3rd > March > 2005 Archive

Adobe opens source code kimono

Adobe lost many friends in the open source community four years ago when it decided to prosecute Russian developer Dmitri Sklyarov under the DMCA, for publishing details of how to circument eBook encryption. But while it's a little late for an olive branch, the software giant's decision to release code under the OSI-compatible MIT license last week has been warmly received. Adam and Eve are two C++ libraries that Adobe uses extensively in its own products. Both help with creating the user interface: the latter is a cross platform layout engine, the former a modelling description language which, according to co-author Sean Parent, "accounts for a third of Adobe's code base and nearly half of the bugs found during development...We realize the problem is far larger than us alone," he writes. Both projects are compatible with the Boost effort to collect useful cross platform C++ code. You can find out more here. ® Related stories Adobe shares dip despite Q4 profit surge Adobe proposes universal digicam 'raw' image format Open source miracle horse stuns MS Japan
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Mar 2005

Verizon: Qwest can talk to Verizon bride MCI

Qwest won't give up in its bid for the spammer's favorite telco, MCI. Qwest wooed the fallen giant before Christmas, only to see Verizon win MCI's heart last month. Despite offering a higher dowry ($8bn to Verizon's $6.7bn), the MCI board prefers Verizon - largely because its balance sheet is a lot healthier. Now Verizon says it will permit MCI to talk to Qwest again, confident that it won't change its mind. Or, as it put it in a press statement, "we believe that this process will result in MCI reaching the same conclusion that it reached after seven months of discussions with Qwest". Qwest's plan involves shedding 15,000 jobs at MCI that even 'Don' Capellas couldn't get shot of, which it reckons will save $10 billion. MCI is expected to mull the Qwest offer for another fortnight. The deal follows the mega-mergers of SBC and AT&T, and Cingular and AT&T Wireless. But there's one aspect to the merger mania that no one wants to talk about. Last year Michael Copp, the most thoughtful and far sighted FCC commissioner, warned of the possible consequences for competition. "Can we expect that Bell-owned wireless carriers will compete tooth-and-nail against their wireline parents? I don't think so," he wrote. ® Related stories 15,000 jobs to go if Qwest/MCI gets green light Qwest to sweeten sweetened offer - WSJ MCI faces shareholder fury Qwest goes public with $8bn MCI bid Verizon's MCI takeover faces shareholder revolt Verizon and MCI to tie the knot Qwest courts MCI for telecoms take-over When Dinosaur telcos ruled the Earth
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Mar 2005
server room

IBM's Opteron ruse falls to long-term Intel love

IDF Spring 05IDF Spring 05 Not too long ago, IBM stood proud with AMD at the Opteron processor's unveiling. It was the only major server vendor to do so, and many perceived the move as a shot at Intel. A lot, however, has changed since 2003. IBM last month announced its new Hurricane chipset for the xSeries line of servers. The product garnered a lot of attention first for its apparent strength in boosting the memory performance of basic servers. Hurricane also caused a stir because, unlike its predecessor, it won't support Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor. But reporters and analysts largely ignored the fact that IBM shunned Opteron as well when making its future x86 server plans. Unlike rivals HP and Sun Microsystems, IBM appears to have little desire to make Opteron a central part of its server line. HP and Sun have put considerable investment and energy into creating unique, homegrown Opteron servers. IBM, by contrast, looks content to buy third-party designed Opteron hardware, leaving serious research and development work for Xeon-based systems. "I think IBM looked at the market and said, 'Let's go with the leader,'" said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata. "I think they realized they really could do better by getting and staying tight with Intel." IBM's fondness for Opteron once seemed like a serious public relations victory for AMD. There was Big Blue backing an upstart rival to Intel's Xeon line. The move made sense given that IBM and AMD partner around chip fabrication and since IBM's own Power processors compete against Intel's chips. The large investment in Hurricane, coupled with IBM's failure to even mention Opteron these days, show that the fleeting AMD flirtation was just for show. "IBM's benefit for standing with AMD is reduced since HP and Sun are there (with Opteron) so strongly," Eunice said. "IBM looked at how much of its business is selling Opteron and Itanium servers, and the business case for backing Xeon quickly became pretty clear. This is a way of really cementing the relationship with Intel." IBM customers may look at the strong Opteron benchmarks floating around, and wonder why the company is so set on Xeon. Hasn't AMD outdone Intel with regard to performance and scale in the x86 market? Many analysts would say, "Yes!". With Hurricane, however, IBM has managed to make up for Xeon's key failings. "Opteron has excellent memory performance," Eunice said. "But AMD's technology is just one way to solve memory latency. (Hurricane) is basically another way to solve it." There are no Hurricane-based systems on the market just yet, so it's hard to do serious comparisons with Opteron boxes. But analysts familiar with IBM's technology give it top marks. In particular, they've proven impressed by IBM's use of a virtual cache to get the latency down on memory access. IBM's Hurricane boxes may well give Opteron kit a real challenge. The trouble spot in the coming years for IBM will likely come via price/performance comparisons. Dell, which doesn't spend money on its own chipsets, will try and win the low-end of the Xeon market by undercutting IBM. HP and Sun may see some price/performance advantages by going with traditionally cheaper chips from AMD. What's clear though is that IBM isn't too concerned about these challenges and believes Intel is the right bet for the long term. Whatever games it once played with AMD are over. It may dangle a couple of Opteron boxes at customers, but it's certainly not investing anywhere near the resources in AMD's product as it does for Xeon. ® Related stories Intel confirms Itanium has a future Microsoft to end 64-bit Windows endurance test in one month HP and Intel hire Asian helpers to make Itanium cheap Intel to ship dual-core Xeon MP in Q1 06 Intel misses Itanium sales mark by $26.6bn Is IBM shutting down its Itanium shop? IBM dominates dull Q4 server market Dell rejects idea of AMD defection IBM douses Xeon servers with Hurricane
Ashlee Vance, 03 Mar 2005
SGI logo hardware close-up

Intel determined to dominate storage market

IDF Spring 05IDF Spring 05 When thinking of storage vendors, Intel isn't usually one of the first names to pop in someone's head. The big daddy of silicon hopes to change that over the coming years and has put two of its top executives in charge of a major storage push. "Intel's silicon penetration in the storage market is not where we want it to be," said Abhi Talwalkar, vice president of Intel's digital enterprise group, during a question and answer session here at the Intel Developer Forum. Talwalkar and former CTO Pat Gelsinger head up the newly formed digital enterprise group and are trying to align Intel's storage products with its client, server and networking gear. The executives plan to keep a steady eye on the storage market, bucking Intel's past flakiness where data center disk was concerned. In so doing, they expect to take a much larger chunk of a multi-billion dollar storage hardware market. "You will see much more concerted focus from us in the storage area," Gelsinger vowed. Intel's most pressing concern is to make sure its Pentium and Xeon chips find their way into as many storage systems as possible. Storage vendors currently use a number of different processors in their boxes, meaning Intel doesn't enjoy the same advantage it holds in the market for basic, x86 servers. Two of Intel's main areas of interest with storage systems will be to help partners produce lower-cost systems for use in SANs (storage area networks) and to power storage appliances that run specialized software for tasks such as management or virtualization. A recent example of the latter type of system comes from EMC, which this week released metadata search software that runs on a Xeon-based server from Dell. Intel, however, plans to play in all parts of the storage arena. For example, it revealed a new TCP/IP acceleration package this week that should boost the performance of both servers and storage systems. The technology could make TOE (TCP/IP Offload Engine) cards obsolete in the storage market, according to Intel. "The one space where TOE engines (work well) today is with very large, block size transfers where the characteristic workload is storage," Gelsinger said. "Everyplace else, they don't work well at all. "(Our technology) works extremely well with small- to medium-sized packets and is very competitive as you go to large packet sizes as well." Intel may look to extend this type of acceleration technology to the fledgling iSCSI storage market, the executives said. The full breadth of Intel's storage line can be seen here. As the variety of product - from processors to host bus adapters and ethernet controllers - shows, Intel has a shot at hitting the data center right where servers, storage systems and networking technology collide. In particular, Intel is set to capitalize on the growth of 10 Gigabit Ethernet products. This technology combined with iSCSI lets Intel extend the "standards-based" gear it's more familiar with higher-up the storage food chain to where Fibre Channel kit plays today. ® Related stories Intel details twin 'desktrino' platforms Intel to attack greedy TCP/IP stack It's official: storage is the new chips
Ashlee Vance, 03 Mar 2005

GlobalFlyer on a wing and a prayer

Steve Fossett has decided to attempt the last part of his round-the-world adventure between Hawaii and the west coast of the US - despite concerns that he does not have enough fuel left to make land. At 0330 GMT this morning Fossett told mission controllers he would "go for it" rather than aborting the mission at Hawaii, even though his GlobalFlyer is apparently missing 2,600lb of essential fuel. If tailwinds are not favourable, then he is unlikely to reach another landing strip. The reason for the "missing" fuel is baffling the GlobalFlyer team, but they suspect that a greater then expected burn rate on takeoff or shortly thereafter may be to blame. Alternatively, there may be some problem with GlobalFlyer's fuel burn sensors or fuel tank probes. They did, however, use a press conference last night to reject one reporter's cheeky theory that they had not actually loaded enough fuel before take-off. As for Fossett, he was evidently in good spirits as he told the press: "I hit the jet stream very well which has put us in a better fuel position. I have every hope of making it to Salina [his departure point in Kansas] tomorrow." ® Current status There's more on Fossett's current status at the GlobalFlyer website, including a real-time map. Related stories GlobalFlyer and Fossett take to the skies Around-the-world jet adventure is go
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2005

Google AutoLink: enemy of the people?

Success sometimes makes people do funny things, things that may seem bizarre, childish, or even foolhardy to others. To those undergoing the new brush with wild success, however, their actions make complete sense. For instance, several years ago a retired former construction worker named Phil Lee won the lottery in British Columbia, Canada. It wasn't an enormous amount of money as lotteries go - only about $100,000 Canadian, or about $76,000 American - but it was a good amount for Phil. When asked how he was going to spend his money, Phil tossed out several ideas. First of all, he thought of others: he was going to give some money to his family. Next, he thought of himself, which no one could begrudge, by pledging to buy some decent walking shoes and a new set of false teeth. For a man in his 60s, those were good purchases. But it was Phil's final plan for his money that made me remember him. He said that he was going to use some of his money to buy a tombstone - an extra special tombstone that would have engraved on it the words "Been there, done that", and quite a series of pictures: "a champagne glass, a royal flush, a slot machine, a nude woman facing backwards and a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse." Wow! Phil, I salute you! Since I last took a good look at Google, a lot has changed for the search engine. It's gotten bigger, for one thing, with new hires, an almost continual rollout of new services, and an IPO worth billions of dollars. It's also facing increased competition now, mainly from Microsoft and Yahoo, but from others as well. Unfortunately, the bad guys are making more use of Google now than they ever have. My last column on Google was about the practice of using the search engine to find vulnerabilities: files or data left exposed accidentally, exploitable bugs in software, or open holes in networks. At the time, I made a suggestion: "A couple of websites have even sprung up dedicated to listing words and phrases that reveal sensitive information and vulnerabilities. My favorite of these, Googledorks, is a treasure trove of ideas for the budding attacker. As a protective countermeasure, all security pros should visit this site and try out some of the suggestions on the sites that they oversee or with whom they consult. With a little elbow grease, some Perl, and the Google Web API, you could write scripts that would automate the process and generate some nice reports that you could show to your clients. Of course, so could the bad guys ... except I don't think your clients will ever see those reports, just the end results." Well, it looks like a black hat out there somewhere is doing exactly what I warned about. At the end of last year, a new worm targeting the widely-used (and generally excellent open source software package) PHP Bulletin Board, or phpBB, appeared. The worm would find an installation of phpBB with an exploitable PHP flaw, take over the site, delete all pages built with HTML, PHP, ASP, and JSP, and then replace the text of the site with "This site is defaced!!! This site is defaced!!! NeverEverNoSanity WebWorm generation X." "X" would actually be a number representing how many generations down from the first infection this particular infection was. In some cases, researchers found the 24th generation of the worm. Ay yi yi. But what was really interesting was the means the worm used to spread: Google. After an infection occurred, the Santy worm, as it came to be named, would search Google using search phrases that unearthed phpBB installs that had failed to upgrade to a patched version of PHP, and would then target those versions of phpBB, to devastating effect. It took Google over ten hours to block that query, ten hours that resulted in 40,000 sites defaced. It appears that Google has some work to do in the area of security by making itself open and available to those who find problems like the Santy worm so that Google can more quickly, and even proactively, act to stop other worms and nasties that use Google before they spread widely. Of course, Google is not solely the target. Santy.B uses Yahoo and AOL Search to find vulnerable phpBB installs, while Santy.D uses the Brazilian Google. It's just that the main Google site is still the most used search engine in the world, and it's certainly the one with all the buzz. A worm isn't the only interesting use of Google as an unwilling participant in criminal activities. In addition to vandals like those that went after phpBB, thieves are also using Google to bilk money out of unsuspecting users. Until now, phishing has primarily been a problem associated with email: you get an email purporting to be from PayPal, eBay, or your bank asking you to update some info, you click on the link and end up at what appears to be an official site, you enter the sensitive personal info and hit Submit, and a criminal now knows your username, password, credit card number, and other data. Now it appears that phishers are bypassing email and counting on Google to bring them victims. A bad guy sets up a fake e-commerce site and waits for Google to index it. A patsy types a query into Google - let's say "beanie babies" (yes, people still collect 'em!) - and ends up at a real-looking site selling those goods. Under each thumbnail image is a link to "View larger image," so the patsy clicks that link. Instead of an image, a self-extracting Zip file installs a Trojan horse on the patsy's PC, and then we're off to the races. Or the site allows users to "buy" the beanie babies (or whatever else is hot right now) and pay via credit card, but never sends the goods. In both cases, the patsy is in a world of hurt. As I said in the last article, I'm not blaming Google; I just wish they would work more actively to help weed out some of the issues raised above. I rely on Google to get my daily work done, and I think they generally try to adhere to their corporate motto: "Don't be evil." Generally. But now I'm really starting to have my doubts when it comes to privacy and the rights of writers and publishers. I'm beginning to wonder if Google is letting success go to its head. It's a debate that I'm having in my own head, based on the debates that have been occurring in the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks. My worries actually began a few years ago, when I first found out that Google's website cookie doesn't expire until 2038 (yet another good reason to periodically clear out your cookie cache). With the beta release of Google's toolbar a few weeks ago, the debate has really ratcheted up to new levels. Google introduced a new feature with its Windows/IE toolbar: AutoLink. When a user presses the AutoLink button on the toolbar, new links are created on the current web page, including the following: Book ISBN - Amazon.com Address - Google Maps Car license plate number - Carfax Package tracking numbers - UPS or FedEx Now, there are a few things critics of AutoLink have ignored. For instance, it's not enabled by default. A user has to push the AutoLink button every single time they want to enable its use on a page. Further, current links are not overwritten; only unlinked text is affected. Even so, I'm really torn about AutoLink. I use other services that rewrite the code of a web page in certain ways to benefit me, like the BetterSearch Firefox extension, for instance, which (ironically enough) rewrites Google results to display a thumbnail image of each search result's home page. And I'm a enormous, grateful fan of the Adblock extension, which allows me to remove advertisements and other annoyances from websites. I could go on. In all those cases, I'm in essence rewriting content on a web page that I'm viewing, which one could also argue is what AutoLink does. But I'm growing convinced that the problems AutoLink brings up are greater than the benefits. I'm not alone in this: plenty of others, like Dave Winer, Robert Scoble (at Microsoft, no less), Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch, and noted web designer and developer Jeffrey Zeldman are criticizing AutoLink as well. Google's relationship to the web reminds me of those old SAT analogy questions; in this case, it would look something like Microsoft : operating systems :: Google : websearch engines. Back in 2001, during the beta release of IE 6, Microsoft introduced a Smart Tags feature that acted much the same as Google's AutoLink (for an excellent, detailed analysis of the problems associated with Smart Tags, read Chris Kaminsky's masterful "Much Ado About Smart Tags"). There was quite a brouhaha, and Microsoft withdrew the feature. Looking back, there are eerie similarities between Microsoft's Smart Tags and Google's AutoLink (not surprising, since the same guy created both), with two key differences: at least Microsoft's links were purple and dotted, making it relatively obvious that they were different than the normal links on a web page, while Google's links are blue and underlined, just like the vast majority of links found on most web pages. In other words, once AutoLink is pressed, the viewer will not be able to tell which links are put there by the page's author and which are put there by AutoLink. Granted, holding your mouse over the link and waiting for a tooltip to open will indicate that the link comes from Google, but I'm not sure how many users are going to do that. In fact, given the state of most web users' knowledge, I have serious doubts that they'd even understand what the tooltip's text meant in the first place. Even worse, there's no way for site authors to opt out! At least Microsoft indicated that it would respect an opt-out META tag that site creators could insert into their web pages (of course, it would have been far better if it had instead offered an opt-IN META tag, but such is life with Microsoft). Google offers nothing: no opt-in, no opt-out, nothing. As a result, code has already appeared that website developers can use to block Google's AutoLink (and it works with JavaScript, ASP, PHP, and Perl!). I work hard in these columns to pick interesting, informative links that back up my statements, provide detail where I must be terse, or entertain with a sarcastic comment on my text. It's as much part of my writing as the words I use. In fact, in 2005, I would go so far as to say that for any writer using the web as a platform, links are in fact part of his or her writing. When Google changes the links on this web page, Google changes my writing, without any input from me, and for commercial gain that certainly doesn't benefit me, or SecurityFocus, the publisher of my columns. If I was an online bookstore, the fact that my ISBNs turned into links to a competitor like Amazon would make my blood boil. In essence, Google - and selected partner companies - benefit commercially from my work, and I see nothing for it. Alternately, on my web site, I provide a lot of stuff under a Creative Commons license, but AutoLink ignores it and commercializes things I do not wish commercialized. On top of those objections, let's add one that should particularly resonate with SecurityFocus readers: privacy. Google's cookie doesn't expire until 2038; add onto that the data that the Google toolbar can gather about users, and you have a data mining tool second to none. This makes me very, very nervous. "Don't be evil"? How about "Don't be evil ... mostly. Kinda. Pretty much. Maybe."? I've been thinking about it, and I'm going to keep Adblock for now, since its operation is completely dependent upon my actions - nothing gets blocked unless I explicitly enter a URL to block - and since I'm removing annoyances, not augmenting content. In between Adblock, which seems OK to me, and AutoLink, which isn't, is BetterSearch. BetterSearch does change the Google results page, but it's not changing the original content. Instead, it clearly adds an enhancement. However, this does beg the question: at what point does enhancement cross the line? Frankly, it's a notion that's still up for debate, and I'm interested in your take. I hope Google reconsiders their actions. If they proceed with AutoLink, how long until Microsoft decides that it's OK to bring back Smart Tags to IE? And I have news for Google: a lot more machines in this world have IE on them than have IE plus the Google toolbar. If Google's not careful, we may one day be talking about another tombstone for another defeated company - and I somehow don't think that tombstone will be nearly as entertaining as the one that Phil Lee designed for himself. Copyright © 2004, Scott Granneman is a senior consultant for Bryan Consulting Inc. in St. Louis. He specializes in Internet Services and developing web applications for corporate, educational, and institutional clients. Related stories Google to Wall St: our CFO couldn't make it. So meet the Chef Botnets strangle Google Adwords campaigns Google tops $1bn
Scott Granneman, 03 Mar 2005

Minister confirms commitment to broadband

"We are determined to commit funds to broadband," government minister Nigel Griffiths told the Access to Broadband Campaign conference in London yesterday. Griffiths, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Construction, Small Business and Enterprise, was challenged to say what the Government was doing to bring about the dream "FiWi" future, of fibre and wireless, which Lindsey Annison called for earlier in the session. He warned that: "Nobody can foresee the future," and added: "That's why we assemble with people like you - people with practical experience, and our own expert advisers, to find out what you people think are the issues." In response to a NewsWireless challenge: "What are you doing to bring about the Fibre-Wireless, FiWi future, given that we don't see BT doing much yet?" Griffiths suggested that there was no dragging of feet - but that it wasn't necessarily clever to jump in. "I've tracked this issue for some time," Griffiths said. "The number of cul-de-sacs we could have gone down for the last five years, is considerable" His experience, he insisted, was revealing: "I worked with Douglas Alexander when he was the e-commerce Minister (after the last election) and I did many seminars with him. It is interesting, four years on, to look at what we were being urged to do, and see what actually happened. For example, we spent £9m, I think, on rural broadband pilot schemes at that stage. We were testing everything from sending data over electricity wires, and wireless, and various types of wireless, including satellite wireless." He clearly regarded some of the experiments as failures. The Minister re-affirmed his support for Community Broadband Network. "Effective use of broadband is key to economic productivity and competitiveness. This is well understood by Britain's competitors, and to our inward investors; we have to make sure we have the right environment and infrastructure," he said. Things are good, Griffiths said enthusiastically. "We have the most extensive broadband market in the G7 group of countries; we are ranked second in the 60 leading countries for 'e-readiness' - which means having an infrastructure available to take advantage of internet commerce." Griffiths also hinted that the BT 21st Century Network project might solve any perceived problems. His enthusiasm was only slightly spoiled by ABC director Brian Condon, who called for realism, and quoted OECD figures to show that in terms of broadband installed per head of population, Britain ranked right next to "average" and hopelessly behind world leader Korea. Condon controversially called for a shift of attitude from "managing scarcity" towards "exploiting abundance" by releasing what he called the "middle mile block" in bandwidth. © NewsWireless.Net Related stories UK boffin demos plane-based broadband Kent gets UK's first WiMAX network Reg road tests the Wi-Fi pub
Guy Kewney, 03 Mar 2005

Astronomers identify mysterious 'burper'

US astronomers reckon they may have identified a previously unknown type of space object after recording an unusual and potent burst of radio waves from the centre of our galaxy. Scientists have nicknamed object GCRT J1745-3009 a "burper", Reuters reports. Lead boffin Scott Hyman explained: "An image of the Galactic center, made by collecting radio waves of about 1 meter (3 feet) in wavelength, revealed multiple bursts from the source during a seven-hour period from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, 2002 - five bursts in fact, and repeating at remarkably constant intervals." The mystery object is estimated to lie between 300 and 24,000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers say GCRT J1745-3009 cannot be a pulsar, but could be a brown dwarf or magnetar - an "exotic star with an extremely powerful magnetic field". It was discovered following analysis of data collected by the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico. ® Related stories Are pulsars gravity-wave generators? Astronomers spot fun-sized solar system Astronomers spy proto-planetary hit-and-run
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2005

Appeals court hits rewind in Microsoft Eolas case

The US Court of Appeals breathed new life into Microsoft’s patent spat with Eolas Wednesday when it reversed part of a lower court ruling in the case and sent it back for a new trial. The decision reverses a $565m penalty slapped on Microsoft after a district court jury found the software giant infringed an Eolas patent covering a method of opening third party applications within a browser. In its appeal Microsoft had argued that the original jury had been prevented from considering information on prior art relating to the technology. Microsoft’s argument clearly washed with the appeals court, which while apparently upholding some parts of the original judgement has sent the case back for a new trial. Microsoft described the decision as “a clear victory not only for Microsoft, but for Internet users as well” and claimed the ruling was “a clear affirmation of our position.” Redmond also claimed that it will "now be able to tell the jury the whole story of how this technology was developed and to present evidence that shows that Eolas did not invent this technology, and that it was developed by others, particularly Pei-yuan Wei and his colleagues at O’Reilly and Associates.”" “The ruling also gives Microsoft the opportunity to present evidence that Eolas knowingly withheld information about Pei-Wei’s invention to the Patent Office,” Microsoft claimed. Eolas has yet to make a statement on Wednesday’s ruling. The original decision had prompted concerns well beyond Microsoft, and the World Wide Web Consortium had prompted a US Patents and Trademark Office review of the Eolas patent. ® Related stories MS Eolas appeal begins Microsoft patents tabbing through a web page Microsoft wins another Eolas web patent battle Eolas' web patent nullified Microsoft loses $521m Eolas patent appeal
Joe Fay, 03 Mar 2005

Ebbers was 'leader of the con'

WorldCom boss Bernie Ebbers was accused of lying to the jury yesterday as the fraud trial surrounding the $11bn (£5.8bn) collapse of the giant US telco entered its final phase. Assistant US Attorney William Johnson rounded on Ebbers' testimony that the former head of the telecoms giant and the man accused of masterminding the massive corporate fraud was unaware of the accounting scandal. The prosecution lawyer told the jury: "When he said he was not sophisticated, not trained in accounting, he treated you no better than he treated ordinary shareholders. He lied right to your face. It insults your intelligence that Ebbers could have built the company up from nothing in ten years and still be clueless about its financial performance." In closing arguments that lasted three hours, reports USA Today, Johnson set out the prosecution's case against Ebbers. "Money, power and pressure corrupted Bernard J Ebbers to commit fraud on a billion-dollar scale. WorldCom had truly become WorldCon. Bernie Ebbers was the leader of WorldCom and the leader of the con," said Johnson. And on the matter of why Ebbers orchestrated the fraud, Johnson said: "Who had the greatest motivation to fool WorldCom investors? Who had the most to lose if the truth, the bad news came out? Who had the power, the ultimate authority at WorldCom to direct all these people to do all these things to make it work?" Taking the stand earlier this week Ebbers - who denies the fraud charges against him - insisted he was unaware of the book fiddling. He told the court: "I don't know about technology and I don't know about finance and accounting." He said he was "shocked" when he found out about the fraud. I never thought anything like that had gone on. And referring to the admission by some former employees - including the former CFO Scott Sullivan - that they had carried out the fraud Ebbers said: "I put those people in place, and I trusted those people. I had no earthly idea that that would occur." The defence is expected to conclude its case today. ® Related stories Ebbers denies knowledge of WorldCom fraud Ebbers recalls shock of discovering WorldCom fraud Ebbers in the dark over accounting scandal - witness WorldCom CFO lied, he admits to court
Tim Richardson, 03 Mar 2005

UK Wi-Fi hotspot users offered free Skype calls

Internet telephony firm Skype is partnering with Wi-Fi hotspot provider Broadreach Networks to offer free net telephone calls. The deal, which launched Thursday 3 March, will allow Skype users to make free Skype calls in 350 ReadytoSurf fixed and Wi-Fi wireless Internet locations across the UK. Broadreach hopes that after making free Voice over Wi-Fi calls consumers will be more likely to pay to check their email or surf the web at its hot spots. Broadreach's network of internet locations include brands such as Virgin Megastores, Eurostar, Travelodge, Little Chef, Virgin Trains, EAT , Choice Hotels and Quality Inn and major railway stations including all the London terminals. It has 110,000 registered customers. Niklas Zennström, Skype chief executive and co-founder, said Skype users would not need to log onto Broadreach's network before making calls. "It's a burden to log on. We want to make it work so the service is available right out of the pocket," he said. Broadreach is the first hotspot operator to offer the Skype service for free and is Skype’s launch partner in the UK. Skype hopes similar deals will be forged elsewhere in Europe to extend the ability of Skype's 28 million users to make calls whilst on the move. Free Skype features include instant messaging with group chat, conference calling and file transfer. Skype also offers SkypeOut, a pre-paid service that allows calls to landline and mobile numbers worldwide at low calling rates. Skype calls are encrypted to guard against eavesdropping. Broadreach chief exec and founder Magnus McEwen-King explained that the company had designed its networks from the outset with the idea that it would offer VoIP services at some point. A demo of the service revealed in London's Paddington train station revealed decent sound quality was available. "Quality of service is not an issue," said McEwen-King. ® Related stories Skype offers texts Skype launches on Mac and Linux Skype VoIP threat to Euro telcos Vonage offers VoIP mobile phone VoIP heads for the big time
John Leyden, 03 Mar 2005

Scientists slam US plasma weapon

Scientists have reacted angrily to the revelation that the US military is funding development of a weapon intended to deliver an "excrutiating bout of pain" from over a mile away. The "Pulsed Energy Projectile" (PEP) device "fires a laser pulse that generates a burst of expanding plasma when it hits something solid", the New Scientist explains. If you happen to be that something solid, then you get temporarily incapacitated without suffering permanent injury. That's the theory, but pain reasearchers fear that the proposed riot control weapon could be used for torture, and further doubt a solid ethical basis for the research. Andrew Rice, a consultant in pain medicine at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, said: "Even if the use of temporary severe pain can be justified as a restraining measure, which I do not believe it can, the long-term physical and psychological effects are unknown." What those physical effects might be is the subject of a University of Central Florida in Orlando study which aims to "optimise" the effect of PEPs as noted in a 2003 US Naval Studies Board review of non-lethal weapons. The review outlined how PEPs produced "pain and temporary paralysis" in animal tests, apparently as a result of "an electromagnetic pulse produced by the expanding plasma which triggers impulses in nerve cells". The new study was exposed by biological weapons research watchdog the Sunshine Project, which obtained papers relating to the programme under the US's Freedom of Information Act. One research contract between the Office of Naval Research and the University of Florida in Gainsville is snappily entitled: "Sensory consequences of electromagnetic pulses emitted by laser induced plasmas". New Scientist notes that the contract was heavily censored before release, but reveals that researchers are requested to investigate "optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor activation", ie, how to cause the maximum pain possible without killing the subject. One scientist working on the project - Martin Richardson, a laser expert at the University of Central Florida - declined to comment to New Scientist. Another - Brian Cooper, an expert in dental pain at the University of Florida - attempted to downplay his involvement by saying: "I don't have anything interesting to convey. I was just providing some background for the group." According to John Wood of University College London, an expert in how the brain perceives pain, both Richardson and Cooper and all those working on the PEP research project should face censure because any weapon resulting from the programme "could be used for torture". Related stories The mysterious case of the 'gay-bomb' request Burt Rutan takes a V2-powered wander down memory lane Patriot missile: friend or foe?
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2005

Strathclyde, London fingered for 8 meg trial

BT will recruit up to 2,000 businesses and consumers to take part in a trial of its new higher speed internet service, the former monopoly announced today. From next month broadband users in the Strathclyde region of Scotland and in Greater London will be able to take part in the pilot to test whether DSL lines are able to operate reliably at between 2 meg - 8 meg. BT Wholesale will be working with ISPs to carry out the trials. BT Wholesale products director Bruce Stanford said the trials will help the telco "fully understand how higher speed broadband service might be best deployed" when it looks to roll out faster broadband services in the autumn. From 1 April, BT Wholesale is also beginning employee trials for ADSL2+ technology, which should provide speeds of up to 18 meg. Details of BT Wholesale's speed upgrade were announced a month ago with the telco promising faster and cheaper broadband in a move designed to back its commitment to greater competition and flexibility in the UK's telecoms sector. ® Related stories BT DSL price cut undermines LLU competition BT promises to play fair, in Ofcom appeasement NI heralds 100% broadband coverage
Tim Richardson, 03 Mar 2005

Sony slays Beatles-Metallica hybrid

Sony has countered a possible threat to its rights to the Beatles' back catalogue by ordering Milwaukee-based Beatallica to close its website and cough up unspecified damages, Reuters reports. Beatles-Metallica fusion outfit Beatallica had been wowing online audiences worldwide with compositions such as "Leper Madonna" and "Got to Get You Trapped Under Ice". The group says it is not "ripping off" Beatles songs but "parodying them in a loving tribute that is protected by copyright laws". Sony music tentacle Sony/ATV Music Publishing disagrees, and told the band in a letter dated 24 February: "Such uses of Sony/ATV compositions without the express authorization or license has caused and continues to cause substantial and irreparable injury, and is in direct violation of Sony/ATV's rights." Beatallica has taken down its website while it considers its legal options. David Dixon, the band's "Webmaster of Puppets", lamented: "I think they're being very shortsighted. The amount of income that we generate from this is minuscule. None of us are quitting our day jobs." An online petition demanding that Sony drops its action is testament to the band's popularity - it has attracted 6,000 signatures from enraged fans who reportedly continue to enjoy Beatallica via "offshore" websites in defiance of potential litigation ® Related stories Downloading digital music Music biz serves writ on German IT site Kazaa trial opens with 'massive piracy' claim
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2005

ID fraud rife in the UK - Which?

A quarter of UK adults have had their identity stolen or know somebody who's been a victim of growing crime, a study by Which? published Wednesday reveals. The Consumers' Association magazine reckons identity fraud is the country's fastest growing crime, costing the economy an estimated £1.3bn a year. As part of its investigation a Which? researcher was able to purloin the identity of editor Malcolm Coles with "relative ease". He obtained a copy of Coles' birth certificate, his mother's maiden name, selling price of his house at the time he bought it, medical data and information on his boss' shopping habits - even how often he visited the gym. Attempts to access his credit card account only failed because Coles had forgotten to tell his bank about his new address. "I couldn't believe how easy it was for someone else to assume my identity. If this is what an amateur can do, imagine how easy it is for an experienced criminal," Coles said. Which? says consumers can take a number of simple steps to avoid getting caught out by ID fraudsters. These include not using your mother's maiden name or place of birth as security password, shredding sensitive documents before binning them and to avoid using the same password on more than one account. Half the people Which? quizzed used the same password for all their accounts. ® Related stories 'Office' fan foils Ricky Gervais ID theft scam Online fraud could dent economies Scammers say 'No' to drugs, 'Yes' to fraud Fraudsters expose 100,000 across US US hit for $548m in fraud losses
John Leyden, 03 Mar 2005

Stripper flogs breast implant on eBay

Former stripper Tawny Peaks has jumped nimbly on the ridiculous eBay auction bandwagon by offering one of her silicone breast implants to a mam-crazed public. Peaks' 69-HH peaks made the news in 1998 when she was accused of assaulting a man at a bachelor party with her überjubs. The victim claimed to have suffered whiplash injury after copping a faceful of flying dug. Despite the claimant's assertion that they were "like two cement blocks", the People's Court later rejected the suit after former NY Mayor Ed Koch ruled the assets soft and therefore non-lethal. Tawny's tits returned to something approaching normality in 1999 when she had the implants removed. She now describes herself as a "happily married homemaker and mother of three living in the Detroit area". Back on eBay, meanwhile, the bidding has reached a frankly preposterous $10,201.00, with a couple of days left to run. For his or her money, the winning bidder will get a signed implant, a "picture of Tawny Peaks signing the implant" and "an autographed copy of the Court Documented Complaint". Terrific. We suspect that Golden Palace Casino is as we speak closely monitoring the situation with a view to getting a handful of Ms Peak's artificial mam. The online gambling outfit already owns the now-legendary Virgin Mary in a toasted cheese sandwich, for which it forked out $28,000 (£15,000), as well as a haunted walking cane bought for $65,000 USD (£35,000), a child's bumper sticker obtained for $10,700 (£5,700), and a Weeping Jesus Rock snapped up for $2,550 (£1,300). It recently stuck its logo on a Glaswegian lass's 42GG breasts after renting the space for a modest £422. ® Related stories Casino brands eBay cleavage woman Need an African slave? Try eBay For Sale: Absolutely Nothing
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2005

ISS resupply runs on rails

ISS residents Leroy Chiao and Salizhan Sharipov can look forward to bit of light unpacking after the unmanned Progress resupply vessel successfully docked with the station earlier today, Reuters reports. The payload includes 160 days' worth of food, 494 kilograms of water, and 175 kg of fuel for the station's Russian thrusters in addition to 109 kg of air and oxygen, equipment for the primary oxygen-generating and carbon dioxide-removal systems, and 32 oxygen-generating canisters. Also aboard are digital cameras which Chiao and Shapirov will use to inspect space shuttle Discovery for damage during its intended return to flight trip to the ISS scheduled for 15 May. Some of the oxygen and fuel aboard Progress are intended for emergency use by the shuttle crew should any such damage oblige them to abandon their vehicle and bunk down in the ISS awaiting a rescue mission. On a lighter note, the Progress brought Chiao and Sharipov some music and movies to "to enjoy in their free time". The exact nature of the material is not noted. ® Related stories ISS resupply blasts off today NASA bumps return to flight Shuttle launch moves closer Brit plumber to visit ISS
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2005

GlobalFlyer over continental US

According to the Virgin GlobalFlyer website, Steve Fossett and GlobalFlyer have reached the continental US and are passing just south of Los Angeles en route to Salina, Kansas. This seems to indicate a good chance of success for the round-the-world adventurer, despite earlier worries over fuel levels. The website also notes that Fossett is now being accompanied by an intercept aircraft which reports "true and level flight" of the GlobalFlyer. ® Previous reports GlobalFlyer on a wing and a prayer GlobalFlyer and Fossett take to the skies
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2005

Nildram moves to head-off broadband hogs

Nildram is clamping down on broadband hogs by imposing new usage caps for its consumer high speed service. Although the Pipex-owned ISP doesn't detail the extent of the problem, it does say the introduction of a fair usage policy will "address the issue of heavy Internet usage". Nildram - which has 40,000 broadband punters - is introducing a usage limit of 50 Gig a month for non-business customers, which applies between 8.00am - 12.00 midnight. Outside of this time, no usage limit will apply. From July, punters who exceed the 50 Gig limit will either see their service speed choked to 64k for the rest of their billing month, they can buy extra bandwidth at 99p a Gig. The new capping rules will not apply to Nildram's customers who subscribe to its "Professional" product range. Said MD Sean Stephenson: "At a time when many service providers are undecided about how to handle the issue of 'capping' Internet usage, Nildram has released clear, fair measures to ensure that all of our customers continue to have the best quality service possible. "We estimate that less than one per cent of our customers will be affected by these measures and we're confident that they provide enough headroom for personal download usage, while also benefiting from our highly competitive pricing." Last month Tiscali UK expelled "just over 500" broadband users for excessive use of the ISP's high-speed internet service. The ISP said the bandwidth "hogs" gorged on between 30 Gig and 150 Gig a month. At the same time, the average Tiscali UK punter uses less than one Gig a month. In November last year Sheffield-based ISP PlusNet shunted around 240 of its heaviest broadband users onto a new platform - dubbed the "bad boy pipe" - after warning them that they were using the service too much. ® Related stories Tiscali UK expells 500 broadband hogs PlusNet moves broadband hogs onto 'bad boy pipe' BT Retail cuts cost of DSL, caps users
Tim Richardson, 03 Mar 2005
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Ireland withdraws grants for €1.6bn Intel fab

In a surprise announcement on Wednesday, the Irish government said that it would withdraw its proposed funding for a €1.6bn Intel plant in Leixlip, Co. Kildare that is set to create some 400 additional jobs. The decision follows apparent concerns from Brussels indicating that the backing may not be allowed under EU rules. Intel said it will still go ahead with the wafer fabrication factory, called Fab 24-2, but added that it may now be forced to reassess any future investments in Ireland. Already the company has some 4,700 direct and indirect employees on the Leixlip campus, as well as a further 110 people employed at Intel Communications Europe, located in Shannon. It is understood that prior to the decision to build the new Leixlip facility, Intel considered setting up plants in Israel, China and the US. Early reports of a possible hold-up on the investment surfaced last weekend, but it was Wednesday before government development agency the IDA confirmed that the EU looked set to quash the Dublin government's backing for Intel's Fab 24-2, believed to be worth around €100m. "This decision was taken after consultations with Intel and follows a process, which over the past six months included extensive discussions with EU Competition Directorate at official and government level, regarding the project and its compliance with EU regional investment aid regulations," the IDA said in a statement. "In the course of these discussions it became clear that the EU Commission was not disposed to approving the use of state aids by Ireland in support of the Intel investment," the agency added. In fact, the EU is understood to have been concerned about whether the proposed factory would create any jobs, much less the 400 jobs that were announced in May 2004, when the plan was announced. Along with Intel's own reservations about working in Ireland, a great deal of concern is also now emerging over whether Ireland will have the power to attract large multinational corporations with generous aid packages - a key ingredient in the country's economic growth in the last decade. A source within the EU, speaking to the Irish Times, pointed out that the government's decision has apparently been premature, noting that Competition Authorities had not begun their investigation in earnest. "It doesn't suggest that the Irish government was very confident in its case," the unnamed European Commission source told the newspaper. But more worrying, from an IDA perspective, are new rules in Europe which are expected to have a profound impact on the agency's ability to win enormous investments from multinational giants such as Intel. The new multisectoral framework on regional aid for large investment projects, which came into force in the European Union last year, says that investments worth more than €50m must now get a stamp of approval from Brussels. Investments that dominate within their sector - such as Intel - will not receive approval, unless the project concerned delivers an innovative new product. Notably, projects that consist mainly of research and development - such as the recently approved Bell Labs R&D centre which was announced last year - are also likely to get the okay from the Commission. Intel's Leixlip wafer fabrication plant apparently did not meet either criterion, despite IDA claims to the contrary. "As the Commission could not be persuaded from what we believe is a very narrow and unhelpful interpretation of the matter... the notification was withdrawn," the IDA said. While the agency insisted that the move will not impact on Ireland's ability to attract new investment, it was very clear about its feeling towards the EU's interpretation of the rules, and the long-term consequences of its "narrow" view. "The competition for this investment was global, as will be the competition for future investments," the IDA said. "Europe cannot afford to lose access to the world's most advanced semiconductor technology." © ENN Related stories Intel ups Indian investment Chip biz breaks quarterly fab spend record Intel adds $375m to Asia-Pacific investment tally
ElectricNews.net, 03 Mar 2005

MS-DOS paternity dispute goes to court

The parentage of the MS-DOS operating system is to be decided in court. Tim Paterson, who sold the Intel-compatible operating system 86-DOS (aka QDOS) to Microsoft in 1980 is suing author and former Times editor Harold Evans, and his publisher Time Warner, for defamation. Paterson's work became Microsoft's first operating system - it subsequently rebadged QDOS as MS-DOS version 1.0, and it was made available with the original IBM PC. In his book They Made America published last year, Evans devoted a chapter to the late, great Gary Kildall, founder of Digital Research. Evans described Paterson's software as a "rip-off" and "a slapdash clone" of Kildall's CP/M, then the leading operating system for micro computers. Paterson's Seattle Computer Products (SCP) made an 8086 plug-in card for the S-100 computer, and Paterson wrote an operating system to go with the board. His suit admits that he wanted the API for his operating system to be compatible with the market leader CP/M. "Plaintiff felt that the format used by CP/M was a significant bottleneck so he turned to the Microsoft Stand-Alone Disk BASIC and used a File Allocation Table," the suit says. The resulting board and OS shipped in August 1980. Paterson claims that Evans falsely accused Kildall of being the "inventor" of DOS, and for citing former Intel engineer, now Stanford lecturer John Wharton for pointing out that Paterson used Kildalls INT-21 mechanism "almost unaltered". Paterson has endured "great pain and mental anguish" and is seeking "over $75,000" in damages, plus costs. Is it wise? The case, should it come to court, will hinge on a technical evaluation of QDOS, and central to case is one document in particular. It's Paterson's original "Programer's Manual" (sic) for his operating system, illustrated here. Several weeks ago, Wharton told The Register that he hadn't been contacted by Evans or his researchers, and that the quotes used in the book were several years old. Evans says he'll "vigorously contest" the defamation claims. ® Related stories Bill's vision for the future of the PC, c1980 - er, Xenix Could Bill Gates write code? Bill Gates' roots in the trashcans of history Microsoft Altair BASIC legend talks about Linux, CPRM and that very frightening photo
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Mar 2005

US spamming conviction overturned

A US judge has dismissed a spamming conviction after concluding that there was no "rational basis" for the jury to return a guilty verdict. Judge Thomas D. Horne said jurors must have been confused by technical evidence when they decided Jessica DeGroot, 28, had violated Virginia's new anti-spam law, AP reports. But the Judge upheld a conviction against DeGroot's brother, Jeremy Jaynes, 30, who was convicted in November 2004 of masterminding a June 2003 spamming blitz against AOL users. A third defendant, Richard Rutkowski, was acquitted. The jury asked for Jaynes to be jailed for nine years and DeGroot fined $7,500 after what prosecutors described as the US's first felony spamming conviction though Howard Carmack (AKA the Buffalo spammer) might beg to differ. Carmack was jailed for seven years in May after his March 2004 conviction for spamming-related offences (forgery, identity theft and falsifying business records). ® Related stories Sibling spammers convicted Spam punishment doesn't fit the crime US ISP wins $1bn damages from spammers
John Leyden, 03 Mar 2005
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Chip glut ebbs

The chip industry has dragged itself through the silicon glut it fell into last year, the Semiconductor Industry Association declared yesterday. Worldwide chip sales in January were $18.4bn, the trade group reported Thursday, up 17.5 per cent on the year, but down 0.5 per cent sequentially. The group described the sales slip as "modest" and an "encouraging sign", as January is historically a weak month. More importantly, it said, the industry is not handicapped by either production capacity or excess inventory. Surging 2004 sales were thrown off course in the second half as inventories ballooned. These have now been depleted, the SIA said, and in some segments inventories are below target. Inventory overhang should not be a problem beyond the current quarter, it said. Asia Pacific continued to dominate sales, accounting for $7.76bn of the total, up 0.1 per cent sequentially and 27.9 per cent on the year. Japan's sales were $3.87bn, up 0.2 per cent sequentially and seven per cent on the year. European sales were $3.47bn, down 1.7 per cent sequentially but up 17.9 per cent on the year, while sales in the Americas were $3.18bn, down 1.8 per cent sequentially and up 8.3 per cent on the year. ® Related stories Gartner trims chip forecast Samsung glum on year ahead World chip sales down in December Global chip sales edged up in November 04 iSuppli cuts 2005 chip sales growth target
Team Register, 03 Mar 2005

GlobalFlyer enters New Mexico

Steve Fossett and GlobalFlyer have just entered New Mexico after traversing Arizona. The Virgin GlobalFlyer website shows the aircraft not far south of the New Mexico/Colorado border, on a bearing of 75 degrees at 214 knots and an altitude of almost 45,000 feet. Reports suggest that Fossett should land in Salina, Kansas at 1.17pm local time (just after 19.00 GMT). Project sponsor Richard Branson - who is in Mission Control in Salina - told ABC news that he was "reasonably confident that by midday he will make it", adding: "He's a great glider and so if he runs out of fuel before he gets here he will somehow, we hope, make it all the way." ® Previous reports GlobalFlyer over continental US GlobalFlyer on a wing and a prayer GlobalFlyer and Fossett take to the skies
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2005

PC tax could replace TV licence

The BBC licence fee could eventually be replaced by a tax on having a PC instead of owning a TV, according to a Green Paper delivered this week. The government plans to retain the license fee for at least ten years but ministers are looking ahead to a time when high-speed broadband connections routinely deliver digital television channels to the nation's homes. In that event a fee based on television ownership could become redundant and the government could look at other ways to raise revenue, from subscriptions to taxing other access devices. In a statement to Parliament this week, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said that "the changes in TV technology that will soon result in a wholly digital Britain... perhaps the greatest challenge the BBC has ever faced." The Times reports that a legal loophole means consumers could watch television or listen to radio over the net without having to pay a license fee, leaving the BBC with a funding shortfall that could run into the millions. A Department for Culture, Media and Sport Green Paper on the BBC's long-term future proposes an end of the traditional license fee and "either a compulsory levy on all households or even on ownership of PCs as well as TVs". It cautions that these fees might be tough to enforce. Ministers are also consulting about the possibility of introducing a subscription model. The Government reckons changes to the license fee will not be needed until 2017, when the BBC's next royal charter expires. However unnamed sources at the Department for Culture told The Times that the government would act earlier if viewing TV on the net became a hit with consumers. In August 2004, the BBC broadcast video clips from the Olympic Games over the net as an experiment. Six million UK homes currently have broadband connections, a figure that can only grow over time, spurring demand for innovative service like broadcasting over the internet. The majority of UK households will be watching TV over the internet by 2012, regulator Ofcom predicts. ® Related stories BT gets into film, TV and music Belgians moot computer licensing Abolish Free TV Intel lobbyist BBC hijacks TiVo recorders Related links BBC charter review
John Leyden, 03 Mar 2005

GlobalFlyer triumphs

Steve Fossett and GlobalFlyer landed in Salina, Kansas at 1:50 p.m. local time (1950 GMT) having successfully completed the first solo round-the-world circumnavigation without refuelling. The success comes despite having lost 2,600lb of fuel which resulted in some debate over aborting the mission at Hawaii. In the event, favourable tailwinds compensated for the shortfall and allowed the mission to continue. The Burt Rutan designed GlobalFlyer, sponsored by Virgin boss Richard Branson, crossed the California coast south of Los Angeles at 1400 GMT today after a nail-biting Pacific crossing. Richard Branson later said of the possibility of Fossett running out of fuel: "He's a great glider and so if he runs out of fuel before he gets here he will somehow, we hope, make it all the way." In the end, though, Fossett sucessfully guided his craft back to its starting-point after 67 hours in the air. Upon disembarking from GlobalFlyer, Fossett said to Branson: "That was a big one." He then told the press he had a few more record-breaking projects on the table, but refused to discuss details. For his part, a delighted Branson told reporters that Fossett "stinks to high heaven", before dousing the adventurer with champagne. There are full details on the mission at the Virgin GlobalFlyer website. ® Previous reports GlobalFlyer enters New Mexico GlobalFlyer over continental US GlobalFlyer on a wing and a prayer GlobalFlyer and Fossett take to the skies
Lester Haines, 03 Mar 2005

Napster ups revenue forecast

Napster expects to report revenues of $15m for the current quarter, $1m more than it previously forecast, the company said today. The digital music company attributed the gain to "exceptional demand" for its subscription services, in particular Napster To Go, during the fourth quarter, which ends 31 March 2005. We'd hope there was some increase in demand given the amount the company is paying to encourage this "robust growth". It has committed itself to spending $30m to promote NTG, its most profitable offering. NTG allows subscribers to download any number of tracks and copy them to a portable music player. The service costs $15 a month. Napster's 'standard' $10 subscription service simply provides unlimited downloads - transferring tracks to a portable device costs extra. With either package, should you stop paying the subscription, the songs stop playing. Company chairman and CEO Chris Gorog also pointed to the contribution of compatible-player makers, in particular South Korea's iRiver, which recently ran an promotion in partnership with Napster. Windows Media-supporting hardware vendors and music providers are increasingly looking to build such relationships the better to compete not only with other firms in the Windows Media market, but with the more tightly integrated Apple iTunes Music Store-iPod offer. Apple this week said some 300m songs have been bought through ITMS. Napster lost $16.4m during Q3 FY2005 on revenues of $12.1m, but it took its subscriber base to 270,000 during Q4 calender 2004, up 90,000 on Q3 2004's total. ® Related stories Apple music store downloads top 300m Napster To Go DRM 'threat' astounds media Napster does the maths Why Napster will be a fully-integrated flop Napster subscriber tally hits 270,000
Tony Smith, 03 Mar 2005

Portable player drive interconnect spec completed

IDF Spring 05IDF Spring 05 The minds behind the portable consumer electronics-specifc version of the ATA storage interconnection system have completed the final 1.0 specification, they announced today. The publication of the CE-ATA spec, just six months after the project was launched - progress categorised as "remarkable" by CE-ATA working group chairman Knut Grimsrud - paves the way for the arrival of compliant devices by the end of the year. CE-ATA is intended to offer a more suitable way of hooking up a hard drive to battery powered cameras, media players, PDAs and the like than standard ATA or CompactFlash, the interconnects usually used in such applications today. The spec mandates a low pin count, low voltage bus that's power efficient, cheap and small enough to fit inside compact portable devices. CE-ATA is backed through the technology's Promoter Group by key storage vendors Seagate, Hitachi and Toshiba, all of whom are aggressively pitching compact hard drive products at CE manufacturers. Intel and Marvell are interested in the chips needed to control the new bus, and Nokia is in the PG as a potential device maker. Some 45 other companies, together with the PG members, make up the format's Working Group, incorporated last September. ® Related stories Hitachi hikes consumer disk production Seagate, Hitachi launch 1in 6GB HDDs Hitachi brings IDE to 1.8in HDD line Western Digital hops on 1in HDD bandwagon Seagate hints at job cuts despite 'strong' quarter It's official: storage is the new chips
Tony Smith, 03 Mar 2005

UWB tech groups combine forces

IDF Spring 05IDF Spring 05 Ultrawideband (UWB) industry groups the WiMedia Alliance (WMA) and the Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA) are to merge, the better to drive the adoption of their shared viewpoint on how UWB connectivity should be delivered. The WMA was formed in September 2002 to promote the development of small-area networks for video transmission between devices. It always looked to the IEEE's 802.1.3 specification as a basis for that, and as the spec. shifted from technologies like Bluetooth to UWB, the WMA found itself in alignment with the MBOA, one of the groups submitting a UWB technology for IEEE approval. A year ago, the MBOA decided to bypass the IEEE, fed up with what its members called a "deadlock" in the standard's ratification process caused by the IEEE's voting policy. With a similar level of support building up behind a rival UWB proposal touted by Motorola, the MBOA didn't believe either technology was going to become a standard if left to the IEEE. So it sidestepped the process, emboldened by not only the WMA's support but also that of the two groups developing wireless versions of Firewire and USB, the 1394 Trade Association and the Wireless USB Promoter Group. We'll finish our spec, the MBOA effectively said, get official versions of USB and Firewire running top, and by sheer momentum we'll get industry and, eventually, the IEEE on our side. "The intention is definitely to go back to IEEE once we complete the standard," said Yoram Solomon, of Alliance member Texas Instruments, at the time. The MBOA completed its PHY physical layer specification last November, after the publication of an inital spec in May. The WMA, meanwhile, has been working on the convergence layer code that allows protocols like UPnP, IP, USB and Firewire to operated on top of the MBOA's core radio. Since both elements - convergence layer and PHY - are two sides of the same coin, there have always been close ties between MBOA and WMA. And now they're one and the same, under the WMA name. Together they will continue to finalise their MAC specification - it's due to be finished by June - and co-operate with the groups building wireless versions of wired protocols on top of their technology. "The two organisations have been aggressively supporting the same technology, regulatory and marketing goals for a while now," said former WMA president Glyn Roberts. "It just makes sense to formally combine the groups." The combined organisation will be headed by Intel's Stephen Wood. The chip giant has long been an MBOA supporter and Wireless USB supporter. Commercial development of UWB standards-based products from a variety of manufacturers are expected late 2005 to early 2006, it said. ® Related stories UWB group completes key radio spec 1394 group approves UWB 'Firewireless' tech WiMedia directors back MBOA UWB spec Motorola and MBOA split on UWB Future rosy for UltraWideBand UWB group dumps IEEE to speed wireless USB, 1394 Samsung plots Ultra-wideband WLAN future Team targets 802.15.3 for wireless video networks
Tony Smith, 03 Mar 2005