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News > Archives > Article

Week of August 19, 2001 News Archive

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Weekend

Monday August 20, 2001 Top


AMD Announces Plan for Upgrades to its Processors


Advanced Micro Devices on Monday gave its Athlon 4 and Duron chips a performance boost. The chipmaker announced a 1.1GHz Athlon 4 and a 900MHz Duron--both for notebook PCs--and said Compaq Computer will offer the new mobile chips in its Presario 1200 line. AMD also announced its intent to ship a 1GHz desktop Duron later this quarter. AMD's newest Athlon 4 represents a 100MHz jump in speed from the first chip in that series, introduced in May at up to 1GHz. A 1.2GHz Athlon 4 is expected in the fourth quarter. The new Duron chips represent a more significant refresh because they are based on a new processor core--known as Morgan--with several enhancements over the current Duron. Morgan is essentially a lower-cost version of the Athlon 4's core--called the Palomino--with PowerNow power management added along with a prefetch level 2 cache. Both cores offer the same Socket A packaging system, cache sizes and 200MHz front-side bus--the data pathway from the chip to system components such as memory--as Athlon's Thunderbird core, which is currently used only on the desktop.

They also pack AMD's PowerNow technology and 52 new multimedia instructions in the form of Intel's Streaming SIMD Extensions, or SSE1. Those instructions were introduced with the first Pentium III chips to help them handle multimedia by breaking data into smaller chunks, which can be processed in parallel. PowerNow serves to increase notebook battery life by lowering the clock speed and voltage. The technology features an "automatic" mode that continuously varies the chip's clock speed and voltages based on the demands placed on it by applications. The Palomino/Morgan prefetch feature allows the cache to recognize patterns and automatically grab the data needed by the processor before it's actually needed. This way, the chip doesn't have to wait for the data when it comes time to perform an operation.The 1GHz Duron desktop chip should begin shipping later in the quarter.

"We expect widespread availability around the time of the Windows XP launch in October," Tisdale said. List price for the 1.1GHz mobile Athlon 4 is $425, while the 900MHz mobile Duron is priced at $130. The 1GHz desktop Duron lists for $89. A 1.5GHz desktop Athlon processor is expected next month, completing AMD's move from its Thunderbird and Spitfire processor cores--the current desktop Athlon and the desktop and mobile Duron, respectively--to the Palomino and Morgan cores. Palomino and Morgan should continue into the first half of next year, when AMD will replace them with Thoroughbred and Appaloosa, similar processor cores based on a new 0.13-micron manufacturing process. Currently, AMD manufactures its chips on a 0.18-micron process with copper interconnects.
CNET.com

Microsoft Executive Reports XP Completed by Friday


Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system will be ready for production as early as Friday, said Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, sounding optimistic about an on-schedule launch despite the company's ongoing antitrust case. "Our job now is to get Windows XP done," Ballmer told a news conference at a technology meeting on Monday. "With a little bit of luck, we should have it ready by Friday." If Microsoft's programmers are able to ship the final code to manufacturers by Friday, that would put the software giant on track to release Windows XP as planned in October. Microsoft last week told PC manufacturers to expect final XP code around Aug. The newest version of Windows bundles more features than ever before--including instant messaging, digital photography and personal firewall applications. That has prompted complaints from politicians and competitors that Microsoft is again using its muscle to stifle competition, a practice that led to a U.S. federal court ruling finding it guilty of being an illegal monopoly. U.S. district judge is now due to hold hearings on what penalties Microsoft should face for antitrust violations. Microsoft, which on Friday lost an appeal to delay the case, also has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. Ballmer said Monday that Microsoft is eager to settle the antitrust case, and brushed off the idea that Microsoft is a monopoly. "I don't know what a monopoly is until somebody tells me," he said. Microsoft's job is "to try and create products that people want," he said. "We don't want 10 percent of people to want our product; we want everyone to want our product." CNET.com

Network Associates Teams Up to Research DOS Attacks


Security software company Network Associates announced Monday that it has teamed up with three network security start-ups to share information about denial-of-service attacks. McAfee, the antivirus division of Network Associates, signed on Arbor Networks, Asta Networks and Mazu Networks in a loose alliance to share data and research about attacks. The three companies were formed in the last 18 months in response to the growing threat of denial-of-service attacks. "Each of them offers a unique aspect in what we are trying to do," said Tony Thompson, a spokesman for Network Associates. "They each come to the table delivering a certain set of knowledge." The company's McAfee division plans to release new antivirus products that can protect servers and home computers alike from programs that surreptitiously take control of computers. For the time being, the relationship between Network Associates and the three start-ups will be focused on research and information sharing.

"We can provide huge insight into network analysis; Network Associates brings to the table a lot of forensics data," said Stefan Savage, co-founder and chief scientist for Asta Networks. "Being able to put these together and learn about what's going on early on helps us." While all three companies are focused on detecting denial-of-service attacks as they happen and then shutting down the attack, having access to data on the programs that cause the attack is important, said Walter McCormack, vice president of business development for Cambridge, Mass.-based Mazu Networks. "We can detect a real-time attack, but it's also nice to know about the attack beforehand," McCormack said. "We can get a heads-up from them if there is a huge spike" in server infections.
CNET.com

Sun Will Release IE 6 Compatible JVM in October


Sun Microsystems may have missed its opportunity to get the newest version of Java on PCs loaded with Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company acknowledged that because of timing issues, no PC maker has opted to incorporate Sun's version of the Java Virtual Machine--or JVM--in Windows XP systems. Case in point: Compaq Computer has stated that it will incorporate Microsoft's JVM in its upcoming Windows XP PCs. Compaq's decision to go with Microsoft, especially if followed by other PC makers, will likely thwart Sun in its attempt to show what can be accomplished with the Java programming language. Sun has been writing code furiously since Microsoft's April decision not to ship the JVM with Internet Explorer 6, which is integrated into Windows XP. Sun had planned to offer an IE 6-compatible version of the JVM but won't have it ready in time to ship on new Windows XP PCs. Although Sun is developing a compatible JVM, there wasn't enough time to get it ready after Microsoft's decision became public at the end of July. Harrah couldn't promise quick delivery of the software, either. "What we're saying right now is when XP ships formally (in October), we will have a JVM available for download," he said. "Hopefully, we will see other people distributing it as well. We're certainly working hard to have it sooner." ZDNet.com

Microsoft Move Closer to Making Deal in Antitrust Case


A harshly worded federal appeals court order and uncertain prospects before a lower court here could nudge Microsoft toward making a deal with the Justice Department in its antitrust case. The software company may be running out of options to avoid coming to terms with the government, antitrust experts said after Friday's terse order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denying a bid to delay further proceedings while the Supreme Court considers whether to intervene. The order places the case back before a lower court to determine a remedy for Microsoft's antitrust violations. Paul Rothstein, a Georgetown University law professor, said he thinks the appeals court was "trying to position things for a settlement" when it rejected the stay and rebuked Microsoft for having "misconstrued" an earlier appellate decision setting aside Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's order to break up the Redmond, Wash., company.

Barring a surprise intervention by the Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court here will hold as early as Friday a computerized lottery to pick a new judge to determine Microsoft's fate. "I think both sides have a strong incentive to settle," said antitrust attorney Mark Schecter with the Washington firm Howrey Simon Arnold & White LLP. Microsoft has now "rolled the dice with the courts enough times" and lost, that the company may be "beginning to understand it can control its destiny better when it is dealing with the Justice Department." Microsoft on Friday reiterated its previously stated eagerness to reach a deal with the Justice Department. "We remain committed to resolving the remaining issues in the case quickly through settlement," spokesman Jim Desler said. But the company has never indicated willingness to make major concessions. Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona declined to address any negotiations. "We are pleased with the court's decision and we look forward to proceedings in the district court," she said.
ZDNet.com

Tuesday August 21, 2001 Top


Creative Releases Sound Cards based on Audigy Processor


Creative today announced the Sound Blaster Audigy line of PC audio cards, slated for immediate shipping to global retail and online outlets.The Sound Blaster Audigy cards set a new benchmark for PC audio with its completely redesigned Audigy ADVANCED HD audio architecture. Powered by the Audigy processor, Sound Blaster Audigy delivers audio clarity comparable to professional audio systems and surpasses many high-end home stereo solutions with exceptional realism in audio playback. Sound Blaster Audigy is the only audio processor capable of delivering EAX ADVANCED HD, which enables high definition Multi-Environments and powers advanced 3D audio imaging for unsurpassed digital entertainment experiences. The Sound Blaster Audigy features four times the processing power of the previous Creative audio processor EMU10K1 used in the Sound Blaster Live!, which, together with its EAX technology, has already been firmly established as the new de facto standard for PC audio. "Creative is setting the standard for PC audio once again by pushing mass market PC audio into the realm of professional audio quality with the Sound Blaster Audigy," said Sim Wong Hoo, founder and CEO of Creative. "It represents the best audio you can achieve on a PC, way surpassing any other audio solution. The huge installed based of PC users can now upgrade to Sound Blaster Audigy to empower the PC as the top-of-the-line digital entertainment platform," he added.

High Definition Audio Clarity: Sound Blaster Audigy delivers stunning audio clarity in multi-channel through 24-bit/96kHz digital-to-analog converters, producing an outstanding 100dB signal-to-noise ratio. This dramatic increase in audio quality is attributed to the Audigy's proprietary high definition components and circuit design wizardry. The Sound Blaster Audigy also includes support for true discrete multi-channel playback, which allows users to maximize their listening experience with Dolby Digital 5.1 music.The Creative Sound Blaster Audigy family currently includes the Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum eX, Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum, Sound Blaster Audigy MP3+ and Sound Blaster Audigy X-Gamer. The Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum eX signals a radical departure for the Sound Blaster line of products. The front-facing drive in the external Audigy Drive connects to a custom cable that allows users to position the drive on the desktop, for convenient control in music creation and other applications. This solution is also ideal for users who do not have enough drive bay space to add new products or who would rather conceal their PC beneath the desktop yet still have convenient control of their sound card from a desktop level.

For the core gamer who demands an immersive, multi-dimensional gaming experience, the Sound Blaster Audigy X-Gamer delivers true surround sound for compelling gameplay. The SB1394 connector allows easy PC-to-PC connectivity and low latency gameplay performance beyond LAN gaming. This card comes with full versions of Interplay's Giants: Citizen Kabuto and Deus Ex Game of the Year, as well as Unibrain S.A.'s FireNet; the Goldmine application to illustrate EAX ADVANCED HD's audio realism; Creative PlayCenter 3 and six other Creative software titles.For the Internet and digital music enthusiast, the Sound Blaster Audigy MP3+ makes it simple to create, customize and listen to audio files with multi-channel high-definition quality. The Sound Blaster Audigy MP3+ comes with the following software to enhance the digital music lover's experience: MixMeister Technologies' MixMeister; Beatnik's Mixman Studio Remixer; Unibrain S.A.'s FireNet; iM Networks Inc.'s iM Tuner, Creative PlayCenter 3, Oozic(tm) Player and five additional Creative software titles. The Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum eX holds an estimated street price of US$249.99; the Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum's estimated street price is $199.99; and the Sound Blaster Audigy X-Gamer and Sound Blaster Audigy MP3+ hold an estimated street price of US$99.99. The entire line is slated for immediate shipment to global retail and online outlets.
Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum eX Preview | Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum Preview | Sound Blaster Audigy X-Gamer Preview | Sound Blaster Audigy MP3+ Preview

Apple Releases Mac OS 9.2.1 for Web Download


Apple today released an update to Mac OS 9 -- version 9.2.1. The software is available from a link from Apple's Hot News Web page. "Mac OS 9.2.1 Update improves Classic application compatibility in Mac OS X and additional hardware support for Macs capable of running Mac OS X," said Apple. The 9.2.1 update requires users to have Mac OS 9.1 installed if they are performing an automatic or manual update. Apple said that the new operating system can be installed on Mac OS X-compatible computers, including the Power Mac G3, Power Mac G4, PowerBook G3 (except for the original PowerBook G3), PowerBook G4, iMac and iBook. Separate versions of the 9.2.1 installer have been created for North American and International English markets; French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Japanese language versions are also supported. The update is available either as a single installer or as a multi-part download. The size of the upgrade depends on the localized language version being downloaded; it ranges from 82MB to 103.5MB. MacCentral.com | Download the Update

Apple Fixes Incompatibility Between Quicktime and IE


Apple Computer has fixed a compatibility problem that prevented users of the most recent version of Microsoft's Web browser from viewing movies in the QuickTime format. As previously reported, QuickTime failed to work with recent versions of the Internet Explorer browser running on the Windows operating system. The incompatibility became apparent July 31 when Microsoft released an upgrade for Internet Explorer 5.5, dubbed SP2. Microsoft typically uses "service packs" to patch problems with its browser, but in this case consumers who installed it were unable to view QuickTime video. According to information on Apple's Web site, consumers can download the software needed to correct the incompatibility. The site also provides information for Web developers to support the viewing of QuickTime content with Internet Explorer. The QuickTime problem highlighted Microsoft's move away from "plug-ins," a technology pioneered by Netscape Communications to extend the function of Web browsers. With IE 5.5, Microsoft discontinued support for plug-ins. Instead, the browser relies on technology developed by Microsoft known as ActiveX that links desktop applications to the Web. ActiveX is considered a challenger to Sun Microsystems' Java programming language, which Microsoft has said will no longer be supported by default in its pending Windows XP operating system and IE 6. CNET.com

Microsoft Patches New Hole in Hotmail


The day after Microsoft acknowledged a security hole in Hotmail, its popular free e-mail service, a representative for the software giant said it had fixed the problem. Details of the hole, which could have allowed any user the ability to read another user's e-mail, were originally publicized by hacker and security site Root-Core four days ago. Mark Wain, product manager for the Microsoft Network, acknowledged the problem Monday, but he downplayed the threat, calling it a "computational infeasibility." To exploit the flaw, a user would have had to know the target's username, the time the e-mail was received and a random two-digit number, he said. Most would-be attackers would know only the target's username and might be able to guess the time a particular message was received, making the technique hard to implement. "A malicious attacker would have to conduct thousands, if not tens of thousands, of attempts before they could hit on a valid message," Wain said. If would-be spies knew the minute in which the message was received, they would still have to try 6,000 numerical combinations. To scan all the messages received in an hour, it would take 360,000 combinations.

An automated scanning tool, such as the one Root-Core posted on its site, could have made an attack easier, but it's uncertain whether Hotmail would allow the thousands of access attempts such a method would require. Now that Microsoft has closed the hole, the issue is essentially moot. On top of that, the flaw had an interesting side effect: It highlighted the fact that Microsoft's premier mail service still uses a non-Microsoft operating system. The security hole made use of the fact that each message is identified by a time stamp and a two-digit number. The time stamp uses the typical Unix format. Microsoft confirmed that Unix systems still make up a significant part of the Hotmail network. "Hotmail does utilize some Unix servers on the back end, and through time, we are looking to migrate the environment to Windows 2000," Wain said.
CNET.com

Apple Announces No New Hardware at Paris Expo


Apple today announced that Apple CEO Steve Jobs will give the opening keynote address at Apple Expo 2001 in Paris on Wednesday, September 26 at 9:00 a.m. CET in the Palais de Congres. Apple Expo 2001 will be held at the Paris Expo in Porte de Versailles, September 26-30. "My keynote will focus on Mac OS X v10.1, the super-fast new version of Mac OS X, and our revolutionary new iDVD 2 software, which lets users create their own custom DVDs that can be played on consumer DVD players," said Steve Jobs. "This has been an incredible new product year for Apple, so we don't plan to launch any new hardware products in Paris this year."

Wednesday August 22, 2001 Top


LCD Prices Expected to Drop Throughout the Year


Prices for 10-inch and larger LCD monitors fell to less than $300 in the second quarter in the United States--a record 28.4 percent drop compared with the same quarter last year--according to new report from market researcher DisplaySearch. The steep drop in price led to a 40 percent boost in shipments for the quarter, compared with the same period last year. Shipments in the third quarter are predicted to increase by 30 percent because of an expected 13 percent price drop. Continued price drops are forecast through November but will eventually flatten out in the beginning of next year, DisplaySearch said. Prices for smaller LCDs used in cell phones, handhelds and digital cameras also fell in the second quarter, by 15 percent, 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively. That trend is expected to reverse for cell phones in the third quarter, when prices are expected to increase by 11 percent. In the fourth quarter, however, prices for LCDs for cell phones are expected to fall by 5 percent. ZDNet.com

Intel Provides Better Support to Linux Programmers


Intel, one of the first mainstream companies to endorse the Linux operating system, will release programming tools Thursday to make Linux programs run better on its chips. The chipmaker plans to announce compilers that translate Linux programs written in C++ or Fortran languages into commands an Intel Pentium 4 or Itanium chip can understand, the company said in a statement. Compilers are key to making sure programs can take advantage of a chip's new features, such as those that distinguish the Pentium 4 from its predecessors, but the design of the Itanium family relies even more heavily than most chips on the performance of the compiler. The compilers will include several features already incorporated in Intel's compilers for Windows computers, including support for the OpenMP standard for multiprocessor computers, the chipmaker said. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel has been a backer of Linux, a clone of Unix that's grown popular for use in servers--chiefly those based on Intel chips. Releasing compilers helps write programs that show off Intel's chips to their greatest advantage. However, the standard compiler most Linux programmers use is GCC, recently upgraded to version 3.0. Scientific programmers, the chief users of the Fortran language and people who often write their own software, are often interested in squeezing every bit of performance possible out of a chip. ZDNet.com

Microsoft Goes to Washington to Defend Passport


Microsoft on Wednesday descended on the nation's capital, trying to quell concerns its Passport authentication service poses a threat to consumers' privacy or security. The Redmond, Wash.-based company is here at the behest of the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), a consumer advocacy group that wishes to hear directly from the software maker on its plans, said Adam Sohn, Microsoft's manager for U.S.-.Net platform strategy. The software giant may use the opportunity to talk with other groups or even some legislators. But Sohn, who spoke with CNET News.com late Tuesday, said he did not know the day's itinerary. Microsoft may have a lot of ground to cover. Last week, nearly 15 privacy and consumer groups amended a July 26 complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission charging that Microsoft, by offering Passport and associated services, is engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC act. Passport also is the authentication for HailStorm, which has been billed as a way for subscribers to access their e-mail, personal contact list, schedule and other Web services--such as shopping, banking and entertainment--through a variety of devices, such as PCs, cell phones and handhelds, from any location.

HailStorm is part of Microsoft's forthcoming .Net software-as-a-service strategy. But the privacy groups have questioned whether Passport collects too much information and lacks the basic security features required to protect basic information. Some industry analysts, however, question the validity of those claims. "There's nothing I've seen in how Passport collects information that's any different from other Web sites," said Guernsey Research analyst Chris LeTocq. The groups, which include the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Junkbusters, faulted Microsoft for collecting, among other things, e-mail addresses during the Passport sign-up process. But this collecting of e-mail addresses is "commonplace" on the Web, LeTocq said. For its part, the CDT wants to get information directly from Microsoft, rather than third parties. "There is a lot of discussion among security experts and privacy groups about Passport, HailStorm, Windows XP and where it's headed," Schwartz said.

"We just wanted to get a briefing on the practical side and ask some of the questions directly to Microsoft. That's the way we work. We like to talk to the company whenever an issue like this arises, work on some of the details and see where they're headed." The CDT has gathered a number of local privacy and security experts for the Microsoft meeting. Schwartz said that at least in the CDT's briefing, no legislators would be present, nor representatives from the groups that filed the FTC complaints. The CDT's stated mission "is to develop and implement public policies to protect and advance individual liberty and democratic values in new digital media," according to the organization's Web site. Sohn said Microsoft's objectives for the Passport briefings are clear: "To set the record on stuff that is out there and is misrepresenting our intent. We want to give the future of where we're going, both in the near term with technologies like Passport and longer term with stuff like .Net and HailStorm." Sohn emphasized that Microsoft is "very concerned about privacy. And we want to have a dialogue on where we're at and where we are going forward."
CNET.com

Windows XP Manager Does not see Bundling as Big Deal


The bundling controversy over Windows XP has been blown "way out of proportion" by a few prominent companies that don't like Microsoft adding to its operating system technologies that compete with their applications, the company says. It may seem like cold consolation to Microsoft competitors, but Greg Sullivan, lead product manager for Windows XP, said there are thousands of developers creating applications for the Windows operating system, and the number of technologies Microsoft chooses to add to its OS is quite small in comparison. "If you look at the PC industry as a whole and the work that Microsoft puts into supporting third-party innovation and development on the Windows platform, the set of companies and individuals working on innovative tools for the platforms so vastly outweighs the opportunities that companies [lost] because things became part of the OS," Sullivan said in a recent interview about Microsoft's OS strategy. "The debate is way out of proportion to the reality." "You decide to put something in the OS when you want to bury it alive," said one computer industry insider who asked not to be named.

"Once you start thinking of things as being part of the OS, you can keep the [Application Programming Interfaces] secret and only make them internal to the company. That keeps external programmers from taking advantage of those features and developing new applications." As it has throughout its antitrust battles with the government, Microsoft maintains that it is simply fighting for its right to continue innovating in the development of new versions of the OS that has helped it become the world's most successful software company. Still, it is showing some sensitivity. Last week it reached a settlement with Eastman Kodak over its allegations that the OS was designed to give unfair preference to Microsoft's digital imaging software. The Kodak dispute is just one example of the challenges Microsoft faces as a developer of both the market-leading OS platform and a provider of software applications and online services. "In the Windows group, we're always in the interesting position of providing the platform and at the same time recognizing that we might be stepping on our competitors," Sullivan said.

There is no one litmus test driving the decision to bundle, or integrate, technologies into XP, such as applications like the Windows Messenger and Windows Media Player that Microsoft has offered as software add-ons to Windows and made available on other OS platforms, Sullivan said. Rather, the decision to bundle is part of the evolution of the product and "based on meeting and exceeding the expectations of our users." "Microsoft has to provide value and get people into the stores. They discovered a while back that saying, 'It has less bugs,' doesn't get people to buy the product," Giga's Enderle said. But IM vendors and digital media providers worry that Microsoft's bundling of technologies into the OS will - as was the case with the browser - harm the market for their applications. Many ask why Microsoft bundles its own applications with its OS when other OS vendors license add-ons to their platforms from third parties. Apple Computer, for instance, relies on Microsoft's Internet Explorer to help its Macintosh users traverse the Web. Although it made IE the default browser on Macs as part of a 1997 deal that saw Microsoft invest $150 million in the company, Apple said it also saw no need to reinvent the browser; it offered Netscape Communications' Navigator as the default browser up until the switch. Microsoft, however, says counting on third parties to provide that functionality is not acceptable.
ZDNet.com

Apple Wins and Emmy for Firewire's Impact on TV Industry


Apple’s FireWire technology will be honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in an awards presentation held tonight at the academy's Goldenson Theatre in Hollywood. Apple will receive a 2001 Primetime Emmy Engineering Award for FireWire's material impact on the television industry. Apple invented FireWire in the mid-90s and shepherded it to become the established cross-platform industry standard IEEE 1394. FireWire is a high-speed serial input/output technology for connecting digital devices such as digital camcorders and cameras to desktop and portable computers. Widely adopted by digital peripheral companies such as Sony, Canon, JVC and Kodak, FireWire has become the established industry standard for both consumers and professionals. "Apple enabled the desktop video revolution with its invention of FireWire," said Jon Rubinstein, Apple's senior vice president of Hardware Engineering. "Today, Apple builds FireWire into every computer it sells, and it is a key component of Apple's 'digital hub' strategy." FireWire combined with Apple's award-winning Final Cut Pro and iMovie video editing software has catapulted Apple to become the world's largest supplier of video editing solutions for both the professional and consumer markets. In addition, Apple’s PowerBook G4 Titanium notebook, with its built-in FireWire, together with low-cost, high-quality DV camcorders, has sparked a mobile DV-editing phenomenon that has revolutionized video editing within the television and film industry.

Thursday August 23, 2001 Top


Microsoft Announces Utility to Improve IIS Security


Hoping to reduce the impact of security threats such as the "Code Red" worm, Microsoft on Thursday released a tool designed to help less technically sophisticated users eliminate vulnerabilities in their servers. The free, downloadable security tool helps users disable functions and settings that could leave their servers open to an attack, said Scott Culp, Microsoft's security program manager. These include Internet printing, advanced search functions and certain scripting technologies that enable viruses and worms to spread, Culp said. The tool is designed for Internet Information Server (IIS), Windows NT and Windows 2000 software for publishing Web pages. A flaw in IIS was exploited by Code Red, launching potentially crippling attacks on some Web sites. Since then, some programmers have faulted Microsoft for designing ease-of-use features into its server software that critics say make them too vulnerable to intruders. The new tool, which aims to fix that problem, is the latest in a series of free, downloadable security products the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has released recently to help protect Microsoft products from attack. "We know that software being written by human beings is never going to be bug-free," Culp said. "The way to address the human fallibility problem is to make (the) work factor as small as possible." CNET.com

New Utility Highlights Weakness in Wireless Security


Airports, schools and hotels might want to look closer at the wireless Internet networks they have been installing as a convenience for the must-stay-connected crowd. A new program called AirSnort, released on the Internet this week, lets enterprising hackers easily grab sensitive data as its is transmitted through the air--unless certain precautions are taken. "There's going to be some major events that will occur, some takedowns, things like that," said Les Owens, a Vienna, Va.-based expert on wireless security. "I would be cautious (on a wireless network in a public place), a lot more cautious than I would be at home." Because wireless networks broadcast signals over the public airwaves like radios and cell phones, security experts have known for a long time that they are vulnerable to snoops. But not until AirSnort--and a less-complete tool called WEPCrack that was released earlier--were the means to carry out such an attack made so easily available to anyone anywhere. The programs exploit flaws in a commonly used encryption scheme for securing traffic on a certain kind of wireless network--the one based on a popular standard known as Wi-Fi, or 802.11b. Computers linked with a competing standard, known as Bluetooth, are not susceptible to AirSnort or WEPCrack, but Bluetooth also is considered more vulnerable to spies than hard-wired networks.

AirSnort's programmers believe too many wireless network users have shrugged off or couldn't understand recent research describing flaws in the popular Wi-Fi encryption system, which is known as Wired-Equivalent Privacy, or WEP. The AirSnort designers said they wanted to make it clear that businesses should be careful about letting important data get out on wireless networks and that many networks need security upgrades. "It is my firm belief that a false sense of security is worse than no security at all," said AirSnort co-programmer Jeremy Bruestle, who runs a small computer security firm called Cypher42 in St. Cloud, Minn. "In order to stay ahead of the hackers, people need to make informed decisions." Critics have told Bruestle, 23, and co-author Blake Hegerle, 20, that giving hackers a tool to crack wireless networks doesn't do much to advance the their cause. "But the truth is the security flaw exists regardless of AirSnort, and it is not a difficult flaw to exploit," Bruestle said. A similar program was developed this summer by researchers at AT&T Labs, who chose not to release their code "for a combination of moral and legal reasons," said team member Adam Stubblefield.
CNET.com

Amazon Previews Windows XP Prices Again


Amazon.com resumed taking advance orders for the business version of Windows XP for at least several hours Thursday, giving a possible preview of pricing for Microsoft's new operating system. Amazon pulled the offering around 3:30 p.m. PDT after several hours of showing the full version of Windows XP Professional for $299.99 and the upgrade version for $199.99. An Amazon spokesman said the premature offering was caused by a "glitch." This is the second glitch that has caused Amazon to prematurely take preorders for Windows XP before Microsoft reveals pricing for the software, which it is expected to do any day. In July, Amazon took preorders for several versions of Windows XP at similar prices. The preorder pages were quickly removed, a move sources said was prompted by pressure from the software giant. "We have not yet announced pricing," Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said Thursday, before Amazon had removed the preorder pages. "You can expect that (the Amazon preorder pages) won't be up there for very long." Amazon spokesman Bill Curry declined to comment about whether the prices that Amazon had advertised for XP would be the same as Microsoft's list price. But he said that if Microsoft's prices end up being higher than those Amazon posted, Amazon will make up the difference. "It was our mistake," Curry said. "We'll protect our customers and make sure that they pay the lower price." CNET.com

CD Sales Drop Despite RIAA Crackdown on File Trading


U.S. music product shipments fell 4.4 percent to $5.9 billion in the first half of 2001, the Recording Industry Association of America said Tuesday, despite the industry's success in stifling its nemesis Napster. Shipments in the first half of 2000 totaled $6.2 billion. Hilary Rosen, chief executive of the RIAA, said that although consumer loyalty to physical music products still dominates, the industry is working aggressively to embrace new forms of online distribution. "Our companies recognize the fact that more consumers are looking to get music online and are experimenting with a number of approaches, including legitimate subscription services," she said. The RIAA represents all the major labels--Vivendi Universal's Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, AOL Time Warner's Warner Music Group, EMI Recorded Music and Bertelsmann's BMG Entertainment--that won a preliminary injunction against Napster in March. The injunction barred the online music-sharing service from offering copyrighted music.

The RIAA had claimed that the popularity of Napster would depress music product sales. All the big companies are poised to launch their own music subscription services. The RIAA said unit shipments to retail outlets and special markets such as music clubs and mail order dropped 9.4 percent in the first six months of the year, to 442.7 million from 488.7 million a year earlier. "We are committed to delivering the music consumers love, when they want it and how they want it. We are confident that our year-end numbers will be strong," Rosen said, citing new releases from artists including Mary J. Blige, Andrea Bocelli, Brandy, Goo Goo Dolls, Macy Gray, Enrique Iglesias, Jewel, Natalie Merchant, and Alanis Morrissette in coming months. The RIAA said full-length CD units dropped 5.3 percent at midyear 2001, representing a $5.5 billion dollar value within the market, a 2.7 percent decrease in dollar value from midyear 2000.
ZDNet.com

Companies Building Technology to Create "Home Servers"


As industry heavyweights alternately invest in and abandon the nascent home-networking market, a growing number of start-ups are testing the waters with products that integrate and manage media types in the home. Mediabolic, based in San Francisco, and Ucentric, of Maynard, Mass., are among a handful of companies that have recently attracted venture capital backing to take on this uncertain market, amid fierce competition and the warnings of scattered naysayers. A home server is designed to consolidate and link various devices and media types through a single hub. The term "home networking" originally referred to a method of linking PCs sitting under the same roof, but it now is used more broadly to encompass the pan-media ambitions of home servers. The idea has attracted the serious interest and financial muscle of Internet and media giant AOL Time Warner, which in April led a $67 million Series A investment round in Rearden Steele. That start-up, founded by WebTV inventor Steve Perlman, is building a home server, according to sources familiar with its plans.

Despite some signs of life in the home-networking market, analysts are concerned because even small changes to the way people consume entertainment in the home have met with resistance. Even as analysts warn of consumer indifference, electronics companies are nervously eyeing computer-industry efforts, worrying they might get shut out of the game. "Consumer electronics guys are trying not to be left out in the cold, but there's a good chance they will be," said William Bao Bean, analyst with Banc of America Securities. "They're moving very quickly to put things on the shelves. But they don't have the software to make it work. That's where the opportunity is right now.""Right now this market is nascent," said Mark Snowden, analyst with research firm Gartner. "People are only just learning what TiVo and UltimateTV can do, and this home server idea is a generation beyond that. There are some bleeding edge sorts of consumers who are very interested in this, but you get past that tiny little slice of consumers and a company is going to have to come down a lot in price, a lot in complexity, and do a lot of education as to why this is the best thing since sliced bread."

Ucentric claims to have answered at least the first two of Snowden's tests. Its software is written to tie together new digital appliances and legacy analog machines--including televisions, telephones, answering machines, and both handheld and desktop computers--in such a way that all these devices can interact with each other once they're plugged into the Ucentric server. In a Ucentric-wired home, instant messages and caller ID notifications flash on TV screens alongside traditional broadcast programming. MP3s and streaming media play on legacy stereo systems via unused FM channels. Unified messaging applications let people check e-mail remotely by telephone and forward analog voice-mail messages via IP. All this, claims Ucentric, for roughly what consumers already pay their cable company. "This is going to bring more services into the home for the same or lower price," said Rick Edson, chief executive of Ucentric. "We're asking what people need and looking at what they already have today. We're saying that people shouldn't have to buy all new devices or learn new behaviors. They shouldn't have to change the way they make phone calls." Ucentric has designed server prototypes and ironed out a hardware reference design. The company declined to disclose manufacturers with whom it is forging partnerships but mentioned Scientific-Atlanta, General Instrument, Pace Micro Technology, and Thomson Consumer Electronics as potential candidates.
CNET.com

Friday August 24, 2001 Top


Microsoft Releases Finalized Code for Windows XP


Bill Gates, chairman, Microsoft, and Jim Allchin, VP, Microsoft platforms group Microsoft on Friday will host a celebration marking the release of Windows XP to PC manufacturers, but the big question is how much interest the company can generate for the software. At a lavish ceremony at the company's Redmond, Wash., headquarters, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Jim Allchin, group vice president and head of the Windows effort, are expected to present each PC maker representative with a Windows XP-branded briefcase containing a master disc with the operating system's final--or gold--code. The group then is supposed to board a helicopter and fly off while the two Microsoft executives wave. Software companies typically stage such events at the time the software is available at retailers. In the case of Windows XP, that date is still two months away. As a result, Friday's celebration with manufacturers could be intended to send two messages: Microsoft is determined to push ahead with XP despite concerns by some competitors, lawmakers and privacy advocates. And PC makers hope Windows XP will spur sales of new PCs.

"Windows XP is the most important consumer product they've released since Windows 95, with maybe the exception of Internet Explorer," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "They're counting on it to drive a huge jump in revenue between the third quarter of the calendar year and the fourth quarter of the calendar year: between a 15 and 30 percent increase between the two quarters." The ceremony also represents an early piece of a $1 billion industrywide marketing blitz--including at least $200 million from Microsoft--to promote Windows XP. The campaign, though, comes at a time when consumers seem numb to PC buying, and it's unclear if a new operating system will be enough to change their minds. Sales are on the decline in 2001. Moreover, Microsoft faces a challenge in getting the world excited about an OS release. Compared with the upgrade whirlwind that followed Windows 95, the last three Windows OSes have been greeted with tepid applause. Consumers have bought Windows 98, Me and 2000 but generally have not seen the new OSes as a strong reason to upgrade. So far, Windows XP beta testers have offered mixed reviews of the operating system, giving some indication of how consumers and businesses may perceive it.
CNET.com

Fujitsu Breaks Important Hard Drive Barrier


Several of the leading hard-drive manufacturers have been professing that they have been innovating technologies that will allow them to store more than 100 gigabits per square inch on a platter, the current ceiling for storage density. A platter is one of the key components in a hard drive and is where data is stored. Fujitsu will be the latest to join them. On Tuesday, the hard-drive maker will announce that it has broken the 100-gigabit ceiling and plans to begin using parts of the technology that allowed it to break the barrier as early as November. Hard-drive capacities have doubled over each of the past five years, making them one of the most inexpensive forms of storage and allowing PC owners to hoard more and more data. Industry skeptics have said that it was just a matter of time before manufacturers hit the wall when it came to increasing capacity and said that makers were about to hit the physical limit for higher capacities.

IDC analyst David Reinsel said density announcements from hard-drive makers are an effort to reassure consumers they aren't anywhere near the barrier. "Hard-drive manufacturers want to show that hard drives have life at least to 100 gigabits and even up to 300 gigabits," IDC analyst David Reinsel said. "This should help them to keep disk drives the preferred form of data storage." Reinsel added that storage media such as solid-state flash memory, optical storage and--to a lesser degree--holographic storage are gaining ground on hard drives. However, "There won't be a significant shift (in the storage market) until one of the emerging types can prove that they are as cheap and reliable as hard drives," Reinsel said. In May, IBM made a similar announcement with its antiferromagnetically coupled (AFC) media, which allows hard drives to reach densities of 100 gigabits per square inch.

AFC media, informally referred to as "pixie dust" at IBM, adds a thin layer of the element ruthenium on the platters inside hard drives. Mike Chenery, a Fujitsu vice president, said the Fujitsu innovation also used ruthenium but said Fujitsu's head technology differed from IBM's. "Fujitsu and IBM invented the technology independently of one another," Chenery said. Fujitsu plans on using platters with ruthenium in products as early as November. And while the company has demonstrated densities in the 100-gigabit range, they won't use portions of their innovations, specifically new head technology, until early 2003. "It takes 18 months to two years for the technology to mature and to go from lab demo to product. Additionally, we don't think the industry will really need the kinds of capacities that these innovations enable until then," Chenery said.
ZDNet.com

New Management at Iomega Tries to Revive the Zip Format


Iomega CEO Werner Heid knows how the razor blade principle of business works: Give away the razors and customers will have to buy the blades. As a vice president for Hewlett-Packard, he learned that the theory works in the world of computers. Sell enough printers at rock-bottom prices, and consumers will make up the difference by buying ink cartridges at $27 a pop. Now he's trying to revive Iomega's flagging sales by applying the concept to the company's mainstay products. Move enough Zip drives, he figures, and maybe customers will buy enough Zip disks to buoy Iomega's bottom line. Heid took the CEO's job in June, replacing Bruce Albertson, who resigned over differences with the board. He is paring down Iomega's product lines, temporarily abandoning efforts to push trendy retail products that Albertson had championed such as the HipZip audio player and picture storage system FotoShow. Instead, Iomega is reaching out to current Zip users (it estimates 42 million drives are currently in use), producing new software that will encourage them to use more storage space. The company is also targeting new customers by cutting prices on Zip drives, which accounted for nearly 79 percent of its revenue in the latest quarter.

Heid said Iomega may soon sell its 100MB, now $85 on the company Web site, for about $50 at Target or Wal-Mart. The drives would come with Iomega's ActiveDisk software, which lets consumers run applications directly off their Zip drives, bypassing the need for a hard drive. "If you have small kids at home who are constantly hammering the computer but want to play their own games, the kids would basically plug their disks in and can play without ever touching your hard drive," Heid said. "There's something I'm sure many people can relate to." But the strategy may be a case of too little too late, said Stan Corker, director of technology research for Emerald Research. He said Iomega was focused on a similar proposal in the late 1990s, when it set out to replace the floppy disk with the Zip. Iomega had seen enormous growth, with sales surging more than tenfold between 1994 and 1997, but Zip prices were too high to persuade computer makers to include the device in their PCs, Corker said. "Since then, the Zip has been in a downward cycle," he said. "A lot of comments coming out of Iomega management these days are associated with rejuvenating the Zip product line, but I feel that it's probably far too late, because rewritable CDs have come along in the meantime."
CNET.com

Microsoft Announces Prices for Windows XP


Chris Jones, VP, Microsoft Windows client division Microsoft on Friday revealed final retail pricing for Windows XP, a day after Amazon.com leaked the information on the Web for a second time. The bottom line: Consumers can expect to pay a little more for XP than for previous Windows versions, with street price increases ranging up to about 10 percent. Windows XP comes in two flavors, one for home users and the other for business professionals. For those who are upgrading, the Home Edition carries a manufacturer's authorized price (MAP) of $99, or about $10 more than Windows Me. Those buying the full version will have to pay $199, an increase of about $20. The Professional Edition will cost around $199 as an upgrade or $299 for the full version, which in both instances is about a $20 increase over Windows 2000. But compared to a special $120 promotional offer for Windows 2000 Professional, the commercial XP version will cost nearly $80 more. CNET.com

New Judge Assigned to Microsoft Antitrust Case


A federal court on Friday randomly assigned U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to preside over the Microsoft antitrust case. Earlier in the day, a federal appeals court, as expected, returned the Microsoft case to the trial court for further proceedings. That order, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, opens up another chapter in the antitrust saga. The assignment of Kollar-Kotelly means the case can move forward fairly quickly, say legal experts. "We are pleased the case is back in District Court, and we're anxious to proceed," said Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona. Kollar-Kotelly was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in May 1997 by President Bill Clinton. She is a graduate of Catholic University of America. As proceedings resume before the District Court, two issues dealt with previously will take center stage. The new judge must rehear the issue of tying--whether it was illegal for Microsoft to integrate its Internet Explorer Web browser with Windows 95 and 98. Kollar-Kotelly also will hold hearings on remedies, which could span at least several months. "In some ways it will almost be like another full-blown trial, with depositions, affidavits and testimony," said Bob Lande, an antitrust professor with the University of Baltimore School of Law. CNET.com

Weekend August 25, 2001 Top


New Worm Poses As a Fix to Viruses but Does More Damage


A destructive new worm that purports to rid computers of malicious viruses actually leaves the viruses intact and chews up files instead, security experts said Friday. The worm, dubbed Win32.All3gro.A, poses as a "good worm," experts said, highlighting the dangers of a new fad for creating self-propagating applications to delete malicious programs that resurfaced after the Code Red II worm scare early this month. Code Red II installs a "back door," leaving computers vulnerable to attacks. While it sounds like an attractive concept, the "good worm" notion is actually a bad idea, experts concurred.

"Even if it's with good intent, it's not a good idea," said Vincent Weafer, director of Symantec antivirus research center. "It could have unexpected results. And there's no centralized control to update it." "It's not a responsible approach," said Russ Cooper, surgeon general of TruSecure. "How do you know it's only going to do good things?" Cooper said. "How do you prevent it from clogging the network and affecting uninfected computers? How do you prevent people from modifying it into a malicious worm?" Worms, programs that spread themselves from one computer to another, were initially created to perform helpful tasks before they became a way for malicious hackers to spread viruses, with the first reported worm in 1971 designed to aid air traffic controllers.

Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center experimented further in the 1980s, designing worms to do things like clean up printer queues, Weafer said. After one of the worms malfunctioned and "went out of control," researchers developed a "vaccine," the first antivirus software, he said. Weafer is convinced that Win32.All3gro.A is a malicious worm merely posing as an antivirus program. The worm doesn't completely remove the viruses it claims to eradicate--the highly infectious and malicious SirCam, Badtrans and PrettyPark--and depending on the day of the week it tries to delete documents or system files, while e-mailing itself to recipients on a computer's address book, he said. "It is a malicious attempt with social engineering to try to fool people into downloading it," Weafer said. It's fairly common for virus writers to take advantage of security holes left by other viruses or malicious applications, he said.
CNET.com

Motorola Plans to Drop Unit that Produces PowerPC Chips


Several of the leading hard-drive manufacturers have been professing that they have been innovating technologies that will allow them to store more than 100 gigabits per square inch on a platter, the current ceiling for storage density. A platter is one of the key components in a hard drive and is where data is stored. Fujitsu will be the latest to join them. On Tuesday, the hard-drive maker will announce that it has broken the 100-gigabit ceiling and plans to begin using parts of the technology that allowed it to break the barrier as early as November. Hard-drive capacities have doubled over each of the past five years, making them one of the most inexpensive forms of storage and allowing PC owners to hoard more and more data. Industry skeptics have said that it was just a matter of time before manufacturers hit the wall when it came to increasing capacity and said that makers were about to hit the physical limit for higher capacities. MacCentral.com

IBM Produces Worlds Smallest Circuit


In another milestone in computer miniaturization, IBM announced Sunday that its scientists built the smallest-ever computer logic circuit, a two-transistor component made from a single molecule of carbon. The material used to construct the circuit is a carbon nanotube, a hollow strand 100,000 times thinner than a human hair. Because of the exceptional strength and semiconducting capabilities of carbon nanotubes, they have been identified by researchers at IBM and elsewhere as the material that offers the most promise for replacing silicon, the principal ingredient that makes up transistors and microprocessors, or computer chips. "In the future we should be able to make them by the millions," said Phaedon Avouris, manager of nanoscale science in IBM's Research Division.

Avouris was to present the news Sunday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Chicago. The microscopic, but simple logic circuit, brings closer the goal of creating the first microprocessor using carbon nanotube technology, which will allow computers to become even smaller while running faster and consuming less power, Avouris said. Avouris and other scientists believe that Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors on a piece of silicon would double roughly every 18 months, will be thwarted by the physical limits of silicon chip technology. Avouris predicts silicon's physical barrier will be reached in 10 to 15 years, when it won't be able to shrink any more.

Most gains in computer processing power come from the shrinking of transistors and logic circuits, which gives electrons a shorter path to travel, making processors run faster. When that happens, IBM is betting that carbon nanotubes will take over, allowing for smaller processors with more transistors--in effect, giving Moore's Law a new lease on life. "They'll be able to substitute all the functions that silicon performs today, perhaps even more, because of their size," Avouris said. Other researchers say IBM's discovery is no more important than other innovations aimed at moving semiconductors beyond silicon. "It's a good piece of science," said Stanley Williams, a research fellow at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories in Palo Alto, Calif. "Is it, all by itself, revolutionary? No. There are lots of people contributing in this area."
CNET.com

New Virus Disable Computers Using Some Versions of IE


A malicious program that masquerades as a Web page or HTML e-mail has dire consequences for those who fall for its ruse, antivirus experts said this week. Known as Trojan.Offensive, the program takes advantage of a 10-month-old flaw in Microsoft's version of the Java Virtual Machine to overwrite critical system settings--called the registry--leaving Windows computers unusable. The operating system on the victimized PC must be reinstalled or repaired through an arduous process. "No data loss actually occurs, but the computer is basically hosed," said Craig Schmugar, a virus researcher for security software maker Network Associates. In its current incarnation, the Trojan horse arrives in an e-mail message and appears to be an HTML document with a single hyperlinked word: "Start." Recipients of the e-mail who click the link, however, will cause a JavaScript program to run; that program will take advantage of a flaw in Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine--software used to run programs written in Sun Microsystems' Java language--to modify the system's registry. The flaw affects all versions of Windows running Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.0 to 5.5sp1.

By changing almost 50 registry values, the malicious program disables all programs, prevents Windows from being shut down, and makes icons on the Windows desktop disappear. Because no programs will run--not even antivirus scanners--the Windows operating system on the PC cannot be automatically repaired. While truly irksome, the program is not widespread. Also known as JS/Offensive, the damaging code does not spread on its own like a virus--it must be forwarded manually. Although Network Associates has not seen any cases of the Trojan horse, antivirus company Symantec has had "a handful" of customers in Japan report incidents. "There could be more reports of it and we just don't know about it, because the victims' computers don't work and so they can't send e-mail," said Motoaki Yamamura, senior development manager for Symantec. "But we don't think it's very widespread, because it's a Trojan, not a virus."
ZDNet.com

The Finalized Version of IE 5.1 for Mac OS X is Done


Microsoft Internet Explorer was the Macintosh Business Unit's first stab at Mac OS X development, allowing it to experiment with the new APIs before carbonizing the millions of lines of code in Mac Office. After bundling preview versions with the public beta and final 10.0 releases of Mac OS X, Microsoft targeted this Summer for the public release of the final version of Internet Explorer 5.1. Some insiders expected last month's Macworld Expo/New York to be the release date, but as the show neared it became clear that it would not be the case. Macworld did, however, bring news of when it would actually hit the streets. "The full final version is coming with [Mac OS X] version 10.1," revealed Microsoft MacBU General Manager Kevin Browne at his feature presentation. Think Secret has now learned that the application has hit the final "gold master" stage at version 5.1.2, and is ready for release with the 10.1 update (code-named Puma) in late September. At Macworld, Microsoft representatives said that compatibility will be a significant advantage to using Internet Explorer 5.1, allowing all sorts of web formats to run smoothly on the browser. The company also demonstrated three other carbon applications: Office 10, MSN Messenger 2.0, and Windows Media Player. ThinkSecret.com

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