20th > January > 2005 Archive

P2P hub operators plead guilty

Two P2P users in the United States have pleaded guilty to distributing copyright material and face five years' jail and a fine of up to $250,000. The Feds were responding to pressure from the major record and movie mulitnationals and have now secured their first P2P piracy convictions. Investigators downloaded material worth $25,000 from hubs of the "Underground Network", the Justice Department said. The DoJ portrayed this as a blow against major crime. But $25,000 equates to just 300 DVDs and just over a thousand CDs: not a particularly large library for a culture-consuming household. William Trowbridge, age 50, of Johnson City, NY, and Michael Chicoine, 47, of San Antonio Texas pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit felony copyright infringement and one of acting for commercial advantage. The pair are due to be sentenced on 29 April. ® Related stories Nappletizer users - getting physical? Firm gives P2P networks adware infection Worldwide Warez hunt nets first conviction Music biz threatens International Red Cross Dutch eDonkey site owners released SuprNova.org ends, not with a bang but a whimper The BitTorrent P2P file-sharing system RIAA sues 754 more P2Pers Finnish police raid BitTorrent site The Supremes prep for P2P battle royal
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Jan 2005

Global 3G boost for Qualcomm

The global roll-out of 3G networks continues to boost Qualcomm's bottom line. The San Diego company closed its first quarter of fiscal year 2005 with a net income of $513m on earnings of $1.39bn. Qualcomm reckons that the next year will see 55 million 3G phones ship, each one bearing a royalty gift back to San Diego, alongside 168 million CDMA phones. WCDMA 3G accounted for 32 per cent of royalties in the most recent quarter, up from 12 per cent a year ago. Royalties account for $412m, or just about a third of Qualcomm's gross revenues. CEO Irwin Jacobs sounded bullish on the prospect of the recent mega-mergers at home. He told the FT that Cingular's 3G investments would prompt Verizon to speed up, but Qualcomm's best news was delivered on a plate when Nextel, Motorola's biggest single customer, announced it was to merge with Sprint. R&D increased sharply to $228m. Qualcomm has snapped up a UI company Trigenix and a next generation display company Iridigm in recent months. Although year on year quarterly profits were up 46 per cent, shares fell after Qualcomm said its next quarter would gross between $1.35 and $1.45. Wall Street analysts had expected to see something closer to $1.49. Long-term investors won't be grumbling too much. A court ruled this week that a Sunnyvale company, Maxim Integrated Products, had clearly violated its patents but decided that Qualcomm hadn't suffered damages as a result. Maxim had countersued Qualcomm on antitrust grounds, and claimed this week that it can still bring its chipsets to market. The Judge sent both legal teams away to agree on a settlement. ® Related stories Rosy future for Sprint-Nextel marriage Qualcomm seeks markets with bold TV network move Super 3G group flexes its muscles China homespun 3G unravels in trials Cellular Nation looks perky again
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Jan 2005

eBay meets target, splits stock but price tumbles

Despite coming in the results predicted, eBay stock fell 11 per cent yesterday. Why? The online auction monopoly reported great numbers: gross income rose 44 per cent to $935.8m and net income rose from $157m a year ago to $226m. The revenue figure exceeded analysts' consensus estimate of $934m. eBay also rewarded investors with a two-for-one stock split. However, Wall Street had expected profits a penny higher per share, and also punished the company for a less bullish outlook than the one it wanted to hear. Analysts cited the company's high stock price as a measure of expectations - it's quadrupled since 2003. Over fiscal year 2004, eBay earned $3.27bn, up from $2.17bn in 2003. The company expects the coming year to gross between $4.25bn and $4.35bn, while Wall Street analysts' high end expectation is $4.5bn. PayPal continues to be a nice little earner, taking in over $200m. Most of eBay's growth is now outside the United States, and the company has earmarked $200m to crack the Chinese market. Stock fell 11 per cent to $91 in after hours trading. ® Related stories eBay aims to thwart phishing eBay buys Rent.com for $415m Internet fraud is easy, says judge... Spanish eBayers in open revolt eBay, PayPal and the Virgin Mary - scammed readers write
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Jan 2005

Seagate hints at job cuts despite 'strong' quarter

Hard-drive maker Seagate made big gains in sales and earnings during its most recently completed quarter, Q2 FY2005, the company reported this week. However, it hinted that further job cuts beyond the 3000-odd redundancies made in 2004 may be necessary to maintain the company's momentum. The three months to 31 December 2004 netted Seagate income of $144m (29 cents a share) on revenues totalling $1.85bn. The December period is traditionally a strong one. The figures are, respectively, 167 per cent and 18.6 per cent up on the previous quarter's totals. But while Q2 FY2005's sales were just over five per cent up on the year-ago quarter's $1.76bn total, year on year net income was down almost 30 per cent. The change between the two year-apart quarters is the shift toward lower-priced consumer electronics drives from higher-margin enterprise-oriented kit. The latter market segment is picking up, though. Seagate shipped 3.3m enterprise-class drives in Q2 FY2005, a record number. It shipped some 3.4m CE drives plus 1.2m mobile units. The big sales were in the desktop space: Seagate shipped 16.3m drives here. Almost a quarter of them were Serial ATA products. In total, it shipped 24.2m units, up 12 per cent on the previous quarter. Looking ahead, Seagate said its current quarter should see sales fall between $1.84bn and $1.87bn - the same, in other words, as the December quarter, though that's no bad thing given how weak the March quarter traditionally is when compared to its predecessor. The company expects earnings of 29-33 cents a share. But it warned that the range is "excluding any restructuring charges", an odd thing to mention unless Seagate is anticipating having to undergo such a process. Last June, the company rid itself of around 3000 workers. ® Related stories It's official: storage is the new chips Seagate ships 'world first' 400GB PC HDDs CE drive demand pushes Seagate into the black Seagate extends HDD warranties to five years Seagate sees red in Q4 Seagate axes thousands
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005

Nominet finding it hard to replace Willie

UK registry Nominet is to re-advertise the post of chairman this week after an initial recruitment drive turned up no suitable replacements for Internet legend Willie Black, who left officially on 8 December. Managing director Lesley Cowley confirmed that despite an advert in the Sunday Times just before Christmas, and over 70 applicants - four of whom were interviewed - the organisation that runs all .uk domains did not feel any of them were "a good fit". "The four we interviewed did have impressive CVs and relevant experience but at the interview, the panel felt they were not fully suitable," Cowley told us. "And if you're not sure, it is never a good idea to appoint." As such, the post will be re-advertised this week - it is uncertain where exactly - and the Nominet website will also provide a link to the ad to make it "as open to as many people as possible". Cowley declined to say what she felt was wrong with the interviewed candidates but provided a description of what Nominet was looking for. "In general, someone who is experienced at a senior level, able to chair meetings, who has made an outstanding contribution within their industry, and who has experience of a company of Nominet's size - we are a pretty sizeable organisation." However, she stresses, they do not need to come from an IT or Internet background. "This really is a traditional chairman role of developing strategy. It is open to a wide range of people, although they should be Internet-aware." In the meantime, it is "business as usual" says Cowley. She explained Black's leaving has presented the "opportunity to look at the chairman role afresh", which no doubt means more day-to-day handling of the company to be handled by the MD - herself - with the chairman acting in a more representative role. Since Nominet's functions remain fairly technical, and since it appears increasingly likely that the new chairman will come from a non-technical background, the move would appear logical. Meanwhile the man who has created all the trouble, Dr Willie Black, has popped up as the new chairman of the UK Internet Forum (UKIF). UKIF is a lobbying body set up to "work with the regulator and with the UK Internet industry to ensure the best possible regulation is applied when needed" - which in practice means trying to give Ofcom enough strength to face down BT. In his first statement as chairman, Dr Black outlined his plans: "At the moment too many companies feel left ‘out of the loop’ and do not understand how regulation affects their business. UKIF offers a solution to this problem and provides a wide grouping of industry participants, strong contacts at government level and representation for all companies in the technology sector." Maybe along the way he'll find someone who can fill his boots at Nominet. ® Related story Willie Black resigns as Nominet chairman
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Jan 2005

Sony slashes FY2005 profit forecast

Sony today cut its annual income forecast by over 30 per cent, claiming price erosion in key consumer electronics product categories will hit margins hard. The Japanese giant will still do very nicely in the year to 31 March 2005, however: it said it expects its income to grow significantly over the previous year. Sony now says the year's sales will total ¥7,150bn ($69.56bn), ¥200bn ($1.95bn) below its previous forecast, made last October. Operating income will be ¥110bn ($1.07bn), well down on the previous estimate of ¥160bn ($1.56bn) but nonetheless 11 per cent up on FY2004's figure. The reduction in the forecast arises from falling video camera and TV prices, and a slowdown in demand for the company's semiconductor products, Sony said. Japanese sales of Sony DVD players, portable audio products and PCs have fallen too. Even so, net income will be up a whopping 70 per cent to ¥150bn ($1.46bn) on FY2004's profits, Sony said, thanks to a reduced US income tax burden. ® Related stories Sony Ericsson profits leap 28% Sony admits PSP 'update' is genuine Sony unveils 'Centrino 2' notebook family Sony PSP 'update' adds office apps, browser, email Sony PSP to ship in UK on 18 March - Amazon Sony ships Vaio Pocket MP3 support update Sony denies plasma TV pull-out Sony PSP takes off on schedule
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005

Motorola reports record quarter

Motorola heralded record sales yersterday when it published the results for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2004. The company's sales hit $8.84bn, up 27 per cent on the year-ago quarter's $6.97bn and up a more modest 2.6 per cent on the previous quarter's $8.62bn. Net income totalled $687m (28 cents a share), up 56 per cent on Q4 FY2003's $441m and 43.4 per cent on Q3 FY2004's $479m. Those figures exclude the impact of Motorola's former semiconductor division, now called Freescale, which it spun out in June 2004. Motorola shipped 31.8m mobile phones during the quarter, taking its market share to 16.6 per cent, the company said it had estimated. Motorola is currently slugging it out with Samsung for the world's number two handset maker position behind market leader Nokia. Samsung did not It's comparison of that figure with Q3's estimate of 13.4 per cent and 13.7 per cent for Q4 FY2003 is undoubtedly intended to suggest a gain over its immediate rival. Indeed, "the market share resurgence of the Personal Communications Segment in the fourth quarter strengthened Motorola's number two position in the wireless handset industry," boasted CEO Ed Zander. For FY2004 as a whole, Motorola recorded $31.bn worth of sales - up 35 per cent on FY2003 - yielding a 137 per cent increase in earnings, which grew to $2.2bn (91 cents a share). Considering FY2005, the company said its expects Q1 revenue to comes to $7.5-7.9bn, down sequentially from the crucial holiday sales period but still up at least 1.4 per cent on the year-ago quarter. Earnings should come in between 17 and 20 cents a share. ® Related stories Motorola shapes up its act Apple talks up mid-range Motorola 'iPod phone' Samsung phones outsell Motorola's Hello Moto, hello increased Q3 profits
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005

Symantec posts strong quarter

Symantec yesterday posted bumper earnings on the back of recent viral epidemics that have boosted demand for its security software and services. For the quarter ending 31 December 2004 (Q3 2005), Symantec posted revenue of $695m, up 41 per cent from $494m in the same quarter last year. Net income for Q3 2005 was $164m, compared to $111m in Q3 2004. Symantec said its "record revenue and earnings" came as a result of large enterprise transactions and strong international performance across all business segments. It booked 410 $100K+ deals for the quarter, 132 more then in Q3 2004. Symantec's worldwide enterprise business made up 48 per cent of total revenue last quarter and grew 33 per cent year-over-year. Meanwhile its consumer business grew 49 per cent. International revenues represented 54 percent of Symantec's total sales for Q3 2005. Looking ahead, Symantec estimates Q4 2005 revenues to come in at between $690m-$710m. For FY2005, Symantec upped its revenue estimate to $2.57bn. Symantec and storage software firm Veritas agreed to merge in December. The proposed $13.5bn all-stock is still dependent on shareholder and regulatory approvals. If the deal goes through 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. ® Related stories Veritas CEO promises Symantec buy will be kind and gentle Symantec outlines plans for Veritas Symantec buys Veritas for $13.5bn stock Symantec drives security deep into enterprise The strange death of the mass mailing virus (Symantec's security predictions for 2005)
John Leyden, 20 Jan 2005

MS launches Outlook email subscriptions

Microsoft has launched a subscription version of Outlook that will connect to Hotmail or MSN accounts. For $59 a year (£39.99 in the UK), subscribers get a copy of Outlook 2003 for Subscription Services, 2GB of online storage and the ability to send messages with attachments of up to 20MB. This is the first time Microsoft has made one of its products available through a downloadable subscription service. It will initially be available in the US, UK and Canada, where it will be available in both English and French. Currently, users who have Outlook 2003 can import their email to Outlook from MSN or Hotmail. This service used to be free, but because of abuse by spammers, Microsoft said it had to limit the service's availability to Hotmail Plus subscribers ($19.95 annually) or MSN Premium account holders ($99.95 annually). The company says that with this announcement it is trying to offer more to those who have Hotmail accounts, but don't have a copy of Office on their machines. Outlook 2003 for Subscription Services comes with spam filters and anti-virus technology. Customers can also blacklist up to 500 email addresses, Microsoft says. The company has not ruled out the possibility of making other Office products available by subscription, but say it has no such plans as yet. This launch, then, is something of a testing ground. Microsoft will extend the service into other countries with similarly high broadband penetration levels. Microsoft is launching the product at a discounted rate of $44.95 to anyone who signs up by 19 April 2005. In the UK, the discounted rate is £29.99. The press release is here. ® Related stories Yahoo! - the thinking corporate's email solution MS predicts stampede for Hotmail.co.uk Microsoft ends free Hotmail access from Outlook
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Jan 2005

Carphone crackdown on phone insurance scam

ExclusiveExclusive The CarphoneWarehouse (CPW) is working with Trading Standards to crackdown on "rogue" companies pestering its customers with offers of cheap mobile phone insurance. These companies phone punters on the fly, offer cheap insurance by claiming to be working with CPW or a mobile phone network, but never deliver the necessary paperwork to show that customers are covered. Attempts to contact these insurers to make a claim inevitably ends in frustration and disappointment. Since CPW never dishes out personal information about its customers, many victims are puzzled as to how these dodgy operators obtained their new mobile phone number in the first place. Well, due to CPW's massive size, it buys blocks of numbers which run consecutively, from the cellcos. The scamsters simply buy a phone from CPW and dial 500 numbers, say, either side of the one they've bought, calling these numbers continuously until they get connected. When they do get through, though, that's all they have - a number. However, the fraudsters are very clever at asking the right questions to obtain customers' personal details. In a way, it's a "phishing scam" over the phone. CPW understands that these rogue insurers are causing its customers "great distress" and says it is "doing all that [it] can to try and put an end to this problem". CPW declined to say how many people have been caught out, but it explained that it is compiling a database of information about these companies, which are understood to originate from the Swansea area, and is working with Trading Standards in Swansea. In a letter to those who have been targeted by the scam CPW said it will be using this information "in legal proceedings against the companies involved". Until then, CPW is looking to highlight the problem to make its customers more aware. "We are in the process of creating a booklet, which will include a section on these so called 'rogue insurers' and what to do if you're called." The booklet will be available in our 600 UK stores by the end of January," said a spokeswoman for CPW. ® Related stories Carphone trumpets telecoms success Carphone unveils bundled broadband eBay scammer indicted for $66k fraud US jails Brit credit card fraud mastermind for 14 years
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2005
fingers pointing at man

Mosaid sues Hynix

Memory technology company Mosaid has initiated legal proceedings against Hynix, alleging the South Korean DRAM maker has violated six of its US patents. The move follows the settlement, announced earlier this week, of a three-year patent-infringement battled between Mosaid and Samsung. The Canadian company's beef with Hynix centres on "fundamental" DRAM circuit designs, it said in a complaint filed with the US District Court for Eastern Texas, Tyler Division. Mosaid maintains the Hynix infringed the patents in the past and continues to do so with current DRAM products. Earlier this week, Mosaid said it had reached a settlement with Samsung in which the South Korean giant will license its entire patent portfolio for a five-year period, along with a lifetime licence for four patent families filed before 2000. How much Samsung is paying for all this intellectual property wasn't disclosed, but it will spread the cost over the five-year term of the licence. There's a clue, however. Mosaid said the deal will contribute to $12.5m increase in the revenue it expects to announce for its current quarter. It now believes revenues will reach $16.5-17m, up from the previously forecast $4-4.5m. Earnings are expected to be $33.5-34m - before, Mosaid said it expects to lose $5-6m in the quarter. Mosaid sued Samsung in September 2001, claiming the South Korean company's DRAM products infringed seven of its patents. Later, it sued Infineon, alleging similar infringement. The deal with Samsung doesn't directly affect the actions against Infineon and Hynix, but Mosaid will clearly hope that this latest licensing arrangement will persuade the two DRAM makers to settle out of court. ® Related stories Rambus poo-poos Hynix Euro patent victory claim Infineon issues profit warning Samsung founds $100m antitrust fines fund WTO backs Hynix over US DRAM duties Sony, Samsung agree to share toys Samsung maps huge chip biz expansion Toshiba takes Hynix to task in patent clash
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005

Mobile open-standards group recruits key players

Mobile phone operating system developers PalmSource and Symbian yesterday both threw their weight behind the Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP), an organisation pushing for open standards in the handset and PDA markets. The OMTP's goal is to bring network operators, software and operating system developers, hardware designers, and device manufacturers together to create products the offer a greater level of interoperability and user-interface consistency than they do today. What that will achieve, it believes, is a better business environment for mobile products and services, though the organisation stresses that its remit does not extend to defining a rigid framework of software and hardware components that participants must adhere to. Alongside PalmSource and Symbian, the OMTP said Ericsson and Siemens had joined as Sponsors, along with Sony Ericsson, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Infineon as Advisor members. UK-based user interface specialist Mobile Innovations also joined the group as an Associate member. For its part, PalmSource said its plan to develop a version of the Palm OS which comprises the software's established UI on top of a Linux-based core fitted neatly with the goals if the OMTP. ® Related stories Sony Ericsson profits leap 28% Siemens mobile arm for sale or closure PalmSource beats Street with pint-sized profit Symbian CEO to quit PalmSource to build Palm OS on Linux Psion sees bright spot in Symbian sales Global smart phone sales soar
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005

Morse: UK sales under pressure

Trading in the UK remains "challenging and competitive", Morse says. Shares fell 10 per cent yesterday on a Q2 sales update, in which the mid-range reseller revealed that hardware revenues and margins were under fire. However, smaller country operations in Spain and France, continue to perfom well. And Germany and France have stabilised, with the latter expected to reduce losses significantly in the half year to 31 December, 2004. For Q2 - also ended 31 December - group sales were £124m (2003: £114m), resulting in half-year sales up 16 per cent to £217m (H103: £187m). The half year includes an £18m revenue contribution from Diagonal, the British SAP consultancy acquired for £50m, last August. Group operating profits of £4m for H1 are expected (H103: £3m) - but this is before exceptionals and goodwill amortisation. Morse has completed the first stage of integrating Diagonal, but notes "only one disappointment arising in the form of a loss making pre-acquisition contract around which discussions are continuing with the client". The group says it is proceeding well in its transition from reseller to full-blown "services technology integrator", with 40 per cent of turnover and 50 per cent of gross profits coming from services in H1. Of course, the services / hardware mix is helped by falling hardware sales, as well as improving, Diagonal-assisted services revenues. Like Computacenter, which last week noted a tough reselling environment, Morse has no plans to retire from reselling hardware. After all, product sales are the basis of much of its services revenues. Duncan McIntyre, Morse CEO, told the FT yesterday that he is aiming for an 80:20 services / products mix - courtesy of services growth, rather than collapsing product sales, we presume. Morse closed the second quarter with net cash of £39m, up £1m on Q1 end. ® Related stories France weighs down Computacenter Horizon bounces back Morse swoops on Diagonal Morse buys niche consultancy biz Morse signals upturn in '04
Drew Cullen, 20 Jan 2005

Ofcom probes Gio over complaints failure

Ofcom is launching an investigation in to Gio Internet, over the troubled ISP's failure to operate a satisfactory complaints process for peeved punters. Over the last year it has received a "growing number of complaints...from consumers dissatisfied with Gio", the comms regulator said. "Gio does not appear to have a code of practice for complaints and is not currently a member of an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) scheme. Therefore, Ofcom is unable to direct consumers to an ADR scheme where the consumer has exhausted Gio's complaints procedure and a 'deadlock' has been reached." Under the Communications Act 2003, ISPs and other comms suppliers must have complaints procedures in place. Ofcom's investigation is yet another headache for an ISP that has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. In November, NetServices Plc, Gio's wholesale broadband supplier, announced that it was pulling the plug on Gio, claiming the ISP owed it more than £220,000. This month a debt collection agency refused to chase up cash for Gio because of the number of complaints it had received from people who disputed the claim or who said had never been Gio Internet customers. ® Related Stories Gio debt demands pulled Gio Internet sends in the debt collectors No winding-up order for Gio Internet NetServices slams Gio Internet in bill dispute
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2005

Variety the spice of life at CeBIT 2005

"Get the spirit of tomorrow" is the slogan CeBIT has picked for this year’s show, to be held between 10 - 16 March in Hanover, Germany. Some 500,000 people are expected to visit Europe’s biggest ICT trade fair. CeBIT expects 6115 exhibitors from 65 countries, only slightly up on last year, when 6109 exhibitors came to Hanover. However, the organisers say they are happy with the numbers. Which is nice, because ICT shows haven't been doing well lately. The ailing Comdex show in Las Vegas was off last year, but hopes to return in November. Last year, CeBIT had an average of 3,400 more visitors per day than the year before - the first such rise in three years. Although last year’s decision to allow entertainment and consumer gadgets at the show floor didn't go down well with some exhibitors, the trend will continue this year, as several companies plan to show DVD recorders. Intel will showcase its new Centrino technology, which was launched this week. The application of information and communications technology in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is expected be a core topic, and for the first time a sub-category is being devoted exclusively to ICT outsourcing as part of the Business Processes category in Hall 8. ® Related stories Intel revamps Centrino Comdex canned
Jan Libbenga, 20 Jan 2005

Creative loses first battle in Apple 'war'

MP3 player maker Creative Technology failed to outsell Apple's iPod during the holiday sales season, it emerged today when the company published its financial results for the period. Apple last week said it had sold 4.5m iPods in the three months to 31 December 2004, more than double the 2m Creative today said it sold during the period, which equates to the second quarter of its FY2005. Clearly, Creative is not winning the war it declared against its rival last November. Back then, Creative chairman and CEO Sim Wong Hoo bullishly said: "It's our target to beat iPod in this quarter." "The MP3 war has started and I am the one who has declared war," he thundered at the time, adding that the company was on track to sell 3m MP3 players during the Christmas quarter. He also pledged to spend $100m to out-market Apple. And, in a spirit of 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em', Hoo is looking to his rival to help boost his own sales. "Apple's entry into the Flash [player] market will create more awareness in the Flash market segment, and we are well positioned to become a big beneficiary of this expanding market," he said today. Still, the company's quarterly sales were up 50 per cent year on year to $375.1m. Net income for the period totalled $11.8m (14 cents a share), well down on the year-ago quarter's figure, $41.5 (50 cents a share). The company made an investment gain of $51.5m but took a $65.2m hit arising from its 2002 acquisition of 3Dlabs. Without these and other factors, Creative's net income would have come to $25.5m (30 cents a share), compared to $28.3m (34 cents a share) this time last year. Looking ahead, Creative said it expects Q3 FY2005's sales to be similarly 50 per cent higher than the year-ago quarter's total, taking them to around $300m. Gross margins are expected to be about 27 per cent, and operating expenses are expected to be approximately 22 per cent of sales. ® Related stories Legal downloads jumped 900% in 2004 Apple: iPod domination - or just another fad? iPod surge boosts Apple earnings Apple unveils CD-sized mini Mac, one ounce iPod Apple music store smacked with antitrust suit Creative unveils 'smallest' MuVo MP3 player Creative declares 'war' on Apple's iPod
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005

Webcam Trojan suspect arrested in Spain

A man suspected of writing a Trojan horse to steal confidential banking information from net users has been arrested in Madrid by Spanish police. The 37 year-old suspect (known only by his initials J.A.S.) is alleged to have used P2P networks to distribute an unnamed Trojan, which allowed him to activate webcams and snoop on users as well as nicking sensitive data. According to Spanish police, the suspect was caught red-handed "with documents stolen from computers, as well as photos and recordings, many of them compromising for their owners" when police raided his apartment this week. The Spanish Civil Guard said it began investigating the case, in an operation dubbed "Operation Tic-Tac", in July 2004 after an Alicante man noticed his PC was behaving unusually and reported his suspicions to the authorities. Although the Trojan at the centre of the case has not been named its functionality is similar to that of Rbot-GR, the "Peeping-Tom" worm, first discovered in August 2004. Last year a 27-year-old Spanish man was sentenced to two years in prison for writing a Trojan horse said to have infected over 100,000 computers. ® Related stories Spanish police arrest Raleka virus suspect Sasser kid charged with computer sabotage Meet the Peeping Tom worm
John Leyden, 20 Jan 2005

'EA leak' yields late 2005 Xbox 2 ship date

Microsoft's next-generation Xbox console, whether it will be dubbed 'Xbox 2' or 'Xbox Next', is going to ship late 2005, according to reports citing a press released that is alleged to have leaked out of games publishing giant Electronic Arts. Games site Spong this week received a copy of an as-yet-unpublished announcement of EA's game Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The title is due to ship late 2005. And so, it seems, is the Xbox 2. According to EA's blurb, the game will be available for all the usual suspects but crucially a "simultaneous ship with the Xbox2 platform". The implication is clear: the game will ship late 2005 and so with Microsoft's next-generation console. It has been rumoured for some time that Microsoft will ship Xbox 2/Next later this year in a bid to grab the Christmas 2005 sales period for its own and steal a march on Sony's PlayStation 3, which isn't expected to arrive in the West before 2006, and Nintendo's upcoming 'Revolution', the successor to GameCube. Of course, Spong's press release may yet prove a fake, or at least to have been doctored by the leaker to incorporate the Xbox 2 release timeframe. Or EA may be simply guessing. Had Microsoft been planning a late 2005 release, some observers have argued, surely it would have announced the fact at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month? Bill Gates's keynote made no mention of the upcoming console - probably just as well when the featured Xbox experienced a blue-screen-of-death crash. All eyes will now turn to E3 in May, the key event at which MS could launch Xbox 2 - not least because Sony is likely to discuss PS3 there too. ® Related stories Gizmondo gears up for US launch Nvidia nabs PS3 graphics contract IBM, Sony to detail 'Cell' PS3 CPU February 2005 Sony points to 2006 PS3 ship date Infinium chases further funding for Phantom Bill Gates stalks Nintendo - again Sony selects Blu-ray for PlayStation 3 Sony to unveil PlayStation 3 early '05 MS 'to drop' Xbox compatibility from Xbox 2 Nintendo plots next-gen console 'Revolution' Sony talks up PS3
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005

Nokia 'completely committed' to N-Gage

Nokia has denied online reports that the mobile phone giant is about to can its N-Gage handheld console. According to a company spokesman cited by Computer and Video Games.com, Nokia remains "completely committed" to the platform. "Nokia has no intention of shutting down the N-Gage," he said. "We are completely committed to the platform. It's not going anywhere." Ah, isn't that the truth. The handheld console was recently dropped from the UK software chart produced by Chart-Track on behalf of the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA). Low sales and less interest in the data prompted the decision, according to reports. And when Nokia last week announced a plan to cut back on R&D costs, the axe fell most sharply on the company's multimedia division, which is responsible for the N-Gage. Nokia is said to have given N-Gage 18 months to prove itself a viable platform. Launched in October 2003, N-Gage didn't rack up 1m shipments until September 2004, though Nokia had previously said it expected to ship rather more than that in the device's first year. The launch, last May, of the N-Gage QD, which fixed many of the design limitations of the original console, certainly gave the platform a boost, but it's unclear whether it will have given it enough of a lift to justify the money Nokia has spent developing and promoting the console. Indeed, said the spokesman: "There's been so much money and effort poured into the system we're not going to pull out now." In October 2003, the N-Gage had few rivals. Now it's up against smaller players like Tapwave and Gizmondo, and, more importantly, the big boys, Nintendo and Sony, with the DS and PSP. ® Related stories Nokia cuts hit smart phone, multimedia R&D Nokia ships 1m N-Gage consoles Nokia N-Gage QD US debut slips Nokia ships N-Gage QD Ilkka Raiskinen on N-Gage, and more Nokia launches N-Gage QD
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005

T-Mobile axes 2,200 jobs

T-Mobile is axing 2,200 jobs - one in ten of its European workforce in a massive cost-cutting exercise to save €1bn (£693m) a year. Some 1,200 jobs will be axed in Germany alone as the company embarks on a new scheme called 'Save for Growth'. Jobs will be lost in T-Mobile's other country operations including the UK, which employs 6,500 staff, although workers here won't be told details until tomorrow. US jobs are not included in the cuts. T-Mobile International chief exec René Obermann said: "We will do everything we can to see that the whole process is carried out in as socially acceptable as possible." In effect, T-Mobile is restructuring its business to reflect a shift away from customer acquisition towards better customer retention. Said Obermann: "The mobile industry is on the verge of a shift from the focus being on growth purely in SIM cards to the development and maintenance of deeper customer relationships. The course is clear: profitable growth at reasonable costs instead of growth at any price; simple and inexpensive tariffs coupled with realistic handset prices." So, the cellco is reducing handsets on offer from 50 to 30-40; this should simplify procurement and help it negotiate lower prices with suppliers. T-Mobile is also looking to network efficiency gains and it aims to use more ecommerce and telesales to flog phones and tariffs. ® Related stories Hacker breaches T-Mobile systems, reads US Secret Service email Stelios eyes Europe for easyMobile service T-Mobile widens UK airport Wi-Fi cover easyMobile set for March launch Stelios to hop into bed with T-Mobile
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2005

Beer fights cancer: official

Scientists at Okayama University in Japan have rather agreeably discovered that unidentified compounds in lager and stout may help to prevent DNA damage leading to cancer. Some cancers are apparently provoked by heterocyclic amines - "DNA-damaging chemicals found in cooked meat and fish", New Scientist reports. The university team fed mice these compounds, and then noted that "the DNA damage to their liver, lungs and kidneys was reduced by up to 85 per cent if the mice drank non-alcoholic beer instead of water". Lead boffin Sakae Arimoto-Kobayashi reckons the beer-borne chemicals "prevent the amines binding to and damaging DNA". Naturally, if they can pinpoint the beneficial compounds in question, brewers will be able to concoct cancer-battling superbrews. But before we all rush off to the pub for a lifesaving pint, some unanswered questions remain. New Scientist notes that heavy boozing is responsible for around six per cent of cancers in the West. Since the mice were refreshed with non-alcoholic beer, the scientists cannot confirm that "moderate consumption of normal beer has any anti-cancer benefits". Arimoto-Kobayashi notes: "The total benefits and risks of beer with alcohol are still under consideration." Fair enough. When you've worked it out, give us a shout - we'll be in the Rose and Crown doing a bit of field research. ® Related stories Supremes evaluate Internet booze shopping Pub landlord secures Vulcan for £15k Three-quarters of Brit workers drunk after lunch Gasping for a pint? Text GOODPUB
Lester Haines, 20 Jan 2005


Email app outfit FamilyMail has released an idiot-proof email program which is "specifically designed for parents who do not use email and are concerned about computer security". What FamilyMail 8.3 is actually designed to do is let your granny - who still believes that if there is no bulb in the bulb holder and the switch is on then electricity will leak from said holder - to interface with technology. Indeed, FamilyMail's blurb notes: "Many senior citizens avoid learning to use a computer because they're overwhelmed by the complexities or just do not want to spend time learning how. FamilyMail allows these people to cross the digital divide and stay in contact with the younger generations." The programme can be installed by "children or grandchildren with average computer skills". It then "bypasses confusing Windows logon procedures, and simply dials the Internet and downloads email". Simple as that. Presumably, FamilyMail immediately thereafter offers alerts such as "YOU'VE GOT MAIL, DEAR. YES, EMAIL. ON THE COMPUTER" and "LET'S STICK THE KETTLE ON FOR A NICE CUPPA BEFORE DOWNLOADING THIS TROJAN, SHALL WE?" You can buy FamilyMail v.8.3 online for $29.90 or €29.90 at http://www.familymail.com. Rich Tea biscuits are not included. ® Related stories New PCs for old people Suing grannies for MP3 swapping - will it start in the UK? 'Silver Surfers' day targets the over-50s
Lester Haines, 20 Jan 2005

Music sites charged with 'enslaving' users

Online music services such as iTunes may be growing in popularity but they're also a source of frustration for many music fans. That's according to the results of a new study which has criticised such services for trying to enslave internet users by locking them in to proprietary formats and music players. Research conducted by Shelley Taylor & Associates between October and December 2004 also found that a large number of digital downloading services are poorly designed making it difficult for users to navigate around music sites. The firm analysed 15 download stores, seven media player/jukeboxes, 10 online radio stations and six P2P sites. Among the online music services covered in the research were iTunes, Napster, MusicMatch, Virgin, Sony's Connect and Real Network's Music Store. A number of file-sharing services that aren't supported by the music industry were also included. The study acknowledges that the digital download industry is still in its infancy however, it suggests that online music sites need to change their tactics if they are to continue to attract music lovers. "We see some of the most popular download services actively engaging in a form of guerrilla slavery; using proprietary formats, closed system media players and proprietary portable devices," said the report's author Shelley Taylor. "As a result, user's initial enthusiasm is being deflated as they realise they have been conned - there are more limitations imposed on legitimate digital downloads, media players and portable devices than advertised. If music services focused on creating and delivering features, functions and content that enabled users to more fully participate in the pleasure of music, then these services would sell themselves." Sony's Connect service came in for particular criticism in the report because as well as being poorly designed it uses a proprietary format and is only available to users who have music devices manufactured by the firm. The study also questioned why music fans were forced in to registering for a Hotmail account in order to purchase music from the Music MSN store or in to having a Yahoo account to use LaunchCast. Although iTunes has proven extremely popular with music fans worldwide, it failed to beat the French online music store Fnac to top the list of best download sites. Fnac was considered to be the most user-friendly online music site because of the extra features it offered. These include discounts for purchasing multiple music tracks, the ability to download videos and the opportunity to buy concert tickets via the site. However, it wasn't all bad news for Apple. iTunes, which recently launched in Ireland, was judged to be the most flexible and full-featured media player/jukebox in the study. HMV, one of the most popular high street music retailers in the UK and Ireland was awarded the lowest marks among online music stores in the survey with researchers damning it for confusing navigation and scant artist information. © ENN Related stories Downloading digital music Legal downloads jumped 900% in 2004 Napster subscriber tally hits 270,000 Apple: iPod domination - or just another fad?
ElectricNews.net, 20 Jan 2005

Bertelsmann makes first Napster settlement

Bertelsmann has made its first settlement in the long-running Napster copyright infringement saga, the NY Times reports. The German media group will pay $50,000 to Bridgeport Music of Southfield, Michigan to settle "accusations from Bridgeport Music... that it had contributed to copyright infringement by lending millions of dollars to Napster in 2000 and 2001". This covers Bridgeport's legal fees to date after the company decided to stop pursuing Bertelsmann through the courts. Bridgeport's lawyer, Richard Busch, said the litigation was "just not cost-effective; that's the sole reason." He added that "the decision to settle the case was not based in any way, shape or form on the merits of the case". Bertelsmann faces continued legal action from the music industry's big-hitters - EMI and Universal Music Group included - arising from its $85m investment in Napster four years ago. It is charged with aiding online piracy by providing financial assistance to the then illicit music download operation. Bertelsmann lawyer Bruce Rich said he would "entertain discussions of resolving the case with other plaintiffs in a fashion similar to the Bridgeport case, in which his client paid only the plaintiff's legal costs", the NY Times reports. The music majors have no intention of dropping the case. Universal Music president Zach Horowitz told the paper: "While Bridgeport may not be a deep-pocketed plaintiff who can afford to go through the cost of enforcing its rights, the publishers and the major record companies don't fit in that category.They truly believe there are billions of dollars of damages they will ultimately be entitled to at the end of the process." The Napster name was bought by Roxio, and is now entirely legit: recently it began to trade on Nasdaq as an independent company after Roxio's decision to offload its software biz and concentrate solely on music downloads. Related stories Napster trades on Nasdaq Sonic buys Roxio software biz Legal downloads jumped 900% in 2004
Lester Haines, 20 Jan 2005

Euro Apple fans moan over Mac Mini pricing

OpinionOpinion European Mac users are petitioning Apple to eliminate what they claim is its "rip-off" Mac Mini pricing. "We'd like to make an appeal to Apple on the pricing of the new Mac mini in the European Union," the online petition states. "Basing [sic] on the last long-term rate of exchange of US dollars to euros (and vice versa) - which is 1.3293 on the spot market, so let's say 1.32 - both announced prices of the Mac mini in Europe, €489 and €589, respectively, are much too high." Whingeing British Mac fans were quick to pitch in by pointing out that the cheaper of the two Mac Mini configurations costs $499 in the US - around £267 at current exchange rates. However, UK buyers pay £339. Of course, petitioners forget that the UK price contains sales tax, charged at a rate of 17.5 per cent, whereas the US price does not. So the comparable UK price would be £289. Still £22 more than the dollar-sterling exchange price, but a darn sight smaller differential than the moaners would have you believe. Different import duties apply too, which may also yield a higher UK price than the dollar-sterling translation would suggest. Continental Europeans are a little more justified in their complaints - but not much. The $499 Mac Mini costs €422 in Germany, once sales tax has be deducted, compared to a dollar-to-euro price of €384. Again, import duties and other taxes may widen the differential. French buyers pay €418; Italians €416; and Spaniards €422. Today, the dollar is very low. That may change. If the currency strengthens, the disparity could disappear very quickly. Indeed, Apple could start losing money from Europeans, unless it adjusted its prices. The bottom line, then, is that the petitioners might be better off complaining to their respective governments at the high sales taxes and duties imposed upon these and other products. Yes, Apple may charge Europeans more than its US customers, once sales taxes and import duties have been taken into account. Like all IT companies - and, for that matter, all businesses - Apple charges what it thinks punters in each territory will pay. But be glad that the old days when the company - and, again, it was by no means the only IT firm to do this - would effectively set European pricing by simply cutting the dollar sign off the US price and pasting on a sterling symbol instead. Apple does have a case to answer when it comes to preventing cross-border trade among its various European iTunes Music Stores, and indeed the European Commission has been asked to investigate this potential violation of the Treaty of Rome. No one is being forced by buy a Mac - or a PC, for that matter. We have a choice, ladies and gentlemen. And we can buy from US suppliers. Maybe not. More pernicious is the emergence of increasing numbers of region-specific hardware, designed to prevent cross-border purchasing. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article Apple is building US iMac G5s with a US-only power transformer - connect it up to the higher-voltage UK mains and you'll blow it. Time was when all Macs shipped with auto-switching transformers. The WSJ cites numerous other examples of vendors designing systems so that, say, European toner cartridges will not work with US-sourced laser printers. Again, Apple is not acting alone. Let's ensure that before complaining about Apple's hardware pricing policy, we understand just how much of those prices goes not into the company's coffers, how much is taken by the banks in currency exchange transactions, and how much is taken by governments. ® Related stories Creative loses first battle in Apple 'war' World PC sales still growing Apple said to ship PowerBook G5 in Q2 2005 Apple: iPod domination - or just another fad? Apple unveils CD-sized mini Mac, one ounce iPod Apple music store smacked with antitrust suit UK govt takes iTunes gripe to Europe
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005
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Hynix infringed 50 Rambus patent claims - judge

The US District Court of Northern California has rejected all but one of six requests for summary judgements made by Hynix in its long-running legal dispute with Rambus. Judge Ronald Whyte also ruled in favour of a seventh summary judgement motion, this time requested by Rambus itself. The upshot is that of the 59 claims that Hynix was alleged by Rambus to have infringed, the South Korean memory maker has been found to have a case to answer in all but nine. Hynix had asked the court to rule that its products had infringed none of 59 claims, which are contained in 15 Rambus patents. The nine claims, contained in four of the 15 Rambus patents and which centre on the use of a "second external clock signal", will be removed from the action. Simply, Hynix did not infringe these claims. Rambus' own motion had requested summary judgement on the alleged infringement of some 40 claims. Judge Whyte rejected the motion as regards 11 of these claims, stating their use of the term "read request" needs further investigation. However, he ruled in Rambus' favour for the remaining 29 claims, all of which are among the 50 Rambus claims that survived Hynix's summary judgment motions on non-infringement and validity. And so the case will go to trial, with the date 21 March 2005 set for the opening of the hearing. According to Rambus, the remaining 11 patent infringement and validity issues will be explored first, along with Hynix's spoliation claim. Once dealt with, the trial will re-commence in June and focus on various non-patent defences and counterclaims asserted by Hynix, Rambus said. ® Related stories Mosaid sues Hynix Rambus poo-poos Hynix Euro patent victory claim Rambus income slides despite revenue gains Rambus board plays musical chairs Infineon accuses Rambus of 'litigation misconduct' Rambus sales, earnings rise on royalties Rambus stock falls 13% on appeal failure
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2005

iRiver H10 5GB MP3 player

ReviewReview The 5GB hard drive market is awash with players all vying to be the top dog, so what makes iRiver's H10 stand out from the crowd? asks Stuart Miles. Well, it's certainly compact. And the front boasts a 1.5in, 262,000-colour screen and a vertical touchpad control mechanism almost identical to the one on Creative's Zen Micro. Expect the lawsuits to start flying soon. Alongside the touchpad, the H10 has Back and Select button on the front, with Play and volume control buttons on the side. There's a Hold switch on the top. Like the iPod Mini and the Zen Micro, the H10 comes in a range of colours, four in this case, in an attempt to appeal to those who don't want just the standard silver - or, these days, white. On the surface, the H10 is a standard MP3 job that supports drag and drop across a USB 2.0 connection. Menus are easy to control, using the vertical touchpad. For playback, the H10 offers the usual sorting methods: by artist, album, genre and playlists. For good measure, there's an FM radio in there too. But the stand-out feature is the ability to store and view photos. Unlike Apple's iPod Photo, you simply drag and drop the images you want to the player's Pictures folder. This does have its drawbacks: large files take longer to view, for example, but on the whole it works very well. And you don't need to synchronise the H10 with a specific photo application. However, like the Apple, iRiver has also missed the trick. You can't plug either the H10 or the iPod Photo straight into a digital camera and download your images immediately. Drag and drop may be an improvement over the iPod Photo's synchronisation system, but you still need to transfer your pictures twice, first to a computer and then to the H10. The H10 also has the ability to store and view text files. This is an interesting idea and it only works because the 262,000-colour screen's quality is so sharp. We aren't suggesting that you read a book on it, but it will get you out of a bind if you really do need to read that document. Our belief is that people will use this to store emergency contact details or passwords - which is a really bad idea - as you are restricted to just .txt files. We tried it with .rtf and even .doc formats but to no avail. Verdict Overall, this player is easy to use and performs well producing a good sound that coped well with everything we played - from Crystal Method to Bob Dylan - in our tests. If you weren't happy of course, you could change the 'phones. The addition of a good quality screen to view images puts it above the iPod Photo even though it doesn't have the storage capacity to match. What's the catch? There isn't one. The player works well with both Mac and PCs - thanks to the drag and drop - and the size means its still small enough to tuck out of the way. Our one piece of advice though, is to throw away the rubber casing as soon as you open the box as it makes the player unusable with it on. iRiver H10   Rating 90%   Pros — Size; control; ability to view images and text files; drag and drop.   Cons — The rubberised case - fortunately it's optional.   Price £209   More info The iRiver site Recent Reviews AOpen i855GMEm-LFS desktop Pentium M mobo Dell Axim X50v wireless PocketPC Sapphire Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition iRiver PMC-120 Portable Media Center Samsung Q30 ultra-portable notebook Creative Audigy 2 ZS Notebook PCMCIA sound card iRiver N10 512MB Flash MP3 player Kodak EasyShare DX7590 ATI Radeon Xpress 200G reference board
Pocket Lint, 20 Jan 2005

LG sniffing round Siemens mobile phone biz

South Korean firm LG Electronics is in the frame to buy Siemens' loss-making handset business, according to German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche, by way of newswire AFP. Unnamed sources say the two companies are locked in talks over the future of the mobile phone business, which lost €140m (£97m) in the fourth quarter of 2004. According to recent reports, Siemens will close its mobile handset division unless it can find a buyer for the loss-making business, which is the world's fourth biggest handset maker. Chief executive Heinrich von Pierer is quoted as saying: "Either the situation has to be fixed or we have to find a partner for co-operation. We have to fix, close or sell." NEC and Chinese manufacturer Ningbo Bird - both linked as possible buyers - have denied any interest in acquiring the business. A decision about the future of Siemens's mobile phone business is expected at the group's annual meeting on 27 January. ® Related stories Siemens mobile arm for sale or closure China rejects Siemens phone business World mobile phone shipments up 25%
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2005

UK.gov urged to lead fight on e-crime

The UK government has been urged to take the lead in fighting cybercrime. Parliamentary lobby group EURIM and think tank The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said yesterday that the UK has an historic opportunity to spearhead the international fight against cybercrime whose economic effects "already far outstripped that of physical crime". “The British tradition of democratically accountable policing, the position of London as a trusted location for resolving international disputes, and the Presidency of the EU and G8 in 2005, give the UK the opportunity to bid for global leadership as the safest place to do e-business, provided we also make it the most efficient hub for enforcement and redress,” the two organisations say in a report. Ideas from the recent UK government White Paper, Building Communities, Beating Crime, need to be extended to the net. Eurim/IPPR's report, Building Cybercommunities: Beating Cybercrime, maps out a "step by step" programme to build on existing structures in the fight against online crime. Key recommendations include: Non-geographic internet crime and disorder partnerships (soc-called “cyber caddies”) supported by a shared secretariat. These would cover specific areas of cybercrime such as child protection and infrastructure protection (allied to the National Information Security Co-ordination Centre) linked to joint (law enforcement and industry) investigatory teams with international, as well as national, resources. A central reporting and information clearing service (with clear reporting and investigatory guidelines) to field internet security incidents. Procedures to accredit IT experts and civilian volunteers to work alongside law enforcement in joint investigatory and prevention teams (both local, national and international). Practical support for London as an international centre for internet policing and disputes resolution. Democratically accountable third party governance routines for non-geographic policing. Eurim/IPPR's report is the sixth in a series of discussion papers that aim to set the agenda for debate on e-crime. The full text of Building Cybercommunities: Beating Cybercrime is here (Word document). ® Related stories UK police lack e-crime savvy officers Small.biz told to swot up on Net security My sysadmin is a special constable E-crime costs UK business billions MPs urged to reform cybercrime laws UK.gov announces hi-tech elite police squad
John Leyden, 20 Jan 2005

The race is on for ownership of .net

The deadline has closed and there are officially five companies bidding to take over the Internet's third-biggest registry - .net. From 1 July this year, 5.1 million .net domains will be handed over to the applicant that an independent group of advisors, working under the auspicies of ICANN, decide is most suitable. Their decision will be made in just two months. Lined up are: Afilias, Core++, Denic, Santan and VeriSign. It is the biggest shake-up of the Internet landscape for two years, when all 2.4 million .org domains (there are now 3.2m) were handed over to the Public Interest Registry. There are similarities - the .org registry was previously the property of VeriSign (which also runs all .coms), and the company running the back-end is Afilias, which is one of the three contenders for the .net crown. However, the issue of who will get to run a big chunk of the Internet is far bigger than ownership and power - it also has an intriguing political angle. VeriSign currently runs all .net domains and it is going all out to win the contract back. Without .net, it may still have the most profitable registry (.com with 31.9 million domains) but it will be a huge blow to the company that was the Internet pre-1999. VeriSign But while VeriSign's kudos and wallet would be hit by a decision going against it, even more dangerous would be the undermining of a system created entirely by VeriSign for VeriSign's benefit. For every single .net and .com domain registered, VeriSign makes $6 - whether it sold the domain or not. VeriSign claims this is what it costs to run the registry infrastructure. However, everyone else bidding for .net says this $6 is too high and all have vowed to reduce it. A loss of .net for VeriSign means an end to its price controls on .coms as well, especially with ICANN promising more new global top-level domains soon. Monopoly control will finally be wrest away. These very reasons are also why ICANN would desperately love for its old foe to be humbled. With VeriSign weakened, ICANN can start to assert itself properly over the Internet. It may even mean the end of the lengthy legal battle that VeriSign has been running against ICANN - something that is as much a bartering chip as it is a legal dispute. And up against VeriSign are, intriguing, all non-US companies - an indication, if you needed one, that the days of the internet being an American toy are well and truly over. Afilias Afilias currently runs both .info and .org domains - 6.1 million in total. It clearly has enough expertise, but it has faced a lot of criticism recently. Alot of it stems from its initial running of .info, which even the company admitted didn't run entirely smoothly. But then that was back in 2001, and it was a brand-new registry, starting from scratch. Another criticism is that the .info registry fell over for a day this past September when a registrar tried to register one million names in a very short timeframe - Afilias' system managed just over 300,000 before it collapsed. Neither of events should preclude Afilias from running .net, but a remarkable number of press reports have started questioning Afilias's fitness to run such an important registry. Can we perhaps see the hand of VeriSign behind this queries? VeriSign has certainly embarked on a massive lobbying spree, frequently arming journalists with interesting snippets of information and forcefully suggesting that ISPs may want to support its bid. What for example are we to make of the 12 letters sent to ICANN head Paul Twomey by various companies and ISPs around the globe stating their support for VeriSign to continue to run the .net registry? Nothing you say? Except look a little closer and - how odd! - many of the letters have exactly the same wording. And everyone makes their key point that VeriSign has had "100 percent uptime". What a coincidence that the main competitor, Afilias, is being criticised for just that at the same time that everyone else is pointing out that is what VeriSign's strength is. Santan Meanwhile, contender number three - Santan. You won't have heard of it because it's a new company that comprises NeuLevel - which runs the .biz registry and Japan Registry Services. There are 1.06 million .biz domains. Again, questions are being raised over whether NeuLevel can be trusted - after all, a move to five million domains from one million is a big leap. NeuLevel is also used to playing a different sort of domain game - it is very pro-business and red-tape and that's fine if the registry is new, but millions of .net domains will be owned by Average Joes and if a company isn't used to the odd situations that dealing with the public can throw up, there is a risk that it could be swamped. As so, it would appear that VeriSign tactic of focussing on stability and raising questions over Afilias and NeuLevel is a good one. Except it wasn't counting on Denic. Denic Denic runs all Germany .de domains - 8.0 million of them. It is the second-biggest registry in the world and it can also boast a high level of service. Perhaps just as importantly, Denic is also going all out to win the contract. If VeriSign is going to get people to send copycat letters to ICANN saying why it should be chosen as the .net operator, then Denic is going to as well. If has yet to reach VeriSign's 12, but Paul Twomey now has six pro-Denic letters on his desk (you can see all the letters incidentally on ICANN's website here). Some of Denic letters are identical save the person signing them, and - blimey! - all of them point out Denic's 100 percent uptime record. Most revealing are two letters from Deutsche Telekom - Germany's biggest telco and a major international player. One, sent on 16 July 2004, gives VeriSign its wholehearted backing. Then, suddenly, on 10 September, a second appears in which it is explained the first letter was a mistake and Deutsche Telekom really supports Denic. "It is my serious duty that this particular letter [the first one] has been signed by myself as a result of accidental concatenation of internal administrative misinterpretations" - seriously, read it here [pdf]. Now how much pressure do you think it takes to make a senior exec in one of the world's biggest telcos write a letter like that? At the same time, Denic has also started getting the press onside. While VeriSign rallies US journalists, Denic has already covered Europe and has started getting into the US IT press as well - see this CNet story. So Denic isn't messing about and while ICANN would love nothing more than VeriSign to lose the .net registry, it would be equally delighted to see Denic win it. Why? Because Denic is the most powerful registry outside of ICANN control. ICANN has no jurisdiction over the different countries of the world. It hates this and for years has pressed different countries into signing a contract that them to accept ICANN as having overall control. Denic, along with Nominet (which runs .uk domains), have been the two most vigorous and public opponents of ICANN over this. That tactic has since been abandoned by the Twomey ICANN administration - and the rest of the world and ICANN have at last started getting on. For ICANN to sign up the biggest previous opponents of its rule, and for it to run a registry under ICANN's control would be a major feather in its cap. CORE++ And that brings us lastly to CORE++ which is a surprising but worthy outsider in the battle for .net. CORE++ has been set up purely to run .net and has set up an explanatory website for its existence. It is a huge consortium of domain registrars, registry operators, telcos and technology companies. CORE itself runs the .aero and .museum registries, and the others include the Internet Systems Consortium, the National Internet Development Agency of Korea, (which runs .kr), and the .za domain name authority. It is based in Barcelona in Spain. However, while this consortium would most closely follow the Internet tradition of working with one another, it seems likely that it will be an also-ran since the evaluators will want to see a company that is already up and running a huge Internet infrastructure. There is the risk that too many cooks may spoil the broth. And so, the winner is... And so, in conclusion, what we have is a two-horse race: VeriSign and Denic. Both are more than capable of running .net and both want it badly and are willing to fight for it. How much the evaluators will be swayed by other pressures will be interesting to see. It could even be that with the pressure exerted by the two lead contenders, they surprise everyone and go for, say, CORE++. But in all likelihood it looks as though either VeriSign or Denic will take the top prize. As for who these evaluators are: well ICANN said it might release their details but nothing has happened as yet, and the organisation may be wanting to shield them. Plus of course that may give ICANN a little extra persuasive power. Who will win? Well, for the good of the Internet, our bet goes with Denic. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Jan 2005

MCI nabs NetSec for $105m

MCI is to buy managed security services firm NetSec for $105m in cash. The acquisition will enable MCI to offer advanced security services to large companies and government customers a year quicker than would otherwise be possible, it says. The transaction should close within 30 days. NetSec offers a suite of security services including vulnerability and event management services as well as professional consultancy advice and penetration testing. It employs 150 people, including 19 in London. MCI will combine its own network-based intelligence with NetSec's premise-based security monitoring to provide customers with a comprehensive view of their security environment across multiple systems and devices. It will also extend NetSec's Finium security services platform, which correlates security data from various sensors, to clients who want to extend their security defences. MCI said NetSec complements existing security partnerships with firms such as MessageLabs. Glenn Hazard, NetSec chairman and chief executive officer, said: "Telcos are going from becoming networking companies selling bandwidth to network services firm selling value added services such as security and storage. MCI has the resources to finance NetSec's growth," he said. ® Related stories NetSec scoops up Defcom Big.biz struggles against security threats (NetSec survey) Merger creates world's biggest IT security services firm MCI upbeat despite $3.4bn loss
John Leyden, 20 Jan 2005

Satellite snaps huge, penguin-killing iceberg

An iceberg the size of Long Island is smashing into the continent of Antarctica. Caught by both the Terra and Aqua satellites heading straight for the Drygalski Tongue (the floating extension of the Drygalski Glacier), the iceberg looked set for a head-on collision. But at the last minute, just two and a half miles from the glacial tongue, it stopped, most likely grounded on a sandbank. At just over 80 miles long, the iceberg is playing havoc with the normal ocean currents that clear pack ice away from the antarctic shore in its summer months. The sea ice has remained intact well into January, adding tens of extra miles of marching for penguins, who need to get to the sea to find food for their chicks. However, as the iceberg appeared to ground itself, there was a sudden break-up of the sea ice in the area (see picture). This does not mean the chicks are saved, however. Researchers had been worried the penguins would have to eat all the food they had gathered in order to survive the march home. This is less unlikely now that the ice has broken up, but the chicks are still imperilled. The unusually persistent pack-ice also made it harder for icebreakers to reach the science base at McMurdo. ® Related stories Mars rock found in Antarctica Satellite photos pinpoint 'Atlantis' Choppers to buzz Tux colonies in bid to make penguins keel
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Jan 2005

Hand over the code, judge tells IBM

The SCO Group has secured a legal victory over IBM with a judge ordering IBM to reveal all of its versions of AIX and Dynix and documentation of any changes made to the software. While SCO was granted this crucial part of its request, it lost out in a bid to see IBM's Configuration Management Version Control (CMVC) and Revision Controls System (RCS) - both of which are used to track alterations to IBM's software. Should IBM fail to provide all versions of AIX and Dynix by March 18, it will be forced to give SCO access to CMVC and RCS, said US Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells. "SCO has much to gain by showing that any so called homegrown code allegedly within the purview of the contract ended up in Linux," the judge wrote. "In equal respect, IBM's case will be strengthened tenfold if IBM can show that notwithstanding possible contract protections, homegrown code provided no basis for the code that IBM eventually contributed to Linux." The judge also gave IBM a break with regard to the amount of programmer's notes it must provide to SCO. Instead of interviewing a whopping 7,200 individuals, IBM will only have to query the 3,000 people who made the most contributions and changes to AIX and Dynix. IBM must turn over all of the programmer's notes, design documents and white papers, along with contact information for these individuals. The judge also postponed a decision on whether or not IBM will have to turn over documents from its top executives relating to the case. Both SCO and IBM were warned to improve their behavior in this case. "There have been abundant accusations of stonewalling in this case by both parties," the judge wrote. "While the court assumes the good faith of all litigants before it, the court, nevertheless, urges both sides to renew their efforts in cooperating with each other." In a rather odd twist, the judge drifted off into a football history lesson. The judge, in a footnote, compared both SCO and IBM to "two-way" football players that used to work on both offense and defense. "Although some modern players are considered 'two-way' players, few can match the legendary ironmen from football's past who often played on both offense and defense the entire game. Hall of Famer Mel Hein is the perfect example. This New York Giants' star was one of the most durable players in NFL history. He played 15 seasons going for 60 minutes a game without nearly any rest. Amazingly, he called for a timeout just once in his career. The timeout was used to repair his broken nose." We're sure SCO and IBM will take that important lesson to heart. The full decision is available here in PDF format. ® Related stories Software patents: the fight in Europe Novell's MS complaint: we wuz robbed SCO not sure pro-SCO site is a good idea SCO's profit turns to loss as Q3 revenue tumbles IBM threatens SCO with GPL hearing
Ashlee Vance, 20 Jan 2005

The aftermath of a domain name hijack

The industry needs to find a way to establish stronger trust in registrars if it is to avoid a repeat of last weekend's hijacking of the Panix.com domain name, says Alexis Rosen, Panix president. He sees a problem in a system where so many entities are able to act as registrars, when that same system bases its stability on registrars being trustworthy. He argues that unless that trust can be strengthened, stronger penalties are needed for those who violate it. New York based ISP Panix.com was the victim of a domain name hijack last weekend when Australian registrar Melbourne IT failed to properly confirm a transfer request for the domain name. The registrar says the loophole that caused the problem has been closed, now. The rules governing domain name transfers were changed last November, in an effort to simplify a very bureaucratic process. However, some in the industry warned that the new rules - under which the domain owner must intervene within five days to stop an inter-registry transfer request - would make it easier for people to hijack domains. Rosen suspects that the Panix.com name was hijacked to make just that point, but says there are other possible motives too. "Several have been suggested. I don't find any of them much more strongly compelling than the others." So far, he says, the following scenarios seem plausible: that it was an attempt to hurt Panix - "We've made many enemies in the black-hat community over the years"; that it was an attempt to point out problems in the domain transfer process; it was done for publicity, and so serve as a warning to others, or that it was for direct financial gain. This last possibility is become less likely as time passes: "Nobody's written to threaten us with another transfer if we don't pay up, or anything like that," Rosen says. But how to stop it happening again? "This is an incredibly difficult subject, because certain operational requirements must be met," Rosen says. "But political interests control the process." This is something of an understatement. Trying to persuade anyone to take final responsibility for the domain name system and domain name registration is a bit like trying to persuade Microsoft to show us a bit of source code. A system designed by consensus does not lend itself to top-down regulation. Network Solutions has locked its customers' domain names, which means they need to approve any transfer requests. There have been suggestions that Panix's domain was locked, but that it was transferred anyway. Rosen says he is investigating this still, and doesn't have all the information he needs, yet. As for Melbourne IT's statement on the hijack, he says it is a reasonably accurate reflection of his own assessment. But he would have appreciated an apology: "I have no argument with it, except for the way he so carefully distances himself and MelbourneIT from it even while eventually admitting culpability. It takes an entire large paragraph to do that, and not once do we see 'We were responsible', much less 'We're sorry'. I think the thousands of people involved would have liked to see some sort of apology." Apologies aside, Rosen says Panix's priorities right now are to deal with customer queries, try to straighten out the perception of what actually happened, and to "work with law enforcement agencies to try to catch the people responsible". ® Related stories Panix.com hijack: Aussie firm shoulders blame Panix recovers from domain hijack ICANN goes domain crazy ICANN selects its wardens ICANN pitches the internet's future
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Jan 2005

Journalists must reveal their sources (if Apple asks)

LettersLetters Mac sleuth Nick de Plume has won big name legal backing in his fight against Apple, with storied attorney Terry Gross coming to his defense. No, not the NPR interviewer, but the man who served as special counsel for the EFF and specializing in First Amendment cases, and a successful attorney in several consumer fraud and antitrust cases. He was also, er, Leona Helmsley's lawyer. Nick de Plume is a nom de plume for 19-year old Harvard Student Nick Ciarelli, who's run the site for six years, and notched up an impressive record of scoops. "Think Secret's reporting is protected by the First Amendment," said Gross. "The Supreme Court has said that a journalist cannot be held liable for publishing information that the journalist obtained lawfully. Think Secret has not used any improper newsgathering techniques. We will be filing a motion asking the Court to dismiss this case immediately on First Amendment grounds under a California statute which weeds out meritless claims that threaten First Amendment rights." The lawsuit has chilling effects. If successful, the free press would be restricted to regurgitating Apple press releases and spoonfed non disclosure agreements. For that reason it called be called the "Stop Walt" suit. Now, one might argue that most members of the fourth estate are happy enough to do perform a PR function for Apple already, but that isn't the point. And as ever, a handful of Apple wingnuts are determined to bring a community of millions into disrepute (See Apple users demand higher prices - worse treatment and these disturbing robo reponses to last year's humiliating Superpower advert. "ThinkSecret has also violated journalistic ethics by knowingly publishing trade secrets. Neither of you ranks very high on the journalism food chain. ThinkBottomFeeders!" snarls reader Phillip Cripps, in a drastic revision of the ethics issue. Another compares Ciarelli to a sex pervert: "Whilst I gobble up the hints of yet unreleased Apple-products as the mac geek that I am, Apple going after its leaks with legal weapons makes sense in a fiscal world, leaking being a breach in the confidentiality agreement between employer and employee. Sites like ThinkSecret must be for Apple the equivalent of Men In Long Coats With Bags Of Candy hanging around at playgrounds," insists John Christensen. A poster at Matt Rothenberg's blog isn't impressed by this bluster. "I am disgusted by the morality shown by fanaticals here. To bully a journalist like Nick Ciarelli who is doing his job well - you have forgotten this is supposed to be a free country - Apple is a disgrace ... Shame on all of you", writes 'Farid'. "How Apple treats Nick Ciarelli will determine wheter I ever buy a Mini Mac. Their arrogance can cost them my sale," warns another. One wonders if Apple's feet can soak up any more metaphorical ammunition. ® Related stories
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Jan 2005