16th > June > 2005 Archive

server room

Red Hat salutes Opteron with dual-core happy update

Red Hat has embraced the dual-core age with an update to its server operating system that works with the latest processors from AMD and Intel. The software maker detailed Update 1 to Enterprise Linux 4 in a mailing list post put out last week. Along with dual-core support, Red Hat added a better "disk dump capability," a new IA-32 execution layer for the Itanium chip, new drivers for the Centrino chip and host of general security updates and bug fixes. The additions apply to all versions of Enterprise Linux 4 for Opteron, Xeon, Pentium, Power, Itanium and mainframe processors. "This kernel really took some beating," wrote one Red Hat staffer. "There's a number of memory leaks fixed in there which quite a few folks were hitting in production. Bizarrely, plugging those leaks brought out a number of other issues involving the out-of-memory killer, so various VM tweaking had to happen before this was ready to be pushed out. I'm pretty happy with how U1 (update 1) turned out, despite it being a complete mental drain, and total time sink for me personally. "Already we're working on getting U2 in shape, which should be more of the same, with some extra features thrown in for good measure." So far, AMD is leading the dual-core x86 pack with its release of a new Opteron back in April. Intel won't have a comparable Xeon until next year. The Unix crowd, of course, has been running on dual-core systems for quite some time now. ® Related stories Young Xen looks all grown up with SMP server slicer Intel ships 'multi-threading friendly' compilers Sun coughs up an OpenSolaris kernel Linux distro daddy goes to Redmond VMware starts virtual machine club for developers and ISVs Red Hat gives Fedora wings
Ashlee Vance, 16 Jun 2005
cloud

Your fingerprints are everywhere

CommentComment How much do you trust your government? That's a question that all of us have to ask, perhaps the more often the better. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of the United States and its third President, wrote to Abigail Adams sentences that may seem incredible to many people today: "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." One way to define a government is by whom it controls; in other words, governments serve to provide necessary services to their citizens, like roads and armies, but governments can also legally restrict your physical movements, your property, and your rights. That's why someone can sue you in civil court for money, but losing a civil suit cannot lead to your imprisonment or the loss of your civil rights. If you have the misfortune of being tried in criminal court, however, the state is your opponent, not an individual, and losing that trial can result in the loss of your freedoms of movement, property ownership, and civil rights. There are many actions taken in the name of security by governments - local, state, and national, and their agencies and representatives - that are rightfully troubling to those of us who think about security. An item was recently in the news (and believe me, it's but one of gazillions and I could fill a book with examples like this) that left me shaking my head and wondering just how much the people who think they're protecting us really understand about computer security. The Naperville Public Library in Naperville, Illinois (the board of which is appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council) is now going to ask patrons to submit fingerprints in order to verify the identities of patrons wishing to use the Internet terminals. Currently, parents can ask the library to filter the Internet access of their kids; according to the library, "filtered" kids are swapping library cards with kids whose parents have not asked for filters, so the little shavers are able to use the network without restrictions. (Other examples of governmental and non-governmental organizations asking for your fingerprints today: the Statue of Liberty, Disneyland, the US Border Patrol, plus even some tanning salons, and gyms.) . The Library claims that "[i]t is only the number, not the image of the fingerprint, that is stored in the system." On the face of it, it would be foolish for the library to lie about this, and it's true that many, if not most, fingerprint biometric systems work this way. But they don't have to. Couple that with the Library's rather disingenuous assurance that "... this information is borrower registration information and can only be revealed if required by court order." Under the terms of the USA PATRIOT Act, however, the FBI and other government agencies can ask libraries to reveal information about patrons at any time, without a warrant, and the libraries cannot reveal this snooping to their patrons. Putting aside the fact that it's really easy to fool fingerprint biometric schemes, Naperville's actions brings up some big questions: How much should you know about the public library? Do you know who runs the library? Do you trust them? Will the library really only keep a hashed number of your fingerprint and not your fingerprint itself? What is to prevent the FBI and other law enforcement organizations from getting that information by using the PATRIOT Act? What about when other governmental services, agencies, and organizations will soon start asking for fingerprints? It gets worse. Future passports are going to use biometrics and may have RFID chips embedded in them (thus broadcasting American's identities to anyone with a powerful enough RFID scanner). Do you use encryption software on your computer to keep it secure? A Minnesota appeals court has recently ruled that encryption software may be used as evidence of criminal intent (putting aside the fact that every computer out there has encryption software of some kind on it). It seems a regular occurrance that cops hassle photographers based on unconstitutional and, even worse, non-existent bans on photography in public places. A 57-year-old grandma and middle school principal forgets about the sandwich knife she put in her carry-on luggage; a TSA employee informs her upon finding it that she is now "considered a terrorist" and that "you don't have any" constitutional rights. And on and on. This is approaching madness. Money is mis-spent, impossible promises are made, laws and decisions are rushed into being without thinking through the consequences, and freedoms and liberties are constricted, all in the name of security and safety. And the worst thing of all is that most people - John and Jane Q. Citizen - have no idea at all that their government agencies are wasting time, money, and valuable manpower in largely futile efforts. Citizens are told by their governments that they are safer, but in far too many ways they are really not. What can people who know something about security do about this? It seems overwhelming and impossible; ignorance is a powerful force, especially when wielded by a government. Couple that with the natural tendency of too many people to believe those in authority - unthinkingly! - and we've got real trouble. Let's start small: talk to your family, your friends, your acquaintances. Educate the folks with whom you work. When something in the news provides you with what educators term a "teachable moment," take advantage of that to help people understand the proper use, and more importantly, mis-use of technology for security. Then move outward. We can write letters to the mass media. We can try to get interviewed by our local radio and TV stations. We can talk to everyone we know. We can contact our representatives, at all levels of government, and try to help them understand the difference between real security and a false, wasteful sense of false safety. I'm not saying it's going to be easy. It's not. Ignorance and fear have a way of constantly subverting knowledge and bravery. But that doesn't mean we can't rebel against them - and in this case, a little rebellion isn't just a good idea. It's a requirement. What are you going to do to make sure that your government really protects you, your family, those you love and care about, and your nation? Copyright © 2005, 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.
Scott Granneman, 16 Jun 2005

AOL faces $200m lawsuit

AOL is facing a $200m lawsuit for alleged patent infringement. Inventor Judah Klausner claims the internet giant's voice services platform - which includes AOL Voicemail, AOL Call Alert, AOL by Phone and AOL VOIP Internet Phone Service - infringes his company's US Patent, number 5,572,576. Klausner's company - Klausner Technologies - owns more than 20 patents worldwide that enable the remote retrieval of voice messages via the net or wireless network using a visual display. According to the suit filed by California law firm of Dovel & Luner in a federal court in Virginia, AOL violated Klausner's intellectual property rights because AOL's punters can be notified visually of new voice messages and can retrieve voice messages using their displays. Said Greg Dovel, a lawyer acting on behalf of Klausner: "Because of the fast-paced docket in the Eastern District of Virginia, we expect a quick resolution of the matter and the prompt issuance of an injunction that will stop AOL from using this patented technology." No one at AOL was available for comment at the time of writing. However, a spokesman for the Time Warner company has been quoted as saying that it will "consider [its] legal options" once it has had a chance to examine the details of the lawsuit. ® Related stories Samsung countersues Rambus Court rules against E-Data in 'Freeny' patent case Rambus sues Samsung Broadcom broadsides Qualcomm with wireless chip IP lawsuit Mistrial in Overture ad patent dispute Fortinet disputes Trend Micro patent ruling Test your own software code for infringement
Tim Richardson, 16 Jun 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Rambus counter sues Samsung

Rambus has added Samsung to the list of companies it accuses of colluding to harm it, the memory technology developer said yesterday. The move marks the latest stage in an escalating conflict between the two companies after they failed to agree on how to extend the DDR licence Samsung had already signed with Rambus. Rambus has already accused Hynix, Micron, Infineon and Siemens of antitrust law violations, in a complaint it filed with the California Superior Court in May last year. The May 2004 lawsuit accuses the defendants of conspiracy to establish a monopoly in order to restrict output and fix prices, all in violation of US antitrust law. It also claims they engaged in acts of unfair competition, contravening Californian statutes. That it has waited more than 12 months to add Samsung's name to the list of defendants suggests it has either uncovered new evidence during its negotiations with Samsung, it's a tactic to encourage the South Korean giant to return to the negotiating table, or both. "Rambus took this step after a series of other developments, which included Hynix's plea agreement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) promising cooperation in the DoJ's investigation of a possible DRAM industry conspiracy to fix RDRAM prices and otherwise eliminate competition in the 1999-2002 time period, and following Rambus' recent receipt of certain documents previously provided to the DoJ by Hynix and Micron in connection with the DoJ's ongoing criminal investigation," a Rambus US Securities and Exchange Commission filing reveals. Rambus sued Samsung earlier this month, claiming the South Korean company has infringed its intellectual property rights. It also suspended a licensing agreement due to expire at the end of this month in any case. Samsung responded with a lawsuit of its own which alleged Rambus had used its membership of Jedec's DDR standard-setting committee to grab ownership of technologies central to the standard. ® Related stories Samsung countersues Rambus Rambus sues Samsung Hynix makes $185m price-fixing confession to US DoJ FTC claims Rambus spoiled antitrust evidence Samsung founds $100m antitrust fines fund Four Infineon execs heading to jail on price-fixing charges Micron employees fixed DRAM prices Samsung founds $100m antitrust fines fund Judge throws out FTC case against Rambus
Tony Smith, 16 Jun 2005
channel

AMD ponders next fab site

AMD is deciding where to build its next fab, with an expansion of the chip maker's Dresden facility seen as the most likely candidate. Company CEO Hector Ruiz said last week at AMD's analyst conference that further fab capacity was going to be needed soon, a point he re-iterated this week in an interview with German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "It is very likely that by the beginning of 2008 we will need a new fab," he said. According to the paper, AMD has already begun discussing the matter with local authorities in Dresden and the Saxony state government, both of whom have helped the company on past fab projects with a variety of grants. AMD is currently constructing its Fab 36 in Dresden, its first 300mm wafer production plant. It is already producing chips on a trial basis, with full production anticipated early next year. Interestingly, insufficient production capacity is one of the reasons cited by sources close to Apple for the Mac maker's decision to look to Intel for x86 processors rather than AMD. AMD is aware of the capacity issue and last year began making overtures to foundries in a bid to find production partners. Such is the increasing cost of new plant that the foundry route may prove a more cost-effective future for AMD's chip production. In November 2004, AMD signed Singapore's Chartered Semiconductor to punch out AMD64 processors from 2006 onwards, possibly focusing on 65nm parts. The company's partnership with IBM in the development of 65nm and 45nm fabrication processes could see AMD making use of Big Blue's foundries. AMD has been claimed to have set itself the goal of a 25 per cent share of the x86 market, for which it believes it will need to grow its output capacity, from its own production lines and from others', significantly. ® Related stories Red Hat salutes Opteron with dual-core happy update IBM goes compute crazy with bladed Opteron cluster AMD launches dual-core Athlon 64 X2 AMD quad-cores due 2007 AMD 'on schedule' for 2006 65nm 300mm production AMD 'pursuing foundry partnerships' AMD signs foundry for 64-bit CPU production
Tony Smith, 16 Jun 2005
fingers pointing at man

Nvidia 'prunes prices' to boost demand

Expect Nvidia-based graphics cards to get cheaper as price cuts said to have been made by the chip maker filter through to board prices. According to sources from Taiwan's graphics card manufacturing community, cited by DigiTimes, Nvidia recently trimmed the prices of its GeForce 6600, 6200, FX5200 and MX4000 series, by between $1 and $15 per chip. The biggest cuts were made to the price of its GeForce 6200 with TurboCache, a low-end part pitched at system integrators as an alternative to integrated chipsets' on-board graphics engines. According to the sources, the cuts were made to increase demand during one of the market's more quiet periods. Some reports suggest that any increase in shipment volumes will not offset the reduced prices, harming Nvidia's Q3 revenues. The company's third quarter comes to a close at the start of August. ® Related stories ATI GPU to be first X part ATI to launch R520 '26 July' MS patches XP for HD video acceleration ATI slashes Q3 sales forecast Nvidia preps GeForce 7800 GFX Nvidia posts record revenues
Tony Smith, 16 Jun 2005

International child abuse database plans take shape

The world's richest countries plan to create a worldwide register of paedophiles to help police stamp out child abuse. The proposed international child sexual exploitation database, which would store images of offenders and abused children, is expected to receive the green light at a meeting of G8 justice and home affairs ministers in Sheffield on Thursday. Different police forces would have access to the database. UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who is due to chair the G8 meeting, said the register would be a "far more powerful tool" than police had now. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It will allow comparison of images in a controlled and secure way, to free up officers' time so they can investigate other images. The G8 two years ago commissioned a report on how we could do this with new technology and how we can work together well. Interpol has done the work... and there has been very good progress. As a means of tackling this kind of vile organised crime, it is very positive." A UK database run by British police which hosts 800,000 images has enabled police to identify 3,000 victims of abuse, the BBC reports. Pooling intelligence in a larger international database might make it easier to bring more paedophiles to justice and arrest the activities of international gangs. The Home Office estimates the database will cost £2m to set up and, providing governments reach an agreement, could be operational by the end of 2005. Countries outside the G8 would then be invited to join. ® Related stories UK police tackle mounting internet porn caseload New UK agency to target net paedophiles 102 UK kids saved from paedos UK Net paedo crackdown bags 600 Child porn suspect suicide tally hits 32 UK police build massive child porn database US.gov builds huge child porn database
John Leyden, 16 Jun 2005
homeless man with sign

Oil costs force 10% DVD±R price rise

Recordable DVDs are likely to become more expensive in coming months as rising oil prices push up plastic costs. At issue is the cost of optical-grade polycarbonate, the material used to protect the data-storage layers within DVD+R and DVD-R discs. The material's average price dropped to around $3.2 per kg back in April, DigiTimes notes, but now prices are rising again, reaching the previous record-high, $3.5 per kg, as crude prices have escalated. This year has seen already seen oil prices reach record highs. That is forcing disc makers to up their own prices, with Taiwanese manufacturers now planning increases of around ten per cent during Q3, local sources claim, according to the report. Last year, aggressive competition forced them to absorbed a 20 per cent increase in material costs, again driven by rising oil prices. Taiwan's optical disc makers include some of the industry's biggest players, including Ritek, CMC Magnetics and Prodisc. Together, they supplier more than half of the world's DVD±Rs, not to mention a comparable percentage of the CD-R and CD-RW discs that ship around the globe. They are expected to ship three billion recordable DVD units this year alone, rising to five billion in 2006. That's a lot of polycarbonate. ® Related stories Toshiba, Sony fail to agree - again TDK touts 100GB recordable Blu-ray Disc Californian boffins plot piracy-proof DVD players Toshiba unveils 45GB HD DVD Toshiba slams Blu-ray/ HD DVD convergence claims Counterfeit optical disks hit the UK channel
Tony Smith, 16 Jun 2005

Tiscali UK extends distie deal with W H Smith

Tiscali UK has extended a distribution deal with high street newsagent and stationers W H Smith. The pair first signed a distie deal with Smiths stocking Tiscali CDs back in 2003, but that partnership has now been extended until 2007. The "exclusive" offer available at the moment includes 1 Meg broadband (with a 2 gig a month cap) plus a voice calls package for £19.49 a month. Said Tiscali UK chief exec Mary Turner in a statement: "We are delighted to have extended our relationship with W H Smith and can now add great voice telephone deals, with or without broadband." ® Related stories Tiscali UK turns to unbundled broadband UK flies broadband flag for Tiscali Tiscali UK to invest £61m in LLU
Tim Richardson, 16 Jun 2005

Inflight mobile calls - it's going to happen

Ericsson has launched a system to provide in-flight mobile phone services ahead of a widely-anticipated end to the ban on calls during commercial flights The new Ericsson RBS 2708 base station functions like any other terrestrially-based mobile phone station and will allow passengers to place and receive calls when at cruising altitude. Airline passengers are currently instructed to switch off their mobile phones before a plane takes off, as the signals could interfere with aircraft instrumentation. But although the latest mobile technology has reduced the risk of interference, air safety regulations have not been changed to take this into account. Ericsson says that the RBS 2708 base station will not interfere with either the plane's instrumentation, or with terrestrial radio networks. The system can support up to 60 calls simultaneously and also offers support for dual-band phones. Richard Lord, project manager at Irish company Altobridge, told ElectricNews.net that its in-flight GSM products have already been installed on the Boeing 777 and Gulfstream 550 aircraft. Like Ericsson, Altobridge makes technology to allow for in-flight phone calls. Aviation authorities worldwide have a uniform ban on the use of mobile phones on commercial aircraft during flights. However, the body that advises the US authorities on these matters, the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA), is understood to be reconsidering the ban. Lord said that the RTCA's SC-202 working group on portable electronic devices was coordinating its work with its European counterparts and said that there were "quite positive" indications that the ban would be partially or fully rescinded. The US Federal Aviation Authority would have a final say on the matter in the US. In Europe, the ban would have to be rescinded by the aviation authorities of each of the member states. However, representatives of both the Irish Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency told ElectricNews.net that they were not aware of any imminent changes to existing policy on wireless devices. Copyright © 2005, ENN Related stories Mobile plane ban protects us from terrorists - FBI US broadband blimp test flight planned next month HELLO...I'M ON A PLANE...YES...A PLANE!! Intel backs in-flight Wi-Fi initiative
ElectricNews.net, 16 Jun 2005

Intel to add memory controllers to future Xeons, Itanics

Intel is to follow AMD's lead and integrate memory controllers onto its x86 server processors, computer maker SGI has claimed. Speaking to reporters this week, SGI's Senior VP and CTO, Eng Lim Goh, said the unified chipset will also see the memory controller moved from its traditional North Bridge location and onto the processor die. It's not going to happen until 2007, apparently, but when it comes it will be part of the chip giant's scheme to ship system logic that supports both its Xeon processor range and its Itanium family. Intel's plan to merge its Xeon and Itanium chipsets goes back to beyond April 2004, when the first hints that it had such a goal in mind emerged. In July 2004, Jason Waxman, then director of multiprocessor marketing for Intel's Enterprise Product Group, now its Digital Enterprise Group, said the company would ship unified chipsets by 2007. In the past, Intel has been dismissive of moves to put the memory controller on the processor. Its line has always been it makes more sense to leave it on the North Bridge because it's cheaper to upgrade chipset silicon to support new memory technologies than it is to update CPU silicon. That's one reason why AMD won't have DDR 2 support until next year, though the relative level of demand between DDR and DDR 2 has also played an important rule in the timing of AMD's move to DDR 2. AMD clearly decided it made more sense to wait until it was redesigning the die in any case than to re-spin its existing processors to support a memory technology that's some way from market dominance. However, shrinking process sizes - by 2007, Intel will be well into 65nm - give the company more transistors to play with, and sooner or later it was going to have to consider bringing North Bridge elements onto the CPU. The 2007 timeframe puts the emphasis on Intel's 'Tukwila' multi-core Itanium chip, and the 65nm multi-core Xeon part, 'Whitefield', both of which are expected to be the first two members of their respective processor families to utilise the unified interconnection architecture. ® Related stories Intel confirms Itanium has a future Intel to ship dual-core Xeon MP in Q1 06 Intel puts Itanium saviour on ice Intel: common Xeon, Itanic chipset by 2007 Intel to merge Xeon, Itanium chipsets
Tony Smith, 16 Jun 2005
globalisation

Corporates focus on basics for IT security defences

IT departments in large organizations still see firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, and anti-virus software as priority security defences despite recent hype about newer more exotic security technologies and threats, according to a survey by analysts Gartner. "Organisations are more concerned about viruses and worms than any other security threat," said Rich Mogull, vice president in Gartner's information security and risk research practice and one of the analysts who directed the survey. "Outside hacking, or cracking, as well as identity theft and phishing also are considered significant issues. Cyber-terrorism was ranked last among the 11 threats listed in the survey." The survey is based on responses from 133 North American organizations with a mean average of nearly 2,300 worldwide IT employees and a mean average of $207.4m in worldwide IT budget. Half these respondents said they increased IT security spending this year and expected to do so again in 2006. More than one-third of the respondents said the need to comply with new regulatory requirements, such as those mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), was a key driver in security spending. In addition to firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, and anti-virus defenses, other spending priorities include patch management, strong user authentication, remote access, vulnerability assessment, identity management, security event correlation and reporting, spam filtering and web-site filtering or blocking. More than half the respondents said they preferred buying 'best-of-breed' products from multiple technology providers while a third of those quizzed preferred integrated security suites, a preference catered for by a growing list of firms selling integrated security appliances. Top security threats, as ranked by IT staff quizzed by Gartner: Viruses and Worms Outside Hacking or Cracking Identity Theft and Phishing Spyware Denial of Service Spam Wireless and Mobile Device Viruses Insider Threats Zero Day Threats Social Engineering Cyber-Terrorism Highlights of the survey results were presented at Gartner's 11th annual IT Security Summit last week in Washington D.C. During the conference, Gartner slammed "over-hyped" security threats concerning mobiles viruses and wireless LANS that appear at seventh place on a list of what punters perceive as top security threats. Gartner also warned against equating regulatory compliance with security. But its latest survey shows that complying with laws like SOX is a key driver in security spending. Scoping information security threats is a difficult process not helped by the hype frequently propagated by segments of the industry. The most sensible approach to information security is based on a risk assessment grounded in the business needs of an organisation. Let's hope IT managers practice that regardless of what arguments they need to advance to secure their budget. ® Related stories Gartner lambasts security FUDmongers Security barometer survey - the results are in Public sector IT abuse still rife Pharming casts shadow over rising ecommerce sales Liberty goes after phishers Hackers plot to create massive botnet ISPs urged to throttle spam zombies
John Leyden, 16 Jun 2005

Nanotech at risk from silence on safety

Nanotechnology is in danger of being pigeonholed as a risky, hazardous and controversial business, a new study has found, because companies in the emerging field are not tackling the very real health and safety issues involved. In a report published this week, research and advisory firm Lux Research noted that the science of the very small involves both real and perceived dangers to the environment, and to health and safety in general. But nanotech startups are avoiding the subject because of a fear that "they may be held legally liable in the future for any admissions of risk made now," Reuters reports. While this might seem like a very sensible approach to take (given the increasingly litigious world in which we live) it opens the industry to other dangers. Lux warns that unless the industry itself is more robust in dealing with questions over health and safety, it risks being hamstrung by public opposition, particularly in the event of some kind of mishap. "Consumer awareness of nanotech is so low that no hardened opinions exist, so there's room for fact-based debate," the report says. "However, stakeholders in the commercialization of nanotechnology have massively undercommunicated on [environmental, health and safety] issues to date and risk losing the battle for mindshare by default." It warns that there is currently very little hard data on the subject, and says that the debate is largely characterised by "a chorus of voices and strongly held opinions". It also argues that activists have begun protesting against the technology by disrupting international nanotech conferences, using similar tactics to those who oppose genetically modified foods or stem cell research. The science of nanotechnology has the potential to underpin a new multi-billion dollar industry, so any potential threats to its commercialisation should certainly be addressed. But commercial considerations cannot be the only ones. There has been research indicating that buckyballs, for example, are toxic to fish. More recently, US researchers have shown that the carbon 60 molecule can restrict the growth of soil bacteria. The technology has huge positive potential too: researchers in Italy think nanotubes could play a vital role in future treatments of spinal cord injury, for example. It is the breadth of possible applications for the science that makes it so interesting. It is also what makes it so vulnerable, since in its various forms it could end up offending everyone from eco-warriors through to privacy advocates. Joining the debate properly, and sooner rather than later, is something the commercial side of the industry would be unlikely to regret. ® Related stories Nanotubes help neurons get chatty Scientists push bacteria to quadruple hydrogen production Nanotech's grand challenge is sustainable development
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Jun 2005

eBayers banned for wrecking Live 8 ticket auctions

eBay's PR nightmare continues to rumble on as it emerged the auction site has banned bidders who deliberately sabotaged auctions for Live 8 tickets. The auction giant had decided to ban the sale of the charity gig tickets following pressure from Bob Geldof. But not before Saint Bob unleashed a verbal onslaught effectively calling eBay a "virtual ticket tout". As part of Geldof's rant, he called on people to place "impossible bids" to prevent sales. But those who've followed Geldof's rallying cry are themselves being targeted by eBay after wrecking auctions by bidding as much as £10m for tickets. In a statement eBay said: "We do not condone the behaviour of the small number of individuals who have expressed their views by maliciously bidding on ticket auctions and threatening the stability and security of the eBay marketplace. "New eBay members placing multiple malicious bids from accounts clearly set up with the sole purpose to hoax bid are being suspended immediately. We have no plans to make exceptions for hoax bidders on Live 8 ticket listings." Elsewhere, Lib Dem MP Don Foster MP has jumped on the Live 8 bandwagon and called on eBay to introduce a charity auction site. "eBay's climb down on Live 8 mustn't obscure the way in which bogus charitable auctioneers have profited in the past and will do so again unless eBay acts now," he said. "The public's fury at the sick profiteering over Live 8 shows that eBay can no longer afford to ignore its social responsibility in this area. "eBay already has a charitable auction site in the United States. Four months ago I was told by eBay in this country that it hoped to introduce a similar site 'soon'. They should wait no longer." Of course, eBay UK already runs a charity auction section used by groups including Oxfam and lifeboat charity RNLI. An eBay spokeswoman told us: "A review of the charities section of the site is underway at the moment aimed at bringing it more in line with eBay's Giving Works in the US but we're not sure as yet when this will be launched in the UK." ® Related stories Don't flog Live 8 tickets on eBay, pleads eBay eBay bows to Saint Bob over Live 8 Boycott eBay, says Saint Bob Live 8 getz 1m txts for tikits
Tim Richardson, 16 Jun 2005
chart

ATI quietly launches Radeon X550

ATI's Radeon X550 chip doesn't appear on the company's website, but that hasn't stopped Taiwanese vendor Info-Tek announcing a pair of graphics cards based on the part. A mention of the X550 has also been found lurking in ATI's latest Catalyst driver, 5.6, verifying that it's a genuine ATI product. The driver reveals the X550 is essentially a higher-clocked X300. It's based on the same core as the older chip, the RV370, with four pixel pipelines and a pair of vertex engines. While the X300 is clocked at 325MHz, the X550 comes in at 400MHz. That ups the fill rate from 1.3bn texels per second to 1.6bn. The X550 is used in Info-Tek's Gecube Radeon HM550 and Gecube Radeon X550 PCIe boards. Both have 128MB of on-board memory but use ATI's HyperMemory technology to grab extra buffer space from the host PC's main memory bank. The HM550 uses a 64-bit memory bus, the other card a 128-bit one. They support video resolutions of up to 2048 x 1536. Hong Kong's HIS has also announced an X550-based board, the HIS X550 iFan, again with 128MB of on-board DDR SDRAM, clocked to 500MHz and operating across a 128-bit bus. HyperMemory expands the total memory available to the GPU to 256MB. Once more, the maximum supported resolution is 2048 x 1536. The board uses HIS' low-noise active cooling system. ® Related stories Nvidia 'prunes prices' to boost demand ATI GPU to be first X part ATI to launch R520 '26 July' ATI slashes Q3 sales forecast ATI unveils CrossFire Nvidia preps GeForce 7800 GFX
Tony Smith, 16 Jun 2005
channel

Shuttle XPC SN25P barebones SFF PC

ReviewReview Shuttle's latest small form-factor barebones is certainly a stylish box. The light blue metallic and black front shows Shuttle's usual attention to design. The blue bits hide the drives and the front ports, which might or might not be to your liking, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.
Trusted Reviews, 16 Jun 2005

Heineken pops the top on free music downloads

Dutch brewer Heineken, whose beer once famously refreshed the parts other beers couldn't reach, is to give away music downloads. The tracks comes courtesy of UK digital music pioneer Wippit. Packs of the brewer's four-packs and six-packs, and its 24-bottle boxes branded with the World Gigs label all contain a download code. Just text the code to Wippit and you'll receive a free download e-voucher on your phone. Enter the voucher code on the Heineken World Gigs website and you're away. In our book, anyone who can text a promo code and the word 'pack' to a five-digit number after downing 24 lager stubbies deserves a free MP3 track. Apparently the code is printed inside each pack, so there's no point hurrying down to your local offy/bottleshop with a pen and paper. Heineken also limits punters to no more than three free downloads a week, which is one heck of a lot of booze. It's also the price of three text messages, so the tracks aren't quite as 'free' as the partners would have us believe - especially if you weren't planning to buy the beer in any case. But they're still pretty cheap. The packs also provide the opportunity to win tickets to Heineken World Gigs-sponsored concerts around the globe, including the Montreux Jazz Festival - nice - Sydney's Vibes Festival and Amsterjam in New York. The World Gigs promo runs from now through to the end of September. Altogether now: "The waw'a in Madgowka don't taste like wot i' orta..." ® Related stories Ericsson allies with Napster on mobile music Microsoft mulls music subscriptions Snocaps opens P2P music tracker to all BPI won't let up on downloaders Japan iTunes August launch report 'untrue' Napster vows to maintain premium pricing BT and Sony offer free music downloads
Tony Smith, 16 Jun 2005
channel

UK under cyber blitz

Hackers are targeting British workers with a series of specially crafted Trojan horse attacks. The attacks are delivered either through email attachments or through links to maliciously-constructed websites, the UK's National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC) warned on Thursday. Approximately 300 UK government departments and businesses critical to the country's infrastructure have been the subject of Trojan horse attacks, many reportedly originating in the Far East. "The attackers' aim appears to be covert gathering or transmitting of commercially or economically valuable information," NISCC warns. The attacks seek to compromise computers so that remote hackers can steal privileged information and potentially launch further attacks. Infected email employ social engineering tricks, for example posing as information relevant to a target's job. "Once installed on a user's machine, Trojans may be used to obtain passwords, scan networks, exfiltrate [send out] information and launch further attacks," according to NISCC. "Anti-virus software and firewalls do not give complete protection. Trojans may communicate with the attackers using common ports (eg HTTP, DNS, SSL) and can be modified to avoid anti-virus detection." Paul King, principal security consultant at Cisco Systems UK, said the attacks demonstrated how conventional anti-virus scanning software was ineffective at stopping new and unknown attacks. "The role of anti-virus has become to throw away known bad stuff. Other technologies, such as host-based intrusion prevention, are needed to defend against previously unseen attacks." NISCC said the attacks had being going on for some time but have recently become more sophisticated. Mark Sunner, CTO of UK-based email security firm MessageLabs, said it had recorded instances of the attacks for more than a year. "These are targeted attacks, very low in number and often featuring hand-crafted exploits. They're barely on the radar. These are not mass mailers. We only see between 10 and 100 infected emails per attack and around two attacks per week. "There's no rhyme or reason to the industry sectors targeted, certainly they aren't particularly focused on financial institutions." Although similar methods are been used, NISSC said they are distinct from an industrial espionage scandal targeting Israeli firms that emerged with the arrest of 21 people in the UK, Israel and elsewhere last month. It said the majority of the attacks seen so far had targeted central government though private sector firms are also under fire. NISCC has documented the attack and put together a set of recommendations on defence strategies in a nine-page document here. An appendix details the designation given by anti-virus firms for Trojans used in the attack. All listed Trojans at the time of writing are Windows specific. ® Related stories Hackers plot to create massive botnet ISPs urged to throttle spam zombies Duo charged over DDoS for hire scam Britain tops zombie PC charts Israel unmasks spyware ring
John Leyden, 16 Jun 2005
fingers pointing at man

IBM grows Tivoli with Isogon

IBM is fleshing out its Tivoli management suite to tackle regulatory compliance and license tracking on legacy systems with the acquisition of Isogon Corp. The deal, announced Thursday, will integrate Isogon's software use and tracking system for mainframes with IBM's Linux, Unix and Windows management suite. Isogon is a privately held company and financial terms were not revealed, although IBM said it expects the deal would close during the third quarter of 2005. Isogon is an existing IBM partner and, between them, the companies share 200 customers. According to IBM, Isogon's technology will play a "key role" in its ongoing IT service management strategy for the automation and integration of businesses processes. Isogon's SoftAudit gathers inventory and usage data for zOS and Unix servers while Spotlight+ displays data in customizable views and reports. IBM said the deal meant customers can tackle compliance with regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley because it provides them with an annual account of IT assets and expenditure. Customers would also be able to manage software licenses, saving money by removing unwanted licenses and tracking growth patterns in software use.® Related stories IBM puts a little Tivoli in Rational Microsoft's Virtual Server to become a 'feature' in 2009 Sun details server management, DRM goals with Microsoft
Gavin Clarke, 16 Jun 2005

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Team Register, 16 Jun 2005
globalisation

Pay to play with Microsoft's Indigo

Open source developers porting Microsoft's Indigo and Avalon subsystems for Windows to Linux or Unix will have to go through Microsoft before getting their hands on Windows APIs and protocols. Microsoft has confirmed developers planning to clone Indigo or Avalon will have to first engage in talks on licensing the company's Intellectual Property (IP). The policy is likely to kill budding interest from the open source community in further extending aspects of the Windows and .NET architectures to Linux and Unix. The company came clean after developers who'd cloned other elements of Windows under the Mono Project said they are turning their attention to Indigo, the web services communications platform, and the Avalon GUI. At the time, Microsoft suggested developers could hit a licensing snag as it has so-far not been approached to discuss licensing of Indigo or Avalon APIs. Mono has worked by implementing elements of Microsoft's .NET Framework made available by Microsoft as standards through the European Computer Manufacturers' Association (ECMA) and the International Organization for Standards (ISO). Mono built implementations of Visual C# .NET, Visual Basic .NET, ASP.NET and ADO.NET, along with open source, Unix and Gnome libraries. Microsoft submitted its then-new Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) and Visual C# .NET languages for standardization in 2000, it said, to help standardize key technologies for greater interoperability between computing environments. At the time, Microsoft said the submission to ECMA would: "Help companies leverage existing knowledge and current investments in software development infrastructure to build the next-generation internet." The suspicion was, though, Microsoft was simply using standards to help quickly seed the market, especially the academic community, with these newer technologies - technologies that are regarded as vital to Microsoft's future direction. However, Microsoft regards Indigo, and Avalon, as features that will be important to Longhorn, Windows XP and Windows Server Release 2, and which it should retain control of. Developers who connect to Indigo using implementations of the Microsoft and IBM authored WS- specifications, currently navigating the OASIS and W3C standards processes, though, are in the clear, and do not need to approach Microsoft on licensing of technology used in the WS- specifications. "If someone wanted to build an implementation of the WS- protocols that could talk to Indigo, they can use the public specs to build their own implementation. If however, someone wanted to clone Avalon or Indigo from top to bottom (that is, from APIs down to protocols) they'll probably want to approach Microsoft about licensing," a Microsoft spokeswoman told The Register. Separately, Microsoft has confirmed all components of its planned application lifecycle management (ALM) suite - Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) - will launch with the main Visual Studio 2005 integrated development environment (IDE) during the week of 7 November. VSTS consists of Visual Studio Edition for Software Architects, Visual Studio for Software Developers, Visual Studio for Software Testers and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server. Also due, will be Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the Microsoft Office System, Visual Studio 2005 Standard, Visual Studio 2005 Professional and .NET Framework 2.0.® Related stories Indigo not so open as .NET Framework? Black is white in Longhorn compatibility land Avalon, WinFS decoupled for Windows Shorthorn Avalon faces axe as Microsoft dismembers Longhorn
Gavin Clarke, 16 Jun 2005

Liberty, UGC complete merger

Cable TV giant Liberty Media International, Inc. (LMI) and broadband outfit UnitedGlobalCom, Inc. (UGC) have completed the merger they agreed earlier this year. The deal was closed yesterday with an overwhelming majority of shareholders voting in favour of the merger. As a result of the deal, Liberty Global has become the new parent company of LMI and UGC. With operations in 18 countries and networks that pass nearly 23 million homes, Liberty Global has become one of the largest broadband services companies in the world. Said chairman John Malone in a statement: "As our operations in Europe, Japan and Chile have demonstrated over the last five years, the broadband video, voice and data business outside the US is a fantastic growth story." He added that the company was well placed to expand in Europe and Japan. Last month UGC bought NTL's cable business in Ireland for €325m (£222m). ® Related stories Liberty Media and UnitedGlobalCom to merge NTL flogs Irish cableco
Tim Richardson, 16 Jun 2005

Home automation players lock horns...

This week, two wireless home automation technology groups held showcase events in two different Nordic capitals. And their products both begin with a ‘Z’. Both companies sell low power radio networks cheap enough to install all over your house. Yesterday ZigBee alliance showcased its products in Oslo, attended by Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe, who is an investor in one of the leading ZigBee chip providers, Ember. The day before, Zensys held an event in Copenhagen where they showcased their rather more established wireless technology, Z-Wave. The possible applications of these two are almost endless. If you’re the sort of person who continually worries that you’ve left the iron on, a ZigBee or Z-Wave-enabled plug or socket could let you monitor it through your mobile phone. It could open your garage door, switch on your hot tub, detect burglars, or keep an eye on your frail grandparents. One of the most compelling applications could well be power monitoring. Lights in empty rooms could be switched off, or energy companies could turn down everyone’s aircon units if they were running close to a brown-out, very handy in backward areas where energy supply is a little shaky - like California. All these ideas have been around since the Jetsons, and have been demoed in endless ‘home of the future’ scenarios before. But ZigBee and Z-Wave are finally starting to arrive in products which ordinary homeowners can buy. In technology terms, the two have a lot of similarities. They’re both mesh radio standards, designed for low-power applications for monitoring and control. They transmit very small amounts of data at very low power, so that the devices they’re connecting can keep running for several years without having their batteries replaced. Zensys has the lead in technology terms - it has been shipping a single-chip solution since 2002, and it’s about half the price of ZigBee chips from Ember, which cost $5. It also uses a less crowded piece of radio spectrum, 868MHz in Europe and 906MHz in the US, whereas ZigBee uses the busy 2.4GHz used by Bluetooth, DECT and 802.11b. Zensys also has a raft of companies already using its technology, including some of the biggest makers of high-end lighting, garage doors and so forth. Zensys is more focused on the home automation market, whereas ZigBee is also targeted at industry, science, agriculture, and even the military. Nonetheless, some home automation companies have announced ZigBee products, including Eaton and Control4. However, Z-Wave is still pretty close to its roots as a proprietary product. “It is an open standard because we licence it on non-discriminatory terms,” says Zensys vice president Chris Johnson. A second silicon supplier is due to announce later this year, he says, but they still have to pay licensing fees to Zensys to use the technology. ZigBee, on the other hand, is a genuine standard, with all the problems that entails. It’s slower to market - The first release, ZigBee 1.0, was agreed this year – but it should give manufacturers a greater choice. Intel is to be playing an interestingly ambiguous role in the dispute. The chip giant is a powerful champion of wireless technologies, with both wi-fi and Wimax benefiting from its patronage. Officially, the company is a supporter of both, though Intel Capital is an investor in Zensys, and Intel is not a member of the ZigBee alliance. An Intel spokesperson said that this was because the company is not happy with the ZigBee alliance’s attitude to intellectual property. Security is also likely to be a tough nut to crack. Without some robust security, a skilful practical joker could terrorise a ZigBee or Zensys-enabled home with devastating Poltergeist-style drive-by hacks, turning lights on an off at will, sending garage doors into a frenzy, or setting the hot tub thermostat to 100 degrees centigrade. A burglar alarm which could be disabled with a strong burst of 2.4 GHz noise wouldn’t help the homeowners sleep more easily. However, there are also question marks about interoperability. Bluetooth was beset with such problems in its early years, as different equipment on the same so-called standard wouldn’t talk to each other. Garage door buyers are not used to pondering the compatibility of software stacks and device protocols, and will be less tolerant than high-end phone users of arbitrary incompatibility. The fact that there are already two systems competing for this market doesn’t make the homeowner’s life any easier. “It’s not a good start when you already have conflicting standards,” says Ovum analyst Elsa Lion. “It is as if, when Bluetooth started, Nokia had started developing on a different standard to Ericsson.” Related stories French join motorised Lizard Alliance Roadtesting the wireless home
Ben King, 16 Jun 2005
homeless man with sign

NetApp secures future with $272m Decru buy

Looking to add more muscle to its compliance pitch, Network Appliance has picked up secure storage specialist Decru for $272m. The deal gives NetApp a strong maker of encryption appliances that can plug into storage networks using more traditional direct attached products or complex NAS (network attached storage) and SAN (storage area network) systems. NetApp plans to operate Decru as an independent business unit should the acquisition meet standard approvals and close by October, as expected. The purchase price is made up of about 80 per cent stock and 20 per cent cash. "In an era where data is a precious asset and security threats to that data are accelerating, encryption is a key element of any data infrastructure," said Dan Warmenhoven, CEO of NetApp. "Recent, highly public mishaps point to the need for companies and governments to more effectively protect sensitive business, employee, partner, customer, and intelligence data." Decru, founded in 2001 on the back of $45m in venture financing, boasts more than 100 customers. It has been shipping product for two years and has systems aimed at the SAN, NAS, iSCSI and tape markets. It can encrypt data being sent between systems and then archive encrypted data on disk or tape. Such a service could be valuable to customers looking to meet high regulatory compliance standards for protecting information. NetApp and Decru have already partnered together to win a US Department of Defense contract. In addition, Decru claims the likes of EMC, IBM and Hitachi as allies. Decru brought in just $6m in revenue last year but expects to post $8m, $9m and $10m in revenue in its next three quarters, respectively. It has enjoyed a recent boost from government and corporate customers using the encryption technology on their tape archives. NetApp is pleased with Decru's revenue prospects and with what it sees as a large technology lead over the competition. "We think they have about a two-year headstart over the competitors,"Warmenhoven said. "I think the price was fair . . . This was an expensive acquisition, but we think it's justified." Close to one-fifth of Decru's current business is done in partnership with NetApp. Other strong partners include StorageTek, IBM and HP. These close ties to some of NetApp's rivals raise obvious questions about whether or not Decru can still be seen as an almost independent player. "We are committed to maintaining and extending those relationships after the acquisition closes," Warmenhoven said.® Related stories Xen grows up with SMP server slicer Larry Ellison's storage toy goes after EMC and NetApp Storage software sales surge StorageTek wants to fix your content with IntelliStore
Ashlee Vance, 16 Jun 2005

Intermix offers NY's Spitzer $7.5m to settle adware suit

Web marketing outfit Intermix has agreed to pay $7.5m over three years to settle an adware lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eliot 'The Blitzer' Spitzer. Under the terms of a tentative agreement, Intermix agrees never to distribute adware again. Intermix - which admits no wrongdoing in the proposed settlement - claims it voluntarily stopped distributing its contentious adware, redirect and toolbar programs some unspecified time ago. Spitzer's office filed a suit against Los Angeles-based Intermix in April after a six month investigation that implicated the firm in infesting millions of home computers with nuisance programs and worse. According to this complaint, Intermix owns and operates a wide range of web sites, including mycoolscreen.com, cursorzone.com and flowgo.com, which advertised "free" software available for download, including screensavers, screen cursors and games. Along with these programs comes invasive ad-ware programs which allegedly get installed without the consent of consumers visiting these sites. Among these malign programs are KeenValue, which serves pop-up ads and IncrediFind, which redirects web addresses to Intermix's proprietary search engine. Other programs placed advertising "toolbars" on users' screens. Intermix said these accusations relate to historical business practices which it has already dropped. It claims to have further cleaned up its act by creating a position of chief privacy officer and joined industry self-regulation group, the Network Advertising Initiative, since Spitzer's lawsuit was filed in April. Both sides of the argument reckon a final agreement, which needs to be court approved, is two or three weeks away. News of the tentative settlement agreement came on Tuesday after Intermix posted a Q4 net loss of $409,000 compared with a loss of $4.4m last year, Reuters reports. Intermix shares rose 71 cents, or 12 per cent, on Wednesday morning trading on the American Stock Exchange following news of the settlement and its financial results, AP reports. ® Related stories Adware-infected PCs net slimeware firms $3 a pop Spitzer the Blitzer goes after music label payola Spam King dodges $20m big stick 'Spamford' Wallace agrees to stop spyware assault
John Leyden, 16 Jun 2005

Reg Readers on Collaboration

Reg Reader StudiesReg Reader Studies Yet again, The Register readers have helped us bust through some of the hype that exists in the industry. Over 3,400 of you responded to the last reader survey on collaboration and some of things you told us were pretty interesting. Firstly, the obvious stuff. Not surprisingly, e-mail was regarded as a business critical application by over 70 per cent of respondents, with most of the rest saying that it was important. It was also no surprise that the vast majority of organisations make use of information repositories of one kind or another to share information internally, though a bit more interesting to see 30 per cent of you telling us that these repositories have now been opened up to customers, partners, and so on for external access. It seems as if some of the portal technology such as Sharepoint and Workplace that is designed particularly for internal and extranet use, is taking root. Turning to more real-time collaboration, the picture is mixed with traditional telephone conferencing. About half of respondents overall told us they used telephone conferences frequently in place of face to face meetings, though usage was skewed towards larger organisations who are more likely to have the necessary internal infrastructure in place. This points to a clear need for cost effective services from the likes of BT, for example, whose charges for teleconferencing services are higher than many smaller businesses are willing to pay. Disappointingly for many enthusiastic vendors, the picture for video conferencing is extremely bad (forgive the pun). Many larger corporates have invested in dedicated video conferencing suites, but they just sit there gathering dust in 60 per cent of cases, with very little usage. Respondents also made it clear that the jury is still out on the relevance and user experience of desktop conferencing. But instant messaging (IM) is becoming hot for business use, with a surprisingly high 40 per cent of organisations now formally accepting its use and about another quarter acknowledging more ad hoc adoption by users. And distribution of activity is quite an eye-opener also. Adoption is polarised, with high levels of use in the very large organisations who have been investing in enterprise class IM facilities, and small organisations working under a relatively relaxed IT regime in which public IM services may be used freely. There's lots more details and some other interesting stuff on push-to-talk mobile services, use of integrated desktop collaboration tools, and which types of communication people regard as being part of the formal record, so please download your copy of the report here. In the meantime, picking up on what you told us about the criticality of email to most businesses, we have just kicked off another study drilling down on this and looking at email delivery, support and migration. As always, we would be really interested in your views.
Quocirca, 16 Jun 2005
chart

Enter Avalanche: P2P filesharing from Microsoft

Researchers at Microsoft's computer science lab in Cambridge have developed a peer-to-peer filesharing system that they say overcomes the scheduling problems associated with existing distribution protocols such as Bit Torrent. The researchers claim download times are between 20-30 per cent faster, using their network coding approach, than on systems that only code at the server, and between 200 and 300 per cent faster than distributing un-encoded information. Naturally, Microsoft is very keen to stress that this technology should be used for distributing legitimate content. It even put that in italics in the press material. The basic principle of the system, dubbed Avalanche, is pretty much the same as BitTorrent. Certainly the problem it solves is: a large file needs to be distributed to many people. One server does not have the bandwidth to deal with all that traffic, so you need to find another way of getting the file to everyone who needs it. If the file is broken up into smaller pieces, these can be distributed among a smaller number of people, who can then share the pieces to make sure they all eventually have the complete file. The problem with this approach, as anyone who has ever tried to download content on the system - legitimate or otherwise - knows, is that towards the end of a download, any one downloader could have a while to wait for the particular pieces he needs. As the number of receivers increases, scheduling traffic also becomes more complex, and the whole process slows down. Microsoft Research's approach gets around this by re-encoding all the pieces, so that each one that is shared is actually a linear combination of all the pieces, fed into a particular function. The blocks are then distributed with a tag that describes the parameters it contains. Once you have downloaded a few of these, you can generate new combinations from the ones you have, and send those out to your peers. Collect enough of these pieces, and you will have enough information to reconstruct the whole file. Even if you don't have all the original pieces distributed by the person who held the original version of the file. Peers can make use of any new piece, instead of having to wait for specific chunks that are missing. This means no one peer can become a bottle neck, since no piece is more important than any other. It also means overall network traffic is lower, since the same information doesn't have to travel back and forth multiple times. Nifty, no? Have a read of the research paper here (pdf), if this is your kind of thing. ® Related stories Spaniards stick sword in P2P website High Court orders ISPs to name file-sharers German court protects P2P ne'er-do-well
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Jun 2005

Pipex offers voice bundle

Pipex is offering its broadband punters the option of making 3,000 minutes worth of calls a month for just an extra £5 a month. The deal "creates substantial savings over similar services from BT" claims Pipex as well as offering cheaper calls to mobiles and overseas numbers. Pipex Talk is expected to be made available from next month although punters can register their interest from Monday. The free 3,000 minutes a month for £4.99 apply to UK local and national calls with numbers beginning 01 and 02. Pipex - which has more than 200,00 broadband punters - will charge internet and voice calls on a single bill. Punters who sign up for Pipex Talk still need to pay BT for line rental. Said Pipex's Dominic Crolla: "The introduction of Pipex Talk will release a few pounds every month for our customers who switch their voice services away from BT, without any fuss." Last month AOL UK joined the growing list of companies offering phone services to residential customers. AOL Talk includes unlimited UK local and national calls at any time of the day or night and costs £9.99 a month. ® Related stories AOL UK offers phone service Post Office delivers phone service TalkTalk TemptsTempts SMEsSMEs Pipex snaps up web host outfit
Tim Richardson, 16 Jun 2005

US postpones biometric passport plan - again

The US government has again pushed back the date by which biometric information must be included in passports of foreigners visiting the country. Countries with US visa waiver agreements are no longer required to issue their citizens with passports using chips that store biological information by 26 October, 2005. Instead, governments must present the US with "an acceptable plan to begin issuing integrated circuit, or e-passports, within one year" by that 26 October date, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Thursday. It's the latest setback in an e-passport plan that was already pushed back a year, from October 2004. The DHS said simply it was making this latest change following consultation with Congress and the Department of State, however reports have said officials are having second thoughts on biometric passports having recognized the technical challenges inherent in implementing biometric systems. Countries will now be required to issue their citizens with passports that support digital photographs, in a considerable downgrading of plans.® Related stories US biometric ID request raises ID concern in UK ID cards technology is ready, says UK minister EU biometric visa trial opts for the tinfoil sleeve Privacy groups slam US passport technology
Gavin Clarke, 16 Jun 2005
For Sale sign detail

Dell 'happy' to ship Mac OS X-based PCs

Michael Dell would like to license Mac OS X and ship it with future PC products, the Dell founder and chairman has revealed. It's not likely to happen any time soon, of course - Apple CEO Steve Jobs has already said it's not something he wants to do for now - but according to name-dropping Fortune online columnist David Kirkpatrick, Dell would jump at the chance if offered. "If Apple decides to open the Mac OS to others, we would be happy to offer it to our customers," Dell apparently wrote in an email. He's not the only one, apparently. Plenty of industry figures dismiss the Mac as a niche platform in public, but behind closed doors they see the potential in Apple's Unix-based yet slick-looking OS. One Intel acquaintance of ours has often berated the "non-standard" platform, though we suspect he's a little more keen on it since Jobs' announcement he will use Intel processors in future. It does seem to be the case that Mac OS X is winning grudging respect from the PC world, primarily because of its relative freedom from malware. That's not going to change when it arrives running on x86 processors, any more than the operating system somehow becoming more compatible with Windows. But it's interesting the way that some observers see that as being the case. In reality, the situation isn't going to change. Using an x86-based Mac is going to leave your information no more, or less compatible with the rest of the computing world than using a PowerPC-based Mac is. Moving data from Windows to Mac, or vice versa, isn't going to be any easier, or any harder. The only 'benefit' will be that if you don't like Mac OS X, you'll be able to wipe it and install Windows on your Mac. Apple has said it won't stop users doing that, though it will prevent PC owners installing Mac OS X on their machines. For a minority, the ability to run Windows alongside Mac OS X will be advantageous, just as plenty of Linux users do the same, primarily to play the latest games. But should Apple offer Mac OS X to PC makers and even end-users? It's easy to see such a move as the logical step, but Apple needs to be certain that a sufficiently large number of customers will put down $100 or so for a copy and that sufficient numbers of the faithful will not stop buying Apple hardware and instead run Mac OS X on cheap PC kit. All these factors are there on the Apple strategic spreadsheet, and there may come a time when the crucial cell changes colour from red to black, but it will be some way off. Apple has to sell a lot more boxes yet, and while the Mac Mini has proved a sterling success, there's little evidence yet that either the price of the machine or the iPod halo effect is pulling over significant numbers of Windows users. There are some PC owners who'd run Macs if they could afford them, but most are clearly sufficiently happy with Windows that shifting to the Mac is not so much undesirable as unnecessary. For others - and here I could mention a number of non-technical PC owners of my acquaintance - the compatibility issues make moving to the Mac a non-starter, and as I say, that's not going to change when OS X goes x86. Right now, there is simply insufficient demand for Mac OS X on Intel. Michael Dell says he'd like to offer it to his customers, but there's no firm evidence they would take him up on it. Techies might have very firm views on which operating system they use - the first PC I ever bought was very quickly reconfigured as a BeOS machine - but no one else cares too much. If they did, they'd all be running Linux by now, or have migrated to the Mac. Alas it's just too easy to make the default selection, and as long as that's the case, Microsoft can relax while Apple works hard to persuade people to splash out on a new OS. ® Related stories REALbasic 2005 ships for Mac, WinXP, Linux Waiting for Intel, Apple faces massive Osborne chill The Osborne Effect spooks Apple Intel today, Microsoft tomorrow for Apple? Apple CEO promises two-year Intel conversion Apple pulls the ultimate switch with Intel embrace Apple shifts to Intel: what is all the fuss about?
Tony Smith, 16 Jun 2005

AOL rebuts zombie network slur

AOL has described a report which brands it as running the most zombie infected network on the internet as "meaningless" because it fails to take into account its large user base. Security firm Prolexic reports that AOL was the biggest single source of DDoS attacks over the last six months, accounting for 11.3 per cent of attacks in the US and 5.3 per cent worldwide. But AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein argues that its 21.7m US members meant it had 40 per cent of the US market, so figures from Prolexic that 11 per cent of hostile attacks monitored in the US can be traced back to AOL's network meant the ISP had a lower than industry average infection rate. Barrett Lyon, CTO of Prolexic, conceded that AOL had a point. "Our figures didn't take into account per-capita user base but regardless more computers on AOL are attacking online sites than from any other network. Just because a home user subscribes to a reputable brand doesn’t mean they’re safe from the online criminal fraternity." DDoS attacks are often launched from machines compromised by malware such as Agobot and Spybot that turn them into drones on zombie attack networks (AKA botnets). Access to these botnets is sold online to spammers, cyber-extortionists or other ne'er do wells. When used in a DDoS attack, these compromised machines can 'flood' a network with fake packets, preventing legitimate traffic from accessing a site. The disruption compromised Windows PCs cause to the wider internet is a recognised problem. Recently, internet firms banded to together in an industry wide push dubbed Operation Spam Zombies to wipe zombies off the net. AOL is a leading member of this initiative. It has also placed increased emphasis on consumer security in its recent software releases. Prolexic, a 30 strong security start-up based in Miami, said its report highlighted a significant change in the way DDoS attacks are being coordinated. Instead of focusing on Layer-3 TCP attacks, hackers are increasingly trying "advanced full connection based flood" attacks. This trend allowed it to discount spoofing (forged destination) assaults before considering the origin of the attacks its customer face, according to Prolexic's Lyon. ® Related stories UK under cyber blitz Corporates focus on basics for IT security defences Online gamers targeted in Korean MSN hack attack Hackers plot to create massive botnet ISPs urged to throttle spam zombies
John Leyden, 16 Jun 2005

Inflight mobile calls by 2006?

Boeing's Connexion business unit expects to sell mobile phone services to travelers as early as next year, despite resistance from passengers. Connexion president Laurette Koellner is reported to have said his company will offer services once regulatory and "social" issues have been ironed out. Connexion already provides in-flight internet access with various commercial airlines. The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is currently reviewing the ban on use of phones and other wireless devices, while the European Union has given the political nod for services on aircraft. However, 67 per cent of air travelers are against removing the ban in the US, while 78 per cent are concerned phone use could prevent passengers from hearing emergency instructions, according to a poll conducted by the Association of Flight Attendants and the National Consumers' League. Koellner's statement follows Ericsson's launch of the RBS 2708 base station for inflight mobile phone services.® Related stories Boingo hops onto Boeing Connexion Vodafone to offer in-flight Wi-Fi US FCC to rethink in-flight mobile phone rules EU waves through Airbus mobile phone system Inflight mobile calls - it's going to happen Error 404 at 40,000 feet
Gavin Clarke, 16 Jun 2005

'Patriot' Act may get partially declawed

The US House of Representatives passed a measure curtailing the federal government's access to library and book shop records by a 238-187 vote on Wednesday. US Representative Bernie Sanders (Independent, Vermont) sponsored an amendment to the House Justice Subcommittee appropriations bill. The amendment prevents the US Department of Justice (DoJ) from using appropriated funds to obtain library patrons' and book shoppers' records without a search warrant, a practice previously allowed under Section 215 of the so-called "Patriot" Act. "No question; this is a real shot in the arm for those of us who want to make changes to the USA Patriot Act," Sanders noted. He added that the vote would "rein in an Administration intent on chipping away at the very civil liberties that define us as a nation." The American Library Association (ALA) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have both applauded the measure's success to date. "People from every political persuasion supported this amendment, and we are grateful that members of the House listened to librarians' concerns," ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff said. ACLU lobbyist Gregory Nojeim expressed optimism, saying that "it bodes well that the first vote Congress has taken on the Patriot Act this year has been in favor of liberty and freedom," according to the Associated Press. The provision allowing library and book shop fishing expeditions is among fifteen that were scheduled to sunset at the end of this year, when the "Patriot" Act - essentially a DoJ wishlist - was originally rammed through Congress in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities, impelled by the Bush Administration's relentless emotional blackmail. The Administration has repeatedly demanded that all of the sunset clauses be made permanent, and the President has threatened to veto the appropriations bill if the Sanders amendment makes it through the Senate. Whether the Senate will approve the measure, and whether there could be enough enthusiasm to override a veto if that happens, are very much open questions. But it is good to see Congress taking a second look at the "Patriot" Act, now that Members have finally had the opportunity to read it and consider its implications. Whether the Sanders amendment succeeds or not, Wednesday's House vote serves at least as a sign that the Act's future may be marked by occasional, incremental climbdowns from the paranoia and authoritarianism that it represents. ® Related stories Library use an open book as Pat Act renewals loom Feds beg Congress to expand PATRIOT Act US judge raises bar on net privacy
Thomas C Greene, 16 Jun 2005