24th > January > 2005 Archive

Napster readies German music service

Napster will launch a German online store "later this year", the digital music company said today. The move follows the raising of $52.2m through a private placement of shares with institutional investors, which is expected to complete today. Napster will use the proceeds to for business development, such as the formal launch of Napster To Go, its Windows Media 10-based portable music subscription service. Reports today suggest Napster is also exploring movie and game downloads. This is a smart move, although one that risks diluting "the biggest brand in digital music". As always, execution will be the key to success. UK-based music service Wippit already offers a range of software downloads. The push into Germany kicked off with the appointment of former Deutsche Telekom ISP T-Online music content chief Thorsten Schliesche to run the Frankfurt-headquartered German service. Napster will launch in the country sometime in 2005. ® Related stories Napster subscriber tally hits 270,000 Napster UK pares prices Napster trades on Nasdaq SightSound looks to shut down Napster - again Napster nips into newsagents
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005
cloud

Intel 'Smithfield' dual-core to debut as 8xx series

Intel's 'Smithfield' dual-core desktop Pentium 4 processor will ship as the 8xx series, Taiwanese motherboard maker sources claim the chip giant has said. And it has set 20 February as the launch date of the P4 6xx series - the first 64-bit Pentium chips aimed at mainstream desktops systems. It's already known from internal Intel roadmaps that Smithfield will ship at three clock frequencies - 2.8, 3.0 and 3.2GHz - with model numbers x20, x30 and x40. Only now has the missing first digit been filled in, courtesy of a DigiTimes report citing said sources. To that we can add the prices: $241, $316 and $530 for the 820, 830 and 840, respectively. The 8xx model number coding will distinguish the dual-core parts from the 7xx series P4 Extreme Edition line-up. Smithfield has been roadmapped for an early Q3 debut, but Intel may formally launch the chip family late Q2, it has emerged. The next version of the P4, however, is the 6xx series, which adds not only 64-bit addressing but ups the chip's L2 cache to 2MB from the current 1MB and brings Intel's power-conserving SpeedStep technology firmly into the desktop arena. Four chips are expected to ship this quarter: the 630, 640, 650 and 660, clocked at 3.0, 3.2, 3.4 and 3.6GHz, respectively, Intel roadmaps indicate. They will be priced at $224, $273, $401 and $605 at launch, the sources claim. The 3.8GHz 670 is slated for a Q2 release. ® Related stories Intel speeds 'multiple OS' desktop CPU schedule Intel 64-bit Pentium 4s make retail debut Intel 'Smithfield' to run 130W hot Intel Smithfield chipsets said to support SATA 2 Intel confirms dual-core desktop 'Smithfield' Intel dual-core desktop chip 'to ship mid-2005'
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005

Google mulls VoIP move

Google is considering offering Voice over Internet Protocol phone calls according to the The Times. Evidence for Google's alleged move comes from comments from Ovum analyst Julian Hewitt and the text of a job advert on Google's site. The ad is for an strategic negotiator to join the search engine's "technical infrastructure negotiation team". The job will include responsiblity for IP transit services in North America, Europe, Asia, negotiating for collaction deals and sorting out contracts for dark fiber services. The Times says: "the logical use of such a network would be to help to support a new telephone service." VoIP providers use software to route voice calls over the internet network at a lower cost than a call using the traditional phone network. Skype is one the best-known providers and claims 13m users across the world. The technology is also gaining ground with corporate users: Lloyds-TSB recently signed a £500m deal with IBM to provide VoIP services. The job adv is here. More in The Times here.. ® Related stories Skype VoIP threat to Euro telcos Vonage offers VoIP mobile phone Skype ties up with C&W
John Oates, 24 Jan 2005

Need an African slave? Try eBay

Absolute proof that eBay really is the world's marketplace comes with the revelation that the online auction site has branched out into the African slave trade. This outrage was discovered by a Google Group member who typed "African Slave" into Google, and was shocked to find this irresistable offer: Oh dear, oh dear. Of course, the link directs wannabe plantation owners to nothing more sinister than a few African slavery-related items including books and engravings. As one poster notes: "It does not look like a joke, rather than overzealous ebay putting too many keywords." Quite so. Nonetheless, eBay must as a matter of some urgency address this matter and either a) change the wording of their link, or b) actually acquire a big selection of low-priced African slaves, since to offer non-existent merchandise is clearly a serious breach of its own usage policy, not to mention several local and international laws. ® Bootnote Ta very much to all those readers who have written to note that "the letters 'aff' after the advert signify that this is not an eBay advert but a company making revenue from eBays affiliate scheme". We will, as suggested, direct our outrage at the real perpetrators of this trade in human misery. Related stories For Sale: Absolutely Nothing eBay scammer indicted for $66k fraud eBayer bids $20k for Texas snowball
Lester Haines, 24 Jan 2005

Western Digital hops on 1in HDD bandwagon

Hard drive maker Western Digital is finally following Seagate et al into the 1in HDD market in a bid to exploit exploding demand for mobile phone, PDA and MP3 player storage. WD said it expects to ship its debut 1in product in Q2. The 3600rpm, 12ms access-time unit will initially offer up to 6GB of storage capacity, and use a CompactFlash II interface. The company said it would add an anti-skip system to the drives to improve their reliability on the move. And with battery powered devices in mind, the new units will feature "advanced" power management facilities, WD claimed. WD did not provide pricing for the product. ® Related stories Seagate hints at job cuts despite 'strong' quarter Toshiba to ship 2GB 'phone HDD' by month's end Cornice countersues Western Digital Seagate extends HDD warranties to five years Western Digital sues Cornice Seagate unveils 'tiny to terabyte' hard drives
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005

Bush bins Hubble fix

The Bush administration has cut funding for any future mission manned or robotic, to service the Hubble Space Telescope, according to anonymous sources, cited by The Washington Post. The paper reports that NASA has binned its plans to send a robot to service the telescope so that it can focus its resources on Bush's Martian ambitions. Unnamed officials, also quoted in The Post, have confirmed that Congress will not approve funding for the mission, and that it does not appear on Bush's 2006 fiscal plans. Hubble has operated for 14 years, and in that time has sent back huge numbers of scientifically important and visually stunning images of the universe. Its original mission was designed to run for 15 years, with regular service visits from the Shuttle. The anonymous official said that the risk of such an expensive mission for just an extra year of service had been deemed too high. Costs are expected to run to at least $1bn, and there are doubts over the viability of the mission. One feasibility study puts the likelihood of failure at 80 per cent. Hubble's supporters suggest that its actual lifetime could be extended to over 20 years, if the service missions continue. However, following the Columbia Shuttle disaster, NASA grounded all flights to the telescope; and Hubble is nearly a year overdue for its fourth service mission. Sean O'Keefe, out-going NASA chief administrator, as deemed as too risky missions on a non-space station orbit, according to reports. "Hubble could easily live well beyond 20 years, and furthermore, the National Academy committee stated that the future discoveries from Hubble over the next five years are every bit as bright as the discoveries we've seen in the past," Steve Beckwith, head of the Space Telescope Science Institute, the body that manages Hubble. "I'm hoping that our lawmakers will see the value of Hubble and make it a priority in NASA's budget," he told the Washington Post. The news comes days after the American Astronomical Society (AAS) endorsed the National Research Council's recommendation that astronauts using the Space Shuttle should service Hubble. ® Related stories AAS: astronauts not robots should fix Hubble Deep Impact en route to Tempel 1 Work begins on Hubble's replacement
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Jan 2005

German police bust porn invoice scammers

German police have seized computers and documents from a dozen companies which allegedly attempted to extract cash from people using bogus invoices for porn services. They also arrested the main suspect - a 50-year-old Danish man. The companies, located in Hamburg, Mannheim and Friedberg, punted their services through newspapers and TV. When would-be customers phoned, the scammers would look up the corresponding postal address in the phone directory and send victims an invoice of €65.95 for a monthly subscription. When the recipients refused to pay, the companies would then send round bogus debt collectors. Police received more than 900 complaints, some of them dating back to October 2002. Last year in Hamburg, police arrested two suspects over an internet dialler scam, which may have swindled 170,000 internet users into paying a total of €2.5m or more. These scammers also looked up the postal address of their victims, but took the swindle one step further. They delivered a package to the victim's door, telling him that the address was incorrect, and would he please sign for delivery. The signature was then used to fabricate a bogus invoice, which stated that the victim had been using an online porn service for which he needed to pay. ® Related stories FTC punishes porn dialler firm US company fined for UK rogue dialler scam Carphone crackdown on phone insurance scam
Jan Libbenga, 24 Jan 2005

AOpen preps second-gen Centrino desktop mobo

Motherboard maker AOpen has followed up its recent Pentium M-based desktop board with a new model equipped with the latest generation of Centrino technology. Like its predecessor, the i915GM-FHS is pitched at desktop machines being developed for low-noise roles, such as living room PCs. The new model uses Intel's 915GM chipset, which supports a 533MHz frontside bus speed Pentium M CPU. The board relies on the chipset's integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 900 engine for video, but there's a PCI Express x16 slot for the addition a more powerful graphics card. There are x PCI Express x1 slot and a pair of PCI slots for further expansion. AOpen has included two Serial ATA and two Serial ATA II ports for internal storage, along with an Ultra ATA/100 link. The board provides two DIMM slots, a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports, two Firewire ports and eight USB 2.0 sockets. The i915GM-HFS is due to ship early March for around $300. ® Related stories Intel revamps Centrino Boxed 533MHz FSB Dothans seen on sale Sony unveils 'Centrino 2' notebook family Toshiba announces Sonoma-based notebook early Related stories AOpen i855GMEm-LFS desktop Pentium M mobo
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005

Spaniards develop chart-topping program

A small Spanish company says it can use artificial intelligence technology originally developed for the banking and telecoms industries to predict if a record is going to be a hit or not. It boasts an impressive track record, having successfully predicted hot sales for Norah Jones and US band Maroon 5. Barcelona-based Polyphonic HMI reckons it has identified 20 elements of song construction - including melody, harmony, tempo, pitch, octave, beat, rhythm, fullness of sound, noise, brilliance and chord progression - which its "HitSongScience" program matches against a database containing 30 years' worth of Billboard hit singles. The database, currently containing more than 3.5m songs, is updated weekly with new releases. Each song is mapped onto a grid called "music universe" and is positioned according to its mathematical characteristics. Songs with mathematical similarities are positioned very close to one another. Hit songs have common characteristics, the company claims. It is rare to see a hit song which falls outside its chart-busting "scientific clusters". When this happens, the aberration is often due to the rogue composition's lyrical content. Some hip hop songs have become popular for this reason, as did a patriotic ditty released just shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Predicting chart successes scientifically isn't new. Back in the 1970s, an American called Tom Turicchi got involved in what he called "psychographic research". He too was able to predict hit records, including Olivia Newton John's I Honestly Love You and Paul Anka's Having My Baby. Despite this, Turichhi quickly disappeared from the music map. In the 1990s, international accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand said it was developing software designed to predict the success or failure of pop music releases and other consumer products ranging from movies to children's toys. The program - Fads and Fashion - sadly failed to predict its own short lifespan. Polyphonic HMI says its computers cannot create music, they can only predict its commercial value. Naturally, there's charge for all this and the company will not return your money if your masterwork fails to chart. "We're sorry, but all transactions are final," it notes. ® Related stories Music biz threatens International Red Cross Musicians 'unconcerned' about file sharing Pirated U2 album leaked online
Jan Libbenga, 24 Jan 2005
fingers pointing at man

Averatec sets up shop in UK

US-based, Korean-backed notebook maker Averatec has begun selling its systems in the UK with the intention of becoming "a major player" in the laptop market here. Averatec today said it had put in place sales partnerships with an unnamed "major reseller" to offer its 3200, 3300 and 6200 notebook families. We can reveal that Ingram Micro is the major reseller. However, according to Averatec's web site, PCWorld is also a key retail partner. It's also taking online orders, as is Averatec's German store. A UK online operation for Averatec is in the works. The 3200 series is based on AMD's Mobile Sempron 2600+ processor and is priced from £649 including VAT. Most Averatec systems are based on AMD CPUs, including the Mobile Athlon 64 2700+ based 6240, one of the 6200 series, prices for which start at £795 including VAT. The 6200 series incorporate DVD drives and a no-boot micro operating system that allows users to play discs on its 15.4in, 1280 x 800 widescreen LCD without having to first start up in Windows XP. Averatec also offers the Athlon XP-M based C3500 Tablet PC and the Centrino-branded 3300 thin'n'light range, priced at £695 and up. Most models provide 802.11g Wi-Fi networking as standard, along with free-for-life helpdesk support and one-year back-to-base warranty. The company is backed by South Korean combine TriGem. Averatec claims six per cent of the US notebook market and aims to drive sales from $380m in 2004 to $1.2bn this year. ® Related stories AMD unveils Centrino spoiler 3D patent suit extended to Dell, HP, IBM, Sony, others AMD roadmap drops Athlon XP AMD slashes prices, ships Athlon 64 4000+ AMD ships faster Mobile Athlon 64
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005

Hotspot paranoia: try to stay calm

OpinionOpinion OK, the fact that Professor Brian Collins is prepared to talk about public Wi-Fi hotspots with evil twins does mean it's worth taking seriously. I took it seriously enough to publish something about it myself - mainly, though, as a way of publicising the Science Museum's series of talks on crime. But out there, people are taking it VERY seriously. A quick Google News search on "evil twin" produced 111 positive results - all mainly nonsense, written by people with little understanding of risk assessment. As a result, everybody in the Wi-Fi access point business - and his uncle - has been on the phone all afternoon, offering to explain how they, with their software or systems management technology or location based services, can eliminate this hazard. OK, confession time. I, too, have been hacked while connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot. The evil hacker was a colleague: Manek Dubash, much-respected editor of Network Weekly. The site: the excellent NetEvents seminar network, in Garmisch one winter, not long ago. And the "exploit" was simple: I had file sharing turned on, and Dubash told me, in a clear voice that everybody could hear across the desk, what was on my hard disk. Nothing embarrassing, thank goodness! but a reminder of the fact that we weren't back at our Ziff-Davis offices any more (where we worked at the time on PC Mag UK). Now, here's the important point: nothing. Nobody did anything nasty to my disk, nobody installed a virus, or spyware, or changed my dialup connectoid to one which rings a premium number in Brazil, or stored twenty Gig of illegal images on my hard disk. Nobody was even interested. Hacker exploits are, as Professor Collins rightly observes, possible. Yes, I could sit down at a public hotspot, give my PC the ability to act as a hotspot, and make its network ID code the same as the local hotspot's code. I could sit down at a hotspot called T-Mobile and give my PC the name T-Mobile. And I could use a simple Internet Connection Sharing link to mean that if you logged onto my PC, you'd get a share of my share of the T-Mobile internet connection. Properly done (a little preparation for a skilled hacker) I could even make the logon screen look exactly like a Starbucks logon screen, which is where most T-Mobile hotspots are. And if you logged on with your credit card, I could get your details. And if you logged into your bank to do some financial work, I might get your password. Now, why would I do all that? "For the money, stupid!" is the obvious answer. Well, yeah, duh! and the question isn't answered. Because the question is not "why would I want your password?" - it's more profound. It is: "If I want your password, what's wrong with the internet?" Internet-based exploits are safe, anonymous, quick, and harvest not just one or two card details, but thousands. Organised criminals sitting undetectably in unstable countries half way around the globe do this routinely, and nobody can find who they are, or where they are. So, if this is possible, why would I pin-point myself for the network? The network will have my MAC address, and I'll have to make sure never to use the same one again. If I do, I can be easily found... I'll be really close - like, within 100 feet or so - to the hotspot I've logged on to. I'll be vulnerable - physically vulnerable, not just identifiable - to being seen, photographed, or even seized and attacked. And I'll get... a few credit card numbers. Maybe. Which I could perhaps use to get goods sent to the home address of the card-holder. The risks are discouraging, the level of expertise needed is relatively high, and the rewards are not startling. Is this going to be a popular habit? Well, no, it isn't, unless something changes radically. If you want credit card numbers, you need the PINs to go with them. An automatic teller machine with a "skin" that reads cash cards and stores the PIN is worth having, especially if you can duplicate the card. And you don't have to be there in person to operate it. For the non-technical, the old methods are tried and trusted. "When he comes around the corner, hit his head with the rock." Take wallet, remove plastic and cash, and run. So yes: there will be hackers setting up "evil twin" access points, but your chance of meeting one is pretty slim - they'll be students trying to prove they could do it. They'll have useful careers ahead of them, and middle-class aspirations, and after a couple of experiments, they'll either get caught, or get bored. Everybody in the wireless LAN business knows this! They all talk a wonderful PowerPoint presentation on security, but if you say: "Look, this really isn't interesting - you know as well as I do that the actual risks are tiny" they say yes, of course they know that, but The Customers worry about it. Anybody can make ignorant lay readers frightened. It's a normal trick of security consultants. And it's a good idea to know what the exploits can be - especially if you're a lawyer or a doctor and have seriously confidential information on your PC, which simply cannot be risked. But in a world where most PC users still don't use spyware blockers and distributed denial-of-service attacks routinely use hundreds of thousands of compromised PCs to bring down major web servers, and where viruses and worms are distributed over ordinary dialup accounts, the risk of being hacked at a Wi-Fi hotspot is infinitesimal by comparison. If you're going to get paranoid about hotspots, you're the sort of person who'd drive a $100,000 sports car into Times Square, and walk away leaving the windows and doors open, while fretting that perhaps someone may know the activation code for the radio. Sensible precautions Turn off file sharing when in a public hotspot Password-protect your system Use secure connections before sending any financial information Turn on a software firewall Stop worrying! The information you're going to transmit at the hotspot is of no interest to anybody in the world except your Granny, to whom you're sending those photographs. © NewsWireless.Net Related stories US slaps on the wardriver-busting paint Michigan Wi-Fi hacker jailed for nine years Business frets over wireless security
Guy Kewney, 24 Jan 2005
Broken CD with wrench

Globus Consortium takes grid computing to the office

IBM, HP, Sun and Intel have formed the Globus Consortium, to accelerate the commercial development of grid computing. The Consortium is an offshoot of the Globus Alliance, and will develop grid computing tools for businesses such as the Globus Toolkit, an open standards building block for commercial grid computing. The group will also fund code development. Globus is not a standards body itself, but will work with standards bodies like the Global Grid Forum. It will also promote grid computing in the corporate world, educating businesses about the potential benefits of the technology. Grid computing is widely used in intensive number crunching projects in research, for example, unraveling the output of particle accelerators at CERN, earthquake simulation, or in weather forecasting. It is also the technology behind co-operative computing projects like Seti@Home, or the World Computing Grid where Joe Public can donate spare computing power to tackle worthy scientific research. However, technology companies have long had a vision of using grid technology to power business applications such as drug research, financial risk analysis, and oil exploration. ® Related stories Grid Computing: mainstream, or not? UK boffins sniff for Higgs boson Home PCs sought in hunt for cancer cure
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Jan 2005
channel

AMD's 2006 roadmap - details emerge

RoadmapRoadmap AMD's public roadmap stretched only so far as the end of 2005, but an image that surfaced on the web this weekend may reveal the chip maker's plans for 2006. If genuine, the roadmap shows the arrival of 'Windsor' and 'Orleans', dual-core processors that bring DDR 2 SDRAM support to the memory controller integrated into AMD's 64-bit processors. The chips also incorporate enhanced security technologies and AMD's answer to Intel's 'Vanderpool' virtualisation system, 'Presidio'. Windsor apparently uses a new interface codenamed 'M2'. Other sites point to 'Taylor', a dual-core mobile part with DDR 2 support, presumably the successor to today's single-core Mobile Athlon 64 chips for thin'n'light laptops. 'Trinidad', meanwhile, is geared toward desktop replacement notebooks, so presumably it's essentially the same as the upcoming Athlon 64 desktop dualies. Indeed, it's said to be M2-based, too. Officially, H1 2005 will see the arrival of updated 90nm single-core desktop Athlon 64s and 64-FXs - 'Venice' and 'San Diego', respectively - and a new 90nm Sempron desktop core, 'Palermo'. On the mobile side, AMD has said it will release 'Lancaster' and 'Newark', new 90nm low-voltage and mainstream, respectively, Mobile Athlon 64 chips in the first half of the year. In H2, expect to see 90nm dual-core Opterons, and 90nm Mobile Sempron cores. ® Related stories IBM goes after Intel, AMD with Linux-only server Euro AMD Opteron server demand slows AMD suffering from memory loss in Q4 AMD CPUs to sport anti-fake holograms AMD unveils Centrino spoiler Police grab 60,000 AMD CPUs AMD told not to execute 'no execute' ad campaign
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005

Nokia settles GSM patent clash

Nokia has brought to a close the legal proceedings it began against rival mobile phone maker Vitelcom last November, the Finnish giant said today. In a terse statement, Nokia said it had reached a settlement with the Spanish company. While the exact terms of the agreement were not disclosed, the deal sees the two companies cross-licensing their patents. The licences were described as "royalty bearing". In November 2004, Nokia accused Vitelcom of ripping off some of its GSM/GPRS patents. At the same time, it alleged French mobile phone company Sagem of ripping off its handset designs, and fired off lawsuits at both firms seeking monetary damages. ® Related stories Nokia 'completely committed' to N-Gage Nokia cuts hit smart phone, multimedia R&D Nokia to release Perl for smartphones Nokia accuses rivals of ripping off designs, patents
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005

CE giants open DRM to the community

The leading vendors in consumer electronics have banded together to create a Community Source Program for digital rights management and will license the whole kit and caboodle, the patents, copyrights, compliance logo and source code to anyone that wants it. Effectively CE DRM is going open source (to the extent that Community Source is the same as Open Source) in order to flood the market with DRM systems and route the threat offered by Microsoft in consumer electronics. The move comes from the leading lights in the October announced Coral Consortium, and the DRMs that can be created with the new development tools will all be compliant with and ready to interoperate through the Coral interoperability standard. These moves were made by the Intertrust–Sony–Philips DRM axis this week, with the creation of something called the Marlin Joint Development Association. The Marlin JDA also has the backing of Samsung and Matsushita, so effectively these are the same companies that are working on the Coral DRM interoperability standard due out some time later this year. Other members of the Coral Consortium included Hewlett-Packard and the News Corp controlled film company Twentieth Century Fox, but neither of these perhaps have intellectual property to contribute to a Community Source Program at present. In effect, the Marlin JDA is proposing a set of specifications that will help companies, mostly smaller companies, create their own DRM systems which are automatically compliant with the Coral Interoperability standard when it comes out. Coral is expected to be based on Intertrust’s NEMO architecture for DRM service orchestration which will have the capability built in to work with existing DRM systems such as Microsoft’s Media DRM and Apple’s Fairplay and Sony’s MagicGate, but in order to do so, each DRM owner would have to agree to “open” their DRM to the interoperability standard. Coral competes head-on with the Content Reference Forum that was put together a year ago, lead by Microsoft and ContentGuard, which has made no announcements since. Two planes Talal Shamoon, CEO of Intertrust told Faultline this week, “I like to think of Coral and Marlin as two planes, one on top of the other. Whenever a DRM system, whether it is one built to the Marlin specs or an existing DRM, finds that it needs help interoperating with another DRM, it will just turn to Coral for help. “Coral is being written in XML and according to web service standards, so it can run as a remote service or it can run on a nearby server, for instance a Home Network media hub,” Shamoon added. Most DRM systems, such as Apple’s Fairplay used in its iTunes service and on the iPod, prevent consumers from playing content packaged and distributed using one DRM technology on a device that supports a different DRM technology. Coral’s answer is to separate content interoperability from choice of DRM technology by developing and standardizing a set of specifications focused on interoperability between different DRM technologies rather than specifying DRM technologies. The resulting interoperability layer supports the coexistence of multiple DRM systems and permits devices to find appropriately formatted content, hopefully in the time it takes to press the play button, without consumer awareness of any disparity in format or DRM technology. It’s a tall order but the standard for Coral should be ready later this year, and Shamoon hopes that the Marlin specifications will be out about the same time. The architecture we expect Coral to be based on is Nemo from Intertrust, which stands for Networked Environment for Media Orchestration, which is a way of using software agents and online connections to verify transactions, as a basis for interoperable DRM. The Open Mobile Alliance’s OMA 2.00 DRM standard works in this way, and so do many others. If some part of an encryption key is delivered only when a transaction occurs (purchase, copy or transfer) then a trust chain is easier to establish. If moving a piece of content from the control of one piece of DRM software to another was to involve a Trust Authority deciphering the content using an authorized key, and then re-encrypting using another key, then there is never any need to “break” the encryption in a competing DRM standard. In effect, the trust authority that manages keys makes the whole task less complex and something like a Coral based web service can manage most, perhaps all, of this. Given the similar parallel arrangements between the Microsoft camp, led by the Content Reference Forum and ContentGuard, which last week also preached web services and DRM interoperability, then it seems likely that there will eventually be a web service that will orchestrate movement in and out of the Coral environment to Microsoft’s and vice versa. Peer discovery In Nemo there are a defined set of roles of client, authorizer, gateway and orchestrator, and it assumes that they talk to each other over an IP network. Work is allocated to each of them such as authorization, peer discovery, notification, service discovery, provisioning, licensing and membership creation. The client simply requests services from the other three peers, the authorizer decides if the requesting client should have access to a particular piece of content; the gateway takes on the role of a helper that will provide more processing power to negotiate a bridge to another architecture and the orchestrator is a special form of gateway that handles non-trivial co-ordination such as committing a transaction. Intertrust has set up a testbed to link various consumer devices to a number of different services and has successfully demonstrated interoperability in one interconnected system using cell phones, game platforms, PDAs, PCs, web-based content services, discovery services, notification services, and update services. And it appears that this already includes support for Windows DRM. “If people choose to build their own DRM system,” says Shamoon, “they can get a bunch of specifications from us, reference code for all of the functions that Coral expects, which we issue as source code under a Community Source Program, rather like the program that controls Java. “Finally we will license the underlying patents, copyrights and trademark to all of the underlying technology and to say that your DRM is Coral or Marlin (or whatever we call it) compliant,” he explained. Time to get a move on Faultline has said before and will say again, that the consumer electronics companies had better get a move on, because Microsoft is gaining allies in CE which are prepared to put Windows Media DRM on devices such as DVD players, DVRs and Home media servers, and these, mostly small Chinese players, will begin to eat into Sony, Philips, Matsushita’s and Samsung’s markets if they cannot offer in return a standardized DRM approach, and soon. Interestingly, much of the underlying intellectual property for both Microsoft’s Video Codec (VC 1) and its DRM is in fact controlled by this group The Codec patents turn out to have belonged to Microsoft plus 11 other organizations, who have claimed essential patents in the MPEG LA licensing process for Microsoft’s VC 1 (see separate story). None of these companies sued Microsoft when it began giving away a free codec in Windows Media Player, because they could not be sure their technology was in there. As Microsoft has tried to establish it as a standard it has had to show details of how it works and deliver these to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). This has given the other companies a chance to view the patents and stake a claim. The other intellectual property claim was far more high profile as Intertrust (owned by Sony and Philips) and Microsoft recently settled a suit for patent infringements with Microsoft paying $440m, so that it could license the entire patent portfolio for DRM patents at Intertrust. So it’s not surprising that these CE companies can work out how to interoperate with the Microsoft approach, since they own most of the ideas in it. In the digital media world that is coming, all future entertainment players will need to have a processor and an operating environment (most will chose CE Linux), and the commonality between platforms will not reside in the operating system but in the file types, the digital identifiers and an interoperability layer for the DRM systems which are most likely to be orchestrated by web services. Copyright © 2004, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories CE vendors unite to develop DRM ContentGuard talks DRM futures Coral Consortium, the world's biggest DRM talking shop
Faultline, 24 Jan 2005

Orb offers media on the go

American company Orb has released software that streams live or recorded TV, MP3s, photos or other digital media stored on a home PC to portable devices such as a laptop, cell phone or PDA. Customers can listen to their MP3 music or watch recorded videos on a mobile phone while on the go. The service - launched at the 2005 International CES tradeshow in Las Vegas - offers secure access to digital media through a simple web interface. All customers need is a device with a web browser and a home PC with Windows XP Media Center 2004 or 2005 and a broadband internet connection. A release for Windows XP is expected within the next two months, but to watch TV you'll need a PCTV card. The company, headed by Silicon Valley veterans Joseph Costello and James Behrens, will bundle its software with hardware products from Creative, NetGear and Pinnacle. The service starts at $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year and is available in the US only. Other geographies will be supported during the course of 2005. Orb has a different approach to MobiTV, another recently-launched service which delivers live television feeds from MSNBC, TLC, Discovery Channel, Fox Networks and Fashiontv to subscribers in real-time over existing cellular networks. Viewers do not need extra equipment beyond a subscription to MobiTV and their carrier's data package. MobiTV is compatible with most Java- or BREW-enabled phones with colour displays. ® Related stories MS on digital content deal rampage Mobile players look beyond 3G Downloading digital music
Jan Libbenga, 24 Jan 2005

Dozen claim MS codec patents

The MPEG LA has had 12 separate companies claiming that they have essential patents in the pool it is developing for the licensing of Microsoft’s video codec, dubbed VC 1 under the SMPTE standard (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers). The fact that 12 separate companies, possibly more, will decide the fate of the technology has implications for if and how much Microsoft must charge for the codec. Larry Horn, spokesman for the MPEG LA said to Faultline: “When MPEG 2 was created we only had 8 companies in the pool for essential patents, now we have 24. Some companies hadn’t been issued with their patents at the time, some sat on the side lines perhaps thinking they would handle licensing themselves, but usually we end up with more companies providing the technology, rather than less.” So, the 12 that are claiming essential patents for VC 1 is likely to rise, not go down. The MPEG LA cannot discuss the individual companies involved until they have reached agreement on royalty terms for the collective license to operate under, but we can probably make some educated guesses, and we have assumed that there is some overlap between the ideas behind a codec like VC 1 and behind the other standard codecs put together by the MPEG standards organization If that is so then operations such as the industrial offshoot of Columbia University, France Télécom, Fujitsu, Matsushita, Philips, Robert Bosch, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, and Victor Company of Japan, which all have patents in both of these prior MPEG video codecs, might well appear on the list, which makes 11 plus, of course, Microsoft. But that’s only guesswork. What is interesting is that whatever the terms of the license, if Microsoft takes such a license for its use of VC1 in Windows Media 9 and 10, it too will have to pay royalties, even if it gets some back in return. “In a way the VC 9 codec that Microsoft uses will just be a particular implementation of the VC 1 standard. Other companies will be able to license the technology and make their own versions,” pointed out Horn. The license never instructs companies on how they must build their product, only on what technologies they may use and how interfaces must perform. Lion's share But Horn also explained that the group, once they have all agreed that their intellectual property is vital to the standard, will need to negotiate to see who gets the lion’s share of the royalty stream, and set rules for licensing. The MPEG LA only takes non-exclusive licenses, and each of the patent holders are free to license each other under different terms, but each transaction must then be carried out separately. But Microsoft cannot put the genie back in the bottle. Now these 11 can see that their intellectual property is being used, they can charge for it. So if Microsoft wants to continue to give away its codec within WM10, it may find itself having to pay for each copy it distributes. The only way around this is either to set an upper limit on the license, as was done in MPEG 4 Level 10 AVC (H.264) or not take a license to the technology through MPEG LA, and negotiate each one separately. Since Microsoft has never acknowledged any other technology suppliers in its literature on VC 9, it is unlikely that it is currently paying royalties on its current distribution. But it will need to. MPEG 2 for instance has a flat rate royalty of $2.50 on each copy, while MPEG 4/H.264 is free up to 100,000 units, then costs 20 cents per unit, falling to 10 cents a unit, capped at $3.5m per year, rising with inflation. An MPEG 2 style license would not suit Microsoft, while an MPEG 4/H.264 license would be of minimal cost. But that doesn’t mean that the other 11 companies will feel obliged to give Microsoft what it wants, and they are sure to be bristling at the thought that their Intellectual Property has been “given away” by Microsoft for years now without them realizing it. Once the royalty terms are set, revenue is allocated 50 per cent where a unit is made and 50 per cent where a unit is sold, against the patents that each patent holder has in each territory. If other patent holders join the pool later, MPEG LA leaves the license at the same level and just shares the payments over greater number of licensees. So not only could Microsoft find itself with only a small part of the license fees, but this could be further diluted if other companies join the patent pool later. Last week MPEG LA announced its licensing for the patents included in the digital rights management pool for the Open Mobile Alliance’s DRM 1.0 standard. While Horn said he thought that Faultline’s suggestion that some operators had expected it to be royalty free, was not one he had heard, he did confirm that a few voices had been raised suggesting that it was an expensive set of royalties. Faultline calculated that the royalty for OMA’s DRM would eventually amount to $1bn, which was certainly unanticipated by mobile operators. “But then again,” Horn concluded, “we always hear that our licenses are expensive, so we’re used to that.” Copyright © 2004, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories Mobile DRM levy hits operators where it hurts Blu-ray group mandates Microsoft codec for BD-ROM BBC develops 'alternative' codec VC-9 essential patent holders, come on down
Faultline, 24 Jan 2005

Tabloid fires 'Yahoo baby' reporter

Romanian tabloid Libertatea has fired the reporter who fabricated a story claiming that a couple had named their baby Yahoo, Reuters reports. Ion Garnod walked the plank after admitting he made the whole thing up "to look good". A birth certificate accompanying the story turned out to be that of Garnod's own son. The paper's deputy ed, Simona Ionescu, said: "If it were real, it would have been a good story indeed." Yes it would, and El Reg duly ran the heartwarmer after Reuters picked up on the human-interest piece. We consider ourselves entirely blameless in the matter. After all, if you can't trust a Romanian tabloid, then who can you trust? ® Related stories Couple names baby Yahoo
Lester Haines, 24 Jan 2005

BT warns of broadband divide ahead of Ofcom review

More than half of UK homes and businesses could be left without advanced broadband services if Ofcom continues to press ahead with plans to make the UK's telecoms sector more competitive, BT boss Ben Verwaayen warns. Interviewed in The Sunday Times, Verwaayen argues that the regulator's preference for local loop unbundling (LLU) will lead to a new digital divide with rival telcos cherry-picking the most lucrative exchanges. As a result, highly populated urban exchanges are likely to see investment from rivals. The same cannot be said for the vast majority of exchanges, though. Verwaayen estimates that all but 600 exchanges are uneconomic for LLU. He told The Sunday Times: "What if your business is in Swansea or Southampton? We need to make sure that telecoms are available wherever business is located." His comments come just two weeks before the latest phase of the UK's telecoms review. In November, Ofcom published phase two of its Strategic Review of Telecommunications. While it rejected calls to break up BT, Ofcom warned that unless it made "substantive behavioural and organisational changes" - including giving rivals equal access to its wholesale product range - then it would take action against the UK's dominant fixed line telco. BT's reply to that review is due next week but already industry insiders have told The Register that they fear Ofcom will "bottle it" and fail to impose the necessary changes needed to make the UK's telecoms sector more competitive. Instead, sources believe that an inquiry by the Trade and Industry Select Committee (TISC) due next month will provide a platform to assess Ofcom's progress. Ahead of a widely anticipated Spring general election, it's thought that the intervention of MPs into the broadband debate could make an interesting issue for voters. ® Related stories Ofcom tells BT: shape up, or split up MPs to scrutinise Ofcom's telecoms review Tough-talking Ofcom boss slaps BT BT stands firm against Ofcom BT, Kingston face EC illegal state aid probe Easynet upbeat about wholesale LLU LLU dogged by 'significant operational problems' LLU is 'uneconomic', says Energis
Tim Richardson, 24 Jan 2005
arrow pointing up

US hints at IBM-Lenovo deal spy fears

US regulators could scupper the $1.25bn sale of IBM's PC division to China's Lenovo - on grounds of national security. Both vendors have expressed their willingness to co-operate with any regulatory investigation into their proposed deal. But the US Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, both of which sit on the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), have issues with the sale, according to anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg. Their chief fear is that Chinese staffers could use IBM PC assembly facilities in the US to stage industrial espionage operations, the newswire reports. CFIUS approval is required for the deal to proceed smoothly. Without the committee's thumbs-up, IBM and Lenovo would face a formal investigation into the deal and the need for Presidential approval. The committee has until the end of this month to rule on the deal or begin an investigation. IBM and Lenovo are believed to have filed notice of the deal with the CFIUS on 29 December. Bloomberg notes thatCFIUS has blocked relatively few such deals, but of those it has rejected, plenty involved deals with Chinese companies. The newswire's sources suggest IBM is currently in negotiations with the CFIUS to seek ways to allay the committee's fears. IBM agreed to sell its PC operation to Lenovo on 7 December. ® Related stories IBM goes after Intel, AMD with Linux-only server IBM earned $3bn in Q4 IBM hands Lenovo billion-dollar PC loser IBM sells PC biz to China IBM CEO's memo clarifies PC biz sell-off Is IBM PC sell off preparation for a Power chip attack?
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005

Brit jailed for tsunami emails

A 40-year old British man was sentenced to six months in prison for sending emails to relatives of people missing after the tsunami disaster. Chris Pierson, pleaded guilty to charges of malicious communication and causing a public nuisance, according to AFP. Pierson sent more than 35 emails, apparently from the Foreign Office, to worried relatives of people missing after the Boxing Day disaster. He got contact details from a website set up by Sky news which let people appeal for information about their missing friends and family. The emails, which appeared to come from the Foreign Office in Thailand, claimed to be confirmation that the person missing was in fact dead. Pierson was tracked down by the police with the help of AOL, his internet service provider. He described his actions as "a moment of madness" and blamed personal tragedy for his actions. He apologized to "everyone I have hurt". ® Related stories London man cuffed over disaster relief site hack Tsunami spam scammer cuffed Tsunami relief donors under cyber-attack, says FBI
John Oates, 24 Jan 2005

US stem cell research in jeopardy

US stem cell research faces an uncertain near future after scientists reported that existing stocks of such cells are contaminated - and therefore useless for treating people - while the US administration has terminated federal funding for the extraction of fresh cells. The contaminated cells are from batches collected prior to a George Bush 2001 executive order "restricting federal funding for stem cell research to only those batches of the cells that existed at the time", Reuters reports. The problem is that current stocks have taken up a "non-human molecule called N-glycolylneuraminic acid or Neu5Gc" - probably when they were grown in a lab culture containing animal-derived materials from mice and calf foetuses. Neu5Gc is found on the surface of animal cells, but the human immune system attacks it - the major reason for transplanted animal organ rejection in humans. Dr Ajit Varki of the University of California San Diego told Reuters: "The human embryonic stem cells remained contaminated by Neu5Gc even when grown in special culture conditions with commercially available serum replacements, apparently because these are also derived from animal products. "It would seem best to start over again with newly derived human embryonic stem cells that have never been exposed to any animal products. However, such an approach could not be pursued under existing rules for the use of federal grant dollars." The existing rules cited are designed to prevent the destruction of further embryos from which stem cells are extracted. The process has provoked considerable polemic in the US, with George Bush coming down firmly on the side of the antis. ® Related stories California backs stem cell research Annan lines up against US-inspired human cloning ban UN to debate embryo cloning
Lester Haines, 24 Jan 2005

Apple iTunes sales tally hits 250m

More than 250m songs have been paid for and downloaded from Apple's iTunes Music Store, the Mac maker boasted today. The figure amounts to 20m more than the previous total, announced just a few weeks ago. According to Apple, it's selling more than 1.25m songs a day, which means the company will sell over 456m songs this year if consumers continue to buy at that rate. By our estimation, they will buy at a higher rate going forward. We reckon iTunes will hit 1bn downloads by the end of the year or early 2006. The news was accompanied by the claim that the store's UK operation now has a catalogue in excess of 800,000 - some 200,000 songs short of Napster UK's tally. Apple's US iTunes store still claims to offer over 1m songs. ® Related stories Napster readies German music service Apple patches 'highly critical' iTunes bug Apple brings discord to Hymn Napster subscriber tally hits 270,000 iTunes launches in Ireland UK govt takes iTunes gripe to Europe Napster UK song sheet passes 1m mark
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005

Simply Computers suffers big redundancies

Up to 105 workers at Simply Computers are losing their jobs thanks to reorganisation by parent company Systemax. The company is closing down its manufacturing plant in Greenock and will in future get machines from its parent company, Systemax in the US. From the end of this month Simply Computers sales, marketing, customer service and technical support jobs will either be made redundant or bundled in with Misco (another Systemax sub) jobs at Wellingborough. According to one source, as many as 105 out of 111 jobs will disappear. An internal memo, seen by the Reg, says: "as a result of continuing trading pressures in the UK it has been decided to consolidate with immediate effect, the activities of the Simply sales, marketing, customer service and technical support teans into the existing Misco teams based in Wellingborough. Consequently, a number of jobs directly related to this activity based in Walthamstow will become redundant with effect from 31st January 2005." The memo notes that while Simply has "achieved good sales growth...it has been at a significant cost to the business." The company hopes that "economies of scale" will help improve margins. Cliff Steele, supply chain director, is leaving the company at the end of the month. Julie Lombardo, 16-year veteran and previously general manager, is also leaving on 31st January. This leaves Terry Shaw as "vice president of European operations.". ® Related stories Misco pulls plug on Scotland Systemax completes UK restructuring Systemax UK reins in Misco ops
John Oates, 24 Jan 2005
fingers pointing at man

Transmeta licences low-power tech to Sony

Transmeta has signed its latest LongRun 2 licensee, Sony, the chipmaker said today. LongRun has always been a key feature of Transmeta's chip designs, minimising energy consumption and heat dissipation. Last year it announced version 2 of the technology, which addresses current leakage at the transistor level, later licensing the power management system to its fab partner, Fujitsu, and to NEC. LongRun2 isn't yet shipping in Transmeta silicon - it was due to debut with the second-generation 90nm Efficeon, which was scheduled to ship during H1 2005, though the company's potential change of focus away from silicon and toward technology licensing could mean the processor never sees light of day. How Sony will use the technology remains to be seen, but it's certainly tempting to speculate that it plans to use the system to keep 'Cell' running coolly. Sony, together with Cell development partners IBM and Toshiba, will lift the lid on Cell's architecture next month at the International Solid State Circuits Conference. ® Related stories Once fabless, almost chipless - is Transmeta's future hopeless? Transmeta may power down chip making biz Transmeta licenses LongRun 2 to Fujitsu Transmeta loss widens as revenues miss target
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2005

'Integrity of eBay markeplace' at risk - sellers' group

It has been a bad few days for eBay. Last week more than $12bn (£6.4bn) was wiped off the value of the dotcom auction house as it warned that its financial performance for 2005 is unlikely to live up to bullish expectations. Now discontent is growing among its big traders, who are dismayed with recent price rises imposed by ebaby and alarmed about the reputation of the online marketplace. The Professional eBay Sellers Alliance ( PESA) - a trade group for business merchants operating on eBay - reckon that the "integrity of the eBay marketplace is the single largest issue challenging their businesses on eBay". PESA represents "600 high-volume eBay sellers representing a wide variety of goods and services, PESA members currently generate over seventy million eBay transactions each year and over $1bn in annual eBay gross merchandise volume". It is worried that "negative buyer experiences and the associated media coverage have created a strong caveat emptor mentality among shoppers when considering browsing eBay". A quick trawl of news stories in recent weeks reveals the PR problem facing eBay. Illegal items such as drugs and weapons can be sourced with little effort. Stolen - or non existent - goods are also up for sale, although eBay buyers often only find out to their cost when it's too late. For instance, Cleveland.com reports that police have broken up a $100,000 (£53,000) a year scam in which car radios were stolen from car dealerships only to be sold on Ebay. While a three-month investigation by MSNBC.com revealed the easy availability of illegal drugs such as anabolic steroids used by people looking to bulk up their bodies. Earlier this month, California man Jerry David Hasson, 55, pleaded guilty to violating the US's Archaeological Resources Protection Act for selling a 200-year-old skull of a Native Hawaiian that was stolen from a beach on Maui via eBay. The issue of antiquities isn't just of concern to the US. Last year the British Museum called on eBay to pull listings for ancient artefacts after it warned that hundreds of items - which should be assessed first under the Treasure Act - were being offered for sale via the auction outfit. Trust me, I'm an online auctioneer And one of the most damaging stories to hit eBay recently came after a judge sentenced a Leicester woman for flogging non-existent tickets to the Glastonbury music festival. Sentencing the former payroll clerk, Judge Richard Bray said: "There may be certain safeguards that I have not been told about, but that appears to be the case and you took advantage of that. These trusting people, they get on the internet and they ask for a ticket and they send a cheque without any knowledge of who they are sending it to. Provided you don't have fraud against you on eBay, you are all right as a fraudster. You can get on and sell anything you like." And the stories go on. "eBay scammer indicted for $66k fraud", "Eight fined in eBay auction scam", "MP takes aim at eBay over gun sales", "Teen eBay fraudster pleads guilty to £45k scam"... It makes not a jot of difference whether these stories originated in the US, UK or wherever. With a global brand operating over the boundary-less expanse of the net, the cumulative effect of negative press stories is taking its toll. Stories of fraud and illicit items may make some punters wary, but there is another issue that is causing concern. Whether real or perceived, there was at one time a sense that you could pick up a bargain on eBay. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening appear to be diminishing. As one eBay veteran told El Reg he's been caught up in auctions on a number of occasions only to find that he'd paid over the odds for goods. Experiences like that have dented his enthusiasm for eBay. On the flip side, some traders claim that increased competition has hit their prices. "During the past year, our members have seen the eBay marketplace weaken. While competition in the market has increased, we believe that the state of mind of the shopper is the primary underlying issue. Conversion and average selling prices have slid across most categories. Buyers appear more price conscious than ever. We believe that a shift of balance of buyers versus sellers as well as an erosion of buyer confidence from fraud experiences and media attention has caused the flattening growth of eBay US. "Although eBay started as an online flea market, many of the merchants that have joined the site are now offering new merchandise. Unfortunately, buyers still perceive eBay as a flea market with shady sellers and poor customer service." What's more, there are genuine concerns that eBay doesn't seem to be acting to address the issues. Late last year eBay users in Spain threatened to boycott the service unless the company addressed their concerns. In the UK, eBay regulars are just as bothered at the way the operation is heading. One UK eBayer told us: "One of our main gripes is the ease at which someone can join eBay using false details. At the moment anyone can complete the online registration forms and put in any made up address they desire." This, he fears, leads to "auction wrecking" and other disruptive behaviour which goes to undermine consumer and etailer confidence. This is echoed by PESA: "We believe that eBay needs to implement policies that will prevent people with negative intentions from doing excessive damage to innocent shoppers. eBay should verify the address and identity of sellers as well as place restrictions on selling activity until certain criteria are met. A new seller should not have an issue providing a verifiable name and address before needing to list 50 plasma televisions or laptop computers." Still, it's not all doom and gloom. Where would we be without someone trying to flog a cheese toastie with a picture of the Virgin Mary, a Texas snowball for sale or a skint Londoner who tried to sell "absolutely nothing? ® Related link PESA statement on eBay security Related stories Internet fraud is easy, says judge... eBay Hawaiian skull vendor avoids jail eBay scammer indicted for $66k fraud Eight fined in eBay auction scam MP takes aim at eBay over gun sales Teen eBay fraudster pleads guilty to £45k scam eBayer bids $20k for Texas snowball For Sale: Absolutely Nothing
Tim Richardson, 24 Jan 2005

Poland blocks software patents again

Poland has intervened again to stop the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries from rubber-stamping the EU directive on computer implemented inventions. Late last week, the controversial legislation, better known as the software patent directive, was reported to be an A-List item on the agenda of the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries. This would have seen it voted through to its second reading. Polish under-secretary from the ministry for science and IT, Wlodzimierz Marcinski, first made his opposition to the directive known last year. He said: "Poland is determined to opt for unambiguous expression in the law of the European Union on issues connected with the patentability of computer-implemented inventions, which at the same time must ascertain that computer programs are excluded from patentability." Thanks to the second Polish intervention, the vote has been delayed. Opponents of the bill say that the JURI committee (responsible for legal affairs) now has a window of opportunity to restart the whole process. JURI is scheduled to meet in Brussels on 2 and 3 February, and Florian Muller of pressure group No Software Patents, says there is a good chance that the committee would vote to restart. So what will happen next? "That is the $64,000 question," says Jeremy Philpott, a spokesman for the UK Patent Office. "Don't forget we are looking at adoption of a common position here. If it is adopted, it will move on to its second reading. If it isn't, it'll just lie of the fringes of the parliament." He suggests that it would be better to send it forward to its second reading, and deal with any perceived problems there, rather than try to unpick it. Going back to the beginning, even on legislation as controversial as this, could set a worrying precedent for lawmaking in Europe, Philpott warns. The alternative is a scenario where even the most basic tenets of a piece of legislation would be open to negotiation right up to the last minute, inevitably drawing out the process and making it more difficult to pass laws, he says. "Some commentators have concerns about unpicking a common position. The common position is a point which all parties have agreed to, from which you don't backtrack." ® Related stories Dozen claim MS codec patents Hand over the code, judge tells IBM Europe must invest more in IT research: report IBM pledges 500 patents to OS developers
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Jan 2005
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HP France plans February Opteron server party

HP France has set a February launch date for a new fleet of Opteron servers, including a two-processor box and blades. The new servers - first uncovered by The Register last September - are the ProLiant DL385 and BL25p and BL35p. The DL385 is a homemade version of the two-way DL145, which was designed by a HP partner. (As one source said, "The DL385 is designed and built by guys in cowboy boots instead of sandals.") Meanwhile, the BL25p is one of the first Opteron blade servers to hit the market and will be complemented by the smaller - half the height - BL35p. All of the systems are arriving a bit later than expected. Sources at HP indicated the boxes could have started shipping this month. A French HP site, however, shows a February 15 event to announce the products. HP has removed the product names from a non-cached version of the site. HP also looks set to update its popular four-way DL585 with new processors and will release a higher-end Opteron-based blade called the BL45p later this year. HP and Sun Microsystems have been the most vocal backers of AMD's Opteron chip out of the Tier I vendors. IBM ships a small system aimed at the technical computing market, while Dell is still an Opteron holdout, going solely with Intel's competing 64-bit Xeon processor. ® Related stories Sun offers open source Solaris snack pack IBM goes after Intel, AMD with Linux-only server Euro AMD Opteron server demand slows AMD to gain market share in 2005 HP confirms that Itanium is Intel's responsibility
Ashlee Vance, 24 Jan 2005

HP's PC biz braced for SAP hell

ExclusiveExclusive HP's customers should prepare for round two of the company's product ordering fiasco. Insiders have revealed that the very same problems which crippled HP's server business last year will likely hit the PC operation. The reason? The business side of the house can't play well with the IT staffers. HP stunned investors and customers last August when it revealed that a botched roll out of a new server ordering system cost the company $400m in lost sales. Under a project code-named Genesis, HP is currently figuring out how to bring the same SAP-based ordering system to the PC side of the house. The problem, however, is that management didn't learn from past mistakes and is once again trying to force a real-time ordering mechanism onto systems not ready to handle the code. The Register interviewed several people within HP for this story - all of whom spoke to us on condition of anonymity. "There is a very intelligent group that knows how SAP works and knows how to get a project like this done quickly," said one source. "But this expertise is being squashed by an IT management group that says: 'You don't know what you are doing.' It's the same management group that was in charge of the server project." The pain of HP's server collapse is still being felt. For months, customers complained of delayed orders, incorrectly configured systems and often duplicate orders. HP staffers at one point had to hand-label shipments of servers since their ordering system could no longer do the work. Now, one source has revealed that HP will likely have to take another charge - on the order of tens of millions - when it reports first quarter earnings. The charge will cover lost inventory - HP simply has no idea where some of its server hardware went. SAP Rising HP kicked off the Genesis effort hoping the SAP system would improve its ability to handle direct sales. The software makes it possible to order custom products, allowing HP to compete better with direct order king Dell. Should the plan work, HP would likely see a big payoff if its Fusion server project is any indication. "As much pain as Fusion caused us, and we lost lots of business because of it, it's paying off big time now," said one source. "Before, when a customer ordered a 'configure-to-order' model, we had to open up existing boxes and remove drives, processors and memory. It was just that our supply chain was so messed up. We had to tear apart machines that were already built just to accommodate an accounting system. "Now we have the facility to build a server from a bare chassis and add CPU, memory, etc., to a customer's specification. As much as we got dinged in our Q3 sales, it ended up being a good thing in the long run." Our sources, however, point to a cultural divide within HP that is letting history repeat itself. Numerous staffers warned HP not to roll out the server SAP system until it had been more thoroughly tested. The IT Management team hid critical problems from the business side of the house and then made it look like the business team insisted that it be pushed out anyway. Now, those same managers - most of them pre-merger Compaq - are trying to shove Genesis out before it's baked. The business managers have already pulled Gensis away from the IT staff, our sources say. This is resulting in problems at HP's Houston plants and potentially at a plant in Brazil where the SAP system is being considered. "One of these managers wants to keep an old application in the new system just because he wrote it," a source said. "They're trying to cram a legacy shipping system into a real-time ordering system. The legacy stuff just doesn't work the way it needs to." When the server disaster hit, some pundits called on HP to hire an outside operations chief - someone who could step in and place tighter controls on the company. Another source has indicated that might not be such a bad idea due to the massive disconnect between management and reality. Bad blood "HP is traditionally very methodical, over-cautious and slow," said a former high-ranking HP staffer. "Compaq folks are the opposite. There is this obsession with being very aggressive and risky. "They're coming from a PC organization and aren't used to handling complex configurations. You have to understand how a business runs, how customers order, how material is purchased. This is detailed knowledge you have to have of the operations. They don't understand that." Some of these problems stem directly from the top - CEO Carly Fiorina - said the same source. "Carly is very, very aggressive in how she sets her goals, and she doesn't like to hear 'no'. I think people try to tell her about the problems, but you don't get anywhere. That kind of percolates its way down to the rest of the company and is sort of a disease." It's no secret that bad blood has existed between the old HP hands and Compaq staffers for a long time. In fact, HP staffers are notorious for complaining at length about the company's problems since the merger closed. The fissures, however, between these groups now seem to be resulting in serious operations problems and not just vocal attacks. It's somewhat shocking to think that HP fired three top executives to make amends for the server gaffe but has kept the two main people in charge of the project on board and now placed them in charge of Genesis. That decision could crush another quarter if Genesis ends up being the horror the insiders describe. Ironically, HP - great promoter of the Adaptive Enterprise - can't adapt. To that end, the Wall Street Journal today reported that HP is considering moving some of Fiorina's work to other executives. "Under the reorganization plan discussed by the board at San Francisco's Park Hyatt Hotel, three HP executives would gain more day-to-day control," the paper reported. "They are Vyomesh 'VJ' Joshi, who leads HP's printing and personal-computing division; Ann Livermore, head of services and enterprise computing; and Shane Robison, the chief technology and strategy officer, people familiar with the matter said. One person close to the situation said Ms. Fiorina initially had resisted the moves, but by the end of the session had agreed with directors and was on good terms with them." HP still has time to correct its mistakes. It could take a long, hard look at how Gensis is progressing and get better communication going between the managers and IT staffers. If it doesn't do this, it might be time to order a PC. There's a good chance you'll get two for the price of one in the mail. ® Related stories HP takes on RISC with Itanium 2 gambit HP confirms that Itanium is Intel's responsibility HP sends Itanic boat people to Intel New round of HP firings to cost $200m HP redeems pride with strong Q4 Compaq's servers save HP from enterprise sales hell Fiorina: HP's SAP disaster under control HP's order system chaos to continue throughout August
Ashlee Vance, 24 Jan 2005

Microsoft preps WMP-less Windows

Microsoft said today that it won't pursue any more appeals against an interim EU competition ruling to ship a version of Windows without Windows Media Player. In December Microsoft lost an appeal to the European Court of the First Instance and promised to ship WMP-less Windows in the EU "in January". Now we learn that OEMs will be able to receive WMP-less Windows "within the next few weeks". At behind-closed-doors hearings in 2003 Microsoft argued, as it had before, that producing a version of Windows without Media Player was impossible. However this was undermined when Real Networks sensationally demonstrated Real Player running quite happily on an embedded version of Windows. The full investigation into allegations of anticompetitive practices by Microsoft is expected to take five years. Last spring an interim ruling imposed a fine and some conditions on the company. Novell and long-standing Microsoft foe, trade group CCIA withdrew from the proceedings last November. CCIA realized the folly of its campaign after Microsoft paid it almost $10 million. "Life is a constant reordering of priorities," said CCIA chief Ed Black. So true. ® Related stories How Microsoft played the patent card, and failed MS loses Europe appeal, will ship WMP-free Windows version That's enough peace - Novell sues MS just one more time MS latest: Nokia quits trade group in disgust Why MS paid Novell half a billion bucks today MS gets EU fine, orders for server info and WMP-free Windows
Andrew Orlowski, 24 Jan 2005

Is Microsoft preparing a flying car?

No future is complete without a flying car, but it's the invention that, like Longhorn, never arrives. However, many readers write in with evidence from Microsoft Norway that such a vehicle may be in trial. The company's MapPoint directions service is suggesting a route that at the very least requires an amphibious vehicle similar to that great British invention, the Hovercraft. If you ask Microsoft's MapPoint how to get between the Norwegian towns of Haugesund and Trondheim - a journey of about 700 kilometers using a conventional road vehicle, the user is presented with a rather dramatic detour. Setting off from Haugesund, MapPoint advises the user to point in the diametrically opposite direction to Trondheim, and head West South West. After a couple of kilometers the car sprints out over the North Sea, arriving in Newcastle upon Tyne some time later. Details of the vehicle's performance must remain a secret - no duration is disclosed for this leg of the journey. Then it's south to London, through the Channel Tunnel, over the low countries via Belgium, the Netherlands, and into Germany. Then north to Sweden and finally arriving in Trondheim 116 driving instructions later. It's a journey of over 2,600 kilometers. The next "logical step" (© The Times of London*) is that Microsoft must be preparing an amphibious road vehicle. That's after you've discarded evidence of the Haugesund to Newcastle car ferry, and the possibility of a bug in the MapPoint software. As incurable romantics, we're of course hoping for the more dramatic (don't you mean "logical"? - ed) answer. And Microsoft may have been preparing an unmanned prototype for years in the shape of Microsoft Office's "hoverbot". One of Microsoft's earliest acquisitions was Flight Simulator, remember, which has since been rewritten as a gigantic Excel macro, which is inserted into the OLE stream of every Office document you save**.® * Bootnote #1: Well, it's no sillier than The Times spotting a Google recruitment ad for a fiber consultant and concluding that rather than simply beefing up its data network, it must be buying Skype. ** Bootnote #2: No, but that would be a "logical step". Related stories Briton invades France in amphibious car Flying car less likely than flying pig Flying car more economical than SUV Swiss set to unleash flying car Indian flying car shot down - Israeli rival soars India to levitate flying car So, where is my flying car? Where's my flying car?
Andrew Orlowski, 24 Jan 2005

PalmOne chief quits

PalmOne's CEO Todd Bradley has resigned, the company announced today, with Palm veteran and former Handspring marketing boss Ed Colligan filling the gap. Colligan will perform the role of interim CEO from February 25. The board said that Bradley will remain as an advisor after seeing the current quarter through. "We respect Todd's desire to move upon completion of this key milestone, and appreciate his willingness to support the company through the transition to its next CEO," said palmOne chairman Eric Benhamou. Bradley oversaw the acquisition of Handspring, the breakaway company that Palm founders Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky and Ed Colligan founded when they got fed up waiting for 3Com's permission to take Palm public. palmOne has endured a torrid time with its flagship, top margin smartphone the Treo 650 missing the Christmas shopping season. However, palmOne was able to capitalize on rivals Toshiba and Sharp withdrawing from the US market, and kept the product line fresh. As a result, the pre-Christmas quarter saw the company comfortably in the black, with sequential growth up 37 per cent. ® Related stories PalmOne Q2 sales soar PalmOne offers Treo 650 users a free 128MB card PalmOne to give Treo 650 users 128MB SD cards Treo 650 delayed till February PalmOne launches Treo 650 PalmOne preps Bluetooth GPS bundle PalmOne pockets a profit PalmOne extends world PDA lead
Andrew Orlowski, 24 Jan 2005