Wednesday, 02 March 2005 18:00

News Roundup 2 Mar 2005


WiMax the coming challenge to broadband

The New York Times/Reuters report that US cities and companies are eyeing the emerging WiMax wireless broadband technology as a way to make high-speed wireless internet services available in areas much larger that a typical WiFi coffee bar or the local McDonald's. But it may prove difficult to make such services commercially viable, analysts say.

The NYT says WiMax -- touted as a potential spoiler for cable modems and other traditional internet connections -- was developed to beam the internet across cities using radio networks with much wider ranges than WiFi, a system used on laptops in coffee shops.

According to the paper, some broadband operators are considering WiMax as a way to expand their networks, and city administrators ion the US are looking to offer broadband services cheaply in public places such as parks or in low-income housing areas.

Such networks could erode the market for services such as cable modem and digital subscriber line (DSL) access over traditional phone lines, says the NYT., adding that the scarcity of suitable airwaves and wide availability of DSL and cable could stunt WiMax growth at least in the United States in the next few years.

The paper quotes a Forrester analyst as saying that the WiMax market in other geographies will dwarf that of North America, with WiMax makeing more sense for some parts of Europe and developing countries where broadband is not very common.

According to the NYT., companies including chip giant Intel and network gear makers such as Alcatel, Lucent Technologies and Alvarion plan to sell WiMax products. Early versions that deliver the internet to fixed locations such as homes are expected to go on sale next year, says the paper.

The paper says that according to a Yankee Group analyst, roughly 85 percent of US households can now buy broadband services and about 70 percent have a choice between cable and DSL. According to Yankee, this means that most commercial WiMax services are likely to be small in scale as markets would be limited to hard-to-reach rural areas or city neighborhoods that are not already hooked up for broadband.

The NYT reports that municipal administrators in as many as 100 US cities or towns are looking at building wireless networks, according to Forrester, who noted that these could projects range from coverage of entire cities or towns to links between official buildings.

Intel 64-bit Celeron confirmed

Intel has publicly confirmed its AMD64-like 64-bit addressing system, EM64T, will be brought to the company's budget Celeron processor line "this year".

The Register reports (1 March) that the chip maker also revealed that its dual-core Pentium 4 processor, 'Smithfield', is now in production.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the opening of the Intel Developer Forum, the company's Industrial Technology Programs Director said EM64T would make it to the Celeron family sooner rather than later, reports The Register.

EMC: super-Google in Centera boxes

EMC has created a new search engine for its Centera storage systems that could well serve as the basis for a host of applications that manipulate data on the boxes in different ways, according to The Register.

The Register says the Centera Seek software will now be officially unveiled and go on sale this month. It's based on the FAST InStream indexing and search software from Norway's Fast Search and Transfer ASA, according to The Register, but the publication says EMC has added its own technology on top of this search engine for sorting and working with archived information.

According to The Register, one of the first such add-ons EMC will release for Seek is the Centera Chargeback Reporter software that monitors how much and what type of storage is being used by a customer. Over time, EMC expects third-party software makers to tap into the Seek search engine with their own applications, adds the publication.

The Register claims that "on the surface, it looks like EMC's partners did more work to bring Centera Seek to fruition than EMC", and "as mentioned, the core search software comes from a third party. That code then runs not on the Centera boxes themselves but on Dell servers.

The report says that, so far, EMC has only certified the dual-processor Dell PowerEdge 2850 system to run Centera Seek.

Opera beefs up browser to thwart phishers

Opera is trying to close the net on phishers with the release last week of a second beta of its forthcoming Opera 8 browser, reports The Register.
The Register says the Beta 2 release is designed to display the name of an organisation that owns the certificate of a site inside an address bar, located next to the padlock icon that indicates the security of a site. By clicking on the bar, surfers can find out who issued a certificate.

According to The Register,an unintended result of the IDN (International Domain Name) standard means domain names can be registered with certain international characters - which look like other commonly-used characters - in order to hoodwink users into believing they are on a different, trusted site. As such, says The Register, the feature creates a new wheeze for phishing attacks. Microsoft doesn't support IDN in IE but every other browser manufacturer does, obliging them to act after security firms highlighted the issue last month, according to The Register.

The publication say Opera's answer to this challenge is to only display localised domain names from certain top level domains (TLD) in its second beta.

"Opera selects TLDs that have established strict policies on the domain names they allow to be registered. This ensures that users who depend on IDN, for example when accessing sites under .jp or .kr, will have a favourable user experience," says Opera, as reported by The Register.

The Register quotes the company as saying that restricting the use of IDNs is a sensible approach in Western Europe but fails to work well in the rest of the world. The company also reportedly said that added it is talking to other browser manufacturers, digital certificate firms such as VeriSign and Comodo and registration bodies with the aim of thrashing out a unified approach to the IDN problem.

Vodafone to offer smart phone

Vodafone is to offer Taiwanese smart phone maker HTC's Universal palmtop 3G/WiFi smart phone, along with the manufacturer's compact PDA-phone, Magician.

The Register reports that the mobile phone network's German wing last week said it would show the devices at the CeBIT show, but did not say when the handsets will ship.

The publication says the Universal is the first Windows Mobile device said to provide 3G compatibility. It's a PDA-sized product with a 640 x 480 display that can be swivelled and rotated round to allow the unit to be operated either as a tablet or as a clamshell, reports The Register.

The Register says the unit sports a QWERTY keyboard, stereo speakers and twin digital cameras for still photography and video-calls. In addition to 3G and regular 800, 1800 and 1900MHz GSM/GPRS operation, Universal can connect to WiFi networks and incorporates Bluetooth. The device is powered by a 520MHz Intel XScale processor.

Qwest-MCI merger would produce savings, says Qwest

Qwest Communications International has said that it could generate cost reductions of US$14.8 billion from a merger with the long-distance telephone company MCI., including up to 15,000 job cuts.

The New York Times/Reuters report (1 March) that Qwest told analysts that it could cut annual costs of a merged company by US$2.5 billion to US$2.9 billion.

It also said the merger would allow it to use tax credits for earnings, saving another US$2 billion.

The NYT reports that Qwest said the savings would include 12,000 and 15,000 job cuts, or 15 percent to 18 percent of the combined company's work force.

The paper says that last week, Qwest revised its US$8 billion bid for MCI, after MCI accepted a lower bid by Verizon Communications.

'Dirty Harry' video games coming

The actor Clit Eastwood is to lend his voice and likeness to a new "Dirty Harry" game, which is being produced by Eastwood's Malpaso Productions and overseen by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment.

The New York Times reports (28 Feb.) that Warner Brothers has said "there are a lot of fans of the Harry Callahan character,"and this is Clint's way of bringing it to a new audience and having some fun with it."

The paper says the game will include characters and settings from the five-film franchise, which began with "Dirty Harry" in 1971 and ended with "The Dead Pool" in 1988. But the storyline will be original. "We are not retelling the stories that have already been told," said Jason Hall, senior vice president of Warner Brothers Interactive.

The NYT says that while Warner Brothers is publishing the title, the game developer has not been announced. The game will not be on shelves until the new Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles arrive, in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Charges for passing chip design information

A Taiwanese citizen living in California took computer chip design information from a San Francisco-area firm and e-mailed it to a potential rival in Taiwan, US authorities charged on Monday.

The New York Times/Reuters report (1 March) that the US Attorney for Northern California alleged that Shin-Guo Tsai, 35, took data sheets from Volterra Semiconductor and sent them over the internet to a potential competitor on Christmas Day, 2004.

The paper reports that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Tsai, who has permanent resident status in the United States, on Sunday night on charges of transporting stolen property abroad, a crime that could bring a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, according to a spokesman for the US Attorney for the Northern District of California.

Tsai is in custody until a hearing later this week, spokesman Luke Macaulay said in a statement to the NYT/Reuters.

Tsai worked for Volterra, which completed an initial public offering last year, from July 2002 until 15 February, 2005, when he announced he was returning to Taiwan to marry.

The criminal complaint quoted Volterra's vice president of design engineering David Lidsky as saying the transmitted information about the firm's 1100-series products "related to the design of high-performance analog and mixed-signal power management semiconductors," the NYT reports.

The NYT/Reuters report says that experts say theft and espionage is a headache for many Silicon Valley technology firms, although many do not turn to authorities when they discover it.

XM Satellite Radio lifts fees

In the US, XM Satellite Radio has announced it will raise the monthly fee for its nationwide radio service by about 30 percent in April and will add some premium features to its basic plan, putting it on par with smaller rival Sirius Satellite Radio .

The New York Times/Reuters reported that XM said the monthly subscription for its basic plan will rise to US$12.95 from US$9.99, effective April 2.
For XM, the leader in the nascent pay-radio market that offers more than 100 channels of music and talk programming, it is the first price increase since its national launch in 2001, says the NYT.

The paper reports that Washington-based XM said the change will not result in a significant near-term revenue increase, because it is offering existing subscribers a chance to lock in long-term contracts for up to 5 years at current rates.

XM, according to the NYT., currently has about 3.2 million subscribers, and says it now expects to exceed its goal for 20 million subscribers by 2010, allowing it to lower the price of its satellite radios, which are sold for automobiles and as portable units.

PalmSource's new CFO

PalmSource, a maker of software for handheld computers, has announced the appointment of Jeanne Seeley as the company's chief financial officer.

The New York Times/AP report that Seeley, 53, formerly served as senior vice president and finance chief of Snap Appliances, which makes network storage products. She replaces Al Wood, who quit his post in December.

Webcam trojan used for spying on woman

A Spanish computer science student received a stiff fine this week after he admitted using malicious code to spy on a young woman via her webcam, reports The Register.

The Register says a Malaga Court was told the perpetrator - known only by his initials G.J.A.L. - used the Subseven Trojan horse to ogle his victim without her consent.

The report says the culprit was told to pay his unnamed victim - who he selected at random - €3,000 compensation. He was also fined approximately €1,000 and denounced for illicitly capturing images of his victim, who remained blissfully unaware of his perverted behaviour.

The Register reports that his lecherous behaviour only came to light after he accidentally emailed pictures of his victim to the girl herself instead of one of his mates.

The report also says that last month Spanish police arrested a 37-year-old man in Madrid on suspicion of using an unnamed Trojan horse to steal confidential banking information from net users and spy on them online. Anti-virus firm Sophos reports a sharp increase in the use of Trojan horses which allow hackers to spy on victims using infected machines, says The Register.

EDS offers stake to AT Kearney partners

EDS may offer some or all of its loss-making consultancy arm, AT Kearney, back to the unit's management, reports The Register.

The Register says Michael Jordan, EDS' chairman and CEO, broached the option in a meeting with senior AT Kearney managers two weeks ago.

The publication says that apparently the services giant is "exploring ways to give AT Kearney [partners] a greater ownership stake" according to an EDS spokesman, However,The Register says that no firm proposals have been made and there is no set timeframe for any deal.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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