary Bloom, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Veritas, will be vice-chairman and president. The board directors will include six members of Symantec’s current board and four from Veritas’ current board for a total of 10 members. ® Related stories Symantec eyeing Veritas for $13bn - report The strange death of the mass mailing virus Merger creates world's biggest IT security services firm Symantec snags @stake Symantec acquires Brightmail for $370m
John Leyden, 16 Dec 2004

Apple iTunes sells 200m songs

Apple's iTunes Music Store has notched up more than 200m paid-for song downloads, the company said today. The last total Apple made public came in mid-October. Then, ITMS customers around the world had bought 150m songs, at an average rate of 4m songs a week. Today's figure raises that rate to 4.76m a week. In October, Apple forecast it would sell more than 200m songs by the end of the year, so it has clearly met and exceeded that target. And with just over two weeks to go, there's plenty of time for iPod owners - particularly all those who are going to find one under the Chrimble Tree on 25 December - to download around 10m more. What Apple doesn't say is how many users ITMS has, since that's a better measure of the store's broader success than simply the number of songs sold. From a revenue perspective, it's all about sales - ie. the total number of downloads - but if the store is to survive beyond the honeymoon period it needs to establish a solid user base. Analysts expect Apple to sell over 4m iPods this quarter, and it sold at least 5.76m since the device's launch to the end of September 2004. Call that 9m iPods to date. That's an average download level of 22 songs - roughly two albums' worth - per iPod owner. And since many of them won't have bought songs from Apple, that suggests a pretty healthy purchasing rate on behalf of those who have. Don't forget too the folk who buy from ITMS buy don't own an iPod. Indulging in a little statistical speculation, we reckon ITMS should hit 500m songs next June, assuming its growth continues at that rate it has through the past 12 months, showing the almost exponential growth it's shown so far. At this rate, the billion-songs mark will be reached in November/December 2005. This is all very unscientific, of course, but it does indicate a positive uptake going forward, and it will be interesting to see how well Apple can maintain its momentum. ® Related stories Apple ships Mac OS X update Apple iPod out of tune with Real's Harmony iTunes now accepts PayPal Apple 'readies' 5GB iPod Mini Apple threatens iTunes.co.uk owner UK govt takes iTunes gripe to Europe Apple opens Canadian iTunes store Apple iTunes adds Band Aid 20 - for 79p iTunes, Band Aid battle over Xmas song price Napster tunes into mobile ringtones Shawn Fanning's Snocap touts vision of P2P heaven
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2004

Nokia hologram to expose fake, unsafe batteries

Nokia has begun applying a holographic sticker to its mobile phone batteries in a bid to prevent fake power packs being inadvertently purchased as the real thing. The mobile phone giant is pitching the move as a safety matter rather, though it's clearly just as interested in winning back the revenue lost to other battery suppliers. Over the years there have been a number of examples of mobile phone batteries that have exploded or caught fire, in some instances injuring the user. In each case where a Nokia handset has been involved, the Finnish company has been adamant that the pyrotechnic power packs were fakes. "With this new Nokia authentication program, we are directly attacking the counterfeiters who manufacture potentially unsafe batteries," said Razvan Olosu, Nokia's VP of mobile multimedia enhancements. "The hologram label enables consumers to identify that the battery they are using is indeed an original Nokia Battery." In addition to the hologram, Nokia will add an authentication code, hidden under a scratch-off panel. If you're offered a battery without the hologram or a damaged scratch-panel, don't buy it, the company warned. If both add-ons are in place, concerned users can still verify the battery's bona fides by scratching off the panel and checking the ID code by text message or on Nokia's web site, the company said. Nokia said it is already shipping batteries stamped with the hologram, but only with new phones and replacement battery packs going into the sales channel now. The company admitted "original Nokia batteries without hologram labels will remain on the market for some time. However, their performance does not differ from those sold with hologram labels", it said. ® Related stories Nokia batteries not safe either - Belgian watchdog Nokia phone explodes in Finland Another Nokia phone explodes Nokia phone explodes - again Woman burned by exploding cellphone HK customs seize £600k fake mobile phone kit Apple recalls 15in PowerBook batteries Dell issues adaptor electric shock warning Kyocera recalls exploding PalmOS phone battery Compaq recalls fiery laptop adapters
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2004

Samsung shows 2.5m monster monitor

Samsung has unveiled what's possibly the world's largest plasma monitor screen - a monster 255cm (102in) high density panel codenamed 'Atlas'. The resolution is a mere 1920 x 1080, little bigger than most larger PC monitors, but with a contrast ratio of 2000:1 and a 1000 candlepower per square metre brightness rating, the giant screen should leave viewers feeling sufficiently in among the action. Indeed, the whole thing measures roughly 2.2 x 1.3m, so you need a gargantuan living room to put it in. An equally colossal wallet would come in handy too: Samsung didn't reveal a price, but it's likely to be substantial. Samsung did say it will be ramping production between January and June 2005. The new screen comes almost a year after Samsung showed off its 200cm (80in) plasma display panel. ® Related stories Sony, Samsung agree to share toys Toshiba takes Hynix to task in patent clash LG, Matsushita trade lawsuits in PDP patent clash Intel 'ends' chip digital TV tech work Intel delays cheap hi-def TV tech Wales to host new £1m CRT recycling plant
Tony Smith, 16 Dec 2004

Microsoft buys anti-spyware firm Giant

Microsoft today announced its acquisition of anti-spyware firm Giant Company Software for an undisclosed amount. Redmond said it would use Giant's technology to develop tools that will help users to keep spyware and other deceptive software off their computers. A beta version of a spyware protection, detection and removal tool, based on Giant's AntiSpyware product, should be available within one month. The tool will work on machines running Windows 2000 and above. Microsoft declined to say when a full version of the product might be released. Spyware apps range from unwanted pop-up ads to unseen programs that record keystrokes or take over a person's PC. It can slow PC performance, change a PC's configuration or even steal passwords and personal information. An IDC study published last month estimated that 67 percent of consumer PCs are infected with some form of spyware. Microsoft "strongly recommends" that customers use anti-spyware in conjunction with using an internet firewall on all PCs, updating all PCs regularly with the latest security patches, and running up-to-date anti-virus software. Microsoft bought little known Romanian anti-virus firm GeCAD Software for an undisclosed sum in June 2003. At the time, Microsoft said it would use GeCAD's expertise and technology to "enhance the Windows platform" and extend support for third-party antivirus vendors. Fast forward 18 months and Microsoft is yet to announce a product strategy (naysayers reckon MS only bought GeCAD to kill of the latter's Linux server products). Microsoft has repeatedly said it wants to work with partners in the anti-virus industry rather than compete with them in the security market. Providing baseline protection against viruses without putting the nose of anti-virus suppliers out of joint has apparently proved to be tricky. In developing an anti-spyware product, Microsoft is directly encroaching on the turf of anti-virus firms for the first time. This could herald a change of tactics that will see Microsoft taking more responsibility for fighting malware rather than relying on third-party suppliers to keep Windows clean. Releasing a tool that can remove spyware apps such as CoolWebSearch (CWS) while leaving email worms like Zafi-D untouched would tend to breed a false sense of confidence, after all. ® Related stories Corporate PCs 'riddled with spyware' 80 per cent of home PCs infected - survey Webroot: Spyware is Windows-only Gadzooks! My PC has the pox US gov targets spyware outfit CA buys PestPatrol There is no anti-spyware silver bullet US moves towards anti-spyware law
John Leyden, 16 Dec 2004

Time Warner squares AOL fraud claims with $510m settlement

Giant media corp Time Warner has agreed to cough up $510m (£263m) to settle claims that AOL inflated its ad earning revenue. The company will pay $60m (£31m) in penalties and has agreed to establish a $150m (£77.5m) fund to be used by the US Justice Department to settle any related shareholder or securities litigation. It's also agreed to splash out a $300m (£155m) penalty to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to settle that investigation. Under the terms of a settlement, the DOJ will file a criminal complaint against AOL for the conduct of certain employees in connection with securities fraud but will defer the prosecution of AOL. After two years, provided it keeps its nose clean, the DOJ will dismiss the criminal complaint filed against AOL. Six weeks ago, Time Warner said it has tucked away $500m (£258m) in legal reserves related to pending government investigations into its financial past. The media giant also announced plans to restate its accounting for its interests in AOL Europe prior to 2002. The SEC and the DOJ were investigating past accounting and disclosure practices at AOL concerning advertising and the reporting of subscriber numbers. ® Related stories AOL loses 2m US customers 'Horoscopes' is AOL's most searched word AOL confirms 750 job cuts AOL to be split in four
Tim Richardson, 16 Dec 2004

French hand Bull Itanium supercomputer survival package

Just days after the French government announced it would once again bail out server maker Bull, it awarded Bull what is sure to be a lucrative supercomputing contract . The French Nuclear Power Agency has picked Bull to build a system capable of hitting 60 teraflops. The computer - named Tera10 - will run on Intel's upcoming dual-core version of the Itanium processor code-named Montecito. It will have more than 4,000 chips - and 8,000 processor cores - tied together, making it a true beast. The French government plans to use the Tera10 system for nuclear simulations. Earlier this month, Bull received a $690m bail out package from the government. The hardware maker has been struggling for quite some time and is still trying to pay back a previous bail out of comparable size. There were no financial terms given for how much the Tera10 system will cost, but all of the chips and storage needed for the computer won't come cheap. The supercomputer will run a custom version of the Linux operating system and use Quadrics' high performance networking technology. While Itanium has failed to make much headway in the corporate computing market, it has done well in the supercomputing realm. The processor is particularly well-suited to the types of applications run by researchers. Tera10 is one of the first large systems to be announced that will use the Montecito chip. Bull expects to have the box fully up and running by the end of 2005. Intel, however, has said it doesn't expect Montecito to be produced in volume until 2006. ® Related stories French bail out Bull with $690m How MS will end the Dell - Intel love-in Itanium sales fall $13.4bn shy of $14bn forecast Bull boss flees
Ashlee Vance, 16 Dec 2004

MS and Autodesk compare patenting notes

Autodesk and Microsoft have signed a cross-licensing agreement that will give each company broader access to the other's patent portfolio. Terms of the deal, which is reported to have taken six months to hammer out, were kept under wraps. The two companies already have a close working relationship, Autodesk said, with many products being "tightly integrated". The deal expands the scope of their co-operation into new areas including data management, digital effects, digital rights management, computer-aided design and location-based services. Brad Smith, general counsel for Redmond's most famous exporter, said the deal was good for customers of both companies because it expanded each company's reach on "commercially reasonable terms". "Intellectual property licensing is a cornerstone of today's software industry and is essential for the development of comprehensive technology solutions," he added. This agreement is part of a larger effort from Microsoft to extend its intellectual property portfolio. The company has several other cross-licensing deals already signed, including agreements with Cisco, SAP and Siemens. According to CNET, it is currently in talks with more than ten other companies, and wants to sign up to 30 more deals over the next five years. ® Related stories MS Eolas appeal begins Sun, MS just thrilled to be together MS patent claim redefines the Three Rs
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Dec 2004
Cat 5 cable

Students find 44 Unix flaws as homework

University students tasked with finding flaws in Unix applications as homework have uncovered 44 bugs. But since the University of Illinois at Chicago students were asked by tutor Daniel Bernstein to find 10 bugs each, most will likely flunk his Unix Security Holes course. The assignment counted for 60 per cent of the marks available to the 25 students taking the course. Finding 10 security holes in deployed Unix software is a tall order even for experts, never mind students, and you've got to wonder if Bernstein didn't set the bar too high for the course's first intake. Notices about the security flaws uncovered - which range in severity and affect applications including CUPS and MPlayer - can be found here. ® Related stories Top security graduates offered bursaries Leeds Uni, MS teach undergrads to write secure code Learn computer forensics at Bradford University Canadian Uni to run virus writing course
John Leyden, 16 Dec 2004

No more debate on EU patents directive draft

The European directive on software patents is another step closer to being adopted. According to The International Herald Tribune, the directive will not be debated any further before ministers vote on adopting it as a common position. The Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) met on Wednesday night in anticipation of the vote on the common position. Coreper is responsible for preparing the agenda for the ministerial Council of the European Union meetings. In these privately held preparation sessions, member states are able to raise any issues they have about things on the ministerial agenda. Coreper can mark items with an A or a B: B items need to be debated before they can be voted on, but A items, like the software patents directive, can go straight through. The council of ministers has already voted to accept the current form of the directive. The impending vote is to formally adopt the draft. In November, it looked like some countries might be having second thoughts about they way they had voted. It is possible for a country to adopt a new position, but this rarely happens in practice. The final vote is expected to take place next week. If the draft is accepted as the common position, it will go back to the Parliament for its second reading. Some amendments are possible here, but they will be difficult to pass. Support of the majority of all MEPs is required to make changes, including absentees. In related news, Lord Sainsbury confirmed today that he will set up a workshop to examine the definition of technical effect, as it relates to software patents. He told The Register: "I'm not certain that it will affect the directive, but a workshop will be well worth having." If nothing else, he said, it will influence how the UK Patent Office thinks about the terms when it is examining patents. "It sensitises them to concerns that this not be abused." He first suggested the idea during a meeting with concerned members of the public, held earlier this week. ® Related stories Software patents: the UK Patent Office pleads its case MS patent claim redefines the Three Rs UK.gov in scrap over school e-register patent Poland scuppers EU software patent directive IT hardware makers back EU patent directive
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Dec 2004