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Week of September 23, 2001 News Archive

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Monday September 24, 2001 Top

Mac OS X 10.1 Ready for Saturday Release

Apple Computer is expected to unveil on Tuesday a long-anticipated upgrade to the Mac operating system. Mac OS X version 10.1 is considered by many analysts, Mac users and software developers to be the most important operating system upgrade that Apple will release this year. The new version will be available from Mac dealers and Apple's own retail stores at no cost for existing OS X owners. Everyone else will pay $129. Some dealers said Monday that Apple told them they could not begin offering free 10.1 upgrade CDs until 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Others said they expect to begin offering the operating system sooner than that. The CDs will be available only for systems that already have Mac OS X 10.0-10.04 installed. "We have announced that Mac OS version 10.1 will be available this month, and we are still on track to do that," Apple spokeswoman Natalie Sequeira said Monday. While Sequeira could not say when the operating system would appear on new Macs, she said upgrade CDs and full $129 box versions would be available at the same time. Mac OS X is expected to be the focus of Apple Vice President Phil Schiller's keynote speech Tuesday at the Seybold print and Web publishing conference in San Francisco. Apple has said that it wouldn't unveil new hardware at Seybold, and dealer sources said reports of an updated PowerBook G4 announcement are likely false.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs had been slated to make a keynote speech this week at Apple Expo Paris. However, that show was canceled amid security concerns after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Jobs is still slated to appear at Seybold "via satellite," although a live appearance would not be a shock. Analysts and dealers praised the Cupertino, Calif.-based company for offering the upgrade CDs for free at Apple stores and other Mac retailers. Apple had earlier said it would charge about $20 shipping for the CDs, which apparently is still the case for anyone ordering the upgrade directly from Apple. "That is a smart move," Guernsey Research analyst Chris LeTocq said of the free upgrades at stores. Mac dealers are "going to love them for it. You want the free upgrade to go to the stores. It's going to drive people into the stores, and that is a great way to go." NPD Intelect analyst Stephen Baker agreed. "It's a great public relations move," he said. "The people who bought Mac OS X or a new system in the last six months, these are some of their best customers. It's very important Apple takes care of them."

Microsoft Trying to Downplay Windows XP Activation

People who buy PCs with Microsoft's Windows XP could find their machine disabled if they change or upgrade as few as four components. Details of Microsoft's Product Activation technology, which is meant to prevent illegal copying and redistribution of the software, are contained in a document designed to debunk fears surrounding the technology. But some industry observers have predicted that the process could turn into a headache for PC users, forcing them to rely on either an Internet connection or a relatively complicated telephone transaction. Microsoft insists the technology will be unobtrusive. Windows XP will be tied to a particular machine's configuration and will stop working if that configuration is "substantially altered." People can activate in one of two ways: They can connect directly to Microsoft over the Internet, something many are reluctant to do, or they can call a help desk and relay their "Installation ID" in exchange for a 42-digit "confirmation ID." Businesses, at least, should not have to deal with the process at all. The version of XP sold with volume licenses does not include Product Activation technology.

Most of the controversy generated by Product Activation since it was first revealed this spring has revolved around the process by which Microsoft gathers information about the PC user's hardware configuration and the way it monitors alterations. In July, a study by a German firm found that the process appears to protect user anonymity and allows for reasonable upgrades. But analysts say that consumers will have to be convinced. In July, Microsoft wasn't giving details about how the process works, but recently the company bowed to consumer demand and revealed some of the technical details behind Product Activation. Activating a boxed, retail version of XP involves two numbers: an "Installation ID," which the PC user submits to Microsoft, and a "Confirmation ID," which is used to activate the software. If the PC user activates the software via telephone, he or she must read out the Installation ID--composed of a 20-digit product ID and an 8-byte value generated by the hardware configuration--and receive the 42-digit Confirmation ID. If Windows is activated online, the activation code is delivered as a digital certificate.

Microsoft is anxious to assure customers that the hardware-identification portion of the Installation ID is completely anonymous and can't be used to determine what hardware the PC user is running. It is what is called a "hash"--a number derived through a mathematical formula based on different, original values. The mathematical transformation is supposed to be one-way, so that even if you know the formula, you can't work out the original values. In other words, the hardware hash is designed to be able to monitor changes in the hardware configuration without being able or needing to know exactly what the components are. In fact, Microsoft says two different PCs could conceivably create the same hardware hash. In determining how much hardware can be changed, XP gives special weight to the network adapter. Specifically, if a PC has a network adapter and the adapter is not changed, five of the other hardware values could be changed before reactivation would be required. If the same PC never had a network adapter, or the network adapter were changed, only three other hardware devices could be altered.

RealNetworks Combines RealPlayer and RealJukebox

Internet media company RealNetworks on Monday will unveil a new service melding its two popular consumer programs, RealPlayer and RealJukebox, into a single digital media destination. The combination has been long expected and marks the latest step by RealNetworks toward the nuts and bolts of Web content delivery as well as its continued effort to compete with archrival Microsoft's Windows Media Player. The new product, called RealOne, fuses RealPlayer's audio and video streaming software with RealJukebox's software, which lets people record, organize and play music on PCs. "I think it was an inevitable step for them to take. The signs were all pointing in this direction for them to go for an all-in-one player and to derive revenue streams from a subscription service for content rather than a one-time shot for a software upgrade," said Bryan Ma, senior analyst with Internet research firm, IDC. RealNetworks saw sales of its core systems products and advertising revenue fall even as service revenues rose in the most recent quarter. "This move fits with a model they're moving toward, which is subscription," said CS First Boston analyst Heath Terry.

Dave Richards, vice president of consumer systems for RealNetworks, said the new player will be launched on a free trial basis Monday. Within 60 days, a version with advanced features and premium programming will be available for $9.95 a month, with a potentially higher start-up fee. Richards said the company expects to build on the back of its success with its GoldPass subscription service, which was launched in August 2000 and has more than 300,000 subscribers. "We've been waiting for RealNetworks to merge these software products. It's a natural combination. The real news is they've launched an offensive against Microsoft's windows media," said P.J. McNealy, analyst with GartnerG2. Recent data from Jupiter Media Metrix, which tracks Internet trends, shows Windows Media home users at about 24.7 million vs. 24.4 million for the RealPlayer. "Many users have both applications (Windows and Real) on the same PC," Ma said. "It's not a case of having only one." The move should not immediately affect Real's bottom line as its stock hovers at its lowest level in three and a half years amid continued weakness in media shares, analysts said.

Pirated Copies of Windows XP Have Hit Black Market

Fake copies of Windows XP are selling like hotcakes here in the Malaysian capital. And as if in tandem with the economic crisis, vendors have been dishing out huge discounts for these versions, some starting as low as US$1.50. Pirated software and bootleg movies usually cost around US$3. All this despite the Malaysian government's continuing clampdown on copyright infringement and Microsoft's controversial new product activation feature--a key part of the software giant's crackdown on piracy. "Piracy is a tough nut to crack in Malaysia.... The root of the problem is, and always will be, corruption," said one industry watcher, who asked not to be named. He cited instances of a vendor, despite being raided several times, being back on the street in a matter of days. But one Microsoft executive blamed the situation on technology and not low-tech greed. "The problem is that the pirates have just as much technology as (we do)," said Butt Wai Choon, Microsoft Malaysia managing director, in an interview today. "With the use of digital technology, (pirates) can copy our content despite (Microsoft) incorporating the latest anti-piracy features in our products," he said.

Butt said Microsoft was aware of peddlers selling illegal copies of Windows XP (final release) at two regular haunts--Imbi Plaza and Low Yat Plaza--in downtown Kuala Lumpur. On August 20 Microsoft managed to obtain a court order against Imbi Plaza, forbidding any store or operator in the premises from selling unlicensed Microsoft products, Butt said. But a week later, most vendors had resumed trade. "Win XP has been selling like hotcakes," one vendor said in an interview. In Singapore, pirated versions of Windows XP retail for about US$6, although Ben Tan, Microsoft's product manager for Singapore, claimed that these copies were not final products. Users of pirated versions risk exposing their PCs to viruses, missing functionalities and other serious problems, Tan said. When confronted, the Malaysian vendor insisted that his wares were the real deal. "I have money-back guarantee," he claimed. "I'll give you a full refund if it's a beta version."

Lexmark Introduces New 4-in-1 Inkjet Printer

Lexmark International, Inc. today introduced the Lexmark X63 All-In-One Office Center. The sub-$200 X63 combines Lexmark's core inkjet print technology with fax, scan and copy functionality to offer a complete solution for a variety of office tasks - without the expense of purchasing multiple products. About the size of the average inkjet printer, the X63 is perfect for an office with limited space. "With the addition of the X63, we are offering a comprehensive All-In-One family of products to meet the imaging needs of virtually every customer," said Tim Craig, Lexmark vice president and president of the company’s Consumer Printer Division. "Lexmark will continue its leadership in this category by delivering high technology products at unprecedented values." The X63 All-In-One Office Center rounds out Lexmark's recently announced All-In-One line, which includes the X83 and X73.

Like its sister product, the Lexmark X83, the X63 offers high-quality 2400 x 1200 dots per inch (dpi) print resolution, scan functionality and standalone color copy capabilities. The X83 features a high-end flatbed scanner that is ideal for consumers looking to print photo-quality digital images, scan excerpts from books or execute a wide variety of creative projects at home. The X63, with its sheet-fed design and black and color fax capabilities, is well suited for SOHO users looking to print, scan, copy and fax documents.Featuring Lexmark's exclusive inkjet technology, the X63 All-In-One Office Center offers 2400 x 1200 dpi in black and color on all paper types as well as a seven-picoliter drop size for smooth color transitions. The result: crisp text and vivid images on any media – ideal for graphics-infused office documents including reports and transparencies. Lexmark's Accu-FeedTM paper handling system virtually eliminates paper jams or misfeeds, enabling users to choose from a range of print media, including transparencies, labels and multiple envelope sizes, weighing up to 150 pounds.

The X63 boasts fast print speeds of up to 14 pages per minute (ppm) in black - the fastest of any All-In-One in its class - and up to seven ppm in color. It is compatible with Windows 98, ME, 2000 and XP and offers Universal Serial Bus (USB) connectivity. Ideal for scanning work-related documents, the X63 All-In-One Office Center offers up to 600 x 300 dpi resolution (up to 9,600 dpi enhanced resolution), 36-bit color scan depth and speeds of up to 15 seconds per scan (sps) in black and up to 27 sps in color. The Lexmark X63 All-In-One Office Center has an estimated street price of $199(U.S.) and will be available at popular retailers such as Best Buy, Costco, Office Depot and Staples. The X63 will ship with one high-resolution black cartridge, one high-resolution color cartridge and a software bundle that includes ABBYY Fine Reader 4.0 Sprint OCR for text editing and MGI Photo Suite.

Tuesday September 25, 2001 Top

Apple Officially Releases Mac OS X 10.1 Today

Apple Computer will release on Saturday an operating system update designed to improve performance and add capabilities to the original version of Mac OS X that debuted in the spring. "This is the release that everybody is going to end up using," Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said Tuesday morning at the Seybold Seminars publishing conference here. As previously reported, Mac OS X 10.1 will be available free for OS X owners through Apple's stores and other Mac retailers. The update is free through Oct. 31 at the stores. If ordered from Apple, it costs $19.99. The boxed version, which costs $129, will also be available Saturday. The key new capabilities are the ability to play DVD movies and burn files from the Finder onto DVD-rewritable discs. As for performance, Apple says that programs now launch two to three times faster, that menus display five times more quickly and that resizing of windows can be done five to 10 times faster.

Some of the improvements are also aimed at giving Mac users more control over the tweaks that OS X made to the familiar Mac interface. For example, the OS X toolbar known as the Dock can now be moved to the sides of the computer screen rather than being fixed at the bottom. In addition, Apple introduced a faster option to go along with the "genie-in-a-bottle" effect that occurs when a file is sent to the Dock. With the new option, a graphic scales down as it heads to the Dock, which speeds up the process. Despite calling OS X 10.1 "ready for prime time," OS X marketing director Ken Bereskin said in an interview after the presentation that new Macs will continue to ship with both OS 9 and OS X for now, with OS 9 as the default option. Bereskin did not say when Apple might make OS X the default operating system. "We need the applications," Bereskin said. There are about 1,400 programs that have been written to take advantage of OS X, he noted, but several of the major programs have yet to be released.

Although the presentation lacked some of the oohs and aahs of a Macworld Expo keynote, Apple highlighted improvements it made to OS X that are of particular interest to graphics designers, such as improved handling of color and more powerful scripting features. AppleScript, which allows Mac users to customize and link various applications, has been a part of the Macintosh OS for the better part of a decade. However, with OS X, such scripts can now be used to grab information off the Internet. The company showed off an upcoming program, known as AppleScript Studio, that will allow such scripts to easily be turned into standalone programs. AppleScript Studio is slated to ship by the end of the year, Apple said. Apple also said it will ship next month iDVD2, the OS X version of DVD creation program iDVD. Apple had previously indicated it would come out in September.

Microsoft Release Three New Optical Mice

The Hardware Group at Microsoft Corp. introduced its first wireless optical mouse: the Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer. Built on Microsoft's new proprietary IntelliEye optical platform, the most powerful in the world, Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer delivers ergonomic comfort and breakthrough power-saving technologies for unparalleled performance in a wireless optical design. Also launching are new versions of the company's best-selling wired mouse products, IntelliMouse Explorer and IntelliMouse Optical, extending performance and comfort benefits throughout the Microsoft mouse family. All three mouse products incorporate Microsoft's new IntelliEye optical technology to capture 6,000 pictures per second, four times the performance of other optical mice on the market. The resulting benefit is smooth cursor control on virtually any surface."Consumers are demanding greater performance from optical mouse products," said Melinda Graetz, mouse product manager at Microsoft. "Their feedback led to the development of our new optical chip designed entirely in-house from the ground up. Most optical mouse products cannot track accurately when moved quickly; Microsoft's new IntelliEye optical technology overcomes this issue to provide accurate tracking no matter how quickly you move your hand."

In addition to state-of-the-art technology, the new mouse line also offers superior design and comfort appointments, including the following: Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer offers a thumb scoop and finger grooves for improved grip, with soft-touch material adding comfort to the side buttons. IntelliMouse Explorer's new design offers enhanced grip support, finger grooves and a new curvy shape in addition to its signature titanium silver shell and glowing red underside. Each of these designs was a result of growing customer demand for greater comfort. "Any pointing device should be designed and used such that the wrist remains naturally straight," said Martin Reynolds, vice president and research fellow at Gartner Dataquest. "Selecting a mouse that is comfortable to use is the single most important decision that a buyer has to make." IntelliMouse Optical maintains its award-winning ambidextrous design. Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer and IntelliMouse Explorer will be widely available in September for an estimated retail price of $74.95 (U.S.) and $54.95 (U.S) respectively. IntelliMouse Optical will be widely available in October for an estimated retail price of $44.95 (U.S.).

Intel Release 2 GHz Xeon Processor

Intel Corporation today introduced the world's fastest processor for dual processor, high-performance workstations. The 2 Gigahertz Intel Xeon processor, based on the NetBurst microarchitecture, targets high-performance and mid-range workstation market segments and is expected to achieve performance increases of more than 10 percent over existing Intel Xeon processors. A number of workstation manufacturers worldwide -- including Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, Hewlett Packard, IBM and NEC -- are expected to start shipping platforms based on the new processor this quarter -- many starting today. According to industry analyst firm International Data Corporation, Intel-based workstations accounted for 68 percent of all workstation shipments in the second quarter of 2001. Intel's Xeon processor family is specially designed to meet the scalability, availability and manageability needs of the high-performance workstation market segment. Workstations based on Intel's new Xeon processors use the Intel NetBurst microarchitecture to deliver processing power for video, audio, 3-D graphics and the latest Internet technologies. The Intel Xeon processor platform is based on the high-performance Intel 860 Chipset. This chipset features dual RDRAM memory banks to complement the Intel Xeon's 400 MHz system bus, which provides up to 3.2 gigabytes of data per second. In the future, faster clock speeds and larger cache configurations will provide further headroom for computation, graphical and I/O-intensive workloads.The Intel Xeon processor at 2 GHz with 256 KB level two Advanced Transfer Cache is priced at $615 in 1,000-unit quantities.

AMD Lays Off 2,300 Employees and Loses Partner

Struggling PC maker Gateway will part ways with chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices once again. AMD separately announced Tuesday that it will lay off 2,300 workers by the end of the second quarter of 2002--or 15 percent of its work force--and close two fabrication facilities. Looking to cut costs, Gateway will eliminate sales of its Select line of Athlon-based PCs over the next "couple of months," Gateway spokeswoman Lisa Emard said Tuesday. Gateway will also re-brand its PCs, replacing the Essential, Performance and Professional brands with 300, 500 and 700 labels. The move marks another blow to AMD, which has seen its fortunes change with the decline of the PC market. "This was a premier customer in AMD's target market," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at US Bancorp Piper Jaffray. Kumar estimates that Gateway accounted for 5 to 6 percent of AMD's processor sales. A year ago, AMD was gaining market share and trying to establish a foothold in the U.S. corporate market. Since then, the slow PC market, price cuts from Intel and the need for PC makers to simplify their product lines have begun to constrict the outlets for AMD chips, although its market share remains higher than it was a year ago. IBM phased out AMD chips in computers sold in North America and Europe over the summer, and MicronPC announced it was solidifying its line behind Intel. With Gateway stepping aside, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computer become the only top-five PC companies in North America to market the company's chips, and they are planning to merge.

Consumer Groups Criticize Microsoft Over Windows XP

Four U.S. consumer groups criticized Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system Tuesday, saying the software giant was again using the anti-competitive tactics that have tied it up in court for three years. In a joint statement, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Media Access Project and U.S. Public Interest Research Group complained that the new operating system "advances the company's illegal anti-competitive practices and harms the nation's consumers." "Activities such as communications, commerce, streaming audio-visual applications and online services are, at the present, vigorously competitive," the groups said in a statement. "These essential areas of the 21st century economy will be threatened, and consumers harmed, if Windows XP and its tightly bundled version of Internet software hits shelves as planned." Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler denied the accusation. Windows XP, which is due for release Oct. 25, "is a product that offers great benefits for consumers and is critically important to the computer industry," he said. The complaint from the consumer groups comes less than a week after attorneys general of Vermont and five other states added their support to the government's antitrust case and expressed concerns about how Windows XP will affect competition in the software industry.

In a related development, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department confirmed Tuesday that antitrust regulators from the United States and Europe briefed each other on their respective Microsoft antitrust cases during meetings in Washington on Monday. European regulators are pursuing an investigation separate from the U.S. case, focused on whether Microsoft has tried to monopolize the market for computer servers and media-playing software. The consumer groups, meanwhile, said they will outline their objections to Windows XP at a press conference scheduled for Wednesday, along with their proposal for sanctions against Microsoft. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is expected to hold hearings early next year to determine what remedies should be imposed on Microsoft to prevent future antitrust violations. Some state attorneys general have expressed concerns that some of the features in the new operating system, such as a media player and instant messaging, could hurt competition in the software business.

Wednesday September 26, 2001 Top

Microsoft Announces Plus for Windows XP

Hoping to boost interest in its Windows XP operating system, software giant Microsoft said Wednesday it will offer an add-on package of programs providing digital media features and video games. The bundle of software, called Plus for Windows XP, will sell for about $40 and will hit shelves Oct. 25, the retail launch date for the XP operating system, Microsoft product manager Geordie Wilson said. "Plus is basically a fun way to show off what XP can do," Wilson said. "Plus is not going to change the world but it's a fun product with a lot of things that make the computer more enjoyable." The package adds features to Microsoft's Windows Media Player software, which is used to watch video broadcast over the Internet or to record music on a computer hard drive and play it back. When used with a computer microphone, the software lets people control the media player with voice commands, like, "Media player, play artist The Beatles," or "Media player, volume down."

Plus also makes the media player capable of converting MP3 files--the most popular format for recording songs on a PC--into Microsoft's WMA format, which the company says keeps the same sound quality while using half the disk space of MP3. Digital music fans who like to record their own CDs on a personal computer will also be able to use the media player to design and print CD covers and labels. Other features in the Plus package include three new video games, eight new highly detailed screen savers, and four "themes" that change the desktop, cursor, icons and sounds to fit motifs like underwater, space or nature. "In qualitative terms we think this really breaks new ground. Past Plus products have been really popular and this one just goes further," Wilson said. "We think it's going to do very well."

Intel Sues Via in Germany, England and Hong Kong

Intel expanded its legal fight with Via Technologies on Wednesday by filing patent infringement suits in Germany, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. The suits primarily revolve around a chipset released by Taiwan-based Via earlier this year that can be matched with Intel's Pentium 4 processor. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel claims Via's chipset, called the P4X266, violates eight of its patents. Intel earlier this month filed a case in the U.S. District Court of Delaware against Via and S3 Graphics after licensing negotiations broke down. For its part, Via disputes the contention and has filed its own patent infringement case in Texas. In its suit, Via, along with its Austin, Texas-based subsidiary Centaur Technology, claims the design of the Pentium 4 violates patents underlying its own microprocessors. While the suits filed today are similar to Intel's first lawsuit, Intel has added causes of action alleging that Via's C3 microprocessor violates patents owned by Intel. To date, Intel has primarily sued Via over its chipsets. "Intel invests billions of dollars each year in research and development to create new, patented inventions that bring significant value to our customers," Peter Detkin, Intel vice president and assistant general counsel, said in a statement.

"Those inventions and the underlying intellectual property are the cornerstone of our business and significant assets. Like any other valuable asset, Intel has an obligation to its shareholders to protect the value of its intellectual property." Vicious legal wrangling is sort of a holiday tradition between Intel and Via. The companies are the two largest manufacturers of chipsets, which let the processor communicate with the rest of the computer. While Via serves sometimes an active ally of Intel, the two companies compete to land deals with PC makers and motherboard manufacturers. Intel filed a similar series of lawsuits against Via and a number of companies associated with Via in 1999, after the company came out with a Pentium III chipset. Via, which saw its sales zoom with the new chipset, alleged Intel was merely trying to muscle out a successful competitor. Eventually, the companies settled the bulk of the lawsuit and entered into a licensing agreement. Intel, however, continues to pursue a claim that the underlying patents in the earlier case are being infringed by chipsets Via manufactures to go with processors from Advanced Micro Devices.

Calls for Limiting Encryption Taking Wide Criticism

A new call for limits on encryption technology is finding weak political support in the United States, despite a looming clandestine war against terrorism that will most likely hinge on the effectiveness of police and military intelligence. In response to attacks this month on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said he favored establishing mandatory backdoors in the software used to scramble digital messages and to ensure that only the intended recipient can read the contents. The specter of unbreakable encryption falling into the hands of criminals, terrorists and hostile governments has long been used to promote policies limiting commercial data-scrambling products. Such arguments are out of date, however, according to many experts. Critics include not only civil libertarians and a self-interested software industry, but those concerned with preventing terrorism as well. Two factors have decisively changed the playing field: So-called strong encryption technology is already widely available and can't realistically be recalled. In addition, fear of cyberattacks hitting strategic targets such as electrical grids and nuclear power plants has raised the stakes for domestic security.

"The danger in weakening encryption is that our infrastructure would become even less secure," said Bill Crowell, a former deputy director of the National Security Agency, the organization charged with gathering electronic intelligence for the military and protecting the United States' own communications networks. "There is no indication that the administration is serious about these proposals." Already, some members of Congress are readying opposition to Gregg's proposal. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., a longtime critic of anti-encryption measures, said he is working to build Senate opposition for such a bill that equals momentum in the House. Goodlatte belongs to a camp of lawmakers that believes such legislation would be a threat to national security. "It's not a matter of privacy vs. security, but security vs. security," Goodlatte said in an interview. "Encryption protects our national security," he said. "It protects the controls of everything from nuclear power plants to the New York Stock Exchange, government communications, credit cards and the electric power grid. Encryption plays a critical role in our entire communication system, and to require that a backdoor be built into that system is just an incredibly dangerous thing to do."

Former NSA Deputy Director Crowell, now president and CEO of security software maker Cylink, said intelligence and law enforcement agencies will have to find other ways to gather information than plucking it from the ether. "Yes, it's hard," he said. "But that is the world that we live in today. I think the alternative of having banks, companies and the government use weak encryption is not a good one." In the late '90s, a group of federal regulators including former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former Attorney General Janet Reno championed legislation that required encryption software to include government safeguards and that restricted U.S exports. The Clinton administration introduced a proposal for technology known as the "Clipper Chip," or an extra key held by the government, which could with a warrant unlock encrypted electronic messages for criminal investigations. The proposal met with opposition from the American public, businesses and foreign governments, and eventually failed. Critics said foreign consumers or businesses would not buy U.S. encryption software accessible by the U.S. government.

IE 6 Cuts off Use of Alternate Domain Naming System

A new feature in Internet Explorer 6 is driving over a deal between Microsoft-backed RealNames and domain name company XTNS, cutting off traffic headed toward their services. Microsoft tinkered with the browser settings in an IE upgrade last month, capitalizing on misspelled or nonexistent domain names typed into the address bar by diverting people to an MSN Search page. But much of that traffic is supposed to travel through XTNS, which directs someone entering a nearly correct Web address, such as "," to the page most likely intended. The new IE feature also catches simplified addresses such as "store.disney" or "movie.gladiator" or ""--all for sale as "namespaces" through XTNS' deal with RealNames. Microsoft would not comment on the domain name companies' agreement, saying it is not directly involved. RealNames Chief Executive Keith Teare confirmed the problem, saying it stems from the recent IE upgrade. But he doesn't expect any changes to the browser's autosearch. "XTNS namespaces that have a period...have ceased to function," he said. "We don't think this status will change; it will remain this way for the foreseeable future." The glitch highlights the ongoing problems facing a handful of start-ups that have long tried to promote alternatives to the mainstream domain name system. In this case, XTNS Chief Executive Tim Langdell thought a deal with Microsoft-backed RealNames would propel his 5-month-old business into the spotlight.

Corel Introduces Graphics Suite 10 for Mac OS X

Corel Corporation today introduces Corel GRAPHICS SUITE 10 for Macintosh, designed to run on Mac OS X and classic Mac operating systems 8.6 to 9.2. Corel GRAPHICS SUITE 10 includes CorelDRAW 10, Corel PHOTO-PAINT 10 and Corel R.A.V.E. Corel GRAPHICS SUITE 10 includes award-winning applications for vector illustration, image editing, painting and animation and supports Mac OS X technologies including Aqua, ColorSync and QuickTime. Developed to provoke creativity, Corel GRAPHICS SUITE 10 is designed to deliver maximum creative expression for print and the Web. Corel GRAPHICS SUITE 10 offers an intuitive user interface and extensive customization options, enabling users to streamline the creative process and add powerful functionality to their existing tool set. The suite delivers the latest in design technology, productivity enhancing features, interactive tools, and support for Internet publishing. "Continuing our aggressive release schedule for Mac OS X, we are pleased to debut Corel GRAPHICS SUITE 10 and bring the full power of our graphics technology to this exciting new OS," said Ian LeGrow, executive vice-president of creative products at Corel. "From the beginning we saw this suite as a catalyst for creativity and an invitation to explore the boundaries of expression."

"Mac OS X is our most technologically advanced operating system ever and incredible graphics capabilities like OpenGL, Quartz, and QuickTime make it the ideal platform for creative professionals worldwide," said Ron Okamoto, Apple's vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations. "Corel GRAPHICS SUITE 10 is a powerful and versatile suite of graphics applications and we appreciate Corel's continued commitment to develop innovative creative software for Mac OS X." Enhanced Publish to the Web: Creative users can now have more control over their Web graphics and HTML code. Using a Web browser, people can preview each graphic individually or the entire Web page. Professional Publishing Features: Users can take advantage of advanced features such as built-in PDF output, color management, preflight reporting, page imposition and advanced print and color separation preview. Corel GRAPHICS SUITE 10 for Mac OS 8.6, Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X is available now. The suite sells for a suggested retail price (SRP) of $569 US. The upgrade price for users of CorelDRAW 6 and CorelDRAW 8 for Macintosh is SRP $249 US. French and German versions of Corel GRAPHICS SUITE 10 will be available in November 2001.

Thursday September 27, 2001 Top

Samsung Finishes Work on Upgraded RDRAM

Samsung has finished development of a faster, denser--and cheaper--RDRAM chip. The increases in speed and density are likely to benefit PC users by delivering additional system performance to high-end desktops using Intel's Pentium 4 processor. Samsung says it is also aiming the chips at workstations and servers. The faster new chips will also cost less to manufacture than current RDRAM chips, Samsung said. This would work to help quell one of the main criticisms of the Rambus technology: its cost. Currently, RDRAM-based PCs cost about $100 more than similarly configured SDRAM offerings. Volume production of the new RDRAM chips is slated for the second quarter of next year, Samsung said. In the new chip, the density will increase to 567 megabits per chip and the speed will rise to 1,066MHz, vs. today's maximum of 256 megabits and 800MHz. The chips are likely to be packaged in RDRAM inline memory modules (RIMMs) with a capacity of 1GB or greater. At the same time, the faster memory would likely be paired with a faster 533MHz Pentium 4 front-side bus, which Intel is expected to launch next year.

The bus provides a data pathway between the processor and system memory. Current Pentium 4 chips feature a 400MHz bus. All told, Samsung says the new RDRAM can process data four times faster than the fastest standard memory, 266MHz double data rate SDRAM. Samsung plans to reduce the cost of the RDRAM chips in part by using a more advanced 0.12 micron manufacturing process. This would allow it to decrease the size of the chips and therefore make more of them per wafer, lowering per-chip manufacturing cost. The wafer, a round disc that's usually 8 inches in diameter, is the basic unit of chip production. The new RDRAM offering follows the roadmap that Rambus laid out last June. Over the next four years, the company's goal is to increase RDRAM's clock speed to 1.2GHz, while boosting its bandwidth to 9.6GB per second.

Logitech Releases New Dual Optical Mouse

Logitech today announced the incorporation of two optical sensors into its new MouseMan Dual Optical. The twin sensors work seamlessly together to deliver increased accuracy and precision on a broader range of surfaces. MouseMan Dual Optical will be available this month in various retail stores and online in the U.S. for $49.95. "MouseMan Dual Optical is an innovative design concept whose dual sensors promise to deliver greater performance and enhanced accuracy," said David Henry, senior vice president and general manager of control devices at Logitech. "We think mouse users will be delighted with this product that packs a double punch." The combined power of two optical sensors offers improved performance on more types of surfaces. Each sensor provides a resolution of 800 dots per inch (dpi), twice that of previous sensors, and is positioned at a 45-degree angle from its counterpart.

Where conventional mice rely on a single view of the desktop, MouseMan Dual Optical is capable of monitoring two locations from different angles to extract the best possible reading of mouse movements. The result is smooth cursor movements and increased precision even when the mouse is moved rapidly across the desktop. MouseMan Dual Optical carries many of the same design features as Logitech's popular Cordless MouseMan Optical. It is comfortably contoured to fit the right hand, allowing the hand to rest in a natural position. Its four buttons are carefully positioned for quick and easy access, with the fourth button located conveniently under the thumb. The scroll wheel doubles as the third button and can be programed to instantly connect to the Internet using Logitech iTouch software. The four buttons are individually progammable and can be set to the user's preference. The mouse is painted in an attractive metallic finish that is a stylish addition to any desktop.

Korean Firms Taking Joint Action Against Windows XP

South Korea's largest Internet portal, Daum Communications, and 17 other software companies said on Thursday they would take joint action against the planned release of Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) Windows XP operating system. Windows XP, the latest version of Microsoft's flagship product, is scheduled for widespread retail release on October 25. "We are expressing deep concerns about Microsoft's attempt to disrupt the market by selling Windows XP bundled with a variety of application software," the companies said in a joint statement. "We officially demand it immediately stop such efforts." Their initiative follows a complaint filed earlier this month by Daum with the Korea Fair Trade Commission over the U.S. software giant's planned release of Windows XP. In the complaint, Daum said Microsoft's bundling of a variety of application software--including instant messaging, Internet phone service and digital pictures--with Windows XP would constitute an unfair business practice. Daum, which controls 20 percent of Korea's instant messaging market, threatened to seek a court injunction against the sale of Windows XP in Korea.

A Daum Communications spokeswoman said on Thursday the firm was considering its next move. "Actions we are thinking about include a ban on online sale of Windows XP on our companies' shopping malls," she said. Microsoft said it would seek to meet the Korean companies to try to resolve the problem. "We are willing to talk with Korean companies to remove any misunderstanding about the release of the new operating system," said Kwon Chan, a spokesman for Microsoft Korea. The companies might meet as early as Friday to work out their strategy, according to one of them, Lycos Korea. In the United States, Microsoft is facing calls for the courts to block Windows XP because of competition concerns. Some Microsoft opponents say Windows XP should be stopped. They argue that Microsoft, by including new applications, is adopting the same tactics that sparked an antitrust suit against the company by the U.S. Justice Department and 18 states.

MandrakeSoft Introduces Version 8.1 of Mandrake Linux

MandrakeSoft, a French seller of the Linux operating system, has released a new version and unveiled a sales strategy that mirrors market leader Red Hat. MandrakeSoft has traditionally relied on sales of its boxed product for revenue. With version 8.1, though, the company has begun a subscription program called MandrakeOnline that gives members notification of security patches and other software updates, discounted technical support and an e-mail account. The subscription cost is $20 for a month, $55 for four months or $100 for six months, the company said. The service resembles the Red Hat Network, which Red Hat announced a year ago, which offers more sophisticated abilities than Mandrake's service. For example, the Red Hat Network checks a system for needed patches, downloads and installs them. MandrakeSoft braved a chilly investment environment and held an initial public offering in July on the unregulated Marche Libre market in France. The company raised $3.95 million (4.3 million euros) in the offering. Mandrake version 8.1 includes several new features. Among them is the new version 2.2.1 of the KDE desktop interface, released Sept. 19. KDE 3.0 is scheduled to be released in beta version in December and in final form in February. Other features include MandrakeFirstTime, which lets users configure their e-mail software; DiskDrake for configuring a hard drive before installation; Draknet for configuring network settings; PrinterDrake for dealing with printers; KOffice 1.1 for office software; Grip 2.96 for writing CDs and the Nautilus 1.04 file manager.

Linux OS's Beat out Lowest Rated Unix OS in New Study

Four versions of Linux have become more capable operating systems than the lowest-ranked version of Unix, according to a new study. An analysis by D.H. Brown Associates ranked SuSE's version 7.2 at the top of the heap, with a "good" rating. Red Hat 7.1 was a notch behind, but still earning a "good." Caldera International's OpenLinux 3.1 and Turbolinux Server 6.5 managed only "above average," but still ranked better than Caldera's UnixWare, the study found. The study evaluates features and performance in dozens of areas, such as support for multiprocessor systems and large files. The results reflect the gradual rise of Linux, a clone of Unix that has won a place in the product plans of IBM, Oracle, SAP, Intel and other computing giants. In an earlier version of the same study two years ago, when Linux was just finding mainstream support, D.H. Brown found several weaknesses "There are a lot of holes that have been filled in," said Tony Iams, an author of the study. "It's a noticeable improvement from a couple years ago." Sun Microsystems' Solaris version of Unix, the top-ranked operating system in the study, was well ahead of the Linux versions with a "very good" ranking. The study didn't include Microsoft Windows, which includes as an essential part several higher-level software features that make straight comparisons difficult, Iams said.

The new version 2.4 of the Linux kernel, or core software, has boosted the operating system a notch, the study found. The new kernel is able to take advantage of all the CPUs on an eight-processor system, the study said, helped in part by completely rewritten networking software. However, there still is a lot of work to be done. In one D.H. Brown category measuring "reliability, availability and serviceability," UnixWare and others are well ahead of Linux. "Commercial Unix systems support far more advanced RAS features than any current Linux systems. Even SuSE, the Linux leader in this area, falls well behind the weakest Unix system," the report said. Several companies--including SuSE, SteelEye, Turbolinux, Red Hat and Mission Critical Linux--are working on high-availability "clustering" software that lets one server take over for a crashed comrade. However, "True high-availability clustering options for Linux remain in their infancy," the study said. The study also found shortcomings for managing Linux systems. Compensating, though, were high marks for how well Linux conducted Web and Internet operations. In particular, Red Hat achieved a "very good" ranking in this category. In addition, Red Hat and SuSE both achieved "very good" ranking in support for security software and hardware and directory software that makes administration easier.

Friday September 28, 2001 Top

Excite@Home Files for Bankruptcy

Excite@Home, the leading provider of broadband Internet access, said Friday that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and sell its high-speed network to AT&T for $307 million in cash. With the filing, Excite@Home becomes the latest Net highflier to seek bankruptcy court protection while it reorganizes its business. Just this week, Exodus Communications, a provider of Web-hosting services to thousands of companies, also filed for bankruptcy. "This filing is a tool to protect the value of the broadband business for the benefit of the company's financial stakeholders and will help reassure our customers that service will continue uninterrupted through the restructuring process," Patti Hart, Excite@Home chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. "AT&T's offer reflects the value in our network, services, customer base and skilled employees." As expected, the company filed papers with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California on Friday, according to a clerk who declined to provide additional details until the voluminous filing was processed. The bankruptcy filing is part of a deal with AT&T that calls for Excite@Home to become wholly owned by the long-distance giant by early next year, pending approval by the bankruptcy court. AT&T has no interest in retaining the Excite portal, so it could be sold to another company, according to a source. AT&T said that it will use the assets as the core of a larger broadband network. Customers should not experience an interruption in service, the company added. "AT&T remains committed to working with Excite@Home’s management and the bankruptcy court to provide uninterrupted high-speed cable Internet service to existing Excite@Home customers, as well as continuing relationships with other cable companies to ensure seamless service to their customers on the @Home network," the company said in a statement on its Web site.

HP Introduces Lowest Priced LaserJet to Date

Hewlett-Packard Company today announced its entry into the low-end laser printer market with the introduction of the HP LaserJet 1000 printer. Selling for an estimated U.S. street price of $249, the HP LaserJet 1000 printer is the lowest priced monochrome HP LaserJet printer ever introduced. The new printer is easy-to-install with USB connections and ideal for entrepreneurial businesses, telecommuters and home offices that require reliable, professional-quality laser output at a personal printer price. At a speed of 10 pages per minute and a cost per page of only 2.5 cents, customers can print professional, laser-quality documents affordably and professionally. "In addition to offering quality printing at a highly affordable price, the HP LaserJet 1000 printer is equipped for out-of-the-box customer plug-and-play use," said Vyomesh Joshi, president, HP Imaging and Printing Systems. "With this printer, HP is positioned to compete aggressively in a growing market space, extending the HP LaserJet printer experience to new customer applications and uses."

Key features of the HP LaserJet 1000 printer include: 10 pages per minute top speed; HP Instant-on fuser for low power consumption and quick 15 second first page out time; 600 dpi with HP Resolution Enhancement technology (REt) boosting output effectively to 1200 dpi; 2,500-page capacity HP Ultraprecise toner cartridge; A low 2.5 cent cost per page; Small footprint with a protected 250-sheet input tray; USB cord included for plug-and-play connectivity; 7,000-page monthly duty cycle; and Microsoft Windows 98, 2000, Me, and XP supported. HP also is offering a one-year unit exchange warranty with the HP LaserJet 1000 printer. Warranty extensions and service options also are available. Additionally, customers have access to online Web support at no extra charge 24 hours a day and to the HP Customer Care center from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday. The HP LaserJet 1000 printer is expected to be available in the U.S. and Canada beginning Oct. 1 with an estimated U.S. street price of $249.

Music Industry Tries New Scheme to Stop CD Copying

Anti-piracy features making their way onto CDs promise to dramatically alter the online music landscape, potentially handing Microsoft a potent weapon against the leading MP3 format and other rivals in the high-stakes battle over digital-audio standards. The record industry is experimenting with a new strategy for protecting CDs from being copied in CD burners or on computers. Unlike previous anti-copying measures, this plan will place two versions of an album on a single disc: one in standard CD form, modified so that it can't be transferred to a computer hard drive, and another in Microsoft's Windows Media Audio digital format, rigged so that files can be copied to a PC, but with some restrictions on how they can be used. "I think this is a glimpse of the future," said P.J. McNealy, a digital-entertainment analyst with GartnerG2, a division of research company Gartner. "This meets both sides' needs. It gives people the compressed audio (to play on computers), and it protects copyrights." Although only a first step, the strategy could reset the parameters of the music industry's campaign against online piracy and determine the future of "ripping," the popular practice used by consumers to convert CD tracks into computer files that can be traded freely on the Internet over services such as Napster.

Record labels have long sought technology to curb the practice of ripping, and they are on the verge of success with some new copy-protected releases. Tens of thousands of CDs loaded with anti-copying protections have been quietly released in U.S. retail stores over the past few months, with hundreds of thousands more landing on shelves overseas. Those moves have provoked bitter criticism from consumers fearful of losing their ability to make digital record collections on their computers, a right they believe should accompany their purchase of the music. The new technology being tested offers a compromise aimed at pleasing most consumers while holding the line on mass underground distribution. For Microsoft, the new compromise strategy could mean a windfall. The software company has spent considerable time wooing record labels and movie studios over the last few years as it has tried to develop Windows Media and associated anti-piracy technology into an industry media standard, but it has focused more on Internet sources than on delivery via old-fashioned CDs.

Although the company is making some small gains, the vast majority of digital music online and in personal collections remains in MP3 format, analysts say. The specialized computer program compresses standard audio tracks into smaller sizes without significantly compromising sound quality--and without carrying the anti-piracy controls used by Windows Media. MP3's lead could change quickly, however, if CDs are routinely released with easily accessible Windows Media versions of songs onboard. "I think you're going to see (Windows Media) really come out in the marketplace now," said SunnComm Chief Technology Officer John Aquilino. "But not by design." Along those lines, Microsoft itself seems less than absolutely bullish on the efficacy of copy-protected CDs. Committed pirates will eventually find a way around any digital protections, even if it is simply "holding a microphone up to the speakers," said Jonathan Usher, group product manager for Microsoft's Digital Media Division.

Apple Makes Major Upgrade to AppleScript

It's ironic that, in years past, when Apple was planning its next generation operating system (Copland, Rhapsody, and the others that preceded Mac OS X), there was talk of scrapping AppleScript and implementing an entirely new scripting language. Now Mac OS X v.10.1 is (almost) here and AppleScript is bigger and better in the new operating system. It offers more scriptable applications, toolbar scripts, QuickTime scripts and more. Plus, AppleScript Studio is due later this year. Mac OS X 10.1 beefs up Finder scripting. Scriptable applications now include Print Center, Internet Connect, the Terminal, Image Capture, Mail, Sherlock, and TextEdit, as well as the Finder itself. Toolbar Scripts can now be placed on the Finder Toolbar, offering drag-and-drop, click-and-run tools available in any open Finder window. You can place links to files, folders and applications in the Finder Toolbar. And for Mac OS X 10.1, Apple has built a set of AppleScript applets and droplets designed to take advantage of the Toolbar Scripts' feature. Apple is working on AppleScript Studio, due before the end of the year. Studio combines AppleScript with Apple's IDE (Integrated Development Environment) tools Project Builder and Interface Builder.

"This makes AppleScript a peer language with Java and Objective C," according to Sal Soghoian, Apple's AppleScript guru. AppleScript Studio is designed to let users make script applications that look, feel, and act just like Mac OS X applications. It will include such Aqua "widgets" as buttons, windows, sliders, checkboxes, tabs, radio buttons and more. Apple says AppleScript Studio will be "fun" to use, but will provide a set of professional application development tools featuring complete interface design and script writing with step-by-step debugging and source management. This combination will give scripters a tool to create professional level scripts that can take advantage of everything AppleScript offers and provides end-users an Aqua interface to run the script, according to Soghoian. At the Seybold, he demonstrated a complex script, built with AppleScript Studio, where the script pulled data from FileMaker Pro and IMedia and placed the data into InDesign, creating a shake and bake real-estate catalog.

Microsoft Releases Free Test Version of Word X

Less than a week after officially announcing Office v. X, Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit today announced a Mac OS X compatible test drive of their popular word processing application, Word. The application will be available for download this Saturday from the MacTopia Web site. Word X Test Drive is designed to run exclusively on Mac OS X 10.1 and takes advantage of Mac OS X technologies such as Sheets, the Quartz Drawing Layer, as well as the Aqua interface. Word X also includes new features like Multi-selection and Clear Formatting. "Microsoft is inviting Mac users to take this opportunity to experience the simplicity of Mac OS X with the power of Word X," a company spokesperson told MacCentral. The Word X Test Drive is a pre-release version that will be available for a limited time as a free download from the MacBU Web site. Keep in mind that Word X Test Drive is beta code. The MacBU also indicates that some features have been removed to reduce file download size.

Weekend September 29 & September 30, 2001 Top

Move to Copper Based Processors Coming Soon

The semiconductor industry is in the midst of a massive technological change, converting to mass-producing chips with copper, rather than aluminum, wires. The weird part: Almost no one seems to be having major problems. Copper, which conducts electricity better than aluminum, gives designers an avenue to break through looming physical barriers that could prevent further boosts in chip performance. The first copper Pentium 4's will come out in the fourth quarter of this year at 2.2GHz, for instance, and hit 3.5GHz next year. Working with copper poses several challenges, however. "Sputtering," a process for applying metal to silicon, doesn't work with copper, for example. Neither do traditional techniques for etching circuits. And errant, minute traces of copper rubbed on a wafer can destroy a batch of chips. Analysts predicted that production hiccups could result in annoyances for medium-sized producers or in financial disasters for larger ones.

"It was pretty scary, frankly, at the beginning," said Mark Bohr, an Intel fellow and director of architecture and integration. Nonetheless, the conversion has been unnaturally quiet. IBM, which released the first copper chips in 1998, is almost all copper now, and Advanced Micro Devices started churning out copper Athlons last year without incident. Intel, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Via and Sun Microsystems, among others, have all launched their first copper wares in recent months, with volume production to follow soon. Speed, or lack of it, was a huge factor in the change. IBM started performing copper experiments in the mid-1980s. IBM and Intel also coordinated efforts with equipment makers such as Novellus to ease the transition to mass manufacturing.

Judge Orders DOJ and Microsoft To Settlement Talks

The new judge overseeing the remainder of the Microsoft antitrust case on Friday ordered the government and the company to enter into intensive settlement talks ahead of hearings on possible sanctions against the software giant. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said during a status hearing with the parties that the settlement talks should proceed "24 hours a day, seven days a week" until a deadline Nov. 2. She said it was an "optimal time" to settle the case out of court and that a deal should be possible "if everybody is reasonable and acting in good faith." If no settlement emerges, Kollar-Kotelly said she expects hearings to begin in March on what sanctions should apply to prevent future violations of antitrust law by Microsoft. The judge rejected a Microsoft request to narrow the scope of those possible remedies and said she has "large discretion" to design a remedy in the case. Legal experts said Kollar-Kotelly was pushing the parties hard toward settlement. "Both sides need to face the reality that this is probably their last best chance to craft something that's not imposed by the courts," said Andy Strenio, an antitrust lawyer with Powell, Goldstein, Frazier & Murphy. "That's a risky roll of the dice--to leave it in the hands of the judiciary."

Free Wireless Networks Beginning to Grow

Tim Pozar used to speak only rarely to his neighbors in San Francisco's foggy Sunset district, but that changed the day he hung out a wireless antenna and welcomed the world to use his high-speed Internet line. "I've gotten to know the neighbors much better," said the professional network and telecommunications consultant. "Occasionally, they bring me pies and things like that." Pozar, a key member of the Bay Area Wireless Users Group (BAWUG), broke the ice when he joined a growing number of enthusiasts setting up wireless access points that let neighbors and passers-by roam the streets of urban areas and access the Internet wirelessly, at blazing speeds, for free. The perk comes courtesy of community groups that are extending Internet access through the 802.11b wireless networking standard, sometimes known as Wi-Fi. Other sources of the high-bandwidth giveaway, whether they know it or not, are corporations whose Wi-Fi networks are accessible to passers-by."It's not so much idealistic as altruistic," Pozar said. "We are getting rid of the last-mile cost of connecting to the Internet, but the benefits go beyond that.

It's more like a co-op. People pitch in in one form or another to contribute to building the network, and that opens up to a lot of personal sharing."To be sure, much of the development of Wi-Fi connectivity is for-profit. Microsoft has included the technology in its XP operating system and has outfitted its own corporate campuses--and Starbucks coffee shops nationwide--with it. Companies like Wayport and MobileStar provide the wireless connection at hotels, airports and cafes. Apple uses 802.11b for its AirPort wireless Internet access device. But the free underground networks have generated a phenomenon reminiscent of the Napster craze. Brewster Kahle, the founder of a San Francisco wireless group known as SFLan, has heralded a new "anarchistic cooperation" that will bring free wireless Internet access to the masses. Others predict a more difficult future for the underground networks--variously referred to as neighborhood area networks, "freenets," parasitic or piranha grids, and broadband bootlegging--and say they could ultimately succumb, like Napster, to a sustained corporate challenge.

Community groups across the nation and the globe have banded together to promote the proliferation of free Wi-Fi networks, which let neighbors and passers-by equipped with an inexpensive networking card share the wireless high-speed access. For those setting up these networks, the cost of becoming in effect a wireless ISP for the neighborhood is just a few hundred dollars for an access point placed on a rooftop or near a window. The Wi-Fi signal does not in and of itself access the Internet. Instead, it provides an avenue for numerous people to share an existing broadband Internet service, such as a cable or DSL connection. Community groups and some legal experts say there's nothing inherently wrong with this type of sharing. Excite@Home, AT&T and Time Warner, three of the nation's biggest providers of cable Internet access, all limit the sharing of a single connection.

A New Tool Will Allow Easier Testing of Linux Kernel Patches

The Open Source Development Lab has created a code benchmarking tool--known as the Scalable Test Platform--that it says will allow developers to easily test their Linux kernel patches from a variety of tests and server configurations. Tim Witham, the director of the OSDL--an independent, non-profit lab designed for developers who are adding enterprise capabilities to Linux--believes the STP fulfills a critical need in the open-source developer community. "With the launch of STP, developers can easily test their Linux kernel patches selecting from a variety of tests and server configurations. This performance-testing tool is aimed at improving the quality of Linux patches and upgrades and the speed with which open-source software is developed by providing a means for performance measurement and comparison," Witham said in a media invitation to further discuss the technology. Until now, open-source developers have had no centralized means for testing kernel patches and upgrades or for recording the results, which has made scaling Linux more difficult.

The charter of the lab, which formally opened its doors in January, does not allow it to undertake new projects, but rather to support and accelerate existing or new projects developed by the open-source community. In January, Witham told eWEEK that the lab's first project would focus on scalability and would be designed to enhance the Linux operating system to support 16 64-bit processors with near-linear performance improvement. The second project, identified with open-source company, focused on increasing Linux TCP/IP concurrent connection support from 20,000 to more than 64,000. The OSDL, which operates as a single virtual lab for developers across the globe, has a number of servers that interface with high-speed Internet communication links, giving lab access to developers around the world. The OSDL has two facilities, one near Portland, Ore., and the other in Tokyo. Lab sponsors include Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., IBM, NEC Corp., Computer Associates International Inc., Fujitsu and Hitachi.

AOL Opens First Cable Lines to Competitors Internet Service

AOL Time Warner quietly launched high-speed Internet service from rival EarthLink in Columbus, Ohio, last week, a step made in compliance with federal regulations. It signals the first of a series of planned launches for high-speed Internet services throughout Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable network. The company plans to flip the switch in Syracuse, N.Y., imminently, but a representative declined to provide a date. Time Warner Cable will make a high-speed version of AOL available once EarthLink service in each region launches. "Order fulfillment and processing is in place," said Mike Luftman, a Time Warner Cable spokesman. "We will go on to continue an aggressive launch scheduled for this year." Luftman would not say when its top 20 markets would offer EarthLink and AOL. As the primary condition in approving AOL's $147 billion acquisition of Time Warner, the Federal Trade Commission imposed regulations requiring the company to launch EarthLink service before AOL in each market. The FTC also required the company to offer service from two additional Internet providers within 90 days of offering AOL. Time Warner Cable has an agreement with ISP Juno Online Services for carriage on its cable network. However, the company recently lost another partner when High Speed Access pulled out of its agreement earlier this month. No replacement has been named.

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