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News > Archives > Article

Week of March 11, 2001 News Archive

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Weekend

Monday March 12, 2001 Top


USB Technology Expands Away From The PC


The new specification, USB On-the-Go, will essentially eliminate the role of the PC as a go-between. The original USB standard for PCs was released in 1996 but took another two years to gain widespread acceptance. The new specification has yet to be approved by the USB Implementers Forum, an industry group founded by companies that developed the USB specification. Analysts expect that the new technology to become widely accepted by manufacturers of gadgets such as digital cameras, cell phones and handhelds. Gadgets remain one of the few tech categories that are still selling well despite the downturn in the PC market. USB On-the-Go is at the 0.8 level, which means that it is still private but ready to be brought before the USB forum's board, Murray said. If the board approves USB On-the-Go, it will reach level 0.9 and become publicly available. Murray expects that USB On-the-Go will be approved this summer, with chips available by the third quarter and products incorporating the new standard by the fourth quarter. CNET.com

Adobe Acrobat 5.0 With New Features For Corporate Customers


Acrobat 5.0 contains a feature that lets information technology workers at large companies install the software on a massive scale, rather than on an individual basis. This makes the product a more feasible purchase for corporations too large to install software computer by computer. Acrobat 5.0 also allows PDF forms to be submitted in the Web-standard XML (Extensible Markup Language), making it easier to integrate with back-end systems. This means that people can fill out PDF forms on Web sites and return them digitally. Other features of Acrobat 5.0 include 128-bit encryption vs. 40-bit encryption in the previous 4.0 version. The software can also function with digital signature technology from several companies. Other additions to Adobe 5.0 not specifically directed at the corporate market include features designed to make Acrobat easier to use for people with visual disabilities, including the option of viewing PDF documents in high-contrast mode. CNET.com

Serious Flaw Found In TCP, Major Part Of The Internets Backbone


But despite Monday's advisory, the ISN flaw is hardly a new problem. The architects of the early Internet knew that the lack of randomness in the way that ISN (Initial Sequence Numbers) are chosen would be a problem as far back as the mid-1980s and warned of the potential consequences. AT&T Corp. researchers submitted a paper to the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1996 proposing a fix for the problem. The problem, which is nearly identical to one found in some implementations of Cisco Systems Inc.'s IOS software two weeks ago, involves the manner in which machines running TCP select the ISN. The ISN, a random value known only to the two machines at either end of a TCP session, is used to help identify legitimate packets and prevent extraneous data from muddying a transmission. But if the ISN is not chosen at random or if it is increased by a non-random increment in subsequent TCP sessions, an attacker could guess the ISN, thereby enabling him or her to hijack the session's traffic, inject false packets into the stream or even launch a denial of service attack against individual Web servers. ZDNet.com

Microsoft Makes Deal With eBay, To Expand .Net Services


As part of its alliance with eBay, Microsoft executives talked up one of the first third-party .Net services in the works. The company plans to offer some of its existing products, such as Office, in hostable, subscription-based form and is making all of its new software applets, including offerings like its free Hotmail e-mail product and MSN Messenger instant-messaging product, available as .Net services. Under the alliance, the so-called eBay API (application programming interface)--eBay's commerce-engine platform to which developers can write--will becomes a .Net service. This service will be made available to Microsoft's .Net development community, Microsoft and eBay executives said. CNET.com

Tuesday March 13, 2001 Top


Linux Company Eazel Lays Off Half Its Staff


Eazel, the company trying to make Linux as consumer-friendly as the Macintosh, has laid off more than half its staff amid a drive to secure more funding. Eazel just this week completed version 1.0 of its product. The software is available freely under an open-source license, and the company plans to charge for subscription services starting April 30. Eazel, which raised $15 million in funding from investors led by Accel Partners, said it signed a term sheet with investors for second round of funding. The company is trying to raise the money amid extremely difficult market conditions and with terms that some find disappointing. Several organizations are attempting to popularize Linux on the desktop. Eazel faces new competition--not only for consumers but for funding--in Ximian, formerly known as Helix Code, which scored $15 million in investments in January. CNET.com

Sony Displays Double Density CD-R and CD-RW


On Tuesday, Sony unveiled Double Density CD-R and CD-RW drives and discs. Dubbed DD-R and DD-RW, the discs can hold 1.3GB of data, or about 300 songs. That is twice the capacity of CD-R and CD-RW discs, which hold 650MB. The technology doubles the capacity of the discs by essentially shrinking the space between the tracks on the media. The drives will be available in retail stores by the beginning of April and will cost $249. DD-R discs will cost $1.99 each, and DD-RW discs will cost $2.99. DD-R and DD-RW are not completely clear of compatibility issues themselves. The DD-R/DD-RW drive will be able to read and write CD-R and CD-RW discs. But existing CD and CD-RW drives won't be able to play DD-R and DD-RW discs. The Sony Double Density ATAPI CRS200E-A1 is an internal drive with a maximum write speed for DD-R and CD-R of 12x, a maximum write speed of DD-RW and CD-RW of 8x, and a maximum play speed for CDs of 32x. CNET.com

DVD/CD-RW Drives Featured In Increased Number of PC's


On desktop models, Dell Computer has offered combo drives as an option for some time. And last week, IBM added them to its high-end consumer NetVista 60 desktop. For consumers, the dual functionality can be enticing: A combo drive allows customers to back up information to CD-RW and CD-recordable discs, burn music CDs, and watch DVD movies. But computer makers may have a long way to go to convince desktop customers that one drive is better than two, analysts say. Supplier sources estimate that PC makers pay $60 to $70 for a 16X DVD drive and about $100 for the fastest CD-RW drive. Samsung is reported to offer its combo drive for about $150, while higher-end models from Ricoh go from $170 to $185. Ricoh leads in speed, with 12X DVD playback and 12X CD recording. CNET.com

Digital Divide Has Been Narrowed


The Nielsen/NetRatings report showed that in the United States, people who earned less than $25,000 a year accounted for 6.3 million of the total Internet population in February 2001. That compares with 4.3 million during the same month last year, an increase of 46 percent. The report showed that the Internet continues to attract a mainstream audience and that the so-called digital divide is starting to narrow with the availability of low-cost personal computers and free Internet service providers. Kelly said that early Net adopters are typically 18- to 49-year-old males with high incomes and advanced educations who are willing to pay for personal computers and monthly ISP charges. But as the costs of PCs and Web access drop, "the doors have opened for lower-income groups to tap into the Web." CNET.com

Wednesday March 14, 2001 Top


Microsoft Buys Company To Add Scheduling To .Net Services


Microsoft quietly bought WebAppoint.com, a privately held Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, for an undisclosed sum in October. The acquisition was announced only in Microsoft's most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The addition of WebAppoint, which allows for online scheduling for such items as car repair or dentist appointments, is a crucial element in Microsoft's ambitious software-as-a-service strategy, known as .Net. Microsoft is expected to advance the WebAppoint technology and initially launch it later this year as one of its services on Microsoft's bCentral small-business Web site, according to sources. Microsoft hopes to attract interest on at least two fronts for WebAppoint: customers interested in using an online scheduling tool as part of a larger CRM service, and those interested in using WebAppoint as a time-management tool in its own right. He said Microsoft expects WebAppoint to appeal to small-business owners. CNET.com

Slew Of New Internet Features To Be Added To Java


Sun Microsystems announced Wednesday at Internet World that it is shipping its Java Web Start software, which allows users to launch Java applications without worrying whether the Java platform is compatible with a particular Web browser. Because Java Web Start determines which version of the Java platform is necessary to run a Java application, users of Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator/Communicator and other browsers simply click on a link to download and run applications, said officials of the Palo Alto, Calif., company. The software is based on the Java Network Launching Protocol, which is developed through the Java Community Process program. JCP is the process for developing and revising Java technology specifications, reference implementations and technology compatibility kits.

In addition to one-click deployment, Java Web Start enables users to launch from a desktop icon or the Start Menu in Windows; provides the same look and feel from any platform user interface; automatically caches and updates applications to reduce startup time; and is secure, Sun officials said. Sun also announced the release of its Java Media Framework API software, which allows users to capture, play back, stream and transcode audio and video media content across operating systems. Developers can use this API to integrate media content into Java applications and applets. The JMF API multimedia toolkit can run on version 1.1.x and higher of the Java platform.
ZDNet.com

Aimster Removes Pig Encoder Software From There Site


File-sharing firm Aimster on Wednesday said it has removed from its Web site a program based on pig Latin that enabled Napster users to get around court-ordered restrictions on the popular song-swap service. "At the request of Napster, Aimster has removed the Pig Encoder Software from public distribution through its Web site," said Aimster Chief Executive Officer Johnny Deep, adding that the encoder was removed as of Tuesday morning. While Napster has begun blocking access to some files, its efforts have been thwarted by users who have changed file names by deliberately misspelling titles or by using programs like the Pig Encoder to change names. On Tuesday, Napster also announced it had aligned with Gracenote Inc., a maker of music recognition services, to help it in its file-filtering efforts. Some experts on Wednesday said that while Gracenote's services will be an improvement over Napster's current method of file identification, it still had limitations since Gracenote's method of file identification does not handle pig Latin-type conversions or any other code naming applications. ZDNet.com

E-books Gain More Publishers Support


Harcourt, a publisher of higher-education textbooks, said the titles will be available on GoReader's portable electronic device, also dubbed GoReader. The titles will first focus on business and science textbooks; Chicago-based GoReader hopes to expand its titles in the future to also include law and other graduate titles. The partnership is one of many attempts to interest consumers in e-books. Many publishing giants, such as Random House and Simon & Schuster, have been concentrating on providing fiction and nonfiction titles, but e-books have been slow to attract a mainstream audience. CNET.com

Apple Buys Software Company That Makes Education Products


Aiming to return to the head of the class in the education market, Apple Computer on Wednesday said it plans to buy software developer PowerSchool for $62 million in stock. Folsom, Calif.-based PowerSchool specializes in software that helps educators and parents manage student records and track a child's progress in school. Approximately 2,000 schools use the system in the United States. Over the years, however, competitors have chipped away at the Apple's position. In 1999, Apple ceded the top spot in education to Dell Computer, according to market researcher Dataquest. Dell captured 21.4 percent of the education market in 1999, compared with Apple's 16.5 percent. CNET.com

Thursday March 15, 2001 Top


Sony and Connectix Settle, Sony To Buy Connectix's Playstation Emulator


Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and Connectix Corporation announced a joint technology agreement today that will have the companies proceed to define a series of development initiatives in the area of advanced emulation solutions. The agreement ends the legal dispute between the two companies over the Connectix Virtual Game Station (CVGS), SCE will acquire from Connectix all assets related to the VGS emulation technology as part of the deal. Connectix will continue to offer the current version of the CVGS for Macintosh and Windows until June 30, 2001 and will provide continuing support to existing users of the software. All further emulation development for PlayStation after this date will proceed under the auspices of the joint agreement. "Our new agreement with SCE gives us the resources to move rapidly into a wide range of exciting new applications for our core emulation and virtual machine technologies," said Roy McDonald, President of Connectix. "We believe that this collaboration can lead to improved development tools, innovative consumer products and productive enterprise solutions." IGN.com

Linux Standardization Moves Foward


The effort, through Linux Standard Base (LSB) and several other projects, is Linux's answer to avoiding some of the fragmentation that split Unix--the operating system upon which Linux is modeled--into several incompatible versions. That fragmentation is one of the reasons Microsoft was able to make such progress with its more unified Windows products. On Monday, developers released version 1.1 of the Linux Development Platform Specification, said Scott McNeal of the Free Standards Group. That specification is intended to make it easier to write programs that work on several different versions of Linux, such as those from Red Hat, Caldera and others. On Wednesday the consortium released for public review version 2.2 of its Filesystem Hierarchy Standard, which governs the location of key files used by Linux and Unix. With involvement from IBM, Intel, Oracle, Red Hat, Caldera, SuSE and others, the LSB itself has moved a step closer to the planned release of its version 1.0 specification by the end of the year, McNeil said. The group released version 0.6 last week. ZDNet.com

Memory Prices Have Likely Hit A Bottom For Now


Memory prices have remained relatively stable for the past few weeks, said Eric Ross, an analyst with Thomas Weisel Partners . Inventories have also dropped. PC makers, memory manufacturers and distributors combined were sitting on approximately 20 weeks of inventory at the beginning of the year, he said. That figure is now down to around 10 weeks. The remarkable aspect of memory prices right now is that they aren't changing. The average spot price, or daily price in memory exchanges, for 64-megabit SDRAM --one of the most common types of memory used in PCs--was $2.25 on Thursday, roughly the same price as the day before, according to Ross. Spot prices for 128-megabit SDRAM, meanwhile, rose 3.1 percent from Wednesday, to $4.38. Contract prices, or the prices that large PC makers pay, are tracking the same trend. In the recent past, the picture was less placid. In the first week of October, 64-megabit chips sold for $7.50. In December, the price was down to $3.80, while prices overall were dropping by about 5 percent a week. In February, the price dropped to $3, still higher than today's price. Although prices have stabilized, it is probably still too early to bring out champagne. Hyundai appears to still be selling its memory below costs. Sixty-four-megabit chips cost Hyundai about $4 apiece to make. The company has been selling them for $2 to $2.50. CNET.com

LCD Prices Are Likely To Drop Considerable Amounts


Gartner believes that 15-inch flat-panel displays could go as low as $399 before prices stabilize (or even increase) in the second half of 2001 as demand for PCs--especially for notebooks--picks up. LCD price drops are undoubtedly springing from excess manufacturing capacity, combined with a much weaker than anticipated 2001 demand for notebook PCs. The price of LCD monitors will generally fluctuate to absorb the excess capacity as manufacturers produce fewer notebooks (thereby reducing the demand for LCDs) in anticipation of weaker demand for PCs. Some buyers may decide to upgrade their PC systems with the purchase of a new LCD monitor. Hence, PC makers have an incentive--in addition to getting rid of excess inventory, which is the main factor at play here--to slash prices on LCD monitors to try to generate sales of the system as well. After all, LCDs have a higher profit margin than the overall system. CNET.com

Apple Cuts Ties With Sears, Next Step Towards Apple Opening It's Retail Stores


"Apple and Sears have mutually decided to part ways and will be unwinding their relationship during the remainder of this year," Sears Roebuck spokesman Tom Nicholson said Thursday. Nicholson declined to elaborate. The move comes as Apple is changing its retail strategy, which includes plans to open its own line of stores. In a January meeting with analysts, Apple Senior Vice President Tim Cook hinted that the company might sever ties with some retailers. "We'll cut some channel partners that may not be providing the buying experience" Apple wants, Cook said at the time. "We're not happy with everybody." CNET.com

Friday March 16, 2001 Top


Rambus Trial Moved To Latter Date


A U.S. District judge has delayed Rambus' trial against Infineon until April to permit further discovery in the case. On Friday, Judge Robert Payne ordered that the trial between the two memory companies be rescheduled for April 10, so that chip designer Rambus can conduct further discovery, according to a statement from the company. Rambus claims the new information will contradict the depositions of Infineon executives on core issues in the case. At a hearing Friday in Richmond, Va., Payne said he was concerned about "systemic nondisclosure" in the case, according to Dow Jones News Service. Rambus claims that documents crucial to the case, for example, only came to light a few days ago--months after discovery closed.

Los Altos, Calif.-based Rambus is suing Infineon for patent infringement, claiming the German manufacturer owes it royalties for production of synchronous dynamic RAM and double data rate DRAM, two types of memory currently used in computers. Infineon denies the claim. In addition, Infineon argues that even if the patents are valid, Rambus can't enforce them. While the patents were pending, Rambus joined a technological standards body, which eventually adopted memory standards that allegedly infringed upon Rambus' patents. Rambus failed to disclose the existence of the patents. Infineon claims the nondisclosure violated the rules of JEDEC, the standards group, rendering royalty claims moot. Rambus disputes that the company violated the rules. The documents the company is seeking from Infineon, Rambus lawyers contend, will show that Infineon had knowledge of Rambus' technology earlier than stated.
CNET.com

Worms Are Expected To Be Top Virus This Year


At the height of the barrage, the AnnaKournikova virus--which took the pernicious form of a "worm" attachment--was included in one of every 106 e-mails that arrived at the gateway of e-mail service provider MessageLabs. It saw almost 20,000 copies of the worm in a week. In fact, of the annual 10 most widespread infections, worms accounted for half in 2000, sharing the No. 1 honors with macro viruses, according to security site SecurityPortal. And early indications in January and February suggest that worms will account for at least eight of the top 10 slots in 2001, with AnnaKournikova, Hybris and LoveLetter variants leading the list.

Later, worms quickly fell into two categories. Some camouflage themselves as interesting e-mail attachments. When such an attachment is opened, the worm executes, spreading itself in a burst of e-mail. Then the programs can infect systems and mail themselves to every name listed in the computer's address book. The Christmas Tree virus was perhaps the first worm on a worldwide network, spreading across BITNET--an IBM-only precursor to the Internet--in December 1987. Many of today's worms, such as Melissa, LoveLetter and AnnaKournikova, take a page from the Christmas Tree book. Other worms need no human interaction, infecting computers that have certain security flaws and then using the new host to scan for more computers with the same flaw. ZDNet.com

Satelite Based Internet Providers Are To Merge


Noted cellular industry entrepreneur Craig McCaw's ICO-Teledesic Global Limited and the Boeing-backed Ellipso signed a definitive agreement to jointly plan, fund and build a satellite system capable of delivering a variety of communications and Internet services globally. The pact clears the way for a potential merger of the two companies' assets, the companies indicated. The satellite sector is notorious in recent years for spectacular failures that include the bankruptcy of Iridium, the world's first satellite-based mobile phone service, and ICO Global Communications, which McCaw later acquired for $1.2 billion. ICO-Teledesic Global is a holding company that oversees Teledesic and the assets of the former ICO Global Communications, which has been renamed New ICO. McCaw plans to merge Teledesic and New ICO, pending regulatory and shareholder approvals. But the pact between ICO-Teledesic and Ellipso could lead to a new strategy. CNET.com

MSN Messenger Top IM Program For Februrary


Microsoft said its program for sending short Internet messages beat out AOL Time Warner's competing product as the most popular, according to a February study. The report by Jupiter Media Metrix measured unique users during February in 12 countries and showed Microsoft's MSN Messenger with 29.5 million users compared with 29.1 for AOL Instant Messenger, said Bob Visse, MSN group product manager. The report was confirmed by Jupiter Media Metrix. Microsoft would like to build momentum for its messaging program because its research indicates that users of that program spend more time on the company's MSN network of Web sites, increasing the prices Microsoft can command for advertising on those sites. CNET.com

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