18th > August > 2005 Archive

Xbox 360 price goes back to future

After two years playing nip-and-tuck with Sony, Microsoft is upping the price of its Xbox and introducing 'basic' and 'premium' editions of its next game terminal. Microsoft said Wednesday its Xbox 360 will come in two flavors: Xbox Core Package, starting at $300, £210 in the UK and €300 in the Euro-zone. The full Xbox 360 is priced $400/£280/€400. Pricing for the intensively competitive Japanese market was not announced. The details conform earlier reports that Xbox 360, expected this holiday season, was to be priced $299 in the US. The price was allegedly leaked by Wal-Mart employees. Microsoft's pricing appears to send the signal that it will no longer compete in North America and Europe on price cuts. The Xbox Core Package price takes the Xbox back up to the terminal's November 2001 debut price point. A succession of reductions has taken the Xbox's price down to its current $149. Microsoft engaged in price cutting as a response to Sony cutting the PlayStation 2's price tag and to also help kick start sales of the Xbox. Increased prices and the 'premium' Xbox 360 seem to be an attempt by Microsoft to build on market share gained through those early cuts and hit a self-imposed profitability deadline for the Xbox of 2007. Microsoft has been making a loss on the Xbox, and - prior to May 2002's first Xbox price cut - was estimated to be losing between $76 and $105 on each Xbox terminal sold. The Xbox 360 Core System will include the terminal, controller and customisable faceplate. Gamers shelling out $400 will get the 20GB hard drive, Wi-Fi adaptor, Xbox Live Silver membership and - for a limited-time - an integrated control center enabling users to play DVDs and also access their Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005-based PC's controls from a single controller. It's obvious which version Microsoft would rather you buy. The 360 contains a three IBM PowerPC processors, each clocked at 3.2GHz and capable of handling two threads simultaneously. Each core has an AltiVec vector engine for handling multimedia data. The graphics sub-system is ATI's R500 chip clocked at 500MHz, with 10MB of memory built into the chip packaging. The console contains 512MB of GDDR 3 SDRAM, shared between the processors and the GPU. For storage, the console has a 12x DVD-ROM unit. Up to four controllers can be connected to the machine, all wirelessly, and there are three standard USB 2.0 port too. Microsoft said the unit was "Wi-Fi Ready" - as we've seen, the adaptor card will ship in the Premium Edition bundle. Microsoft also announced it had signed a third manufacturing partner to produce the console. Canada's Celestica joins Singapore's Flextronics and Taiwan's Wistron. Flextronics and Wistron manufacture the original Xbox, so were always likely to win Xbox 360 contracts, though this week's announcement marked Microsoft's confirmation of the arrangement. All three companies will produce the console in their Chinese factories. ®
Gavin Clarke, 18 Aug 2005

RSS 'repositioned' by Microsoft

Microsoft is re-branding its implementation of the increasingly popular Really Simple Syndication (RSS) in the next version of Internet Explorer (IE). In a move likely to unsettle many outside Microsoft, the company said it is actively exploring the right name to use for RSS feeds, with the current working term being "web feeds". The name "web feeds" is currently used to describe initial support for the discovery and reading of RSS feeds in the IE 7.0 Beta 1, which was released this summer. Microsoft is also adding its own technology to RSS, according to reports. Microsoft is a relative late-comer to RSS, which is quickly becoming the de facto technology for syndicating content for millions of blogs and web sites. IE 7.0 is planned for both Windows XP and Windows Vista, which is due late next year. Many will be suspicious of Microsoft's plans, coming as they do from a company famed for going its own way on industry standards and technologies. Microsoft has been pushing its own vision for web services standards, partnering with IBM on the WS- stack rather than joining existing or alternative industry efforts. Famously, Microsoft re-named and "optimized" its implementation of Sun Microsystems' Java language, in a move that saw Sun prosecute Microsoft for breaking compatibility with Sun's official Java specification. Microsoft, though, is stressing support for all current web feed formats in the IE 7.0 beta. Jane Kim, RSS in IE program manager, said the Beta 1 supports RSS 9.x, RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0, with Atom 0.3 and 1.0 support planned in a later release. ®
Gavin Clarke, 18 Aug 2005

Software sales increase for BEA

BEA Systems has broken its five-quarter streak of declining revenue from software sales and returned to growth - just. BEA's chief executive Alfred Chuang on Wednesday announced a 1.7 per cent year-on-year increase in software licensing revenue to $118.3m for the second quarter. It was BEA's first increase since the close of 2003, although the numbers couldn't have been much worse than the second-quarter 2004 results. Revenue from license sales fell 8.6 per cent during that period compared to 2003. Revenue then fell 11.5 per cent during the third quarter compared to 2003. And, in a further twist, revenue from services - BEA's star performer last year - declined during the most recent second quarter. Services revenue fell 0.8 per cent to $234m. During the second quarter of 2004, though - when software was falling - services went in the opposite direction, climbing 24 per cent. Nevertheless, BEA chief executive Alfred Chuang went all out to convince Wall Street that BEA is back on a growth track. He told analysts BEA's core WebLogic business is growing faster than expected "indicating we are gaining market share". He forecast EA's total revenues for present the third-quarter would come in between $285 and $295m. BEA is currently bringing a number of new products and initiatives to market, launched during the management churn and restructuring of 2004. These include the WebLogic SIP Server for voice and data services, AquaLogic for Service Oriented Architectures (SOAs), and programs to sign-up more VARs. It seems few of these made an impact on BEA's revenue during this quarter. Highlighting VARs, Chuang said the channel is a "critical vehicle" for helping to proliferate BEA's technology, and added that he expects "modest growth during the next couple of quarters". BEA's goal is to sign-up 100 VARs by the end of the year. SIP Server, meanwhile, is still in large-scale pilot tests with customers. Growth during the second quarter came mainly from BEA's core WebLogic business, with 60 per cent of sales led by BEA's portal, and Solutions Frameworks for customer and employee services, trade processing, service delivery and RFID. Overall, BEA reported an 18 per cent increase in its net income to $36.1m on revenue that grew 8.7 per cent to $285m for the three months to July 31. Earnings per diluted share (EPS) increased two cents to $0.09. For the six-month period, BEA reported a 25 per cent growth in income to $70.2m on sales that increased 7.9 per cent to $566.8m. EPS grew five cents to $0.18. ®
Gavin Clarke, 18 Aug 2005

US iBook riot: a survivor's story

Our piece yesterday on the shocking iBook riot in Richmond, Virginia, which saw grown adults storming a $50 laptop sale like Somalis at an aid truck shocked and dismayed many readers. And with good reason. Here's an eyewitness account of what is now known as "The Richmond International Raceway Apple Stampede", courtesy of Susan Lawson: I am from Richmond, Virginia and I was one of the early birds having gotten into line for the iBook sale about 4:15’ish. I was about 150th in line. There were 2 police officers there. A camaraderie formed with the “group” as the minutes ticked by, we joked, sang, played music and attempted to start the “wave” on a few occasions. Things went great until people started arriving around dawn. People attempted to cut into line or not get in line at all. When you get to know your neighbor and have been waiting, this started ticking people off. Many in our group were telling them to “get to the back of the line!” As the minutes went by more and more people came (total estimates of all individuals there were actually about 5 - 6,000) and didn’t want to get to the back of the line. The police attempted to control them and tell them they had to get in line but they ignored them – there were only 5 police officers when the gates opened. When the gates opened at 7:00, all of the people that were not in line started to rush the gates. If you were there, you saw it and could see that once the people that weren’t in line started rushing the gates, the people that were in line started running too as they had been in line for hours. I saw the scene and said “this isn’t worth it!” I left. I got a call a few minutes later on my cell phone from my friend Shirley asking me where I was. She said she had been shoved to the ground, lost her shoes, had no skin on her knees, was at the bottom of a pile at one point, but got back up and kept going. (I found out later in the day that she did in fact get an iBook.) At some point after the crowd reached the building, she told me that tickets were handed out. I am absolutely amazed that they didn’t have the foresight to hand these tickets out to those of us in line as the line formed. Had they done that, a lot of what happened could have been avoided. They could have been told that the tickets were gone and to go home. This morning watching the news I saw that some were already on eBay and fetching $285+. Amazing. I have to say that I question the intelligence of not only the Henrico Board, but the Henrico Police Department. To say that “they didn’t expect that many people,” to me is dumbfounding. Just think – had the general public been able to participate this would have been even worse. I’m just amazed. What morons did we vote in that are supposed to be educating and setting the example to our children? Amazingly stupid apparently! However we all looked a bit ridiculous ourselves - mob mentality. Shocking stuff indeed. We'll restrict comment to one further letter: Hi, Y'all wrote " the complete breakdown of law and order across the Pond." Sorry, that's not correct. It wasn't a complete breakdown. It's like that here most of the time. Regards, Jerry Adamson We fear for democracy, we really do. ®
Lester Haines, 18 Aug 2005
graph up

Man logs into dabs.com customer account shocker

Blind chance has helped to expose a password security issue at dabs.com over the way it and many other online retailers deal with forgotten passwords. Reg reader Dave (not his real name) recently received emails from dabs.com about an order he'd supposedly placed for a digital camera. He received a receipt and despatch confirmation emails. All well and good except that he hadn't placed the order. In fact, Dave didn't even have an account with dabs.com. At this point we might have suspected some kind of phishing scam but Dave's curiosity was piqued. "I checked the emails and then went to dabs.com and tried logging in with my [Hotmail] email address, I don't have a password, but they have a forgot password box, so I clicked on this. "It then asks for the email address registered against the account, this I put in as my own and clicked send. A few moments later I receive an email with a password for the account," he said. At this point Dave discovered he was able to log into the original customer's account. "The worrying part is that I am able to change these details at will. I could change the delivery address, contact email etc. If I was not so honest, I could have ordered any item, changed the delivery date etc and possibly received the item, whilst charging the account holders' debit card," he added. Dave contacted the account holder, using dabs.com's account holder information page to find a telephone number. The real account holder - who shares the same forename - was understandably annoyed at developments. He changed his password but even after this happened the old password still allowed our correspondent to log into the rightful holder's account. This snafu has since been rectified, dabs.com assures us. Louise Derbyshire of dabs.com said that the mix up had happened because the account holder had entered the wrong email (referring to a Hotmail instead of an AOL account) when he placed the order. "We've never had a security issue about this before," she said. Derbyshire acknowledged that our correspondent might have been able to place orders charged to someone else's credit card but she said he wouldn't be able to see the legitimate customers' credit card details. "He could only have ordered through dabs.com and we could easily trace what happened," she said. Derbyshire said dabs.com was in the process of revamping its website and introducing an email verification feature. "This is essentially for marketing purposes but a byproduct of the procedure is that it will address the specific issue of people entering the wrong emails in orders," she said. Dab.com maintains its current password reminder procedures are followed by many other ecommerce websites. "etailers have to thread a fine line between security and useability," she said. Our correspondent said that the incident illustrated the need for online firms to ask a secret question before handing out replacement passwords. Derbyshire said dabs.com would consider this suggestion. ®
John Leyden, 18 Aug 2005

Symbian toasts threefold leap in handset shipments

Smart-phone operating system developer Symbian today lauded figures that indicate a big jump in demand for devices based on its software. But the company signalled a need to drive sales in the wider handset market if it is to continue to deliver strong growth. Some 7.8m Symbian-based handsets shipped in Q2 FY2005, the three months to 30 June 2005, Symbian said - three times the figure for Q2 FY2004, 2.6m. Shipments were up 16.4 per cent sequentially. For the first six months of the privately held company's financial year, 14.5m devices were shipped by Symbian licensees - an increase of 190 per cent on H1 FY2004 and more than the total for FY2004 as a whole. Symbian is owned by Nokia, Ericcson, SonyEricsson, Panasonic, Siemens and Samsung, in order of the size of their shareholdings. Nokia dominates, with 47.9 per cent of the company in its portfolio, and it's largely Nokia's own handset shipments that have fuelled Symbian's success. As calendar Q2 figures from market watcher Canalys recently showed, Nokia increased its market share from 33.2 per cent in Q2 2004 to 54.9 per cent in Q2 2005 on the back of a 240.3 per cent increase in unit shipments. That helped Symbian extend its leadership of the operating system market, with a 214.8 per cent jump in unit shipments pushing the Symbian OS' share from 41 per cent to 62.8 per cent. At the end of Symbian's first half, 54 Symbian-based devices were on sale, 18 of them introduced during the six-month period, company CEO Nigel Clifford said in a statement. Sixteen of the 54 are 3G phones, most of them developed for the Japanese market. This time last year 23 Symbian-based devices were available to buy. Today, some 50 more are in development, Clifford said. "Shipments of Symbian OS phones remain small relative to the overall handset market," he admitted. "Symbian's strategic focus must remain on driving increased shipments through the adoption of Symbian OS for further handset models, and particularly for the development of lower price, mid-range handsets designed to ship in higher volumes." As a privately held company Symbian did not publish financial performance figures. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Aug 2005

Fewer students than ever studying physics

The numbers of students applying to take the A-level physics exam fell again this year, research has found. In 2005, 579 fewer physics students were entered than in 2004, a decline of around two per cent. The numbers studying chemistry and biology, meanwhile, have been enjoying a steady rise. The Institute of Physics (IoP) warns that the numbers will continue to fall unless students are given better careers advice when choosing their A-Level subjects. It has also called on the government to act to combat the shortage of physics teachers. The CBI warned earlier this week that a continuing decline in science graduates will harm the UK's competitiveness, and yet there are now fewer than 50 university departments in the UK offering physics to undergraduates, a decrease of more than 30 per cent since 1997. Dr Robert Kirby-Harris, chief executive of the IoP, argues that students need to be made more aware of the options that studying physics leave open for them. He blamed narrow careers advice at schools for the number of students who take the "potentially damaging decision" to drop the subject. "Students don't realize that if you study physics you don't automatically have to become a research scientist - but you do become much more attractive to a huge range of businesses, for example the financial services sector, engineering, the media, and computing," he said. He also urged the government to set specific quotas for the number of physicists entering teacher training rather than a general quota for science as a whole. "We need teachers who are passionate about physics, and able to inspire their students. Non-specialist teachers aren't as good at doing this," he argued. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Aug 2005
chart

AMD rejects request to send Intel case to California

AMD vs IntelAMD vs Intel AMD has formally requested its legal battle with Intel not be bundled up with a series of consumer class actions against the chip giant, court documents seen by The Register reveal. Separately, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has ordered a hearing to be held on 29 September to consider the requests concerning the movement of the case from Delaware to Northern California Last month, the US District Court of Delaware, where the AMD vs Intel case is due to be heard, was notified that two Californian plaintiffs, Michael Brauch and Andrew Meimes, had asked the JPML to order the four other cases coming up before the Delaware Court to be transferred to the US District Court of Northern California and consolidated with ten anti-Intel class actions taking place there. All the cases aside from AMD's are complaints filed by consumers, singly and in groups, against Intel in the light of the announcement of AMD's legal action. According to the JPML request, all the extra cases "arise out of the same or similar illegal antitrust conduct and allege substantially similar claims... [and] a common core of factual allegations, namely, that Intel illegally maintained its monopoly power in the relevant microprocessor market and/or engaged in a combination and conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in that market by fixing the prices and/or allocating markets for Intel chips solid in the United States and elsewhere, thus overcharging Original Equipment Manufacturer purchasers and consumers for prices paid for Intel chips during the relevant time period". However, AMD this week filed its motion that the move to transfer and consolidate the case be denied. The chip maker argues that its action against Intel is not only more serious but more urgent than the consumers' complaints. "AMD's suit targets Intel practices that have already destroyed all competition of note except AMD; AMD seeks to bring an end to those practices as expeditiously as possible, before they destroy AMD as well," the company's motion maintains. "Although many of the class action complaints copy parts of AMD's complaint, they all assert injuries and seek damages of a categorically different nature than AMD's direct-competitor action," it continues. It also points out that the case's "geographical centre of gravity" is in the East - essentially, that's where all the key witnesses and other participants are. Claimed efficiency gains arising from combining the cases will not actually materialise, it adds. AMD's motion, along with the Californian plaintiffs' and, potentially, responses from Intel and other players in the drama, will be judged when the JPML meets at the end of September in Asheville, North Carolina. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Aug 2005

Worm War II

Separate groups of hackers are releasing a barrage of worms in a battle to seize control of Windows PCs that remain vulnerable to the now infamous Windows Plug-and-Play vulnerability. The Bozori worm attempts to remove infections by earlier versions of the Zotob worm and other malware, so it can take control of a compromised computer for itself. A family of IRC bots that exploit the same Microsoft (MS05-039) Plug and Play vulnerability likewise try to remove competing PnP bots, as explained in a diagram by Finnish anti-virus firm F-Secure here. It reckons 11 different types of malware are exploiting the vulnerability. The upswing in malware creation - and competition between various PnP worms - echoes the competition between NetSky and Bagle worms for control of vulnerable Windows PCs that first flared up in March 2004. Then, as now, it's all about turning Windows PCs in zombie spam bots. "Once one of these worms has control over your computer, it can use your PC for sending spam, launching an extortion denial-of-service attack against a website, stealing confidential information or blasting out new versions of malware to other unsuspecting computer users," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Organised criminal gangs are behind attacks like these and their motive is to make money. Owning a large network of compromised computers is a valuable asset to these criminals, and every business needs to take steps to ensure they are not the next victim on their list." The worms are affecting computers which are not properly patched against Microsoft security holes such as the MS05-039 Plug and Play vulnerability, disclosed by Microsoft last week. Windows 2000 systems are particularly at risk of exploit. Many organisations have already been hit including CNN, ABC, The Financial Times, and the New York Times. General Electric, United Parcel Service, Caterpillar and the US Congress have also been affected by PnP worm infestation. Security firms at odds over seriousness of outbreak This sounds bad but according to Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky Labs the seriousness of the outbreak has been exaggerated by the media. "There has not been any noticeable increase in network activity which could be ascribed to this worm [outbreak]. During the Sasser epidemic in May 2004, which some publications are using as a comparison for Bozori-A, Sasser caused an increase in network traffic of approximately 20 per cent to 40 per cent. At the moment, there are no signs of a similar increase," it said. Kaspersky's argument has been bolstered by a lowering of the alert status at Internet Storm Centre (ISC), which runs a well respected vendor-independent syber threat monitoring and alert system. However security firm Arbor Networks takes the opposite line and said that, if anything, the Zotob Worm is being underestimated. "Arbor Networks has received calls from a number of large companies that have been devastated by Zotob. Because there have been an additional seven variants of the worm released and the most recent one is through email, this has the potential to become a much bigger problem for companies," it said. "This worm is picking up new tricks along the way, leveraging old exploits and has become a multi-vector, blended threat. This is an indication of the amount of code sharing that takes place among worm and malware authors." Although vendors differ over the scope of the attack there's general agreement over remedial actions: block traffic on port 445 at least at the internet perimeter, patch systems quickly, apply anti-virus signature updates. Tin-foil hats may not go amiss either. ®
John Leyden, 18 Aug 2005

Nasscom bemoans media 'entrapment' in Aussie ID case

Indian IT body Nasscom has hit back at the furore in Australia over the alleged sale of confidential information by Indian call centre staff. Australia is the latest country to go Bangalore Bonkers after the state broadcaster ran an expose claiming it was offered confidential information on Aussie citizens culled from call centres based in India. The UK's Sun ran a similar scoop earlier this summer. Nasscom said yesterday that it would work with authorities in India and Australia to investigate the claims that call centre workers were selling information that put honest Bruces at risk of identity theft. It said that it was seeking details from the TV show that made the allegations. At the same time, it expressed concern that “that such reports emanate from 'entrapment operations' and no person has reported any harm yet.” It said that in the absence of any formal complaint even the authorities were not in a position to launch an investigation. Nasscom also pointed out, quite rightly, that the problem of ID theft is not exactly unique to India, adding, “This problem, unfortunately, is unlikely to diminish as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and warped, criminal minds are likely to outpace technological solutions." Well, quite. In the meantime, that very interconectedness means if call cenre workers weren't already turned on to the idea of making a packet selling consumer information to tabloid hacks, they are now.®
Team Register, 18 Aug 2005

Infinium puts ex-Xbox exec in charge

AnalysisAnalysis Kevin Bacchus, one of the team of four who founded Microsoft's Xbox division, has become CEO of Infinium Labs, the company developing the Phantom console and games service. No, don't laugh. It could actually be happening this time. Indeed, according to Tim Roberts, Infinium's founder and former CEO - he's staying on the board - the company is "entering a new phase where it must remain tightly focused on the nuts and bolts of bringing our service to market". Bacchus joined Infinium in January 2004, though the company first touted its console a full year before that. Then, Phantom was set to ship at the end of 2003, the company claimed, and the release date has been shifting back ever since. The Infinium website currently implies the Phantom and game service that will feed it games content across broadband Internet connections will launch toward the end of 2005. Bacchus was brought on board to build relationships with content developers - one of his roles within Microsoft's Xbox division. Infinium has deals in place with Eidos, Atari, Codemasters and Riverdeep, though two of those - with Eidos and Codemasters - are set to expire on 31 December 2005. Infinium has had to pledge to cough up significant sums - $500,000 to Atari alone - for these licences, and will have to pay further royalties should it ever start delivering their games via the Phantom. Whether it will be able to do so depends on its ability to keep its head above water. According to Infinium's most recent quarterly results filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, it burned through almost $2.90m in the three months to 30 June 2005 alone - and that's excluding unreported "development costs". After adding in other expenses, the company reported an unaudited net loss of $6.21m for the quarter and $20.28m for half-year. Unsurprisingly, Infinium had no revenue. Of course, the company is in development mode, and it would be surprising indeed if it didn't lose money at this stage. Start-ups generally have to spend cash to create the products they hope will subsequently bring in the bacon. The question is whether Infinium can acquire enough cash to cover its losses in the short term. Infinium's quarterly report lists seven legal actions the company is facing, with a eighth, from Biostar, the company developing the Phantom's motherboard and graphics adaptor, being threatened. The seven all allege breach of contract or defaulting on loans. The Biostar lawsuit is expected to be filed shortly, Infinium says, though it's hopeful a settlement can be reached. However, it admits: "No payments have been made to Biostar." Infinium's SEC filing lists a number of loans - typically for for a few hundred thousand dollars at a time - on which it has failed to make the agreed repayment. The company itself admits: "At June 30, 2005, we had a working capital deficit of $8,781,352 and an accumulated deficit of $56,276,138. In their report on our audited financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2004, our independent auditors expressed substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern." (our italics) The filing continues: "We do not have sufficient cash to continue operations for the next 12 months and are in immediate need of additional capital to fund our plan of operation. We presently have no commitments for additional financing and may not be able to obtain such financing." Bacchus' games industry credentials may help it win further backing. For his part, Bacchus is planning to make "additional announcements regarding the company's restructuring... over the next few weeks", according to Infinium's statement on his promotion. Meanwhile, the company is redesigning the Phantom hardware to bring it in line with technological developments made after those available when the version of the console intended to be released last year was completed. The Phantom Game Network is also being tweaked. The Network is crucial. The ability to rent games by downloading them is essential to differentiate Phantom from the likes of Xbox 360 and even Sony's PlayStation 2, let alone the PS3. With it, Infinium hopes to appeal to casual gamers and those up for a play but who don't have a games store they can visit straight away for the latest title. It's a good idea, but Infinium has only a limited amount to time before other, better known and better resourced rivals get in on the act. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Aug 2005

AOL techie jailed for selling email database to spammers

A former AOL engineer was sent to jail for 15 months yesterday after he confessed to stealing 92m screen names and email addresses belonging to an estimated 30m AOL members and selling them to spammers. Jason Smathers, 25, was sentenced on Wednesday after pleading guilty in February to conspiracy and theft charges and to violation of federal anti-spam laws. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein also ordered Smathers to pay $83,000 in compensation or three times the $28,000 he made flogging off AOL screen names and email addresses to a spammer, named in court as Sean Dunaway, 22, of Las Vegas. USA Today reports that Dunaway used the addresses to promote a net gambling business prior selling them on to other junk mailers for $52,000, who subsequently bombarded AOL members with penis pill offers and other assorted tat. Criminal charges against Dunaway are pending, the paper reports. Smathers might have faced up to 15 years in jail and a $500K fine prior to a plea bargaining agreement earlier this year1. Smathers' lawyer, Jeffrey Hoffman, described his client's actions as a "dumb, stupid, insane act" that he now profoundly regrets. "I know I've done something very wrong," Smathers told Judge Hellerstein prior to sentencing. The judge accepted that Smathers had demonstrated genuine contrition and refused a probation request to prohibit Smathers from working as a software engineer after his release. ® 1 Smathers original plea-bargaining agreement in December 2004 was refused because a judge wasn't convinced what crime, if any, had been committed. Techdirt reports that Judge Hellerstein made this ruling even though he'd cancelled his AOL account because of too much spam.
John Leyden, 18 Aug 2005

Sony counters iPod Shuffle with the Bean

Sony has launched a curvy, palm-sized portable music player dubbed, not inappropriately, the Bean. We'll resist the opportunity to suggest the Japanese giant's move is somewhat half-baked. Instead, we'll point out that the design is certainly more Mister Bean than Sean Bean. More formally monikered the NW-E205, the 512MB Flash-based Network Walkman Bean supports Sony's own ATRAC3 Plus format and MP3. It's available in four colours: blue (aka 'Tropical Ice'), pink (Cotton Candy), black (Licorice) and white (Coconut), all selected to suggest jellybean styling rather than a more haricot heritage. The unit has a one-line OLED screen. The Bean has its own, integrated USB connector for both song transfer and battery charging. The built-in Lithium Ion cell yields 50 hours' playback time, Sony said, though that presumably assumes you're playing 48kbps ATRAC3 files. The battery requires only three minutes' charging to provide three hours' playback, though a full charge will take rather longer. In addition to the 512MB NW-E205, Sony is offering the 1GB NW-E207, with the same choice of colours. Both models are due to ship mid-September. The NW-205 will retail for £79, the NW-E207 for £99. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Aug 2005
globalisation

Mac OS X security fix breaks 64-bit code

UpdateUpdate Apple's most recent Mac OS X Security Update, released on Monday, causes 64-bit applications to malfunction, it has emerged. However, the Mac maker today issued a fix for the problem, posting Security Update 2005-007 version 1.1 via its Software Update tool. Software developer Wolfram Research, which was one of the first companies to ship 64-bit Mac software after last year's release of the Power Mac G5, alerted users of its Mathematica application to the problem on Tuesday. "Due to an error on the part of Apple, this update prevents any 64-bit-native application from running. In particular, this means that Mathematica 5.2 will not run on any G5 system if it has installed this Security Update," the company wrote in an email to customers seen by The Register. "If you have been affected, then Mathematica 5.2 will generate a MathLink error when you try to do any computation with it. "Apple has informed us that there is no workaround for this problem. "Apple is investigating the problem at high priority, and intends to distribute a new Security Update in the very near future. This update will correct the problem and allow Mathematica to run successfully." That fix came today. According to Apple, "Security Update 2005-007 v1.1 provides a combined 32- and 64-bit version of LibSystem to replace the 32-bit version that was delivered in v1.0. No other changes have been made in version 1.1. "Security Update 2005-007 v1.1 replaces Security Update 2005-007 v1.0 for Tiger systems Mac OS X v10.4.2. Users who have already installed v1.0 on Tiger systems should install v1.1." ®
Tony Smith, 18 Aug 2005

Hitler better leader than Blair: official

As Tony Blair celebrates 11 years at the head of the Labour Party he will doubtless be delighted to learn that he has been beaten by Adolf Hitler in a poll of "most impressive" leaders through history. The poll, conducted (we think) by PR and marketing outfit Taylor Herring in advance of its 2005 "Leaders in London 2005" beano this autumn, asked 1,000 "high profile business executives, Chairmen and Company Directors, the predominant age group being 30-50, 65% of whom were male and all with businesses employing over 500 personnel" to name their favourite political go-getter. Winston Churchill unsurprisingly emerged as top dog, closely followed by Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, in that order. Maggie Thatcher, meanwhile, scored a creditable eighth spot, presumably for her simultaneous liberation of the UK from the forces of Scargill-driven tyranny and las islas Malvinas from the forces of corned-beef-driven tyranny, while the ever-popular Hitler ranked 20 on the most impressive leader board, soundly beating Our Tone into 25th place. It's clear then, that few if any of the "high profile business executives" polled have read Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad - a case study in how not to run your business (in this case the German 6th Army) - which outlines how Adolf's highly individual management style sent the share price of the Third Reich into a tailspin. Mind you, the voters rated Hitler above both the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. And Saint Lord Sir Bob Geldof, who just scraped in at number 50. We say we think it's Taylor Herring who are behind this illuminating study because to get the full gen from the Leaders in London website we'd need to register and then we'd just get pestered for our vote in the "Most Impressive Most Impressive Leaders Poll of all Time - Ever!" poll. For the record, we rate this poll above the poll in which 500 PR bunnies voted Robbie Williams the man most likely to restore peace and democracy in Iraq, but well below that which unanimously declared Bill Gates "Top Jumper Wearer of the Year 2001" - an accolade he shares with previous winners Giles Brandreth and Albert Speer. ®
Lester Haines, 18 Aug 2005

Nokia to put iTunes on N91?

Nokia today denied claims that it has done a deal with Apple to put iTunes on its N91 media phone. According to Finnish newspaper Taloussanomat, today Nokia is to embrace Apple's online music service. "I've seen already a phone like that," said Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's multimedia chief, the paper reports. His comment was supported by Nokia spokesman Kari Tuutti, cited by Reuters. Tuutti claimed Nokia had seen iTunes-like applications running on phones unnamed research labs. However, he scotched the newspaper's central claim that Apple and Nokia are partners. "There is no commercial agreement between Nokia and Apple to integrate iTunes into the N-series devices," he said. The N91, due to ship around the world in Q4, contains a 4GB hard drive. Nokia is pitching the 3G handset specifically as a music phone - the device will support a broad array of formats, including MP3; the iTunes' favoured AAC; AAC+, which is the likely format for future carrier-operated music download services; WMA; WAV; and Real Audio 8. The handset is based on the Symbian OS and Nokia's Series 60 user interface. As Tuutti noted, that makes it easy for any company, "including Apple if they wish", to develop music software for the phone. Apple has extensive experience of the Series 60 platform, for which it has long supported with its iSync data-synchronisation software. Motorola is preparing to ship its iTunes-enabled phone in September, but it could launch this month, it says. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Aug 2005

Face of Jesus appears in Sussex hawthorn

A simulacrum of Jesus's face discovered by a non-practicing Hindu in a Burgess Hill hawthorn tree looks set to become a focus of pilgrimage after a local pastor declared it "a revelation from God". Sewdutt Maunick told the BBC how he was inexorably drawn to the divine shrub, explaining: "Something was actually urging me to come to this end of the garden because we never actually sit here. Suddenly I rushed to call my wife, Vijayantimala, and said 'look, I have seen this figure of a man, come and look'." The suitably epiphanised couple called in pastor Elaine Thomas who confirmed the revelation, saying: "I think that often we are in the right place at the right time. It's touched my heart and it's done something for me." Mr and Mrs Maunick now plan to talk about their close encounter with the divine to the pastor's flock. We have no doubt that when they get back from the church, GoldenPalace.com will have removed the hawthorn with a chainsaw and arranged for a hard-up US woman to have a representation of the Jesus image tattooed on her arse in return for ten bucks' worth of e-chips. ®
Lester Haines, 18 Aug 2005
server room

Cisco speaks up for the deaf

British Sign Language (BSL) users will soon have a better way of communicating with their local authorities. In September, Significan't (a UK company) will launch a specialist call centre which will give deaf people access to sign language interpreters to help them resolve queries with their local authorities. The company approached the government with the idea, and was awarded a grant of £500,000 from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) to fund the infrastructure set up and pay for the first year's running costs. The idea is that the service will overcome the cost and convenience barriers that currently prevent BSL users from dealing with simple issues, such as asking a question about a parking permit, or making a complaint about late collection of rubbish. People will be able to dial into the call centre from their local authorities, which will give them access to an interpreter who can help them speak to the council official. Jeff McWhinney, director of Significan't, says that the goal is to have people be able to dial in from home, but at the moment, security issues mean it's not practical. Also frame rates for sign language need to be between 20 and 25 FPS, which means that the video calling equipment needs to be fairly sophisticated, (read - expensive) and reliable. For the time being, this rules out a lot of home equipment. The Sign Video Call Centre, which will be based on Cisco's CallManager and IPCC systems, will initially be rolled out to the 12,000 BSL users in London, but the company hopes to take it nation-wide if it is well received. Currently, most deaf people do not have much experience of telephone culture, says McWhinney, and what experience they do have will be by text-phone. But interaction via text phone with call centres are notoriously frustrating for both the call centre operator and for the deaf caller, McWhinney says. Resolving a query can take as much as 12 times as long via text-phone, as compared to a normal voice call. "We are asking deaf people to make a significant leap from not using the phone at all to using video calling," he said. However, figures from a similar venture in the States suggest the service will be appreciated. After one year in operation a video calling system in the US recorded 7,000 minutes of video call time per months. By the end of its third year, it was booking 4m minutes every month. Significan't says that on a pay-as-you-go basis the service will cost around £2 per minute, while heavy users on a contract will pay half that. This might sound expensive, but McWhinney explains that interpreters currently have to be booked two weeks in advance, and for a minimum period of three hours at between £75-£150 per session. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Aug 2005

Germans hail Berners-Lee 'second-greatest' scientist

Tim Berners-Lee has been named the second most important scientist of the 20th century by the organisers of Germany's Quadriga award, in recognition of the invention of the web. The organisers said only Einstein was more important. Sir Tim, who was knighted in 2003 in recognition of his achievements, invented the web while he was working at CERN. He wanted to help the particle physicists collaborate on research even when they weren't all working in the same geographical area. Arguably even more importantly, he made the protocols freely available to the world shortly after his invention, and his solution became the world wide web. "Berners-Lee elected not to patent the World Wide Web for commercial reasons or his own personal profit but gave it away for all of us," Klaus Riebschlaeger, chairman of the organising committee told Reuters. "Free and available to all humanity, it became the network for knowledge linking the world." The Quadriga awards were instituted in 2002, and recognise courage, vision and responsibility in four categories: political, economic, social and cultural. Reuters reports that they were inspired by Bill Clinton. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Aug 2005
cable

Mind your back-up

Symantec has warned of a security flaw in its Veritas Backup Exec and NetBackup software products which might be exploited to bypass security restrictions. Hackers are actively exploiting the vulnerability, US-CERT warns. The vulnerability arises due to the use of a static password when authenticating to a remote agent. This in turn might allow hackers to bypass the authentication process and download arbitrary files from a vulnerable system. Tricky but the availability of publicly available exploits make this process far easier. Users are advised to apply patches, where available, or else restrict access to the service over port 10000/TCP, the standard port for the Remote Agent. ®
John Leyden, 18 Aug 2005
DVD it in many colours

Product delays do little to slow NetApp in Q1

Network Appliance pumped out double-digit growth again during the first quarter and reported results in line with earlier guidance. The storage maker brought in $448m during the period - a 25 per cent rise over $358m reported one year earlier. Net income hit $60m in this year's first quarter versus $47m last year. Earlier this month, NetApp predicted that first quarter revenue would come in between $446m and $449 - a lowered range from previous forecasts. The company was forced to delay shipments of the new FAS3000 midrange system, which accounted for the lower guidance. Overall, however, NetApp continues to outperform the overall storage market and like rival EMC stands as a real star in the hardware segment. "We are pleased with the success of our new FAS3000 midrange product line, despite the product transition issues that resulted in revenues a little short of our expectations," said NetApp's CEO, Dan Warmenhoven. "We are also encouraged by our growing relationships with partners, particularly IBM’s recent introduction of their first product resulting from our OEM agreement.” Second quarter revenue growth should fall between 25 per cent and 28 per cent, the company said. ®
Ashlee Vance, 18 Aug 2005
For Sale sign detail

RSS moving to third release

With a debate unfolding over what Microsoft plans to call its first implementation of RSS, the industry has moved a step closer to a third, full XML version of the popular web publishing technology. The first public draft of the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) 3 Lite specification was released for review and comment on Thursday. RSS 3 Lite is designed as an "efficient" and "succinct" form of RSS that is meant for aggregators who need just a small amount of metadata to describe a link. RSS Lite 3 works by removing features that are considered "irrelevant" to low-end clients. These features have either been removed entirely or made a part of the RSS 3.0 Full specification, which has yet to be released as a first public draft. RSS 3 is meant to replace the RSS 0.9x standards, which contradict each other, and RSS 2.0, which was seen as a derivative standard with inadequate documentation and poor support of "modern needs", according to organizers. John Avidan, who maintains the RSS 3 homepage, said on his blog this latest implementation differs from an existing RSS 3 specification that was text based and had no takers.®
Gavin Clarke, 18 Aug 2005

Orion decouples 30 per cent of staff

Orion Multisystems - the dominant player in the desktop cluster market - has gone through its first major round of layoffs, as the company tries to tighten its bottom line. Orion has cut up to 30 per cent of its staff, CEO Colin Hunter told The Register. Hunter declined to say exactly how many people were let go, but Orion started business last year with close to 45 employees. The layoffs come four months after Orion started shipping a stunning 96-processor personal cluster. "We needed to match expenses with revenue," Hunter said. "We need to make sure we evolve into a profitable company." One source claimed that the job cuts at Orion were tied to a loss in venture funding, but Hunter said such charges were "not accurate." Orion simply made a "necessary expense reduction." It's easy to label Orion as the dominant player in the desktop and deskside cluster market, since it's really the only company making this class of machine. Customers can purchase a 12-processor box or the 96-processor system. Both computers plug into a standard outlet, have one on/off switch and run standard Linux cluster software on top of Transmeta-based innards. The systems have proved popular with customers that need serious horsepower at the desks of researchers or engineers. Oil and gas, medical and entertainment companies have shown interest in the Orion gear, as have government agencies. Orion plans to continue an overseas expansion in Europe and Asia despite the cost-cutting moves, Hunter said. ®
Ashlee Vance, 18 Aug 2005
chart

Sun opens open source office

Sun Microsystems is coordinating all of its open source activity, consisting of more than 20 projects, through a centralized office to help drive best practices. Sun has created an Open Source Office (OSO) under chief open source officer Simon Phipps to bring greater consistency to the company's growing open source workload. The OSO will be part of the software chief technology office (CTO) under Hal Stern. The OSO follows commitments by Sun's president Jonathan Schwartz and software executive vice president John Loiacono to open source all of Sun's software. Loiacono last month announced OpenSSO, the open sourcing of Sun's web single sign-on technology in the Java Enterprise System (JES) while the company has released 1,600 APIs and millions of lines of code from its Solaris operating system to create Open Solaris. Sun believes open sourcing its software can build communities of developers around its technologies, helping drive innovation and improving its own products. Sun claims there are now 7,000+ registered participants in Open Solaris who have contributed nine patches to the Solaris code base with a further 17 in the wings. Phipps, previously Sun's chief technology evangelist, called OSO a milestone that breaks with Sun's past of "just doing" community-based development through projects like NFS and JXTA. "In the past... it's just been the natural and obvious way to develop software and a lot of Sun engineers haven't thought a lot about it," Phipps told The Register. "It's become clearer and clearer we need co-ordination." One key best practice the OSO will drive is in ensuring projects use existing Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved licenses rather than creating new licenses. Phipps plans to use "peer pressure" through Sun's Open Source Council and will convene a meeting of Sun's Open Source Review Board, composed of Sun's executive vice presidents, as a last resort, to tackle this goal. "I'm a firm believer in using OSI approved licenses, and using as minimal a subset as possible to reduce license proliferation and not creating new licensing for new projects. I'd expect that as the level of best practices all projects would adhere to," Phipps said. The new open source chief dismissed criticism Sun received this year for adding to license proliferation with its creation of the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), which updates the Mozilla Public License (MPL). CDDL brings the total of OSI-approved open source licenses to 58. "CDDL is bringing about the end of license proliferation in Mozilla licenses," Phipps said. Meanwhile, in an effort to provide a single-point of contact between Sun and the community, Phipps has created the role of an open source ombudsman. The ombudsman will liaise with Sun and the open source community on potential problems, bringing issues to Sun's Open Source Council and Open Source Review Board. ®
Gavin Clarke, 18 Aug 2005