18th > April > 2005 Archive

Movie industry settles DVD chips case

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has settled a suit with a microchip maker, which it had accused of breaching a license that required it to sell DVD chips only to properly licensed companies. The MPAA sued ESS Technology in April 2004, as part of a crackdown on the illegal distribution of Content Scramble System (CSS) chips, which are used to unlock the security features on copyrighted movies on DVDs. CSS is found in all legitimate copyright-protected DVDs. The microchips in DVD players allow them to unscramble the CSS-protected content and play the DVD. But the use of CSS is controlled by an industry group known as the DVD Copy Control Association, which licenses companies to manufacture DVD players and the microchips. The licence forbids the sale of CSS chips to DVD player and computer manufacturers that do not have a valid CSS license because such entities have no contractual obligations to implement appropriate security features. Potentially, says the MPAA, unauthorised players could be used to illegally copy DVDs. Fremont, California-based ESS Technology, which was accused of selling chips to unlicensed manufacturers, has now agreed to sell chips only to DVD CCA licensees. "ESS totally supports the enforcement of all parties' valid intellectual property rights and is committed to being a leader in enabling content protection features," said Robert Blair, President and CEO of ESS. "We look forward to working with the motion picture industry in their world-wide enforcement efforts and in the development of next-generation anti-piracy technology." "Our member companies are pleased to have settled this lawsuit, and believe that the terms of the settlement will help enable the member companies to ensure correct procedures are followed by ESS and all other chip manufacturers in the future," said Dan Robbins, chief technology counsel for the MPAA. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related stories Hollywood sues DVD-chip makers Congress moots mandatory DRM scheme
OUT-LAW.COM, 18 Apr 2005

Skype scores 100 millionth customer

Voice over IP (VoIP) giant Skype is celebrating the download of the 100 millionth copy of its software by making two new paid-for services available. SkypeIn will let customers receive calls from landlines and mobile phones wherever they are in the world without paying roaming charges. SkypeIn services costs €10 for three months. Users in Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Sweden, the UK and the US can buy up to three numbers. Skype users will also be able to subscribe to voicemail services for €5 for three months. They can get messages up to 10 minutes long and record their own greetings. Skype software enaBLE people to make voice calls using the internet instead of the traditional telephone network. The SkypeOut service is now used by 1.2m people. Full press release here.® Related stories BT, UK Wi-Fi network enter roaming pact Skype offers texts Skype launches on Mac and Linux
John Oates, 18 Apr 2005
channel

Will Microsoft offer EII?

CommentComment SQL Server 2005 will have a lot of good stuff in it. One of the things I particularly like is the BI Development Studio, which is effectively an extension to Visual Studio for developing BI applications. One of the features of this product is its support for building virtual cubes – does this mean that Microsoft is planning to address the EII (enterprise information integration) and federated query market? I should go back a bit. What this facility will do is to allow you to define a virtual schema across multiple, heterogeneous sources. Specifically, this is designed to support the creation of virtual cubes for Analysis Services. You can also set a slider control to determine how frequently you want the data in the cube updated (from real-time to batch) with the cube effectively acting as a cache when the updating is on a real-time basis. Now, where have I seen this before? That's right, as one of the key components in a federated query environment. Of course, that's only a part of such a solution and, in particular, you need a decent distributed optimiser to make such a system hum but, nevertheless, one can see the outlines of such a system. So I asked Microsoft the question, to which the response was along the lines "we couldn't possibly comment". Actually, it was slightly more negative than this might imply but it certainly wasn't a definite no. Oracle is the other major vendor not to be currently offering federated query. Well, that's not quite true. I asked them a couple of years ago if they planned to support it and the response was that they had been doing it since Oracle 5! Which I think means that they didn't understand the question. Maybe I didn't explain myself very well. The problem for Oracle is that a federated approach is contrary to the company's credo of consolidation. Offering both approaches would represent a change of tack (not that that would be anything new from Larry – and I am not referring to the America's Cup) but would by no means be impossible, particularly given Oracle's marketing machine. However, I am inclined to think that the company will take that plunge in due course. The big problem for both Oracle and Microsoft is performance. Getting federated query to run at a decent speed really needs a lot of work on the optimiser – you can't just drop in your database optimiser and hope that that will do – and neither company can afford a product that performs like a dog. So, yes, I think we will see federated query platforms appear from both companies, but I am not holding my breath. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Informatica responds to IBM Another approach to federated query A case for software benchmarking Why IBM needs ETL
Philip Howard, 18 Apr 2005
homeless man with sign

MS marketing Starts Something

Microsoft is launching a worldwide ad campaign to bolster sales of Windows XP. The firm is claiming the campaign will be one of the longest and largest in its history. The ads highlight how people can use MS technology to follow their passions. Will Poole, VP of Windows client at Microsoft, said: "As we enter the third decade of Windows, the Start Something campaign celebrates how people can follow their dreams and pursue what they are passionate about - from creating an in-home music studio to starting a new business or becoming the family photographer." The "Start Something" campaign starts today and runs for 15 months. It includes 51 TV ads, 39 print ads and 250 online ads. It covers 11 countries and has 13 themes including cooking, education, entertainment, family and photography. The ads will feature a window over people's hearts, "to symbolize all of the things they are passionate about that is made possible with Windows". All ads will point people to the website www.windows.com® Related stories 'Cool it, Linus' - Bruce Perens Patent injunction knocks Longhorn Microsoft meets most EC demands
John Oates, 18 Apr 2005
globalisation

Eight convicted in Denmark's biggest piracy case

Eight men have been convicted by a Danish court of making and selling illegal copies of software, games and music. Late last week the Copenhagen City Court heard the eight men made the copies abroad and sold them to Danish customers via the internet. It was Denmark's largest ever piracy case with products worth $585m, according to Reuters. The copies were made between 1998 and 2002 and included products from Adobe, Macromedia and Microsoft. Two leaders of the group were sentenced to 12 months and eight months jail. Four others got sentences between two and four months and two were fined. None of them were named and it is not clear whether they will appeal. ® Related stories Hollywood threatens to sue UK BitTorrent man for millions US super-pirates plead guilty Creatives and techies amongst worst software pirates
John Oates, 18 Apr 2005
channel

Macromedia to merge with Adobe

Graphics and publishing software specialists Adobe and Macromedia are to merge, the companies said today. The acquisition will see the target firm's shareholders offered 0.69 Adobe shares for every Macromedia share, valuing the latter at $41.86 a pop, a premium over this past Friday's $33.45 closing price. The whole deal is valued at $3.4bn. Both companies' boards have approved the deal, which will see Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen continue to run the joint operation, answering to a board led by Adobe co-chairmen and co-founder Charles Geschke and John Warnock. Macromedia's chairman, Rob Burgess, will also join the joint firm's board. Macromedia president CEO Stephen Elop will head the merged business' worldwide field operations. Adobe's Shantanu Narayen will stay on as president and COO. Murray Demo will remain executive VP and CFO. Chizen said the merger will mean cost savings as the two companies' workforces are streamlined, but he stressed the motivation behind the merger was to expand and grow their business by integrating their respective product lines. How that will pan out remains to be seen. It's not hard to imagine Macromedia's alternative to Adobe Illustrator, FreeHand, being phased out, for example. But Macromedia's ownership of Flash, the de facto web animation standard, when combined with Adobe's PDF e-document format, and the authoring tools that go with both media, will position the merged company as a powerhouse for graphics and publishing, both physical and electronic, going forward. The acquisition, which is expected to close this coming Autumn, is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the stockholders of both companies and the nod from regulators. The transaction will be accounted for under purchase accounting rules, the partners said. The transaction is currently expected to be break-even to slightly accretive to earnings in the first twelve months after closing on a non-GAAP basis assuming no adverse impact from the loss of deferred revenue in the first 12 months following the close due to purchase accounting, they said. Adobe said it could not provide a forecast of the deal's impact on GAAP earnings due to "the absence at this time of estimates of the acquisition-related restructuring costs and the allocation of the purchase price between goodwill, in-process R&D, other intangibles and equity-based compensation expenses". ® Related stories Adobe opens source code kimono US software pirate jailed for 18 months Adobe shares dip despite Q4 profit surge Adobe patches Acrobat, Reader flaws Whatdya mean, free software?
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2005

UK gov seeks rocket-launching cigarette expert

If you've got a penchant for gyrocopters, rocket-launching cigarettes and exploding boli - and further don't mind working in Milton Keynes - then the UK government has just the job for you. Her Majesty's Secret Service is looking to replace its current Q, Dr John Widdowson, and has taken the unusual step of advertising for the post. Exact requirements for the mission are secret, says the Guardian, so you'll need to apply to find out exactly what the well-appointed 21st century spook needs to combat the modern Blofeld menace.* Of course, Bond aficionados will already know that a passing resemblance to either Desmond Llewelyn or John Cleese, coupled to the ability to say "Now pay attention, 007" in a world-weary tone, are likely to be essential prerequisites for the job. In return for allowing James Bond to invariably trash your lovingly-crafted spy kit, you'll get a salary of between £90-£100k, a budget of £27m and a staff of 425. Which, we reckon, is plenty of cash and manpower to improve on the jetpack, the teargas-dispensing attaché case and the ne'er-do-well-ejecting Aston Martin. And, should you find yourself craving a little excitement in Milton Keynes of an evening, you can always nip down the local boozer and take the fruit machine for 200 quid using the legendary Electro-Magnetic RPM Controller before ogling the local talent with your x-ray specs. ® * Possibly a device to warn the apprentice 007 that he has just left his briefcase packed with cheese sandwiches and details of the UK's missile defence system in a Whitehall pub following a particularly robust "debriefing" session? Related stories No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die MI5 does not assassinate: official Leaked James Bond script is kosher
Lester Haines, 18 Apr 2005

Apple posts Mac OS X 10.3.9

Apple has updated Mac OS X 10.3, just ahead of the release of version 10.4 of the operating system. That said, the new version, 10.3.9, is mainly tweaks and bug-fixes, though it does incorporate Apple's most recent security patches, so is certainly worth implementing even if you plan to upgrade to Tiger in due course. In particular, the update fixes problems with the latest PowerBooks' scrolling trackpad. That has been bothering quite a few users since the new machines shipped earlier this year. Other amendments centre on Safari, Mail, Stickies, Calculator and Finder. For a full list of fixes, visit Apple's Mac OS X 10.3.9 page. The update is available via the Software Update pane in Mac OS X's System Preferences utility, though Apple has also made it available as a download via the Web. There's a 51.3MB download that patches Mac OS X 10.3.8, available here, or you can download the 117MB combo updater, which will patch any version of Panther from 10.3.0 upwards. You can find it here. Mac OS X Server versions of the 10.3.8 to 10.3.9 updater and the combo upgrade can be found here and here, respectively. Both links list the key features of the Server update. ® Related stories Apple iTunes sales tally passes 350 million Apple financials rude with health Apple Japan 'will' open Music Store - chief Apple: Mac OS X 10.4 to ship 29 April Apple signs 'widescreen iBook' contract
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2005
channel

Save us from spam

The majority of UK consumers and small businesses are yet to deploy anti-spam filters. A poll of UK residential email users and SMEs published Monday found 57 per cent have no anti-spam filtering installed, leaving them unprotected from spam, key logging and phishing attacks. Four in five consumers (82 per cent) have anti-virus protection, predominantly desktop scanners. Most consumers (60 per cent) polled in the survey from email filtering outfit Checkbridge reckon that their ISP should be responsible for stopping viruses and spam. Only one in five (17 per cent) of consumers believe that it is their responsibility. A quarter (24 per cent) of people surveyed receive 50 or more spam emails a day. Approximately half of the consumers quizzed (47 per cent) said they would be willing to pay between £10-30 per year for the right filtering service. The majority of SMEs (61 per cent) said they would be willing to pay £1-2 per month per user for protection. Email filtering services have thus far have predominantly targeted the corporate market. Checkbridge's survey suggests consumer ISPs could steal a march on rivals by offering email screening services. As a provider of email filtering services the issue Checkbridge raises is more than a little self-serving but that doesn't mean it's wrong. The survey comes a week after HSBC announced that it may be forced to refuse customers access to online banking unless they show that they have adequate protection. APACS, the UK payment association, reckons that phishing and key logging Trojan attacks cost banks £12m last year. ® Related stories Netizens learning to tolerate spam - study Spammers adopt slippery tactics to bypass ISP defences Malware, spam prompts mass net turn off UK card fraud hits £505m
John Leyden, 18 Apr 2005

SMART-1 finds possible moon-base

Scientists have identified a candidate "peak of eternal light" - a permanently illuminated area on the moon that could be used as a future lunar base. The site, which is near the northern lunar pole, was identified by the SMART-1 satellite, which has been monitoring the light levels at the poles since it arrived in orbit at the beginning of 2005. One of SMART-1's mission objectives is to monitor polar shadows cast during the moon's rotation (relative to the Sun). This way it can identify areas that are always in the light, but also areas that are permanently in shadow. Researchers suspect that ice will be found at the bottom of permanently shaded craters. Across most of the moon, the length of the day does not vary much. The poles are the exception, and illumination at the extreme latitudes varies considerably over the course of the year. The north pole is darkest over the Lunar winter solstice, around 24 January, which is about the same time SMART-1 was taking pictures of the pole. The image, captured on 19 January, shows an area near the pole about 250km across from an altitude of about 5,000km. In the top left corner of the picture there is an illuminated crater rim. This is the site that could be a peak of eternal light. The existence of such places was first predicted in the second half of the nineteenth century by the astronomer Camille Flammarion. "If we can confirm peaks of eternal light," commented Bernard Foing, SMART-1 project scientist, "these could be a key locations for possible future lunar outposts." SMART-1 will continue mapping the lunar surface in the hope of locating resources that would be useful to future manned missions to the lunar surface. Scientists also hope that it will send back clues to how the moon was formed. ® Related stories ESA backs Indian moon mission China builds launch platform number four Postcard arrives from Europe's lunar probe
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Apr 2005

EU angers US with GM maize 'ban'

EU experts last Friday angered the US by blocking imports of US GM maize products unless "there is proof they are untainted by an illegal genetically modified organism", Reuters reports. The escalating row concerns non-approved Bt10 corn seed developed by biotech outfit Syngenta. The US admitted in March that several hundred tonnes of corn produced from Bt10 seed were sold over the last four years. As we reported then, the Bt10 seed was planted accidently instead of the Bt11 variety. The cock-up came to light when "one of [Syngenta's] seed manufacturers, which was attempting to use the corn seeds in plant-breeding experiments, informed it that the seed was not Bt11". Bt10 and Bt11 are physically identical and have been modified with a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which acts as a pesticide against the "corn borer". Bt11 has already been approved as fit for human consumption, and the two GM varieties differ only in "a handful of nucleotides on a section of the gene that does not code for the protein toxin". US government scientists have concluded since the revelation that Bt10 too is safe to eat. It's not approved for consumption, though, hence the EU's clampdown, set for review in October. For its part, the US called the EU's stance an "over-reaction" - unsurprising since US exporters reportedly dispatch 3.5 million tons of "corn gluten feed" to Europe each year in a trade worth €350m ($449m). EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, said: "Imports of maize products which are certified as free of Bt-10 will be able to continue, but at the same time we cannot and will not allow a GMO which has not gone through our rigorous authorization procedures to enter the EU market." Accordingly, as of next week, "US exports to Europe of corn gluten feed and brewers grains, a by-product of ethanol, must be certified by an internationally-accredited laboratory to show there is no presence of Bt-10 maize." Green groups applauded the decision as an effective ban on GM maize feed imports from the US to the EU. Friends of the Earth Europe spokesman, Adrian Bebb, enthused: "Today's emergency measures will be unpopular with the US government and the biotechnology industry but will start to protect Europe from more contaminated products." Edward Kemp, a spokesman for the US mission to the European Union, countered: "We view the EU's decision to impose a certification requirement on US corn gluten due to the possible, low-level presence of Bt-10 corn to be an over-reaction. "US regulatory authorities have determined there are no hazards to health, safety or the environment related to Bt-10. There is no reason to expect any negative impact from the small amounts of Bt-10 corn that may have entered the EU." Although the US regulatory authorities were initially reluctant to divulge where exactly in the EU the Bt-10 seed may have landed, Reuters reveals that 10 kilograms - destined for research purposes - made their way to Spain and France. They have reportedly been destroyed. ® Related stories US admits GM crop cock-up Brazil greenlights GM soya GM cocaine 'grown in Colombia'
Lester Haines, 18 Apr 2005

Texas moves against public Wi-Fi porn

An illuminating posting on Slashdot today reveals that Texas is moving to prevent the dissemination of net porn via public Wi-Fi networks. The act "relating to prohibiting wireless Internet access to obscene materials on public property" declares: "A state agency that provides wireless Internet access on state property may not allow access to obscene materials through the use of that wireless access." It adds: "The department shall assist a state agency that requests assistance in prohibiting access under this section, including prohibiting access by using a filter or other software." In 2004, Texas became "the first state in the nation to provide free wireless Internet access at its safety rest areas". The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) kicked off with Wi-Fi "at twin rest areas on US 287 in Donley County" and "free wireless service at two rest areas on the same highway in Hardeman County." The whole thing was heralded as a roaring success. Andy Keith, Safety Rest Area Program Manager for TxDOT’s Maintenance Division, said: “The feedback we’ve received so far has been very positive. Texas’ highways are seeing an increasing number of business travelers, truckers and RVers and access to email is important to them. They have really responded favorably to our four ‘hot spots’ on US 287.” Sadly, though, Texas' hotspots will from 1 September be considerably less "hot" than at present. This will doubtless enrage "business travelers", and especially truckers. The latter will certainly view the right to surf Wi-Fi porn at rest stops as a fundamental tenet of the US constitution. They can, however, take some solace from the fact that the legislation also states: "Wireless Internet access to obscene materials is prohibited at a correctional facility that is owned by, or operated by or for, the state." It's good to see that hardened Texan lags will also be deprived of net smut when they should be breaking rocks or something equally correctional. It's not all doom and gloom, though. The legislation doesn't apply to "a university system or institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code." Quite right too. The very nature of education means unrestricted access to the broadest spectrum of research material - even if it's dressed like a cheerleader entertaining a couple of enthusiastic and butt-naked quarterbacks. And yes, we are going to address the fundamental question here - how is this filtering actually going to work in practice? Well, it almost certainly won't, unless travellers on US 287 are restricted to accessing a simple holding page stating: "Nudity is sinful. Go read the Bible. Have a nice day." ® Related stories
Lester Haines, 18 Apr 2005
channel

Resellers get double-barrelled DSL

Vaioni Group is making its bonded broadband or uber-DSL product available for resellers to sell onto customers. The firm has been offering the service directly to customers for some time. In essence it sticks two, or more, DSL lines together - providing more bandwidth and better reliablility. Ian Taylor, previously at Zen Internet, is Vaioni's channel manager. He said the service meets a lot of customer requirements because of the variety of speeds available. The technology can deal with VPN pass through and appears to the network as a single pipe. The company says its technology avoids the complexity and interoperability problems of load balancing. Customers usually want eight to ten lines joined up but the two line product is also popular. Vaioni claims 6,000 current customers. More details on Vainoni's website ® Related stories NTL hits copper trail to ADSL2+ BT 2 meg punters hacked off PlusNet to float on AIM
John Oates, 18 Apr 2005

Who should buy Colt?

The promise of convergence of wired, wireless and mobile services has shifted the perceptions of the main telecoms players, especially in Europe, radically in recent times - though as so often, the telecoms investment community has been slow to recognize the trend. It should have been obvious far earlier that operators with only one type of network would become exposed, yet this fact did little to dull the shine on Vodafone, nor to cast a more favorable light on the multi-network giants, such as France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom. Now it is clear at last that single network companies will need strong partnerships to fill in the holes in their infrastructure, and that everyone will need access to extensive fiber backbone to support a wealth of new services. Both of these trends will set some of the telcos on to the acquisition path, and one European player that would fulfil many requirements of a convergence strategy is Europe-wide fiber provider Colt Telecom. Takeover speculation regularly surrounds the financially turbulent Colt - currently valued at around $1.5bn - and this has started up again in recent days, with highly traditional predators such as the US' General Electric named alongside telcos seeking, as outlined above, to strengthen their convergence hand against France Telecom/Orange/Wanadoo and Deutsche Telekom / TMobile / T-Com. The telco most prominent in the speculation is Denmark's incumbent TDC, which is seeking to create a wider European wired / wireless platform through acquisition. But the operator that should be taking a serious look at Colt must be Vodafone, increasingly exposed by its former greatest asset, its lack of wireline infrastructure. And as a wild card, what about Clearwire, seeking to create a pan-European broadband wireless network by stealth, but with its own risks surrounding access to backhaul at reasonable cost and quality? Vodafone's pressures With Vodafone's long term risks obscured in the shadow cast by its aggressive and successful global cellular-only strategy, and the long term assets of the incumbents masked by their debt burdens and sluggishness, it is only recently that opinions on the roles of the big names are starting to change. But fears about Vodafone's lack of wireline assets started to be voiced when its sold off the wired element of its Japanese acquisition. Perhaps, the iconoclasts whispered secretly, Vodafone would be prospering better in Japan if it could deliver a converged service? The example of the US makes the case clear. All the major operators - cable, DSL and wireless - are positioning themselves for the mobilized triple play, delivering voice, video/television and data services over a variety of media to a range of devices, including mobile ones. This has sent the regional Bell operators hurrying to buy up long lines owners to improve their enterprise services and their fiber backhaul infrastructure, and driven the cablecos into the arms of Sprint as they adopt the virtual network approach as their quickest route to mobility. Vodafone has the potential to take the Sprint role in Europe and elsewhere, with its huge network and high capacity, and it is already engaged in an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) pact with British Telecom (a good example of a company shunned until recently for being a wireline-only dinosaur, but now seen as a strong rider of the convergence wave). But this will require a significant shift of strategy, away from insisting on creating a powerful global brand for itself and its Live! content portal. More importantly, it still confines the world's largest cellco to just one delivery medium (with some limited concessions to Wi-Fi). As we move to a world where users receive the same services interchangeably on different devices from set-tops to handsets to PCs, where is the advantage in controlling only one of these? Colt would not fill all Vodafone's gaps of course, but it would bring some of the same benefits that Qwest and Verizon are fighting over with MCI - an infrastructure to deliver converged services to enterprises; strong backhaul to support high bandwidth access devices, with the cost savings, as the value of fiber starts to rise again, of owning the network oneself; and the opportunity to do what Colt itself is starting to do - use technologies such as WiMAX to extend the reach of the fiber into smaller companies and, potentially, high value residential bases, directly or through partners. Clearwire The most disruptive buyer for Colt would be Clearwire. Just as Colt defied the odds - albeit sometimes shakily - in surviving the late 1990s race to create cross-border fiber networks in Europe, so Clearwire seeks to disprove the wisdom, gained from the broadband wireless bubble of the same era, that there will never be a pan-European wireless network outside of Vodafone. It is in its early stages but already its ambitions are becoming clear - to work as stealthily as possible, in order not to drive spectrum prices up, to buy broadband wireless licenses in every country where they come up for sale, and where the operator restrictions are not too heavy (as they were in Austria, an auction from which the company withdrew). These licenses - whether gained from auctions, spectrum trading, or acquisition or joint venture deals with other holders - will be used to create an international 3.5GHz broadband network for fixed and mobile access (regulators permitting) - a mobilized triple play without wires. Where Clearwire cannot avoid the wire, though, is in the backbone. It needs high performance middle mile technology and access to fiber at a reasonable cost to make its services as price competitive as they will need to be in Europe, where broadband prices are spiralling downwards. Just as the Craig McCaw -led start-up was negotiating a deal with AT&T in the US (thwarted by SBC's takeover bid) to exchange backhaul for wireless last mile capabilities, so a similar partnership will be important in Europe, and a broadly based player like Colt would bring economies of scale that would not be available from a jigsaw' of locally based agreements. Colt's future Back to reality, and the possibility of TDC interest in Colt. TDC, like many smaller incumbents, is under intense pressure in its own market and is aiming to balance this with expansion into other countries, particularly in enterprise services - hence the fit with enterprise provider Colt. TDC's first port of call for building a converged business outside Denmark has been Switzerland, where Colt has strong presence, but where TDC is up against another midrange incumbent demonstrating a creative approach to the multi-network world, Swisscom. Colt's share price rose almost 10 per cent to 55p when rumors of a bid surfaced last week, although its majority shareholder, Fidelity, has given CEO Jean-Yves Charlier two years to expand the company before considering sale (Charlier has been in office for six months, and has announced various expansion tactics including adoption of WiMAX to boost the reach of the network). Colt is always a potential target, however, because of its list of high value clients, including major financial institutions, its large network - including well regarded assets such as its London metro area fiber - and its £500m in accumulated tax losses. Its ownership of fiber in some key locations, such as its original home of London, helped Colt survive the shake-out earlier this decade when the value of fiber assets plummeted in the telecoms slump and operators like KPNQwest disappeared amid a wave of over-capacity. KPNQwest, until 2002, had Europe's largest fiber network, carrying 25 per cent of IP traffic plus offering large enterprise services but after its failure, most fiber owners pulled back to their core territories, leaving the multinational market to Colt and to the global players such as Sprint, AT&T and BT. Now, with a new communications boom being driven by convergence, broadband and the prospect of fourth generation wireless, the owners of fiber will become desirable again. Copyright © 2005, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories TDC sniffing around Colt - report BT wants service obligations 'relaxed' UK telco sector remains in doldrums
Wireless Watch, 18 Apr 2005

OSS gains business ground in Europe

Open source software is gaining ground in mid-to-large sized companies in Europe. According to analyst house IDC, one third of these businesses now report "significant live use" of an open source database of some description. The researchers suggest that open source is, in fact, eating into the market share of proprietary software products. IDC analyst Bo Lykkegaard described the finding as one of the more "surprising" outcomes of the 2005 software end-user survey. He went on: "Another interesting result was how important European companies perceive software to be for their ability to compete. More than half of the respondents said that software technology is 'very important' to their business success." This finding contradicts claims made by some industry observers that IT is no longer a source of competitive advantage, Lykkegaard concluded. The survey was carried out in March among a sample of 625 companies across western Europe. ® Related stories Ingres and Open Source - a success story SCO faces ejection from Nasdaq Sun must acquire Red Hat or Novell - analyst
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Apr 2005
cloud

Intel launches dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition

Intel today formally launched its dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor, as anticipated with Dell, Velocity Micro and Alienware all "selling" systems based on the chip. The vendor said nothing though about the availability of the 130W chips themselves. If said PC vendors are also shipping PEE-based systems from today, that might be seen to put a stick in the spokes of AMD's dual-core Opteron launch, due to take place on Thursday, by all accounts. AMD is said to have brought forward the Opteron launch to get in ahead of Intel, which has likewise accelerated the 840 roll-out to ensure it's ahead of the game. AMD claims to have been sampling dualies since January, but Intel's not offered product much later than that - it had them out and about in February. Who cares? It's widespread availability that matters, and so far neither company has been able to offer that. In any case, neither company is the first to ship a dual-core processor in commercial quantities - IBM's been doing it for some time, though you'd have a job getting one of its Power chips to work in a desktop. Intel also launched today the 955X chipset, formerly known by its codename, 'Glenwood', which provides the system logic to support the 3.2GHz, HyperThreading-enabled PEE processor and its 800MHz frontside bus, though it will also support a 1066MHz bus. The 955X also supports up to 8GB of ECC-enabled DDR 2 memory clocked at up to 667MHz. There's PCI Express x16 for graphics, along with six PCI-E x1 lanes for regular add-in cards. The chipset can handle up to eight USB 2.0 ports, and four 3Gbps Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 and Intel Matrix RAID support. A 955X costs $50. The PEE 840 almost 20 times that figure, $999, and that's when sold in batches of 1000 chips. Still, it's no more than previously released Extreme Edition processors, so punters are essentially getting the second core for free. The chip giant has a 955X-based mobo on the market now too: the lead-free D955XBK, which incorporates an LGA755 socket for the CPU; eight Serial ATA ports - four rated at 3Gbps, the rest at 1.5Gbps - a Gigabit Ethernet controller; 400Mbps and 800Mbps Firewire ports; one x16, one x4 and one x1 PCI-E connectors; three PCI slots; HD Audio with S/PDIF, ADAT and Dolby Digital Live support, plus Intel's Audio Studio software incorporating Sonic Focus' MARS audio-processing system. ® Related stories AMD dual-core desktops to be branded 'X2' Intel offers $10,000 for safe return of missing Moore's Law Intel confirms 'Conroe' Intel to launch dual-core Pentium 'next week' HP, Sun and IBM ready to roll with dual-core Opteron gear AMD 'on schedule' for 2006 65nm 300mm production AMD to bring forward dual-core Opteron debut? Intel updates Ent PC with audio 'reality amp' Related review Intel Pentium Extreme Edition dual-core CPU
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2005

IT industry told to 'cough up' by child campaigners

The IT industry should do more to protect kids online, according to campaigners, who believe that tech companies should spend dosh to create a global child protection organisation and use their expertise to regulate chat rooms and block the transmission of offensive images. Tighter regulation and increased education make up just part of a rack of proposals following the launch of the global "make-IT-safe" campaign. Thailand-based child-rights group ECPAT International and the UK's Children's Charities Coalition on Internet Safety (CHIS) reckon that while the IT industry has done stacks to crack down on online fraud and spam, it has failed to invest the same amount of time and resource in combating child abuse. ECPAT International executive director Carmen Madrinan said it's time for the IT industry to acknowledge that it shares the same responsibility for protecting children as all other members of the global community. "Parents, teachers, children's groups and governments all have their part to play. But only the IT industry can deliver the technological and financial resources to ensure the safety of children and young people online and in interactive technologies. "It's time for concerned IT companies to take the lead and ensure effective, global standards to make IT safe for all children and young people," said Madrinan. Another ECPAT spokesperson, Sangeet Shirodkar chipped in: "Young people and children in need or in distress often look to the Internet to find affection and support from unknown people. A number of children are getting attracted to these chat rooms and later land up being exploited. IT industries should regulate the chat rooms and the transmission of harmful pictures and video should be banned." No one from the UK's internet trade group - ISPA - was available for comment at the time of writing. However, in a statement it said: "The UK Internet industry continues to run an effective, self-regulatory 'notice and takedown' procedure. This means that when an ISP is made aware of illegal material by organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation or law enforcement agencies, they remove it." ® Related stories Utah enacts net porn law Computers bad for kids Police push for dedicated paedo-protection unit Spanish cuff 19 in net paedo ring bust
Tim Richardson, 18 Apr 2005

Internet is killing mail order catalogues

Internet shopping is now more popular than thumbing through weighty mail order catalogues, according to research from consumer analysts Mintel. Its latest study reveals that a third of those quizzed have bought goods online, compared to a quarter who admitted using a catalogue. The decline in popularity of mail order catalogues has coincided with the sharp rise in online shopping. Funny that, ain't it? Anyhow, according to the experts the "days of the big book are over". They also reckon that the net is the "great hope of the home shopping industry". ® Related stories Brit workers excel at skiving E-crime to rocket in 2005 UK net traffic registers Xmas spike UK e-spend on the up-and-up
Tim Richardson, 18 Apr 2005

MySQL at 30% off

Site offerSite offer With over four million installations, MySQL is the most widely used open source database management system worldwide. MySQL 5 is a long-anticipated, significant new version of the database that brings MySQL up to the level of an enterprise-class database system. New features in MySQL 5, such as stored procedures and enhanced optimization, provide users with new capabilities that are key to using MySQL for large-scale commercial databases. In MySQL, Paul DuBois provides a comprehensive guide to using MySQL effectively and productively. He describes everything from the basics, to using MySQL to generate dynamic Web pages, to administering MySQL servers. MySQL, Third Edition covers all the new features and improvements found in MySQL 5 in detail, and incorporates feedback from readers and top MySQL developers to make this the most comprehensive and thorough edition to date. You can find 30% off thousands of titles at the Register Bookshop, including some of these hot new releases. MySQL RRP £35.99 - Reg price - £25.19 - Saving £10.80 (30%) The definitive guide to using, programming, and administering MySQL 5. Sams Teach Yourself PHP in 10 Minutes RRP £10.99 - Reg price - £7.69 - Saving £3.30 (30%) Provides a no-fluff, just-the-answers guide to building dynamic websites using PHP Cisco IP Telephony RRP £42.99 - Reg price - £30.09 - Saving £12.90 (30%) The comprehensive guide to planning and implementing your Cisco IP Telephony system, as shown by the experts CCNA 1 and 2 Companion Guide and Journal Pack RRP £39.99 - Reg price - £27.99 - Saving £12.00 (30%) Convenient, portable desk reference and textbook that supports the CCNA 1 and 2 course CCNA 3 and 4 Companion Guide and Journal Pack RRP £39.99 - Reg price - £27.99 - Saving £12.00 (30%) Convenient, portable desk reference and textbook that supports the CCNA 3 and 4 course Adobe Reader 7 Revealed RRP £17.99 - Reg price - £12.59 - Saving £5.40 (30%) Adobe Reader just got better! Now with all-new features, this free application will move out of the shadows of office communications. PDF Reference Version 1.6 RRP £39.99 - Reg price - £27.99 - Saving £12.00 (30%) Everything developers need to create applications that read and generate PDFs—in one comprehensive, well-indexed volume! ZENworks 6.5 Suite Administrator's Handbook RRP £42.99 - Reg price - £30.09 - Saving £12.90 (30%) The official Administrator's Guide written by Novell insiders, and reviewed by the developers of ZENworks 6.5. File System Forensic Analysis RRP £35.99 - Reg price - £25.19 - Saving £10.80 (30%) Moves beyond the basics and shows how to use tools to recover and analyze forensic evidence. Show Me QuickBooks 2005 RRP £15.99 - Reg price - £11.19 - Saving £4.80 (30%) Readers learn how to manage their business financial information through a highly visual, less text-intensive approach. The Project Manager RRP £19.99 - Reg price - £13.99 - Saving £6.00 (30%) Learn how to be the safe pair of hands in your organisation, consistently delivering exceptional projects on time and to budget. How to Lead RRP £12.99 - Reg price - £9.09 - Saving £3.90 (30%) Shows how to be a leader at any level in an organisation not just the upper levels. Next Global Stage RRP £16.99 - Reg price - £11.89 - Saving £5.10 (30%) The future takes shape! Preview tomorrow's global economy... and the new rules for politics, business, and personal success. Don’t forget your opportunity to review current and previous offers. The Reg Bestsellers Last week at The Reg Great new releases This week's book bag
Team Register, 18 Apr 2005
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Seagate unveils 120GB notebook HDD

Storage specialist Seagate today introduced what it claims is the world's highest capacity hard drive for notebook computers - and its first Serial ATA unit for laptops. Part of the company's Momentus line-up, the 2.5in, 120GB drive is nonetheless only set to spin at 5400rpm - it you want a faster unit, you'll need Seagate's 7200rpm, 100GB model. That said, the extra power consumption of the higher spin speed means it's largely a niche market, such as the blade server systems Seagate is also pitching the Momentus family at. Seagate claims the 120GB drive consumes only as much energy as a typical 4500rpm drive. The unit can stand 900G of non-operating shock or 250G of operating shock. It is also "virtually inaudible", courtesy of Seagate's SoftSonic fluid-dynamic bearing motors, the manufacturer said. Both the Momentus 5400.2 (120GB) and the 7200.1 (100GB) are offered in 1.5GBps Serial ATA with native command queuing, Seagate said. To date, Momentus drives have adopted the Ultra ATA 100 connection bus. The company is also offering a 120GB drive running at 4200rpm. All three products come with a five-year warranty. Seagate did not provide pricing or availability information. ® Related stories Seagate promises perpendicular drives Hitachi headstand sets new HD density record Seagate, Hitachi launch 1in 6GB HDDs Maxtor cans notebook HDD project Seagate hints at job cuts despite 'strong' quarter
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2005

Mobile email consolidation kicks off

Wireless email has always been the first application to be adopted by a company seeking to become a mobile enterprise, and the litmus test for all the other mobilized applications that can then be built on top of the basic architecture. This means that the market for mobile email infrastructure suppliers is not just large, with email becoming a default application in high end handsets and PDAs, but one that can give successful players a strategic importance beyond their size or sophistication. To capitalize on that, suppliers need to form strong alliances and be global in scope, hence the announcement this week that one of the most promising contenders for Research In Motion's wireless email crown, US-based Seven, is to acquire Finnish rival Smartner. Seven and Smartner All RIM's challengers are small. The combination of Seven and Smartner, both privately held, is estimated to be valued at about $250m, compared to RIM's $14bn market capitalization. But there are several players that are taking the right approach to stealing some share away from the leader, focusing on chinks in its armor, and so making themselves more attractive in the inevitable upcoming shake-out. With Microsoft itself set to enter the space, the best-placed independents could acquire a strategic significance to the larger players seeking to compete with the giant, but the others are likely to fall by the wayside. Seven has made some shrewd decisions about how to enhance its own standing, notably by focusing on Asia and Europe, where RIM is not well established, and with some good handset relationships. The new acquisition brings it the European presence and relationships with Nokia, Ericsson, Vodafone, Telefonica and O2. Seven itself already has deals with Motorola, Samsung, Cingular and Sprint, and importantly, with NTT DoCoMo in Japan, a market RIM has hardly penetrated. Unlike the heavily branded BlackBerry, Seven's offering is a 'white label' one embedded by the operators and handset makers into their own platforms, and is lower end than RIM's software, mainly appealing to smaller companies and power consumers. This focus could make it stronger in a market where it has to live alongside Microsoft. The more email becomes embedded into phones - Gartner Group, in new estimates, believes it will be in 80 per cent of smartphones by 2008, a forecast that seems conservative - the more valuable a white label solution will be to the operators. Here, Microsoft will not be able to compete except on Windows handsets, which have very low penetration in the smaller business/consumer sectors. RIM's challenges Supporters of alternative platforms to Windows will use strong email functionality as a way to keep their operating systems ahead. This is hard in the enterprise because of the strength of the Microsoft Exchange installed base and the fact that users are accustomed to the Windows interface through use of PDAs - not to mention Microsoft's ability to bundle email at attractive prices. Nokia has already had to license synchronization software to allow its operating systems to link to Exchange, and Microsoft's forthcoming upgrade to Windows Mobile will incorporate push email functionality similar to that in BlackBerry, in a direct attack on RIM and its licensees, most significantly Nokia. In the mass market, however, the power of Exchange and Windows are less relevant and the user sensitivity to the cellphone interface is far higher - significant changes must be made to an interface that was created for a PC, not a phone, to give Windows Mobile any hope of gaining consumer uptake. This could see RIM being squeezed between the consumer offerings and Microsoft, with its supporters certainly being forced to reduce its high prices to remain competitive once enterprises start their next round of mobile infrastructure upgrades. RIM's other problem is that it has so far failed to capitalize on the tendency of companies to build more complex applications on top of their email structures. Microsoft will not miss the potential to pull the trick that Lotus did so well, of encouraging users to build a complex web of applications and services on top of an initially basic email roll-out. The market leader will feel the heat of Microsoft's entry, at least in the short term, far more strongly than Seven-Smartner - though perhaps less strongly than smaller enterprise players such as Good, which now claims a user base of 5,000 large enterprises. Good is pre-empting the likely threat with an expansion of its platform, planning to make its software available for Symbian OS smartphones soon, in addition to PalmOS and Windows Mobile. Like RIM, Good has moved away from designing devices that are tied to its email system and realized that survival will depend on support from larger device and operating system partners. Microsoft's dilemma This is a decision Microsoft still faces. Porting its mobile middleware and the Magneto email functionality to non-Windows platforms would be a huge symbolic setback - though not a huge financial one, since most of the value to the giant lies in the middleware, in terms of revenue, control of the user and the chance to add further products and services over time. But it is the only way that Microsoft can hope to bid for dominance of the new mobile markets. Windows will never be a universal device OS in these sectors, but Microsoft can still have a good shot at some serious market share in the middleware and services that feed the devices - in the enterprise and even in the less familiar carrier market. Magneto delivered, directly or as a hosted service by operators, on multiple handhelds could accelerate the mobile email trend and place it firmly in the hands of Microsoft, especially given that the high prices charged by carriers for BlackBerry are seen as one of the key factors slowing the progress of email roll-out now. This and the limited additional functionality of BlackBerry will make it, over time, less attractive to corporates and their service providers and Microsoft will be busily positioning itself to take over. Without a port to multiple platforms, however, the market will remain fragmented and the likes of Seven- Smartner could achieve high levels of success. Copyright © 2005, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories T-Mobile steams in with WiMAX, Wi-Fi train Microsoft goes after Blackberry with Magneto Seven snaps up Smartner
Wireless Watch, 18 Apr 2005

Intel launches WiMAX chip

Intel has formally announced its first WiMAX product, a system-on-a-chip capable of receiving wireless broadband signals both inside and outside customer premises. The ProWireless 5116 is fully compliant with the 802.16-2004 standard, Intel said, and is the first product of its kind to be "optimised for cost-effective modems and residential gateways", the chip-maker said. Products based on the part are expected to ship by the end of the year, having first gained interoperability certification from industry body the WiMAX Forum, which today conveniently announced just such a certification programme. Formerly known by its codename, 'Rosedale', the 5116 is designed to maintain broadband connections between fixed antennae. Future versions of the product are expected to support the 802.16e specification, which adds support for mobile end-user kit. Last week, Intel pledged to "solve in silicon" the inherent incompatibilities between the 802.16e and 802.16-2004 specifications. Meanwhile, the 5116 has already won the support of equipment makers, with the likes of Airspan, Alvarion, Aperto, Gemtek, Huawei, Proxim, Redline, Siemens and ZTE voicing their enthusiasm for Intel's new wireless chip. So too did a range of carriers, all looking to use WiMAX to extend the reach of their broadband offerings. The WiMAX Forum's interoperability certification programme will operate out of its Malaga, Spain facility, and will open for business in July. It will take in the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) HiperMAN specification. All South Korean operators backing the local WiMAX-like WiBro system are now members of the Forum, which should ultimately ensure interoperability between these two technologies too. The first WiMAX Forum Certified products are expected in the November/December timeframe, the Forum said. The Forum will initially certify equipment based on two profiles: Time Division Duplexing (TDD) and Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD) in the 3.5GHz frequency band with 3.5MHz channelisation. Based on market demand and vendor product submissions, more profiles will be added in 2006, it said. The Forum promised all future enhancements to the baseline profiles will support backward compatibility. ® Related stories T-Mobile steams in with WiMAX, Wi-Fi train Frozen polar waste gets Wi-Fi hotspot Intel pledges to fix WiMAX mode muddle WiMAX summit: 'Standards-plus' could harm 802.16 roadmap WiMAX hype peaks Tokyo to enjoy city-wide WiMAX
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2005

Proof by self-checking software: the four colour problem

Computer scientists at Microsoft Research Cambridge (MSRC) have developed a self-checking software-based proof of the four colour theorem that they say sweeps away any remaining uncertainty surrounding earlier proofs. MRSC researcher Georges Gonthier and Benjamin Werner, a researcher at INRIA, have devised a computer program that verifies the correctness of its own calculations, and applied it to the four colour problem. It constructs a precise mathematical proof and checks that it follows the strict rules of formal logic. The theorem states that any geographical map may be drawn so that no two contiguous regions are filled in the same colour, provided a palette of four colours is available. It was proven, rather controversially, in 1976. As well as using formal logic, a pair of mathematicians from the University of Illinois, Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken, used a computer to check the tenets of the theorem by brute force. The controversy arose because the section of the proof that was worked on computer was too long for another mathematician to check. Although most people in the community were prepared to accept the proof, a lingering uncertainty bothered some - what if there had been an error in the software? Gonthier and Werner's work aims to remove that last doubt. Andrew Herbert, managing director at MSRC said that the discovery had great implications for the future of computing. "Advances we make into self-checking software have the potential to be incorporated into software development tools to make computing in general more reliable and trustworthy," he said. For more on the history of the Four Colour Theorem, click here. ® Related stories Maths boffins secure $750,000 Abel prize Maths boffins topple Certicom crypto Computers bad for kids
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Apr 2005
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Consumers and laps boost euro PC sales

Consumer sales and laptops were the main drivers for strong PC sales growth in Europe, Middle East and Africa in Q1, according to IDC's latest figures. IDC reported year-on-year growth of 15.7 per cent for the first quarter of 2005. Business demand stayed strong especially among smaller customers. IDC looks at branded shipments of desktops, notebooks and x86 servers, and excludes OEM sales from all vendors. Sales of desktop machines grew almost ten per cent while demand for notebook machines jumped 30 per cent compared to the first quarter of last year. Competition among manufacturers and the continued strength of the euro have all helped the market. Increased use of broadband is also pushing demand for notebooks and desktops. HP remains in first place but failed to grow as fast as the market. Dell is in second spot and managed growth of 20 per cent in EMEA expanding into the small business and consumer markets. Acer took third place and Fujitsu was in fourth place. But fellow analysts Context took a less joyful view of the market. They see sales falling this month, and for the last three months. Looking at resellers they found sales were down 7.4 per cent compared with February 2004. Switzerland fell fastest - sales declined 33 per cent. Germany and the UK saw falls of 24 per cent and 23.3 per cent respectively. But sales rose 38.6 per cent in Spain and by 21 per cent in Italy. Context looks at Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK.® Related stories Rare Dell critics spotted circling over Austin World chip sales down in February IDC crimps PC forecasts, cites US outlook
John Oates, 18 Apr 2005

TDC target for take-over - report

The rumour mill is working overtime following press reports that Danish telco TDC could be snapped up by an international group of investors. TDC - the outfit that helps run discount mobilephoneco easyMobile in the UK - is reportedly on the shopping list of some unnamed investment funds, according to Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Further speculation concerning the future of TDC comes less than a fortnight after TDC was named as a possible suitor for UK telco Colt. At the time TDC declined to comment on what it described as rumour and speculation. In September TDC - previously Tele Danmark - announced it was buying Swedish IP and business telecoms outfit Song for $552m. Song provides business with IP and data services and operates in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. ® Related stories Who should buy Colt? TDC sniffing around Colt - report Denmark fines mobile operator for SMS spam CPW halves cost of mobile phone calls EasyMobile keeps schtum on tariffs TDC buys Song
Tim Richardson, 18 Apr 2005
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EMC wags new NAS giant at rivals NetApp and IBM

EMC rattled the storage world today by releasing one of the highest-end NAS (network attached storage) systems on the planet. Along with the hardware, EMC also rolled out a number of software upgrades meant to make managing large volumes of data easier. With the Celerra NSX box, EMC feels pretty confident that it has won the "my NAS gateway is bigger than yours" contest over rivals such as Network Appliance and IBM. When fully equipped, the Celerra NSX holds 8 of what EMC is calling its X-Blade servers, which allows it to crank out a whopping 300,000 NFS (network file system) operations per second. Customers will also find 112TB of storage in a maxed out configuration. "This is the reaffirmation that EMC owns the high-end of the NAS market," Tom Joyce, a vice president of marketing at EMC, told The Register. EMC has worked hard for that type of bravado. It has spent the last few years rounding out its NAS line from top down in the hopes of competing better against swift rival NetApp. While EMC has made large gains, it still trails NetApp in market share according to the latest figures from IDC. The research firm has NetApp taking 37 per cent of NAS sales in 2004 compared with 33 per cent for EMC. The two companies are clearly the dominant players in the market. As a single system, the Celerra NSX does stretch beyond anything offered by NetApp or IBM. Customers, however, have to pay for this storage consolidation miracle. With four of the X-Blades, the new system starts at $278,250. You can only imagine what a fully-packed version of the beast will run. EMC knew such thoughts would cross the minds of customers and journalists and provided us with an always handy - and unbiased - price/performance analysis between its kit and the high-end NetApp 980 system, which can be clustered, and IBM's NAS 500 Gateway. Lining up maximum configurations for each box, EMC reckons that the Celerra NSX has 68 per cent better price/performance than NetApp's system and 53 per cent better price/performance than IBM's box. When clustered, NetApp's boxes max out at 70,000 NFS operations per second and IBM's NAS 500 hits 68,000 operations per second. The IBM result is somewhat irrelevant since it will soon phase out the NAS 500 in favor of NetApp's systems as part of a broader NAS reselling partnership. The above comparison is a little difficult to swallow since neither NetApp or IBM are trying to go as high-end as EMC. EMC wants large and even medium-sized businesses to see the Celerra NSX as a cost-effective system for consolidating NAS operations. The system will sit in front of of EMC's Symmetrix and Clariion SAN (storage area network) systems, adding NAS functions to these boxes. On the software side, EMC has tuned the Celerra box to handle larger files and larger file systems. This is primarily for customers in verticals such as oil and gas and biotech who have huge data sets. EMC has outfitted its entire NAS line with support for iSCSI as well. In addition, EMC rolled out the Celerra Automated Volume Management (AVM) package, which plugs into the Celerra Manager. The new software guides administrators through the process of creating file systems of the right size and performance levels to meet different workloads. It also automates a host of functions, inclduing load balancing, striping and volume creation. EMC also put out the Centera FileArchiver (CFA) product, which will plug into the Celerra FileMover API to add some policy-based management tools to the hardware. Overall, EMC has made it pretty easy for customers to buy into the new Celerra behemoth. They can start out with a small number of the X-Blades and then "turn on" new blades should they need them. The box officially starts shipping next month. ® Related stories Microsoft stirs storage waters with backup beta Can compliance-challenged Veritas sell compliance? IBM hands over NAS duties to NetApp in mega storage tie-up EMC: making storage simple for Small.biz
Ashlee Vance, 18 Apr 2005
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Linux on desktop needs better sales people

Linspire chief exec Michael Robertson is visiting London on a mission to persuade system builders that there's money to be made in Linux on the desktop. Robertson guesstimates that it costs PC builders £125 or more in licensing fees to offer PCs with Windows XP and Office XP pre-installed. Linspire's pitch is that system builders could offer machines with equivalent functionality using Linspire 5.0, Open Office and 12 months access to CNR (Linspire's online software library) for £15 a pop. By reducing software costs, resellers could offer systems at much lower cost, the pitch goes. It's a plausible line for an assembler of cheap desktops and laptops. But even though Linux on the desktop has become far more user friendly over the last year or so it's yet to emerge as a mainstream product. Linspire currently boasts 350,000 users, half of whom pay for extra services (such as renewal licences to CNR). "Linux on the desktop doesn't need improved technology. We need to work on the on the distribution channel to sell more desktops and laptops with Linux preinstalled. The market needs profitable companies to incentivise retailers," Robertson said. The US is the worst market for desktop Linux, according to Robertson. "The momentum is in Europe and South America," he said. Linspire is represented by Phoenix Global Software in the UK. On par with XP Linspire has developed its OS to have file compatibility with Microsoft formats. Microsoft has been filing patents in this area which Robertson said could be used as a "hammer" to hit the smaller firms. Whilst not relishing a patent dispute, Robertson said Linspire would contest any Microsoft file format dispute. Linspire released the latest version of its Linux-based desktop operating system, Linspire 5.0, last month, touting ease-of-use and affordability as key selling points. Robertson told a meeting of early adopters, partners and journalists in London on Monday that the release was "on par with XP and better in some areas". Hardware support has traditionally been something of an Achilles heel for Linux but Robertson said hardware compatibility is far better than it was 12 months ago. "It's not just better support for graphics cards, Linspire 5.0 supports a wide variety of peripheral devices, including digital cameras and printers. Apps on Linux have also improved with developments in OpenOffice, Firefox," he added. ® Related stories Linspire debuts Linspire 5.0 Desktop Linux cracks Freak Mainstream Security Report: Windows vs Linux SuSE 8.2 approaches computing Nirvana Lindows postpones IPO
John Leyden, 18 Apr 2005
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Philips Q1 income takes €433m nosedive

Philips Electronics has blamed weak semiconductor sales and falling flat panel TV prices for a 79 per cent drop in quarterly net profits. The consumer electronics group posted earnings of €117m for the quarter ending 31 March, down from €550m for the same period a year ago. The company's LCD business (LG Philips LCD) made a net loss of €34m, compared with a net profit of €215m a year ago. Income from the semiconductor business fell from €69m in 2004, to €14m this quarter. The weakness of the dollar, and dollar related currencies, also had an effect the company said, as it reported flat sales of €6.64bn for the period. Despite the rather dismal looking numbers, Philips' president and CEO, Gerard Kleisterlee, tried to remain upbeat. In a statement, he said that he was pleased with the progress being made in consumer electronics, but acknowledged that the "cyclicality [sic] of the technology sector had a negative impact" on the overall results. Philips said it expected low-to-mid-single-digit sequential sales growth (in US dollar terms) in the next quarter. ® Related stories Sony to add Blu-ray and DSD to Vaio MPEG LA cuts mobile phone DRM tax Philips claims 'super Flash' memory breakthrough
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Apr 2005
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Centerprise rescues CFL Computer Systems from liquidation

Centerprise International, the UK PC builder, has rescued South Wales integrator CFL Computer Systems from liquidation. Falling profit margins forced CFL, which had a turnover of £4.25m and employed 27 people at its peak, into liquidation in March according to local reports. Centerprise has taken over the company's assets and re-employed eight of its remaining 12 staff, the reports said. The deal will allow Centerprise to increase its business in the principality and expand into the education market. CFL is the only indigenous South Wales PC manufacturing company to hold Becta accreditation. Centerprise recently opened at plant in Caerphilly. ® Related stories Centerprise buys disaster recover firm Centerprise hires 300 South Walians Winners named in £300m Laptops for Teachers gig
John Leyden, 18 Apr 2005
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Azul puts 384-way Java rocket up for sale

Azul Systems has turned the concept of a server appliance on its head with a soon to be released Java software crunching workhorse. A server appliance used to be a small, cuddly system with one or two processors that handled fixed functions well. It could hum away serving up web pages and required little administration. Start-up Azul has blown the top off this appliance definition by unveiling three systems that start with 96 processor cores at the low-end. That's right - low-end. Azul first discussed its proprietary Vega chip that sits at the heart of the new boxes back in October of last year. The chip is one of the most radical designs to date with a whopping 24 processor cores all dedicated to crunching away at software that uses virtual machine technology. Specifically, Vega-powered systems will be aimed at handling BEA's WebLogic and IBM's WebSphere Java-based application servers. (An Azul executive formally requested that we not suggest that Vega is only suited for Java processing even though that's the only kind of processing the company will commit to right now. Down the road, Azul might promote Vega's prowess with Microsoft's C# software, SAP products and even Python applications.) In the next couple of months, Azul will start shipping the 96-core system along with a 192-core box and a 384-core box. As you might expect, this horsepower ain't cheap. The 5U "low-end" system with 96 cores and 32GB of memory will start at $89,000. The 11U midrange box with 64GB of memory will cost $199,000 and the 11U high-end system with 128GB of memory will start at $499,000. A version of that system with 256GB of memory will also be available for $799,000. These prices may seem overwhelming, and trying to put things in perspective is little help. The midrange and high-end systems basically cost a bit more than $1,000 per processor core. You could theoretically compare that with a traditional one-way server. Less simplistic comparisons demand that you stack the Azul boxes against Unix SMPs from the likes of IBM and Sun Microsystems and against clusters of two-way and four-way Xeon servers. Then you start looking at what types of software loads are running on these systems and different transaction volumes and apples to apples quickly turns into mangos to kumquats. We can only assume that Azul will be more specific with potential customers on performance comparisons than it was with the press. The company told The Register that for low transaction loads, traditional systems may perform better since data must go to the application server, the Azul system and then the database. With large loads, however, customers should see the Azul boxes really kick in. "We have a guidelines that say, with the introduction of our system, you can increase your load anywhere from 5x to 30x with similar response times," said Shahin Khan, chief marketing officer at Azul and a former Sun executive. Basically, the Azul systems aren't meant to work as replacements for existing servers. Instead, they will be plugged into the data center and handle much of the processing load typically done by application servers. In addition, Azul has built in virtual machine specific tools such as speedy garbage collection tools to improve its performance with Java and similar software. Like any start-up, Azul has a number of challenges ahead of it. Most importantly, it will need to convince large customers to think about their server purchases in a new way. There are conceptual issues to deal with here along with concrete problems such as how BEA and IBM will price their software for the Azul systems. We're told both software makers will use a unique formula to determine how much a customer will pay for their application servers. "We've been working with IBM and BEA to come up with a licensing cost that is revenue neutral to them and cost neutral to the customer," Khan said. BEA has offered up a 25 per cent per processor licensing discount to customers using dual-core chips from Sun, IBM and AMD, while IBM treats dual-core chips like two separate processors and offers no discount. Apparently, however, an entirely new pricing scheme will apply for Azul. Good luck figuring out what "cost neutral" means in that world. In addition, the 150 person start-up needs to convince massive, transaction hungry customers that paying close to $1m for a single Java workhorse is a safe bet. Along those lines, Azul announced a recent agreement to work in conjunction with IBM's Global Services group for typical maintenance and training tasks. Azul will also let any customer try out a box for 45 days at no charge. If the customer likes the system, Azul will take back the trial box and ship out a brand new bit of kit. There's more information on the boxes available here. Happy processing. ® Related stories Get ready to buy chips by the kilo Java server startup nabs former Sun HPC boss Azul reveals supersonic Java machine Stealthy Azul's Java plans unstealthed DeWitt comes to terms with Cobalt's end
Ashlee Vance, 18 Apr 2005

Our phones don't work - Verizon boss

If you're infuriated by your cellphone's lousy reception indoors, stop fretting. It's a feature, not a bug. So says Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, who was interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle's Todd Wallack on Saturday. "Why in the world would you think your (cell) phone would work in your house?" he said. "The customer has come to expect so much. They want it to work in the elevator; they want it to work in the basement." Aren't these pesky customers a nuisance? Then again, if the cellphone carriers want to make headway into landline usage, they ought to provide some advantages over plain old copper. In Europe, the quality of cellphone reception is outstanding and often indistinguishable from a landline. In the interview, Seidenberg also shares his thoughts on Wi-Fi, the Qwest bid, and regulation. But we suspect his throwaway line about cellphones will be remembered long after these great issues of the day have been forgotten. It could be Verizon's Ratner moment. In 1991 Gerard Ratner, founder of the then ubiquitous chain of budget high street jewelry stores in the UK, was recorded at a private function confessing that his stores sold "total crap". Sales collapsed, Ratner was thrown off the board, and the chain was was renamed. ® Bootnote: What Ratner said: "We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say "How can you sell this for such a low price?" I say, because it's total crap." Related links More Ratner moments More recent Ratner moments Related stories Verizon buys slice of MCI Readers storm Verizon email blockade When Dinosaur telcos ruled the Earth 'Expect to be fired' says AT&T Wireless' Mr. Motivator
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Apr 2005