25th > February > 2005 Archive

Disk drive shortage cramps EMC style

A widespread disk drive shortage continues to cramp EMC's style, with the vendor saying its financial results could be affected because of the lack of hardware. EMC's CEO Joe Tucci this week warned financial analysts not to expect much near-term drive supply improvement. Companies such as EMC and IBM have complained of insufficient Fibre Channel drives for storage systems and servers and higher than expected prices for the components. The high prices, in particular, could hurt EMC's bottom line. "Obviously, if I don't get them, there won't be much upside, and we may be short of the high end of the (predicted earnings) range," he told analysts at a Goldman Sachs conference in Phoenix, Reuters reports. Tucci called out Seagate as one of the suppliers giving EMC trouble. From the sound of it, others are worse. "We definitely have not gotten all the drives we wanted," Tucci said. "Seagate has the most availability and still can't fill all the demand." The drive shortage is caused by two main factors. A number of vendors upgraded their product lines at the end of 2004 and have struggled to put out enough of the new kit. In addition, hardware demand has gone up in recent months. Customers can expect continued delays when ordering servers and storage systems. They'll also likely see the vendors trying to offset the higher drive prices by charging more for high-end kit. ® Related stories Cisco switch partners see Fibre Channel green Former Brocade CEO sent flying in golden skies IBM does grand dance for bland drives EMC admits to iSCSI fleet
Ashlee Vance, 25 Feb 2005
Broken CD with wrench

VoIP carriers launch international peering network

Internet calls to landlines could get even cheaper, following yesterday's launch of an international peering network of VoIP providers. Fourteen companies have signed up to the free-of-charge interconnection service including Callme.se (Sweden), e-fon.ch (Switzerland), Magrathea Telecommunications (Great Britain), Musimi.dk (Denmark), MS Networks (Luxembourg), sipgate (Austria, Germany, Great Britain) and SIPphone (USA). The service is brokered by e164.info which has built a central database of VoIP telephone numbers. e164.info is brainchild of a small German company, netzquadrat, which was set up by the founders of German VoIP provider sipgate/nufone. So far, 100 million phone numbers have been registered in the database from 160,000 different dialing prefixes in eight countries. Talks with more VoIP providers are under way, Thilo Salmon, founder of e164.info, said. Member companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that ensures the non-profit character of the venture and which makes clear that the members disclose bilateral agreements about how the want to charge for the interconnection. "Some members have announced that they will interconnect with every provider without charge," Salmon said. How much customers benefit from the better peering arrangement also depends on each provider in the network. According to Michael Robertson, SIPphone CEO, the system will simplify interconnection between VoIP providers around the globe and that it will hasten the advent of free calls, the inevitable result of VoIP, he says. The netzquadrat solution is based on Carrier ENUM. ENUM stores routing information to a number in the DNS in form of a domain address. But while the original ENUM concept, currently tested by the Domain Name Registries in many European countries, want the end user to have control over his registering his phone number with the central database, the Carrier version just uses ENUM for routing information. End-users would be not aware that a DNS-lookup is made to reach their partner. The ENUM standard, also know as e164.arpa, is organised along the lines of the traditional numbering plan - and is therefore controlled by national regulators and, internationally, by the International Telecommunication Union. This has slowed progress. It is increasingly clear that VoIP providers will not wait for the official ENUM. As well as e164.info, several other competitors to the "official ENUM tree" have been planted on the net. One is peer2peer solution Dundi, an Australia-based e164.org, which is organized according to the User ENUM principle, according to Salmon. ® Related stories FCC investigates VoIP squashers VoIP security group goes on the defensive Skype VoIP threat to Euro telcos Vonage offers VoIP mobile phone Appeals court tells state to keep hands off VoIP
Monika Ermert, 25 Feb 2005

VIA unveils Turion chipset

VIA today launched its first chipset pitched at AMD's Turion thin'n'light notebook platform, days after it said it had shipped more than 100m chipsets for AMD processors. Its latest offering, the K8N800A, is Turion-ready, VIA said, even though AMD has yet to say just what that Turion encompasses. As we noted last week when ATI launched its own Turion chipset, the AMD proposition is diluted somewhat by the need for a third-party chipset. Intel's Centrino, with which Turion is clearly intended to compete, at least has the advantage of being both a brand and a core-component bundle. Somehow AMD's packaging of CPU and wireless adaptor - if that's what Turion is, and not just a new mobile CPU - doesn't seem sufficient to warrant the term 'platform'. Still, it does provide motherboard and notebook vendors with a choice of system logic, particularly now that VIA is offering such a part in addition to ATI. Developed for mobile Athlon and Sempron processors, the K8N800A also incorporates S3's 200MHz UniChrome Pro 128-bit graphic core, with twin parallel pixel processing pipelines. It also provides an AGP 8x port for an external graphics sub-system should notebook vendors require it. The chipset connects to the host CPU across an 800MHz HyperTransport bus, which also connects the graphics core to the main memory via the CPU's own memory controller. The graphics core can utilise 16-64MB of shared DDR SDRAM. The K8N800A's VT8237 South Bridge provides the usual Serial ATA support for up to four devices, plus four parallel ATA drives. It can handle six PCI expansion ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, 10/100Mbps Ethernet - there's a Gigabit Ethernet add-on option - and VIA's six-channel Vinyl audio sub-system. The whole lot comes with its own power-conservation system that's compliant with AMD's PowerNow! technology. The chipset is available now. Turion itself is expected to ship sometime during the first half of the year. Earlier this week, VIA said it had shipped its 99,999,999th chipset for AMD processors. The next part off the production line, chipset number 100m, was presented to AMD. It would be interesting to know whether it actually works, or if it's just one more of the many chipset parts - processors too - that end up in key rings and other nick-nacks because they failed the QA process. ® Related stories ATI ships 'first' mobile AMD chipset Toshiba gets tough with notebooks Intel confirms 'desktrino' consumer platform plan Dell touts smart card disk crypto for laptops Intel dual-core Yonah to ship single core too AMD's 2006 roadmap - details emerge Intel revamps Centrino AMD unveils Centrino spoiler
Tony Smith, 25 Feb 2005

Nvidia ships 'world's fastest' notebook graphics chip

Nvidia today extended its notebook-oriented graphics chip range, adding what it claims is the "world's fastest mobile GPU" to the line-up. The GeForce Go 6800 Ultra builds on the already-available GeForce Go 6800 by upping the core clock speed. Nvidia didn't put a figure to the core's clock frequency, but it did say the 6800 Ultra can churn out processed pixels at the rate of 5.4bn a second - 50 per cent more than the vanilla 6800's 3.6bn pixels per second score. The new chip offers a higher vertex processing rate, too, but with only a 20 per cent improvement: 565m vertices per second to the older part's 470m vertices per second. Both parts run a 400MHz RAMDAC, and support 700MHz DDR and DDR 2 SDRAM, and 1.1GHz GDDR 3 memory. Both offer a memory bandwidth of up to 35.2GBps. The Go 6800 Ultra supports DirectX 9.0's Shader Model 3.0, along with Nvidia's customary array of trademarked technologies, such as UltraShadow II, Intellisample 3.0, PowerMizer and PureVideo, the company's HD video processing system. Nvidia's "world's fastest" claim and offer of "performance that is unmatched by any commercially available mobile GPU today" will no doubt be tested by independent reviewers in due course. However, the chip itself is available from today, shipping first in Dell's new Inspiron notebook, the gamer-oriented XPS Gen2. ® Related stories Nvidia Q4 sales best yet - almost ATI ships 'first' mobile AMD chipset Nvidia updates GoForce phone chip Nvidia 'nForce for Intel' wins PCI-E certificate Nvidia updates mobile Quadro FX graphics chip line Matrox unveils PCI-E Millennium Intel, Nvidia were Q4's graphics chip winners ATI launches Mobility Radeon X700
Tony Smith, 25 Feb 2005

New Labour ex-hooker's shady IBM past revealed

Here's one to conjure with. Christine Wheatley has just been dropped from the Labour Party's shortlist of candidates for Copeland, Cumbria after she revealed a colourful past as a Paris hooker. But immediately before that she says she'd been working for IBM. "I had just finished working for IBM in Brussels and wanted to take a working holiday in Europe", she tells today's Telegraph, "and this seemed like the perfect thing to do." This? Yes, that. "It was great fun and it was accepted practice" (for IBM alumni in 1978? Certainly sounds more interesting than the more recent practice of going back as a consultant for double the money). "I was 28 at the time. I would work in the Boulevard St Michel, it was very romantic." There - and you'd been thinking it was called Big Blue because of the logo. ®
John Lettice, 25 Feb 2005

Captain McBride and the SCO Titanic

CommentComment What's the difference between Edward John Smith, the Captain of the Titanic and Darl McBride, CEO and President of SCO. Well, for one thing, Captain Smith didn't steer his doomed ship towards the iceberg, he hit it by accident. The prospects for SCO now appear to be not much better than they were for the Titanic as it encountered the iceberg. As a Unix business, SCO is sinking quickly. Its revenues for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2004 were $10,075,000, 59 per cent down on the same quarter in the previous year, primarily due to a decline in SCOsource license revenues from $10,316,000 to $120,000 (that would be a decline of just under 99 per cent – possibly a record of some kind). Competitive pressure from Linux is clearly a factor in this, but in all probability there are now a whole set of customers and partners who no longer wish to do business with SCO. It may not have escaped the notice of SCO customers that, of the two Linux users it chose to sue, DaimlerChrysler was actually a customer of SCO and AutoZone had been until 2002 (it ran SCO Unix on its point of sale systems). Someone should have told Darl that adversarial legal action doesn't amount to good CRM. Aside from that, the experience of web hosting company, EV1Servers of Houston, which actually paid the fee that SCO was charging for its Linux license and thus became the SCO poster child for its fledgling Linux license business, was far from positive. Within a month or so of doing the deal, CEO Robert Marsh was regretting the move and saying that if he had the chance to do it again, he wouldn't. No surprise then that the fledgling never flew. "All of a sudden we went from being reasonably good guys to being, in some people's eyes, akin to the devil. And that's certainly something that weighs heavy on our minds, because we always want to do the right thing." And this is the point. From a legal perspective, Open Source licenses and intellectual property may be a valid point for debate and legal action, but from a fashion perspective, taking on Linux and Open Source is a stupidity, and severely damaging to an organization's brand – as SCO has proved quite comprehensively. Open Source is an idea whose time has come. Whether it turns out to be a positive commercial force remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that it is a driving trend in the software business. It is the iceberg that Darl McBride steered SCO into. All that seems to be left for SCO now is to try to rescue itself through the courts. In fact SCO is now more a legal case than a software company. But even as a legal case, its prospects don't look good. In 2003, SCO Senior Vice President Chris Sontag claimed that "there are millions of lines of offending code involved". Strange then that SCO has not been able to make even a few of those offending lines of code public. In his recent pronouncement on the IBM v SCO case, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball chose not to dismiss SCO's case against IBM, but was fairly scathing in commenting on SCO's media pronouncements and its inability or unwillingness to furnish any evidence. It seems likely that direct comparison of SCO's Unix code with Linux code (a comparison that SCO has always been able to make) has not provided proof of anything. SCO now has the chance to survey billions of lines of IBM Unix code in order to try to unearth some IP or copyrighted contribution to Linux, and even then it will still have to prove that such a contribution violated IBM's contract with SCO – which is not a slam-dunk. According to a posting on The Motley Fool, CEO Darl McBride received over $1m salary and a $750,000 bonus, plus thousands of shares and options in 2003 – a healthy reward it seems, for steering SCO into the iceberg. Captain Smith, by the way, went down with his ship. © IT-analysis.com Related stories SCO faces ejection from Nasdaq SCO's vanishing licensing biz hits Q4 revenues SCO hacked in apparent IP protest
Robin Bloor, 25 Feb 2005

NI heralds 100% broadband coverage

The final nine telephone exchanges in Northern Ireland have now been enabled with ADSL technology giving broadband availability to 98.5 per cent of the region. The announcement was made by BT Northern Ireland in association with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and the Building Sustainable Prosperity programme. A total of 191 exchanges have been unbundled in the area since local loop unbundling began in the UK. In doing so, Northern Ireland has become the first UK region outside of London to have every one of its exchanges enabled for broadband. A contract to provide 100 per cent broadband coverage in Northern Ireland, which was to be funded under the EU Building Sustainable Prosperity programme, was awarded to BT at the end of March 2004. Prior to winning that contract, BT had enabled between 55 and 60 per cent of exchanges in Northern Ireland. Following the enablement of BT's exchanges, over 200 internet service providers and other companies will be able to use the upgraded infrastructure to deliver broadband services to customers in Northern Ireland. Demand for broadband in Northern Ireland has increased dramatically as exchanges have gone live. In just 12 months, the region has moved from having one of the lowest levels of broadband uptake in the UK to becoming the fastest growing area. The latest industry figures show 150,000 broadband users and demand is still growing. "Northern Ireland now has a first-class telecommunications infrastructure, allowing our businesses to compete in the global marketplace and enabling all citizens to make full use of the possibilities of the internet," said Enterprise Minister, Barry Gardiner MP. "Our goal now is to become the first region in Europe with 100 per cent broadband access. Therefore, over coming months, BT will focus on providing wireless broadband infrastructure to the remaining 1.5 percent of the population that cannot access broadband via the existing BT exchanges." The broadband situation in Northern Ireland contrasts sharply with that of the Republic where only a handful of exchanges have been enabled. "From a geographical point of view, broadband availability in Northern Ireland is now above that of Spain, France and Germany," Bill Murphy, managing director of BT Regions and CEO of Esat BT, told ElectricNews.Net. "I've been saying for a long time that there are ways of building public/private partnerships in order to push broadband coverage. What has been done in the North can also be achieved in the Republic but in order for that to happen there needs to be more government intervention." Despite a rise in the number of broadband subscribers in the Republic in recent years following the launch of cheaper high-speed internet access services, the country still lags behind most of Europe in terms of penetration. In a Forfas report released last year, Ireland ranked an embarrassing 18 out of 21, surpassing only Hungary, the Czech Republic and Greece in terms of broadband usage. At present, fewer than 0.2 per cent of Eircom's 1.6m phone lines have been unbundled and some customers living within enabled exchange areas have been told that lines are not of sufficient quality to allow ADSL. © ENN Related stories BT wins NI blanket broadband deal Northern Ireland offers broadband funds Northern Ireland aims for 100pc broadband
ElectricNews.net, 25 Feb 2005

Ebbers in the dark over accounting scandal - witness

Bernie Ebbers was not aware of the $11bn (£5.8bn) accounting fraud that torpedoed the telecoms giant in 2002, a court heard yesterday. At the WorldCom fraud trial in New York yesterday, Bert Roberts, honorary chairman of the company at the time, recalled a conversation he had with CFO Scott Sullivan when details of the accounting scandal were beginning to emerge. "I asked Scott if Bernie knew. Scott's answer was Bernie did not know about the journal entries," Roberts told the court, reports Reuters. Roberts' testimony contradicts Sullivan's evidence. The former CFO, who has already pleaded guilty to his part in the fraud, had testified earlier that Ebbers was aware of the book fiddling. Sullivan also testified that he told Ebbers that the book cooking "wasn't right". Ebbers denies the fraud charges against him. ® Related stories Ebbers trial team begins defence Ebbers was 'intimidating' boss WorldCom CFO lied, he admits to court Ebbers trial halted 'till Wednesday Ebbers failed to tell of book fiddling Ebbers 'drove Worldcom fraud' - Sullivan Sullivan fingers Ebbers in WorldCom fraud whodunnit WorldCom directors $54m lawsuit deal unravels Ebbers fortune at risk as share prices slid Former Worldcom directors cough up $18m Ebbers never made 'an accounting decision' - witness Ebbers feared fortune would be 'wiped out' Ebbers knew of financial fiddling Ebbers' financial know-how probed Gloves off in Ebbers WorldCom fraud trial Ebbers fraud trial kicks off Ebbers faces WorldCom court showdown Former Worldcom directors cough up $18m MCI breaks free from Chapter 11 WorldCom gets sums wrong by $74bn Bernie Ebbers faces criminal charges
Tim Richardson, 25 Feb 2005

Woolworths targets digital music rivals with price cut

UK retail giant Woolworths today put pressure on rival - and better known - online digital music services like Napster and Apple's iTunes by offering sales tax-free downloads, bringing the per-track price down to 67p. Albums are similarly reduced, to £6.80 from £7.99. There's a catch, of course: the new price is only available for the next six weeks. Woollies is simply absorbing the 17.5 per cent VAT due on each download itself as a loss-leader to encourage sales. Evidence from similar price-cutting schemes put in place by other music providers suggests that Woollies' move will indeed increase the number of downloads from its online music store, Download@woolworths.co.uk. Whether the uptake is sustainable after the price returns to 79p a track is open to question, however. Woollies claimed the temporary "best price ever" made Download@woolworths.co.uk the cheapest digital music provider in the UK, but Wippit was still charging 29p for a small selection of songs and 49p for others last time we looked. Still, the High Street retailer said it expects other services to follow its lead - though it said so primarily because it hopes such a move on their part would validate its own. Woolworths' new channels director Anthony Moore pledged to support the six-week price reduction with "an extensive online and in-store advertising campaign as well as slots on commercial radio and a flyer campaign", which can't help but raise the public's awareness of music download services in general. Woolworths opened Download@woolworths.co.uk in October 2004. It offers songs encoded in Windows Media 10 format, for PC users only. ® Related stories Napster To Go DRM 'threat' astounds media French consumer group sues Apple, Sony Napster readies German music service Napster UK pares prices HMV to spend £10m to catch up with Napster, Apple Wippit to gain over 1m major-label tracks Napster UK song sheet passes 1m mark Tesco opens digital music store easyMusic picks Wippit for pre-Xmas launch Woolworths to take on Apple iTunes store
Tony Smith, 25 Feb 2005

EU and Asia unite against spammers

European and Asian countries agreed to unite in the fight against spam at the conclusion of an ecommerce conference in London this week. Government participants attending an Asia-Europe (ASEM) conference on ecommerce issued a joint statement pledging to tackle the junk mail menace. ASEM’s 25 European and 13 Asian member countries will take action to fight spam nationally and promote anti-spam efforts by international organisations and by industry. ASEM members include China and South Korea, reckoned to be the source of one-in-five spam emails. Recruiting these countries as allies in the fight against spam (which accounts for 60 per cent of all email traffic, according to estimates) is seen as a major step forward. "The EU cannot act alone in the fight against spam as it is essentially borderless," said Viviane Reding, EU information society and media Commissioner. "It is crucial that the problem be taken seriously in every part of the world and in particular in regions where a lot of spam is reported to originate." For some time China has acted as a safe-haven for spammers, offering so-called bullet-proof hosting. In reality, unscrupulous ISPs pull the plug on spammers only when enough complaints are received by their upstream provider. Foreign spammers, many from the US, have exploited China's historically lax attitude to junk mail to send spam runs through Chinese ISPs. But attitudes in the Chinese ISP market are changing and local service providers have already shown their willingness to work with organisations such as Spamhaus to turf out illegal spam gangs. ASEM countries have pledged to tackle spam across a variety of fronts: legislation and enforcement, as well as awareness raising, industry self-regulation, technical solutions and partnerships between governments and the internet community. Similar initiatives have already been forged between Europe and the US, which remains the single greatest source of spam worldwide; so it would be unrealistic to expect too much from the ASEM agreement in he short term. Keeping the spam problem under control has proved far trickier than anyone imagined at first, but increased international co-operation can only help. ® Related stories 13 EU countries link up to fight spam FBI backs transatlantic anti-spam summit MS fires armour-piercing suit at 'bullet-proof' spam host Spamhaus assaults 'Great Wall of Spam' China to form anti-spam task force OFT in net spam scam crackdown
John Leyden, 25 Feb 2005

Europe probes 'rip off' Apple iTunes pricing

The European Commission (EC) has confirmed it is looking into allegations that Apple's iTunes Music Store discriminates against UK consumers by charging them more to download the same song than it charges other European music buyers. Some British iTunes users have slammed the differential pricing as yet another example of "rip-off Britain". Apple's pricing policy was brought to the EC's attention in December 2004 by the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which was itself made aware of the situation by British consumer group Which? In the UK, the iTunes Music Store charges customers 79p (€1.14) to download a single track. The same song costs €0.99 when it's downloaded from Apple's other European music shops. Apple can, of course, charge what it likes, and while UK consumers might be annoyed at the price differential, there's little they can do but complain about it. Or go and buy songs from, say, ITMS' French outlet. However, Apple doesn't permit them to do so. That's the real issue: is Apple's refusal to allow cross-border shopping in contravention of European Union laws enacted to ensure the free movement of goods and services between member states. Apple argues that since each country has its own music licensing regime, it's forced to adopt different prices for each nation in which it sells music. Potentially, diluting that argument is its own cross-border store, which takes in customers from the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and other territories. If it can smooth pricing across these countries, why not across the EU as a whole? The EC itself last year called on Europe's music licensing agencies to develop a common framework and pricing structure - or risk having one imposed upon it. Certainly, the EC fears that the various licensing regimes are themselves in violation of EU law. Whether that will let Apple off the hook remains to be seen. A verdict one way or t'other seems unlikely in the near term - the investigation was described as being in its "early stages", according to an EC spokesman cited by Associated Press. ® Related stories French consumer group sues Apple, Sony Apple iTunes sales tally hits 250m Sony preps PlayStation 'music download service' Euro Apple fans moan over Mac Mini pricing Apple threatens iTunes.co.uk owner UK govt takes iTunes gripe to Europe Apple opens Euro iTunes stores OFT urged to investigate 'rip-off' iTunes
Tony Smith, 25 Feb 2005

US Navy downs dummy ballistic missile

The US has successfully downed a dummy ballistic missile in a test of the sea-based element of its Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) programme. The cruiser Lake Erie used a Standard Missile (SM)-3 to intercept the mock warhead fired from the US Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai. The SM-3 was guided by Lockheed Martin's Aegis Combat System, which can, according to the company, "detect, track, characterize and engage short- and medium-range ballistic missiles". Aegis forms a vital part of the BMD, which will cost the US $10bn per year over the next five years. The Defense Department intends to deploy 30 SM-3 missiles on Aegis-equipped vessels by 2007, initially to counter the possible missile threat from North Korea, Reuters reports. The destroyer Curtis Wilbur last year became the first component of this anti-missile shield when it began to patrol the Sea of Japan. Aegis is not, however, simply an anti-missile system. Lockheed Martin describes it as "the world's premier naval defense system" and notes that it "can simultaneously attack land targets, submarines, and surface ships while automatically implementing defenses to protect the fleet against aircraft and missiles.". Aegis is currently operational on 68 US Navy vessels worldwide. Future customers include Australia, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Spain. You can find Lockheed Martin's full blurb on the Aegis Weapon System here. Other Lockheed Martin projects include the F/A-22 Raptor, the troublesome Patriot missile and the UK's £623m air traffic control computer system, described by El Reg as "perhaps the ultimate hopeless government IT project". ® Related stories US deploys F/A-22 Raptor Patriot missile: friend or foe? UK air traffic control computer fails
Lester Haines, 25 Feb 2005

Intel to buy digital TV chip maker

Intel is to buy Oplus Technologies, a digital TV processor maker, the chip giant said yesterday. Neither company would say how much Intel was paying for Oplus, a privately held firm based in Yokneam, Israel. The 100-strong workforce will continue to operate and sell products under its own name. Oplus currently designs chips for digital TVs based on a variety of display technologies, processing the incoming signal to optimise picture quality for whatever method the image is finally projected by, be it LCD, plasma or back-projection. Chip fabrication is contracted out - it's not yet clear whether Intel will bring this 'in house'. With TV finally entering the digital domain and HDTV emerging as a real broadcast medium, Intel clearly anticipates big business in providing the building blocks from which digital TVs and set-top boxes for old, analog sets can be made. And as sets become cheaper and larger, there will be more scope to sell products that improve picture quality. It also wants to be able to bring such technologies to its own desktop and notebook PC products, doubly so now it's focusing more on overarching platforms rather than discrete components. Last year, Intel canned its project to build liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) display chips, but that scheme was focused more on image display than image processing of the kind that Oplus' Rembrandt, Matisse and Monet do. ® Related stories Intel puts Itanium saviour on ice Intel prunes prices AMD invests in Intel accuser Dell rejects idea of AMD defection Intel brings 64-bit to desktop Intel to attack greedy TCP/IP stack Intel steers Itanic core correction
Tony Smith, 25 Feb 2005

XP deloaded? MS tightens screws on loose product keys

Microsoft is tightening the screws further on pirate copies of Windows by disabling Internet activation of XP product keys for software distributed by all of the large OEMs. The move however doesn't take the company anywhere close to universal compliance, and seems more intended to reduce casual copying and leakage from the PC channel. The latest move, which was first revealed by Aviran Mordo earlier this week, places restrictions on a mechanism used by OEMs to bypass Product Activation. They have previously been allowed to do this for their customers, but this meant that stolen or leaked Certificates of Authenticity (COAs) could be used to activate unlicensed copies of Windows. So for example a small operation might sell quite a large number of machines with 'preinstalled Windows', but only pay for quite a small number of licences from Microsoft, or none at all, making up the difference with hot COAs. In the past Microsoft has been able to keep some kind of lid on this by (among other mechanisms) investigating discrepancies between apparent sales and the ones it can account for, but the modified route provides more of a physical barrier to the practice. Activation using one of the affected product keys will now mean having to go through a series of questions with a Microsoft call centre representative, who will issue an override key provided the answers confirm that the activation is legitimate. The procedure affects the top 20 OEMs from 28th February, and will be extended to all other OEMs who've been using this activation method over the rest of the year. People who need to activate a lot of products in their line of work (e.g. service engineers) are likely to be less than ecstatic. But as we noted, this is more a case of tightening control on channel leakage than it is on stopping Windows piracy in general. Possibly the most popular pirate versions of Windows are of Corporate edition, where it is (and will remain, until Microsoft thinks of something) perfectly feasible to install a copy of the software and activate it with a leaked key, or one produced by a key generation routine, without going anywhere near the Internet. If the software was installed with one of the leaked keys Microsoft knows of and has blocked, then such an installation won't be able to access software updates, but as far as we're aware Microsoft still has no mechanism for detecting and countering generated keys. The corporate customer sacred cow is unlikely to smile on any Microsoft anti-piracy initiative that would get in the way of multi-machine, multi-site upgrade rollouts, which does rather limit Microsoft's options here. But there remains an upside, from Microsoft's point of view. Actual corporate customers aren't likely to engage in widespread theft of Windows on the basis that it just takes Microsoft to wonder where they're getting the stuff from in order for them to be detected, and over the years Microsoft has been progressively increasing its ability to detect piracy in smaller businesses. This means it can achieve a reasonable, and probably increasing, level of compliance among the customers already paying, most likely to pay and most likely to be easily discouraged from running unauthorised software. The people it misses, although they're the ones Microsoft tends to shout loudest about, aren't the ones Microsoft stands much chance of making more money out of anyway. Not, at least, before Bill owns the whole world. ® Related Stories: Windows authentication: reasonable and gentle China's IT: an inside outsider's view Should XP pirates get SP2?
John Lettice, 25 Feb 2005

Bomb disposal disarms napalm-making teen

British Army bomb disposal experts have disarmed a Suffolk teenager who brought home-made "napalm" into school, the Daily Telegraph reports. The unnamed 14 or 15-year-old apparently got instructions on how to knock up the concoction from a website, and rather splendidly decided to spend the half term holiday producing the flammable brew. Sadly, when he duly presented his homework to the chemistry teacher at £17,000-a-year Woodbridge school, the master proved less than enthusiastic, declaring "Oh my God" before alerting police who in turn called in the UXB boys from Colchester. An MOD spokesman said: "It was not actually napalm, but we are not disclosing what it was. We removed the substance and disposed of it safely." Those readers dismayed with the MOD's anti-educational stance regarding the recipe for home-made napalm will be delighted to learn that a quick web search reveals that it was originally produced by "gelling gasoline with the aluminium salts of fatty acids", ie, "NAphtenic and PALMitic acids, hence its name". Nowadays, though, "aluminium octoate is used and it gels gasoline very well indeed". Naturally, the powers that be rather frown on domestic napalm production, and we therefore suggest that bored teenagers restrict themselves to traditional holiday pastimes such as dismantling unexploded fireworks and detonating the contents in their parents' garage. ® Related stories Florida teacher cuffed for bomb-making classes Norfolk man in French car bomb terror ordeal US woman eBays stroppy son's PS2
Lester Haines, 25 Feb 2005

Scottish Parliament lines up against ID scheme

The Scottish Parliament yesterday condemned the UK ID Cards Bill as flawed and an unacceptable threat to civil liberties, leaving the legal position of the ID scheme largely unchanged but positioning it as a live election issue north of the border. The vote suggests that the Scottish Executive's 'kinder, gentler ID' policy may not be enough. Labour is the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, but does not have an overall majority and therefore shares power with the Liberals. The Scottish Parliament cannot reject the ID scheme outright, however it can express opinions, as it did yesterday, and it can choose how to use the ID card scheme with reference to those devolved functions it has control over. The compromise settled on by the Parliament's Labour-led executive is therefore that ID cards will not be required to access devolved public services in Scotland. It lost yesterday's vote, however, because its LibDem partners (the LibDems in the UK Parliament oppose the ID scheme) chose to abstain. This allowed a pack of Nationalist, Tory, Scottish Socialist, Green and Independent MSPs to pass the motion by 52 votes to 47. The motion itself was moved by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who we understand is not entirely accustomed to winning votes. Aside from the Greens, an obvious beneficiary of the vote is the Scottish National Party, which will gleefully exploit the imposition of an expensive and dubious scheme by the UK Parliament. Tory opposition in Scotland is currently limited by the UK party's position of favouring ID cards provided they're fixed, while the LibDems have the difficulty of developing clear blue water between themselves and Labour while remaining a part of the Scottish Executive. In the debate itself (which you'll find, along with the text of the motion, here), Labour's arguments (such as they were) relied heavily on the alleged popularity of ID cards with the public. Should this fail to remain the case, Scottish Labour could find itself in some difficulties come the next Scottish Parliament elections. ® Related links: How Blair high tech 'security' pledge will fix the wrong problem Tory party set to withdraw ID scheme support Parliamentary report flags ID scheme human rights issues
John Lettice, 25 Feb 2005

Irate students peel Reg hack

LettersLetters Our report this week into the potato PC scam which left south London students clutching a very expensive laptop bag full of spuds provoked an angry response from some cash-strapped young 'uns. The outrage was caused by our reference to "grant cheque" - a term fondly remembered by we "old timers" who need to "get with the programme, grandpa", as two readers put it. We now realise, of course, that students no longer get grants, they get loans which they apparently pay back over 1000 years at 89 per cent interest. Or something like that. Anyway, here's more on the subject: A mate was caught by this one in the West End a couple of years back. Two blokes offered him a cheap laptop in a car boot, hinting that it was stolen. He was ferreting around for his cash when one of them allegedly spotted a bobby on patrol, and as he made himself look inconspicuous they swapped the laptop case for another. No potatoes this time, but he did get a few copies of the Sun. Try telling the police that you got ripped off buying a laptop you thought was stolen, and see how far you get. Mike The theives were also working Milton Keynes recently, my brother in law parted with £500 and all he got was an Argos cattalogue! didnt have the heart to tell him for another £50 he could have bought brand new from [shameless plug for UK PC retailer excised - ed] The characters had Irish accents and were driving old bangers, they were thought to be Travellers passing through the county, It was also well reported in the Milton Keynes local press, seems they stung a lot of people here too! Steve Gott How dare you refer to such entrepreneurial acumen as a 'scam'? Clearly these businessmen are selling the students the components of a high-powered server machine, such as the one that can be found here: http://d116.com/spud/ Adrian Jackson Speed cameras. Ooooh, don't get us started. As expected, our examination of rogue radar readings got the steam venting from the ears... Speed Cameras, Ooooh, don't get me started.... The fascists gave me a fine just the other month, on a dual carriage way, no pedestrian access, leaving the danger zone (traffic lights) and they did me doing 57 as I entered the 60 zone. Dirty dirty dirty fascists! Then they have the gaul to send me a glossy pamphlet saying that the speeding ticket was not revenue generating, 60 quid of non revenue generation? Heck, if they thought I am a danger then don't fine me, just ban me from driving, give me 10 points, but don't try to 'spin' that it's not revenue generating. Dirty dirty dirty lying fascists! Heck, if it truely is saving lives they are interested in then park their detector vans next to schools, or outside my house where kids cross the street. But no, they'd only catch one or two poeple that way, best to park hidden next to a tree on a dual carriageway with no pedestrian access then they'll rake in the money. Anyone associated with speed cameras, from the designers to the opperators to the people who send out the bills have no honour, and due to karma they will probably all die in horiffic ways. Have a nice day, andy Ah, the A610 speed cameras. Very well known round here. I know several people who've been caught. It's a tricky stretch, because it's two lanes all the way, so people assume the limit is 40 mph, but it's not. They also assume they only need to slow down near the actual camera, which is incorrect. Those cameras calculate your average speed between two points. I've always assumed, because the way the cameras are arranged, that the average is calculated between pairs of cameras on individual stretches of the road. So it doesn't work to factor in traffic lights. There's a camera just after each set of lights and just before the next set. It's a fatal (and lucrative) combination of a clever set of cameras and a dimmer-than-average population. I think it's hilarious. Rob McMinn Greetings from Osaka, Cameras are also very common here in Japan. All over the highways and on normal roads as well. There are several types, some are for speed, some are for monitoring cars and drivers -- for what reason I am not sure. Anyway, from the sound of the article it seems like the cameras in the UK are fixed in place like they are here in Japan -- staying in the same place for years. Of course new ones are added and old ones sometimes removed, but they don't change that much. So, a few years ago the radar detector makers here got wise. GPS receiver in the detector. Database in the detector. All camera locations known. I'm sure you see where this is going... :) The detector warns you 1km in advance that you are approaching a camera and tells you what type of camera it is! You slow down, pass the camera, and then return to a realistic speed. The 2 year old model I have lets me add cameras if I notice new ones by pushing a button on the unit. The latest ones offer updates via Internet though... It must drive the cops insane! I don't know if radar detectors are illegal in the UK or not, but I imagine databases and GPS receivers aren't. Some enterprising person could make quite a bit of cash selling such a unit... Ian Y'know what would be interesting, would be, how many serious accidents have there been recently where that monstrous revenue generating camera is? Since if it's a low or zero figure, that would sort of point out that it's a revenue camera, not a safety one... Euan Robertson Simple response to the "you're just using the cameras to get more money" is either 1) A day in prison 2) A weeks' community service (two hours a day, for example) instead of fines. Mark Hackett V-girl, eh? Exciting virtual girlfriend for the "socially inadequate": "Kisses? What about a shag? This is costing good money." The socially inadequate eh? ;) Tijl Hi Lester, I just read your article on the V-girl and thought I'd update you on the history of this invention. I created the first "Virtual Woman" back in 1991 and still hold the trademark for the name "Girlfriend". She was artificially intelligent, had a synthesized voice, emotions, memory, and full-motion video. She was even better than this new Vivienne, because she was not made of 3D rendered wireframes, but rather from a real, live girl. We would shoot many many hours of video and then dissect it into individual clips so when she moved from her living room into her bedroom, it was nearly seamless. And, oh, yes, the bedroom. She WAS capable of virtual sex, unlike this new imposter. Each of the girls in the series, Lisa, Suzy, Teri, Tracy, and Donna, had her own sexual idiosyncracies. Some were easily multi-orgasmic, some liked it rough, and some preferred romance. My company, AIVR Corporation, was unable to find someone with deep enough pockets to help Girlfriend compete against all the $8 XXX-rated porn CDs that emerged in the mid 90's, so we had to fold up shop. But Girlfriend has tens of thousands of loyal boyfriends all around the world who helped make her "the first virtual woman". Dave Morris re:v-girl I reckon it'll be days before someone hacks it to 1) be naked 2) do virtual sex 3) look like Bill Gates all of a sudden part-way through e-sex yours prophetically joe whiteley Finally, on the matter of Black Helicopters, as suitably celebrated in our new t-shirt, we have this chilling tale from Steve Graham: Back in 1996, I was practising night take-offs and landings at Long Beach airport in California, and I was sharing the circuit with a genuine, unmarked Black Helicopter. With a callsign of "Thunder One" no less. However, the voice on the radio was definitley American, so perhaps he wasn't a stooge of the New World Order. Or maybe they just want us to believe that. That's all, folks. Back next week, black helicopters permitting. ®
Lester Haines, 25 Feb 2005

BT has until June to resolve 'equal access' issues

A full-scale Enterprise Act investigation that could lead to the eventual break-up of BT will kick-off in June should efforts to introduce greater competition and transparency at the giant telco fail. The June deadline was set by regulator Ofcom which is studying proposals by BT to open up the former monopoly to greater competition. At the beginning of February BT announced it was prepared to offer "transparent and equal access" to its local network in a proposed regulatory settlement with Ofcom. It also planned to cut the cost of key wholesale products and create an Access Services division responsible for ensuring "equal access to the services and assets associated with the local loop". The string of proposals formed part of BT's response to a year-long telecoms review by Ofcom. In November, the regulator rejected calls to break up BT, but warned that it would take action against the former monopoly, unless it made "substantive behavioural and organisational changes" - including giving rivals equal access to its wholesale products. Ofcom has always said that its preferred option is "Real Equality of Access", which would give rival operators equal access to BT's network and products. Updating the industry yesterday on the progress made so far Ofcom senior partner, Ed Richards, said that the regulator was in the "middle of a long and complex process" and that trying to make the UK's telecoms sector more competitive was "taking longer than we thought". In particular, Ofcom is spending a lot of time wading through BT's lengthy submission. "That's because we posed BT a unique question: we asked BT's management to provide prompt and clear proposals for the organisational and behavioural changes within BT that we considered necessary for Equality of Access to work. "And I think we should recognise that in this area we have received a constructive response by BT, which sets out a number of steps which could go some way to resolving this issue. To our knowledge, BT's proposed Access Services Division is the first time this kind of structural regulatory solution has been put on the table by an incumbent in a developed economy. "We know that the devil is in the detail. We need to spend time reflecting on BT's response and working with BT to understand that detail. Until then, we make no conclusions." He went on: "As we've said all along, we would prefer a settlement for which there is some significant consensus within the industry...that can be made to work, and that will deliver Real Equality of Access. We're genuinely optimistic that this can be achieved." However, should Ofcom's optimism be dashed, it will not engage in a protracted regulatory debate. "We believe that we need to have established whether or not Real Equality of Access is a sustainable approach by the end of June," said Richards. "We would then expect to publish our Phase 3 statement in the summer. "If in June we concluded that Real Equality of Access was in fact not viable, we envisage that we would at that stage commence an internal Enterprise Act investigation. Should that investigation recommend a reference to the Competition Commission, we expect the timetable for such a reference to be towards the end of the year." If that were to happen then Ofcom chief exec Stephen Carter believes that responsibility for the failure to come up with a workable solution would be shared across the industry, BT and the regulator. ® Related stories UK LLU roll-out 'continues to lag' BT gutted at Ofcom's 'prolonged misbehaviour' allegations Energis calls for BT break-up BT DSL price cut undermines LLU competition BT promises to play fair, in Ofcom appeasement Rivals warn of BT 'delaying tactics' BT faces 'bogeyman' if it fails to open market
Tim Richardson, 25 Feb 2005

Trend Micro archive bug unearthed

Trend Micro is urging users of its anti-virus products to apply security updates following the discovery of a potentially serious security vulnerability in 29 of its products. The security bug - discovered by security researchers at ISS - involves flaws in the processing of ARJ archive files by an antivirus library that give rise to possible buffer overflow attacks. "Successful exploitation of this vulnerability could be used to gain unauthorized access to networks and machines being protected by Trend Micro AntiVirus Library product," ISS warns. Desktop, server and gateway versions of Trend's anti-virus scanners all need updating to version 7.510 of Trend's scan engine or higher because of the vulnerability. Several large vendors and ISP's use Trend Micro's AntiVirus Library in their products, which likewise need attention. Update details are here. ISS's alert is here. Earlier this month ISS issued alerts over similar but distinct vulnerabilities involving 30 security packages from Symantec, involving the processing of UPX compressed files, and anti-virus products from F-Secure, again involving the handling of ARJ archive files. ® Related stories Symantec anti-virus flaw hits 30 products Patch now against virus-writing clowns Vendors agree vulnerability scoring system Hotmail ditches McAfee for Trend
John Leyden, 25 Feb 2005

Jubologist links breast type to personality

An Italian sexologist has claimed that he can tell a woman's personality from the size and shape of her breasts, and his research has revealed some interesting and previously unknown facts about human females. Piero Lorenzoni this week expounded his mammicular theory to German tabloid Bild. Shortly thereafter UK jub enthusiasts at the Sun got their quips out for the lads. Likewise, we at El Reg feel duty-bound to share Lorenzoni's expertise in the matter, as follows: Melons: A woman with large, round breasts "likes eating and wants to be spoiled and admired, but seldom likes sex," says Lorenzi. Grapefruit: "This woman may look erotic, but in reality is bashful and homely. She spoils her partner but prefers tenderness over sex." Pears: "Loves love in all its variations. She can be very religious, but is known to have affairs." Pineapples: "A woman with pineapple breasts is intelligent, often has a career but is still romantic. They are also faithful. Whoever wins their heart will not lose it quickly." Oranges: "While she is self-confident and knows her goals, she has little interest in sex. She likes conversation and partnerships." Lemons: "These women are full of life and can laugh at themselves. They want a balanced life without surprises." Cherries: They are entertaining and intelligent. Make great partners both for everyday life and on holiday and are moderately interested in sex." That's right - the shocking conclusion of Lorenzoni's study is that women don't like sex very much and the form and volume of their assets makes little or no difference in the matter. Having said that, there is another possible explanation, and one favoured by our own Lucy Sherriff: that women do not want to have sex with Piero Lorenzoni and he has not realised that this may not apply to other males. Interestingly, a web search for a picture of the Italian breastologist returned absolutely no results whatsoever. There are only two conclusions to be drawn from this: that Lorenzoni is so breathtakingly handsome that women fear they may die of sexual ecstasy if they indulge in rumpy-pumpy with the Italian Stallion; or that he he so closely resembles John Merrrick that the merest glimpse of his hideous form provokes females to run screaming for the hills taking their fruit with them. Whichever is the case, we can understand why Lorenzoni wishes to keep his appearance a closely-guarded secret. ® Related stories Casino brands eBay cleavage woman Dutch actress's breasts confound doubters Boffin hits it big with breast-enlarging ringtone
Lester Haines, 25 Feb 2005

BOFH: Goin' underground

Episode 7Episode 7 "Okay, so we just need you to run a cable across the street then!" the Boss says, pointing to the new set of offices across the road that the company has leased. "Do we just sling a cable across the street to them?" Sigh. "To run a service across the street you obtain a consent from the local council outlining what the service is for - at which time they'll tell you that they won't let you run aerial services because they 'interrupt the unbroken skyline' or something equally vague. Interestingly, it's the same skyline that's interrupted every time the local council puts up one of their street banners proclaiming us to be the cleanest capital in the world, the least congested capital in the world or some other form of general misinformation..." "So how do we get networking over there?" "Well, you either pay a Telco an arm and a leg or you get a consultant to draw up thrusting plans for a duct and submit a joint proposal with the contractor to identify a route and do the subsequent digging or thrusting." "What's that cost?" "About the same price as the rental of the property for the year." "Ah. Could we use some sort of wireless arrangement?" "Possibly, but we might run into some bandwidth problems..." "So we have to run a duct?" "Maybe. I'd like to get access to their basement for a while and do a simple survey to see if there's any pre-existing ducting - you never know, the buildings might have been linked sometime in the past." "Really? Well, I suppose I could ask for a key." "Excellent!" ... much later that night . "So you're sure this is all kosher?" the PFY asks as we tow the thrusting unit into the sub-basement car park of the building across the street. "Technically?" "Yes." "No." "Ah. Will we get into trouble?" "Not unless we hit one of those big electricity feeds to a London Underground transformer. Then it'll be a little touch and go. But very, very quick." "Ah." the PFY says stepping back from the unit. "So how does it work?" "Well I'm a little grey as to the full details, but this thing is a big drill, and this joysticky thing controls the direction of the drill. So I just aim it downwards from here for about 2 of these extension pipes, across for about 3 pipes, then up till it breaks ground." "Riiighhht. So these pipes are.. what.. 5 metres long?" "Yep." "Ok so what about 2 pipes down, two pipes across and up, given that the road is about 8 metres wide?" "Hmm, it's worth a crack I guess." . . . . one hour later . . . "What was that?!" the PFY gasps, as the machine shudders wildly and stops about halfway through the crossing process. "Not sure," I say, comparing the distances with a services map I stole from the council. "Ah. We've either hit a sewer with a slight build-up of gas, or....." "Or?" "The front carriage of a Circle Line train." "F***!" the PFY squeaks. "Calm down," I say, putting the machine into reverse and turning it over on battery "We'll back this out and redrill it a couple of metres higher and it'll be swe.. Uh-oh." "What?" "It looks like the train's bent the front section of the drill pipe which is stalling the thruster engine so we can't pull it back!" "S***!" the PFY gasps. "Again, don't worry, we have a spare drill bit." "Oh," he sighs. "Yes, all you need to do is sneak down the tunnel and pull the bent section out of the wall. And recover the drill head." "You're f***ing joking!" the PFY says. One long argument, several threats and 20 minutes later, my cellphone rings. "Yep?... . ... What? . . . You'll have to speak up... Oh it's you! Found nothing Eh? Yeah well it must have been the old sewer after all. And I think the shuddering was because it had run out of gas. Pop into a service station and grab us about four gallons of diesel will you?!" I cut the PFY off in the middle of a particularly colourful stream of abuse and recalculate my directions. By the time the PFY arrives I've got a new plan. "Ok change of plans! It's too near morning to redrill, so we'll pull the drill sections back and go again tomorrow." "Right." . . . Twenty minutes later . . . "Ok, another change of plans. Grab that rag and stuff it in the hole when I pull the drill head out!" "Why?" "Uhh.... it's a secret.." ... The next day ... "So we decided upon consideration to go the overhead route," I say to the Boss. "But I thought you said the council wouldn't allow it?" "They wouldn't. But as luck would have it my assistant and I happened to run into a member of the council staff charged with the installation of street banners, and after a bit of haggling we came to an arrangement where we provide him with a cable to hang his banner on. All perfectly legit." "But I thought you preferred the underground option." "Ordinarily, yes, but in this case I wasn't so keen." "Really, why?" "I think it was the basement being ankle deep in sewerage that put me off." "You didn't!" the Boss gasps, horrified. "Course not, what do we look like, cowboys?" Must make a note to have my boots cleaned.... ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 Get BOFH Books here BOFH is copyright © 1995-2005, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 25 Feb 2005

China favours EVD over DVD

China has formally declared its Enhanced Video Disc (EVD) format the national standard for digital video discs, its Ministry of Information Industry (MII) said this week. Work began on EVD in 1999, with funding from China's State Trade and Economic Commission and MII, with a view to creating an alternative to DVD. Crucially, EVD frees Chinese player makers from the licence fees that must be paid to make DVD-branded machines. More to the point, perhaps, China doesn't want this part of its blooming consumer electronics industry to be in hock to overseas companies. The format will allow domestic manufacturers to "shake off their previous dependence on foreign technologies", as the Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily, put it at the time. Like DVD, EVD video data is compressed, but according to the format's developers, Beijing-based E-World and US digital video technology company On2, it is capable of displaying HDTV images, a feat currently not possible with the established standard. The DVD licence fees are already the subject of a lawsuit brought by Chinese DVD player makers Wuxi Multimedia and Orient Power (Wuxi) who claim the 3C Patent Group's licensing regime limits their ability to compete effectively in the DVD player market. They say the 3C group charges Chinese manufacturers rather more than it does US-based companies. That, the plaintiffs maintain, is discriminatory, unfair and contrary to US antitrust law. Both companies are seeking the return of royalties paid, plus damages and a ruling that the DVD patent pool is invalid. ® Related stories Macrovision to tout lock-down DVD tech Alliance touts holographic disc 'revolution' Chinese manufacturers sue DVD patent pool Studios announce HD DVD movie release lists Studios announce HD DVD movie release lists Toshiba launches HD DVD consortium DVD Forum punts blue laser HD-DVD China unveils 'DVD killer' video disk format
Tony Smith, 25 Feb 2005

MP calls for action over menacing 'silent' calls

Communications regulator Ofcom isn't doing enough to protect people from the menace of "silent" phone calls made by companies trying to flog their goods and services. BT receives more than 112,000 complaints a month from people worried that they've received a "silent" call. These calls are generated by computers in call centres which automatically dial numbers. In many cases, though, when people pick up the phone - no-one's there. That's because call centres often generate more calls than they can handle on the basis that some people won't be in to answer the call. But for people who receive a number of these silent cold calls, it can be a real menace. Speaking yesterday Labour MP Kevin Brennan rounded on the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) for not doing enough to stamp out the practise in its industry. Brennan, whose Bill in November to make "silent calls" an offence ran out of parliamentary time, acknowledged that while the DMA industry was "a legitimate one", its "methods are unacceptable". "These calls cause many problems for those receiving them. The elderly are unduly inconvenienced by these calls and often believe that they are receiving malicious calls. Those that find it difficult to get to the phone are also seriously inconvenienced with silent calls. They have difficulty getting to the phone only to find that when they answer there is a recorded message or worse still silence. "This is why we need stronger regulation - in the industry's own interest," said the Cardiff West MP. "Ofcom seems unwilling to use the powers that they have been given under the Communications Act. At present Ofcom will not take action against a company unless this has been instigated by an individual or an outside agency. "The current enforcement has been ineffective in offering a solution, what is required is a new and stronger partnership between the industry and regulator. "The powers that are currently held by Ofcom need to be used more effectively in order to deter companies from flaunting the current legislation." ® Related stories MP demands regulation of 'silent' telesales tactics Euro MPs face scam crackdown New 0871 rogue dialler scam spotted Citizens Advice warns of 'shocking' rogue dialler scams
Tim Richardson, 25 Feb 2005

Orange next-gen smart phone details leak

Mobile phone network Orange's next smart phone has made its web debut in the form of an allegedly leaked pic of the handset. The SPV C550, as it's being dubbed, appears to be the successor to the current SPV C500, made by Taiwan's HTC, which calls it the Typhoon. The C550 also appears to be an HTC product, an updated version of the manufacturer's Amadeus music-oriented handset, better known as the T-Mobile SDA Music. Certainly, the leaked picture - assuming it's genuine, of course - shows a keypad and control layout that matches that of Amadeus. However, CoolSmartPhone's published specification, suggests that the C550 is a kind of Amadeus 2. According to the site, the new smart phone will sport a 240 x 320 LCD capable of displaying 262,000 colours. There's a 1.3 megapixel camera on board too, along with 64MB of RAM and a Mini SD slot for extra storage. The handset offers the usual USB, infra-red and Bluetooth connectivity. Apparently, the hints are that Orange is preparing a May 2005 release date for the new handset. The network is already known to be preparing a version of HTC's Universal 3G palmtop handset, along with versions of the Taiwanese ODM's Alpine and Magician PocketPC phones. Clearly, Orange intends to beef up its line of own-brand handsets, as O2 and T-Mobile have done. ® Related stories Orange to offer 3G, Wi-Fi palmtop smart phone Orange preps latest own-brand smart phones Group Sense preps Euro smart phone T-Mobile unveils Sidekick-styled 3G device HTC revenues break record - again Related reviews HTC 'Magician' PocketPC phone HTC 'Blue Angel' Wi-Fi PocketPC phone
Tony Smith, 25 Feb 2005

Qwest sweetens MCI offer

Qwest has sweetened its offer for MCI although it stopped short of increasing the $8bn (£4.23bn) bid currently on the table. The improved offer comes with certain additional assurances including guaranteeing the value of stock in the cash and paper deal. In a letter Qwest chairman and chief exec Richard Notebaert called on the MCI board to reconsider the offer which, he said, was "even more compelling for your stockholders". He said a Qwest/MCI merger would create "an exciting and important new telecommunications company, of which MCI would become a meaningful part" adding that a Qwest/MCI merger creates a "superior value opportunity for the MCI stockholders as compared to a Verizon/MCI transaction". Last week, MCI announced that it had accepted a $6.7bn (£3.55bn) offer from Verizon. However, shareholders have questioned MCI's decision to accept an offer that was significantly lower than the one made originally by Qwest. Rebel shareholders are so unhappy at the deal that some have started court action accusing MCI directors of breaching their fiduciary duties - their legal responsibilities as board members. News that Qwest has improved its offer comes as MCI reported a fall in Q4 revenues. Publishing results up to the end of December, MCI said revenues in the fourth quarter were $5bn - down 2 per cent compared to the previous quarter and a drop of 10 per cent compared to the same period last year. Operating income for Q4 2004 was $434m, compared to an operating loss of $3.4bn in the Q3 2004 and an operating loss of $332m in Q4 '03. Overall, revenues for the year were down 15 per cent from $24.3bn in 2003 to $20.7bn as the telco formerly known as WorldCom racked up an operating loss of $3.2bn. Looking ahead to 2005, MCI expects revenues to fall still further by up to 14 per cent to between $18bn - $19bn. MCI boss Michael Capellas said the company had made "improvements in [its] financial performance in the face of difficult industry conditions". ® Related stories MCI faces shareholder fury Qwest to bid again for MCI Qwest goes public with $8bn MCI bid Verizon's MCI takeover faces shareholder revolt Verizon and MCI to tie the knot
Tim Richardson, 25 Feb 2005

Small-minded Mozilla mocked by wider world

An exuberant Mozilla Foundation has been brought back down to earth with a bang by the world's internet organisations. Flushed with the success of its Firefox browser, the Foundation has clearly come to believe it is an important voice in the internet community. But following a hasty decision regarding the resolving of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), it has been publicly criticised by the groups representing domain registries in both Europe and Asia, as well as the US-based internet overseeing organisation ICANN. The issue stems from a security warning over IDNs, in which a group of so-called security experts at Shmoo.com "discovered" a problem which the rest of the internet community had been aware of for several years and created guidelines to deal with it. Put simply, the method by which the English-based domain name system is expanded to encompass different languages from around the world provides a window of opportunity for others to mislead people. By using numbers and letters similar to others, it is possible to make people think that a domain they click on is in fact a different one. The simplest and clearest example comes within the English language itself - a lower-case "L" can look exactly the same as an upper-case "i". And to stretch it further, the numeral "1" can be made to look like both. With IDNs this potential for confusion is increased as domains are rendered in different nationalities' own languages. To get from one language to another, more additional numerals and letters are added. Thanks to add-ons within browsers these strange combinations are rendered into decipherable letters. But at the same time, a strange combination can be used to give a misleading impression. Shmoo managed to create an apparent link to "www.paypal.com" that actually went to its own domain. Unfortunately, within a week Mozilla decided that the only solution was to decide to disable support for IDNs. It was a short-term solution to "protect our users", the foundation said, and it made it clear what would need to change in order to support to be restored: "If people want to see full, unrestricted IDN back in Mozilla and Firefox, the best way is to put pressure on the world's registrars and registries to fulfil their obligations to their customers - both domain owners and internet users - and commit to implementing the ICANN guidelines." The world's registrars and registries didn't agree. CENTR - the Council of European National TLD Registries - called Mozilla's post a "hasty ill-considered response". Centr represents "over 98 per cent of domain registrations worldwide" and "believes such strong reactions are heavily detrimental to the effort to introduce non-English languages and scripts to the internet, and could have lasting repercussions on the ongoing effort to internationalise the DNS". Not to be outdone, the APTLD - the Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association - also piled in. "This has led to some browser providers announcing that they intend to disable IDNs in future releases. We believe the information that they have relied on is misleading which has led to inappropriate action." And just to finish off, ICANN put out a statement saying it was "concerned about the implementation of countermeasures that may unnecessarily restrict the use and availability of IDNs". All in all, everyone seems to think that a browser cutting off the rest of the world because of a potential security problem that is already well-known is, well, small-minded. But it has gone ahead with the disabling of IDNs anyway, releasing a "security update" this morning for Firefox which disables IDN resolution. The fact is however that browsers could - and will - be a major driving force in making IDNs work without security concerns. Everyone needs a browser to access the Internet and despite the fact that it remains difficult for North Americans to understand that the rest of the world speak different languages, if they wish to remain in the market, browser manufacturers need to actively work towards incorporating different-language domains. One knowledgeable expert has suggested that if browsers display an icon when they are resolving international domains, then people will learn to understand that if they think they are visiting an English site, everything may not be quite kosher. That's just one small example. There are plenty more that have been thought out by experts and carefully written down. You can find the main two here [JET] and here [ICANN]. The real scandal is that despite numerous very intelligent people working on this problem, and despite the fact that a multi-lingual internet is an inevitability, the industry has still to get on, work together and come up with a widespread, accepted solution. You have to wonder whether the same delays would result if it was a technical issue that affected US internet users. Mozilla's naive, parochial stance may have helped people finally get their acts together but it has done so as the cost of its own standing. ® The problem Shmoo says panic! Mozilla panics! CENTR says idiots APTLD says idiots ICANN says idiots The solution ICANN ideas JET ideas Browser idea
Kieren McCarthy, 25 Feb 2005
cloud

Currency effects boost Ingram Q4

The weakened dollar helped Ingram Micro boost its margins in the fourth quarter, the distributor’s latest results show. Ingram’s sales in the fourth quarter were $7.45bn, 10.2% up on the same period the year before. The figures included $400m from the Tech Pacific operation it acquired in November last year. European sales increased 8% to $2.99bn, driven by “strengthening European currencies”. In local currencies, sales were flat on an “extraordinarily strong” previous year. Net income was $79.2m, including benefits of $19.3m, mainly related to currency hedging on its Australian dollar purchase of Tech Pacific. The previous year, it had net income of $46.4m, which included $8.7m of major-program costs associated with its profit enhancement program. For the full year, sales were $25.5bn compared to $22.6bn the previous year, with the strengthening of the European currencies accounting for 4 per cent of the increase. Full year net income was $219.9m, compared to $149.2m the previous year. Ingram said it expects solid demand in the first quarter, with sales coming in between $7bn and $7.2bn, and net income of $47m to $50m. ® Related stories Ingram Micro unites Europe Ingram buys Aussie distie for $493m Ingram Micro sales solid
Team Register, 25 Feb 2005

Firefox dusted down with security upgrade

Mozilla yesterday released an updated version of its popular Firefox browser, version 1.0.1. The release includes several fixes to guard against spoofing and arbitrary code execution and changes designed to boost the stability of the browser. The update addresses a recent security flaw involving download dialogue boxes and a code injection vulnerability as well as a number of other bugs listed here. The Mozilla Foundation has also changed the way its browser renders international characters in domain names in order to guard against possible phishing risks. An unintended result of the IDN (International Domain Name) standard means domain names can be registered with certain international characters - which look like other commonly-used characters - in order to hoodwink users into believing they are on a different, trusted site. As such, the feature creates a new wheeze for phishing attacks. Microsoft doesn't support IDN in IE but every other browser manufacturer does, obliging them to act after security firms highlighted the issue last month. Rather than disabling IDN, the Mozilla Foundation has settled on a temporary workaround where International Domain Names are displayed by Firefox 1.0.1 as "punycode" by default so that spoofed websites are easier to spot. Mozilla does not see this as a permanent fix, and it’s unlikely to placate some critics who are urging browser manufacturers to stick by IDN. Although the latest Firefox release is essentially a minor update users moving up to 1.0.1 are advised to uninstall 1.0 first, an installation snag that has been around since the early days of Firefox. Firefox 1.0 has been downloaded 27m times since its December 2004 release. The Mozilla Foundation encourages all users to download the update, which is available now on all platforms at Mozilla.org. ® Related stories Firefox spoofing flaw goes international Browser holes, hackers and rampaging botnets Nokia denies Firefox rumours Yahoo! betas! toolbar! for! Firefox! Opera to MS: Get real about interoperability, Mr Gates
John Leyden, 25 Feb 2005

McAfee looks ahead after mediocre Q4

Security firm McAfee yesterday reported reduced fourth quarter revenues but predicted rosier times ahead following its decision to sell off two flagging division last year. For the quarter ending 31 December 2004, McAfee reported revenues of $244m down from $272m in Q4 2003. Pre-tax quarterly earnings came out at $24m (the firm is still assessing its tax bill) while Q4 2004 operating profit fell to $38m from $50m in the same quarter last year. McAfee expects that the filing of its 2004 Form 10-K will be delayed beyond the mid-March 2005 deadline to the end of March while it sorts out "internal control deficiencies" that have left it unable to report as scheduled. For the full financial year, McAfee reported revenues of $911m and pre-tax earnings of $317m. McAfee IntruShield intrusion prevention appliances were a star performer with revenue growth of 55 per cent year over year. McAfee's consumer anti-virus business also did well though this revenue stream is threatened by Microsoft's decision to enter the market later this year. Looking ahead, McAfee said it expected to book sales of between $920m to $960m in FY 2005, compared to analyst estimates of around $860m. McAfee's net earnings per share are expected to be between $1.10 and $1.15 per share, up between $0.05 and $0.10 on previous predictions. McAfee's shares were trading at $23.39 Friday, down from around $25 Thursday. ® Related stories VXers creating 150 zombie programs a week AOL goes a bundle on consumer security McAfee buys Foundstone for $86m Ireland is never Netherlands for McAfee NAI (as was) rows into the black NAI buys Entercept for $120m
John Leyden, 25 Feb 2005
Broken CD with wrench

McData seesaws through Q4

Switch maker McData had some serious ups and downs during its fourth quarter. On the plus side, McData reported a breakeven quarter, which beat out a net loss of $7.5m in the same period a year ago. McData, however, saw revenue fall during its most recent quarter. It posted revenue of $106m in Q4 - down 7 per cent from last year's Q4. For the full year, McData reported revenue of $400m. This total was 5 per cent less than last year's $419m. During the quarter, McData announced its intention to acquire CNT for $235m in stock. It also closed a deal where Hitachi will sell the Intrepid 10000 Backbone Director. Investors had little reaction to McData's results with its shares falling just more than 2 percent to $4.08 at the time of this report. ® Related stories Cisco switch partners see Fibre Channel green Brocade makes income and CEO disappear McDATA gobbles up CNT
Ashlee Vance, 25 Feb 2005

Doonesbury savages Pepperland's copyright utopians

As anyone involved with the original Apple Newton project knows only too well, when Garry Trudeau's satirical eye engages a target, there's only one winner. The Doonesbury cartoonist has a gift for holding up a mirror to bad ideas so they collapse under the weight of their own absurdities. This week[*] Trudeau has turned his attention to the "Creative Commons" project. Beginning with Monday's comic, radio interviewer Mark questions aging rock star Jim Thudpucker about "free music". Thudpucker returns with a barrage of techno utopian babble that suggests he's been inhaling the heady vapors of the blogosphere. "There are no rock stars any more!" insists Thudpucker. "With file sharing, we're being liberated from the hierarchical tyranny of record sales… Careers henceforth will be concert-driven, fragmented, and small!" "And fan bases?" asks Mark. "Will be kept in Palm Pilots!" replies the blog-brained Thudpucker. This brilliant satire of the belief that technology can by itself topple entrenched institutions will be familiar to anyone who's picked up a copy of Wired in the last decade. Thudpucker is an ever-present type at any blogging convention. The conversation continued throughout the week, and we won't spoil any more of Trudeau's punchlines, except to note that he captures the other worldliness of this strand of techno utopian idiocy very sweetly. What's wrong with this picture? Well, there's nothing wrong with utopianism in itself: it's simply a wish for a better world, and we should all be able to imagine something better. But when utopianism becomes a denial and a retreat from the real world, it serves no useful purpose. It becomes a distraction, draining time and energy from what can be achievable. And like fringe political activism, it can eventually become no more than a psychological crutch for its advocates. Creative Commons - launched by Professor Lawrence Lessig after a catastrophic Supreme Court defeat two years ago, which set back the copyright reform cause by many years - is one such noble idea. But there are reasons why the campaign - widely blogged, but even more widely ignored - has failed to gain much traction. Broadcaster Bill Thompson picked on one reason why the campaign has got nowhere fast. (Try calling the Creative Commons office in the hope of finding a human on the other end of the line and you'll realize another - there's no one home.) But Thompson highlights the legalistic, American-centric basis of the campaign. "Lessig doesn't understand why people in Europe care about an author's moral rights, which are inalienable in European law. And because he doesn't understand, he dismisses it. To an American constitutional lawyer copyright is simply an economic matter," Thompson told us. "I have an objection to the British National Party using something I wrote in their party political broadcasts. That's my right." "I'm a critical supporter of Creative Commons, but I don't accept US hegemony in this or any other area." So Creative Commons is emblematic of how even the best of the US fails to understand how the rest of the world works. Is this a failure of empathy? Or a deeper philosophical failure which places too much emphasis on the law, and therefore "hacking" the law? Your thoughts, as ever, are most welcome. As we know, you can't throw an iPod in the United States without it hitting either a lawyer or an economist. And look where they've got us. Fortunately we have more practical remedies to such escapist fantasies to hand. We only need to put them to work.® Bootnote:Big Reg oops: Trudeau's strip, which captures the flavor of the debate today, was originally published two years ago. And as the Professor says, you can't hold the cause responsible for the wilder fantasies of its supporters. Quite correct. Related stories How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved Digital music: flat fee futures We're not so inEFFectual Germany debuts Creative Commons Tech heavyweights explain how to destroy the Internet Internet is dying Prof. Lessig Lawrence Lessig's birthday spam Supremes back Disney and pigopolists vs science and culture
Andrew Orlowski, 25 Feb 2005

Loki puts donations toward $1m MPAA payoff

OpinionOpinion Give the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) credit for a huge win against P2P file-trading technology. A recent settlement has exposed the scaly underbelly of some P2P site operators. In particular, the MPAA has outed Edward Webber - the owner of BitTorrent hub LokiTorrent. When the MPAA filed a round of lawsuits at BitTorrent sites, LokiTorrent stood up as a proud defender of P2P technology. It promised to battle the MPAA to the death in court and asked for financial aid from file-traders to make this legal fight possible. Loyal traders tossed more than $40,000 to Edward Webber's crew, hoping to give P2P technology another day in court. Do BitTorrent hubs that merely point the way to copyrighted files actually violate copyrights? Aren't they just maps? Aren't they legal? The courts won't have a crack at answering these questions because LokiTorrent gave in to the major movie studious. The ever-vigilant Jon Newton at P2Pnet discovered this week that Webber agreed to pay $1m to the MPAA, to never run a suspect BitTorrent hub again and to turn over all the data sitting on his servers. The comic or tragic part of this situation is Webber's apparent defense of these actions posted on another site owned by him called MuffTorrent. "Muff Torrent has lost the fight for your rights to freely share on the internet," the site says. "All donations to this point have been spent on legal fees. Any future donations will be spent paying off remaining bills." It's easy to argue the use of 'fight' in that statement. Weber settled out of court. If you donated money to LokiTorrent, it was apparently used to craft document 3:04-CV-2642-N available in PDF format from P2Pnet here. If you traded on LokiTorrent, Muff Torrent or any other Webber owned site, you paid a lawyer to turn over your identity and evidence of your file-trading to the MPAA. "NO donation money to date (legal or otherwise) has been spent on personal expenses (for those who were recently wondering)," the web site message continues. So Weber didn't buy a cheeseburger with your $40,000, but he may have bought his legal staff a nice lunch spread. Fight? Hardly. "Thank you for your undying support over the past year. We will miss having you here as much as you will miss being here." Touching stuff. The settlement bars Webber from running any P2P sites that may violate any MPAA copyrights. He, however, has vowed to keep making "fun and useful" sites. To be fair, we would have caved under the demands of a $1m settlement too, but we wouldn't have promised to fight until the end with other peoples' money in the first place. Read more on the matter here. ® Related stories Sue the reader of this File Sharing Book Cryptographers to Hollywood: prepare to fail on DRM MPAA closes Loki 'Brave' BitTorrent hub coyly looks for suitors
Ashlee Vance, 25 Feb 2005

Is IBM shutting down its Itanium shop?

Will IBM keep selling Itanium servers down the road? No one knows. It won't say. IBM is keeping the press in the dark about its Itanium plans, after CNET broke a story revealing that its latest chipset does not support Intel's 64-bit processor. Unlike its predecessor, the "Hurricane" chipset - due out in 90 days - will only work with Xeon processors from Intel. Why did IBM shun Itanium this go round? A lack of sales, of course. Here's IBM explaining why the new X3 server architecture that includes the Hurricane chipset won't support Itanic. "We did forgo (Itanium support) on X3," Tom Bradicich, CTO of Intel-based servers at IBM told CNET. "It is a function of the market acceptance of Itanium." Could this be true? The Register turned to IBM spokesman Tim Willeford for an answer. "If IBM has anything to share, we'll drop you a line," he said. Er, gee thanks. As it turned, IBM decided it did have something to share. About 10 minutes after we slammed down the phone, Willeford called back with the following message: "X3 does not support Itanium," he said. "When Intel announces a future generation of Itanium, IBM will decide on support at that time." IBM will continue to sell its x455 Itanium-based server that runs on the third-generation Madison chip. Intel near year end will release the dual-core version of Itanium named Montecito. It seems IBM will decided at that time whether or not it wants to sell Montectio systems that are based on Intel's own Itanium chipsets. The upshot of all this is that the days of Itanic could be numbered at IBM. "IBM told us that they made a conscious decision to not create a parallel path for Itanium in this generation of chipset as they had in the previous one," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. "That's hardly surprising, given IBM's increased emphasis on Power and its continued de-emphasis of Itanium." "Now that Intel has introduced 64-bit extensions for x86 (Xeon), IBM has a 64-bit xSeries system that doesn't require a separate development effort for not much volume - and one which doesn't compete so directly with Power," Haff concluded. IBM has a long history of shunning Itanium in favor of its own Power processor. Spokesmen have called Itanic a "science project" and said there is no real market for the chip. In the fourth quarter, IBM moved just 800 Itanium servers, according to the the latest data from Gartner. That's a 26 per cent drop in sales from the 1,082 systems shipped in the same period last year. IBM pulled in $115m from Itanium sales in all of 2004. IBM's Power4 and Power5 chips have been strong performers and helped IBM regain server market share from Sun Microsystems and even HP to some extent. Exactly what this Itanium snub does to relations between IBM and Intel remains to be seen. IBM has bent over backwards to tout Xeon over AMD's Opteron chip much to Intel's pleasure. But with friends like IBM, who needs enemies? ® Related stories Disk drive shortage cramps EMC style Intel puts Itanium saviour on ice Intel prunes prices IBM dominates dull Q4 server market Dell rejects idea of AMD defection IBM douses Xeon servers with Hurricane
Ashlee Vance, 25 Feb 2005